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Flash Movie Review: Inside the Mind of a Cat

IT WAS OUR FIRST TIME SPENDING the night together, but I was not expecting it to include their cat. I had heard many stories about Dancer, the Siamese cat; she sounded like a sweet, affectionate pet. I had packed an overnight bag and in hindsight, I should have brought some type of cat toy. While eating our carry out meal, Dancer perched herself on the kitchen counter so she could have a clear view of us eating at the table. I was expecting her to jump onto our table any minute based on the way she was intently looking at us. Gratefully there were no interruptions during dinner. At the end of the meal, we took our drinks and went into the den to settle on the sofa. Dancer took this to be an invitation because she followed us down the hall then jumped onto my lap once I was seated. The entire time we sat on the couch Dancer kept trying to reach my face, either climbing up my chest or coming from behind via the back of the sofa. No matter what admonitions were sternly warned at her, Dancer was determined to get to my face to either kiss or scratch me. I could not tell which way it would go.       THE DETERMINATION DANCER DISPLAYED WAS JUST a prelude to what was in store for me when it was time to go to bed. We were done closing up the house and making our way to the bedroom. Dancer was right at our heels the entire time. When we got into bed, Dancer jumped onto the bed and made her way to my pillow. She was taken and put back down on the floor. We settled ourselves back in bed and sure enough, Dancer jumped back up to try and reach me again. This went on a couple of more times before Dancer was placed outside of the bedroom. I thought our problem was finally solved, but I was wrong. Dancer started crying behind the closed door and kept it up non-stop until we opened the door. This time, however, Dancer was given a catnip toy as a distraction. She was all over the toy and gave us a moment of peace. By the time we fell asleep, I had forgotten about that cat. It did not take me long to fall into a deep sleep; but it took me less time to wake up after Dancer, from the floor, jumped up and landed on my back. I was done with this cat, so I got out of bed and made my way back to the den, where I slept the rest of the night on the couch while Dancer slept in my place in the bedroom. I would have loved to know what she was thinking when she first saw me walking into the house.      CATS CAN BE SO MUCH FUN and yet be so mysterious. Wouldn’t it be helpful if someone could explain what cats are doing? This documentary may finally provide you with the answers. Directed by Andy Mitchell (Secrets of the Whales-TV mini-series, American Serengeti-TV movie), I got a kick out of watching this movie. Granted I love cats and dogs equally; however, if you are not a cat person then I do not think you would want to spend the time listening to the “experts” discussing cats and their behaviors. The pacing of this picture was steady and light. In fact, there were times where it was getting to be a bit too cartoonish for me, but I still enjoyed seeing all the cats and their different settings. I do not know if this movie provides absolute proof about cats’ behaviors, but I will say I found it quite interesting. I would have loved to have seen some of these experts try and explain that nutty cat, Dancer.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Orphan: First Kill

FOR SEVERAL YEARS ALL I HEARD her talk about was her “dream” car. She did talk about other topics, but if we were walking down the street and her “dream” car was driving by, she had to stop walking and watch the car as it passed her by. Yea, it was a bit obsessive, but who was I to judge; I had my own fixations. The car, I must admit, was sharp looking. It had sleek lines with a large distinctive grill that had the automaker’s logo smack in the middle of it. I particularly liked the colors I had seen it in; each one appeared to alter slightly, depending on how the light was hitting it. After hearing my friend talk so long about this car, she finally had saved up enough money to put a large down payment down for it. I was thrilled for her. Lucky for her, she found an auto dealer who had the exact car she wanted, both in color and features. She was approved for the loan and with all the paperwork signed, she had a short wait before she could pick up her new vehicle. I looked forward to getting a ride in it and see things for myself.      THE CAR WAS EVERYTHING SHE IMAGINED; I could not be happier for her. She picked me up and we went tooling around the neighborhood before heading out on the highway. I must admit, the car was impressive. It was not until after the first time she had to drive in the rain, when I got the call. She was besides herself, sobbing into the phone. When she went to turn the windshield wipers on, the radio came on instead. Without the wipers working, she had pulled off to the side of the road to ride out the showers.  I offered to come keep her company, but she declined. Instead, she planned on driving straight to the dealer once the weather lightened up. Later in the day after the storm had passed us, she called to tell me the wiper malfunction was fixed, she was going back home. Over the span of the next few months, she had other issues with the car. There was a recall concerning possible brake failure, the door locks did not always lock, and her sunroof had a leak. She was horribly upset, and I could tell her dream of owning this car was deflating. It was when she received the second recall notice that she had had enough and decided to get rid of the “lemon” car. I was sad for her because I knew how much the car meant to her, but the reality did not match up with her dream. It was a similar situation for some of the main characters in this dramatic, crime horror movie.      A MOTHER AND FATHER COULD NOT believe it when they received the phone call that their missing daughter had been found. Upon rushing to meet her, it did not trouble them that their daughter was now talking with a heavy accent. With Isabelle Fuhrman (The Hunger Games, The Novice) as Esther, Julie Stiles (Save the Last Dance, Silver Linings Playbook) as Tricia Albright, Rossie Sutherland (Hyena Road, The Expanse-TV) as Allen Albright, Hiro Kanagawa (The Age of Adaline, The Man in the High Castle-TV) as Detective Donnan and Matthew Finlan (My Fake Boyfriend, Jingle Bell Princess-TV movie) as Gunnar Albright; this prequel surprised me. I could not remember much from the previous film, but it turned out it did not matter. As long as one suspends belief, the story was suspenseful and tense. It was so good to see Julie Stiles and to see her in this role. I felt Julie and Isabelle made this film exciting to watch and that is despite the scenes of violence and blood. From the slight memories I have of the original film, I believe I enjoyed this one more.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Jerry & Margo Go Large

IN A PREVIOUS REVIEW, I MENTIONED I would do more traveling if I were to win a lottery game. For me, traveling makes me feel like an explorer. I get a thrill arriving in a new place and delving into the history of the area, while also participating in all the kitschy, touristy things. Walking through the only royal residence on US soil, learning it was the first building to get electric lights, even before the White House, was a historical tidbit that gave me a shot of adrenaline. Or, walking through the belly of the USS Midwest aircraft carrier, ducking my head at every doorway, learning at the time of World War II it was the largest warship in the world, sparked my childhood fantasies about being a military general. As you can see, I am not the type who likes to sit at a beach for a vacation. And though I have not won a lottery game with a life-changing jackpot, I am grateful that I can still do some traveling. The only difference between traveling now and if I were a lottery winner or retired is that I would not have a time restriction on the trip if I were not working.      THOUGH I LOVE TRAVELING AND SEEING various places, there is something to be said about the feeling I get when I come home. Presently, I can manage being away from home around 10 days at most before I get tired of living out of suitcases and eating every meal out. I can only do so many breakfast buffets and restaurant food, before I want the comforts of my own cooking with my food items. I do not think I am unusual in this regard. Even if I were to become a lottery winner, I would still live where I am living. Sure, I mentioned I wanted to buy a home in a warmer climate in my previous review; but I would only consider it a winter residence to get out of the cold, snowy days of winter that occur here. I love the area I live in, having grown up in it with family; there are friends who live nearby who I have known since elementary school. Now I do not want you to get the wrong impression; when I play a lottery game, I am only purchasing one or two tickets. I am not the type to walk into a place and buy $50.00 worth of tickets. However, if I would have discovered what the main character did in this comedic drama, I might buy a few more tickets.      RECENTLY RETIRED, A LOCAL RESIDENT DISCOVERS a flaw in the state’s lottery game. The flaw could lead him to a whole, new career. With Bryan Cranston (The Upside, Get a Job) as Jerry, Annette Bening (The Report, Death on the Nile) as Marge, Rainn Wilson (Blackbird, Don’t Tell a Soul) as Bill, Larry Wilmore (Date and Switch, Vamps) as Steve and Michael McKean (A Mighty Wind, This is Spinal Tap) as Howard; this film based on a true story was pure delight. Let me start with Bryan and Annette; they were wonderful to watch as a married couple, using their ample acting skills to their advantage. The story was unbelievable, but with the straight-forward, simple writing style of the script, I found myself totally engaged. Sure, there were several holes in the script, but it did not bother me. Just the fact there was a good, old fashioned type of story told with no CGI effects or wide dramatic flair; I found this such an easy film to watch. If nothing else, the story provided me with fuel to sit and fantasize about what my retirement years could look like.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Minions: The Rise of Gru

I SAW HER STANDING ON THE stage above an auditorium of people. The music was loud, but not heart thumping loud and everyone was following her moves. Looking at the audience, I noticed there were people of all sizes and shapes. What impressed me the most was the fact that everyone had a smile on their face, despite sweating and moving continuously to the music. This was a foreign concept to me based on my experiences with exercise. A friend had asked me to come with her to this aerobics class and though I was hesitant, I decided to join her only if we could stay in the back of the room. The classes I had attended in school were less about exercise and more about domination and testosterone, which was the reason for me not being too thrilled to go back into a similar scenario. We walked over to the registration desk where a woman was standing in platform shoes. She was barely over five feet in height, but she had an abundance of personality. I felt welcomed and safe. After paying for the class, we found two open spaces close to the back of the auditorium. From this spot, I figured it would be easy to pickup the exercise routines; I would just need to watch the people in front of me. The music the instructor used was current and fun; it was easy to figure out the steps. I soon found myself having a fun time exercising; it was a feat!      AT THE END OF THE CLASS, I was hooked. The two of us decided to sign up for the monthly pass. The instructor was amazing to me. She had this infectious personality that radiated throughout the room as she coaxed and encouraged us to keep moving. Her exercise moves were easy to follow for the most part. If there was something she thought might be a challenge for the class, she would demonstrate it first before asking us to try it. Up until this time, I had never given thought to becoming a fitness instructor; but, watching how she conducted her class did something to me. Seeing all these women and men, both skinny and large to old and young, enjoying themselves while exercising gave me the idea that I would like to teach. For months, I never missed a class, noticing a loss in my weight that I had not seen for some time. I idolized the instructor because I attributed this achievement to her skills and devotion to all of us succeeding. It was because of her that I moved forward and became a certified instructor. I realize my story is not unusual as you can see by happens to the young man in this animated, adventure comedy.      BEING SUCH A HUGE FAN OF a super villainous group, a twelve-year-old decides to apply for a position when there is an opening. He would need to come with some pretty cool, evil weapons. With Steve Carell (Beautiful Day, Welcome to Marwen) voicing Gru, Alan Arkin (Love the Coopers, Grudge Match) voicing Wild Knuckles, writer and director Pierre Coffin voicing the Minions, Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, The Best of Enemies) voicing Belle Bottom and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Last Christmas) voicing Master Chow; this latest installment in the franchise followed its consistent formula for the most part. I will say this was a tight production, everything worked in synch to create an easy level of enjoyment. The cast did a wonderful job with their characters as they went through a steady stream of humorous and fun scenes. When one chooses to see a Minions movie, they already know what to expect so there were no surprises. However, with the excellent animation, cast and script; this was a light, entertaining viewing experience. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Emergency

WE WERE SITTING AND HAVING A SCRUMPTIOUS dinner at a restaurant, when a couple walked up to me and said, “What a surprise to see you eating all that food!” Now if they were total strangers I might have been offended; however, I knew them from my fitness classes. I asked them why it was a surprise to see me with a plate of food and they replied they assumed with me being so healthy teaching classes, I would have stayed away from restaurant portion sized food. I could not resist so asked them what they thought I would have been eating; they said a healthy sized salad. Really?!?! Granted I always try to eat a salad every day but more of an appetizer size before the main course. We exchanged a few more words before they wished me well and excused themselves. I sort of wished they had stayed longer to see the chocolate dessert I was expecting soon. My friends at the table were curious to know, based on the conversation they heard, why the couple thought all I would be eating would be raw vegetables and tofu. I explained how this has happened to be before throughout my teaching years. People assume based on how I look and act in class, that I am some type of “intense fitness person” who maintains a strict diet. To tell you the truth, I am used to hearing this; but I try to impress upon them and the rest of the members of my classes that one must find balance with their daily food intake. I can splurge on a Saturday night because I am carefully watching my food choices during the weekdays.      HAVING EXPERIENCED INCIDENTS SUCH AS THESE throughout my years of teaching fitness, I wonder if it is in our nature to quickly make assumptions based on visual information. I have certainly been guilty of doing such a thing from time to time; though I do not act on such assumptions unless proof is provided. For example, I was introduced to a friend’s friend. From the brief time we all spent together, I felt he was a cheat. We all went out to eat and when the bill came, he picked it up, scanned it and told us what each of us owed. Because he was the only one who ordered alcohol, I would have thought he would have taken that out of the money we owed, but he did not. Not too much later after that meeting, I heard about him cheating a friend out of money. In this case my impression was correct. But I can certainly see how acting on first impressions can result in erroneous conclusions. If you need to see some proof, then I suggest you view this comedic drama.      COMING HOME TO PREPARE FOR A night of partying, two friends discover a woman passed out on their living room floor. They wondered what the police would think if they saw this scenario. With RJ Cyler (The Harder They Fall, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) as Sean, Donald Elise Watkins (Free State of Jones, Black Box) as Kunle, Sebastian Chacon (Angelfish, Pose-TV) as Carlos, Sabrina Carpenter (The Hate U Give, Tall Girl) as Maddy and Maddie Nichols (Anderson Bench, Like Son) as Emma; this thriller posed multiple questions for the viewer to ponder. I enjoyed this film and thought the writers did an excellent job of presenting significant issues in a poignantly funny way, side by side with real concerns and feelings. It did take me a little time at first to get into the story until I realized that part of the film felt like an eighty’s slapstick comedy, though it was kept to a small amount. When the movie ended, it did not leave me; I kept thinking about how easy it is to make assumptions about individuals without getting to know them. If the writers hoped they would get the viewer to think while entertaining them, they succeeded.                                                              

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Lightyear

MY JOB WAS NAVIGATION ON THE ship; rarely did I ever take on the role of captain. We were traveling in uncharted space; so, we were under a yellow alert, which meant everyone had to be at their assigned places, ready to go into action. I wound up steering the ship because my commanders were impressed with my instincts and ability to outmaneuver alien spacecraft. Our ship looked like an arrow; it was built streamlined for maximum speed. The front half was a triangular shiny silver shape, and the back half was an oversized cylinder that housed our massive engines. The bridge was at the base of the triangle, slightly elevated above the front half. At the forefront, just under the tip of the front part of the triangle, were a series of weapons that were incorporated into the design of the ship. We as a crew always strived to come in peace; however, if we were threatened, we could quickly become assertive to protect ourselves. On one trip, we encountered an alien ship that was shaped like half a circular dome with two long engines jutting out on one side. The dome had a honeycomb pattern to it. Without warning they started shooting at us, but luckily are protective shields withstood the blasts. I quickly steered the ship to dive underneath the enemy and blast them with our aft laser cannons to disable their craft. It worked.      I NOTICED IT WAS GETTING LATE, so I quickly got up from the floor and put my rocket ship back in the kitchen drawer that held serving utensils. My rocket ship was a pie server. The enemy spaceship was a strainer that I hung back up on its hook in the pantry. There was so much cookware that I was never at a loss for finding something that I could pretend was a rocket ship or alien headquarters. There was a hand mixer that was one of my favorite kitchen items to turn into a rocket ship because by turning the handle, the two beaters would spin and become the engines that would propel the converted ship forward in the air or submerge and propel it underwater. Our kitchen was a treasure trove of objects and things that would stimulate my imagination to create a multitude of outer space adventures. Even ballpoint pens would become rocket ships to help Flash Gordon defeat Ming the Merciless and any other character I had seen or created. The feelings I have attached to these memories were stirred up while watching this animated, action, adventure film.      DESPITE BEING STRANDED ON A FOREIGN planet, the mission still needed to be completed according to Buzz Lightyear, voiced by Chris Evans (Gifted, Captain America franchise), no matter what was taking place around him. With Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Joyful Noise) voicing Izzy Hawthorne, Peter Sohn (Luca, It Starts with Murder!) voicing SOX, Taika Waititi (The Suicide Squad, Free Guy) voicing Mo Morrison and Dale Soules (Aardvark, Orange is the New Black-TV) voicing Darby Steel; this science fiction movie was enjoyable. The animation was outstanding, with several incredible looking scenes. I thought the cast did an excellent job with their characters and was surprised by the emotional depth that was instilled in several of them. My concern with this picture comes down to the story line. The opening scene appeared to steer the story one way, but then there was no other reference to it the rest of the time. With the multiple story lines, I found they were distracting at times and lowered the connection between viewer and character. Granted, the story was not unusual or that exciting; however, the messages being conveyed were touching and the execution of events with its own unique humor made the time go pleasantly by. Though this Pixar movie might not reach the super status level of their previous works, I still found it stimulating and imaginative. There were two extra scenes during and at the end of the credits.                                

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS ABOUT teaching fitness/yoga classes is filling in for an absent instructor. Though I never refused unless logistically I could not make the class, there always was apprehension on what I would encounter from the participants. Like going to doctors or hair stylists, people find an instructor they like and stick with them. Walking into a class to find out a substitute is filling in for your favorite instructor usually leads to some level of disappointment. I remember filling in for a fellow yoga instructor and as I was introducing myself, three participants rolled up their mats and walked out. Ten minutes later as we were doing our warmup poses, a member asked me why I was not turning the lights off; evidently the assigned instructor teaches in subdued light. When I told the member I needed light to observe how each person was doing the poses; she made a sour face, uttered what sounded like a “harumph” before gathering her things and stormed out of the room. I totally get how individuals have expectations before they walk into the fitness room; but I must ask what options do they think are available? Either the substitute instructor teaches class, or the class would have to be cancelled; under these circumstances, wouldn’t it be better to deal with a different instructor’s style of yoga instead of no yoga at all?      WHEN IT COMES TO INSTRUCTORS OR really anyone who is in a visible position, people are funny about those they like. Where I experienced more of the negative aspects when filling in for another instructor, I have heard from those instructors who have subbed for me. They have experienced the same negative reactions to their presence in my classes. I understand disappointment; when I go to a live theater event and the leading star’s character has a stand-in, I am disappointed, but I am not going to deny myself the experience of seeing the production. Just like those stories one hears about a rabid fan doing things to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity, people want what they want as they say. I have read about millionaires who pay exorbitant prices to get a singer to perform at one of their parties. Or what about the individuals who do an outrageous act in the hopes of getting their celebrity crush to notice. I had a member who turned into a stalker, who would pop up at the oddest times to talk and ask me out until I had to file a complaint. As I sat down to watch this action crime comedy, I wondered which way would one of the main characters act, upon meeting their celebrity crush.      DOWN ON HIS LUCK AND NEEDING the money was enough incentive for Nick Cage, played by Nicolas Cage (Pig, Between Worlds), to accept the offer to show up at a wealthy man’s estate. If nothing else, it would be a new role for him. With Pedro Pascal (Wonder Woman 1984, The Mandalorian-TV) as Javi Gutierrez, Tiffany Haddish (Like a Boss, Bad Trip) as Vivian, Sharon Horgan (Game Night, Dating Amber) as Olivia and Neil Patrick Harris (The Matrix Resurrections, Gone Girl) as Richard Fink; this movie was a lighthearted, fun experience. What made it so was the pairing of Nicolas with Pedro; they were great together as they played off each other. The idea for the story was novel, where I could appreciate the tongue in cheek flavor of the script. The writers were creative in setting things up for Nic to spoof Nicolas’ old films. Honestly, there is not anything that is a surprise here per se; however, it was just fun to see Nicholas doing such an excellent job parodying himself. As the film ended, I wondered if the movie studio would do another film with the two main leads; I think it would be a hoot. 

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Our Father

THROUGHOUT MY ELEMENTARY AND HIGH SCHOOL years, I only met two individuals who had been adopted. They happened to be half-sisters, who shared the same mother; a married couple agreed to adopt them both. When I was told about their adoption, I became curious about them. They had the same color hair and eyes; one was taller than the other. That was pretty much all they had in common as far as I could see. The taller one was studious and quiet, while her younger sister did poorly in school and was considered a wild party person. They were not part of my circle of friends for the most part; however, there were times we would be eating at the same lunch table. While eating, I would keep an eye on the two of them to see if they ate the same type of food items. I do not know why I focused on this; I guess I was simply intrigued about their story of being birthed by one woman and raised by a different one. As I said earlier, I had never met anyone who had been adopted. From my observations, I chalked up their differences were due to having different fathers. I have not thought about them for some time, but I wonder with the easy availability of DNA testing if they ever were curious to learn more about their genetic history.      THE REASON I MENTIONED DNA TESTING, is because I had recently heard about a woman who, out of curiosity, decided to get tested because she was curious to find out what countries her ancestors originated from. When she received the results, she learned something more that she was not expecting; her DNA did not match with her dad. This news did not settle in immediately; but after studying her results again, it sunk in that the man she knew her entire life was not her father. Sadly, she could not ask either of her parents because they were both deceased. As far as she was concerned, her mother must have had an affair with another man; either her father knew and her parents decided to never say anything about it, or her mother kept it a secret her entire life. The woman was devastated by these results. I know it bothered her because she became angry that she could not confront her mother to find out the truth. Since this person is only an acquaintance, who I have had no contact with for some time, I now wonder if she delved deeper into her DNA results to see if she might have had any half siblings she could reach out to for any answers. It would be a shock if she experienced anything close to what happened in this startling documentary.      AWARE SHE WAS ADOPTED, JACOBA BALLARD was curious to know if she might have any unknown relatives. A DNA test could help, and it did, but not the way she was expecting. Directed by first time director Lucie Jourdan, this film played out like a suspenseful crime story. The story is so incredible that I was in synch with what was unfolding for Jacoba. The use and mix of actual recordings with reenactments went seamlessly and made for a more powerful statement in my opinion. As the story progressed, I found myself going deeper into shock from what was happening. I will also add that I became angry while watching the outcome of an issue that was being worked on. To think before we had the ability to test our DNA, there could be many people living under a delusion/fantasy. Be prepared when watching this documentary; it might have a bigger effect on you than you expect.

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Downton Abbey: A New Era

EVERYDAY ON MY ROUTE TO AND from the office, I pass a house that is up for sale. It has been nearly seven months now that the FOR-SALE sign has been out by the street curb. I do not know how big an acre of land is, but there is enough land around the structure where two more houses could easily be built on it. The land slopes up from the curb to the white painted house, giving off the look of a southern plantation home. With green painted shutters and a thick white pillar on either side of the front door with its brass door knocker, I do not understand why the house has not found a buyer; from my view, it looks like something used on a movie set. When I found the listing for it online, I went through all the photos of the interior, and I was stunned. The rooms were extremely small with just as small doorways. I could not imagine how furniture would fit through any of the doors. The kitchen was nasty looking, with ancient appliances, broken cabinet doors and old fixtures. Upstairs there were four bedrooms and each one was oddly shaped due to the pitch of the roof and the support beams. To look out the window of one of the rooms, one would have to stoop over to avoid hitting their head on the ceiling. This house was in desperate need of a big remodeling.      THIS ONE HOUSE HAS CHANGED MY perception of large, fancy homes; or as what I refer to them as, McMansions. The most beautiful homes with perfectly manicured lawns and the best curbside appeal may only be a façade. I am always looking at the homes listed in the real estate section of the newspapers and now wonder what might lie behind their walls. Firstly, I do not understand why someone needs a huge house unless they have a lot of family members living with them. Homes that are over 10,000 square feet with a multitude of bathrooms make no sense to me. Why would the occupants need so many rooms? Then there are the “super” mansions that are massive beyond anything that I would consider being practical. I sit and imagine what rooms get used in a day, week, or month; trying to list in my head every conceivable function that would require its own separate room. Even coming up with obscure hobbies or uses, I can see a maximum of needing maybe twelve rooms and that is including four bedrooms and a den. Keeping up maintenance would be a nightmare; I saw proof of it in this romantic drama.      ALLOWING A MOVIE STUDIO TO SET up in their home was more of a necessity for the Grantham family because they needed the funds for repairs. Also, the timing was perfect since they discovered the inheritance of a French villa. With Hugh Bonneville (Paddington franchise, Notting Hill) as Robert Grantham, Jim Carter (The Good Liar, Shakespeare in Love) as Mr. Carson, Michelle Dockery (Non-Stop, The Gentleman) as Lady Mary, Elizabeth McGovern (The Chaperone, The Wife) as Cora Grantham and Allen Leech (Bohemian Rhapsody, The Imitation Game) as Tom Branson; one need not see the first film to enjoy this sequel. I am not familiar with the television series, so the first thirty minutes were a struggle for me; however, I soon settled in to experience a time gone by with the members of this household. The idea for the story was a stretch; I would have been more curious if the writers had gone down the other path, they introduced into the story line regarding Hugh’s character. Either way, fans of the series will not be disappointed with this film. As for me, I wound up enjoying spending the time with the Grantham family, though I wondered what else in the house needed repair.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

HEAVEN ON EARTH FOR ME IS anyplace that sells soft-serve, custard ice cream. There is such a feeling of comfort and joy that comes over me when eating the stuff. So, I decided recently to treat myself and go to a shop that sells it. After the choosing and paying for my chocolate ice cream, I sat down at one of the tables in the place. A family of four walked in and they each grabbed a cup to fill up with their choice of ice cream. This shop is set up where the customer fills the container with product and gets charged for it by the weight. Next to the cash registers was a long counter that was covered with containers filled with different toppings for one’s ice cream. I watched as the two children with their full containers ran up to this counter to pick their toppings. Unbelievably, my first thought was why were not the parents supervising them on the toppings; but they eventually came over to pay for their containers, while watching their kids go from one end to the other putting topping after topping on their ice cream. I counted nine toppings; yes, I said nine toppings! You could see part of them on top above the edge of their containers. How did the parents allow so much stuff added to the ice cream, and I wondered how much each of their children’s containers would cost? Also, could they even taste each item when there were so many different ones piled together?      I HAVE NEVER SHIED AWAY FROM combined multiple tastes, like chocolate cake with chocolate chips and chocolate ice cream. Or I can do hot fudge, nuts, and sprinkles on top of my ice cream. However, I cannot exceed more tastes into one thing. An example would be that dessert bar that people usually call seven-layer bars or conglomerates. They are not bad, and I have certainly eaten my share of them; however, they are not my favorite. I would be perfectly content with a chocolate chip cookie. When there are too many items pushed together, I never feel I am getting the full taste of each item. It is funny, I am the same way with my meals. I like my salad before the meal and everything on my plate should be separated so they are not mixing. Chicken in one spot, asparagus in another and potatoes by themselves. Of course, Chinese entrees or several Mexican dishes are fine because they are supposed to be put together. The reason I am telling you this is because you will understand better why I was having a challenging time watching this action, adventure fantasy.      SEEING A MULTI-TENTACLE CREATURE DESTROYING property was not the biggest shock for Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Electrical Life of Louis Wan); it was seeing a young girl in the middle of the chaos, who he had seen in his dreams. With Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River, In Secret) as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Chiwetel Ejiofer (Locked Down, The Old Guard) as Baron Mordo, Benedict Wong (The Martian, Annihilation) as Wong and Rachel McAdams (Game Night, Spotlight) as Dr. Christine Palmer; this new installment of the film franchise had a darker side to it than the average Marvel Studios’ film. Benedict’s acting, which was superior, was equally matched and more so by Elizabeth Olsen and that is what kept me grounded to this picture. The abundance of special effects was so over the top for me; that I felt the CGI department let loose with everything they could think of because of being cooped up due to COVID the past couple of years. It was too much for me and I had to pay close attention to the different universes and storylines that were being thrust upon the screen. It was the thoughtful, emotional scenes that got me through the monotony of so many action, fantasy scenes. Though I will say the special effects were amazing; I love Doctor Strange’s cloak. How I like my toppings on ice cream is how I wish this sequel had been written, more backstory and less frenetic action scenes. There were two extra scenes: one in the middle and the other at the end of the credits.

3 stars    

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