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Flash Movie Review: The Great Beauty

THE GUESTS I was hosting were curious to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods. I put the afternoon aside to take them on a driving tour. After explaining how the city streets were based on a grid system, making it difficult to get lost as long as one could see a street address, we drove off to our 1st neighborhood. It so happens this was the area where I grew up. Driving around I explained the significance of several buildings, pointed out artifacts of interest and shared some of my personal history along the way. When I explained how I could walk to the main shopping district from my house without using any of the streets, they urged me to show them. I pointed out the several buildings’ gangways and alleys I traversed to make my way to the grocery store. There was no need to explain to them that this was one of my safe routes when I was a kid.     AFTER SPENDING THE day showing them several neighborhoods I had some down time, letting my mind drift back to the spots that meant something to me. It is funny how as one grows older things that were important become less so. Memories that were crystal clear and vibrant now look dull as if every recall of them had buffed the layers away. There was the neighborhood’s casual restaurant where my friends and I would sit for a couple of hours to solve what we thought were such urgent matters. All of them seemed so insignificant now through aged eyes. One of the neighborhoods I drove my guests through had a two storied nightclub where I had dreams of being hired as a dancer. If I straighten up now too fast from tying my shoelaces I get lightheaded; how did time go by so fast? Having seen my old public library brought back a flood of emotions for it was one of my safe havens. It was there that I could nestle into one of the alcoves with a stack of books in front of me as cover. How I used to dream about what my life would become only to see it now from much further down the road, as I strolled along my path of scattered memories.     SPENDING YEARS PARTYING with the upper echelon of society journalist Jeb Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, The Consequences of Love), pretty much knew or knew about everyone. But at this stage of his life did he really want to know them? This Oscar and film festival winning drama also starred Carlo Verdone (Me, Them and Lara; Fun is Beautiful) as Romano, Sabrina Ferilli (Forever Young, 3 Women) as Ramona and Carlo Bucci Rosso (The New Monsters Today, Il Divo) as Lello Cava. Set in Italy, it was beautiful watching this movie. Not just the outdoor scenes but even the indoor ones each offered something for the viewer. As I began this DVD I did not connect immediately to the story; however, there was something about the way the film was shot that drew me in. I found it especially interesting that I perceived all the actors to be friends, which was due to how well they all blended together in the story. There was some confusion on my part whether the story was being told in chronological order or not, but it did not distract me too much. I will say I thought the film ran too long; the script could have used some editing. In a way this was an interesting study of the aging process. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: It

THE STUDENT POPULATION of a school forms its own world map, where borders may be harder to determine. Where you may have one group of students coming together for their common love of sports, there could be another batch of kids who form a clique based on their enjoyment of drinking and drugging. To an outsider it may be difficult to see how these individual groups come together, since its formation is more akin to the way magnets attract metal; it is an unseen force yet yields a strong pull. Added to that there may not be any way to visually determine the common attraction. Unlike a bunch of students who are into and always wearing the latest fashion trends, there are individual groups that appear to be well diversified on the surface. One thing to remember about interacting with someone from a clique is that you rarely will be dealing with that person on a one to one basis; they always have the rest of their group to back them up.     BACK DURING MY school years I never really was part of a group or clique; at least I did not think so. I was part of the film club and yearbook committee. What I did not realize was the group of friends I was hanging out with actually formed a clique-those not cool enough to be in one of the popular groups. At the time I thought we all just became friends because we had the same classes together or shared common friends; but maybe it was due to the fact we were easily accessible to each other because no group would accept us. As a result we were always initially left behind from various school activities until we banded together to head out as our own group. Looking at the students I hung out with through adult eyes I can now see we did share some common interests; however, we also had distinct differences. I am sure a good portion of them had no idea what I was going through with being bullied. Having met some of my abusers in my adult life, it was apparent to me they had no idea they were evil. The students in this dramatic horror film at least all knew who was evil.     WITH NO ONE to keep them safe a group of kids come together to protect themselves from an evil clown that has been terrorizing each of them. Starring Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special, Aloha) as Bill Denbrough, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ant-Man, 42) as Ben Hanson, Sophia Lillis (37, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) as Beverly Marsh, Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things-TV) as Richie Tozier and Bill Skarsgard (Atomic Blonde, Allegiant) as Pennywise; the acting from all of them was surprisingly quite good. I had wished there were more scenes with Bill Skarsgard however. The script for this Stephen King (Carrie, The Shining) novel took an interesting perspective I thought. Where I had wanted more back story to Pennywise, the writers’ focused more on the kids. By doing so I felt they were using a wider definition of “monster.” As for the movie there was more suspense to the scenes than horror; there were only a couple of scenes that had gore and blood. However, there was an over abundance of strong language throughout the film. For me the underlying message of the story was actually a positive one; I connected to it as it brought back memories of my school years. Isn’t that a scary thought?

 

3 stars                

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Patti Cake$

ANGER IS SOMETHING that you are told you should not get or show. As far as I can tell most people give anger a negative connotation. From years ago I can still remember people telling me either not to get angry or saying it is not nice to be angry. I vaguely remember someone telling me “instead of getting angry, get even.” Back then I did not have enough self awareness to deal with anger or express it properly. What I did learn about anger, it was a valid emotion like any of the others. I would never encourage anyone to hold in their anger because when it is held inside it can build up and come out with more force than the occasion calls for. Also bottled up anger can physically and mentally do nasty things to one’s body.     IF HANDLED PROPERLY anger can be used like a high octane fuel to motivate an individual to overcome a challenge. Personally if I had not funneled my anger and put it to constructive use I believe I would have self destructed. Anger helped me lose weight and it also got me to remove toxic people from my life. Trust me it was not an easy process and I do not want to make it sound like it was no big deal; but after being picked on for such a long time, I started to redirect the self-destructive side of anger towards more positive uses. I started taking steps to build myself up, internally and externally. When I think about it I do not know if I would have returned to putting pen to paper if I did not get in touch with my deep seated anger. An interesting thing to note, in situations where I thought someone intentionally wanted to hurt me I would lash out at them. Dealing with anger allowed me to get clarity about a situation and instead of getting angry I could express how my feelings were hurt. I have to say the main character in this dramatic, film festival winning movie does an amazing job of expressing her feelings.     TIRED OF BEING made fun of and living with her alcoholic mother Patricia Dombrowski aka Killa P aka Patti Cake$, played by Danielle Macdonald (The East, Every Secret Thing), wanted to get out of New Jersey. With all the feelings she had been putting down to paper, she wanted to use them and become the next rap superstar. With Bridget Everett (Trainwreck, Inside Amy Schumer-TV) as Barb, Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull, Analyze That) as Nana and McCaul Lombardi (American Honey, Age of the Moon) as Danny; the cast was excellent in their roles. It was especially terrific seeing Cathy in her role. The first thing I have to tell you is I am not a fan of rap music; however, the music for this film was so intoxicating I would consider buying the soundtrack. Danielle was unbelievable both with her acting and rapping. The theme to this story was a familiar one that has been done before; however, there was a pure rawness to this one. I will say there were a few scenes that came across as odd but I discovered afterwards the director had done the videos for a couple of music artists, which then explained the fantasy feel in some scenes. There were no major surprises in the script; I had a feeling on how things would play out. As you might imagine I could relate to Patricia and admired her strength.

 

3 stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Ingrid Goes West

THEY WERE STANDING by the fountain in the middle of the block long park. If anyone noticed who they were they did not show it. I was sitting at a park bench and spotted them immediately as they came into view. It was a celebrity couple with their young child; both of them were actors, one in movies and the other did movies and television. My first feeling was surprise, surprise they were by themselves without an entourage. Despite their celebrity status they were walking around like your average parents taking their kid to the park. My curiosity about them was limited to finding out if they were pleasant, stuck up, funny or if they could form a complete sentence and carry on a conversation. I was not interested to hear if they had an opinion on world affairs or product endorsements. In fact, it offends me when celebrities use their status to share their thoughts and opinions on subjects far removed from their daily lives.     THERE IS A FINE line that separates admiration and obsession. It used to be getting a celebrity’s autograph was the ultimate prize. These days it seems as if people want so much more out of their celebrities. Look at the plethora of commercial products being promoted by celebrities. Better yet look at the effect social media has had on the relationship between fans and stars; one comment by a screen actor can send an army of fans on the warpath. It borders on the bizarre for me. I am not interested in knowing where a celebrity shops or eats; it does not interest me to know where they have been or who they are dating. Now I will admit regarding the celebrity couple I mentioned earlier, I did ask my 5 year old relative to go over and try to play with the couple’s child so I could mosey on over; but, all I wanted to do was strike up a casual conversation and perhaps mention I have reviewed their movies. I guess that sounds self-serving doesn’t it? Oh no, am I turning into a celebrity stalker?     FEELING LIKE AN outcast Ingrid Thorburn, played by Aubrey Plaza (Safety not Guaranteed, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), found the life she was meant to lead. To get it she just had to become friends with a social media celebrity. This film festival winning, comedic drama also starred Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River, In Secret) as Taylor Sloane, O’Shea Jackson Jr (Straight Outta Compton) as Dan Pinto, Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Everybody Wants Some!!) as Ezra O’Keefe and Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods, Bridge of Spies) as Nicky Sloane. I found the script for this story to be smart and heavy on the satire. Aubrey was perfect for the role; though I have to say from the few things I have seen her in, she appears to stay in the same comedic lane with her style. The rest of the cast did a great job as well and helped gave this story some biting depth. There were times when I noticed my mind started to wander away from the story, but I believe it was due to me not being able to relate to any of the characters. When I left the theater I needed to give more thought to the movie as a whole and realized it really provided a scathing take on society’s obsession with social media and celebrity status.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

“ACT LIKE A LADY,” what does that exactly mean? I always found it an odd comment because I had never seen or heard about a primer that explained how girls and boys were supposed to act. Sure I remember when I was a child boys played with toy soldiers, guns and baseball bats; while girls played with stuffed animals, tea sets and dolls. There was a young girl who enjoyed playing with trucks, the bigger the better. I can still remember the odd looks some adults would give her as if she was doing something wrong. I used to babysit some of my female relatives and play house with them; it never occurred to me to tell them boys don’t play house or host a dinner party. If that is what they wanted to play or if they wanted to play cards I did not care. However, I was aware that out among my friends I could be teased for it.     FAST forward to current times and there now seems like there is a push by people, companies and such to praise women, to show how progressive they have become. Now do not get me wrong, I am all for putting a spotlight on anyone who deserves it; however, some of these campaigns ring false to me. A company has formed a women’s group to promote female employees; yet they still do not get the same pay scale as their male counterparts. A film comes out with a strong female lead but studio executives still treat some of their female staff in an inappropriate way. It bugs me when people assign a label to their friends or co-workers. For example statements like, “my black friend” or “my gay co-worker;” do we really need to classify an individual? Isn’t a friend just your friend or does one choose their friends to fit a specific category? For those who want to try and classify the main character in this action thriller you will have a hard time figuring out what to say.     SENT to Berlin to retrieve a secret list MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron (Dark Places, Mad Max: Fury Road), was a target even before she landed. Based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City” the cast also included James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, Split) as David Percival, Eddie Marsan (Sherlock franchise, Ray Donovan-TV) as Spyglass, John Goodman (Love the Coopers, Kong: Skull Island) as Emmett Kurzfeld and Toby Jones (Captain America franchise, Tale of Tales) as Eric Gray. Hands down this was Charlize’s film all the way. She simply was a beast in this picture. The fight scenes looked graphically real and Charlize must have gone through intense hand to hand combat training because it showed. I had read afterwards she did over 90% of all the stunts. The soundtrack was an important part to the script, but here is the downside to it. The script was confusing and not as strong as it could have been. I did not mind the jumping back in forth in time but would have preferred less of it. Regardless I felt this was at times an intense, mysterious, all out thriller that did not need to be defined as a male or female film; it was an equal opportunity battle. There were scenes with blood and strong violence.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Beguiled

WHENEVER there was a fight that involved females, they would attract the biggest crowds. There is a term I have heard associated to these types of fights called “catfight.” As a young kid I never understood why other children would yell out this word and immediately others would scurry over to watch 2 girls battle it out. I remember a couple of these fights breaking out in the school hallways and was stunned at the viciousness on display. There was scratching, kicking, hair pulling and smacking, besides tearing of clothing. One particular fight involved a shorter girl who had transferred into our school. She actually stunned and frightened many students when she got involved into a fight with another girl. The reason being she was landing full-fledged hard punches like a boxer. Her opponent dropped to the floor in no time.     STRENGTH is not something that is exclusive to the male species. I am sure I have mentioned in previous reviews my female relatives who were in the military; one was a sergeant who could nearly squeeze the blood out of your hand when she shook it. It just makes me wonder how and why stereotypes get formed. You know the ones like females are the weaker sex or are more emotional or always go to the restroom in pairs; why are such things a topic of conversation? There have been numerous times feats of strength have been reported on the news or shown on television specials. I remember from years ago a small child being trapped underneath a car and its mother pushing the vehicle off her child. Just recently in the newspaper there was an article about a father who saved his child from flood waters without the use of anything except his super human strength against the rushing water. Whether one is male or female, a parent or not; I feel when times call for it anyone will do whatever they can to survive. See for yourself in this film festival winning drama.     SECLUDED in their boarding school in Virginia the lives of the student body were disrupted when injured soldier Corporal McBurney, played by Colin Farrell (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), was discovered on their property. Besides being injured he was also a northerner. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this civil war story was utterly beautiful to watch. The scenes were full of atmosphere where I was feeling the emotions of the cast which included Nicole Kidman (Lion, Secret in Their Eyes) as Miss Martha, Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Upside Down) as Edwina and Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, 20th Century Women) as Alicia. The acting was outstanding especially from Nicole; there is no denying when she is on screen she commands one’s attention. I know this story was done before; but what I enjoyed about this version was the fact it was coming from the women’s point of view. The story was a fascinating one for me because of the women being southerners and Colin’s character was from the north. Everything appeared to hit the mark until I got deeper into the film. Based on the scenes I actually felt there needed to be more intensity coming out of the characters. With that type of cast they could have easily delved further down and made a bigger impact. I still enjoyed watching this picture, loving how some of the scenes were set up visually. One thing for sure after seeing this movie, one cannot assume someone is weaker than another.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Baby Driver

A life without music is a life less rich. At least that is how I feel about music. The famous line from William Congreve’s play “The Mourning Bride” goes, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” It is usually misquoted as a savage beast; either way I agree with its meaning 100%. However I feel music offers us so much more. As the world appears to be more divided currently, music is the one common element that goes past all boundaries. In my opinion music is a universal language that can establish common ground between individuals. One place where I often see this taking place is at a wedding. You have two distinct families with nothing in common except one of their family members is in love with someone from the other side. There could be differences in race, religion or culture but put on some music and people will come together on the dance floor, beginning the first step in making contact with the other side.     ANOTHER benefit music offers us is comfort. How many of us have a “breakup song?” You know that one song that you played over and over because it was speaking to you at the time of your separation from the person you loved. Sure it may cause a tear to spill over your eyelid, but it started the path for your heart to heal. I remember whenever I was sad I would sit at the piano and play my favorite music pieces over and over. By the time I walked away I felt some of the heaviness on my heart had been lifted. Music has to be playing whenever I am in the car or when I have to clean the house. I can better tolerate housekeeping when there is a steady beat playing in the background. If I did not have music playing during my commute I would walk into the office frustrated and angry. Maybe it would be different if I had the mad driving skills like the driver in this action crime movie.     SURVIVING a car crash as a young boy Baby, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent franchise, The Fault in our Stars), may have been influenced by it because he became a fearless getaway driver for crime boss Doc, played by Kevin Spacey (Elvis & Nixon, House of Cards-TV). The only problem was he was not allowed to do anything else. With Jon Hamm (Keeping up with the Jones, Mad Men-TV) as Buddy, Lily James (Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) as Debora and Jon Bernthal (The Ghost Writer, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Griff; this film had a banging hard rock soundtrack. The characters and action were all put into synch with the driving beat. I could not recall seeing in a movie such precision between the two. The driving scenes were intensely thrilling; some of the scenes must be seen to be believed. Ansel was amazing in this picture; I felt it was a breakout role for him. Shifting into a lower gear (I could not resist), there was little explanation about the different relationships between characters. I did not understand Baby’s connection to his friend for example. One other thing for me was the change from such high speed action scenes to lesser ones; it made for some odd pacing. The final diagnostics for this music driven movie is it fires on most cylinders.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Megan Leavey

EVERY day starts with him coming outside to begin his squirrel watch. He stands still in the middle of the backyard with his head tilted upwards, scanning the tree branches for any movement. If something even twitches for a brief moment, a plethora of barking takes place as my neighbor’s dog begins racing around the tree trunk, daring the animal to take a step down towards him. Having recently celebrated his 2nd birthday this dog is actually a big hunk of crazy love. Anytime I come out of my garage and he is in the yard, he squats down on the ground like an ancient sphinx, waiting in anticipation for me to call out his name. You see he will not run up to my fence until I call him. Now here is his secret; he is being trained to be a search and rescue dog. His owner, my neighbor, told me about one of the exercises he performs with the dog. At the facility’s swimming pool, my neighbor pretends he is drowning. The dog is released and jumps into the pool, swims over to the man, grabs a hold of any piece of clothing or a limb in his mouth and begins pushing or pulling the man to the edge of the pool.     SOME of the other stories my neighbor has told me have been extraordinary. There is such a bond between this man and his dog that is quite noticeable. When both are in the backyard, the man will do exercises with the dog; some are with verbal cues while others are done only with different hand gestures. It amazes me that within the span of 2 years, if even that, this dog has achieved so much with his owner. As I said before just looking at him running around and barking his head off in the backyard, you would think the dog is a hyper bundle of energy. I would love to see him on one of the search and rescue missions, just to see how he focuses on the task. Until then I will be satisfied watching the dog in this film based on a true story.     WITH nowhere to go in her hometown Megan Leavey, played by Kate Mara (The Martian, 127 Hours), enlisted in the army. Assigned to cleanup duty at the dog pound that housed one of the most aggressive dogs, Megan would have to confront her fears. This biographical war drama also starred Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, A United Kingdom) as Andrew Dean, Common (Selma, Now You See Me) as Gunny Martin, Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as Dr. Turbeville and Bradley Whitford (The Cabin in the Woods, Scent of a Woman) as Bob. The script was kept simple; there was not much surprising about the story. However, the script with the directing created an engaging story filled with bits of drama, tension, tears and joy. The actual story is incredible; though I felt things were kept more subdued overall in this movie. I think it would be hard for someone not to enjoy watching this picture. For me I honestly never gave much thought to the role dogs play in the military; my only encounter on this type of level would be in the security lines at the airport or city events. When a friend asked me if they might cry watching this film, I asked them if they planned on bringing any facial tissues.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Chuck

“YOU should write a book about it,” is a comment that has been directed to me numerous times. The reason has less to do with my writing ability and more with the incredible to outrageous stories I have been involved in or told. I will avoid using pronouns to protect the individuals. There was one person I was involved with whose family history played out like an evening soap opera, television show. One family member was going to be elected to a high political position until their views deviated from the people in power. The person I knew was sent out of the country to avoid any fallout, but to also get a better education. Spending many years traveling the world instead of coming back home, they told me about some of their experiences in foreign lands that I have not even seen done in a movie. One of these stories involved a stalker and a secret intelligence agency; that is all I can say about this individual.     RECENTLY I was involved with someone who had a story to tell me every time we got together. One of the stories was accompanied with photographs; however, they could only show me a select few because they were brought in to oversee a secret government operation. The first photo they showed me was of them standing in front of a posted sign out in the jungle. I immediately knew why they had to be secretive about their whereabouts. Another photo showed how they were transported to this secret location; essentially it was a cargo bay with portable toilets and folding chairs nailed to the floor. It was so not part of my little corner of the world that I did not even know how to respond to any of it. I could go on with so many other encounters I have had that I could actually fill up a whole book. However if I do that then I cannot tell you whether it was worth seeing this biographical drama about a man who was the real boxer behind the famous film character Rocky Balboa.     KNOWN as the “Bleeder of Bayonne” boxer Chuck Wepner, played by Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, Ray Donovan-TV), was a hometown hero even before there was a movie called Rocky. With Elizabeth Moss (The One I Love, Mad Men-TV) as Phyliss, Naomi Watts (St. Vincent, Diana) as Linda, Jim Gaffigan (17 Again, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) as John and Ron Perlman (Poker Night, Hellboy franchise) as Al Braverman; I had never heard about this boxer. Everyone in the cast did a wonderful job of acting. Liev however stood out for me because he was so good in his role, but be prepared there was a lot of blood shown. Not being a big fan of boxing, I was glad that the actual act was secondary to the story. As for the story it was engaging with surprise. The sets, costumes and dialog captured the era; it was interesting to watch the arc of Chuck’s story line. If I had to choose one particular thing that increased my interest in this film it would have to be the connection to Sylvester Stallone and the Rocky movie. I think it helped that this was included into the script because it produced deeper emotional intensity to the story. There are so many people in the world that need to have their story told; I was satisfied that this one came to the big screen.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

THE man’s wavy untamed hair in the photograph was the closest looking to his own. No one else in the photo album had hair similar to this man, so there was a good chance that man in the photo could be his father. The young boy would pull out his mother’s photo album anytime he was feeling sorry for himself. Sitting on the sofa with the album in his lap he would stare at this one particular photograph of the man with the wavy hair and wonder what the man was like. The little boy would get lost inside his imagination, placing himself next to his possible father in a variety of scenarios. They would be at the amusement park; sitting side by side in a roller coaster that was about to climb up a steep embankment, their hands tightly clenching their shouldstraps with their legs pressed up against each other. For several years the young boy believed his real father was out there somewhere.      SOME people were born into a family while others created their own. A basic definition of family is a group of people related to one another. It could be by blood or there may be something else in common. I have a friend who has a family by birth. Though she continues to try over and over, her and her family have different expectations or maybe it is just different feelings of what makes a family. She has been disappointed more times than not with her so-called family. The only time they do something as a family is if it is convenient for her siblings; they have never gone out of their way for her. So the windup is my friend has started to create her own supportive family among her friends. This action science fiction film will show you what my friend did in her life.      SETTLING into their roles as the Guardians of the Galaxy, the group of friends encounter strong forces that will test the bonds they have recently formed with each other. This adventure sequel starred Chris Pratt (Jurassic World, Passengers) as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Zoe Saldana (Star Trek franchise, Nina) as Gamora, Dave Bautista (The Man with the Iron Fists, Spectre) as Drax and Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector, Jumper) as Yondu. Right from the start this picture grabs you with its special effects and action packed scenes. And just like the original movie, this one also had a great soundtrack. I thought the script was intriguing with its strong theme of family. Not wanting to get too deep with this theme the writers did not forget to include the same type of humor that was used in the last film. Now this brings me to my issue with this movie; it unfortunately was not the first one because since we are familiar with the new franchise, this installment did not have the same fresh quirkiness because I had seen it before. I do not consider this a major complaint; I still laughed and enjoyed the action. If you are not a fan of science fiction I am not sure you would get totally into this picture, but I am sure you would not be able to stop your feet from tapping along to the music. There were three extra scenes during the credits and one more brief scene at the end of the credits.

 

3 stars

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