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Flash Movie Review: Maudie

SITTING in the waiting room there was a woman near me who was feverishly knitting. I could not tell what she was making but I was fascinated with the dexterity of her fingers; they looked like spider legs that were spinning silk into a massive web. Normally I would not have paid much attention to her since I know many people who take their knitting with to work on pieces when they have free time. There was something different about her though; her pace I can only say was caffeinated. However I noticed one of her legs was deliberately shaking up and down, like a mini pneumatic power jack. This is something I do when I have excess energy but I also know people do it when they are nervous or anxious. To tell you the truth she did not look relaxed at all; there was an intensity about the way she sat in her chair and there were no clues on her face telling me she was relaxed. I do not know maybe knitting was her therapy; it was a valid point.     HOWEVER a person deals with stress is their business; I give them credit for finding an outlet to eliminate it as best as they can from their body and mind. When I had access to a piano it was my “go to” place whenever I was troubled or under stress. Creating music was a soothing experience where I could get lost and forget the reality I was experiencing. I would assume almost every person has some outlet that provides them a peaceful place. For some it may be participating in or watching sports programs, others may take long walks. Teaching yoga these past years has provided me another outlet where I can experience calmness. That is the key when it comes to disconnecting the mind from a stressful situation; one has to focus on the thing they love and stick with it. It is because of that I found myself intently following the story in this film festival winning movie based on a true story.     MAUD Lewis, played by Sally Hawkins (A Brilliant Young Mind, Blue Jasmine), loved to paint. No matter what anyone thought or did to her, her painting brought her comfort. No one thought much of her work except one person. This biographical romantic drama had a pure beautiful story. With Ethan Hawke (The Magnificent Seven, Training Day) as Everett Lewis, Kari Matchett (Civic Duty, Cypher) as Sandra, Gabrielle Rose (A Dog’s Purpose, The Sweet Hereafter) as Aunt Ida and Zachary Bennett (Hacker, Jack) as Charles Dowley; the acting between Sally and Ethan has to be seen to be believed. Sally was incredible and deserves to be nominated for a film award. I never heard of Maud Lewis but I absolutely enjoyed the arc to this film’s story. The depth and the transformations displayed by the characters kept me engaged throughout the picture. Set in Nova Scotia, I thought the natural beauty of the landscapes created wonderful opportunities for the filming process. Simple scenes were still able to convey emotions clearly. I did wish the writers had provided a little more background information for Maud and Everett, particularly Everett because I was not sure what was motivating his emotions in the early parts of the story. However this was a mild concern. The human character is amazing and seeing what a person can create out of troubling situations is a beautiful feat.

 

4 stars

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Hidden Figures

HIS attendance was perfect; he never missed a day of work. The quality of his work was outstanding and it showed in his yearly performance review because he never received a below average mark in any of the performance categories. However, he never received an above average mark either; but, he did not complain about it, grateful he had a job. The travel time for him was long; it required 2 buses and a train to get to the office. The company had over 200 employees but he could not call one of them a friend. Some individuals would only talk to him if they had to for business; he was used to the blank or condescending looks he would get for nearly every action he took.   SHE was in love and it did not even take her long to realize it. They had met at a coffee shop one afternoon. Over their drinks they did not strictly make small talk; they ventured into deeper subjects and it was apparent there was a unique kindness being shared between them. Over the next several weeks a mutual fondness grew between them. Each was starting to think they found the right one they wanted to be with for the rest of their life. With the blossoming love they shared they became more affectionate with each other. Simple things like holding hands at the movies or a quick kiss on the cheek, actions everyone in love has done from time to time. When they were affectionate they did not realize people around them would stop what they were doing to watch the happy couple. The look on these strangers’ faces was usually a grimace, a look of disgust. Nothing the happy couple did was inappropriate but it did not matter, there was another reason. And the reason could be found in the color of a person’s skin.   LOSING the space race to the Russians was not acceptable; it would take effort from every single person at NASA to get astronaut John Glenn up into space. But if you were not the right color, you did not count to some people. Based on a true story this is a must see drama. Starring Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Empire-TV) as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer) as Dorothy Vaughan, recording artist Janelle Monae (Moonlight) as Mary Jackson and Kevin Costner (Black or White, Draft Day) as Al Harrison; this film festival winning movie was unbelievable. Let me start with the story; what an amazing achievement during a time period that most of us had never known about while history was being made in getting a rocket into space. The acting was wonderful from everyone; even minor characters fit right in without missing a beat of the story. As a movie viewing experience I had a great time clapping and cheering with the audience during a few scenes. Knowing how the story was going to end, since it is a part of US history, did not take away from the enjoyment in watching the amazing feats being achieved by the people in this movie. The space program has come so far from blasting John Glenn into space; now if only we could elevate our thinking about judging a person on their abilities instead of their color.

 

4 stars    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Kubo and the Two Strings

One of the main motivations for breeding an animal is to make money. From my college studies I learned how much thought and detail goes into deciding which animal should be bred. Whether a farmer or racehorse breeder they each spot specific traits they want to be carried down to the offspring of their herd. I still remember a course I had where we were taught to look at a pig and figure out their most prominent traits for breeding purposes. Some of you who follow race horsing may already know a winning horse is worth more in retirement when they go out to stud. Aren’t you glad we are not animals? But I have to tell you I am just as fascinated by family traits as I was in animal science. The gene pool to me is this vast reservoir of a family’s history; it is a game of chance when a couple has a child. What traits will the child acquire from the parents? I am always curious when a business establishment is family owned and has been handed down from generation to generation. It makes me wonder whether each new generation has acquired the same set of skill sets to make the business a continued success. Even when I witness a child doing the same thing as one of their parents, like being a tennis player or painter, it amazes me how that talent filtered down to the younger generation. Though I have to tell you I know of a family that has a business that has been handed down and the latest generation involved with it dislikes being a part of it. They wanted to be something else but their family essentially forced them to follow in the footsteps of their parent. Gratefully that was not the case in this gorgeous animated adventure film.   KUBO, voiced by Art Parkinson (Dracula Untold, San Andreas), never knew his father and could not understand why his mother insisted he be home before dark. She had a very good reason. With a mixture of claymation and CGI effects, this family film was magical and enchanting. The actors such as Charlize Theron (Young Adult, A Million Ways to Die in the West) as Monkey, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Dallas Buyers Club) as Beetle and Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash, Harry Potter franchise) as Moon King were wonderful voicing their characters. I do not know if the story was actually from Japanese folklore, but the script was something special. The way it brought in the topic of ancestors was beautiful. I felt there was the right balance of humor, drama, danger and thrills to create a connection to any age group watching this film. Not sure why but there is something about the art of claymation that attracts me. Maybe it is because I know how much effort has to be made to make the characters move seamlessly; the figures are just more dimensional to me. I do not know what else I could tell you except after seeing this picture I had wished I was part of Kubo’s gene pool.

 

4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Gleason

One of my mantras in life is no one has the right to tell someone how they should feel. Everyone has the right to feel the way they wish without judgment. I feel all emotions are valid; there are no good or bad ones. There was a portion of my life where this was not the case and it had to do with the emotion of sadness. There were many reasons for this but there was a time where I would never cry. Hearing taunts such as “crying is for sissies” or “you’re such a crybaby” affected me and taught me I better hide my emotions if I did not want to become a target. Seeing a baby bird fall out of its nest and die is sad to me. I have always found it curious why people would comment by telling you not to cry. At one point in time (I hope no one still believes this) it was assumed girls were more emotional, so that is why they cry. Boys were perceived to be tougher if they did not cry. Can I ask you; where did this idea come from? Why was it important that boys be tougher than girls? I could get into a lengthy debate about stereotyping but I prefer not going down that path at this time. I feel it is healthy to express one’s emotions. In fact, when I see someone laughing, crying or feeling depressed I feel a kinship with them. I felt this on such a strong level while sitting in the movie theater watching this incredible documentary.   FORMER New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason found out he and his wife Michel were going to be parents a week after he was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s disease. He wanted his child to know what type of man was its father. Written and directed by Clay Tweel (Print the Legend, Finders Keepers), this film festival winner was extremely hard to watch; but it was so worth it. Not being a team sports fan, I have to tell you the way the director interspersed sports footage with current reality was the ideal way to blend the two aspects of Steve and I was quickly sold early into it. On one side there was the hero Steve who sparked a city into healing civic pride after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and the other side was Steve watching his body shutting down. It was such a stark contrast, but what the movie audience saw was this thoughtful, insightful, inspirational human being. As I mentioned earlier this was a tough picture to sit through; not only was I crying, there was out loud sobbing from audience members. Everyone was experiencing the same emotions at the same time. By the way sadness was only one of many emotions; I do not want to paint a picture of us sitting and crying the whole time as if we were at a funeral of a loved one. Though this film may be challenging to watch it is worth seeing, just bring a handkerchief with you.

 

4 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It takes more than blood to make a family. Love, support and care would be some other elements needed for a family unit. I am aware the word family had a more traditional minded definition years ago, but it has evolved along with the times. I wanted to see how it is presently defined and this is what I found online: “A social unit consisting of parents and their children, considered as a group.” Another definition I read stated it this way: “A group of persons who form a household under one head.” If I were to define the word “family” I would also add the option “persons of equal status.” The reason I say this is because after I recently left a lunch date with a close friend I was driving home, thinking about how similarly minded the two of us were in our ideas and beliefs. I not only felt comfortable with her, but easily saw her as the sister I never had. We have each shared such personal details about our life that I simply consider her family. There is some type of saying that goes something like this, “You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.” Another one is, “Friends are the family you choose.” Both of these sayings have validity; family starts with the heart and mind. Now when it comes to children and the things I have seen and heard, I believe children come into this world with a clean slate, totally innocent. The individuals who bring them in may not always qualify to be a parent. This film festival winning adventure movie will show you an example of what I have been saying.   GOING from foster home to foster home Ricky, played by Julian Dennison (Paper Planes, Shopping), had one chance left to make it work when he arrived at the home of Bella and Hec, played by Rima Te Wiata (Housebound, Full Frontal-TV) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park franchise, Event Horizon). Not everyone was on board with this arrangement. The story line in this comedic drama may seem familiar to many viewers; however, I am guessing very few of you have experienced a movie of this caliber. First the setting was so incredibly beautiful I just wanted to be there. Secondly, with the inclusion of Rachel House (Whale Rider, Boy) as Paula, the acting was excellent. I thought the script did a wonderful job in the mixing of humor and drama. There were laugh out loud parts, scary parts, touching parts; I absolutely was drawn into this picture for it was the complete package of what a good movie should be. Only for the briefest of moments I had a hard time understanding what Ricky was saying, but once I had a sense of his lingo I did not have any type of issue. Another thing that stood out for me was the direction. I enjoyed the way the story was filmed, giving actors the opportunity to express real emotions without having to say anything. Watching this movie was a joyous experience for me and I would not mind if some of the characters became part of my family.

 

4 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Jungle Book

When something that has only been created in a novel or been seen on television comes to life it can be a miraculous experience. Think about it, for those who saw Santa Claus sitting in his big chair with a line of children waiting nearby to tell him their wish list of toys; it had to be an amazing event. Depending on a child’s age seeing characters from their video games brought to life must also be a heady experience. I remember the first time I went to the zoo; having only seen household pets, squirrels, birds and a couple of farm animals; I was so excited to see all the exotic animals that were living in the zoo. My very first stuffed animal was a chimpanzee dressed in red overalls. Now I was seeing what I thought were all of his cousins jumping and swinging around in their own habitat. I have mentioned previously how I prefer reading afterwards the book a movie was based on, due to the author’s choice of words are usually better than the finished film project. With that being said I have to say there has been many times where I love seeing stories, historical events and folklore coming to life on the big screen. When done right, a movie can provide the voices of the characters one has made up in their heads of the ones in a novel. They can also bring to life an event that took place years ago but still has an importance in one’s life to this day. Today’s review is about a movie that brings new life to a classic story.   WHEN it suddenly became dangerous to stay at home the man-cub Mowgli, played by newcomer Neel Sethi; was taken by the panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley (Learning to Drive, The Dictator), who would take him to a safer place. Mowgli’s journey would be life changing. This adventure drama was absolutely unbelievable to watch on the big screen; in fact, I may go back to see it in 3D because the CGI in this film was beautiful and realistic. Kudos to Neel Sethi because he was utterly believable as Mowgli; keeping in mind he was the only live person in this fantastical family film. Now that does not take anything away from actors such as Bill Murray (Rock the Kasbah, The Monuments Men) as Baloo the bear and Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor franchise) as Shere Khan the tiger who were perfect voicing their characters. Having read the Rudyard Kipling book and seen the animated film years ago, I was totally taken into Mowgli’s world from my theater seat. I still love the first film but I have to tell you this version has every right to be considered a Disney classic on its own merits. It will not matter if you are familiar with this story or not because either way all the characters in this picture will draw you into their “real” world and you will be glad you were able to visit it.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Hunt

It may have only been a snippet of a conversation or a brief moment seeing someone in the middle of an activity, but it was all you needed to make an assumption. With all the ways humans now can communicate with each other, I feel we lost the most important part: face to face. For me face to face provides the adjectives or better yet the emotions, the intentions to a person’s conversations. However, there is a pitfall embedded in this way of communicating. Have you noticed how people tend to believe someone if they talk louder or give an impassioned speech? I abhor talking or mentioning politics, but I have only recently noticed that after politicians debate or give speeches, the news services provide a fact check on the politicians’ claims. It is amazing to me how many falsehoods these news sources reveal. The scary part about this is how some people do not care if things are true or not, they just want to be part of a group or majority. I still remember a fight that took place after school hours. One of the combatants had spread a rumor about the other; so there was a small crowd circling the two fighters, cheering and yelling. They believed the rumor was true. It looked like a school of piranha for the scene turned into a feeding frenzy, where bystanders were adding punches and kicks when the opportunity presented itself. You know it only takes one person to plant a seed of an idea into people’s minds before that group mentality mindset takes over to motivate individuals to become joiners. As adults we should know better, but what if that seed came out of a child’s mouth?    STRUGGLING to get back on his feet after a bitter divorce Lucas, played by Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, Hannibal-TV), had a steady teaching job and was fighting for equal visitation rights for his son Marcus, played by relative newcomer Lasse Fogelstrom. Plans changed when the principal of the school heard what one of the students named Klara, played by newcomer Annika Wedderkopp, said about Lucas. This Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie was an intense, thought provoking drama. With Thomas Bo Larsen (The Celebration, Pusher) playing Theo as part of the cast, the acting was outstanding. The actors were so good that they kept me glued to the TV screen, tensely wondering what was going to happen next. I can see why this picture was nominated for best foreign movie by the academy. Even the newcomers of the cast were just as convincing as the adults in this story. I have been a fan of Mads for some time and after you see him in this role I believe you will feel the same way. After the movie was over I stayed seated, going over the story in my head. Do not be surprised if you too mull over the story in your head. Danish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

4 stars — DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Spotlight

He would be the perfect candidate for a television game show, where the contestants guess the person’s occupation. The reason being no one would guess what he did for a living. With a physical shape more akin to a fireplug; he smoked cigarettes, drank and had a Napoleon complex. In other words, he was aggressive to compensate for his short stature. I was never comfortable around him; he would simply bark orders at everyone, barely hiding his mean streak that simmered just below the surface. Do you want to take a guess at his job title? He was a gym teacher; I hesitate to use the words physical education because he did not know much about health or the human body. There were classes where he would just throw a bunch of basketballs out into the gymnasium and tell us to shoot baskets. I think he only did this so he could sit in his office that had two windows covered with metal grates. If any students knew what he was doing in there they never shared their information. I never understood how this man kept his job. He would throw basketballs at our heads or body; in fact I know I must have mentioned this before, but he put one student up against the wall and kept throwing balls at his head while a majority of the students in the bleachers sat and laughed. How could a school system keep such a person in a position of authority who acted like this, like a bully.    INVESTIGATIVE reporters from the Boston Globe discovered a pattern of abuse taking place in their city, but no one seemed to be aware of it; or were they just not saying anything? This film festival winning drama was based on a true story. The actors assembled were all so equally terrific that I could not say one of them was the main star. There was Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, The Avengers franchise) as Mike Rezendes, Rachel McAdams (The Vow, Midnight in Paris) as Sacha Pfeiffer, Michael Keaton (Batman franchise, White Noise) as Walter “Robby” Robinson and Liev Schreiber (Defiance, Pawn Sacrifice) as Marty Baron. The script being crisply clean without any manipulations played out as a dramatic, suspenseful thriller. There was never a dull moment; every scene mattered and offered a piece to the puzzle the reporters were trying  to put together. I do want to say I was impressed with Michael Keaton’s performance because this role was such a contrast to his role in Birdman, yet he was equally as prominent. Everything worked in this biographical film from the direction to the acting to the action. Too bad it had this true story available to be turned into a movie; but I am glad they made it because not only is it a major topic, this movie version will be a major player during the award ceremonies.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Room

There is this saying that tells you if you get stuck with lemons then make lemonade. Sadly my lemonade tends to taste like apple cider vinegar, not all the time but enough where I tend to expect it. In my circle of friends we tend to say, “They were born with a lucky horseshoe up their rear end,” to describe someone who is charmed. I have one friend who on the average wins a prize 75% of the time for all the sweepstakes and raffles they have entered, it is uncanny. On the other hand I know I am more likely making a cash donation to the organization. For example there was one time I went to teach a yoga class and when I walked into the club, the front desk told me all classes were cancelled due to a power outage. I did wonder why no one bothered to call me to let me know; but there was no reason to point it out to my fellow employees. So I decided to use the restroom before making the trip back home. It could not have been more than a minute or two, but by the time I came back to the front lobby I was informed the tornado siren had gone off and no one was allowed to leave the building. We were all stuck in the building’s windowless hallway for 20-25 minutes. Gratefully it turned out to be a false alarm but there was no lemonade to be made that night by me. But do you know what, all of that along with any other similar situation I may have had did not matter after I saw what was taking place in this extraordinary drama.    FIVE year old Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay (Before I Wake, My Mother’s Future Husband-TV movie), was loved and nurtured by his Ma, played by Brie Larson (Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now). In their tiny space that Ma named Room, Jack had no idea there was a whole world outside of the windowless shed they were locked in all these years. Less than halfway through this film I already knew what rating this movie deserved and I meant deserved. Part thriller, part suspense, part horror, part intense drama; this was a movie watching experience that took me away. Brie and Jacob were so unbelievably real that I could not stop tearing up through sections of this picture. Even the supporting cast actors like Joan Allen (Death Race, The Contender) as Nancy and William H. Macy (The Sessions, Pleasantville) as Robert were important players in the story. Based on the bestselling book, I have nothing negative to say about this amazing film. The directing did such a beautiful job of taking the viewers through this hilly, rough terrain of a script. The bottom line about this movie is this: it will be a major Oscar contender. I hope everyone gets to see this film.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Martian

I always want to be respectful of people’s feelings, even when I know with pain and discomfort it is all about perspective. Someone complaining about a nasty paper cut is something I can understand and sympathize along with the person. However, compared to someone having a limb amputated due to disease, the paper cut appears pretty minor; it is all about perspective. Last week was a challenging time for me. I am still a novice when it comes to doing things that are computer related and I had 2 online courses that had to be completed by October 1st. Without formal training on how to navigate the website, I felt lost as I struggled to find my way to taking and completing the courses. In fact on one site, every time after I logged in and clicked on the course title I was brought back to the login screen. Even trying it on a different computer and operating system ended with the same results; it was absolutely frustrating as I had to work with the site’s help desk as the clock was ticking. At the same time my day job was getting busier as we approached month end, so my mind was being heavily taxed to say the least. And if that was not enough I thought a birthday gift I had ordered online was missing as the birthdate was fast approaching. By the time Friday end of work rolled around it took all my energy just to go park the car and buy my theater ticket to see this dramatic adventure film. Right from the start my problems quickly disappeared as I saw what the main character had to endure in his situation.    ABANDONED and left for dead astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon (Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan), realized he had to find a way to contact NASA and his crew before his food and supplies would run out. Mars was not going to be helpful in his endeavor. From director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down), this science fiction film was extra special because of its cast, which included Jessica Chastain (Mama, A Most Violent Year) as Melissa Lewis and Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber franchise, Looper) as Teddy Sanders; everyone was outstanding with their characters. The other reason I was transported to Mars was due to the script; special effects took a back seat as I realized I was getting an abundance of technological jargon, but Matt made everything seem believable to me. Nothing seemed frivolous; I felt Ridley used a deft touch in letting the tension and drama play off of each other. There were some scenes where I was sitting on the edge of my seat in nervous anticipation and in the next moment I was sitting back as my eyes teared up. This picture absolutely took me away to a different place, besides adding a new perspective to this year’s batch of Oscar worthy movies. One brief scene showed blood in it.

 

4 stars

 

 

 

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