Flash Movie Review: Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed
I HAD TWO TYPES OF BABYSITTERS. There were those that were living and there were those that hung on the walls of our home. For the ones that were alive, I had a couple of great babysitters and one who was horrible. She was so awful, my family came home one time and found me hiding from her in the stairwell of our apartment building. The inanimate babysitters were the artwork that was placed throughout our home. On two end tables sat two tall lamps shaped like Grecian urns. Around the circumference were the heads of golden lions holding a chain in their mouths, that formed a circle. I would sit and imagine a variety of fantasies where the lions were my pets/protectors. On the walls there were framed paintings and sketches, done in a variety of genres. There was Ludwig van Beethoven looking down on me while I had my piano lesson. A boy dressed in a raincoat and rain hat peered out at me. I had to come up with ways to save him from the impending storm that was sweeping over the ocean. A long-necked woman kept watch over me while I would play with my toys on the floor; her eyes appeared to follow me wherever I moved in the room. Another painting on the wall was a forest scene where all the leaves were turning autumn colors. I considered it one of my hiding places because the variety of colors would always keep me hidden. MY IMAGINATION BEING QUITE ACTIVE ALLOWED me to spend lengths of time in the presence of these pieces of art, creating an alternative world while playing with a toy or acting out make believe. I did not have a total understanding at the time of what the entire process was to create a painting. They were borderline magical pieces in my mind since they were the catalysts for my imagination. Imagine, at a young age, discovering a television show that showed me how a painting gets created. I do not remember my age at the time; but I can see myself sitting close to the TV to watch this artist with the big hair create what I thought were masterpieces within 30 minutes. It was pure magic to me. Springing solely from his mind and memories, this man would quickly create a beautiful landscape. It did not matter if it was a winter or summer scene, he could do anything as far as I was concerned. I especially loved watching him paint clouds because they were some of my favorite fodders for daydreaming. When I discovered this documentary was playing, I could not wait to see it. BELIEVING EVERYONE HAD CREATIVE TALENT INSIDE of themselves, painter Bob Ross wanted to find a way to convince them. All it took was one television station giving him 30 minutes of time, to show the world what could be done. Directed by Joshua Rofe (Swift Current, Lorena-TV), this film was created with the help of Bob Ross’s son Steve. Knowing it is being told from one point of view, did not distract me from seeing the journey of Bob’s life. I came into this with a fondness for Bob and his show; so, seeing some of the events that took place behind the scenes was troubling for me. Not due to any type of blood or gore, but due to the circumstances that befell him. The live footage was fascinating to me; part of it was due to seeing him outside of his studio, among his fans. It was like being at a rock concert for art; how often does one get to see that?!?! Overall, I found this movie to be entertaining; there was drama, sadness, humor and surprises, at least for me. My guess is that this film will appeal more to those gifted with an artistic flair.
Flash Movie Review: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
IF I HAD NOT SEEN IT with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. I felt like I was watching the animal sidekicks of an evil, animated character. I was over at a friend’s house, who has five cats as pets. They are outdoor cats according to him. All of them are tabbies who are lean and muscular, at least in my opinion. Anytime I have been at my friend’s place, the cats have always been friendly towards me. This time my friend was telling me he had to take one of the cats to the veterinarian for some health issue. We visited until it was time for him to get ready. He had gone into the coat closet and pulled out a pet carrier. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a couple of cats sit up from their reclined positions, staring at the carrier. My friend started to walk over to one of those two cats. As he got closer to her, she let out this sound like a yelp. I do not know where the other three cats were, but they bolted in and joined the other cat to surround the cat my friend was nearing. It was surreal as they hissed and meowed at my friend, all the time keeping a tight circle around that one tabby. My friend turned his head towards me and said this happens each time he must remove one cat out of the pack. NONE OF MY PAST EXPERIENCES WITH cats ever included this scenario. I have seen cats hiss and cry, but that level of protection towards another cat is something I had never seen. Granted, I do not have any other friends or family who have five cats; but even then, I do not know if it makes a difference if a cat is an indoor or outdoor one. I have loved cats all my life; I can sit and watch them play for hours. There is one friend of mine who uses a laser pointer to get his cat to exercise. This cat will follow the red point of light all over the floor, the couch or chairs, even try to go up the wall to catch it. I have relatives who had one of the most docile cats I had ever known. This cat, I think, was part human because he knew when you were available to play with him or when you were sad, to come over and sit by you. I could lift him up and drape him around the back of my neck, where he would stay perfectly content while purring deeply in my ears. Like dogs, I think cats have distinct personalities. The artist in this biographical drama believes the same thing as I do. TAKING IN A STRAY CAT DID more for Louis Wain’s, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog, The Courier) career than almost anything else. Some would say it was an obsession; others would say it would be his legacy. With Claire Foy (The Crown-TV, The Girl in the Spider’s Web) as Emily Richardson-Wain, Andrea Riseborough (The Grudge, The Death of Stalin) as Caroline Wain, Toby Jones (A Boy Called Christmas, The Mist) as Sir William Ingram and Sharon Rooney (Dumbo, Zapped-TV) as Josephine Wain; this film based on true events shined a little brighter due to Benedict and Claire. The mix of whimsical and serious scenes made for some variety, though some areas of the story could have used a deeper dive into them. I had never heard of Louis Wain, but I believe I have seen some of his work. The story itself appeared to have a lot of things to explore; I am not sure the script did it justice. However, from a historical and dramatic aspect, I stayed involved with the characters. And the cats were quite cute to boot.
Flash Movie Review: The Water Man
AFTER I FINISHED WATCHING THIS MOVIE, I switched over to the news. The newsman was reporting about an issue a local hospital was having with one of its patients. The screen changed and the image of a woman popped on the TV screen. The shot was from the neck up; she had skin that was wrinkled into deep crevices by the sun. On top of her head, she wore a baseball type of cap that was bejeweled with colored stones to look like the American flag. There was no sound coming from her despite her mouth moving. The reporter was saying this woman did not believe in the COVID vaccines. She wound up being admitted into the hospital because she contracted COVID, and she wanted to be treated with a drug she read about on the internet that claims to cure the disease. It was a medicine that is given to horses. Because the drug is not approved by the FDA for humans, the hospital would not administer it to her. She was fighting them for it. I sat there in bewilderment. How did things get to the point where humans were perfectly fine ingesting medications formulated for animals? Death, I know, can be a huge motivator and I know I would want to learn as much as possible on how to combat whatever illness befalls me. However, I would want to hear from scientists and doctors, not the internet necessarily. I KNEW A FAMILY THAT SUFFERED a major loss of one of their family members. When the person was diagnosed the family went into shock. The older family members understood the severity of the disease; the children only knew it was “bad.” I remember one of the kids delved into a fantasy life to cope with the changes that were taking place in the household. The child believed there were magic seeds that could cure her parent. Anytime she went outside, the young child would spend most of her time searching for these seeds in flower beds, around trees, in sidewalk cracks and even along the curbs of the streets. She was convinced if she could find these seeds and give them to her parent, it would make them feel better. The reason I mention this little girl is because to me, there is a similarity between her and the woman that was reported in the news who is demanding a horse pill to cure herself. Each of them is looking to fantasy for a cure; the difference being one is a child and the other is an adult. For those who may have forgotten what it is like to be a child, this dramatic family adventure can remind you. WITH HIS MOTHER’S ILLNESS GETTING WORSE, a young boy sets out to find a cure for her. With Lonnie Chavis (This is Us-TV, Magic Camp) as Gunner Boone, David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Don’t Let Go) as Amos Boone, Rosario Dawson (Eagle Eye, The Captive) as Mary Boone, Amiah Miller (Lights Out, War for the Planet of the Apes) as Jo Riley and Alfred Molina (Boogie Nights, The Devil has a Name) as Jim Bussey; this movie had a touching story that was easy to watch. I thought the cast was well suited to tell the story. The script was good though it was close to predictable and the reason I say that is because some of the scenes were done in a heavy-handed way. A lighter touch would have allowed the scene to mature and grow I believe. I also enjoyed the way the writers introduced the minor story line and kept it low key for the viewer to connect the pieces. There have been other similar stories told before; the difference for me was this one had a gentleness in the way the story was told that was much appreciated.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: White Oleander
AS SOON AS I HEARD HER use that word in her statement, I knew she was repeating what someone else had already told her. There was no way she knew the meaning of that word, I was positive, having never used it before and pronouncing it incorrectly. Who told her that statement did not have all their facts straight; so, when she repeated it at the restaurant table, I felt if she had any knowledge on the subject it was minuscule. It actually confirmed my suspicions about her desire to get educated on the events the group was discussing at our meetings. Since I had met her husband, I had a feeling she was getting her news filtered through his lens; whatever he thought about on a subject, she digested it word for word then regurgitated it to whoever was listening. I had to wonder if she had been doing this her whole life; because believe me, she is not the first person I met who operates in this fashion. I know several individuals who never seek out the details to an occurrence or event. There was this one person I knew a long time ago who repeated whatever his parents would say, even with the same inflection. If I asked him to explain further, he rarely could do it. TO SAY IT IS A PET PEEVE would be to harsh to say; maybe it would be better for me to say it is creepy. Whenever I encounter someone who clearly does not know what they are saying, I find it weird, sad, creepy, or a variety of other adjectives. I hope this does not come across as judgmental; I simply do not understand why someone would use someone else’s words without giving that person credit for it. It is like when I see parents dressing up their children in clothing that is identical to their own. For me, it seems as if the parents are denying their child’s uniqueness and individuality. And that is what triggers the creep factor in me, a person having their identity/individuality squashed or tempered. I still remember a classmate who had a mother that tried her hardest to mold her child into an image of herself; it was more than creepy. She wanted her child to follow in her footsteps career wise and in accomplishments. It was difficult for me to be around the mother. Of course, we try to teach our children to be productive and successful; but when a parent so dominates their child’s life’s course, I am never comfortable seeing it or being a part of it. This is why I was experiencing a creep factor while watching this film festival winner. THEIR LIFE TOGETHER WAS BEAUTIFUL AND colorful up until her mother was arrested and charged with murder. Suddenly Astrid, played by Alison Lohman (Big Fish, Drag Me to Hell), found herself in a series of foster homes. Having to grow up without her mother would be a challenge…or would it? With Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray, People Like Us) as Ingrid Magnussen, Renee Zellweger (Judy, Here and Now) as Claire Richards, Noah Wyle (Donnie Darko, ER-TV) as Mark Richards and Robin Wright (Wonder Woman, State of Play) as Starr; this drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Michelle and Alison were believable and strong in their roles. I was curious about the story, enjoying many of the scenes; however, the script had too many predictable moments. Watching Alison’s character grow in the film was a thing of beauty. There were times I felt I was watching a cat and mouse scenario which added to my enjoyment in watching this movie. I stayed engaged throughout the picture and due to the actors, I think I enjoyed this movie more than I had expected. At least that is my opinion of it.
2 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: Little Women
FROM THE VARIOUS JOBS I HAVE DONE, I have learned a couple of “truths” about people. The first one is: If an individual does not have passion about what they are doing, then they will never get far in life. The second one: If a person does not have even the smallest of a stubborn streak or maybe I should call it a sense of commitment, they could easily be swayed down a different life path. I have worked with several individuals who were schooled in what became their profession. For example, taking accounting classes towards being an accountant or studying art and interior design to be a decorator/designer. There was one accountant I knew who had the title but was not detail-oriented; I thought it was important to be particular and exact when working with numbers. This individual did not have passion for the work he was doing. Because he did not care, he would make mistakes from time to time. There was a meeting called to go over a group of accounts, I recall; where he came in late despite the fact, he was supposed to be the one who was going to update all the participants at this meeting. He was finally let go (new terminology for getting fired). A WOMAN I USED TO WORK WITH had an inspirational story. She was a single mother with 2 small children. During her entire upbringing she always had an attraction to helping people. At a young age she would tell everyone, when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she wanted to be a nurse. She told me there were some individuals who complimented her on her response by encouraging her to pursue her dreams; however, relatives and close friends of the family told her it was not a realistic goal because her parents did not have the means to put her through college. They would encourage her to finish high school then immediately get a job to do her part in supporting the family. She heeded their advice by getting a job, where I met her; however, she took night classes at the local college. Though it took her more than 4 years to get enough classes to graduate, she did and was able to enroll into nursing school. If I remember correctly, it took her something like 10 years to reach her goal; but when she did, she was so excited and thrilled to finally do what she always wanted to do. Her strength was an inspiration; it was like the strength of one of the main characters in this dramatic romance. WHILE THEIR FATHER WAS AWAY AT WAR, four sisters and their mother found ways to pursue their passions while maintaining the household. Their dreams may not have been the same, but their passion was similar in strength. With Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots, Brooklyn) as Jo March, Emma Watson (Beauty and the Beast, The Circle) as Meg March, Florence Pugh (Fighting with my Family, Midsommar) as Amy March, Laura Dern (Cold Pursuit, Marriage Story) as Marmee March and Timothee Chalamet (Lady Bird, Beautiful Boy) as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence; this fresh version of the classic story was powered by the acting skills of the cast. The actors playing the sisters were outstanding together, playing as one cohesive unit. I did have trouble with the jumping back and forth in time periods to the point it was a distraction for me in the beginning. However, after some time everything fell into place and I enjoyed watching the story. I thought the directing and writing were wonderful as the scenes came across in a thoughtful, beautiful way upon the screen. This was a surprise for me because I came in feeling like I was going to see the same thing I have seen in other versions of the story. I could not have been more wrong as the writer/director Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Lady Bird) showed me what can happen when one has passion towards a project; in this case, the classic story of Little Women.
3 ½ stars
Flash Movie Review: After the Wedding
SHE INVITED ME OVER TO BE her taste-tester. A home cooked meal was always a treat, so I eagerly accepted the invitation. We had been friends for years; so, I was comfortable with her cooking for me, having had many dinners over at her place before. I insisted on bringing dessert. When I arrived, as soon as she opened the front door, I smelt a warm, homey aroma wafting in the air. Walking inside, I saw she had a bowl of guacamole and chips set out on her coffee table. This was an extra treat for me. We sat and caught up on each one’s life while munching on the food. At some point she asked me what I thought of the corn chips; I said they were fine. She said they were a new brand and she loved their freshness and taste. Honestly, they may have been; but, nothing to the point where I noticed a big enough difference that made them stand out for me. We were close to finishing off the guacamole when a bell sounded off. She said that was the timer, letting her know the food was done in the oven. Asking me to give her a couple of minutes, she got up and went into the kitchen, telling me to take a seat at the dining room table. THE FOOD SHE BROUGHT OUT LOOKED amazing; I could not wait to dig in and start eating it. She poured herself a glass of wine, knowing I did not like the taste of alcohol; I stuck to water for the evening. We each helped ourselves to the food she had set out on the table. It was as good as it looked; I could not have been happier. During the meal she brought up the subject of how she found many of the products that went into the meal. She knew I was teaching myself how to cook, I listened to her describe each product that she used for the meal; in fact, she had excused herself a couple of times to go into the kitchen and bring out some of the ingredients, so I could see for myself. Something rang odd about the whole situation, but I could not put my finger on it at the time. It was not until she insisted, I taste one ingredient, even pouring a little bit onto my plate, that I asked her what was going on. She told me she joined a food club and was positive I would like it; all I had to do was sign up online and pay a monthly membership fee. The whole purpose of me coming over was for her to get me to sign up under her name, so she could get points. I was angry she was not upfront about it before inviting me over. My anger was similar to one of the main characters’ feelings in this dramatic film. IT WAS AN UNUSUAL REQUEST; BUT Isabel, played by Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman, All the Money in the World), knew she would have to do it if the orphanage was to receive the one-million-dollar donation. She just wanted it to be a quick, short trip to New York; however, there was more to the request waiting for her once she arrived. This dramatic film also starred Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell, Still Alice) as Theresa, Billy Crudup (Big Fish, Jackie) as Oscar, Abby Quinn (Landline, Radium Girls) as Grace and Alex Esola (The Young Pope-TV, Dangerous Lessons-TV Movie) as Jonathan. The strongest asset this movie had was the acting skills from the main cast. Michelle made her character extra special due to her nuanced and thoughtful performance; I could not stop watching her on the screen. Julianne was excellent but the writers and possible director did not provide her with enough emotional punch. The story was predictable and at times unrealistic to me; however, the acting kept me interested in the story. I did however find the story confusing because it did not know whether to be a mystery drama or a tearjerker. This movie could have been a powerful piece if the script had been better, which I believe would have upped the actors’ chances to be considered for an acting award this season. Instead, I felt manipulated and disappointed that this story did not match the quality of the actors.
2 ¼ stars
Flash Movie Review: The Glass Castle
THE ONLY PEOPLE who were embarrassed by the couple’s accents were their children. To everyone else the mother and father talked that way because they were European. As far as I knew there was no derogatory intent by saying someone was European, Asian or by some other region of the world. For me I was intrigued with the fact that a friend would have a living relative from a different country; since most of mine had come to the United States either at birth or were dead by the time I was born. Some of the children were able to speak to their parents in their native tongue but they only wanted to do so when no one else was around. It is funny though; by the time these kids reached the grade levels were a foreign language was required in school, they usually got top grades. I would be lying if I did not say I was a bit envious since I struggled with the language I chose to learn. THERE COMES AN age in a child’s life where I think it is natural for them to feel embarrassed at times by their parents’ actions. I think it is just a generational thing, like styles of clothing or genres of music. Each generation wants to own something unique to them that was not from their parents’ generation. Hanging out at a friend’s house, it was not unusual for a parent to come check on us. However, some parents would ask questions or try to fit into our conversation. At this point the parent’s child would do or say something to try to get their parent to leave. I remember one parent who would come into the basement where we were listening to music and try to dance to it. This always produced a groan from their son or daughter. In the scheme of things, compared to what was shown in this dramatic film based on a true story, dancing around would be the very least thing to be embarrassed about. GROWING UP IN a constant state of change and disarray had effected the children of Rex and Rose Mary, played by Woody Harrelson (War for the Planets of the Apes, Wilson) and Naomi Watts (The Book of Henry, Demolition), in ways that would last for a lifetime. This biographical film also starred Brie Larson (Free Fire, Room) as Jeannette, Ella Anderson (The Boss, Mother’s Day) as a young Jeanette and Max Greenfield (The Big Short, New Girl-TV) as David. The story was so bizarre to me that I wondered if the scenes I was seeing really happened in the life of this family. I thought the acting was wonderful, especially from Woody and Brie. At first I was not too crazy about the jumping back and forth in time method, but realized at some point it made better sense to tell the story that way. It emphasized the way the adult versions were acting in their scenes. The issue I had with this picture was the latter part; it seemed as if things were tied up in a quick and easy way. Having not read the book, it just came across as not having the realness of the other parts of the story. I almost want to say it was being painted with a happier ending just to please the movie goers. The book I am willing to bet is more intense than this film. Not that anyone needs to be embarrassed with the final product here; the story still is unbelievable and in my opinion sets a different standard for defining a dysfunctional family.
2 ¾ stars
Flash Movie Review: Cutie and the Boxer
SACRIFICE may be too strong of a word; I prefer saying compromise. Maybe I feel this way because when I was younger the only time I would be aware of the word and its meaning was in stories and movies. A sacrifice involved killing, either human or animal. Just look at the film King Kong where the villagers make an offering to Kong. So when it comes to relationships I tend to avoid saying sacrifice; though if they made me mad enough—just kidding. For me compromising is an essential part of being in a relationship. There have been several couples I have known where one person was so needy, they were never satisfied with the amount of changes their significant other had gone through to please them. More times than not resentment filters into the relationship and from there everything quickly goes downhill. This of course can turn out completely different when one participant has low self-esteem. FROM a recent relationship I experienced some of this firsthand. We were still in the early stages where everything was great and exciting. A couple of times I was questioned about my teaching schedule; I took it as a sign of interest. After a couple of months we had a talk about finding places in our schedules where we could spend more time together. I offered a couple of options where I could fit in some of my chores during the week to free up more open time on the weekend. This seemed a doable solution so life went on as we became more attached to each other. It was around the 6-7 month mark when I was asked if I could join them for some function. My schedule did not allow it and they seemed to understand. Sure enough a few weeks went by before they started an argument and threw this back at me. It turns out they resented me teaching at night; something I was doing way before we had met. From my point of view they wanted me to make the sacrifice and stop teaching; I think you can guess what happened—I still am teaching classes. ARTISTS Noriko and Ushio Shinohara would have to give up something to make their relationship work, but would it be fair? Written and directed by Zachary Heinzerling (Hugh the Hunter, P.O.V-TV) this film festival winning documentary was nominated for an Oscar. Spanning their 40 year marriage I enjoyed seeing how the creativity came out of these 2 artists along with their artistic son Alex. It was fascinating to see how emotions play such an important role in an artist’s life. Ushio is known as the boxing artist and I could easily see where some of his work was therapeutic. The things he made using cardboard were incredible. However Noriko’s story was the stronger one for me because one could really see the progression she made throughout the years of their marriage. Another aspect I enjoyed about this film was the use of animation with some of Noriko’s artwork. I, like many others I am sure, have heard how artists suffer for their art. Now I do not want to say there was suffering on display here; but it was interesting to see what people do for the sake of their art. Whether one thinks there was sacrifice or compromise in the Shinohara’s relationship does not matter; what does is how it all fits together. Parts of the movie were spoken in Japanese with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars — DVD
Flash Movie Review: Burden
RESTING outside on a sunny day I gaze up at the bulbous clouds drifting by. If I look long enough I can make out images among the folds of the clouds. I get a kick out of seeing what might not initially be seen at first glance. As the wisps of cloud matter slowly swirl about, I can make out what looks like an eagle with outstretched wings. Continuing to stare at the same spot the eagle soon disintegrates and becomes the face of a rabbit with attentive ears. Since I was young I have always looked at things with an eye to reality and one to fantasy. Even when I am stuck in traffic I try to keep myself busy by scanning the landscape around to see if images can appear based on how I focus on the shadows or the bright spots of an area. Once there was a flatbed truck alongside of me that had crushed automobiles stacked up to haul to a scrap yard. With traffic barely moving I was able to find outlines of a variety of different objects like a leopard and a clown. THIS ability, if you will, helps me I believe in my attempts to understand modern art. I am fortunate to live in a city that has a modern art museum and some of its exhibits have been a fascinating experience for me. There was the artist who created large sculptures of ordinary things like monkeys and dogs; however, they looked like they were made out of blown up balloons. You know, like the kind a clown or magician would make at a carnival show. I can appreciate the effort and work that went in to create such a piece. Now there have been some shows where I feel clueless with what is on display. A canvas covered totally in black paint doesn’t move me; I wonder if I should focus on the brushstrokes, the consistency of the color or its relationship to its surroundings. My confusion can supersede my involvement with a work of art or what someone is saying is a work of art. I felt the same towards some of this extraordinary artist’s works in this film festival nominated documentary. PERFORMANCE artist, visionary, crazy, unorthodox are some of the terms one can apply to Chris Burden. Whether you understand his craft or not, you will certainly get a reaction from it. I had never heard of this artist until I watched this film, directed by Richard Dewey (The Leisure Class) and Timothy Marrinan (Invisible Lives). Right from the start there were times where I sat and thought this man has a death wish and then another scene would take place where I was amused with his creation. As the movie continued I found myself more and more intrigued with learning about Chris and his motivations. The raw footage interspersed with his current life provided a well rounded presentation of his growth and legacy I thought. Though I did not understand what he was trying to do with some of his performance pieces (if that is how he classified his “live” pieces), I certainly had a reaction to them. Maybe that was the point he was trying to make all this time; I honestly cannot give an answer. I will say I certainly walked away from this picture with a new appreciation for people who want to be artists.
3 ¼ stars
Flash Movie Review: The Family Fang
She would be woken up in the middle of the night and told to pick out one thing in her room to take with her. It had taken place so many times that she already knew which doll she would choose to take on their trip that only had an arrival destination, never a return trip. Extra clothes were never taken because each family member always had one piece of baggage that was already filled up with clothing. All of the stuffed pieces of luggage were kept in the basement, ready to go in an instant. She remembered very few of the trips since all of them always took place in the middle of the night when most of the neighborhood was fast asleep. Quietly the family would pile into the car while her Dad filled the trunk with the suitcases, careful to close the trunk with the least amount of noise. Leaving their home behind she usually fell back to sleep before they reached the highway. It was not until the sun peeked up out of the east before she would wake up with her doll clutched close to her body. Though these trips always involved sadness, having to leave friends and neighbors behind, they were expected because of their father’s line of work. He had told the family because he worked for the FBI, they would have to relocate periodically after his assignment was completed. Since all of his work was top secret, they had to evacuate their residences in the middle of the night, under the cover of darkness which was the exact same reason she would read in some of her mystery books. It was not until she was about to graduate from middle school that she found out her Dad did not work for the FBI; he was wanted by them. AFTER their conceptual performance artist parents Annie and Caleb Fang, played by Maryann Plunkett (The Squid and the Whale, Blue Valentine) and Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, A Late Quartet) went missing under disturbing circumstances; Annie and her brother Baxter, played by Nicole Kidman (Paddington, The Railway Man) and Jason Bateman (The Gift, Bad Words) agreed to meet at their parents’ house to figure out if indeed there was foul play involved or was this another one of their parents’ public stunts. This comedic drama directed by Jason Bateman had a curious, different type of story that kept me totally interested in it. Grant you it was pretty easy to do with the wonderful acting from the cast. I enjoyed the way flashbacks were inserted into the story; some of them were wild ideas that involved the children being incorporated into the parents’ artistic endeavors. Jason did a sensitive job in directing the actors through the script because their performances were multi-layered. I do not know how popular the novel was that this mystery film was based on; but with such an off the wall story, I was mesmerized by this picture. Just where was the Department of Children and Family Services?