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Flash Movie Review: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

IT FELT GOOD TO BE NEEDED and I felt the same about them. We had met at a mutual friend’s birthday party; by the time I had to leave, we agreed to meet for dinner later in the week. Over that first meal we discovered things we had in common, including their best friend was married to a cousin of mine. It was things like this that sparked our attraction for each other. Now here is a little secret; the entire time we were together, I felt as if I was dating out of my league. In the very beginning of our relationship I would question, or 2ndguess myself because I could not believe how well things were going. Listening to them talk about their circle of friends/business contacts used to make me feel uncomfortable because they sounded so sophisticated or important. It eventually passed because we were settling into a comfortable, loving place. Though, I never pushed to be introduced to their friends; I thought in good time they would get comfortable to bring me around them. I never questioned it because I was taking a slow pace in introducing them to my friends and family. Looking back now, I should have questioned it.      THERE WAS NO WARNING, NOT EVEN an indication, when they told me our relationship was no longer working for them. The only way I could describe how I was feeling was shellshocked. Seriously, I felt as if everything was going along wonderfully; we never even had a disagreement about anything. I tried to get more input about what was not working, but all I was getting was the same “not working” excuse. I must tell you breaking up is harder to deal with when you do not get an explanation or feedback you can process and possibly see things through the other person’s eyes. I mean, if there is something I did that caused this unfortunate turn of the relationship, I certainly would like to know about it; so, I could look and maybe grow from it. All I had to do it turned out was wait one week and I got my answer. The mutual friend we had called and told me that my ex was already dating someone else. Wow, that did not take long. I guess my feeling needed was correct; however, it was for the wrong reasons. They were using me until they found someone who better fit their needs and wants, I guess. I know some people who get into a relationship, know right from the start where they stand with the other person. I do not know if that would make me feel any better about the relationship; it seems like that could be the start of a love/hate relationship. In this musical drama, you can see what I am talking about.      BOTH THE RECORD PRODUCER AND MANAGER knew what type of record they wanted to make. What they did not know was the singer had her own ideas. With Viola Davis (Fences, Widows) as Ma Rainey, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, 21 Bridges) as Levee, Colman Domingo (Lincoln, Selma) as Cutler, Glynn Turman (Super 8, Sahara) as Toledo and Jeremy Shamos (The Big Sick, Magic in the Moonlight); this film festival winner hit the right chord with Viola and Chadwick playing off of each other. They both provided powerful performances that carried this story all the way to the end. I had a hard time, at first, getting into this story. There were some flat scenes that did nothing for me. I could see where they might have been more intense on the stage; however, they did not translate well to the big screen. On the other hand, there were some intense attention-grabbing scenes that made me want to watch more. I could see Chadwick and Viola getting nominations during this year’s awards season and if that was the reason the movie studio used them to make money off this film, I am sure the actors were quite aware of it.     

3 stars    

Flash Movie Review: 21 Bridges

IT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH FOR SOMEONE these days to get a reputation. I am guilty in being quick to judge someone based on their actions. There was an employee I used to work with who I determined was addicted to her phone or more specifically, watching videos on her cell phone. The reason why I quickly came to this conclusion was because the first few times I had to consult with her about business, she did not hear me walking up to her. She was peering down at her phone, ear buds stuck in her ears, while her computer screen showed it was in sleep mode. I had to repeat myself to get her attention before she would look up at me and remove her ear buds. The first couple of times I thought she was listening to music; but I soon discovered she was watching a television show. Maybe I am old school, but I was stunned by her audacity to sit at her desk and watch a TV series while the rest of us were working. Did she think she was being paid to watch television? From my first few encounters with her I determined she was not an ideal worker. One could say she was lazy, distracted, clueless, unmotivated or several other adjectives if they chose; I decided she was unreliable because of all the TV she was watching instead of doing her job.      NOW MAYBE THAT EMPLOYEE WAS GOOD at her job and able to keep up with her workload while watching television. I think most people make snap judgements about others based on what they see—on the surface. There was a time when friends of mine would not include me when they went out to the clubs, because I did not drink alcohol. I did not know that was the reason at the time. I found out when I asked a friend about it and he said the group thought I would not be a fun addition because I did not drink. I asked him what one had to do with the other; he could not come up with any proof. After that, I was included in the group’s activities and in my own way, showed them one should not make assumptions or judgements without seeing things for themselves. As I am getting older, I discovered I do not have control over people’s perceptions about me. As long as I am doing what I am supposed to be doing then that is all that matters to me. The main character in this dramatic, crime film could certainly relate to this.      WHEN SEVERAL POLICE OFFICERS WERE KILLED one night detective Andre Davis, played by Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Marshall), was put on the case specifically because of his reputation. One never wanted to be facing him when he had a gun in his hands. With Sienna Miller (American Sniper, The Lost City of Z) as Frankie Burns, J.K. Simmons (The Front Runner, Patriots Day) as Captain McKenna, Stephan James (Race, If Beale Street Could Talk) as Michael and Taylor Kitsch (Battleship, Only the Brave) as Ray; this action movie benefited with Chadwick in the lead role. I thought he did the best he could with the script. Unfortunately, the story was predictable, and the script did not help disguise it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching this film due to the acting and chase scenes. There were several scenes with blood, but gratefully nothing I found gory. As some of you may know, I do not sit and try to figure out where the story will go when I watch a movie. With this picture, I quickly figured out who were the “bad” people. It did not ruin the viewing experience for me, but I was glad I did not pay full price for my ticket.

 

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Marshall

IT IS STILL A MYSTERY, at least to me, how a person winds up with a strong sense of confidence. In fact is it even a sense? Maybe it is more of a belief; either way it is something I have struggled with for a long time. When I look back all the way to my school years, I do not recall any of my actions being motivated from a base of confidence. Now granted my brain is wired to be a defensive pessimist which I have always considered to be an asset. With this type of mindset I go into something expecting the worst; so if it fails I am not disappointed and if it comes out good then I am elated. The thing about being wired this way is it allows me to look at all the possibilities for ways things can go wrong, pushing me to go harder in finding a solution. Yet I still would like to know how it feels to do something without having to question oneself.     THERE WAS A PROFESSOR who periodically would get his manuscripts published into books. He never thought about what market he was writing for or if his work would be successful; he just knew when he was done writing his final draft the piece would get sold. I was fascinated to the point of being enthralled by the confidence he exuded when it came to his writings and teaching. There never was a point where he would second guess, doubt or even think he would not be well received in his world of academia. I wondered if by hanging around him some of his confidence would rub off on me. The whole confidence thing is such a curious puzzle to me. Is it something that gets instilled in a child from their living environment? Can a person be taught to have confidence? And how much influence does the classroom experience have on a child? I wish I had answers to these questions for it would have given me more insight into the amazing confidence the main character had in this biographical, dramatic movie.     DURING THE TIMES WHERE there were “White Only” water fountains NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, played by Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up, 42), was sent to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman. It was a case that would take on historic significance. Based on a true event the cast also included Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, The Wedding Ringer) as Sam Friedman, Kate Hudson (Bride Wars, Deepwater Horizon) as Eleanor Strubing, Sterling K. Brown (This is Us-TV, The Suspect) as Joseph Spell and Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest) as Loren Willis. First let me say the acting in this film was incredible; Chadwick and Josh embodied their characters fully. I am so impressed with Josh’s versatility and movie choices; he commanded the screen. The script and direction worked hand in hand to create not only a monumental event, but wrap it into a court thriller. Personally I would have enjoyed if the writers put in more of Thurgood’s back story because his confidence, especially in the environment he resided in, was unbelievable. With the courtroom drama taking up most of the air, the secondary side scenes were relegated to the background in my opinion. Please excuse the pun but the movie studio did justice to this story and I only wish I could have just a tenth of the confidence Thurgood Marshall had inside of him.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Get on Up

Music provides the means to describe one’s life with a different set of adjectives. Songs are the milestone markers during the journey. I cannot remember a time where I did not have music in my life. Anytime I hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony I am transported back to the time I was 4 years old and taken to my 1st outdoor concert, where we sat on long brown painted benches in the cool autumn air. How many of us hear a particular song that squeezes a small tear out of our heart, reminding us of a love long gone? There are so many songs in the jukebox of my mind that bring a specific date in time to the forefront of my thoughts. I cannot imagine there being a person who does not experience an emotion or feeling when they hear music. Besides the personal aspects of music there is another side that becomes political. Throughout history songs have been used to define significant moments; such as a protest, a battle, a rally or even defining a generation. One of the things I love most about musicians is the fact they can be classically trained or simply be born with the gift of music.    GODFATHER of Soul was the label given to the man in this biographical film and aptly so, for his raw talent was something that came with him when he was born into this world. Chadwick Boseman (Draft Day, 42) portrayed the iconic performer James Brown. This dramatic musical movie covered James from a childhood of extreme poverty through the time where he was called the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” The cast included Viola Davis (Ender’s Game, Prisoners) as his mother Susie Brown, Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help) as Aunt Honey, Nelsan Ellis (Secretariat, True Blood-TV) as Bobby Byrd and Dan Aykroyd (Trading Places, Behind the Candelabra-TV) as his manager Ben Bart. All of them were strong with their characters; they needed to be since Chadwick was outstanding as the sweating, fleet-footed James Brown. Familiar with a good portion of James’ life, this film tried to cover the different aspects of it but skimmed over the darkest chapters. The main issue with this film was the way the story jumped around chronologically. I felt I never got the chance to absorb the full effect of what I was watching on the screen. With things jumping back and forth, the film started to feel like a series of quick vignettes. Since I am fond of music, the musical numbers were outstanding in this picture or maybe I should say groovy. Whether or not one is a fan of James’ music; the fact remains this man was monumental in paving the way for future generations to get their groove on.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: 42

As soon as the movie was done, all I wanted to do was find someone who grew up in the 1940’s and plead with them to tell me all they knew about baseball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers. I wanted to hear about the times, the games and the attitudes that were prevalent among the people and players. Physical strength can be measured by endurance, power or weight. I think mental strength is actually tougher to achieve. Watching the mental strength Jackie Robinson had to have every single moment was infinitely more compelling than anything I have seen from the recently released action movies. Chadwick Boseman (Persons Unknown-TV, The Express) did a solid performance as Jackie Robinson. The verbal cruelty he endured was unbelievable. Harrison Ford (Cowboys & Aliens, Firewall) as Brooklyn Dodgers’ owner Branch Rickey, despite his extra padding, was okay; but I was still reminded that he was Harrison. His character, who came across larger than life, left me wanting to know more about Branch and his motivations. I just could not get over this man’s drive, determination and foresight by bringing in a black baseball player into an all white baseball world at a time when discrimination was the norm in society. The acting from Christopher Meloni (Oz-TV, Runaway Bride) as Leo Durocher, Nicole Beharie (Shame, The Express) as Rachel Robinson and Lucas Black (Jarhead, Get Low) as Pee Wee Reese was strong. Based on a true story, this inspirational dramatic film was geared to wring out the maximum from each heartfelt scene. The music was written to push at the viewer’s heart and I have to tell you I was teary eyed through over 1/2 of the movie. One did not have to have a knowledge of baseball to enjoy this movie; the story was more about civil rights. If for no other reason, it is worth seeing this drama just to see what the ugliness of ignorance looks like; not that we have stamped out ignorance yet. This movie did what I believe a movie should do: take the viewer away to a different time and place and experience the world through someone else’s eyes.

3 1/3 stars

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