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Flash Movie Review: The White Crow

BARELY ABLE TO SEE ABOVE THE heads of the people sitting in front of me, I watched in astonishment the man leaping in the air. The stage had been filled with dancers dressed in costumes that glittered under the stage lights. Most of the costumes were white in color, but some were the exact opposite in black. The male dancer in the lead role reminded me of royalty because of the way he moved across the stage when he was not leaping and spinning. With angular features for his face, his body on the other hand moved consistently with graceful fluidity. I was too young to realize the amount of work it must have taken him to be able to jump so high without a running start or to spin so quickly in the same spot; his moves at times would make the audience quietly gasp in their seats. The music the orchestra was playing was familiar to me because we had a recording of it at home. I would play it from time to time, never realizing that people were hired to dance to the music. Ballet was something foreign to me at the time. I was aware of it having seen clips of dancers on television or in a movie; but I had never seen a live performance of it up until this time. The male lead dancer in this performance was Rudolf Nureyev.      WHEN I DELVED INTO THE FITNESS world as a profession, it was there I discovered the amount of work a dancer must do to make their performances seem effortless. One training class I took was based on dance moves and it was intense for me. Holding positions, working my core, and being able to give instructions to a class at the same time was a challenge. Imagine doing a side plank pose where you are on your side on the floor, balancing only on the side of your bottom foot and the hand from your extended arm. Now raise up you other leg and hold it in the air; trust me, you will feel it in your core. The first time I tried to do this I rolled over onto the floor. It took me some time to build up my strength to master the pose. I knew if I wanted to be an effective fitness instructor, I would have to put in the work to make it happen. It is no different for any profession, but I feel there is a slight difference when your profession involves performing in front of an audience.     WITH ONLY ONE PURPOSE IN MIND Rudolf Nureyev, played by newcomer Oleg Ivenko, was willing to work hard to become a top ballet dancer. Nothing would stop him, even his own country. This biographical drama also starred Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Pushkin, Louis Hofmann (Sanctuary, Land of Mine) as Teja Kremke, Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color, Racer and the Jailbird) as Clara Saint and Sergei Polunin (Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express) as Yuri Soloviev. Set during the time of the Cold War, this film festival winner was something I wanted to see since I had seen Rudolf perform. His story was probably more interesting than what the script offered here. I would start to get interested in the story and then the scene would shift to a different time in Rudolf’s life; I found this jumping back and forth more of a distraction then a story telling technique. For someone who commanded the stage with a bigger than life personality; this movie seemed out of step with his story.

 

2 stars — DVD           

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Flash Movie Review: Desert Dancer

Except for that one teacher in elementary school, I cannot recall someone telling me I could not join or participate in an activity. Now granted I got the message loud and clear during those times where I was picked last to be on a team, so there were certain sports games I shied away from. I remember my summer camp days provided me a variety of activities to explore. There was an archery class where my first arrow hit the metal baseboard below the target, sending sparks up into the air just like in a cartoon. I had a woodworking class where I made a coat rack out of geometric shapes that I painted in primary colors; it hung on my bedroom wall for several years. Based on my past experiences in school PE classes, I would be the last person to be picked to become an aerobics instructor, yet no one stopped me and I became certified to teach classes. When I decided I wanted to learn yoga, no one told me I was not flexible enough so I could not go. I do not have it in my brain to discourage someone from attempting to fulfill one of their passions. If anyone tells me they wish they could do such and such, I usually ask what is stopping them. When the movie Footloose came out I thought it was a fantasy film because I could not believe there would be a law that banned dancing; I later discovered in some circles it really was not allowed.    BORN during the wrong time all Afshin Ghaffarian, played by Reece Ritchie (Hercules, The Lovely Bones), wanted to be was a dancer. Unfortunately dancing was banned in his country; but Afshin was determined to somehow express himself via dance. Based on a true story this drama had all the markings to be a tense exciting experience. The story was set during turbulent times in Iran. There was a ban on dancing, the rebellious dancer wannabe, a love interest, conflicts, punishments; everything was here to create a dynamite story. Sadly this movie was incredibly dull. With Freida Pinto (Trishna, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as Elaheh, Tom Cullen (Weekend, Downton Abbey-TV) as Ardavan and Nazanin Boniadi (The Next Three Days, Homeland-TV) as Parisa Ghaffarian; I thought the cast could easily handle the scenes and they probably would have if the script had been good. The parts that should have been scary with intensity lacked power, while the intimate portions were simply bland. This biographical film contained two things I enjoy seeing: people dancing and exotic settings. The desert scenery was beautiful as was the dancing, but none of it moved me enough to become fully involved in this true story.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Magic Mike

I just experienced my first bachelorette party and I have to say some of you ladies are just nasty! Going to this movie I knew I would be in the minority of men; the audience was approximately 80% female. From the opening scene, the women in the audience were hooting and hollering at the movie screen. It was more fun for me to watch the audience than the movie. The story was about Magic Mike, played by Channing Tatum (The Vow, 21 Jump Street), a male stripper who had aspirations of owning his own business, doing one of a kind furniture pieces. Unfortunately the story splintered into several parallel stories that never grew in depth. Getting real here, most people are not going to see this titillating movie for the character development or life’s lessons. They are going because they want to see bouncing booties and sweaty, chiseled chests. As a fitness instructor I will tell you Channing’s dancing was way beyond anyone else in the cast. I was not surprised since the idea for this story came from him. Before hitting the big time, Channing briefly did a stint as a stripper. He did an admirable job with what he had to work with in this movie. The other stand out in the film was Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie) who played Dallas, the owner of the club. It looked like he really enjoyed playing his character. In conclusion, the movie was weak with its narrative; but, on the flipside or should I say backside, you may want to bring dollar bills for the dancers.

 

2 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: First Position

As a child I did not appreciate what the human body was capable of doing. I flunked my physical education high school class twice. Presently teaching yoga and cycling classes, I marvel at the ability and strength of the body. When I am a witness to an individual going beyond their perceived limits or to a group of cyclists sharing each other’s energy to reach the top of that hill; I find the power within each of us truly amazing. Whether it be in the venue of an individual sport or in the context of dance; it is that athlete’s determination and drive that propels them to be better than they were the previous time. This documentary focused on six dancers as they prepared for the Youth America Grand Prix competition. Years of hard work and dedication and they were given 5 minutes to show the results of their labors, that could change their lives forever. I was mesmerized as I watched how these individuals were able to overcome the challenges in their life and never lose focus on their passion to dance. From a war torn country where she saw her parents murdered, Michaela Deprince was out to prove that a ballet dancer like herself could be both graceful and powerful. Or Joan Sebastian Zamora who came from a poor family in Columbia, who wanted to succeed and be able to provide for his family. Even if you are not a fan of ballet take the opportunity to see this uplifting film. It is more about the power that is inside each of us and how we choose to use it.

 

3 1/3 stars

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