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Flash Movie Review: Paradise Hills

I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me.      AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner.      WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.

 

2 1/3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Skin

THE ONLY WAY I COULD TELL the twins apart was one of them was heavyset. They wore their hair the same way and personally, I think they dressed the same at times just to throw their teachers off. The heavier twin was not a nice (I wanted to use a slang word here) person; essentially, he was a bully. His twin brother was the opposite; he always had a smile on his face, and he was friendly to everyone. I had classes with both. It seemed like every other week the mean twin would cause a disruption in the classroom. To complete the picture for you, the nice twin had more friends than his brother. After a couple of years, the heavy twin started to lose weight. It took almost one year for him to get down to the same weight as his brother; now, it was nearly impossible to tell the two brothers apart—at least on the outside. I had wondered if his losing weight would have made the heavier twin a nicer person but that was not the case. He was still ugly on the inside. Not knowing what the motivation was for him to go on a diet, I did not know if he had any expectations about how different his life would be being skinnier. I so badly wanted to tell him a cosmetic change was not enough to really make a change in his life.      WHERE THE HEAVIER TWIN ONLY CHANGED his appearance, there was another boy at school who changed on the inside. He and I had gone to the same elementary school. Periodically we would be on the same team in gym class; plus, I would see him after school in the neighborhood from time to time. He was not a troublemaker in class; but if some prank or disruption did take place in the classroom, he would be part of the group of kids who were laughing about it. Outside of that, there was nothing else noteworthy about him; he pretty much just blended in with his surroundings. When we graduated into high school, a big transformation took place within him. He started hanging out with a group of students who were on the fringe. At the time I did not know what the bond was between them. However, it first became clearer to me when he changed his style of dress. It was confirmed when I saw him participate in a fight with a group of minority students; he was a white supremist. I was stunned when I saw him and had to wonder if he always had those feelings inside of him. I had the same question when I started watching this dramatic, crime film based on true events.      THOUGH HIS CHOSEN FAMILY RAISED AND NURTURED him to be a top leader of their white supremacist group, his love for a woman was making him question his actions. This film festival winning biography starred Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) as Bryon Widner, Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Julie Price, Daniel Henshall (Ghost in the Shell, The Snowtown Murders) as Slayer, Bill Camp (12 Years a Slave, Love & Mercy) as Fred “Hammer” Krager and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Captive State) as Shareen. This film started out on a high level of disturbing intensity. It was almost to the point of me being uncomfortable as I felt I was sitting in the middle of the action. Jamie Bell was incredible in this role; the best I had ever seen him. My major complaint was the script; I never understood the character’s motivations, the how and why. Despite this flaw, I was kept engaged in the story by the top acting performances and the incredibleness of the story itself. I did have a question near the end of the film; can a leopard really change its spots?

 

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Dumplin’

A SINGLE NICKNAME CAN PROVIDE A PERSON with unlimited joyfulness. It also can stab you, leaving a noticeable scar on your psyche. I have been the recipient to a multitude of nicknames. Within my family I have a nickname that was given to me at a young age. Only family members refer to me with this nickname. At school I had other nicknames that were ugly; ugly in the sense they sprung from a place of hatred. Anytime I heard one of these nicknames I would mentally hunker down, doing my best to tune out the sounds around me. I wasn’t the only one who was bestowed a nasty nickname. There was one boy who was bestowed with the moniker, Booger Nose. He was called this name for a few years at least. There was another boy who had a Germanic last name, sounding like something large and overbearing. It did not help that the boy was overweight with large features and thick glasses. He received a nickname that was a twist on his last name, making it sound like grizzly bear. It was not a far leap to see the name was picked to match his girth, especially when you would hear the way the boys said it.      THE NICKNAMES THAT PIQUE MY EARS are the ones that are not recognizable words. I know someone who is referred to as Deeb by their significant other. The name was a combination of two English words, but you would not be aware of them just by this one name. The words were picked to describe a feeling between the couple; something they only share with each other. There is another person I know who has the nickname T-Dub. It is a combination of a couple of sounds in their name. These types of made up words are terms of endearment between two people; though, others may use the words as a sign of familiarity. I happen to remember every nickname given to me, even though several of them have not been uttered in decades. Some of the people who come up with these nicknames may not realize the damage they are inflicting on the individual. A few of you may remember how I rarely ever utter the “F” word pertaining to overweightness. I have heard that word and its variations enough in my younger days to last a lifetime. With my sensitivity to nicknames, I was immediately struck with the one the main character was given in this film festival nominated movie.      WITH SO MANY PEOPLE AROUND HER focused on her weight Willowdean, played by Danielle MacDonald (Every Secret Thing, Patti Cake$), decided to enter a beauty pageant to make a political statement. And the pageant happened to be run by her mother Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston (Cake, We’re the Millers), a former beauty pageant winner. This comedic, musical drama also starred Odeya Rush (Lady Bird, The Giver) as Ellen, Maddie Baillio (Hairspray Live-TV movie) as Millie and Bex Taylor-Klaus (The Last Witch Hunter, Arrow-TV) as Hannah. Though the story has been done before in various ways, I thoroughly enjoyed the execution of it in this movie. Danielle was wonderful in her role, to the point I could relate to parts of her character. Make no mistake, the message the writers were conveying came across fully without being preachy. Now granted the story hit close to home for me, but I feel I am being objective here. I enjoyed the cast and felt they interacted well together. Part of the reason fell on the director; I thought the subtleness in several scenes was the perfect touch to accentuate the story and message. Willowdean’s nickname is one that I think I will remember for a long time.

 

3 stars — DVD

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: Every Secret Thing

No matter how people are labeled, they all fall somewhere on a horizontal line. From doctors to parents to plumbers, each one can find a place among their peers. A saying I am fond of is, “Someone has to graduate at the head of the class and someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.” What I mean by this is there will always be individuals who are better than others in their profession or group; just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, the same holds true for parents. Now first let me say I am not a parent and I do not mean to judge anyone’s parenting skills. In my little corner of the world I have seen and heard parents doing extraordinary things along with not so extraordinary things. Just walk through a grocery store; you would be surprised how many things you can see a parent doing to their child. I saw a mother take the time to explain to her kid what harm his actions/behavior could cause to the shoppers around him, explaining to him if he continued their behavior they would have to leave the store. There have been other times where I have seen a parent hit their child then yell at them as they nearly lifted them off the ground by the arm before storming out of the store.    WORKING on a criminal case similar to one she had several years ago Detective Nancy Porter, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), found it interesting that Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning, played by Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, Man on Fire) and Danielle Macdonald (The East, Trust Me), who were convicted of the previous crime were recently released from prison. Based on best selling author Laura Lippman’s novel, this crime drama had a strong cast of actors. Besides the celebrities I mentioned, there was Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Helen Manning and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond the Lights) as Kevin Jones. Everyone did their part well; with Elizabeth, Diane and Danielle being the most memorable to me. I liked the idea of this suspense story being led by a mostly female cast; it provided an interesting take on the detective formula. The story was meant to keep the viewer in suspense with its twists and possibilities; I really wished it had done that for me. Not only did I find the story to be quite predictable, I thought there was a flatness to the drama. For such a story this movie could have used more intensity to keep the viewers guessing. After the movie was over I was disappointed it was not better; I guess there are some writers and directors who are better than others.

 

1 3/4 stars

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