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Flash Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

NO MATTER WHERE OR WHEN SHE was seen, she always had on a scarf or rain bonnet. She wore each of them the same way whether it was a blistering hot summer day or a frigid, wintery one. Sometimes, I would see her wearing both. I knew she lived in the neighborhood but had no clue where exactly. She walked with an odd limp that caused her to shift her weight from side to side. It looked like she could almost tip over, except she always had a shopping cart with her, which I assumed she could use to balance herself if she felt like she was toppling over. There was one distinct feature that stuck out for me; she had a marking on the side of her face that could have been a scar or a birthmark. I was never close enough to her to see what it could be. The other thing I remembered about her was the fact she was always alone, whenever she was out in the neighborhood. I had no idea if there were family members living with her or she was all by herself. Taking these things into account, I do not know how many of these things helped contribute to the reputation she had or more precisely was given. People thought she was a “witch.”      NOW I DO NOT KNOW IF people thought she did spells and incantations over a black cauldron like what has been depicted in movies and television; but I think they thought she was different from anyone else they knew. Maybe that was the reason why I never saw anyone near her; people were afraid. There were several kids in the neighborhood who would call her names; but only if they were across the street from her, in case she was going to do something to them. It was not until I started high school that I noticed she was no longer seen walking around the neighborhood. It was at that time that I started going to a new doctor for my yearly physical. From our conversations about the neighborhood, I found out he was a distant relative of that “witch” woman. The little he shared about her with me was enough to set me reeling. It turned out she was a Holocaust survivor, having lost her parents and siblings during the war. The doctor said Nazi doctors performed experiments on her while she was being held in a concentration camp. It was horrifying to hear this news and it occurred to me no one in the neighborhood had a clue about it. Instead of finding out and talking to her, people shunned her for her “differences.” It was a similar scenario for the main character in this mystery thriller drama.      ABANDONED AT AN EARLY AGE, A young girl must raise herself in the marshlands of the Deep South. The townsfolk, who did not trust her, looked to her as the prime suspect when a dead body turned up in town. With Daisy Edgar-Jones (Pond Life, Cold Feet-TV) as Kya Clark, Taylor John Smith (Lost Child, Wolves) as Tate Walker, Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats, The Kin’s Man) as Chase Andrews, David Strathairn (Nightmare Alley, L.A. Confidential) as Tom Milton and Michael Hyatt (The Little Things, Snowfall-TV) as Mabel; this movie based on the bestselling book was beautifully filmed. I thought Daisy and David Strathairn did a wonderful job of acting. Having not read the book, I found myself attracted to the story; however, there were times where I felt I was not getting all the details out of the scenes. Several of them felt like snippets of a story. I can only imagine the book being better at giving the details and emotions of each character. Normally not a fan of jumping back and forth in time, I did not mind how it was done in this film; they were longer in duration and relevant to what was currently taking place in the story. This was a good try by the writers, but with more effort, this could have been a better movie.                              

2 ½ stars  

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Flash Movie Review: Nomadland

MAYBE BEING BORN IN AN APARTMENT building is the reason why I acknowledge neighbors when I see them. I have lived in buildings and houses; each offers a different living experience. With a house, I always made sure that any loud music/noise ended by 9 pm. There were times I would get home late on a winter night and I would not use the snowblower to shovel the sidewalks, because I did not want to disturb any neighbors. It was important to me to be a good neighbor, so I never complained about a dog barking non-stop in the neighbor’s backyard or my neighbor’s child shooting baskets at 6:30 in the morning. Honestly, I was fortunate to have reasonable and good neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to come over and help when they saw me attempting to do a home repair outside. Likewise, I would help a neighbor carry groceries or heavy objects from their vehicle whenever I saw them. When I moved from an apartment to a house, I made it a point to maintain friendly, or at least cordial, relations with my neighbors. We were going to be living next door to each other, so why would I want to cause something that would turn the relationship acrimonious.      LIVING IN A CONDO BUILDING, I have found I have more frequent contact with neighbors than when living in a house. Having several apartments on one floor, one is bound to bump into a neighbor in the hallway. Add in an elevator and there rarely is a day I would not see anyone. Now here is the funny thing; when someone would get on the elevator I always either say hello or acknowledge them with a nod of my head. We live in the same building and though they may be a stranger to me, I feel it is the kind thing to do. It always surprises me when I meet a neighbor who either does not make eye contact or says nothing in return when I acknowledge them. It is not like I get offended by it; I just find it odd. There are some neighbors who will make small talk and there are others who just say a quick hi and go about their business. This may sound weird, but I sometimes wonder what a neighbor would do if they came upon me in some kind of physical distress. Would they quickly walk away because they do not want to be involved or would they try to help? I would rather they be like the neighbors in this dramatic, Academy Award winning movie.      EXPERIENCING MULTIPLE LOSSES AFTER THE GREAT recession, the only thing Fern, played by Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom, Burn After Reading), had available was her phone and a van. Between the two she would find a place unlike the place she had come from. With newcomer Gay DeForest as Gay, newcomer Patricia Grier as Patty, newcomer Linda May as Linda and David Strathairn (Fast Color, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Dave, this film festival winner was a gentle piece of work. The direction was excellent though I have to say the pacing bordered close to being too slow for me. The acting from Francis was a study on how one could convey emotions without talking and she was powerful in the role. One of the big surprises for me were the newcomers who were not actors but the actual people portraying their lives. The story was a curious one and I appreciated the way it was filmed; the scenery was beautiful. I do have to say if I had seen this before I did my Oscar favorites, I honestly would not have picked Frances as best actress, not that she was bad by any means. My focus is first and foremost the entertainment value and I think the slowness and quiet dragged me down a bit. However, I still feel this rightfully deserved to be included with the nominees this past year.

3 ¼ stars 

Flash Movie Review: The Whistleblower

During tragic times there are some people who ask themselves what they can do to help. One of the most selfless groups of people I have ever witnessed are those individuals who do hospice care. To me they are a rare breed of humans who give of themselves without expecting something in return. I have a saying I use that goes, “For every plus in life there is a minus.” What I mean by this is the world is made up of people, things or events that can be either a plus or minus, positive or negative, or you can even say good or bad. Here is an example: my car’s windshield got chipped from debris on the highway. The following day my company handed out holiday cash bonuses and the amount covered my deductible. The negative act was cancelled out by the positive act. With that being said it saddens me to say with all the positive folk we have in the world, it appears we have almost as large a group of negative ones. They can prey on others; not only during tragic events but even on those individuals who may be less fortunate. The “criminals” in this crime drama inspired by a true story were utterly despicable. I will tell you it was hard watching this film festival winning movie. Rachel Weisz (The Mummy franchise, The Deep Blue Sea) played American police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, who took a position as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia. Working on an investigation she discovered young women were being trafficked for the pleasure of men. Though she would encounter obstacles, Kathryn was determined to have her voice be heard for these victims. This certainly was Rachel’s film and she owned it, making an amazing character come to life. She was backed up by some real star power with Vanessa Redgrave (Unfinished Song, Blow-Up) as Madeleine Rees and David Strathairn (Lincoln, L.A. Confidential) as Peter Ward. As I watched the story unfold I really was outraged witnessing the scenes that were filled with such desperation. I was aware the director and writers probably took liberties with the story, focusing more on the cruelty; but it still bothered me. Though there was drama, personally I wanted more back story to the main characters. With this being such a vehicle for Rachel, some of the supporting cast was lost in the frame. At the end of the picture I had to stay seated and thought about the negative people in the story. I just wondered what kind of childhood did these people have to carry out the things they did in this gripping film.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Hemingway & Gellhorn

From two places one could easily find themselves in the middle of a raging battle in a foreign land, to relaxing at a beach resort on a faraway island. All it takes is either reading a book or watching a movie. Sitting in a comfortable spot, a book will take me out of my home and let my imagination conjure up the places I am reading about. In my mind I can add the sounds, the colors and the inflection of people’s voices; there are no limits on what I can create. When I watch a film my eyes are the first to be stimulated. There is nothing I have to add; when a movie is good it will go beyond the limits of the screen it is projected on and engulf me into its story. I love both experiences. The visual stimulation in this dramatized biography was awesome. From the comfort of my sofa, I was transported back to the Spanish Civil War. From there I wound up in Cuba, the United States and on a fishing boat. It was the incredible filming of this story that immersed me in the tumultuous relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn. Nicole Kidman (Stoker, The Paperboy) as Martha was wonderful. I want to know how her eyes always had my attention in every one of her scenes. Clive Owen (Children of Men, The Boys are Back) was over the top as Ernest, to the point it was buffoonish for me. However, I cut him some slack since Hemingway was a larger than life character. Adding to the capable cast was David Strathairn (Lincoln, The Whistleblower) as John Dos Passos and Tony Shalhoub (Feed the Fish, Monk-TV) as Mikhail Koltsov. Similar to the filming style of Forrest Gump, I thoroughly enjoyed the intermingling of historic footage with current characters. The gentle shifting from black and white to sepia to color in the film was beautifully done. I am sure this movie took major liberties in regards to historical accuracy, facts about Martha and Ernest, along with the other characters in general; but I did not care. This Emmy award winning film was great to watch and I was able to visit different places around the world from my cozy couch. A few scenes with violence, blood and war casualties.

 

3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Howl

There was a time when women could not wear pants. It was not allowed during the period my brothers were in high school. It used to be one could not marry out of their race. Experiencing any type of freedom today, one must look to the past to see who fought for those rights. As a member of the blogosphere, I have read some posts that made me blush. I may not agree with the author of the post, but I would certainly fight for their right to say it. If I am not comfortable reading or seeing something, I simply stop and move on. Being fortunate to live in a country that allows it citizens the freedom of speech, I was curious to see this film about a trailblazer who reinforced that freedom of speech. Poet Allen Ginsberg along with his friend Jack Kerouac were pioneers of what became known as the Beat Generation. Allen’s poem Howl is considered today one of the great works of American literature. When it was first published in the 1950’s, there were many who felt it was obscene. The obscenity trial that ensued was the focus of this film. James Franco (127 Hours, Spiderman franchise) gave an engaging performance portraying the poet Allen Ginsburg. The lawyers at the trial, Jake Ehrlich and Ralph McIntosh, were played by Jon Hamm (The Town, Friends With Kids) and David Strathairn (Lincoln, L.A. Confidential) respectively. I could appreciate the use of three segments to tell this movie; the events that led up to Ginsberg writing his famous piece, the trial itself and the use of animation to enhance the recitation of the poem. But where each segment was interesting, I felt it took away from giving me a fuller story. For example, I would rather have had extra screen time showing more of Allen’s life and his thoughts about the trial. Even having more interaction between Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who was played by Todd Rotondi (Phileine Says Sorry, The Heartbreaker), would have been interesting. The casting for this film was well done, including the small parts for Mary-Louise Parker (Red, Saved!) as Gail Potter and Jeff Daniels (Looper, Dumb & Dumber) as David Kirk. This movie was a compelling history lesson for me. Strong language and visuals of sexual content.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Lincoln

Like most young children, I wished I had superpowers. I wanted to fly 6 feet off the ground, skimming over the heads of people. As to why that particular height, I believe it was because I knew no one over 6 feet tall. Another power I wanted was to have the ability to time travel. The capacity to travel back to historical events and meet famous people has always fascinated me. After all these years my wish came true with this amazing movie. I was watching Abraham Lincoln not Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot), the actor that portrayed Lincoln. His performance was more than outstanding; it was real, causing me to tear up every time he spoke. Daniel will be the one to beat in this year’s Oscar race. Sally Field (Forrest Gump, The Amazing Spider-Man) brought a deep understanding to her character as Mary Todd Lincoln. Honesty there was not a bad performance from any of the cast which included Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs, In the Valley of Elah) as Thaddeus Stevens and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as Robert Lincoln. The story focused on the time surrounding the creation of the 13th amendment to the constitution, which would ban slavery. Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Munich) wrote the rich screenplay, allowing a majority of characters in the movie to have their own special moment. I appreciated the work involved in recreating the sets to exact details, having read director Steven Spielberg (War Horse, Saving Private Ryan), Daniel and Tony each visited the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois for research. For example, Steven recorded the sound from Lincoln’s pocket watch and recreated the exact titles of books for the bookcases in the White House. The only fault I can say about the movie was several scenes seemed implausible to me. I felt they were manipulated to create a more heartwarming experience for the viewer. With that said, this movie was one of Steven Spielberg’s finest creations. When the lights came up in the movie theater, I could finally say I met Abraham Lincoln. I left my seat with a better understanding of our country’s history, feeling uplifted.  Brief scenes of blood and violence.

 

3 1/2 stars

Flash Movie Review: Cold Souls

Imagine the possibilities if you were able to swap out your soul for another or just have it removed to avoid some type of distress in your life. For example, maybe you are a lawyer about to go to trial and you want to have the soul of one of the top lawyers in the country. It is an intriguing concept and this dark comedy chose the perfect actor for the role: Paul Giamatti (The Illusionist, Win Win). Playing himself, Paul was struggling in rehearsals for a production of Anton Chekov’s Uncle Vanya. Seeing a magazine article about a storage facility for souls, Paul made an appointment to see Dr. Flintstein, played by David Strathairn (Heavens Fall, The Whistleblower). Mr Giamatti has a gift for quickly changing emotions, going from a humorous point to an intense frantic state with the simple use of his expressive face. The movie with its science fiction vibe had several funny bits throughout it. Paul went from being a soulless actor, much to the director’s chagrin, to a brillant actor with the aid of his temporary soul. I wish the writers would have stayed with this story line instead of bringing in the secondary story involving the Russians. It would have made for a stronger film. Fans of Paul Giamatti will certainly enjoy this movie. For those of you not familiar with his work, this DVD would be one to rent to see his excellent acting skills on display.

 

2 2/3 stars — DVD

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