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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 Trailer: I Am Woman

NOT ONLY WAS IT INFORMATIVE, IT was also a fun lecture. I know, how many times do you get to have a good time while sitting through a lecture? In this case, it really was an enjoyable time; all because of the lecturer. I was attending a fitness convention and was lucky enough to get a space in the lecture before it became filled. The lecturer was well known in the industry and I had heard his lectures were in high demand. Anyone I spoke with who had attended one of his lectures, raved about him. Everything they said about him I found true while sitting through his lecture. He talked about addictive personalities and how to spot them in our classes. Despite the serious topic, he had a special way of injecting humor; and for lack of a better word, his lust for life, into his talking points. At times, he was giving out so much good information that I had a hard time keeping up with it in my notes. Included in the lecture was a workshop where he led us in some specific exercises related to the topic. I have to say he was a dynamic instructor who used an abundance of visual and audio cues in his instructions. And just like he injected his type of humor into his lecture, he doubled the amount in his workshop. By the time the session was over it was hard not to be a believer in his philosophy.     THE FOLLOWING DAY I WAS SITTING in the hotel’s coffee shop when that same presenter walked in. As he came near me, I caught his eye and nodded my head. He nodded back and came over. I told him how much I enjoyed his lecture the day before and offered him a seat, if he cared to join me. Sitting down, we started talking about our experiences at the convention; I was curious to hear things from a presenter’s point of view. A waitress came over to see if he wanted to order something and without looking at the menu, he ordered a couple of desserts. To say I was surprised would have been an understatement. Here he had just been talking about addictive personalities yesterday and now he was having 2 desserts for lunch? A little warning flag popped up in my mind. We continued with our conversation, but I noticed he was talking at the same rapid-fire rate as he had done during his lecture. I assumed on a one to one basis he would have toned himself down. Something was starting to feel odd about him. When the waitress brought over his desserts, I knew something was not right because he tore thru the desserts like they were his first meal in a week. By the time he left, I was convinced he was either addicted to sugar or he was high on something; it made no sense based on everything he said during his lecture. Here people were flocking to his classes to receive his words of wisdom, yet not knowing trouble was bubbling up behind it.      BY WRITING ONE SONG, AUSTRALIAN BORN Helen Reddy, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey (Hotel Mumbai, One Eyed Girl), became the voice of a feminist movement. Little did anyone know what was happening behind that voice. With Evan Peters (X-Men franchise, American Horror Story-TV) as Jeff Wald, Chris Parnell (Anchorman franchise, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story) as Artie Mogull, Danielle Macdonald (Bird Box, Dumplin’) as Lillian Roxon and Matty Cardarople (Jurassic World, Stranger Things-TV) as Roy Meyer; this film festival winner revealed a surprising side to the life of Helen Reddy, at least surprising to me. To present that side, I thought Tilda did an admirable job playing the iconic singer in this musical biography. With the amount of drama and turmoil around Helen’s life, the script needed to be a powerful statement. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There was enough drama to spring from and create some riveting scenes, but the writing fell flat. There was a level of predictability that I expected, but not the amount that was happening here. Gratefully, I was enjoying the musical performances enough to prevent me from becoming bored. If everything that was being shown in this film was true for Helen, then she was even stronger than any of us believed her to be.

2 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Mosul

AS THE ICONIC BUILDING FLASHED ACROSS my television screen, I was saddened to see the damage. Its beautiful white terra-cotta tiles at street level had been broken or spray painted with graffiti. The glass in the entrance doors had been smashed to pieces. All I could do was sit there and stew in my feelings of anger that was bubbling up. This is something I do not understand; why some protesters feel the need to destroy random pieces of property. Before you tell me, they are making a point, I want to be clear that I believe they have the right to protest; whether it is a peaceful march or a sit-in, they have every right to protest. The thing I do not understand is the correlation between a person’s cause and the destruction of an object. Sure, if one felt let us say that voice enabled smart speakers were evil, then I can understand why a person is making a public statement by breaking the devices with a sledgehammer in the middle of the street. But to attack public property or burn down stores, I do not see that act as a productive use of one’s time in getting their message across. Staging a protest at the corporate headquarters of a company that is contributing to the deforestation of the rainforest is totally understandable and valid, in my opinion. But setting fire to the public train station that is underneath the company is not productive and does more harm I feel.      MY DESIRE TO PROTECT PUBLIC PROPERTY is born in the love I have for the city of my birth. I have lived in my city all of my life and I am proud of it. Like any city in the world it has its flaws; however, it has things that are unique to it. I mentioned in an older movie review that when I was growing up, I came up with an idea to run a sightseeing company that used limousines instead of buses to transport small groups of people around the city. One of my favorite things to do is take out of town visitors on a tour of the city and its surrounding areas. There is so much to explore and discover just within the city limits that I could spend days dragging visitors to every corner of my city. Besides loving my tour guide responsibilities, I absolutely enjoy when I visit an out of town friend/relative who does the same thing by showing me all the sights in their city. I do not know what to call my strong feelings about my city; pride, love, protective or a combination of them? I just know I do not what anyone tearing down what has been created for its inhabitants. This is the reason I was impressed with the work that was being done by the main characters in this dramatic war drama.      REFUSING TO END THE MISSION THEY started, an elite group of officers continue to face death as they try to rid their city from forces who have been tearing it down. With Waleed Elgadi (Four Lions, A Hologram for the King) as Colonel Kaveh Afsahani, Hayat Kamille (Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile) as Hayat, Thaer Al-Shayei (Fears, The Antwerp Dolls) as Hooka, Suhail Dabbach (The Hurt Locker, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot) as Jasem and Adam Bessa (The Blessed, Extraction) as Kawa; this film based on a true story was filled with gripping intensity. Set in what was Iraq’s 2ndlargest city, the non-stop actions of this elite squad were incredible to watch. I thought the direction was in synch with the script and appreciated the moments that were given for emotional release. Despite the violent scenes with blood, I could not stop watching what was taking place in the story and truly, what a story. Arabic was spoken with English subtitles.

3 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Hillbilly Elegy

I WAS GREETED AT THE DOOR by 2 overly excited dogs. They were sisters who my friends adopted when they were puppies. Being familiar with me, they were happy to see me because they knew I was the one who gave them body massages; well, at least that is what I hoped they thought. Whenever I would tell the two of them it was time for a doggie massage, the chocolate colored dog would lie down on her side, in preparation for her massage; the vanilla colored dog remained standing with this quizzical look on her face as she continued to watch me. I would have to gently hold her as I brought her down onto her side and even then, she would try to get back up. It was only when I started rubbing her side that she would calm down and relax, allowing me to continue my ministrations. The other dog did nothing but wait there for me to massage her. It was quite comical. This was not the only difference between the sisters. It was easy to fake out the vanilla colored sister. I could pretend to throw one of their toys across the room and the vanilla sister would run down the length of the room looking for the toy. The other dog was too smart and would stay in place with this look of anticipation on her face, as if telling me to throw the toy already. Two dogs from the same litter, yet so different.      I REALLY WAS NOT SURPRISED BY one dog being smarter than the other. The same type of thing has happened in human families, I have noticed. I knew two brothers who had 4 years difference between their ages. The younger brother was the smarter one who got good grades and achievement awards. The older brother’s school grades were a mishmash of passing and failing grades. He also got in trouble a lot. Now you would think 2 boys being raised in the same house under the same conditions would be more similar, but it was not the case. I have always been curious about this disparity between family members. There is this family I know where the parents only had a high school education. Their focus was staying employed; they did not read anything or try to learn something new. Their only son received zero encouragement from them since his aspirations for higher education were a foreign concept. I do not know whether it was despite or because of his parents, but early on he displayed high intelligence which was quickly noted by his teachers. Where his parents could barely write a clear sentence, he became the editor of his elementary school’s newspaper, besides being a winner in state driven English contests. This type of dynamic is something I find so fascinating, which is why I was intrigued with this dramatic film.      WHILE ATTEMPTING TO GET AN INTERVIEW lined up, Yale law student J.D. Vance, played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Kings of Summer), found himself being pulled into his Appalachian family’s drama back home in Ohio. With Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes) as Bev, Glenn Close (The Wife, Alfred Nobbs) as Mamaw, Haley Bennett (Music and Lyrics, The Girl on the Train) as Lindsay and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Immortals) as Usha; this movie based on a true story was all about the acting. I thought the cast was outstanding and felt Glenn could get nominated for her role. The story is surprising I grant you; however, I thought the script was not as strong as it needed to be to support the story. There was an element of predictability and at times I felt there was too much melodrama inserted into the scenes; I would have preferred learning more about each character on a deeper level. Despite these misgivings, my interest did not waiver as I observed the dynamics in this generational family story.                                                   

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: The Mustang

SHE SPOTTED ME AS I CAME through the door and did not take her eyes off me all the way down the staircase, until I finally took a seat. In that short amount of time she had already figured me out. The trainer came over to introduce herself to me and explain what was expected of me. I was prepared but still had some trepidation. You see, I had never done this before and did not want to embarrass myself right at the start. After going through the instructions, the trainer took me over to meet her. She was taller and much bigger than me, with a long mane of auburn hair. I was told to extend my hand slowly with the palm facing up, so as not to startle her. She started to pull back, but the trainer told her in a quiet, soothing voice that everything was ok and that I was nice. I felt weird standing there with my arm stretched out waiting for her, I guess, to see if she would begin to trust me. It seemed like a long time but evidentially she took a step forward and lowered her head down to sniff my hand. I remained still for a moment before I began scratching her under the chin and softly tell her she was a good girl. That was the extent of our interaction for the day; I was to return tomorrow for our second session.      AFTER MY INITIAL INTRODUCTION I THOUGHT I would have been more relaxed but that was not the case. When I returned the next day, she was walking in a large circle until she spotted me and came to a stop; her gaze locked onto me as I walked down the stairs. The trainer was standing near her and motioned me to come over. I took it as a good sign that she did not back away as I joined them. Today’s lesson was to teach me how to clean her feet and if time permitted, I would get a riding lesson. The trainer handed me some type of brush with what looked like a metal claw sticking out of it; I was to use this to clean her feet after the trainer demonstrated it for me. The process was easy, and I got the hang of it rather quickly. Afterwards there was enough time, so the trainer instructed me on how to mount her and get in the saddle. Having never done this before, it took a couple of times before I could do it. I am sure that was enough for my horse to know I was a novice. And sure enough, once I got settled into the saddle, she took off in a trot with me bouncing up and down atop her back. No matter what the trainer told me to do, the horse was not buying it and did what she wanted to do. I was just grateful she did not try to knock me off her. Through my lessons I gained a deeper appreciation for horses, which explains why I enjoyed this dramatic, award winning film.      CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED FOR A VIOLENT crime Roman, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (Red Sparrow, Rust and Bone), was enrolled into a prison program that involved the training of wild mustangs. Roman would soon discover he met his match. With Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Henry, Bruce Dern (Nebraska, The ’Burbs) as Myles, Gideon Adlon (Blockers, American Crime-TV) as Martha and Connie Britton (American Ultra, Nashville-TV) as psychologist; this film based on true events told a straight forward story in a simple and surprisingly beautiful way. The filming was eye catching and Matthias’ acting was incredibly intense to the point one could not take their eyes off him. There was a smoldering intensity that boiled and simmered throughout the story. I thought the script was well written as it carried the story between periods of silence and action. This was a quiet and thoughtful movie filled with majestic animals and touching moments.

3 ¼ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Walkout

WHEN MY CO-WORKER SAID HE wanted to stage a walkout, I thought it was a poor idea. Not that I had any negative thoughts about a walkout, it was my co-worker’s reason that I felt was not a cause the rest of us employees would want to participate in. He was upset that he did not get a raise in his salary and that we were not getting a holiday bonus for the year. His salary had nothing to do with me, so there would be no reason for me to join his protest. As for the holiday bonus, sure I would have liked getting one; but it was a gift from the owner, not something that was expected in my paycheck. If my co-worker had a valid reason to start a protest, I might have been a part of it; but what he presented to me was not enough for me help stage a walkout. My refusal did not stop him from trying to entice the other workers to join his protest. There were several employees who were quick to say yes to him. Personally, I felt they would have said yes to anything just to get out of doing their work. But they did not make up a large enough group of employees that could cause a work stoppage. I was glad for it.      SEVERAL YEARS LATER, I FOUND MYSELF helping a friend with her walkout. She was a newly certified schoolteacher and was looking forward to having her own class to teach. Here it was her first year at the school and the teachers’ union had set a date to hold a strike. She was upset about it because though this was her first-time teaching, there was no way she could cross the picket line. The teachers’ demands were valid, and I agreed with their cause. Besides better wages for teachers, they wanted to see an increase in school funding. However, I understood my friend’s predicament. Not wanting to sway her decision, I offered my support but did not tell her what I thought she should do. If the strike dragged on, she was afraid it would take a toll on her finances. If she chose to cross the picket line, she knew she would be labeled a “scab” and it would probably stick with her for the duration of her teaching at that school. Then there was the concern of how the striking teachers would treat her once everyone was back in school. She decided to join the other teachers and luckily the strike did not last long as both sides quickly came to terms that were satisfactory. If you are curious about the purpose and function of a walkout, this dramatic film festival winning movie has an amazing example.      HAVING EARNED TOP GRADES IN HIGH school Paula Crisostomo, played by Alexa PenaVega (Spy Kids franchise, From Prada to Nada), had never cut a class. That was about to change when she saw what was taking place at the school. With Michael Pena (Fantasy Island, 12 Strong) as Sal Castro, Yancey Arias (Bella’s Story, Revenge-TV) as Panfilo Crisostomo, Laura Harring (The Punisher, Love in the Time of Cholera) as Francis Crisostomo and Efren Ramirez (Mad Families, Crank: High Voltage) as Bobby Verdugo; this film based on a true story was an utter surprise to me. I had never heard of this high school and its significance in history. Taking place in East Los Angeles during the 1960s, I thought the directing was well done. The script was good even if it seemed as if it was purposely keeping things simple. There was an element of predictability, but it was okay simply because I was making an assumption about the outcome of the story. This was a no-frills production, but it packed a solid wallop of history in an engaging way.

2 ½ stars     

Flash Movie Review: The Proposal

I DID NOT HAVE AN OPINION one way or the other about the groom; I just thought it was not a good idea for him to marry my friend. He seemed to be nice as far as I could tell in literally the three minutes we spoke before the wedding ceremony. My friend had been in a four-year relationship that ended with a lot of heartbreak and sadness. She was just getting her life back in order when she met this man and the next thing I heard was they were planning on getting married. As far as I knew they had only known each other for a few months before deciding to get married; I do not know which one pushed the idea first. My reason for feeling this wedding would be a bad idea was based on my observations that my friend did not complete the grieving process from her last relationship. It seemed as if this man was being used as a distraction to coverup the sadness and pain. I know everyone falls in love at a different pace and maybe I am just being a pessimist; but the whole proposal and wedding thing came up suddenly without anyone being clued into it. I had to wonder if the groom had any knowledge about my friend’s recent breakup. It would be sad if they were marrying for the wrong reasons.       THEIR WEDDING WOULD NOT BE THE first one that was based on questionable motivations that I would attend. I knew a man who had served in the military. When he returned home there was something different about him. With him being older and the two of us not having much contact, it was hard for me to pinpoint what had changed in him; I only knew he was not the same. After some time being at home, he started dating a woman. He took his time before introducing her around; but once he did, several of us questioned the relationship. It appeared as if she was making all the decisions in their relationship. He went along with everything she said. It was as if he no longer had an opinion about anything, letting her decide the where, when, what and how to every situation. Now if he was like that prior to their meeting, I would not question it; however, it was such a stark contrast to what I knew about him that I felt something was not “right.” I continued to feel that way even when she announced they were getting married. Maybe it would work out for them; if love is present one never knows what could happen. Just see for yourself in this dramatic romantic comedy.     WITH THE PROSPECT OF BEING DEPORTED looming over her head, the only thing that popped into Margaret Tate’s, played by Sandra Bullock (The Heat, Ocean’s Eight) mind was to find someone she could marry. It did not matter what they had to say about it. With Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool franchise, Safe House) as Andrew Paxton, Mary Steenburgen (Last Vegas, Powder) as Grace Paxton, Craig T. Nelson (The Family Stone, Book Club) as Joe Paxton and Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show-TV, Golden Girls-TV) as Grandma Annie; this film festival winner survived its generic script because of the cast. The chemistry between Sandra and Ryan was not only believable, but it came with extra doses of snarkiness and pinpoint comedic timing. Add in Betty White and that was all that was necessary for me to stay interested in this film. There were a couple of times where I chuckled, and I did enjoy the outdoor scenery. Too bad the script was predictable because with this cast the writers could have included a few twists and turns to give the story a new flavor. Despite these shortcomings, it was fun to sit through and watch this movie.

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: The American President

THE NARRATOR WAS STATING IT IN such a matter of fact way, yet I was highly amused. I was watching a TV special about the royals and would you believe the hard-boiled egg for a royal’s breakfast comes with its shell cracked and opened. I know, such an innocuous function that the royal cannot do themselves. There were other functions shown during the special that surprised me, but this one was the silliest in my opinion. I am all for the pomp and circumstance that comes with royalty, no matter what royal ruler. Seeing the different customs and procedures have always been something that I have been curious about, which explains why I like to read about history. Not to be too graphic here, but there was a time when a person on the royal staff had the job to clean the bottom of the royal after they had defecated. Honestly, I don’t think there could be enough money for me to take such a position. Some positions make better sense to me, like a food taster or the transporter of the royal jewels. I understand how a royal or a country’s leader gets treated with reverence; however, I cannot fathom how the general population finds amazement with their leaders’ or royals’ everyday ordinary functions. It is as if once they achieve a high position their country people turn them into a deity.      HERE IN MY OWN COUNTRY, I am constantly amazed when people focus on the president’s activities. Some time ago I remember when the news stations reported on the president stopping at a fast food restaurant to eat a burger, making sure to tell us that the president paid for it himself. Ok, so can someone tell me why this is so newsworthy? Throughout the different administrations we have elected, we have seen our leaders playing golf, fishing, playing basketball and even bowling; there were none of them that I would classify as a gifted athlete. And that is okay, whether they excel in sports or not doesn’t take away from their ability to govern; at least I hope so. Personally, I want the best person for the job. I do not care what they do in their downtime as long as it doesn’t become too much of a distraction for the job at hand. Seeing a world leader breaking down in tears tells me they are still human. If they choose to break out in song, I assume they enjoy music. As far as I am concerned every world leader has the same type of internal organs and bodily functions as every other person on the planet. Because of my feelings, I became totally enchanted with this comedic romantic drama.      ANDREW SHEPHERD, PLAYED BY MICHAEL DOUGLAS (Ant-Man franchise, Traffic), was a widower who was raising his young daughter. He also was the President of the United States. Being seen alone with a woman would immediately have people talking about and possibly using it for their own personal advantage. With Annette Bening (The Kids are all Right, American Beauty) as Sydney Ellen Wade, Martin Sheen (The Departed, The Way) as A.J. MacInerney, Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, The Frighteners) as Lewis Rothschild and Anna Deavere Smith (The Kingdom, Rachel Getting Married) as Robin McCall; this Academy Award nominee and film festival winner was charming and fun, in an old-school way. I thought the cast was excellent and loved the play between Michael and Annette, with the aid of the smart script. The other thing I liked about this movie was the political undertone. Considering when this film was made, it felt like a prelude for the things that we are experiencing now. The writers and director pulled this off in a wonderful way that was both entertaining and enjoyable. I wonder, with the recent political climate we have gone thru, how this story would have played in real time.            

3 stars

Flash Movie Review: Traffic

I MAY NOT REMEMBER A PERSON’S name, but I am good with remembering faces; yet, I had a hard time recognizing this man who was talking to me in the music store. He called out my name as he walked up to me. I am not attaching any judgment here, simply describing what I saw coming down the aisle. This man had, if I understand the phrase correctly, long dishwater blonde hair that looked oily. It cascaded in waves down the sides of his head. Perched halfway down his nose was a pair of wire rimmed glasses that had lenses that looked smudged and dirty to me. He was wearing an oversized, beige canvas jacket that had frayed edges and a couple of discolored spots on it. The jeans he was wearing were extremely faded and were so worn at the knees that you could see the white threading crisscrossing in the fabric. His shoes were so dirty it looked to me as if he had been trudging through a long road of mud. As I watched his face get nearer to me, I tried placing where I had seen it before. There was something familiar about it; I had a feeling that I must have known him from a long time ago.      WE WERE FACE TO FACE WHEN he asked me how I was doing. I said fine but he must have seen the bewildered look on my face because he told me his name. As soon as I heard it, memories of him flooded into my mind. I did know him because we went to school together. So, you will better understand, let me tell you about him. He wasn’t a jock, did not play sports, but he was always trim. His hair back then was a lighter shade of blonde and was thick and cut short. I don’t remember him ever wearing glasses back then; maybe he only used them when he was studying at home. Many of the students in his class considered him a Brainiac; though, he never flaunted his high intelligence, at least he did not around me. A lot of us thought he would become a scientist or philosopher. I remember him always having a paperback book in his hand. So, you can sort of get the idea how shocked I was to see such a different version of him. As we were conversing, I kept wondering what had happened to him that caused such a drastic change in appearance and mannerisms. I think I found the answer while watching this Academy Awards and film festival winner.      WITH HIS NEW GOVERNMENT POSITION ROBERT Wakefield, played by Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra, Ant-Man franchise), did not realize the impact his new mission would have on his family. With Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, 21 Grams) as Javier Rodriguez, Don Cheadle (The Guard, Traitor) as Montel Gordon, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, The Mask of Zorro franchise) as Helena Ayala and Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop, Crossing Jordan-TV) as Eduardo Ruiz; this dramatic crime thriller took me a short time to separate and connect all the characters among its three story lines. The large cast was full of top notch acting that ran the gambit of emotions. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven franchise, Magic Mike), I felt he did a masterful job of keeping the stories moving forward and blending in easily with each other. There were several intense scenes with blood, yet I did not find the violence was in excess. Once I found the rhythm of this picture, I was totally in and lost the concept of time; things kept happening and changing without me losing track once. I especially enjoyed the way the subject was broken down so each story line could focus on a particular aspect of it. Watching this film, I could not help wondering if my assumptions about my old classmate were closer to truth than I first thought.

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: The Life Ahead

I KNEW HIM TO BE A mean and argumentative individual. He really was worse than that, but I was afraid I would get censored for what I really wanted to say about him. It was not unusual to see him in a fight with another student, whether it was verbal or physical. I never liked him and did my best to stay away from him. After we graduated and moved up to the regional school, I thought for sure I would not have any contact with him; it turns out I was wrong. We both had the same music class. When I walked into the classroom and saw him sitting in one of the seats, I wanted to turn around and go to the counselor’s office, to see if I could change out of the class. Because I did not want to start moving classes around, I decided to stick it out and just make a point to never sit near him. Hopefully, he would not see me or if he did, would not realize we had gone to the same lower school. This was not the way I wanted to start out in this new school; but at least the teacher seemed nice.      THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER, MY PLAN TO go unnoticed by him worked. He hadn’t changed since the teacher had to break up a couple of fights that he was involved in with other students. Also, whenever we had an open discussion in class, he was his typical abusive self with his yelling and name calling. A funny thing, however, started to take place I noticed after many weeks. His methods of discussion took on a less combative mode and I honestly could not recall when was the last fight he participated in. At least for me, I felt relief since his ways were a distraction; I wanted to hear more from the instructor because she seemed so knowledgeable. A student sitting next to me who had struck up an acquaintance with me, surprised me when he commented on our classmate. He had noticed the change like I had; but it turns out he had a theory. I was curious to hear, so he shared his thoughts with me. It turns out the teacher had spent several sessions one on one with our classmate after his first outburst in class. I knew her to be a gentle and kind, based on the way she conducted class. The way she dealt with us as a class was something new to me. She tended to ignore the boastful or negative comments as she encouraged us to be more open and honest. I know I do not have enough space here to share the details; but if you are curious, this dramatic film can show you a way on how people can change.      WITH THE RETURN OF HER STOLEN purse Madame Rosa, played by Sophia Loren (A Special Day, Marriage Italian Style), was put in the uncomfortable position to board the person who stole it in the first place. It was an outrageous request. With Renato Carpentieri (Open Doors, Tenderness) , Francesco Cassano (The Tracker, Anche Senza di te) as Carabiniere, newcomer Ibrahima Gueye as Momo and Abril Zamora (Three Days with the Family, Vis a Vis) as Lola; this Italian film was proof that when you are a star, you can remain a star. Sophia was outstanding in this role; so much so, that if it had been someone else, I do not think the movie would have been as engaging for me. The story had a familiar ring to it, but the chemistry between Ibrahima and Sophia was solid. Since the movie I saw was dubbed in English, I felt it made it harder for me to connect at first; but that soon passed. This was a classic performance from a classic actress, and I was glad I was able to watch it.

3 ¼ stars     

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