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Flash Movie Review: Unbroken: Path to Redemption

THERE WAS NOTHING THAT STOOD OUT for him that would warrant grabbing your attention. He was a polite man who bagged groceries at a store. Then one day a shopper at the store recognized him, recorded a video of him and posted it on the internet; it went viral, as they say. You see there was something unique about this man because the general public would never guess someone with his former career would be a bagger. He was an actor on a past, long time television show. I am willing to bet a majority of you are thinking right now, how does an actor wind up becoming a store bagger? The only reason I know about this individual is because it was on the news. I admit I was shocked but I had no feelings about the job this man was doing now. Sadly, there were some people who posted derogatory comments, job shaming the former actor. I found the comments to be rude and uncalled for; what did this man’s livelihood have to do with these people? Only those around the store bagger might know his story; it is no one’s business.      I DO NOT KNOW IF THIS APPLIES to the former actor, but I have watched some people who were driven to do only one thing in their life. Just take a look at those athletes that have made a name for themselves. For example, the participants at the Olympic games. When the telecast of the games does a focus segment on one athlete, more times than not, the athlete has done nothing else but train for this moment since they were a small child. I sit there and wonder what will happen to them if they do not get a medal; do they have something to fall back on to make a living? I know a man who wanted to be an opera singer. He studied hard and practiced all the time until he became one. It was not easy because after school he was on the road most of the time taking any singing job he could find. HIs jobs were with small opera companies, nothing that was famous or prestigous. After a few years of this hard schedule it started to take a toll on him; he wished he had a backup plan. Seeing the writing on the wall, he went back to school to become a music teacher. He was lucky in making this transition, unlike the war hero in this dramatic biography.      AFTER SURVIVING A CRASH AND CAPTIVITY Louis Zamperini, played by Samuel Hunt (Dead South, Chicago P.D.-TV), came back to the states to start a new life. Unfortunately he had no idea what life he would be able to live. With Merritt Patterson (Kid Cannabis, Wolves) as Cynthia Applewhite, Bobby Campo (The Maestro, The Final Destination) as Pete Zamperini, Gary Cole (One Hour Photo, The Good Wife-TV) as Dr. Bailey and David Sakurai (Iron Fist, In Order of Disappearance) as Watanabe “The Bird;” this sequel offered nothing for the viewer. I am sure the true story of former Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini had more to it then the poorly written script for this film. Following a genetic, typical, formulaic story; I was bored early into the movie. I have said this before and I will say it again, I do not have an issue with these faith based movies. However, I have not seen one yet that had good acting or a decent script. All the writers of this type of movie care about is to stress the power of faith in a heavy-handed way. It seems these type of studios only focus on one thing and have no knowledge on how to make an enjoyable picture.

 

1 1/2 stars

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Flash Movie Review: First Reformed

EVERY TIME I BUY A newspaper I believe I am doing my part in preventing the publisher from shutting down. I know it is a fallacy, but I have to believe it is true. The convenience store used to have their racks full of newspapers; now if I do not get there early enough the few papers they do get are already gone. It makes me sad because I prefer reading a newspaper instead of looking at an electronic screen. So, I want to believe my little contribution will help sustain newspapers through my lifetime. I have a similar belief when it comes to my personal banking. There is no way I want a debit card; it is that simple. Yet anytime I need to use a teller the first thing they ask me is to swipe my debit card. When I say I do not have one they give me this look as if I am a much older version of a Rip Van Winkle character. I want to believe that I am not alone, that there are others like me who prefer doing their banking the old-fashioned way and by that, I mean the banks still need to keep their branches open with tellers.      WHEN IT COMES TO BELIEFS I believe I am not alone; each of us has a set of beliefs. The ones I just mentioned are not based on any facts which fits into the definition of belief. It is a state of mind where a person thinks something is true despite having evidence to prove it. For me my beliefs are based in feelings, not facts. An example would be the route I take to work. I believe it is the fastest way to get to my office; however, if someone shows me a different way that is faster, then I will no longer believe my route is the fastest. Remember there was a time where people believed the earth was flat; it took science to show them that was not the case. I consider beliefs to be multifaceted; some people refer to them as opinions, others define them as faith. It seems to me beliefs assist us in finding order in the world or put another way, they help explain the world around us. This does not mean I expect others to have the same beliefs; in fact, I would be offended if someone tried to foist their beliefs onto me. They are a personal matter as far as I am concerned. To see how beliefs can affect a person, feel free to watch this film festival winning, dramatic thriller.      IN THE MIDDLE OF PREPARATIONS for his church’s celebration Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to Be Alive, The Magnificent Seven), experiences a crisis of faith. With Amanda Seyfried (The Big Wedding, Dear John) as Mary, Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne, Barbershop franchise) as Reverend Joel Jeffers and Victoria Hill (December Boys, Macbeth) as Esther; this thought provoking movie posed a variety of topical issues. Written and directed by Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, The Walker), I found the acting to be excellent. Not in a flowery or over the top type of way, but simply an adult driven script that infused the characters with realness. I felt the way the picture was filmed complimented the script, set in upstate New York, beautifully. My major complaint about this movie concerned the lead up to the ending. I did not like the element of fantasy that was introduced nor the way the story ended. It was a letdown for me because I believed the script was going to maintain a consistent flow to its conclusion. You might think differently because you have a different set of beliefs and that is okay.

 

3 stars       

Flash Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine

WITH ONE OF MY PREVIOUS cell phones I programmed most of my contacts with songs as their ringtone. I want you to know I never missed a call. In the middle of a crowded shopping mall or restaurant it did not make a difference because I would always hear the notes of the song. My ears from the time I was born were always accustomed to music and not just one genre; I was exposed to everything from classical to the blues. At some point in time I dreamt about being on a game show where the contestants had to name the song the game show host was playing for them. I was positive I could win. There is something about music that puts me in a place where I may feel relaxed or romantic or exhilarated; besides a wealth of other feelings. I am willing to bet many of us have a “go to” song we play when we have a heartbreak; there were several in my roundhouse.     MUSIC CERTAINLY HAS EVOLVED OVER the centuries; I can only fantasize what it must have been like for early man and woman when they struck their first note. Imagine the idea of tying a string to essentially a piece of wood and discovering you can play different sounds depending on where your hand presses down on the string. The same goes for any wind type of instrument; who thought of blowing air into a shell or ram’s horn to make a sound? No matter how music is made one of the main foundations among all genres are the feelings that go into the musical piece. I find when a musical artist can connect to their song it makes me believe what they are saying. I know it is true because even the judges on those singing reality shows (my guilty pleasure) say the same thing. A singer needs to feel what they are singing and pour their emotions into the lyrics. Though it is a cliché I agree that music can soothe the savage beast. If you are not sure about this then you might want to check out this musical, family drama.     LIVING WITH AN ABUSIVE FATHER the only thing that saved Bart, played by newcomer J. Michael Finley, was listening to music. It would take years before he understood why. Based on a true story, this movie also starred Dennis Quaid (A Dog’s Purpose, Far from Heaven) as Arthur, Brody Rose (Gifted, Christmas on the Bayou) as young Bart, Trace Adkins (The Lincoln Lawyer, Deepwater Horizon) as Brickell and Madeline Carroll (Flipped, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) as Shannon. With the story being faith based the thing I appreciated about this script was its ability to tell a story without drumming faith into the viewer’s head. The faith based films I have recently seen all focused on telling the viewers what we should believe, instead of creating a well done piece of work that told a story. Maybe because this was a true story about a dark subject I found it more palatable. I also enjoyed the music and especially Bart’s singing; the actor could easily do a Broadway musical with that type of voice. As for the script it did not have any real surprises in it. I felt Dennis did a better than usual job of acting in this film. What tied this whole picture together for me was the showing of statistics and the connection of events that led Bart on his journey. What sold me on this film was the music; if I had not enjoyed it I would have rated the movie lower.

 

2 stars  

Flash Movie Review: Little Boy

There were so many things I used to believe in. I believed I could still see colors on a black and white monitor. I believed a relative of mine really could pull nickels and quarters out of my ears. I believed love would last forever. No matter the size of the boat, I believed I could sink it the moment I stepped foot on it. Whether maturity or life experiences released my hold on those beliefs, I still have some I keep with me now. What goes around, comes around is something I truly believe in. Another belief I have, that there are some people who have pure evil inside of them; they do not have anything good. When I believe I am right about something, I will fight non-stop until someone can prove me wrong. Granted as I get older I devote less and less energy to defending my beliefs; I think this is where one would use the phrase: we agree to disagree. Life is too short, so I now pick and choose my battles. I think beliefs can motivate people to be better human beings; however, it can also cause stagnation in them too.    PULLED from the audience at a magic show Pepper Flynt Busbee aka Little Boy, played by Jakob Salvati (Red Widow-TV, Esacpe from Tomorrow), was asked to move a bottle across a table without touching it. The magician asked Pepper if he believed he could do it. Pepper said yes and the bottle began to move. With this new found discovery Pepper believed he could now stop World War II and bring back his father; all he had to do was believe in himself. This comedic drama set in the 1940s had some strong themes it wanted to tackle. A few touched upon in the story were bullying, faith, war and love. Each individually would have been more than enough to create a solid film here; however, what the writers did instead made for a messy mix. The cast which had Emily Watson (The Book Thief, Belle) as Emma Busbee, Michael Rapaport (The Heat, Men of Honor) as James Busbee and Kevin James (Hitch, Here Comes the Boom) as Dr. Fox was a bit eclectic; I felt there was a disconnect between them. The major flaw in this film was the soundtrack and the unbelievable heavy-handed way the writers pounded the story into our heads. With syrupy dramatic music rippling in the background, I felt I was being forced fed emotions the writers wanted me to experience for the scene. It was way too manipulative and only made me lose interest in this picture. I think the writers should have had more faith in the public and let them decide how they wanted to react to the story.

 

1 2/3 stars

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