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Flash Movie Review: Home for the Holidays

FROM THE VARIOUS HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS, I have participated in, this year will provide me with something new. Considering I have been a witness to holiday events that spanned the spectrum from elegant to outrageous, that is saying something. I was invited to a family’s holiday dinner where a fight broke out between 2 sisters at the dining room table. The one sister broke down in tears and ran out of the room; talk about a conversation killer. At another celebration, one of the family’s elders had all the little children sit around the Christmas tree; so, he could tell them the history behind several of the ornaments. That was a wonderful experience because there was a plain, lopsided star shaped, wooden ornament on the tree that had been handed down in the family for generations. I think it was someone like a great, great, great grandparent who had carved the ornament. Listening to the stories behind the tree ornaments was such a cool experience for me and they were not even my own family. As you can see just from these 2 examples, I have been to a variety of family holiday functions and dysfunctions to the point I had thought there was nothing left to surprise me.      HEARING HOW THE PRESENTS WERE TO be distributed made me think a logistics company needed to be involved. One person was waiting for a group of packages to be delivered to their house. Once received, they then had to take them and drive to two family members’ houses to drop them off. At the 2ndstop, after their car trunk was empty, they were to receive a group of presents that they then had to bring back to their house. From there another family member was going to arrive to take half the packages and deliver them to relatives who lived down in the city. Several remaining packages were to be driven to relatives who lived close by. I did not have to be the driver for any of these excursions; I just had to carry the presents to load and unload from the cars that pulled into the garage. Once all the packages get delivered to the intended family members, we are going to do a video call where all of us can see each other opening our presents. I have visions of us looking like the opening credits of the TV show, The Brady Bunch; each of us in our own little tick tock box. This will be a new experience for me, and I am guessing for some of you. At least getting together this way has the potential to cut down on the type of antics that went on amongst the family members in this film festival nominee.      WITHOUT HER DAUGHTER JOINING HER FOR the holiday Claudia Larson, played by Holly Hunter (The Big Sick, Broadcast News) would have to face her family alone. With low expectations, Claudia was hoping there would be little drama she would get pulled into. With Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man franchise, Due Date) as Tommy Larson, Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker, The Graduate) as Adele Larson, Charles Durning (Tootsie, Dog Day Afternoon) as Henry Larson and Dylan McDermott (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Olympus Has Fallen) as Leo Fish; this comedic romance drama had the makings of an old fashioned crazy comedy in the same vein as Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The acting was excellent from the entire cast as they played a cast of characters. Where this film falters is the unevenness between the scenes. There were some heartfelt dramatic ones that grabbed me, but then there were others that felt flat and predictable. I will say the writers did a decent job with trying to capture all sides of a family gathering. On a positive note, after seeing this film I am looking forward to having a video family gathering, that comes with a mute button. A safe and happy holiday season I wish to all of you.                      

2 ½ stars 

Flash Movie Review: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

SHE TOLD ME IT WAS A television show when I asked her what made her decide to become a dancer. I quizzed her further and she said it was a variety show she used to watch with her family on Sunday nights. Two ballet dancers were introduced by the host and she was immediately enamored by their costumes. The woman looked like a pristine fairy and the man looked like a stately prince. She had never seen ballet dancers before, but as the music started and the two dancers began to perform, she was mesmerized by their movements. The female dancer seemed weightless like a snowflake, spinning and fluttering across the stage. The male dancer had broad shoulders that made him look more regal as he lifted and guided the female dancer through their movements. I listened to her describe the performance and I could see the impact of this one of several acts on the show had a profound effect on her. Before the dancers were done performing, she had already decided that she was going to be a dancer when she grew up. She listed for me the highlights of her journey in becoming a ballet dancer and it was not a simple, straight street to ballet; she had some detours along the way. However, she told me throughout her struggles she kept believing she could do it.      HER STRENGTH IN HER BELIEF REMINDED me of a woman who was a participant in my yoga class. I worked at a hospital-based fitness center, where I introduced yoga to the fitness members. The center did not have a quiet room for me to teach class, so they had me taking the members to a laboratory in the hospital to conduct class. One day this woman came into the room in a wheelchair; I thought she was a patient who was lost. When I asked her where she was going, she told me to yoga. Talk about being embarrassed; this was the first time I was going to teach a wheel bound person in a general class setting. During my instructions, I included options that the woman could do while seated. After attending class for a few weeks, I asked her one day how yoga made her feel. She told me how much see looked forward to class because she would get the best night’s sleep after taking class. I was pleased to hear this and asked her if she had any goals she wanted to achieve in class. She said yes, she wanted to stand up out of her wheelchair. I told her it was a wonderful goal and I hoped I would get to see it. She said she believes she will one day, and I told her I believe in her.     WHEN HIS ASSISTANT TOOK HIS IDEAS and left him, the town’s toymaker Veronicas, played by Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Black Panther), stopped believing in himself. One day a strange little girl came to town with a belief. With Keegan-Michael Key (Playing with Fire, Let’s Be Cops) as Gustafson, Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Notting Hill) as Mr. Delacroix, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls; Everything, Everything) as Jessica and newcomer Madalen Mills as Journey; this musical family fantasy film was a magical viewing experience for me. At times coming across like a Broadway production, other times like a family classic; this was one of the most entertaining films I have seen this year. The fanciful special effects, the singing and dancing, the costumes and the sets took a somewhat predictable script and elevated it into pure entertainment. I will say if you are not a fan of musicals, you will not enjoy this picture as much. For me, I could easily see this film being translated to the big stage of Broadway. My skepticism about films made for the small screen has been altered; I am a believer now. 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: The Bravest

I WATCHED HIM DILIGENTLY AND DELIBERATELY outline each space that had the number 1 inside of it. My relative was using paint from a small container that was labeled with the same number 1. He first traced the outline of a space with the paint before filling it in. Once he completed all the number 1 spaces, he went on to doing the same thing to all the number 2 areas. It was my first time seeing someone paint by number. He had only gotten the paint kit as a birthday gift a couple of days ago; but to me, he looked like he was an expert painter. I sat and watched as the canvas in front of him took on more colors. To me it looked like the colored spaces were jigsaw pieces that were getting closer to completing the puzzle. Surprisingly, I started to recognize what he was drawing; it was a scene of Buckingham Palace with the Queen’s Guard out in front. There was a part of me that wished I had a paint by number kit because I would have liked to try a different way of painting. Most of my paintings were abstract or landscape scenes because I had a hard time drawing people; I wanted them to look real like a photograph. I was even a perfectionist back then.      I WOULD NOT SEE THE COMPLETED painting until my next visit to my relative’s house. My relative had done a great job of painting because there wasn’t a place where he drew over the line; everything looked exact and precise. If I had not known my relative used a paint by number kit to create the painting, I would have thought they had drawn it on a blank canvas. Don’t get me wrong, my relative did an amazing job; however, for me the painting did not look as realistic as I had expected. I guess I was hoping it would have appeared just as clear as a postcard or photograph, especially since there was no freeform sketching involved. Having gotten a camera for a birthday gift, I was very much into taking photos. Whether it was of people, landscapes or objects; I enjoyed setting up the framing for a photograph. I had thoughts of asking for a paint by number kit for my birthday; but, after seeing the final results I decided I did not really need it. Drawing from imagination and photography were better suited for me. When I saw this film festival winner, I had a similar reaction of disappointment.      A GROUP OF FIREMEN HAD THE battle of their lives on hand when a fire broke out at an oil refinery; a refinery that was situated too close to a major population center. With Xiaoming Huang (The Message, Ip Man 2) as Jiang Liwei, Jiang Du (Last Letter, Operation Red Sea) as Ma Weiguo, Zhuo Tan (Gone with the Light, Dying to Survive) as Li Fang, Zi Yang (Bodies at Rest, Ode to Joy-TV) as Wang Lu and Hao Ou (The Captain, The Left Ear) as Xu Xiaobin; this dramatic, action thriller had a typical storyline for this genre. There were many scenes with big pyrotechnic productions and blasts; however, I do not know if it was the dubbed English or not that made the acting come across cartoonish. The script was easy to figure out, though there were a few touching scenes that added a touch of newness to the oft used storyline. While I was viewing this film, I kept thinking the writers and producers were trying to get a Hollywood disaster picture wannabe. If you are one who can find entertainment in just seeing special effects and things blowing up, then you might be fine watching this picture. After I finished seeing this film, I wished I had found my old copy of The Towering Inferno. Mandarin was spoken with English subtitles/dubbing.

1 ¾ stars      

Flash Movie Review: The Etruscan Smile

THE CANDLE WAS BURNING BRIGHTLY WHEN I went to sleep, and it was still burning when I got up in the morning. I did not know at first the significance of this candle that looked like it was formed inside a drinking glass. All I knew was that it would appear only a handful of times throughout the year. The wax in the glass was always white and by the time the flame extinguished itself, the rim of the glass would have a ring of black stuff around it. Though I never saw it, I believe the used candle was disposed of because I never saw them in the house the rest of the year, in a cupboard or pantry.  I never touched the candle for it usually was placed on a counter or sometimes right on top of the stove between the 2 sets of burners. Only when I got older did I find out those candles were lit once a year for a deceased relative as a remembrance. It was a custom/ritual that was handed down from generation to generation; I never found out how long exactly it had been taking place in the family. It also was not the only custom/ritual, I discovered, that had been performed in our home.      AS MY CIRCLE OF FRIENDS AND family expanded, I learned there were many families that had their own customs/rituals. I remember attending a wedding where it was custom for the groom to ride in on a white horse, decorated in colorful yarns and jewels. Another custom involved the wedding party; the groomsmen would have to lift a groomsman from the other family. It was fascinating to see young and old men trying to lift each other; usually in a bearhug, but sometimes over the shoulder or in outstretched arms as if they were newlyweds about to walk over the threshold of their new home. Through the years, I have known several individuals who would give up a certain type of food for a short time. I enjoy learning about other people’s customs because I feel it gives me an opportunity to not only get a glimpse of their history but also their heritage. Besides customs/rituals based on religious beliefs, I have known a variety of people who have a custom or tradition that is unique to their family. Though I am not adventuresome when it comes to trying different foods, I enjoy learning about the types of food a family eats that are directly related to the region of the world their family came from. Learning about the customs/rituals and region of the main character was one of the charms that motivated me to watch this film festival winner.     TRAVELING TO THE UNITED STATES FOR a medical opinion meant Scotsman Rory MacNeil, played by Brian Cox (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, X2: X-Men United), would see the life his estranged son Ian, played by JJ Field (Third Star, Captain America: The First Avenger), was living in San Francisco. Rory already had an opinion formed before he even arrived. With Thora Birch (Hocus Pocus, Patriot Games) as Emily, Rosanna Arquette (The Whole Nine Yards, Desperately Seeking Susan) as Claudia and Treat Williams (The Hideout, Deep Rising) as Frank Barron; this drama went beyond its script thanks to Brian’s performance. I found myself becoming involved with Brian’s character due to the acting skills of Brian. If not for that, this film would not have kept my interest throughout because the script was predictable. Gratefully it had at least a deeper level of emotion to it. Because I am a fan of traveling and seeing other places, I especially enjoyed the outdoor scenes. If this had been currently playing in the theaters, I don’t think I would have liked it as much as I did in the comfort of my own home. And, I felt as if I was on a private tour with this Scottish man Rory.

2 ¾ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Enola Holmes

THE FIRST TIME I SAW SHERLOCK Holmes he was sitting in a chair with a pipe in his hands. I did not know anything about him but was intrigued by that funny looking pipe that looked like a weird letter “S.” The only reason I was watching him was because I thought I was watching a movie about a hound. I was lying on the floor of our living room with an oversized pillow and a blanket, waiting for one of my favorite television shows to start. Every Saturday afternoon there was a program that had a host who would talk about a movie before playing it for the TV audience. I did my best to always be home at the time it aired since I loved watching movies. Seeing this most curious man on television talking in such precise detail, not that I understood everything he was saying, piqued my interest; I had never heard anyone talk like he did. Why was he saying “elementary” to his dear Watson; elementary was a school. Everything about him was odd to me simply because I was a little kid and had never seen anyone like him before. As the movie played, I found myself being pulled into the story; he was secretive like a spy, liked dressing up in disguises and was good at figuring out puzzles. In my mind that is how I was able to relate to him.      FROM WATCHING THAT FIRST MOVIE, I made a point to see every film about him. Both at the school and neighborhood libraries, I started checking out the books the movies were based on; I could not get enough of Sherlock Holmes. And it is funny, with every book I read all I could see was Basil Rathbone as Sherlock. Don’t get me started on the trauma I went through when I realized Basil was simply an actor portraying the detective. Due to having been exposed to his exploits, I fell in love with reading all kinds of mystery detective stories. I flew through each Hardy Boys book I could get a hold of, along with some Nancy Drew books I found at a relative’s house. There was a short period of time where I was carrying around a magnifying glass, just on the chance some mysterious event would take place and I needed to search for clues. I toyed with the idea of getting a hat like the one Sherlock wore in the movies; but the first time I tried it on, I looked silly as it was bigger than my head, coming down to cover part of my ears. From all of Sherlock’s books and movies I have done, I had no idea he ever had a sister. What a surprise it was to see her in this dramatic, crime adventure.      IT MADE NO SENSE THAT HER mother would suddenly disappear from their home and leave Enola, played by Millie Bobby Brown (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Stranger Things-TV) to fend for herself. Enola was determined to find a clue or something that would explain what happened to her mother before her older brother shipped her off to a finishing school. With Henry Cavill (Justice League, Night Hunter) as Sherlock Holmes, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Adrift) as Mycroft Holmes, Helena Bonham Carter (Cinderella, The King’s Speech) as Eudoria Holmes and Louis Partridge (Paddington 2, Medici-TV) as Tewkesbury; this film was such a joy to experience. The characters were perfectly cast with Millie Bobby Brown as the standout. This was my first-time seeing Millie and I found her fresh with a good sense of comedic timing. Being a tad too long, the script had its flaws; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of mystery and politics to make the story relevant. This is despite being set in England during the 1880s. It would be a complete mystery to me if the movie studio does not produce a sequel to this fun and exciting film.

3 stars    

Flash Movie Review: Mary and the Witch’s Flower

IT WAS THE FIRST TIME EVER getting such an answer to my question. All I could do was laugh and ask her why she wanted to be a mermaid. The little girl was my friend’s daughter, who said mermaid when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She wanted to be one so she could swim faster and stay underwater for a long time. I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I did not want to be the one to tell her she could never be a mermaid. So instead, I asked her if I remembered correctly that mermaids had a large fin instead of feet; she said yes, I was right. Scratching my chin as I tried to put a pensive look on my face, I told the little girl that when she gets older she might be able to buy fins a/k/a flippers for her feet that would make her swim faster in water. She seemed pleased with the answer, so I decided to quit while I was ahead. My conversation with her reminded me of myself when I was her age because back then when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told them I wanted to fly like a bird and be a window washer.      THROUGH ALL MY SCHOOLINGS IF I did not know what I wanted to do after school for a living, I at least had some general idea of what field I could see myself in. There was one relative who always told me I should be an accountant because I was so good with numbers. Another relative said I should work in the arts because I had such an imaginative mind. I wanted to do something with animals because of my love for them. As I started the educational process towards that goal, there was a part of me that also wanted to start my own travel business because of my love for travel. I wanted to provide private tours for people, where they would be ushered through the city in a limousine. While driving them I would be explaining the different sights along with offering them restaurant choices for their meals. Though I always loved these 2 career options they never came to pass. Does that make me a failure? I never felt so; if anything, I felt there was something waiting for me to discover. The journey of discovery sometimes can even be magical as you can see with the main character in this animated, film festival nominated movie.      LIVING OUT IN THE COUNTRY WITHOUT any friends made the days boring for Mary, voiced by Ruby Barnhill (The BFG, 4 O’Clock Club-TV). However, the discovery of a rare plant in the forest was about to change all of that for Mary. With Kate Winslet (The Mountain Between Us, The Dressmaker) voicing Madam Mumblechook, Jim Broadbent (Dolittle, Paddington franchise) voicing Doctor Dee, Ewen Bremner (Wonder Woman, Trainspotting franchise) voicing Flanagan and Louis Ashbourne Serkis (The Kid Who Would be King, Alice Through the Looking Glass) voicing Peter; this family adventure story was based on the book, The Little Broomstick. The animation was beautiful and creative; I felt it blended well with the story as the cast did an excellent job with their characters. It was so enjoyable to watch the hand drawn animation for a change instead of the computer driven kind. There was a sense of familiarity as I was viewing this picture; as if bits and pieces of other stories were being incorporated into this one. However, the sweetness, fun and excitement overcame any predictability I was feeling from several scenes. In addition, I thought the message in the story was simple enough for youngsters to appreciate. Seeing a picture like this one makes me glad I write film reviews.

 

3 stars    

Flash Movie Review: The Breadwinner

THIS WAS THE WAY I WOULD WATER my relative’s lawn. First, I would do battle with the reptilian garden hose that was coiled up onto the side of their house. Grabbing at its brass, pointy head I would pull it while walking backwards down the length of the house, until I made it to the front yard. From this point I would drop the green coils of its body on the ground while I continued to pull at the rest of its body; I needed enough length to get around the front bushes and out into the center of the lawn. Once this was done, I would attach the muzzle a/k/a oscillating sprinkler to its head and place it down on the lawn. Running back to the side of the house to the snake’s lair, I would find the water handle it was guarding and turn it on. I was already dressed in my bathing suit; so, I was ready to do battle with the spray of venom the snake was unleashing across the lawn. I would run and jump thru the wall of water the sprinkler was spraying up into the air as its head moved from side to side. My goal was to plant my feet firmly on each side of the wagging head then use my hands to push down the spewing venom water, until the palms of my hands could cover the sprinkler’s mad head. Once my hands reached the head, I knew I had won because of the gurgling sounds and the water pooling out into a puddle on the lawn. This was the way I helped water the lawns.      GROWING UP IN AN APARTMENT BUILDING, the only time I could help water and cut a lawn was when we were visiting a relative’s house. I was thrilled to play with the water hose, sprinkler and lawn mower whenever I was at one of my relative’s houses. With the lawn mower, I would plot out the path I would take, always based on some geometric or symmetrical pattern. Outline the lawn into a square that kept getting smaller as I got closer to the center or make diagonal stripes across the grass; these were just a couple of patterns I would make with the lawn mower. This was my way of helping a relative. Some of my friends had to help with things that were not nearly as fun. I had one friend who had to wash and wax the family car every other week; another friend had to keep the front and back yards clean after the family dog had been outside. I sympathized with them whenever they complained about their job. As I have been sitting and thinking about the work my friends and I had to do to help our families, it pales in comparison to what the young girl had to do in this animated, family drama.      AFTER HER FATHER WAS ARRESTED THE ONLY thing Parvenu, voiced by Saara Chaudry (Let’s Go Luna!-TV, Holly Hobbie-TV), could do to help the family was the one thing that could get her killed. And that was to go outside of the house alone. With Soma Chhaya (Poltergeist, Degrassi: Next Class-TV) voicing Shauzia, Noorin Gulamgaus (RoboCop, A Simple Favor) voicing Idrees/Sulayman, Laara Sadiq (The Invisible, Eight Below) voicing Fattema/Old Woman and Ali Badshah (Shazam!, Aladdin and the Death Lamp-TV movie) voicing Nurullah/Talib security man; this film festival winner was not a children’s film. This was an intense, at times riveting, story. Though I appreciated the animation, it was the script that sold me on this movie. Set in a Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the early 2000s, the scenes were a mix of harsh reality, fantasy and family life. I cannot recall a recent animated film that displayed such power from the spoken word. I try to avoid making comparisons, but I do not know how any child could still complain about their household chores after seeing this remarkable picture.

 

3 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Mirai

THE TWO OF US SAT QUIETLY playing checkers while people in the room were arguing back and forth between themselves. I had joined my elderly relative for the game after we had eaten dinner. I always enjoyed playing checkers with this relative despite him leading in the amount of games won. It was during our 2ndgame when a couple of the relatives, who were still sitting at the dining room table, started raising their voices towards each other. I had no idea what they were saying, so I started to turn around to look at them. My elderly relative patted his hand on my arm to stop me as he told me not to mind those fighting relatives. I asked him if they would start hurting each other; he said no, they both like being right and will continue yelling at each other until they get tired then they will each get up and walk away. He told me they always argue about unimportant things just so they can say they were right about something. “Pay them no mind,” he said. He also told me to learn from them which I thought was odd to say. When I questioned him, he said he wanted me to learn how to be respectful, that I can disagree with someone but respect that person’s feelings. We went back to playing our game of checkers.      THE THINGS THAT ELDERLY RELATIVE SAID to me during our checker games were invaluable to me. I have never forgotten our conversations and his thoughts about the things he saw going around him. To the other relatives, we looked like we were simply playing a game; but if they had paid attention to us, they would have realized this patriarch was teaching me important lessons that carried me through many situations. When I was that little boy, he was the oldest relative I knew. Those born before him, I only got to see in a photo album. The photos were old and faded. He would tell me who each person was and how they were related to me. I would ask questions about them and he would do his best to answer me in a way I would understand. There was one relative I was intrigued with because of a shiny pin he was wearing on his suit lapel in one of the photos. My relative told me it was a diamond and ruby pin shaped like a piece of candy because the man was a candy maker; how I had wished he was still alive. The little boy in this animated film sure was lucky to have his relatives.      FEELING NEGLECTED AFTER HIS BABY SISTER was born Yukio, voiced by Crispin Freeman (Young Justice-TV, Hellsing Ultimate-TV) found others who cared more about him. They were out in his yard. With Rebecca Hall (The Awakening, The Town) voicing the Mother, John Cho (Star Trek franchise, Searching) voicing the Father, Daniel Dae Kim (Insurgent, Lost-TV) voicing the young great grandfather and Victoria Grace (47 Ronin, Tokyo Grandfathers) as Mirai; this film festival winning adventure drama had some beautiful visuals throughout it. I loved the whole idea behind the story, finding things that were touching and sweet. The one thing I had an issue with however, was the main character Yukko. I felt there was too much yelling and bratty behavior coming out of him; it was hard to sympathize with him after a short time. Also, I would have liked the yard scenes to have been drawn with more magic and fantasy to them, to make them stand out more. Despite these issues, I still enjoyed the story immensely. Because I did not realize I could have changed the language, I saw this film with subtitles; they were hard to read in many scenes. I still was able to understand what was going on while Japanese was being spoken by the characters.

 

3 stars  

Flash Movie Review: October Sky

IT WAS A DOG AND A FALCON that steered me towards wanting to be an animal doctor. The dog was a relative’s pet and she was the first animal adopted into my extended family. She was a sweetheart who was always happy to see me. Anytime I was visiting my relative, I would always take the dog out for walks. She had a red colored ball that she absolutely loved to fetch, that I would spend nearly all my time throwing for her. This may sound odd; but whenever I was with her, I felt at peace. Yes, I know how that must sound but I was at my calmest when I was with her. She was the origin for my love of animals. I also think the comfort I had around her made me more receptive when it came to other animals. One of my summer camp counselors was a falconer. One day he brought a falcon with him. Where some kids were hesitant and shied away from the falcon, I only wanted to get closer and pet him. When he spread his wings out to their full length, I thought for a moment I was in the wild. He looked magnificent while perched on my counselor’s arm, wings wide and head turning to look at all of us kids.      THOSE TWO ANIMALS STARTED MY JOURNEY in studying to be a veterinarian. Though I did not get to the finish line, I never lost my love of animals. When I transitioned to a different major I wondered what would have happened if I had never encountered my relative’s dog or the falcon; one single event in time and a whole life can get steered down a particular path that had not been in your conscious prior. I remember a man I used to work with in a warehouse who wanted to be a fashion designer. Seeing his mother create her own outfits started him down his path. From having her teach him how to sew, to going to fashion school to getting a job at a fabric wholesaler where I met him; everyday he would come to work wearing something he had sewn himself. With row upon row filled with bolts of fabric, he felt he was working in heaven. I asked him once if there was anything else, he had wanted to be when he was growing up and he said yes. But after seeing what his mother could do with a needle and thread, he was hooked (pun intended). I admired his determination, just as I admired the determination of the main character in this biographical, dramatic family film.      GROWING UP IN A COAL MINING town meant there were only 2 choices high school students had waiting for them by the time they graduated; either earn an athletic scholarship to go to college or work in the coal mines. For Homer Hickam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger, Donnie Darko), those choices were waiting for him until he looked up into the sky and saw something that no one had ever seen before. With Chris Cooper (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Adaptation) as John Hickam, Laura Dern (Marriage Story, Little Women) as Miss Riley, Chris Owen (The Mist, American Pie franchise) as Quentin and William Lee Scott (The Butterfly Effect, Pearl Harbor) as Roy Lee; this film festival winner based on a true story had an inspiring story that was wonderfully told through its script. Even at such an early age, Jake already was displaying his formidable acting skills. The whole cast was terrific and with the story set in the 1950s, there was an overall good homey feeling throughout this movie. Despite the predictability that was built into the story, I found this entertaining picture touching and inspirational. It also proved it only takes one event to change one’s life.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Inkheart

THE ABUNDANCE OF LIGHTBULBS CREATED A continuous glow of light around the carnival. The Ferris wheel was the only attraction that almost reached the edge of darkness waiting above the glow. I could see the Ferris wheel was stopped and there was a man screaming he wanted to get out from the upper most car. He had broken through the car’s safely bar somehow and was hanging off the side, with one arm stretched out towards the closest metal beam. Barely visible to me were two small girls who were trying to pull the man back into the car. I had to close the book right at this point because the phone rang; however, the scary image of the man dangling out of the Ferris wheel car kept floating in my head. And that is the beauty of reading a book. Most of you know me as a person who watches multiple movies every week, but may not know I can escape into a book’s story the same way as when I am watching a film. The difference for me is when I am watching a good movie; I am falling into the visuals that are being presented to me. When reading a book, I am creating the scene based on the writer’s words; I am using my imagination to see what the author is describing to me. Both mediums are equally as powerful to me.      THE EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING A FILM (prior to our current stay at home orders) is more of a physical experience for me. Keeping in mind I do not watch movies on my phone, tablet or computer; I either have to go to the movie theater or to my living room television if I want to see a film. When I travel, the options are similar with going to a theater or using the hotel’s cable options. With a book, the story’s characters almost always can surround me anywhere in the world; all I need to do is carry the book or tablet with me. I could be riding a bus, eating at a restaurant, waiting at the airport gate for my flight or (please excuse me) sitting in the bathroom; the possibilities are endless. It is such a wonderful feeling to disappear from my surroundings, by using my imagination as I read the author’s words, to recreate their vision all in my mind. Some of you may already know when a movie is based on a book; I prefer to see the film first before reading the book. One of the reasons is because I have all the characters’ voices in my head already when I open the book. In regards to today’s review, I have the book this film was based on sitting up on a shelf waiting for me.      FOR YEARS BOOKBINDER MO, PLAYED BY Brendan Fraser (Crash, The Mummy franchise), has been searching for a particular book. If he could just read its story he was certain he could find his wife. This film festival winning movie also starred Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes franchise, Long Shot) as Capricorn, Helen Mirren (The Good Liar, Woman in Gold) as Elinor, Paul Bettany (Avengers franchise, Journey’s End) as Dustfinger and Eliza Bennett (Nanny McPhee, From Time to Time) as Meggie. This family, adventure fantasy movie had all the right elements to be a fun old-fashioned thriller. Over the top characters, magical characters, big sets, everything was here except for the wandering script. The pacing was uneven as some scenes were great to watch while others were listless. I was disappointed overall with this picture; however, I was okay watching the film all the way through due to the heart and imagination at the base of the plot. Though this viewing did not pan out the way I would have liked, I am certainly looking forward to taking the book this film was based on off of my shelf to read.

 

2 stars — DVD            

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