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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: Escape From Pretoria

NO MATTER WHERE I BUMPED INTO him, I always knew what to expect. He would address me with a nickname he made up back when we were classmates. Next, he would ask me if I was still in touch with a classmate of ours before he would make a snide comment about them. I stopped asking him to not make any comments about them but every time we ran into each other, he still made sure to say something. These days I simply do not react to his comments; instead, I ask him something different to switch the subject. Whenever I have bumped into him, I am reminded how I disliked the pettiness and backstabbing that took place amongst the school’s cliques. He was an instigator who enjoyed all that drama. Because he never failed to make a comment about someone we knew, I believed he was trying to get me to join him in badmouthing people from our past; to what purpose, I had no idea. I did find it puzzling that after all these years he had not changed one bit; he was obnoxious back in school as he was now. It was as if he had never grown up and I had to wonder if he had any friends still from our school days.     IT WAS INDIVIDUALS LIKE HIM THAT pushed me to apply and accept enrollment in an out of state school. Many of the students I grew up with were applying to our state’s university’s main campus. I decided to send out applications to schools from a few states nearby and some that were close to the coasts. As luck would have it, I wound up at a university where only 2 other fellow classmates planned on attending and if they were there, I never saw them. One of my goals for going out of state for school was to reinvent myself. Due to the experiences I had in my schooling, I did not want to repeat it out of state; so, I worked on myself internally. This meant I had to look back and exam painful experiences, hoping to find an inner strength that would help me not to repeat similar scenarios in my new surroundings. I wanted to return home as a grown-up essentially; someone who past classmates would have a hard time recognizing. I will be honest; it took a lot of work to push out the built-up anger and resentment. Not that it is all gone now, but I know I have been traveling on the right path based on former acquaintances’ reactions when meeting me now. I can see similar work was done by the main actor in this film festival nominated thriller because I did not think once he was Harry Potter playing another character.      DESPITE BEING CONVICTED AND IMPRISONED, ANTI-APARTHEID activist Tim Jenkin, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Swiss Army Man), was determined to get out of his prison cell and continue his fight. With Daniel Webber (Australia Day, Thumper) as Stephen Lee, Ian Hart (Michael Collins, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) as Denis Goldberg, Mark Leonard Winter (The Dressmaker, One Eyed Girl) as Leonard Fontaine and Nathan Page (Underbelly-TV, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries-TV) as Mongo; this movie based on a true story was made better by Daniel Radcliffe’s acting. The story itself was given a typical script, but thanks to Daniel and his fellow inmates, I found myself getting pulled into the activist’s plight. There was some unevenness to the directing; but there was no skimping on the parts that needed to be thrilling. The script did not delve deeply into the characters; but for a good old fashioned “prison break” story, this picture can be proud it was able to break out of the pack from similarly themed films.

2 ¾ stars

Flash Movie Review: The Frozen Ground

WHAT I WOULD HAVE GIVEN FOR a flashlight; it was dumb of me not to think of one. I was visiting a friend out of state, who thought it would be a cool idea to climb a mountain. It was nothing like the Rockies, but it was high enough. We were able to drive up part of it, park, then follow on foot a trail to get to higher ground. Up until that point everything was going fine. The vegetation was thick all around us which made our surroundings cooler in temperature and darker. I was okay since the day had been hot and sunny. Because we were making our way in subdued light, we kept assuming it was still bright outside, and this was our first mistake. As we were ducking under branches and constantly checking the ground for solid footing, we did not realize our ascent was going slower than anticipated. Neither of us thought about the challenges we would face by trying to crawl down in the darkness of night.      I THINK IT WAS ME WHO was getting cold first and hungry. We had reached a substantial height where we could see the city glowing in the distance. All we had with us was water; I had wished I had brought a piece of fruit or a granola bar. We decided to turn back by retracing our steps to get back to a trail and then to our car. It did not take long for me to realize we were in trouble. It was nighttime and neither of us could see the ground clearly enough. There were multiple times where one of us thought we had solid footing but then the ground/rock gave away and we would stumble or fall. I fell and scraped the palms of my hands. With no sense of direction, only knowing we had to go down, we were lost. The area was not known for wildlife; however, that did not stop my brain from imagining a multitude of scary creature encounters. The longer we remained stuck on the mountain, the more we were freaking out. After multiple tries and retreats, we finally found a trail. By the time we returned to the car, we had logged nearly 10 hours in total crawling on the mountain. Ever since then, I have always felt an uneasiness whenever I find myself in a remote area. Whether it is in rugged terrain or wide-open spaces, my imagination kicks into high gear on what things could happen to me. This will explain my anxiousness as I watched this dramatic, crime thriller.      WITH YOUNG WOMEN GOING MISSING in an area of Alaska, the only lead Jack Holcombe, played by Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas, Face/Off), had was a junkie named Cindy Paulson, played by Vanessa Hudgens (Beastly, Dog Days) and she did not want to be involved with any part of his investigation. With John Cusack (High Fidelity, Love & Mercy) as Robert Hansen, Dean Norris (Total Recall, The Book of Henry) as Sgt. Lyle Haugsven and Gia Mantegna (The Prince, Criminal Minds-TV) as Debbie Peters; this film festival nominee’s story was based on actual events. For that reason, I found this movie creepier than usual. The main leads were quite convincing in the story; in fact, I was impressed with Vanessa’s work in particular. The filming of this picture made the feelings of isolation and despair more prominent throughout the scenes. It almost felt like it was hanging in the air. The story basically was a good guy vs bad guy set-up; I only wished the writers had delved deeper into the characters. It would have made for a more intense viewing, in my opinion. I was already uneasy about remote areas and this movie has now solidified my feelings about them. 

2 ¼ stars       

Flash Movie Review: Idiocracy

WE WERE SITTING AROUND THE DINING room table when his cell phone rang. From where I was sitting, I was able to see the display with the caller’s phone number. The young man had a quizzical look on his face as he studied the number. I took it upon myself to tell him the call was coming from Oklahoma. He looked and asked me how I knew that as he let the call go to voicemail. I told him I knew because of the area code, 405; it was the area code for the Oklahoma City area. He was so surprised by my knowing such a thing that I found it amusing. When he asked me why I knew such a thing, I explained that I have accounts in Oklahoma that I have to call on the phone; so, the area code is something that has stuck in my brain from all the times I have called them. This explanation sparked a curiosity in him that spurred him on to suddenly test me. He asked if I knew any other area codes; I told him I know some states, but not all of them. He needed proof so he unlocked his phone and started looking up area code numbers. Not to toot my own horn, but out of seven area codes he tested me on I knew six of them. He was totally amazed by this; I found the whole thing curious.      ON MY WAY HOME, I STARTED to think about the area code “game.” Was my generation the last one that dialed phone numbers instead of pressing one button on their cell phone? I looked at my ability to remember area codes/phone numbers as a positive statement on my brain’s ability to retain information. For some reason, I feel depending on a device for common functions like simple math or reminders will make my mind soft. I will never forget walking into a bank to cash a check for $19.81 and handing the teller nineteen cents to round up the change on the dollar amount. The teller was perplexed by my actions and had to pull out a calculator to figure out I wanted to get back an even $20.00. Besides thinking how they graduated out of high school, I wondered what they would do if they did not have the use of a calculator. When you think about it; don’t you think it would be a valid discussion to say the same thing about someone who only knew how to tell time in a digital format instead of a clock dial? It scares me to think how future generations will function when they do not have a device to depend on and this comedic, science fiction adventure did nothing to help alleviate my concerns.      WHAT WAS TO BE A ONE YEAR experiment for Private Joe Bauers, played by Luke Wilson (The Family Stone, Old School), turned into a decades long event that left Joe the smartest man on the planet. He did not believe it until he saw for himself. With Maya Rudolph (Sisters, Away We Go) as Rita, Dax Shephard (Employee of the Month, Chips) as Frito, Terry Crews (The Expendables franchise, John Henry) as President Camacho and Anthony “Citric” Campos (Harsh Times, Lopez-TV) as Secretary of Defense; this film festival nominated movie had a script that was filled with satirical bits and sight gags. A good portion of them hit their mark and were amusing to me. However, the script had so much going on with it that I felt at times things were just silly and dragged on too long. The cast was fun to watch, especially Maya and Dax. Ultimately, I felt the story was relevant and, in some ways, important; the writers just chose a fun way to deliver their message. I do not know what I would do if reading becomes something that we let our digital assistants do for us; you just never know.

2 1/3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Griffin & Phoenix

IF I WERE TO PLACE A GROUP of people into a room and ask them what one thing, they think is important to have in one’s life, the majority of answers would be for money and love. These answers are perfectly valid; I would not disagree with them. However, I do not know if either of those answers would be mine. Now I certainly hope to always have love and money, but the other thing I want to have in my life is time. Yes, time. There is so much I want to do and see that I want to have as much time as I possibly can available to explore what I want to experience. I read a news article about an elderly couple, who are close to 90 years old, getting married and I am happy for them; may they share many years together and that is what I mean. How many wedding anniversaries do you suppose they will get to celebrate together? Not that I am trying to be morbid here; but I think about how many years will my relationship get as I have more years behind me than in front of me. This is why I believe time is a precious commodity.     FOR BEING A NON-SPONTANEOUS PERSON, I am constantly aware of time. When I was working three jobs, I had to function like clockwork. Even today people who know me can set their clocks based on what I am doing or where I am at; this is absolutely true. Some of you may remember my childhood dream coming true when I traveled to Hawaii; it was the last state I had to see before I could say I have been to all 50 states. I have so many other dreams I wish to fulfill, but I need time to make that happen. When I was just starting out in the world on my own, time did not seem as important as it does now as I have grown older. I could stay out until 4 in the morning, get home to sleep a bit then eat breakfast and go on with the day with no problem. Now, I hope I can stay up some nights just to hear the news. Looking around my house, I have all these projects I want to tackle; but I never have enough time to sit down and really focus on them. Instead, I have space being taken up on tables, chairs and shelves with these unfinished tasks. It seems like I never have time to just sit down and relax; I worry that I will fall further behind in trying to accomplish what I have set out for myself. The couple in this romantic, dramatic comedy would understand what I am saying.      WITH A POOR PROGNOSIS FROM HIS doctor, time was not something Griffin, played by Dermot Mulroney (The Wedding Date, August: Osage County), wanted to waste on thinking about his future; he wanted to spend time doing what he felt like doing right now. With Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards, 2012) as Phoenix, Sarah Paulson (Glass, Carol) as Peri, Blair Brown (Altered States, The Astronaut’s Wife) as Eve and Alison Elliot (Wyatt Earp, The Spitfire Grill) as Terry; this film festival nominated movie played around with my emotions and I was okay with it. Despite the story following a generic blueprint, I enjoyed the chemistry between Amanda and Dermot. And if nothing else I thought the script’s message was both important and relatable to me. There were a couple of scenes that seemed farfetched but watching the characters’ trajectory kept me fully engaged. As you may imagine, a true test for a movie is not making the viewer feel like they wasted their time watching it; I did not feel like I lost a second of time by sitting down to watch this emotional picture.

 

2 ½ 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 Incredible Jessica James

UNTIL I STARTED BELIEVING THERE WAS a reason for everything, I found myself getting stuck in place many times over. Imagine being in a relationship, thinking all is good, then suddenly you get blindsided and you are alone. At that point you have a choice; either feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity or reflect on your actions that led up to the moment, to see if you are following some kind of unconscious pattern or fear. There was a time where I had the same experience being repeated in my relationships. At first, I would only focus on my feelings of hurt and anger. Until I started looking at common traits between the relationships and believing there was a reason this was happening to me, did I start to understand what had happened. A change took place and I found myself reacting differently to dates and relationships. With this new awareness, I found myself being able to also see the patterns my friends were getting into in their relationships. There were many times when friends would tell me about something their date said or did where I would tell them not to take it personally; their date was playing out some pattern of their own making that had nothing to do with them.      ONE FRIEND IN PARTICULAR KEPT REPEATING the same pattern of behavior that caused her not to succeed in her places of employment. She wanted to do something specific that she felt she was best qualified to do. The issue was with each job, she did not take full ownership of her responsibilities. The result was she never got promoted. She would become resentful, letting it build up until she quit and looked for a new place of employment. This pattern was repeated several times and with each job she became more hardened and inflexible. I understood she wanted to do something different, but it did not make sense to me to be miserable in the meantime. It is like when I walk up to a store’s customer service counter and am met by a surly employee who is not helpful. I just want to say to the employee if they are so unhappy then quit. Being miserable and feeling bad will not get one to the place where they want to be; at least that is my way of thinking. Sure, it is easy to become cynical and disillusioned, but this is why I feel there are no accidents. Be present, be available and believe in purpose because once you do, you will have an easier go in achieving your dreams. I firmly believer this and think the main character in this comedy comes to understand this concept.     DESPITE THE CONTINUAL REJECTION NOTICES JESSICA James, played by Jessica Williams (Booksmart, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), still believed she could be a playwright. She just needed to convince people of it. With Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Love After Love) as Boone, LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, The Photograph) as Damon, Noel Wells (Mr. Roosevelt, Master of None-TV) as Tasha and Zabryna Guevara (Marley & Me, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Mrs. Phillips; this film festival nominee at first glance appeared to be a typical rom-com movie. However, the casting of Jessica and Chris turned this story into something new and fresh; I thoroughly enjoyed these 2 actors’ performances. The interactions between them was fun to watch, which made this viewing easier to sit through for me. The script had its predictable parts at times, but again due to the writing and delivery of the dialog, I did not mind how the story was playing out. The added benefit in seeing this picture was seeing a little of my old self make an appearance; gratefully only a short appearance.

 

2 ½ stars  

Flash Movie Review: Paddleton

THE QUESTIONING DIED DOWN AFTER A short time. It was a good thing since it was starting to annoy me. I had a friend who on the surface was a complete opposite of me; several of my friends would keep asking me why I was friends with him. I realized he came across as gruff to some people, with an air of indifference. Between the two of us we were different politically and religiously. We were complete opposites when it came to exercise and healthy food choices. Where I tried to exercise 5-6 days a week, he never did any physical activity where he would have to exert himself. In fact, the last time he actually exercised was back when he was a student in high school, where it was a mandatory requirement. I could see why my friends would think the two of us had nothing in common; however, they never took the time to really get to know him like I had done. Now granted, I did not push for all of us to get together and hang out. I do not know if you do this with your friends; but I tend to get together with my friends either on a one to one basis or in small groups. When there is a large group, I feel I do not get to catch up completely with friends’ lives. Also, the larger a group the more chances there will be personality conflicts.     THOUGH IT APPEARED THERE WAS NOTHING in common between this friend and me; we got along great. There was a deep, sweet kindness inside of him that many people never got to see because they could not get past his abrupt manners. That was one of the things I liked about him; he would tell it like it is without soft-pedaling any of it. We would have these lengthy, philosophical conversations about a variety of topics that were stimulating to me. We did not always agree on things; but the key was both of us respected the other’s opinions. Neither him nor I had to accept each others’ opinions, but we both had respect for them. Not that I want to paint this perfect picture of two friends totally in synch, because there were times we got on each other’s nerves. The key to a successful friendship, at least according to me, is to be respectful, loyal and unconditional. One cannot pick out the pieces we like in a friend and discard the rest; they must accept their friend unconditionally and simple love them. If you care to see how this works, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated, comedic drama.      WITH ONE NEIGHBOR LIVING ABOVE THE other, both men fell into a friendship that had its routines. That is until one of the neighbors was given hard medical news about his health. With Mark Duplass (Creep, The One I Love) as Michael, Ray Romano (The Big Sick, The Irishman) as Andy, Christine Woods (Stray, Adult Interference) as Doctor Hagen, Jen Sung (The Happytime Murders, Battle of the Damned) as Master Liu and Sierra Fisk (Piranha 3DD, The Concessionaires Must Die!) as Olive; this movie had a slow start. Not that this was entirely a bad thing because the acting between Mark and Ray was so solid, I was able to connect to the two neighbors during this slow part. The last half of the film made up for the beginning part. I felt the story and the script was done in a real and believable way that made the scenes convincing to me. The humor was gentle, never looking to create belly laughs for the viewer. In a way, I found the ending treated the subject matter in an authentic way that was touching and loving. And that was the beauty in watching this picture; one did not need to have experienced such a scenario to be moved by it.

 

3 stars     

Flash Movie Review: Burning Sands

NO MATTER WHAT TOOK PLACE, THE one thing you could not do was cry. At least that is what was instilled into every boy in school. Not that I remember someone ever telling me that exactly, but I learned right away after one tear broke free from my eye and slid down my face. The teasing and name calling started immediately before I could get up from the ground. I was not sure if I was purposely tripped while running in the schoolyard; but I fell face forward onto the asphalt, ripping my pants and scraping off the skin of my knees and the palms of my hands. If someone asked if I was okay, I did not hear them through the laughter. I did not take it personally since the same thing happened to anyone who fell. Though if you were a girl you did not get teased about crying. How or why that distinction took place, I had no idea; it was just acceptable or maybe it was tolerated better if a girl was crying instead of a boy. One of the worst labels a student could get was being called a “crybaby.” Getting that label would put you on a quick path to being known as a sissy, at least amongst the boys.      FROM THE EARLY TRAINING THAT TOOK place in elementary school, many boys grew a veneer of toughness. Some of the male students tried out for a sports team, figuring what they lacked in striking an opposing stature would be filled in with their athleticism. For those of us who wouldn’t or couldn’t compete in sports, we were left to fend for ourselves. A disconnect grew between those boys who were successful in portraying a tough exterior and those who chose not to or could not display toughness which by the way translated into manliness. Growing up in that kind of environment made me feel like something was wrong with me. By the time I made it to college, I found myself feeling more comfortable around female students than male. What drove this home for me was when I went to a fraternity’s open house during orientation week. Their house was this old Georgian style home with two white pillars that framed the front doorway. Going on a tour of the house, I heard about the history of the fraternity and its illustrious achievements in sports and community outreach. I do not know how to say this, but all the talking points I was hearing had competitive undertones that turned me off quickly. It seemed to me they were only interested in accepting those students who could display a “macho” exterior; something I sorely lacked. After watching this film festival nominated drama, I am so glad I never tried to be a pledge.      HOPING TO SUCCEED WHERE HIS FATHER failed, college freshman Zurich, played by Trevor Jackson (Superfly, Eureka-TV), was determined to survive his chosen fraternity’s hell week, no matter what he was expected to do. With Tosin Cole (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Unlocked) as Frank, DeRon Horton (Dirt, Dear White People-TV) as Square, Alfre Woodard (12 Years a Slave, Annabelle) as Professor Hughes and Steve Harris (The Rock, The Practice-TV) as Dean Richardson; there were times when I felt I was actually watching pledges during hell week. The acting was cohesive among the cast which made there trials more realistic. I thought the script was decent; however, I wished the writers would have dug deeper into the students’ mentality and backgrounds. There was a level of predictability to the story; yet, I had to wonder how true the hazing incidents were being inflicted on the pledges. Maybe because I do not define masculinity in the same way as these fraternity brothers did; but they certainly proved I made the right decision when I chose not to pledge a fraternity when I was back in college.

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado

WALKING INTO THE SHOP, I WAS immediately hit with the smoky smell of burning incense. There was the soft sound of a small bell or chime tinging at random intervals. The middle of the store had a few free-standing bookcases; leaning up against the walls were shelves filled with a cornucopia of crystals, rocks and oils or lotions. My friend convinced me to go with him to this shop. Honestly, I did not know whether to call it a bookstore, rock shop or coffee shop; since there were a few tables and chairs huddled around a short counter, that had a coffee machine and filled pitchers resting on top of it. I did have to give him the exact time of my birth, down to the minute and time zone. When I asked him why, he told me he wanted us to go see an astrologer/psychic, who needed this information before he would sit with us. I was okay giving this a try, to see what they would say about me. My friend walked over to a man reading a book, sitting behind a glass case. He told the employee about our scheduled appointment and the man nodded his head towards an entryway that had strings of rainbow-colored beads hanging across it. We walked through, entering a dimly lit space.      A PLAINLY DRESSED OLDER MAN CAME up and introduced himself to us. He asked for our names then wanted to know which one of us wanted to get our reading first. Before I could say anything, my friend volunteered me to go first; I did not object. The man led me to a 2ndroom that was better lit and had a round table in the middle with a white tablecloth covering it. Sitting down, the man pulled what looked like a folded map from a box on the floor next to him. He started unfolding it so he could press it out on top of the table. I saw my name written in a corner and a large circle drawn in the middle; it looked like a partially built bicycle wheel. The man did not waste any time as he immediately began telling me that the timing of my birth was unique. For the time I sat with this man, I was given a lot of information. For example, he told me I was a true Scorpion who had strong likes and dislikes. I was a loyal friend but if trust ever got broken, I would completely cut the person out of my life because once trust was broken it could never be completely repaired. There was a lot to take in, in such a short time. I would have enjoyed knowing what Walter Mercado would have said about Scorpions to compare the two, if I had only known about him. For those not familiar and those who are, you can now learn about him in this film festival documentary.      AT A YOUNG AGE WALTER MERCADO was different. It started when someone saw him bring a bird back to life. Directed by Cristina Costantini (Science Fair, Awakening: After Parkland) and Kareem Tabsch (The Last Resort, Dolphin Lover), this movie was a loving tribute to Walter. As I said, I had never heard of him; but as I watched this film, I was amazed and fascinated with Walter’s life. From humble beginnings, Walter looked at things differently and certainly did not conform to standard perceptions. I enjoyed seeing the reactions from his fans, especially the scenes that included Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns, Hamilton) and Eugenio Derbez (Instructions not Included, Overboard). The story had elements of sadness, fun and joy that were complimented by the tight editing between archival footage, animation and interviews. At first glance, I would have said Walter was a real character; however, seeing this film and hearing about his story made me appreciate the things he was trying to do. Hugely popular for years, I now wish I could have heard him tell me about my horoscope. There were multiple scenes that had Spanish dialog with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

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