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Flash Movie Review: The Great Beauty

THE GUESTS I was hosting were curious to see the city’s diverse neighborhoods. I put the afternoon aside to take them on a driving tour. After explaining how the city streets were based on a grid system, making it difficult to get lost as long as one could see a street address, we drove off to our 1st neighborhood. It so happens this was the area where I grew up. Driving around I explained the significance of several buildings, pointed out artifacts of interest and shared some of my personal history along the way. When I explained how I could walk to the main shopping district from my house without using any of the streets, they urged me to show them. I pointed out the several buildings’ gangways and alleys I traversed to make my way to the grocery store. There was no need to explain to them that this was one of my safe routes when I was a kid.     AFTER SPENDING THE day showing them several neighborhoods I had some down time, letting my mind drift back to the spots that meant something to me. It is funny how as one grows older things that were important become less so. Memories that were crystal clear and vibrant now look dull as if every recall of them had buffed the layers away. There was the neighborhood’s casual restaurant where my friends and I would sit for a couple of hours to solve what we thought were such urgent matters. All of them seemed so insignificant now through aged eyes. One of the neighborhoods I drove my guests through had a two storied nightclub where I had dreams of being hired as a dancer. If I straighten up now too fast from tying my shoelaces I get lightheaded; how did time go by so fast? Having seen my old public library brought back a flood of emotions for it was one of my safe havens. It was there that I could nestle into one of the alcoves with a stack of books in front of me as cover. How I used to dream about what my life would become only to see it now from much further down the road, as I strolled along my path of scattered memories.     SPENDING YEARS PARTYING with the upper echelon of society journalist Jeb Gambardella, played by Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, The Consequences of Love), pretty much knew or knew about everyone. But at this stage of his life did he really want to know them? This Oscar and film festival winning drama also starred Carlo Verdone (Me, Them and Lara; Fun is Beautiful) as Romano, Sabrina Ferilli (Forever Young, 3 Women) as Ramona and Carlo Bucci Rosso (The New Monsters Today, Il Divo) as Lello Cava. Set in Italy, it was beautiful watching this movie. Not just the outdoor scenes but even the indoor ones each offered something for the viewer. As I began this DVD I did not connect immediately to the story; however, there was something about the way the film was shot that drew me in. I found it especially interesting that I perceived all the actors to be friends, which was due to how well they all blended together in the story. There was some confusion on my part whether the story was being told in chronological order or not, but it did not distract me too much. I will say I thought the film ran too long; the script could have used some editing. In a way this was an interesting study of the aging process. Italian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

 

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Flash Movie Review: Menashe

“THAT IS THE way it has always been done,” is a response that I have had a love/hate relationship with for a majority of my life. On one hand I am of the mindset “if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it.” In other words if things are working fine then do not make any changes. Having lived this way for a long period of time, I am challenged when it comes to making changes. Since I am not a spontaneous type of person, you can imagine how stressful it is for me when my routine is altered. But on the other hand, there have been times in my adult life where I survived a change and found out it made an improvement. One example would be changing from using multiple charge cards for making various purchases to only using one card; I saved time by only having to pay one bill a month instead of several. So I am aware some change is good.     AN AREA WHERE change comes slowly is religion. Not that I am an expert by any means but I have seen where some traditions have been updated. I am referring to both the religion I was born into along with other ones I have been exposed to via friends and family. There are some traditions that I admit seem odd to me. Maybe in a different time they made sense but to my sensibilities they appear to have little relevance to the current world. I remember a time where only males led a service; the first time I saw a female do it, I recall how some in the congregation were, shall we say, uncomfortable. Personally I did not think it was a big deal since I always felt everyone had the right to communicate to a higher power the way they saw fit. I do not believe one person has an inside track to their God’s ear. It can be a struggle for some people; it was obvious in this dramatic film festival winning movie.     LIVING IN AN ultra-orthodox community in Brooklyn widower Menashe, played by newcomer Menashe Lustig, was being told he could not raise his son Fischel, played by Yoel Falkowitz (The Hudson Tribes), without a mother. Menashe wanted to prove them wrong. With newcomers Ruben Niborski, Meyer Schwartz and Yael Weisshaus, this picture at times seemed more like a documentary than a fictional story. The emotions portrayed by the cast came across as real, with several touching scenes throughout the movie. Some viewers may be totally unfamiliar with what is being portrayed on screen; I do not think it will have an impact on following the story. Speaking of the story, I found this one interesting as it touched on religious beliefs, parenting, family and childrearing. I could see it easily becoming a topic of conversation for viewers afterward. My issue with the script was the lack of dramatic variance. It felt like the scenes remained in a certain pocket of intensity. At one point I was losing interest because it seemed as if the same scenario was repeating itself. Because I enjoy getting exposed to different religious traditions, I still had a curiosity about the unfolding story. Yiddish was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ¾ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Broken Circle Breakdown

THE HONEYMOON phase is a real thing in a burgeoning relationship. However it can be quite deceptive for the individuals. I have seen many couples during this period who were bubbly and giddy in love, freely participating in public displays of affection. To the outsider they appeared perfectly in synch and for all intents and purposes they might have been. But it is here where that deception comes into play. With the couple exploring their love connection they might begin to feel that they could be together forever…and they just might succeed. But when 2 people never go past this faze to their real daily world, any slight obstacle can trip them up with drastic consequences. They were so focused on the happy, joyful, loving experiences they never took the time to really learn about each other. Even if some individuals are conscious about the different phases to a relationship they may fear showing their faults or quirks to their partner in love.     RELATIONSHIPS take work sometimes; it would be great if everything was simple and easy but most people are complicated. From my past experiences I have learned to express my feelings more and not hide my quirks so far in the future hopes. The reason being I need a person to love me for who I am, instead of them focusing on the good stuff and thinking the difficult things will disappear or worse yet that they can change them in me. Going into a relationship with the idea you can change someone is the quickest way to kill the relationship. I mentioned in an earlier review about being with someone who resented me teaching fitness at night, but there have been others who thought they could change me to suit their needs. I will say it helps if a person will talk about their needs instead of going into a relationship under the pretense the person they are in love with will figure it out. I may not be an expert in the relationship department but I do know a relationship needs communication and respect. Feel free to take a gander at this Oscar nominated romantic drama to see what I mean.      DISSIMILAR backgrounds and beliefs were not a concern for Elise and Didier, played by Veerle Baetens (The Ardennes, Code 37-TV) and Johan Heldenbergh (The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Brand New Testament), when they first met. Their love of bluegrass music and physical attraction to each other was a good start to begin a relationship. They were setting themselves up for a fall when their lives took an unexpected turn. This film festival winning musical movie also starred Nell Cattrysse (Labyrinthus, Het Vonnis) as Maybelle and Geert Van Rampelberg (The Treatment, The Memory of a Killer) as William. I thought the acting was excellent because to me Didier and Elise came across as a real couple. The script surprised me and I will tell you why. Normally I am not a fan of a story jumping back and forth in time; but in this case, it worked to break up the intensity of the situation with the musical numbers and home life scenes. There was honesty in the script, where I felt myself getting drawn into the lives of these people. As I stated earlier relationships are not always easy. Flemish and Dutch were spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ¼ stars – DVD      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Shall We Kiss?

THERE are some hugs that linger just a little too long that are loaded with hidden meaning. In one of the more uncomfortable positions I have experienced in my fitness career, there was a member who tried to cross the line with me from casual to personal. She was an enthusiastic participate in my classes, since she started seeing the changes her body was making both muscularly and aerobically. After class she would hang behind to talk to me as I was gathering my gear together. Honestly, there were no red flags I could detect since her behavior was no different than many of the other members. The fitness center was offering a 10 week class on massages which I mentioned in my beginning announcements. Someone asked in class if I was planning to attend and I said yes. At the first class this member was there and worked her way to be next to me so she could be my training partner. Long story short, after a few classes where we started working on each other she followed me out afterwards one time and wrapped her arms around me. She said she was glad we were training partners and with her arms still around me she looked up and I could tell she was coming in for a kiss. I put a stop to it.     EVER since that time I have always been keenly aware of any shift in members’ actions that come close to crossing that professional line. Away from the fitness center I have been an observer to a variety of situations that have involved my friends and family. You have heard the phrase, “I’ve got your back” haven’t you? In my circle of friends we each feel comfortable having another set of eyes on us to see things from a different angle. There have been times where a friend cannot tell if a person they have only recently started dating is really interested or not. Or maybe one of us points out the person they think is a friend really wants something more. There have been incidents where something innocent looking really has a different meaning or I will say intention. If you have time for a story then this romantic comedy will show you what I mean.     THINKING a goodnight kiss was an appropriate ending for their time together Gabriel, played by Michael Cohen (It Begins with the End, Them), was willing to listen to Emile’s, played by Julie Gayet (My Best Friend, Chaos and Desire), story about what happens when a kiss is given. With Virginia Ledoyen (The Beach; Farewell, My Queen) as Judith, Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love, Change of Address) as Nicolas and Stefano Accorsi (Saturn in Opposition, The Son’s Room) as Claudio; the script had a story within a story. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed how both stories had this give and take feeling as if they were in synch. The thing that attracted me the most was the concepts and thoughts the script evoked in me. One could easily have a discussion afterwards on their feelings about what they saw in this DVD. I will say there were a couple of scenes that seemed forced, ringing false for me. In addition I was able to figure out the ending which is something I do not do that often. This was a simple, easy movie to view that had some depth to it. French was spoken with English subtitles.

 

2 ½ stars — DVD

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Salesman

ACCORDING to the dictionary the word chivalry is defined as, “an honorable and polite way of behaving especially toward women.” Believe it or not I remember a time when men would open a door for a woman or give up their seat on a bus or train for them. I can see where maybe some people would be slightly offended if they perceived the action as being dominant or chauvinistic. Personally I do not care if it is a man or woman; I think if the person is elderly it would just be a common courtesy. However, things changed the past few decades; I rarely see anyone giving up a seat on the bus, even if the person is holding heavy packages or a woman is pregnant. I am used to it now but I initially was surprised when I opened a door for a woman and was given a suspicious look. It was not the type of reaction I would have expected, figuring a quick thank you would have been the response. After several times getting similar reactions, it dawned on me that these women may have not experienced a stranger doing a kind gesture for them. What does that say about our society I thought?     THOUGH I have seen the same type of scene in the movies, I remember being out at a club with friends and a man mistakenly thought a woman at the bar was single. He walked up to her and started talking; I could not hear him over the music blaring over the loudspeakers. At one point I did see the woman shake her head side to side which I took as her way of saying, “No.” I do not know what the man said but walking up behind him another man tapped him on the shoulder. It turned out the 2nd man was the woman’s boyfriend. Before you could stir the ice in your drink, the two men got into a shoving match and both had to be kicked out by one of the club’s bouncers. I thought the whole scene was intense until I watched this dramatic thriller.     UNAWARE the former tenant of the apartment they were now living in used to entertain gentlemen callers; married actors Rana and Emad Etesami’s lives, played by Taraneh Alidoosti (About Elly, Beautiful City) and Shahab Hosseini (About Elly, A Separation), were drastically changed when one of the gentleman callers showed up at their apartment one night. This Oscar winning film from writer and director Asghar Farad (A Separation, The Past) was consistent with his other movies. A well thought out story about human emotions, told in a simple way. I enjoyed the story within story idea with the use of Arthur Miller’s play, “Death of a Salesman.” The acting was excellent and I will tell you why. These actors were in films I had previously seen by the same director and it did not register with me because the performances were so different in this foreign film. Another reason why I enjoyed this movie was because of my curiosity of other cultures; seeing how the average person exists in their own environment fascinates me. If I had seen this film before the Oscars telecast I too would have picked it for best foreign movie. Persian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Good, The Bad, The Weird

I could only imagine the parking lot must have looked like a bustling ant farm if seen from above. Cars were streaming in and out in a slow series of dances; some would tango together to get into an open parking space while other cars waltzed around the lot seeking a free spot to rest. Why I decided to venture out and get some shopping done on one of the busiest days of the shopping year I cannot explain, but I found myself there secure in finding a place to park on the street to avoid the chaos in the lot.   ENTERING the store was not too dissimilar from walking into a carnival. There were displays everywhere touting sale prices and bargains. In the aisles were temporary display shelves crammed full with what marketers call, “last minute items.” I was not as stunned with the amount of the people in the store, since the parking lot was full; as I was with the way they were acting. Shoppers with their shopping carts were careening through the aisles, dodging bystanders and display cases. They reminded me of contestants on a game show who were being timed as they grabbed as much merchandise as they could within the allotted minutes. Two women reminded me of Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz as they played tug of war with a grape colored bath towel set. My overall feeling as I walked through the store was one of perplexed curiosity as if I had ventured into one of those freak show acts that make up part of the carnival. I passed people yelling at each other, scanning product codes with their smartphones or carefully balancing packages on top of an already full shopping cart. It was a crazy, non-stop, noisy atmosphere similar to what took place in this action adventure comedy.   EACH desperate to steal for themselves a secret map for a hidden treasure; an assassin, bounty hunter and outlaw traveled across China while each being chased by other forces. This film festival winning movie’s story was inspired by the works of writer and director Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, Once Upon a Time in America). Starring Kang-ho Song (The Host, Memories of Murder) as Tae-goo Yoon, Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe franchise, The Magnificent Seven) as Chang-yi Park and Woo-sung Jung (A Moment to Remember, The Warrior) as Do-won Park; this film took place in the 1940s at a time when Japanese forces were occupying China. There was an over the top feeling for me as I watched this DVD. The scenes, the action, the pace all had this bigness to it; in other words, nothing was subtle. Directed by Jee-woon Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life), the pacing was consistent though at times there was almost a spastic pulse to it. I thought the choreography was excellent; it reminded me of several of Jackie Chan’s movies. This was an easy picture to watch; one need not have to put much thought into it to get enjoyment. Essentially it comes down to a long chase scene/race with twists and turns. I was just glad I did not have to be a part of it. Korean, Mandarin and Japanese were spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Elle

THERE are some people who grow into their identity while there are others who seek out one and take it on. I have become more aware of people’s choices on how they describe themselves and/or how others do it for them. Let me ask you, how often do you hear these days individuals being described as kind, compassionate or sweet? The adjectives I have heard recently are mostly of a negative nature such as racist, workaholic or sexist. Then there are others I have heard that are associated with the person’s career. A banker, a flight attendant; they all seem to come with preconceived notions.   AS a matter of fact I know a guy who is a lawyer who used to be a pleasant person. Something about the job changed him however. He turned into all the negative, stereotypical features assumed for a lawyer. He became brusque, cutting off anyone who was not giving him a fast enough answer to his query. Oh and heaven forbid if an item advertised on sale did not ring up the lower price on the cash register; he would cut down the checker who probably had no idea the item was even on sale. It was ugly to watch as he would not let up even when a floor manager would come to override the price. Maybe my small, little world is not representative of society as a whole, but there seems to be a heightened intensity or harshness to people’s personas from what I can tell. I cannot tell if these traits were inherently buried inside the person or outside influences such as career had this effect on them.   SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Michele Leblanc, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Amour) found her life taking on aspects of her company’s work after she was attacked in her home. This film festival winning dramatic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) was all Isabelle’s stage. She was unbelievable in the role as she dominated over other cast members Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies, The Crimson Rivers) as Patrick, Anne Consigny (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Christmas Tale) as Anna and Charles Bexling (Summer Hours, Ridicule) as Richard Leblanc. Don’t get me wrong they were all good, but Isabelle was amazing as Michele. As for the story all I can say is it was a twisted tale. I found each story line interesting and surprised myself when I came to the realization that 2 of them were in a way mirroring each other. The script was well done, putting in a bit of humor here and there to balance out the levels of intensity. Now I will say there were a few scenes that seemed odd that left me feeling puzzled. It was after the film was over when I thought I figured a couple of them out, but nothing concrete. The subtitles were not a distraction, nor did they interfere with the ability to view the action in the scenes. There were a few scenes of violence that were uncomfortable to watch. This picture did make me wonder if life was imitating art. French was spoken throughout with English subtitles.

 

3 stars      

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Handmaiden

I have always heard it is better to forgive someone instead of letting one’s anger and hate fester inside. Though when someone tells me this I respond by asking them how does it work when there is no hate or anger? What if you just remove the perpetrator from your life? Forgiveness has never been my forte; I have a hard time with someone who is deceitful. For example the customers who break their payment promises to me aggravate me but I do not take it personally. I just retain the memory of the event in a mental file cabinet besides noting it on their account. They will not be eligible to receive any favorable considerations from me.   ON a personal level, the people I have met through dating were for the most part honest and sweet. However if I did find out they misrepresented themselves or outright lied to me I would have nothing to do with them. I am afraid this also filters out to my friends who are in relationships. There is a married couple I have been friends with for several years. On the surface they appear to be your typical moderately successful couple, both working, nice cars and house. Recently I found out one of them had cheated on their spouse during a business trip. Here is the real ugly part; they did not say anything but the blister that showed up on their body said it all after it was diagnosed by their family doctor. They went through a divorce soon after that appointment. Though I was friends with both of them, I just could not maintain the same type of friendship with the guilty one. Let me add I have always had a hair trigger of disdain for those who cheat on their significant others; I have had my share of deceitfulness. All I can say about this wicked romantic drama is I am so glad I do not know these people.   SOOK-HEE, played by relative newcomer Kim Tae-ri, was part of a plot to gain access to the fortune of Lady Hideko, played by Min-hee Kim (No Tears for the Dead, Helpless). Things did not turn out exactly as planned once Sook-hee became part of the household. Written and directed by Chan-wook Park (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance), this foreign film was beautifully filmed. Including Jung-woo Ha (The Yellow Sea, The Chaser) as Count Fujiwara and Jin-woong Ju (The Admiral, Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time) as Uncle Kouzuki; the acting was very good. Set in the 1930s during the Japanese occupation in Korea, the story was twisted; I enjoyed the way events suddenly caused a change in the plot. I will tell you I had at times a hard time getting through the subtitles before new ones appeared on the screen. Oh one more thing, there were some violent scenes that were cringe worthy so be prepared. I do not think this film festival winner will be pleasing to everyone; for myself, I found the unordinary plot provided entertainment even when I wanted to look away. Saying looks can be deceiving seems too easy and clichéd, but in this case it truly applies. Scenes with sexual content, violence and blood. Japanese and Korean were spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 1/4 stars            

Flash Movie Review: Winter in Wartime

I do not know what triggers the response that usually goes to one extreme or the other. From my experiences I have noticed a child tends to grow up emulating a parent or working to be the exact opposite. There is this individual I know who has had articles written about them in business publications. Their main motivation has always been getting rich. Any conversation you have with them will eventually involve money. So I found it particularly interesting when I met their child after many years and discovered they were essentially a mini clone of their parent. Within a matter of minutes our conversation turned towards finance.   NOW at the opposite end a child could grow up seeing how their parent has been treated by various people and decide they do not want to be anything like their Mom or Dad. Seeing a parent being abused by their spouse can trigger a strong internal reaction in the child. Another example could be working at the same place your parent is employed and observing how the employees treat your mother or father. If you feel your parent is being stepped all over by their fellow employees, you might force yourself to grow up in such a way where no one would be allowed to walk all over you. This may mean you put on a tough exterior or you prefer not to socialize as much as your parent. I find all these types of scenarios such a complicated situation; because there are times the child will grow up thinking they really are the persona they created from their reactions, when actually they may be nothing like the façade they built around themselves. One of my surprises in life was finding out I had a larger capacity for kindness then I thought I did. As I watched this film festival winning drama I was curious about the real motivations behind the young son’s actions.   FINDING a wristwatch at the crash site Michiel, played by Martijn Lakemeier (Lover or Loser, It’s All so Quiet), did not realize at first the importance in finding its owner. Set in Nazi occupied Holland during the 1940s, this movie was beautifully filmed. I have seen a variety of war and historical films but the script to this story had a fresh perspective to me. Part of the picture played like a thriller while keeping its dramatic sense. With Yorick van Wageningen (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The New World) as Oom Ben, Jamie Campbell Bower (The Twilight Saga franchise, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) as Jack and Melody Klaver (Dusk, Diep) as Erica; the acting was fine to me. In my opinion I would have enjoyed seeing more scenes regarding the dynamics of the family unit. Part of me felt the subtle way the feelings came out could have used a stronger presence; though I thought the character development of Michiel was fascinating. This DVD offered a different avenue away from a typical World War II story and gave a clear example of how a person grows up based on what they see. Dutch and German languages were spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 stars — DVD

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A Man Called Ove

I was a witness to it though I did not know I was watching something significant taking place. Visiting a friend at her house, we were sitting and talking while her kids were playing on the floor. I was not aware something was brewing but her daughter got upset over her sibling grabbing a toy from out of her hands. The little girl slapped her brother and he began to cry. My friend verbally disciplined them, saying something I thought most parents would say to an unruly child; I did not pay much mind to it. But right after my friend said it she stopped cold, turned to me and said, “Oh no, I just turned into my mother!” My puzzled look was her cue to tell me what she just told her kids was the same line her mother used to say to her when she was young. Now I understood; she reached that point in time, whether she wanted to believe it or not, when she discovered she was turning into her mother. Haven’t many of us gone through the same thing? It does not have to be a verbal thing; it could be some particular action that you find yourself doing that one of your parents used to do.   WHAT I find just as impactful if not more is the time when you first objectively see yourself in someone else. For me it happened at a birthday party for a friend. There was a guy there who must have been angry about something. We were sitting around playing a game and this person would get upset if someone on his team did not succeed in the task. His competiveness was not relatable to me but his expressed anger is what connected to me. I have to tell you it startled me when I realized I probably make the people in my life just as uncomfortable with the anger I carried inside of me. This happened years ago but wouldn’t you know it, there was something about the main character in this comedic drama that struck a chord in me.   THOUGH no longer president of the association Ove, played by Rolf Lassgard (Under the Sun, The Hunters), made his daily rounds to make sure everything was in order. Trouble was all he saw when his new neighbor Parvaneh, played by Bahar Pars (When Darkness Falls, Dreams), and her family drove into his mailbox. This film festival winner is Sweden’s entry into the Best Foreign Film category at the 2017 Academy Awards. It totally deserves to be there because I thought the story and the acting were excellent. With Filip Berg (Eternal Summer, Deano and Nige’s Best Last Day Ever) as Ove som ung and Sofie Gallerspang (Monica Z, Innocent Mara-TV Movie) as Brud; I felt the writers did a beautiful job of intertwining the 2 story lines of past and present. The directing was a little heavy where one would almost feel they were being manipulated but Rolf was outstanding enough to make everything real in this picture. This was a well done picture now please excuse me as I go take a good look at myself in the mirror. Swedish and Persian was spoken with English subtitles.

 

3 ½ stars

 

 

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