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Flash Movie Review: The Many Saints of Newark

DECADES AGO, I SAW THE MOVIE, “The Bad Seed.” After seeing what the girl did in that film, I was convinced a young girl I knew was related to her. Any time I was around her, I always kept at least one eye on her because I never knew what to expect. I saw how adults doted on her, telling her she was so pretty and bright; I did not buy it for a second. I was playing with a small group of kids from the block, when she came out carrying an umbrella. She had it open as she twirled it between her fingers. Dancing around us, she closed the umbrella and pretended it was a sword, thrusting and jabbing the air with it. As I said before, I was watching her while trying to play the game. Suddenly, she turned and stabbed the back of one kid’s head with the umbrella tip, then thrusted the point into the back of the kid next to them. There was a scream of pain as the rest of us dropped our toys and scrambled to stand up to go after her. We did not have a chance because she had run back into her house, laughing all the way.      I DID NOT UNDERSTAND WHY SHE was so mean; her parents seemed fine or let me say the mother was nice. The times I saw the father he seemed okay, but he did not smile much. How and why their daughter would be like that I did not know. Looking back now as an adult, I have to think that girl had to learn that behavior. I believe everyone is born with the ability to be good or bad; no one comes into this world knowing hate. Something had to be happening to that girl to make her act out in a violent way. Either inside the family or from some source out of the home; but I must believe she was not born an evil being. Children learn from their parents. I knew a boy who had an abusive father, who I think was an alcoholic. This boy grew up, got married and was divorced within a couple of years because he was abusive to his wife. It is obvious to me he learned such behavior from his father while he was growing up. Now there may be some physiological reason why a person acts in an abnormal way; but putting that aside, I say a child sees what is going around them and acts accordingly. There is a strong example of it in this dramatic, crime film.      WITH THE TIMES AND NEIGHBORHOOD CHANGING, the Moltisanti and Soprano families must find a way to continue their business dealings at all costs. If they cannot keep up, there would always be someone ready to take their place. With Alessandra Nivola (American Hustle, Disobedience) as Dickie Moltisanti, Leslie Odom Jr (One Night in Miami, Hamilton) as Harold McBrayer, Jon Bernthal (Baby Driver, The Wolf of Wall Street) as Johnny Soprano, Vera Farmiga (The Front Runner, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) as Livia Soprano and Ray Liotta (Wild Hogs, Something Wild) as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti; I first must say I have never watched an episode of The Sopranos.” My review might be less positive than someone who was a fan of the television show. I thought the sets and music choices were great. The performances were good, especially Alessandra and Ray; however, the script failed to develop any of the characters. I felt I was watching vignettes filled with caricatures. For not having any knowledge of these characters, I was able to figure out what was going to happen to most of them during the story. In my opinion, the entire production of this picture was disjointed. From the praises I have heard from the TV show’s fans, this movie would be better off being buried on a back lot of the studio. There were several scenes with blood and violence.

2 stars 

Flash Movie Review: One Night in Miami

EVERYWHERE I LOOKED I WAS SEEING someone I had seen on videos or television. Though the general population may not have recognized them, I certainly did because I wanted to be one of them. My assignment was manning the entrance to the hospitality suite, where guest presenters could come to relax or grab something to eat. I had to check the ID badges of everyone coming in; though honestly, I wasn’t expecting anyone crashing the suite since it was not near the convention hall. When I could, I would help the volunteer staff keep the food tables filled and clean. For the most part everyone who walked in was pleasant; they at least acknowledged me when I greeted them. Of course, there were always a few negative people or “stuck up” ones that moved right past without a glance or nod towards me. And that was ok; I understood that after being up on stage or in the middle of a crowd, one needs to decompress with some down time. Just from the little that I did in the field, I knew the amount of energy it took to get people motivated and interested in what I was trying to achieve. I was perfectly fine to be in the background and simply observe them while they were in the suite.     ONE OF THE INTERESTING THINGS I discovered early on was how some of the presenters preferred being alone in the suite. There were some who moved a chair away from others to sit and look at their electronic devices. Others would spend their time going from one presenter to another as they came in and out of the rooms. As a fan, I enjoyed seeing how they all interacted amongst themselves. To me it looked like a few were collaborating on a project together. One presenter, who I was familiar with, was a lawyer who was instrumental in changing the safety protocols in the industry. She was sought out by many and I only wished I could hear what they were talking about. There was another presenter who was a researcher who I saw multiple times on different videos. He was well respected and known for debunking many false claims that others were trying to promote. Looking at the amount of talent and knowledge in the room, I had to wonder what each could create from a chance meeting, that would have a lasting affect on the profession. It was exciting to see, just as it was for me watching this film festival winning and Golden Globe nominated drama.     AFTER A STUNNING WIN IN THE boxing ring, the night’s celebration for Cassius Clay, played by Eli Goree (Race, Godzilla), was waiting for him at a motel room with a small group of friends. With Kingsley Ben-Adir (Peaky Blinders-TV, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as Malcom X, Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures) as Jim Brown, Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, Red Tails) as Sam Cooke and Lance Reddick (John Wick franchise, White House Down) as Kareem X; the story in this film was brilliant. Having 4 people, accomplished in their fields, dealing with the prejudices of the times in the 60s was near genius. I thought the acting was tremendous as the actors formed a bond that was real and believable. And as a bonus for me was having Leslie Odom Jr.’s character sing. The direction of this movie kept things on an even playing field; I never lost interest as the night progressed. After I was done watching this picture, I had to confirm that this was not an actual event because it seemed so natural, as if the writers were simply retelling a historic event. This was a well-done film that felt as current now as it was back then.

3 ½ stars      

Flash Movie Review: Harriet

I BELIEVE EVERYONE HAS A BREAKING point; the only difference is each person has it set at a different threshold. Some years ago, there was an employee at the company I worked at who was a jovial man. Friendly to everyone, always a smile on his face; for all intents and purposes, he was an ideal employee. Let me add, he had been employed at the company for several years. I never heard the details of what caused him to reach his breaking point; only that it was a “bad” scene. He got into an argument with another employee. If the two men had a history of confrontations, I was not privy to the information. However, the fight turned heated as the 2 men raised their voices and started yelling obscenities at each other. I do not know how long this went on; but at some point, the jovial employee picked up a large monkey wrench and chased the other employee around their work area. Another employee intervened by tackling the employee and wrestling him to the ground, while grabbing the monkey wrench and twisting it out of his hand. As you may have guessed he was fired that day. When news spread throughout the company, employees were stunned; no one ever imagined he could get so angry or try to cause bodily harm to another person.      REMEMBERING THAT EMPLOYEE REMINDED ME OF my younger days when my breaking point was set at a lower threshold. I was always quick to use my anger to solve disturbing situations. If I felt someone slighted me, I would immediately go on the attack. Gratefully I never ventured into the use of physical harm; however, I would verbally abuse them by using every swear word I knew. If that did not satisfy me, I would plot out covert ways I could get back at them. I am too embarrassed to tell you about a few of the things I did in my past; let me just say I am not proud of those actions. What I can tell you is I am no longer that individual. These days, my breaking point resides on a higher level. The reason may be a variety of things, from becoming more mature to exploring avenues of self-help. Regardless, having a stronger sense of self has allowed me to make better and more rational decisions. Though I am still capable of letting my anger come out full force, I have not encountered a situation that called for it. Certainly nothing near what the main character endured in this dramatic, historical biography.      IF IT MEANT DYING THEN THE slave Minty, played by Cynthia Erivo (Widows, Bad Times at the El Royale), was at peace with it if it meant there was a chance, she could be free of her master. Chances were not in her favor. With Leslie Odom Jr (Red Tails, Murder on the Orient Express) as William Still, Joe Alwyn (The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots) as Gideon Brodess, Clarke Peters (John Wick, Marley & Me) as Ben Ross and Vanessa Bell Calloway (Daylight, Lakeview Terrace) as Rit Rose; this movie based on a true story had the perfect actor playing the role of Minty/Harriet. Cynthia’s acting was memorable just as her voice was when her character would sing a few bars in several scenes. The story was incredible and unimaginable. For most of the time my eyes were glued to the screen; however, when the script went off into a religious fantasy mode it lost me a bit. I thought those scenes were over dramatic and thick. If they had been toned down and made to be more of a realistic conversation, I would have put more stock in them. Still, I was engaged throughout the story. On a sad/poignant note, the news today is reporting about a fast food restaurant where the staff asked a black family to change their seats because a white customer did not want them seated next to him. I cannot stop wondering if we will ever see a change.

 

3 stars         

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