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Flash Movie Review: Judy

SOON AFTER WE BECAME FRIENDS IN 1stor 2ndgrade, we became best friends. I lived on the northwest corner of a square, city block and he lived on the southeast one; we would use the alley to go to each other’s house. He had an uncle who was some type of farmer; so, every summer he would always bring over a grocery bag of his uncle’s fruit to our house each weekend. We would go through the bag picking out the ripest fruit to eat right away before putting the bag in the refrigerator. All through elementary school we remained the best of friends. During that time, we were there for each other during a parent’s health scare, the surprise birth of his baby sister and the rise of bullying as we advanced in school. By the time we graduated and started high school we were sure nothing would change between us. With the school population tripling between elementary and high school, besides going from a small school to a block long building, we assumed we would still see each other through the school’s hallways. As it turned out that was not the case and as time went on, we started drifting apart. Our circle of friends was expanding and diversifying on top of it.      I WENT OUT OF STATE FOR college and that was the last time I saw my friend; we lost touch with each other. Fast forward now 20 years, where I am living down in the city in my own place. There was a store in my neighborhood that I had read about in the newspaper; they carried “funky” retro stuff. I decided to check it out one Saturday and walked down to it. The newspapers were right because the store was cool looking with a variety of items from different eras. As I was gazing down into one of the glass display cases a staff worker came up to me, to see if I needed any help. When I lifted my head up to reply I was stunned. The man standing across the case from me was my best friend from elementary school. He recognized me immediately as we both started laughing. He asked what I was doing there; I asked him the same thing. It turned out he was the owner. While we were talking, I noticed something odd; he was talking with a British accent. Listening to the scope of his business dealings, he was heavily involved in the entertainment business. He went by one name, deciding his last name sounded suddenly “to ethnic.” I found all of this bizarre, to say the least.      AFTER THAT STORE VISIT, WE STAYED in touch sporadically. I felt like I was talking to a different person whenever I would see him. He had turned himself into this persona with the one name to make an impression with the Hollywood people he was dealing with now. His business expanded so much he had to acquire multiple warehouses to store his burgeoning inventory. He became the “go to person” whenever Hollywood studios needed specific styled props and costumes. His lifestyle became fast paced and crazy to match the people he was now hobnobbing with, from coast to coast. I had bumped into him at a play one day and knew immediately he was high on drugs. His speech was slurred, his eyes were halfway shut, and he kept swaying from side to side. That was the last time I saw him until I read his obituary in the paper.      DESPITE BEING UNINSURABLE AND BROKE LEGENDARY performer Judy Garland, played by Renee Zellweger (Chicago, My One and Only), flew to London in 1968 for several sold-out concerts. This biographical drama also starred Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Tempest) as Rosalyn Wilder, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Hercules) as Sidney Luft and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet) as Bernard Delft. Whether the story was accurate in this film did not matter to me because ultimately it was all about Renee’s performance. Not once did I think it was Renee acting; she was utterly convincing in the role. Doing her own singing, I had to give her credit because I knew it was not going to be easy; however, she did an incredible job. Her mannerisms, her posture, her gestures; all of them were Judy. As for the story, many viewers already know it; so, let me just say, it is sad. However, don’t let that stop you from seeing this film because I believe you will be hearing Renee’s name this upcoming awards season.

 

3 stars      

Flash Movie Review: The White Crow

BARELY ABLE TO SEE ABOVE THE heads of the people sitting in front of me, I watched in astonishment the man leaping in the air. The stage had been filled with dancers dressed in costumes that glittered under the stage lights. Most of the costumes were white in color, but some were the exact opposite in black. The male dancer in the lead role reminded me of royalty because of the way he moved across the stage when he was not leaping and spinning. With angular features for his face, his body on the other hand moved consistently with graceful fluidity. I was too young to realize the amount of work it must have taken him to be able to jump so high without a running start or to spin so quickly in the same spot; his moves at times would make the audience quietly gasp in their seats. The music the orchestra was playing was familiar to me because we had a recording of it at home. I would play it from time to time, never realizing that people were hired to dance to the music. Ballet was something foreign to me at the time. I was aware of it having seen clips of dancers on television or in a movie; but I had never seen a live performance of it up until this time. The male lead dancer in this performance was Rudolf Nureyev.      WHEN I DELVED INTO THE FITNESS world as a profession, it was there I discovered the amount of work a dancer must do to make their performances seem effortless. One training class I took was based on dance moves and it was intense for me. Holding positions, working my core, and being able to give instructions to a class at the same time was a challenge. Imagine doing a side plank pose where you are on your side on the floor, balancing only on the side of your bottom foot and the hand from your extended arm. Now raise up you other leg and hold it in the air; trust me, you will feel it in your core. The first time I tried to do this I rolled over onto the floor. It took me some time to build up my strength to master the pose. I knew if I wanted to be an effective fitness instructor, I would have to put in the work to make it happen. It is no different for any profession, but I feel there is a slight difference when your profession involves performing in front of an audience.     WITH ONLY ONE PURPOSE IN MIND Rudolf Nureyev, played by newcomer Oleg Ivenko, was willing to work hard to become a top ballet dancer. Nothing would stop him, even his own country. This biographical drama also starred Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, A Bigger Splash) as Pushkin, Louis Hofmann (Sanctuary, Land of Mine) as Teja Kremke, Adele Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color, Racer and the Jailbird) as Clara Saint and Sergei Polunin (Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express) as Yuri Soloviev. Set during the time of the Cold War, this film festival winner was something I wanted to see since I had seen Rudolf perform. His story was probably more interesting than what the script offered here. I would start to get interested in the story and then the scene would shift to a different time in Rudolf’s life; I found this jumping back and forth more of a distraction then a story telling technique. For someone who commanded the stage with a bigger than life personality; this movie seemed out of step with his story.

 

2 stars — DVD           

Flash Movie Review: Phantom Thread

FOR YOUR INFORMATION IT TAKES a large amount of discipline to stay in control. Or is it a lot of control to stay disciplined? When it comes to me, in certain areas, I have an incredible amount of discipline. Some of the things I have heard said about me are, “iron willed,” “determined,” “obsessed” and “fanatical” when it comes to my rule of not eating anything 5 hours before I go to sleep. I would say no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will not eat a morsel of food if it is close to my bed time. In the last 20 years I can count on one hand the times I broke this rule and it was for reasons outside of my control. Keeping stoic with my mouth shut is one of the ways I maintain control over my weight; it has worked for me my entire adult life.     NOW THE FUNNY THING ABOUT control is it is very much a singular function. Rarely does one allow another controlling person to share their domain. Let us face it, there are some people who thrive on making all the decisions and there are others who do not want that responsibility. I used to be the one who always had and shared an opinion. If someone wanted to do such and such, I had no issue letting them know I was in agreement or disagreement. If I disagreed then I would tout my reasons why and try to persuade them to agree to my decision. I know this may sound a bit twisted and you know I would not disagree with you. As I grow older I have let go, or maybe I should say I have lost some of that intensity to the point I am comfortable sharing my spot with another individual who is disciplined in a similar vein. It can work just take a look at the musicians Hall and Oates or the designers Dolce & Gabbana. Oh wait maybe it doesn’t work if you take a look at what happened to Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. This elegantly filmed, Oscar nominated romantic drama will give you a chance to see what being in control can do.     REYNOLDS WOODCOCK, PLAYED BY Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, Gangs of New York), was the guiding force to the success of his dressmaking business, House of Woodcock. From his chance meeting with Alma, played by Vicky Krieps (Hanna, The Colony), she would become an inspiration for his work. Alma had an opinion about it. This film festival winning movie also starred Lesley Manville (Another Year, Topsy-Turvy) as Cyril and newcomer Sue Clark as Biddy. Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Boogie Nights), Daniel has said this will be his last film. If it is true then he is leaving on a high note; his along with the rest of the cast were simply perfection with their acting skills. The details in the script and the sets all fit together to form a complete puzzle. I will say the story was different to the point I left the theater with mixed emotions. For me the story was not what kept my interest in this picture, it was the emotions and nuances of the characters. Also with the story being set in London during the 1950s, the style of fashion played a part in what I referred to as the details of the sets. Kudos to Paul Thomas Anderson for his control of the story and direction and I have to tip my hat to Daniel for his discipline on picking the best movies for him to star in; I will try to control myself over the loss of not seeing him play in another film.

 

3 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Their Finest

UPBEAT and positive is how I would describe the man telling us about the changes in our office. We were being told how these moves decided by upper management would be a good thing for our company. I sat there with my fellow employees and I am sure they were thinking the same thing: who was going to get the ax. Maybe that is too harsh to say so here are some ways I have heard it expressed: laid off, let go, reassigned, reevaluated, eliminated and left behind. None of these terms warrant a happy face with optimistic comments. I used to work at one place that decided after many years to outsource their payroll functions. The staff for each manager had meetings set up to explain the changes in how we were going to be paid. You should have seen the spin job the managers tried to sell us. They talked about the convenience of looking up our paycheck online, the ability to schedule time off and the ease of changing our benefits package. I knew there had to be more to the meeting and sure enough towards the end the manager told us how salaries would be administered.     EVERYONE’S salary was scaled back to a standard base amount. From that point you would go up the scale depending on a number of factors; each factor was worth a certain dollar amount. I remember sitting there and quickly figuring out the math and realized a majority of us would be taking a rather large pay cut. There stood this person in front of us stating the virtues of this new pay system, doing their best to sell it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread. With me losing over 30% of my salary I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not stating the facts about their so called great new system. Let us face it; there is no good way to promote bad news.     WHILE Germany was dropping bombs on the city of London during the early 1940s, the defense department was working on a propaganda film in the hopes of drawing the United States into the war. All it needed was a woman’s touch. This film festival winner was part comedy, part drama and part romance. At first I felt the story was starting out slow but as things began to unfold I enjoyed how the writers were fitting together all the different pieces to create this enjoyable movie. Starring Gemma Arterton (The Voices, Gemma Bovery) as Catrin Cole, Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games franchise) as Tom Buckley, Bill Nighy (Love Actually, Pride) as Ambrose Hilliard/Uncle Frank and Jack Huston (American Hustle, Ben-Hur) as Ellis Cole; I thought the cast worked together beautifully. Bill and Gemma were the standouts for me. The script did a great job of balancing the elements of the story. Things moved naturally between the genres of drama, comedy and romance; there was the ever present war, but it never overshadowed the other story lines. I will say I thought the ending was a bit abrupt regarding one of the characters in particular; it felt somewhat false. However, as I sat and imagined what it must have been like back then, I realized there was no choice; the British government needed to stay positive.

 

3 1/4 stars  

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Desert Flower

SITTING comfortably behind the steering wheel, cruising down the road, the celebrity driver was expounding on the finer things about the automobile. It almost looked like this was their main means of transportation. Now I do not care if a celebrity wants to earn income by doing a commercial; everyone deserves to make a living. Will this person persuade me to buy that type of car when I am in the market for a new vehicle? The answer is absolutely not. In fact that goes for any celebrity endorsement. Though I am a big fan of movies and such, I am well aware of the financial inequity between celebrities and let us say teachers. Not that there is anything wrong with making as much money as you can; however, I have a hard time with anyone who uses their position of wealth as a bully pulpit to tell everyone else what they should do. I have experienced this in my own circle of friends and family, where those who were financially well off starting acting like they knew everything and the rest of us were not as smart. That type of behavior is offensive to me.     THE area where I can support celebrities is when they use their wealth and status to help a cause they believe in. I know about one celebrity who works with an organization to bring clean water to third world countries. I remember when parts of Louisiana were devastated by Hurricane Katrina. There were celebrities down there helping and rebuilding houses; they had the means and connections to bypass the red tape to get things done. With some celebrities their support of a cause may be due to personal reasons; they could be experiencing it in their own family, for example a celebrity with an autistic child. Whether you feel the same way or not, I admire someone who overcomes challenges in their life to then become a social activist against those very same tribulations. What I saw in this film festival winning movie, which was based on a true story, both stunned and amazed me.     THIRTEEN year old Waris, played by newcomer Soraya Omar-Scego, had to leave her village in Somalia. What was done to her there would have a strong impact on her life when she made it to London. Before I talk about this biographical drama I want to say I have very little knowledge about the customs that were performed in this movie. They may be based on religious beliefs or native; I do not know and I do not want to offend anyone who believes in them. Starring Liya Kebede (The Best Offer, Lord of War) as older Waris Dirie, Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go –Lucky) as Marilyn and Timothy Spall (Denial, Mr. Turner) as Terry Donaldson; the actual story had to be more powerful than what the script provided here. The back and forth between the young and older Waris dampened the intensity for me. I had a hard time watching some scenes because I could not believe what was being done. The acting was fine; I have always enjoyed Sally’s performances and Liya was perfect in this role. Honestly I still cannot get over that this custom takes place in the world. This DVD provided me with a whole new respect for those who overcome difficulties in their life and decide they want to do something about it.

 

2 ¾ stars — DVD    

 

 

Flash Movie Review: A United Kingdom

FOR a brief moment that “look,” which I was familiar with, ran across the man’s face. He was standing in the checkout aisle next to mine. The only way I can describe that “look” is to say it was a cross between contempt and total disgust. Physically the eyes narrow, the muscles of the face slip down to the lower half of the head and the lips seal together in a straight line except for the hint of a curl at one end of the lips. I knew immediately why the man was making that face; it was because of the couple standing in front of me. They were an interracial couple. The look on that man’s face is the same type of look I have been given at various times. Once at the airport where I was sitting with a friend waiting to board our flight, he fell asleep and was leaning over onto my shoulder. A couple who was walking by looked down at me and made that look, uttering a sound of disgust. Another time I was doing volunteer work where we would work in pairs to canvass the neighborhood. I was paired with a woman from a different race than mine. You would not believe there were several people who answered their door, took a look at us and immediately made that face, besides only talking to me; they would ignore her more times than not. It was pathetic, appalling and many other adjectives.     WHENEVER I encounter this type of prejudice, I simply want to ask the “offended” person how that person you show disgust towards affects your own life. Why should it even matter to them if the couple is of the same gender or from different races; I honestly cannot understand why anyone would make a judgment about another person based on such things. It is sad that these personal issues are even being addressed. Now that I have seen this film based on a true story, I am even more astonished at the lunacy of people’s prejudices.     RUTH Williams and Seretse Khama, played by Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Pride & Prejudice) and David Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe), fell in love and eventually wanted to get married. Their marriage would have consequences for Seretse’s country of birth, where he was a prince. This film festival nominated dramatic romance was a wonderful film to watch. With Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Kingsman: The Secret Service) as Alistair Canning and Tom Felton (Harry Potter franchise, Risen) as Rufus Lancaster, the cast was well rounded and performed beautifully. I especially enjoyed David and Rosamund in their roles. Set in London initially during the 1940s, the scenes rolled in a gentle type of way that only accentuated the well written script. I have to tell you the events that took place in this biographical story stunned me; not that there was a sudden surprise moment, but the turn of events taking place on the worldwide stage solely due to a person’s skin color just blew me away. Those of you who know me know how much I enjoy seeing photos of the actual people the actors portrayed; this movie did not disappoint me. Nothing about this film disappointed me except seeing the narrow-mindedness of some people.

 

3 1/3 stars         

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Conjuring 2

The reason I enjoy a good suspenseful horror film is to experience the visceral emotions they produce inside of me. It is an adrenaline rush that gives me more energy; I find it comparable to the testing of the security alert system they do periodically on the radio. I feel a good fright from time to time keeps the body tuned up for life’s daily challenges. In the comfort of my theater seat I know what I am watching on screen has no actual bearing on my daily life. What I am seeing is not real to me so I know the feelings I experience during the movie are fleeting. I have been fortunate and hope I never have to personally experience actual horrors in my lifetime. I do not see how I could not mention the horrific tragedy that took place in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. It seems trivial for me to sit here and talk about a horror movie when I know many lives have been affected by the nightclub shootings. I am uncomfortable writing my review today when I know whatever things I mention about this film seem almost ridiculous to the realities of life presently. No matter the event, I am sure each of us has encountered some form of horror. Let us face it, life can be challenging. I thought I was done seeing the ugliness humans can inflict once I settled into middle age. Sadly it is not the case and in my opinion it appears to have increased in size. May love, kindness and acceptance for each other make us strong during this time. Thank you for listening to me; I felt I had to acknowledge the reality before delving into my escape into this picture.   STRUGGLING as a single parent raising her children Peggy Hodgson, played by Frances O’Connor (A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Bedazzled), did not know what was happening to her daughter Janet, played by Madison Wolfe (The Campaign, Joy). Her daughter’s actions would affect the entire family. This sequel grabbed the viewer immediately thanks to director James Wan (Saw franchise, Furious 7). Multiple scenes were ideally set-up to produce suspenseful results. Another reason why I was drawn into this movie was due to Vera Farmiga (Source Code, Up in the Air) and Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy, Watchmen) as Lorraine and Ed Warren. They really pulled as much as they could from the script which at times got bogged down in a repetitive mode. I felt the story went on too long; they could have cut out a couple of scenes that were just there to show another example for a similar event. From the first film I knew this story was based on a true story, but I had a hard time believing it because of the things I saw in this sequel. Yet when at the end of the film they showed the actual people the actors portrayed, it made for an eerie feeling inside of me. It is not often a sequel is better than the first film but overall this movie provided a good escape from the horrors of reality.

 

2 ¾ stars     

 

 

Flash Movie Review: London Has Fallen

There are people who live to work; there are other people who work to live. I fall into the latter category. The jobs I have are only a portion of who I am; they do not completely define me. The top 2 responses I get from people when I tell them I am a credit manager is either I must be a mean man or they would be afraid to show me their credit score. Neither statement could be further from the truth; it just so happens this is what I do during the day as is teaching cycling and yoga at night. There is much more in my life besides theses jobs. Now I know there are individuals who define themselves by what they do for a living. I find it humorous when someone announces their job title as if they are landed gentry or royalty. On the other hand I recently was talking to someone who was under stress because they could not let go of their job once they clocked out for the day. Their sleep was being affected, grinding their teeth to the point of waking up with severe pain in their jaw. The lack of sleep was making them sluggish throughout the day, causing their work to back up to the following day which was adding more stress and so on. It was becoming a vicious cycle. I do understand for some folk they love what they do, so their career shares the same space as their life. However, if one begins to lose their identity this could lead to the breakdown of boundaries between personal and business dealings. To see this all you have to do is take a look at the occupation of the main character in this action thriller.    FLYING to London to attend the prime minister’s funeral President Benjamin Asher, played by Aaron Eckhart (My All American, Thank You for Smoking), and his team found themselves in the middle of a world catastrophe that was planned especially for him. This sequel had returning cast members Morgan Freeman (Dolphin franchise, The Dark Knight franchise) as Vice President Trumbull and Angela Bassett (Malcom X, American Horror Story-TV) as Lynne Jacobs. The chase and fight scenes were intense; I especially enjoyed the one involving the President’s helicopter. When it came to the script I found it dreadful, filled with ridiculous prejudiced comments and generic catchphrases. For a crime movie all this picture provided was fight scene after fight scene for the most part. And something that I found to be the most unrealistic about these scenes were how in the middle of all these bullets flying around only the “bad” guys were getting hit but none of the good ones. It adds phoniness to the film in my opinion. The idea behind the story was interesting; unfortunately it just turned into a lame action picture. To tell you the truth the whole thing felt like the writers went on automatic to create this script.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Moonwalkers

I was a window washer, a singer, a soldier, a mayor, an explorer and a spaceman. My imagination knew no boundaries when I pretended to be someone else. As far as I can tell, a vivid imagination is a vital component to the well-being of a growing child. I am sure all of us at one time play acted, becoming anything we wanted to be. It was so innocent back then in our childhood, too bad some individuals cannot keep that innocence in their adult life. There have been news stories about people who pretend to be high powered financiers, convincing innocent people to part with their money for huge gains they can attain with the help of the financier. It turns out these finance people were working a Ponzi scheme. I know this example is just one of many since there are all kinds of stories about someone impersonating someone else for their own gain. Now this pretending thing is not just exclusive to individuals; there have been some operations set up just to scam larger amounts of people. I remember reading about a so called pharmaceutical company that was selling placebos of the actual drugs patients required. On the flip side of this, what really blows my mind are the individuals who believe certain historical events never really occurred; that it was all made up. With the technology we have at our disposal today I am sure any group of people can create almost anything they want and just post it online. Can you imagine if you discovered something you thought was true was not?    CONCERNED the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission would not make it to the moon; CIA agent Kidman, played by Ron Perlman (Hellboy franchise, The Job), was sent to London to get director Stanley Kubrick to stage and film a pretend moon landing. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances agent Kidman was stuck with rock band manager Jonny, played by Rupert Grint (Harry Potter franchise, Driving Lessons), to create a video of the first moon landing. This comedy had a fun idea as its premise. When you think about it this could have been plausible since who would be able to say no among the general public. I thought it was comical that the government wanted Stanley Kubrick to direct. The beginning of this film was enjoyable as the set designers and costumers correctly got the time period. As the story continued I realized the humor was not hitting the mark; there was a disconnect of tired scenes that seemed like they were copies of past better ones. Maybe the additional story lines burdened the original idea because I felt things were just going crazy. Besides I did not feel there was any chemistry between the actors and to be honest, I felt a little sad for Rupert. The writer’s imagination was in the right place, it just was not executed in the best of ways.

 

1 3/4 stars

 

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Legend

If memory serves me correctly there was an old movie I watched a long time ago that had one actress playing twins. One twin was boisterous while the other one was reserved. I remember I was curious how the film crew was able to capture the two characters in the same scene. As I grew older I found out there were several techniques the film studio used to create such an illusion. If one of the character’s face was away from the camera, the studio would use a stunt double. Other tricks used were split screens and filming the scene twice using one character for the first portion and the other for the second. With that last option the two characters never came together physically; it was a well orchestrated event where exactly each one had to navigate around the set. This brings to mind a television show from the 1960s called Bewitched. The lead actress had a dual role when she would play Samantha and then her mischievous cousin Serena. Now yesterday’s review talked about futuristic objects becoming real due to mankind’s technical advances. The same thing can be applied to the way movie studios can make CGI and real characters mingle together. Amazing strides have been made in this area. One recent film comes to mind where Arnold Schwarzenegger fought a younger version of himself. It was a fun trick, though the younger version did not look totally human. I have to say with today’s review what I saw being done was phenomenal.    RONALD and Reggie Kray, played by Tom Hardy (The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road), were identical twins who wanted to establish the biggest crime empire in London during the 1960s. The brothers could not have been more different on how they would go about to achieve it. Based on a true story this film festival nominee was all about Tom Hardy. His acting skills were stellar in this crime thriller. The magic of him playing twin brothers on screen was something to see. Their interactions verbally and physically were seamless. It was a good thing because the script was lacking substance. For two such extreme characters I never got a sense of their drive; they just came off crazy. There were times I felt I was just watching the highlights of the twins’ lives. In addition I had a hard time understanding one of the brother’s speech due to (for me at least) his thick, mumbling accent. Despite that the story was still interesting to me, appreciating as well the acting from the other cast members such as Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Pompeii) as Frances Shea and Colin Morgan (Testament of Youth, Merlin-TV) as Frank Shea. The sets and costumes were perfect for the period in this dramatic biography. If you can handle the violence and blood, it is worth seeing the technical achievements and Tom’s acting in this movie.

 

2 1/2 stars

 

 

 

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