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Flash Movie Review: Minions: The Rise of Gru

I SAW HER STANDING ON THE stage above an auditorium of people. The music was loud, but not heart thumping loud and everyone was following her moves. Looking at the audience, I noticed there were people of all sizes and shapes. What impressed me the most was the fact that everyone had a smile on their face, despite sweating and moving continuously to the music. This was a foreign concept to me based on my experiences with exercise. A friend had asked me to come with her to this aerobics class and though I was hesitant, I decided to join her only if we could stay in the back of the room. The classes I had attended in school were less about exercise and more about domination and testosterone, which was the reason for me not being too thrilled to go back into a similar scenario. We walked over to the registration desk where a woman was standing in platform shoes. She was barely over five feet in height, but she had an abundance of personality. I felt welcomed and safe. After paying for the class, we found two open spaces close to the back of the auditorium. From this spot, I figured it would be easy to pickup the exercise routines; I would just need to watch the people in front of me. The music the instructor used was current and fun; it was easy to figure out the steps. I soon found myself having a fun time exercising; it was a feat!      AT THE END OF THE CLASS, I was hooked. The two of us decided to sign up for the monthly pass. The instructor was amazing to me. She had this infectious personality that radiated throughout the room as she coaxed and encouraged us to keep moving. Her exercise moves were easy to follow for the most part. If there was something she thought might be a challenge for the class, she would demonstrate it first before asking us to try it. Up until this time, I had never given thought to becoming a fitness instructor; but, watching how she conducted her class did something to me. Seeing all these women and men, both skinny and large to old and young, enjoying themselves while exercising gave me the idea that I would like to teach. For months, I never missed a class, noticing a loss in my weight that I had not seen for some time. I idolized the instructor because I attributed this achievement to her skills and devotion to all of us succeeding. It was because of her that I moved forward and became a certified instructor. I realize my story is not unusual as you can see by happens to the young man in this animated, adventure comedy.      BEING SUCH A HUGE FAN OF a super villainous group, a twelve-year-old decides to apply for a position when there is an opening. He would need to come with some pretty cool, evil weapons. With Steve Carell (Beautiful Day, Welcome to Marwen) voicing Gru, Alan Arkin (Love the Coopers, Grudge Match) voicing Wild Knuckles, writer and director Pierre Coffin voicing the Minions, Taraji P. Henson (Proud Mary, The Best of Enemies) voicing Belle Bottom and Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Last Christmas) voicing Master Chow; this latest installment in the franchise followed its consistent formula for the most part. I will say this was a tight production, everything worked in synch to create an easy level of enjoyment. The cast did a wonderful job with their characters as they went through a steady stream of humorous and fun scenes. When one chooses to see a Minions movie, they already know what to expect so there were no surprises. However, with the excellent animation, cast and script; this was a light, entertaining viewing experience. There was an extra scene during the ending credits.

3 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Everything Everywhere All at Once

I HAD NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE it; a father lifting a car. It was a news clip being shown on TV that I had seen decades ago; but it has always stayed with me. I was in elementary school when I saw this man racing over to the car that accidently ran over his son. He got up to the rear bumper on the passenger side, squatted down, grabbed the underside with both hands and strained as he tried to lift the car high enough to free his son’s leg. A woman, maybe the boy’s mother, came into view and grabbed the boy from underneath his arms. I swear I saw it with my own eyes; the car’s wheel barely rose, but it provided enough wiggle room for the woman to pull the young boy away. The whole scene amazed me as I focused on the man, to see if I could figure out his secret power on how he was able to lift an automobile off the ground. What did the man tap into that gave him superstrength, was he a weightlifter, did he have some special power; these were the things I was thinking about, hoping I could learn and gain such a superpower.      THAT EPISODE WAS A HUGE CATALYST for my imagination to take off so I could reimagine myself in different roles. I would watch sporting events in a new light. Seeing the ice-skating competitions, I reimagined myself as a premier ice skater who could do a series of jumps, one after another after another without ever falling on the ice. Or I would now watch television game shows and see myself as a contestant who was getting all the right answers or moves. And the most important aspect of my new way of thinking was the ability to cope a little better with the bullying I started experiencing. After an episode of abuse, I would replay the event in my mind but with me being a superhero who could grab the perpetrator, spin him over my head then release him at high speed, so I could watch him sail over the trees, far away from me. Playing out this type of scenario had the ability to calm me down faster than any other method. If an incident took place during gym period, I would imagine different ways to attack the bully with the various sports equipment in the gymnasium or swimming pool. I know this may sound dark, but it was the only defense I had to help me get through these times; being able to tap into a different version of myself, just like some of the characters in this action, adventure comedy.      HER LIVELIHOOD TEETERING ON BANKRUPTCY, HER husband unhappy and a demanding father was more than what Evelyn Wang, played by Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), thought she could handle. That was until she began to have visions of a different Evelyn. With Stephanie Hsu (The Path-TV, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel-TV) as Joy Wang, Ke Huy Quan (The Goonies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) as Waymond Wang, James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China, R.I.P.D.) as Gong Gong and Jamie Lee Curtis (Knives Out, Halloween franchise) as Deirdre Beaubeirdra; for me, the saving grace of this film was Michelle and Jamie. If it wasn’t for them, I would have lost interest in the story that I did not find particularly funny or exciting. Michelle was terrific as she went through a variety of emotional versions of herself. I liked the idea of the story, but after a while it felt like the script was just repeating itself. Jamie was the funny one for me; she used a specific physical comedy I could not recall having seen before. If the script was trying to convey a satire or message, I did not receive it. 

2 ½ stars   

Flash Movie Trailer: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

I WANT TO CLARIFY BEFORE TALKING about the viewing of today’s movie, a good day is one where a person is alive and well. That would be at the top of the list in my opinion. There was this fellow I knew who when asked if he was having a good day would answer, “I am above ground, aren’t I?” So, keeping things in perspective, I am sure we can all agree there are many options we use to define a good day, maybe even a perfect day. For some people, having an easy commute makes for a good day. I can relate to this because at one time I had to cross 5 different railroad tracks to get to the office and rarely did I ever make it all the way without being stopped at a train crossing. Other folks may discover money forgotten in a pocket of clothing or a twenty-dollar bill lost on the street and that would warrant the day becoming a good one for them. Being able to fix a computer issue or a broken item in my home always makes my day brighter and my mood happier, since I am not handy or computer savvy. Everyone has their own definition of perfect and good when describing a day. I can say with certainty that my day was made perfect due to the circumstances that allowed me to see today’s film.      AS SOME OF YOU HAVE KNOWN or guessed, I have not been to a movie theater during the pandemic. I do not have a problem sitting in the theater with a mask on my face for the entire movie; however, I cannot trust other patrons doing the same thing, especially if they are not vaccinated. I had a free night coming up and toyed with the idea of venturing back to the movie theater. The issue was timing; I wanted to see a film right after work so the night would not get to be too late for me. Checking online, I looked at all the movie choices at the closest multiscreen theater near my office. Out of 20 film choices, three of them fit into my time requirement; two of them had start times that reflected my closing time. I remembered for this theater chain, their average time for showing previews was between 20-24 minutes. If traffic was good, I felt I could get to the theater in time. Not only did I get there in time, despite there only being 18 minutes of previews, I was the only one in the theater to see this outstanding, adventure fantasy. Already I was having a good day.      DESPITE TRYING TO AVOID HIS PAST, when a group of attackers confronted Shaun, played by Simu Liu (Women is Losers, Kim’s Convenience-TV), he had no choice but to show them what he was trained to do. With Awkwafina (The Farewell, Crazy Rich Asians) as Katy, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (Red Cliff franchise, The Grandmaster) as Xu Wenwu, Ben Kingsley (An Ordinary Man, Night Hunter) as Trevor Slattery and Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Tomorrow Never Dies) as Ying Nan; this action movie not only grabbed me near the beginning but took me to a faraway place filled with utter entertainment. There was folklore, incredible fight scenes, wonderful imagination, humor, drama and excitement; I loved every part of this picture. And this is despite the story having Marvel’s template for storytelling; it did not matter to me at all. The introduction of a new Marvel film superhero was handled in such a way to include back story into the drama and humor of the character. As with other Marvel movies, there were 2 extra scenes in the middle and end of the credits. Already having a good day, seeing this dynamite of a picture made my day perfect. Because of the entire movie watching and entertainment experience, I gave the movie a top rating.

4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Gunpowder Milkshake

THE TRAUMATIC EVENT CHANGED THE COURSE of his life. Up until that point he bounced around from one job to another. The thing that focused him on his work was a broken heart. I knew the minute my friend fell in love and it occurred when he told me he had gone over to his “friend’s” house to transplant some bushes; he had not yet defined her to me as his girlfriend. As long as I knew him, he only worked on his yard and one of his ancient relatives. When he told me about moving her bushes, I did not let on that I knew she had to be special to him; I figured he would tell me when he was good and ready. A few months went by before he expressed to me his feelings about her. He said he felt comfortable with her. That was major for him to say, because in the past he always had something negative to say about the people he dated. It was not until a few months afterwards when he finally told me he loved her and could see himself living with her. I was happy for my friend because; I knew it had been such a long time since he was able to be comfortable around a love interest. I really thought he had finally found the right person.      THEY BECAME AND REMAINED A COUPLE for 3 more years before the relationship disintegrated. I did not know all the details, but she was the one who had broken it off. As an outsider, it was tragic to see him in so much pain and sadness. He became super depressed and lethargic. When he skipped cutting his lawn for the first time, I knew things were awful for him. He was not motivated, did not leave the house for long periods of time. I tried my best to help him through this period of loss and grief; I was quite familiar with it myself, so I had an idea how much pain he was in. Weeks went by before he agreed to just meet me at a restaurant for lunch. When we did, I heard for the first time about his job. This was something new because he rarely was interested in talking about his work. As he worked through his sadness, I got to hear more about what he was doing at his job and how his superiors were appreciative of the time he was putting into his work. From his sadness, essentially, he was becoming the hardest worker at the company. It was as if he took all that pain and drove it into his performance at work. I thought the same thing was taking place for the main character in this action, adventure thriller.      KNOWN FOR HANDLING THE TOUGHEST ASSIGNMENTS, an assassin makes a quick decision that changes the course of her life. With Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Not Another Happy Ending) as Sam, Lena Headey (The Flood, Game of Thrones-TV) as Scarlet, Carla Gugino (San Andreas, American Gangster) as Madeleine, Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas) as Florence and Joanna Bobin (Alice Through the Looking Glass, Bridgerton-TV) as Rose; the story to this film seemed like a cross between the John Wick films and Hotel Artemis. I enjoyed the female focused story and loved the cast. For the most part this picture is adrenalin driven; there is no depth or character development. It simply is a “shoot ‘em up” and beat them up thrill ride. There does not need to put much thought into the plot and story, just sit back for the outrageous and crazy fight scenes. My suggestion is not to go out of your way to see this movie; but if you have a couple of hours to kill and do not mind blood and violence, then you might experience some entertaining moments.

2 ¼ stars   

Flash Movie Review: Last Christmas

ALL I KNEW ABOUT HIM WAS he had not been feeling well for some time. He was more of an acquaintance to me than a friend; however, we had friends in common. I had seen him enough times to form an impression about him; he was a jokester/comedian type of guy. It appeared to me he enjoyed shocking people by making shocking comments and telling outrageous stories about himself. Whenever we were at a gathering together, I always knew exactly where he was located by the amount of laughter I would hear. Up until hearing about him not feeling well, he worked on being the center of attention at every party. I, nor anyone else I knew, never heard what news he received about his health; but I had to assume it was not good news because of the change in his behavior. From being a talker and comedian, he shied away from the limelight suddenly. When I would see him at a party, he was nothing like he used to be. Instead of telling jokes and stories, he could be found sitting somewhere having a quiet conversation with one or two people. The other thing I noticed was the way he started taking things to the extreme. In other words, if he had the opportunity to drink, he would drink to excess. If drugs were available, he would be the one who did not care how much of it he ingested.      I HAVE KNOWN SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO upon receiving bad news about their health acted in a similar way; but I also have seen others who acted in an opposite way. There was a woman I knew who did nothing different than what she did before hearing about her illness. She went on with her life as if the information was non-essential as commenting on the weather. I have wondered at times what would I do if I suddenly received bad news about my health. A couple of years ago when I contracted E Coli, the doctors were doing tests and zeroing on an internal organ that had a suspicious look to it on X-ray. I remember telling everyone in my inner circle the news along with explicit instructions never to ask me about it. When I got updated, I would notify them; but up until that point I did not want to discuss or think about it. Gratefully, everything worked out fine; but I must tell you, there was one point where I thought I was going to give up and not care about anything. Something like what happened to the main character in this romantic, dramatic comedy.     NO MATTER WHAT SHE DID IT seemed as if every decision went wrong for Kate, played by Emilia Clarke (Me Before You, Game of Thrones-TV). She did not care because she really should not have been alive. With Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, A Simple Favor) as Tom, Emma Thompson (Late Night, Saving Mr. Banks) as Petra, Boris Isakovic (White White World, Absolute Hundred) as Ivan and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Crazy Rich Asians) as Santa; the cast helped elevate the formulaic story. I thought Emilia did a wonderful job because I did not see her once as her character from Game of Thrones. Also, I felt she and Henry worked well together. If you have seen an ad for this movie you probably are aware the soundtrack is filled with George Michael songs. Some of them worked in the story, but others felt out of place for me. The story, for the most part, was predictable; but I did not mind. This was an easy film to watch and whether the execution of it was a bit stale, it still was touching and enjoyable.

 

2 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians

THERE IS NOTHING LIKE FINDING A bargain. I do not understand people who do not pay attention to sales. To my way of thinking, when something goes on sale at the grocery store I buy multiples of it to last me up until the next time it goes on sale. In addition, I am a coupon cutter; in case I need an item and it is not on sale, then I feel better if I at least have a coupon to lower the price. I consider this simply rational thinking. Yet I know some people who say they cannot be bothered looking for sales or cutting coupons. Though I tend to think of people who fall into this category as being wasteful, I try not to judge them. The group I have a challenge with is the one where people must tell you how much they paid for an item. I am not talking about those who share their bargain treasures of which I am a part of; I am referring to the ones who feel it is necessary to tell me how much they paid for their car, their suit, their earrings and everything else in their possession.     I USED TO HAVE A FRIEND who had the need, like a compulsion, to recite the cost of every single thing he owned. If I complimented him on a new shirt, he would tell me the price of it instead of just saying thank you. To me it was bragging because it was obvious he was paying full price; it wasn’t like he said, “Oh you won’t believe it, I got this for ½ off.” I just recently bought a lightweight jacket at a store that is in the throes of going out of business. It was a $100.00 jacket that cost me only $20.00. When someone compliments me on it I share the price and let them know the store has other items if they want to see if there is something for themselves. But this friend wanted to make sure people knew he was wearing top of the line, expensive clothing. I did not understand it at all. Just because a person has money does not mean they have good taste or good sense. This is how I look at money; it certainly can help eliminate some stresses in one’s life, but it does not give a person superhuman power. Heck, there are a lot of wealthy people who are jerks, even downright mean. With my way of thinking, the story in this romantic comedy resonated inside of me.      NEW YORK NATIVE RACHAEL CHU, played by Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice, Fresh Off the Boat-TV), was in love with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by relative newcomer Henry Golding. His family back home was none too pleased about it. With Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots, Humans-TV) as Astrid Young Teo and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as Peik Lin Goh; this film was a good old-fashioned rom-com. The well written script was delivered with precision by the actors, who all formed a diverse soap opera of family and friends. I understand the bestseller this film is based on is the first of a trilogy; if that is the case, I certainly look forward to a sequel. Out of the cast I thought Michelle, Constance and Awkwafina were incredible. There was one scene in particular between Michelle and Constance that was near perfection. The sets and some of the costumes were outrageously over the top; it certainly fit into the story. I could appreciate it since it was necessary; however, it was not for me the most impressive part of this picture. It was the truth of the story that rang loud and clear inside of me. There was a brief extra scene early in the credits.

 

3 stars

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