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Flash Movie Review: The Birth of a Nation

DISCLAIMER: At the time of my viewing I was not aware of the controversy surrounding the writer, director and star of this film. Due to what I feel is the importance of this historical story I decided to post this review. It is not meant as an endorsement one way or the other of the person’s past events; I do not have enough knowledge on this controversy.

The 64 count box had the ideal amount for me. Anything more would only confuse me, taking more time to decide which color I would use next. For a kid a box of crayons is an unlimited source of fun and imagination. In my world every color had a purpose and belonged in the box. I started out using the yellow crayon every time I had a sun to draw. Later on I started adding crayons from the orange family, giving the sun a morning or evening look. At one time I started outlining everything with the black crayon then shading in the rest with a variety of colors. None of my crayons ever went unused; they each were treated equally and belonged in that 64 count crayon box. Something I noticed when I was at someone’s house who had crayons; not all of the crayons wore down at the same rate. They could have a short white crayon but a long black one that looked like it had not been used. Another house could have the tan or I think it was also called cocoa colored crayon sitting in the box never to be touched or be part of the picture the person was working on. I will never forget in a science class how the teacher showed us if we took a blue and yellow crayon then drew one color over the other we would have the color green. It was a revelation for me. Except for blue, red and yellow all the other crayons are a combination of 2 or more other colors. The crayons in my box all worked together in harmony unlike the real world.   BEING one of the few slaves who could read Nat Turner’s, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails); owner was able to rent him out to preach to the unruly slaves living on the other plantations. The things Nat saw opened his eyes in a new way. This film festival winning dramatic biography also starred Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger, The Social Network) as Samuel Turner and Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist, Awakenings) as Elizabeth Turner. As I said the story based on true events was important but I felt the script needed to be stronger to support the magnitude of the events taking place back during the 1830’s in Virginia. The acting was quite good especially during some of the disturbing scenes in this picture; however, there were gaps in the script where things slowed down for me. I was confused by the outcome that took place in a couple of scenes. For the most part the directing was spot on for this first time director. This was not easy to watch for a few reasons, one being the narrowness and ugliness of the times that only wanted to use 1 of 2 colors from a very small box of crayons.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: Every Secret Thing

No matter how people are labeled, they all fall somewhere on a horizontal line. From doctors to parents to plumbers, each one can find a place among their peers. A saying I am fond of is, “Someone has to graduate at the head of the class and someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class.” What I mean by this is there will always be individuals who are better than others in their profession or group; just as there are good doctors and bad doctors, the same holds true for parents. Now first let me say I am not a parent and I do not mean to judge anyone’s parenting skills. In my little corner of the world I have seen and heard parents doing extraordinary things along with not so extraordinary things. Just walk through a grocery store; you would be surprised how many things you can see a parent doing to their child. I saw a mother take the time to explain to her kid what harm his actions/behavior could cause to the shoppers around him, explaining to him if he continued their behavior they would have to leave the store. There have been other times where I have seen a parent hit their child then yell at them as they nearly lifted them off the ground by the arm before storming out of the store.    WORKING on a criminal case similar to one she had several years ago Detective Nancy Porter, played by Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games franchise, People Like Us), found it interesting that Ronnie Fuller and Alice Manning, played by Dakota Fanning (The Runaways, Man on Fire) and Danielle Macdonald (The East, Trust Me), who were convicted of the previous crime were recently released from prison. Based on best selling author Laura Lippman’s novel, this crime drama had a strong cast of actors. Besides the celebrities I mentioned, there was Diane Lane (Unfaithful, The Perfect Storm) as Helen Manning and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond the Lights) as Kevin Jones. Everyone did their part well; with Elizabeth, Diane and Danielle being the most memorable to me. I liked the idea of this suspense story being led by a mostly female cast; it provided an interesting take on the detective formula. The story was meant to keep the viewer in suspense with its twists and possibilities; I really wished it had done that for me. Not only did I find the story to be quite predictable, I thought there was a flatness to the drama. For such a story this movie could have used more intensity to keep the viewers guessing. After the movie was over I was disappointed it was not better; I guess there are some writers and directors who are better than others.

 

1 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Beyond the Lights

There are people among us pretending they are somebody else due to embarrassment or envy. They want nothing to do with individuals who know their history. Within this group you find folk who were guided into taking on a different persona by a parent or mentor. I knew a few people who transformed themselves into someone different. There was one man who grew up in my neighborhood who went to the same schools I did, bought food from the same local grocery and drug stores and even participated in the same summer camp program. However, it apparently was not enough for him. Out of nowhere he started talking with an accent as if he had spent sufficient time in a foreign country and took on their language. He stopped shopping in the neighborhood and began buying only designer clothing. I never understood the change in him but he never wavered from his new veneer. Within my circle of friends I had a friend who had a mother that acted in a couple of television commercials. She was quite the dramatic character and always pushed her daughter towards acting, even though her daughter had no desire to do it. My friend was constantly being dragged either to auditions or fittings for some, what I thought at least, unusual looking clothing. Thinking about them now, I can only imagine how much energy must have been devoted towards maintaining their transformations.    UNCOMFORTABLE and despondent emerging pop star Noni, played by Gugu Mbatha Raw (Belle, Larry Crowne); found herself sitting on the edge of the balcony outside her penthouse suite. Driven by her mother Macy Jean, played by Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Barney’s Version), Noni felt she had no other way out until police officer Kaz Nicol, played by Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails), tried talking her off the ledge. This film festival nominated drama was written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees, Love & Basketball). Having first becoming aware of Gugu in the film Belle, I thought she did an admirable job of acting for this role. There was an easy chemistry between her and Nate. Including Danny Glover (The Color Purple, 2012) as Captain Nicol, I thought everyone’s acting was quite good overall. The script had its moments of real raw emotion that the actors were able to accentuate. Unfortunately the story did not offer any surprises; it was predictable for the most part. There was a familiarity to this film which I realized had to do with it having a similar story to the movie The Bodyguard. Starting out strong, I wished this picture would have stayed more unique and not try to be something else.

 

2 3/4 stars

Flash Movie Review: Arbitrage

Just because someone has financial wealth does not mean they are smarter or better; there is not a different set of rules for them, though they may think so. I have a relative who became wealthy and felt they could tell everyone else what they “should” be doing in life. It is quite annoying listening to them. I am certain there is more going on in the business world besides the Bernie Madoff types and Enron style scandals, that we do not hear about in the news. One could add from this movie Robert Miller, played by Richard Gere (Brooklyn’s Finest, Chicago), to the list of immoral, corrupt greedy businessmen. While Robert was in the middle of delicate negotiations to sell his company, he was involved in a terrible accident. If news were to get out about the incident, the ramifications would be monumental to his firm and family. How far would the unscrupulous Robert go to maintain control over his life before his greed ripped him and his empire apart? Richard Gere was excellent in this role, being smooth and sexy with a venomous bite. Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Mr. Woodcock) did a beautiful job playing Robert’s wife Ellen, the charitable good spouse with a steely spine. The story was evenly paced, allowing the suspense to build long enough to keep my interest. A couple of noteworthy performances I want to mention were Brit Marling (Another Earth, Sound of my Voice) as Robert’s daughter Brooke and Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Red Tails) as Jimmy Grant, the son of a former employee of Robert’s firm; who was trying to make a better life for himself. Except for the choice of ending that was not very satisfying to me, this was a solid adult movie that showed the ugliness of greed we have all seen before.

 

3 stars

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