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Flash Movie Review: Pieces of a Woman

THOUGH OUR CONVERSATION TOOK PLACE YEARS ago, I still carry the elderly man’s words with me. The details surrounding our talk are faded and fuzzy after all these years; however, I know we were talking about the death of a mutual friend. It was a sudden death and we were saying how hard a sudden death is for those left behind. The man said something that was profound to me; he said the longer a person suffers towards their end, the easier it is for the living at the time of death. These are words that have been tested for me and it is true. I never want to see someone suffering before their time is done here. The first time I saw where these words were tested was at a nursing home. Seeing the person wilt away in an antiseptic environment, losing their awareness of everything around them; it was heartbreaking. Though they were not suffering in the traditional sense, for it appeared they had no pains or aches, those of us around them felt defeated and beaten because there was nothing, we could do to change things. This was not living, and they were not the person I knew in my younger days. The life in them was draining out to the point where no one would argue with you if you thought they looked like a breathing carcass.      THE ELDERLY MAN MENTIONED THAT THE time of his death would be part of the natural order most people have come to expect. He liked to refer to death as a walk into the sunset. What he was saying made sense to me because the grief I was experiencing concerning our mutual friend was different than what I feel towards someone who had lived a long time. When one is living in their younger years, death usually doesn’t have a seat at their table. But, when someone is living in their twilight years, death not only has a seat but eventually becomes an active participant in your mind’s tabletop discussions. When the man was telling me about order, he said in the natural order of things a parent never wants to see their child die and a child always expects their parent to die before them. I thought about that and it made perfect sense to me. From our conversation, I realized grief is not a simple, clear cut function; grief is multifaceted, there are many shades to it and every single person handles grief in their own way. I hope my talking about this subject is not upsetting you; I am simply preparing you in case you choose to watch the incredible performance in this dramatic, film festival winner.      A TRAGIC EVENT SENDS A COUPLE into a world of grief that each one handles differently. Will their paths meet during their grieving process? With Vanessa Kirby (Kill Command, The Crown-TV) as Martha, Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy, The Peanut Butter Falcon) as Sean, Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, American Woman) as Elizabeth, Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Spenser Confidential) as Anita and Benny Safdie (Good Time, Person to Person) as Chris; the beginning of this movie was one of the toughest things I have had to sit through and watch. Right from the start, I felt engaged with Vanessa and Shia; they were tremendous in their acting abilities. The story may not be original, but the way it was acted out and directed gave it a fresh perspective. Now there were times where I felt the story drifting, particularly more so in the last half; but Vanessa was a force in this picture, she carried the bulk of the work needed to keep the viewers interested in what was taking place. This was not what I would call an “up” type of film, but it was a good example of seeing someone go through the grieving process.

3 ¼ stars         

Flash Movie Review: Honey Boy

RARELY DO YOU SEE THE NEWS report on what takes place after a child’s sporting event has ended. If you are like me, you probably have seen a kid’s baseball or soccer or football game at some point in your life. I attended a relative’s son’s game. My biggest concern was the weather because it was an especially cold day and the idea of sitting outside on uncomfortable, metal bleachers was not cutting it for me; however, I agreed to go see the game anyway. When I arrived at the playing field, I found my relative and we went to claim a spot on the bleachers. The game started soon after. There was nothing exciting about the plays, but I cheered during the appropriate times. I noticed by the sidelines several adults who were bundled up walking up and down the field based on where the teams were playing. It didn’t take me long to figure out these guys were fathers of some of the players. The reason I knew was due to their behavior; they had no qualms about voicing their opinions, yelling at the referees or screaming at their own kids. I could not believe what I was hearing. To me, they sounded like an angry mob; for heaven’s sake, it was just a kid’s football game. Their children, I thought, must have been horrified by the vocal outbursts. The referees tried curtailing the Dads’ behaviors, but it only had a short-term effect before the Dads would go back to yelling.      THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE WAS MAKING ME more uncomfortable than I was presently. After the game ended (it seemed like an eternity), we waited for my relative’s son. We stood off to the side of the bleachers on a path that led to the parking spots. Standing there, I was able to hear snippets of conversations from the passing people. One Dad was walking with his player son right by me. I could see the Dad was not happy based on the faces he was making as he was belittling his child. Calling his son names, telling him he was no good and a variety of other negative comments; I was disgusted by the man’s ignorance on what he really was doing to his son. The poor kid looked brokenhearted, his head hanging down, only able to stare at the ground. I wanted to shout at the father but refrained myself. What did the Dad hope to accomplish with all his yelling? I asked myself the same question as I was watching this powerful dramatic film.      EX-RODEO CLOWN AND FELON JAMES LORT, played by Shia LaBeouf (The Peanut Butter Falcon, Fury), would do anything to make his son a star; even if it might hurt him. With Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird, Boy Erased) as Otis (22), Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place, Wonder) as Otis (12), Byron Bowers (The Chi-TV, The Eric Andre Show-TV) as Percy and Laura San Giacomo (Pretty Woman, Just Shoot Me!) as Dr. Moreno; Shia wrote the screenplay, for this film, that was based on his life experiences. I felt this was one of Shia’s best performances and I believe it had an affect on Lucas and Noah; they were just as good. If even half of the scenes in this movie were true; Shia had one torturous childhood. Sitting through this picture was like being in therapy due to the roller coaster display of intense emotions. There were times I wondered how Otis even made it to adulthood, based on the amount of pressure that was being placed on him. For several years I lost interest in Shia due to his erratic behavior that was making the news. However, after seeing what he did with the script and acting in this movie, I have a whole new appreciation for him and his acting ability.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: The Peanut Butter Falcon

HOW IRONIC, WE WERE HAVING THIS conversation over dinner. Friends for years, we had gotten together to catch up with each other; it had been some time since we had last seen each other. During our meal the conversation had turned to the topic of how busy everyone seemed, including us. I was talking about my schedule and how I was booking dates a couple of months ahead already, to get together with friends and family. My friend did not understand why I was having a challenging time in getting together with people. I explained I enjoyed getting together with people over a meal; but after a couple of times meeting in restaurants, I like to plan some type of activity we can both experience. It does not have to be anything elaborate like a boat cruise or indoor sky diving; it can be as simple as going bowling or to a movie. For me, doing something together adds fiber to the relationship. Let’s face it, how many of us will remember a meal we had from a year or so ago? Ok, well maybe I would; but food is not a reliable memory maker. Seeing a museum exhibit that moves both of you or a play that you thought was fantastic or even horrendous, would stay longer in your memory I believe.      THESE SHARED EXPERIENCES PROVIDE ME WITH A deeper emotional connection and understanding to my friends and family members. Being together and witnessing feelings in “real time” is better to me than having someone sitting and telling me about it. The exhilaration of being at a concert, sporting event or discovering a new place on a walking tour; are things that will stay with me. Another option is taking a trip together. They say you really get to know about a person when you take travel with them and I am telling you, it is absolutely true! Granted, this may not always be a positive thing; but you would certainly know more than you did if you hadn’t taken a trip together. One of the fun aspects of sharing an event together is hearing about it years later. Seeing your memory through someone else’s eyes is a fascinating learning experience. You might be surprised to find out something you did not know before. I am not only talking about the activity; it could also be about yourself. Either way, if you want to take a visual trip and see for yourself then watch this film festival winning, comedic drama adventure.      IT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR ZAK, played by newcomer Zack Gottsagen, to only see his idol on television. He needed to escape the nursing home where he lived and go find his favorite wrestler, the Salt Water Redneck, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A). This movie was a treat. Playing out like a modern Mark Twain story, the filming of it was beautiful. Enough time was given to the scenes to allow the viewer to settle into them. With Shia LaBeouf (Fury, American Honey) as Tyler, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, The Social Network) as Eleanor and John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, The Sessions) as Duncan; the acting was outstanding. Shia was such a force on the screen that I was surprised by it. Though I have not been a big fan of Dakota in the past, she was wonderful in this role. Thanks to the direction and script, watching this film was like reading a novel. I felt like I was experiencing things at my speed, allowing me to get the most I could out of the scenes. An original story with a lead actor representing a group that has less exposure on screen; I wish I would have taken someone with me when I went to see this exquisite film.

 

3 ½ stars

Flash Movie Review: American Honey

No matter how much a person thinks they are ready to move out on their own there still is an element of fear with the unknown. I knew several individuals who came from a challenging home life and when they finally decided to leave they were scared. For college age students who are fortunate to go away for school, I can say based on personal experience, it was difficult at first. College was my first time being away from home since I was never the overnight camp type of kid. My first week of college I think I had pizza and fast food meals 5 days out of 7. Food was a comfort for me back then. Doing my own laundry, making sure I got up when the alarm clock went off was solely my responsibility now. Those darn responsibilities; don’t they get in the way of living life sometimes? Having recently returned from vacation, I was talking with someone about the benefits of traveling alone. They said they could never do such a thing. I explained how freeing it was to not have to negotiate, discuss or compromise any of my decisions. The same thing applies to when I moved out on my own. Sure there was some fear in me, but it was liberating to take control of my life. Granted I wasn’t too thrilled to see the electric and gas bill in my name; but I did get a kick out of getting mail addressed to the owner, who was me. I will tell you I was not prepared for the many things like home repairs. Somehow that repairs gene was never handed down to me. I looked up at a hole in my roof caused by a raccoon and imagined filling it in with glass blocks to create a skylight. The fact that raindrops were coming down upon my head did not register this was an urgent matter I had to get fixed. Heading out on your own can be a wild ride.   MEETING the traveling group of free-spirited individuals was the spark Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane, needed to leave the life she was forced to live. This film festival winning drama had a cast that I forgot was acting; that is how authentic they appeared to me. With Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Fury) as Jake, Riley Keough (The Runaways, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Krystal and Arielle Holmes (Heaven Knows What, 2307: Winter’s Dream) as Pagan; the cast did a great job and Sasha was outstanding. I found the story interesting in the way it kept a focus on Star’s journey, seeing things thru her eyes. The issue I had with this film was its running length of 2 hours and 43 minutes. I felt this was way too long to tell the story; there were multiple scenes that in their own way duplicated earlier scenes. This picture could have used some more editing. However, the script had strength to keep me interested in this traveling group of people. Also, the soundtrack added a fun, funky element to the experience. Despite the fact that I worked going door to door selling products when I was very young, I did not have much in common with most of the characters; but I was intrigued enough to learn more about them.

 

3 stars

 

 

Flash Movie Review: The Company You Keep

Due to the problems I had in high school, by the time I went to college I learned it was safer to not reveal much about myself. This meant being vague about my religion, my politics, even my taste in music; I did not want to take a chance in providing someone ammunition to pick on me. Going to an out of state college gave me the opportunity to be a different person. However, I had no idea how much energy it took to keep up a facade of total blankness; it made me tired. I can only imagine how much strength it takes for people in the witness protection program. In this thriller you will meet a group of individuals who have been undercover for 30 years. When a bank robbery went terribly wrong, members of the activist group behind the heist went into hiding. Thirty years later radical member Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Dead Man Walking), decided to turn herself in to the authorities. Shia LaBeaouf (Transformers franchise, Lawless) as investigative reporter Ben Shepard found it odd when civil rights lawyer Jim Grant, played by Robert Redford (The Sting, The Horse Whisperer), refused to take Sharon’s case. Not willing to take no for an answer, Ben tenaciously searched for answers from the evasive lawyer before the FBI removed any chance for Ben to break a great story. The cast was made up with Academy Award winners and nominees like Julie Christie (Away From Her, Don’t Look Now) as Mimi Lurie and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Liberal Arts) as Jed Lewis. Robert Redford was just okay as the director; but I found the idea of him being the father to eleven year old daughter Isabel, played by singing sensation Jackie Evancho, not believable. Though this movie was marketed as a thriller; I found for the most part scenes were somewhat tense, but those were few and far between. I was bored at times and it was a shame. The idea behind the story was great; sadly the execution of it was poor. This film needed the same type of passion that one can find in activists today.

2 1/4 stars 

Flash Movie Review: Lawless

With a smoldering Brando vibe and a piercing, steely stare; make no mistake about it, this was Tom Hardy’s (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) picture. If he and his management team continue to make the right career choices like Warrior and avoid the wrong ones such as This Means War; Tom will be one of our top rated actors. He portrayed Forrest Bondurant, who with his brothers Howard, played by Jason Clarke (Death Race, Public Enemies) and Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf (Transformers franchise, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), ran a successful bootlegged liquor operation in Franklin County, Virginia during the depression. When corrupt special agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pierce (The King’s Speech, Factory Girl), came into town; he rounded up the authorities to aid him in getting a cut of the brothers’ growing earnings. Where Tom played his character as a dark, simmering man with a deadly reputation; Guy’s character was an arrogant, mean, sadistic man who was fussy about keeping a pristine appearance. Both actors were amazing. Based on a true story, this was a graphic violent, bloody film; as we saw the brothers fight to maintain a hold on their operations. I, along with everyone else in the theater, sat absolutely still through the entire movie; the story never lagged. Both Tom and Guy were the major players on the screen. The issue I had with this otherwise great film was Shia LaBeouf. This boy could not handle the role given to him. It was so apparent when any of the other cast was in his scenes; he could not elevate himself to their level of acting. Despite Shia, this was one heck of an intense movie to view and I was serious when I said the entire audience sat still in their seats. None of us wanted to miss a single thing.

 

3 1/4 stars

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