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Flash Movie Review: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

IF I HAD LIVED FURTHER DOWN the hallway of my college residence, I would have certainly failed all my classes. At the opposite end of the hallway lived a student who played loud, heavy metal music when he had to study. He did listen to it other times; but during the week, he would play it at the same specific time which I found out was when he had to study. There would be no way I could study, let alone read a book, with such a distraction. When I studied, I had to have it quiet; the same goes for when I read a book for pleasure. I had a friend who could read while the television was on. If that was me, my ears would be picking up snippets of conversations while I was trying to read, causing a distraction for me. I admire people who are not bothered by such distractions. There were some students who liked to study together in small groups. They would congregate in the building’s lounge, fitting themselves around one of the tables or plopping themselves down in a corner filled with beanbag chairs and throw pillows. I would see them huddled together passing around bags of chips and pretzels along with a couple of thermoses filled with what I suspected to be something stronger than a soft drink or coffee. There would be no way I could be part of their study group because I would be constantly distracted.      THE WEIRD THING IS WHEN I AM cooking or baking, I like to have some sound playing in the background. Either music or anything on the TV, I like it playing in the background because for some reason it keeps me calm. I always wondered if it is a creative thing, where people who are “making” something like to have a multiple of their senses getting stimulated at the same time. I cannot remember the artist’s name, but there was one I read about who loved to have music playing anytime they were painting. On the other hand, only based on the movie I saw, I believe Vincent Van Gogh preferred silence while painting so he could feel everything around him. It comes down to different creative people experience distractions in different ways. I cannot imagine what it would be like for, let us say, a sculptor trying to create something while having a distraction nearby. There used to be an artist who lived on my block who would always wear noise cancelling headphones whenever they were outside working on a project. With me speaking of distractions, after seeing this Oscar nominated and film festival winning movie, I cannot believe what the main character went through while selling out concert halls.      THE PERFORMANCE OF ONE SONG WAS all that it took for the United States government to hopefully find a way to stop the singer Billie Holiday, played by Andra Day (Marshall), from ever singing again. With Leslie Jordan (The Help, Will & Grace-TV) as Reginald Lord Devine, Miss Lawrence (Star-TV, Empire-TV) as Miss Freddy, Natasha Lyonne (Honey Boy, Orange is the New Black-TV) as Tallulah Bankhead and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, The Predator) as Jimmy Fletcher; this dramatic music biography must be watched simply because of Andra’s performance. Known more as a singer, this starring role of hers made me think I was truly watching Billie Holiday. Overall, I enjoyed watching this film, though it needed a tightening up on the direction and another rewrite of the script. The reason I say this is because there were such a variety of characters that at times the intensity in Andra’s performance waned. Other than that, I cannot get over the life Billie was living through while trying to simply sing for a living. A deservedly Oscar nominated performance that needs to be seen to be believed.                    

3 ¼ stars  

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Flash Movie Review: The Predator

IT MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN I am talking with someone that has a history of, let me say, not being nice to people. The problem is I never personally experienced it myself, only been told about it. I dislike having to be on my guard when talking to a person; conversation for me should be an easy back and forth of thoughts, emotions and ideas. Back in school it was easy to figure out who was nice. I remember there was a fistfight that took place in the schoolyard and this one boy stepped out from an entire circle of students to break the fight up. Throughout the ensuing years he displayed many acts of kindness and compassion. Interestingly, he had a good friend who you would have assumed was also a kind person; that was not the case though. He pretended to be nice, but he actually was a sneaky kid who could quickly turn mean. I once saw him push a student down by punching them in the back. Imagine how I must have felt when we were paired up for a science project; I was careful around him as I did my best to avoid any type of conflict.      RECENTLY I WAS A GUEST AT A social function and was reminded of that lab partner I had for the science project. I had heard about this individual before I was to meet them. Let me just say the stories I heard did not paint a favorable light around this individual; however, I was keeping an open mind until I could meet them. So, the opportunity came up where we were going to meet and just as it was explained to me this person was gracious and sweet at first. From the stories I had heard this person was not yet acting out any of them. Here is the interesting thing; as the evening went on this individual made a couple of comments to someone else that I found to be passive aggressive. The example I will use is this particular comment, where this person complimented another person’s dress. They said the dress was pretty but wanted to know if that was the only color offered. When they were told there were other colors this person said, “I bet a different color dress would look good on you.” I thought the comment was rude and from that point on I was cautious around this individual. The reason I mention this incident is because I wound up feeling the same as I watched this science fiction, action film.      BY ACCIDENT A SMALL BOY WAS RESPONSIBLE for alien beings to come to earth. The aliens were interested in one thing. This horror adventure starred Boyd Holbrook (Logan, Run All Night) as Quinn McKenna, Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, 12 Strong) as Nebraska Williams, Jacob Tremblay (Room, Wonder) as Rory McKenna, Oliva Munn (Office Christmas Party, Ride Along 2) as Casey Bracket and Sterling K. Brown (Hotel Artemis, This is Us-TV) as Traeger. As I sat watching this movie it started out with a bang of excitement. From there it veered off by bringing in humor, along with social issues. I thought Jacob and Olivia were the best out of the cast. In fact, there was one scene with Jacob where I laughed out loud; but that was the issue with this film. The mix of different story lines in the script made it confusing, to the point I became bored. And sadly, the writers were blatant in letting the audience know there will be a sequel. If there is and it has the same type of script I suggest you take a pass on this franchise. It is becoming a silly mess.

 

2 stars      

Flash Movie Review: 12 Strong

THERE WERE THESE BLACK AND yellow booklets/study guides I remember you could buy at a bookstore, which some folk a/k/a students used in lieu of reading an entire book. For example if a student was assigned the novel Moby Dick or Great Expectations, they could buy the study guide of the book. I have to say these booklets were an interesting idea because they did help in one’s ability to understand what they had read in the actual book. This would be beneficial if one had to write a book report or do an oral presentation of a novel. However to only read the bumblebee colored study guide would not give you the full richness of the story. Taking Moby Dick as an example, the description of the story in the booklet would be something like, “A fisherman is determined to catch a big fish.” The study guide would not give one the depth of each character with all the nuances and mannerisms of them. I believe they were only supposed to enhance the reading experience, not be a substitute for the novel.     NOW PERSONALLY I HAD SEVERAL of these study guides and not to sound like a “goody two shoes,” but I needed them to help me comprehend some of the passages I had read in several assigned books. Being a slow reader there were times I barely could finish a book before my book report was due. When I read a novel the imagery the author is creating appears right before my eyes. I feel as if I am right there with the characters. For me this is what I feel the reading experience should provide the reader. If an image cannot form I have a hard time connecting to the story; something every author wants to avoid. Another way of describing these study guides is to say they are the same meal as the original novel less the spices and condiments. As I was watching this action drama film based on a true story, I felt like I was missing some of the ingredients.     SOON AFTER THE ATTACK ON the World Trade Center an elite group of soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan for a secret operation. All of their military training did not prepare them for riding into a battle on horseback. Starring Chris Hemsworth (In the Heart of the Sea, Rush) as Captain Mitch Nelson, Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water, Take Shelter) as Hal Spencer, Michael Pena (End of Watch, American Hustle) as Sam Diller, Navid Negahban (Charlie Wilson’s War, Homeland-TV) as General Dostum and Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight, Lady Luck) as Ben Milo; the actors needed a better script. The story itself was pretty unbelievable I have to say; from that aspect I was in step with this film. The fight scenes were intense and honestly the outcomes were somewhat shocking to me. However the script went from one battle to another to the point I felt I was just watching several videos of the soldiers’ battles. I never really knew the men’s motivations let alone their connections to each other. There were only a couple of scenes where I felt an emotional connection. In a way this picture reminded me of another war film that was shown in the past year or so, that was mostly tension with little story. Now I do not want to downplay the historical aspect of this story, but the script could not lift it to the level it needed to be in urgent importance. Based on this movie I would have rather seen a documentary about the unbelievable feat these soldiers endured.

 

2 ¼ stars

 

 

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