By Lynn Venhaus

“Sitting in Bars with Cake” may not be an original idea, using baking skills as a romance magnet, but it’s an appealing, sweet premise that unfolds as a deeper-than-you-realized emotional ode to friendship.

Best friends since their childhood in Phoenix, outgoing Corinne (Odessa A’zion) and shy Jane (Yara Shahidi) are in their 20s, living in Los Angeles and navigating their career paths. They join a group of girlfriends every weekend to experience the local nightlife.

One such evening, Jane brings the chocolate cake that she baked for Corinne’s birthday into a bar, and the beautifully decorated cake entices guys, who are craving a piece. Aha! Corinne comes up with an idea of bringing Jane’s cakes to bars around town to get Jane out of her comfort zone and she can meet more people. The goal: 50 cakes in a year. And what a life-changing year it is.

At first, the movie is fun and breezy, capturing the energy of 20-somethings navigating their place in the world. Then, it veers into heartfelt and sincere as it deals with a life-altering diagnosis.

Audrey Shulman penned the screenplay based on true events with her BFF Chrissy. What started as a blog in 2013 turned into a published 2015 cookbook about looking for Mr. Right by using a specific way to a man’s heart.

She recounted her year spent baking, ‘cake-barring,’ and offering slices of creative dessert in “Sitting in Bars with Cake: Lessons and Recipes from One Year of Trying to Bake My Way to a Boyfriend” that included 35 inventive recipes.

Each made-from-scratch cake was paired with a short essay and a tongue-in-cheek lesson about meeting guys, with such chapters: Sweet, Salty, Bitter, Fruity, and Savory. The guys ran the gamut from tech bros and cowboys to hipster nerds and bikers.

In the movie, cakes range from classics like Pumpkin Pie and Carrot Cakes to adventurous Chinese Prune, Licorice and Leather, Pina Colada Cocktail and a cherry-flavored CBD infused cake, all supervised by culinary producer and food stylist Megan Potthoff, a former pastry chef – and they are works of art. She’s worked on “Master Chef” and “Iron Chef,” among other TV and movie projects. If your mouth doesn’t water, you have the willpower of steel.

Chinese Prune Cake

 For the movie adaptation, Shulman shifts the dating focus as secondary to the very human bond between the roommates. How Generation Z finds their way in becoming the people they want to be is a major aspect of the story, and a good one to endear the characters.

This is a terrific cast, with Yara Shahidi as plain Jane and Odessa A’zion as live-wire Corinne believable as besties going through a year of life changes. Both rising stars after these strong and warm performances, they project a palpable bond. Shahidi, who played Zoey on “black-ish” and was Tinkerbell in the Disney “Peter and Wendy” reboot, pairs well with A’zion and her work crush Owen (Rish Shah). She works as a mailroom clerk, but she’s in her happy place baking, and needs to own up to her lack of desire to attend law school, her parent’s dream for her.

A’zion, most known for the 2020 “Hellraiser” remake, conveys resilience and her character’s commitment to not losing her indomitable spirit. She’s the fun-seeker, the goofball belting out “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” at karaoke, waking up her roomie to order fries on a late-night food run, and eager to shake things up in general. In short, the life of the party.

The supporting cast is also aces, with Bette Midler as Corinne’s uber-hip music industry boss Benita, Ron Livingston and Martha Keller as Corinne’s doting parents Fred and Martha, and Navid Negahban and Adina Porter as Jane’s driven parents Isaac and Tasha.

Director Trish Sie, of “Pitch Perfect 3,” keys into the quirkiness of Los Angeles nightlife – a drag show at a roller rink? — and an uncommon office setting with various personalities making their presence known.

Production Designer Tracy Dishmann includes clever graphics to announce each cake, and captures well the girls’ apartment and all the hangouts.

With inevitable comparisons to “Julie and Julia” and “Beaches,” this drama-soaked comedy – not really a rom-com –  showcases how friends support each other through sickness and health, ups and downs, and why the value of those relationships is priceless.

“Sitting in Bars with Cake” is a 2023 drama-comedy directed by Trish Sie and starring Yari Shahidi, Bette Midler, Ron Livingston, Martha Kelly, Navid Negahban, Adina Porter,and Rish Shah. It is rated PG-13 for strong language, some drug use, sexual references, and thematic elements and has a runtime of 2 hours, 1 minute. It started streaming on Amazon Prime Sept. 8. Lynn’s Grade: B

Note: this review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.

By Lynn Venhaus

Worlds collide in a standard superhero spectacle involving the multiverse and time travel. But “The Flash” film wisely capitalizes on personalities, thus the intrigue builds in smart cameos, bounteous Easter eggs, and captivating performances both sentimental and sassy.

As DC Comics Universe superhero “The Flash,” Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) uses his super speed to change the past, but his attempt to save his family creates a world without superheroes, forcing him to rally help to save the future.

For someone whose childhood introduction to Batman was Adam West (1966-68) and Superman was George Reeves (1952-58) in the first television series of those classic comic book characters, “The Flash” feels both familiar and fresh in its use of Justice League mythology.

Flash’s first DC Comics was in 1940, and the Scarlet Speedster has smoothly transitioned to a number of film and TV series. Barry Allen’s superpower is superspeed, which occurred when he was struck by a bolt of lightning in a lab, resulting in a chemical bath.

Barry Allen and Barry ALlen

In the latest franchise reinvention, Ezra Miller first appeared in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” in 2016, and subsequently in “Suicide Squad: (2016), “Justice League” (2017) and “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” (2021).

In this stand-alone, their portrayal is actually spot-on, deftly depicting the nerdy, annoying, hyperactive young guy trying to come to grips with his abilities – his insatiable appetite is a running gag – and the responsibilities of coming to the rescue. They easily transition from snarky encounters to poignant interactions with his mother before her death, and his concern for his father in jail for her murder.

The elephant in the room is that Miller, 30, has made headlines for being arrested and charged with crimes, and later, sought professional help for mental health issues. Warner Brothers and the DC powers-at-be stuck with them for the role.

As an interesting artist, they made a mark as insecure outcast Credence Barebone (Aurelius Dumbledore) in the “Fantastic Beasts” movie trilogy, and their haunting breakthrough role was in 2011 as the evil Kevin in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” following up that critical acclaim as Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

As The Flash, they are spry in scenes with superheroes and villains alike but tugs at the heartstrings in the family flashbacks to give the film some emotional depth.

Sasha Calle as Supergirl

Using his powers to go back in time and save his mother, Barry unwittingly creates a world without heroes. Oh, General Zod (Michael Shannon) has returned, ready to wreak planetary havoc. The Flash enlists a Bruce Wayne, retired as Batman, another incarnation of himself, and an imprisoned stranger to help right the world.

Inspired by DC Comics’ 2011 “Flashpoint,” co-screenwriters Christina Hodson and Joby Harold have crafted a different type of Supergirl, aka Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin. Sasha Calle is impressive as the endangered Kryptonian.

Hodson, who was behind “Birds of Prey,” has cleverly twisted some of the old-fashioned tropes.

Director Andy Muschietti, who directed “It” and its sequel, has delivered an entertaining story, giving fans reason to cheer throughout the 2-hour, 24-minute film, but it does eventually run out of steam in those climactic bombastic battles.

However, the finale’s big reveal is a good one, and there is the proverbial end-credits scene to stay for, although not as thrilling as some of Marvel’s best.

But any film with the extraordinary Michael Keaton as Batman, scene-stealer that he is, is worth the admission price.

This is a spoiler-free review, but some of those superheroes who show up briefly in the galaxy made my heart happy.

“The Flash” may be imperfect, but it’s far from the dud other franchises have unsuccessfully mounted in the past two years (u,e, “Black Adam,” “Shazam: Fury of the Gods”).

Michael Keaton as “Batman”

“The Flash” is a 2023 action-adventure-fantasy film directed by Andy Muschietti and starring Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Ron Livingston, Sasha Calle, Ben Affleck, Maribel Verdu and Michael Shannon. Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some strong language and partial nudity, it runs 2 hours and 24 minutes. It opens in theaters on June 16. Lynn’s Grade: B