Hate crimes have been on the rise in today’s world. Sexual orientation hate crimes are the third most frequent hate crime in the United States, according to the FBI. Director Steven Esteb and writer Jonah Tapper’s latest drama looks at the effects that a hate crime has on the victim, the perpetrator and their families. Hate Crime takes place after a young gay man is murdered and the challenges two sets of parents face thanks to the consequences of repression and toxic masculinity. The film stars John Schneider, Laura Cayouette, Amy Redford, Jordan Salloum, and Kevin Bernhardt.
Raymond Brown (Jordan Salloum), a closeted gay man, is sentenced to execution after murdering his boyfriend Kevin (Chasen Joseph Schneider), and on the night of his execution he tries to make amends with Kevin’s family.
In theory, the film has a great premise that should allow for moments of drama to clash with real world ideas as some sort of insight. There are moments where the film does this well, like when Tom Brown (Kevin Barnhardt), Raymond’s father, has to come to terms with himself after realizing he has raised a gay son and a murderer. Many parents have a hard time adjusting when finding out their child is homosexual and the film does a good job at capturing the strain this puts on the relationship between Raymond’s parents.
Raymond’s mother, Ginny Brown (Amy Redford), is taking the situation hard, but she hasn’t had thoughts of suicide like her husband. Her mothering nature is present and the film does a good job at portraying that side of her. The Browns are distraught because of their son’s actions, but the victim’s family are having a harder time.
John (John Schneider) and Marie Demarco (Laura Cayouette) are still grieving for the death of their son Kevin. Before Raymond is executed, he makes amends with John and tells him that he loved his son. This is what finally gives John some closure.
If you’re into slow movies then Hate Crime might be the right movie for you, but the snail’s pace of the film makes it hard to sit through. In the first 50 minutes of the film nothing happens. Hate Crime opens with Raymond killing Kevin; the next 50 minutes are characters who are just talking without any memorable dialogue. On top of that the movie lacks personality and it feels stiff. John Schneider and Laura Cayouette had solid chemistry whenever they were on-screen together, but everyone else felt dead inside.
Visually, the shot compositions are as bland as the script. The cinematography feels almost amateurish. There was a punch thrown early on and the sound effect’s dubbing is off which couldn’t be more distracting to watch.
Hate Crime is a forgettable film. The film’s execution isn’t on par with the gravity of the issue the film tries to tackle. Nothing of note happens for most of the movie and some of the acting is melodramatic to the point where it felt like there was a lack of direction. John Schneider and Laura Cayouette were a great pairing and did their part to bring some legitimacy to the script. Kevin Bernhardt and Amy Redford just didn’t do it for me. The pair lacked the chemistry of their counterparts, which made most of their scenes come off as trying too hard. Writing wise, the dialogue could’ve been stronger and the storytelling elements could’ve been sequenced differently to at least attempt to make the film feel fresh. Based on such a serious subject, Hate Crime untimely fails due to its botched execution.
[All Mames Wey]
Hate Crime was released onto digital platforms (Amazon, InDemand, DIRECTV, FlixFling, FANDANGO, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, AT&T, and Sling/Dish) on September 24, 2019.
Like anything, fandom can be a good thing when used in moderation. Derived from the word fanatic, humans can be fans of something without ever crossing the line into an obsession. As a culture, when it comes to the newest boy band, the act of being a Stan or fangirling can disrupt personal relationships, work life and other aspects of living a healthy lifestyle. Director Jessica Leski’s latest film, I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story delves into the lives of four women across three generations and the ramifications their fangirling has had on their lives over the course of three years.
The Lives of Four Fangirls
The documentary follows four women from three generations over a span of three years as they detail the ups and downs of being fangirls of different boy bands. The women have different ethnic backgrounds and Leski does a good job at documenting how it influences relationships with their friends and family.
The youngest fangirl of the four is 16 year-old Elif from New York. When we’re introduced to Elif, she’s a high schooler from Long Island who is obsessed with One Direction, The band is her life and sh was in a viral video crying over the band. Elif thinks that no one can be as perfect as One D and she’s had dreams of playing tag with the band. Her parents are from Turkey and they do not understand their daughters’ obsession with the band and want her to focus more on school; however to Elif, One Direction is life.
When it comes to 1990s nostalgia, the Backstreet Boys fangirl is 25 year-old Sadia of San Francisco. Sadia started out as a fan of the Spice Girls, then transitioned to the Backstreet Boys as a preteen. During the infancy of the internet, her fandom of the group made her create a popular newsletter for other Backstreet Boys fans. The Backstreet Pride newsletter allowed fans to stay up to date on the happening of the boyband and prepared Sadia for her future career as a writer. Who knew a teenage crush on Nick Carter would spark a career.
Traveling across the pond to the land Down Under is where the last two fangirls reside. Dara, 33, is an enthusiast for the British boy band Take That. The blonde haired woman’s life goal is to be on stage with Gary Barlow, who is her favorite member of the band. The veteran of the documentary is 64 year-old Susan, who is a fangirl of the first boy band the Beatles. Susan also lives in Australia and was infatuated with Paul McCartney to the point that she would practice his signature. Susan’s fandom has not escaped her because she’s collected photos, frame autographs and newspapers for over forty years.
What Truly Makes A Boy Band?
Understanding the basics of a boy band is key in Leski’s documentary. Some argue of The Beatles count as the original boy band, but Dara has her own “Boy Band theory” that is educational and informative. Basically, a boy band is usually aged between 17 – 21 with 3 – 5 members. Their songs are themed around sex (implied in a PG way), love, fun. heartbreaking and longing for a good time.
Distinct personalities are also key. Dara explains that the personalities that makeup a successful boy band are mysterious, cute, an older brother (sensible), the sexy one, and forgotten one. One member usually plays an instrument at radio shows. Coloring and styling are also important because boy bands have to match. The band’s lifespan is an average of five years and they usually do not take themselves too seriously. To keep their boyish appearance they usually do no have beards, but at times facial hair like stubble is okay.
Three Years Later
The documentary follows its subjects over the course of three years and there is a lot of change the fangirls go through over that time. Elif has grown the most, figuratively and literally. The youngest of the fangirls has graduated high school and is on her way to college, but her fandom in One Direction has wandered off. She makes music now and says that she loves jazz music. Her parents do not see her vision and do not support her on her musical endeavors, but the one time Directioner is determined to prove them wrong.
Sadia, who has closeted her Backstreet Boys fandom during her formative years, has decided to let it be known that she’s a fangirl. She reads fanfiction about the group and the her newsletter that once had over 2,000 subscribers. Her parents are more supportive of her fandom than Elif’s were. Like Elif, her parents are also immigrants, they’re from India, so the documentary delves into the effects of being a brown girl who stans an American boyband. Over the years, Sadia goes to conventions and shows where the band performs and she even got to take a picture with Nick Carter. Sadia has a breakthrough while attending a Backstreet Boys cruise and notices how all the other women are acting and realizes that this isn’t healthy.
Of the fangirls who were followed, Dara is the one who has came to terms with a lot of things in her life. Her mother didn’t take her to a Take That show in the Outback when she was a kid and she resented her for it. Later. her mom took her to her first show and she forgave her. Dara is the only fangirl in the documentary that wanted to be a member of the boy band that she obsesses over. As a lesbian, Dara wanted to be Gary Barlow. Her blonde hair is styled in a similar manner as the band member. Like Barlow, Dara wanted the fame and all the girls screaming at her in admiration. Now that her sexuality is outed, she’s outed her fandom and she’s a lot happier for it. She has a customized license plate on her Mini Cooper so the world knows who she’s riding with.
As the elder stateswoman of the fangirls, Susan found a way to move on from the Beatles. She’s still a fan, but she came to grips that her and John Lennon were not meant to be together. Her introspection as the one who’s been through what the other girls are going through is insightful. Susan states that there was some resentment when she was younger when the Beatles would date other women, but as she got older she realized that’s what the game was. She is the only subject in the documentary that has children of her own. She isn’t with their father anymore but she says the Beatles stuck with her through all the ups and downs in her life.
I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story is an informative documentary on how being a fan of something can weigh on someone’s life. Jessica Leski’s documentary does an excellent job at covering multiple angles of fangirls from various paths of lives and backgrounds. This allows for an insightful viewing experience that makes the audience think about what the fangirls we see screaming on television might be going through. How thin is the line between fandom and obsession? The women followed in this documentary all have one thing in common, their families didn’t “get it” or understand it which effected their relationships. These fangirls came to realizations of their fandom which in a way helped them obtain a sense of normalcy.
[All Mames Wey]
I Used to be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story was released onto digital platforms (Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, AT&T, FlixFing, InDemand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Sling/Dish) on September 17, 2019.
What happens in Derry stays in Derry until eerie things start popping off 27 years later. It Chapter Two is the sequel to the 2017 hit supernatural horror It, which is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. Director Andy Muschietti returns, but this time the Losers Clubs are adults who return to Derry to take out the mystical being known as Pennywise once and for all. Spoiler FREE review after the trailer.
A Score and Seven Years Later
Set 27 years after the events of the first film, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) has risen from hibernation to torment the citizens of Derry, Maine once again. After mysterious events happen in his small town, Derry lifer Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) gets his old club together to take on Pennywise. Now adults in their mid-40s, Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), and Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) have all moved on past the events that would’ve scared a normal child for life.
The adult versions of the kids from the first film were perfectly cast in the sequel. Pictured above and below are the Losers Club as adults and children, respectively. Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff reprise their roles from the first film. The film utilizes flashbacks and the younger actors had to be digitally deaged to match their looks from the first film; this is sometimes noticeable in the film.
It was good to see James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in the same film again but this time their talent wasn’t being wasted. At times McAvoy’s Scottish accent would slip out and it makes you wonder when did Bill Denbrough start speaking with an accent. McAvoy did a tremendous job at continuing the stutter that Martell displayed, especially during high stress situations. For her part, Chastain brought her A-game as Beverly Marsh. When asked who she wanted to play the adult version of her character, Sophia Lillis named Chastain who did not disappoint. There is a scene shown in the trailer where Marsh is at her childhood home and there’s a mischievous elderly lady and it’s one of the best scenes in the film.
Isaiah Mustafa, who is best known for being the Old Spice Guy, had the most surprising performance as Mike Hanlon. The childhood version of Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) may have had the roughest childhood compared to the others in the Losers Club and since he never left Derry, he’s the only one who did not forget about what happened, so he has to find various ways to cope with his past.
When the Losers Club comes back together after over a quarter century of being apart, it feels like old friends are having a good time. There’s an eerily shot scene at a Chinese restaurant where the squad meets up and you can tell the effects team had fun creating it.
You’ll Float Too
The opening scene in this movie is graphic and apparently comes straight out of the book. In a way, this scene sets the tone of the film and lets the audience know they’re going to watch graphic content for the next 2 hours and 49 minutes. Throughout the film the special effects are amazing to watch, but they’re not as impactful as they were in the first film. The effects team isn’t at fault for this, the onus is on the films writing. Where the first It floats, thanks to its superb writing and character development, its sequel sinks.
The biggest problem with this film is that bigger doesn’t mean better. The film is nearly 30 minutes longer than the first movie, but it never feels like its time extension is justified. There was robust and extremely detailed set pieces, that included a funhouse at carnival, but the story structure was as tame as riding a ferris wheel.
The storytelling in a long film is extremely important, especially if the characters are going to split up on their own personal journey, then it’s important that you write a story for each character that doesn’t feel like a copy and paste of the other characters. It Chapter Two doesn’t do enough to differentiate between the events in its second act, which at times makes it a disappointment when compared to It Chapter One.
Unfortunately, Chapter Two does fall victim to trying to out horror itself by crowbarring in too many jump cuts and jump scares, which lose their effectiveness as the movie progresses. The movie never settles on what it’s trying to do, so it feels unorganized and the pacing isn’t consistent. Even if it’s based on a 1400 page book, the film does not do enough to make its runtime justified.
The Bills Paid Their Dues
Bill Hader and Bill Skarsgård are by far the two standouts of Chapter Two. Skarsgård picks up right where he left off from the previous movie. A menacing character such as Pennywise, has to express a lot of emotions via facial expression. Skarsgård has an expressive face and can convey various emotions just by his eyes. He’s given more time to display his antics in this movie than part one.
What makes Pennywise such an engaging character is that he knows when to be unassuming to lure his prey and when to flip the script and become the killer clown that he truly is. As a supernatural being, he has had some gruesome transformations throughout the film. As a clown, he has many hilarious moments in the movie. The only character who is funnier than ol’ Pennywise is Richie Tozier.
The wise-cracking Richie Toliver was a highlight in It. Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things fame portrayed the teenage version of the character. He was the smartmouth of the group and his character has developed a lot in the nearly three decades after the events of the first film.As an adult, Richie Toliver is played by comedic actor Bill Hader. His performance was a breakthrough amongst the now adult Losers Club members.
Hader’s comedic timing shines through the darkness and he knows when to insert jokes at the right times. Personality wise, Hader was the closest to his child actor from Chapter One. Richie’s relationship with Eddie rivals other comedic duos such as Cheech and Chong or Beavis and Butthead. The back and forths between the pair picked right back up where they left off in the first film.
It’s not all jokes though. When Hader needed to bring the drama, he knocked it out of the park. Cannot rule out the possibility of Hader getting a nomination for Best Supporting Actor during the awards season.
With a runtime that is too long, It Chapter Two does have some solid performances and completes the best duology of one of Stephen King’s most well-known novels. If New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers were smart then they would make a prequel with Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise. The dancing clown has been around for hundreds of years and there is an opportunity to watch him terrorize the citizens of Derry from centuries ago. As a supernatural horror, Chapter Two has some memorable set pieces and creative effects, but could’ve used some better writing in its screenplay. Director Andy Muschietti knows his way behind the camera, but overall this one didn’t live up to his predecessor. There are great performances by its lead actress and actors, that will make you wish the writing matched their performances. This story started with Georgie being pulled into the sewer after chasing a boat, and ended with a story that capsizes in comparison to its beginnings.
[All Mames Wey]
It Chapter Two was released in theaters September 6, 2019.
The difference between eastern and western culture is larger than the distance between the United States and China. No matter their differences, wanting the best for your family is a universal language that all cultures can understand. Based on an actual lie, writer and director Lulu Wang’s latest film, The Farewell brings both cultures together in one of the best drama-comedies of the year. Awkwafina stars as a struggling New York artist who travels back to China to see her ailing grandmother, but her grandmother isn’t aware that she is sick. Spoilers after the trailer.
A Story Worth Telling
Loosely based on writer and director Lulu Wang’s life experiences, The Farewell is a film that examines the way that we think about being the bearer of bad news. Billi Wang (Awkwafina) is an inspiring Chinese-American writer who has a close relationship with her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), and finds out from her parents, Haiyan (Tzi Ma) and Jian (Diana Lin) that her grandmother has terminal lung cancer. In Chinese culture when someone has a terminal illness you do not tell them because the stress and worrying will kill them before the illness does.
The immigrant family comes to terms with the cultural differences between America and China as they know that in America it wouldn’t be as easy, ethical or legal to hide the illness from Nai Nai. The Wangs fly back to China under the guise of a wedding for Billi’s cousin Hao Hao (Chen Han). Billi’s parents do not want her to come to China because she’ll be the one family member that ends up telling Nai Nai that she has terminal lung cancer.
It’s interesting to see the lengths the family will go through to not tell Nai Nai that she’s sick. They faked a whole wedding just for the family to gather in one place. The dynamic between the family members who’ve moved to America and the ones that have stayed in Japan or China creates a combustible element as they argue about the differences of opinion on the issue. The side of the family that lives in China is pro not telling her, per tradition and the American side of the family are pro telling her.
The film isn’t bleak at all. There are genuinely hilarious moments as the family interacts with each other. Nai Nai is a witty character for her advanced age. The family members all have their roles within the film but they never feel like tropes or character types. Knowing that Nai Nai did the same thing when her husband was sick, makes you realize that this is her culture and we do not have the right to judge.
A Breakout Hit
As far as direction goes, this is one of the best shot films of the year. The whole film is composed of well made shots that if you were to pause the film you could spot all types of details in the background. Throughout the film, the colors blue, green and pink are present, which could add to a hidden subtext in the film. Knowing the psychology of color does leave things open for interpretation but blue is the color of peace, green is the color of growth, and pink is the color of unconditional love. This may mean that Nai Nai is at peace as her family grows and loves her unconditionally.
Stories like these do not get told often on the big screen, which is why it’s refreshing to see a story told this way. While making the film, Lulu was told by American and Chinese producers that she needed a white lead for the film to be financed; however a film about an Asian family DOES NOT need any whitewashing to be successful which The Farewell proves.
Lulu Wang’s second feature film is a beautifully shot, well written story and I’m looking forward to the next project that she is working on. With awards season approaching, expect The Farewell among the Best Picture nominees and Best Director. The film is only 98 minutes long, but there isn’t a moment that feels as if it’s spinning its wheels. Awkwafina’s performance should lead to her having more leading roles in the near future and it shows that she can be more than a goofy side character. The big takeaway from the film is that we shouldn’t judge other customs and cultures because they’re doing what’s best for their family members. The ending of the film shows the real Nai Nai and she’s alive six years after the events of the film take place, and that’s a true happy ending.
[All Mames Wey]
The Farewell was released in theaters nationwide on July 12, 2019.
“The truth has many faces,” is the tagline for director Julius Onah’s latest drama, Luce. The psychological thriller follows a gifted student named Luce who has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he tries to live up to everyone’s expectations of him. The film stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Spoilers after the trailer.
Four Sides of a Story
Right after the opening credits, this film doesn’t waste any time establishing its main characters and creating an uncomfortable tone that’ll be found throughout its runtime. Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was adopted at 7 years-old from war-torn Eritrea by Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth).
Luce has rehabilitated from all the anger and violence that he witnessed while living in Eritrea and now he’s an outstanding high school student, well-liked by everyone and the valedictorian of his class. He attends a majority white school and the film does a fantastic job at developing his character without it being exposition dump.
Tokenism is an underlying message early on in the film because Luce is presented as “one of the good ones.” It was not until after Luce’s parents met his teacher, Ms. Harriet Wilson, that the word tokenism was mentioned in the film. She’s worried about Luce because of a paper that he wrote which had underlying themes of domestic terrorism; however the paper, as assigned, was written in the voice of Frantz Fanon.
Being a black woman in a white space she wants what’s best for Lucebecause she recognizes his potential and wants him to succeed, which is something that is relatable for black educators in America. Depending on how you feel about the situation, Ms. Wilson violates Luce’s privacy, or ensures school safety by searching Luce’s locker and alerting his parents of the contents behind his back. This is pulled off well-enough that the viewer has to decide whose side they are on from the onset.
Onah’s direction and storytelling goes to the next level when examining the relationship between Amy and Peter Edgar, and how adopting Luce has changed their lives. There aren’t many movies that reach the big screen that tackle the issues face when black children are adopted by white parents and attend white spaces in modern day America. Watching how Peter and Amy view their son versus what each wanted out of a child being opposite was intriguing to watch.
Peter loves his son but if he had to do it all over again he would’ve wanted it to be easier or raised his own biological child. Whereas Amy loves Luce to death, and would not change anything because she’s worked so hard to get him to where he is. At first she seemed as if she was going the route of stereotypical movie mom, who is too naive to do what is best for her child, which usually ends in her demise, but refreshingly, Onah did not write her character that way.
What makes these characters work is that you can understand where each one is coming from and their views on the situation. Peter and Amy may have had a disagreement about what they thought they were getting into after adopting Luce but at the end of the day they loved him as if he were their own flesh and blood. When Ms. Wilson tries to drive a wedge between the family, the Edgars remain a unit and do not let her tactics phase them. This is also helped by the fact that Luce is charming and manipulative enough where it is tough to second guess his motives.
Harrison’s performance as Luce was among the best performances of the year. The character is written so well that it’s hard for the audience to know if he is every bit of danger that Ms. Wilson says he is or does he live up to the expectations of his peers and family. You can see the nuances of the inner struggle throughout Harrison’s performance and the film’s third act is where things come to a satisfying close.
Luce is a psychological thriller that delivers on its “truth has many faces,” tagline in an uncomfortable, yet thought provoking way. It’s a powerful film that makes its viewers question whose side they agree with. It’s a film that makes viewers understand how societal pressures affect decision making from various vantage points that aren’t often represented in film. The fact that the screenplay for Luce was developed during President Obama’s presidency and is still topical nearly four years later is nothing to scoff at. Onah effortlessly weaves a study into how race, class and identity affect us without making the film feel preachy.
Performance wise, Luce is filled with superb performances throughout thanks to its veteran cast, including Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Naomi Harris, while Kelvin Harrison Jr. has a breakout performance as the titular character. During awards season, his performance should come up when it’s time to announce the nominees for Best Actor. Luce is an insightful and engaging look into an often overlooked part of America, but if it’s playing near you then I highly recommend checking this one out.
It was all good a couple of weeks ago, but that all changed on August 12, 2019. That’s the day Popeyes’ Louisiana Kitchen released their now viral chicken sandwich at restaurants nationwide. Over the past two weeks the internet has been buzzing and debating if Popeyes wears the crown as the true King of the Chicken Sandwich. During its first 11 days, the buzz created an advertising value worth $23.25 million
$23.25 million: Equivalent ad value in media mentions for “Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich” in first 11 days from Digital, Newsprint, Radio, TV and Social, according to @apexmarketing. pic.twitter.com/cXhfrtDnqY
Patrons have the choice of Crispy or Spicy when biting into one of Popeyes’ chicken sandwiches. There isn’t much difference between the two sandwiches outside of the sauces they are topped with, as Popeyes’ website describes them as:
Buttermilk battered chicken fillet, crisp barrel-cured pickles, your choice of spicy Cajun spread or mayo, on a buttery toasted brioche bun.
Another thing of note, both sandwiches are packed in an aluminum foil pouch, which keeps them warm and toasty before your first bite.
For each first bite, I tried the sandwiches as they came without any type of modifications. Time to take a look at what Louisiana’s most well-known kitchen has cooked up for us.
A Little Crunch Goes a Long Way
First up is Popeyes’ Crispy chicken sandwich and if you’re a mayonnaise lover then this is the sandwich for you. Personally, this has far too much mayo for me, but this is a hearty chicken sandwich. The chicken breast is so plump that it hangs off the brioche buns. The pickles are bound to fall off just like the mayo that’s dripping off of the sides.
With the first bite, I tried the sandwich as is, and the results are mixed. The best part of the sandwich is the buttermilk breading that Popeyes’ uses. The chicken is as crispy as its namesake and the breading has Popeyes’ trademark flavor, but their chicken fillet tastes better on a sandwich than their regular legs and wings.
The pickles do not have a distinct flavor compared to their competitors. They taste like somebody just cut up some cucumbers and put a couple drops of vinegar on them and just called it a day. They taste closer to “barrel-placebo” than “barrel-cured”.
Had to hook it up after the first bite by trying it with Popeyes’ Sweet Heat and Blackened Ranch sauces. This is where things picked up because each added more flavor and paired better with the chicken than Popeyes’ mayonnaise did. Overall, the Crispy chicken sandwich was enjoyable but I don’t think I would eat this one again.
Time to Spice Things Up
Disclaimer: I love spicy food.
Unlike most fast food restaurants, Popeyes’ Spicy chicken sandwich only differs from its Crispy counterpart because of the cajun spread that’s used to make it spicy. Most fast food restaurants use a chicken breast that’s seasoned in various spices to create a spicy flavor. Since Popeyes already uses spices for its chicken if you’re someone (like me) that does not think their chicken has a kick to it, then you better hope that their cajun spread does. This is what it looks like out of the wrapper:
Again the chicken is hearty. The pickles poke out the bun and you can see the glow from the orange cajun spread. You can see the spices used to create the zesty cajun spread and the spread does have a welcoming flavor, but it needs more heat.
For all the foodies out there, if you have to choose between the two sandwiches then Spicy is the one that tastes unique and not something that you can get from anywhere. Again, the pickles could’ve been better or tasted more pickle-y, but I highly recommend the Spicy chicken sandwich.
I do wish that the breading had more of a spice to it because that’s the biggest thing that is holding this sandwich back. Like the Crispy sandwich above, the Spicy pairs better with other sauces that Popeyes’ offers. If you like heat then ask for a pack of Sweet Heat dipping sauce and you will not be disappointed.
Better Than Chick-Fil-A?
When it comes to this chicken sandwich debate, some say that it’s hard to eat at Chick-Fil-A because of their homophobic ties; while others say Popeyes’ ill-fated ad campaigns have been questionable and obnoxious at times. The biggest positive from the nationwide rollout is that social media has given Popeyes free advertising. It’s to the point where people have been saying that Chick-Fil-A is so shook, that they might have to open on Sundays to compete. This was highlighted by the fact that Chick-Fil-A was going through it on Twitter and Popeyes had to check up on them:
Others had their verdict on which chain had the superior chicken sandwich in a well thought out breakdown:
Personally, the edge goes to Chick-Fil-A. The Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich has a spicer chicken sandwich, better pickles and a better bun than Popeyes. Popeyes has infiltrated the market with a top 3 chicken sandwich but there is room for growth (add pepper jack cheese to the menu). Is Popeyes’ new sandwich delicious? Yes, especially their spicy version. The breading at Popeyes is what makes their sandwich for me, and with a few modifications, Louisiana’s Famous Kitchen might be able to become the king. But at the end of the day, Popeyes created a chicken sandwich that was perfectly made for Sundays.
[All Mames Wey]
Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich is currently available in stores nationwide.
In the light, we can see the physical but sometimes the mythical and the spiritual appear from the darkness. Sometimes, it’s just our minds playing tricks on us, which causes us to double take and see things that aren’t really there. Add puberty and hormones to this mix and you get an interesting take on a coming-of-age tale. Writer and director Andres Rovira’s directorial feature debut Between the Darkness (Comes, Said the Night) deals with a teenage girl as she tries to vanquish a monster in the woods that has been haunting her. The coming-of-age horror thriller stars Nicole Moorea Sherman, Lew Temple, Danielle Harris, Tate Birchmore and Daniela Leon. Spoiler-free review after trailer.
A Natural View
For a small budget independent film, Between the Darkness has great cinematography and direction. Director Andres Rovira knows how to create interesting shots that leave a memorable impression on the audience.
His use of wide shots and knowing when to peel back adds to the film’s horror aspect. Between the Darkness does focus more on its drama via the thriller aspects. The use of darker colors throughout is where things become more interesting.
It’s easy to see why the film makes the most out of its budget, which is why the filmmaker and crew should be applauded. Pictured above is a shot where everything is paced to add a chilling effect.
The framing and spacing that Rovira uses adds rich detail to the film, in a way that adds to what’s happening narratively. The shot below where Sprout Grady (Nicole Moorea Sherman) is in focus in the foreground and her father Roy (Lew Temple) is blurred in the background is a visual technique to foreshadow events later on in the film.
Little things like that are subtle yet noticeable enough for any cinephile to pick up on. Rovira definitely knows his way behind the camera so it will be interesting to see future movies that he directs.
Lost in the Woods
Where the film excels visually, it takes a step back in other departments. Pacing wise, the movie moves too slow for its own good. When things happen that’ll catch your attention there isn’t much happening in between that keeps you interested. If the film’s dialogue and story didn’t feel like a generic horror formula then it could’ve added a new layer to the movie.
Narratively, teenager Sprout Grady (Nicole Moorea Sherman) and her brother Percy (Tate Birchmore) live with their father Roy (Lew Temple) in a secluded area, so they’re not indoctrinated by society. Sprout has been seeing a Gorgon (Christine Andelfinger) in the woods, but no one believes her.
The set-up is interesting enough, but the film never does much with it to create its own identity. Everything happens by the numbers and the film never takes a risk with its premise. There are a couple of scenes that make you realize how sick in the head Roy is and Lew Temple’s performance perfectly fits his character. Roy is a single father raising two kids and the film explores how he wants to distance himself from his past to the point that it interferes with his children’s upbringing.
Between the Darkness is a vibrant film to watch visually and narratively, it has its moments of intrigue. If you’re looking to watch a coming-of-age horror that has some interesting shots, then give this one a viewing on your favorite streaming service. Lew Temple and Nicole Morea Sherman do a solid job at holding down their leading roles to create a dysfunctional dynamic between their characters. Andres Rovira’s directorial debut has scenes that do shine as the light from between the darkness.
[All Mames Wey]
Between The Darkness (Come, Said the Night) is currently available on streaming and VOD services.
The Home of the Whopper has finally rolled out its Impossible Whopper nationwide, after getting rave reviews since testing it out at select stores in the midwest. The plant-based burger is a collaboration between the fast food whopper goliath Burger King and the California-based Impossible Foods Inc.
With the tagline “100% Whopper, 0% Beef,” the Impossible Whopper is a plant-based option that says it offers the same flame-grilled taste as its traditional meat-based counterpart. Topped with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, onions, tomatoes and a patty that is made out of plants, the Impossible Whopper looks like a Whopper in appearance, but how does it compare in taste? Let’s find out!
Have It Your Some Way
Pictured above is how the Impossible Whopper looks, according to Burger King’s press release. As we all know, the food industry doesn’t abide by the old adage of ‘what you see is what you get,’ usually, it’s the complete opposite and the Impossible Whopper is no different.
I ordered this healthiervegetarian burger version of the Whopper with ketchup, mustard, pickle, onion, cheese and tomato but unfortunately, BK forgot to include the red love-apple, yet the wrapper was marked correctly🤔:
Under this green and white St. Patrick’s Earth Day design wrapper, we are treated to the main event:
Is it impossible not to make this burger look like it was thrown together? Probably. But you are not here to review the appearance of this burger, you want to know how it taste! Reader, ask and you shall receive.
Burger King’s Burger Jester
First bite into the Impossible Whopper and something has gone awry. The flavorful juiciness of its beef counterpart is not as prominent in the plant-based option. To put it bluntly, the Impossible Whopper tastes dry. Burger King’s thick buns do not help offset it either.
The Impossible Whopper greatly benefits from the the King’s flame grill broiler. The aroma is still as present as its meat-based counterpart, but that’s not enough to carry the burger or help it live up to its tagline. Technically, the Impossible Whopper is 100% Whopper and 0% Beef but that’s not a good thing, it should be 0% Flavor.
Trying a piece of the patty by itself did not improve the results of this taste test. The Impossible patty tasted like someone combined oatmeal and soy to create this strange texture that puts on a front just to look like a burger. Even tried to spice it up by dipping the rest of my burger in Burger King’s buffalo sauce, which helped tremendously to cover up the flat taste of the patty.
The above wasn’t a monologue, I said all of that because if I had tried the Impossible Whopper first, then I’m not sure I would ever try another plant-based burger again, or at least for a while. Impossible means that something is beyond the bounds of possibility and that describes the ethos of this burger. When compared to BK’s signature sandwich, the vegan-friendly option tasting remotely similar is an improbable whopper.
[All Mames Wey]
The Impossible Whopper was released at Burger King nationwide for a limited time.
Originally, Martial Arts was a form of self-defense and attack that humans have been practicing for centuries over the course of history. As a form of self-defense, martial arts predate guns by hundreds of years. The Art of Self-Defense, a film written and directed by Riley Stearns is a dark comedy that is a period piece that examines toxic masculinity in a thought proving way. The Bleecker Street distributed film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola and Imogen Poots and is set sometime during the 1990s. After a lonely accountant is randomly attacked on the streets, he enlists in a karate class to learn how to defend himself. Spoilers after the trailer
As a dark-comedy, The Art of Self-Defense is one of the funniest films of the year. The whole film is delivered in a deadpan yet over exaggerated way. The film wastes no time letting the audience know that Casey Davies (Jesse Eisenberg) is an awkward outcast who lacks intestinal fortitude. The man can’t even go to a cafe without people heckling him and treating him as a joke. When he’s at work, his co-workers do not respect him in the slightest and they talk down to him right in front of him without any regard.
Jesse Eisenberg is known for taking on these socially awkward roles and making the most out of them. He’s walking home one night and a motorcycle gang randomly attacks him and they nearly beat him to death. The beating is graphic, yet it is presented in a comical way that it never feels uncomfortable to watch.
After recovering from his injuries, the awkward man in his 30s is shaken up but wants to find ways to defend himself so he goes to the store to purchase a gun. The film makes light of the situation at the gun shop and Davies’ awkwardness adds to the humor. The clerk at the gun shop drops a few jewels about the effects that owning a gun can have on you and others. Stats about how households with guns increase the child mortality rate, suicides and revenge crimes. He even tells Casey that he’ll have to wait for his paperwork to process before he can own a gun. These little details are small but help make The Art of Self-Defense an educational film too.
Before he was beaten an inch of his life, Casey’s assailants asked if he had a gun to make sure he was easy pickings. Since the assault, Casey’s low confidence has hit rock bottom so he ends up joining a karate class taught by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). On a side note, Alessandro Nivola looks like Ryan Reynolds.
After shadowing the class for a one week free trial, Casey decides to sign up for the class and Sensei becomes the de facto big brother to him. Casey is overjoyed with the inclusion and friends he’s made which is great for his character arc. He’s still awkward and weird but the karate class has given him a renewed sense of confidence. Sensei teaches him to be more masculine and tells him to upgrade his music tastes from Adult Contemporary to Hard Rock.
Sensei is a caricature of toxic masculinity. While instructing his class he has a knack for belittling his students and his only female student Anna (Imogen Poots) is ostracized compared to her male counterparts. He’s also a moron. The Grandmaster is the man who taught Sensei karate and Sensei believes that the Grandmaster killed the other Grandmasters in a fight to the death by pushing his index finger through their school. This technique is so sacred that not even Sensei learned how to do it and Grandmaster has a rainbow belt since he defeated the others.
The problem with the karate element of the film is that it makes the film’s twist very predictable. Sensei’s class are the ones that jumped Casey. This was made even more obvious by the fact that when Casey was jumped the perpetrators were using martial arts tactics. The film tries to explore the thriller
Anna has the smallest role in the film as her character is the biggest victim of Sensei’s masculinity. Sure Casey gets beat down, his dog killed and his trust violated by Sensei but by the end of the film he gets his revenge whereas Anna does not. Anna has been working at the dojo and is far more qualified than her male counterparts but she does not have the option of leaving due to Sensei’s strong arm regime. Since the karate class moonlights as a motorcycle gang, Anna is too valuable, so she’s regulated to being an over qualified instructor and getting dress in a storage closet. Her character’s arc is to show the audience how toxic masculinity affects women, and Riley Stearns’ writing makes that message clear.
The Art of Self-Defense delivers for those that are fans of dark-comedy and deadpan humor. Director and writer Riley Stearns knows how to craft a film that has a serious message without sacrificing the tone of the film. Every joke has a payoff, especially the one with the Grandmaster. The thriller element the film toyed with could’ve been better but it wasn’t a huge hindrance. Jesse Eisenberg was perfectly cast for this role and the only other person in the world who could have given him a run for his money is Michael Cera. Eisenberg’s performance is the type of performance that makes something as topical as toxic masculinity something that we can laugh at yet digest the big picture. If you’re looking to watch something funny then don’t be triggered, instead observe The Art of Self-Defense.
[All Mames Wey]
The Art of Self-Defense was released in theaters July 12, 2019.
Director Quentin Tarantino’s highly-anticipated 9th film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is a fairy tale tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age. The writer-director’s 9th film is set in an alternate timeline and is his take on the events that would lead up to the Manson murders. On a 90 million dollar budget, Tarantino was able to ensemble a cast that includes Leonardo Dicaprio Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino and more. Spoilers after the trailer.
The relationship between Dalton and Booth is the most enjoyable part of the film. Rick Dalton is the former star of the hit show Bounty Law and now that his star is fading the only person who is there for him is Cliff Booth. Since Dalton isn’t acquiring roles like he used to, Booth isn’t getting much work as a stuntman in Hollywood and is regulated to doing odd jobs for Rick.
Dalton is typecast in Hollywood as the rugged badass, ironically, that is who Cliff Booth really is. In Hollywood circles, the powers that be do not want to work with Booth because they all believe he killed his wife after a domestic dispute. Thanks to his connections with Rick he gets added on to the stunt crew but that does not last long thanks to his altercation with legendary martial artist Bruce Lee (Mike Moh). Lee and Booth had a light sparring session to see who could knock the other one down to the ground 2 out of 3 falls style.
Tarantino’s approach to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) is a complete 180 from Bruce Lee. She’s not given much dialogue in the film as the film chooses to mostly focus on a day of her life where she goes to the movies to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew.
Instead of re-enacting the scenes with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Tarantino decided to play the original footage with the real-life Sharon Tate on the big screen. On one hand this lets the audience remember her as a person instead of in the context of the tragic events that took her life. On the other hand, Margot does look like Sharon Tate but when you show footage of the real Sharon Tate it takes you out of the film.
Small Roles, Big Show
With such a large ensemble cast that’s filled with veteran actors and Oscar winners from start to finish, there were a few performances from actors who weren’t as experienced that maximized their screen time to create something memorable. Other real-life characters portrayed by accomplished actors include Red (Dakota Fanning) who has a sinister stare; George Spahn (Bruce Dern) is a blind cranky old man; and Dalton’s agent Hollywood producer Marvin Scwhartz (Al Pacino).
Pussycat (Margaret Qualley) was a character who was created specifically for this film. She’s a member of the Manson Family and Qualley does a good job at portraying the characters mysteriousness. Having Pussycat hitch a ride with Tate was a nice red-herring by Tarantino. Qualley shares most of her screentime with Brad Pitt and she holds her own with the veteran actor as the pair flowed off each other very well.
Qualley wasn’t the only actress to have made the most out of her appearance in the film, 10 year-old child actor Julia Butters was spectacular as Trudi Fraser. Trudi is another original character for the film and she’s Rick Dalton’s co-star on the set of Lancer. She holds her own with DiCaprio and there is a tense scene between the two while filming Lancer.
If it wasn’t for the final confrontation during the film’s third act, Julia Butters would’ve had my top pick for breakout performance but I have to give that to Mikey Madison’s portrayal of Sadie. Madison has about 5 minutes of screentime and maybe 4 lines of dialogue that doesn’t include her screaming but she has one of my favorite scenes in the film. After their altercation with Rick Dalton, Katie (Madisen Beaty), Tex (Austin Butler) and Sadie decided to kill him instead of Sharon Tate. The way that Madison portrays Sadie as this delusional egocentric psychic is how I imagine the real life Susan “Sadie” Atkins was.
Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood is another welcoming addition to legendary director Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. As a director this film is Tarantino at his best. There are interesting and beautiful shot compositions throughout the film. However, as a writer there is a sense of wishing there was more things happening in the film. As a narrative thread, the relationship between Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth is what carries the movie through its 2 hour and 45 minute runtime. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have amazing performances that should get both of them some nominations come Oscar season. Nine films down and it will be interesting to see what Quentin has in store for Hollywood and the world whenever he releases film number 10.
[All Mames Wey]
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was released in theaters July 26, 2019.
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has swung back into theaters with the highly anticipated sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. The twenty-third entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe sees Jon Watts return as director and he’s accompanied by returning stars Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, and Jon Favreau. As the last entry of Phase 3 of the MCU, Spider-Man: Far From Home follows up on the events of Avengers: Endgame and sees New York City’s favorite hero take on a world-ending threat while vacationing in Europe. Spoilers after the trailer.
Don’t let the trailers fool you, Quentin Beck/Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) is Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) foe in this film. Beck claims that he’s from another universe and Thano’s Snap aka The Blip tore a hole into the universe and he’s come here to protect Earth from the Elementals, a group of villains that have the power of various elements such as earth, wind, water and fire. Once Mysterio arrives on the scene, he tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smuthers) that they do not want any parts of the Elementals.
Gyllenhaal’s performance as Quentin Beck/Mysterio is one of the best performances as far as villains go in the MCU. In the first half of the film, Beck is living up to his villainous alias by keeping his character’s true motives a mystery. Gyllenhaal was perfectly cast because once the film decides to reveal Mysterio’s secret plan, his demeanor does a complete 180 to fit within the confines of the story. Beck went from a loyal, heroic, cool uncle-like figure to Peter Parker to an unhinged, sycophant madman who wants to be the next Tony Stark.
The ethos of the Mysterio character shines throughout the film. From Beck’s background to Mysterio’s costume including his signature fishbowl helmet, Mysterio looks like he stepped straight out of a comic book. The intricate details include the fog in his helmet, the eyes on the pins of his cape and the mastery of his illusions which combine into making this film a spectacle to watch on the big screen.
Spider-Man: Far From Home proves its ambitiousness when Spider-Man takes on Mysterio and the Man of Mystery gets the best of the wall-crawler. The visual highlight of the entire film is when Mysterio creates an illusion that not even Spider-Man’s Spider Sense aka Peter Tingle can detect. During this scene Mysterio changes the environment, Spider-Man’s suit and manipulates everything around him.
Quentin Beck was just a mere mortal but Far From Home does a fantastic job at making him feel like a foe to Spider-Man. Mysterio’s mastery of illusions is up there with the God of Mischief and the Master of the Mystic Arts which makes him more impressive. By the film’s conclusion you’re not even sure if he really is dead.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Uncle Ben is nowhere to be found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far), but his mission statement — “with great power comes great responsibility” — is ever so prevalent throughout this film. Following the events of Avengers: Engame, Peter Parker just wants to enjoy his summer vacation in Europe and not deal with the responsibilities of being Spider-Man.
The ethos of the Spider-Man character and what makes him relatable is that he just wants to be a normal kid but he has the world thrust upon him.
Like its predecessor, Spider-Man: Far From Home’s mid-credit and post-credit scenes end in a cliffhanger that sets up many possibilities for the Wall-Crawler’s future within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home is a fun, comedic sequel that does not disappoint, and as far as solo franchises in the MCU, Spider-Man has the best one and two so far, most MCU solo films have disappointed in their first or second entry. Director Jon Watts and returning screenwriters Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna did a fantastic job at capturing the high school charm that made this version of Spidey enduring in Homecoming without it ever becoming a parody of itself.
Promoting Mysterio as a hero from another universe was a unique twist and creating the idea of there being a multiverse in the MCU was a clever selling point for the trailers. Not going the route of the multiverse was a smart move by Marvel Studios because that would have weakened the impact of the deaths in Endgame. Having Mysterio turn out to be the villain is on par with his comic counterpart, and his death is still open enough for Gyllenhaal to return in a Sinister Six film (we can dream!).
Spider-Man: Far From Home was a perfect way to end Phase Three of the MCU while setting up Phase Four. At this time we do not even know what the next film in the MCU will be but our Spidey Senses are tingling for another appearance of the Web-Slinger in 2020.
[All Mames Wey]
Spider-Man: Far From Home was released in theaters July 2, 2019.
After the complete final destruction of the world – the apocalypse – the longest-running comic-book movie franchise attempts to rise from the ashes in its finale, Dark Phoenix. The direct sequel to 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, the film deals with the X-Men as they come face to face with the Phoenix force. The 12th installment of the X-Men franchise sees the directorial debut of longtime X-Men writer Simon Kinberg with an ensemble cast that includes: , Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender. Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult,Tye Sheridan. Alexandra Shipp, Jessica Chastain and Evan Peters. Spoilers after the trailer.
So Dark and So Grey
If time is a construct then the X-Men franchise idea of a timeline is a cinematic demolition. X-Men: Days of Future Past was supposed to fix the timeline, it wasn’t a perfect fix by any means, yet every film after has done its best to ruin continuity. In Apocalypse, a film that takes place roughly a decade before Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) uses the power of the Phoenix force to defeat Apocalypse and if the franchise ended on this note then things would be fine.
Unfortunately, Simon Kinberg, the writer of Apocalypse and writer-director of this film, didn’t take that into consideration when creating this movie. Jean Grey goes into space with the rest of the X-Men to rescue astronauts on a failed mission. Unbeknownst to them, there’s a solar flare that turns out to be the Phoenix force. Jean Grey absorbs the Phoenix force and that’s how she gets her powers.
While the X-Men are in space, the scene stealer and most interesting character is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who has some of the best scenes in the entire franchise. He and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) do the heavy lifting when it comes to rescuing the astronauts as they combine their powers to teleport and save each one. Check out the clip below:
After the space scene there isn’t much to look forward to throughout the movie because this franchise hasn’t given the audience a reason to care about these characters. Jean finds out that Professor X (James McAvoy) has tampered with her mind to hide the face that she is responsible for the death of her mother. Once Jean finds out she doesn’t trust the X-Men and goes to find her father.
Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and the rest of the X-Men set out to find Jean but thanks to the Phoenix force, Jean is too powerful for them to stop. Mystique tries to comfort Jean but Jean can’t control the power of the Phoenix and ends up killing Mystique.
Sophie Turner is doing her best to carry this material, but Jennifer Lawrence shouldn’t have even showed up in this movie because she CLEARLY didn’t want to be there. Saying that the best thing this movie did was kill off the dreadful Mystique early on is an understatement. Lawrence wasn’t the only person who did not care about Mystique, the effects team also did not put in any effort in her costume. Just look at this:
Lawrence half delivered all of her lines and was emotionless in every scene that she was in. Her death scene was comical which makes you wonder if she was going to act like that then why show up?
The rest of the X-Men, even if they didn’t want to be there, didn’t phone it in as much as J-Law. Their characters severely lacked any type of character development but they made the most out of what they were given. There’s a romance between Mystique and Beast/Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t feel authentic in the slightest.
Cyclops/Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is Jean’s lover but this relationship hasn’t been built up in this or previous movies so it’s impossible to care when things go haywire. They even make Cyclops drop an F-bomb in the least threatening way.
Quicksilver gets nerfed early on because, I guess, he’s too powerful, which writes the most interesting X-Men out of the film early on. Nightcrawler and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) are two mutants that were introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse that would’ve benefited the movie if they had more screen time. Nightcrawler’s teleportation powers are put to good use and spread throughout the film.
What is an X-Men film without Magneto (Michael Fassbender)? After finding out about the death of Mystique by the hands of Jean, Magnet goes all out to avenge the one that he loved. All of Magneto’s best moments in this film involve trains. He levitates a subway from underground and has the best fight scene in the entire film during the third act.
Lastly, an actress of the caliber of Jessica Chastain was a complete waste and not given anything to do. This may be due to the fact her character is a shapeshifter which is similar to the Kree that appear in Captain Marvel……but man, it was brutal to watch her meander through this film.
The longest-running superhero film franchise went out with a slow and painful death. A franchise that was mishandled by producers who seemed to care more about profits than creating an enjoyable film. Dark Phoenix isn’t a terrible movie, instead it is a very bland one. Sophie Turner does her best as Jean Grey but unfortunately the audience never gets a chance to know her. If these films would’ve taken their time and planted the seeds to build her up then this movie would’ve been far more enjoyable. Ironically, this film and franchise needed some new life, some new blood, some new mutants, instead the Phoenix Force allowed the series to die a dark death in the vacuum of space.
[All Mames Wey]
Dark Phoenix was released in theaters May 24, 2019.
The counterculture movement of the 1960s was one of the most pivotal movements in United States history. During the summer of 1969, Woodstock — one of the largest music festivals in American history with more than 400,000 people in attendance — was born. The festival’s popularity has withstood the test of time,and there were failed attempts to recreate it 50 years later. In time for the festival’s 50th anniversary, co-writer Leslie Bloom’s directorial debut, the award winning filmWoodstock or Bust is available on select streaming services. Starring Willow Shields and Meg DeLacy, the 1960s period drama follows two teenage songwriters from the west coast as they venture out east to debut their original music at the Woodstock Music Festival. Light spoilers after the trailer.
Best friends and singer songwriters Lorain (Willow Shields) and Meryl (Meg DeLacy) are two talented teenage Oregonians with ambitious dreams of making it big one day with their music. Most people who have set out to do something without support from their loved ones can understand the main characters’ motivations. Their family has doubts about them making it as musicians which causes the pair to not get full support from them. Just like the counterculture movement the film is set in, the pair rebel from their parental authority.
The pair took it upon themselves to leave the comfort of Oregon to head out east to the Woodstock festival in New York. The dynamic duo created a lot of memorable moments during their road trip that further developed their friendship. The film does a phenomenal job at balancing the differences between Meryl and Lorain and giving their characters some sort of depth. Of the pair, Meryl is the most-talented and popular yet reserved, whereas Lorain is the funny, outgoing and assertive one.
Woodstock or Bust serves as a vehicle for its leading ladies to showcase their talents. Meg DeLacy was perfectly cast as Meryl. The role allowed DeLacy, a rising singer-songwriter in her own right, to show off her vocal talents and angelic voice throughout the film.
DeLacy has a strong performance and knows how to balance out the nuances of her character, which makes the film fun to watch. However, the scenes that require her to sing to is where she shines the brightest and it helps the audience buy into the fact that Meryl is more talented of the two musicians. There are impressive musical numbers in the film that are worth checking out.
Conversely, Willow Shields illuminates off the screen as Lorain and makes the most out of her comedic timing. Shields has by far the best performance in the film and her character goes through a wide range of emotions. Whether she’s happy, angry, afraid, or sad, every single emotion comes off as authentic. There is one scene in particular where she’s under distress and her performance is at its most powerful.
Groovy and Wild Travels
Being that the film is about the adventures Meryl and Lorain during their road trip across the country, the pair get into a lot of squabbles on their way to Woodstock. During the film’s first act, before their departure from Oregon, the film seems like it’s going in a generic formulaic direction. Surprisingly, once the pair are on the road things become a lot more interesting.
During the film’s second act is where social commentary of the 1960s and present day comes into fruition. As the pair travels east, there is a tonal shift that goes along with it. This is a good thing because the film goes from feeling formulaic to “Wow, did not see that coming,” which writers Judi Blaze and Leslie Bloom deserve credit for.
The hitchhikers and various people who Lorain and Meryl meet during their trip and the events that follow will leave you puzzled at their decision making. However, being that this is a period piece, it is easy to chalk up their decisions to the free-spirited movement of that time. If the film was set in the modern-day, their interaction with Nick (Teddy Van Ee) would be the most questionable, especially following the events that happened right before they met him.
Add Woodstock or Bust to the list of hilarious female lead duos directed by women in 2019. Leslie Bloom’s directorial feature length debut is a fun and powerful ride like the ’65 Mustang the main character’s drive. Visually, the costumes and set pieces feel like they were transported straight from 50 years ago. The leading actresses brought out the best of each other in this periodic drama. Social commentary is what adds a lot of weight to the script and separates the film from being your typical drama. There are some questionable decisions that the main characters make, but for the most part everything is understandable or has a reason. We may not have an actual Woodstock Music Festival in 2019 but if you can bring Woodstock or Bust home to you today on your favorite streaming service.
[All Mames Wey]
Woodstock or Bust was released on DirecTV, inDemand, Amazon, iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Vudu, FANDANGO, Hoopla, AT&T, FlixFling, Google Play, Sling/Dish on August 13, 2019.
In the land of the monsters – where only one can reign supreme – Godzilla is the undisputed king. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is the sequel to 2014’s Godzilla and sees the titular Titan battle his archenemy King Ghidorah for the title of apex predator. Directed by Michael Dougherty. the film stars Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, and Bradley Whitford, with Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn reprising their previous roles. Spoilers after the trailer.
Humans Are The Virus
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was either the most meta film of 2019 or one of the most disappointing ones. The plot centers around a group of eco-terrorists led by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance), who wants to rid the Earth of humans by unleashing Monster Zero/King Ghidorah and other monstrous Titans because humans have been destroying the planet. Jonah thinks by letting the Titans reek havoc and destroy humanity, then the radiation provided by them will return the Earth to its natural order. Jonah even goes as far as saying that humans are a virus and that’s why this film has to be meta because the human characters arethe viruses of this film.
A movie about giant monsters causing destruction shouldn’t have been this boring and a movie with this cast shouldn’t have been this lackluster. The dialogue throughout the film feels like it came straight out of the 1980s and not in that ‘it’s charming and nostalgic’ type of way. Nearly all of the humans in this movie are scientists but yet cannot escape Darwinism.
Dr. Rick Stanton (Bradley Whitford) makes jokes throughout the film as the resident comic relief, but they’re not funny. Whitford’s character was modeled after Rick Sanchez of Rick & Morty fame and he’s no Rick Sanchez. Stanton would make offhand remarks and imply he’s a heavy drinker, which are characteristics that are synonymous with Sanchez, yet somehow the charm wasn’t there and the jokes were flat. Bradley Whitford is too talented of an actor and just like most of the actors in this film, they can only deliver the dialogue that’s given to them. The entire time it felt like someone had watched Rick & Morty a couple of times and didn’t understand what made Rick a compelling character.
Dr. Rick Stanton wasn’t the only character that suffers from misguided attempts at humor. Dr. Sam Coleman (Thomas Middleditch) and chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) are expected to serve as the film’s comedic tandem as they banter about the events going on in the film. After watching Middleditch in Replicas there wasn’t much to be expected from his performance, but as for Jackson Jr., this film was a letdown following his performance in Long Shot. Like Whitford above, Jackson is another actor that didn’t have much to do in this film, yet the movie spends a lot of time with him and the other humans that aren’t given anything compelling to work with.
When the Titans are attacking the world, the film recycles the same military personnel which wouldn’t be a problem but the same officers are doing the same task at nauseum. Whether it’s preventing the awakening of King Ghidorah in Antarctica, saving humans from catastrophes in Mexico or saving the world in Boston, while fighting in the sky in between, it’s the same soldiers that are everywhere that aren’t tactical at all. They’re led by Colonel Diane Foster (Aisha Hands), who is believable as a colonel because of her demeanor and persona.
In a science-fiction monster film the idea of being tactical could easily go overlooked but as with many problems with Godzilla: King of the Monsters, it is something the film constantly brings attention to. There’s a scene where the scientists explain to fellow scientist Dr. Ishirō Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) that the heat and radiation under the ocean from Godzilla will kill him in seconds – somehow – he removes his helmet and touches the monster and dies when the nuclear device explodes.
Dr. Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) is the luckiest scientist in the film because she dies early on. She gets painfully crushed to death, which has to be a metaphor for how crushingly painful it is to watch a talent like Sally Hawkins being misused in the film. Dr. Leng Chin (Zhang Ziyi) is just here to give the exposition and backstory of the Titans to the audience and that’s about it. She’s the one that tells us the names of the Titans and their significance and what they are. The sad part is none of this is done in a clever way, she’s just talking and the camera will pan to the images and scrolls of the ancient dragons that turn out to be the Titans.
The Russell family feud that is the central plot of the film doesn’t improve the movie. Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) and Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga) are heartbroken because their son Andrew died during Godzilla’s 2014 rampage in San Francisco. Since then, Emma and her daughter Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown) have been estranged from Mark and Emma has gone off the deep end. This is another film where one parent is grief stricken and results in the most foolish of plans because they cannot healthily process their grief.
Mark developed a device called “the ORCA” that manipulates frequencies to control the Titans, which ends up getting into the hands of Alan Jonah thanks to Emma. Emma and Jonah’s master plan is to free the Titans to allow them to kill humanity. The most memorable thing that Madison Russell does in the film is that her parents find her hiding in a bathtub in the most cringeworthy way. Emma and Mark argue while searching for Madison and chief warrant officer Jackson Barnes tells them “if you were my parents I would run away from home too,” he repeats the line and that’s when they rescue Madison at her house in the bathtub. By the end of the film you are hoping that the Titans complete their task because spending more time with these humans would be more tortuous than living on an earth with a depleted ozone layer.
The Titans Were the Antidote
What saves this movie from being a complete mess is Godzilla and the other Titans. The longest ongoing movie franchise in history proves why this franchise has been around for over six decades and why the titular character is the king. The cinematography of their fights and the designs of these characters are nothing to laugh at. Just look at the photo below as Godzilla uses his signature atomic heat beam:
Every time the monsters would appear on the film to fight each other, that’s when the film was at its best. The use of colors created some of the best cinematography that you’re ever going to see in a monster film.
This is another film where the visual effects teams save it from being a complete disaster like the carnage that the monsters are causing. If the movie wasn’t trying to force a plot by the humans and just let the monsters take the driver’s seat then this film would’ve been so much more enjoyable.
Just look at the images. During the film when the action is happening it’s easy to get caught up with what is going on with these monsters yet these humans just get in the way. King Ghidorah is a frightening sight to see:
The teeth to the roar and everything in between while watching the movie you know King Ghidorah is here to fight and he ain’t scared of no Godzilla. What makes things so frustrating is that the monsters do a good job at giving an idea of the story elements to the point that we did not need the humans to explain what was going on. A good example is the relationship between Mothra and Godzilla. Once Mothra hatches from her cocoon in search of Godzilla, instead of letting the film explain what we are watching, the characters have to tell us and it is less impactful.
Another beautiful shot above. To say these Titans carried the film is an understatement because all the memorable things happen because of their involvement.
In Godzilla: The King of the Monsters, the humans are the virus and the Titans are the antidote, and the film takes its plot figuratively and literally. A movie with a great cast of actors and a hefty budget but overall it is disappointing. There isn’t a relatable character in the whole film, the plot doesn’t make sense and logic gets thrown out the window even right after it’s stated out loud. It feels like someone was just going through the motions when they wrote this movie and didn’t revise their drafts.
The monsters are the most enjoyable part of this movie. If you want to see some giant kaiju create chaos and rampage a city and laugh at some humans then this is your movie. If you’re looking for a smart, well thought out action movie then this is not it. There is a post-credit scene that sets up the Godzilla vs Kong sequel so if you want to stay through the credits then give it a watch. This is one that can be watched on the small screen but to get the full effect of the monsters then go to a theater and watch it unfortunately you will not be able to fast forward through the parts with the humans there.
[All Mames Wey]
Godzilla: King of the Monsters was released in theaters on May 31, 2019
The Obsessive Mother-Like Figure trope in horror films has finally received a version of the character that is seasoned in Blumhouse’s 2019 psychological-thriller Ma. Directed by Tate Taylor and starring veteran actress Octavia Spencer, Ma follows a group of teenagers who befriend a lonely middle-aged woman who allows them to party in her basement, only for startling and crazy things to happen. Ma came about because Octavia Spencer was tired of not being offered a lead role and director Tate Taylor, who worked with Spencer on The Help, said he wanted to create something that was “f****d up and MAAAAN, did they DELIVER!
Kids, drugs are bad, MMMKAY!
This movie will relate to people who grew up in a small town the most. Maggie Thompson (Diana Silvers) and her mother Erica Thompson (Juliette Lewis) have moved to Erica’s hometown in Ohio after Maggie’s father cheated on her mother. Being the new girl at her high school, Maggie befriends a group of friends that just like to party and get drunk. If you’ve ever been to a gas station then you’ve more than likely experienced some random underage teen asking if you will buy cigarettes or alcohol for them. Maggie and her friends are that kid.
The problem is they asked the wrong person. Kids, this is why you shouldn’t talk to strangers. They ask what turns out to be a lonely sociopathic middle-aged veterinary technician named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). At first glance Sue Ann seems normal but she is far from that. She became obsessed with Maggie and her group of friends right off the bat. She invites them to come to her house and drink in her basement. One of the teens gave her the nickname Ma and her place became the go-to spot for the kids to drink, party and cut loose. The only rule that Ma has is for the kids to keep the party in the basement and not venture upstairs, y’know, respect her house.
Of course in this type of movie someone has to go not follow the rules and go upstairs. Maggie and Haley (McKaley Miller) have to be the ones that go and investigate but when they hear strange noises coming from another they get creeped out and don’t want to go back to Ma’s. Haley even goes far enough to tell the rest of her classmates not to go back there and they put the kibosh on future party attempts.
Yet, for some reason, the script calls for the kids to go back to Ma’s for the most absurd reasons, even after finding out that Ma was stealing from them and noticing that she was off her rocker. The great thing about this movie is that the script is B-level but the direction and acting elevates past the things that are holding it back. To the film’s defense there is a reason why these kids would make such a foolish decision.
During the film’s third act, when the horror aspect picks up, Diane Silvers shines as the Final Girl trope. Even Ma comments on her doey eyes which are perfect for expressing the fear that is racing through her mind as she’s tied up to a dog collar watching her friends being tormented.
Another thing about this movie that made it enjoyable was that the parents of these teenagers cared about their child. Erica is a passive-aggressive mother for the first two acts of the film and it’s completely understandable because she and her daughter have just moved and they’re going through some things. Once Erica finds out about Ma, giving her daughter drinks and a place to party, she does some parenting and tells Maggie to stay away from Ma and confronts Ma to stay away from her daughter. Maggie being the rebellious teen that she ends up going back to Ma’s house anyway but once Erica finds out she curses up a storm. This small scene establishes a lot because there are too manyfilms in the horror genre that make the parents complete idiots.
Don’t Let Me Drink Alone
What makes Ma stand out in comparison to the unseasoned version of the psychotic mother-like stalker thriller is Octavia Spencer’s acting and the film is not taking itself too seriously. When one of the teens gets too mouthy with Ma she pulls a gun out on them and things become tense for the character and those watching the film, yet Ma laughs this off and quips with “Do you think I’m Madea or something,” which releases the tension. Sue Ann keeps that thaaang on her.
Ma is definitely campy and there are moments that don’t make sense or are just presented too conveniently for the plot, especially when the film delivers Sue Ann’s backstory. Sue Ann never left the town the film was set in and when she was in high school the students played a cruel prank – and this prank was VERY MESSED UP – on her. Turns out the main group of teenagers that we’ve seen throughout the film are the children of the kids that picked on Sue Ann in high school. Before this is revealed in the film you can tell that things are headed this way.
Even knowing that twist was coming, it didn’t hurt the film because of the strength of Spencer’s performance. She’s everything you would want in a horror villain, creepy, mysterious, quick-witted and terrifying. She killed one character with her car and it got a laugh out of me. By knowing when to and when not to take itself seriously, Ma is a film that audiences who see movies with a group of friends would love.
Spencer said she took the role because she was tired of not being offered lead roles in films and if the movie doesn’t offer her those opportunities then nothing will. This was her LeBron James moment and the script was the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and although horror’s rarely get Oscar nominations, I hope she gets one for this.
One thing that should be stated about Ma and the people behind the scenes, is that 2019 has been such a marvelous year for black women in horror and Blumhouse has produced two wonderful films with strong black leads. When Octavia Spencer was pitched this role, she asked if she was going to die first and it turns out she was the last death in the film. Progress.
The undertones of seeing a black lady who was picked on by her peers in a predominately white town enact some type of revenge is something you do not see every day on the big screen. The film addresses race in a comedic way by having Ma paint the only other black person in the film, white:
If you’re looking for something fresh and original then give Ma a chance while it is still playing in theaters. Remember, don’t talk to strangers and don’t let her drink alone.
The most important character in this film is the titular character, because if Aladdin isn’t right then you gotta throw the whole film away. Luckily for Walt Disney Pictures and this remake, they did a tremendous job at casting their main character. Mena Massoud had a big magic carpet to fill and his take on Aladdin was one of the strongest performances in the film, second to his Genie (Will Smith).
Massoud’s singing is fine, the “A Whole New World” bit sounds better in the original movie but the visuals are great in this version.
Scott’s portrayal of Princess Jasmine is fine. Princess Jasmine and Aladdin had some chemistry at times but it felt like Guy Ritchie didn’t give them an adequate amount of direction because it felt like they were going through the motions. The Sultan (Navid Negahban) and Princess Jasmine have a realistic (as can be) father-daughter relationship.
Naomi Scott is a talented actress and singer and the role of Princess Jasmine allowed her to showcase some of her talent. She can sing and hold notes, but her big song moment comes when she performs “Speechless,” a perfect song for what her character’s storyline, but it feels terribly misplaced in the film. It comes right off the heels of another song which makes it seem like it was just crowbarred into the film.
Naomi Scott’s casting as Princess Jasmine did not come without criticism, with some accusing Disney of colorism. Agrabah is a fictional place but it is a fair argument that a film set in the Middle East had most of the darker skinned actors portraying extras/minor roles or evil characters. Disney wants to create more diverse films, but it does seem like they do not want to go out of their way to cast darker skinned actors if they don’t have to. Whenever the eventual Mulan live-action remake comes to theaters, maybe Disney will have learned from Aladdin.
One change from the original animated movie is this film introduces us to a loyal handmaiden to the princess, Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), who is Genie’s love interest in the film. Pedrad has a lot of charisma in the scenes that she is in and she has comedic chops. Despite the age difference her and Genie were a good match and had great chemistry with each other.
Going into this movie, the question that everyone was wondering was how Will Smith will live up to Robin Williams’ portrayal as the Genie. To set the stage, the year is 2019 and we have an iconic character from the 90s portrayed by an iconic actor from the 90s and it was far better than I expected. Will Smith practically plays Blue Will Smith and he brings credibility to the film.
For much of the film he acts as Aladdin’s wingman, but it works and nothing ever feels forced. Think Hitch but instead of Kevin James, there’s dance numbers and a young Middle Eastern man chasing after a princess. Will Smith’s singing does need work, in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen, we have autotune but I guess the sound crew thought Smith didn’t need it – Reader, they were wrong. But where this – *squints* – 180 million dollar production misses the mark is the CGI when the Genie appears. Look at these pictures:
There are times where Genie’s blue body doesn’t even match his head. For a 180 million dollar production, you would think someone at Disney would’ve done a better job. Disney has some of the best animators in the world so this disheveled looking Genie should’ve never happened. For all the hate that the Dumbo remake gets, at least they took time to make Dumbo look nice. Maybe Genie suffered from rushed reshoots that limited post-production, but if there is a prequel film then I hope they take their time to get it right.
The most disappointing character in this live-action remake is Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). I know it’s 2019 and certain things from 1992 wouldn’t appeal to today’s audience, but if you’re going to have a different take on the character at least give it some sort of personality besides “generic evil bad guy #1.”
Kenzari has an expressive face but outside of that the movie doesn’t do much with Jafar and since he plays such a huge part in the film his scenes are – for a lack of better words – boring. I don’t think Kenzari deserves all the blame for Jafar’s mishaps because the character feels underwritten as a whole for a live-action film.
Jafar’s talking and wisecracking scarlet macaw Iago doesn’t talk much in this film. He spends most of the movie just making one-off comments and this takes a layer away from Jafar’s character in the process. The film tries to give Jafar a backstory to make the audience understand why he’s such a great villain, but it isn’t slightly compelling.
The film ends with a way to set up a possible Return of the Jafar-esque sequel, but that’s something that should stay on the drawing board for now. It’s criminal that one of the most iconic Disney villains has had his personality stripped away and replaced with no sense of unique character traits. The protagonist is only as good as the antagonist that they have to overcome and Jafar sinks Aladdin’s magic carpet.
For a film such as Aladdin, the template was created in 1992, so for any future remake all the cast and crew has to do is not mess it up. There isn’t much going on in this remake to set it apart from the previous version, but the design teams and their artistry give this film life. Game of Thrones production designer Gemma Jackson was tasked with production design while Michael Wilkinson handled the costume design.
The costumes have a Bollywood type of feel with their bright colors and intricate garb that gives the background characters some personality. Just watching it on the big screen it’s hard not to be drawn in by the people of Agrabah. Just look at the image below:
And to watch all of this in motion is the true meaning of visual art. When the Genie performs the “Prince Ali” number, Will Smith can’t sing that well but as you’re watching all the set pieces, extras and colorful costumes, they distract from Smith’s singing voice to create an enjoyable scene.
After watching the trailers for this film I went into this one with low expectations, surprisingly, it was better than I expected. The biggest complaint that I had with this remake is that when I walked out of the theater I couldn’t help but think that this movie didn’t have to be made. There was never a moment in the film that really felt fresh or better than the original animated version of Aladdin. Based on the trailers, Will Smith’s Genie looked questionable at best, but after watching the entire film he’s the best part of it. Never judge a blue CGI man by his cover, I guess? He brings a sense of culture (by acting like Will Smith) to the role of the Genie that some may not enjoy but for me it worked. He and Aladdin have great chemistry, but whenever they’re not on screen the movie suffers at times.
The production of the film is phenomenal, there was a lot of time put into the costumes and set pieces and I would not be shocked if there was an Oscar nomination to be had in the future. The sequencing of some of the musical numbers was frustrating, especially the song Jasmine sings in the third act because it’s completely out of place. Jafar is also disappointing. With that said, Aladdin is a serviceable remake of a timeless classic and I would not be opposed to a Maleficent-style prequel for Will Smith’s Genie. If the House of Mouse is going all in on these cash grabs, then at least with this one the titular character plays a major part in the film unlike their other remake. A whole generation of kids will grow up watching this version of Aladdin which could’ve been better yet also much, much worse.
Sometimes high school students get so caught up in their studies and preparing for their future that they do not take the time to live in the moment and enjoy the final days of their youth. Booksmart follows two bookworms as they try to party and cut loose during their last day of classes a few days before graduation. The film is Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut with leading ladies Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. Spoilers after the trailer.
The film’s plot has been done countless times before in other movies. Two strait-laced pretentious high school students that are the outcast of their class attempt to do something radical so they can fit in with their classmates. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends who have never done anything fun because they’ve been focusing on getting into good colleges; however, it turns out that their classmates who have been partying and having fun have also got into those same colleges.
Olivia Wilde’s direction shines early on in the film. The scene when Molly finds out that her negligent peers are going to elite schools such as Yale and Stanford, the camera does a close shot on Molly’s face while allowing the world around her to keep moving. This lets the audience capture the panic on her face and is symbolic of how Molly has always been focused without realizing the world around her has kept moving. Once Molly tells her classmates that they don’t care about school, Anabelle/Triple A (Molly Gordon) lets it be known that they don’t only care about school. A nice bit of dialogue that explains the mentality of Molly and Amy versus everyone else in the class. The scene functions as social commentary that no matter what you do – someone can put in half the amount of work you do and end up in the same spot.
What makes Booksmart different from similar films such as Superbad, Ladybird, mid90sand other post-2000 coming-of-age films is its unpredictability and the dynamics of the friendship between Molly and Amy. Molly is the alpha of the two, yet Amy is the one who’s more normal and doesn’t pick fights with all of their classmates. Amy being a lesbian adds a fresh twist when things don’t work out between her and her crush Ryan (Victoria Ruesga).
Wilde’s direction shines again once Amy discovers Ryan making out with Molly’s crush Nick (Mason Gooding), which causes an argument between Molly and Amy. Visually, the pair are arguing and yelling at each other but the audience doesn’t hear what they’re saying, instead the film uses its score to its advantage by adding an extra depth of emotion.
The humor throughout the film is vulgar, raunchy and unpredictable. There is a lot going on that once you think the film is going in one direction it does a complete 180 and surprises you which is why the film feels so fresh. By the time the movie is over you want to spend more time with the characters which is always a good feeling.
A Class of Characters
Booksmart is a film filled with fun and well-written characters that make it memorable from start to finish. Since Molly and Amy act like they’re better than everyone else at their school, it’s hard to feel bad for them when all the other kids leave them out of the parties that are happening this weekend. George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) are a dysfunctional couple who host a murder-mystery party that, unpredictably, transitions into a claymation scene. The claymation scene is a result of Molly and Amy eating drugged strawberries, as the pair are tripping out George, Alan and the other party guests who are puzzled by what’s going on.
The students aren’t the only ones who shine in Booksmart. The movie comments on how educators need a second a job, with Principal Brown (Jason Sudeikis) also moonlighting as a Lyft driver. Amy and Molly are taken by surprise when they’re picked up by their principal while using Lyft. There’s an awkward moment that involves a bluetooth speaker and pornography!
Later on while searching for the location of Nick’s party, they try to hold Pat the Pizza Guy (Mike O’Brien) as a hostage until he tells them where he delivered the pizzas. This is a hilarious scene because Amy and Molly have no idea what they’re doing and Pat patronizes them. He even pulls a gun on them before making them get out of his car.
The most awkward adult to student relationship between teacher and students is between the appropriately named Ms. Fine (Jessica Williams) and her class. Ms. Fine is the young and hip teacher that her class adores because she’s cool. She gives Amy and Molly a ride to Nick’s party and she ends up partying with her graduating students. She is a surrogate big sister to Molly and Amy after giving them advice and telling them that she used to be like them in high school and did a complete 180 while in college. Oh, and she hooks up with one of her students, Theo (Eduardo Franco), who is older than most of his classmates.
After being heartbroken, things ended on a good note for Amy as she kissed her first girl, Hope (Diana Silvers). Hope is the cruel girl who keeps to herself but when she talks people take notice. Silvers was perfectly cast because she had the right demeanor of quiet, confident and commanding.
The actress who stole the show throughout the film was Billie Lourd and her portrayal as Gigi. Every time Gigi appeared on-screen she was random and eccentric but never annoying. Gigi is the richest girl at the school and her classmates joke that she and her boyfriend Jared (Skyler Gisondo) are the one percent.
Lourd does an outstanding job with this character and what she is given. She may have 10 minutes, if that much, of screen time and she made every second count. Her character was mysterious but never felt vague and she could’ve been in it more to be honest.
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is one of the best comedies that has hit the big screen so far in 2019. Booksmart is an unpredictable, raunchy comedy that has been boosted thanks to its wide range of characters. It may not have the box office success that Annapurna Pictures would like it to have, but there are going to be a lot of actors and actresses from this film that will breakout like the stars of Superbad over a decade ago. Kaitlyn Devers and Beanie Feldstein shine in their lead roles.
Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd especially shine the brightest in this one. This film was written and directed by women and the actresses brought their A-game to it. If this one is currently playing near you then I’d definitely recommend giving this one a viewing. If you’re interested in getting a sense of the movie before going to the theater then I have good news! Annapurna Pictures has released the first 6 minutes of the film on their Youtube:
What if Superman crash landed on Earth and used his powers for evil? Director David Yarovesky’s newest film Brightburn, attempts to answer that question. The superhero-horror is written by Brian and Mark Gunn and stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman and Jackson A. Dunn. The film follows a young alien boy who realizes he has powers and begins to terrorize the citizens of Brightburn, Kansas. Spoilers after the trailer.
It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A Disturbed Kid
Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) are a couple that want to have a child but they are experiencing infertility issues, unexpectedly, their whole life changes when a spaceship containing an alien boy crashes on their farm. The Breyers adopted the boy, named him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), and raised him as their own. Fast forward twelve years and Brandon is going through this weird phase of puberty where he hears voices in his head and discovers that he has super strength.
While cutting the grass, Brandon discovers he has superpowers once he tries to crank the lawnmower and throws it hundreds of feet away. This was a smooth way to show the change in his body and show the audience he has super strength. He puts his hand on the spinning lawnmower blade and jams it. This establishes the moment that he realizes he’s different from humans. Brandon was sleepwalking later that night after the voices in his head drew him to the barn, which is where his family had hidden his spaceship. His mother takes notice and catches him trying to open a trapdoor and wakes him up. Later in the film, when Brandon violently kills the chickens in the barn, his mother, who at this point KNOWS SOMETHING IS UP WITH HER CHILD, is comically naive and thinks that wolves broke into a locked barn and slaughtered those chickens. More on this later.
Another positive that Brightburn has is its leading actor Jackson A. Dunn, who made a decent debut in his first leading role in a feature film. A big part of this movie relies on him pulling off the weird/strange kid vibe and he successfully does that.
There are times where the horror aspects of the film are effective. The scene where Brandon becomes his alter-ego Brightburn and murders Erica (Becky Wahlstrom) at her diner does a lot with a little. There is a piece of glass that is stuck in Erica’s eye and as she’s panicking and slowly pulls it out, it creates the most tense scene in the film.
The superhero aspect of the film is where the movie falls apart. This film functions as an origin story for Brightburn and there are moments where Brandon states that he wants to be good but the movie never shows us an example of him conflicting with the morality of the harm he caused. The movie doesn’t even explain why Brandon starts misbehaving in the first place, instead he becomes evil because the script says so and it’s very jarring. Jackson A. Dunn’s character never felt fully developed and during the 90 minute runtime there was so much going plot wise by the end of the film you do not care about any of the characters because they end up being forgettable.
“Trying to create a really truly iconic horror movie character in the same way that Freddy Krueger is, or in the same way that Leatherface is, or in the same way that Jason is. Trying to create something with that same sort of feel that is instantly scary [and] plays with the superhero-ness of it all but at the same time is most definitely rooted in horror.”
The costume pictured above is the final result and for me this costume looked goofy, like something you would expect in a parody or a superhero-comedy. The idea is that a kid would create a costume like that but even children are more imaginative than this. There’s a scene in the film where a character says that it looks creepy but if this movie took place in the real world Brightburn would be ROASTED. For Gunn to mention Krueger and Leatherface in the same sentence as that is an insult to those iconic characters. The movie establishes that Brandon is intelligent, demented and has a twisted mind and his costume would’ve been a great way to show that, instead we get a kid who looks like he put his head in a crocheted sock with laces on it. Sigh.
Outside of the film’s terrible costume design, the writing is this film’s ultimate kryptonite. In Superman lore the most hokey thing is that the people (mostly reporters) who know of Superman and Clark Kent cannot tell the two apart even though all he does is comb his hair and take off his glasses. Brightburn doubles down on that type of idiocy with its most frustrating character, Tori Breyer. A recurring trope of a supernatural kid horror film is that one of the parents can never believe that their baby could do such a heinous act – usually the child ends up killing the other parent and OF COURSE that happens in this film too – Brightburn wears that trope to the ground.
Tori has adopted an alien child that CRUSHED the hand of another student at school and lacks remorse about it; she’s seen him be drawn to the alien spaceship in her barn where her chickens are slaughtered and she thinks that it’s a wolf; and her husband as raised legitimate concerns about their son’s behavior after Brandon chewed up a fork like his mouth was made of a garbage disposal. Through all those things listed she still did not want to believe that her alien son was a monster. It was nauseating to watch her in denial when all the evidence was there and with better writing then – maybe – the audience could understand the disbelief that she had. Her character was introduced as someone that was having fertility issues and somehow by the time you walked out of the theater you realized that Darwinism was working because not everyone should be a parent.
With superhero content being a trend that everyone is attempting to cash in on these days,Brightburn ends up being as disappointing as the (latest) films that the main character is loosely based on. Hopefully, one day there’s a superhero-horror film that delivers on the idea that this film attempts to execute. The Gunns have a lofty idea, but this movie turns out to be disappointing and boring at times. The horror works at times, the glass in the eye scene is tough to watch for those that are squeamish. The film doesn’t delve into the superhero aspect enough outside of Brightburn having Superman’s powers, everything else is halfway thought out. The character development is non-existent and the film doesn’t offer any depth to Brandon Breyer or why he’s evil outside of him going through puberty. Clocking in at 90 minutes, the plot is rushed, which is why it’s hard to feel any sort of emotion for Tori Breyer once Brightburn finally kills her. In 2019 alone, there have been plenty of horror films released with parents in denial, and films where the mother of a supernatural boy who didn’t make her denial of her son’s evil deeds feel as tiring. The gorey moments are fun to watch, but overall, this one wasn’t worth the price of admission. The film ends with news reports of Brightburn causing havoc on the rest of the planet to possibly set up a sequel. On top of that the song that starts with the ending credits is ‘Bad Guy’ by Billie Eilish, which couldn’t even be more on the nose.When James Gunn’s brother Brian and cousin Mark came together with the bright idea of creating a superhero-horror, the final results crashed and burned like the pod that Brandon Breyers arrived in.
In Latin, si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war – and in the third installment of the John Wick series, the titular character stays ready for whatever. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum finds the titular assassin on the run after a $14 million dollar bounty is placed on his head following the events of John Wick: Chapter 2. Chad Stahelski returns as director in this neo-noir action thriller with Keanu Reeves, Lance Riddick, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne reprising their roles. They’re joined by Halle Berry, Asia Kate Dillon, Anjelica Huston, Mark Dacascos and Saïd Taghmaoui. Spoilers after the trailer.
Following the events of John Wick: Chapter 2, the film begins with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) on the run as an “excommunicado” on the run after killing Santino on the grounds at the safe haven of the Continental Hotel. At the time of writing this review, I haven’t seen the first two films but the film does a good job at explaining what’s going on for the people who are new to it.
For fans of action, this movie delivers within the first 10 minutes. Have you ever seen a man kill another man with a book? The first fight scene is a brawl in a library between John Wick and Ernest (Boban Marjanovic) and it is brutal. Ernest is a mountain of a man and he towers over Wick yet he’s checked out of life by Wick with a book. The way this scene is filmed with wide shots gives the action a sense of atmosphere.
Boban Marjanovic is an NBA player and the 7’3″ center had a solid feature film debut. His role was pretty much a cameo but the direction did a good job at using him to be intimidating. When paired with Keanu Reeves, the Yugoslavian-born player towers over him and the film does a good job selling the idea that Reeves could win in a fight.
Ride Until I Can’t No More
Have you ever wondered what it would look like to see a man on a horse kill multiple men on motorcycles? There’s a violent action scene where Wick disposes of multiple assassins on a horse and it’s visually appealing to watch. The problem with this scene is that as nice and cool as it was filmed, logically it doesn’t make much sense because you’d think the assassins would shoot his horse.
But this isn’t a movie where one has to think about logic because the fight scenes are what makes this movie. Director Chad Stahelski is a former stuntman who has an eye for capturing action in the most imaginative of ways. When paired with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, the duo created a film that always felt fresh during its action sequences. As Wick progresses through the film, each battle he uses a different weapon and a different fighting style which showcases how innovative an assassin that Wick is.
The only issue is that whenever he’s hurt in the film, it’s forgotten about in the next scene. John Wick gets hit by a car and gets up and walks it off. If one of the minions’ stab or cut him, he’s fine and doesn’t even flinch. There are moments in the movie where Wick is so invincible that if John Wick was an Avenger he’d kill Thanos because nothing could hurt him. This becomes somewhat frustrating to watch because the stakes are drastically decreased since it never feels like our hero is in danger.
Things go from fun and action pack to comical and goofy when John Wick fights Zero (Mark Dacascos), the main antagonist of the film, in the middle of an unnoticed public. Wick literally kills a man in front of everyone and no one seems to be bothered. For most of the film, the assassins have executed most of their killings discreetly but during this scene all of that goes out the window.
Who Let The Dogs Out?
Outside of the action scenes, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum excels with its world building. John meets Sofia (Halle Berry), a friend and manager of the Casablanca Continental. Sofia is the proud owner of two German Shepherds that are the living embodiment of fur missiles. Sofia and her dogs assisted Wick in his quest to find the Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui) but they ran into some trouble along the way. After gaining knowledge of the Elder’s place from Berrada (Jerome Flynn), he asks for one of Sofia’s dogs in return, however, she does not abide which causes him to shoot her dog. A reference to a previous movie. Berrada isn’t a good shot and shoots the dog in its bulletproof vest and this causes the film’s best action scene to take place.
The wide shots were used at their best during the scene as Sofia’s dogs bit down on the opposition. She’s directing traffic and they go where they’re told. They’re jumping over things, attacking other assassins with accuracy, and left me thinking that they need a spin-off involving Sofia and her dogs. Halle Berry’s character had around 15 to 20 minutes of screentime but for me, she stole the show.
Every fight scene in this movie felt like John was completing a level in a game, so after he and Sofia cleaned house, John tells her he’s going to finish looking for the Elder. The Elder lives in the desert, Sofia and John have only a squig out of a single bottle of water left until Sofia drinks it and spits it back into the bottle. Earlier, the film hinted that something in the past went down between these two and this was a nice way to follow up on that implication in the context of the film. This is also a great way to humanize Sofia and make you want to know more about her character.
The world building doesn’t stop with Sofia, this film introduces the Adjudicator for the High Table (Asia Kate Dillon) and they’re truly terrifying. They spend much of the film confronting and punishing everyone who has assisted the now excommunicated Wick. The Adjudicator is the one that recruits Zero to assassinate Wick, they violently make The Director (Anjelica Huston) and the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) pay for going against the rule of the High Table. Winston (Ian McShane) doesn’t want to give up his ownership of the Continental Hotel and this sets up the final fight scene of the film.
Asia Kate Dillon was perfectly cast for their role as the Adjudicator because they’re menacing and take command on-screen when confronting the allies of Wick. Dillon’s cold demeanor makes their character feel as if nothing is personal and they’re just doing their job, which adds a layer to the role of the Adjudicator. If there is a fourth film, I hope they return to the role.
Fishburne plays up the craziness of the homeless Bowery King. He’s wonky, deranged and tells the Adjudicator that he’s too big for the High Table to stop his reign. When the film ends, the setup of his character in a possible sequel will be interesting to see what is next for him.
Filled with well choreographed action sequences and an impressive cast of stars, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is an enjoyable neo-noir action thriller. Keanu Reeves is the perfect embodiment of his character and the world-building elevates the franchise for exciting future stories to tell, especially with Sofia and her dogs. The biggest complaint is that John Wick never sells his injuries and it makes his character seem invincible, which drastically lowers the stakes throughout the film. Hopefully, in the eventual fourth film, this is something that Stahelski will address to create a more compelling film. John Wick 3 lives up to Parabellum subtitle, because the titular character keeps the piece, which is why he’s prepared for war.
[All Mames Wey]
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum was released in theaters May 17, 2019
The feeling of being an outcast is something most people can relate to. Most families have a black sheep – that one family member who is different from everyone else – yet a sense of normalcy is something everyone wants to capture. Director-writer Laura Steinel’s directorial debut, Family, is a comedy that thoughtfully examines the idea of being a black sheep while exploring one of the least represented American subcultures in film. The plot follows a career-driven Kate Stone (Taylor Schilling) as she has to babysit her 13 year old awkward niece Maddie Stone (Bryn Vale). Family also stars Brian Tyree Henry, Allison Tolman, Fabrizio Guido, Kate McKinnon, Matt Walsh, Jessie Ennis, Eric Edelstein and Peter Horton. Spoilers after the trailer.
A Similar Pairing
Maddie Stone is the weird kid at her school, she’s bullied by the other girls, her parents shelter her and she’s going through the typical teenage angst of trying to figure herself out, whereas her aunt Kate Stone is loathed by her co-workers, she’s career oriented to the point that she doesn’t talk to her family, and she’s completely full of herself. When Maddie’s parents have to leave town for an emergency they ask if Kate can watch over here while they’re away. This sets up a week of hijinks where the pair try creating a bond with each other.
Kate has a high ranking position at her job and in every scene that takes place at her workplace she’s belittling. all of her co-workers, even her boss isn’t safe. There’s a funny scene in the beginning where Kate is talking about why pregnancy means you’re ruining your career during a baby shower for one of her coworkers. This allows the audience to get an idea of her character while weaving it into the story of the film without filling the movie with exposition. To say that Kate lacks social awareness is an understatement to say the least; she gives out terrible advice to her understudy Erin (Jessie Ennis), when it comes to moving up in the company. Ironically, Kate doesn’t listen to anyone else’s advice. Maddie’s parents give Kate a list of foods that Maddie has reactions to and should not eat but self-absorbed Kate doesn’t care about that. She even asks Maddie’s parents if she’ll die if she eats them and they tell her no, so she bypasses their concerns. This led to Maddie eating chicken parmesan for five nights straight and she ends up having a reaction from eating too much of it.
The relationship between Maddie and Kate is like, if the parenting of Big Daddy met the awkwardness of Eight Grade with the coming of age of Lady Bird and if someone threw the subculture of Juggalo into that mix. This creates a movie that feels familiar yet unique, which director-writer Laura Steinel should be applauded for. Once the layers are peeled back, Maddie and Kate are more alike than they appear. Both are outcasts, but one chooses to be whereas the other is forced. Kate can relate to Maddie because when Kate was her age she was weird and awkward, which is something they bonded over.
The theme of outcasts uniting continues once Maddie meets a gas station cashier named Dennis aka Baby Joker (Fabrizio Guido). He introduces her to the Juggalo lifestyle which is something that Kate thinks is weird and warns Maddie to stay away from. This was Guido’s first performance and this was a perfect role for him because he has the mannerisms of a Juggalo.
In an interview with Uproxx, Laura Steinel stated that this film took her three years to make and she went to The Gathering of the Juggalos, the official musical festival for Juggalos, to capture footage which adds to the film’s authenticity. The scenes at The Gathering were shot tight and Steinel wore a blonde wig to stand in for Schilling and they did a good job at filming this because it’s not noticeable in the film. The founders of Juggalos’ Insane Clown Posse even made a cameo appearance in the film, which makes this a Juggalo approved film.
Sensei Pete (Brian Tyree Henry) is Maddie’s karate sensei and he serves as the moral compass of the film. Maddie’s parents are forcing her to take a dance class, which is something she has no interest in, so she’s been sneaking into Pete’s karate class and learning a few moves.
Brian Tyree Henry has these little nuances in his acting that make a minor role something to pay attention to. He reprimanded Kate for being irresponsible while she was babysitting Maddie. You can tell that Sensei Pete cares about his students and wants what is best for her. When Maddie gets in trouble at school, Sensei Pete is her contact for emergencies which lets us know what she thinks of him.
On the other hand, Kate McKinnon would’ve benefited by dialing it down a lot and playing her character instead of playing Kate McKinnon. Jill (Kate McKinnon) is Maddie’s neighbor and she is pretty much the housing authority of the neighborhood and constantly tells Kate to put the garage door down, so none of the neighborhood kids get crushed to death by it. It’s not a weird request, maybe, somewhat, overdramatic but it’s used as a joke in the film. The payoff is funny, but McKinnon adlibs and oversells it to the point where it comes off as too cartoonish. In the film, McKinnon is funny, but at times she would overdo her shtick. If Steinel could’ve reeled her in a bit with more direction than her performance would’ve been more enjoyable.
It is not everyday that we get to see a Juggalo approved film hit the big screen, which helps make Family something different. Taylor Schilling proves she’s not just Orange is the New Black, and this film allowed her to show off her comedic chops. Bryn Vale held her own when paired with Schilling and both of them made their characters believable. Add the role of Sensei Pete to Brian Tyree Henry’s impressive range of playing different character types and in time he’ll have an Oscar added to his name. Laura Steinel’s directorial debut is worth going to see on the big screen if you’re looking to see something unique. If this one is playing near you, join the family or get left out.
[All Mames Wey]
Family was released in theaters on March 22, 2019.
The visual effects team that worked on this film deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects because they miraculously pulled this off without making the Pokémon look awkward, sloppy or out of place. The majority of the film takes place in Ryme City, a city where humans and Pokémon live in harmony amongst each other. The way the effects team were able to make Ryme City feel like an actual city was astonishing. There’s a scene where the screen is occupied to its fullest capacity and establishes that someone took their time and deliberately made every Pokémon count.
Even when Pokémon are in the frame by themselves, the details are robust and they feel like actual creatures instead of pocket monsters. When the script calls for them to emit some sort of emotion, the facial expressions and eye movement convey the message effortlessly. The Psyduck below is the face of confusion and Bulbasaur has the eyes of someone who knows what’s going on. In the context of the film, the little things make it more impactful when it happens.
Outside of the visual effects, the other thing that POKÉMON: Detective Pikachu has going for it, is the chemistry between its two leads, Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith. Reynolds is at his wisecracking tactics as if he had just walked off the set of Deadpool and Smith counteracts that by acting as the straight man, which is a formula for a few hearty laughs. The film starts out in a serious tone, but as soon as Reynolds’ Pikachu comes into frame, that’s when the humor makes its entrance and never exits. Being that this is a PG film some of the jokes don’t land but overall, the pairing work perfectly off of each other.
Kathryn Newton, Bill Nighy, and Ken Watanabe make up the notable cast members who have solid roles in the film. The problem is the writing in the film doesn’t give them much to do. Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) is a reporter and early on in the film before Pikachu is introduced, she has some sort of motive and character for her. Once she and Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) start working together, she just becomes a sidekick for him and Pikachu. The film also becomes predictable as soon as Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) is introduced. Clifford looks like he’s up to something nefarious so by the time the third act happens things are not surprising at all. The last act felt like it just took place for the film to hit beats but since the visual effects were so well done, it was still a fun watch.
Another area of improvement is the amount of exposition the flashback scenes used. Every single time there was a flashback hologram scene it was just used as a way for the film to tell the audience what was going on. The flashbacks might as well have been narration because that’s how they functioned within the film’s storytelling. There are around four scenes of “holographic security footage” that provide answers to the mysteries the main characters are trying to solve which make it feel like a cop out of the film’s mysterious aspect that it set up in the beginning.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu is a kids movie, which is why it’s predictable plot hurts and helps the film simultaneously. For children the plot is something easy for them to understand but for adults it’s something we’ve seen time and time again. As far as a movie that’s based on a video game, Detective Pikachu is probably the best one I’ve seen in a long time. The world-building is phenomenal and the movie is amusing from start to finish. Compared to a lot of properties that become films for cash grab nostalgic reasons, Detective Pikachu delivers and never feels as if the crew behind the scenes did not have a passion for this project. Warner Brothers and the other studios involved allowed director Rob Letterman to stay at the helm and direct his vision as it worked to the benefit of both parties. With rumors circulating that a live-action film based on Pokemon Red and Blue is currently under development, I’m looking forward to the future for the franchise based on pocket monsters.
[All Mames Wey]
The Public was released in theaters April 5, 2019.
A couple of weeks ago, we were treated (to use that word very loosely) to the first official trailer for Paramount Pictures’ upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film. Based on the Sega video game franchise of the same name, the film is directed by Jeff Fowler and written by Patrick Casey, Josh Miller, and Oren Uziel, from a story by Van Robichaux and Evan Susser. Sonic the Hedgehog will star Ben Schwartz as the voice of the titular character and Jim Carrey as Sonic’s nemesis Doctor Ivo “Eggman” Robotnik. They’ll be joined by James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Neal McDonough and Adam Pally. The plot of the film centers around a sheriff helping Sonic escape from the government that is led by Robotnik. Check out the trailer below and look at the like and dislike ratio while you’re at it.
The reason why I’m just now writing about this trailer is because I wanted to wait after I saw and reviewed Detective Pikachu which is another film based on a video game. Based off of the trailer, this Sonic film looks like it has set video game movies back at least 30 years. This still from the trailer appears to be the moment that Sonic looked in the mirror and saw what “the producers of The Fast and The Furious” created:
Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had to ask the question:
This poorly designed Sonic has a textbook look of confusion. His eyes are questioning everything it has ever seen, the Blue Blur has become a blur to himself as he’s processing an image that has bestowed upon the mirror. His jaw-dropping and wide open mouth are signs of disbelief that Paramount will try to cash grab a video gaming icon in this manner. If you’re going to try and cash grab nostalgia, at least make it adorable and not creepy. No shame. No shame at all. Once Sonic’s brain processed the image, the primal scream of realizing what Sonic is seeing was captured here:
AND WE ALL FEEL YOU SONIC!!! You deserve better than whatever this sick joke is. Luckily, director Jeff Fowler has listened to the backlash the film received after the release of the trailer Tweeted this:
Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren't happy with the design & you want changes. It's going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be… #sonicmovie#gottafixfast 🔧✌️
Hopefully, there will be enough time for the visual effects team to give Sonic a redesign that doesn’t look rushed or sloppy. On another note, the Sonic theme is a staple of video game culture and choosing Coolio’s hit-single “Gangsta’s Paradise” as the soundtrack to the trailer was another terrible choice. If you’re not going to choose a song from Sonic at the very least, make it fit the tone of the film, if they had to use that song then make an 8-bit version.
As for the villain, Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik acts like he just walked off the set of ***insert the title of one of Jim Carrey’s 1990s comedies here*** and I do not mean that in a good way. He’s too campy in this trailer and doesn’t capture the essence of Eggman. Nothing about this trailer made it feel like it was made by someone that likes Sonic as a property, instead everything from start to finish looks mishandled. Assuming that the before and after photos of Robotnik are going to make the final cut of the film, it’s easy to assume that this movie will be an origin story for the character because he ends up with his bald head and trademark mustache.
Based on that still, they somewhat have Eggman’s look down which, I guess, is a good sign. If Fowler’s visual effects team can create a Sonic that doesn’t look like an abomination, then the movie may end up being tolerable. Maybe the trailer was just a marketing stunt to get people talking about the film to create a buzz. All I know is that the Sega Dreamcast didn’t die for its flagship character to be handled on the big screen this way.
Sonic The Hedgehog is scheduled to be released in theaters on November 8, 2019.
Romantic comedies where the male lead is outkicking the coverage are a staple in Hollywood cinema and Seth Rogen’s latest rom-com title could be seen as a cheeky reference to that. Long Shot follows a journalist who reconnects with his former babysitter, who is now the United States Secretary of State. The film stars Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron, O’Shea Jackson Jr., June Diane Raphael, Bob Odenkirk, Andy Serkis, Alexander Skarsgård, and Ravi Patel. Spoilers after the trailer.
From where the film starts to where it ends is a long shot within itself. Long Shot opens up with a Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist who is infiltrating a white supremacist camp to expose them for an upcoming story. Unfortunately for Flarsky, he’s outed while getting a Swastika tattoo and the white supremacists are about to attack him, luckily he escapes by jumping out of a window. Meanwhile, the former hit-show television actor who played the president on TV turned elected official, President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk), has decided to forgo running for re-election, instead he wants to become a movie star. He even made a proclamation that only two actors, Woody Harrelson and George Clooney, have successfully made the transition from television to film. With the news that President Chambers is not running for re-election, United States Secretary of State Charlotte Fields (Charlize Theron) has the opportunity to become the first female president in the history of the United States.
The paper that Flarsky writes for has been bought out by right-wing media mogul Parker Wembley (Adam Sirkis), who I barely recognized, which causes Flarsky to quit his job because his morals would not allow him to work for someone like Wembley. An unemployed Flarsky goes to a Boys II Men performance with his best friend Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) and this is where he begins his reconnection with Charlotte Fields. In this raunchy comedy, it turns out that Charlotte was Flarsky’s babysitter and he got an erection in front of her and it was the most embarrassing moment of his life.
While gathering data for the upcoming election, public opinion polls show that the public doesn’t think Charlotte Fields has shown that she has a sense of humor, which is why she hires Flarsky as a speechwriter because his writings have personality and color to them. The film does a great job at setting up the dichotomy between the ever so serious Fields and the pessimistically comedic Flarsky. Fields’ campaign team does not want Flarsky on the team because he’s a slob and his public image will eviscerate her election chances.
The on-screen comedic chemistry between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron is perfect. Rogen’s brand of humor is the ying to Theron’s yang. Theron’s character is someone who is committed to her job with a demanding schedule and when you add Rogen’s brash yet self-absorbed character, it allows the pair to have funny moments. Fields and Flarsky have a molly infused night out in Paris, unbeknownst to them, there is a hostage situation which requires the Press Secretary to negotiate. Fields, a first time molly user, is thrown into a highly stressful situation as she has to negotiate the life of a hostage, but the film doesn’t make it feel melodramatic and takes a humorous approach.
The main characters aren’t the only well-written characters in this film, the side characters also shine too. O’Shea Jackson Jr. is a scene stealer in this one. Sure, his character is a “black best friend” trope, but he does a terrific job with what he is given. The bits with Lance and Flarsky naturally feel like two best friends hanging out. They never come off as forced or trying to be funny for the sake of comedy. There’s a bit where Lance reveals that he’s a Christian black Republican, and Flarsky assumed that Lance only wore a cross because it was a “cultural thing.” Because of this, Lance calls out Flarsky for being racist which the liberal Flarsky condemns himself for being an accidental racist.
On the other side of things, Charlotte Fields’ campaign staff is just as amusing. Maggie Millikin (June Diane Raphael) is one of Fields’ key staffers and she has it out for Flarsky. Throughout the film, she does her best to convince Charlotte that bringing Flarsky on board was a terrible decision. Whenever Millikin and Flarsky interact, tension and animosity play up for comedic effect, but their passive-aggressive dislike is real. June Diane Raphael’s casting was perfect for this type of role as she emits a condescending vibe without it ever feeling forced.
When it comes to the romantic portion of this romantic comedy, this is where the film seems to struggle. As great as the comedic chemistry between Rogen and Theron is, their romantic chemistry leaves much to be desired. Long Shot does its best to convince us that Fields and Flarsky are in a romantic relationship, but the only time it seems like they’re in love is because the script says so. The whole cat and mouse game feels forced and a jarring contrast to their comedic pairing. As a comedy, Theron and Rogen bounce off each other effortlessly, but every time the script reminds us that this is a romance, it’s hard not to roll your eyes because it’s so absurd.
Again, the film’s setup is that Fields was Flarsky’s babysitter nearly 20 years ago, he had a crush on her and now they rekindled and fell in love. Unfortunately, throughout the whole film the romance never feels like they feel in love, instead it’s just a late 30s year-old man that has a juvenile-like crush on an early 40s year-old woman. Everything that Flarsky loves about Fields happened over two decades ago, which is what he brings up throughout the film as if Fields hasn’t changed her ideas or motives in that timeframe.
Like many of Seth Rogen’s comedic films, Long Shot is raunchy and vulgar yet funny and has charming moments. The casting helps elevate it through its, cringeworthy at times, romantic plotline. The main characters and many of the side characters have plenty of moments where they shine as actual people. There are moments that parody real life events and news networks. If you’re going to see this as a date movie there is an action scene for the fellas, so it’s not a long shot to say that this move had something for everybody. It is a shame that this film is going under the radar since it premiered a week after what may be the highest grossing film of all-time, but charge it to the game.
WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the pilot episode of the upcoming Amazon series The Boys
All aboard the hype train that is the superhero genre and its coronation of becoming a staple in American pop culture. From movies, traditional television shows, video games, comic books to web series, superhero content has transcended media in a single bound at the speed of a locomotive and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Comics were once called funny books and now studios are laughing all the way to the bank, at the time of writing this article, a film based on superheros is the fastest film ever to gross over $2 billion dollars. With this financial success, the most valuable company in the world has launched a new, darker take on the genre with The Boys, a show that is based on the Garth Ennis comic book series of the same name, on their Prime Video streaming service.
In The Boys, the ‘supes’ are not goody two-shoes or noble, instead they embrace their darker side, and are corrupted by fame, their ego, engage in reckless behaviors and let their powers go to their head. Behind the scenes the dark-comedy is in good hands as it was developed by Preacher duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. The cast includes Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Elisabeth Shue, Erin Moriarty, Antony Starr, Jessie Usher, Dominique McElligott and Jess Salgueiro. Spoilers after the trailer.
What A World
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg, the pilot episode mostly focuses on world building and informing the audience on what type of characters our heroes are. Vought is an defense contractor that owns The Seven (a la Justice League) and hundreds of other heroes and teams. Vought contracts out heroes to various cities, towns, and organizations to help maintain peace and protect citizens all across America. The Seven are the “best” of the heroes that Vought contracts and they’re a complete parody of the Justice League. The Seven are lead by Homelander (Antony Starr), who is a parody of Superman. Other members include an Aquaman parody known as The Deep (Chace Crawford), a Flash parody named A-Train (Jessie Usher), a Wonder Woman parody named Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott), Black Noir (Alex Hassell) an Invisible Man type hero, and Starlight/Anne January (Erin Moriarty) the newest member of the crew.
The first 10 minutes of the series hits you in the face with what to expect for the rest of the series. Queen Maeve stops an armed robbery in progress in the most traditional superhero wey, even with a superhero pose, yet the show is self-aware of the collateral damage the heroes cause. Once we are introduced to “Wee” Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) the show fully embraces it’s sardonic, grimey, adult, and dark nature in the most unexpected way. Hughie and his girlfriend Rachel (Jess Salgueiro) are a young couple filled with optimism and discussing their dreams, planning out their futures with each other until things become tragic. Rachel is talking as there is a tight shot of Hughie’s face as he’s listening to every word she says until blood just splatters across his cheeks and we don’t hear Rachel talking anymore. Trachtenberg and the effects team did a fantastic job at capturing that captured grief in a comedic way.
A-Train, who runs at speeds that are comparable to Flash, ran through Rachel and this is the catalyst of the conflict between Hughie and our heros. Hughie is offered $45,000 by Vought to sign non-disclosure agreement, an offer his dad (Simon Pegg) tells him to take, but a sadden Hughie feels that Rachel’s life is worth more than that, plus A-Train didn’t even sound like he had a single ounce of sorrow when he apologized for the incident.
The show hammers home that these superheros do not care about anyone but themselves and being a “hero” is just a job to them. No moral code of conduct, no big speeches about great power and responsibility, just a bunch of overpowered employees who acts as worst as any human would. The B-plot focuses on Starlight’s initiation into The Seven. Starlight is from Des Moines, Iowa, she was in hero pageants, and grew up idolizing The Seven, and when she finally gets chosen to join this is her and her mother’s dream come true. In this dark and twisted universe, things aren’t as bright as the seem for Starlight when she has a #MeToo moment with The Deep, a hero that was her favorite ever since she was a child. How the series manages to explore and follow up this moment in future episodes is either going to make or break this series. When it happens in the pilot it’s used as a comedic moment so the resolution for Starlight’s character in a future episode has to have weight to it for this plot point to be worth it.
Made In A Lab
The most promising moments of the first episode of the upcoming Amazon Prime Video series happen when Hughie and Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) interact with each other. Hughie is a self-described Simon and Garfunkel type of guy, one that doesn’t like confrontation or violence and Butcher is the complete opposite of that. Butcher knows about what happened to Rachel and poses as an FBI agent to gain Hughie’s trust, so he can help Hughie scheme up a plan to enact revenge on A-Train and all the insanely egotistical heros at Vought. Which leads up to a violent yet predictable fight scene by the end of the episode.
The pairing of Urban and Quaid were the funniest part of this episode. The oddball pairing have good chemistry and their humor bounces off each other. Urban plays the role of the unpredictable wildman effortlessly and Quaid’s portrayal of the lack of self-esteem nerdy compliments him perfectly. Another dynamic performance comes with Erin Moriarity’s portrayal of Starlight. Moriarity knows how to balance her character’s naivety,apprehensive while showing signs of being fierce in possible future episodes.
Overall, The Boys brings sardonicism to the superhero genre with its tolerable pilot. The show has moments that are genuinely laugh out loud funny, yet it manages to get in it’s own way and stumbles at moments. It brings the graphicness and crude humor in a similar way as Kick-Ass and Watchmen and at times feels like something that should’ve came out during the time when those two were on the big screen.
As a pilot episode, it does a serviceable job at building the world for future episodes which is all anyone can ask for. One thing that The Boys has going for it are the minds behind the scenes, the love for superheroes in popular culture and another comic book based series to compliment the critically acclaimed, The Tick. When The Boys drops on Prime Video in July, it’ll be worth checking out, but hopefully, the rest of the series is closer to the highpoints of its pilot episode.
[All Mames Wey]
The Boys is scheduled to premiere on Amazon Prime Video onJuly 26, 2019.
This section is for the people who went into Avengers:Endgame without seeing the previous twenty-one entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). If you’re someone who has only seen Avengers: Infinity War or is unfamiliar with the way these characters have developed over the past decade, and view Endgame as a standalone, then it probably hits you differently when it comes to your expectations. As a standalone film then I would rate this movie as a FUEGO because the first two acts of this film require you to understand what has transpired in previous films to understand the grasp of the situation. The rest of this review is for the people that have been there since Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) built his first suit in the middle of a cave
Act I: The Fallout
The first hour of Avengers: Endgame picks up right where we left off after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, half of life in the universe has ceased to exist, thanks to The Snap heard around the world by Thanos (Josh Brolin). The first twenty minutes of this film are captivating for various reasons. If you were expecting this film to start off with a bunch of explosions and superheroes doing all the superhero things then lo siento, you’re going to be upset about the start of this film. For a comic book film, Endgame is a masterpiece when it comes to humanizing these characters.
The film opens with Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) teaching his daughter the ways of archery, and then his family turns into dust. Hawkeye is wearing an ankle monitor because of the fallout from the events of Captain America:Civil War. Details like that are what can make or break a film because it shows that the filmmakers took their time and cared about continuity. Oh and Linda Cardellini stopped ghosting and returned as Hawkeye’s wife.
Fast forward twenty-one days, after getting a beatdown by Thanos on Titan, Tony Stark and Nebula (Karen Gillan) are playing a game of paper football. This scene conveyed a lot of development for Nebula because her personality has been humorless and sadistic, which Tony calls her the latter, throughout her appearances in the MCU. Just showing them playing paper football to pass the time as they’re drifting out in space was a great way to humanize both of their characters and create some sort of relationship between two people who are practically strangers. Tony’s heartfelt message to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) would’ve been far more impactful if the film’s trailers didn’t have him in future scenes. At least that would’ve given off the impression that he died on the ship, but Robert Downey Jr. sells it well, so you’re caught up in the moment and convinced he won’t make it. Seriously, doesn’t this look like a man that’s about to die?
When he and Nebula are saved by Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and return to Earth, the film becomes more dramatic. Tony and Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) finally reunite for the first time since the events of Civil War and the emotions are running wild at the Avengers headquarters. Thanos won in Infinity War and every single one of the living heroes in the room, individually, felt like they were the reason that he succeeded with his plan. The temperature in the room is somber, sad, bleek, depressing and the ego of Stark causes more friction between him and Rogers. Their superhero alias aren’t just names, they’re personality traits. Iron Man is a man who is extremely strong willed with his ego and his beliefs versus Captain America, the man that will do whatever he can in the name of freedom even if it isn’t always in the best interest of the universe. The pair squabble and there is a reference to a conversation from Age of Ultron, where Captain America says, “They’ll lose together too,” yet this loss has cost the team and the universe everything. Tony’s arc from the first Iron Man is that he wanted to put the safety of the Earth and its people before anything else, – whatever it takes – by any means necessary. Seeing Earth in this state and going through what he went through during his clash with Thanos on Titan has broken Tony Stark.
The one character that is taking things the hardest is Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and he is, arguably, the one that has lost the most. When Stark arrived at Avengers headquarters he even had to ask what was wrong with Thor. Pictured above, Thor has the look of someone who is poised, angry, focused, and ready to unleash a fury unbeknownst to anyone in the room. The ever so arrogant Captain Marvel wants to bring the fight to Thanos, she even tells the group they didn’t have her in their previous battles. The film has some self-awareness when a character wonders where Captain Marvel has been this whole time and she states that other planets in the galaxy don’t have Avengers. Whenever the eventual Captain Marvel II comes out, hopefully we get an in-depth look into what Carol Danvers has been doing over the past 20 years.
For the people who come for action, Endgame rewards you around the fifteen minute mark. Personally, I enjoyed the slow burn because if the film rushed into the action it would have undermined everything that happened in Infinity War. The emotional journey of creating everything as bleak as possible early on is what makes the third act remarkably rewarding.
When Thanos used the Infinity Gauntlet, he did what he said he was going to do: sit down and watch the sunset. This was his destiny. He has a planet to himself, he’s gardening, retired his armor and used it as a scarecrow, until Carol and the gang ambush him and eventually kill him. After the Mad Titan tells them that he destroyed the stones, Thor unleashes all of that pent up anger and “goes for the head” the same way Thanos told him that he should’ve done in Infinity War. That action works two-fold because it gives the audience a reason to laugh and fits the narrative of the film. The first act of this movie does a good job at intertwining humor with its dramatic tone without it ever feeling misplaced.
While Captain America is helping others, and finding different methods to cope with the events that have transpired so far, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is out there looking like an ACTUAL WIDOW. Of all the characters we’ve seen so far since the five year time jump she is looking the most disheveled. Her red roots have grown out and she looks like she’s doing her best Rogue impression. I’m not sure if that was on purpose, but it is fitting that one of the world’s best assassins, who has been known to go rogue, ends up looking like Rogue. The scene of her eating a peanut butter sandwich just adds to the stress that Black Widow has to be feeling, she went from shwarama to peanut butter sandwiches – no jelly. Just look at her:
Again, the film knows when to mix in the humor to lighten things up without overdoing it. Thanks to a mouse, which had to be a play on Disney’s flagship character, Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is saved from the Quantum Realm. Ant-Man’s reunion with his daughter five years later is one of the most heartfelt scenes in the film – if you’ve seen the other Ant-Man films then you’ll know why. When he goes to Avengers headquarters and reunites with Rogers and Romanoff, the three of them bounce off of each other well. The chemistry between Evans, Rudd and Johanson picks up right where it left off in Civil War.
To counter Roger’s selfishness and Romanoff’s sadness, Tony Stark has moved out to the countryside, raising his daughter with Pepper Potts. Just seeing Stark living in a log cabin is such – sorry for the pun – a stark contrast to how the futurist has been living throughout the rest of the films in the MCU. This is Stark’s second chance to have a family and live out his life. When Stark was trapped in that cave in Iron Man, Yinsen told him “don’t waste your life” which is why he tells Rogers and Romanoff that his main concern is his wife and his daughter. Stark has finally found happiness and he is going to do whatever it takes to keep it and this begins the transition to the film’s second act.
Act II: Time Heist
The second act is where the film’s tone and moods start to shift into a more plucky and optimistic role as our heroes come up with a plan to save the universe. Rogers, Lang and Romanoff eventually got Stark’s help to devise a plan to commit a time heist and travel back to the past to fight Thanos. Romanoff recruits Barton, who is in Japan acting as a vigilante named Ronin, and he’s killing criminals as a coping mechanism for The Snap that killed his family.
After getting the green beat out of him during Infinity War, Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has become one being, known as Professor Hulk. Hulk went from being ostracized from Earth to being a loveable figure where kids come up to take pictures. Instead of saying cheese, Hulk says, “green,” it’s again another way the film effortlessly blends into comedy without disrupting its flow.
Unlike Banner, the past five years have not been kind to Thor. He is far from the angry demeanor he had early on in the film. Now the God of Lightning looks like The Big Lebowski’s stunt double and this is one of the best things that Endgame pulled off. It makes sense that Thor is taking things even harder than he was earlier in this film. He killed Thanos with Stormbreaker but everyone is still dead. He feels like the ultimate failure. Asgard experienced Ragnarok, his parents, step-brother, and half of the people that he was supposed to look over are all dead.
The tragedy of Thor, perfectly coincides with his depression, PTSD and weight gain. When Thor reunites with Rocket and Hulk after creating bonds with both characters in Ragnarok and InfinityWar, respectively, the drastic shift of his personality is just as seismic as his weight gain. The way that Hemsworth and the Russo brothers pulled this off is one of the film’s greatest feats. Hemsworth is just as hilarious as he was in Thor: Ragnarok, but the humor is laced in the grief that he has experienced in Infinity War.
Forget What You Know About Time Travel
Time travel in films can be tricky and can create problems the size of a Chitauri worm if the film breaks its own rules. Endgame addresses its audience by using a conversation with its heroes to establish the rules of time travel. The characters tell us to forget everything you know about time travel and the film ends up creating a time heist that uses alternate-realities and universes versus the traditional paradox method.
Captain America goes back to 2012 and fights himself; he also goes back to 1970s and captures a glimpse of Agent Peggy Carter; Thor goes to 2012 gets to see his mother and wields Mjolnir once again; Nebula gets to confront the atrocity of her 2014 self; Iron Man has one last conversation with his father in the 1970s and Black Widow makes the ultimate sacrifice for the Soul stone in 2014.
Seeing the Ancient One assist the Avengers in 2012 was a welcomed, small touch but it makes you wonder why she did not do more if she was there for the attack on New York. The 2012 version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) manages to escape custody, which opens up ideas for a future show/movie. The second act for this movie is vital because it was a way to fleege out the Marvel Cinematic Uni- MULTIVERSE. Another reason why Endgame is such a vital film and changes everything about the MCU and what we’ve seen so far.
Act III: AVENGERS . . . . ASSEMBLE
The third act is where Endgame excels more than any other comic book film in the history cinema. Tensions have risen as 2014 Thanos ambushes the Avengers at their own headquarters. It is symbolic of how Iron Man and company ambushed Thanos on his home planet, Titan. Seeing Thor, Iron Man and Captain America do their best at trying to defeat the Mad Titan leads up to one of the best moments in comic book film history. Captain America wields Mjolnir for the first time in the MCU and this scene is shot in a jaw dropping way. Rogers is in center frame as the powers of Thor course through his body and he attack Thanos with the hammer.
Unfortunately, the Mad Titan wasn’t easily defeated and this builds up to the emotional checkpoint of the film. Captain America, a man who can do this all day, has his back against the wall, it is just him and Thanos until he hears Falcon say “Cap, I’m on your left” which is another call back from Winter Soldier. When the rest of the heroes returned from the dead and did their hero pose on the battlefield, that’s when things got real. Captain America finally said the words that fans have been waiting for…. “Avengers.. Assemble”
A moment that felt overwhelmingly rewarding when I saw this movie the first time. This is a feat that a decade ago seemed impossible and for this movie franchise to build up to this moment in time could not have been executed any better. Marvel Studios was able to project the imagination of every kid that plays with toys onto the silver screen. When the dust started to settle and the action sequences began to reach its conclusion, the man that kicked off the MCU was the one that ended up snapping to defeat Thanos. At the start of the film and at the end of the battle, Thanos stated that he was inevitable, and after snapping, Stark told Thanos, “I am Iron Man” which is a call back to the end of the first film in the MCU. This was the best way to kill the Iron Man character. Having Stark’s last words being a quip was a marvelous choice by the film’s editors and they deserve a huge raisethe film’s editors and they deserve a gigantic raise.
A masterclass in character development will be something that many will overlook about Endgame. Like the reactor he created in his first film, Tony’s character arc is one of a kind yet it might be the best character arc of any character over the course of multiple films. This 3 hour and two minute film wasn’t just about Tony, other characters have some type of closure to their character arc as well. Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Nebula, Hawkeye and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) all have moments that further develop their character or complete their arc from previous films. The build-up from 21 other films is what makes Endgame such an enjoyable film and I cannot wait to see what’s next for these heros in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
[All Mames Wey]
Avengers: Endgame was released in theaters April 26, 2019
The Avengers assembled for the emotional and long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Infinity War. After 21 other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which turned 11 years old this year, we’ve reached the season finale, so to speak, Avengers: Endgame was a phenomenal way to cap off this epic journey.
After watching every second of this three hour and two minute film – with no bathroom break 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 – I left the theater floored from what I just saw. The character development, the call backs, the heartbreak, the laughs, every emotion you can think of was captured in this movie. The Russo Brothers even found a way to integrate things from a show outside of the MCU into this film. I walked out of the theater thinking – with no hyperbole – that there is no way any comic book movie is going to be able to top what I just watched. The first 10 minutes of this film were everything that you could ask for after the events of Infinity War. The character arc for a certain character has to be the best character arc of any character over the course of multiple films. The call backs from other MCU movies weren’t just in the film to pad up it’s run time, instead they made sense with the film’s narrative. Just like those call backs, the comedy never felt forced because everything the characters had to say fits with their characterization from other films. Narratively, the conclusion of multiple storylines were wrapped up and Endgame found a way to address the questions the viewer may be asking when it comes to key plot points. The appropriately titled film felt like the endgame of a genre and the MCU assembled the cream of the crop.
[All Mames Wey]
Avengers: Endgame was released in theaters April 26, 2019.
Mexican folklore gets the big screen treatment with the The Curse of La Llorona – an entry into The Conjuring Universe – about the ghost of a woman who drowned her children and haunts future victims who can hear her tears. In this feature length version of the tale of “The Weeping Woman,” Michael Chaves makes his directorial debut with a story written by Tobias Iaconis and Mikki Daughtry. The Curse of La Llorona stars Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velásquez, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen, Roman Christou and Marisol Ramirez. Spoilers after the trailer.
The film is set during 1973 Los Angeles and follows a social worker named Ann Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) as she investigates the disappearance of the two children of Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez). The more she investigates, the more bizarre things become for her and her family. Tate-Garcia is raising two children of her own; Chris Garcia (Roman Christou) and Samantha Garcia (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), on top of that, she’s the widow of a slain police officer. Before La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez) enters the picture, the Tate-Garcia family has already had its own share of misfortunes, but once the family is haunted by her things become comical.
Both children of Patricia Alvarez were discovered drowned which causes Patricia to put a curse on Ann-Tate Garcia because if it wasn’t for her meddling her kids would still be alive. Alvarez stated that she prayed that La Llorona would come and take Tate-Garcia’s kids, which is why throughout the film the Tate-Garcia’s are being haunted by the ghost. Visually, the movie has some cool shots like the umbrellas shot below where the little girl sees La Llorona through her umbrella.
So, to say this movie didn’t have some type of effort, it would be completely disingenuous. There was a complete overuse of jump scares in an effort to make the film scary but it’s hard to be scared when you cannot take the movie seriously. The makeup on La Llorona was ghouly, so at least she looked the part but that was the only thing consistent about her character. Whatever powers she had seemed to play a part in the film for whenever it was convenient. In one scene she’s telekinetic, and next she is comically dragging people around, and there was one scene where she possessed one of the children but a scene later it was as if that never happened.
When Tobias Iaconis and Mikki Daughtry were writing this movie it was as if they were 1) not familiar with the folklore this was based on; 2) did not know how to write a horror movie; or 3) had to force things to fit into The Conjuring Universe; or maybe it’s a combination of the three. Personally, I could not stop laughing during this movie and there is a point where it jumps the shark and throws out all disbelief when Samantha Garcia has to go outside to get her doll. Whew! Whoever decided to write that scene they way they did deserves a Razzie! For some reason Patricia Alvarez, the same lady who prayed for La Llorona to curse the Garcia family, arrives at the Garcia’s home and shoots Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) – and not even five minutes later ends up helping Tate-Garcia – for no reason. Seriously, Iaconis and Daughtry have to get a Razzie for writing this film.
Cardellini is the best thing this movie has going for it. She and Raymond Cruz had a fun chemistry in the scenes that they shared together. It’s a shame that the script was incredibly weak because if this were a better movie than their pairing wouldn’t of felt like a waste. There is a meta reference to Scooby-Doo which is a film that Cardellini starred in the early aughts. The two child actors were fine, they didn’t ruin the film so that’s a positive. Michael Chaves did an okay job at directing, he kept the camera moving and had an intriguing way of making angles work in his favor. Chaves has directed music videos for Billie Eilish in the past so he knows how to shoot things in a way that makes them look creepy.
La Llorona wasn’t the only one with the curse because the Conjuring Universe is cursed outside of James Wan’s Conjuring films. This movie might have been the easiest softball for a movie that there ever was. This is yet another film where the source material was right there to create something terrifying from the view of the kids. There wasn’t a moment that I wasn’t entertained so the movie got that right, even if I laughed for unintentional reasons. A film about Mexican folklore should have either been set in Mexico or celebrated the fact that it was based on Mexican folklore. When people talk about representation in film and seeing stories that have already been told hundreds of times this is what they mean by that. The Curse of La Llorona could’ve been a truly horrifying adaptation of something that hasn’t been done in mainstream cinema, but instead it’s just a side story in what’s currently the worst cinematic universe.
[All Mames Wey]
The Curse of La Llorona was released in theaters April 19, 2019.
Homelessness, race, mental illness, government responsibility and social advocacy are just a few things that director and writer Emilio Estevez is trying to address in his newest film, The Public. Estevez stars in the film alongside an ensemble cast that includes Michael K. Williams, Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union, Jacob Vargas and Che “Rhymefest” Smith. During the coldest winter in Cincinnati, The Public explores what happens when the homeless occupy a library for shelter. Spoilers after the trailer.
Ambitious and Thoughtful
The Public is an ambitious and thoughtful film and Estevez does his best to address a lot of social issues. Stuart Goodson (Emilio Estevez) works at a library in downtown Cincinnati, and on the coldest day of the year, a group of homeless men, led by Jackson (Michael K. Williams), attempt to occupy the library for shelter. Jackson and the other homeless do not want to cause any harm or trouble – they just want to stay somewhere warm – but the city’s government would rather have them freeze on the streets. The majority of the homeless men are people of color, and combine that with prosecutor Josh Davis (Christian Slater) running for re-election and Detective Bill Ramstead (Alec Baldwin) and it creates a hostile environment where tensions are high. The reality of the situation is that governments attempt to criminalize the homeless, yet just like in the film, most of the homeless are veterans that are forgotten about upon their return home.
Not everyone had as much thought in their characters. The women in this film were either written poorly or complete dunces. Angela (Taylor Schilling) is just in the film to serve as Stuart Goodson’s love interest. Reporter Rebecca Parks (Gabrielle Union) is an egotistical reporter who cares about views more than the truth of a story. Her character is used as a way to criticize media portrayals as a whole. The woman who is the most annoying character in the film is Myra (Jena Malone), Stuart Goodson’s Woke-Hipster-Social-Justice-Warrior co-worker, but the problem is that she’s only about those causes online. The film opens up with her acting as if she’s about the struggle and the cause, but when things go down and the books are returned late, she’s the first person that wants to leave the library. Myra is all bark and no bite yet throughout the film, she continues to bark the loudest.
From a technical standpoint, the directing isn’t anything to go home about, the film is shot competently but the editing is what gives the film a sense of style. The ensemble cast helped elevate the script with their performances. There are moments that are cheesy and feel like they came out of the 1990s but the actors and actresses help ease the cheese. The comedic bits do happen at the right time to ease some of the drama. The scoring for The Public was filled with bops that would make anyone get kicked out of a library. Rapper and actor Che “Rhymefest” Smith provided some of his tunes and instrumentals to serve as the score and that helped give the film an edge sonically.
After watching this film, the only question there was to ask was, if Emilio Estevez had ever heard of the word subtle because this film left all its subtleness outside on the cold streets of Cincinnati. First, our protagonist is named Stuart Goodson – good son – which sure whatever, but one of the antagonists is named Bill Ramstead – bet you can’t guess which character wants to ram their way into the library – and those names are hard to take seriously in a movie that tries to tackle a number of serious tactics. Estevez may have chosen to go this route to add to the melodrama of the film but he didn’t have to. The names aren’t the only things that aren’t subtle, there are a lot of on the nose moments scattered throughout the film that come off as preachy. The thing that counteracts this is that the movie is set in a library and in an intellectual sense, libraries would be – second to a church – the place you expect people to come off as know-it-alls and preachy.
The film also couldn’t escape the White Savior cinematic trope by the end of the film. By the end of the film, we find out that Goodson was once homeless which also adds to the movie being too on the nose. As stated earlier in this review the idea to occupy the library was Jackson’s and the other homeless men but by the end of the film, somehow, the hero of the movie is Goodson. Estevez wrote the film, so it is understandable that he would make his character the hero of the film, but he should’ve taken a different route to do so.
Original ideas in film are hard to come by these days, but The Public does its best when trying to cover the relationship between the homeless and public libraries – a topic that is rarely discussed in cinema. Emilio Estevez definitely had an ambitious idea when he was creating this film but the execution does leave more to be desired. There are powerful scenes in this movie and with a little more subtleness and sharper writing The Public could’ve been one of the best pictures of the year. However, this film does serve its purpose and if you’re someone who is into social advocacy then I would recommend this one for you. Like a book at a public library, The Public is just waiting to be checked out.
[All Mames Wey]
The Public was released in theaters April 5, 2019.
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre takes the reins with her feature film directorial debut, The Mustang. The Focus Features’ drama stars Matthias Schoenaerts as an incarcerated convict in Nevada, and his journey while participating in a rehabilitation program centered around training wild horses. The film also stars Jason Mitchell, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton and Bruce Dern. Spoilers after the trailer.
Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) has been incarcerated in a Nevada prison for 12 years after committing a violent crime and is given the chance at rehabilitation through Nevada’s Wild Horse Inmate Training Program and The Mustang effectively displays his growth as a character. When we’re introduced to Coleman, we aren’t sure why he’s locked up, but he’s an angry man, he’s been in and out of solitary confinement, he’s refused multiple opportunities to reintegrate back into society, and he’s filled with tension to the point where it seems like he’s about to swing on his psychologist (Connie Barton). Coleman’s doing outdoor maintenance and comes across a caged wild mustang that’s acting unruly and aggressively bashing onto the sides of his cage. Curious Coleman is drawn to the mustang, so rancher Myles (Bruce Dern) gives him an opportunity to join the rehabilitation program.
The wild mustang and Coleman are both angry animals that have been forced to live in cages to be tamed because they’ve been deemed to be too angry for society as a whole. Coleman is a man who has done whatever he can to not reintegrate into society, but once he joins the program, not only does he befriend the mustang, but he also befriends other inmates with his closest friendship being with head horse-trainer Henry (Jason Mitchell). The film creates a fun teacher-mentor relationship between the pair as Coleman learns how to control the horse and better himself. To add to the film’s authenticity, de Clermont-Tonnerre decided to cast actual prisoners who participated in the program and had been released during the filming of the movie.
Outside of the rehabilitation, The Mustang focuses on Coleman’s strained relationship with his daughter Martha (Gideon Adlon) The theme of being free is an ongoing throughout the film and when Martha is introduced in the film, the only reason she’s come to the prison is to have her father sign emancipation papers. This angers Coleman but it’s in her best interest because he can’t take care of her since he’s in prison. Later on, this leads to an emotional moment in the film when the audience finds out why Coleman is incarcerated. Coleman and Martha’s mother got into an argument one night when he smashed her skull into the kitchen sink and caused severe brain damage while a young Martha saw the whole thing. This adds some much needed background to the relationship between the two and helps the audience understand why Coleman doesn’t want to be reintegrated back into society.
The passion that Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre put into this project extends to the production aspects behind the scenes. Not only did she direct The Mustang but she was also a writer on the project. For a redemption story, this film has typical prison film cliches like stabbings, drug use and an interesting take on a yard fight that you will not see coming. With an interesting choice of shots, de Clermont-Tonnerre knows how to make her film look interesting enough and keep things moving. There are a few moments where the film does slow down, but overall, it’s a fluid experience.
Matthias Schoenaerts brought his A-game with his portrayal of Ronald Coleman. Schoenaerts has this demeanor and plays the role ambiguous enough that you can never get a clear read on his motives and that adds an additional layer of interest onto the film. It will be interesting to see if he gets any nominations when award season gets here. Jason Mitchell brings the personality into the film that creates a solid balance with Coleman’s stoicness and seriousness. If the film would’ve expanded on the relationship between the two then it would’ve conveyed Coleman’s human side more effectively.
The Mustang is an emotional ride that shows what rehabilitation can do for prisoners. In a positive way, the film serves as a Public Service Announcement for Wild Horse and Burro programs found in select US prisons. Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre finds a unique way to present a prison film on the big screen while making the public aware of what life is like for those that are locked up. There’s a powerful scene where violent offenders discuss how long it took them to react to whatever caused them to be incarcerated and in most cases it was just a matter of seconds. Just seconds – seconds – until their lives and their victims’ lives were forever impacted. For a film about a man and his horse, de Clermont-Tonnerre was the perfect person to tell this story and Schoenaerts was the right person to portray the lead. If The Mustang is currently playing at a theater near you, then give this one a viewing.
[All Mames Wey]
The Mustang was released in theaters March 29, 2019.
Rising from the depths of hell comes a reboot that the devil himself wouldn’t want to watch. Based on the Dark Horse Comic of the same name, Hellboy is a reboot of a film franchise from the early 2000s that no one asked for. Instead of having Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman return to continue the franchise for a third installment, the studio and executives decided to go in a darker direction for the character with an R-rating and excessive gore. This version of Hellboy stars David Harbour as the titular character, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Sasha Lane, and Daniel Dae Kim. Neil Marshall replaces Guillermo del Toro in the director’s chair for this outing. Spoilers after the trailer.
Not everything about this film was terrible. The biggest praise goes to the makeup and costume design team for the designs of the characters that capture the fantasy aspects of the film. Hellboy (David Labour) looks like a character that stepped right out of a comic book. From the red flesh to the sawed off horns, his design is ass accurate of an adaptation you’re going to get.The star of the film wasn’t the only one with a cool design. Sometimes the CGI was spotty, but when it came to the side characters the creativity was there. You can tell the design team put a lot of thought and imagination into bringing these characters to the silver screen.
What The Hell
There isn’t much to compliment this movie on but David Harbour, Milla Jovovich and Daniel Dae Kim all had good performances, and they did their best to elevate the script but there are many times where the movie makes you ask – what the hell am I watching?
First of all, this movie suffers from trying to stuff too much into a 2 hour film to the point that characters spend most of the movie just telling the audience what is happening. There are a few characters that are just plugged into the film just to give exposition and die, it’s comical at points. The relationship between Hellboy and his adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) feels forced and the jokes are more eye-roll than funny. The chemistry between McShane and Harbour is as existent as Hellboy is the actual universe that we live in. The biggest problem with this is that their relationship is what plays a big factor into the film’s climax scene and when everything happens the payoff isn’t there.
Even with the bad CGI, the terrible jokes, and the sloppy plot, the most insulting thing about Hellboy (2019) is the complete misuse of its R-rating. Some studio executives were (probably) sitting in their offices when they saw the wads and wads of cash that an R-rated comic book movie can make; said “Look pal, let’s do this but take away everything that made it a success” and here we are. The – and I use this word loosely – jokes and the humor in this film try to be edgy but come off as lame as if this movie is cosplaying a superhero film. With the R-rating comes an opportunity to make the action and violence more graphic, but Hellboy doesn’t even do that. Instead we get a film that uses the most fake looking CGI blood in a non-ironic way and again, makes you ask, “What the hell am I watching?” It would be one thing if Hellboy functioned as a parody of the genre it was in, but the film takes itself seriously and when it tries to show its humor the jokes aren’t funny. The scoring is jarring and some of the choices for songs distract and do not match up with the tone of the scene. If someone told you that this movie was made in 2002 and was released today then there would not be a reason to not believe them.
It’s fitting that an alleged work environment from hell created a film that felt like it rose from the pit of hell in Hellboy. The issues that happened behind the scenes made their way onto the screen and was perhaps the biggest waste of 50 million dollars in 2019. Director Neil Marshall did not have the opportunity to have the last say to the final cut of the film, and by what reports suggest the film had too many cooks in the Hell’s kitchen. There were rewrites on There were a couple fun action scenes but the plot went everywhere (the on-set rewrites didn’t help) and our hero went to all corners of the earth with it. Wait for this one to come on the small screen if you must watch it. Fun fact: I stayed for the post-credit scenes too and if this movie thinks it’s going to get the sequel that it tried to set up then it’s going to be a cold day in hell before that happens.
Some heroes are zapped and modified – SHAZAM – that may have been a reach, but this was a Christmas movie that I didn’t know we needed. Originally named Captain Marvel, Shazam has had a long history in Americana culture, he was the first live-action superhero movie, but 1941 was a long time ago and his popularity has dwindled in the nearly 80 years since. Shazam stars Zachary Levine, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer and Mark Strong, and the David F. Sandberg directed film is based on the DC hero of the same name. The film is the seventh installment of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a foster teen who is granted the power to reach his fullest potential known as Shazam (Zachary Levi). Spoilers after the trailer.
I can without any hesitation say that Shazam is by far the best film in the DCEU so far. What makes this movie fun to watch is the chemistry between Shazam and Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Freddy Freeman and Billy Batson (Asher Angel). Both of these pairings are important to the plot of the film and if they do not work well then the film won’t work well. Opposites attract, Freddy Freeman is a nerd and a smart-ass and his personality compliments Billy Batson’s serious and headstrong attitude throughout the film.
Batson is summoned to the Rock of Eternity, where the ancient wizard (Djimon Hounsou) bestows his power on the young Billy Batson, and that’s when the film’s comedic aspect elevates. Billy Batson transforms into the best possible version of himself, a champion named Shazam (Zachary Levi) – an acronym of the Gods that his powers come from: the Wisdom of Solomon, Strength of Hercules, Stamina of Atlas, Powers of Zeus, Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury – and Billy has to turn to his nerdy friend Freddy on what to do with these new powers. This makes Freddy his de facto sidekick and hijinks ensue.
Since Billy appears as an adult when he summons the powers of Shazam, he and Freddy take advantage of this and buy beer, go to the strip club, and excuse themselves from school, y’know typical juvenile things. Another fun thing about this movie is that it’s aware of superhero film tropes and adds its own stroke of lightning to them. When the pair go to a store that is being robbed they make light of the situation and use it as a way to test Shazam’s power. There’s a mugging scene that is used to add to the laughs and the light-hearted nature of the film. By saying “Shazam” Batson transforms and there is an abundance of jokes about what Batson should call himself. Zachary Levine does a phenomenal job at capturing the mindset and attitude of a teenager and he comes off as an extension of Asher Angel’s Billy Batson.
A superhero film is only as good as its villain, and the big bad guy in Shazam is Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), a successful physicist who was summoned by the ancient wizard to be the next Shazam, but was not chosen, so he spent the rest of his life searching for the Rock of Eternity to confront the wizard. Shazam introduces us to Dr. Sivana when he was a kid and he’s being extremely annoying to his brother and father while they’re on a snowy road to somewhere and that’s when the ancient wizard summons him. The wizard gives him a test to see if his heart is pure and Dr. Sivana fails because he cannot resist the powers of dark magic and he gets transported back to the backseat of his father’s car. He continues to be annoying and causes a car wreck that leaves his father paralyzed.
All of this happens to give the audience backstory to why Dr. Sivana ends up killing his father and brother approximately 30 years in the future after gaining power from the Eyes of Sins, an evil version of Shazam’s powers. It’s an underwhelming backstory for this character because Dr. Sivana was a scrawny, frail looking kid, turned into a successful adult, his family had everything, he was the one that caused most of his problems that he had, yet his big gripe is that the wizard told him he wasn’t special, and you should never tell a kid that he’s not special. This bares repeating, Dr. Sivana causedthe car wreck that left his father paralyzed, the same father he later killed in the film.
Outside of his complete lack of accountability, Dr. Silvana’s dark and serious nature is a solid choice of antithesis for Shazam’s kid-like personality. There’s a fun mall chase scene between the two that provides some good site gags and laughs. The writers use his confrontations with Shazam to call out a few other tropes in superhero films. For a PG-13 film there is a death in this movie caused by Silvana that is really dark for the tone of the film, no complaints about that. As always, Mark Strong makes the most out of any role he is given and I don’t think a lesser actor would be able to pull off this character. Strong has a deadpan way of delivering his lines that is intimidating yet funny, which is why his role fits cohesively.
A Family Affair
A major theme in this film is the idea of what is a family? Billy Batson lives with five other foster kids, Thaddeus Sivana has an estranged relationship with his family, and the Ancient Wizard is the last living protector of the Rock of Eternity since his siblings have died. Billy’s siblings and foster parents are all character tropes for the most part. Unlike most tropes in film, Shazam makes it work for the most part, with only one sibling getting left out of the film. This is the kindest foster family that’s ever hit the silver screen, they all support each other, the parents are always putting the kids interest first and it makes wonder why Billy keeps running away from them. There is a heartbreaking scene when Billy reunites with his mom and things don’t go as planned.
The one foster kid that doesn’t get much screen time might as well be a background character. If there wasn’t a fun twist at the end of the movie then I think he would’ve been. His character just spends most of the movie lifting weights and there is a moment where he implies that he’s gay. The actors and actresses that portrayed the kids did a marvelous job and I hope they return in a sequel. This family came across like one big loving family, ala the Brady Bunch, and when that big twist happens that’s when Shazam solidifies itself as a Christmas movie.
By no means is it a perfect film but Shazam gets more things correct than it gets wrong. It’s ironic that the comic that was sued by DC Comics for copying Superman (holy ending scene Batman) has created a far more enjoyable theatrical experience than the Man of Steel has in three decades. This one is definitely worth viewing in theaters. Shazam is a fun film and a huge transition from most of the DCEU. Just like the lightning bolt on the hero’s chest, this film shines bright. It was an electric jumpstart to a cinematic universe that was on life support. The cast and crew were obviously passionate about this movie and as a viewer you can always tell when the people behind the scenes care about what they are creating, and it just goes to show how adding zeal attains magnificentness – SHAZAM!
“Sometimes dead is better” – could be the most literal tagline for a film in the history of cinema. Pet Sematary is the second adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Stephen King, after the 1989 film. Directed by Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, the film stars Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence and John Lithgow in a supernatural horror about a family that discovers a graveyard behind their home and bizarre things begin to happen. Spoilers after the trailer.
Beneath its foundation, there are a few things that Pet Sematary does well in its attempt to create a captivating thriller. The film’s biggest strength is in its ambience. The movie has an airy feel that compliments the suspenseful moments. Effective use of angles and wide shots gives the movie an airy vibe, combined with its scoring, Pet Sematary has moments where it’s actually thrilling. Like the image above, the film has a constant dreary look to it which is a visual tool for the feeling of death that haunts the film. The Creed family has a new home that is located on an ancient burial Indian ground and the filmmaking style adds to its narrative.
The star of the film is this cat that’s pictured above. Named after Winston Churchill, Church is the Creed’s family pet that dies and is resurrected with a sinister personality. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), the patriarch of the Creed family, buries Church which causes Church’s resurrection as an evil demon crazed cat. Church attacks the family and is clawing at everything within sight. The ferocious feline is the second cat to breakout this year.
The bond between the family members feels authentic. A major theme is the idea of how to handle death and early on Ellie Creed (Jeté Laurence) and her parents have an impromptu conversation about life and death. This is one of the few moments in the film that actually feels heartfelt and natural.
But Better Off Dead
The writing in this movie is questionable at best. For this movie to be based on a best-selling novel and to be this underwhelming is a shame. 2017’s It might be the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel within the past decade and Pet Sematary drops the ball. The worst part about this movie is that the characters are severely underdeveloped.The film is only 101 minutes long but there are a lot of slow moments where nothing is happening to advance the story. There is an interesting backstory about Rachel Creed (Amy Seimetz) that just gets thrown to the side. The movie decides to halfway attempt to explain her motivations throughout the film.
Jason Clarke’s face in the photo above is a mood when watching this film. The writers made his character make the most idiotic, stereotypical horror movie cliche decision and it’s annoying to watch. Horror movies are at their best when they’re self-aware or the characters aren’t stupid but Pet Sematary is a film that leads to more facepalms than scares. Jeff Buhler is a screenwriter for this film, and similar to an early release this year that was written by him, this movie is uneven from the cradle to its rise out of the grave.
As iconic of author that Stephen King is, his work deserves better adaptations than this, and for a rated-R film, Pet Sematary should’ve pushed the edge a little more. There are moments where the filmmakers decide to take risks and not recreate its source material, but that’s far and few between. The acting was fine but nothing stood out. John Lithgow did his best Herschel from The Walking Dead impression, if we’re being honest. The child actors could’ve been better as well. Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz characters made the most idiotic decisions, especially Jason Clarke’s Louis Creed. I would recommend watching this one on a streaming service at home because sometimes dead is better and Paramount could’ve left it in the grave.
[All Mames Wey]
Pet Sematary was released in theaters April 5, 2019.
After putting on an energetic show in Atlanta back in November of 2018, I had the opportunity to catch the Tobe From The Swat Tour ’19 in my home state at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, North Carolina. Forty-three days before the show began, the Houstonian emcee announced that Bull City had sold out via Public Service Announcement on his Instagram page:
Tickets sold out so quickly that people were panicking and looking for resale options to see the performance. Luckily, since the venue holds approximately 450 people, for his birthday gift to the fans, Tobe decided to host a second show in Bull City, in turn, making Durham the only city on the tour with two shows.
The show opened up with host/comedian JJ and DJ Big Reeks getting the crowd excited for the night’s performance. Big Reeks and JJ played various songs from Outkast to Jay-Z and honored the recently slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. The pair did a great job at keeping the energy in the room before Tobe came out.
Nell also provided backed up vocals and performed her verse on ‘Caged Birds’ which is the first song from The Originals series that she has actually rapped on with Tobe.
Nell’s talent doesn’t stop at just rapping and producing, but she also does the backup vocals when Tobe performs ‘Reality’. Nell is a Jack-of-All Trades and that’s a crucial ingredient when it comes to performing a successful show.
Nell wasn’t the only woman to hold it down on Wednesday night. Tobe’s wife, Fat, who ironically is pregnant, came out to perform her verse on ‘100K’. Just like at the Atlanta show last year, when Fat came out, the crowd erupted.
These two ladies are just as an important part to Tobe’s vision as he is and that’s what makes this whole movement something that everyone wants to be apart of. When they talk about it being a family, it’s not hyperbole, they are really about that life and it shows in the radiance of their music.
That positive vibe was rampant throughout the show, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the couple that got engaged during Tobe’s set. As someone who’s been to hundreds of shows, this was the first time I had ever seen a proposal onstage and congratulations to that couple.
Young Tob Why You Rappin’ So Hard
“Look, holy flow, every bar, fresh up out the tabernacle,” is the opening line to ‘Tabernacle’ and before Tobe could finish the line the whole crowd was saying it with him. The cool thing about this show is that the instruments were a lot livier than the show I went to in the fall of 2018. This was also the second show of a back-to-back but the venue was filled with energy from the stage to rear exit door.
The good vibes continued out throughout the night. Tobe brought the ‘Heat Rock’ with him too:
David Michael Wyatt and Tobe performed “Hydration”, an unreleased sequel to the 2018’s “Wavy.” Tobe even joked that naming the track ‘Wavy 2’ would’ve been wack. The song has a nice medley and it allows Wyatt to show off his vocals as well:
The show closed with “I’m Dope” which is a track Tobe and Co. made in tribute to Erykah Badu and Dave Chappelle after they said he was dope. The song is an accumulation of the rapper’s career so far and a lesson about life in general, keep doing what you’re doing and someone out there will think you’re dope at something.
You can get your tickets for the Tobe From The SWAT Tour (The Extension) here.
“Let’s get ready for Duuuuummbbbo,” is an actual line said by the legendary boxing announcer Michael Buffer and reader, I, was not ready for Dumbo. Directed by Tim Burton, Dumbo is a live-action adaptation of the 1941 animated classic and the first Disney remake to be released in 2019. The film stars Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Eva Green, Danny Devito, and Michael Keaton.
The Elephant In The Room
First thing first, we’ve got to address the elephant in the room, and it’s not Dumbo, it’s Disney for getting rid of the racist crows that were in the 1941 movie. For an adaptation made for a 21st century audience, there were other changes that were made, which included a more realistic approach and a film without anthropomorphic animals. The original cartoon had Dumbo befriend an anthropomorphic mouse named Timothy Q. Mouse which parodied the stereotypical relationship of animosity between elephants and mice.
Less Animals and More People
With all that being said, this live-action adaptation of a movie about a flying elephant tries to be as realistic as possible and relies on the humans to carry the film. The problem with these characters is that they are dead on arrival. The dialogue is just used to push the story forward and everything about these characters is forgettable.
When Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns to the Medici Bros. Circus after World War I, he is tasked with taking care of Jumbo Jr., nicknamed Dumbo, a newborn elephant with giant ears. Holt lost his right arm in WWI and his two children, Milly Farrier (Nico Parker) and Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins), are apprehensive when reuniting with him for the first time. Their mother has passed away, their father has lost an arm, and they’re raising a deformed elephant which is all the elements for a touching story about a family coming together through adversity. The movie never does that. Dumbo and Holt Farrier had a deformity and there was never a scene where the pair had a heartfelt moment. The closest we get to these characters bonding is Holt telling Dumbo to fly in the most truly uninspired way possible. This moment happens near the end of the film and after spending the whole film with these characters, there wasn’t a reason to care.
Acting wise, Colin Farrell does a fine job but the script is what buries his performance in the movie. I really wanted to care about these characters but the film never gave a reason to. The two child actors have a big role in the film and Tim Burton fails to get the most out of them. Nico Parker’s delivery was stiff throughout the film and Finley Hobbins wasn’t given much of anything to do but cheer for Dumbo. The lack of direction doesn’t stop at the kids, Eva Green who plays Collette Merchant, suffers the same fate. Merchant was just there to deliver the exposition and to eventually become Holt Farrier’s love interest by the end of the film. Her personality and motivations have barely developed throughout the film and she only ends up siding with Dumbo because her boss does not believe in a safe work environment.
The only human character that captures the essence of the film is Max Medici played by Danny Devito. Max Medici is the owner of a small troop circus called Medici Bros. Circus, no explanation for what happened to the other Medici brothers, and he’s the owner of Dumbo and his mom. When Medici sees the large ears on Dumbo he is distraught because the baby elephant is deformed and a freak show. He makes an offhand comment about how he already has enough freaks because he runs the circus. Devito’s role is that eventually he grows to love Dumbo by the end of the film. In Devito’s scenes he delivers a sense of magic that is acquiescent to Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.
Danny Devito isn’t the only actor to reunite with Tim Burton in this film, Batman returns as Michael Keaton portrays the exploitive entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere. Vandevere is the owner of Dreamland, an amusement park, and he buys Medici Bros. Circus just so he can exploit Dumbo for financial gain. He runs Dreamland like a nightmare and abuses his animals, employees and so when gets his comeuppance at the end of the film, it’s a satisfying ending. Vandevere’s cruelty knows no end and there is a scene that effectively shows this when he makes his trapeze artist Colette Merchant perform without a safety net.
Performance wise, I am not sure what Michael Keaton thought he was trying to accomplish. Throughout the film, Keaton lays the craziness on thick and talks with multiple accents throughout the film. In one scene he’s southern American, the next scene he’s British and then he’s Australian, and it was jarring, not sure what he was thinking but he came off as goofy. He tries to be quirky but instead he makes his character feel forced and awkward. The executives at Disney may have been looking for this type of wonky Johnny Depp type of portrayal, but this was definitely not Jack Sparrow and it ended up hindering the film to the point that it takes you out of the movie.
Jumbo Sized Ears For A Jumbo Sized Star
Enough about these humans, what about the the flying elephant, the film’s titular character? This film focuses too much on the humans and not enough on Dumbo. Dumbo takes a backseat to Michael Keaton being goofy and stiff child actors. The fact that this movie is nearly double the length of the 1941 cartoon yet there isn’t any meaningful development in his character and it’s a shame. The scenes between Dumbo and his mom are the most emotional moments in the film. Dumbo NEEDS MORE Dumbo.
The animation of Dumbo is stunning and his big blue eyes convey various expressions throughout the film. He doesn’t speak but he can understand everything that the humans tell him. The most realistic aspect of this film is when Dumbo is put into peculiar situations and you can actually see the fear on his face. If only he felt as important as his name suggest that he is on the film’s title card. The animation team did a phenomenal job at making him look like a star.
When the elephant with jumbo-sized ears finally realizes that he can fly without the use of a feather, it doesn’t feel special in the context of the film. The animation of Dumbo is superb and his reaction, especially his eyes, has this sense of amazement. However, when the Farriers tell him that he can fly without it during a tense moment in the film, their delivery falls flat. This creates a scene with an emotional elephant with a family of humans in a circus tent surrounded in an inferno in a dire situation but the humans do not seem to care that they may die. Like Milly Farrier’s delivery…. There. Was. No. Emotion.
Behind the Circus Tent
Outside of the titular character and his animation, the visual aspects of this film were all-around stunning. There were times where the green screen was obvious but those were few and far between. The set pieces and the CGI for Dreamland were vibrant and full of life. Tim Burton uses a filter throughout the film that gives it a dusk feeling that remincises an era that’s fittingly long gone.
It’s early in 2019 but Dumbo has some of the best costume designs so far this year. The crew behind the scenes put in work from the makeup to the set pieces, everything has a grandiose quality to it. The visuals are the soul in a film that felt like it was made without a heart. It’s easy to see that there was a lot of thought and imagination when creating this magical world for Dumbo and hopefully, in time, this film will get its recognition for that.
There are homages to the 1941 classic, including a creative recreation of the “Pink Elephants on Parade” scene. In 2019, Disney is not going to allow an elephant to get drunk on the big screen and the film did a solid job at getting around this while maintaining the psychadelic effect.
Seventy-eight years in the making and we finally received the highly anticipated and long-awaited live-action remake of Dumbo and the flying elephant deserved better than this cash grab of a film. The original Dumbo was the second Disney film to turn a profit and was culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant enough to be registered in the United States National Film Registry in 2017 by the Library of Congress. Dumbo is supposed to tell the story of how one overcomes self-doubt and overcomes the adversity and ridicule from others. This version has the ingredients to tell that story but doesn’t even try to. Each human character has a flaw or deformity that matches Dumbo’s physical deformity with his jumbo sized ears, yet Tim Burton’s film never capitalizes off of that to create any type of emotional attachment with the characters. Disney tried to reinvent their classic by creating new characters and making a movie about a flying elephant realistic, that’s a jumbo task to execute.
What makes things worse is that this movie should’ve been at least 30 minutes shorter. The script doesn’t have much depth to it so it wears itself thin amongst its runtime. The animation, costume design and production are extraordinary and beautiful to watch but since the film doesn’t pack a punch it makes the end result forgettable. Hopefully, the next two Disney remakes to be released in 2019 will live up to their original classics. If not, 2019 is going to be longer than Dumbo’s trunk. Check this one out when it comes to a VOD or a rental service.
Following up on the 2016 hit, Get Out, director and writer Jordan Peele does not suffer from a sophomore slump with his latest horrifying, psychological thriller, Us. Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and Blumhouse have teamed up with Universal Pictures to deliver another entry into the doppelgänger subgenre of horror. Us stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex as an African-American family who has been confronted by a group of doppelgängers known as the Tethers.
Technically, It Doesn’t Peele Anything Back
After Get Out and Us, it’s safe to say that director and writer Jordan Peele is the new face of horror for the 2010s and beyond. Peele has a knack for building suspense in his films and does a perfect job of framing each scene in unique ways. He uses small details for foreshadowing and in turn it adds to the film’s narrative. There’s a scene early on where the Wilson family is walking on the beach and Peele uses a bird’s-eye shot to focus on the family’s shadows as they walk by. This is a sly way of introducing the idea of the doppelgänger that is shadowing the family. When the big reveal happens later on in the film, the image below may possibly have a different meaning.Peele knows how to effortlessly blend horror with comedy to balance out the suspense and the thrill. The scene where the Tethers are introduced is a good example of how he fuses comic relief while something terrifying is happening, while not allowing it to distract from the tone of the film. In the clip below, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) confronts the family of Tethers, who is outside of his family’s beach house, and Peele’s writing shows that this is a suspenseful moment, yet there is plenty of humor in Wilson’s dialogue that fits the composition of the scene.
While there is a lot to praise about the film’s writing, there are some storytelling elements that the film could’ve done a better job with. The opening 5 minutes before the opening credits should have been woven throughout the film’s narrative or left on the cutting room floor. The issue with this part of the movie is that it takes the surprise from the big reveal that happens during the third act. As a screenwriter, since Peele kept that part of the film, then the narrative of the film should’ve changed since the audience already knows the motivation of Red/Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o). If he changes the film’s narrative then he doesn’t have to cram an explanation as to why Red is doing what she’s doing and the film won’t have as many loose ends at the end of the film.
Speaking of the confrontation between Red and Adelaide, Michael Abels returns with a perfect score. Abels provided the score for Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed directorial debut, Get Out, and he brought his A-game to Us. The composition of the sounds that he uses creates a suspenseful environment that sonically adds an additional layer of depth to the film. During the big climax the film uses the version of “I Got 5 On It” that was in the trailer and it works perfectly. Luniz would be proud.
Adelaide From A Wonderland
Performance wise, the cast of Us deliver performances that will be etched in history when it comes to actors acting in dual roles. The Tethers are sinister versions of the main characters and everyone, from the adults to the kids, knows how to convey the proper emotion from their characters without it looking cringeworthy. Lupita’s performances as Adelaide and Red will be talked about for years and should see her get an Oscar nomination. In an interview with Variety, Lupita stated that Peele shot her scenes as Red and Adelaide on different days, and that she would stay in character when the cameras were off. This type of commitment to her character manifests itself throughout the scenes when both characters are paired in the same scene. Lupita also has an expressive face, so she does not have to say a single word because her expressions do the talking for her.Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke weren’t the only members of the Wilson family that brought out the best in their characters, it was a family affair because their spawns children were just as formidable. Zora Wilson/Umbrae (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason Wilson/Pluto (Evan Alex) are half the size and twice as gruesome as their parents. Pluto and Umbrae are relentless, there are points in the film where Umbrae attacks people that aren’t even related to her human counterpart. Meanwhile, Pluto is a demon child who wants to watch the world burn through Hell, fire and brimstone. Evan Alex’s performance is what sells the events at the end of the film because he has to portray complete fear as Jason and that can be hard to do for such a young actor.
Down The Rabbit Hole (Spoilers Below)
Us would not be a horror from the mind of Jordan Peele if it wasn’t filled with any sort of symbolism or easter eggs that convey a deeper meaning. Back in 2018, Peele tweeted out a rorschach poster that explains the film’s duality. In the film, Jeremiah 11:11–“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.'” — which is similar to an expression by another Rorschach.
The duality of the number 11 is more than likely why that verse was chosen in the film. One creature that is shown throughout the film are rabbits. There are rabbits before the opening credits, there are stuffed rabbits, rabbits in the underground tunnel. The fact that there is a tunnel underground where the Tethers live is what makes the rabbit hole theme so prevalent. Scissors are the weapon of choice and Peele has stated that scissors represent the idea of being bound together (the Tether and the human) yet a scissors function is to tear things apart (the Tethers kill the humans). Also, scissors look like rabbit ears, which adds another element to them being chosen as the weapon in the film.
Zora, a track runner, is pictured with a rabbit on her shirt as she spends the first act of the film outrunning her tether. If this was folklore then the hare would defeat the tortoise in this race. The image above also shows Adelaide Wilson in a white shirt. Everyone knows that the color white is used to represent purity yet by the time the film finishes that shirt is stained crimson from all of the blood. By the end of the film, Adelaide is Red, both figuratively and literally. The big revelation at the end of the film is that the Adelaide that we’ve been watching this whole time is really a tether and the tethered is actually the real Adelaide. Adelaide is the only character who has a tethered that is named after a color, and Peele does an inconspicuous job at showing the transition within the film’s larger story.Jason is the character in the film that was used for the most nods and easter eggs to other horror movies. He is a character that is always pictured in a mask as if he was a certain slasher that comes out to play every Friday the 13th. During the film, Jason is also the only human that is able to make his tether mimic his actions. The film never really explains why, nor why it only works some of the time. The only thing that I can think of is because he and his tether are both a human-tether hybrid, which means they share half of a soul since Red stated that the tether were like humans but without the soul. This may also be the reason why at the beach (picture #1) the shadows of Jason and Zora (tether-human hybrids) are pictured at the same peak as Adelaide (full tether) yet their father’s (full human) is substantially larger.Jason is also wearing a Jaws shirt which is a nod to the Steven Spielberg classic. Jaws exploit the fear of the deep blue sea whereas Us shows the fear of ourselves. Like the shark that attacked in Jaws, the Tethered in Us also came out from beyond the deep, except these horrifying creatures crawled up from unused tunnels.
Although not a perfect movie and not as great as Jordan Peele’s previous film, Us, overall, is a stellar outing for the sophomore director. The acting was flawless all around and Lupita Nyong’o has the best performance of any actor so far in 2019. Winston Duke shines in every scene that he’s in, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph were some of the best child actors in a horror movie since the cast of 2017’s It. Peele’s work behind the camera is just as good as ever and he knows how to capture the suspenseful moments. The writing could’ve been better and more consistent. One second the tethers seemed to have some sense of enhanced speed or strength and other times they seemed like normal humans. Overall, 2019 has been a rough year in film so far, but Peele delivered a proper follow-up to his 2017 hit. If you haven’t seen this one on the big screen then check it out when you get a chance.
International Women’s Day 2019 coincided with the release of Marvel Studios’ newest film, Captain Marvel. The twenty-first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first one with a female led hero, introduces us to Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, the most powerful hero in the MCU, so far. Directed by Anna Bolden and Ryan Fleck, the film stars Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson as the titular character in her MCU debut. Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Lee Pace and Djimon Hounsou reprise their roles as Nick Fury, Phil Coulson, Ronan the Accuser, and Korath, respectively.
Lay It On Thick
Recently, nostalgia has, ironically, become the newest trend in comic book films. If you’re a millennial who loves nostalgia, then Captain Marvel is a wet dream. Set in 1995, the film is filled with 90s references from its scoring to all of the out of business brick and mortar stores that make a cameo. In the trailer, Captain Marvel crashes into a Blockbuster which is used to effectively set the time period of the film, and this is shortly followed by RadioShack returning from the dead. Somehow, Circuit City missed the cut when it came to retail resurrections. With RadioShack and Blockbuster the film finds a way to incorporate them into the story, so they don’t feel like they’re just thrown in, unlike the scene where Captain Marvel goes full Terminator 2.
Subtleness be damned. Reader, did I mention that this film was released on International Women’s Day? Did you know that Captain Marvel was a woman? This film ensures that you do not forget that a woman is kicking ass in this movie. ‘Just A Girl’ by No Doubt is playing during a major fight scene and it’s jarring because the song does not fit the mood of the scene. Since Captain Marvel is a film where our heroine cannot remember details of her past life, the movie uses this trope as a way to show that most of her memories are of her being put down for being a woman. Even in the Terminator 2 scene referenced above, the biker tells her that she needs to smile. This brings me to my biggest issue with Captain Marvel.
Write To Show, Not To Tell
Being that film is a visual medium, what your audience is seeing is just as or if not more important than what they’re hearing. The visual gags from Captain Marvel work well because they’re woven into the story of the film. The technology of the 1990s are not just sight gags, they’re used to show how inferior life on Earth is compared to the alien life on other planets. When the leader of the Skrulls, a shape-shifting alien race, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), arrives on Earth, he calls our life primitive. We’re using pagers, dial-up internet (shout out to AOL), AltaVista, Floppy Disk, CD-Roms and his enemy, Captain Marvel, is out here with a universal translator.
Between the screenplay and the story, this film is credited with having five writers and the inconsistency is all over the place. It seems that they all had different ideas about the characters when writing the film. Talos starts out as a serious threat to Vers (Carol Danvers) and her Kree, a race of noble warrior heroes, during the film’s opening scene but once he arrives on Earth that seriousness gets thrown out the window. Not sure if it was the G-force through Earth’s atmosphere, but Talos turns into a comedy character. Credit to Mendelsohn’s performance because he does get to show off his range as an actor. Talos, the other Skrulls, and Carol Danvers have been on Earth for approximately 22 hours and all of them are doing goofy earthling things that you would see in a 90s sitcom.
When it comes to the MCU, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is severely underrated for what he brings to these films. He brings that seamless chemistry that he has with the rest of the Avengers to his role in Captain Marvel. Whenever Jackson and Larson are paired together on-screen is when this film is at its best. The pair are charming, funny, and make it feel as if a real bond was created by the end of the film. We find out the reasons behind Fury’s motivations in the previous 20 films in the MCU. Things like how he lost his eye, the reasoning behind the name of the Avengers Initiative (was kind of forced), why he doesn’t trust bureaucracy, and background information were all answered in this film. The EFX department did an incredible job at deaging Jackson and he actually looks 25 years younger.
On the other hand, lead actress Brie Larson, did not sell me on the movie from the trailers and by the end of the film I was still disappointed. When she was paired with Jackson she was funny and charming but whenever she was solo, paired with Jude Law or other characters, Larson comes off uninspired. Part of this is her dialogue because she’s not given much to work with and part of it is her acting because she’s not bringing much to the table. She was questioned by the Supreme Intelligence (Anne Benning) during the film’s opening 15 minutes and Larson just seemed dead inside when delivering her lines. It’ll be interesting to see how she interacts with the rest of the MCU when Endgame hits theaters in April.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the opening credits in this film is perhaps my favorite of any movie in the MCU and the Stan Lee cameo is awesome as well. The special effects, especially for the aliens, in this film are among the best in sci-fi and shows how ahead of the curve that Marvel Studios are when it comes to their competition. The makeup of Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos and the other Skrulls is phenomenally done and doesn’t look like something off of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., there was a cringe line where Samuel L. Jackson referenced the title of the show.
Clocking in at 124 minutes, the film covers a lot of ground when introducing her to the MCU, but at the same time the movie feels like a filler film until End Game‘s release in April. As far as origin films go in the MCU, Captain Marvel pushes the needle in the wrong direction and tries to replicate the success of 2018’s sleeper hit but ends up being lackluster like MCU films from over a decade ago. Captain Marvel doesn’t have an angle that makes it an engaging movie and that’s what ends up making it forgettable. Outside of her being the first woman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s nothing about this film that stands out. Black Panther is afrofuturism; The Winter Soldier is a political-thriller; Guardians of the Galaxy is a space-exploration comedy; Dr. Strange is a science-fantasy; yet Captain Marvel’s theme is just, she’s a woman and that really sells the character short. Since she has amnesia the ingredients were there for this to be a mystery-comedy superhero film, but unfortunately the film doesn’t even take advantage of its strengths. There’s already been a strong female-led character that wears red, gold and blue and her film managed to make a statement while being entertaining. When Captain Marvel gets a sequel, I hope it lives up to her name and is a marvel to watch.
[All Mames Wey]
Captain Marvel was released in theaters March 8, 2019.
So far, 2019 has not been a good year for Hungarian characters in film and director Neil Jordan’s Greta attempts to buck the trend. The psychological-thriller stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen and Isabelle Huppert as the film’s titular character, Greta Hideg.
Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film
Going into this one I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on the trailers, the premise of an older lady obsessed with — a stranger as a surrogate daughter — sounded different from the usual roles in these types of films. Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film. Reader, he did not. Throughout the film there are too many moments that have already been done before that it kills any suspense the film tries to build. The characters are shallow and do not act like any rational human beings.
The film is set up with Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) on a train ride home where she finds a purse left by a stranger. Frances returns the purse to its rightful owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older French lady who lives by herself, and the two quickly become friends. Frances’ mother passed away and Greta says that her daughter has left for France so she’s been lonely ever since. Frances is new to New York City and returns home to her apartment with her rich roommate and former high school classmate Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). The relationship between Frances and Erica is used in stressing the point that Frances is new to the city. When Frances is returning home, the film sets up that Greta is a stalker. Greta is using social media to find out more information about Frances, she finds her Facebook and goes through her pictures, and this is where the movie starts transitioning to full Fatal Attraction.
The crazy things that Greta does to torment Frances in this film are LOLworthy because they’re portrayed in such an absurd way. Frances works as a waitress and Greta comes to her place of employment standing outside staring at her restaurant during her entire shift. When Frances tells the police they say they can’t do anything because Greta is on private property, which sure, we can let that slide even if it sounds ridiculous. Later that week, Greta returns as a patreon of the restaurant and Frances tells her manager that Greta has been stalking her, but her manager does not give a single f*ck. He tells Frances to “handle it” and not to make a scene. What? Yeah, and it gets worse. Greta pops up at the restaurant as a customer and she requests Frances as a waitress. Again, Frances’ terrible manager forces her to serve Greta instead of using a different waitress. Greta insults her, makes a huge scene (which is what the manager didn’t want), yells at Frances about needing Greta as a mother, and eventually ends up being strapped down to a stretcher out of the restaurant.
Somehow all of that takes place and Greta is free to roam the streets, lololololok? She ends up kidnapping Frances, and somehow she breaks into Frances’ apartment, poisons her coffee and takes her back to her house. All of this during a broad day in New York City. The only two people that end up looking for, the now missing, Frances is her father (Colm Feore) and her roommate Erica. Frances ended up being missing for a few weeks and there were only two people that contacted her over that time period, sure. This movie even has a whole scene where her father hires a detective to investigate and Greta ends up killing the detective, so many cliches. Frances even has her moment where she almost escapes but doesn’t because she’s movie-stupid and makes the dumbest decisions for someone who was kidnapped and nearly murdered. The big climax is when Erica returns a purse to Greta and saves Frances. It’s supposed to be that moment in the movie where you’re supposed to clap and feel good but it falls flat.
Filmmaking and Acting
Overall, the script of this movie is what hinders this movie but the acting is what helps balance it out. It’s a shame that the script was this bad because the direction and the acting are both well-polished. Isabelle Huppert was the perfect choice as the film’s titular character. She portrays Greta as someone who is unpredictable, evil and terrifying. Sure, there’s plenty of head scratching things that Greta does throughout the film, but Huppert’s portrayal is reminiscent of Heath Ledger as the Joker. She brings the right blend of comedy to this twisted, delusional and sinister character. Right behind her is Hit-Girl herself, Chloe Grace Moretz. Even though her character was portrayed as a naive dunce throughout the whole film, Moretz does her best with the material she’s given.
From a directing aspect, Neil Jordan shot a competent film. He didn’t rely on jump scares and used the characters to create the suspense in the film. There’s a scene where Greta stalks Erica and Jordan knew when to use close shots to keep things tight and not revealing Greta’s location too soon. There’s also a well-shot scene where Frances is poisoned and the film departs from its realistic aspect and goes down the effects route. Doing this gave the viewer the experience of being on a hallucinogen like Frances was. Also, when Frances escapes from Greta’s house, Frances locks Greta in a chest and wedges an Eiffel Tower in the latch of the chest so Greta is stuck there. This was a somewhat clever way to end the film because France was where Greta’s daughter vacated, it’s also a play on Frances name, and it symbolized Greta being the one stuck in France, so to speak.
The script for Greta was not worthy of a cinematic run and I think a film like this would’ve been better suited to a Netflix release. The acting by the two lead actresses brought life to a script that was filled with cliches and that deserves a salute. However, this movie has been done better over the last 20 years and Greta failed at bringing something new to the table.
Tonight on ABC, the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences presents the 91st Academy Awards, more commonly referred to as the Oscars. The award ceremony will honor the best films of 2018. Due to some controversies, this is the first ceremony to be conducted without a host since 1989. There were a lot of movies that were slept on in 2018 that deserved a nomination. Like every year, there are a few head scratchers going into tonight’s awards. Here are some predictions and rankings from Películas & Cosas.
Ranking Nominees for Best Picture
Here’s your definitive power ranking for the Academy Awards Best Picture nominees. Personally, only one of the films made it on my list of Best of 2018 when I wrote my Year in Review. After creating this list, I realized that my 1, 2, 7 and 8 were a lock, yet my 3 and 4 could be interchangeable, same as my 5 and 6. The same rating scale applies from Best to Worst: Fresh Horchata, Fuego, Bueno, a si a si, Basura, All Mames Wey.
Now onto the power rankings.
Director: Adam McKay
Genre: Biographical Comedy-Drama
Rating: así así
Full Reviewhere. |Vice has a spectacular performance from its lead actor in Christian Bale, with that said, outside of his performance this film was pretty forgettable. Adam McKay knows how to create a well-shot film, but the writing in this one needed some touching up to make it more memorable. As far as movies that were based on a true story or biopics released in 2018, Vice is the caboose in a long line of films that were funnier,shot better, had a better story and better execution. Vice is a film, like the voting machines in Florida from the controversial election that made Cheney the veep, that once you recount it, it results in a blurred finish and an underwhelming conclusion.
7. A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Genre: Musical Romantic-Drama
Trailer: A Star Is Born
Rating: así así
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is up for eight nominations at this year’s Academy Awards. A Star Is Born is thethird remake of a 1937 film of the same name. This is also Lady Gaga’s feature film debut in a lead role and how she got nominated for Best Supporting Actress is beyond me. Cooper’s direction is fine for a debut and he’s multi-talented with his singing and acting. There are emotional scenes that are heartbreaking that some say are tearjerkers. Sam Elliott’s performance is probably the best of any supporting character in the film. I also understand why he is a nominee for Best Supporting Actor. But the problem with this movie is that it suffers from being too long. There are times where the stakes aren’t as high and nothing is happening when things aren’t emotional. Lady Gaga’s acting was horrendous when paired next to Cooper. Early on in the film it’s obvious she was the wrong person cast in this role and it doesn’t get much better as the film progresses. She shines in all of the scenes where she has to sing which makes sense because she’s a singer. Unfortunately, since this movie focuses more on romance and drama, those singing scenes are stretched out far and in between. This is the big difference between her and Cooper. Cooper is an actor who tries to sing and is passable at carrying a note, whereas Gaga is a singer trying to act, she’s off key, and falls flat. The song Shallows has a nomination which I would not be surprised if they won an Oscar for it.
6. The Favourite
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Genre: Historical Period Dark Comedy Drama
Trailer: The Favourite
As someone that’s not really a huge fan of period pieces in film, I was optimistic about The Favourite because I enjoyed Yorgos Lanthimos previous film A Killing of a Sacred Deer. This movie wasn’t perfect but I did not walk out of the theater disappointed like the previous two entries on this list. The acting in this movie is phenomenal. The three leading ladies, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, are nominated for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress and they’re all well-deserving of their nominations. Yorgos Lanthimos has been nominated for Best Director. Critically, this film is one of the highest rated films on the list and I understand why, but for me, this film could’ve been a lot better. The direction, acting, production design and costume design were all phenomenal but this movie suffers from being too long and needing a tighter script. If Yargos decided to cut out about 30 minutes, then this would’ve been a much more enjoyable experience. The pacing is slow and it’s filled with a lot of free space and not much happening. The comedy aspect could’ve been expanded upon because there are scenes that are legitimately funny, but they are spread out between a bunch of posh people just talking about the life of someone being posh. The character development is top notch and watching how Emma Stone’s character progressed throughout the film was a fantastic case study. Colman’s Queen Anne is well-developed too, but overall, The Favourite needed someone to come in and tighten up the script.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Genre: Semi-Autobiographical Drama
Full Review here.| Roma is the most beautifully shot film of 2018 and that’s the main reason why I have it ahead of The Favourite. However, like the sixth film in this ranking it also suffers from a pacing problem and is at times too slow, to the point it’s story becomes boring. Where Roma is most effective is in its direction by Alfonso Cuarón. Visually, the film is a true work of art. Every scene is shot gracefully. There’s long takes that makes you appreciate the background and engrosses you into the scene. The film’s black and white aspect gives off a feeling of watching someone’s memories from a distant past. Dialogue wise, Cuarón’s writing isn’t on par with his cinematography. Outside of a couple of lines there isn’t much that really stuck with me once the film had ended. If there were more emotional gut punches throughout the film then the element of drama would’ve justified it’s run time.
4. Green Book
Director: Peter Farrelly
Genre: Biographical Comedy-Drama
Trailer: Green Book
Full Review here.| Green Book is “Oscar bait,” and a flawed film when it comes to discussing race in America. It’s definitely one of those movies that makes White People feel comfortable when it comes to America’s history with race. With that said, out of the Best Picture nominees, it’s better than the previous entries on this list because it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. The pacing is great, the acting, especially by Mahershala Ali, is awesome and there are some hearty laughs packed into this roadtrip racial drama-comedy. The pairing of Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen is perfect, and it’s up there with some of the best pairings of the year. I would like to see a future movie that is from the viewpoint of Ali’s character, since Doc Shirley’s family is upset with how he was depicted in the film.
Spike Lee’s possible ad-campaign for the NYPD,Blackkklansman is a fine film. It has the same issues as the film above except instead of race, it tries to make the police the heroes, and possibly sacrifice the things that make it a “true story” to do so. As a film the editing is kind of sloppy which is why I’m surprised it has a Best Editing nomination. John David Washington has a stellar debut in the lead role in a feature film. He brings the charisma needed for a character that has to balance the duality of a black cop and undercover Klansman (kind of). Adam Driver portrays a great supporting character as well. The Best Director nomination is a head scratcher as well. There’s a car chase scene in this film that feels straight out of a B-movie. There are also times, like Green Book, the film tries to be manipulative with your emotions. Overall, Blackkklansman is an enjoyable film but there’s nothing about it that REALLY stands out. Guess it’s because Spike Lee’s name is attached to it.
Full Review here.| This is the one that has #FilmTwitter BIG MAD. But I enjoyed this film a lot. If Bale doesn’t win Best Actor then Malek is a shoe-in because his performance as Freddie Mercury was captivating. He doesn’t disappoint when bringing the flamboyance of Freddie to the big screen. Mercury’s personality screams rock star in four octaves, and Malek brings the charisma of the late rock star during his performance. When Mercury goes solo, Malek’s performance brings out the sense of lostness that Freddie was going through. There are moments where aspects of the story are conveniently placed and come across as Hollywood cliches, specifically at the beginning of the film and in the lead up to the Live Aid performance during the last act, so finding out they weren’t historically accurate wasn’t too surprising. What Bohemian Rhapsody gets right is that it knows its subject, and it makes you care about the main characters, which makes for a more enjoyable theatrical experience
1. Black Panther
Director: Ryan Coogler
Trailer: Black Panther
Wakanda Forever! No other film released in the year two thousand eighteen was as impactful as Black Panther was. Ryan Coogler directed the first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a predominantly black cast. There are tons of reasons outside of the actual film why this movie is marvelous which I will save for another post. The costumes and set designs in Black Panther are amongst the best of the year. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger, and his last line of dialogue, will be etched in Americana history for years to come. Not to be outdone, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira and Lupita Nyong’o also brought their A game to the 18th film in the MCU. Coogler pays homage to the Bay Area by using his hometown of Oakland to reimagine Killmonger by swapping out his traditional New York origins for California origin. The last fight scene is the main reason why this film isn’t ranked higher on this list. Not sure if they used most of their budget for the rest of the film and had to rush through the last fight scene because it looked like it was lifted out of a video game. Outside of that, Black Panther is a movie that’s worth seeing based off of its impact alone. This is my prediction for Best Picture winner.
Rest of the Award Winning Predictions and Nominees
Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
Paweł Pawlikowski – Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Adam McKay – Vice
Christian Bale – Vice as Dick Cheney
Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born as Jackson “Jack” Maine
Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate as Vincent van Gogh
Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody as Freddie Mercury
Viggo Mortensen – Green Book as Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga
Yalitza Aparicio – Roma as Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez
Glenn Close – The Wife as Joan Castleman
Olivia Colman – The Favourite as Anne, Queen of Great Britain
The Favourite – Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed – Written by Paul Schrader
Green Book – Written by Nick Vallelonga & Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly
Roma – Written by Alfonso Cuarón
Vice – Written by Adam McKay
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; based on the short stories All Gold Canyon by Jack London, The Gal Who Got Rattled by Stewart Edward White, and short stories by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman – Screenplay by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee; based on the book by Ron Stallworth
If Beale Street Could Talk – Screenplay by Barry Jenkins; based on the book by James Baldwin
A Star Is Born – Screenplay by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters; based on the 1954 screenplay by Moss Hart and the 1976 screenplay by Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne & Frank Pierson; based on a story by Robert Carson & William A. Wellman
Best Animated Feature Film
Incredibles 2 – Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
Mirai – Mamoru Hosoda and Yūichirō Saitō
Ralph Breaks the Internet – Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
Alita: Battle Angel answers the question that everyone has asked: “What would happen if the creator of Avatar teamed up with the creator ofSpy Kids to create a live-action (with CGI) version of a Japanese manga. Reader, the results are as chaotic as they sound.
Behind the Scenes
Based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and written by James Cameron, Alita: Battle Angel is a cyberpunk action film that in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nineteen, finally made its way into the theaters after being stuck in development hell since 2003. The 20th Century Fox produced film has a cast of quality actors including 2019 Oscar nominee Mahershala Ali, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., newcomer Keean Johnson and Rosa Salazar as the titular character. With a budget of 200 million dollars, the film has a lot going on, good and bad, during its 122 minute run time.
What Alita: Battle Angel gets right is its visuals and Cameron’s ability to world build. The film centers around Alita, a cyborg who loses her memory and tries to learn who she is and where she came from. The only thing that looks kind of weird about Alita is that her eyes are larger than every other character in the film. With that said, her look is on-point with her previous incarnations.
For a PG-13 this movie is violent and the action scenes are well-made. Being that the characters are mostly cyborgs, the film was able to take its liberties and create graphic scenes. The cyborgs bleed blue, which was most likely done so the film didn’t get an R rating. While the action scenes are fun and nice to look at, the film feels like it is trying to pack as much action into the film, story be damned. Robert Rodriguez’s camera work captures the action by utilizing slow-motion and knowing which angles give a sense of depth to the threat that Alita is facing. Here’s a clip of her fighting Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley).
Rosa Salazar’s performance as Alita is delightful. She’s expressive in her face and tone which in turn brings out the personality in the titular character. Christoph Waltz is pretty much just Christoph Waltz (which isn’t a bad thing) in his role as Dr. Dyson Ido. Ido is the doctor that finds Alita’s head in a junkyard and connects her to a body. He’s also a father figure for her and somehow acts as a moral compass. Jennifer Connelly pops up a couple of times as Dr. Chiren, she’s Dr. Ido’s ex-wife and she works for Vector (Mahershala Ali) the film’s main antagonist. Connelly didn’t add much to the film, but she and her character just felt like they were just there to be there. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. portrays the troubled teenager Tanji and it’s a complete 180 from his character in Bumblebee. Tanji has an attitude, teenage angst, and does not like cyborgs which puts him at odds with Alita. Zapan (Ed Skrein) is a cyborg bounty hunter that develops and vendetta against Alita. Zapan and Alita have chemistry whenever they’re on-screen with each other and I wish that Zapan had a larger role in the film.
They did not give Mahershala Ali anything to do as Vector. Vector rigs the combat sport Motorball, but he’s being mind-controlled by Nova (Edward Norton). Ali’s performance doesn’t have any kind of nuance and he spends most of his time on-screen just being a generic villain. Ali felt underutilized for his talents, yet Keean Johnson felt overexposed for his. Johnson portrays Hugo, Alita’s love interest, and the role felt too big for him. Johnson has a lot of screen time and his character has an internal conflict, but he Johnson doesn’t have the range to pull off the emotions needed to make the character compelling. This is most apparent when he’s on-screen with Alita. As mentioned previously, Salazar is an expressive actress, just her voicework for Alita gave the character a dynamic feeling, but when adjacent to Keean Johnson’s Hugo it’s like they’re in two different films.
Sadly, the battle the Alita: Battle Angel could not overcome was James Cameron adapting a manga into a coherent film. Alita was scheduled to be released on December 21, 2018 but pushed its release date to February 2018 due to the competition of films that were supposed to be released in December. In an ironic twist, the 122 minute film tries to set up a franchise, yet packs a trilogy into a single movie that causes the plot to feel rushed just like one of its original release date competitors. The biggest problem with packing so much into the film is that the plot becomes messy, the story becomes boring and there’s no reason to be emotionally invested into the characters. This is why when certain characters meet their fate, it ends up being an eye roll moment. Apparently, James Cameron really wants this to be a trilogy, which is why this film is packed to the brim with things to expand on in future films.
Americans adapting manga into live-action films have been the iceberg that hit the Titanic (James Cameron reference) and Alta: Battle Angel falls in a long line of disappointing adaptations (Ghost in the Shell anyone?). The animation should be applauded because the world in the film is elaborate to the point that even background characters are meticulously detailed. Rosa Salazar was the perfect choice for the lead character and she brought out a sense of personality in a cyborg. If James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez decide to move forward for a sequel, I hope Cameron focuses on developing the characters the same way that the visual effects were. I’m not 100% sure if I would recommend this one on the big screen because outside of its visual aspects and the action scenes there’s not much going on that’s worth paying a full price ticket for. If you’ve got a big screen TV and a sound system then definitely wait for this one to come available on a VOD service.
[All Mames Wey]
Alita: Battle Angel was released in theaters February 14, 2019.
“This is my house” is the catchphrase that introduced Paige to the WWE Universe. Fighting With My Family is the biopic that introduced her to the rest of the world. Produced by legendary WWE Superstar, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the sports-comedy biopic follows the life of Saraya “Paige” Bevis and her journey from a wrestling family to winning the WWE Divas Championship in 2014. The film is directed and written by The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant, and stars Florence Pugh, Jack Lowden, Vince Vaughn, Nick Frost, Lena Headey, and Dwayne Johnson.
Going into this one I wasn’t sure of what to expect. As someone who doesn’t really care for The Office but has watched wrasslin’ (wrestling) over the years, I wasn’t sure if Stephen Merchant would be able to pull this one off. Luckily, the Englishman came through with a solid job at telling a true story in a humorous way. The direction is smooth and early on there’s a lot of camera movement that intertwines with the film’s theme.
Saraya “Paige” Bevis (Florence Pugh) was raised in a wrestling family. Her parents, Patrick “Rowdy Ricky Knight” Bevis (Nick Frost) and Julia “Sweet Saraya” Bevis (Lena Headey) were wrestlers and they were living the gimmick so to speak. I mean Paige’s actual first name is Saraya, the same name as her mother’s ring name. Paige’s brothers are also wrestlers, Zak “Zodiac” Bevis and her half-brother Roy Knight (James Burrows). The relationship that Paige has with her family members is what makes Fighting With My Family one of the best wrestling movies to hit the big screen in a while. Paige is the only member of her family to make it to the grandest stage of them all in the WWE, and watching how members of her family dealt with that created a compelling film.
The Bevis family is filled with interesting details that make you interested in their roles in the film. Ricky Bevis is the patriarch of the family. Along with his wife, they founded the World Association Wrestling promotion after his stint in jail. There’s a powerful line in the film where Ricky states that most people find God in jail but he found wrestling. The dedication to the sport didn’t stop there. His eldest son is Roy Knight and after spending time in jail he also wrestled and later formed a tag team with Zak. The dynamic between Zak and Paige is where the movie’s storytelling is at its best. Zak is a couple of years older than Paige and his dream was to become a WWE Superstar; unfortunately when he and his sister have a tryout, WWE scout Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) chooses Paige, and Zak is left to stay behind in Greenwich, Norfolk.
The writing and the acting in the film is superb. Florence Pugh does a stellar job as Paige. She brings the charm, the wit, and the attitude that Paige is known for throughout her short WWE career. Nick Frost and Lena Headey were hilarious as Paige’s parents. Early on we recognised that Paige’s mom was somewhat of a wildcard. Paige even had to ask if her mom had tried heroin, cocaine and crack combined after she made a facetious statement. Dwayne Johnson plays himself and he’s hilarious. If you were a fan of The Rock growing up then I would recommend checking this film out because he Layeth the Smackethdown every scene he is in. Vince Vaughn, who I haven’t seen in anything in years, was fine as Hutch Morgan. He pretty much played Vince Vaughn. Thea “Zelina Vega” Trinidad did her best AJ Lee impression when Paige beat her for the Divas championship. They recreated the match and it nearly made a perfect duplicate, sans the ring gear on both women.
For wrestling fans, there’s a lot of Easter eggs this film has in it that I enjoyed. When Paige and her brother met The Rock they told him that they were fans of his back when he had hair. Jeri-Lyn is the name of one of the girls in NXT that is somewhat of a rival to Paige. During a scene in NXT where one of the competitors keeps botching her moves, Paige gives her a receipt. Vince Vaughn’s Hutch Morgan is known as a journeyman, who is more commonly known in wrestling jargon as a jabroni or a jobber. The Rock calls him Sextape. Paige asked why did he call Hutch Morgan Sextape? The Rock replies because Hutch can make anyone famous. For those that do not know, Paige was hacked a couple of years ago and her sextape was leaked, so that reference could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. Outside of Zelina Vega, other WWE Superstars that make a cameo include The Miz, Sheamus and The Big Show. Tessa Blanchard did some of the in-ring stunts for Florence Pugh. There’s a bootleg Pete Dunne featured at Paige and her brother’s tryout.
Fighting With My Family is one of the best movies about pro-wrestling that has hit the big screen in a decade. It’s a shame that Paige had to retire at such a young age because she’s charismatic and was a star. By the time she was 20 she accomplished more than most, and now at the age of 26 she already has a film based upon her life which is even more impressive. Salute to Dwayne Johnson for producing this film and getting it told on the big screen. The cast was perfect and elevated the story to create an engaging experience. Like the subject of the film, Florence Pugh is young and after her performance in this film she might be in contention next award season. Fighting With My Family is a good film overall and if you’re looking to watch a fun family comedy this weekend then check this one out.
[All Mames Wey]
Fighting with My Family was released in theaters February 14, 2019.
Bonus: Below is the 2012 documentary that inspired the film.
February 14th is a day known for love, romance and a giant baby piercing people in their hearts. Cupid isn’t shooting arrows, but instead this Valentine’s Day, Blumhouse and Universal have teamed up to produce Happy Death Day 2U, a sequel to the 2017 commercially successful dark comedy-horror, Happy Death Day. Christopher Landon returns as the director and sole writer with characters created by Scott Lobdell, and the film sees the return of actors Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, and Phi Vu.
When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was somewhat worried because the first one ended in a way that a sequel would seem hard to execute. Luckily, Christopher London had a vision that worked out as a soft-reboot and genre change for the franchise. For those that have not seen the first Happy Death Day, it’s a fun PG-13 horror-comedy that I would recommend checking out before seeing this sequel.
Yes, the first one is like Groundhogs Day meets slasher meets murder mystery but more focused on the comedy than the horror. Second one is more like all of that meets Back to the Future 👌🏾
After the events of the first film, Tree Geldman (Jessica Rothe) finds herself stuck in the time loop on her birthday. One of the biggest questions after the first film was why Tree was in a time loop in the first place. Happy Death Day 2U does a decent job trying to explain it but I think it could’ve done a better job at incorporating events from the first film in its explanation. Outside of that, there are tons of callbacks from the first film. Some work and some were not as impressive, and there are some scenes that may have been cut, lifted and pasted from the first movie as well. Similar to the first film, the sequel starts off as a slasher and then after the first death, it gets far away from it.
The acting in the film and its characters are its biggest strengths. Jessica Rothe is criminally underrated and her performance as Tree Geldman is just as good as it was in the first film. In a film that is completely unrealistic Tree brings a sense of realism that a normal person would have if they were stuck in a time loop that they once broke. Her relationship with Carter (Israel Broussard) has a nice wrinkle to it, which gives the film a sense of freshness. Carter is still a character who works as the film’s moral compass when Tree reverts to her old ways. Even the returning side characters played bigger roles in the overall story of the film. Danielle (Rachelle Matthews) was impressionable in the first film and in this one she adds another layer to her relationship with Tree. If there’s a third film then I am looking forward to seeing where her character goes. Lori (Ruby Modine) plays a different role than the previous film, which also creates a more rounded character. New characters like Dre (Sarah Yarkin) and Samar (Suraj Sharma) were a welcome addition but they could’ve been used more effectively. They’re both comedy characters and when they’re paired with Danielle there’s a hijink scene that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor.
Another under utilized character is Ryan (Phi Vu), based on the trailer, it seems like he would’ve had a bigger role in the film. Before Tree’s first death, the film focuses on Ryan and it makes the movie feel fresh and not derivative of the first Happy Death Day. As Ryan gets pushed into the background, the more messy the film becomes. There’s a complete genre shift as the movie progresses which is what I loved about this film, yet at the same time, when it harps back to the first film it’s very hit or miss. Scott Lobdell, creator of the characters in the first film, helped write the first movie and the sequel is missing his touch. Christopher Landon did a fine job at making this movie mean something. The emotional scenes with Tree are phenomenal and they hit a nerve for a sequel to a horror-comedy. Jessica Rothe really deserves an Oscar nomination and that’s how great she’s been in these films. Where Happy Death Day 2U flounders is when it completely ditches the horror-mystery elements and goes full sci-fi, romance and comedy because of the jerk in the tonal shift.
The technical aspects are not on par with the first film when it comes to editing. The first film was edited by Gregory Plotkin and this one was edited by Ben Baudhuin. Baudhuin’s attention to detail was a major step down when it came to the reaction shots and it was noticeable throughout the film. Even with these flaws, this was a serviceable sequel to the first film. I admire how they took chances that a lot of sequels wouldn’t think of taking. Some of those chances paid off and others did not, but with the characters created within this universe and now multi-verse I think going forward Happy Death Day will be the cornerstone franchise for Blumhouse. A third film has not been greenlit as of writing this review, but Tree and her friends deserve one more outing on the big screen. Jessica Rothe keeps churning out performances like this, then it won’t be long before the world takes notice. After the events of this film (mid-credit scene) I would not be surprised if Danielle (Rachel Matthews) gets a spin-off Netflix (re: streaming service) series. Happy Death Day 2U is an ambitious sequel that does some things right, a few things wrong, but overall, it made a time loop worth seeing again.
[All Mames Wey]
Happy Death Day 2U is in theaters February 13, 2019.
What’s wrong with Miles? The latest release from Orion Pictures, The Prodigy, tries to answer that question. The supernatural horror-thriller is director Nicholas McCarthy’s third theatrical release, with his previous two outings also being horror films. The Prodigy follows Miles (Jackson Robert Scott), a disturbed young boy who has the intellect of a genius, and his family, as they investigate what’s causing his wicked behavior.
From a technical aspect there’s a lot to love about The Prodigy. The acting, direction and score is what makes this film better than what it should be. Jackson Robert Scott’s performance was just as good, if not better, than when he was yelling at Bill that “you’ll float too” in his last horror venture. Scott does a fantastic job of balancing the nuances of playing a character that has somewhat of a split personality in this possession film. There are scenes where he delivers the dialogue with enough confidence that it doesn’t make you second guess what you’re hearing. Jackson Scott Reed pulls off the right amount of creepiness needed that creates the perturb and eerie that a character like Miles needs to work in a film such as this one. Miles’ mother, Sarah, is portrayed by Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Schilling does an okay job herself with the material she is given. She plays a mother who truly cares about the well-being of her son and it often times feels authentic. Yet, there are a few scenes where Miles will say things to her and his father John (Peter Mooney), that make you wonder why the parents just give in to his demands so easily, instead of, ya know, parenting.
The direction of Nicholas McCarthy and the score provided by Joseph Bishara is what gives The Prodigy some sense of originality. There are a lot of these possession films that aren’t directed as well and McCarthy deserves recognition for that. He knows when to focus on a characters face to up the tension and suspense in a scene. And he doesn’t overly rely on jump scares. If you’ve followed this blog then you know jump scares when not used effectively can ruin the enjoyment of a film. There was a jump scare that really stood out, and it got an audible noise out of me in the theater because it came out of nowhere. McCarthy stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly back in October that there was a scene that had to be re-edited due to the audience screaming so much. Bishara’s score adds to the film’s sinister aspect. Bishara has been a staple in composing sounds for horror films including Insidious and The Conjuring franchises. The Prodigy may have a budget of only 6 million dollars but he brought his A-game during the scoring process.
As much as I enjoyed the technical aspects of the film the biggest flaw and where The Prodigy falls flat is in its script. In that same Entertainment Weekly interview, McCarthy stated that when he read the script, this movie was something he had to make. The problem with the script is that the movie is far too predictable. There wasn’t much of a sense of surprise during the film because all the familiar horror tropes were heir apparent. While watching the movie if there’s something that you think is going to happen the movie never tries to swerve or be original and create something that hasn’t been seen in a dozen other horror films. Overall, I enjoyed it enough that when I walked out of the theater I wasn’t mad at what I witnessed. It was a competent movie that just needed to take more risk to be something that truly stood out. If you’re out with your friends and looking for a fun “scary” movie to watch this weekend then I would recommend giving this one a viewing.
In today’s world people are quick to judge before knowing all of the facts. “Guilty until proven innocent,” is the tagline for director Rhyan Lamarr’s newest film, Canal Street. Canal Street, like Beale Street, figuratively speaking, is a road in life where people upon opposite paths happen to come across each other. Canal Street stars Bryshere Y. Gray, Mekhi Phifer, Kevin Quinn, Juani Feliz, Mykelti Williamson and a plethora of radio personalities playing themselves. Set in his native Chicago, Lamar and his team wrote the script for the film in 2005 and the film still rings true 14 years later. The film follows Kholi Styles (Bryshere Y. Gray) as he tries to prove his innocence in the death of Brian Sudermill (Kevin Quinn).
Lamarr’s storytelling shines throughout the tension of the racial-drama that takes place in the film. While the film is self-aware of itself at points, there’s even a funny exchange of dialogue where a character comments on how Brian Sudermill looks like Zac Efron. The weaving of the radio talk show hosts as they commentate on Kholi Styles’ ongoing trial feels authentic. Just like in real life, we get to see various opinions by media figures on whether Kholi Styles is guilty of the murder of Brian Sudermill. The talking heads include: Charlamagne Tha God, and Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club, Yandy Smith, Rickey Smiley, Headkrack, Chicago’s very own Mancow and Kendra G, and more. As details of the trial come out, the commentary adds to the tension as those figures from different backgrounds give us their thoughts, it truly captures the diverse views of American society.
For an independent film that was shot over 16 days, the veteran actors bring some legitimacy to the small budget film. Mykelti Williamson shines as Jackie Styles, the father and lawyer of Kholi Styles. On the other side of the aisle is Mekhi Phifer as Prosecutor A.J. Canton, and his character adds another layer to the drama. A.J. Canton is a black man from the south side of Chicago, like Kholi Styles, but as a prosecutor, Canton’s job is to get a conviction in this case and he pulls out all of the stops. Canton bends the rules during the case and disregards ethics because all he cares about is winning. Canton’s brother, Ronald Morgon, played by Michael Beach and he does not agree with his brother’s tactics as a lawyer. One of the most authentic scenes in the film is when Canton returns to his brother’s barbershop on the south side of Chicago and the patrons have a real barbershop conversation with him about the case. Canton lets them know that he’s just doing his job, and that he won’t be the first black prosecutor to prosecute a black teen and he won’t be the last. Ronald lets his brother know that he’s not an honorable man like Harold Washington, the first African-American to be elected as mayor of Chicago. The film interweaves footage of Washington while Ronald is recounting the positive influence that he had as a pioneer of the city.
Some of the film’s production does not feel worthy enough to be featured on the big screen. There are times where the lack of a budget hinders the movie and makes it look like something that you would stream on Netflix or watch on television. There are filmmaking choices that don’t fit the tone of the movie when it comes to capturing a particular character’s reaction during a tragic scene. There are casting choices where minor characters look a little too old to be high schoolers. Those are minor things that you’re able to look past because the biggest problem is that the movie pauses its storytelling to preach to the audience. Sometimes Canal Street is able to weave its preachy message into the story elements, but most of the time, there are scenes where characters might as well be looking directly into the camera and reading a sermon to us and this becomes nauseating by the time the movie ends.
The mystery-thriller elements of the film are underwhelming, to say the least. The narrative of the film is to figure out who killed Brian Sudermill, and before the big reveal happens, Canal Street doesn’t do a good job at keeping the audience on their toes. Around the halfway point, the film telegraphs who the killer is, so you’re just watching it and hoping the movie hurries up and follows up on it. Instead, the film trips over itself and by the time the true killer is revealed and the events happen that lead up to it, the movie feels like one long episode of Law and Order. There’s not much suspense and when the tension rises in the film it’s predictable, so you’re not left with much to keep you entertained.
Canal Street deserves its praise for its concept because there are ideas in the film that work well. It flawlessly pulls off an accurate representation of the way people are guilty in the court of public opinion before the court of law. For a 15 year old script, the film’s social commentary is just as relevant today as it ever was, and that says a lot about the way we view “change” over the years in our society. Outside of the film being preachy and shoving the Gospel down our throat in every other scene, the film is run-of-the-mill when compared to some of its 2018 counterparts. Canal Street has elements that are found in Blindspotting, Blackkklansman, and If Beale Street Could Talk, which are all films that do a fantastic job at exploring the plight of being a black male, yet this one has an underwhelming execution. There are moments where this movie hits the right notes. Performances by lead actor Bryshere Y. Gray, Mykelti Williamson, Mekhi Phifer, and Michael Beach are heartfelt. Juani Feliz does a great job as a love interest. Somewhere in Canal Street lies a good film and I think that the writer and director, Rhyan Lamarr, can create a more compelling drama than this. There’s definitely talent there, and the Chicago native shows it at times, but overall Canal Street flounders and the film reaches what seems like a dead end by its conclusion.
[All Mames Wey]
Canal Street was released in theaters January 18th, 2019.
The Dragon Ball franchise has made its theatrical return with Dragon Ball Super: Broly. Created by Akira Toriyama, the Japanese anime is the highest grossing film in the franchise and one of the highest grossing animes in history. The film sees the return of Goku, the main character of the series, and the first canonical inclusion of Broly, the Legendary Super Saiyan.
Growing up I watched Dragon Ball Z all the time during the Toonami block on Cartoon Network. (Sidenote: The Funimation dub is better than the Ocean dub, sans the opening theme and Vegeta saying Over 90000!) Going into this film, the last Dragon Ball content I watched was the feature release of Resurrection F and Battle of Gods, yet I hadn’t seen any episodes of Dragon Ball: Super, so I was not sure what to expect going into this one. For those that do not know, the main villain in this film is Broly, a Legendary Super Saiyan who was the main antagonist in a trilogy of films that are not canon in the Dragon Ball franchise. With all that said going into this film, I was confused because I did not know Broly was not canon.
The storytelling aspect of the film is accessible, to say the least. The film does a stellar job at introducing you to the characters and their motivations in a way that makes it easy for those that are unfamiliar with the franchise to understand what’s going on. But at the same time there are moments when this film’s plot sacrifices and retcons important moments in Dragon Ball’s lore. The first half of the film focuses on the background of the three Saiyans; the prince to the throne Vegeta, the low-class warrior Goku, and the exiled and powerful Broly. There’s a whole anime titled Dragon Ball that follows the story of Goku and in it, Goku is sent to Earth to destroy it, but in this film, he’s sent to Earth as a means of surviving Planet Vegeta’s destruction. Over time it’s hard to keep up with continuity, especially for a franchise that’s over three decades old, so this is something that I can give the movie a pass for.
The character piece in the film is an interesting one because the villain is misunderstood. Broly is a powerful fighter who doesn’t understand his own strength, his father raised him as vicious fighter while keeping a shock collar around Broly’s neck as if he was an animal. When he gets to Earth, Frieza kills his father to ignite more rage out of Broly which makes him more powerful. Once Broly becomes the Legendary Super Saiyan he cannot control his power nor his anger and this makes him a harder foe to fight for Vegeta and Goku. This is what makes Broly’s story a tragedy and a victim of circumstance. Broly never asked to be this way and he cannot control his power yet he’s a pawn for Frieza who wants to seek his revenge on Goku. When Goku and Vegeta fuse to create the powerful warrior Gogeta, they overpower Broly and are about to obliterate him, luckily a minor character cares for the Legendary Super Saiyan and wishes him back to the planet he was raised on.
Overall, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a fun ride and expands the story of one of the greatest animes in history. Personally, some of the previous Broly films were more enjoyable such as Broly – Second Coming and Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan because those films felt more natural. I enjoyed this film but at the same time it felt like a few things were forced in to make Broly fit that sacrifices Dragon Ball’s canon. If you’re a fan of anime I think you’re going to love this film. The voice acting is great, the animation is fun, there’s times where there are jarring transitions from 2D to 3D, but it’s a well crafted film overall. I am interested in seeing what’s next for the Z fighters and what Toriyama has in store for the future.
[All Mames Wey]
Dragon Ball Super: Broly was released in select theaters on January 16, 2019.
Trigger Warning: Some may find the content in this review offensive.
DO YOU BANK BLACK!?
Michael Render, aka Killer Mike, has always been known as a black-banking enthusiast. The Grammy-award winning rapper has sparked up conversations about black economic equality throughout the years. There have been a number of events that have happened within the last few years that sparked the idea for a show like the Netflix Original docuseries, Trigger Warning With Killer Mike. One of his most memorable moments, which may have sparked the idea of a pilot episode of Trigger Warning, goes all the way back to June of 2017. That’s when late-night host and “comedian” Bill Maher tried to be edgy and fell flat on his face when he told a joke that did not go over too well. The Trigger Warning host took to Twitter to defend Maher:
black have BIGGER things than NIGGER to concern our selves with: Black Banks, Gentrification, Economics & Trade Education. Love, My Nigga. https://t.co/nTtvRkXKkF
After catching some flack from fans who did not agree with Mike’s stance on the Bill Maher situation the “But… Do YOU bank black?” meme was born. The Atlanta-based emcee continued to clap back at anyone who dared to enter his mentions by questioning their allegiance to supporting black enterprises:
For all my Niggas/Niggers that wanna get me in check b4 u tweet me do u: bank black, buy black, support a black biz often. If not STFU faker
Fast forward to March 2018 and the Run the Jewels emcee sparked headlines when the NRA “misused” his interview following the March for Our Lives demonstration after the Parkland school shooting. Now that Killer Mike has his own show, he uses his platform to get his message out, the way that he sees fit. With the Netflix docuseries Trigger Warning, each episode is a social experiment that challenges conventional thinking. There are only 6 episodes of the first season, clocking in at around 25 minutes each, and there’s a lot going on that makes it one of the most interesting series currently airing on Netflix.
The pilot episode, ‘Living Black,’ does a phenomenal job at having a concept that reels you into the show from the start. The show’s director Vikram Gandhi and Killer Mike, have come up with an idea where Killer Mike will live totally black for 3 days. Totally black means that every single thing that he uses, eats, and consumes will be from a black-owned company. There’s an infographic that points out the number of days that a dollar stays in the economic ecosystem for different races. The graphic states that a dollar can stay in the Asian community for 28 days, the White community for 23 days, the Jewish community for 21 days, and only 6 hours in the African-American community before it’s released out. The issue that plagues the show is that when there are infographics, more times than not, there’s not a source mentioned to go with it. After searching on Google for this particular study I found mention of it here. Killer Mike tells Vikram Gandhi that he thinks there’s something Black for everything. Gandhi tells him that if he stayed in Atlanta then it might be possible, but since the Run the Jewels show is in Athens then it’s going to be a challenge. Shareef Abdul Malik, the founder of We Buy Black, hooks Killer Mike up with various black made products. The Figgers phone is the one that I found the most interesting because its inventor Freddie Figgers has a biography that is perfect for a feature film that would make Elon Musk jealous.
Killer Mike is so dedicated to the cause that he can’t even get a lapdance from an Asian stripper at Blue Flame. Since black people do not make cars, he has to rely on Harmon Brothers Charter Service to take him from Atlanta to Athens. He cannot even open his can of beans because he doesn’t have a black-made can opener. All of these things take place in Atlanta, but when he reaches Athens things get worse. There’s no black-owned hotel, so he has to sleep on a bench. The multi-platinum rapper is sleeping outside on a bench due to what he terms “White Economy Withdrawal,” which is what makes this particular episode interesting. When he finally meets up with fellow Run the Jewels emcee, El-P, they cannot Uber anywhere, smoke weed, and when they find a black-owned restaurant Killer Mike cannot eat there due to the meat not being raised by black farmers. There’s a scene where we get to learn the history of the Hot Corner in downtown Athens and Mack Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Styling Shop. tells Killer Mike about the history of Hot Corner. There used to be 66 black businesses in Hot Corner and the money went around one time in the Black community and 2 or 3 times in the White community. There’s even a mention of the green book.
The second episode is ambitious as Killer Mike tries to fix education in America. The title of the episode is ‘Fuck School’ and it’s a double entendre because the emcee tries to create educational-porn. Before the pornography angle begins, Killer Mike meets up with a group of 1st graders. There’s an eye-opening statement by a student who says that another student at the school once told him “you’re not like everybody else your skin looks like poop,” which Killer Mike does a good job at reassuring the kid that being Black is something to be proud of. Things pick up when Mike asks the students what their aspirations are when they grow up. The students have ambitions of being presidents, scientists, and Killer Mike tells them to put their hands down because that’s what the world is going to say to them as they get older. Mike’s approach is for the kids to learn trades instead of dreaming big because they, more than likely, will not become their dream jobs. He partners up with Toby the handyman and shows the students applicable trades like plumbing and how to change a lightbulb. Mike takes things a step further as he tries to explain to the Principal that her students should be learning trades. The thing about Killer Mike’s point is that he’s not completely wrong, America is in need of more people who are skilled in trade. He even makes a point that schools teach kids to obey like prisons, schools are built like prisons, but the Principal is not having it, and she tells Mike to try his academic ventures with adults.
The ATLien finds a group of unemployed adults on the streets of Atlanta and creates his own small sample group to test out his educational ventures. After asking the adults what their dream jobs are and getting responses that include musicians, producers, actresses, and remodeling houses, Killer Mike is again the bearer of bad news. Just as he told the kids earlier, adults should focus on realistic jobs such as knowing trades. After taking a placement test, it’s clear that none of the unemployed adults possessed any knowledge or skills in the arts of trades. Toby, the handyman from earlier, stated that he learned all of his schools on YouTube during a time when he was unemployed but the other adults find that learning on YouTube is boring. The show interjects with a study that shows most adults spend their time on pornography sites, and this is the catalyst for Killer Mike to incorporate pornography into his educational videos. After finding adult actors that encompass the full spectrum of porn, he presents the group with a video that teaches them all various trades. Killer Mike has had success, as all of their scores tremendously improved when they retake the placement test. Mike decided to present his work to the founder of Omni Tech in hopes to “educate the masses with tits and asses.”
The third episode is one of my favorite episodes of the series. It is titled ‘White Gang Privilege’ and deals with all the advantages that gangs like Hells Angels have when it comes to trademarking themselves as a legit business even though they’re just as controversial as the Bloods and Crips. Killer Mike gathers a few members of the Crips street fraternity and uses their knowledge of entrepreneurship to start a business. The members include Yayo. Murdo, AC and Newny and the idea they come up with is a cola. Being that the show is based in Atlanta, a cola would be in direct competition with Coca-Cola and the group decided to name their cola, Crip-A-Cola.
Sure, the name of the soda sounds absurd, but this episode gets the humanity of the gang members across effortlessly. After failing to secure an 100K business loan, due to not having tax returns, the crew decides to do what any entrepreneur would do, and cook their cola n the kitchen. With help from a graphic designer they design a unique logo and have former Coca-Cola executive, Sean Martin, evaluate Crip-a-Cola and he praises the packaging on its uniqueness. According to Trigger Warning, soda is responsible for more deaths in the United States than gang violence, so for Crip-a-Cola to be healthier than Coca-Cola is a move in the right direction, but at the end of the day soda is unhealthy, which is a point Mike makes in the show.
The climax of the episode is when the Crips try to flood the market, or distribute to stores in Atlanta, and none of the stores wanting to carry their product due to it being labeled as from the Crips. It’s to a point where if the product was from the Hells Angels than they would be fine with it unlike the Crips. This ideology is also present in a focus group for Crip-a-Cola. Killer Mike and the Crips are watching a focus group, filled with mostly white people, who are given a blind taste test. Everyone in the group stated they liked cola, when the moderator lets them try Crip-a-Cola, they all liked the taste until the product was revealed. The temperature in the room changes and every one has outlandish takes that would make Colin Cowherd sound sane. One guy even says that if people drink Crip-a-Cola they’ll be shot down. Most of the members of the focus group have a negative connotation with the word crip and state that would never buy the product. During the focus group scene we are introduced to Mario Avani. Killer Mike calls Mario Avani, who is Puerto Rican, a racist because Mario has a way of defending things like Andrew Jackson having Native Americans scalp. Yayo and the other Crips explain to Mario that the Crips are similar to other fraternities but Mario finds a way to rebuttal that as well. More on Mario later. To circumvent the issues of Bloods killing people who are drinking Crip-a-Cola, Killer Mike reaches out to the Bloods and they create Blood Pop which I assume is the same ingredients as Crip-a-Cola.
Killer Mike tries to destroy the myth of White Jesus in the Black community in Trigger Warning‘s fourth episode titled ‘New Jesus’ and it’s filled with out-of-the-box thinking. Killer Mike wants to create his own religion and shift black people away from the constraints of Christianity. He tries to recruit Atlanta-based megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar, but Creflo does not agree with Mike that church is bad for black people.
Since the megachurch pastor isn’t any help, Killer Mike has enlisted the help of author Patrick Goines. Goines helps Mike with creating the Book of Sleep, which is the official text for Killer Mike’s Church of Sleep. Some religions have the teachings of Moses, Jesus, Thor, or Muhammad, but the Church of Sleep uses the teachings of Killer Mike’s homie, Sleepy. Sleepy gets his name from the fact that he always looks asleep (he does). Unfortunately, for a show that’s promoted countless numbers of black owned businesses, Killer Mike cannot find a publisher for his Book of Sleep. After having a meeting with Vikki Hankins, the founder of VMH Media and Publishing, she turns down the Book of Sleep, so Killer Mike, Patrick Goines, and Sleepy begin a grassroots campaign to get the people involved with the Church of Sleep.
As a social experiment, this episode is at its best when we get to hear from the people in the congregation. There’s an informative scene at Killer Mike’s SWAG barbershop where most of the patrons express that they do not sleep well at night for various reasons. “More slaves were whipped for oversleeping than any other fault,” is a quote by Frederick Douglass, and Trigger Warning delves into the issue through the spectrum of present day America. Sleepy’s motto is “fuck hope, do dope” and the Church of Sleep holds all their services at the Blue Flame strip club in Atlanta. When members of the congregation give their own testimonials on what the Church of Sleep means to them, pardon the pun, a true awakening.
Trigger WarningWith Killer Mike goes full Making the Band with its penultimate episode. The episode is titled “Outside of the Box” and Killer Mike performs at a senior living facility. Most of the seniors are white and they’re not fans of Rap/Hip-Hop. These seniors have some of the most ignorant and racist takes. There’s a clip from the show’s trailer of Killer Mike explaining why this lady’s “fact” that most robbers are black is completely false.
After rapping over the sounds of a barbershop quartet at the nursing home, and watching seniors, literally, roll their way towards the exit during his performance, Killer Mike switches up his approach. The big takeaway from his time at the nursing home is that seniors do not like rap music because they feel excluded from it. The Run The Jewels emcee uses this experience, like the educational-pornography from episode 2, and attempts to create something that will appeal to everyone. The episodes tone changes into an episode of an old MTV hit-show, Making the Band, as Killer Mike tries to form The Bubble Bursters, a supergroup filled with musicians from various backgrounds. T-Pain even serves as a celebrity judge and the recording process is handled at the legendary Stankonia Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.
Salute to Killer Mike for finding such a diverse group of artists to make up the Bubble Bursters supergroup. There’s even the return of Mario Avani from the third episode of Trigger Warning. Mario goes by the stage name M Je T’aime and they rework his song “Box Me In,” rename it “Don’t Box Us In,” and the drama ensues. The Bubble Bursters include a Juggalo, a black cowboy that thinks Jesus is clear, a MAGA-loving racist, an albino Black Lives Matters supporter, Mario and others, and to say the group had their differences is an understatement. The group had a chance to open up for Run The Jewels and RTJ fans had looks of bewilderment about what they had just witnessed when their set was over. The awkwardness and the drama behind the scenes during the group’s formation made this episode one of the funniest ones in the series. I couldn’t find a video of their actual performance or their song but here’s a link to the original version of “Box Me In” from M Je T’aime’s SoundCloud:
The season finale, ‘Kill Your Masters’ serves as an accumulation of events that have taken place in episodes 1-5. Kill Your Masters is a motto that Killer Mike lives by, and it means to liberate yourself and not let anyone control you. In this episode of Trigger Warning, Killer Mike wants to follow in the footsteps of Fela Kuti and create his own country, New Africa. Fela Kuti created the Kalakuta Republic during the 1970s, which was his compound that housed his family, band members and recording studios in Nigeria, and it had a free health clinic. Kuti declared the compound to be independent from the Nigerian government and in 1977, thousands of armed soldiers — not only— burned the compound to the ground, but threw Kuti’s mother out of a second floor window, where she would later die from complications.
Knowing all of this, the Atlanta-based rapper puts his idea in motion and buys some land to create New Africa. Citizens of New Africa include people who have previously appeared in episodes of Trigger Warning. We got to see familiar faces that included the Crips, the Bloods, Toby the Handyman, Mario Avani, other members of the Bubble Bursters supergroup, adults from the educational-pornography class, Patrick Goins and more. Everyone’s skill that was mentioned in their previous episode is used to help get New Africa off the ground. Unlike America, New Africa proudly celebrates women on their money. Patrick Goins helps by drafting up the Declaration of Independence for the new country. The Book of Sleep is used to swear the citizens in as they give their Pledge of Allegiance. The only person to take issue with this is Mario, who says he doesn’t believe in pledges. Just like all of Mario’s previous appearances on the show, he’s pompous and he annoyed everyone at the compound. He upsets everyone in New Africa when he performs an anthem that he wrote for the new country.
The New Africans were upset with Killer Mike’s rule, they had a free election and they decided who among them should run against him for the title of leader. Cita, Suave and Mike are the candidates and decide to hold an election to see who should be the new leader of New Africa. Luckily, we get to see what the New Africans think of every candidate after they cast their ballots. Again, the show does a great job at presenting these people as people instead of just personalities, if that makes sense. The ballots are tallied and Cita is the winner and she’s ecstatic. Secretly, it turns out that Mike rigged the election, so that Cita won, because he did not feel like running a country. Killer Mike is really for the people.
Trigger Warning With Killer Mike is a show that I think more people should watch because it’s quality infotainment. Salute to Netflix for picking this show up and giving Mike the freedom to bring his ideas to fruition. If there is a season two, I hope Killer Mike can continue creating innovative content without sacrificing social commentary. Again, my biggest criticism of the show is that it needs to provide a source for every statement it provides as fact. The show fluidly blends entertainment and education, and it’s from the perspective of a black man, which is something that we do not get to see much of in traditional media. Just like Killer Mike’s tweets above, from the start, the show is in your face and makes it known that African-American culture IS American culture which is something that one of the Two Americas seems to forget. Anyone that’s listened to Run the Jewels should give the show a chance, and those that have not listened to Killer Mike or RTJ, but own Netflix, should stream Trigger Warning as soon as possible.
[All Mames Wey]
Trigger Warning With Killer Mike is currently streaming on Netflix.
What really makes a family? Type the word into Google and this is the result:Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s newest film, Shoplifters, takes these definitions and explores them in a realistic, heartbreaking and insightful way. Hirokazu Kore-eda also serves as the writer and editor of the family crime drama that stars Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Kairi Jō, Mayu Matsuoka, Miyu Sasaki, and the late Kirin Kiki. The Japanese film follows an impoverished family of shoplifters, who take in an abandoned child, as they try to scrape by living in Tokyo. Spoilers after the trailer.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s direction and storytelling is effective because everything in the film has meaning. Most of the framing of the shots in Shoplifters are tight with not a lot of negative space. For a film about people who aren’t living a positive life, this makes sense symbolically. The way that Hirokazu Kore-eda uses tight shots emphasizes the subjects of the film and not the world around them. This ties in with the film’s theme of the family focusing on themselves no matter what the outside world has to think of their situation. The writing and storytelling take this a step further. The pacing of the first two acts was slow, but the third-act payoff made up for it. After spending the first two acts getting to know the members of the family, the third act is a gut punch once we learn who they truly are and how they came to be. Taking the time to methodically breakdown each member of the Shibata clan’s background creates a compelling way to understand their motivations.
The film delves into the bleak lives of Osamu Shibata (Lily Frank), a day laborer and the male head of a household that includes his wife Nobuyo Shibata (Sakura Ando), a young boy named Shota Shibata (Kairi Jō), a teenage girl Aki Shibata (Mayu Matsuoka), and an elderly grandmother Hatsue Shibata (Kirin Kiki). One night after shoplifting from a local store the Shibatas took in an abandoned little girl named Yuri (Miyu Sasaki). Yuri has been beaten and abused by her biological parents, so the Shibatas decide to keep her, even though they don’t have much to give her outside of love and a caring family. The physical abuse that Yuri has received from her family isn’t ever shown on-screen, but the movie gets psychological trauma across effectively.
There’s a powerful scene where the Shibatas go to the mall and Nobuyo gives Yuri a yellow dress to try-on and the terrified reaction that Yuri gives her is chilling. Yuri quietly asks Nobuyo, “will you hit me later,” when presented with the dress and she replies with a heartfelt “No,” and later on, when Yuri is finally returned to her family, her biological mom is wearing a yellow dress and being verbally abusive. This highlights the theme of the film that it’s better to choose your own family. The relationship that Yuri and Nobuyo develop is more of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The only Shibatas that actually have any sense of familial bond, based on the second definition above, are Hatsue and Aki. Hatsue is the second-wife of Aki’s grandfather and Hatsue’s been receiving money from Aki’s father who is the child of Hatsue’s ex-husband’s second marriage. Once we see Aki’s father cut Hatsue a check that’s when Shoplifters shows us that Hatsue doesn’t really love Aki, instead she loves the money that she receives from Aki’s family.
During the beginning of the film Osamu breaks his leg at his day job which allows him to benefit from workers’ compensation. Since he’s being paid workers comp he continues shoplifting as a second means of income to help the family stay afloat and together. Osamu has taught Shota how to shoplift and live life as a small-time crook. Since the family has taken Yuri in does Osamu change his ways? Reader, he does not. Osamau has taught Yuri and Shota the ideology of a shoplifter, “items in a store do not belong to anyone,” and kids who are not intelligent enough to learn from home attend school. At a young age of around 12 years-old, Shota has embraced the lifestyle that Osamu has taught him. He and Yuri have a system of hand signals they use to assure the coast is clear when committing their crimes. This all changes after stealing from a store that the Shibatas have shoplift from frequently, the store owner catches Shota, gives him and Yuri a toy, and tells Shota not to let the girl live the life of a thief. This is the catalyst for Shota changing his views on the life of a shoplifter.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s writing exemplifies that he took his time to create these characters because they have depth and a complete story arc. Towards the end of the film, Shota gets cornered after stealing oranges from the market and tries to escape by jumping off a bridge, breaking his own leg in the process. Shota told Osamu that he got caught on purpose, which is what ends up tearing the family apart. During the entire film Shota cannot call Osamu “dad” and it’s a theme the film plays with throughout its duration. Osamu isn’t Shota’s biological dad, like Yuri, Shota was abandoned and like an item in a store, Osamu stole him after breaking into the car he was sleeping in.
At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, the Japanese film won the Palme d’Or, considered one of the most prestigious awards in the film industry, and has made the shortlist of nominations for Best Foreign Film at the 2019 Academy Awards. With the film’s success, Magnolia Pictures picked up the film’s distribution rights for its theatrical run in North America. Shoplifters lived up to all the accolades and acclaim it has received so far. This is my personal favorite foreign film from 2018 and it should give the Golden Globes winner some competition this upcoming Oscars season. Lead actor Lily Frank did a phenomenal job bringing out the emotions that a film like this needs. Kore-eda’s approach to realism in the film adds another texture to the viewing experience. The clan of shoplifters only have each other, they may not be blood relatives, but they are a family.
[All Mames Wey]
Shoplifters is currently in select theaters and is scheduled for digital download on February 12, 2019.
The Eastrail 177 trilogy has finally reached its last stop with Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s newest film. Glass serves as the sequel to the highly successful, critically acclaimed psychological horror-thriller Split, and the superhero-thriller Unbreakable. It’s been 19 years since the theatrical release of Unbreakable, yet M. Night was able to have familiar faces reprise their roles, which is huge for those continuity sticklers. Returns from the 2000 film include Elijah Price/Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), David Dunn (David Dunn/The Overseer), Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark) and Elijah’s mother Mrs. Price (Charlayne Woodard). They’re joined by Split characters Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde (James McAvoy) and Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) with the introduction of a new character Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson).
I had my own personal Shyamalanathon before watching Glass as a refresher. If you haven’t seen the previous two films in this trilogy then see them beforehand. There’s a few things about Shyamalan’s style that caught my eye in Glass. As a filmmaker, Shyamalan’s techniques at creating thrilling moments are on full display in this film. He still has those same Hitchcockian elements to his style when it comes to panning the camera and creating the right shot for the perfect reaction. He’s Hitchcock behind the camera and in front of it when it comes to making his cameos. As a writer some of his dialogue is riveting, especially delivered by the actors in this cast. The first half of the film is where the dialogue and the storytelling are at their best. Samuel L. Jackson puts a masterclass on how facial expressions can convey an impactful message without uttering a single word. James McAvoy’s performances with multiple personalities is just as good as it was in Split. He brings humor yet when he transforms into The Horde, he’s just as menacing.
Bruce Willis didn’t really bring anything to the film for me. During the opening action sequence at the beginning of the film he wasn’t intense and he was nowhere near the level of James McAvoy. For most of the film I wasn’t 100% convinced that Bruce Willis wanted to be there. Anya Taylor-Joy picks up where she left off in Split with another compelling performance by the scream queen. Sarah Paulson had a good performance, but for some reason when M. Night wrote the dialogue for Dr. Ellie Staples he just decided for it to be bland. She might as well be a narrator because she’s just explaining what we are seeing instead of the film showing us. It gets to a point in the film where it makes you question if Shyamalan wrote this film back in 2000 and just didn’t decide to update it for 2019 before filming it. The scenes after the climax and the very last scene of the film further exacerbates this point.
Quick rant about the biggest issue with The Overseer (what a name). The human body is made up of around 60% water and the Earth is made up of 71% of water, so having water being David Dunn’s kryptonite has always seemed kind of goofy. For Mr. Glass it makes sense that he would have “brittle bone syndrome” because he’s a genius. Being a Lex Luthor type character and having a weak body seems like an even trade-off. Kevin Crumble has 24 different personalities that are always battling for the light so for flashes of light triggering a reaction also makes sense. Unbreakable explains that Dunn nearly drowned as a child so he’s not as strong once he’s submerged in water. 19 years later, it’s still a strange weakness to have on planet Earth.
This film is the weakest in the trilogy. There’s a lot of flaws in logic that are apparent throughout the movie. Most of the cast gives quality performances throughout the film. Shyamalan’s direction is up there with some of the best films in his filmography. The writing is where, for lack of better words, the glass shatters. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed Split and I thought Unbreakable was pretty good. In many ways Glass’s biggest twist is that the films (and their titles!) that make up the Eastrail 177 trilogy serves as a metaphor for director M. Night Shyamalan’s career. Unbreakable, a reference to a time when M. Night was at his peak; when Split was released he was going through a rough patch and audiences were divisive on whether or not he still had it; and to top it all off, Glass is a film that, depending on your view, either feels half-empty or half-full once it reaches its conclusion.
This past weekend one of my friends (shoutout to Esméralda) asked me if I had ever seen You on Netflix. I had not…but after learning of the premise of the show I was intrigued to give it a viewing to see what the hype was about. Usually, a well-directed and well-acted thriller is worth the watch. Based on Caroline Kepnes’s novel of the same name, You is a psychological-thriller (dark comedy?) that follows bookstore manager (read: creeper) Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) after he falls in love with Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and becomes obsessed with her.
The first season of the show originally aired on Lifetime during the fall of 2018, but Netflix picked it up for season 2, and made season one available for streaming one day after Christmas. Ever since America’s No. 1 streaming service made the show available, it has taken on a second life on social media. The show’s structure is what makes Netflix the perfect home because it’s written in a way that makes binge-watching the most effective way to watch it. It is easy to digest and the first season is only 10 episodes long, and each episode is around 45 minutes long, which only took about 2 days to binge. Spoilers after the trailer.
A Solid Start
The pilot uses an interesting color palette to set the tone for the show. The opening scene is set in Mooney’s bookstore in New York, and it’s filled with a lot of different shades of brown, and both of the two main characters are wearing brown. Bookstore manager Joe Goldberg is doing his best Dexter Morgan impression and starts narrating about a woman who has walked into the store and he’s analyzing everything about her. He sparks up a conversation with her, finds out her name is Guinevere Beck, and then he proceeds to be obsessed with her. After their initial conversation any sense of realism that You had walked out the door with Beck as soon as she left the bookstore.
Creeper Joe goes home, does his Googles on Beck, narrates all the details that he discovers about her, and uses an image from one of her profiles to find out where she lives. Stalker Joe goes to her home, which is on a main street, and spies on her through her curtainless and blinds-less windows. The show is self-aware enough to mention that not having blinds or curtains is a major privacy concern, but I guess we can chalk that up to being a Two Americas thing. As he continues monologuing about being a white knight, Stalker Joe stalks Beck all day and all night, watches her and her boyfriend Benji hook up, and continues to perv on her until the coast is clear for him to enter her home. While he’s snooping through her home she returns earlier than expected, and there’s a moment where he hides in the shower as the show tries to build up the suspense of him getting caught.
Beck is an aspiring writer and she’s performing her poetry later that night. Joe stalks her while she’s at the bar. She performs and nobody likes her poetry. The blonde 20s something leaves the bar drunk, and the goofiest moment of the first episode happens when Drunk Beck falls on the train tracks like a damsel in distress and Joe saves her. This assured me that this show is also supposed to be a dark comedy. Can’t make this up folks. They take a taxi back to Beck’s place and Joe manages to take her phone from her, so he can spy on all aspects of her life with ease, and once they arrive they are greeted by Beck’s boyfriend Benji Ashby (Lou Taylor Pucci) to Joe’s chagrin.
At Mooney’s bookstore there’s a basement that contains this huge glass sound proof box that Mr. Mooney (Mark Blum) used when he wanted to have quiet time while reading. There’s a couple of flashbacks throughout the series that shows Mr. Mooney acting as a father figure to Joe and he would lock Joe in the box to discipline him. Creeper Joe lures Benji to the basement because he views him as an obstacle in his pursuit of Beck. Benji tells Joe that Joe isn’t a killer and Beck isn’t worth it, but Obsessive Joe is too obsessed to listen and ends up killing Benji.
The initial comparison of Joe Goldberg to Dexter Morgan from Dexter isn’t fair to the complexity of a character like Dexter. Joe is not nearly as complex or cerebral. He’s messy, and for any rational person watching this show it’s nearly impossible to root for him, even if none of the other characters are likeable. You tries it’s hardest to give Joe some sense of normalcy. He has a little kid as a neighbor named Paco (Luca Padovan) that likes to read books but his step-father Ron (Daniel Cosgrove) does not like it when Paco talks to Joe. Ron is the Doakes of this show and he thinks that Joe is a weirdo (which he isn’t wrong). Ron works as a parole-officer and when he gets home he beats Paco’s mother Claudia (Victoria Cartagena) and Paco. Their apartment building has thin walls and Joe can hear the whoopings. The pilot episode does a solid job of setting up events for the rest of the series.
The Rest and the Mess
The pilot episode wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was interesting enough for me to check out the rest of the show. There are at least two episodes that could’ve been fused into one to make the show move more fluidly. A few episodes have noticeable editing gaffes. A character will be talking to another character, and as the camera switches back and forth for reactions the character’s positions are completely misplaced. Granted, this is episodic television, so it comes with the territory.
At times logic escapes You. When Joe kills Benji he stores his body in the trunk of his car. The body has been decomposing in Joe’s little glass box of death for a couple of days and there’s fluid slowly oozing out of it. Yet when Beck’s friend Peach (Shay Mitchell) is sick and needs to go to the hospital, Joe lets her and Beck ride in the backseat of the whip and Peach can smell odors coming from the body. Beck never mentions it and tries to act as if she does not smell anything. The counterpoint is there are moments throughout You that the show does a phenomenal job at escalating the stakes and raising the “Ohhhh 💩 He’s About to Get Caught” Factor. One scene in particular is when Stalker Joe follows his now girlfriend Beck and Peach take a staycation to Peach’s family estate that is an hour away from New York. Stalker Joe stalks but he’s already got hands laid upon him by Ron so he is suffering from a concussion. He keeps seeing and talking to what appears to be a ghost of his ex-girlfriend Candace Stone (Ambyr Childers). He hits a deer while driving at night and gets pulled over as soon as he wakes up the next morning. Good thing he’s a sociopath with a bit of privilege so he’s able to talk Officer Nico (Michael Maize) out of giving him a ticket. I’m saying, Joe looks suspicious as hell that I can’t even chalk him getting away to it just being a TV show because some cops just can’t see obvious signs.
Once Joe arrives at the estate his worries that Peach wants to be more than friends with his girlfriend Beck is confirmed. The fact that everyone on this show has money, yet won’t invest in a security system nor lock their doors is plot device too convenient. Concussed Creeper Joe is in the estate the whole weekend without anyone noticing. He manages to pee in a jar and leaves it sitting on a dresser. Peach and Beck end up arguing which results to Peach staying at the estate solo because Beck is tired of her shit. Once Peach catches Joe at the estate she thinks Joe is her stalker. The two get into a scuffle and Peach turns into cobbler when Joe shoots and kills her.
Shay Mitchell’s performance as Peach is the strongest female performance on the show. Her character is hateable yet she’s one of the few characters that seems like an actual human being, a rich stuck-up snobby one but an actual person nonetheless. Of the five people we see Joe kill, she’s the only one that puts up a fight on-screen. Peach has her issues when it comes to her feelings for Beck, but like Ron she realizes that there’s something wrong with Joe and his Mr. Perfect facade. She’s far from an angel because she ruins her friends lives, she’s manipulative and just as dangerous without physicality unlike other characters on the show. I’ve never watched Pretty Little Liars, which is what Shay Mitchell is known for, but from what I’ve heard her character on that show is pretty much the same character on You. With that said she was a perfect choice for the role of Peach.