Category: Movie Reviews


 

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Had a couple of days now to digest ‘Sorry to Bother You’.  I still have questions, but maybe that was part of the point when it keeps going deeper into the surreal?  For now, let me touch on the things I liked:

There’s a line early on where the main character is told ‘You’re black, but you’re like, Will Smith black.’  It’s a funny line but it also speaks to one of the main things I like about the film in general: it continues to open up the paradigm of what black filmmakers show to the masses (as usual, black musicians have been a little more free to work ‘outside the box’ for a little bit longer).  And of course, that’s not meant as disrespect to anyone who’s come before, past or present.  But in terms of genre, ALL genres, there’s still so much untapped material.  The more voices that get to be heard, the more fully ‘the experience’ is represented.

The actors: LaKeith, no actor immediately comes to mind for me to compare him to, which still feels like the best compliment to the arc of his career.  There’s a lot of projects he will never be considered for the Lead role, so great call to find the right project where he does get to be number one on the call sheet (and carries the movie well).

Conversely, Armie Hammer, based on everything I’ve heard or read, seems like one of the genuine good guys.  So it adds a layer of coolness that he’s played into his real life biography of entitlement (real or not) to play these privileged aholes. (Not to mention it’s not hard to imagine a line of name actors around the block who said no to working on the debut films of Nate Parker and Boots Riley).

And then there’s Tessa.  Off the top of my head over the past couple of years: ‘Westworld,’ ‘Creed’, ‘Thor’… she’s firmly in the Game now.  If you go back to the ‘Dear White People’ and ‘Mississippi Damned’ days though, you knew of her way before the franchises were possible.  I wasn’t surprised Tessa could play a different type of character as much as I caught myself thinking, ‘Yeah, I guess if you want to work your craft on something like this, you have to step outside the system.’  So, more kudos.

Yes, I’ve deliberately avoided talking about the story in depth, because…you really have to see it.  I think it’s worth seeing.

 

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Mel-brooks

It’s the weekend!

It’s also Mel Brooks’ birthday.  Even if I’m not terribly focused on comedy in my art right now, I am focused on the world I live in.  Mel Brooks remains one of the best to have done it.

My personal favorite of his will always be ‘Blazing Saddles’ (of course), but this week I was reminded of ‘The Producers’, and this particular number.

No particular reason…

Have a good one gang…

 

 

Cedric+Entertainer+Turner+Upfront+2017+Arrivals+r2CKou3xFtkl

‘Cutie Pie’ came on this morning while I was sitting in traffic, and that always takes me back to this.

And I know more than a few people I care about need a laugh so hopefully this helps.

Enjoy!

 

 

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And you know I yelled when I saw the Ali tribute shot…

 

 

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I don’t think Justin Simien will take any offense to me saying each incarnation of ‘Dear White People’ has been an improvement on the one before it.

The latest season (or volume as it were) builds on Season 1’s re-introduction of the characters and settings of Winchester University, and creatively expands on them in so many ways, the few highlights I’m about to list below only scratch the surface…

  • If you feel the need to play the comparison game, I guess ‘Atlanta’ would be the other choice, but the number of strong individual episodes in this season is absurdly high.  The ‘mushrooms’ episode.  The ‘abortion’ episode.  My actor’s bias has strong feelings for episode 8, which is essentially a one act play for the characters of Sam and Gabe; the amount of personal and political material in that half hour alone is obscene.
  • But my favorite episode of this bunch is the ‘Joelle’ episode.  The character is obviously a fan favorite, and the realization/breakdown of ‘the hotep’ was too hilarious and painfully accurate.
  • A ton of good cameos I won’t completely ruin, but I have to say seeing Lena Waithe and Tessa Thompson play against ‘what I was expecting’ was fantastic.  For the USC crowd my old classmate Daheli got more screen time this season as the Iyanla Vanzant doppleganger and she makes the most of it.

So yes, all the applause.  Carve out 10 more half hours of your time for this.

Streaming on Netflix.

 

 

thanos

Just through a coincidence, I watched ‘the Dark Knight’ last night.  Bias aside, still my favorite ‘film featuring characters who started in comic books.’

But ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ might be the best ‘comic book movie’ ever.

A few non spoiling thoughts…

  1. I was rolling over in my head the last time I sat in a theatre that was stunned into silence when the credits rolled.  COMPLETELY different genre obviously, but it was ’12 Years a Slave’.  Some (like me) where processing what just happened, and what comes next; some were legitimately emotionally shattered.  Some were pissed off.  So…well done, Marvel!!!!
  2. If I had to pick out a single thing I was most impressed by, it was the balancing act.  I’m not going to go back and count, but every headlining hero, and more than a few surprising supporting players from the past decade made appearances.  Three or four rotating arcs/locations, and I at least, never got tired.  Credit to the editing here for keeping the story going and always going somewhere else before the audience got restless.
  3. The template has been well set now: if your goal is to create a compelling villain in one of these movies, from Magneto to Killmonger to Thanos, the audience has to understand the logic and say, ‘but you’re going way too extreme to get what you want.’  Mass genocide is mass genocide, but Thanos is just empathetic enough…

Had time to do a little homework about where Infinity War: Part II goes…still have no idea?

But why on earth would you doubt that Marvel knows what it’s doing?

 

 

onmyblock

I understand (kind of) that Netflix can’t promote the living heck out of every single project they put up.  I kept hearing about ‘On My Block’ by word of mouth, and I was only two episodes in before I started telling people around me, ‘You need to get involved with this,’ and now that I’ve finished season 1 (and I’ve heard Netflix has already greenlit season 2), I’m writing about it today.

The best pitch came from one of the homies who actually finished binging it before I did: ‘It’s one of those CW shows, but for us.’  Accurate.  ‘On My Block’ is an often hilarious, coming of age story centered around four teens: insecure, nerdy Ruben, trying to stay out of ‘the life’ Cesar, tomboy growing into a woman’s body Manse, and the resident goofball Jamal.  Following the kids entering the first year of high school, the series does a great job giving each member of the ensemble a relatable individual arc that doesn’t pull the overall tone too deeply into melodrama.

And it has to be said: young actors can be hit or miss, but the casting on this one is pitch perfect.  A lot of the fun of this series comes from how much we’re cheering for each of these characters and their quests.

Ten half hour episodes.  Quick and easy binge if you’re interested.

 

‘Andre the Giant’

 

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‘Andre the Giant’ is not one of the all time great sport docs (that’s become an increasingly hard club to break into the past ten years), but it’s a necessary watch for wrestling fans.

Featuring a ton of new footage and the approval of the WWE, the doc does well telling the story of one of the cornerstones of the pro wrestling industry as we know it.  Born in a small village in France, the film (wisely) parallels Andre’s story with the evolution of ‘the Business’.  The territory, video tape swapping days were perfect for an act to work for a few months before moving on to be a new attraction somewhere else.

That all changed of course when Vince McMahon came through with his plans for national domination.  Along with Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Andre’s traveling partner Tim White, we get plenty of funny and not so funny stories that fill out the grey areas of what we didn’t know about the man behind the character.

Sad to hear it said he passed on treatment that would extend his life because he thought it would hurt his wrestling career.  There’s surely a very interesting thread there about the frequently short life spans of professional wrestlers.  But I also understand there’s no chance in hell WWE is going to co-produce that movie.

Still, worth checking out on HBO if you’re interested.

 

 

first-match

Do not let it be said we’re anywhere close to running out of fresh angles for genre stories…

At its core, ‘First Match’ is a coming of age story.  But here are just a few of the ‘not worn out’ touches…

a) the protagonist is a young black girl

b) she tries to bond with her father by joining her high school wrestling team

c) the potential ‘dark side’ angle has her going into female street fighting (not quite MMA but close…)

We all gravitate toward hero stories of course, but, especially in this (teenage) phase of life, it’s very compelling to watch someone set themselves up for a ‘good’ future, and potentially blow it because their emotions override their logic.

Well acted and directed. Definite recommend.

Now streaming on Netflix.

 

 

roxanneroxanne

Even for someone like me who’s more or less the same age as hip hop, it’s hard now to imagine the early days, when even people who saw money couldn’t imagine millions of dollars.  When it was a neighborhood thing and not a worldwide culture.  ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ does an excellent job of reminding you of the origins and a lot more.

If you don’t know the story of one of the first women of hip hop, this movie is a nice introduction.  Aided by performances from Nia Long and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali (I’ll never get tired of saying that), ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ shines most as it reminds of the additional hurdles a female MC had to (has to?) overcome on top of trying to get ahead in a male dominated industry.  Need muscle when someone tries to screw you out of money?  Have a baby?  Just to name two.  The hip hop lover in me also loved the fairly organic way some other names of hip hop were integrated into the story without taking it over (Marley Marl, UTFO of course, Biz Markie, and another young kid from Queensbridge by the name of Nasir…)

Definitely worth seeing if you’re a hip hop historian.  Now streaming on Netflix.