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Friday, October 9, 2015

BEASTS OF NO NATION Isn't The Amazing Film I Wanted It To Be

When I first heard that writer/director Cary Fukunaga and Hollywood heartthrob Idris Elba were forming their own superhero empire (i.e. teaming up for a new movie), I was ecstatic. Then I discovered the premise of the movie, and I became less so. And now that I've seen the movie, I can only muster the following reaction: meh.

It's a disappointing take on BEASTS OF NO NATION, for sure. In my dream scenario, a Netflix original production with the two giants would have come in the form of something like Daredevil or, hell, True Detective. Instead, BEASTS OF NO NATION is a derivative look at the story of a child soldier in Africa (Agu, played by the now 15-year-old Abraham Attah), which really could have been the story of any African child soldier in that the film fails to characterize Agu. The way it was told was just so expected, could have been any number of child soldier dramas Hollywood loves to love. Which is especially surprising to say because Fukunaga is anything but a predictable filmmaker. Here it just seems like he watched a lot of African child soldier films (including the 2012 drama War Witch) and copied everything they had in common--down to the tyrannical, morally reprehensible Commander played by Idris Elba (whose dramatic performances I still find largely unconvincing). I was just...underwhelmed.

This isn't to say that the movie itself isn't good (though it's a bit too long) or that the lead performance isn't compelling. The cinematography is striking. And Attah is particularly effective, revealing a talent that far exceeds his age. You believe that Agu is in agony when he is separated from his parents early in the film, that he is terrified of being alone for the first time, and suffering through daily emotional and psychological torture under the commander's reign. His portrayal is visceral, Certainly more so than Elba, who while his commitment to the role is undeniable, it was unaffecting, unmemorable even. (I'm sure I'm not going to win over any new readers by saying anything negative about Elba, but so be it. I still think he's hot and should be the next James Bond. So that's something).

BEASTS OF NO NATION will likely be a film that we'll hear about a lot of this awards season, about which I still feel unsettled. Though I'm happy to hear that folks are excited about Fukunaga and Elba (as well as Attah), but just as much as Hollywood champions films like this it should also get behind African narratives like The First Grader--a criminally underrated film that is deeply effective. Once again, Hollywood is supporting a very one-dimensional look at marginalized characters, and ignoring all other stories. So, I can offer nothing but a side eye at that.

Rating: B-

BEASTS OF NO NATION opens both in theaters and on Netflix October 16.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Season 2 Premiere of THE AFFAIR: Sex, Money, and Intrigue

I can't resist starting this post off by acknowledging the remarkable male frontal nudity that appears on the season two premiere episode of Showtime's THE AFFAIR. Simply because I want to beat haters of my "Nudity Double Standard" post to the punch (it seems many of my male readers are still in their feelings about that), and also to commend the cable network for having a show in which sex is its own character and depicting it in a way that feels more honest that, oh, most every other dramatic TV show/film.

But that's not the only reason to get excited about season two of the Golden Globe-winning series. The dual perspectives (something I've always loved) are further complicated when Helen's (Maura Tierney, who plays Noah's jilted wife) point of view enters the story. The drama is no longer about the two lovers, Alison (Ruth Wilson) and Noah (Dominic West), whose intricate affair set the tone of the first season. Now in season two, the drama delves deeper into the lives of those they crushed: their spouses. Beginning with Helen, we see how her husband's infidelity has led her to a new phase in her life--one with which she's grappling. Her relationship with her snobby, overbearing mother (Kathleen Chalfant) has further complicated that. And something tells me that we'll be seeing Cole's (Joshua Jackson, who plays Alison's husband) story unravel shortly as well...

That's always been a question watching the first season of THE AFFAIR. What about the spouses? Did they suspect anything? But it's a very clever way to begin the new season, as we see the progression of Alison and Noah's relationship get pushed to the background as a long-brewing mystery slowly begins to unfold. But how will all of this affect Helen and Cole? We'll have to watch and see.

The first episode is a bit of a slow burn with a WTF moment at the end, yet it teases a season that will likely bring all the players to the forefront--and maybe even those you least expect.

Don't miss the season two premiere of THE AFFAIR on Showtime Sunday at 10pm.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Take a Look at the Other STEVE JOBS Movie

Behold a few new photo stills from the third Steve Jobs movie in the last two years, STEVE JOBS. In case you haven't been following the faux trilogy, the first film about the tech icon was the godawful Jobs in 2013 and the second was the 2015 documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (did anyone see this?). But this one stars Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen, which means if it ends up being awful Hollywood should just retire.

If word of mouth means anything, we should have nothing to worry about with this iteration. Here's a little more about it:

Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs' career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.

Steve Jobs is directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin, working from Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography of the Apple founder. The producers are Mark Gordon, Guymon Casady of Film 360, Scott Rudin, Boyle, and Academy Award® winner Christian Colson.

Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs, the pioneering founder of Apple, with Academy Award®-winning actress Kate Winslet starring as Joanna Hoffman, former marketing chief of Macintosh. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, is played by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels stars as former Apple CEO John Sculley. The film also stars Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs' ex-girlfriend, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original members of the Apple Macintosh development team.

Check out the images:

STEVE JOBS is in theaters October 9. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Watch the Trailer for the Sci-Fi Thriller REVERSION Starring Aja Naomi King and Gary Dourdan

I'm starting to think that REVERSION might be better as a TV movie. And no, that's not saying it as a bad thing. But I feel like it might have more of an audience there. I am really interested in the film still, mostly because I think Aja Naomi King has a lot of potential to become the next Nicole Beharie. And also because we so desperately need more actors of color, especially women, in genre film.

Watch the new trailer for REVERSION, which you can read up on in my earlier post:

Thoughts? REVERSION opens October 9.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I Want This CRIMSON PEAK Movie In My Life Right Now

Why did I go to the movies on Friday (to see Straight Outta Compton--a great film) and was entranced by the preview for CRIMSON PEAK, which I hadn't even heard of until that moment. It looks very Walking Dead meets Penny Dreadful. Plus, it stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, AND Charlie Hunnam, and is directed by Guillermo del Toro. I can dig it. I can so dig it. 

Read up on the film and check out a few new images:

When her heart is stolen by a seductive stranger, a young woman is swept away to a house atop a mountain of blood-red clay: a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever. Between desire and darkness, between mystery and madness, lies the truth behind Crimson Peak.

CRIMSON PEAK opens in theaters October 16.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How Much Longer Do We Have With This DIVERGENT Franchise?

Because I just...cannot get past how incredibly bland this entire franchise is--now three films in. And how has it not gotten any better? Oh wait, let me look at those box office receipts again...over $280 million combined. So, that answers that question.

After watching the new teaser trailer for THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT, I realize there is nothing I can really say tat any true fan would care about. So I will just give you my blessing and I hope you enjoy it. Because I won't be seeing it. The first two films were enough torture for me; my civic duty is done. You guys can pick it up from here.

THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT opens in theaters March 18, 2016. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

First Look: Aja Naomi King and Gary Dourdan Star in the Sci-Fi Thriller, REVERSION

As many of you know, I am always going on about the lack of minority actors in genre films (and also the lack of genre films as "serious" award contenders). So I can't help but pause whenever I hear about an actor of color in a new film--particularly an actress. Which brings me to REVERSION, a sci-fi thriller starring Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away with Murder, Four) and Gary Dourdan (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).

From Fluency Productions, REVERSION sounds like it's part sci-fi, part heartfelt drama--a genre that has had success most recently in films like Advantageous. Here's more about it:

REVERSION centers on Sophie Clé (Aja Naomi King), a delighted user of the Oubli, a wisp of high-tech jewelry that wraps behind the ear and uses neuroscience to help its users experience their most joyful memories as if they were happening for the first time. In addition to being the head of marketing for the company that makes this revolutionary memory-enhancing wearable device, she is also the daughter of its inventor, Jack Clé (Colm Feore).

Sophie’s most joyful memory is the last day she saw her mother alive, fifteen years earlier. But on the eve of the Oubli’s worldwide launch, a stranger named Isa (Jeanette Samano) kidnaps Sophie, setting off a chain of events that remind us all, you can’t escape what you can’t forget.

Check out a few more images from the film below.

What do you think? REVERSION opens on October 9 in New York (Empire 25), Los Angeles (Universal Citywalk) and Chicago, with a wider national release to follow. 

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