Killing County Documentary Review

I would hope that no one joins a law enforcement body with the goal of purposefully oppressing and killing their fellow citizens. It is one of those professions that in a perfect world, we would admire and lift up those who make it their life’s work. But we live in the real world, where police brutality has become just another headline.

The new three-part Hulu documentary, Killing County was produced by Colin Kaepernick and Ben Meiselas of the MeidasTouch podcast. It follows the news coming out of Bakersfield, California, where a number of men (mostly with a darker hue) were killed by police. The audience follows the investigation into their deaths and why the cops immediately reached for their weapons instead of using other tactics.

This is a must-see film. The hardest interviews to watch were those of the family members of the victims. Through their eyes, we were seeing their loved ones as human beings, not a name on a police report or a quick sound bite on the evening news. What I took away from it was the right that we, as citizens, have to tell the law and the judicial system when they have gone too far.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Killing County is available for streaming on Hulu.

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80 for Brady Movie Review

There is a stereotype about a woman of a certain age. She has (hopefully) lived a full life and is taking full advantage of what her golden years have to offer. Some women are content to sit back and relax. Others see further adventures on the horizon.

The new movie, 80 for Brady, is based on the true story of four older women who are Tom Brady and New England Patriots superfans. Maura (Rita Moreno), Betty (Sally Field), Trish (Jane Fonda), and Lou (Lily Tomlin) are the best of friends. They win four tickets to the 2017 Super Bowl in Houston and have a weekend that they will never forget.

This movie is adorable. It is entertaining, and funny, and shows the power of friendship. It also proves once more that females who are long past their youth are just as vibrant, spirited, and open to new ideas as their younger counterparts.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

80 for Brady is currently in theaters.

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You People Movie Review

These days, interracial and interreligious marriage is (mostly) accepted. That does not mean, however, that the families of the engaged couples are welcoming of their child’s future spouse.

The new Netflix movie, You People, is the love story of Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London). The perceived problem is that Ezra comes from an Ashkenazi Jewish family and Amira comes from a black Muslim family. It is essentially a cinematic love child of Meet the Parents (2000) and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967).

As expected, the clash itself does not come from the couple. Ezra’s parents, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny) are liberal, white, and tone-deaf. Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long) are trying to understand why their daughter has chosen to marry outside of her faith and culture.

While Ezra and Amira are doing their best to keep their love alive, outside forces may tear them apart.

Co-written by Hill and Kenya Barris, the movie tries to address the cultural and religious issues that come between the characters. Instead of bringing these questions to the forefront in a way that makes the audience laugh and think at the same time, it falls flat on its face.

The worst aspect of the film is that anti-Semitic stereotypes are thrown around like a football. The most offensive of these is the adulation of Louis Farrakhan and the spreading of the lie (which has been proven to be false) that Jews dominated the Atlantic Slave Trade. As an MOT (member of the tribe), I am offended and disappointed that Hill took the easy way out. It’s one thing that if the story would have been entirely written someone who was not Jewish, that would have been an objectionable act by itself. But the fact that Hill is Jewish makes it ten times worse.

The shameful aspect is the misuse of the comedic leads, Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus. These two performers by themselves are legendary in their own right. And yet, they are relegated to tropes that are 2D and stilted.

Do I recommend it? No. I don’t say this very often, but You People is one of the worst films that I have ever seen.

You People is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday: Venom (2018)

The antihero is an interesting character type. Though this person does eventually save the day, their motives and actions do not match what is expected of a heroic protagonist.

In the 2018 film Venom (based on the comic book character of the same name), Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a former reporter whose career is in shambles after an interview does not go as planned. Six months later, he discovers a symbiote from outer space named Venom and becomes bonded with it. Among the things that are ruined by this new “relationship” is his attempt to get back with his ex-fiance, Anne Weying (Michelle Williams). Anne was employed as a lawyer before Eddie’s mishap ended her employment and their engagement.

Before this movie, I was vaguely aware that Venom existed within the world of Spider-Man. I tried to watch it, mainly because of the lead actors. Hardy and Williams are two of the finest actors of their generation. The problem is that I was quickly bored and lost interest in the narrative.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Flashback Friday: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

A secret is only as powerful as its content. Its corrosivity is based on the power it has and how it controls those who know the truth. It can be as benign as stealing a candy bar from the local convenience store as a child. On the other hand, it can be as destructive as having cheated on your significant/spouse for decades.

2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is the sequel to Ant-Man (2015). Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is walking the tightrope of fatherhood and being a superhero. To say that it is complicated is an understatement. Adding to the difficulty is a new task assigned by his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Hank’s daughter/ Scott’s partner, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). His ultimate goal is to reveal a secret that has been kept close to the vest for a very long time.

Compared to other individual IP continuations with the Marvel universe, it’s slightly weaker. That being said, it is not a complete dumpster fire. Even with the narrative’s darker turns, it is still fun to watch and an entertaining film.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Three Minutes: A Lengthening Documentary Review

Films (and images in general) can tell a story like nothing else can. It allows the viewer to temporarily immerse themselves into that world and understand the perspective of those who call it home.

Three Minutes: A Lengthening is a documentary that was recently released on Hulu. In 1938, David and Liza Kurtz went on a grand tour of Europe. Among the places they visited was Nasielsk. Located in Poland, David was born in that town and later emigrated to the United States. The Jewish residents were more than happy to welcome back a native son who had done good.

David took out his camera and started filming. In total, the footage lasts about 3 minutes. Little did any of them know that this mini-film would be one of the last records of the Nasielsk’s Jewish population. Most of them were murdered in the Holocaust. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, the film follows the endeavor to not just locate the shtetl, but to put a human face on those who lived there.

One of the best aspects of the movie is that it takes the bigness of the Shoah and makes it feel like the audience is being directly spoken to. With all of the details that we know about the period, it is hard to absorb that millions were murdered because of who they were.

By bringing it down to a micro level, we see the individual lives that were lost and it allows us to (hopefully) do everything we can to make sure that it does not happen again.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely.

Three Minutes: A Lengthining is available for streaming on Hulu.

The Flagmakers Documentary Movie Review

The American flag (or the flag of any nation) is much more than the cloth that is used to make it. It represents everything that the country stands for.

The new National Geographic/DisneyPlus documentary, The Flagmakers, is the story of the Eder Flag company in Wisconsin. Among the employees who create and ship out millions of flags every year are immigrants, refugees, and Americans who have lived in the area for years. Though they are all different, they have one thing in common: they truly believe in their work and the product they are making.

I enjoyed the film. It was a reminder that America is the world’s melting pot. Despite our different familial origins, religious beliefs, or skin color, it is possible to get along. The question is, do we take the opportunity to get to know someone, or do we judge them based on external factors?

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Flagmakers is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

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Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody Movie Review

In every generation, there are a handful of people who can truly be referred to as a G.O.A.T. One of these is the late singer Whitney Houston.

The new biopic, Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, was released on December 23rd. Naomi Ackie steps into Houston’s very large shoes. Playing her equally famous mother Cissy is Tamara Tunie. Supporting her career is legendary record producer/mentor Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci). The film (directed by Kasi Lemmons) follows her life and career from her late teens (when she signed her first contract) to her iconic songs to her tragic death in 2012.

There are good and bad aspects to the film. Ackie disappears into her character. Like Austin Butler in Elvis, she becomes Houston. There is little differentiation between the actor and the person they are playing. The music, as expected, is fantastic. I found myself singing along to the film.

One thing that surprised me was her long-time relationship with Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams). Though it started out as friendship/romance, it became a professional partnership when it became clear that it would impede Houston’s professional orbit.

The bad is that the narrative slows down considerably during the second half of the movie. While it hit all of the expected story points, it was just a little too cliche for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is available in theaters.

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Best Movies of 2022

  1. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: After the death of Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa/Black Panther), the questions on how the IP would continue without its leading man seemed endless. Black Panther‘s sequel is both the perfect memorial to Boseman and a continuation of the narrative.
  2. Avatar: The Way of Water: The 13-year wait for the follow-up to Avatar was worth it. The themes of climate change are just as relevant now as they were in 2009.
  3. She Said: Based on the book of the same name, it tells the heart-pounding story to uncover the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NY Times reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) take on Weinstein and the Hollywood machine in a way that is jaw-dropping.
  4. Elvis: Austin Butler transforms himself into Elvis Presley, adding new layers to the music icon.
  5. Call Jane: Elizabeth Banks plays a housewife whose pregnancy is not going well in the days before Roe v. Wade. Denied an abortion by the local hospital, she finds an underground group and soon joins them in their mission to help women.
  6. Hocus Pocus 2: After 29 years, the Sanderson sisters are back. It has enough of its predecessor while holding its own in the best way possible.
  7. Mr. Malcolm’s List: Based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain, Mr. Malcolm is the most coveted bachelor in this Jane Austen-inspired narrative. In order to fend off marriageable young ladies and their match-making mamas, he creates a list of qualities that his wife should have. Little does he know that it will soon be moot.
  8. Downton Abbey: A New Era: This second film in the franchise opens the door to new stories while closing old ones in perfect fashion.
  9. Cyrano: This musical adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Peter Dinklage adds new flavors to the well-known tale.
  10. The Tragedy of Macbeth: Shot in stark black and white, Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star as the power-hungry and bloodthirsty Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.
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Women Talking Movie Review

Women being subjugated is a story as old as humanity. It took generations of our foremothers speaking up and not standing down to get to a point in which we are closer to equality. That does not mean, however, that the war has ended.

The new film, Women Talking is based on the book of the same name by Miriam Toews. It is set in 2010 in an isolated Mennonite community. For the last few years, the women have complained of rampant rape and sexual assault. Drugged, and later waking up sore and with blood between their legs, they are told that the perpetrators were not human.

When they realize that they were raped by the men in their community, they gather together to make a choice. The first choice is to stay and pretend that nothing happened. The second is to fight for equal opportunity. The third is to leave and start over somewhere else.

Starring Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand, it is an empowering tale of standing up for yourself and your children against all odds.

Directed by Sarah Polley, the themes are very similar to She Said. The difference is that She Said was a heart-racing thriller. Women Talking is not completely bland, but it is missing the heavy question that hangs over the character’s heads.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Women Talking is presently in theaters.

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