Madison “Maddy” Washington has been a social outcast for as long as anyone can remember. Raised by her fanatical Caucasian father in a small Georgia town, no one knows that she is biracial. That is until a storm reveals the truth and Maddy becomes an ever bigger target for the popular girls/school bullies.
When a video of this incident is leaked out, the administration has some serious explaining to do. The leaders of the student body (one of whom is Maddy’s tormentors) devise a plan to hold an integrated prom for the first time in the town’s history. Feeling guilty for everything that has happened, Wendy, the class President, knows that something has to be done. She asks her African American quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to the prom.
For the first time in her life, Maddy starts to believe that she will be like any other teenager. She does not know that her peers have one more trick up their sleeves. But they don’t know that she has a secret of her own, which could be deadly if and/or when it is unleased.
I loved this book. Jackson does an amazing job of being true to the original text while taking the narrative to another level. In adding racism to the already heightened story of a girl who is teased and humiliated by her classmates, she speaks of the short-term and long-term damage that both create.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I would say it is in the top ten new books of 2022.
The Weight of Blood is available wherever books are sold.
Within every fairy tale is a morality tale. The purpose is to teach our children (and our adults) how to behave.
The new film, Pinocchio is a live-actionreboot of the 1940 film of the same name. Based on the story by Carlo Collodi, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) has one wish: for a child of his own. He gets his wish when the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings Geppetto’s newest creation, a puppet to life. Named Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), he wants nothing more than to be a real boy and make his father proud.
But like any child, temptation pulls him in other directions. Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to guide his charge to do the right thing, but he can only do so much. Will this puppet become a real child or is his fate to be just pieces of wood that only slightly resembles a human?
There is a nice balance of updating the narrative for our time while remaining true to the original cartoon. As usual, Hanks is the MVP, playing a complete 180 from his last film.
I noticed a couple of things that I obviously would not have seen as a child. The first is praying to a higher power or the universe (whichever one believes in), may actually bring in the desired results. The second is that you have to work for what you want. Pinocchio was not automatically turned into a human being, he had to earn it.
I haven’t seen the 1940 film in decades, but the message came through loud and clear. Though the story could be seen as slightly moralistic, the idea of listening to your gut applies to anyone of any age.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Pinocchio is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.
Reboots of 1990’s IPs have become the rage these days. The difficulty is, as I see it, taking what made a particular movie or television show special while making it feel current.
The latest in this long line of re-imagining is Bel-Air. Airing on the Peacock network, it is a revival of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the narrative of the pilot follows the story of its predecessor. Will Smith (Jabari Banks) is a young man living in Philadelphia with his mother. His future seems to be all set with a basketball scholarship in his sights. That all changes when a fight breaks out and he is thrown in jail.
Upon release, Will is immediately put on a plane to Los Angeles. He is to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Bel-Air. To say that he is a stranger in a strange land is an understatement. This world of wealth, power, and access is far from the city life he is used to. But underneath the shine are rough edges that when revealed, could have dangerous consequences.
I’ve only seen the first episode. I really enjoyed it. There was enough of a skeleton of its predecessor combined with a boost of modern reality to keep me engaged. What I really liked was delving into the larger cultural problems that led to Will’s abrupt change of fate.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Bel-Air is available for streaming on the Peacock network.
Movie remakes are the rage in Hollywood, they have been so since nearly the beginning of the film industry. There are two ways this reboot could go. The first is that it stands on its own two feet while paying homage to its predecessor. The second is that on the surface has the imagery of the previous film, but it is nothing but a hollow shell of its forerunner.
The new Netflix film, He’s All That, was released on August 25th. A gender swap reboot of the late 1990’s classic, She’s All That, the new teenage would be lovers are popular girl/social media influencer Padgett Sawyer (Addison Rae) and artistic rebel Cameron Kweller (Tanner Buchanan). As in the original, Padgett’s boyfriend publicly cheats on her. When she makes a bet that she can do a makeover on any of her male classmates, the chosen candidate is Cameron. As they spend time together, they begin not just understand each other, but fall in love. But the revelation of Padgett’s initial impetus has the potential to break them apart.
The truth is that it does not take a rocket scientist to see where the narrative is going. But, that is this charm of both films. Its sort of a wish fulfillment fantasy about romance that has just enough of reality in it to keep it grounded.
What I liked was that it was not a line by like copy. It has enough of the 1999 film to keep old fans like me entertained while still being set in 2021 with everything that did not exist when I was that age. Add in Matthew Lillard and Rachael Leigh Cook as the high school principal and Padgett’s mother respectively (now I really feel old) and you have an entertaining 90 romantic adventure.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
He’s AllThat is available for streaming on Netflix.
Among the thousands of stories that have been written throughout humanity’s history, there is a reason that some have come down through the generations while others have been forgotten. Romeo and Juliet is one of these tales.
I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but this trailer is just what I need to entice me to see the movie when it comes out in December. The colors are bright and inviting. Director Steven Spielberg was wise enough to honor the original 1961 film via some of the visual aspects and hire Rita Moreno, who played Anita. Moreno singing “Somewhere” in the trailer is the perfect link between both adaptations.
If nothing else, the release of West Side Story is timely. Given what is going on in our country and our world these days, we need a reminder that love is possible, if we are willing to do the work.
West Side Story will be in theaters December 10th, 2021.
When looking to the past for what is hoped to be future success, Hollywood often banks on nostalgia bring eyeballs to the screen.
The reboot of the popular 1980’s series Punky Brewster premiered on Peacock the end of last month. The title character (Soleil Moon Frye) is now a forty something photographer and a divorced mother of three. Her musician ex, Travis (Freddie Prinze Jr.) has just finished another tour and is co-parenting with Punky. Her longtime bestie Cherie (Cherie Johnson) is a social worker. Cherie asks Punkie to temporarily take in a foster child, Izzy (Quinn Copeland) until she find a home for the girl.
When the original series premiered, I was a little too young for it. But I certainly knew of it, as did many who were born in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I watched the first two episodes last night. I wanted to like it. Unfortunately, the certain something that makes a reboot successful is missing from Punky Brewster.
Do I recommend it? No.
Punky Brewster is available for streaming on Peacock.