Malcolm and Marie (2021) Review

RATING: 3/5

A boyfriend and girlfriend have relationship issues regarding the release of a movie.

Fireworks shoot out in a matter of a couple hours, but they don’t leave too much of an impact.

John David Washington played the character of Malcolm pretty well. He delivered the most fun, energetic, and lifeful performance in the movie. I mean that rant he went on due to a good review was, for the most part, a nice summation of the character.

Zendaya as Marie was good. But it seemed like Washington’s performance, at a couple points, was running circles over her. Not to say Washington was perfect. Both he and Zendaya were cheesy and over-the-top in some areas, but as I said, he delivered the most star power I feel like.

Learning about the characters and their relationship through the conversations about Malcolm’s movie was nicely done. It was exposition heavy sure, but I felt like it was needed for the situation displayed. Offering story bits of the film and detailing the behind-the-scenes side, showcased the innerworkings of the two leads feelings for each other and how it would evolve over the course of the film. Though it can be lengthy in a couple scenes, the emotions that were released hit well. A great scene involved Malcolm’s response to being called “mediocre” by Marie. Marie’s emotional side truly blossomed in one of the final scenes begging for a thank you. A “genuine” thank you.

Now how Malcolm’s movie interplayed with the relationship was good exposition, but the ones involving the political side of filmmaking and movie critics as a whole, slashed the movie. The feature seemed to not know what type of story to follow. On the positive side, I found Malcolm’s rant to be humorous and I got to hand it out to him for remembering all of his lines to pull it off. I liked the little detail of Zendaya laughing in the foreground as I felt that wasn’t in the script. But again, that rant on critics and how the political side of filmmaking is perceived, should have been handled in a way that ran parallel with the movie’s plot and Malcolm and Marie’s strained relationship. Those expositions went on for quite of bit of time and the focus was lost to some extent. Like is it a simple romance drama or a romance drama with socio-political themes thrown into the mix at the last second?

The cinematography was great all around. It was really showcased in the scenes where the emotions and atmosphere were slow yet tense. The camera would pull off nice close-ups whenever they occurred. Scenes where a character was alone contemplating or wondering where the partner was, looked good in the wide shot format. Times where scenes were done in one shot were executed so well.

Music was pretty good. Artist Labrinth did nice work at composing jazz-influenced tunes. My favorite was the piece that played after the bathroom scene. Though at times the music was a bit on the nose, particularly when an old-timey song came on to explain the emotional language occurring in the scene. It came off as childish.

The style was something to take interest. With its cinematography, music, atmosphere, and the film grain, I could maybe see the film being made in the 70s. In addition with the poster, the feature felt like a blast from the past.

“Malcolm and Marie” suffered from identity crisis. Two plotlines seemed to coexist with one trying to match the more empowering one. The movie didn’t know what to focus on properly. But nonetheless, with good performances, great cinematography, nice music, and some finely delivered hard emotions, this was a romance drama that one should see. Albeit there were cheesy and corny vibes brought out, but it was pleasantly made at how and if a relationship can survive.

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Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) Review

RATING: 4/5

An FBI informant is tasked to learn and behave like a Black Panther Party member to get close to revolutionary Fred Hampton.

Director Shaka King’s showcases wonderous talent with his first mainstream smash hit.

Daniel Kaluuya did a fantastic job at portraying Fred Hampton. For starters, I didn’t know a single thing about Hampton until watching the film. After the picture was over, I have to say I was genuinely impressed. Whether it was his speeches or the actions he committed, the man was the center of the attention. When he spoke, the angry and passion was heard very clearly. The actions he committed, were justifiable and you didn’t want the cops (pigs), to stop him and his revolution. Hampton may seem like a dangerous man based on the falsified media by the white majority. But deep down, he cared not only about his race, but also for unifying the various groups from all over Chicago, to send a powerful message to the leaders on wanting a positive change.

Lakeith Stanfield was great as William O’Neal. Once a car thief turned informant for the FBI through the 70s. One understood why he had to do what he did and it was something that he himself, wasn’t too fond of. Whenever he was feeling anxious, stressed, or filled with another powerful emotion, one felt it. Heading into the dark side was not an easy task for O’Neal. He didn’t want to dive deep into his job, but with a little financial and get-out-of-jail persuasion, his hand was unfortunately forced. Like I mentioned, one felt the pain he portrayed, especially toward the end during the scene just before the raid.

The rest of the supporting characters gave really good performances. Jesse Plemons as agent Roy Mitchell was an interesting person as someone who was on the fence about the organization he worked in. When it came to the members of the Black Panthers, one wanted to root for them badly and not let injustice go unpunished. When it came to the other side of the spectrum, one felt the sliminess and hateful disgust they spat out especially by J. Edgar played by Martin Sheen.

The visuals and technical side of the feature was something to take major note of. Cinematography was nicely done. There were times where the camera would follow the subject with no little to no cuts and it all looked rather seamless. Perspective shots were implemented well whenever a speech was brought forth. Two shots for me that stood out were when Hampton was in the classroom sitting in front of an overblown white window. That with the fact that he was wearing a white long-sleeve, added nice symbolism. He was a man who was righteous in his deeds. Or in the case of the movie, a poet. The other shot involved O’Neal returning to his apartment. He sits on his bed with a red light piercing through the window on his right. While the window on the left side of the shot, was a whitish-green. Again, nice symbolism in that it foreshadowed a dark future and the wrongdoings he acted during that time.

Sound was quite impressive at times. One of my favorites scenes was when one of the party members was running through the plant, having a shoot-out with the cops. It felt like I was watching “Predator” with the drums kicking it. The tension and atmosphere worked great for it. Music was orchestrated well with its jazz, hip-hop, and R&B influences thrown in. It for sure can make one stand up and fight for the right thing. Or it can offer a nice moody, gritty, or foreboding feel whenever the harsh reality of the streets were taken center stage.

Watching the entire movie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the film “Malcolm X” or Spike Lee in general. When it came down to the style or direction, this was a project I felt like Lee would have definitely made. But I wouldn’t say King ripped off Lee. Similarities sure, but different in a number of reasons.

Now the negatives.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice was O’Neal’s job as an informant. Too many times where I felt like he wasn’t trying to blend in. Moments where he was trying too hard at being a member or moments where it was clearly obvious something was off about him. But apparently the other members didn’t notice or care. Like I would know something seemed wrong in one of the last scenes where O’Neal was getting teary-eyed and no one questioned him. Also no member questioned him after the police shoot-out. Also, him being known by the party for disguising himself as an FBI agent, should have raised more red flags.

One contradictory moment that really made me scratch my head was when O’Neal was showing Hampton tons of C4. A nonsensical/hypocritical moment for that he was in the same theater when Hampton delivered his speech prior when he returned from prison. At that point in time, he made it clear that he was a valuable member of the party. Agent Mitchell himself was impressed with his academy award level of acting. To throw something like that was jarring and again, it was something that should have been more addressed afterwards rather than not mentioning it ever again.

There should have been more backstory shown of O’Neal or the things he and agent Mitchell did outside of work. Especially the latter because there was a point of dialogue where O’Neal described Mitchell as a role model. But I just don’t feel like the movie did a good job at establishing that kind of relationship.

Again, Stanfield performed the role great. He always gives a strong performance. But his character acted too out of the ordinary and needed to be toned down.

Shaka King has a future for sure. He delivered at bringing forth a strong cast of characters with great acting, well done direction, good cinematography, nice music, and showcasing very relevant themes. The injustice of the police system. The movie couldn’t have come out at a better time. HIGHLY recommend this great and inspirational picture.

RIP to all those impacted.

Malcolm X (1992) Review

One Night in Miami (2020) Review

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One Night in Miami (2020) Review

RATING: 4/5

Four famous 20th century African-Americans, from different backgrounds, spend the night at a hotel and have intense talks about what it means to be who they are and it how it impacts the world they live.

Regina King, as an actress, she nails it. As a debut director, I’m looking forward to her next project.

The introduction to this was nicely done at introducing the four main characters, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. From their introductions, one can tell who they are based on their personalities and what they were striving in life; based on the difficulties brought onto them around a volatile and hateful time in U.S history. It also gave forth some good foreshadowing of how there different perspectives on things was going to bring about some heated conversations.

Now a majority of the movie took place in one room in a hotel. This isn’t the first where one setting is used. A great example is “12 Angry Men.” These types of film really need to strive and entertain the audience with its dialogue to distract them from being bored at looking at the same scenery for extended periods. To which “One Night in Miami” did that well.

When each of the four men’s ideologies clash, primarily Malcolm and Cooke, it was engaging and one can understand their point of views. Their goals for something better are there, but their journey in achieving that differed from one another. One wished to be militant in their approach, while one geared more into the passive path. One wanted to see who would get the best chance of one upping the other. Which journey was the best for all? It was nice to see the four men learn from each other and from their, build off some form of pact in wanting to make a rightful change for the world.

Performances in the movie were great. Though I will say the casting was a tad dodgy. Most notably for Malcolm X played Kingsley Ben-Adir. I just didn’t see him as X when looking at the face. As I said prior, the dialogue was really good. Each scene seemed to touch a different part of the character’s lives. It made one wonder how these men would take each other’s stances on touchy subjects.

The music was pretty good. The standouts scenes of course came from Cooke. One was where he had to improvise when his mic cut off and his closing track “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Now the movie was selling on the interactions/confrontations between four men, but it felt more like two. This seemed more like an X vs. Cooke feature, while Ali and Brown were there as moral support. Brown suffered the worst in terms of development. One got tidbits of what his life was like during the time, but there wasn’t a lot shown about him for me to latch on. Ali was better for he was on the fence on whether accepting a new faith was the right choice. There was development there.

But the movie felt liked it focused more so on X and Cooke. Which made sense seeing they were practically opposites for how the movie portrayed them. Both used mics to say what’s on their minds, but their voice was different. Still entertaining, but it would have been nice if Ali and especially Brown, contributed more.

For her debut, King soared. She proved herself that not only she can be a great actress, but also a great director. “One Night in Miami” had great performances, good characters, nice music, and engaging and thought-provoking dialogue. Highly recommend it.

Check out: Malcolm X (1992) Review

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Wonder Woman 84 (2020)

RATING: 1.5/5

Wonder Woman’s journey to discover herself is pressured when a great force comes to show her deepest desires.

Wasn’t much a fan of the first one, but I thought it was decent nonetheless. However its leagues (no pun intended) better than its sequel.

The initial twenty minutes I have to say were a good introduction. There were a good introduction on how things were going downhill when it came to the pacing, narrative, acting, etc. The two intros, including the Themyscira Olympics and the heroic saves by Wonder Woman, dragged for quite a while. I mean I was stunned for how disinterested I was. The Olympics scene felt like it should have been placed in the first movie. Sure it included the one theme/message that will come back toward the end, but the whole scene went on too long. In addition it included a certain Golden Armor that doesn’t pay off greatly in the climax. It looked cool, but honestly it could have been any special Amazonian weapon/artifact and it would have made the same, unimpactful difference. The heroic saves weren’t any better. As it included some pretty bad acting especially from the mall robbers. The movie should have skipped or cut out sections from these scenes.

Continuing on with the acting, it was pretty mixed. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was still good. As too was Chris Pine coming back as Steve Trevor. So the heroes were good, but the villains were a different story. Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord was fine and he certainly did bring some entertainment factor. Because of that there should have been just one antagonist, as opposed to two. Kristen Wiig as Cheetah did alright. Her initial goofy and nerdy personality got old and annoying real fast. Her transformation into a more dominant and fearsome persona wasn’t anything special. Or original in that it took cues from “Batman Returns.” In the long run I didn’t really care for the character. To which I think the movie itself had the same feeling as the character just outright vanished with no mention after the climax. Her goofiness in the scenes discovering her newfound powers didn’t offer a chuckle in the slightest. In fact, a lot of the humor didn’t land. Whether it was from scenes with Cheetah or Steve Trevor being fascinated with the 80s.

In terms of the scope, the sequel looked and felt bigger than its predecessor. I think it boiled down to some really good cinematography and nice, colorful visuals. When the world was falling apart with the abundance of wishes, the movie showcased impressive panning and wide shots, to really capture the magnitude and severity of the situation. Riots broke out, people panicking, looting, nukes flying, it all around madness. The movie brought the feelings of 2020 as a whole in those scenes. Though the bigness didn’t leave much of an impact sadly. A majority of the film felt flat due to the slow pacing, long runtime, and uninteresting dialogue. Situations more or less happened and that was it.

But beyond the chaos, there were other scenes of interest that looked cool. Lord in the climax being the center while a windy vortex encircled him and a scene where Wonder Woman began to fly for the first time. On a visual standpoint, the latter was the one that stood out to me the most. I believe it was the case because it reminded me of “Superman (78).” Colors were sparkling and popping. There was almost a majestic or mythical feel, which made sense considering the background behind the character of Wonder Woman. Unfortunately if one were to look at the context when it related to the film as a whole, it made no sense whatsover. The rest of the visuals sometimes looked awkward. The best example was Wonder Woman running straight at the camera in the chase scene in Egypt. There was a film grain used in some scenes. But for the most part it was pointless as a lot of scenes didn’t have that filter.

Narratively speaking, there were a number of unexplained things or plot holes littered throughout. As I mentioned earlier, after the climax Cheetah, even after reverting back to her human form, was never mentioned again. The unexplained connection between the bank robbers and Lord? Lord finding out about the crystal entirely? Wonder Woman being able to fly so suddenly and not using it for the rest of the DCEU? Cheetah, figuring out Diana’s identity so suddenly? Granted it could be refreshing but it didn’t feel natural in the slightest. Wonder Woman getting weaker? From what I could gather, the crystal was stripping her powers and transferring it to Cheetah. To which I say why does this need to happen? Can’t the crystal duplicate the powers without making Wonder Woman vulnerable. In the climax, how is Lord granting all the wishes with no physical contact as seen prior throughout the film? How is Wonder Woman able to talk to the world with Lord and her lasso as a transmitter? How is Lord not bleeding excessively from the hundreds of wishes? What happened to the crystal after all the wishes were renounced? Why does Steve Trevor need to take over another man’s body to come back?

There were so many plot holes and unexplained things that disrupted the plot. It was also why those things kind of, in some way, ruin some continuity with the rest of the DCEU.

The mid-credits scene featured a cameo from Lynda Carter, which was extremely bitter sweet. Emphasis on bitter because her cameo in this movie truly hurt.

A disappointing sequel and one of the worst, if not the worst of the DCEU films. A few performances were good, some visuals were beautiful, and the cinematography at times was nicely done. A longer runtime doesn’t always make a film feel or look grandiose. It can also lead to a project that can feel dull, flat, and uninteresting by the end. A major misstep and I’m curious of what Wonder Woman 3 will be like. Hopefully, a positive overhaul is enforced.

YouTube: Tk Theater Productions/LoneCentric Pictures

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