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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