Posted on

Mile 22 Doesn’t Make the Finish Line for Mark Wahlberg

 

Mile 22 stars Mark Wahlberg as bi-polar CIA operative James Silva leading a small, but lethal team on an urgent and dangerous mission. Their mission is to transport a foreign intelligence asset from an American embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction — a distance of 22 miles.

Where do I begin?  Let’s start with the positive.  Mark Wahlberg spouting off bi-polar, complex, long monologues is thoroughly entertaining, as are his stunt skills.  WWE’s Ronda Rousey proves that her talent extends beyond the ring with some impressive, solid acting chops.  Iko Uwais certainly gives Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan a run for their money in the marital arts lane, not to mention that he’s a cutie to boot.

The storyline here suffers at the expense of numerous fight scenes laced with blood, gore and more violence than one should be subjected to in a single movie going experience.

If Die Hard, the Jason Bourne franchise and John Wick had a baby – Mile 22 would be it.  I mean,  if STX Entertainment wanted to start another action-adventure franchise, Mark Wahlberg is the perfect choice to get it off the ground and running.  But, this was just not the effort or response I think either entity was looking for.

You know I’m usually always down for a good action-adventure flick sans blood and gore, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  Having said that if you are an action film junkie you will get your fix and then some.  Hell, my Mom loved it, so I guess I just didn’t grab what they were trying to put down.  Produced by STX Entertainment, Mile 22 is in theaters now.

Posted on

Minding The Gap Examines Friendship, Growing Pains and Family

When “Boyhood” was released a few years back it was considered revolutionary because it was filmed over an extended period of time.  Well, clearly Bing Liu took that premise a step further and concentrated his documentary Minding The Gap around the lives of his two friends Zack , Kiere  while turning the camera on himself.  I had the pleasure of screening the film alongside Bing at the AFI DOCS film festival in Washington, D.C.  I quietly observed the filmmaker still being uncomfortable when the lens is turned on him.  It broke my heart…literally.

As kids we often go through life without a care in the world.  Our biggest concern is where, what time and whom we are going to play with that day.  Minding The Gap focuses on how all three of its subjects use skateboarding as an escape for the real issues plaguing their lives like parenthood, death and abuse.

Your heart breaks for Zack.  He’s handsome, seemingly confident and has little to no patience for bullies.  However, parenthood brings about a reality that he is neither mentally or emotionally prepared for.  You are left wondering what will become of Zack and how his actions will ultimately affect his son, Elliott.

Kiere clearly struggles with being a black man in an environment that is mostly composed of people who don’t look like him and coming to terms with the death of his Dad.  Ironically, as he grows older the discovery that remaining in Rockford, Illinois becomes unbearable and a change is clearly imminent.

Last, but not least…kudos to Bing Liu.  Bing uses his love of film to surprisingly grab answers to why his Mom allowed himself and her to be abused.

It’s hard to be a young person in the world we navigate in nowadays.  But, Bing Liu sheds a realistic light on  what the reality of that situation is in Rockford, Illinois.  Imagine what it must be like for kids growing up all across the country.  Clearly, it’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Minding The Gap marks the Liu’s directorial debut. Making its world premiere earlier this year at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, the film won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking.

Minding The Gap is real, raw, emotional rollercoaster ride through the awkwardness of adolescence and totally worth viewing when it debuts on Hulu on August 17th.

 

Posted on

Awkafina and Nico Santos Steal the Show in Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians serves as a reminder of the cultural differences in society which makes us unique.  In the African-American community, our bond through the church, food and music have been staples for decades.  As a child, I remember fondly going to church on Sunday and bonding over the service with dinners in the church basement.

As beautiful as these memories are, there is also a stigma within our community concerning skin color, hair texture and economic class.  Light skinned was considered better.  Wavy or Straght hair was considered better.  If your family introduced you to society as a debutante through “Jack and Jill”, your family supposedly was financially sound and immensely respected.  Apparently, the same is true within the Asian community.  Asians bond generationally teaching young ones the proper way to construct the perfect dumpling.  Family comes first at any cost and what class you are descended from is of great importance.

One of the most memorable scenes is the opening which introduces us a young Nick, his sister Astrid and his Mom Eleanor as they arrive at hotel during a rainstorm in the middle of the night.  Regardless of a reservation and because they are Asian, the management refused to let them check in.  When it is revealed that Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is in fact the new owner of the establishment, that moment speaks volumes.  Volumes about how people of color are often prematurely judged as a sterotype. An issue so disgustingly and globally prevalent in our society to this day.

Although all of the actors in this film are exceptional, the comic reliefs  Nico Santos, Awkafina as  Rachel’s crazy, yet stylish bestie, Peik Lin Goh and her nutty parents (Ken Jeong and Koh Chieng Mun) provide many a chuckle at the precisely needed moment

Constance Wu is the real deal and I look forward to seeing her stretch her wings beyond this film.  She’s gorgeous, smart, funny and can hold down a film lead with no effort at all.

Michelle Yeoh is the Asian Meryl Streep. Yeah, I said it!!!!  This doll communicates volumes without uttering a single syllable.  When she does speak, she sends chills down your spine. Having been a fan of her work dating back to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, like Wu, I hope to see her work stretch beyond this film.

Adapted from the Kevin Kwan novel and directed by Jon M. Chu, Crazy Rich Asians is funny, beautiful and a spectacular endorsement for Singapore. Sure there are elements from every classic romantic comedy ranging from Pretty Woman to Best Friend’s Wedding, but it  seamlessly mixes between the old-school Chinese generational customs and with a splash of millennial updates.  It’s charming and educational, all while serving as a backdrop for a simple and heartwarming love story.

Produced by Warner Brothers Pictures, Crazy Rich Asians open nationwide on August 15th.

Posted on

Dog Days is for the Quintessential Lover of Furry Friends and Romance

 

Dogs have always been a part of me life.  My family has owned many of them over the years, but the one who is the most memorable is Mr. Spanky.  Yup, you guessed it.  He’s named after The Little Rascal character Spanky because that is exactly what he is…a little rascal.  I can’t imagine a day where I don’t arrive home to see his smiling little furry face ready and waiting to give me all the love and doggy kisses I can handle.

There is nothing better than the love of a furry four-legged friend, mostly because it is unconditional…no matter what.

Dog Days illustrates doggy love from three different perspectives.  How they can bring people together romantically.  How they can make the most irresponsible person responsible and how they can make a family’s home complete with just their sheets presence.  It also illustrates how love can be found in the most unlikely places…mostly in and around the heart of  dog.

Eva Longoria (Grace)  and Rob Corddry (Kurt) are adorable as the Mom and Dad  anxiously awaiting their adoptive daughter Amelia (Elizabeth Caro) who only comes alive when the couple finds and also adopts home a stray dog.  Their storyline proves how much a cuddly little friend can change the dynamics of a family.  My favorite scene is when Grace dances for breakfast to the Spice Girls in an effort to connect.

I don’t know where Tone’ Bell (Jimmy) has been hiding, but we definitely need to see more of him on the silver screen.  Not only because he is super fine, but because he is just a natural when it comes to acting which isn’t always the case for folks coming from a comedy background.  The chemistry between he and Nina Dobrev (Elizabeth) is infectious.  Of course, the camera always loves Vanessa Hudgens (Tara) and it doesn’t lie when it comes to charisma and being relatable, which she carries by the truckload.  Pairing her with the equally charismatic Jon Bass (Garrett) was cinema gold.  It was like watching the them in ‘The Wedding Planner’ with a doggy cast.  My favorite was Ron Cephas Jones , who no matter what role he inhabits is just spectacular at putting a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye.

Ken Marino is not only a gifted actor, but wrangling kids and animals takes a special skill that he has mastered for Dog Days.   For anyone who has a furry friend or is animal lover dog Days is the perfect escape from the heat wave of August.  Produced by LD Entertainment, Dog Days barks into theaters on August 8th.

 

Posted on

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman Hits a Nerve and Spotlights Racism

The Civil Rights movement is known for struggle, protesting, Angela Davis, great soul music and the ongoing underground existence of the Klu Klux Klan.  As a college student in Columbia, Missouri, we were told to stay inside one weekend as the Klan marched past our dorm.  I was like, really??!!  The KKK is still a thing.  Well, apparently they were still raging on when rookie cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) became the first African-American detective to serve at the  Colorado Springs Police Department.  Determined not to be chained to his desk or be assigned to mundane tasks, he comes up with the brilliant idea to infiltrate and expose the Klan.  Obviously, this would be difficult at best for anyone that the KKK doesn’t deem as “pure and white”.  Enter Stallworth’s colleague Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver).  Flip agrees to go undercover and together they take down the Klu Klux Klan from the inside out.

Sounds like a story made up just for a Hollywood film right??!!  Of course, it would take Jordan Peele and Spike Lee to bring us this  true- life story in all its glory.  Yes. In October 1978, Stallworth’s 2014 book BlacKkKlansman details his experience. His initial contact began by responding to a classified ad in the local newspaper.  Some “brotherhood” members phoned back. When it came time to meet the Klan members face-to-face, he utilized the help of a white undercover narcotics officer, who posed as Stallworth for all in-person meetings with the Klan.”

In one scene, Ron declares that the United States would never elect a man like KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) president and yet that actually happened.  If you thought the election of POTUS was divisive, BlacKkKlansman is either really going to wear folks out or become a ‘AHA” moment like “Get Out.”

This right here is one of my favorite moments ever and proves just why BlacKkKlansman took home the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival!!! When Stallworth is assigned to protect Duke during a visit to Colorado Springs, Stallworth request Duke take a picture “because no one will ever believe me when I tell them I was your bodyguard.”  Then with Duke and the Grand Dragon of Colorado, Stallworth placed his arms around their shoulders at the last-minute.  Just before his partner snapped the picture, Duke lunged for the picture, but Stallworth was “a split second faster” and got to the photo first. Duke attempted to reach toward Stallworth but Stallworth warned him, “If you touch me, I’ll arrest you for assault on a police officer. That’s worth about five years in prison. DON’T DO IT!” Duke, furious, stepped back. Of course, the photo has since been lost.

Terence Blanchard provides the perfect score which illustrates the edge and complexity of the era. Proving that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, Denzel Washington’s son John David Washington turns in a stellar performance as Ron Stallworth, which is only complimented by his co-stars Adam Driver, Topher Grace and Laura Harrier.

BlacKkKlansman is the perfect movie for the perfect time and just goes to prove you never know who might be on the other end of that phone who will change your life for the better or the worse.  Produced by Focus Features, BlacKkKlansman hits theaters near you on August 10.

Posted on

Christopher Robin Reignites Childhood Memories with Winnie the Pooh

When my father was ill,  I contemplated placing him in a facility where I thought he would be more comfortable.  As we discussed this prospect, my father said something to me I will never forget.  “If I hang around a bunch of people who act old, then they’ll make me feel old too.”  I got it immediately and we never discussed it again.  I’m fortunate that I was born to two people who are perpetually young at heart.  A characteristic they passed on to me genetically, that I will forever be grateful.

So, naturally, Christopher Robin struck a chord with me for a variety of reasons.  It’s so easy to become caught up in the amusement park of life that we are prone to forget what’s most important…family and friends.  Not the work…when it’s due…or how much or it we have.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any living being and being present for every single solitary moment is one of life’s greatest gifts.

Last time we saw Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), he was preparing to go off to boarding school woefully leaving his pals in the Hundred Acre Forest behind.  Now, he’s a grown man with a wife and a daughter.  Only, his quest to keep them comfortable creates a distance and unhappiness that becomes unbearable (no pun intended) for all involved.

Enter Winnie the Pooh.  Pooh was the constant in Robin’s life that was positive and optimistic.  A quality that adulthood erased for Christopher Robin.  When Pooh seeks Robin’s help to find his friends Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore, the most wonderful of adventures begins its journey reminding Christopher you can always find another job.  What you can’t replace is the love, respect and support of your family and good friends.

Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), this Disney classic character’s integrity is maintained and the manner in which we learn how Christopher Robin grows up is masterfully and eloquently played out on screen.  A ginormous hand clap to Matt Cheese and Matthias Koenigswieser for such beautiful cinematic transitions in this live-action fantasy fairytale.

Of course, it goes without saying that Hayley Atwell and Ewan McGregor are fabulous.  However, other than Pooh and his friends stealing the show, young Bronte Carmichael as Madeline is absolutely wonderful.  She is one of the reasons I had a perpetual lump in my throat through most of the film and when the waterworks happened…it was a wrap for me.

Christopher Robin is the quintessential family flick and a great excuse to introduce a whole new generation to the magic, wonder and optimism of Winnie The Pooh.  I loved it and I’m sure you will too!!!  Christopher Robin is in theaters nationwide TODAY!!!

 

Posted on

Christopher Robin’s Winnie the Pooh is Real and his name is Jim Cummings!

Winnie the Pooh, that lovable little dude from Hundred Acre Wood along with his crew Tigger, Piglet aand Eeyore are back!  This time in the live-action animated Disney feature Christopher Robin.  At a recent roundtable, myself and some other bloggers squeezed out a few secrets from Pooh’s alter-ego Jim Cummings.

But first, let me share just a few little known facts that even surprised me

  • Sterling Holloway was the original voice of Pooh until he passed on from a heart-attack in November 1992.
  • Paul Winchell, however, who was a major television star in the 50’s with “The Paul Winchell Show,” was a very skilled ventriloquist with medical training and became the first person to build and patent a mechanical artificial heart. As one of the main voice talents of Hanna-Barbara, Winchell worked on such series as “The Perils of Penelope Pitsop” “The Banana Splits” and Gargamel on “The Smurfs.” He alternated the voice of Pooh with Jim Cummings until his passing on at the age of 82.
  • Winchell’s friend, and Winnie The Pooh co-star John Fiedler, who voice the character of Piglet, passed away the very next day at the age of 80

Cummings, who jokingly refers to himself as “Tigger-lite,” recalls the day the baton was handed down for him to continue to the legacy of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, “It’s a tough story to tell, ’cause it’s kinda one of those tearjerkers…after he (Paul Winchell) told me he had a stroke…I could kinda see between his hands there and I thought my God what does that mean.  He (Winchell) said “take care of my little buddy for me.”  I was like…OK,  Mr. Winchell…I will.

Jim Cummings has done more than keep Tigger and Pooh in tact.  He has literally reinvented and re-voiced these characters for a whole new generation.

Interview with Jim Cummings aka Winnie The Pooh

If you are a child at heart, not only will it keep you young, but it will always leave you with a little sparkle in your eye.  Jim Cummings as Pooh and Tigger in Disney’s Christopher Robin will remind you why we love these characters and why our heart swell with joy at even the smallest prospect of seeing and hearing them just one more time.  Be on the lookout for Christopher Robin at a theatre near you on August 3rd.

Posted on

AAFCA REVIEW: Wrinkle in Time Taps in to Inner Child & Warrior Mode

Be uniquely you, take a child to see A Wrinkle in time when it opens in theaters nationwide on March 9th to tap into YOUR inner child.

Source: AAFCA REVIEW: Wrinkle in Time Taps in to Inner Child & Warrior Mode

Posted on

Mission Impossible: Fallout is Best in Tom Cruise Franchise

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Tom Cruise is the true embodiment of a real movie star.  A star, who on name and face recognition, makes audiences excited to see their films no matter what the subject.  Very few are able to command that type of box office cachet and Cruise is definitely at the top of the list.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is by far the best of the franchise, which now includes six films.  Unable to catch my breath from all the thrilling fight scenes, death-defying stunts and just overall adrenaline ride, I can tell you unequivocably that you’ll most definitely need a bubble bath, cocktail, spa, spin class or whatever relaxes you after this one. It was fantabulous!!!!

There is not a weak link the all-star cast that includes Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Angela Bassett, Henry Cavill, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan and of course, Tom Cruise.   Sean Harris is perfection as Solomon Lane and Vanessa Kirby is giving me Kim Bassinger “LA Confidential” realness as the White Widow, both making villains look deliciously enticing.

Each and every actor leaves no stone unturned and neither does director Christopher McQuarrie, Cinematographer Rob Hardy and Editor Eddie Hamilton. The film is shot like a beautiful ad for a vacation location and is mesmerizing to view.  Maybe because it is shot primarily in Paris, France.

There are literally no words for how Tom Cruise is STILL doing stunts like helicopter and rock climbing stunts after all these years.  He gets mad respect from me on all levels.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Fallout

Mission Impossible: Fallout will take your breath away and leave you in an adrenaline coma for days.  Is is worth it?  Hell yeah it is and you can catch it when it drops into a theatre near you on July 27th.

Posted on

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is Hysterically Hype Fun on the Big Screen

Ever wonder why of all the superheroes why Robin has never had his own flick?  So, do the Teen Titans!!!

This is the type of superhero animation movie that will put a smile on your face and in your heart.  The Teen Titans want to get a superhero film greenlit by the studio starring sidekick Robin so badly they actually go back in history with an attempt to alter the outcome of every superhero known to man.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go the way they planned and a plethora of shenanigans ensue in the process providing the audience of adults and kids alike with hilarity that is sorely needed right now.  In addition, it provides a lesson of what loyalty should feel like and how it should be executed.  It’s like Billy Dee Williams says in “Mahogany,”  ‘Success is nothing without someone you love to share it with.’

When you see the Titans go to Krypton in an attempt to change history with Superman, I promise it is truly one of the highlights.  My favorite thing ever was watching Stan Lee make yet another cameo appearance and the realism in which the Hollywood executive deals with Robin regarding his own movie is pure comedy, but sooooo true.  The Deadpool jokes are on point and right on time.

Based on the Cartoon Network series, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies has an upbeat, throughly enjoyable soundtrack (which is available online right now) and will have you dancing in your seat.  Produced by Warner Brothers and DC Comics, Teen Titans Go! to The Movies hits at a theatre near you on July 27th.