Jan 27

Badass Ladies of Podcasting

I’ve mentioned on this blog that I listen to a lot of podcasts. Many of them are hosted by awesome women that are nerdy, intelligent and outspoken on many diverse topics. I have learned plenty from these ladies about the things that black nerdy woman care about and go through. So it was my honor to have 5 of these skilled podcasters come on my show and do a roundtable on what got them started, how important it is to get their voices out there, and suggestions for other women to get into podcasting.  I was also joined by my co-host JD a.k.a. Twitterella from our own Geek Soul Brother and the Nerdy Venoms podcast.  Here was the lineup of the Badass Ladies Of Podcasting –

Jamie Broadnax – Host of Black Girl Nerds

De Ana – Main host of Nerdgasm Noire Network

Lisa Bolekaja – Co-host of Hilliard Guess Screenwriter’s Rant Room

Llana – Co-host of Blerds On Nerds

Tatiana King-Jones – Co-host of The Fanbros Show

BGN Logonerdgasm Noir logoSSRantRoom Blerds on Nerds logoFanbros logo

Jan 06

Syfy Continues To Get Serious With 400 DAYS (2016)

400Days

 

The Syfy channel is continuing its climb back to the top of the mountain of Sci-Fi production with its first entry into the theatrical realm with their film – 400 Days.  For almost 2 years the network has been making major moves to present interesting and respectable science fiction and fantasy shows and mini-series.  But on the side of Films by Syfy, we’ve only gotten the b-movie made-for-TV charms like Sharknado and Lavalantula.  That’s all about to change with the new direction of the SyFy Films division.  They are focusing on genuine science fiction, fantasy and horror to be released in various mediums and not just television.  I’m sure their films will mostly be under limited release like 400 Days, which drops theatrically January 15th.  But this and other films from the division will pop up on demand and probably streaming sites in time. Check the trailer and don’t pre-judge because a certain comedian, and a few people from CW’s Arrow are in the film.  It looks like a serious story.

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 01

GSB Film Review – STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

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NO SPOILER REVIEW (PART 1)

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – The franchise is back on track! I think that was the biggest concern among long time fans of the original They still have a little bit further to go to instill the franchise fully into hearts of a new generation, but J.J. Abrams did bring a good portion of the magic back. Loved seeing some old faces that were more than just cameos. But what was satisfying were the new faces in a galaxy far far away. First off, John Boyega exceeded all expectations in his portrayal of Finn. He was amusing, as well as a conduit for some of the drama of the film. And he was a great match for fellow actress Daisy Ridley who played Rey, a girl just trying to find her way. Adam Driver played big baddie Kylo Ren (his rapper name). I think he hit his mark for being the poster boy for the Dark Side. The storyline wasn’t deep, which is reminiscent of the originals, but it was fun. The kids in the audience seemed to really enjoy it as much as the adults. Spaceship battles and chase scenes were tight and very cinematic. But they weren’t over done with too much for the eyes to take in. In fact, I don’t even think I saw one lens flare. Abrams has learned his lesson. There were little things in there that rubbed against my technical science geek side, but since when has Star Wars worried much about scientific details? There were also a couple little plot-points that could have been tightened up with a couple lines or maybe extra scenes. But it was fun and nostalgic and that’s all I was asking for in this most recent go-round. Looking forward to more stories if this is what the franchise will look like, though I do want to see work from other directors.  Geek Soul Brother gives The Force Awakens 4.5 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

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SPOILER REVIEW (PART 2)

 

 

So I have a few criticisms about the film, but most of them do not pertain to the quality of it.  They are more of me wanting to see something fresh and new. But what we got (my biggest critique) is a remade mesh of the original New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.  I’m not judging too harshly on Abrams and the rest of the creators because they really had their hands full with this film, and playing it safe was probably a good strategy.  What I don’t think they had to do was give you homage after homage to remind you of all the things you loved about Star Wars. After a while it just got too noticeable.

Let me clarify the whole ‘Remake of New Hope’ thing.  The Awakens plot mirrored New Hope almost to the scenes. From the ‘Hiding plans in a Droid’ to ‘Young Person Escaping from a Desert Planet’ to ‘Meeting the Mentor / killing the mentor’ to ‘Battling a Deathstar’.  The some of the roles were different, but the story was basically the same.  And just talking about this Deathstar that needs a whole sun to fuel up its weapon? Star Wars was never savvy at explaining how the technology worked, but sucking up a whole star into a ray gun, even one the size of a planet, does not work in anyone’s astrophysics book.  I’m just waiting for Dr. Neal D Tyson to give his view on the thing.

 

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Now to applaud JJ for the things I liked about the film. There is one thing you can probably say about Abrams – He’s a supporter of diversity in his projects and he likes strong fleshed out women and people of color on the screen.  Ray was multi faceted in her portrayal of a young girl that had innocence yet cunning, was strong but just a touch of vulnerability that wasn’t a troupe that tends to diminish other female heroes.  The best thing is that Ray has a destiny with the force that has yet to be revealed.  Earlier this year, everyone hailed Furiosa from Mad Max as being a great female protagonist, and she was at that.  But in Force Awakens, Rey was commanding her own direction and the direction of others, discovering her power of the force, and enacting her own escape, all without the help of a man.  It’s a hot debate as to how she was able to fight with a lightsaber for the first time and best a young sith like villain.  But I did like Ridley in how she showed determination and strength in Rey. She reminds me of a young Emily Blunt in how she uses subtle looks and expressions to convey her character.

And on the other side of the table we had Finn, a young brother that had to balance courage and fear at the same time to escape the First Order, and step up to the plate when his new found friend Rey was in trouble. And Finn carried his share of the weight when it came to his decisions directing the story. I have to give it up to the writers for allowing two characters share the decision making in the plot. That’s not an easy thing to balance out.  Now some people had a problem with Finn as a black man who also carrying a lot of the comedy on his plate.  It could have been construed as that typical black character that’s always in films for the comedy relief and not much else. But I would say that Finn was much more three dimensional when it came to his dramatic moments – like fighting troopers or worrying about Rey. Basically Finn was a young cheeky Han Solo opposite Rey being a serious young Luke Skywalker.  Like I said, New Hope all over again.  I have to say though, as a Storm Trooper, they could have given Finn another previous job other than a sanitation guy, but I guess that was another Abrams homage.

Of course I have to give a shoutout to my girl Lupita Nyong’o for her role as Mas Kanata, or orange Yoda woman.  It will be nice if we can see her again.  What was she doing with Luke’s lightsaber is another story I guess.  And Oscar Issac didn’t have a lot of screen time, but his character Poe Demeron was instantly likable, and a far cry from the obnoxious character he played in Ex Machina.

Again, I loved seeing the old and familiar faces again. I’m glad Solo, Chewbacca and Leia had a major part in the story. And it was also fitting that Han took a bow out of the franchise.

So again, my critiques really didn’t have much to do with the quality of the film. Not when it comes to a story that was fun and kids would like.  I’m sure the next couple films will dive more into some originality, but for now I’m satisfied that Star Wars: The Force Awakens did its job.

Dec 25

Is Deadpool Going To Be One Of The Best Superhero Film of 2016?

DP FB PosterThe competition is going to be high among all the Superhero films coming out next year.  A total of six will be heading to the silver screens between February and November.  So far we’ve seen trailers for five of those films released, including some second trailers.  And that’s where my questioning comes in. Will Deadpool be at least the second best hero film of 2016?  Why should I even be asking this when X-Men Apocalypses, Superman v Batman and Captain America: Civil War are entering the ring?  Well, think back to last year when everyone was asking why Marvel was even releasing their little film called Ant-Man.  And this was even after they featured the questionable Guardians Of The Galaxy, which in turn garnered huge success. But when the masses of geeks finally watched a movie about a dude that shrinks, they voted it as the best hero film of 2015.  So I ask again, will Deadpool be at least the second best superhero film next year?  It has almost the same tone as Ant-Man – a funny action super adventure. But now we’re adding an r-rated level to it. So basically we are combining the playfulness of Ant-Man with the violence level of Daredevil; another success story of 2015.  And it seems to be a simple ‘Guy gets powers, guy fights evil villain and saves girlfriend’ story.  In case you don’t know the red suited assassin, Deadpool is a wise-cracking killer that breaks the forth wall like it was never included in the building plans. He loves talking to the audience.  If you are not familiar with him, watch this second green-band trailer, it will definitely give you a clue. Find the film in theaters February 12th, 2016.

 

 

 

Dec 09

Afro Commentary: The Force (of Star Wars) Is Strong With This One

GSB_Editorial-Star-Wars-HeaderStar Wars fans receive an early holiday gift this year as the next film in the saga – The Force Awakens – will be released on December 18th. And despite the excitement for the film being palpable, many people are fearful of the end result due to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilms Ltd. In 2012. It is to these fans credit; with such a devotion to the property – myself included – there is much the new films have to live up to.

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Image courtesy Lucasfilms Ltd.

A long time ago, but not in a galaxy far, far away, I grew up on Star Wars. Despite being too young to understand anything, I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back with my father and brother in 1982 when it was re-released in theaters. I was mesmerized by the colors, sounds and visuals even though I knew nothing of certain formalities like the plot at the time. In 1983, with reservations about taking a then 4 year-old, my mother had brought my brother and me to see The Return of The Jedi opening weekend (my father, who was working in Boston and had seen it there convinced her to take me.) I remember – after being told not to watch certain scenes deemed “scary” – watching the Rancor and Sarlacc scenes from behind the row of seats in front of us and later cheering on the Ewoks.

In my teens I modified my 486 no-name computer with 4 meg of ram so much just to install and play X-Wing. Later on I would do it again to run TIE Fighter and Dark Forces (two of my favorite games of all time to this day.) I also dove into the Dark Horse comics and the Timothy Zahn book trilogy, which were the beginnings of the expanded universe and – I feel – led to a resurgence for the franchise in the mid 90’s. There were even the RPG’s on IRC I was involved with, which may be the most hard core geek thing I ever did. Needless to say, even with all the science fiction properties I am a fan of – including Star Trek – I will always return to Star Wars.

Why though? As it has been pointed out by the numerous Star Wars-flavored Haterade drinkers out there, there is nothing original about it. That the tropes, themes and character archetypes used are a patchwork of things taken from Shakespeare, the Arthurian legend and parts of history right down to old World War II film footage. That all Lucas was doing was ripping off of Flash Gordonwhich he attempted to secure the rights to years before he decided to do the film – and from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. That Lucas is not a good director or that all he cared about was selling merchandise. I have heard them all, and I will be the first one to admit to every one of these critiques in parts of his career. But, even with the criticisms – even my own over changes made in the Anniversary editions of the original trilogy (Han shot first!) and the prequels – my heart will always be with this property.

You would be hard pressed to deny that Star Wars has not only been important in geek culture, but in world pop culture and the film industry for almost 40 years. It single-handedly reinvigorated an interest in science fiction and proved that the genre was viable for general film and TV audiences. It solidified the current model of “Summer Blockbusters” being released between May and late July (which another Disney owned company, Marvel Studios, has started to deconstruct.) Quotes and terms have seeped into our vernacular in everyday discussion. It has created such a following that being a Jedi is actually a recognized religion in the UK. Lucas created something that is fantastic, wondrous and fun, yet is familiar to all walks of life.

Courtesy Lucasfilms Ltd.

Courtesy Lucasfilms Ltd.

Lucas may not be a good filmmaker like his long-time friends Brian De Palma or Steven Spielberg; but he is a good story teller and he changed the way films are made. Star Wars had the best special effects ever done for a film at the time, creating new techniques and technologies which would become the backbone of Industrial Light and Magic. He weaved legends and history into a backdrop of a galactic civil war, offering numerous story possibilities. He invented technologies within this universe that, despite having little to no basis in real world physics – like Star Trek – captured the imagination of many would be scientists and artists. And he did all of this on a budget of only $11 million (which is the rough equivalent of $40 million in today’s dollars.)

As one of the more commercially successful artists of our time, Lucas did not let anything stop him from making his films in his vision. The iconic lead-in scroll and the lack of opening credits (both done by numerous films since Star Wars) was controversial within the industry to the point that the DGA threatened to pull The Empire Strikes Back from theaters because of it. He funded much of Empire, and later Jedi, with his own money, ensuring control of his films and the franchise as a whole. He also kept the licensing rights to the films while taking a lower paycheck, creating an empire never seen before. As of 2012, the licensing alone made Lucas $20 billion.

At the end of the day however, these reasons are ancillary to why I will always be a fan of the franchise.

Call it inspiration if you want. However, I feel the word does not do justice. My decision to become an artist, and later on a writer, ultimately stems from the property. It led me to be interested in several topics, ranging from history, philosophy and religion to the sciences, computers and film. It was Star Wars that played a fundamental part in how I developed to the man I am today.

Or perhaps it is more basic than that.

Courtesy Lucasfilm Ltd.

Courtesy Lucasfilm Ltd.

It may be nostalgia that keeps me coming back to the franchise. That I remember the times we would watch the films on television as a family. Or later on, when my sixth-grade teacher taped copies of the trilogy, I would watch them every day to escape my mother’s alcoholism or the vicious arguments my parents would have. And as a teen the computer games and books softened the somewhat awkward and confusing time of my life known as Junior High and High School. Then there is the fact that Revenge of the Sith was the last film I saw with my father in the theater before he died from cancer in early January of 2006.

Whatever the above reasons may be, they are why I will always be an avid supporter of Star Wars. Why I feel the franchise is in good hands with Kathleen Kennedy (current president of Lucasfilms) and many other capable people at Disney. It is why I pass on my appreciation of Star Wars onto my niece and nephews, hopeful they will enjoy it as much as I do. And – most importantly – it is why I will be in the theater on opening night for The Force Awakens.

Nov 30

El Camino Film Review: My CREED Experience

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By: Eric “El Camino” Rivera

Let me start off by saying that I’ve been chomping at the bit for the movie, “CREED” to come to theaters from the time I watched the first teaser trailer back in July. Being from Philadelphia, the entire “Rocky” franchise runs threw my veins like blood, even the not so good sequels (Rocky V anyone). I knew about the movie months prior to the actual trailer. Given the fact that most of the movie was shot here, and casting calls for boxers, motorbike riders, and other local talents were being recruited for the movie, you would have to be living under a rock (pun intended) for you not to know that a new “CREED” movie was being shot in town.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving weekend. The moment I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived, and “CREED” did not disappoint. There are a vast amount of words that I’m going to use to describe this movie. To sum it up in one word, I’ll have to describe this movie as “EXCELLENT”. I struggled as to whether or not I should use the word “AUTHENTIC” to describe the movie, but that would only describe one part of the movie. This movie is one part a passing of the baton, or possibly the fitting end to a franchise that spans generations. The second part is paying homage to past Rocky characters, and moments. The final part is a love letter to “The City of Philadelphia”.

Creed Thoughts

Without giving away too many spoilers, this story basically touches on the issues that Adonis “Donny” Johnson-Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan) has with being the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, being a boxer living in his father’s shadow, realizing his self-worth, while struggling with coming into his own identity. He eventually moves to Philadelphia to pursue his boxing career. There, he looks up Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone) and confronts him on his relationship with Apollo Creed, and his relation to Apollo. Rocky’s character is much older, and has left the boxing world behind.

As Donny trains, he stops by every once in a while to check out his “Unc” Rocky. Although Rocky doesn’t want anything to do with his boxing career, he eventually helps him out with a couple of drills. Their relationship begins to pick up from there.

Donny’s character eventually meets a young lady living in his building by the name of Bianca (played by Tessa Mae Thompson). Her role in this movie is of a Philadelphia native musician, who teaches Donny about what it is to be from Philadelphia. From teaching him about what a “ Jawn” is, taking him to the best cheesesteak spot in Philadelphia (“Max’s Steaks” on Germantown & Erie Ave.), while revealing to him some of her vulnerabilities. Their attraction obviously grows from there. Donny still struggles with revealing his true identity, so for now he keeps his paternal origin a secret.

As Donny’s relationship with both Rocky & Bianca continue to grow, we begin to see the struggles that befall Rocky. As the years went by, more of Rocky’s loved ones has either passed away, or moved away. So solitude has begun to take its toll on Rocky’s life upon meeting Donny. As the movie progresses, we begin to see that this movie is just as much about Donny & Rocky filling a much needed void left in both their lives, as it is with Adonis coming into his true identity.

In true Rocky fashion, the climax of the movie is when Adonis fight’s the reigning world champion boxer.

I must really tip my hat off to Sylvester Stallone & Aaron Covington for writing such a great script, and Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), for directing such an excellent movie. As I stated before, this movie (in part) could definitely be a passing of the guard, because “CREED” could become a franchise within itself, if done right. I personally hope it does not. I would rather this movie be a fitting fair well to a famous franchise that spanned generations.

This movie really came full circle with Rocky becoming Adonis’ coach and giving him life lessons, just as Mic gave Rocky in the premier movie. In this installment of “CREED”, there were many nods given to the Rocky movie’s that preceded it. The scene with Donny running with the motor bikes riding beside him just screamed of the authenticity of the motor bike culture that resides in Philly, and rings in the new generation of the “Italian Market” running scene. At the end of that scene, where Adonis was looking up at Rocky from the Gym window calling him out, is a nod to Rocky running to Father Carmine’s window asking him to throw down a blessing before his fight (which really touched my heart).

I especially want to thank Ryan Coogler (or his location scout) for highlighting 2 spots in particular. The first spot is “Max’s Steaks”, located at Germantown & Erie. He could have easily used one the “go to” spots like Pat’s or Geno’s to get his cheesesteak “spot shot”. But instead, he went to the realest, and the best cheesesteak spot in Philadelphia. If you love cheesesteaks, and you’re not afraid to go on a mission to get one, then “Max’s Steaks” is where you get your cheesesteak. The second spot is “The Electric Factory”. This venue is where many local talents get their break on the big stage. You would have to be a musician from Philly, or have come to Philadelphia to perform there in order to know about it. Many mega stars have performed on that stage. They used this spot to shoot the scene when Bianca (Tessa Thompson’s) character was scheduled to perform.

Even the musical scores that took place in the movie came from Philadelphia artists, ranging from “The Roots” to “Meek Mill”.

Now I knew this movie was going to be good, but I wasn’t prepared for how authentic & excellent this movie was going to be. There was no fluff, no gimmicks. Just straight up, heart touching acting (with a couple of funny parts) that speaks of the audience’s ability to identify with the characters. To sum things up, this piece of cinema was much more than just a boxing movie. I highly recommend seeing this movie at least once while it’s still in theaters. I hereby give this movie the rating of 4.75 cosmic afro’s.

 

4.75-Cosmic-Afros

 

Nov 08

Film Review – SPECTRE: The Spy Who Dragged Me

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We Whovians have a saying, “You never forget your first Doctor” (Tom Baker,always and forever). As it is with 007, a similarly long-lived British franchise, you never forget your first Bond (Hello, Dalton!). However, the Bond we see in SPECTRE isn’t very memorable. And it’s quite the parlor trick: You forget this Bond because he reminds you of so many others before him. Rather than innovating the spy genre after all these years, SPECTRE reuses tropes and reduces Bond to parody. After 52 years of “007”, this Bond is only older, not bolder.

 

 

The first opening scenes of SPECTRE give the viewer a return to the familiar. Bond is inexplicably in some exotic local, (Mexico City during Dia de los Muertos), CHECK. Bond with a gorgeous woman on his arm, CHECK. Bond leaving gorgeous woman unfulfilled to do spy stuff, CHECK. Spy stuff results in explosions and a deadly chase with a villain, CHECK. (By the way, shout out to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema–known recently for his work on “Interstellar”–for really pulling you in that hectic helicopter chase). Bond somehow lives to fight another day after quick work with the villain, and we never know what happens to the gorgeous lady he was with a few minutes ago so end scene and just queue the new Bond theme music and title sequence. CHECK.

By the third CHECK, I began to check out. SPECTRE was running on auto-pilot. It wasn’t until the title sequence started that I started to perk up a bit. Trust, this was not due to the music–Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall”, while lovely, does not carry the emotional heft of Adele’s haunting “Skyfall” theme. No, there was something different to this title sequence: tentacles, writhing tentacles everywhere and on everyone. It was a pop of Lovecraft I wasn’t expecting but geekily welcomed. The rest of the title sequence was peppered with images of fallen villains, loves, and bosses in the life of Daniel Craig’s Bond. Just as SPECTRE’s Bond is unable to shake the ghosts of missions past, so is the story itself as it stirs up nostalgic Bond to disastrous effect in a number of areas:

Bond, the (Anti) Hero: The standard superhero invincibility mode can get tiresome pretty fast. I actually have no qualms about the portrayal of Daniel Craig’s Bond as slightly tragic and damaged. Craig really sold me on Bond’s vulnerability in 2006’s “Casino Royale” and carried it through to perfection in “Skyfall.” In SPECTRE, Bond comes across as serviceable but soulless–mission-driven to be sure, but you never quite get his motivations. Bond is merely going through the motions. If Bond was following some code, it’d be the Contra Code (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start–repeat!). The fact there is very little humor in this Bond only highlights this shortcoming. British humour is noted for being dry; but since SPECTRE was so set on recycling, Craig channeling just an ounce of Roger Moore would have been an improvement on the character.

The Villains: Before Bond meets the Big Bad, a tussle or two with a good henchman or henchwoman (Grace Jones, je t’aime!) is MUST. Who can forget Bond’s first meeting with the indomitable Richard Kiel as Jaws in the “Spy Who Loved Me”? He barely said a world but he proved there was a method behind his madness blow for blow. SPECTRE’s henchman du jour is Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. Hinx is silent but deadly dull. See, a fight with Bond is more than a deadly dance, it’s a conversation. When you have a henchman with little to add to the conversation, the fight scenes turn into nothing more than an elaborate “Three Stooges” spar. The Bond Big Bad is SPECTRE architect Franz Oberhauser (actor Christoph Waltz). For all his natural charisma, not even Waltz could escape getting tossed with the recyclables. The best-worst de ja vu moment happens between Bond and Oberhauser in the film’s Third Act: Oberhauser: “Why did you come here, Mr. Bond?” Bond: “I came here to kill you.” Oberhauser: “And, I thought you came here to die.” Google “Goldfinger quote” and you’ll see what I mean. Waltz’s Oberhauser was so underutilized and understated I started to wish Oberhauser had a mentoring tea with fellow cat loving supervillain Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers.”

The Women: Save the best for last! Let’s start with the “Bond Girls” actresses Stephanie Sigman and Monica Bellucci. Stephanie Sigman is the first Mexican Bond Girl. While her involvement marks a cultural milestone for the franchise, she barely gets 3 minutes of screen time. When we do see her, she’s mostly seen on Bond’s arm and swiftly placed on Bond’s bed with next to no lines. ¡Qué lástima! Upon learning the stunning Monica Bellucci was going to the first age-appropriate Bond Girl, I wanted to cue “At Last!” But what happened between Lucia and Bond was quite regrettable. **SPOILER ALERT**: Bond meets Lucia at her husband’s funeral (yes, this is the movie Bond becomes a funeral crasher). Lucia as a grieving widow of an underground king pin is a valuable asset to Bond and she knows this. Rather than take an opportunity to show a witty but flirty exchange between 2 mature adults–we see Bond ‘pump’ her for information in his standard way for female informants. The cringeworthy scene of a mostly naked Bellucci pressed against the mirror by a fully clothed Craig is enough to make anyone revisit British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey’s 1975 seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and the Narrative Cinema.” And finally, we have Bond’s love interest Madeleine Swann played by French actress Léa Seydoux. Seydoux actually holds her own in this film as Léa–so much so, it made you wander what did she see in Craig’s Bond anyway?

Were there any saving graces to SPECTRE? Well, I can name one and I guarantee it was not at the front of director Sam Mendes’s mind. SPECTRE is one of the few recent films depicting the dynamic push and pull of an inter-generational workplace. Part of what fuels SPECTRE’s story is the old school vs the new school trope. Young bureaucrat brass and techie “C” (Andrew Scott) is set on dismantling what he perceives to be the outdated Double-O program headed by the patrician M (Ralph Fiennes). M manages quite the team which includes brash Bond, and bright younger things Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw). It’s really fun to see how this mixed ages group pulls together to accomplish the mission–when the movie hit these notes, it felt real and refreshing. Unfortunately for SPECTRE it was merely a spectral glimpse of the excitement this movie could have carried for a franchise old enough to know better.

2.75 out of 5 Cosmic Afros

2.75-Cosmic-Afros

Oct 29

Shadow Scout commentary: Jem and The Holograms – Story’s Reimagining Lacks ‘STEAM’

Holo2015 PosterWhile the rest of the world was celebrating a geek milestone–10/21/15 aka Back to the Future Day, I was cautiously anticipating another: 10/23/15, the premiere of the “Jem and the Holograms” live action movie. Back in the day, “Jem” was my everything! This movie has been a point of contention in for fans of the original series and rightfully so. (Please check out Jamie Broadnax’s 2014 post on BlackGirlNerds.com post from 2014 “Where is Christy Marx?” for a primer in the film’s troubling production history.

While it pained me to think of the eventual long walk to the gallows for the movie, I decided to train myself emotionally and intellectually to view this film. I committed to re-watching the classic series annotated by @BlackGirlNerd’s #jemlivetweet. I familiarized myself with IDW’s “Jem” comic. I even attended the 2015 JemCon near Philadelphia. And just to clarify, JemCon was around before the movie and not because of the movie. (Check out my JemCon 2015 storify for a recap: https://storify.com/ArtsHumana/jemcon2015-recap)

It was at JemCon where I met other “Jem” fans to deep-dive on my favorite “Jem” episodes. But the highlight of JemCon was meeting Christy Marx–creator of Jem (who is brilliant and clearly loves her Jem fans!). All eyes were on Marx as she spoke. There was no vitriol in Marx’s tone when she was asked to talk about the movie. Marx also shared that given the budget realities of the film, the movie could not take on a period piece approach. She also said director Jon Chu was looking forward to telling the “Jem” story in a different way that could lead to more stories. Once I heard that, it was my own personal lightbulb moment: The “Jem” movie was never intended to be a remake, but areimagining. Ok. Got it.

A reimagining is loosely inspired by the original source material. In a reimagining, you expect deviations from the original story lines that don’t detract from the essence of the story and its characters. When a reimagining is done well, you have a movie that does not completely alienate with fans of the original story but can still resonate with new audiences in relevant ways.

In my Thursday night “private screening” of JEM (translation: I was the only in the theater) it was clear the creative team behind the “Jem” movie did not get the same Reimagining 101 memo. Yes, the movie failed to capture the essence of what made “Jem and the Holograms” so great for the original fan base of the property on a number of levels (pick a movie review, any review, for more details on that angle). But in its bid to assert itself as hip and relevant, the film comes across culturally tone deaf to the world that young women now find themselves as learners and agents of their own realities.We are now living in an educational landscape where STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning and the Maker Movement are shaping how we think about youth voice and agency. Though created in the 80s, “Jem” was powered by STEAM before STEAM learning was cool (Jem & The Holograms…the Original STEAM Punks…meditate on that for a bit). (Re)Imagine if the creators of the movie decided to take reflect this reality rather than relying on the internet tropes. (Re)Imagine if Jerrica and Kimber were young artist entrepreneurs, or Aja had a knack for robotics and programming, and Shana was a maker maven who was just as adept at making funky power suits and she was handling power tools. (Re)Imagine if the “Jem” movie creative team participated in a hackathon with organizations like Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code to truly get schooled on STEAM, and actually talked to the young women and their mentors in these programs. Or easier yet, (re)imagine if the film’s director Jon Chu actually collaborated with Jem’s creator Christy Marx from start to finish. Marx started her career in comics and is now a game designer at Zynga; surely she has some great pointers on storytelling and authentic female agency.

As a fan of the original animated series, I’m saddened the new “Jem” movie never picked up STEAM. A “Jem and the Holograms” movie properly reimagined could have been a wonderful chance to craft a powerful narrative of young women inspired to use their talents and technology as a mode of meaning-making and greater self-expression, not self-indulgence. This is the truly outrageous life and our future is brighter because there are young women making it happen in so many creative ways. Now, isn’t that a story worth re-telling?

Oct 24

THE GREEN INFERNO – Those Cannibals Are Alright!

GreenInferno_Dom_

 

Going into this film, I expected to be left with disturbing images lingering in my mind for days. What I didn’t expect was leaving with thoughts of rain forest conservation, cultural perspectives of right and wrong, and adorable cannibal kids. Not to say there weren’t any disturbing images; I’ll never look at smoked ham the same again. But Roth skips some of the gore of the Italian cannibal films of the past for more of a story layered with some relevancy. The simple setup for this torture porn is that a group of young Americans get caught out in Peru with a tribe with specific culinary tastes. But then we go from slicing and dicing people to National Geographic moments, and then a little more slicing and dicing. Given the history of film, where indigenous people have been portrayed as the savage, Inferno gives you both sides of this imaginary tribe – the horrific and the humanizing. It was inventive to show the natives talking and laughing over a family meal, but instead of mom’s fried chicken and potato salad, it’s Johnny’s leg with some carrots, onions and a little dipping sauce on the side. Hannibal would have loved to have traded recipes. Scenery and cinematography were beautiful. And all the people that were of South American descent who worked on the pre- and post-production helped with the authenticity I’m sure. Not that I know what Peru looks like, but Roth’s intentions of shooting the film on location with real local citizens paid off. What didn’t pay off was the weak acting from some of the cast. It’s a horror film I know, but it doesn’t hurt to hope for some good dialogue delivery. Now the villagers that portrayed the cannibals? Spot on. I would not want to meet these fictional jungle dwellers, nor be within a thousand miles of them. Fans of Roth might want to see more Hostel like scenes, but I give him credit for bringing something more to what could have been a very shallow tale.  Geek Soul Brother gives it 3.25 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

3.25-Cosmic-Afros

Oct 24

Jessica Jones Trailer – Evil Tennant and a little Luke Lovin’

Jones trailer poster

 

We have had several teasers for the second Marvel / Netflix series premiering November 20th.  Where we saw the rise of a superhero in Daredevil, this trailer hints at how Jessica did horrible things while in the will-bending clutches of Killgrave, also known as the Purple Man in Marvel comics.  We also get to see glimpses of said evil villain played by the same person that played a certain charming time traveling doctor – David Tennant. Something tells me that Miss Jones will wish that she could travel back in time after meeting Tennant’s character. We also get a very curious Luke Cage asking Jessica about her powers. I don’t know if that’s how a player gets into a superheroine’s pants, but it seemed to have worked for Cage.  This and all of the other scenes in the trailer begs the question: Is Jessica Jones going to be even darker than Daredevil?  DD didn’t have any sex scenes really, and not even a whole bunch of cursing.  Those familiar with J Jones story know that it was an R rated equivalent of a comic series.  How much is Disney willing to let Netflix show?  I personally think they can pull it off, even if the streaming giant doesn’t feature anything explicit.  But I guess we won’t know for another month or so.  If you don’t want to spoil the story than you can do some homework by reading the former Jessica Jones comic – Alias.

 

 

 

 

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