Jun 27

GSB Film Review: DOPE (2015)

Dope

 

DOPE‬ is a film that Black Nerds have been waiting for since… ever! The idea of Urkel representing the complexity of being a nerd and black is a true misrepresentation of the brothers and sisters of geekdom. Especially if you add the element of being in a rough neighborhood.

 

The story launches into that socially odd area of the ‘Other’, where the characters find that they just don’t quite fit into any perceived group. But they are totally okay with that. What’s funny is my impression of the film was materialized by a conversation I had with a friend that was surprised I wanted to see Dope because he thought it was a so called ‘hood film’.  And I was surprised he wanted to see it because I thought it was a nerd story. It was a very good balance of both, where the comedy didn’t saturate the dangers of being in the bottoms.

Most all of the acting was on point, and Shameik Moore as Malcolm was definitely able to carry the film with the support of Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori playing his two best friends. The setup didn’t take long as Malcolm spells out the hazards of trying to maintain his love of anime, gaming and the 90s culture and not folding to certain drug and gang peer pressure, or sneaker snatching bullies.

But that was only the beginning as Malcolm and his friends get unintentionally caught up with one bad element after another; each situation jumping between decent comedy and drama (much more of the first). On top of that, the story was well told and there were some epiphanies here and there. Not that it was complex, but it had some thoughtful moments.

One word about Zoe Kravitz.  She’s maturing as an actor and I hope to see her in a lead role very soon. Especially if it involves action or future tech.  Or even a weird little movie that she can get some acclaim for. She also stood out in this film as the somewhat love interest.

There may have been a momentary slow point in the film, but this could almost compare to some of the classic teen hijinks romps of the past. What sets it apart those others is how the film carved a unique groove for itself by blending and mashing cultures in a non-cliche way.  My only real criticism is that I would have liked to have seen some of the more sketchy characters have a small geek moment.  Like comment on some nerd conversation that Malcolm, Diggy and Jib would be having. The script tried to do that with a discussion about 90s rap, but I would have been happier with some DragonBall Z talk. Because truthfully, there are a lot of undercover nerds out there in them streets.

For the Blerds out there, Geek Soul Brother gives DOPE 4 OUT OF 5 COSMIC AFROS. Blerd, Nerd or Geek should check it out.

4-Cosmic-Afros

Jun 16

Netflix’s Sense8 Doesn’t Quite Hit The Bull’s Eye.

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Sense8 is a story about 8 people that slowly become aware that they are connected to each other psychically and empathically.  Though they could only read some of each other’s thoughts, they could more easily feel what the others were feeling.  The ‘Senseate’ were also guided through the birth of this connection by Heroes star Naveen Andrews.  Naveen’s character Jonas warns the them about a villainess individual who’s purpose is to track them down.  I appreciated how the Wachowskis (Matrix) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) included people from all over the world.

The most charming aspect of the series was the demonstration of the connectedness of the 8.  You had people from America, Mexico, Germany, Kenya, India, the UK and Korea.  At first you understood through the lens of the characters  that this was a new and disturbing experience.  Sadly the first few episodes took a while to establish the situation.  It started out feeling a little disjointed.  But by the end of the series the writers deftly showed how the characters could help each other at the drop of a hat.  My thing is for a show that gave you people from all over and every background, some had a little more to offer than others.  It’s probably why I felt that some characters were more realized in a 3 dimensional way.  I’ll get into that in a bit.

Now about the bad guy. Mr. Whispers wasn’t enough of a threat.  I just couldn’t take him too seriously.  Did he just want to kill the Sense8 people around the world, or something more sinister?  There was one point where Whispers could control someone and I thought that gave light to a bigger agenda.  But I guess at this point in the story that was too early to be explored.

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Of course the POV of the LGBT crowd was strongly presented in the show (I’m guessing) due to Lana Wachowski’s personal insights of life as a transexual and those around her.  But it wasn’t as simple as ‘this one was Gay or that one was Straight’.  The Wachowkis were hitting on a concept of what would come out of a psychic link with other people where you could feel their emotions, desires and read their thoughts.  You have your own identity but also several others that could fuse with your own at a given time.  Sexuality and love were a large part of the story.  But only for some.  I thought the Capheus from Kenya (played by Ami Ameen) and Sun Bak from Korea (Doona Bae) were very non-sexual.  I’ve seen many examples in media of Black and Asian characters handled the same way (Michonne gets it in on them comic pages, not on TV though).  Everyone else was getting the good-good, why not them? And also that psychic orgy was very white and testosteronic.

Speaking on the depth of some characters over others, I was kinda looking at the Wachowskis with a little scrutiny over their choices of what some characters did.  You had the good white male cop who obviously was the shining knight of the series, and the troubled DJ from across the pond that became a damsel.  But there were two stereotypes that really rubbed me the wrong way.  The Asian woman that was able to help run a large corporation, but mostly was called upon for her martial arts prowess.  And even though I liked the brother from Kenya, he was boiled down to a bus driver with some skills at the wheel and a cliched source of African positivity and wisdom.  Why couldn’t there have been more characters of color like the incomparable Freema Agyeman (Martha from Doctor Who) who was anything but typical.  Maybe that’s just me being a fanboy.

I would have been mad at the whole Mexican telenovela thing, but I liked that it was used as a metaphor for the life of the Mexican action film star Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre).  His was one of the more well told stories of the series.

There were several episodes that were directed beautifully, especially 9 and 10.  I think they concisely explored the truth of what the show was about – human connection.  And I’m a big fan of director Tom Tykwer, who didn’t direct many of these episodes, but did the music for the series.

Lastly, the problem with the show is that the deep meaning of the concept has much more weight than what the excitation has presented thus far.  These are mostly ordinary people that can become extraordinary in their connection.  But if the environments and situations of the individual characters don’t give room for those extraordinary qualities to be explored than the series may fall flat.   As with many Scifi and Fantasy shows, this might just need a little time to get it totally right.  For those of you that liked the idea of CLOUD ATLAS (like I did) then you will enjoy this even better.  And even if you didn’t really like the 2012 Wachowski film there is a chance you might like Sense8 if you can get past the first few episodes.  Now if the whole ‘we are connected’ turns you off then give this a pass.  For me It’s no Daredevil, but it is a step in the right direction for the Wachowskis.

 

Geek Soul Brother Gives SENSE8 3.75 OUT OF 5 COSMIC AFROS.

3.75-Cosmic-Afros

 

Jun 09

GSB Film Review: INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 (2015)

Insdious-Chapter-3-1

 

Welcome to the 3rd chapter of what I call the new Goosebumps franchise.  Why call it that?  Because the Insidious series actually has a PG-13 rating.  Many people forgot that when they reviewed the first film.  But I could tell from the jump that the film was for a younger generation because the demon looked like Darth Maul.

I was satisfied with the first movie, and I didn’t get a chance to see the second one.  But I’m hearing that Chapter 3 was the best of all and I can see why,.

First, let’s talk about the story. Interestingly enough, this was a prequel to the first film.  A girl, who is trying to reach out to her dead mother, is eventually tormented by a demon and seeks the help of psychic Elise Reinier.  it seemed simple enough, though potentially boring.  But I liked the slow buildup that the film took at first to make sure you knew what the dynamics of the characters were all about.  Things quickly got ugly for young Quinn, our demon harassed heroine.  No spoilers but when you see the waving hand… yeah.

Elise Rainier InsidiousNow usually in a horror film about demons you have a hero step in to help the victim being terrorized.  It’s usually a family member like Mom or Dad, but rarely if ever is it an older woman!  That’s where the film got interesting to me.  As the story progressed, Lin Shaye’s character grew more compelling and real.  As I said on Twitter – Forget calling Mad Max: Fury Road a feminist film, Insidious 3 was that all the way.  On the other side of that appreciation I wasn’t feeling how totally clueless the dad was.  But that’s Hollywood for you and their stereotyping of husbands and fathers (which I’m both).

“But was it Scary Geek Soul Brother?”  Yes, to an extent.  The teens and young adults definitely jumped when something went ‘Boo”.  There were some nice, non-gory horrific moments.  But at my age it’s really hard to make me uncomfortable in a theater.  Now if you made a film about demonic mortgages, unnatural loss of job security and supernatural baldness then I would be shaking.

I have to go back to the feminist thing.  I’m always trying to listen and learn from my sisters so bear with my dude-bro points of view.  Stefanie Scott as Quinn may have been the victim, but I think she played the grieving daughter trying to find answers in a mature way.  Not an oscar performance, but it’s a horror film so she did okay.  One of the examples of the strong female scenes in the film was, while in her emotional turmoil, at one point Quinn still voiced to her dad that she had dreams and wasn’t a replacement for the responsibilities that her mom had.  Again, not to spoil, but the girl-power was very strong by the end.

Geek Soul Brother gives INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 and deserved 4 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

4-Cosmic-Afros

May 29

GSB Film Review: POLTERGEIST (2015)

poltergeist_2015

 

Why would you try and remake Poltergeist?  I mean, why would you try to remake any Spielberg film?  Just name one film that he has done that would make you say “Yeah, they should remake that one cause Spielberg didn’t quite get it right.”  Yet they went ahead and did it anyway.  The 2015 version isn’t that bad of a film in itself. But it pales when comparing it to the original.

Unfortunately, the producers didn’t at least put an interesting spin on the movie so we could see something new and different.  They certainly were not going to capture that special something that the 1982 classic had.  It wasn’t a shot for shot copy, but they stuck to the story enough that you knew what was coming.  And that was probably the downfall of the film in the eyes of the audience.

Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt actually played more believable parents than the hippie-ish mom and dad of original film. The Bowens weren’t letting their daughter be pulled across the kitchen floor by mysterious forces. There was a moment where Rockwell showed his acting chops, but it was wasted on the rest of the film.

Kyle Catlet from The Following is a good little kid actor.  if he had some better dialog to work with I think he would have popped off the screen even better.  Kennedi Clements was no Carol Ann (and not because her character was Madison), but she added enough cuteness to the story.  Again, been there – done that.

One last thing that probably bothered me the most about the film – What was up with the multiple shots of electrical power line towers?  Did I miss something? As far as I could tell they had nothing to do with the plot. Are power lines a horror film plot tool now?  Nasty Clown dolls and magnetic fields, now that’s scary.

Go see the original film.  Especially if you haven’t seen it before.  Then catch the 2015 Poltergeist on TV or streaming later this year if you are curious.  Geek Soul Brother gives it 2.5 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

2.5-Cosmic-Afros

 

 

May 23

GSB Film Review: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Mad Max Fury Poster

 

This was an updated yet classic Mad Max film.

The story finds Mad Max caught between a ruthless clan leader called Immortan Joe and his pursuit of a group of women lead by Imperitor Furiosa who fight to escape his clutches.

Tom Hardy was good.  Though he didn’t loose himself in this role as I have seen him disappear into characters of other works in his filmography.  There was just a hint of Hardy that didn’t go away.  Watch The Drop and you will know what I’m talking about.  But this isn’t to say that he didn’t do a great job as Max.  He was a good casting choice.

Charlize was good, but I always expect her to be so if the story is decent.  Unlike Hardy, I perceived less of Theron and more of Furiosa as she became more of a prominent figure.  And Furiosa was kinda awesome.  We have seen heroines that were more badass than her in cinema, but Furiosa certainly deserves credit. Theron as Furiosa did a decent job of bringing urgency to the story where Mad Max could not.

I have to say Bravo to George Miller for conjuring up some incredible automotive action in this dystopian desolation that can only be seen in his former works.

Visually, there is more to this film than you would have thought.  If you pay attention to the cinematography and editing you will see an almost symphonic relationship between them.  I loved how at certain points the cuts and action became jagged and stuttered.  Other moments have beautiful panoramic views.  The clash between them greatly added to the adrenaline rush. I can see why the trailer alone hooked people in. Kudos to the score of the film too.

I don’t understand why some male centric groups thought this film was shoving feminism down their throats. Dude, grow a pair and stop complaining.  You still have the market cornered for heroes in film and TV.  Were there strong women in the story? Absolutely.  Were there strong women in The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome?  You best believe there were.  So what are they complaining about other than just to complain?  Weak man, just weak.  Personally, I love to see a different face waving the victory flag in my movies.  A good story and a champion to root for is all I need.

On the other side ladies, Fury Road should not be called a hard feminist film.  On that level I would give it a 5 or 6 out of 10.  The reason being that Mad Max solved many of the women’s problems in the second act.  And of course he should have.  The film isn’t called Fighting Furiosa: Fury Road.  But I will say this – if director George Miller decides to do a female hero lead film in this vast world of rolling steel and desert chaos, I would be all in.  I think he has shown in most of his Mad Max films that he is paying attention to the strength and character of his female roles.  Yooo!! How hot would it be to tell a prequel story of Tina Turner’s Auntie Entity and how she survived the apocalypse?

This movie is a fun action flick. It will not weigh heavily on your frontal lobe because the story was pretty straight forward.  But your mind will be consistently blown for 2 hours over the car racing, car crushing insanity that is approximately 98% of this film.  Geek Soul Brother gives MAD MAX: FURY ROAD 4 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

4-Cosmic-Afros

 

 

May 13

Why Ava DuVernay Should Direct The InHumans!

Ava DuVernay Twitter

Director Ava DuVernay

Yesterday it was announced by The Wrap that Ava DuVernay was being tapped to direct a Marvel Feature film.  There was no mention as to which film the director of Oscar winning Selma would be overseeing if she was brought into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is strong speculation that she would be given the Black Panther film, which is set to open in 2018.  Marvel has pointed to wanting a black director to helm the film just as much as they have talked about looking for a female director for the Captain Marvel film set for November of 2018.

No one can criticize the choice that DuVernay has not done anything action or fantasy oriented since the Russo brothers also had not done any major action films or TV.  In fact they mostly came from a comedy background, and yet look how Captain America: Winter Soldier turned out.

Black Panther filmThis news was very satisfying, but the more I thought about it the more I wondered why the immediate choice of film for Ava to direct was one that featured either a Black Male or White Female protagonist. Underneath the positive move to include diversity behind a big Marvel feature, this felt very much like executives and fans were pigeonholing the accomplished director.

Even though I know Ava D. could pull off a great Panther film, when I look at her work I don’t see external over arching themes.  I see introspection and the inner turmoil of characters and their obstacles or choices.  If you have seen Selma, remember the moments when King was just pondering his situation and that of his followers? They were strong quiet moments that spoke loudly.  DuVernay has used those moments in her other works like I Will Follow.  She spoke about the use of silence in film on a recent podcast with KCRW’s The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell.  And in Selma, she also did an excellent job of showing the intricacies of a closely bound group of people at odds with each other in the way of King’s friends, allies and enemies.  So let me ask you this dear reader – What other Marvel property that is being turned into a major motion picture will No Doubt have powerful Silent moments and show internal forces pulling at family and external forces working to tear them apart?  Did I hear you say InHumans?  If you did, then you get a GSB virtual Ribbon!

Inhumans-Roster-Art-Marvel-Comics

For those that are unfamilar, The InHumans are a race of people with extraordinary abilities.  They were experimented on by an alien race called The Kree.  And even though the aliens abandoned their experiments, the InHumans continued to thrive in secret from the rest of humanity.  At the top of leadership is Black Bolt and his royal family.  And guess what one of Black Bolt’s powers are?  If he even utters a single word he can shatter a building.  A shout from him can level a city block.  So Black Bolt remains silent in his rulership while his wife Medusa speaks for him. Just imagine taking some of that Game of Thrones juice and pouring it into the Marvel Universe, even though the InHumans came way before J.R.R Martin created GoT.

I’m sorry but Ava DuVernay would Kill It as the director of The InHumans. Silence is one of her tools.  I know it wouldn’t take her long to see the potential of a story about an outcasted people that are feared by many, and the pressures of family fighting to stay strong in adversity.  And the icing on the cake is that the script for The InHumans was written by a black guy by the name of Joe Robert Cole.

We do need more people of color behind the scenes in Hollywood, as the ACLU has concluded recently.  But especially we need them to not be seen as just for ‘diverse’ projects.  They need to be seen for their gifts and talents and not just their ethnic background.  I’m not saying that a Black director shouldn’t be the first choice to direct Black Panther or a Female director not be chosen for Captain Marvel.  I’m saying that Ava and other directors like her can add something more to a Superhero film other than just their personal view of a particular culture.  And if you are reading this Marvel and think to yourself “She WOULD be great for The InHumans” then peep my list of 10 other directors that could direct a Black Panther film.

Either way it goes I will be glad for Ava DuVernay and look forward to seeing her getting bigger projects as her career continues to grow.

 

Apr 28

GSB Film Review: EX MACHINA (2015)

Ex Machina Fail Test

 

Story – A young programmer is invited by his genius billionaire boss to test out a new and experimental Artificial Intelligence in the form of Ava, an advanced android.

The first thing you might notice about the film is how stylish it was shot. It opens with a quick and self-explanatory scene of our main character – computer peon Caleb, winning some kind of lottery. Cut to a beautiful arial shot of him being brought to the owner of BlueNote, an uber gigantic Google like company.

From the flow of the natural setting we transition to a closed and claustrophobic house (and lab) owned by Nathan, founder of BlueNote. After a brief exchange of awkward plesentries we are introduced to Ava, an android that looks very robotic but very female at the same time.

I found myself thinking of how the CG artists of Eva captured a balance between a machine representation of the female form that was unnatural and sensual at the same time. I have to give credit to Alicia Vikander and her acting to communicate the subtle artificial sexyness.  She played it with a combination of innocence and allure mixed together.

 

 

2 claps for the cinematography and how the setting periodically reflected the building tension of the story. Very 2001 Space Odyssey-esque. And that thought of mine had nothing to do with a reference to another more famous AI. The geometry added to the idea of the triangular relationship of the characters and the drama that unfolded with it. I’m sure that shooting in a house helped with the indie budget they probably had.

I thought the characters were somewhat compelling, but felt the dialogue could have been refined a bit to reveal more of the inner workings of the players, especially Ava. I got a sense of her motivations, but not enough to be useful callback references to her actions later in the film. But that may have been the idea of the writers seeing as how the plot was trying to keep the audience on their toes. Even still, a story is more rewarding if you know why a character does what they do and those reasons are not painted as one dimensional desires.

There were a couple decent plot twists that you might or might not see coming. But the film wasn’t trying to jar you with shocking moments.  In fact I’m guessing a percentage of the audience thought Ex Machina was slow.  I’m fine with a slow build-up as long as there is a payoff. In this case there was a payoff.  But it didn’t blow me away. I will admit, films like this are not always told to blow people away.  Like Ex Machina, these stories might just give you an ‘Oh Snap!’ moment, not an ‘OH SNAPPPP!’ one.  This Alex Garland film didn’t hit me in the same way that his Sunshine and more popular 28 Days Later films did.

This film wasn’t the best AI science fiction, but it had great elements in the form of a thriller.  Geek Soul Brother gives EX MACHINA 3.5 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

3.5-Cosmic-Afros

I wonder how the story would have played out if Ava was a male android?  if you want to see my thoughts on other films with girlie AIs, then check out my post – RISE OF THE FEMALE ANDROID FILMS!

 

Apr 26

Two New Trailers from Syfy – The Killjoys and Dark Matter

Dark Matter pic

Shot from soon to come DARK MATTER on Syfy.

 

I’ve periodically written about how the Syfy network seems to be making a push to get back some of their glory in being a premiere source of Science Fiction and Fantasy TV. Since last year they have been introducing a full menu of shows, both original and imported from other networks.  Their latest teasers have given us something new that puts us again right in the middle of space.

THE KILLJOYS is about a group of interstellar bounty hunters that look like you wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the law with them chasing your tail.  It doesn’t feel like a major budget kind of show, but the fun might be there.  Look for the premiere June 19th.

 

 

DARK MATTERS –  A group of people wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are or why they are there.  But somehow they each have skills that will help them on the ship.  First of all, I love seeing Roger Cross show up in my SciFi TV shows.  I’ve been a fan of his all the way back since the show FIRST WAVE premiered on the “Sci-Fi’ Channel back in the late 90s.  And there are other unfamiliar faces that might bring some fresh performances.  Dark Matter premieres June 12th.

 

 

I’m ready to give both shows a chance.  Plus a few other shows that should be popping up this year. It’s a good time to be a nerd.

 

Apr 20

Official Fantastic Four Trailer! Now We Can Say Yay or Nay!

FF Official

 

Finally we get a good look and feel for this alternate reboot of the Fox owned FANTASTIC FOUR franchise. Many of us nerds had seen what Josh Trank was capable of with his 2012 kinda superhero film Chronicle.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a respectable achievement for an up and coming director.  Now, after a couple teasers of his latest project, we have an idea of just how corny or cool the Fantastic Four will be.

Right off the bat I can say that the acting in the film looks to be of quality. I had no worries about Michael B. Jordan in his portrayal of Johnny Storm.  He’s proven himself in Chronicle and much more so in Fruitvale Station (which you should watch).  Miles Teller, on the other hand, has been doing a lot of Fratboy comedy roles.  So to know that he was going to play one of the greatest scientific minds in the Marvel universe was asking a lot from me and the rest of geekdom to accept.  But he looks like he might pull it off.  And Kate Mara might be the most fleshed out Susan Richards we have seen yet.  See what happens when superheroes and heroines have a Black Dad? Shouts to Reggie Cathey and the casting director that suggested him.

We can also see how the producers are going for the ‘Love the Monster’ bit with Ben Grimm as The Thing, just as the Avengers made us love The Hulk.  For me, the jury will be out on that until the film comes out.

The whole story is a serious deviation from the comicbook origins of the Fantastic Four.  It’s more along the lines of the Ultimates version from what I hear.  If this would have been the first FF film that Fox had produced I would have been hating on it more than the Hate Monger.  But being that I’m so tired of reboot after reboot of the same superheroes, I’m glad to see a fresh and new take on some really old characters.

I’m still not giving this film or the trailer a complete 100% pass.  I’m definitely not sure about this Doc Doom blogger idea.  He does look a little menacing, but not enough for me to say that they have made up for the atrocious representation of him in the first 2 Fox productions.  Why did they have to bring in Doctor Doom so early anyway?  There are plenty of villains to reboot the franchise with.  And some had great concepts back in the day but could definitely use a makeover like the heroes have gotten.  I guess the producers still haven’t really dived deep into the Fantastic Four mythology to gamble their investments on other more under-rated baddies. Well, check it out and tell me what you think. Is this enough to change your opinion of the film?  Either way, I’ll be sitting in the theater in August when The Fantastic Four premieres.

 

 

 

 

Apr 16

2nd STAR WARS Trailer Shows New Faces and Old

Little by little we are starting to see how the new STAR WARS film titled THE FORCE AWAKENS will look and feel.  I’m sure all the nerdheads are happy to see their old friends Han Solo and Chewbacca cutting it up again.  I also have to say that I’m looking forward to Mark Hamell showing off all that acting experience he’s acquired since starring in the original episodes.  I’m still not seeing this mysterious Sith as much of a threat, but obviously they are saving all that stuff for later.  I’m also glad to see that John Boyega looks like he will be a major part of the story.  Let’s just hope he won’t be sacrificing himself for his white girl companion Daisy Ridley.  Don’t look at me like that, you know it could happen.  Check out the epic goodness and lets cross our fingers and hope Abrams can bring the magic back to the franchise!

 

 

 

 

 

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