Jul 28

Film Review – Pixels: Groan of Arcadia

PixelsDonkeyFilm

Review By Lakita – a.k.a. @artshumana

A movie like “Pixels” is usually a recipe for easy money in Hollywood’s summer cookbook: A tale with a crisp premise and a juicy, nostalgic core. (Do watch the animated short film that inspired Pixels by French director Jean Patrick). Unfortunately what Pixels actually cooks up really leaves a bad taste in your mouth (and mind) through the onslaught of corny lines, sexist subtext, and shallow characters. I found myself wishing I was Ms. Pac-Man on the chase in search of a “better story” power pellet. In other words, “Pixels” made me want to hit the RESET button and go console myself!

 

 

The tragedy of “Pixels” is that it did not have to be so awful. The movie is based on a clever short film and they were able to secure the rights to some of the most beloved games from the arcade era. Hey, even the beginning scenes of the movie worked. “Pixels” starts out with life circa 1982 with childhood friends Adam Sandler’s Sam Brenner and Kevin James’s Will Cooper at the arcade. They also meet and befriend outcast and arcade regular Ludlow Lamonsoff, played by Josh Gad–most notable for his adorkable turn in Kevin Hart’s “The Wedding Ringer.” We quickly establish that Sam Brenner has a gift for arcade gaming. Will conveniently encourages him to enter the 1982 Worldwide Arcade Championships conveniently sponsored by NASA. At the Championships Brenner battles a brash arcader known as Eddie “The Fireblaster” (who as an adult is played by “Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage). It is not surprising these throwback childhood scenes pull together–director Chris Columbus along with the late John Hughes helped define the teen triumph films of the 80s.

But once we move into the present-day, things quickly deteriorate. Adam Sandler’s character is still BFF with Kevin James’s character–and Kevin James is now President of the United States of America. Michelle Monaghan portrays Violet, who gets the dubious honor of being “the hard-won love interest in an Adam Sandler movie”. Violet is recently divorced and leads special initiatives at DARPA while attending to the needs of her young son (actor Matt Lintz).

In one painful scene, Adam Sandler’s character actually yells at Violet when she presents her strategy to defeat the alien attacks in the White House Situation Room. His character says something like “Who asked you to speak? You don’t even have a place at the table.” Ouch. Surely Adam Sandler and Chris Columbus have heard of #Gamergate? The arcade and gaming world is portrayed as an exclusively male domain in “Pixels”, by the way. Surely Adam Sandler and Chris Columbus are aware of federal initiatives to support women and girls in STEM careers and surely they know that NASA has made major strides in providing pathways for women in data science? And surely they are aware that we live in a world where the brilliant Megan Smith is the Chief Technology Officer of the United States and the first “gamer” post in the White House was held by Dr. Constance Steinkuehler. Kevin James as President of the United States?–I can suspend belief, sure. But when you tell me a woman in a high-level STEM position at the White House gets told to ‘shut it’ by Adam Sandler and the President is okay with that–that is a bridge too far! With equity issues in STEM fields, ‘boss battles’ and ‘one-ups’ take on a different meaning; “Pixels” is egregiously out of touch with these issues. Frankly, “Sharknado 3″ in all its campy glory did a better job of depicting Washington, DC life than “Pixels!”

At its 8bit blinking heart, “Pixels” is an awful nostalgia film. A good nostalgia film recaptures the feels of the older generation while still finding values that resonate with younger movie-goers. Instead “Pixels” pulls an unfortunate film ‘bait & switch’–it lures you in with the game characters you grew up with and then gives you a movie that so desperately needs to LEVEL UP and GROW UP. Take my advice and don’t touch this ‘joyschtick’ from Adam Sandler.

 

Author – Lakita’s geek force within was first publicly observed when she bopped to Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video as a very young child. This same said force was nurtured in adolescence through many weekends watching “Star Trek: Original Series” with her father and VHS binge-reserving “The Twilight Zone” television series from her nearest nerd sanctuary, the public library! Lakita also considers herself a public service “lifer” and supports youth voice inspired and empowered by the arts. A live tweeter and competitive trivia leaguer with dreams of learning esperanto or coding one day (whichever comes first), you can usually find her on twitter: @artshumana

Jul 25

GSB Film Review – ANT-MAN (2015)

 

AM poster 2015

This film could have gone in so many directions, and most of them would have been bad.  Fortunately, Marvel’s newest cinematic debut found a soft spot to land between action, comedy, and the hero’s journey.  It wasn’t an over the top film in any way, but I left the theater satisfied.  And considering how I felt when Marvel first released the trailers for the film, I’m surprised at my own reaction.

Who would have thought Paul Rudd would make a good superhero?  Yet there he was, standing in one of the most crazy costumes Marvel have ever put an actor in.  And yet Rudd, as well as the rest of the cast, delivered a certain charm and levity that made the film work on several levels.  The formula that worked was the film didn’t take itself too seriously.  And I think Marvel knew they had to go in that direction when they first hired Edger Write to direct the film.  Of course that didn’t work out.  But it seems that his writing, along with Rudd and his other pals, gave replacement director Payton Reed enough to work off of.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang, skilled safe cracker that decides upon leaving jail that his criminal days are over.  But situations and pressures convince him to do one more score.  The ‘score’ is a tip from his right hand man Luis. Let me stop right here and say that Michael Pena was killing it on screen as the chatty yet cultured criminal who recited the best of stories.  And Luis’ boys (one of which was T.I.) were decent comedic backups.  Anyway, Lang breaks into the targeted house and into a safe only to find some old uniform.  He would have called the job a bust, but his curiosity about the old garb got the best of him.  In this case, curiosity shrunk the cat.

There was a moment during the Avengers: Age of Ultron where I realized that I can’t see these films as genuine renditions of the comics.  In the case of Ant-Man, I’m totally cool with that.  And you will probably be too.  Michael Douglas played Hank Pym.  In the comics Pym became a twisted person.  In the film he was troubled and understood by the audience.  The true villain was Darren Cross played by Corey Stoll.  He wasn’t a villain with depth, but evil he was. It’s just that Cross was a little cartoonish.  If this film was any more series I don’t think his character would have come off with any respect from the fans.  Evangeline Lilly had some nice moments as Hope Van Dyne.  Especially during some tension filled scenes with Douglas.  But Rudd was there most of the time keeping the film from suffering any sour moments.

So why do I think this film was so satisfying?  It’s hard to put a finger on it but the story was solid if only simple.  The effects worked so well I’m thinking of going back and seeing it in 3-D.  And the mixing of comedy, family themes and nods to other Marvel properties (without that filling of ‘selling’) made Ant-Man work like gears in a watch.  Not a Bulova, but much better than a Timex.  Now I’m thinking how much I like Swatch growing up.

Ant-Man was a surprise to me. And I’m sure it will be to most of you. Some won’t like the tone. But then you shouldn’t have liked Guardians Of The Galaxy because both films were fun in their own ways.  Geek Soul Brother is giving ANT-MAN 4 OUT OF 5 COSMIC AFROS.

4-Cosmic-Afros

Jul 02

Terminator Genisys: Not Another Bad Creation

Terminator 5 poster

A Review by @Artshumana -

Terminator Genisys proves the franchise, much like Skynet, is very self-aware! The film respectfully anchors itself in the James Cameron playbook as a continuation tale with breadcrumbs to remind weary fans “Genisys” is not a clunky reboot going through the wilderness. (In one scene, when Sarah Connor speaks Kyle Reese saying “We have a new mission now” I had to ask myself—did Sarah just pull a Zack Morris style “time-out” on us?) Trust, there are some fumbles along the way as the film finds its own footing—but with a likeable cast, unique spin on Skynet (finally), and a killer score that just won’t quit—Genisys made me say “I’ll Be Back” for what theoretically could be more interesting stories to come.

 

First I’d like to share I rarely go to opening night screenings. (Hey, I’m a DVR kind of girl—it can wait!) But the sheer level of skepticism for “Genisys” inspired me to go to the Tuesday night opening at my local Alamo Drafthouse. I knew I had to be around viewers who really wanted to come out and show some love, or at the very least keep an open mind before the box office receipts were tallied.

As soon as the opening credits started for “Genisys” I felt the audience transform: We became cinematic sentinels, using our own Terminator vision to watch what was slowly entering our space via screen: could it be a travel weary old friend or could it be yet another traveling salesman with the latest pitch? But then the air changed when The Voiceover began…not spoken by Sarah Connor, but Kyle Reese. At that moment I could feel the fans in the theater go ‘Hmm.. Okay, let’s see where this goes!’

The start of the movie quickly becomes ‘Your Show of Shows’ with nods…no, shout outs… to all the Terminator hallmarks: Hey, it’s the Awkward Naked Time Travel Arrival, Hey it’s The Rock The World of Casual Bystanders on the Street with Unexplained Terminator Fights, YES to catch phrases we all know and love at pivotal moments (“Come with Me if You Want To Live…said this time by Sarah Connor to Kyle Reese. And by the way, the “Genisys” catchprase to get trending is “Theoretically.”), YES to that supercool Silver Surfer effect for the T-1000 Terminator (actor Byung-hun Lee was literally killing it as the T-1000!) and of course, A Discredited Tech Guy Who So Desperately Wants to Believe is in this (played by the always avuncular J.K. Simmons).

It’s clear the “Genisys” production team has done its homework—they’re going for all the thrills and the feels in the beginning and it works! Alert: Meta-analysis ahead: In this way, the crafting of the beginning of “Genisys” takes on a Terminator- like quality: Establish Trust, then Infiltrate. And then hopefully Innovate, with media and message becoming one.

But once “Genisys” does start to assert its own voice, we get a real sense of the characters in this timeline. I appreciated that this Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) was not an imitation of Linda Hamilton’s from T2. Emilia’s performance is a nuanced composite of Edward Furlong’s John Connor and T2 Linda Hamilton: youthful, broken but built to adapt. The father-daughter dynamic Sarah has with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “old but not obsolete” Terminator Guardian really brought back feels from “Judgement Day” in a way that was natural. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is actually given more depth in “Genisys” than any other film in the franchise—which is important for the partner-to-be of a Sarah Connor who doesn’t need saving. Jason Clarke does a solid job as John Connor and adapts well to the stunts and plot turns (Side note: Jason Clarke is on par with Jeremy Renner for me: an actor very comfortable in big actioners but can still give a solid performance in a variety of genres). For my Whovians out there, you’ll be happy to know the Doctor is indeed in the house. Matt Smith takes on a role that puts his innate ability to simultaneously convey boyish enthusiasm and old soul omnipotence to good (but swift) use. Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons makes an appearance as the “tech guy who knows too much” that is sadly underutilized. And finally, Arnold as the Terminator Guardian! Yes, Arnold still makes good on his action scenes after all these years. His T-800 model behavior picks up where we left off in “Judgement Day” without missing a beat—though a little grey now which is quickly acknowledged in the film (his words in the film “Old but not Obsolete!” And get this –we actually see Terminator arthritis, ok!). And yes, Arnold’s got jokes! The Terminator Guardian’s humor bits worked here and I was impressed at Arnold’s almost Alan Tudyk-like delivery of much more technical dialogue this time. And finally I have to give a shout-out to the City of San Francisco, the uncredited star of “Genisys”. San Fran is still for lovers of Sci Fi! (“Star Trek”, “Planet of the Apes”, the list goes on). Plus given the STEM-friendly backdrop of “Genisys”–San Francisco was the perfect place to do make some serious tech industry waves (And fun fact: Skynet is helmed by Black entrepreneurs!).

Unlike the Terminator, “Genisys” might not be the perfect box office killing machine. The eagerness to win us over and gain our trust is a stumbling point, but not a deal breaker. Rather than a clunky patchwork, “Genisys” is a film with heart. And theoretically, if we hear that heartbeat (A tip: it never hurts to stay in your seats til you are sure those credits are over, folks!), it could pump new life into a story that we continue to hold in our hearts after all these years.

4 out of 5 Cosmic Afros!

4-Cosmic-Afros

 

Author – Lakita’s geek force within was first publicly observed when she bopped to Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video as a very young child. This same said force was nurtured in adolescence through many weekends watching “Star Trek: Original Series” with her father and VHS binge-reserving “The Twilight Zone” television series from her nearest nerd sanctuary, the public library! Lakita also considers herself a public service “lifer” and supports youth voice inspired and empowered by the arts. A live tweeter and competitive trivia leaguer with dreams of learning esperanto or coding one day (whichever comes first), you can usually find her on twitter: @artshumana

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!

 

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