Monday, January 20, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren

I have stayed out of debates about the last two Star Wars movies: The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.  The former, so many people love or hate it that there is no real chance to have a credible discussion about it if you felt it was just, meh.  The latter, I just did not enjoy but people are really having too much fun dragging the movie and Star Wars fan culture has really become toxic with so called "fans" gatekeeping the franchise.  This last trilogy went out with a wimper after such promise after the Force Awaken and I find myself wanting my Star Wars fix outside of the movies.

So a quick trip to the local comic book shop and I was able to pick up The Rise of Kylo Ren by Charles Soule and Will Sliney I was drawn to the book by the title mostly because after introducing the idea of the Knights of Ren in The Force Awakens, the group and the purpose was thrown out and all we got was more and more Kylo without any reasoning as to why HE was a Knight of Ren.

The Knights of Ren are hunting the galaxy for those like them.  I would say they are all Force Sensitive; leaning into the Dark Side of the Force and looking for those with those same sensitivities.  There is a scene where they meet two brothers who may fit the job description but it doesn't quite work out for them.

This book picks right after Ben has turned on Luke for trying to kill him.  The book dives into a sidetail, tho as now that the Jedi Temple is burning, Ben is confronted by 3 Jedi in training who are curious as to why their masters house is burning down. There is a lot of discussion as to who is a Jedi, who is stronger, and to the valor and character of Luke Skywalker, who is believed to be dead.  Alas, as the Jedi in training look to confront Ben with some Jedi Justice, Ben leaves them in a heap as he is clearly the strongest of the group of them.

As Ben is ready to leave, he takes a ship and his destination is unknown.  However, are three Jedi in training are looking to get Justice for Master Luke Skywalker and give chase in their own ship.  They have to remind themselves that Ben Solo's father was a great pilot, as well as his uncle and grandfather so confronting in space battle might not be the wisest move of the Jedi.

Meanwhile, Ben's robot companion suggest that Ben go home to visit his mother.  Not in the plans, tho as Ben begins to hear a voice in his head that suggests that Luke turning on him was all a part of a master plan that had been predicted and that voice belongs to Snoke.  He does not appear like the Snoke in the movies and you have to wonder what tragedy will befall him to turn him into the crusty crumedgon that we see in the Last Jedi.

Overall, this book is fun and gives you just enough back story to want to come back for more next month.  I often feel the Star Wars comics are a better vehicle for the Star Wars universe because its not bound to trilogies.  The comics take their time and interweave movie cannon with relatable stories with characters you love, or love to hate, like Kylo Ren.

Soule and Sliney do a wonderful job here and help unravel the mystery of the Knights of Ren and their most famous disciple.  Highly recommend this book for Star Wars fans who are not huge fans of the current movies.

The Producer

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Review

I feel everytime I write about Kevin Smith I wind up having to defend my fandom of Kevin Smith.  In the 90's and early 2000's, I was a huge Kevin Smith fan.  I obviously own all the movies, I have listened to the director's commentary on all the DVD's, I supported the Clerks: The Animated Series, and would argue to the death with people on the greatness that is Chasing Amy.

But there comes a time when I grew up and I thought Kevin Smith would, too.  If you listen to the commentary track on Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith is very clear that this movie would be the last you would see of Jay and Silent Bob and that he was moving on to bigger and better things.  And I felt that this was the move.  At a point, dick and fart jokes have a shorter self life and you and the characters you created need space to grow.  And I was all in with Smith and his first post Jay and Bob film, Jersey Girl, I saw in the theater with my wife.  Whether you liked the film or not( I did), the movie was a chance for Smith to spread his wings as a writer and director.  The film was not a box office success and there are probably a variety of reasons for that; most notably Bennifer( Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had become toxic in Hollywood at that point). And not surprisingly, Kevin Smith got spooked and scared and retreated back to what he knows best.

Now look, certain people in Hollywood do this all the time.  They find a lane/genre and stay in that lane for the bulk of their careers.  How many bumbling idiot Adam Sandler movies are there?  Martin Scorcesse is still making gangsta movies, and don't get me started on Tyler Perry making oppressed Black women movies for the entirety of his career. However, staying in ones lane doesn't offer much room for growth as a filmmaker, and Kevin Smith's work post Jersey Girl is filled with underwhelming raunchy comedies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, to safe place films like Clerks 2.  And his two forays into "different" movies were odd at best with Red State and Tusk.

Which leads us to Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.  Now if you are a fan( and again I am), you know this movie and the podcast that proceeded it, Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, are really a congratulations for Jason Mewes.  Mewes struggled mightily with drugs in the late 90's and 2000's; to the point where it was even reported that he died.  Smith, hoping to keep his friend straight, offered up the podcast and if he stayed sober, a chance to star in another Jay and Silent Bob movie.  Thankfully Mewes has been clean and this movie is the payoff.

The problem is its just not a very good payoff.  Look, I saw Clerks in my 20's and now I am in my late 40's. And the thing is, I love a good dick and fart joke but those jokes have to be earned.  It can't be going for the cheap laugh at every turn and this movie does that.  The writing isn't smart or clever and literally many of the jokes are lifted from the previous movies.   While its great to see Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, and even Joey Lauren Adams, it just feels tired and uninspired.  The plot is nonsensical, with Jay and Bob headed to Hollywood( again) to stop the reboot of the movie made about them 20 years ago. So the movie becomes a Road Trip movie as Jay and Bob reconnect with characters from the previous movies; which essentially happened in the OG Jay and Silent Bob.  Look, there is something to be said about your life coming full circle and gaining proper perspective in your life as you get older. And you see glimpses of that in the film with Jay and Bob,  but only glimpses as the movie just moves on from one celebrity cameo to the next never allowing itself to become anything more than Kevin Smith and His Amazing Friends.

No one.  Absolutely no one is going to watch a Kevin Smith movie and expect to be blown away by his filmmaking or artistry.  You go to see characters that you grew up with have fun and do and say stupid shit that you used to say when you were dumb and said stupid shit. And if you love Kevin Smith and all he does, I am sure you will love this movie.  But if you are like me, someone who loved Kevin Smith, you will watch this with a sense of nostalgia and sadness watching someone who has not only not left childish things behind, but has refused to grow up in a way that would be meaningful for himself and his beloved characters.  See you around for the Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 reboots! Snoogin's!

The Producer

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Is it Worth a Redbox: Gemini Man

The Brothascomics crew/podcast has been accused of being haters of Will Smith.  I would dispute that a bit; especially from my end.  I was a huge Will Smith fan since he was the Fresh Prince, through Parents Just Don't Understand, through Summertime, and into his tv and movie career.  As  a Black man, Will Smith accomplished more than I think any of us ever thought he could and his place in box office history is secure.

However, no one stays on top forever.  Over the last ten years, his movies have not been good and he has been struggling to find his way back.  Like most actors of his age and pedigree, he still may be able to get a film greenlit, but the box office returns are not hitting like they used to.  His most recent screen returns have been box office gold with the Aladdin remake; although I would argue that movie would've been successful with just about anyone playing the Genie, to Oscar attempts in Concussion, and super hero schlock with Suicide Squad.  Gone are the days when Will Smith alone could guarantee a 100 million dollar box office just based on name alone.  And that is ok.  Each actor at a certain point needs to find their way.  You cannot just keep doing the same movie over and over( unless you Tom Cruise).

Well Gemini Man feels like a movie that woulda been a hit for Will Smith 15 years ago.  The premise of an aged assassin fighting against his younger, cloned self... that definitely has Will Smith 2002 written all over it.  Sadly tho, this is 2019 and the luster on the star and the idea are dull and so is this movie.

In Gemini Man, Will Smith stars as Henry Brogan, a CIA assassin with an impeccable kill record and the Agencies most reliable killer.  But Henry is getting old and wants to get out of the killing game and sadly, rogue units within the CIA wont allow that to happen.  Unknown to Henry, a department within the CIA has actually cloned Henry ( nicknamed Junior) to be the killer without a conscience that Henry has developed.  And to make sure that Henry doesn't get in the way, they dispatch Junior to kill Henry.  Really that is the gist of the entire movie.  There is a subplot with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as a jr agent who Henry takes under his wing, but for the most part, its just a long winding road of Henry trying to not get killed by Junior and, of course, trying to redeem him.  The action sequences are kind of tired and boring and the CGI to make Will Smith look younger is disturbing.  While this technology has been done sparingly in some movies and longer in others(Captain Marvel with young Nick Fury), in Gemini Man is striking in how bad the CGI is.  I mean Junior looks nothing like young Will Smith and we know this because we have thousands of hours of video of what young Will Smith looked like.

Gemini Man was directed by Ang Lee and I know some filmgoers give him props for his movies in the past; much like the star of the movie.  Gemini Man feels dated and tired and a money grab for all those involved.  You would do better and just going back to watch any pre-2010 Will Smith movie and enjoy that because Gemini Man is not worthy of your time. Definitely not worth a Redbox!

The Producer

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Holiday Rush Review

I guess this review needs to start with a confession.  Hi. I am the Producer from Brothascomics and I love Lifetime movies.  This started out when I was in my twenty's and still teaching and every Sunday as I graded papers, I would put on Lifetime in the afternoon as background noise while I graded and input grades.  This has continued for twenty plus years even tho I do not teach anymore.  I watch and consume an inordinate amount of cheesy movies from Lifetime and Lifetime movie network.  Over time, that enjoyment of cheesy acting and ridiculous plot lines morphed into watching holiday movies on Lifetime and its sister in cheese, the Hallmark Channel.  Each year, the networks produce more and more Christmas movies and I consume all of them.  And to be honest, the cheesier, the better.

One thing that has been constant, unfortunately, is that these movies rarely star people of color, most specifically for me, Black people.  Its gotten a little better over the last 3 years but for the most part, these movie are as white as the holiday snow.  And the two most common refrains I hear from Black people is that they don't watch these movies because "there ain't no Black people in them" and "these movies is corny AF"!  And BOTH of those statements are true, but I would argue that these movies follow a pattern and the only real difference with the Black ones are the actors and Jesus.  Let me explain:

Lifetime/Hallmark Holiday movies follow a very simple pattern:

Step 1: Everything is all good ( until its not)
Step 2:  Something or someone is introduced into the situation to make things messy
Step 3:  A lesson is learned( with Jesus/God/Holy Spirit, etc if the folks are Black)
Step 4: Redemption and back to things being all good

Holiday Rush, on Netflix follows this pattern to a T.  Lets review.  Romany Malco stars as Rush Williams, the number 1 radio DJ in Baltimore and is he is doing great financially.  He has a big house outside the city, his four kids are enrolled in private school; with one even getting accepted into Harvard.  Things are all good for the Rush family( Step 1)

Unfortunately, the local radio station that Rush works at is taken over by a corporate overlord radio station run by Tamala Jones and Rush and his producer, Roxy, are fired just a few weeks before Christmas and all the plans and gifts his kids were looking forward to are ended ( Step 2)

Once fired, Roxy and Rush come up with a plan to buy the old radio station they used to work at before Rush become so bougie.  This old station is for sale and they need the money to buy it.  Auntie Jo, who helps Rush raise his kids, kicks in some money, Roxy cashes in her 401K, but Rush is short on cash and to come up with his share, he has to sell his house and move back in with his Aunt Jo.  Of course his spoiled kids hate this idea.  They was asking for miniature horses and other extravagant gifts for Christmas.  Now they have to move to the other side of town( the Black side) and make do as Rush pursues his dream of being a radio station owner.  Of course there is conflict with his son who thinks his Harvard dreams are gone and with his oldest daughter who is more concerned about getting likes on Instagram than anything else.  But lessons need to be learned about appreciating what you have, and how this community raised Rush, and how you gotta have faith that things will work out for the best.  There is even a Magical Negro in the form of Rush's dead wife, played by La La Anthony.  Over time, the kids learn that we are a family and everything is gonna be just fine ( Step 3)

Rush and Roxy purchase the station and overcome some obstacles and even find love with one another as their station becomes a hit and they receive a new partner in their business, played by Deon Cole.  Things are reset as the family is happy living in their new found life and Rush and Roxy set out to blaze the airwaves in Baltimore and everything is now all good- with the help of Jesus.( Step 4).

Having watched hundreds of these movies, Holiday Rush is fun and you will probably enjoy the movie more if you are a fan of Romany Malco.  In this movie, he is charming and gets to stretch his dramatic acting chops for a little bit. Hallmark and Lifetime would do best to produce more of these movies with People of Color.  The plots and stories of these movies can speak to people across colors and cultures.  Yes they are cheesy and often poorly acted, but everyone loves to see redemption stories and that is what all these movies share in common.  So a solid thumbs up for Holiday Rush and I am off to watch Lifetime Movie Network!

The Producer

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Chadwick Boseman VS The Black Panther

It was reported this past week that Chadwick Boseman with the premiere of Disney + and many characters from the MCU adding their voice or acting talents to original programming there that he did not want any part of that.  See article below

No thanks Disney Plus for Chadwick

And you can see why that would be the case.  Chadwick is 42 years old and with the global and cultural impact that Black Panther made, its not a far stretch to say he could easily be type cast as T'Challa for the rest of his career.  That is something he clearly doesn't want and you could tell, as time went on, that he really did not want to do or say Wakanda Forever again for a very long time.

Wakanda Whatever

And who could blame him really.  Chadwick is a classically trained actor from Howard University and trained classically at Oxford.  He worked himself up from soap operas, to tv actor,  to leading man in an industry that is not overtly friendly to Black leading men.   He has done that work and even has a movie coming out here shortly where he is the lead.  Plus he does not have to look far to see what can happen when you become iconic for being a star in the MCU and its impact on your ability to get other work.

Robert Downey Jr's renaissance came with Tony Stark back in 2008 and he bounced that into some successful movies like Due Date, Tropic Thunder, and Sherlock Holmes.  But since 2011, RDJ has not done much of anything that is not Tony Stark. He as occupied and become Tony Stark and, as talented as he is, the public may only see and accept him as Tony Stark.  We will get to see if the public still sees him as an actor when Doolittle comes out next year.

Opposite of RDJ, is Chris Evans, who really didn't have much of a movie career as a leading man before he became Steve Rodgers in 2011.  He had supporting roles in many movies, including an scene stealing role in Scott Pilgrim and of course as Johnny Storm in two bad Fantastic Four movies.  Since becoming Cap, he has starred in a couple of independent movies and the leads in a couple others but nothing that would make you suggest that he is going to be a Hollywood leading man-outside of being Steve Rogers. Let's see out Knives Out does at the box office.

And that is the dilemma for Chadwick.  Yes, these Marvel movies help pay the bills so you can take on other roles in smaller movies or up your profile for bigger movies, but will the public accept you as someone that is not T'Challa, or Tony Stark, or Steve Rogers?  The history of nerd culture movies and tv shows that its very hard to break out of that typecast.  Harrison Ford comes to mind as the most successful as he was able to get past being both Han Solo and Indiana Jones to have a very successful movie career.  But the star of those Star Wars movies, Mark Hamill had a hard time living down Luke Skywalker. Many cultural phenomenon characters never live past being THAT character and its amplified even more if the character is Black.  Jimmy Walker and Gary Coleman never lived down JJ Walker or Arnold Drummond and years later the same thing happened to Jaleel White never being able to get past Urkel.

This is not to say that those actors are as talented as Chadwick Boseman, but becoming a character who is a cultural icon comes at a price to your continued career outside of that character.  I think that is what Chadwick is trying to avoid no matter how grateful he is to the opportunities Black Panther has created.

I truly hope 21 Bridges is successful for Chadwick.  He truly is an amazing actor and could be the Denzel for this generation of Black actors.  Hopefully people will support him in his non T'Challa roles or we are gonna be stuck with Sad Chadwick for a very long time.

The Producer

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Mrs. Fletcher Review

Before we get too far into this review, I have to profess my love for Katherine Hahn.  I am not 100% why I like her or why I am attracted to her, but my love for her as an actress may influence my review of this new series on HBO.

Mrs. Fletcher is the tv adaption of the book of the same name by author, Tom Perotta.  I have not read the book and cannot discuss the similarities or differences between the two genres but Mrs. Fletcher the tv show follows Eve Fletcher, divorced mom of one son who is about to leave for college and her varying feelings about his departure.  The feelings of empty nest are present, but also, a life that had been placed on hold to raise her child post divorce.  Eve has not been on dates and certainly has not had any sex in several years so there is wonder and anxiousness about this new chapter in her life.

Her son Brenden, played by Jackson White, has all the makings of the high school kid that you want to hate.  He's good looking but cocky, arrogant, and entitled through his white, male privilege.  His relationship with Eve on the eve of his departure for college is one of  ambivalence to the point of annoyance.

The show hits its stride when it focuses on Hahn and her interactions with those around her.  From her best friend, Jane, played by Casey Wilson. and her work at the senior center.  These interactions allow Hahn to be vulnerable and empathetic and you feel for the internal struggle she has as her life has entered a new phase that she may not be totally prepared for.  As a parent, you prepare your child to become an adult and move on and move out.  But what happens when your life stopped being about you and about raising your child?  What are you left with when they are gone?  And who are you now that your child has moved out of the house?

All that said, much of the preview for the show has been based on porn.  It is suggested to Eve by Jane , after one of her clients is caught watching porn at the senior center, that she check out the porn sites; specifically the MILF sites.  Much like an apprehensive teen, Eve first cannot believe what she is seeing as she logs into the world of Internet porn. But after a while, she finds what she likes and becomes an avid watcher which leads to her making herself feel good from time to time( and often in weird places).

This show has been a lot of fun to watch and has sparked interesting questions about who we are outside of our children.  Finding that line between being a parent and not losing your individuality is a struggle that all parents deal with; especially ones who are raising a child as a single parent.  Good show all around.  Hahn deserves all the props and recognition she is receiving for this show and I am sure a Golden Globe nomination is in her future.

The Producer

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Dolemites My Name: Movie Review

A confession at the start.... I have never seen a Dolemite movie before; at least not all of one.  I am on the tale end of the age bracket for those movies.  I know my uncle who is like 10 years older than me saw those movies and talked about them; I never saw one on television or on video.  And its not because I was raised prude or anything like that. I am sure my grandmother had those albums and probably went to see those movies in the theater.  She, and my mom, were not about me seeing that stuff when I was young. Once I got older, I shifted more towards Black Cesar and Shaft movies so Dolemite was only something I heard people talk about and rappers reference.

The Netflix movie, Dolemite is My Name, starring Eddie Murphy is a good jumping on point for young people with no knowledge of Dolemite and has enough Easter eggs for long time fans of his albums and movies.

Murphy plays, Ruddy Ray Moore, a struggling comedian living in Los Angeles in the late 60's looking for his big break into entertainment.  Failing as a musician and as a stand up comedian, Ruddy Ray takes a chance by borrowing and expanding the jokes and rhymes from a homeless person who frequented the music store he worked in and adopted the over the top moniker of Dolemite.

As Dolemite, Moore's comedy reaches new levels as he gains success with comedy albums and tours across the country.  Looking to expand the Dolemite brand, he hatches an idea to make a Dolemite movie.  Emlisting a writer, played by Keegan Michael Key, and hiring film students from UCLA, the second half of the movie delves into how the movie gets made and the absurdity of the production.  Wesley Snipes plays actor Du'rville Martin who serves as the director of the movie and is incredulous as to how ridiculous the Dolemite movie and concept is.  Snipes is wonderful in his role and in part steals every scene he is in; including the scenes with Murphy.

And Eddie Murphy is brilliant in this movie.  Its been a while since we have seen this Eddie Murphy and not just the vulgar language( and there is a lot).  We have not seen Eddie Murphy has this kind of energy and passion in a movie probably since Dreamgirls.  In Dreamgirls he played against type and it earned hin an Oscar nomination.  In Dolemite, he is closer to playing Eddie Murphy, but with swagger and emotional center that makes you cheer and care for Rudy Ray Moore.  Its probably Murphy's most complete role ever where you can see not only his incredible comedy talent, but his underrated ability to convey drama where needed.

A great original movie from Netflix and director Craig Brewer; who is directing Eddie Murphy in the Coming to America sequel.  If this is the kick off for an Eddie Murphy renaissance, its a great start and I look forward to the next chapter.

The Producer