King Richard and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green
Well Concussion didn’t get him an Oscar, so now it’s time for Will Smith to get back on that horse and work his butt off in a drama to try and get the Academy’s attention! To me though, his movies where he went chasing that Oscar gold are some of his least interesting. I still need to see Ali at some point so perhaps that’s the exception that proves the rule, but for my money, his best work in recent years have been in his more action-heavy features like Gemini Man and Bad Boys For Life which on the surface seem like run of the mill popcorn flicks but have quite a bit of depth to them that allow Smith to really stretch those acting muscles. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be one of those as I’m pretty sure Serena and Venus didn’t moonlight as secret agents, but the trailers look promising and Smith is definitely putting his all into the role. Is this the film to finally get Will the award he’s been seeking, or is this just another piece of Oscar Bait Pablum that we’ll all forget about by next year? Let’s find out!!
Richard Williams (Will Smith) is the proud patriarch of the Williams family in Compton California. He has a loving wife (Aunjanue Ellis) as well as five daughters; two of whom are Venus and Serena (Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) who will become two of the greatest tennis players of all time. That’s not just me saying that because I know the history, that’s Richard’s plan from the day they were born; to teach them to be strong, smart, and well-rounded women, while also training them relentlessly to become tennis superstars. He has to knock on a lot of doors, ruffle a few feathers, and take on many jobs to keep this plan on track, but come hell or high water they WILL succeed and become the best there ever was! Of course, with such a narrowly focused vision, he’s bound to miss some things along the way; not just the people showing him the path to success, but his own family who are certainly behind this dream but are the last people to hear about what the next step in the plan is. Is this strong-willed approach from Richard just covering up his own insecurities about himself, or is the system so corrupt that he has to forge his own path for his girls? What will the tennis world do in response to these two out of nowhere prodigies showing up on the scene, and can Venus and Serena live up to the lofty expectations of their family? Are we sure this movie was written by Richard Williams himself? It just seems like something the character in this movie would end up writing.
It’s been quiet the wild ride, but it’s time for us to say goodbye to this smartly written, wackily executed, and strangely put together show. The final episode is upon us and with so much at stake for our heroes, will they manage to survive whatever challenge they face, or will this tangled web of ideas and plot threads fail to come together in a satisfying way? There’s only one way to find out, so let’s get started!!
With this being the final episode (no word yet on if this well get a second season), there’s not as much to build up and discuss as there are things to pay off and bring to a conclusion, so for this I’m going to change up the style a bit and tell you right now what I think. I’m… conflicted. Bold statement, I know, but as much as I’ve struggled to get on the same wavelength of this show in some of the previous episodes, I just feel like I’m too far out of the loop for it to work for me. How much of it is my whiteness and privilege butting up against a series primarily created and aimed at a different audience with its own perspective? How much of it is the show’s already troubled pacing and narrative coming to a head as it tries to tie everything up? Is it just a disappointing ending or one that’s SUPPOSED to leave me feeling empty and tired? I’m not sure the answer to any of those questions, but the bottom line is that from my point of view the show doesn’t end on a bang but on a squib as things definitely DO happen that wrap up the story but none of it feels particularly cathartic and it’s all muddled with the show still trying to explain itself up until the last minute. I’d be hard pressed to say if I’d be any more confused watching this episode if I HADN’T closely watched the previous ones leading up to this point because it’s lore has been a tangled mess from the beginning with the whole Sons of Adam thing being its biggest bugbear, and there’s nothing else the show has left to do but try and wrangle all of that into something watchable. Giving it as much benefit of the doubt as I can, I understand the EMOTIONAL beats of the episode, the importance of a lot of its decisions, and how it could definitely work for someone else, but for me I found the mechanics of it all poorly explained, the lessons to be somewhat suspect, and the ending particularly dour in a way that the rest of the show really hasn’t been even at its. It’s not the note that I personally would have wanted it to go out on, but perhaps what I would have wanted would have missed the point entirely.
We’re back with more Lovecraft Country intrigue, and it has certainly been an interesting journey hasn’t it? We’ve had great episodes, bad episodes, and all the tones that you can possibly imagine somehow crammed into this very strange tale of magic and horror wrapped in the not so strange but still horrifying exploration of racial issues in this country! With only two episodes to go are we heading towards a climactic conclusion that will make it worth whatever stumbling we went through getting to this point, or should we expect more of the same issues that have plagued this series for some time now? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Diana (Jada Harris) in a near comatose state as all the adults in her life (at least the ones that are still around) start yelling at each other about how this could have happened in the first place. Frankly I’m not sure what they’re fighting about as ALL of them are terrible guardians with Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) having disappeared, but the more interesting revelation here is that the Evil Twins from the last episode didn’t want to kill Diana with their razor sharp nails; they just wanted to… poison her with a magic disease or something? In any case, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), being the only one with any idea of what to do, calls Christina (Abbey Lee) to try and make heads or tails of this, and while she DOES have some good news, it’s mostly bad. She can reset curse essentially; giving Diana more time before it overtakes her, but to remove the spell completely will require The Book of Names, and we learned that it was burned during the Tulsa massacre of 1921, so there’s not much hope. Still, Christina agrees to do the reset on the condition that Atticus (Jonathan Majors) joins her in Ardham on the night of the Autumnal Equinox. They’ve mentioned this whole Equinox things a few time and I still don’t have a clear explanation on what it is, why it’s so important, and why Christina wants to do some sort of immortality spell on that night (especially since her dad EXPLODED when he tried it back in episode 2), but Atticus agrees so I guess that’s what the tenth and final episode will all be about. They all start putting up transmutation circles all over the place while Christina goes to run an “errand of some sort” which his actually just her transforming into William (Jordan Patrick Smith) and gloating about Captain Lancaster’s untimely demise in front of him. No, William doesn’t go to a grave, apparently the cops are trying to Frankenstein their way out of this little fiasco, but they aren’t having any luck and Christina gets a front row view of this jerk bag breathing his last breath. Couldn’t happen to a nice guy in my opinion, but he may end up getting the last laugh if they aren’t able to stop his curse from killing Diana.
We’re back with another episode of everyone’s favorite Monster Mash just in time for the Halloween season? Yes, I’m a bit late at putting this up as I’ve fallen behind on… well basically everything the last few weeks, but it was hopefully worth the wait as I have quite a bit to say about this particular episode! Is it an improvement over the last few episodes that didn’t quite capture the tone that this series works best at, or will this show continue to go all over the place until the very last minute and tries to cram everything into a satisfying conclusion for the final episode? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins on a very somber note as everyone in this Chicago community are marching to the funeral of a young man named Bobo was a character who showed up, albeit briefly, in previous episodes as a friend of Diana (Jada Harris), and as it turns out he is in fact supposed to be the real life Emmett Till; a fourteen year old boy in 1955 who was shot and then strung up around the neck with barb wire which was then tied to a cotton gin fan before being thrown in the river; shooting him, cutting him, choking him, and drowning him on the flimsiest excuse of him supposedly flirting with a white woman who later in life recanted the story which his killers presumably knew to be false at the time. I’m dubious about putting an actual historical figure and victim such as him in a big budgeted HBO fantasy series to make a point, but aside from that it’s a sobering introduction that definitely reflections the tension and shared trauma of the current state of police and white supremacist violence in this country; violence that was always there but has gotten much more of a spotlight in recent years. Diana is certainly having a hard time of recently, especially with the recent death of her father George Freeman (Courtney B Vance) and the disappearance of her mother Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), and it’s just too much for her to take with grace and restraint, so she runs off and starts yelling at other kids who aren’t in mourning over the loss of a child to such senseless violence. As cathartic as this is for her, the good feeling ends up being quite fleeting as a cop car immediately pulls up behind her and she may end up being the next kid to have a funeral. It’s not just any cop however as it’s Captain Lancaster (Mac Brandt) who is the leader of The Sons of Adam in this area and he has a copy of the comic book that was found at the Time Machine at the end of the last episode with her name written on it. They interrogate her to try and figure out where her mother went, but when they don’t get the answers they want the captain puts a curse of some sort on her which involves spitting on her head and putting her in a chokehold. The show is back to what it does best which is infusing tropes of horror and other genres with the real life terrors that people of color have to experience, and I’m glad that things are finally starting to get back on track after the last few episodes felt like they losing focus.
We’re back with everyone’s favorite extremely ambitious SyFy original series! With the last episode leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth regarding our main character Atticus, it’s perhaps time that we get back to his storyline instead of going off on these tangents with other characters; if for no other reason than for the main plot of this story to not consistently get overshadowed by everything else that’s going on around it. Does this find a way to bring the whole Book of Names nonsense to the forefront in a fun and interesting way, or are we in store for more distractions? Let’s find out!!
Okay, so not looking to spoil things TOO much right off the bat, but this is a lot like Episode 5 (the one that was mostly about Ruby in a racially reimagined take on the Jekyll & Hyde story) in that this is another episode where one character’s story takes center stage while everything else is pushed to the margins. To that end, we’ll just speed by all the stuff that happens in the first part of the story which is once again where Atticus and the whole Sons of Adam thing get a brief spotlight, and then focus on the ONE BIG thing that happened during the rest of it.
Ruby and Christina (Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee) are in the mysterious basement where we find the corpses of William and Ruby’s White Lady (Jordan Patrick and Jamie Neumann); seemingly dead though being held here to harvest blood for the transformation potion. Ruby is certainly upset about all this, particularly the lies of omission that Christina/William have been tactfully avoiding, but she’s not quite mad enough to leave the situation entirely. After all, she’s got a pretty good deal going on here with all this magical nonsense, but she wants Christina to be straight with her about what’s going on. It’s not clear because the scene cuts as soon as she mentions it, but Christina seems to inform Ruby about what’s going on with Atticus and Leti (Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett) with the whole Book of Names thing, so I guess we’ll be seeing that confrontation at some point in the future. I genuinely do hope that Ruby doesn’t leave all this magic stuff behind because despite a few moments in that episode that made me cringe (the stiletto heel comes to mind), I really do like her as a character and am curious to see how far she goes and if she may even become an antagonist to Atticus and Leti in her pursuit of power.
We’re back with even more haunted shenanigans against the backdrop of the ACTUALLY terrifying 1950s, and after the last episode ended up being a refreshing change of pace by telling a straightforward ghost story I’m once again optimistic that this show will live up to the potential I saw in that first episode! Is this another great story that continues the upward momentum of the series, or is going to be like The X-Files where we alternate between the awesome monster of the week episodes and the less interesting government conspiracy ones? Let’s find out!!
We start the episode with Atticus’s father Montrose (Michael K Williams) who’s still dealing with the death of his brother George by crawling into a bottle, but on top of that he’s been reading a book he got from George about the Sons of Adam that contains ALL the answers that Atticus and Leti (Jonathan Majors and Jurnee Smollett) have been looking for… and he just burns it; probably in grief but also possibly due to that whole Eldritch Horror thing that Lovecraft liked to do. Perhaps the book was so horrifying that any mortal man with a shred of conscious cannot read it without losing their own mind, but then Montrose’s motivations have ALWAYS been extremely guarded so it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on with him on an episode to episode basis.
Now the big problem I’ve had with this show is the convoluted nature of its Mythology, and I’ll give this episode credit for making at least SOME of it clearer. The Sons of Adam get their power from something called THE LOST BOOK OF NAMES, and there are two sets of deciphered pages. These are the MacGuffins that are driving the narrative throughout the episode as Atticus and Leti are looking for the set of pages owned by Titus (the guy who started the Sons of Adam and is the ancestor of Atticus) which are hidden in some sort of secret vault, while Christina (Abbey Lee) is looking for the pages stolen by Hiram (the ghost in the last episode). It’s straightforward enough that you can focus on this episode on its own like you could with the ghost story, but also mercifully has enough of the Sons of Adam stuff informing it that some of that nonsense can start to seep in and become easier to understand.
Last week’s episode was a major disappointment, but not so much that they can’t find a way to come back from it. The characters are still strong and engaging, the aesthetic has a fun pulpiness to it (not dissimilar from Perry Mason), and we’ve seen how effectively they can handle a difficult tone between horror fun and dreadful reality with aplomb, so there’s no reason they couldn’t pull it off again. Does this show find a way to get back on track after the convoluted mess that was the last episode, or were all their best ideas in that first episode? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Leti in the middle of a church service; staring off in the middle distance with an expression of empty sadness while… um… a Nike commercial is playing in the background. The spoken word monologue on the soundtrack during this scene is from Nike’s NYC Be True Campaign from 2017 (written by Daisy Zhao and narrated by Precious Angel Ramirez) which seems like an odd pick for something like this. Also, what exactly IS this? If this is supposed to be the funeral of Uncle George, then it doesn’t read as such because there’s no casket, no pictures, and certainly no sadness from anyone else there who seem to be singing joyfully with Leti being the odd one out. Perhaps my cultural signifies for what a funeral scene in a show or movie is supposed to look like are too narrow, but for me it started things off on an awkward note as I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on here.
After the funeral we get a quick update on the fallout between the last episode and this one which if you recall ended in the Sons of Adam being destroyed and Uncle George dying of a gunshot wound. Atticus is taking care of Aunt Hippolyta and their daughter Dee now that Uncle George is gone, and on top of that he has to deal with his cranky dad Montrose who seems content to while away his time drinking from his flask and being a dick to his son. Seems they’re apt to pick up their relationship exactly where they left it off; icy and cantankerous. There’s certainly a lot of guilt being felt between the both of them, especially since they decided to not tell Hippolyta and Dee exactly HOW George died opting to go with a hothead sheriff shooting him; a decision that’s certainly weighing harder on Atticus than it does Montrose.
HBO Max is proving to be a darn good service and I’m finding a lot of great series to enjoy, particularly Perry Mason and Harley Quinn, so in the spirit of celebrating the arrival of another good streaming service (and looking for something I can review on a regular schedule), I’ll be watching their latest series which I can only assume is a Once Upon a Time knock off but about scarier monsters, right? Okay, probably not. Does this series have what it takes to grip you right away and leave you itching for more episodes, or does the novelty of the show wear off once you get past the title? Let’s find out!!
The show begins with what I’m sure most of us were expecting when we heard it was called Lovecraft Country; a Syfy channel series with HBO money and gratuitous violence as we see a bizarre WW I trench battle involving flying saucers, alien bikini babes, and Cthulhu themselves being utterly wrecked by Jackie Robinson! Seems like the kind of show that’s right up my very silly alley, but this is not to be as the show has much more on its mind as it all turns out to be a dream; escaping from a reality that may be more mundane but is certainly one our main character wants to get away from. Our hero is Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors); a nerdy black kid from Chicago who joined the army, got super buff, and has been moving around the country since the end of his service. He’s finally returning home because his father, the man he was trying to get away from by joining the service, has gone missing and the last thing he did was send a mysterious note to Atticus requesting his presence in Ardham Massachusetts which doesn’t seem to exist. Seems like a straightforward enough task, except that this show takes place in the fifties and therefore he can’t just do a Google search and more importantly he has to deal with the terrifying barriers of systemic racism wherever he goes; where even riding a bus is rife with danger and indignities as we learn as soon as he wakes up from his exciting dream. The bus has broken down in the middle of nowhere and the only transportation that’s come to help is a pickup truck sending a very clear message of exactly WHO they’re willing to take.
The Birth of a Nation and all the images you see in this review are owned by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Nate Parker
To tell you the truth, I was not looking forward to seeing this and was up until the last minute figuring out if I wanted to take a pass on this considering the controversy surrounding the filmmaker’s past deeds. Ultimately, I am a film critic and decided that I might as well have an informed opinion on something rather than avoiding the topic. Not to say that someone choosing not to see this is making the wrong choice as it’s not anyone’s place to tell anyone else what to go see at the theater (I avoided that last Dinesh D’Souza film like the plague despite it sticking around for an embarrassingly long time at one of the theaters I frequent), rather I’m just letting you know what my reason was for deciding to review this film. Does it manage to be a great film even with the controversies surrounding it, or will this be so bad that we can easily dismiss the film and its director? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about the life of Nat Turner (Nate Parker who also writes, directs, and produces) who famously led a slave rebellion in 1831 that killed a bunch of slave owners before… well go read the Wikipedia page or watch the movie to find out what happened. But what about his life BEFORE killing white people? What drove the man to commit such acts of violence, especially considering how deeply religious he was? After all, wasn’t one of the commandments THOUGH SHALL NOT KILL? Well we get those answers as the rebellion itself is the climax to a character study of one man who faced indignity after indignity throughout his entire life and even saw it first hand when his master (Armie Hammer) had him go around to other plantations to preach the word of God to those slaves to keep them nice and complacent rather than rebellious and stabby. What other challenges did Nat have to face before turning to the sword? Well, you’ll just have to see the movie to find out!