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What Men Want

He Said -by Donnell M. Regusters

Producer Will Packer has made a name for himself in Hollywood by producing a lot of comedies with an array of Black talent that do very well at the box office. Films like Girls Trip think like a Man, Ride Along and Wedding Ringer has made Will Packer a hot commodity in Hollywood. His most recent picture is a “re-imagining” of Mel Gibson’s film "What Women Want" renamed" What Men Want " directed by Adam Shankman (The Wedding Planner, Hairspray 2007 remake) I walked into the film with subdued expectations. I remember thinking to myself, self why do I want to see Taraji in a movie Mel Gibson already made. To my surprise, I enjoyed the film. "What Men Want" flips the original movie by taking us into the mind of all the men she encounters. Some may say, do we want to know what goes on in the minds of men, but that is where the comedy begins. She finds that the random thoughts of men can go all over the place and that having access to the mind of so many can be exhausting.

Taraji plays Ali Davis a dynamic woman who works as a successful sports agent. She is a woman in a field that is dominated by men but can play rough and tumble with the guys and knows her value. To her surprise, she is passed over for what she thought was a well-deserved promotion by her boss played by Brian Bosworth. Yes, the Boz plays Ali’s boss, and he was surprisingly good. Ali can’t figure out what else she needs to do to move up in her company. After a night out drinking with her girls and an encounter with a psychic played by Erykah Badu. She receives a blow to the head and awakens to find out she can hear what men are thinking.

It was refreshing to see actors who don’t usually do comedy holding their own with a great comedic talent like Tracey Morgan who plays the father of the number 1 draft pick. That scenario alone should give you an idea into the foolishness she will encounter.

Aldis Hodge portrays a single father she meets out at a bar for a one-night stand. He comes to her office to see her at the perfect time. Now she can show off her man. The man that she is fabricating to be her husband to gain access to the executive suite.

The film is entertaining inserted with a few lessons. Not lessons that beat you over the head but life lessons you get from just observations. For instance like when Aldis Hodge and Richard Roundtree are together. Here are two Black men on screen bonding between generations. It’s something we don’t see often. It felt warm and genuine. The chemistry they exuded on screen is something I would like to see in a drama featuring them as father and son. Their scenes showed me more about what men want then all the mind reading Ali could do.

I don’t think I walked away knowing What Men Want, but I did walk away laughing. The film has an R rating for language and sex, but it felt like it was a film you could watch with your teenager or your parents. One of those lazy day weekend films you can sit back and enjoy with your family.

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She Said - By Kathia Woods

Taraji P. Henson is re-teaming with her "Think Like A Man" Will Packer on this Mel Gibson remake. Henson portrays sports agent Alison "Ali" Davis. Ali is a career woman and focused on making partner. She has no time for men, friends or anything social however life does not always go the way we want.

Our with her friends for a Girls Night out she has a reading from psychic Sister followed by a fall on the head. Suddenly she's able to read Men minds.

Initially, Ali resists her new powers at first, but soon she realizes this might be the insight she needs to gain access to the boys' room. Armed with this unique ability, she seeks to turn her fortunes around.

She was so focused on the new path that she didn't prepare for the downside that came with her new abilities. Will Ali sacrifice the key to the executive lounge in exchange for love, friendship and more importantly integrity? Those are some of the topic at hand with this remake.

Taraji is at her best in Romcoms. She is funny and delightful as Ali. Supporting cast Erykah Badu is hilarious as a Psychic that operates behind a Hair Salon. Veterans comedians, Phoebe Robinson, Tamala Jones, and Wendi McLendon-Covey. are entertaining as Ali's inner circle. Honorable mention goes to Josh Brenner as Ali trusty assistant Brandon.

Some of my favorite parts of the movie are the scenes between Brandon and Ali. He's one of the few people in her life that see through her facade. It's also nice seeing Aldis Hodge get a turn as a leading man. He's handsome but equally funny. Veteran actor Richard Roundtree as Ali's Dad Skip is also darling.

Is this story a little predictable yes but what it may lack depth it has charm? So if you're looking for a date night movie, this fits the bill.

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Somos Calentura

(We Are The Heat)

by Kathia Woods

Latin America hasn’t always done an excellent job of representation when it comes to Afro-Latinos.

Colombia whose two most notable celebrities are Shakira, and Sofia Vergara has the second largest Afro population in South America. So naturally when tourist travel to Colombia, they are somewhat surprised to notice that the average Colombian doesn't resemble those celebrities.

Somos Calentura” is a film that helps chip away at the misrepresentation.

This movie tells the story of a group of Afros Colombian friends. Harvey and his three friends are trying to navigate through the everyday struggle of living in Buenaventura. They come from humble beginnings with not many options.

Music and dance provide an escape from the harsh reality of life. Dancing is a pivotal part of their escape.

Like so many before them, dance could provide a legal escape out of poverty. So when the opportunity presented itself to enter a dance contest with a sizable purse, the boys jump on it.

Director Jorge Navas does an excellent job of showing the struggles; however, it’s not what “Somos Calentura” primary focus is. Crime and poverty are a reality in Buena Ventura, but it’s not what defines this dance crew. They’re brothers, brothers that may argue but have each other’s back regardless of the situation.

Harvey portrayed by first-time actor Duván Arizala is the family man. He has a wife and young child to provide for, unlike his companions he doesn’t have the luxury to pursue dance for the sheer job. The stakes are higher for him. If this contest doesn’t work out, he’s relegated back to a life of meaningless jobs, for him this contest is a risky venture.

Not having to face the same challenges his friends don't understand his unwillingness to jump at the chance to enter the contest; hence the road to the championship hits a few snags.

This movie is entertaining and introduces us to some new and much-needed talent. I enjoyed the dance sequences in this film. You see the strong influence of “Hip-Hop” from the dances move to the colloquialisms; however, the music has elements of Salsa, Cumbia, and Chambeta to name a few.

It was smart casting on Navas to find dancers that can act. This way the dance sequence shots are authentic and vibrant.

There are many twists and turns to "Somos Calentura" sometimes the situation seems hopeless, but these young men are determined to overcome the odds. That's what has you rooting for them.

The take away from this film is that this community is more than the stereotypical elements blasted on the news. It's a community rich in culture and good people. It's time that we start focusing on the people and "Somos Calentura" does that.

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Bring Me An Avocado

by Kathia Woods

You fall head over heels in love; you get married to the love of your life, you have children and think nothing can disturb it. These are some of the themes examined in director Maria Mealla’s latest movie "Bring Me an Avocado."

The couple in love are George and Robin. They are that it couple that still adore each other, you know, the people that annoy you for the PDA, but one secretly envies.

It's Robin’s birthday and being the awesome husband that George is, he plans a surprise birthday party for Robin.

Everything is on track until the unthinkable happens: Robin becomes injured which puts her in coma.

The aftermath is a father trying to hold it all together but dying slowly on the inside. He wants to be strong, however he's failing miserably. His sister-in-law Greece with whom he has a troubled relationship, and Robin’s best friend Jada step in to bring structure to George and Robin’s two girls.

The bulk of the movie focuses on George. You are rooting for him to come out of his fog. You want him to get it together while at the same time feeling sorry for him.

George and Robin are portrayed beautifully by Bernardo Peña and Sarah Burkhalter.

Bernado Peña gives us plenty of range; he shows us that it's difficult for men to deal with emotional turmoil. You want him to ask for help, but he doesn't know how. He's a fixer.

The one downside of this movie is that we don't see how losing their mother affects the daughters. You have small moments of sadness, but that's all you get. Also, the viewer doesn't get any background on why Greece, George’s sister in law and George have conflict. Their exchanges are sarcastic; however, at times, it seemed something deeper was going on. Did she not approve of George for her sister? Does he deem her irresponsible ? These are questions that I had while watching them interact.

The transition from Robin being in a coma to awakening seemed rushed. Robin herself didn't seem to have questions about what had occurred to her.

Despite the above issues, this is still an entertaining movie. You want this family to reconnect; you want there to be a happy ending, even if the characters don't address all their issues. The takeaway is don't take your loved ones for granted and make the most of second chances.

Scale: I give this movie a 7 due to Bernado Peña performance. It’s nice to see men receive a part that requires them to show emotional rage.

Diversity: The director is Latina as well as the lead. There is also an African American co-star.

 

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Hearth

by Kathia Woods

Many are using their homes to earn an additional income via rental services such as Airbnb or home swap however we never think about all things that can occur during that rental. “Hearth” delves into that darker side. On the surface we have a couple enjoying a romantic getaway but soon we discover all is not what it seems.

“Hearth” may be a short film, but it packs a lot of suspense into its ten minutes. I love how it utilizes the exchange between the owner and the renters how the dialogue is normal amidst all the abnormality.

This film creates suspense and terror through subtle dialogue and effective lighting. The music is also very well utilized reminiscent of French Film Noirs. Hearth stars Academy Award Winner Marianne Farley as one half of the romantic couple. Her presence in this film is a great endorsement for Sophie B. Jacques as a director.

Don’t let the fact that movie is in French deter you from watching. I really enjoyed it and wanted it to continue and I am looking forward to more movies from Sophie B. Jacques. Also it may have you take extra precautions the next time you rent a home away from home.

 

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Shazam

by Kathia Woods

In recent years there have been some questionable moves made over at Warner Brothers more specifically DC.

We shook our head at the announcement of Ben Affleck as Batman and the thought given to a revival of Green Lantern. It seemed things were so bad at DC that one wondered if it was even accurate to compare them to Marvel.

In comes Wonder Woman followed up by Aquaman and now we have Shazam.

Shazam is the Superhero we never knew we needed. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.

Here are some of the reason why. I absolute loved this cast. Zachary Levi is amazing as Captain Marvel. He strikes a great balance between adult and teenager. His discovery of his talents is hilarious especially his attempts at flight. Asher Angel as Billy Batson makes you root for him. His drive to find his biological mother makes us the viewer hope that their will be a happy ending. The foster kids may be my favorites out of all the cast. Faithe Herman as Darla is pure joy, Ian Chen as Eugene Choi the techie, and Jovan Armand as Pedro Pena the quite one are more than supporting players. They are the Cheer squad as well as Billy’s conscious.

The one character I wished they would have us given us more context on was Freddy Freeman as Jack Dylan Grazer. His disability was never really addressed. They missed an opportunity to educate with humor how it is navigating the world as a disabled isn’t always fun especially in high school.

Is this movie perfect, no but what is does do is entertain us? It shows us that even Super heroes struggle and must be taught to do the right thing.

This direction that DC is taking with focusing on secondary characters and humor is working. So take your time finding a new Batman and Superman. We are doing just fine with Shazam. Keep giving us laughter because we could use the break from the bad brooding.

Diversity- this movie gets a six we an Asian, Latino and African-American Character.

Scale- eight for sheer fun.

 

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Little

by Kathia Woods

Think big meets Freaky Friday but with black female leads and you have Little. The new Will Packer comedy stars Marsai Martin, Issa Rae and Regina Hall. Marsai is not only starring in Little but serves as an executive producer making her the youngest at 14.

The premise is not a new one with Hall portraying Jordan Sanders a Tech Executive that takes no prisoner. Issa Rae is April Williams, her assistant. If you ever have had an unreasonable boss, you will relate to Rae’s Character. We get to see her not only be funny but vulnerable. Marsai has delighted us for years as Diane on Blackish is equally charming as the young Jordan.

Is this movie bringing something new to the table? No; however, what is essential to mention that other than Packer everyone involved in this movie is black and a woman? Tina Gordon directing her second movie, and Tracy Oliver helmed the script fresh of her success with Girls Trip. That is the new portion of this scenario — black women creating art for Black women.

The movie may not be a new idea, but it is entertaining and funny. It’s the perfect mother and daughter date or family outing amongst competitive offerings of superheroes and fright night.

Packer’s movie at times can be stale and repetitive, but this works because of the talent associated. If you’re looking for a cinematic masterpiece this is not your cup of tea; however, “Little” doesn’t present itself as that but just pure escapism at that it succeeds masterfully. Most importantly it reminds us that childhood isn’t always carefree and to remember you are not defined by how popular you are in middle school. So grab your favorite little people and go see “Little.” I promise you it’s going to be fun.

Diversity: This movie receives a ten. Black women magic is all over this movie.

Scale: This movie receives an eight for sheer fun.

 

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Amazing Grace

by Kathia Woods

This reviewer may be one of the biggest Aretha Franklin fans ever. It is unquestionable also that Franklin was the most important Female Artist of the 60’s going into the 70’’s. So naturally when it was announced that they would finally be releasing the concert film of “ Amazing Grace” I was beyond excited. “Amazing Grace" documents the recording of her multi platinum album of the same name. It’s not a secret that Aretha Franklin came from Gospel. It was the basis for everything she did. "Amazing Grace" to this day stands as the bestselling gospel album of all time and her bestselling album.

Director Sidney Pollack was hired to document this recording. This film at times seems unfinished or one big revival but that’s not why you should buy a a ticket. You’re watching sheer talent at hand — raw, unadulterated talent given by God. Aretha in her element joined by the California Community Choir and The Reverend James Cleveland provide the audience a spiritual elevation. This movie isn’t about cinematic perfection; it's about touching your soul. Some of my favorite moments are her rendition of “Mary Won’t You Weep” and her mash-up of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand, and You’ve Got Friend” made famous by James Taylor. Only Aretha could turn a secular song and incorporate it into a gospel hymn.

Aretha like most artists of her caliber was a perfectionist and didn’t want the movie to be released while she was alive, but I’m glad that her family differed in her view. There is a whole generation that never got to experience this Aretha and now they can.

You will get a chance to see her Father the Reverend C.L Franklin and the tight bond they shared. There are also other celebrities in the building such as Clara Ward, and if you pay close attention, an enthusiastic Mick Jagger is sitting in the back.

This movie is a reverence to a time when black America was no longer defining itself by white standards but firmly standing in its blackness. Aretha was our queen and the church our foundation. She was our refuge our joy our Amazing Grace. All hail the Queen.

Diversity: This movie gets a ten. It doesn’t get any blacker than Aretha and gospel music.

Scale: I highly recommend this movie not because Aretha was my favorite singer but because we could use a little spiritual revival during these dark times. A rousing 8 and Amen.

 

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Avengers: Endgame

by Kathia Woods

We have had a ten-year relationship with the MCU. It started with IRON MAN, moved on to Captain America, inserted young Spider-Man and even gave us royalty in Black Panther. So here we are ten years later ready to sit another three hours with our favorite superheroes. After speculating and scouring the internet for the clues the day has finally come. Avengers Endgame is here.

The question is, was it worth it? A resounding yes. This movie was thoughtful, and action-packed at the same time.

It opens with our remaining Avengers trying to resolute what just happened. One would think that the Russo Brothers would give us a movie filled with Sadness and Revenge, but that’s not the case here. Thor still gives us strength and humor. Cap gives us optimism and Tony aka Iron Man finally figures out what’s important to him. Dr. Banner/Hulk is still a mystery however Black Widow gives us a little vulnerability.

Where does Captain Marvel fit, and will they ever find the other Avengers all those questions get answered?

Some things to be aware of, the first half of the movie takes a slower pace. It allows the surviving Avengers to grieve. Also, the reintroduction of Ant-Man and Arrow are handled smoothly.

This movie is an emotional rollercoaster at times. This movie is for us die-hard Marvel fans. The ones that grew up reading the comic books and binged watched all the other films in the MCU getting ready for this,

We’re going to say goodbye to some favorites but not before we are treated to epic battles and friendships are mended.

Avengers, Endgame is everything we want from Marvel and more. One last Cameo from Stan Lee and one last time our Avengers face down evil. The three hours are going to fly by and leave us a little sad, but Endgame gives us a fitting ending.

Scale: I give this movie a nine. Good things do come to those that wait.

Diversity: It gets 8.5 superheroes do all come in different shapes and color.

 

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John Wick 3-Parabellum

by Kathia Woods

Lately, the action genre has grown tiresome. Filled with stunts but amateur acting skills or plot line. After last year’s disappointing Skyscraper we have the return of John Wick or in this case John Wick 3 - Parabellum. Keanu Reeves is back as the professional assassin, but this time he’s the one hunted.

I loved this movie. John Wick 3 is everything an action movie should be. We don’t just want to see fights, but we want to experience the suspense and dare I say have decent acting. Keanu Reeves is everything we want and need in an action star. He’s naturally handsome but intelligent, strong but calculating. I loved the fact that they included new ways to kill someone. Hint, hint a library is not just for reading anymore. Some of us have waited for Halle Berry to make some better choices when it comes to movie roles. She deserves better, and we deserve better from the Oscar Winner. In John Wick 3, we get that. Her turn as Sofia isn’t only sexy but powerful. She very much holds her own in the scenes she shares with Reeves. Other favorites are Lance Reddick as Charon and Ian McShane as Winston.

Who said that hitmen couldn’t be elegant as well as calculating? Jonathan Eusebio designed outstanding choreography for the fight scenes, especially the ones that occur in the latter end of the movie. Honorable mention goes to Boban Marjanovic aka backup center for the Philadelphia 76ers. His screen time may be short but memorable. We must also give props to Luca Mosca for his costumes. I love how he dressed the women in this movie. Asia Kate Dillion as the Adjudicator wouldn’t have come across as menacing if it wasn’t for the wardrobe. The tailoring of Reddick and McShane also helped convey their characters. Many a time we focus on the director, stunt team when it comes to these types of movies overlooking costuming. Mosca choices helped carry the story and along with the set design of Letizia Santucci and David Schlesinger. John Wick 3 is not just an action film but a mood.

John Wick 3 may be the last one, but I am open to seeing Berry’s character Sofia along with those two K 9’s get a spin-off. It may be May, but John Wick 3 has kicked off Summer Movies at least the Action Division.

Scale: It gets an 8 for sheer fun.

Diversity: It has a variety of people of color from Asian to Black. The women aren’t just eye candy but are an integral part of the story. It receives an 8.5

 

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Aladdin

by Kathia Woods

Aladdin debuted in 1992 to great fanfare mainly because it was revealed that Robin Williams would portray the Genie. The role was tailor-made for him. The comedic genius that was Robin Williams not only embodied the Genie, but his performance was so worldly that the Golden Globes created an award for him.

We fast forward to 2019, and a new live-action version of Aladdin is released. This movie wasn’t exactly receiving the positive anticipation of the 1992 version. The trailer of a very blue Will Smith as the Genie certainly didn’t help matters.

Aladdin the 2019 live-action version isn’t horrible. A couple of things to keep in mind to give this live-action version a fair shot doesn’t compare it to the 1992 version. Second, keep in mind that Robin Williams was a comedic genius and that Will Smith could never duplicate that performance. If you accept one and two, then you’re in for a fun time.

Things I loved about this new version is that they cast actors of middle eastern/Indian descent. Mena Massoud is charming as Aladdin. Naomi Scott is a powerhouse to contend with as Princess Jasmine. Her voice is out of this world. Her and Mena have a natural chemistry. Marwan Kenzari as Jarfar was one of the new changes to this version of Aladdin. He is younger, more attractive, and not as mean. One can’t fault Kenzari for that, but I was expecting more darkness. Navid Negahban portrays The Sultan. This time around, he’s more serious, and I wish they would have kept some of the humor. Naims Pedrad as Dalia provides the comic relief that missing at times. She is the perfect wing woman to Princess Jasmine. The role of Hakim also has been upgraded and is nicely played by Nusman Acar.

I purposely saved Will Smith as the Genie for last. The smartest thing Will did upon accepting this role is to carve out a new identity for him. He created a Genie that infuses his strength. Will Smith is charismatic and funny in real life. Those are the traits mainly featured in this Genie. I also liked that he stayed in his musical zone. It’s not that he’s a lousy singer, but it’s merely not his strength. He also infused his hip-hop background into the musical portions; this makes his singing more enjoyable. I still feel that the blue coloring makes the Genie look second rate. The effects aren’t flattering.

I wish they incorporated more of the Bollywood style throughout the movie not just in the musical numbers. Speaking of the music, Speechless is a new song that was added and is beautifully sung by Naomi Scott. Alan Menken collaborated with Benji Pasek and Justin Paul for this new song. Menken also updated the score to reflect the scenery displayed in this movie. Even some of the lyrics in the songs were updated to reflect today’s environment.

Is the live action version of Aladdin a home run? No, but it’s also not horrible. This movie will introduce a whole new generation to Aladdin while helping an older generation reminisce. The songs are still catchy, and you will find yourself singing along. Aladdin is not excellent, but it’s a solid effort by all involved, including Guy Ritchie.

Diversity: This movie receives a 7 for diversity. All the major characters were portrayed by people of color. I wish more of the extras were of middle eastern/Indian decent.

Scale: This movie gets a 7 for sheer fun.

 

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Godzilla - King of the Monsters

by Kathia Woods

Summer movie season doesn't seem official without a movie entrance that has lots of special effects and a monster, Godzilla is that movie. The conflict is between Monarch a crypto-zoological agency that fights monsters and the revived dormant monsters. I know that seems contradictory but that is the scenario. Godzilla is apparently on the human's side, but his nemeses King Ghidorah, aka the three-headed monster is not. In plain English, they are fighting over supremacy.

Sprinkled in there are Dr. Emma Russell, Dr. Mark Russell and their daughter Madison. The Russell's are still grieving the loss of their son at the hands of Godzilla. This grieving results in Dr. Emma Russell, making some bad choices. Vera Farmiga portrays Dr. Emma Russell. She's usually formidable, but in this movie, she's just flat. I could not muster any empathy for her character. Millie Bobby Brown is Madison Russell and let's say this part was not an evolution from her Stranger Things character eleven. Kyle Chandler is the most likable out of the Russell bunch as Dr. Mark Russell, but even he couldn't salvage this.

You may be asking how that plays into the monster storyline? It doesn't.

That's the problem with Godzilla; it's preposterous even by action movie standards. We don't care about this family and its issues. The beginning of this movie is slow and drags. I found myself almost falling asleep, which seems hard amongst all the noise. The plot is nonexistent. They attempt at various stages to pull us in with the scientific mambo jumbo, but it just doesn't work.

At one point we are inundated with so many monsters that it’s just overkill. Also, the special effects weren't the greatest. Some of the CGI is quite comical.

One aspect of this movie I did enjoy is the diversity in its cast. There's been much discussion on how best to apply diversity in a film. Godzilla does. O'Shea Jackson Jr, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Aisha Hands, Anthony Ramos, and Elizabeth Ludlow all have roles with purpose.

I didn't expect Godzilla to be Jurassic Park; however, the biggest sin is that it’s boring. An unutilized stellar cast, overkill special effects and to many monsters makes for quite a snooze. If they do decide to make another movie in this series, I urge them to keep it simple. In the end, less is more.

Scale: This movie gets a five. An action movie that was dull.

Diversity: This movie gets an 8 for having a diverse cast from starring roles to supportive roles.

 

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Rocketman

by Kathia Woods

Rocketman is the story of Elton John's life set to music. It's starts from his childhood and ends with his comeback after rehab. We get everything we want and need in this film. An insight to his crazy rock and roll lifestyle, the over the top sequined costumes and the great music he created in the '70s. Amongst the fun, we get an insight look at his struggles. His fight for self-confidence and acceptance but mostly his need to be loved

After the last music biopic, we were holding our breaths about the release of Rocketman. I am happy to report it was worth the wait. This reviewer loves Elton John and was familiar with his life story, but this movie taught me some new things. Mainly how he and Bernie met. We also learned how challenging his parents were. It is said that that through great pain comes great art. If that is true, his parents set him up for a catalog of greatest hits.

I wasn't surprised with Elton John's honesty just the sheer darkness he experienced at the height of his success. The hardest scenes to watch are the ones where his father reject him and the manipulation, he endured at the hands of John Reid played excellently by Richard Madden.

I enjoyed that they made this more of a musical than a biopic. Don't misconstrue Rocketman is still about John's life, but the music drives this film. We are rooting for Elton. We want him to stop feeling inadequate. There’s are parts of us that are silently whispering you’re good enough.

Taron Egerton did a fantastic job as Elton John. Elton has an incredibly soulful voice, and Taron did his songs justice. Jamie Bell is lovable as John's longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin. Their scenes together show a genuine love between two very different men bound by their dreams of rock n roll success.

It's not easy to make a movie about someone that is such an icon, especially when he's still alive. Director Dexter Fletcher managed to make a film that utilizes John's extensive catalog while intelligently inserting the up’s and downs of his life story. The audience is treated to a movie filled with music but learns that success doesn't fix childhood wounds. We walk away humming the songs and to quote Elton “He’s still Standing after all this time”.

Scale: We give this movie an 8 for fun.

 

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Shaft

by Kathia Woods

Shaft” is an icon and so was the original movie that came out in 1971. Richard Roundtree changed the narrative of the black leading man by playing a crime crusader for the people. We fast forward to 2019 and this latest incarnation of Shaft. Samuel L. Jackson is back as John Shaft Jr. and this time he’s not only fighting crime but having to face his parenting failures.

Jessie T. Usher formerly of “Survivor’s Remorse” joins the franchise as J.J Shaft. He’s everything his father isn’t. He’s polite, politically correct, respectful to women and works for the man. Regina Hall is Maya Babanikos Shaft’s ex-wife and JJ’s mom. Tying in the old to the new is Richard Roundtree as the original bad mutha but this time in a supporting role. I now have stated all the good things about this movie the cast.

The plot is a mix-up of terrorist, drug addict mixed in with veterans suffering PTSD. This starts off a series of events connecting father and son to notorious drug pin Gordito. There was an opportunity for some great storytelling, however, it was never executed. JJ is everything Shaft Jr isn’t. He grew up in the suburbs, attended college and is a data analyst for the FBI. He solves crimes via intelligence, unlike his father who likes to knock heads. JJ was sheltered and protected by his mother. John Jr. wasn’t coddled. So naturally, upon the first contact, it sets up for a humorous interaction. So please explain why the writers opted to go for predictable dialogue. We know that Shaft is a lady’s man, but did we really need to see him with glitter around his mouth. Also, the usage of the P word as in cat to assess JJ’s manhood also didn’t help matters.

Regina Hall coming off a great year was misused in this film. She has great comedic timing but was relegated to a chick role. In other words, she wasn’t given much to do. Alexander Shipp is Sasha Aries JJ’s childhood friend and crush. She too was relegated to playing pretty.

Wait it gets worse. There’s great banter between Father and Son as they try to get to know each other while solving the said crime. The sad part is that it’s clouded amongst homophobia and misogyny. If this were 1974 this might work but it's 2019. You can make a movie about a sexy private eye without resorting to frat humor. I have given up on getting quality from Samuel L. Jackson. It’s obvious he’s check chasing however Reginal Hall and Jessie T. Usher deserved better. Kenya Barris yes “Blackish” creator helped pen this juvenile script. Shaft provides a few chuckles but is it worth the price of admission. The answer is a hard NO. Don’t even rent this just wait for it to appear on HBO or BET.

This is just a colossal waste of time.

Scale: This movie receives a two for horrendous.

 

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Men In Black -International

by Kathia Woods

Men In Black was initially introduced to us in 1997 starring the iconic Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. It's 2019, and we have a new dynamic duo, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth.

Thompson is an alien conspiracy follower, and Hemsworth is the good-looking super-agent Agent H representing the international wing of the agency. His mentor Agent High T embodied by Liam Neeson is the man in charge.

They are still chasing extra-terrestrials that threaten the sanctity of mother earth, but this time the threat is internal as well. The agency has a mole.

There were high expectations for Men in Black International. Thompson is coming off the success of Creed 2 and Hemsworth of the juggernaut known as The Avengers. They first worked together in the hit Thor- Ragnarok so one would think that they would strike magic again. Sadly No.

The issue with this movie is that the plot is all over the place. We have two great actors with great comedic timing that were given this common theme. The film opens with a daring mission in Paris and then pivots to Agent M childhood. Young Molly embodied by Mandeiya Flory first sees the Men In Black twenty years ago during her first contact with an alien, since then she's been obsessed with joining the agency. Back in the future, she finally locates the elusive group and is given a chance to prove herself by Agent O played by the charming Emma Thompson. The interaction between Thompson and Thompson were one of the better parts of the movie. The joy of finally getting fitted for that black jacket meant everything to Molly.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn't continue this euphoric ride. Men In Black International has an opportunity to create great comedic moments just like its predecessor however the script never takes advantage of the enthusiastic spirit of Agent M and the boisterous self-indulgent Agent H. The jokes are flat and predictable. One minute we're looking for a killer, then a mole inserted with agent H enemies coming back to haunt him. It's dizzying just typing all the events; hence, the audience never connects to these characters. Kumail Nanjiani was added as Pawny to bring additional comedic relief, but even he can't save this film. I was delighted to see dance icons Les Twins make their screen debut, but they too deserved better.

So let's review you have Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani and Liam Neeson yet Men In Black International still is dismal. The blame for that are screenwriters Matt Holloway and Art Marcum. They never managed to understand who these characters are instead built a script on cheap jokes sprinkled in with fake feminism. F. Gary Gray attempted despite the above to cut and piece together a fun ride, but it's hard when the foundation is shaky. This is one time where special effect and star power doesn't translate into a winner.

If you want to see a better connection between Thompson and Hemsworth watch Thor Ragnarok. Men In Black International was an idea that needed to stay on paper.

Diversity: This movie gets a 5 for Tessa Thompson and Emma Thompson. Kumail Nanjiani was also cast, but he plays a pawn.

Scale: This movie receives a 5 for messiness.

 

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Yesterday

by Kathia Woods

What would the world look like if one of the greatest bands ever were wiped off the face of the earth? That’s the premise of the movie Yesterday. The world experiences a global black out in which the entire Beatles catalog has gone, and only one person remembers them, struggling musician Jack Malick. He decides to utilize the accident towards his advantage, and pass of the Beatles songs as his own.

Malik discovers that he’s the only person that remembers the Beatles. This happenstance is the opening he needed to turn his failing career around. Once he starts passing of the songs as his and uploading them on YouTube, he becomes an internet sensation.

The foundation of this movie isn’t the Beatles, contrary to popular opinion. It’s having your dream come true and realizing it's not what you expected. Like so many before him, he’s excited to have an audience finally, but the more his videos receive clicks, the more prominent the demand. Naturally, this requires him to leave behind everyone he loves, including Ellie, his best friend/manager/booking agent. Their relationship is one of the themes of this movies. There are many sections in this film, friendship, success, and self-worth are few Jack Malik grapples while navigating success.

There is going to be two types of audiences for this movie. Beatle fans and fans that are looking to escape monsters or superheroes.

The Beatle fans are going to feel disappointed at the commercialization of these songs. After all, they were written to commemorate love, awareness, or even conflict. The latter is happy to see a movie with a human-interest story without special effects. How to do you weave those two worlds together? First, you can’t take this as a blueprint for the music industry.

Second, you must accept that this generation wasn’t raised on the Beatles like previous generations. There are more Oasis and Radio Head fans. Also, this story is about Jack thinking success was going to solve all his problems; instead, it created more.

I enjoyed Himesh Patel as Jack Malik, he was funny and believable as a struggling artist. Lily James is charming as his love interest. I wish their coming together were written a little more interesting instead, we knew that these two would fall in love.

Kate McKinnon was spot on as Jack’s slick new manager. She makes no qualms about looking at him as a cash cow, not an artist. The most delightful characters in Yesterday however are Rock and Mr./Mrs. Malik.

Rock portrayed by Joel Fry is the worst Road Manager; however, this is what makes him so charming. The guy with the worst time management is now in charge of the hottest artist in the world. The scenes between Fry and Patel are some of the funniest in the film. I also enjoyed that Ed Sheeran was willing to let this film make fun of his persona.

Veteran comedic actors Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal are hilarious as Jack’s parents. They are so underwhelmed by Jack’s desire to be a musician that even when he plays a classic Beatles song they don’t care.

If you’re looking for accuracy, you will be disappointed in Yesterday, but if you’re willing to invest in Jack Malick this will work for you. After all success doesn’t guarantee happiness. Yesterday is a feel-good movie also it was nice to imagine how this generation would react to John, Paul, Ringo and John.

Diversity- This movie gets a 7 the lead was brit of Indian descent

Scale- this movie receives a 7.

 

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The Lion King

by Kathia Woods

It’s been 27 years since we received the original The Lion King, 25 years of Lion King on Broadway and now fast forward to 2019 Disney is giving us a photo-real Lion King. This Lion King has star power casting ranging from Donald Glover to the incomparable Beyoncé.

The 24 million-dollar question is can this re-imaging of the classic tale expand on the original or will it simply be a film that’s great on CGI but lacks personality?

Three things that are vital to this story the music, the characters and the CGI. John Favreau took on this insurmountable challenge having previously worked on The Jungle Book. He said he learned a lot form the latter and applied those lessons to The Lion King.

The scenery of this new version of The Lion King is breathtaking. I’m not sure if you can accurately call it live-action seeing that Lion’s don’t talk and sing the more appropriate terminology is virtual cinematography technology. In plain language think National Geographic, that portion of the movie is amazing. It’s Disney and one would expect nothing less. The one drawback from using this resource is that it felt less personalized. There was no differentiation between the Lionesses. Nala and Sarabi looked the same. The same issue occurred with the Hyenas. The characters that were reproduced spot on were our favorite duo of Timon and Pumbaa. Although we could not see Rogen and Eichner their mannerisms were in full display on the screen.

Favreau made some brave musical changes when it comes to this version of The Lion King. He brought back the academy award winning songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. Hans Zimmer returned to score however Pharrell Williams was given the task to add new life to old favorites. Naturally, Beyoncé wrote a new song called “Spirit”. Gone is the catchy Morning Report which helped set up I Just Can’t Wait to Be King. Morning helped establish the importance of Zazu, voiced nicely by John Oliver. Almost all Zazu’s singing parts were cut. The songs were an extension of him without those songs he comes across as rigid.

The biggest changes to the characters are in the form of Scar voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor. In this new version, he’s loses his sarcasm and is portrayed darker. I missed the dark humor that made Scar such a fun villain and, in this version, his tone reminded me of Mufasa failing to draw clear differentiation between the two. I also felt the Hyenas deserved more screen time. Keegan-Michael Key and Eric Andre are two very funny guys, but it seemed in order to give Beyoncé more screen time they became the sacrificial lambs. Another misuse of talent was Alfre Woodard as Sarabi. One of the great aspects of The Lion King is the centralization of its female characters. This version neutralized her. Donald Glover as Simba was solid, and I enjoyed his duet of Hakuna Matata with Rogen and Eichner. Beyoncé was steady as Nala. The younger stars JD McCrary and Shahadi Wright Joseph were simply delightful.

I saved the best for Last. Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen made this movie go from lukewarm too great for me. They had the best chemistry out of all the characters in the movie. Their humor was contagious and natural. Rogen as Pumbaa got it. He dove right in and it shows. He may not be the world’s best singer but who cares it’s his exuberance that makes us love him. Eichner can flat out sing and may portray the smaller of the two but like Rogen his commitment comes across the screen. They simply killed it.

This movie will introduce these characters to a whole new generation. Like my daughter, they will watch repeatedly but there’s a part of me that wishes they would have left the classic reign supreme. This 2019 version is a visual masterpiece, but it needed more joy in the form of music. So, while I can appreciate this newer version, I still prefer the original or better yet go see the Broadway Show.

Diversity- This movie gets a 9. Majority of the parts were voiced by actors of African descent.

Scale-I gives this movie a 7 for the visuals and the great duo of Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner.

 

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Motherhood isn’t always a smooth Ride such is Otherhood

by Kathia Woods

There are books on pregnancy, potty training, teenage years, but nothing prepares you for when your child grows up and gets his own life. In theory, one knows that your children are only with you temporarily, but it doesn’t mean that the transition is smooth. However, one still expects that weekly call and a gift for Mother’s Day. Gillian, Carol, and Helen are three best friends who raised three amazing sons. All adults with their own lives imagine their disgust upon Mother’s Day not receiving a gift, nor call. That’s the adventure called Otherhood.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Director/Writer Cindy Chupack and Actor Jake Hoffman to discuss all things Otherhood. Chupack herself, a wife and mother understood these women’s lives. She too had to reboot at one point in her life and learned that reinvention is part of one’s growth.

She was also happy to learn that Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman would be her leading ladies. Chupack dubbed the trio Head, Heart, and Soul.

Each woman in her own right is a force to be reckoned with however together their virtually unstoppable. Basset who’s mostly known for her dramatic roles, was a little nervous about doing comedy Chupack explained. She was fun and energetic as a stay at home widower Carol Walker. Naturally, that would make her the Soul. Arquette seemed like a natural fit as the meddling Gillian Lieberman. Boundaries are meant to be crossed, especially when you come from a place of love, hence that would make Gillian the heart. Felicity Huffman is the high maintenance Helen Halston. She is fashionable, career-minded and on marriage number two. Gillian’s also upset that her son feels more comfortable confiding in his father her ex-husband . After all, she’s metropolitan while he’s ordinary. Although Chupack considers Helen the head, her resentment of her ex-husband creates many faux pas amongst the besties. Having, sorted out her leading ladies who would be lucky enough to portray the sons.

Actor Jake Hoffman is Daniel Lieberman. He discussed how, unlike Daniel, he’s proud to call himself a mama’s boy. Lieberman and his mother speak quite often. He enjoyed playing the emotional guarded Daniel. Daniel is the son that must tackle the most demons out of the three boys. Hence you find yourself cheering for him a little more than the other two. Sinqua Walls had the honor of being Matt Walker. Walls is fresh of his turn as Sean on Power. Chupack explained how shooting with him in New York was quite an adventure. Women would enthusiastically shout out their adornments during filming. I also discussed with Chupack how she handled Jake Lacy’s portrayal as Paul Halston. He’s gay however he never officially came out to Helen. She explained how this new generation doesn’t necessarily always feels the need to come out. They live their lives however if asked stand firm in their truth.

Otherhood is a fun adventure. It’s not just a movie about women regaining their dreams. It also shows the struggle many young adults face in finding their own voice. Oddly enough the two parties have similar struggles and those struggles is what makes this movie so entertaining.

Moms will relate, and sons hopefully will get the hint that once you become an adult, you still must call mom, especially on Mother’s Day. Chupack may be a first-time director, but she captured these women beautifully. After all, moms are nurturers, and it’s not always easy going from taking care of our children to prioritizing ourselves. So grab some friends, wine and make sure to stream Otherhood on Netflix on August the 2nd. I promise you it will make you appreciate your mom a little bit more.