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Review of Vice

by Kathia Woods

All the President's Men, Lincoln, The Post, and even The Front Runner are movies made about politicians or the dirty game of politics. What do they all have in common? They are good and have great performances. Now we add to the pile "Vice" directed by Adam McKay, starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams. This movie is receiving many nods during awards season, but the mystery is why?

Are these nominating committees seeing a different version than the one I watched? Here's a little disclosure this reviewer is not a Dick Cheney Fan. I was ready to view the unleashing of the very flawed Dick Cheney; however, I found myself not enjoying it.

Let me expound. We met a young Dick Cheney who was more interested in being a drunk that an aspiring politician until his fiancée Lynne gave him an ultimatum. Straighten up, or they are over.

Is it surprising that Cheney despite his many screws ups goes from College Drunk to working for Nixon? No, it’s that we don't care. We are not impressed with any part of his success. It's merely a befuddled ascension.

Christian Bale is a great actor. In my opinion the best Batman. In " Vice" he was boring. His physical transformation impressive and his accent was spot on, but this is where the positivity ends. He only came across as a heartless man growing old. Amy Adams who is nominated for every supporting actress award category that exists is dull and may have given one of her most underwhelming performances to date. She has portrayed much better characters insert Enchanted, Julie and Julia, etc.

Steve Carrell as Donald Rumsfeld is crass, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush is comical. The worst casting in this movie may be Tyler Perry as Colin Powell. That pairing is just horrendous.

The only acceptable answer to such a misuse of talent is that this script does not work. The flashback is confusing, and the satire is of the mark.

The whole movie is just a mess and after waiting for two days to write this review. I find myself disliking this movie even more.

The mystery remains how did it obtain seven Golden Globe nominations? Is the marketing campaign that much better for this movie than others?

The bottom line is that this movie is caught up in the Hollywood Hype machine and is getting rewarded for great marketing not because it's good and that's its biggest sin.

Scale- four for wasting our time.

Diversity- well the casting of Tyler Perry and Lisa Gay Hamilton was excellent although they only spent ten minutes on screen. Liz Cheney lesbianism wasn’t erased.

 

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Review of Aquaman

by Kathia Woods

The DC has struggled as of late with the unimpressive Justice League and Ben Affleck as Batman. Wonder Woman gave them a little hope however it’s not enough to catch Marvel

So here comes " Aquaman " to save the day.

Jason Momoa makes a striking superhero. He has the physique and acting chops to pull it off. Amber Heard is equally convincing as the princess Mera despite bad costuming. It was refreshing to see Nicole Kidman step out of character as Queen Atlantis stating that she accepted the role for the sake of her children. Other notable castings are Willem Dafoe as Nuidis Vulko and Patrick Wilson as Ocean Master. Dolph Lundgren continued his comeback tour as Nereus.

All the above are positives that should translate to a movie packed with action and adventure however intent and delivery are two things.

There are parts of this movie that are charming however they come few and far between. The flashbacks of young Arthur were a nice touch, but they needed more details such as when did he discover his powers? How did he and Nuidis meet?

I enjoyed Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Black Manta. Why was he a pirate and when did he choose the moniker of Black?

We needed answers not assumptions to the above.

Even the humor at times came across as labored.

Ultimately, I believe that was the objective of this movie to have zero context.

It's merely cheesy and borderline absurd. The crazy thing is that it works. Ultimately during this time of year where most of the films out have a firm tone or are geared towards a younger audience this movie fits the bill. "Aquaman" is a delightful mess. Movie-goers are looking to escape from the Holiday noise, relatives and day to day troubles. So, buckle up throw away any expectations and enjoy the crazy world of "Aquaman."

Scale- it receives a six due to Jason Momoa (he worth the price of admission). The special effects are also impressive.

Diversity - it receives a seven. It interwove Momoa's Polynesian heritage into the film. The casting of veteran actor Temuera Morrison as Thomas Curry further cemented the consistency in cultural representation. Many of the soldiers and stunt team were also of Polynesian/Samoan heritage. James Wan at the helm demonstrated that DC is not just throwing the verbiage of diversity around. It's important for minorities to receive an opportunity to direct big movies with big budgets such as "Aquaman."

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Review of Mary Poppins Returns

by Kathia Woods

Mary Poppins is one of the most beloved children's stories of all time.

Julie Andrew is irreplaceable. So when Disney announced it would revisit this classic, there were many doubts. How can one improve upon perfection? The answer is don't.

"Mary Poppins Returns" is a continuation of the original, not a remake.

I like many had my reservations.

In "Mary Poppins Returns" the Bank's kids are no longer little but full-grown adults with children of their own. Michael Banks is now living in his parents’ home newly widowed and struggling. His sister Jane is an activist. Michael's children aware of the turmoil are trying their best to assist their father with the household chores but Georgie the youngest is more interested in chasing kites.

In comes Mary Poppin to save the day.

Emily Blunt is delightful as Marry Poppins. She's funny and can sing. Her entrance into London is perfection. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the bathtub scene. Everything is on point from her mannerism to her costumes. She is just a delight.

Lin Manuel-Miranda is energetic as Jack. He's a right balance for Blunt's Mary Poppins. Another highlight of the movie was Dick Van Dyke as Mr. Dawes Jr. The beauty of this version of Mary Poppins is that it helps rekindle great memories of our youth.

This version may not have the big songs of its predecessor however the scene where the live action blends with the animation are stellar.

Is this as good as the original? No, however, that was never the intent.

It’s an independent movie, and it's a fun movie.

"Mary Poppins Returns" is an excellent adventure for the whole family. It's sure to become a holiday favorite for a new generation of kids.

Scale-It receives an eight from me because of Emily Blunt.

Diversity- The idea that Lin Manuel Miranda is in this is sure to inspire more Latinx kids. Also the casting of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Frye/Weasel the banker that doesn't want to foreclose is a bonus.

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Review of Cold War

by Kathia Woods

The Phrase "Love Kills" seems like a cliché but is a perfect way, to sum up, "Cold War."

It's a love story taking place in post-world war 2 Europe. The two main characters at the heart of this story are Zula and Wictor. Wictor a musician by trade notices Zula at the audition.

Zula is a parolee who is serving her country for assaulting her father. The backdrop for this love affair is communism. Poland destroyed after the war embraces communism as the answer to rebuilding. What better way than to boost the message of fatherland than through folklore but not just any folklore peasant music. Music created from the poorest of the poor — it's through this experiment that Zula and Wictor meet.

Zula is not the best singer, but she has charisma. She knows that she has looks and sexuality. She yields both of those assets on Wictor with an unrelenting force. She entrances him.

It's nice to see a movie depict the woman in a position of authority. Zula portrayed by Joanna Kulig is in total control. She shares her body with Victor but only a little of her soul. She's a woman that life hasn't always looked upon favorably, but she uses her charm and wit to get ahead.

Wictor portrayed by Tomasz Kot is the direct opposite. He's a romantic. He leads with his heart which is a recipe for disaster.

Kot was the weak one in this movie. He was the naive one, and that makes this story more intriguing. You found yourself cheering for him. You wanted him to wise up and catch a clue.

A woman yielding emotional power in a movie doesn't happen very often. The woman, in this case, is the tormentor. She's insufferable. I wanted her gone. I wanted Wictor to push back. When was he going to push back?

This dance of emotional hell is what made this movie entertaining.

We weren't going to get a happy ending with this dysfunction on display.

The music also plays a significant part. You have this very stark sad music for the nationalistic portion of the film entwined with Jazz and some Rock. Paris to me represents romance and Poland pain.

"Cold War" isn't the type of movie that is going to leave you feeling great however it will reinforce that we as humans often mistake torment with love. What these two characters experienced wasn't love but co-dependency disguised as love. Lula like having power for the first time in her life and Wictor enjoyed the torment.

Diversity- there wasn't a chance to insert variety due to the topic and period.

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Review of Creed II

by Kathia Woods

Rocky has been a part of our lives for over twenty years. He has a special relationship with the audience. Creed brought in a new generation and a new people's champ. "Creed II" continues that climb.

Adonis isn't the champ, but he's poised to take the next step. Gone is the mystery here is the spotlight of fame. This calling is pushing Adonis into a direction that he may not be physically nor mentally ready for, that's at the heart of this movie the other is family.

Rocky aka Sylvester Stallone is trying to warn him of the challenges that come with stepping into the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Adonis eager to prove that he's his father's son doesn't listen.

On the other side of the world is Drago. Living in disgraced obscurity but watching the rise of Adonis intently. The son of the man he killed rising while his son discarded like yesterday’s trash.

He sees an opportunity to regaining glory to retain his membership into the upper echelon of Russian sports. Viktor, the obedient son, goes along with the plan. He's tired of seeing his father disrespected and saw this as an opportunity to perhaps reconnect with his mother.

Two camps both looking to fulfill a legacy.

Along the way naturally, are stumbling blocks. Adonis must realize it's not just about him but there's also Bianca. Bianca has placed her dreams on hold to support his career. There's also his mother Mary played by the beautiful Phylicia Rashad. I liked this story. I loved how Sly's script tied the present to the future. After all, we have known these characters for a while. We grew up with them. Present are still the great boxing sequences and physical challenges with a thumping soundtrack to accompany them. We also have a moving story. Bianca receives more dept than just being a girlfriend portrayed by the talented Tessa Thompson. The second generation is not only present in the principal characters but the supporting cast. Wood Harris is Tony 'Little Duke' Burton representing Apollo's early beginning but with a modern twist. Steven Caple Jr., the director, was met with much skepticism when he was chosen to direct this movie however he has lived up to the challenge. Once again, the City of Brotherly Love is on full display, but we get a little mix of Cali as well.

The old is woven in purposefully into the new. Some may find this telling of the Rocky saga to story driven with not enough fight scenes, but this is Adonis’s story. "Creed II" is about us getting to know the man beneath the fighter. In the end it’s also about fathers and sons. Sons that have earned the right to do it their way. Adonis and Victor have. Both men gain more in the end than money and a belt.

Diversity - This movie has, African American principal characters, co-stars as well as director and producers. It also has an international cast hence earning a score of 9.

Scale- The overall movie receives a 9 for entertainment, a good story and solid performances.

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Mary Queen of Scots

by Kathia Woods

Many are familiar with the story of how Queen Elizabeth the first rose to Power, but many are not familiar with the story of Mary Queen of Scots. We all have acclimated to the fact that Scotland has been under English rule and never looked back.

This movie seems to remedy that. We meet young Mary upon her return to Scotland from her exile in France. In this movie, Saoirse Ronan portrays the young woman with a great Scottish accent. Margo Robbie my pick for Best Actress last year is the stark Queen Elizabeth.

What I loved about this movie besides the outstanding costumes and scenery is that we get to see two strong women leading — women that were challenged merely because of their gender. They understood that their every decision was questioned only because of their gender. Both women must live an isolated life because they couldn't trust anyone.

Margo Robbie as Elizabeth demonstrates it beautifully in scenes where she pushes back about marriage. The emotional turmoil she experiences upon sentencing Mary to death is breathtaking. Ronan is no slouch in her portrayal of Mary. She gives life to a monarch that is often mischaracterized or spoken in vain. She stuck between fighting her brother and tolerating her gay drunk husband.

I can say the highlight of the Movie for me is when the two queens finally meet face to face. The dance of words alone is worth the price of admission. The only drawback to this movie is that it starts very slow. It takes a minute to get going which will turn off some moviegoers however once it finds it footing its quite good.

Diversity- it receives a seven because Josie Rourke chooses to cast Adrian Lester as one of Queen Elizabeth's advisers. There were also other people of color featured in an Elizabethan story.

Scale- I give this movie a seven and a half because of its slow beginning.

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Review of The Grinch

by Kathia Woods

It's Holiday Movie time, so with reboots on the rise a new version of "The Grinch" hits theaters.

One would think after Jim Carrey starred in the holiday classic there wouldn't be any new incarnations of this classic.

Hollywood had other plans hence this version of "The Grinch" is supposed to humanize the Grinch more.

We don't receive as much insight why he moved away from his friendly neighbors the Who’s. This version also introduces us to a new Cindy Lou voiced by Cameron Seely and Donna Who (Cindy Lo's Mom) voiced by Rashida Jones. Kenan Thompson portrays the Christmas Cheerful Mr. Bricklebaum. His exuberance nauseating to the Grinch is one of the highlights of the movie.

The Grinch who aims to distract himself from all things Christmas is played, Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch does a good but not a memorable job. One can however not fault him entirely due to the average script he received.

There are delightful moments in this version of the Grinch. Max the dog and the newly acquired reindeer both provide much needed comic relief.

Kenan Thompson enthusiasm translates nicely on screen, however Cindy Loo a central part of the story is not as engaging as one remembers in the Dr. Seuss version. The audience doesn't know why The Grinch hates Christmas. So in the end, the kids may enjoy the movie, but it won't turn into a holiday must for years to come.

Diversity- 6 it has an international cast and two African Americans as significant characters.

Scale-6 The kids will like it, for the parents, it can seem long at times.

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Review of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

by Kathia Woods

There have been many retellings of E. T. A. Hoffmann's the Nutcracker this latest one has all the major players but with a new outcome.

We still have Clara, the Sugar Plum and of course the Nutcracker.

The music of Tchaikovsky's is ever so present but if you're coming to see the version of that is presented to you via your local ballet company brace yourself for significant changes.

Our Nutcracker prince is a captain played by newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight. He's Clara's, right hand man. Jayden is enchanting and everything you want in a hero. Eugenio Derbez as Hawthorne, Jack Whitehall as Harlequin and Omid Djalili as Cavalier provide the comic relief. Mackenzie Foy is a great heroine. The costumes and the alternative universe are mesmerizing. It's Disney after all.

The Nutcracker purist receives some ballet in this movie via Misty Copeland and in the end in the pas de deux.

The area that needed better development was the villain via Louise aka the Sugar Plum Fairy played by Ellie Bamber. There are also some miscues such as the introduction of Mother Ginger. The Key to viewing this movie is to jump along for the ride. Nutcracker and Four Realms is an excellent holiday distraction for the younger members of your family but entertaining enough for the adults. So take your little ones to see this new twist on a timeless story.

Scale- 7 for the stunning visuals.

Diversity - it receives an 8. We have a variety of insignificant characters of color as well as age.

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The Hate U Give

by Kathia Woods

In this climate of police vs. community "The Hate You Give" is adding another layer to the national conversation. "The Hate You Give" centers around Starr Carter a sixteen-year-old student-athlete. During the day she spends her time at a predominately white school while in the evenings she resides in her black neighborhood. Like so many young black people Starr must assume one persona at school and another in her home surroundings aka codeswitching.
Amandla Stenberg gives a dominant performance as Starr Carter. We feel everything Starr experiences in this movie. Her family life like so many in the Black Community is blended but built on love.
Her father is an ex-gang member portrayed powerfully by Russell Hornsby. Regina Hall gives a strong performance as Lisa Carter, Starr's mother.
Algee Smith as Khalil may have the shortest screen time, but his character is the driving force in this movie. He inspires Starr to find her voice.
Lamar Johnson as Seven, KJ Apa as Chris, and Dominique Fishback as Kenya are moving as the supporting cast.
Anthony Mackie as King gives his best performance since the "Hurtlocker."
George Tillman, the director, did an outstanding job of conveying a story that is on the frontline of the news.
We feel Starr's every emotion especially those of us that are black. The drama of being pulled over by the police to the dilemma of whether she should snitch. All of it is intelligently displayed.
The relationship between Starr and Chris, her boyfriend, is complicated but affectionate. He doesn't treat her as a fetish but tries to understand her struggle. He doesn't always succeed, but his love for her is unrelenting. The scenes between them convey intimacy and respect.
I highly recommend "The Hate You Give." Take the younger members of your household with you when you see it the conversation that pursues is sure to turn into a great teaching moment.

Diversity- 10- the black characters portrayed as individuals not stereotypes.
Scale - 9 This movie is excellent.

 

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A Star Is Born

by Kathia Woods

"A Star is Born" is the modern-day version of a classic tale of an established artist and one on the rise. "Star is Born" 2018 is the fourth version of this tale. This time starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga as the two star-crossed lovers.
Bradley takes the turn as the complicated/alcoholic Jackson Maine. For Cooper, this role shows growth not only is he starring in this movie, but he co-wrote the screenplay, directed and co-wrote the soundtrack. Lady Gaga is Ally, a struggling singer/songwriter. A couple of things are evident in this retelling. Copper and Gaga have real chemistry. She is charming. The stripped-down version of Gaga is vulnerable. Cooper, in my opinion, gives his best performance. This role allowed him to expound beyond playing the handsome man. He is giving us layers. Jackson Maine is endearing in one moment and the next trying. Cooper gives us honesty especially in the scenes when Jackson's alcoholism in full display.
The Unsung hero in this movie is Sam Elliot as Bobby Maine. Elliot has been acting for a long time, and hopefully, this role will get him his much-deserved recognition.
Dave Chappelle as Noodles gives his best performance on the big screen. Notable mentions go to Andrew Dice Clay as Ally's Father and Anthony Ramos as Ramon.
The cinematography is also breathtaking, especially the concert scenes.
The accompanying soundtrack is sure to supply several hits that will stay with us long after the movie leaves the theater. All in all "A Star is Born" is an entertaining movie well worth the hype.

Diversity- 7 its featured Dave Chappelle, Lunelle and Anthony Ramos.

Scale- 8 it’s hard to make a new version when previous incarnations starred Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland. This movie stands on its own

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Review of Night School by Kathia Woods

Night School is the latest entry from Kevin Hart as he continues to thrive for comedic dominance. This time his dance partner is Tiffany Haddish. Haddish is coming off a hot year filled with wins including an Emmy win. Overseeing this combination is Will Packer. The same Will Packer that gave Tiffany her big break. One would think that with such a successful team the product would be better; however, it pains me to say that Night School is not that product.
Kevin once again is playing "Kevin" even with a character name of Teddy. He's once again down on his luck using his charm and savvy to gain access and appeal. This may have worked when we were first introduced to Kevin's humor but grows old the more, we see it. The premise of this movie had potential. This was Tiffany's opportunity to stand out as a comedic lead with her name above the marquee however neither Hart nor Haddish delivered. The charm of this movie is the supporting crew or better said his Night School classmates. They are the comedic driving force providing the funny. Mary Lyn Rajskub is delightful as the teen mom turned suburban housewife. Romany Malco another actor that has worked with Will Packer is hilarious as "the woke" Jaylen. Rounding out this band of misfits are Rob Riggle, Taran Killam as Teddy's old high school rival now principal, Fat Joe as an inmate, and Al Madrigal as Luis the waiter/lyft driver. They are ones that deliver the comedic relief. As delightful as they are, they can't save this movie. We have seen this stick before. The love story is unnecessary and the high school speech long and winded. Kevin Hart has made enough films and been around long enough. He is a bona fide draw, but amongst all those elements, he's yet to figure out how to put together a good movie not just a bunch of cheap stick. If the goal as an Entertainer/Comedian is to climb to the level of an Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor Kevin needs to become a better actor and start giving us something memorable. His fans are incredibly loyal, and they deserve a better movie. There's been a lot of talk amongst funny, especially amongst black comedians. Although comedy is subjective, I think we all can agree that Kevin has achieved the ability to put butts in the seat, but he's a long road from giving us an experience. The two legends he's chasing gave us that. Tiffany Haddish is still at the beginning of her movies career and did all she could with this role. In the end, we have an overhyped movie that fails to deliver.

Diversity - it gets a 10 it has women and minorities

Scale 1-10 - the Overall movie gets a 5 for the supportive staff


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Review of Smallfoot by

Kathia Woods

Smallfoot is the delightful story about a group of Yeties living above the clouds. They live under a code of stones that set the rules for the young civilizations. The Stone Keeper voiced by Common is the enforcer of those rules. Smallfoot is a great adventure that features an unlikely hero who dared to dream more significant than his village. Migo voiced by Channing Tatum was all set to become the new gong until he discovered a small foot aka human. Urged by Meechee and her band of misfits he embarks on a journey of proving that his small foot sighting was not an epiphany. This a great adventure for the little people in your household. The lesson told through song and animation encourages young people to dream bigger than their environment. Its ok to respect your traditions but it's essential to expand the conversation. This movie does a great job of conveying that message in a fun and positive way. The heroes are the outcasts like so many children but find camaraderie in each other and the search for a small foot. The other is that being yourself is all you need. Percy is an example of what happens when you pretend to be someone you’re not for the sake of popularity. I especially enjoyed Zendaya as Meechee. She is delightful as the young heroine willing to challenge her father. She is determined to connect with a small foot despite her upbringing. In this time where there isn't that much material offered for young audiences, this movie fills that void. Is it innovative regarding bringing a new experience to the animation genre? No, but it’s still an excellent adventure for the youngest of moviegoers.

Diversity- 8 Casting Zendaya, Lebron James and Yara Shahidi and Gina Rodriguez play an integral part in the story
Scale - 8 Overall good family fun

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Review of White Boy Rick by Kathia Woods

There have been many movies made about the drug game. This movie is the story of Richard Wershe Jr. a young teenager living in Detroit in the 1980's. It chronicles his journey from police informant to drug dealer. The story is an intriguing one because traditionally these stories tend to center on African Americans.
There are many aspects to Richard. He is at times very mature, others naive but mostly loyal to his family. The relationship between him and his father is a vital part of his story. Matthew McConaughey plays Richard Wershe Sr. It's their bond that is at the center of Rick's problems. Richard Sr selling of firearms is the ruse that is used to pull Rick into becoming an informant.
Ritchie Merritt portrays young Richard Wershe Jr. He does an excellent job of embodying the Detroit accent. But what we needed is more backstory about him. Other than living near predominately black people what attracted him to the culture? Why was he so readily accepted? The movie did an excellent job of capturing the era. The landscape of Detroit was authentic. The director used the footage of the Hearns-Leonard fight intelligently.
There is a story within a story in this movie, the justice system. Several things stood out. How do police officers/FBI agents rope a minor into becoming an informant without parental consent? It also demonstrated how the system is not an even playing field. It takes advantage of the poor and disadvantaged. In this case, the city was vile with corruption and needed a scapegoat that scapegoat became Richie Merritt. How does a man that committed a nonviolent crime sits in jail for 30 years is very troublesome?
This movie was better than expected. I enjoyed the story. The film did an excellent job of capturing the era. The landscape of Detroit was authentic. We needed more context about Ritchie, the person. There was also a little misstep with the music selected for the era. This movie was entertaining and gave a new aspect of the drug game. In the end, we have another young life evaporated by the powers of being.

Diversity- It gets a 9 for diversity, but that is expected.
Scale- It gets 8 out of ten for the performances and overall story.

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Review of Predator by Kathia Woods

The latest installment of Predator takes on a comedic twist for this outing. Gone is man vs. alien aspect, but this time it seems its military vs. scientist vs. militia. The new hero in this chapter is Quinn McKenna. He has a military background and a gifted son. Both components are the backdrop for this series. One would think this would give this movie a refreshing point of view however it does not.
The franchise was built on military specialist using their superior skills to contain the predator. This time the specialists are labeled mentally challenged. This movie had a lot of humor intertwined throughout the story, but the fan base doesn't come to see a comedy but an action movie. It was nice seeing Sterling K Brown portraying a bad guy; however, the material didn't make him very intimidating. Olivia Munn had the potential to be a great Heroine however she was underused. The unsung heroes in this movie are the mentally challenged crew. Trevante Rhodes, Keegan Michael-Key, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera. We needed more content on them other than small clips. This movie was missing more action. There were too many moments of predictability. Predator is supposed to be scary but the fact that they didn't even want to call him Predator is problematic. There was zero suspense. This mission was happenstance, unlike the previous chapters where it was an act of bravery. Where was the fear? Also, this predator wasn't very intimidating. I understand what the director was trying to do however we are on the fourth installment of this franchise and he made this beast boring not frightening. He was trying to inject humor, but it came across as cheesy. The special effects were also overused. The new Hollywood philosophy when a story isn't terrific is let's use a ton of effects to cover it up. In this case, create futuristic dogs that are supposed be killers but turned into pets. One would think with this much talent; the movie would be better. Maybe next time they should watch the first one before making any more so they can understand the premise of the story. In the end, we have a movie filled with bad one-liners and bad special effects

Diversity- 9 - This movie had a female lead, African-American and Latino leads.
Scale 1-10- I give this movie a 5 because it was just a mess.


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Review of Kin by Kathia Woods

Kin, the latest movie by directors Josh Baker and Jonathan Baker, is being marketed as sci-fi movie however it’s a film about Family. It's about the relationship between father, son, and brothers. It has elements of sci-fi that interplay in the story. Dennis Quaid plays the old school patriarch Hal Solinski. He raises his sons Jimmy and Elijah with tough love and old school values. Elijah is Hal's adopted son portrayed beautifully by Myles Truitt.
. I enjoyed his journey but needed more story building. How did he come into this family? What made the Solinski's adopt him? I also needed more details on how Elijah was able to retrieve this futuristic weapon. Was this the first time he had an inkling that he may be a little different?
Jimmy portrayed by Jack Reynor is immature. He doesn't think about the consequences of his actions. He has ample opportunities throughout this movie to grow, but he doesn't. I kept wanting to scream at Jimmy to grow up. Elijah may be the little brother, but he's more mature.
James Franko portrays Tyler. His performance as the villain is predictable. The bad hair, accent, and clothing bring nothing new to the table. His reaction to his brother's death is expected hence the interaction with the brothers was very underwhelming. Also if this is supposed to be a sci-fi movie, it needed more sci-fi moments thus for me it’s more about the complexity of family. The saving grace is Myles Truitt. He's worth the price of admission of this movie. If there is a part two, then the directors must give him better material. Zoey Kravitz was inserted to have a female distraction, that's it. The end was surprising, but it couldn't salvage the movie. In the end one must ask were we made to sit through the boredom only to set up a sequel.



Diversity – it gets a 6. I liked that an African American Boy was the hero. I wish Zoey Kravitz character had a purpose.
A scale of 1-10- I give this movie a sad 5.


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Operation Finale

by Kathia Woods

Operation Finale is a new incarnation of the story of the capture of Adolf Eichmann a former SS officer also known as the architect of the final solution.
This version stars Oscar Isaac from Star Wars fame as Peter Malkin and Ben Kinsley as Eichmann. In this retelling, we learn more about the team that captures Eichmann. It facilitates the connection of Family members lost in the camps with their mission. Some want to approach the manner with aggression while others want to pursue due process. Either way, the goal is justice.
There are some challenges with this movie. The opening scene does not tie into the film. Also, there was a disconnect from why Malkin character was the dark sheep of the team. I can understand what Chris Weitz mission was with this movie, but there were moments when we needed to know more but received no explanation. An example of this unclarity is Klaus. He calls Eichmann his uncle but then later its revealed that’s his father. The viewer is made to believe that Klaus accepts his father role in the war wholly and embraces being a Nazi as a good thing. Another one is his girlfriend Sylvia whom he meets in a movie theater interesting enough during a viewing of “Imitation of Life.” Sylvia like Annie is passing. Instead of as another race but another religion. Why would a girl raised in humanity embrace the evil history of the fatherland want to date a boy that is racist?
Lastly, how is Argentina allowing meetings of Nazi party members with the support of the government? The questions arise already at the beginning of the movie. The overall issue with this is the film is that we leave having more questions than answers. Here is one of the most villainous war criminals of WW2 but if you're not familiar with the story are still uninformed about his being. Also, why was this trial held in Israel over Germany or the Hauge?
Concerning performances, Isaac is stable as Melkin. Ben Kingsley is a gifted actor was not the best fit as Eichmann. Eichmann is German, and Kinsley retains his British Accent throughout the film.
These stories are important because we if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Diversity- 5 I felt we could have had more understanding of the Jewish culture and why it was so crucial to all to capture this man. We received generalities but not specifics.
A scale of 1-10= 6

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Alpha

by Kathia Woods

There have been numerous movies about Man’s early days. The latest entry into this genre directed by Albert Hughes is “Alpha.”
This time the story centers around the Cro-Magnon tribe and a coming age of a young man trying to find his way in the world, in his community, and to his father.
Keda played by Kodi Smith-McPhee is the young man chosen to go on a quest with the elders. He’s shy and frightens out of his mind about the journey. His father Tau the village chief portrayed by Johannes Haukur-Johannesson reminds him constantly that his performance is a direct reflection of him. Along the route, he shares information with him that later is vital to his survival.
Fellow tribe member Kappa is a little weary about the young Keda coming along. He believes that if Keda weren’t Tau, son, he wouldn’t have been selected to make the journey.

Everything is going along nicely until they encounter the buffalo. Young Keda comes face to face with one but couldn’t kill the animal and pays the price by being thrown over the mountain and left for dead. Tau devasted must explain to his wife the one thing she feared the most.
Keda remained unconscious and urged by his fellow tribe members Tau must accept that his son is gone.
It turns out that Keda survives the ordeal and must overcome his fears. He must learn to trust himself for the first time in his life without the support of his father or tribe. Along the way, he befriends a lone wolf left behind by his pack. He names him Alpha
Together they fight harsh elements, lack of food and wild animals. Many of the skills his father taught him are the reason he survives. The wolf also protects Keda and shows him to believe in himself.

A couple of things one should be prepared for when seeing this movie. It’s not in English but rather a Nomadic language. There are subtitles. One forgets them because this movie beautifully shot. The scenes are just breathtaking. The weather is a vital part of this movie narrative to help convey the challenges Keda and Alpha face.
Albert Hughes has always been a good filmmaker, and with this movie, he shows us that he can tackle different genres and subjects.
Overall, it’s a solid outing.

On a scale of 1-10, it’s a 7
On the scale of diversity it's 4 it could have used some Native Americans.

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Review of Crazie Rich Asians

by Kathia Woods

Crazy Rich Asians a movie based on the bestselling book by Kevin Kwan. It follows the lives of Rachel Chu an economics College Professor and her relationship with Nick Young. On the surface, they seem like any other couple navigating their way through the New York city landscape. Only one major difference one is filthy rich. Nick asks Rachel to accompany him home for his best friend’s wedding unbeknownst to her it also gives him an opportunity for her to meet his family that’s where the fireworks go off.

Nick’s family is unlike any other family not only are they rich, but they are also the economy that makes Singapore go around. Everything about this movie is delightful. Constance Wu has us entranced from the moment she hits the screen, and we are cheering for her from the moment go. Henry Golding has leading man written all over him. Michelle Yeoh is in her element as Elanor Young, Nick’s overprotective mom. She is determined not to let Wu enter her family even at the cost of her relationship with Nick. The comic relief in this movie comes via veteran Ken Jeong as Wye Mun Goh, Nick Santos as Oliver T’sien and Awkwafina as Rachel hip college roommate Peik. This movie is the perfect antidote to all the explosions, and special effect one normally gets in summer movies. It’s dramatic, comedic, opulent and romantic. There are moments when you laugh and moments when you cry. Overall, we all are rooting for Rachel and Nick no matter what. The fact that this movie set in Singapore with an all Asian cast is a bonus, but in the end, the theme is universal. We all want to find that perfect someone that loves every defective part of ourselves. This movie gives us that. See it and bring ten friends. I promise you they will thank you for it.

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Review of Blackkklansman by Kathia Woods



Blackkklansman is the latest offering by acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee. The movie is the story of how African-American police officer Ron Stallworth infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. It all started when he read a recruitment ad in the paper and decided to call. The person on the other end had no idea that his latest recruit was black. This is where the story becomes interesting. Stallworth needs a white counterpart to help him pulls off this ruse. It comes in none other than Flip Zimmerman an undercover detective who also happens to be Jewish. Zimmerman portrayed by Adam Driver is responsible for characterizing the Stallworth who is very charismatically racist online to come to life in the real world. Complicating things further the person Stallworth built his radical repartee with was none other than David Duke. Duke is so impressed by his recruit that he decides to travel to Colorado for his initiation ceremony.
Stallworth who finally has found his sense of purpose at the Colorado Police meets Patricia president of the Black Student Union. Patricia is political unapologetically black and anti-police. Let’s recap by day Stallworth is pretending to be a white supremacist and at night he’s part of the black power movement with Patricia. There are many current themes in this movie. Code-switching the ability to converse in proper English to be accepted by mainstream Americans and jive/ebonies the urban vernacular often used amongst people of color. The complicit behavior at times by white women to use the police department as their security force against black men as seen in the news recently. The spreading of revisionist history to justify racism visa vie to deny the holocaust or holding on to Confederate monuments that celebrated slavery. This movie may take place in the 70’s, but the themes are very current. Spike has always been great by being in tune with the fabric of America. This movie works because although the events occurred in the past, we are still dealing with them today. The ending credits leave the audience with much to meditate. A Prince track and the killing of Heather Heyer shows us that America still has lots of work to do.


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Review of Eight Grade by Kathia Woods

Middle School is a unique time in one’s life where you realize things such as cliques begin to matter. Choosing your friends says a lot about you and your standing. Social media adds on that anxiety. Eight Grade is about Kayla an introverted eight grader who uses YouTube to work on her self-confidence brilliantly portrayed by Elsie Fisher. You feel for Kayla who suffers from social anxiety every step of the way. You want her to transfer the confidence she fakes on her YouTube channel, to translate into real life.
There is a moment in the movie where the mother of a popular classmate invites her to a birthday party. She’s caught off guard by the invite knowing that Kennedy aka the mean girl doesn’t want her at the party. The movie takes an upswing when Kayla befriends her Senior Buddy Olivia played by Emily Robinson. She gets invited out to a mall hangout where she meets Olivia's other friends. Everything is going chill until her father decides to spy on them followed by an awkward ride home. Olivia classmate Riley offers to take Kayla home after the hangout, and in that short time, he seeks to take advantage of her insecurities.
It’s every parent’s nightmare to have one’s daughter naivety taken advantage off. Every part of you tenses up. Kayla is confronted with an unwanted advance. Do you go along, or do you listen to your instincts and say no? It’s a critical turning point in Kayla’s growth.
Luckily there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and she gets a DM from Kennedy's cousin equally socially awkward but charming Gabe. In him, she finds a Kindred spirit.
Elise Fisher is brilliant as Kayla. She carries most of the movie. Kayla reminds us of what life can be like if you aren’t a jock, creative or just good looking. She shows us how social media often can be a cover to hide your fears. If you’re not popular in real life don’t worry you can be popular online. If you don’t have friends, you can make up the gap with followers.
Bo Burnham did a fantastic job of shooting this movie in a way that makes you feel like you’re going on this journey with Kayla. Most importantly he gave us a reminder to teach our children to be kind, to encourage them to find their tribe and that middle school does not define you.


Diversity- We give this movie an 8 for having a female lead. It lacked diversity regarding other races which are unacceptable even for a middle school suburban environment.
On a scale of one to 10, it gets a 9. Don’t be surprised if Elise Fisher is in the mix when award season comes around.

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Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot- by Kathia Woods



Is a story about the life of John Callahan. Gus Van Sant wrote the screenplay as well as direct this biopic. Joaquin Phoenix plays the title role and Jonah Hill his spiritual advisor.
The story depicts how Callahan’s alcoholism led to him being paralyzed and ultimately opening his career as a cartoonist. The movie is under the Amazon Studios umbrella and made its debut at Sundance. Jack Black portrays Dexter the driver responsible for his paralysis. This is a story about redemption. A story about a bad incident helping an individual face his demons. Phoenix is a real-life complex man, but his complexity makes him a great actor. He gives you range in this story, however, there are some challenges. Such his character John Callahan dealing with his disability. We don’t receive an honest opening on how he’s facing the fact that his alcoholism is the cause of his disability, not Dexter. The fact that he’s been using his childhood trauma to justify his drinking. Yes, one’s mother abandoning is horrible however it doesn’t excuse the disregard he shows towards life, and loyalty. He finds moments of clarity by joining AA. That’s the place he meets Donnie Green played by Johan Hill. Hill is a gay recovering spiritual alcoholic that invites Callahan to join his sponsor group. In that group, he’s interacting with characters that he may not otherwise talk too. Beth Ditto as Reba doesn’t pull any punches when he doesn’t share in group therapy. The rest of the group is made up of Mark Webber as Mike a vet, Ronnie Adrian as Martingale a homosexual revolutionary poet, Kim Gordon as Corky a suburbanite and Udo Kier representing the straight male. Rooney Mara portrays Phoenix’s love interest. She’s Swedish, blond, alluring and somehow finds Callahan sexy. There was an opportunity to show intimacy between an able-bodied person and a disabled person, but it lasted no more than five minutes.
Joaquin Phoenix is stellar however I find myself asking questions such as are his disability as well as the alcoholism being dealt with at the same time. Why don’t we get a better understanding of his childhood or why his mother abandoned him? Also, how did his art help him recharge? Was he a regular cartoonist at a paper or did he publish a book?
This movie gave us great performances but left so many unanswered questions.
On a scale of 1 through 10 I give it a 7 because of Joaquin Phoenix
Diversity a 3 because we had one black guy and 2 gay characters

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Skyscraper

by Kathia Woods

Skyscraper is the latest installment in Dwayne Johnson 's catalog to remain number one in the action genre.
The movie commences with Will Sawyer than FBI agent losing his leg during a raid. Will Sawyer Dwayne Johnson's character recuperate from the tragedy and marries the Navy Surgeon that operated on him? They have two adorable children relocate to Hong Kong where he works as a security expert for the latest high rise. It all sounds elegant and fairytale-like, but there is a twist. A hint comes early, why was Sawyer’s startup security company hired out of thousands better equipped well it’s the old hook up. His former teammate Ben referred him. Will is grateful for the opportunity but fails to recognize that it’s a set-up.
Let's discuss the positives about the movie. Visually it's stunning. The Pearl, the building all the huff is about indeed looking like the 9th wonder of the world. Everything is sleek, modern and computerized. There’s no bad view. Neve Campbell plays Sarah Sawyer Will's wife and it’s nice to see her attached to a big budget film like this. The action sequences are breathtaking, and the special effects aren’t overused. The Asian Actors converse in Mandarin instead of English when talking amongst themselves and switch quickly to English when speaking with the Anglo Characters. May seem like a small detail but essential seeing that the story takes place in Hong Kong-China.
All good things must come to an end. Let's discuss the elephant in the room, Dwayne Johnson, portraying an amputee. One moment he can’t run but the next he’s leaping buildings. Also, are you supposed to use a mechanical leg to hoist yourself up with or is that for emergency use only. I am a non-disabled critic, and I cringed at the sight of that.
It was great to see so many Asians Actors in a movie and not just as bad guys, but as heroes, however, they were grossly underused. I would have liked to see them more involved in getting a handle on things.
Was I the only person that felt that Neve Campbell should have been more equipped to kick butt She is a former Navy surgeon that was deployed to the middle east, yet she can’t fire a gun or do any hand to hand combat?
The whole former friend betrayal scenario was very predictable. Also, we knew immediately who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. The premise was also not a new one seeing we have seen this in a much better version in Die Hard.
The whole idea that is lacking with The Rock’s movies is that there isn’t any character development or real story. We keep coming because we like the persona that’s Dwayne Johnson, but he gives us nothing to make us stay. At some point, he’s going to have to provide us with a complete movie. Rawson Marshall Thurber must accept responsibility for this horrendous story. He gave us great visuals but forgot to provide us with a story. We all love a good hero, but there is a fine line between movie magic and ridiculous.

So on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a five because of the action.
As far as diversity it gets a seven because the Asians didn’t have much involvement, only one brother, and Neve deserved to have some weapons in her arsenal.

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Review of Sicario

by Kathia Woods

Sicario-Day of the Soldado is the follow up to the 2015 Thriller. This time there is no Emily Blunt, but Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin are back for another ride. This time out the enemies are the Mexican Cartels who are participating in Human Trafficking. Matt Graves – Josh Brolin calls on operative Alejandro Gillick- Del Toro when terrorist is amongst those trafficked. Kidnapping the child of a Top Kingpin was meant to initiate cooperation but turns into a failed plan leaving the child with a bleak future. The events that follow ignite a wild ride that at times is predictable and often disconnected.
We know what the US Government is going to do and how quickly Del Toro’s character goes from hero to zero. That’s not this movie biggest problem. There is this notion that you can just run through Mexico and ignore that fact that it’s a sovereign nation. You can just come across the border in and out with zero consequences. Both Del Toro and Brolin give solid performances however that doesn’t assist the struggling storyline and unexplainable ending. If there is going to be a part 3 the writers need to work on telling a complete story.

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Uncle Drew

by Kathia Woods



Uncle Drew is a delightful comedy starring comedian LiL Rel. The story revolves around Rel’s character Dax who gambled everything to formulate a winning basketball team for the Rucker. The league is supposed to help him eliminate a middle school mishap however before Dax gets an opportunity to redeem himself his star player is enticed away by Mookie the middle school rival.
Dax girlfriend Jess played by Tiffany Haddish sends him backing when she discovers his misfortune. Soon young Dax finds himself without a team, home and girlfriend. He visits the barber shop where he’s made aware of Uncle Drew. The most significant play court player in history. So what does he do he do? He looks for this Uncle Drew who ends up finding him. There is only one small matter Uncle Drew is a lot older a lot older. Seeming like a hopeless situation he accompanies him on a road trip.
Dax and Drew hit the highway to put the old team together. Uncle Drew played by Kyrie Irving is delightful. He's a combination of 70's blackness, ladies’ man, and guru. The makeup job at times was a little challenging, but the comedy was on point. Rounding out the Senior Basketball crew are Reggie Miller as Lights, Chris Webber as Preach, Nate Robinson as Boots, and Shaquille O’Neal as none other than Big Fella. Lisa Leslie is Preach's wife Petty Lou, and Erica Ash as Dax's love interest Maya and Boots Granddaughter.
Parts of this movie are predictable, but you're not watching this movie for deep thought. It’s a fun escape about misfits. These Misfits are playing for redemption especially Dax who gets to put behind him that terrible middle school disaster. It’s about Friendship and second chances. So if you’re looking for a comedy with a little feel-good coating Uncle Drew is for you.

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Review of Black Panther

Review of Black Panther- by Kathia Woods

Black Panther is the movie all of us comic book nerds and sci-fans have been debating at comic book stores and chat rooms all over the world. It's the modern-day version of Generation X ‘s Star Wars. The movie version of Black Panther moves a bit away from the comic book, but one constant throughout the movie is Girl Power or in this case Woman Power. Black Panther may be the name of the film, but the Women are the secret weapon. Ryan Coogler managed to do something that many other genres have failed to do, that is to place Black Women of different melanin front and center. The powerful Dora Milaje with its dynamic leader Okoye played brilliantly by Dani Gurira and the effervescent Lupita Nyong'o who plays Nakia a spy is not smoke and mirror but essential centerpieces. T'challa aka Black Panther is the guy that gets to wear the crisp suit, but the women are the pulse and conscious of this movie. Michael B. Jordan takes a right turn on the dark side as Erik Killmonger. T'challa aka Black Panther is elegant Killmonger street smarts which add to his mystique. The hidden gem in this movie is Sterling K. Brown. Although he doesn't have much screen time, his role is pertinent to the storyline. Like many, I was wondering how he would fit into the overall storyline once announced that he was part of the cast. His character of N'Jobu set off a series of events that come back to haunt the citizens of Wakanda. Shuri, the tech genius and M'Baku leader of the Jabari Tribe, played brilliantly by Letitia Wright and Winston Duke, both provide humor in an otherwise serious movie. Overall all the characters are fully developed and vital to this movie guaranteeing that Black Panther will be a massive part of the Marvel movie family for years to come.

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