Archive for the ‘Concert/Film/TV Reviews’ Category

ThePredator

The Predators have returned — and with some terrifying genetic upgrades. Taking place between Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010), this story begins when a kid (Jacob Tremblay) somehow triggers the Predators’ return to Earth. As if that wasn’t daunting enough, they have infused themselves with DNA from other species, making them bigger and more deadly. The trailer also hints at continued tribal factions among the Predators, as the genetically modified ones clash with their smaller brethren.

The tagline promise a “reinvention” of the character from director Shane Black. I’ll settle for the franchise just having a good movie — it’s been awhile. The Predator hits theaters on September 14.

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[Review] Superfly: Mastering the Chessboard

Posted: June 15, 2018 by Ismael AbduSalaam in Concert/Film/TV Reviews
Tags: , ,

Superfly

When you view life as a chessboard, everyone in your circle becomes a pawn in your end game. You can argue its Grade-A psychopathic behavior. But when your trade is the drug game, it’s a trait that’s essential to keeping you breathing. Enter Superfly, the slick and glossy remake of the 1972 blaxpoitation classic. Gone are the pimp suits and 70s slang in favor of a trendy soundtrack (courtesy of Future) and the Mecca of urban entertainment, Atlanta, serving as the landscape. But under all the glamour, is this a story worth retelling?

We begin by being introduced to Priest (Trevor Jackson), a young shot-caller who immediately shows us his presence by talking down a rowdy rapper and two goons that owe him money. The prevailing message, which is hinted at several times over the course of the film, is that Priest’s street success comes from his intellect and foresight over relying on brute strength. Although Jackson doesn’t have the charisma of the original Superfly (Ron O’Neal), he exudes a low-key confidence which shines through whenever he puts someone in check (most notably a unruly gambler at the crap table).

Priest’s motivation is to exit the game while he’s ahead, meaning he needs “one last score” to set him up for life.  Problem is, Priest’s the only one in his circle who feels that way. Eddie, his second in command and played by Jason Mitchell, is a jovial hustler who doesn’t hesitate to use violence when the gang is threatened. And it’s that hair-trigger temper that caused him to sanction an ill-advised hit on a rival crew (Snow Patrol), igniting a street war and putting Priest on the run. Priest’s mentor and coke supplier, the secretive Scatter (Mike K. Williams), is also not interested in financing an exit strategy. That leaves Priest to play the dangerous game of trying to find a direct connect with the Mexican cartel.

Superfly_Q

The antagonists of Superfly are a plenty and give the plot a brisk pace. The aforementioned Snow Patrol, who you can see coming a mile away in their matching white outfits, are mostly just a nuisance. The bigger danger comes from the Mexican cartel, who don’t take kindly to Priest’s retirement idea. The most devious antagonists are Detective Morrison and Officer Turk, two white corrupt cops looking to extort Priest’s crew.

With all this going on, we spend little time with Priest himself. We only get a brief glimpse, via voiceovers, of what drove him to crime. Perhaps the most striking aspect of his lifestyle is being openly polygamous and having the ladies play prominent roles in his organization. Unfortunately, the dynamic between the three will likely mostly be remembered for the awkward shower sex scene.

His actions and motivations also lack consistency. In the opening, you get the impression we’re dealing with a master tactician who keeps his emotions in check. We see that later when he makes his case to the cartel to be their main supplier (even as they threaten to throw him out a plane). But later, he’s in near tears at the death of Scatter, as if he didn’t foresee the inevitable outcome of betraying his mentor and making him expendable to the cartel.

Action-wise, Director X does well with the shootout sequences. They come suddenly with visceral close-ups of the carnage. The problems come with the martial arts sequences – the slow-motion effects are more suited for super-hero films and pull you out of the film (especially when Priest dodges a point-blank gunshot matrix style early on).

Although this Superfly isn’t as unique a character as the hair might lead you to believe, the storyline and characters surrounding him are entertaining enough to hold your attention.

stars-2.5

Blackkklansman

There’s a certain poetic irony in the idea of a black detective going undercover to take down the Ku Klux Klan. No, this isn’t from the imagination mind of a creative writer. It comes via the true crime work of detective Ron Stallworth, who in 1978 infiltrated Colorado  chapter of the Klan by duping Grand Wizard David Duke.

This film boasts an all-star ensemble with Jordan Peele producing, Spike Lee directing, and starring John David Washington (Denzel Washington’s son), Adam Driver (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi) and Topher Grace as David Duke.

BlacKKKlansman hits theaters on August 10.

AntMan_Wasp

If you’re still emotionally drained from Infinity War, Ant-Man and The Wasp are back with a new trailer to lift your spirits.

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This time, we get a little more insight into the villainous Ghost (played by Hannah John-Kamen). After Dr. Hank Pym opened up the Quantum Realm, Ghost stole his technology and plans to use it for a world takeover. The previous trailer displayed her stealth capabilities in walking through walls. This time we see her fighting prowess against Ant-Man (Scott Lang) when she sends him careening through a wall. Speaking of fighting skills, we get to see the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) putting in work and why her presence is essential to taking down Ghost.

Longtime comic fans also get a treat with the debut of Goliath (played by Laurence Fishburne). Apparently, Goliath was an older scientist/hero in the MCU and humorously trades size stories with Ant-Man.

Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters on July 6.

PacificRimUprising_JaegarFormation

It’s been 10 years since the humans won the battle to end all battles against the alien colonizers known as the Precursors. The rematch commences this weekend with the long-awaited sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. The kaiju are bigger, the action more fierce and the weapons far deadlier. But does the larger scale devalue the intriguing story we discovered in the original?

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In a word — maybe. The film begins with us focusing on Jake Pentecost (John Boyega), son of the legendary martyr of the resistance John Pentecost (Idris Elba). But Jake doesn’t start off with the heroic qualities of his father — he’s a shameless smuggler, con artist and womanizer. His shady dealings bring him into contact with a brilliant young loner in Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny), who has built on very own smaller Jaeger from scratch in anticipation of the kaiju’s return. The little sister-big brother chemistry is almost immediate and one of the film’s bright spots. They’re bouts of annoyance with each other over miscommunications (one of which lands them in jail) and affectionate teasing builds to a satisfying climax when the pair has to unexpectedly “drift” in the legendary “Gipsy Danger” Jaeger to stop a monstrous kaiju.

Unfortunately, the Jake and Amara’s relationship is one of the few fully developed characters arcs in the film. There’s a group of ambitious young cadets who don’t get enough time to showcase their backgrounds. Ivanna Sankho, who plays the elitist and ambitious Cadet Viktoria, and Karan Barar’s Cadet Suresh, a nerdy, good-hearted son of plastic surgeon constantly on the end of playful, are the only memorable ones.

PacificRimUprising_Mako

However, the biggest disappointment is the handling of Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi). The original film went to great lengths to develop her character by showing her overcoming the loss of her parents and the protective nature of her adoptive father (John Pentecost) to become one of the saviors of the resistance. Now a high-ranking general, there was a lot of potential in seeing how her leadership style contrasts with her father. Instead, her brief role serves as a catalyst for Jake to finally get his act together and lead the young cadets into battle. For such a beloved character with emotional depth and complexity, it felt cheap to see her screen time so diminished.

PacificRimUprising_FinalBattle

Where Uprising excels the most is with the action. The plodding hand to hand combat of the first film is gone. Instead of waiting until near death to bust out swords, the Jaegers start off their battles with weapons drawn, ranging from chain swords and plasma cannons to cluster missiles and whip blades. The Jaegar are more nimble and can roll with the kaiju’s punches to recover quicker. And this agility led to some thrilling sequences where the Jaegers hit their foes with tag team moves.

Despite the Jaegar-kaiju fights being the centerpiece, the best action comes when the Jaegers battle each other. Early on, the main foe is a mysterious”rogue Jaeger,”  and we get some intense combat with the Gipsy Avenger and said antagonist exchanging sword parries and hand to hand combat.

PacificRimUprising_RogueJaegar

PacificRimUprising_Tian

Of the cast newcomers, the big standout for me as Tian Jing’s turn as the morose Liwen Shao. She’s the leader of the Shao Corporation, a company looking to end the use of human-driven Jaegars. Her ice-queen demeanor is a match for her capitalist ambition and you start to question her true motives as it becomes more and more clear that the recent unrest is due to a conspiracy. As the plot builds, Jing gets the opportunity to add some depth to her character’s motivations and transform a potential stock character to one that could play a pivotal role in the next film.

Yes, I said a third film. The producers have stated if this film does well, they’re hoping to create a full cinematic universe with potential spinoffs. And considering the final scene explicitly states this war will be taken to interdimensional levels, the possibilities are limitless.

Character development issues aside, Pacific Rim: Uprising does its job in moving the plot forward with subversive, counter-intelligence threats to go along with the monsters. Bigger might not be better, but it’s still lots of fun.

stars-3

 

 

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CloakandDagger

And then there were two. We finally have an official trailer for the upcoming FreeForm Marvel series Cloak & Dagger, starring Olivia Holt and Aubrey Joseph. For the uninitiated, the story revolves around two teenagers from contrasting backgrounds brought together by newly acquired supernatural powers. As their bond deepens, feelings of love and the tragic history of their powers further complicate matters.

What are these said powers? Cloak is the living personification of darkness and can use it as a deadly weapon that envelops enemies and manipulates environments. Dagger is his opposite in that she personifies light and uses it to create weapons (as briefly seen in this trailer).

It’ll be interesting to see if show opts for a main antagonist like the Netflix shows, or goes the route of the early 80s comics which focused on the duo combating the drug trade. All questions will be answered when the 10-episode series debuts on FreeForm June 7.

ChanteAdams

In the early 80s, there was no concept of a female Hip-Hop star. That changed with Lolita “Roxanne Shante” Gooden, who emerged from the Queensbridge projects on the strength of the classic “Roxanne Roxanne.” Her story finally takes center stage with the new trailer for the biopic Roxanne Roxanne (March 23).

The Netflix original was written and directed by Michael Larnell, and produced by the makers of Fruitvale Station and Dope. The films stars Nia Long, Mahershala Ali and newcomer Chante Adams as Shante.