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40 reviews in total 
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Reggie is the Focus of This Pivotal First Season Episode, 9 May 2017

Like Gabe and Coco, Reggie was one of those characters that was underdeveloped in the movie on which the series is based. In this episode (helmed by "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins), Reggie (played by Marque Richardson, who reprises his role from the movie) is in the spotlight and as result we get a deeper understanding of his character. Before this episode, he was a likable, but fairly nondescript character. To a certain degree he just blended into the woodwork as more of a follower than a leader. In this episode, a traumatic event takes us deeper into Reggie's soul. We also begin to learn more about Reggie's relationship with some of the other characters in the series. This is a pivotal first season episode in many respects. One of the things it does very well is highlight the complex relationship that Americans have with race. This episode will surely elicit strong reactions from people across the political spectrum. It's very hard to be neutral about this one. You are either going to love it or hate it.

The Coco Episode, 9 May 2017

Each episode of "Dear White People" is told from the point of view of a different character. This one is told from the point of view of Coco. As a result, the audience gets a much deeper understanding of her character than was ever achieved in the movie, where she was portrayed as mainly a shallow, hair weave wearing black woman with some self- esteem issues. In the series, Coco is far more complex and fully blossoms in this episode where we learn more about her background. We also learn more about her relationships with some of the other characters in the show. As a result, Coco becomes one of the most complex, nuanced and intriguing characters on the series.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
One Reason the Series is an Improvement Over the Movie, 9 May 2017

With so many characters involved, it's easy for some of them to get lost in the mix. In the movie, Gabe was one of those characters. You never really got a sense of where his character was coming from. How did he really feel about Sam? Was he genuinely attracted to her or did he just have a fetish for black women? How does he really think about the rantings of Sam and the other black people on campus? Fortunately for us, the series allows more time to address those questions. It accomplishes this in a very clever way. Each episode tells the story from the point of view of a different character. Because this episode is told from Gabe's point of view, the audience gains a greater insight into what makes him tick. Unlike most first season episodes, this one spends a significant amount of time with Gabe away from Sam, so we get a better understanding of how he interacts with other people -- both black and white. At the same time, we also learn a lot more about Gabe's relationship with Sam. As a result, Gabe becomes a much more fully realized character in the series than he was in the movie.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Strong Performances by Mbatha-Raw and Adams Can't Save This Woefully Underdeveloped Episode, 27 September 2016

This episode started off with promise, but ultimately leaves the viewer unfulfilled.

What little plot involved in this episode focuses on two women who appear in the same play together, but are in different stages of their respective lives and careers. Sophie (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), still in her early 30s, has a career full of promise. While performing in the play, she's up for a potentially career changing acting role.

Meanwhile, Annabelle (Jane Adams), Sophie's much older co-star, looks to Sophie as a reminder of an earlier period of her life when she was also optimistic about the future.

Unfortunately, this intriguing premise is only given cursory examination. Many details in the story are left for the audience to figure out, making it more difficult to connect emotionally with the material. This is really a shame, because both Mbatha-Raw and Adams are both fine actors who deserve material worthy of their respective talents. This is most apparent with Mbatha-Raw's character, because it is by far given the most time on screen.

As a result, the episode clearly has more interest in Sophie than Annabelle. But rather than go beneath the surface and get to the heart of Sophie's emotional journey in her professional career and her love life, the episode seems more concerned with objectifying the actor that plays her. This is most apparent in a swimming scene. Ostensibly, the scene is designed to use swimming as a way to reveal the character's state of mind, but instead seems more interested in the curves of Mbatha-Raw's womanly figure.

Given what little she has to work with, Mbatha-Raw does an admirable job as Sophie. She gives a finely nuanced performance, but even someone as talented as her can only go so far with the under cooked material. By the end of the episode, so many questions are left unanswered that the audience is left unsatisfied.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Best of the Eight "Easy" Episodes, 27 September 2016

Of the eight original episodes of "Easy," this one is the most fully realized.

The story involves Jacob Malco (played by Marc Maron), a graphic novelist who makes regular use of his personal relationships as inspiration for his work. He mines his private life without apology.

After speaking to a group of art students, Jacob is forced to examine his artistic choices head on.

Unlike most episodes in the series, "Art and Life" has a clear point of view and leaves the audience with something to think about after the credits roll.

Maron gives a very credible performance as Jacob. Among the rest of the cast, Emily Ratajkowski is a stand out as Allison, one of the art students. Andrew Bachelor also gets noticed in his role as another art student. Jane Adams is also fine in a small role.

In addition to its superior execution (at least compared to the other seven episodes), "Art and Life" distinguishes itself in many ways. First of all, it is the only one (two if you count the Jane Adams role in the "Chemistry Read" episode) of the eight episodes to focus on a character that is over 40 years old.

Rather than focusing primarily on mundane matters involving parenting and interpersonal relationships, "Art and Life" distinguishes itself from other episodes because it forces us to look at the role of various forms of artistic expression in our lives.

Significantly, "Art and Life" is the first episode in the series to feature an African American male (Bachelor) with more than a bit part. "Hop Dreams," the eighth episode, is the only other episode where an African American male has more than one line of dialog. This last fact is particularly surprising given that the series is set in Chicago, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States. The city has long been noted for having a large African American population. While half of the eight episodes in the series feature African American women, African American men are largely absent from their lives. African American men are also absent from the lives of the white women in the series.

"Art and Life" is easily the best of the eight original episodes of the series. If the series continues for a second season, hopefully the show runners will use this as a template for future episodes.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Most Disturbing Episode of Series, 27 September 2016

For the most part, this eight episode series created by writer/director Joe Swanberg is forgettable. Two exceptions to that assessment are the episode entitled, "Art and Life" and this episode.

In "Controlada," a young couple receive a surprise visit from an old friend right after they move into a new condo. The friend immediately shakes up the couple's predictable existence, causing friction in the couple's relationship.

Along the way, the teleplay seems to butt heads with the emotional truth of the story, resulting in a very disturbing conclusion.

"Controlada" is unique among the eight episodes of the series in that the dialog is spoken almost entirely in Spanish.

Weiner (2016)
26 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Riveting Like Watching a Train Wreck, 17 May 2016

At first glance, the film seems to be about how a promising congressman from New York destroyed his political career because of inappropriate postings on the internet. It is to some extent, but it is also about how the media can build up someone in one moment and tear that same person down the next. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

"Weiner" begins with archival footage of Anthony Weiner as the liberal firebrand on the floor of the House. Having not known much about Rep. Weiner before the scandal, this was eye-opening to me. Here you really see what he could have become had the scandal not occurred.

From that point on, the film follows the subject from the initial scandal up until the aftermath of his New York mayoral run. As expected, the film shows numerous clips about Weiner during this critical time in his career and the media circus that ensued. However, what really makes the film compelling is the behind-the-scenes footage between Weiner, his campaign staff and his family. You really feel like a "fly on the wall" eavesdropping on some very personal discussions. The film was co-directed and shot by Josh Kriegman, who once served as Weiner's chief-of-staff. Kriegman and his co- director Elyse Steinberg, were given unprecedented access. What does go is so personal and intense that at one point in the film, Kriegman even asks Weiner why he is even allowing them to continue shooting.

"Weiner," while infuriating sometimes to watch, is a wild ride of a character-study filled with contradictions. On the one hand, Anthony Weiner seems to be fully aware of the damage he has inflicted to his career and his family, but at other times appears quite delusional. Seeing "Weiner" is like watching a slow moving train wreck. You know what is going to happen, but you watch it anyway to see how it happens.

This film definitely falls into the category of "truth is stranger than fiction." It's hard to imagine another personality in recent history that is so unfiltered and self-absorbed in his quest for higher office, with the exception of a fellow named, Donald Trump.

This is not just a film about Anthony Weiner, but a critique at how the mainstream media values style and sensationalism over substance. This is evidenced in a sequence that occurs toward the end of the film that must be seen to be believed. In short, "Weiner" is a fascinating character-study and must be considered an early awards favorite.

The Leisure Class (2015) (TV)
30 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
The Emperor Has No Clothes, 4 November 2015

As a general rule, film audiences couldn't care less about what goes into the making of a motion picture. They don't care about the budget, the shooting schedule, or the relationship between cast, crew and the production staff. All they care about is the film itself. Of course, since the ins and outs of production of "The Leisure Class" was revealed as part of the reality series, "Project Greenlight," the "behind the scenes" activity of this movie is of greater interest. The relationship between Jason Mann, the co-writer and director of this film, and Effie Brown, one of the line producers, has been a topic of much discussion. Was Jason Mann an auteur whose artistic vision was being compromised by a producer that was more concerned with completing the film on time and under budget? Or was Jason Mann simply an egoistical brat whose sense of entitlement far outweighed his talent?

Despite the challenges that the project faced, if "The Leisure Class" turned out to be a great film, all would be forgiven. Let's not forget that Francis Ford Coppola was almost fired as the director of "The Godfather," which turned out to be one of the greatest American films of all time.

On the other hand, if "The Leisure Class" is not a good film, the fault lies squarely with the director. While he didn't get everything he wanted (what filmmaker does?), he got way more than one would expect from a first time feature director. First of all, he got to do is own script as opposed to the script that was selected by the production. He also got the additional money to shoot it on film. Also, thanks to Ms. Brown, he even got an extra day of shooting to address some issues with the film. The film was budgeted in the $3 million range, while small compared to a major theatrical release, is significantly larger than the budgets for other first time directors. For example, "Short Term 12," Destin Daniel Cretton's award-winning film, was made for less than $1 million. Kimberly Peirce's "Boys Don't Cry" (which Mann inexplicably wanted to hire Pierce's co-writer as his writing partner on a comedy) was made for $2 million. "Pariah," a first feature by Dee Rees, won a cinematography award at Sundance despite being made for less than $500,000. Christopher Nolan made "Following" for significantly less (and it was shot on film!).

If "The Leisure Class" failed as a production it is not because the budget was too low or because one element (such as a stunt highlighted in "Project Greenlight") didn't work out quite as planned. If a film is compelling, an audience will overlook quite a bit. In most any first feature, one can find shortcomings and missteps, but if the filmmaker is talented, one can usually find some indication of that talent.

To his credit, Jason Mann knows where to place a camera and judging from "Project Greenlight," he appears to know his way around the set. Unfortunately, judging from "The Leisure Class," there is very little else to indicate that Jason Mann has any talent as a writer and director.

The biggest problem with the film is a lack of character development. This is particularly true of the female characters, who are mostly passive and appear to be there only to serve the men. Fiona is woefully underdeveloped and whose behavior is based on the dictates of the script without regard to logic. This is particularly troubling, because Fiona is the obvious access character to help audiences to care about what is going on. In general, the characters don't behave like living and breathing human beings.

Less of a problem, but still important, is a lack of a cohesive structure and narrative. Without a clear sense of direction, the whole film seems pointless.

The film also can't seem to decide if it's a dark comedy, farce or some sort of psychological drama. The result is an awkward mix of several genres.

Last, but not least, "The Leisure Class" is dull and humorless. It Nothing in this film was even remotely funny. It's as if the writers thought it was enough for people with British and high brow accents to say outrageous things to be funny. It's not. For example, when the butler says that someone has "defecated on the Bentley," it's obviously designed to be funny, but instead it just comes across as bizarre. The line also makes absolutely no sense within the context of the film.

Perhaps Jason Mann's experience here will lead to work as a journeyman or "gun for hire." But as an artist, there's absolutely no indication that he's a "Coppola" in the making. If his appearance on "Project Greenlight" is any indication, he places too great an importance on the "look" of the film and not enough on communicating with an audience.

Personally, when I look at a film, it matters little if it was shot digitally or on film. It can be in color or black and white. The image can be grainy, even out of focus at times. I can even tolerate uneven performances. If the story is intriguing and/or the characters are engaging, I can overlook a film's technical shortcomings. The aforementioned "Boys Don't Cry" was a prime example. More technically polished films have been made, but few have its emotional power.

Hopefully, "Project Greenlight" will revise their selection process in the future to promote filmmakers who actually have something compelling to say. The Sundance Institute which has had an excellent track record of nurturing compelling, modestly budgeted artist-driven films is perhaps the best example of a program that nurtures new talent. Over the years, Sundance has developed such diverse projects as "Real Women Have Curves" (which Effie Brown co-produced), "Requiem for a Dream," "Fruitvale Station," "Maria Full of Grace," "Paradise Now," "Love and Basketball," "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Boys Don't Cry."

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A Light, Mildly Diverting Web Series, 5 October 2015

"The Walker" follows Walker, a gay man (played by Rightor Doyle) who has just been cut off of his trust fund and now must find a real job. To make ends meet, he starts working as a "walker" (or a closeted gay man serving as an escort) for wealthy women. This new activity tests his close relationships with three straight women. These women include Roz (Betty Gilpin) with whom he has known the longest, who works "behind the scenes" in the entertainment industry. Then there is Sunny (Carey Mulligan), a struggling actress with a sharp tongue. Finally, there is his flighty friend Dot (Zoe Kazan), who spends significant amounts of time with Walker despite having a boyfriend (Arjun Gupta). All three women (who are also friends with each other) depend on Walker for companionship and emotional support. Each episode focuses on how Walker impacts on their respective lives. The series is like "Sex in the City" without the sex.

The strongest aspect of the material is the chemistry between the four leads. They all interact so well in fact, that the viewer is willing to overlook how little is actually revealed about the characters and their relationships with each other. Also, as a web series, with each episode under ten minutes, not a lot is required to sustain interest, particularly with such an attractive cast. Also featured are guest appearances by people who have appeared on some of television's most popular shows.

However, despite an appealing cast, the viewer is left wanting more. Particularly ripe for exploration is Walker's complicated relationship with Roz.

Of the initial run of eight episodes, the fifth episode, "What It Takes to be a Reality TV Star" is perhaps the most intriguing. It takes a humorous look at the portrayal of gay men in the media.

Overall, "The Walker" should be appealing to people who find themselves in similar relationships to the characters portrayed on the series. For those individuals, they might want to binge watch the entire season. However, for others, "The Walker" is best viewed in small doses -- one episode at a time.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Political Documentary, 5 September 2004

CHISHOLM '72: UNBOUGHT & UNBOSSED is an excellent documentary about a fearless lady and her bold campaign for the nation's top political office. Rather than wait for the "right time," Chisholm stepped into the presidential race in 1972 as not only the first black person, but also the first woman to mount a serious presidential campaign. She also did it on her own terms.

While she failed to win the nomination (that went to Sen. George McGovern, who eventually lost to Richard Nixon), she did incredibly well given the substantial obstacles that she faced. If one were to compare her bid to Carol Moseley-Braun's 2004 bid for the same job, it is all the more impressive. So much so in fact, that you wonder if Moseley-Braun even bothered to study her campaign. If she did, one would think that she would have fared much better.

Unlike Moseley-Braun, Chisholm did not try to downplay the fact that she was a woman or that she was black. To her it was a badge of honor. If anything, Chisholm's campaign had tremendous symbolic value. It served as a test of the "American Dream." The question that the campaign seemed to ask was not so much could a black woman win, but would she be taken seriously as a candidate. The viewer can make that determination after watching this film.

The documentary combines historical and contemporary footage to effectively give the viewer a sense of the political environment that Chisholm found herself in. For those unfamiliar with the campaign, it may bring a few surprises.

The director wisely allows the participants to speak for themselves. This includes interviews with former Congressman Ron Dellums, author Octavia Butler and Chisholm herself.

Overall, CHISHOLM '72: UNBOUGHT & UNBOSSED is a powerful documentary. Chisholm's outspoken nature is a refreshing alternative to the sanitized and overly cautious political candidates that dominate the political landscape today. Irrespective of your political affiliation, this provocative film will stay with you long after you've left the theatre.

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