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Dark Matter (2015)
the show hooked me in the last ten minutes of the first episode. here we are watching six amnesiac strangers and an android weigh their personal morals when none of them know if they even have morals. then we find out a little snippet of the truth - they are wanted criminals.
what i like about the show after watching six episodes is the chemistry that has already formed between the cast. there is a natural, strong leader in "Two". "Five" and "Six" are big brother and little sister. when "Four" speaks, everyone listens. there is a real nice dynamic going on.
this show is like Andromeda/Firefly in the way that the cast of characters includes a stoic warrior, a techy teen, a gun-toter who is always about the bottom line, a female android who is also the ship's consciousness - a ragtag group of dangerous criminals who contemplate redemption at every chance. so are they really without morals? are they really that bad? i am interested. i'll keep watching.
this is one of the better coming of age indies I have seen lately. it made me laugh and cry and afraid.
Common is a powerhouse in the film, he's so commanding - not easy to do when acting opposite Dennis Haysbert (Mr. President/Snake Doctor himself).
and the boy, oh this little boy, Mr. Michael Rainey Jr. I doubt we will see the last of this amazing young thespian.
i highly recommend this film for a bitter taste of growing up in B-more. and of course we get to see cameo appearances by the great Charles S. Dutton - a strong advocate for Baltimore filming - as well as Danny Glover.
Buffy/Stephen King lovers will like this
i absolutely loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer growing up. and Stephen King's stories (one of which this series is based on) scared the hell out of me too. this show is a happy medium.
Audrey, a snarky little blonde, bursts into a small, picturesque town; and, with her arrival coincides a bevy of supernatural problems - "the troubles." Audrey's sidekicks are not as diverse and witty as Buffy's were, but they grow on you. two elderly brothers, two tall-as-church-steeples best friends. there are no other female mainstays, which irks me a little (at least Buffy had Willow).
Audrey is specially equipped to handle the troubles and the series unfolds from this premise with the important questions being "how do the troubles begin?" and "how do the troubles end?" my little brother, who loves all things supernatural, suggested i watch the series. i have been bingeing it on Netflix and what do you know?... i like it. the leading lady can be a bit of a drone at times, but her partners Nathan and Duke keep things interesting. it's funny though, because Nathan is someone who can't physically feel, yet he displays more feelings than Audrey every episode. that alone is interesting.
Black or White (2014)
run, do not walk, to see this film
funny, brilliant, honest script and actors who pull off both harshness and sympathy. special mention to Anthony Mackie, though I know all the critics will give a lion's share of praise to Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner. Mackie (aka the Falcon) delivers a powerful, resonating speech that simply must be heard. the judge was awesome too, absolutely spot on.
i saw this with my mother at the Toronto Intl Film Festival Elgin Winter Garden Theatre. the room was packed, and the crowd was mixed not just racially but generational too. this is truly a universal film despite its title.
i highly highly recommend this film to everyone.
Road to Paloma (2014)
down for the ride
Robert Wolf is on the run and on a mission. along the way we laugh, play and cry with him. we get frustrated. we fall in love. we get scared and heartbroken. what a journey.
i was so impressed with this feature length debut from Pride of Gypsies. cinematography, mood, tone, cast, dialog all fit (though dialog was light). there was deeply felt emotion throughout, but balanced with much appreciated levity. Jason Momoa directed a well-rounded experience. under Momoa's direction, i have to say that Chris Browning (Schaeffer) and Michael Raymond-James (Irish) stole it. they were wonderful and so perfect in their roles. Chris Browning, well, i have only seen him play sleazy characters, so this was a treat to see a different side of him. Linden Chiles (Bob, may he RIP) and, of course, Momoa (who basically played himself) were great to watch. Robert Mollohan (Cash) was...well...you gotta see lol. wish there was more Wes Studi though.
i especially loved Brian Mendoza's cinematography. scenes by firelight, by morning light, by dusk and storm, by flare. i don't believe i have seen such brilliant use of natural light on earthy human beings since "Girlfight". i like the way he fills his shots with equal attention to foreground and background. this could easily have looked crowded, but in a movie with sparse dialog it was smart to keep the eye moving in almost every frame. there were some grainy moments that sort of added to the low-budget flavor of the piece. but then there were shots that looked like they would cost a fortune to recreate.
heartfelt, poignant, relevant...i recommend this one highly to those who care about good stories. if you keep producing this quality (or better), PoG you got me.
a story of lost & found, this is the tale of a biracial woman in slave-hub England who is raised in aristocracy while being excluded from it, and struggling to find her place in society. it's a universal tale of finding oneself as well as a different angle on slavery.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido is not only visually stunning but theatrically breathtaking. all the while she is being still, you can see her mind and emotions running a mile a minute as her eyes are incredibly expressive. this talent is crucial as she portrays a woman navigating a time when restraint was key to acceptance and advancement. she was a revelation.
Tom Wilkinson as Papa was also a struggling soul in this piece as he represented the turbulent political climate into which Belle was born. with the looming "Zong case," he also represented every parent's struggle: how do you explain to children the horrors of this world? and is explaining accepting?
Amma Asante's direction and Ben Smithard's cinematography are reminiscent of "The Queen" and "The White Queen" as this pair play with frame and light and focus to drive us from one thought to another by utilizing every eye flutter, swallow and incline of the head for every character. as much of the story is told through Gugu's eyes as it is through her aunt's smirks, her suitors' dropped jaws, her cousin's hands, the servant's slow gait, etc. i rarely see so much sharing of the screen, it's refreshing. some of the best moments were silent.
"Belle" is a female heroine without guns/whips/acrobatics, but with gripping wit in a socio-political nightmare (hey, Juno!). i ran to see this movie. i recommend you do the same.
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
feel good movie
went to an advanced screening with mom and we were laughing crying and cheering all over ourselves and with the other moviegoers in the theater. i mean, seriously we all clapped and jumped out of our seats. what a treat! the premise is simple: take a self-involved ambitious businessman and stick him with three talented but hungry baseball prospects and they end up changing each other for the better. plus, the cast is superb! Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton and Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal who play their real-life counterparts, wow just wow!
my family loves sports movies and my mother loves baseball movies in particular, so seeing this with her on mother's day was perfect. if you love baseball movies or know kids who love baseball (or any sports for that matter), Million Dollar Arm is a must-see feel good film. it's The Rookie meets Hoop Dreams.... go see it
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
i love this Spider-Man!
casting really is half the battle in movies. the cast was amazing! Jamie Foxx as Electro was comical and earnest making this villain my favorite so far (plus, Electro's animation was beautiful, and his heavy metal inner monologue theme was brilliant). Sally Field showed up in this installment! i saw this with my mom, and SF brought us both to tears. Dane DaHaan is the creepiest most sympathetic Harry Osborn to imagine. i could buy this Spidey and this Goblin as friends who are two sides of the same coin.
i seriously disliked the previous Spider-Man movies (even though set in a different time) because i never bought Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man or any of the rest of the cast for that matter. Andrew Garfield, however, has done an amazing job with my beloved Spidey. He's equal parts brain, sport, and heart - a mixture missing from the previous one.
the story is the other half of the battle. the writing in these two stories have been light years better than the previous versions, making abandonment, inadequacy, and bullying just as important to feature as science and love.
so i must say i really love this Spider-Man. keep up the good work.
The Red Road (2014)
a deep series
watching The Red Road is like patiently watching fog lift before your eyes. little by little we see the shape of the story and depths of these characters unveiled. father and son Kopus, Marie, Jean, and Harold are the most fascinating to discover. they are each deliciously multi-layered.
i think the direction, editing and acting are close to excellent because each scene is drawn out to perfect measure to increase tension or allow for emotional saturation. the only drawback for me so far are the segments dedicated to the star-crossed teenage lovers who may become irksome as forced interjections of sweetness in what would otherwise be a properly moody atmosphere of familial and racial turbulence.
somehow, i like the moody brooding atmosphere of this show. i'm transported by the stillness of the wide shots of woods, lakes and open fields. it's easy to become invested in the place and characters. there is no rush and i like that too. each word is measured, except of course with the character of Jean who is a force of nature in herself, so much so that her ramblings make you dizzy --awesome Julianne Nicholson. Jason Momoa and Tom Sizemore make sinister look good. Martin Henderson is a revelation for me because I have never found him to be particularly impressive. it is also so good to see Tamara Tunie in a completely different light (literally) from her drab post on L&O:SVU.
but if you're looking for weekly action, blood, profanity, sex, and breakneck speed...you won't get much of that here. meanwhile, i am enjoying the slow reveal of illicit activity, emotional disturbance and family drama. i think it's definitely a worthy watch.
Gimme Shelter (2013)
i was expecting a tear-jerker and i got one.
the movie follows 16yr old Apple on her journey to find hope and peace and she finds it in an unlikely place. Vanessa Hudgens' portrayal of Apple was tender and touching and over-the-top at times but still very moving - and believable. Rosario Dawson appeared in a way i've never seen, not just physically, but so emotionally disturbing i felt a visceral reaction when she was on screen. Brendan Fraser was heartbreakingly good in this. when I thought I would dislike his character, I actually ended up loving him. the rare glimpse of James Earl Jones was like a balm in this emotional whirlwind. everyone played so well.
i went to see this with mom and girlfriends. i recommend it highly for girls' nights out or group bonding of any kind. it is a special film about a special group of people in our world. well done.