Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Movie Review: At the Devil's Door

At the Devil's Door (2014)

Starring: Naya Rivera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Ashley Rickards
Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy
Rating: NR
Running Time: 91 minutes
Synopsis: When ambitious young real estate agent Leigh is asked to sell a house with a checkered past, she crosses paths with a disturbed girl whom she believes is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property. When Leigh tries to intervene and help her, she becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls Leigh's artist sister Vera into its web - and has sinister plans for both of them.

What's up in the world of horror? Very little plot and disjointed timelines plague At the Devil's Door. The only thing that made watching this one better was sharing the torture with Miko. From the very beginning, we were left wondering when the plot would actually begin. The movie opens with a teenage girl making out with a boy who may or may not have been her boyfriend. He tells her that she can make some money by playing a game with a creepy guy in a camper in the middle of nowhere. Sounds like a bad idea, right? After sticking her hand in a weird container, they play three rounds of the shell game often seen on city streets near subways. She wins and is 'chosen' to go say her name at a crossroads so some mysterious being will know what to call her. Oh...and he will call because that's how these things work.

Awhile later, the plot shifts from the girl to another set of girls, Leigh and her sister, Vera. So wait...what happened with the first girl and the creepy guys? Instead, we're learning that Leigh can't get pregnant and wants Vera to settle down instead even though she refuses because she's a wild child artist. Leigh is a real estate agent who is trying to sell a house that belongs to a couple with a runaway daughter. She sees a strange girl in the house and everything goes down hill from there. Oh...it's the girl who said her name at the crossroads. Of course, it is!

This one has more plot holes than a block of swiss cheese. If the prerequisites for demonic attachment were making out, playing a game and saying your name at a crossroads, all of this is dropped after the initial use. It's not a daunted house story so it makes little sense that the demon or whatever it is would  attempt to latch on to Leigh or Vera from visiting a house. If it's taking a cue from Jeepers Creepers with the demon 'sensing' what it wants on certain people, then what makes one chosen aside from bad timing and a working uterus?

Questionable moments continue throughout. If your wardrobe starts talking to you, I can guarantee you that it's not Narnia calling. There were several clichéd moments like creepy kids, overuse of mirrors and dark figures lurking. As usual, stupid choices continue in horror movies. If the babysitter is acting weird, don't leave your baby with it. Just saying. The same goes for leaving your six year old with a stranger. Catalina Sandino Moreno (Leigh) can do much better than this. Even recent episodes of Glee are more unsettling, just ask Naya Rivera (Vera).

Rating: 1/5

Friday, August 18, 2017

Movie Review: Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle (2014)

Starring: Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton, Tony Amendola, Alfre Woodard
Directed by: John R. Leonetti
Rating: R
Run time: 99 minutes
Synopsis: John Form has found the perfect gift for his expectant wife, Mia - a beautiful, rare vintage doll in a pure white wedding dress. But Mia's delight with Annabelle doesn't last long. On one horrific night, their home is invaded by members of a satanic cult, who violently attack the couple. Spilled blood and terror are not all they leave behind. The cultists have conjured an entity so malevolent that nothing they did will compare to the sinister conduit to the damned that is now... Annabelle..

I went into Annabelle with mixed feelings. The doll was featured in 2013's the Conjuring as part of the artifact collection in the home of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorrainne Warren. The doll's story was touched on, but not expanded in the Conjuring. In those brief clips, Annabelle is mentioned as tormenting two nursing students and their friend. Later, the doll makes an appearance with the Warrens' young daughter. I won't go into detail on reality versus fiction in this review, but I was interested in seeing how Annabelle and the nursing students ended up meeting the Warrens. This movie doesn't cover that story. Instead, it offers an original take on how the doll became haunted/possessed before she's given to one of the nursing students by her mother.

John Form and his wife, Mia, are expecting their first child. Mia is an avid collector of dolls and is given one by her husband after a minor disagreement. Two home invasions happen shortly afterward that make Mia feel paranoid and uncomfortable. Who can blame her with everything that's happened especially when she could give birth any day?

Annabelle hasn't been able to capture the atmosphere that the film it's spun-off from had. The tie-in moments, other than the doll itself, is the baby's mobile playing the same tune as Rory's music box. As a whole Annabelle lacks a feeling of dread. Most of the 'scares' have consisted of the typical jump scare or misdirection that is highly overused. There's an effective transition shot that was more neat than scary. Another seen involving darkness and an elevator played on the idea of being unable to escape being pursued by something.

One of the biggest flaws in Annabelle were the underdeveloped characters. Who are John and Mia aside from pretty faces? Why are we supposed to relate to Mia and root for her to save her baby? The neighbor, Evelyn, who befriends Mia isn't really explored either. Her purpose seems to merely be exposition and a convoluted resolution. The actors weren't bad. They couldn't overcome a flimsy script that borrowed heavily on Rosemary's baby. Both films feature blondes, cults, pregnancy and childbirth as well as suicide. The families both end up with strange things happening in and around an apartment. The main characters in Annabelle are even named John and Mia. Rosemary and her husband were played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavates. Coincidence or homage?

Rating: 3/5

Monday, August 14, 2017

Movie Review: Intruders (2011)

Intruders (2011)

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Starring: Clive Owen, Carice van Houten, Daniel Bruhl, Pilar Lopez de Ayala, Ella Purnell, Izan Corchero
Rating: R
Running Time: 100 minutes
Synopsis: Two children living in different countries are visited nightly by a faceless being who wants to take possession of them.

Don't go into this expecting a jump scare, gore filled horror movie. You won't find that here. This is a slow building psychological horror where you'll find that you have to pay attention. That's a downfall for some viewers simply due to a slow pace. The director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, isn't unfamiliar with the horror genre. His previous foray was directing 28 Weeks Later. On this film, the screenplay wasn't handled by the director. Instead, those credits go to Nicolás Casariego and Jaime Marques.

Luisa and Juan

The film follows dual storylines that tie together. It begins in Madrid with Juan telling a story to his
mother, Luisa, about a monster he calls Hollowface. This particular monster wishes to be loved and thinks he can achieve that by stealing the face of a particular child. Juan begins seeing this monster. Is it just a story or is his monster real?

At the same time, we're introduced to Mia in London. She finds a wooden box in a tree at her grandparent's house. In the box, is an unfinished story. Mia begins to tell the story, adding on to it as she goes along. Shortly afterward, the monster begins to appear in her bedroom. Hollowface has decided to take Mia's face instead. Both parents, Luisa in Madrid and John in London, have begun to see the monster as well. What is going on with both families?

John and Mia

I was instantly intrigued as a writer. The most frightening things for me as a child were the things that I had created in my own mind. The idea of a monster created in the mind of a child coming to life was rather creepy. What would happen if all of your childhood nightmares came to life? Another familiar aspect was one parent believing the child and the other thinking it's just for attention. This is what happens to Mia. John believes her while her mother, Susanna, doesn't.

The belief and disbelief are extended to Juan and Luisa as they visit a church for help as his nightmares worsen. Father Antonio believes that something is going on with the family while his superior doesn't. Is this a supernatural problem? Or is this a matter for psychology to solve? While religion is explored with Juan and Luisa, Mia and John are taken to a psychologist. Will either be able to find some help?

As the film progresses, the lines between reality and the supernatural blur. I personally didn't see the twist coming. I hadn't expected it and it was clever. Sure, there were some plot hiccups. I hesitate to call them holes simply because they're more alluded to rather than spelled out completely for the audience. What really sells this film is the acting. All of the actors do a great job, especially Clive Owen, Pilar López de Ayala and the two children. Neither of the children had a particularly long list of acting credits either.

The cinematography is also very nicely done. There are often times when scenes are set up with the monster lurking, but you're left with darkness and clever angles instead. The director knew what he was doing in order to keep that level of mystery up. I think the film could have suffered greatly if the director hadn't kept up that mystery. Keep an open mind and give this movie a chance.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Quick Television Review

Atlanta (10 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 4/5

Being a casual fan of Donald Glover's musical persona, Childish Gambino through my brother, I heard a lot of hype for the his newest television venture. Unfortunately, I have yet to delve into Community, but I plan on doing so at some point as I see gifs of it on my Tumblr feed and heard it's quite hilarious. When I saw commercials for Glover's newest show, I figured I'd check it out and see his acting side. Now, BlipMasta5 has already given his opinion on the show, but I figured that I'd do a quick little thing on my thoughts. Getting into the show took a bit of time for me. While I did enjoy each episode, they didn't make me go "wow, you really need check this out", but there were a couple or so episodes that really kept my attention such as "Nobody Beats the Biebs", "Value", and probably my favorite "B.A.N". The show definitely has a special kind of humor and satire of the world and the black experience through entertainment, so it might not be for everyone, but I definitely enjoyed it and I look forward to checking out the second season.

*Loosely Exactly Nicole (10 episodes) | Status: Cancelled
Rating: 3.5/5

Nicole Byer is a hilarious comedian who makes a regular appearance on MTV's Girl Code, which explores the unwritten rules of womanhood and how to navigate life with a comedic and somewhat educational flair. When I saw commercials for her own TV show, I was quite excited as she was one of my favorite ladies on the show. The show follows Nicole in her day to day life as she tries to make it big in Hollywood, while dealing with intimacy, rent, and close friendships. While I enjoyed Nicole's loud and proud personality and wacky shenanigans, I realized that the show probably wasn't strong enough to attract a large audience. At least, I didn't know anyone else who watched the show in my friend circle. Before putting this post together, I saw that the show was unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) cancelled after the first season ended. Despite the short journey of Nicole's show, I still think it was funny, entertaining, and unique in content as it starred a woman of color who's proud of who she was and aspired to bless the world with her charisma and style.

American Horror Story: Roanoke (10 episodes) | Status: Renewed
Rating: 2.5/5

It's tradition here on Muddy Cult to cover American Horror Story. Buonaventura has made her debut solo review covering this show already, so it didn't make sense to have two full reviews covering some of the same grievances we had with the sixth season. Although, I could easily rant about my issues with the season too, but I will try to condense it down to suit my quick review format and perhaps simplify my thoughts on certain points. Positives: I really enjoyed the new format of the first section of the series, despite giving away the fact that they all survived during this retelling of the story. But I still enjoyed the entertaining story and tension that the storytelling gave us through the "real life" characters and their reenactment counterparts. To some extent, I kinda enjoyed the "Big Brother" portion as well when the actors meet the "real" people and stay in the haunted house together. Their interactions and relationships with each other gave some entertaining dynamics to their horror experience. Lastly, some characters I enjoyed watching were Shelby and Lee with their amusing romantic relationship, the delightful, whimsical Cricket; and the over the top performance by Kathy Bates as Agnes. Negatives: Pretty much everything else. haha I guess I should be more specific. Once again, this season is overstuffed with too many ideas that sound good, but could be left for later. Of course, there were some ideas that should've been left behind as it brought down the quality of the show. There are way too many segment ideas: haunted house, "Big Brother", talk show, ghost hunters. Buonaventura pretty much mentioned this in her review. Some of the choices the characters make sometimes don't make sense like Shelby and Lee's rocky relationship, the lore behind Scathach (Gaga's character), and, also mentioned in Buonaventura's review, the original owner of the house's lack of help later on. There's a lot of open ended questions and convoluted explanations for the supernatural; it's just a mess in short. It's really unfortunate as this season seemed so promising in the beginning, but when you have too many ghost stories (just like AHS: Hotel) and really too many ideas, it gets confusing and less entertaining...at least in a positive perspective. We shall see what this year's season holds for us, aside from amusement over Murphy's usual mess.

Cosplay Melee (6 episodes) | Status: Unknown
Rating: 3.5/5

Here we have Syfy's second attempt at a cosplay based show. I was kinda surprised that they were going to try this venture again, but it looked very promising as the host was the lovely Yvette Nicole Brown. Seeing her time and time again of being a guest on AMC's Talking Dead, I knew our fandom would be celebrated and appreciated with her on board. This show was everything cosplayers wanted from Heroes of Cosplay; a cosplay competition with a Face Off inspired format. Each episode features four different contestants with their own special skill to compete for $10,000 and a different theme, similar to Face Off. The show is split into two rounds: first round the competitors create a prop for the original character, such as a sword, crossbow, or wand and the second round the remaining three competitors get to choose an item to enhance their overall costume design such as a vacuum and assorted LED lights. This show brought enough excitement, construction involvement, and competitiveness that I for sure wanted in Heroes of Cosplay. While there isn't any personal drama or feuding, the struggle is more within themselves and the construction process, which is something that would be hard to fake and I think that's one reason that Face Off works so well; it doesn't depend on the typical person-to-person drama. Of course the highlight of the show is watching each costume walk down the runway. One thing I wish the show did was not make the winners so obvious before the runway begins, but I appreciate the attention to detail in explaining how these cosplayers achieved their end goal, minus the make-up. I'm not sure what the future is for this show, but I look forward to seeing more, especially since it features a range of amateur and professional cosplayers with no Yaya Han in sight.

Strut (6 episodes) | Status: Unknown
Rating: 3.5/5

Since America's Next Top Model decided to hang up its towel...and surprisingly picking it up one more time later on, Whoopi Goldberg produced a show that delved into the lives of a group of transgender models. For the most part, the show revolved around Slay, a transgender modeling agency, with glimpses of the models dealing with personal situations such as along distance relationships, being accepted by their parent(s), and getting back into the dating scene. This reality show didn't just have some of the drama you would expect, but manages to balance trans issues and normal every day issues. In other words, showing audiences that trans people are just people. I really enjoyed watching these models and agents interact with each other on a professional and personal level. The drama wasn't too over the top, I was happy to see ANTM contestant Isis King, and seeing these people compete and converse with each other made it worth watching. I'm not sure if this show is getting another season or not, but I was sad that this show only had 6 episodes. The models really made the show interesting and it was great seeing that them being trans wasn't overly emphasized; in other words, that's all they are is their gender.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quick Movie Reviews

The Awakening (2011)

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
Directed by: Nick Murphy
Rating: R
Run time: 107 minutes
Synopsis: In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the 'missing' begin to show up.

There were some things about this film that really made me question whether they threw them in last minute to add to the running time as they serve no real addition to the plot. Overall, it could have been a decent thriller about a skeptic learning that there is more to the spiritual world than hoaxes. The plot is too full of inconsistencies to be effective. The love interest/sex scene was entirely unnecessary as was the attempted assault on the main character. There were so many things that detracted from the eventual twist that it was entirely implausible.

Rating: 1.5/5

Case 39 (2009)

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Bradley Cooper, Ian McShane, Callum Keith Rennie, Kerry O'Malley
Directed by: Christian Alvart
Rating: R
Run time: 109 minutes 
Synopsis: A social worker fights to save a girl from her abusive parents, only to discover that the situation is more dangerous than she ever expected.

This film suffers even with its big name cast. However, Jodelle Ferland is quite possibly the creepiest horror movie kid. Her creepy acting and deadpan delivery can't save this production though. The biggest downfall is the plot never really deciding what Lily is or what she wants. That's an issue with the writing of the script not Miss Ferland's abilities as an actress.

Rating: 2/5

Don't Be Afraid of The Dark (2011)

Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Directed by: Troy Nixey
Rating: R
Run time: 99 minutes 
Synopsis: A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

I don't care that most people hated this movie. I've seen both it and the original 1973 tv movie. The remake has several key plot points changed; Sally was the wife in the original and the house belonged to her grandmother. In the remake, Sally is the daughter and the house belonged to a reclusive artist. However, the basis for everything else is the same. The scenery is beautiful. The cinematography is what you'd expect from something Guillermo del Toro was involved in. Both films creeped me out. Weird little creatures are crawling around in vents and under sheets. Uhm, no thank you. My skin crawls just thinking about it!

Rating: 3/5

The Ward (2010)

Starring: Amber Heard, Mamie Grummer, Jared Harris
Directed by: John Carpenter
Rating: R
Run time: 88 minutes 
Synopsis: A thriller centered on an institutionalized young woman who becomes terrorized by a ghost.

While not your typical John Carpenter fare, The Ward isn't necessarily bad. It's not going to appeal to your average horror fan. The body count and gore are pretty much non-existent. Even as a psychological horror, there are a few jump scares and misdirection present. Once you get to the twist, the rest of the film seems to make sense. This is almost too little, too late. Regardless, I was intrigued by the twist. I just wish it had been explored in a better way.

Rating: 2.5/5

Red Mist (2008)

Alternate Title: Freakdog
Starring: Arielle Kebbel, Sarah Carter, Katie McGrath, MyAnna Buring
Directed by: Paddy Breathnach
Rating: Not Rated
Run time: 82 minutes
Synopsis: A young doctor in a US hospital administers a powerful and untested cocktail of drugs to a coma victim. But instead of curing him, it triggers a powerful "out-of-body" experience and enables the patient - a depraved and dangerous loner - to inhabit other people's bodies and, through them, take revenge on the bullying medical students who were accidentally responsible for his condition.

Medical students more interested in sex, drugs and drinking get in over their heads cause injury to a creepy janitor and leave him outside of a hospital. While this isn't the greatest premise ever, it's fairly original considering all the remakes we've been expected to enjoy. Arielle Kebbel has an innocent look to her that's easy to sympathize with. There are lots of pretty faces and bloody deaths to satisfy the average horror fan. I couldn't quite get past the plot holes or the weak ending to really enjoy it.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: American Horror Story: Roanoke

Title: American Horror Story: Roanoke
Starring: Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr. Lily Rabe
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Episodes: 10

How psyched were you when you found out that this season’s AHS was going to focus on Roanoke, and GHOSTS!?!?!?!?!?

I was super psyched. My all-time favorite season has always been Murder House. I can’t help it, I love the ghosties! I don’t believe in ghosts myself, but I’ve always always always been super into ghost stories. They’re like little history vignettes personified. Ah, love it!

The elements were sort of similar to Murder House as well. There’s a main entity that got the whole ghost thing started (ahem, Lady Gaga and the colonists), a variety of ghosts from different time periods, and a super fantastic looking old house.

However season 6 used different techniques from previous seasons that both helped keep the narrative interesting, but also fell victim to a lot of the problems I have with AHS in general.

We start off with My Roanoke Nightmare, an “unsolved mysteries” type show with dramatic reenactments. I love those types of shows so it really resonated and I was into it. However, as we progressed, I noticed a glaring flaw. Anyone who’s talking about what happened obviously didn’t die so a lot of the tension just wasn’t there. Jeez, lady. It’s dark and you’re in a hot tub by yourself in the middle of nowhere?! Oh wait, nothing too bad is going to happen because you are here telling us this story. Carry on.

I think Ryan Murphy realized this, too, because part two had all the actors and their “real” counterparts come back to do a Big Brother type show. Besides not being able to imagine why anyone would have any motivation to go back (especially Matt), I hate reality shows like that. Captivation lost. Having the actors, the “real” characters, and “real” ghosts all together was like too many cooks in the kitchen and created a huge clusterfluff.

I still would have been on board with this premise (after all, it does take care of all that lost tension when you bring every one back), but I swear Ryan Murphy can’t help but play Jenga with his creations. Not only did he add a part three with a “ghost team” but also a part four with a found-footage-Blair-witch thing and a part five with a cops thing and a part six with a 20/20-dateline type thing.

This was too much. What’s the next thing after overkill? This was two stops past that.

I would much rather have had a ghost team and amateur ghost team combination instead of the big brother portion.

I didn’t like the gore, but then again I’m not a gore person. The reenactment gore was over the top and so it was gross, but still palatable. The impaling of the found footage crew and the cannibal rednecks were more realistic and not as palatable. There was gore, it was gross, moving on.

I really appreciated Kathy Bates’s character. She was just so pitiful and at the same time aggravating and misguided as hell. I wanted to give her a hug and at the same time tell her to go home and move on with her life.

Other than her, I didn’t really feel for any of the characters. Instead of fretting over the safety of characters I liked, I ended up rooting for certain characters to die (I’m looking at you, Sidney). This was problematic because a lot of the driving force was supposed to be an attachment to main characters, especially Lee, and it just wasn’t there.

I was disappointed that the “real” ghosts didn’t have much screen time, but I suppose they never really do. Something that really irritated me was that Shelby seemed to know a lot more about the situation than she let on. She and Matt never fully explained how they got out of the house the first time. The ghost of Edward, the plantation owner, supposedly helped them escape so why was he so malevolent the second time around? What gives? It was a loose end that was never tied up and is the most frustrating aspect of this season.

I had high expectations for this season. It really should have been better or at least on par with Murder House, but it caved in on itself with an overabundance of unnecessary plot. Boo.

3/5 stars

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, USA)
(Genre: Action/Comedy)

Spider-Man is a beloved hero that has been in the spotlight ever since my childhood. From the animated series, movies, games, and franchise reboots, he has remained a superhero fixture in the public eye. Yet due to the constant reboots, many speculated that there may not be a wholly satisfying portrayal of the comic book hero. With Marvel finally allowed to take the reins though, I, among others had high hopes after Captain America: Civil War.

The direction they took with Homecoming was refreshing as they decided to forego the origin story most audiences know well. Instead, having him younger as he is in the comics allowed them to still tell his coming of age story while balancing his already well known heroism as Spider-Man. The father-son dynamic between Tony Stark & Peter Parker is also in play here, making this a show of development for both characters. The action is very exciting and quirky as Peter has to adjust to the new capabilities of his Stark made suit all while enduring the threats of his technologically advanced foes. The Vulture was a great villain to present and tied very well into the cinematic universe by motivations and implied connections to future films.

In my opinion, this movie was simply amazing. The school portions really captured a normal teenager's experiences with a few "superhero" encounters and the desire to be more impactful as a hero is demonstrated with mastery. All the stars really gave their all in their performances, immersing you into the world as Marvel sees it. I highly recommend giving this film a watch, since sometimes being a friendly, neighbor Spider-Man can inspire America.

Related links on the web:
Zendaya Interview (Sway in the Morning)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Muddy Cult Monthly Favorites - February 2017 Pt. 2

Here's the second part of our February favorites!

Miko's Favorites

B.A.P - Noir (2016, South Korea)
After a shocking reconciliation with TS Entertainment, I was kinda wary about B.A.P's musical efforts as it didn't seem as strong as their previous works. Of course, time has made me enjoy songs like "Feel So Good" and "That's My Jam" quite a lot, but I was curious how things would go for their first album since the contract dispute. Honestly, I would like to thank Fuse for giving me that extra push to check out the music video for "SKYDIVE" for their little kpop countdown show or whatever, which now that I think about it, I've never seen and probably should check out at some point. "SKYDIVE" gave me everything I loved about B.A.P. that I think "Young, Wild & Free" was missing for me. The music video reminded me of my hyped up feelings when "ONE SHOT" and "BADMAN" were released. It's just very hard hitting and theatrical. Also, Jongup definitely caught my eye. Pretty much "SKYDIVE" gave me hope that I might rekindle my love (strong liking) for B.A.P with NOIR. After the first couple or so listens of the album, the stand out tracks for me were "FERMATA" (which is featured in the music video below), "I Guess I Need U", "Killer", and, of course, "SKYDIVE". These songs definitely showed growth, maturity, and range from their "WARRIOR"/"NO MERCY" days. For years, I remember B.A.P for their strong rap line and intense beats, but the ballads really showed off their vocal lines' development over the years and I can't help but feel nostalgic every time I listen to "I Guess I Need U". It wasn't until later when I finally purchased the physical CD and popped it into my car's player that I finally appreciated fan favorite track "Ribbon in the Sky", speaker banger "Pray" (which is also featured in the music video below), and semi-acoustic ballad "Walk". Overall, Noir is a very solid album that gives me hope that B.A.P is going in the right direction with the image and sound.

Moonlight (2016, USA)
Starring: Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Naomie Harris | Directed by: Barry Jenkins
Before the Academy Awards aired, I already had this movie picked as one of my favorites for the month. It winning Best Picture just solidifies how great this film really is! In rare moments that I want to see these limited release films, sometimes they play in a theater near me and for a week Moonlight appeared about a 1-2 weeks before its home DVD/Blu-ray release. My mother and I took advantage of this time to experience it on the big screen with two different mindsets. I already heard praises from my friends on Facebook and tried to avoid as many in depth (or semi-in depth reviews) to have a fresh perspective. I didn't know much about the movie other than it was pretty much a coming of age story dealing with (sexual) identity with an all black cast. Unfortunately, I neglected to tell my mother that there were some homosexual themes throughout this movie, but it didn't affect her enjoyment of the film. Honestly, when the credits began to roll, I was in awe of what I saw. There was so much to take in, from the film's structure, editing, color tones, camera and sound choices, and the acting! There was so much love and care put into this movie that I was kinda speechless. Moonlight carefully and passionately commented on hypermasculinity, sexuality, stereotypes, and society (everyday environment). It wasn't loud and brash with its message, but simply guided its viewers through this unexpected poetry that gently caresses your mind and holds onto your heart and soul. Our main character Chiron and the people he interacts with make you feel like you know these people; that they're not fictional characters simply existing to prove a point. You can't help but care about them in some form or fashion, whether its positive or negative. There's no way out of escaping this emotional journey with Chiron and wanting more from him in each chapter of this film. In short, this movie is absolutely breathtaking on so many levels! It really gives me hope and inspiration for movies showcasing black talent and going against the typical narrative when it comes to stories in urban environments. I can confidently say that this is definitely going to be in my top five favorite movies of this year. It's a film that's hard to really describe to someone and it should definitely be experienced at least twice to understand the full effect and intent of the creators.

Hate Thy Neighbor (2016, UK)
Starring: Jamali Maddix | Episodes: 6
I've been really loving the VICELAND channel! They've really done great things with its thought provoking and entertaining programming and clearly this show is another win for me. This year's presidential election was an extremely heated one that seemed to divide, or at least make obvious the division, the nation. From religious beliefs to racial issues, it seems that conservatives and liberals have been shouting at each other a little louder these past couple or so years. Here we are now with Donald Trump in office and things are still as heated as ever. So, why not take advantage of the raging debate by creating a show that gives the conservatives and hate groups the spotlight. You might think, "Why should we give these racist ignorant bigots the spotlight? Isn't that counterproductive to the problem!" Honestly, I think they deserve to prove their point and show us why they are the way they are. You know, understanding both sides of the battle. I don't know, I'm just that type of person who likes to hear both sides, even though there's a clear obvious wrong in the argument. So, we have comedian Jamali Maddix traveling the world and following various far-right supporters in the U.S., UK, and Europe. Coming from a biracial background, Jamali manages to take everything he experiences from each group in good fun and doesn't completely lash out on their ridiculous right-wing views, which is the best way to approach this sort of topic. Surprisingly, these groups mostly openly accept him in their activities and day-to-day routines, while freely expressing and explaining their beliefs and goals as group despite Jamali's more open minded, perhaps liberal, and biracial upbringing. For the most part, it kinda reminded me of The Most Hated Family in America series I watched on YouTube, which followed the Westboro Baptist Church. The difference between these two docuseries is that Hate Thy Neighbor features Jamali presenting his experiences and inner thoughts to an audience in an intimate (comedy) club setting to break up the somewhat serious narrative between him and these right-wing groups. In a time when negativity and hate is swirling around in media and politics, I think this is a great show to open your eyes and gather your thoughts on these sorts of groups and kinda learn from them. Hopefully, this isn't the last we see of Jamali in his journey, because I really love this show and everything it's doing with its presentation of the "other side".

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power (2015)
Author: Ryan North
I forgot which comic Squirrel Girl was featured in that I first saw her and fell in love with her, but she won a date with Thor. I think they went to prom or something together and it was quite amusing. Some sort of trouble occurred where Thor's shirt was ripped and he had to defend the party, then of course Squirrel Girl was obligated to touch and admire Thor's glorious abs. At that moment, I thought "Squirrel Girl is every fangirl/boy"! So, I felt the need to explore this adorable and relatable hero in her own comic book and here we are. The story begins with her undergoing a secret identity and working as a journalist of sorts. When both of her lives begin to conflict with each other, her identity is exposed and she has to take on a new life in college. College life can already be a challenge for a normal person, but watching Squirrel Girl trying to act as normal as possible while still assuming her superhero duties was quite amusing and I simply couldn't resist her charm and humor throughout this first volume. It also features Squirrel Girl's first appearance in the Marvel universe with Iron Man and Doctor Doom, which also contributes to the hilarity of her story. Squirrel Girl as a character is quite refreshing compared to her more serious and beefy counterparts. She's a plus size hero that knows how to hold her own physically and mentally with a great sense of humor and I look forward to delving further into her world in the next volume.

Ophelia's Favorites

Miranda Lambert - We Should Be Friends
I grew up in the south. Country music is a staple here. It’s not surprising that Miranda Lambert’s latest single caught my attention when I heard it playing at work. The lyrics are catchy and Miranda’s delivery is very adorable. It’s nice to see that she’s still recording after the scandals involving her former husband, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. The whole album is probably her strongest with songs ranging from the cute of We Should Be Friends to the emotionally raw of Tin Man and Vice.

Zayn & Taylor Swift - I Don’t Wanna Live Forever
This is another song that I keep hearing over and over on the radio. The collaboration between Zayn and Taylor ended up being easily one of her best duets. Their voices work well together.  Please ignore the embarrassing Fifty Shades connection. That movie is certainly not a recommendation!

J - One Reason
I’ve always preferred J and Inoran’s solo work to that of Luna Sea. This song is no exception. It delivers everything that I expected from the bassist. It’s certainly not the best song that he’s ever recorded. That said, I still find myself enjoying it more each time I hear it. There aren’t any frills attached when it comes to J. What you see (and hear) is what you get.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Pryde of a Qveen (2 EP Reviews)

EP 1 - Qveen Herby
(Genre: R&B/Hip Hop)

Richvale Summer 2: Summer of Loverboy - Pryde
(R&B/Hip Hop/Pop)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Quick Movie Review

When the Bough Breaks (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Yay, another black thriller that barely adds anything new to the genre! I don't know. It's hard for me to be excited about these African-American centric suspense thrillers like The Perfect Guy, No Good Deed, and even Obsessed. I'm sure there are others out there that only played on TV. I don't know the title of it, but when they were advertising some behind the scene stuff during I think a BET movie, the plot was very similar. Despite all the cliches of black thrillers, I had a fun time with this one. There was good progression, some plot elements I wasn't expecting to exist that made it a little more entertaining, and for the most part the acting was good. This movie is definitely not a must-see, but it's pretty harmless as a thriller. The crazy are crazier than you expect and the good are sometimes blindly too good, people that is.

The Accountant (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

As exciting as the trailer was for this movie, I still didn't feel pressured to see this on the big screen. I guess my need for action is quite neutral. Nonetheless, I was still excited to see if this movie lived up to the high energy from the trailer. The answer is yes, yes it did. Actually, some things I expected from this movie didn't happen, which in this case is a good thing. There was this good/bad sibling dynamic, a mental handicap, and a romance that wasn't forcefully thrusted in our face constantly. The story's pacing knew when to slow down for us to catch our breaths and when to hit us with the action...most of the time. Sometimes the intricacies of the plot seemed slightly unclear or had too many details, but for the most part I had fun with what was given and was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

This was another movie I wanted to catch on the big screen, but wasn't able to for one reason or another. Once again, I wasn't particularly heartbroken about it, but I knew the book series had been very popular around my job. Leading up to opening day, I saw a few controversial articles criticizing the film for lack of diversity and casting the villain as a black man. I believe Tim Burton commented on the outrage, which changed the success of the movie completely. I couldn't help but keep that in mind as I watch, although I probably forgot about it as I was too busy trying to understand the mythos of characters and situations. For the most part, it felt very much like a young adult adaptation when it came to character design and plot. I thought the kids were interesting and the creatures were a bit scary, but the time manipulation was kinda puzzling for me. I mean it explained a lot why majority of the characters were in that era and our main character was able to interact with them, but I don't think I was completely convinced. With the gradual downfall of Burton's quality, I thought the movie was decent and had some interesting visuals, but I don't think the rest of the series will be adapted any time soon.

Morgan (2016, USA) | Rating: 2/5

This sci-fi thriller had potential to be action packed and...uh...thrilling by looking at the trailer. Once again, this was another movie I wanted to catch in the theaters, but didn't get a chance to, which also ended up being a good thing. The plot had a lot of potential to be something entertaining and exciting, but the execution was a bit poor in place. The dialogue didn't keep my attention most of the time, so I didn't completely understand what the experiment was and the action scenes didn't pack as much of a punch because I didn't care about the characters. It's quite unfortunate that this story didn't hook me in, because it had some good ideas with creating super humans and it all backfiring. Sure, that concept has been done before, but there's a small difference that made this somewhat unique. Obviously, this failed to meet my expectations, despite kinda liking the final reveal, but it tried.

Rogue One (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

Much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I heard nothing but good things about this movie and some emotional comments. I did properly see this in the movie theater and it's possible that I may have enjoyed this a little more than "The Force Awakens". Once again, we're introduced to a whole new set of characters as we anticipate the fall of the Empire through the Rebel Alliance and we have another strong female lead to follow. Honestly, I found the supporting cast more entertaining than Jyn and Cassian. While I did enjoy the chemistry, K-2SO's sarcastic humor and Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus's loyalty towards each other is what kept me hooked. Since this is a prequel, I had fun (with the rusty knowledge in my head) piecing together what was going to happen in episodes 4-6, while our heroes attempted to execute their plan as successfully as possible. Things that are good to also know going into this film, and you're familiar with the franchise, is a slight sense of nostalgia through some of the original cast members being featured in this film through technology! Since the reboot of the franchise, I can safely say that Star Wars is back and ready to take over the box office every year.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fair Shake Review: Nightride - Tinashe

Nightride - Tinashe
(Genre: Contemporary R&B/Trap R&B)

Tinashe was introduce to me by our cult leader, Miko, way back when "2 On" was on the verge of being a smash hit. I was enamored by her style ever since. It carried a cool, confident attitude similar to Aaliyah & Ciara and maintained a voice of her own. After some research, I found that she writes and co-produces much of her material at the time and that was another impressive aspect I found in her artistry. Therefore, Aquarius was my first exposure to a full Tinashe experience and I was left pleased. Her follow up mixtape, Amethyst, seemed to lean more toward the side of Aquarius that didn't interest me though. Regardless, the singles leading up to Joyride/Nightride concept did keep me captivated.

Nightride is the first to arrive to the fans, providing more of the dark, atmospheric mood music Amethyst delivered with a little more polish. That didn't prevent it from experimenting more with the limits of the R&B as songs like "Soul Glitch", "You Don't Know Me" , & "Spacetime". Her lyrics on this project poetically deals with themes such as moving on after a bad relationship, her own convictions, & her will to fight for love. Yet a few songs can bring some groan-worthy lines, for example boys "steaming like ramen soup" on "Party Favors". The tracks all still fit well together with a few short interludes, including the odd "Binaural Test".

The trap infused R&B production of the project definitely provides the soundtrack for a ride through night, smoking optional. For my personal taste, I have to be in a certain mood for this style which hinders its replay value for me. But I do have some I return to often like "Soul Glitch" & "Spacetime" that expand on the sound trap rap has popularized and have interesting vocal performances. My absolute favorite would have to be "Touch Pass" that has such a infectious beat and gives off a Janet Jackson vibe.

For people into artists like Frank Ocean, late Rihanna, & Bryson Tiller, I would recommend giving this a listen. With this project, Tinashe definitely went for a particular R&B aesthetic that a few others are playing around with that they haven't lyrically been as proficient at, save for Frank Ocean. It just doesn't suit my taste as much, though the execution is notably on point objectively. The singles, "Ride of Your Life", "Party Favors", & "Company" I believe are perfect club bangers and the album cuts provide the depth to warrant a purchase for those into this style. Tinashe is set to release the second half, Joyride, this year, though and it's proposed to adopt more of her pop sensibilities. So in conclusion, I must say her voice & writing will continue to have me make the "Sacrifices" to check her out in the future.

Ride these links for more Tinashe:
Company (Official Music Video)
Company Live on MTV (How I first heard this song)
Party Favors (Choreography by Jojo Gomez)
Touch Pass (Freestyle by Danceramous)
Nightride trailer (The song is only in the trailer)
Player (Joyride single?)
Superlove (Another Joyride single?)
Flame (For sure a Joyride single)
Power 106 Interview (During the Joyride Tour)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Two March Movie Reviews (2017)

 Get Out (2017, USA)
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

Get Out has been on my "to-watch" list ever since the first trailer came out. It seemed like a very compelling premise & the fact that it was written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele made me curious. After knowing that Keanu and the success of the Key & Peele series, I was intrigued by Peele's shift to a genre that can easily be ruined by too many laughs. Eventually, the critical praises it began to garner had me nervous that it wouldn't live up to the hype. Therefore, I went into the theater with caution.

What I beheld was a plot that had its small predictable moments and occasional unexpected twists. The dialogue was rather natural in the world it's built upon and brings to mind some racially-centric social issues. The thing is, the race relations in the film at first lead you to believe that discrimination is going be the theme, so an open mind can allow viewers to notice the true angle of the tale. The actors in this film really deliver very real characters and the leads, Daniel Kaluuya & Allison Williams, truly shine in their performances. Peele didn't forget to balance the tension with some laughs from who I'm sure will be a favorite, Lil Rel Howery, though.

I must agree that this was quite a fantastic film. Although you may have to suspend your disbelief a little bit with how the hypnosis affects characters, you can buy into the drama being played out on the screen. If you dig psychological thrillers, I can certainly recommend giving this one a watch in theaters. Since it's not necessarily a horror film, I can suggest seeing it on your own or with friends. I just don't hope it won't make my fellow black folk paranoid around those of Caucasian descent.

Logan (2017, USA)
Genre: Action/Drama

Growing up with the X-Men movies, I grew to bandwagon with Wolverine fans until my critical eye became more mature. X-Men Origins: Wolverine marked where I finally realized that they were entertaining movies, but not technical greats in the screenwriting department. Yet, being such a bandwagon fan led me to seeing the movies to follow in hopes of improvement. I was met with little improvements, but the final film's trailer gave me the most hope.

Logan was created to have all the grit that Wolverine's comic history is supposed to bring & they delivered that with the R-Rated aimed story. The action was as gruesome as necessary and blood-pumping as anticipating. If we put the storyline into question, though, I would say that missed a few marks to equate it to a B ranking. A few motivations seemed a little less worthy of its conviction and some parts I feel dragged too long. Despite that, the plot was rather well done and portrayed well by the actors involved. Dafne Keen, did a good job in action and body language, but the script definitely left her dialogue with more to be desired. The X-Men veterans Patrick Stewart & Hugh Jackman certainly brought their A-game as their chemistry was as great as ever.

In the superhero genre, I can say with confidence that this is a welcome addition to the collection. It's, in my opinion, the best solo Wolverine movie in the franchise because I feel it does the best to humanize this force to be reckon with. That's what makes a fantastic superhero movie in my mind, when you can root for the hero and still feel that you can relate to such extraordinary beings in the process. If you like these types of movies, I couldn't recommend it higher. Just be aware that the R rating is correct as the gore and language is very present. Hugh Jackman can finally put away his claws for good, and after this film I believe it's well deserved.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quick Movie Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016, USA) | Rating: 2.5/5

I think everyone's aware that Tim Burton's take on the classic tale of Alice in Wonderland had some...somewhat mixed reviews. I think most of the opinions I've seen and heard have been mostly unfavorable, but I thought the movie was alright. I admit it had some silly moments and Burton made some bizarre choices, but for the most part, I wasn't too mad that I saw it in theaters with my mother. When I heard that Burton was making a sequel, I kinda rolled my eyes to the idea, but intended on seeing it at some point. I halfheartedly tried to see it on the big screen, but ended up waiting until it was released on DVD. For most part, I thought the sequel was unnecessary. It barely connected to the first movie and it mostly focused on Johnny Depp's character as the Mad Hatter. Any silly parts from the previous movie seemed to be upped in the sequel, which usually fails to gain too many laughs from myself. There are some visual elements that aren't that bad, but overall, it's not that memorable of a movie and I still wonder why Disney and Burton bothered to create a sequel in the first place. The movie isn't terrible, but it's definitely nothing special.

Ghostbusters (2016, USA) | Rating: 3/5

One of many controversial movies of 2016 and really I have no idea why people were so upset over it either. "Ruined childhoods" is a phrase I hear too often when it comes to Hollywood taking liberties with old (or nostalgic) properties, when really they can't change the past. There are good and bad effects when Hollywood does decide to bring back nostalgic properties, like exposing a new generation to it...for better or worse. Of course, hardcore fans of nostalgia tend to take things too seriously and unfortunately this movie was subjected to that. There was so much debate about this movie and its critics that had to deal feminism, sexism, and of course the whole "ruining childhoods". Obviously, I was not phased by this. It had potential and it looked fun despite the cries of nostalgic fans (and also the asshole racists harassing Leslie Jones). One thing I agree with the critics I follow on YouTube is that it does retread the same story from the first movie, but I mean you can pretty much say the same thing about Rogue One. Anyway, I thought the movie was rather fun and entertaining. I did enjoy Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon the most out of the cast. They were definitely my favorite characters in the movie. I also enjoyed the little cameos here and there too. Overall, I wasn't turned off, offended, or anything by the existence of this movie. In fact, I'm looking forward to potentially having more Ghostbuster movies with this cast. Sure, it's not perfect and it's not your childhood's version of Ghostbusters, but it doesn't ruin the franchise in the least to me.

Doctor Strange (2016, USA) | Rating: 3/5

Closing out the year for Marvel, we have this lovely visual treat that takes a slightly different direction with its presentation. Since jumping into the comic book scene, I still wasn't all that familiar with Doctor Strange's character. The comics I read that he appeared in had a very brief appearance with little to no backstory or information on him. The only thing I knew was his appearance, but after the fact, I have read one of the newer comics. What makes this movie different compared to previous Marvel entries is the pacing and seriousness of the story. Strange is quite the egotistical character (see Dr. House) and he isn't the most likable character either, but somehow along the way, you manage to root for his surprising fight with Hannibal Kaecilius and really himself. The pacing could be a little slow in places and may turn off some viewers with its terminology and mythos, but I thought it was explained well enough for you to hop into this new world of the Marvel cinematic universe if you're not familiar with it like my mother and myself were when we watched it. I thought the visuals were pretty good, I enjoyed the supporting characters especially Wong and Mordo, and now I kinda wonder how the Ancient One was originally in comparison to Tilda Swinton's performance, which was...okay...? for the most part I suppose. Overall, not my favorite Marvel live action movie, but I look forward to seeing the egotistical Doctor Strange interact with Thor and the gang in his third installment.

Moana (2016, USA) | Rating: 3.5/5

I'm not sure, but I want to say that my mother was more excited about this movie than I was, but it still looked quite intriguing to check out with her. I wasn't opposed to seeing it in the least, but I think some Disney movies kinda lost its appeal of excitement for me like it did with its older movies. Whether that's just growing up or lack of quality, I have no idea, but I do not regret seeing this movie. First of all, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous and vivid and made me want to jump into and explore the oceans of Hawaii with our main character Moana. I already have dreams of visiting Hawaii some day, but seeing all the culture, color, and warmth that the community shared among each other really appealed to me and made me feel welcomed in this universe. The story and soundtrack made me think of Disney classics The Lion King and Pocahontas, which are very good things, in my opinion. When I thought of those movies at certain points in this one, it awaken my nostalgia and touched parts of my heart that my childhood identified with my own family. While some of the humor with Moana's sidekick Heihei can be a little too silly for me, I enjoyed her interactions with her grandmother and relationship with Maui the most in this movie. I will admit that the story isn't anything new from Disney's catalog of self discovery, but I enjoyed this vibrant and comical journey with a new set of characters.

Finding Dory (2015, USA) | Rating: 4/5

I wasn't able to check out this other beautiful ocean adventure in theaters like I did with Finding Nemo, but watching it at home did not lose its visual appeal for me. Disney/Pixar are just really good at capturing the beauty and mesmerizing atmosphere of the ocean and ocean life. It's quite fascinating to watch these characters interacting and traverse these lovely blue and green hues of water, whether above or below the ocean. I was a little more excited about this sequel than I was about Moana and I was curious to learn more about everyone's favorite fish Dory. I felt like the story tackled self identity, self confidence, disability, and the importance of relationships very well. Who would've thought a story about a fish with short term memory lost could be so deep and emotional, right? I enjoyed the wild journey both Dory, Marlin, and Nemo had to go through in every setting they traveled through. While it could seem as a slight retread of Finding Nemo, I feel like there's a double meaning in the title as Dory is not only trying to find her parents and Marlin and Nemo are trying to find her, but she's also trying to find herself and the strength within her to pursue anything she desires and trust herself to be on her own. I think this could speak to millennials and those about to embark that mysterious world of college and adulthood. A couple of the supporting cast can be a little silly like Moana's Heihei, but for the most part, I enjoyed their interactions and connections with Dory as well as seeing some old favorites like the sea turtles.

If there's something you want me to review (or want a more in depth review of the movies above or previous ones), check out this post on how you can submit requests.