Synopsis: Khari Brooks is part owner of “Club Daze” and loving his single life until he is caught in a daze of deja vu and wakes up every morning to repeat Saturday… think Groundhog Day meets How To Be a Player.
Jewels Proctor, a budding filmmaker, takes us on a journey with her short film Daze. Centered around the life of Khari Brooks, a part-owner of the vibrant “Club Daze”, Proctor’s work offers a fresh perspective on the repercussions of reliving a cycle without consequences, prompting viewers to ponder the consequences of their own actions and the lessons they learn along the way, like Khari.
At the heart of Daze lies an intriguing premise that fuels the story’s appeal. Khari is trapped in a cycle of deja vu intertwined with the complexities of dating and personal growth. Khari’s character embodies the archetype of a successful young man navigating relationships and romantic encounters in the modern world. His past experiences, whether positive or negative, shape his interactions and pave the way for the narrative’s unfolding.
One standout aspect of Daze is the attention to some technical details, particularly in terms of lighting and wardrobe. It’s proven difficult in the past to find the correct lighting for dark-skinned actors, but Daze manages to pull it off. I feel like Proctor’s commitment to creating a visually appealing short film is evident. The wardrobe choices and set design authenticate the characters and their environment, ensuring a seamless integration between storytelling and aesthetics.
Proctor’s ability to create a relatable and engaging story is commendable. As a viewer, the film triggered a sense of nostalgia and familiarity with personal experiences, which underlines the true power of cinema: to foster a connection between the art and the audience. Daze achieves just that, inviting viewers to reflect on their own experiences, actions, and choices.
One cannot help but imagine the potential for this powerful short film to be expanded into a full feature-length film. The foundation is already set with well-crafted characters and a thought-provoking premise.
The only minor detail that I believe could be tweaked is the dialogue that takes place between Khari and a young lady in the final act. The dialogue is a bit lengthy and could be trimmed down to keep the pacing and tone balanced.
In conclusion, Daze is a noteworthy addition to the world of short films in 2023. Jewels Proctor demonstrates her storytelling prowess, effectively blending elements of repetition, personal growth, and relationship dynamics.
Aspiring filmmakers and cinema enthusiasts alike will find Daze to be an inspiring example of the potential that lies within the short film format. Be sure to keep an eye out for Daze at your local film festivals or any platform where it may be showcased.
Synopsis: Since giving up his life as a government assassin, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has struggled to reconcile the horrific things he’s done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Finding himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy, he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends’ protector by taking on the mafia.
“Sensational” and “brutal” sum up the third installment of The Equalizer franchise, and Denzel Washington’s performance in Equalizer 3 is nothing short of spectacular, which is no surprise to fans of the 48-year vet . When you have one of the best actors and directors collaborate on a project like this, the end product is bound to be a good time with some kick-ass action scenes and, trust me, there are some tough scenes this go round.
At first, the film presents a seemingly random yet action-packed turn of events as our lead character, Robert McCall, finds himself in the care of a stranger who turns out to be a Carabiniere (a member of the Italian paramilitary police) and a local doctor. Yet, as the story unfolds, director Antoine Fuqua and writer Richard Wenk masterfully bring these events together, resulting in a compelling narrative and thus giving McCall a renewed sense of purpose, sending him on a captivating journey into a new chapter of his life.
While the antagonist in this installment may not stand out as much as those in previous films, the context is crucial. We’re dealing with a small but dangerous mafia attempting to take over a picturesque Italian coastal village. This setting allows the movie to avoid the temptation of concluding matters prematurely by unleashing a horde of bad guys on the village. Instead, it keeps the tension simmering, gradually building to a satisfying climax. I would like to argue that if you show the action scenes to someone unfamiliar with the franchise, they would think that McCall is the villain in this film.
One notable aspect of the film is how each level of villains, from the lowly recruits to the high-ranking Camorra members, seem to fear those above them. Director Fuqua skillfully portrays this dynamic, emphasizing the menacing aura of criminal leadership. Leader Vincent Quaranta scares even his brother and second-in-command, Marco Quaranta, with his antics.
The film’s deliberate pacing serves a purpose: to give us a glimpse into McCall’s transition into his new life. It effectively shows how much time he needs to adjust and resist his urge to become an assassin again, a lifestyle he’s not certain he wants to continue. By the movie’s end, we see a character who not only feels comfortable in his new life but is also happily dancing with the locals, suggesting a potential romance with Aminah, played by Gaia Scodellaro. Washington and Scodellaro have great on-screen chemistry that is naturally further enhanced by the breathtaking backdrop of an old Italian village. The picturesque old buildings, bustling markets, and stunning ocean views are enough to inspire anyone to book a trip to Italy. Heck, I’m looking at flights and all-inclusive packages as we speak!
Fuqua employs creative cinematography to capture McCall as an almost mythical figure, especially during intense confrontations. One particularly striking moment features McCall bathed in light from a streetlamp, looming over his injured adversary, with the camera positioned from the villain’s perspective.
In another scene, McCall is climbing the steps of a building, and as he sits on a step we notice a picture of St. Mary in the background. There’s a dark stairwell to one side of him and a light stairwell opposite. I interpret this symbolism as his pending decision to choose a pathway of either darkness or good, which is what he struggles with during the course of this final installment.
The film’s action sequences are nothing short of brutal and gory, satisfying those with a taste for intense, bone-crunching violence. From the very beginning, the audience is thrust into McCall’s world of calculated chaos, reminiscent of a Michael Myers-esque killing spree.
In Equalizer 3, Denzel Washington once again reminds us why he’s one of the most acclaimed actors of our time. Although I still think that the first film is the best of the three-part series, Washington’s portrayal of McCall is a tour de force and, combined with Fuqua’s deft direction and compelling narrative, this installment offers a thrilling and riveting cinematic experience. Equalizer 3 is a testament to Washington’s enduring appeal and the franchise’s ability to consistently deliver heart-pounding action with substance. Check it out in theaters for an action-packed good time.
Synopsis: Inspired by the real-life story of NASA flight engineer José Hernández, A Million Miles Away follows José and his family of proud migrant farm workers on a decades-long journey from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, to more than 200 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station. With unwavering support from his hard-working parents, relatives, and teachers, José’s unrelenting drive and determination culminate in the opportunity to achieve his seemingly impossible goal. Acclaimed writer and director Alejandra Márquez Abella has created a dazzling tribute to the loyalty and tenacity of the entire Hernández family, as well as anyone who dares to dream.
In an era of diversity in film, A Million Miles Away emerges as a gentle yet powerful reminder of the profound impact of a heartwarming narrative driven by dreams, resilience, and familial bonds. Directed by visionary storyteller, Alejandra Márquez Abella, this promising film is an inspiring saga that tugs at the heartstrings (truth be told, I had a little eye sweat during the screening myself), all while beautifully telling the heartwarming story of astronaut José Hernandez.
This project shows where Jose’s journey took him, from the farm to outer space. During this pursuit, José had to transcend culture, racism, and circumstance to aspire to something as extraordinary as becoming an astronaut. We follow the journey of a family who once toiled a farm, their hands rooted in soil, yet now yearn to touch the stars.
The beauty of A Million Miles Away lies not only in its narrative depth but also in the way the film was crafted. The transitions and flashbacks employed throughout the film are masterfully executed. Not an easy task as there’s always a risk that such transitions could take away from the quality of a film. These narrative tools act as signposts, expertly navigating the viewer through pivotal moments in the story and enhancing our emotional connection with the characters.
The heart and soul of A Million Miles Away is undoubtedly Michael Peña’s extraordinary performance as astronaut José Hernandez. Peña embodies the character with an authenticity that is both moving and convincing. He captures the charm, wit, and unwavering perseverance of Mr. Hernandez. Throughout the film, Peña breathes life into the character, making cus not just observers but confidants to his dreams and aspirations.
One minor concern that arose for me was that Peña was tasked with portraying a 20-year-old José. While Peña, with his youthful appearance, makes a valiant effort, it’s challenging to fully buy into the age portrayal. Nevertheless, this minor concern does little to diminish the overall impact of his performance, which remains commendable.
Beyond Peña’s brilliant portrayal, the film’s true triumph lies in its portrayal of familial bonds. A Million Miles Away showcases with heartfelt tenderness the unbreakable support of José’s family, particularly his wife. It is a poignant reminder of the sacrifices, unwavering encouragement, and shared aspirations that define the immigrant family experience.
The film beautifully captures the essence of family as a source of strength, portraying the characters not as individuals but as integral pieces of a collective puzzle. I can relate because my family operates in this same way. Witnessing the family’s steadfast support for José as he navigates the complex (and often daunting) path toward his dreams is nothing short of heartwarming.
In conclusion, A Million Miles Away is more than just a film; it’s a heartfelt journey that celebrates the resilience of José Hernandez, the first Hispanic migrant to become a NASA astronaut. Michael Peña’s exceptional performance, combined with the film’s craftsmanship, makes it a must-watch for those seeking an uplifting cinematic experience. It’s a tribute to the dreams that unite us and the families that sustain us, leaving a lasting impression on the heart and soul.
Dreaming Whilst Black is a thought-provoking, dark comedy that delves into the world of microaggressions people encounter both in the workplace and in their everyday lives. Let’s face it, when confronted with discrimination and racist comments, one coping mechanism is to respond with humor while thinking “are you serious?”. This is precisely what Dreaming Whilst Black accomplishes, and its international success (including a BAFTA win) is a testament to its hilarious approach.
Taji Mag had the opportunity to discuss the show’s achievements and its creative process with key figures such as director Koby Adom, producer Nicola A. Gregory, and executive producer Dhanny Joshi. Here’s what they had to share.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): Can you provide insights into the initial pitch for this series and the subsequent reactions it received?
Dhanny Joshi (DJ): I could probably speak to the pitch. We pitched it to the BBC, and so this is something that you’ve not had on your screens before. This is a perspective that has never been shown on British television. And if you don’t have it on your screens, it’s a travesty if you don’t say yes. Fortunately, they listened. We were just, we were very persistent with it. The web series was incredible, so we didn’t have that much of a hard job to do. You put Adjani Salmon in the room with anyone, they will fall in love with him. We charmed and did the work, and then the two married up together, and we got the series.
DDF: Nicola, did you want to add to that?
Nicola A. Gregory (NG): Well, I wasn’t part of the pitch. But in terms of the response and kind of following the show, it has been incredible. The reception has been great.
It is definitely a story that hasn’t been seen on screen or what we cover, which is all completely relatable… from following your dreams to just the everyday life as a creative and the microaggressions that we encounter along the way.
DDF: Koby, can you describe the shooting process for this series? It appears each character’s action is important to advancement of the storyline. Can you give us a little detail about it?
Koby Adom: I think, the writing did a lot of the work, which I really appreciate on any job. Do you know what I mean? Where the story’s really been figured out, because the story is king in what we do. I think it’s like knowing who the characters are, what their goals are, what their obstacles are, what the dilemma is, all of that stuff is already figured out. So then we just come on board and visualize that.
We work with the actors. We know what kind of ideas to give as far as goals in each scene, action verbs. Also allowing them to improv ’cause they’re such a stable foundation. Like this is so solid now, we can do takes where you could just throw certain things in there.
Let’s make this nice and authentic, which I attribute to the brilliant casting, by the way. Heather Basten leading that charge was just brilliant. The casting director just sort of gave us this pool of actors who understood the role already.
So now we’re really just having fun. And as far as the camera work goes, it wasn’t about flamboyant camera work that takes all the attention. I think the script does that, and I think the camera work has to serve that. I think it’s something that I was meant to do, which is just to serve the story. I’m a big storyteller. That’s the thing about me. If you ever see a flipping camera, like back flipping and doing all kinds of stuff, it means something. It has to be earned. So, I think it was really, really interesting.
That’s just me and the rest of the directors. We are all aligned on really understanding what the message and the ethos and the depth of what this piece is and applying our craft to it.
DDF: Did you face any challenges while shooting the film?
There are challenges on every shoot, my friend. But this project was fun. Let’s just put it that way. Do you know what I mean? I like getting my hands dirty and rolling my sleeves up anyway. Who wants smooth sailing? That shit is boring.
I think you get so much more out of finding solutions to problems. You get so much more out of overcoming adversity in the final product. So I think for me it was a challenging shoot, definitely, but we made it work. We stuck together. We’re a great team. We had our ups and our downs, but that’s what you should be able to have in safe spaces. This is exactly what it was. You know, we just all feel very connected and we are all connected to the story.
I think that’s the beauty of this project. Everybody on it is saying amongst each other “Hey, guess what? We’ve been through this. So what’s the point of arguing?” You know, I mean, we get it done.
DDF: I’ll bring up one scene where the lead character, Kwabena, is talking to his boss and pretty much every picture in the background means something or gives a description of the character. And I was just like, ”I hope Koby did that intentionally because it really does help interpret the situation”.
KA: That’s in reference to episode one. That was Sebastian Thiel who directed that episode. So he should get his flowers. All of us had an eye on the whole script to make sure we pull out the necessary bits. You know, to add the nuggets.
NG: Yeah. I’d like to echo that as well. I’m glad that you noticed things in the background and that everything about this show is intentional from the artwork, to the background, to our costume design. Even the neck pendants and necklaces, there are some Easter eggs in there.
I don’t wanna give too much away, but Jody-Simone Howe, our costume designer, did a really good job. Even the slogans on shirts or on baseball caps, everywhere there is a message that kind of gives away what is going to happen in the scene or what our intention is. So from production design to costume, there are messages everywhere.
DDF: Okay. This is a question for all three of you guys. Do you believe humor can be a powerful tool for discussing complex social themes and if so, how?
KA: I think it’s perfect. That’s when you get away with it because you’re just actually just having a laugh. But then guess what? The funny part is the truth. So it’s kind of like when you finish laughing and then the dust settles, you’re like “Ah, you got me there. I probably shouldn’t have laughed… Is that the way I come across?”. But even that’s accountability as well. Like how do we deal with these situations? Do you get what I mean? It’s not just about pointing fingers. This is an exploration of what to do in those situations.
Me personally, I brand myself as quite a bold person. So if I’m in half of those situations, I just walk off. The first bit would be what I’d actually do. But again, just sort of appreciate the situation. Again, it’s very universal.
NG: I think it’s important that you sort of balance between the comedy and the drama. I guess it’s almost like a constant debate with the writers. There’s always the question of “Okay, this is what we wanna say?” “But how do we make it funny?” Because at times, in these matters, you can really lean into the drama, but we’re commissioned to make a comedy here. So there would be instances where we would try to undercut serious moments with unrelated jokes to lighten up the scene, but without minimizing the issues at hand and what we’re trying to discuss. And I think that’s what this show, Dreaming Whilst Black, does brilliantly in terms of balancing the serious matters.
NG: Have you watched the entire series?
DDF: Yes, I watched up to episode six.
NG: Yeah. There’s only six episodes. We wish we had more. Without giving too much away, in episode four (which is mainly about the couple, Maurice and Funmi), we’re touching on themes around fatherhood and Black maternity healthcare, which are quite universally serious.
Even our exec said, “Okay, this is a very serious storyline and a very serious episode”. Yeah. We had to sit and figure out (mainly Johnny and Ali) where can we put funny in here? Which is where the family (over conversations and responses while waiting in the hospital room with Funmi) comes in and other elements sort of really break the tension as it were.
DDF: The show won a BAFTA award! Congratulations. How do you think the US audience will react to the series?
KA: I think they’ll laugh it up. I think it’s a very original presentation and I think when you keep it real, it is hard to deny. It’s like you don’t know why, but this feels true.
I think that’s what makes people consume the content. And I think this would be one of those first British offerings that build a bridge where it’s like, “Hey guys, we’re actually going through the same thing. Let’s laugh together and figure out the solution together. This is not us against each other”. I think Dreaming Whilst Black is honestly one of the most crystal clear representations of Black British culture you’ll get to date. Don’t get me wrong, there’s Top Boy, Chewing Gum, and other representations that have been sort of authentic. But this series is very unapologetic and it is very much, “I’m not mincing my words, this is the issue, but we’re gonna laugh at it”. I think that it would be consumed around the whole world, to be honest with you. I think that’s probably why it’s been sold in so many territories.
DJ: I think so as well. It’s the everyday man and woman. It’s just real people with real-life experiences that will travel. Other shows, which are all great, in some cases are not so relatable to the everyday person who’s got the nine-to-five mundane job.
Right. But, with this show, it’s just relatable. People, especially people of color, will relate to the microaggressions. They’ll relate to workspace experiences as a minority, for example. Some people may even relate to the microaggressions and be like, “Oh shit, I’ve done that. Oh, didn’t realize that could be perceived in a certain way”.
So I think there’s something there for everyone. Still, I think fundamentally it’s about someone pursuing this dream, whether that’s Kwebs or whether that’s Amy navigating her passion and how she navigates in the workspace as well. I think there’s something there for everyone.
So we are excited about how it’s gonna be received over there (in the U.S.).
KA: I was gonna say, I feel like there’s also the successful Black woman, Vanessa, which I think is another master stroke. It’s not some poor woman who’s trying to eat a lobster and flaming on and ordering champagne like that’s normal.
Those girls exist if you know what I mean. So showing their sort of flamboyance and their grandeur, I think, was brilliant. Do you know what I’m saying to you? There are very successful Black women in other industries who have the money to spend at high-end restaurants and buy designer clothes and stuff.
NG: So I think, honestly, this is everything in which I know is testament in America as well. So I think there’s just everything in there. So many points of connection. Yeah, I think it’s really about being able to highlight and embrace our shared experiences. I think sometimes, when you’re across the pond, you think that life in Britain is very different, but I think it’s very relatable, and it’s shared experiences across the board.
Dreaming Whilst Black in Conclusion
As this series is relatable not only to the Black experience but also to those who are in the minority, the beauty of it all lies in its ability to bring people together through laughter. Dreaming Whilst Black is more than just a comedy; it’s a social commentary piece that explores the challenges of navigating not only the workplace and career, but life in general.
The series excels at taking vulnerable and degrading moments in life and using humor to shed light on these trials and tribulations. Every character in the series is relatable, and the depiction of family and culture resonates with most of us. Throughout it all, we see themes of love, family, and caring. My favorite and most emotional episode, episode 4 titled “The Birth”, explores masculinity, concerns of Black maternity in the healthcare system, and unpacking childhood trauma that affects us as adults.
My personal favorite character is Amy; her unwavering pursuit of her goals is admirable, and her morals are constantly put to the test, much like Kwebs. However, it’s her facial expressions and reactions to the absurdity happening around her that truly shine and her ability to bring joy out of Kwebs (which I have more thoughts about that I would love to discuss at a later date).
Dreaming Whilst Black is beautifully shot, and every aspect of the series contributes to its storyline. While I don’t like to make comparisons between series and movies too often, I can’t help but draw a parallel to the relatability that Insecure had with its audience. This is why I believe Dreaming Whilst Black will have a long hull in the world of entertainment worldwide.
Synopsis: A fairy tale for grown-ups. A horror story, a parenthood fable and a perilous odyssey through a New York City you didn’t know existed.
The Changeling is not your typical horror-sci-fi series. It’s a gripping narrative that explores the complexities of relationships, childhood trauma, and the blurred line between reality and the supernatural. Victor LaValle’s book has been adapted into a series that keeps you on the edge of your seat while also diving deep into the human psyche. At first glance, one might think this series is about the perils of modern dating and relationships, and it is, but it’s also so much more. It reflects the challenges we face in our personal lives and how our past traumas can shape our present and future.
Apollo and Emmy
The characters in The Changeling are brilliantly portrayed, with LaKeith Stanfield leading the way as Apollo Kagwa. Apollo’s journey is one of resilience and determination as he seeks to provide for the loving family he never had growing up. His commitment to his family and the challenges he faces, both internally and externally, make him a relatable and compelling character. Stanfield’s performance is nothing short of charming, and he brings authenticity to the role, making Apollo a character that resonates with audiences; I know he resonated with me. So much so that I wanted him to win… especially being a Black man who was fighting for his child and wife! That is not a norm in modern television on a big platform.
Clark Backo, who plays Emmy, Apollo’s pregnant wife, delivers a strong performance and shares palpable chemistry with Stanfield. Emmy’s character is introduced as both strong-willed and kind-hearted, which is why she initially hesitates to pursue a relationship with Apollo. However, as their love story unfolds, we witness the transformation of their relationship into one built on love and support. Emmy, like Apollo, carries her past trauma, and their shared experiences make their journey together all the more captivating. Emmy goes through a character transformation that may lead viewers to dislike her. She makes decisions that will leave you flabbergasted, but eventually, you learn what causes this change. Until then, you find yourself despising the character and trying to figure out why she is such a hot mess.
The heart of the series lies in its storytelling. The Changeling does an excellent job of drawing viewers in and keeping them engaged. It skillfully blurs the line between reality and fiction, leaving audiences questioning whether the characters’ experiences are a result of childhood trauma or something more supernatural. This narrative technique adds depth to the story and invites viewers to invest in the characters’ struggles and revelations.
While the series can be emotionally challenging at times (especially when exploring Apollo’s and Emmy’s backstories), it is these experiences that make the characters so relatable. Life is not always easy, and people often carry the weight of their traumas with them. The Changeling doesn’t shy away from this reality and, instead, uses it as a driving force for the characters’ development.
The Changeling also looks into the histories of both Apollo and Emmy’s parents, a crucial aspect of the story’s development and the evolution of their character arcs. This exploration emphasizes the significance of confronting personal demons and unresolved issues comprehensively. As these characters begin to unearth the truths of their childhood, they are confronted with a new layer of complexity that can be even more emotionally challenging than their own existing struggles.
Visuals and Directing
In terms of visual storytelling, The Changeling masterfully crafts a dark and profound atmosphere that significantly elevates the viewing experience. The series employs remarkable use of flashbacks and haunting imagery, lending an unexpected yet highly effective eerie quality to the narrative. These elements work in tandem to enrich the overall engagement and immersion of the audience.
Attention to detail in lighting, set design, and costume design plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for each scene. Whether it’s the evocative flashbacks or the enigmatic dream sequences, these aspects contribute significantly to the series’ overall impact. They not only transport viewers into the world of the characters but also help establish the emotional resonance of the storytelling.
Production quality emerges as a standout element in the success of The Changeling. This becomes especially evident as the series ventures beyond the borders of the United States to explore international settings. The seamless production values enhance the authenticity of these external landscapes, making the series more immersive and believable.
In conclusion, The Changeling is a horror-sci-fi series that demands your attention. Its exploration of dating, relationships, and childhood trauma is both thought-provoking and chilling. LaKeith Stanfield’s exceptional performance, coupled with the series’ implied themes and references to books, makes it a must-watch. The Changeling is the kind of series that will have viewers talking for the rest of the year and may even prompt them to pick up a copy of Victor LaValle’s book.
Taji Mag had an exclusive interview with director/writer Chris Spencer and actor Faizon Love, who discussed the different aspects of their comedy “Back on the Strip.” The duo explored their experience of collaborating with a cast comprised of comedic veterans, as well as the esteemed actor Wesley Snipes, whose presence set a defining tone for the entire production. Among their insights, they also shared humorous stories and behind-the-scenes stories that added an extra layer of humor to the conversation.
Watch “Back on the Strip” in theaters now.
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Wesley Snipes, JB Smoove, Faison Love, Bill Bellamy, and Gary Owen, and Kevin Hart Synopsis: In Back on the Strip, tough-as-nails Verna (Tiffany Haddish) sends her broken-hearted son Merlin (Spence Moore, Creed III) to Vegas, determined to help him make his dreams come true as a professional magician. But a chance meeting at a run-down hotel with Mr. Big (Wesley Snipes) – the front man of the once notorious Black male stripper crew known as “The Chocolate Chips” (JB Smoove, Faizon Love, Bill Bellamy & Gary Owen) – suddenly has Merlin thrust into a different kind of spotlight. In a race against time to get his girl back and help the out-of-shape and out-of-sync “Chips” rediscover their groove, Merlin will soon find he already has all the magic tricks he needs.
Starring: Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka, Natasha Liu Bordizzo as Sabine Wren, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Hera Syndulla, Diana Lee Inosanto as Morgan Elsbeth, Ivanna Sakhno as Shin Hati, Ray Stevenson as Baylan Skoll, David Tennant as Huyang, Lars Mikkelsen as Grand Admiral Thrawn, with Eman Esfandi appearing as Ezra Bridger.
Synopsis: In the wake of the Galactic Empire’s collapse, Ahsoka follows the journey of former Jedi Knight Ahsoka Tano as she embarks on a mission to address a burgeoning threat that looms over an already vulnerable galaxy. With the Empire’s grip now weakened, Ahsoka takes it upon herself to investigate the emerging danger and safeguard the future. As she navigates the aftermath of the Empire’s reign, Ahsoka’s resolute determination and mastery of the Force drive her quest to uncover the truth behind the newfound menace, all while battling her own demons and forging unexpected alliances.
When the name Star Wars is uttered, a galaxy of iconic characters instantly comes to mind: Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and the adorable addition of Grogu, also known as Baby Yoda. However, a character who has gradually risen to prominence now takes center stage in her own series – Ahsoka.
Ahsoka Tano, the quick-witted, self-assured former Jedi, is set to navigate the remnants of the Empire’s aftermath and confront one of Star Wars’ most formidable antagonists – Grand Admiral Thrawn. This new series follows the hero on her quest to track down Thrawn, enlisting the aid of her former apprentice, Sabine Wren, played by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, and allies within the New Republic. My excitement lies with her chance encounter with her former mentor Anikan Skywalker, who has since been transformed into Darth Vader.
Viewers will be immersed in the captivating landscapes and diverse environments that Star Wars fans have come to cherish as Ahsoka’s visual storytelling remains a strong point. The environments and visuals are gorgeous. The familiarity of iconic locales intertwines with fresh settings, reminding us of the franchise’s rich world-building.
The initial two episodes do feature Saben Wren while briefly touching upon her relationship with Ahsoka. There are parallels that emerge between Ahsoka’s connections with Saben and her dynamic with Anakin. To fully get an idea of this, it might be beneficial to look into the animated series before commencing the first couple of Ahsoka episodes. However, it’s reasonable to anticipate that the show will progressively clarify this dynamic in future episodes. An essential aspect to recognize is that Wren’s expertise is not only limited to the Force; she also hails from the Mandalorian lineage and is good at building things.
Notably, the series’ antagonists are some of its most enticing elements. Baylan Skoll (portrayed by Ray Stevenson, rest in peace) and his enigmatic apprentice Shin Ati (portrayed by Ivanna Sakhno) exude a menacing aura that underlines their malevolent power. Within the series’ initial moments, these villains wield the Force maliciously, setting the tone for their impending conflicts with Ahsoka. The promise of confrontations between these powerful foes and our hero amplifies the show’s allure.
A standout element of the series unfolds in a seamless transition from the swift dispatch of henchmen by Baylan and Shin to Ahsoka’s elegant dismantling of droids. These captivating sequences were choreographed by martial artist and stunt expert Ming Qiu. The show’s creators aimed to maintain the samurai influence championed by Star Wars visionary George Lucas, and in their pursuit of awe-inspiring action, they enlisted Qiu’s talents to craft these scenes into a marvel.
Another figure who commands intrigue and exudes an undoubtedly badass aura is Marrok. Cloaked in an air of mystery, Marrok dons armor reminiscent of an inquisitor, yet his combat style bears a resemblance to Darth Maul. Adding to his mystique, his lightsaber showcases a unique twist – doubling as a spinning boomerang! It makes me wonder if we will see who is behind the mask?
Creatures, Robots, and Beyond
In every Star Wars endeavor, be it film, TV show, or animated series, there’s invariably a character who captures the hearts of fans with their popularity or adorableness. In the case of this series, my personal favorites amongst the non-human/alien characters are Chopper (whose resemblance to R2-D2 comes with an extra dash of personality) and Huyang (whose voice by David Tennant echoes his previous work with the character). Both Chopper and Huyang contribute a delightful blend of wit and humor, effectively counterbalancing the series’ more serious undertones.
Pacing with Viewers
Ahsoka skillfully caters to both newcomers to the Star Wars universe and long-time fans alike. The series introduces fundamental concepts without overwhelming newcomers while delighting fans with subtle references to established narratives. However, it’s worth noting that the show’s deliberate pacing, at times, feels like a decision to gradually unveil the plot’s intricacies. I can only assume that this slow-burning approach builds anticipation, setting the stage for a journey viewers won’t want to miss out on.
While the initial two episodes offer tantalizing glimpses of what’s to come, it’s reasonable to remain cautiously optimistic about the show’s trajectory. The potential for riveting confrontations, unexpected alliances, and character development abounds, yet the series’ success hinges on its ability to deliver on these promises in a manner that resonates with its diverse audience.
In the grand scheme of the Star Wars saga, Ahsoka occupies an intriguing niche, shedding light on the experiences of characters who often remain in the shadows of the main narrative. It’s a testament to the franchise’s expansiveness and the rich layers it continues to add to its intricate tapestry.
In conclusion, Ahsoka brings with it both the excitement of a new Star Wars adventure and the burden of high expectations. Its pacing and focus on character dynamics might test the patience of some, but the underlying potential for captivating storytelling and dazzling action sequences is undeniable. For fans of the franchise, the series shows promise to be a worthwhile addition to the Star Wars canon, inviting us to delve into unexplored corners of the galaxy far, far away. As for newcomers, while the journey might require some adjustment, the show’s narrative treasures are well within reach. Whether or not it ultimately becomes the show everyone has been eagerly awaiting depends on how Ahsoka navigates its course in the episodes to come. Tune in to decide for yourself.
Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Damián Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez, Belissa Escobedo, and Harvey Guillén.
Synopsis: Recent college grad Jaime Reyes (played by Xolo Maridueña of Cobra Kai) returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to discover his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the superhero Blue Beetle.
Blue Beetle is one of the most eagerly anticipated DCEU films of 2023, and it’s safe to say this film was a genuinely good time. With a commendable performance by Xolo Maridueña as Jamie Reyes/Blue Beetle, this film delivers an engaging and culturally resonant journey that will keep viewers entertained. It’s filled with nods to comic book lore, pop culture, and the vibrant tapestry of Latino heritage; Blue Beetle emerges as a revitalizing gem within the superhero realm.
The narrative of Blue Beetle keeps the audience interested from its opening moments to its grand finale. Naturally, there are a couple of moments where the film lags a bit, but it’s not too distracting and lends to necessary character development. Each character, driven by personal aspirations and challenges, weaves a compelling thread throughout the story. Jamie Reyes’ transformation from a hopeful college graduate to a young adult confronting the disillusionment of the “American Dream” strikes a chord universally. The film demonstrates courage in addressing hurdles faced by the Latinx community in the United States, exploring themes of discrimination and isolation. While these instances may evoke strong emotions, they also offer a window into pertinent societal issues with which many can identify. The film also acknowledges other popular heroes within the DCEU (like Superman and Batman), so it will be interesting to see where James Gunn (Filmmaker and co-CEO of DC Studios) will take the franchise.
Xolo Maridueña’s portrayal of Jamie Reyes stands as the movie’s emotional core, capturing the essence of the character’s evolution. If I had to describe Jamie/Blue Beetle, I’d say he is a blend of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Venom. He emerges as a relatable figure for young individuals from diverse backgrounds navigating the journey from childhood to adulthood in a world where racism and prejudice persist, all in pursuit of a brighter future.
The Reyes family dynamic (rich in love, support, and humor) forms an empathetic backdrop against which the narrative unfolds. George Lopez’s Rudy adds a charismatic layer with his conspiracy theorist persona and technical prowess. Adriana Barraza’s Nana imparts warmth and wisdom, serving as a reassuring presence that guides Jamie through his tribulations. Belissa Escobedo as Jamie’s sister, Milagro, was spot on as a younger sibling with her humor and small jokes. I’m interested to see more of her in the film. Each character contributes a distinctive hue to the tapestry of the story, enriching it with depth and authenticity and finding their moments to shine through riveting action sequences.
The film was so family-focused that I expected Dominic Torretto from The Fast and Furious franchise to pop in and say, “There’s nothing stronger than family”.
Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of Victoria Kord is commendable, though her character’s motives could have been further developed to enhance her villainous arc. On the other hand, Raoul Max Trujillo’s Conrad Carapax/Indestructible Man captivates with his commanding presence and fully fleshed-out motivations in the climactic act. His tale is a captivating revelation that draws parallels to astonishing real-life stories unfolding worldwide. Plus, his arsenal and attack methods are brutal but cool to watch on screen, especially when he becomes a bigger threat to the lead character Jamie and his family. Hopefully, the film will get sequels, and we can eventually get to see Black Beetle, who is a badass and even more villainous than Carapax.
The Suit and Direction
The Blue Beetle suit is a triumph, seamlessly drawing inspiration from comics and animated adaptations. Notably, the sonic blasters wielded by Blue Beetle evoke nostalgic vibes for fans of the source material. The metamorphosis of Jamie into Blue Beetle, with the armor enveloping him as protection against threats, is visually captivating.
Directorial prowess is evident in Blue Beetle‘s visual splendor. The vibrant color palette, dominated by turquoise, blue, and purple tones, aligns the emotional tone of each scene. The interplay of light, especially during intimate conversations, magnifies the characters’ perspectives and feelings, enhancing the storytelling experience.
One scene that drew my interest was when Jamie engages in an intimate conversation with Jenny Kord about the concept of family. As the camera frames Jamie looking at Jenny from over his shoulder, a radiant light bathes her from behind, symbolizing the optimism and positivity that Jamie perceives from his standpoint. Conversely, when the perspective shifts to Jenny’s viewpoint with the camera trained on Jamie, a subtle glimmer of light reflects off him. This delicate play of light suggests the faint traces of positivity that she may detect or experience from her own vantage point.
Another particularly poignant moment arises in the film, potentially evoking strong emotions in viewers, as the Kord organization floods the Reyes family home, leaving destruction in its wake. This unsettling scene resonates eerily with real-life incidents where government enforcement raids have disrupted the lives of innocent individuals.
Another profoundly moving scene unfolds when Jamie finds solace atop his home’s roof, accompanied by his sister Milagro. The expansive shot captures the stark contrast between the humble, dimly lit, and worn-down neighborhood they call home and the towering, contemporary structures bustling with activity and vibrant lights. This visual juxtaposition poignantly illustrates the disparity between poverty and privilege. A subtle yet impactful detail is the careful attention to the setting, revealing Kord’s pervasive influence, even extending to owning the very home the Reyes family inhabits.
The film’s soundtrack, featuring tracks from Latino artists, harmoniously complements the story’s atmosphere. Personal favorites like Selena bring a delightful nostalgic touch, while the inclusion of Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Going Out Like That” heightens the impact of action sequences, particularly during Jamie and his family’s battle against sinister forces.
Blue Beetle shines as a captivating and culturally significant addition to the DCEU. Staying faithful to the character’s heritage, the film probes both individual and societal trials with genuine authenticity. The storyline’s evolution sustains audience engagement, and the film’s resolution is gratifying. With Xolo Maridueña’s compelling lead performance, a relatable family dynamic, and visually arresting direction, Blue Beetle asserts itself as a promising cornerstone of the DCEU. A must-see for aficionados of the superhero genre and those seeking an immersive and pertinent cinematic voyage, Blue Beetle undoubtedly earns its well-deserved 8/10 rating. As the credits roll, one can’t help but anticipate more thrilling exploits from Blue Beetle and his spirited companions.
Starring: Clare Perkins, Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Kae Alexander, Harriet Webb, Darrell D’Silva, Luke Pasqualino, and Heider Ali.
Synopsis: A group of skilled, driven, and scheming hairstylists convene in England for a prestigious competition, only to be met with the shocking discovery that one of their colleagues has been brutally murdered just before the judging begins.
As a fan of the whodunnit genre, I’m always on the lookout for films that not only challenge my detective skills but also interest me with compelling characters and unexpected narratives. Medusa Deluxe (originally showcased at the Locarno Festival in August 2022 then later released in the UK just this past June) is a British murder mystery that emerges as a refreshing and ingenious addition to the genre, offering a unique twist that sets it apart from other films of the genre. As I watched, I found myself invested in not only the murderer’s identity but also in the relationships and backstories that enveloped the characters.
One of the film’s achievements lies in its ability to create a cast of characters who are not just suspects but individuals with charm and complexity. While I, like any dedicated armchair detective, tried to deduce the murderer’s motives, I was consistently drawn into the personal histories and interactions that unfolded on screen. It’s rare for a film to balance suspense and character depth, and MedusaDeluxe accomplishes this with flair.
What sets this film apart is its balance of humor and drama. This tonal duality infuses the story with a dynamic energy that never wanes, keeping audiences thoroughly engaged from start to finish. The film’s pacing is masterful, ensuring that each revelation and twist is perfectly timed in order to hold the audience’s interest.
One of my favorite characters who had me both amused and intrigued was Cleve, portrayed by Clare Perkins. Perkins’ portrayal of the assertive, hot-headed hairstylist was a true highlight, infusing the film with a delicious mix of intensity and humor. The character was ready to take on any challenger, regardless of size, gender, etc. Plus, she was serious about her craft and determined to win the competition by any means necessary.
Cinematographically, Medusa Deluxe is a triumph. The camera’s graceful movements around the characters’ interactions engulfed me into their world, creating an immersive experience that made me feel like a fly on the wall in the best way possible. The innovative choice to seamlessly transition from one scene to the next, with the camera accompanying characters from one setting to another, was brilliant. This technique not only enhanced the flow of the narrative but also underscored the director’s attention to detail in propelling the story forward. While this approach is a positive in my book, the lag time in between scenes may be a bit too long for other viewers.
Directorial finesse aside, the film’s visual aesthetics are a treat for the eyes. The use of color and lighting throughout adds an extra layer of storytelling, conveying emotions and setting the mood in a visual language that speaks volumes. The visuals are synchronized with the narrative, showcasing the director’s keen eye for nuances that make each scene resonate.
In conclusion, Medusa Deluxe is a cinematic gem that excels on multiple fronts. It effortlessly marries the intrigue of a classic whodunnit with a roster of characters so captivating that they become more than mere suspects—they are individuals with stories worth uncovering. The clever interplay of humor and drama, combined with cinematography and the delightful use of color, elevates this film beyond the confines of its genre. If you’re seeking a whodunnit film that doesn’t just challenge your deductive skills but also treats you to compelling characters and emotions, Medusa Deluxe is a must-watch.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Kevin Sampson, movie critic and the visionary founder of the DC Black Film Festival (DCBFF). Our conversation explored his top film picks for 2023 thus far, shedding light on the cinematic gems that have left an indelible mark on this year. As an advocate for the power of storytelling through film, Sampson emphasizes the vital role that film festivals play in celebrating diverse voices and narratives. He brings his insightful perspective to the importance of fostering connections within the industry and the incredible opportunities that platforms like DCBFF provide for both emerging and established filmmakers.
This year’s DCBFF promises an immersive cinematic experience that bridges the gap between film enthusiasts and creators. The festival is scheduled to take place live on August 18th – 19th, offering attendees the chance to engage with compelling films and connect with fellow cinephiles. For those seeking the convenience of virtual screenings, the festival will continue to offer a curated selection of films from August 20th – 30th. Sampson encourages film lovers to seize this chance to partake in a festival that not only celebrates the art of storytelling but also champions diversity and inclusion. Secure your tickets now at dcbff.org to take part in this celebration of cinema.