Category Archives: News

05Aug/22

DC League of Super-Pets…Filled with Cute Moments, Lacking Laughs

Dwayne Johnson voices Krypto the Super-Dog, and Kevin Hart voices Ace the Hound.

Synopsis: In DC League of Super-Pets,” Krypto the Super-Dog (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side-by-side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound (Kevin Hart), PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle, and Chip the squirrel—to master their newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.

When you have Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as your lead actors, there are a few things you can expect: great chemistry between the two, a big box office turnout, and a bunch of laughs. DC League of Super-Pets continues the chemistry the two stars have shown on-screen in their previous works, Jumanji and CIA. It’s actually the best part of the film, but not enough so to produce the needed laughs to label this film one of their best. I watched this film a second time at an early screening to see how children would react to some of the jokes and funny moments; unfortunately just as I expected, there were only a few laughs from the children in the theater. 

I think the film put much effort into pulling off some cheap laughs, but overall struggled in the humor department. There were some moments that made me smirk and a few times I even chuckled, but mostly because of the turtle with the power of super speed. Merton McSnurtle, played by Natasha Lyonne, had super speed but was literally blind as a bat, pun intended. 

I was impressed with how Johnson and Hart were able to display their acting talents during the more serious moments in the film, especially when Hart’s character explains why his former owners gave him up for adoption. This is not the only time Hart has shown he can deliver a heart left dramatic scene; I remember his performance in Jumanji, where his character, Mouse, had the mind of elderly Milo Walker and reflected on his life. As usual, Johnson was able to bring his charisma to the screen making him the perfect fit for the role of Krypto.

The film features the voices of a star-studded cast including Keanu Reeves as Batman, John Krasinski as Superman, and Jameela Jamil as Wonder Woman. They perform their roles as more kid-friendly versions of the characters, but I would have liked to have seen more of Reeves as Batman because I found the version interesting. 

DC Comics usually have good animated films, so it’s no surprise the story was decent and had good pacing. The film achieved its goal by tying the known DC characters with the pets without overshadowing the featured characters. Mind you, this film is meant for a younger demographic, so I can see children watching it over and over due to the popularity of DC Comics kids animation. Trust me; I have nieces who have all the toys, costumes, and shows/films saved on their iPads. 

The film churned out $23 million over the weekend, $2 million below its $25 million marker. This isn’t surprising to me because, as mentioned, the film wasn’t as funny as I’d expected, but I’m confident it will still have a decent turnout as a DC Comics project starring The Rock and Kevin Hart. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more revenue for the film during its VOD/streaming release. If there is a Super-Pets series in talks, I am sure DC would be able to pull it off based on this film.

Visually, the animation was very sleek and polished. It’s one of the best CGI animated films I have seen this year. When the characters have shadows or reflect light from the environment around them, it shows on screen as it would in real life.  

DC League of Super-Pets is best for children or any fans of DC Comics kids animated films. If you are fans of The Rock and Kevin Hart, you will also enjoy it; just don’t expect a lot of belly laughs. If you want to see Hart in one of his more touching acting moments, it’s definitely a must-watch. DC League of Super-Pets is currently in theaters. 

25Jul/22

NOPE is a Yes, Jordan Peele does it again

Ok that NOPE movie… I love horror films and I am especially excited when Black directors get the funding to fully realize their cinematic vision. A few great examples include Eve’s Bayou by Kasi Lemmons (she also starred in the original Candyman), Tales from the Hood by Rusty Cundieff, Demon Knight by Ernest Dickerson, and Black Box directed by Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.

Alright, let’s get into NOPE.

Nope film by Jordan Peele

What’s Up With The Monkey In NOPE?

The monkey in NOPE is not a Black man.

I repeat: the monkey in NOPE is not a Black man.

Some people will clumsily connect the killer chimp (Gordy) to enslaved Black people, but it’s not that deep. Gordy serves more as a way to illustrate the difference between the two strategies for dealing with the alien. Jupiter focused on his personal experience with Gordy, while OJ focused on the predator’s point of view. OJ cited various wild animals and their rules. (With a bear, you stand still; with a wolf, you make yourself big, etc.) Jupiter was more like the mayor from Jaws–his arrogance and greed led him to f*** around and find out.

My homeboy Derrick Weston Brown (and critically acclaimed poet/author) saw the film and had spoke interesting observations about nature that were on point. “What is the obsession with white people swimming with sharks and hugging monkeys? People always think they’ve got a lock on nature, but they don’t. It reminds me of that Richard Pryor joke about the jungle. Like OJ said in the movie, you have to understand your relationship to nature and make a deal.”

So Is The Movie About Race?

Now it’s a stretch, but if you wanted to make it about race you could. You could compare the UFO to white supremacy and say that taming structural violence (Jupiter’s approach to the UFO) leads to our destruction while understanding your oppressor and directly attacking its weakness accordingly (OJ’s approach to the UFO) is the only way to survive racism. You could comment on Angel’s FFFFFF coworker who is entertained by the predicament of the characters of color but never uses her privilege to offer support. *Insert reparations analogy*. With the erasure of Black jockeys and horse trainers through history, there could be an assertion that Peele is honoring Jerry Dixon Jr., Issac Murphy, and all the unnamed Black horse riders/racers/trainers.

For real, for real–NOPE is not about any of that. I’m cool with just enjoying this as a straight-up alien/SciFi horror film.

The Black Characters Don’t Die First

Black characters usually die first in mainstream horror films. We never get a chance to get attached to them or think too long about why their “urban” dialogue doesn’t sit right. Brown characters are absent altogether unless it’s a Robert Rodriguez flick. NOPE has a more diverse group of main characters than most in the genre without making the plot about race. In NOPE we get to see what would have happened if we weren’t immediately killed off. I know what yall are going to say: BUT NEWNEW’S DADDY FROM ATL DIED FIRST! First of all, put some respect on Keith David’s name. Second, that’s debatable. Chronologically that chimpanzee Gordy gave everybody the business on set back in the 90s when he went ape shit. OJ & Emerald’s daddy Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) died from falling metal debris which suggests the UFO had just eaten a bunch of people, most of whom were likely white based on the characters we see at Jupiter’s Claim and around town. 

Peele offers a subtle homage to all those Black characters who never got a backstory. We get to imagine ourselves in these classic horror film situations. Instead of running extra slow and falling at the wrong time and camping out unprotected in the woods where sexually active teens get murdered every year, Peele’s characters have a lot more sense. Angel stays wrapped in tarp and barbed wire just before the creature takes him. OJ strategizes logically from the perspective of the predator using context clues. Even Lucky the horse had sense enough to stay in the cage at Jupiter’s Claim when the creature was on its way to act a fool at the show.

Like the homie Derrick said, “we’re at the point where we’ve had lots of Black firsts. Now we can just make movies and enjoy them.” That said, he also referenced a thought he had about Daniel Kaluuya’s character being named OJ escaping on a horse like the white Bronco OJ Simpson drove. I had to laugh a little because I still remember our elementary school teacher making us watch the trial. It was third or fourth grade and when he was found not guilty I was overjoyed. I didn’t fully understand the situation, but my teacher was big mad at the time. That same joy erupted when the dust clears at the end and we find out OJ survived. I loved seeing him on top of a Black horse named Lucky in his orange hoodie. What if more horror films ended with a Black protagonist surviving a battle against the antagonist? It would be a stoic slap to convention. That’s the gift that Jordan Peele keeps on giving. I will forever appreciate Peele’s Black characters making it past the opening credits and playing pivotal roles in the story.

Behind The Scenes

Ok, can we talk about the music though?

Most of us were introduced to composer Michael Abels in Get Out–Peele’s first groundbreaking feature film. That song Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga (meaning listen to the ancestors) perfectly foreshadows the dispatches from the Sunken Place meant to warn Chris of the danger he was in. We collectively gave him an approving head nod for his haunting remix of Five On It by the Luniz. His self-described gospel horror was simultaneously familiar and distorted. In NOPE we were blessed with his love for mixing contemporary and traditional sounds. Dionne Warwick’s rendition of Walk On By perfectly accentuated Otis’s developing theory about the UFO.

Now personally I would have loved more Black people on hair & makeup. Was Felicia Leatherwood not available? Issa Rae slays in so many natural styles so maybe she can help get on payroll for the next Monkeypaw film. That said, as a #TeamNatural member for three decades, I still loved seeing afros, kinks, and curls. So happy they didn’t have Emerald (Keke Palmer) looking like she was wearing one of those Amazon wigs. You know the ones that look like Ari Lennox in the photo but arrive in real life looking like “Ooh baby no, what is you doing”. 

This the Last Thing Ima Say

I’m going to see the movie again this week. Heads up–if you see it in theaters, that Emmett Till movie is in the previews, but don’t worry–NOPE is not about Black trauma.

I didn’t know where this would fit in the article, but yall. The inconveniently timed nihilism of that weird camera guy made everybody in the audience throw up their hands in frustration. First of all–he showed up to a monster fight in a linen caftan and I will never forgive him for that. Between him and the TMZ reporter, I don’t know who I’m angrier with.

We’ve been bombarded with T’Challa-less Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailers. Some of y’all are plugged into the January 6th hearing. There’s always something in the news that reminds us how heavy it can be to exist in Blackness at times. Peele gives us a couple of hours to just watch a good movie. Best believe I’m going to see it in theaters again soon.

RIP Harambe.

19Jul/22

Mr. Malcolm’s List Made Me Want to Watch Bridgerton!

Starring: Sope Dirisu (Gangs of London), Freida Pinto (Needle in a Timestack), Zawe Ashton (Velvet Buzzsaw)

SYNOPSIS: In 19th-century England, a wealthy young lady named Julia engages in courtship with Mr. Malcolm, a mysterious wealthy suitor, unaware that he has a list of qualities required of a future wife.

Let me start by saying that I have not watched a single episode of Bridgerton, nor am I a big fan of films based in this or similar time periods. Please don’t report me to Shonda Rhimes’ fans, but this film was so enjoyable that it makes me want to give projects like it a chance. From the writing to the costume design and settings, I felt lost in the 1800s (minus the slavery part). The whole team did a great job setting up this time piece and giving the actors a great medium to work with.

Freida Pinto as Selina Dalton and Zawe Ashton as Julia Thistlewaite
Photo courtesy of Obscured Pictures

For starters, I am a Freida Pinto fan because she tends to pick compelling characters and is an overall good actress. Her portrayal of the heartwarming Selina Dalton made for a good love story with Mr. Malcolm. Her’s seemed to be the most self-assured and most genuine out of all the characters. I found myself rooting for Selina as she was able to match wits with the guarded and, at times, arrogant Mr. Malcolm. 

A wealthy Black man is the most eligible bachelor featured in the trailer; you know I had to give the film a watch. Mainly because not too many mainstream projects feature this type of material. It works here and it creates a world where it’s not the complexion, race, or culture that stands out, but the story. I enjoyed Sope Dirisu as Mr. Malcolm as his performance proved to be exceptional. During the course of the film, Mr. Malcolm’s layers (both good and bad) were slowly revealed. There are times when he’s with Selina and he puts his foot in his mouth, ruining these moments. In my mind, I’m like “hey, bro can you have a little more tact?” and “you’re being an asshole.” Other times, I felt he was just like most Black men, including myself, in that you want to choose a wife who loves and cares about you as a person, not based on your possessions. Mr. Malcom’s mother did embody some Claire Huxtable energy because she knew where her son’s heart was and called him on his bullshit. That was entertaining in itself.

Sope Dirisu as Mr. Malcolm and Freida Pinto as Selina Dalton
Photo courtesy of Obscured Pictures

Okay, so I must admit that the show stealer of this whole film was Zawe Ashton who portrayed Julia Thistlewaite. Her facial expressions when she gets pissed or is focused on Mr. Malcolm’s displeasure was so funny. Her quick comebacks and insults brought humor to the film while also helping to maintain the tone, as she was easily able to throw out a funny snide remarks while keeping a straight face. Good job Ms. Ashton! At first, her perceived rejection seemed childish or akin to something a teenage drama queen would go through, but you soon come to realize how much of an impact the encounter had on her psyche. Given the time period and the movie’s environment, this wasn’t an easy character to like or make redeemable, but Zawe pulls it off. I definitely now want to see more of her work after watching this film. Constance Wu was originally supposed to play the role of Julia, which would have been ok, but I think Zawe makes it clear that this role was made for her. 

Zawe Ashton as Julia Thistlewaite and Sope Dirisu as Mr. Malcolm
Photo courtesy of Obscured Pictures

I found Mr. Malcolm’s List to be one of the better rom-coms I’ve seen in the last few years, mostly because I found each character relatable. This movie encompasses some life lessons that many of us have had to learn or are currently learning. When it comes to love, emotions, relationships, and dating, we are all trying to figure it out and, in most cases, it is a hot mess. Only after we get out of our own way and learn not to be influenced by society (or media) can we discover ourselves and find what works best for us. This is what Mr. Malcolm’s List accomplishes. I would recommend watching it with a group of friends and seeing what deep discussions develop.

You can watch Mr. Malcolm’s List on all major platforms including Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

07Jul/22

Thor: Love and Thunder, The Funniest There Is

Photo courtsey of Disney

In theaters: Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Run time: 119 mins

Rated: PG-13

SYNOPSIS: Thor embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. However, his retirement gets interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher, a galactic killer seeking the extinction of the gods.

Historically, it’s been proven difficult to produce a successful third film in a movie franchise, just look at the reviews for Blade: Trinity; but with Thor: Love and Thunder, Director Taika Waititi has provided MCU fans with the funniest Thor movie to date. This should not be a surprise, the award-winning director breathed new life into the Thor series with Thor: Ragnarok and has received much acclaim for his dark comedy What We Do in the Shadows. The humor and drama are balanced, continuing the tone of the previous films. 

Thor, The Funniest There Is

As I mentioned before, this film is the funniest of the Thor movies, especially when it comes to Thor himself. The exploration of his relationship with Jane and his former favorite weapon, Mjolnir, was the funniest part of the film in my opinion…well, besides the screaming goats. His introduction with the Guardians of the Galaxy had me laughing because of the damage he’d done while attempting to help take out a group of villains. The Guardian’s appearance was brief, but I enjoyed seeing the old gang since it’s been a while! Thor’s not only dealing with his feelings towards Jane and Mjolnir, but his current weapon, Stormbreaker, senses Thor’s intrigue with his ex-weapon, so much so that when Thor tries to call for Mjolnir, Stormbreaker appears like a lover catching him in the act. 

There is a fun little montage explaining what happened with the relationship between the two. The references to rom-com movies was a cute addition. Watching Thor deal with his emotional issues while trying to battle the God Butcher, made for a great addition to the film. Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor was organic as usual. I definitely feel this role was made for him. His ability to switch seamlessly from comedy to drama was shown greatly in this film as we witness Thor “go through it”. This film provided more growth for this character, something the audience and I, myself, can relate to as we get older and experience life. 

Korg, voiced by Taika Waititi, was hilarious with his offbeat and unusual comments. His narration throughout was certainly in sync with the film and, well let’s face it, every MCU fan loves the storytelling of Korg and Luis from Ant-Man. I don’t know about you, but I love to hear his off-the-wall stories. I’m hoping Korg and Luis eventually get some screen time together where they exchange some of their stories. 

Taika Waititi at Thor: Love and Thunder premiere. Photo courtesy of Disney

Mighty Thor

Having Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor in this film is a good fit. We get to see what happened to her relationship with Thor and what Jane has been up to this whole time. Her character is struggling to tell Thor some secrets that could affect them forever while also dealing with the effects of weilding Mjolnir. I also enjoyed watching Natalie Portman take on enemies and struggle to be a hero at this point in her life. Portman will win you over with her charm and on-screen chemistry with Hemsworth.

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie

Hail King Valkyrie!

Valkyrie is actually one of my favorite female MCU characters. Her desire to kick ass, her excitement during battle, and her sometimes brash attitude make for the best person to have your back on the battlefield. In this film, we see her boredom with her role as the leader of the New Asgard. The tourism, food advertisements, media, and inclusivity in world politics, none of it impresses her. But when there’s a new threat in the form of Gorr and Jane Foster (aka Almighty Thor) makes an appearance, she suddenly feels right at home. Tessa, herself, noted the change in the state of her character during the press conference, stating “She’s really missing being on the battlefield and missing her sisters.  And so, it’s been great fun to get to have that again, with Natalie in particular as Mighty Thor.”

Everything from her mannerisms to her face shows excitement, as she has a new force to battle alongside her sister. I enjoyed Tessa’s performance because it holds true to the nature of the female warrior. Although brief, the film does address her bisexuality, which has come up in conversations amongst fans. Can I say that I’d really like to see Valkyrie get her own project because she is that damn fun to watch?! 

Tessa Thompson at Thor premiere

“ When we first met Valkyrie, she was [dealing with alot and doing so] by drinking a lot. And Taika and I talked a lot about upending what a female superhero looks like. You have this moment where she comes out, and you think it’s gonna be sort of that badass thing and then she immediately falls over.

With this one, we also talked about the idea of someone that has a job that they really love, but they’re also kind of disgruntled. She, you know, was a professional soldier for thousands of years and now finds herself kind of stuck in bureaucracy.” -Tessa Thompson

Gorr the God Butcher

When I first heard Gorr would be the villain in the next Thor movie, I thought, “This film is going to get dark real quick” because I had read the comics and seen the damage he’s done to Thor. Christian Bale is a good actor and there are not too many, if any, roles in which I can say he was terrible. The introduction of the film provided a very dark but compelling setup for the character as we witness him slay a god with the necrosword. The strife, suffering, and death of his daughter sent him on a warpath to take out the gods. I have heard some say he is the best villain in the MCU, but I would have to disagree and that is not for lack of performance or writing. Thanos and Killmonger were so convincing, it’d be hard to top those characters (for me, at least). 

Videography 

Major kudos to the videography and post-production team on this project. The scenes where Thor and the crew fought on the necro planet and the transitions from full color to black and white were on point. The necrosword fed off whoever wielded it and you can see Gorr transform throughout the film into this hideously scary version of himself. The special effects added to the fight scenes, especially the third and final ones, were great. 

I can also say aside from the costume and art departments, the soundtrack is another aspect of the film I enjoyed because I’m a Guns’n’Roses fan. Growing up in the 90s, I didn’t think most Black people listened to Guns’n’Roses. Lol. But this brought back memories and was a great fit for the film. Now I’m curious to see if “Sweet Child of Mine” is getting more plays on streaming services.

I hope you enjoy Thor: Love and Thunder as much as I did. The one thing I will say is that as much as I loved the film, I still don’t think it is better than Thor: Ragnarok. Good thing is that both films are great for the franchise and could only help Thor stay on track to get signed on for more films, if that is in the plans…fingers crossed! 

Just an FYI, there are two post-credit scenes that you want to stick around for.

06Jul/22

Kadeem Hardison Talks About Starring in AMC Plus Sci-Fi Series Moonhaven… Truly, a Different World

Kadeem Hardison as Arlo – Moonhaven _ Season 1 , Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

Every time I see Kadeem Hardison’s name all I can hear in my head is “Dwayne! Dwayne!” in the voice of Whitley Gilbert played by Jasmine Guy on the hit show A Different World, but these days you can find Kadeem Hardison in the new AMC Plus series Moonhaven… a show where he is literally on a different world, the moon to be exact. The actor talked about his new show with Taji Mag and gave us an introduction to his love for comics books. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you become a part of this project and what was your inspiration for this role? 

Kadeem Hardison (KD): Life as an actor is pretty much the routine of you audition and then you wait. So I auditioned then I waited, but I got the part. The good part was I got sent a script, I read it, and I got very excited at the prospect that this was gonna actually be a show… like, this was already financed and happening. It wasn’t like someone was sending me a script and hoping they could raise some money. This was the beginning of a series. I was thrilled at the idea of being a part of the show because of what it suggests (in regards to the world and human existence) and how it tackles the issues [humanity has faced over the years]. I found interest in the culture that is created on the moon, this society, and the different ways people are living there. These are the same humans on Earth, they are just living a different way of life. They have figured out a way, over a hundred years, to have worked out all the kinks that have plagued society on Earth. I just thought it had a lot of good stuff to say.

What inspired my character, Arlo? For me, the character comes from the writing. Usually, I read the, script, I get an idea about how the character should walk, talk, stand, etc. There wasn’t anything specifically in other roles where I’ve gone ahead and said “okay, this guy’s gonna be a little bit like this” (an amalgamation of a bunch of different characters that I’ve either seen in the past and loved or thought “this is something I’ve always wanted to do”). This was pretty much the future and on another planet! So there wasn’t anything I could draw from the present. It wasn’t going to be like Denzel in John Q. The one thing I know about this Arlo is that he is true, a hundred percent committed to this cause, and not fake in any way. He may have problems or issues, but his focus is “we have to build this bridge to save mother Earth”.  

DDF: Are there any methods or technology from the series that you would like to see present today? 

KD: Hell yeah, I would love it if you could just take a little piece of wood and point it at something and click it, then anything you want to know shows up. That’s the first one, the fact that any surface really can be a tablet.  Anything you’re looking at, you can just tap it and it turns into a tablet. 

I loved that the detectives are more concerned with the living than the dead and the mystery of how they became dead. Now we’re more concerned with you and how you are feeling and how you’re dealing with this tragedy because your balance is my balance. If you are outta whack, then you might go out and do something crazy. That’s more work for me to try and clean up. So making sure you are okay and that you are balanced keeps the rest of us in balance. 

 DDF: So what would your utopian world look like?

KD: It would probably look a lot like Moonhaven. I really thought the things implemented in the script, in our society on Moonhaven, were pretty damn good. No, one’s hungry, no one’s stealing, very little crime and jealousy. You have those feelings, but you learn to work them out through practices and methods put in place. Music is everywhere, the alphabet is musical. There’s a dance in it. I didn’t see any animals. There’s only one dog on the moon. After realizing this, I was like “Huh? Does that mean there are no animals on the moon?”. I don’t remember the moon inhabitants dealing with animals besides the one dog and a big bird. Then I thought to myself “is that dog real?”. Yeah, I’d have some animals for sure.

DDF: Were you able to keep your composure and be in sync with Dominic during your dance routine in the series? 

KD: Yeah, absolutely. We learned that dance and it’s pretty simple. We couldn’t wait to perform it and the showrunner kept saying “We’’ll probably let you do half of it.” They let us do maybe two movements and it was like “Oh man, really?”. 

Kadeem Hardison as Arlo and Dominic Monaghan as Paul Sarno – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

DDF: Speaking of dance moves, what is your go-to move if you are asked to dance at some place like a bbq? 

KH: I like the gigolo from back in the day. That’s pretty much my go-to because it doesn’t involve a lot of movement and I am not going to sweat a lot since I don’t have to move my feet. 

DDF:  So let’s say you could bring four people from any time period to your utopian moon, what four people would it be? 

KD: I’d probably bring my idols. I’d bring Bruce Lee so he could teach us Jeet Kune Do. I’d bring Muhammad Ali so he’d give us confidence beyond ourselves. I’d probably bring Malcolm X because he starts some shit… he’d definitely find some shit to start. I’d bring Prince because he is a musical genius and he would figure out new instruments. He would invent instruments and find ways for us to enjoy sound. 

DDF: I see you like comic books, who are your four favorite comic book characters? 

KH: I’d have to say Spiderman, Batman, Black Panther, and Wolverine.

DDF: What other sci-fi character would you like to be? 

KD: Any of the Dune characters. I don’t care who it is.

DDF: The Mooners focus on healing in Moonhaven. What way(s) do you use to heal? 

KH: Usually peace and quiet. If that doesn’t work, then usually loud music and video games. Comics are also my go-to and have been since I was eight years old. It is a form of escapism. You can dive into a comic and next thing you know, you’re doing voices. Then you’re trying to read each character differently and create something new. 

DDF: I was a huge “A Different World” fan growing up. When I saw your character killed by television in “Def by Temptation”, it kind of scarred me. 

KH: Killed by television, right? Which became an actual fear (of mine). I was like, “I gotta get off this show because I will never be able to do any movies or other projects. I don’t wanna be killed by television”! So yeah, that’s funny.


Moonhaven starring Kadeem Hardison, Emma McDonald, Joe Manganiello, and Dominic Monaghan starts streaming on Thursday, July 7 Exclusively on AMC+.

Full interview with Kadeem Hardison

06Jul/22

Moonhaven Star, Emma McDonald, Says the Series is Brilliant, Experimental, and Timely

Emma McDonald as Bella Sway – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

What would happen if we flew people to the moon and established a place where solutions to human issues were developed or have been already invented? The sci-fi drama Moonhaven on AMC Plus gives a glimpse of what that would look like. The star of the series, Emma McDonald, talked with Taji Mag about her lead role in the series plus she gave us details on what the Moonhaven community is like. 

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What was your reaction when you first read the script?

Emma McDonald (EM):  I have to do this, please let me be a part of this. Moonhaven is brilliant and such a rare thing.

DDF: How would you describe your character, Bella?

EM: It’s like an onion. There are a lot of layers there. A reluctant hero, a soldier, a cynic who’s incredibly lovable at the same time. She has the most bangin’ playlist as well. 

DDF: Speaking of the playlist, what song or songs would you use to describe her? 

EM: Oh, she’s into her oldies and she likes classics. Bella likes things with a bit of heart and soul.

DDF: Can you describe what the utopian place looks like in the series and if you could create your own utopia, what would it look like? 

EM:  It’s interesting because going into the series, I don’t think you expect it (the utopian community) to be what Peter (Ocko) has made. It’s so stunning and so sort of focused on nature, the environment, beauty, and love. You kind of picture a typical sci-fi world with metal shiny composites and all of that, but instead you have a botanical garden and woodland. I found it really interesting seeing that development and all the sets being built by the fantastic art department. Peter has such a way of making things so timely and so relevant, but also creating something so beautiful and unexpected. You have a diverse landscape there, as well, from quarries to rich woodlands and beautiful meadows. If you look at it from Bella’s perspective, she’s been on this barron polluted earth (a hundred years in the future), which if we don’t change our ways, at the rate we are going, that situation may be our reality. 

DDF: There is a scene where Peter (Dominic Monaghan) and Arlo (Kadeem Hardison) perform a dance for your character. Were you able to keep your composure and not laugh? 

EM: So they weren’t allowed to do the dance in its entirety. I think one day we may have them do it. I think it’ll be something beautiful. When they practiced it beforehand, I had a giggle. But when I was on set, I thought “Bella would not think this is funny. She wants to leave and have her mission end right now.” So I channeled [what I envisioned would be] her composure and it showed on the outside. 

DDF: So what was your biggest obstacle filming this series? 

EM: For me, it was letting go of each scene at the end of the cut. I’ve got a rich theater background, which I think has really helped me in this role and set me up well for it. But obviously, when you’re doing a show, you’re doing a tour, you sleep on it, and then the next day you come in and you think “Oh my, I can do this” or “What happens if I play it out in this way?”. So for me, the biggest obstacle was letting go of each scene and each day, and sort of starting fresh the next day with something new. There are so many ways to play a scene and because Peter’s writing is such a gift, you kind of wanna keep going at it. 

DDF: Speaking of theater, I noticed that the conversation between you and Joe Manganiello’s character, Tomm, seemed very poetic and Shakespearian. Was that included in the script or was that something that you or Joe channeled on the spot?

EM: Well, that’s all Peter. All of the writing and the dialogue was him. We had a few moments of improv, not really with me and Joe necessarily, but with Kade and Dominic. For Peter, language is such a big part of the story. You can see it in the Mooners’ (citizens of the moon) mannerisms, their physical language, and the way that they speak to each other.

It’s so beautiful, but coming at it from Bella’s perspective, she’s kinda like “You guys are a bit strange.” Which is also fun to play. As she adapts, she brings some of those things into her own life. It’s very interesting.

Emma McDonald as Bella Sway – Moonhaven _ Season 1, Episode 6 – Photo Credit: Szymon Lazewski/AMC

DDF: What four people would you like to bring to your version of a utopian planet?  

EM: I’d have to say my little sister, cause she’s my number one.  Would I be able to use my spaceship to go back to earth? 

DDF: Sure, you have in the show. 

EM: If I have my spaceship, I can take three people to head back. My grandma. She’s no longer with us, but I would love to experience that with her and I think that would be wonderful. I’ve gotta take my mom and my dad now as well.

DDF: Is there a sci-fi character or a sci-fi franchise you would like to take part in? 

EM: I’d like to see Moonhaven keep going, first off. 

DDF: Of course, of course! I can see you in the Alien franchise.

EM: Oh my gosh. I would love to work with Sigourney Weaver. Yes, please. I’d shave my head as well. Yeah, I think together we’d be great with it. I really like Lord of the Rings. God, I would love to be in Star Wars. I mean, I could just keep going. Ex Machina, I thought that was awesome as well. That’s a very different route into it. 

I think we have quite a lot of experimental and character-driven stuff in Moonhaven, and I think their approach is really interesting as well…but yeah, Alien, man. I think you’re absolutely right with that. I would love that. 

I really hope to see Emma in another sci-fi franchise like Alien or Star Wars! I have no doubt she will end up getting some screentime in the future. In the meantime, catch her as Bella on Moonhaven streaming on Thursday, July 7th.

30Jun/22

Rise is About Family, Love, and Perseverance

Streaming: Disney Plus

Release Date: June 24, 2022

Actors: Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, Yetide Badaki as Veronica “Vera” Antetokounmpo, Uche Agada as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ral Agada as Athanasios “Thanasis” Antetokounmpo, Elijah Sholanke as Alexandros “Alex” Antetokounmpo, and Jaden Osimuwa as Kostantinos “Kostas” Antetokounmpo

Synopsis: Based on the real-life story about the Antetokounmpo family, the first family to produce a trio of brothers who go on to become NBA champions. It explores their journey as Nigerian immigrants in Greece striving for a better life.

Many of us know about, or at least have heard of, Giannis Antetokounmpo (aka The Greek Freak) from his MVP awards and 2021 championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. For years now, he’s been dominating the NBA. We also know that he was born in Greece to Nigerian parents and has siblings in the NBA. One thing we are not sure about is his upbringing…until now. With the film Rise, audiences and fans can get a glimpse of what it was like for Antetokounmpo growing up. You’ll be surprised to learn what Giannis’ family had to go through…I know I was.

Giannis and his family

We’ve seen it before: the overseas basketball player struggling financially with aspirations to play in the NBA. But Rise has a different narrative; Giannis and his brothers were also trying to avoid deportation while living in Greece. Not ony does this make for a more interesting film with layers, but also provides a better feel for the family’s obstacles. This film brings to light the family’s obstacles and their persistence to make ends meet while also showcasing their optimism. This gave me a better understanding of why Giannis and his brothers are down to earth on the court and on social media. The scenes when the family was almost caught by the authorities and deported back to Nigeria felt incredibly tense. They were barely escaping each time, and so I couldn’t help but cheer for this family’s breakthrough since it was clear they needed it. It elicited an oddly intense response from me, especially for a Disney film. I found this quite impressive. Even during the part of the movie where Giannis was drafted, I couldn’t help but watch with great antcipation!

The direction and videography were very well executed in this film. Historically, it hasn’t been easy capturing the beauty of dark skin on screen, especially when it comes to lighting and angles, but this wasn’t an issue in this film. This is my first time watching a piece directed by Akin Omotoso and I look forward to seeing more of his work.

I have to be honest. When it comes to biopics, sometimes they aren’t the best quality, but I can say that Rise was well done. There was nothing lacking in the acting, especially with Yetide Badaki who played Giannis’ mother and who is Nigerian herself. She was nurturing, protective, and also provided an inspiring presence on screen. Every time I saw her, she reminded me of not only my mother but also other Black mothers I know.

Dayo Okeniyi (as Giannis’ father, Charles) also had a great performance. Portraying a father who’s doing all he can to provide for his family, considering everything they’d overcome, the stress was real and Dayo was able to channel that stress. I can only imagine how it would feel consistently trying to find ways to bring joy to my family while dealing with such difficult circumstances.

The actors portraying Giannis and his brothers added to the great performance of the cast as a whole. Uche Agada was convincing as a newcomer learning how to play the game of basketball at a later age. He provided a believable fish-out-of-water perspective. When the boys were faced with racism as teenagers, it definitely resonated with me because I too have experienced racism at a young age, as I’m sure many other young men of color have.

Giannis with actor Uche Agada

Overall, this film was a well-crafted project for Disney Plus that the entire family can watch and enjoy. It’s a film about family, love, and perseverance. After watching this film, I have a better appreciation for the Antetokounmpo family as a whole and it made me respect the former MVP even more. The writing and acting were compelling, and I hope many people watch this film as it’s a fresh take on a basketball story that happens to be based on true events. Not only am I cheering for the success of this film, but I am also cheering for the success of the Antetokounmpo family.

22Jun/22

Influences of Yoruba Culture in the Netflix Documentary “Bigger Than Africa”

Synopsis: Bigger Than Africa documents the journey of enslaved Africans through the lens of these surviving West African cultures. This historical documentary takes you through six countries: Brazil, Cuba, Nigeria, Trinidad & Tobago, The United States, and back to where it all began in West Africa. The well-researched documentary will expose international audiences to how Yoruba culture transcends continents and connects the Black diaspora.

How far does the influence of Yoruba culture go? Well, the documentary Bigger Than Africa gives some examples of what areas are influenced by (and still practice) the culture of Yoruba. Director Toyin Ibrahim Adekeye put together interviews and video clips of people from around the world delving into the history of Yoruba. Taji Mag was able to catch up with the director.

Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you come up with this project?

Toyin Ibrahim Adekeye (TIA): The idea came to me through research. I started in my final year of film school and I was supposed to do a thesis film before graduating that year. I wanted to do something that reflected my culture and, so, during my research, I came across a village in South Carolina, a Yoruba village in the South.

I assembled my crew and we went to South Carolina. What I found there was really overwhelming for me. Before colonization in West Africa, the Oyo empire was one of the largest empires in West Africa. To now be discovering a village in South Carolina named after Oyo…that just set up something bigger in my head for this project.

I told my crew that we have to go back to LA and they thought I was crazy, but I knew this project was going to be more than a 15-minute short film. 

So I left it alone and I ended up doing something else that year, but I continued my research because I was curious to find out what other places and things I could find out about Yoruba culture, my culture, where I came from.

So the research extended into all those countries you see in Bigger Than Africa. It was shot in Brazil, the United States, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and then West Africa. Maybe four or five years later was when I revisited the Oyo village. By that time I was ready to move forward with the film.  

DDF: What was your experience like when you traveled to these different locations? 

TIA: It was eye-opening. It’s not like I didn’t have an idea of how far my culture reached growing up in Africa. I had an idea, but it was vague. Like, I’m interviewing people who have a Yuroba name and they’re Brazilian or they’re from Trinidad or Cuba. Now I’m interviewing people who still worship Orishas (gods). Then I’m in Brazil where I bought an Akara (pancake) at a food truck. In Yoruba culture, they call it Akaraj. I made sure I bought that and ate it. 

DDF: What was the most shocking place that you visited during filming?

TAI: Brazil has the largest population of Blacks outside of Africa, so that’s a huge population. In every part of Brazil, you will see imprints of your culture everywhere. As for the music, all over the world they’re singing songs from Yoruba. And no matter where they are from, I can understand what they’re saying. Watching people just dancing and clapping, I was in awe of this beautiful moment.

DDF: The musical influence Yoruba has on the world is very interesting, like the invention of the steel pan drum. How did you react to that discovery? 

TIA: Yeah. That was very interesting. The colonizers took away their skin drums and used them for worship, so the people came up with an alternative which was the steel pan drum. You can’t tell Yoruba history without talking about spirituality. And in Yoruba, the drums are the music, the dance, and the dress. It’s a combination. You can’t take just one, you can’t detach one from the other. So the drum is always there. Maybe that’s why you see the drums in music in a lot of all these countries. That’s why it has been a huge part of music so far for years and years.

DDF: What was it like to screen the film at the United Nations? 

TIA: It was very, very good. It was a very good experience. The film premiered at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles to a sold-out audience. From there we got invitations to festivals around the world. Some people who saw the film said it was the perfect film for the United Nations and invited us to come to the UN. So we went to screen our film at the United Nations this past February. It was a great turnout. 

DDF: Are you working on something new? 

TIA: Yeah. I have a few things that I’m finalizing. One is a documentary and I have two narrative things that we’re almost finalizing. Plus we’ve been getting so many requests for more coverage for Bigger Than Africa. At almost every festival we go to, there’s always someone in the audience who would say we should cover Jamaica or Colombia or other parts of the world. People are saying I need to do a sequel. Hopefully, we’ll get enough support. And if people are pushing for a sequel, I’m open to it as well. 

I truly enjoyed Bigger Than Africa and learned so much about the Yoruba culture and how much it has impacted the world. I highly recommend you stream the documentary on Netflix and see what the buzz is about and why the film was such a hit. Let’s hope to see a part two of this film and see what other parts of the globe have Yoruba roots still intact.

21Jun/22

DeWanda Wise and Dr.Rebecca Hall Discuss Audio Drama, “Wake”

Wake

I found myself intrigued with the history of women-led revolts during times of enslavement, mostly because it is barely mentioned when it comes to Black History. With the new audio drama, Wake, the audience is taken on a journey with Dr. Rebecca Hall as she learns more about these fierce and inspiring women while facing her own obstacles, including resistance from the educational system. With Dr. Hall’s story of perseverance and the captivating voice acting of DeWanda Wise, Wake is an audio project you’ll definitely have to check out. Dr. Hall and Wise were able to take the time to discuss the journey of the project with Taji Mag. 

Dapper Dr.Feel (DDF): What inspired you to turn your graphic novel into the audio version that has just been released? 

Dr. Rebecca Hall (DRH): The Podium, who produced the audiobook, swooped right in and was like, “We wanna make an audio drama” and I’m like, “Awesome!”

DDF: Ms. Wise, how did you get involved with this project? 

DeWanda Wise (DW): My TV agent sent it to me. They know that I love information. I need as much information as humanly possible, so they sent it all at once. I just devoured it all, honestly. I read the graphic novel and I was a real creep and really dug into Dr. Rebecca Hall’s whole life, as much as [was] available online. I was really struck by it and it was one of those things that I could automatically recognize as kindred, both in ideological point of view and the approach to the project. Something that we talked about quite a bit was my approach as an actor, it was quite anthropological. I was also an Urban Studies major, so I’m just deeply invested in how we carry our lives and the lives of our ancestors.

I prefer to be hit [with projects that grab my attention], which is, like, deep, you know. It’s just, it struck me really deep. Yeah. Yeah.

DDF:  So how was your preparation different from your acting roles or your theater roles? 

DW: Not much to be honest with you. I think my approach is my approach. I’m like super research-centric. It was mainly kind of balancing and matching her (Dr. Rebecca Hall’s) very iconic voice. Very specific. 

DRH: My voice is iconic? 

DW: As soon as someone hears your voice, they’re like, “I know who that is”. Now you know this about yourself. 

DRH: I don’t know this about myself at all. 

DW: Now you do.

DDF: Dr. Hall, you’ve been through a lot during your career…being fired and taking jobs you were over qualified for. How did you continue to press on? 

DRH: Yeah, it was a nightmare. There’s actually so much that’s not even in the story, but I actually kept track of how many jobs I applied for. At one point, this was actually during the recession. I had 184 cover letters that I created over a two-year period. I was a mess. I mean, the last time I got fired, I got in the car and drove down to Moab, which is about four hours from my house. Then checked into some fancy place and stayed for a few days. I was already overwhelmed and doing all of this. I had a lot of legal support from protestors. My partner was very supportive and kept motivating me to move forward.

My father was really influential: he helped shape this, this determination I have. He was born in 1898, and never finished eighth grade. He lived in Chicago, working weird jobs like shoe shining and waiting tables. He kept getting fired because he wouldn’t be deferential to white people. Like, he wasn’t doing the Jim Crow thing and he just kept getting fired. I guess that’s in my DNA.

DDF: DeWanda, what was one of the obstacles you faced while recording? 

DW: There weren’t really any obstacles. It was a really lovely week, honestly. I’d just finished a job that was very lovely, but also very white. So the experience on Wake was so nice. These are some of my favorite actors. I get there and Chante Adams is there, it was so lovely! [There] was a Black woman Playwright, Black woman Director… Podium really lets us do our thing. 

DeWanda Wise (Middle), Chanté Adams (Right), and other castmates reading WAKE.

DDF:  Dr. Hall, so which one was worse, reading the painful stories of Black women in the past or revisiting your past while developing this project?

DRH: It’s interesting. I was just thinking about that. So, in the book, where I talk about how difficult it was…my emotional journey dealing with a lot of racism obstacles at Archives…it was all almost 20 years ago, so I have a kind of distance from it. Whereas, Wake is very present. So in a way, it was kind of more painful to write this. 

DDF: DeWanda, what historical figure would you portray in a movie? 

DW: I would play Assata Shakur in a second! We were talking about getting the rights to that book and it is impossible because she’s a fugitive in Cuba. I’ve asked and am really trying to figure out a loophole, but yeah. 

DDF: Would you write that movie? 

DRH: I don’t think so, but I don’t know. Shakur’s autobiography helped me survive law school at Berkeley. Like, it was, you know, it was one of those reads where, at different moments of my life, I read it when I needed it. 

Make sure to purchase your copy of Wake, available exclusively on Audible now.

Wake

Wake is an imaginative tour-de-force that tells the powerful story of women-led slave revolts, and chronicles scholar Dr. Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record. 

Cast: DeWanda Wise, Chanté Adams, Jerrie Johnson, Fọlákẹ́ Olówófôyekù, Katherine McNamara, Bahni Turpin, Rhian Rees, Karen Malina White, Román Zaragoza, Alex Ubokudom, John Clarence Stewart, Blake Cooper Griffin, Tim DeKay, Kate Steele, André Sogliuzzo, and Matthew Wolf.

Originally published as a part graphic novel and part memoir, Podium Audio acquired the exclusive global audio rights to Wake, the graphic novel named one of the Best Books of 2021 by NPR. Over the last year, Podium Audio has developed this work into a feature-length audio play in partnership with critically acclaimed playwright and television writer Tyler English-Beckwith.

05Jun/22

AMC Releases First Look at 61st Season Two

61st Season Two
Courtney B. Vance as Franklin Roberts

With season one of 61st Street ending on May 29th and most of the stories surrounding Mose’s case beginning to unfold, many more opportunities to clean up the police and judicial system are in sight for lawyer Franklin Roberts, played by Courtney B. Vance. The same police and prosecutors are responsible for illegal activity and conviction of Black people in the community, are still not happy with the result of the case and will continue with their illicit tactics. Who knows how Lt. Brannigan, played by Holt McCallany, and his underlings will react to the righteous efforts of Roberts and his wife. By the way, I’m not too fond of Lt. Brannigan because he has shown me he is the devil. I know it’s just acting but Holt plays that role so well; he had me yelling at my tv screen. You’ll have to see what I mean by watching the first season streaming on AMC+. 

The second season will start streaming in 2023, enough time for me to cool down and lower my blood pressure before revisiting my dislike for Lt. Brannigan. Check out the trailer below. If you are like me you’ll have a few questions and it looks like there won’t be any dancing to Kirk Franklin at the end of season two.

About 61st Street: A propulsive thriller that courses through the dark heart of the infamous Chicago criminal justice system as police and prosecutors investigate a deadly drug bust that threatens to unravel the police department’s code of silence.

Starring: Courtney B. Vance, Aunjanue Ellis, Mark O’Brien, Holt McCallany, Tosin Cole, Andrene Ward-Hammond, and Bentley Green.