Category Archives: Lifestyle

01Dec/22

Taji Vol33: Renewal

Taji Mag Vol 33 Renewal

Release Dec 7 2022 | Vol33 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Renewal! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol33 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @_raven.nicole_ by @theonewillfocus3. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Monica Calhoun on The Best Man, Love, and Being Grateful” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: My Recommendation – Ask More Questions” by dCarrie; “What Does Spiritual Health Look Like?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Be Extra! A Campaign for Extracurricular Activities” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 33 contributed photo story, “Renewal;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Garlic Jalapeño Rolls; “Why Everyone—Including You—Needs Financial Therapy” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece by Justin Moultrie; Coloring Book Appreciation featuring “MERKIDZ” by Micah BlackLight; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 33 Renewal

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 33

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

17Nov/22

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever…One of the Best Films of 2022

Wakanda Forever
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Wakanda Forever is a very emotional film; the feelings started to boil up within the first six minutes (so make sure you’ve got your popcorn ready before the movie starts, you don’t want to miss a second). It’s no surprise that Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa would die in this film because Marvel had made it clear that they would NOT be recasting Boseman’s role. Nothing hit harder than when the infamous Marvel introduction appeared sans music with various cutscenes of Boseman. I’ve seen the film twice, once with other critics and once with a crowd of people; both times, I could hear sniffling and see tears falling from many an eye. Hell, I even got misty-eyed during my first screening. If you have not yet seen the film, (1st of all, shame on you for missing opening weekend) be prepared to bring tissues or wear an ugly shirt to cry on. Wakanda Forever not only pulls on the heartstrings but also has some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in the MCU with a nice helping of humor sprinkled in here and there. This film was also incredibly well-directed. Next, allow me to go into more detail about this incredible Ryan Coogler-helmed project. 

Wakanda Forever
Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Storyline

I was concerned about how Ryan Coogler would make this film work with the characters rumored to appear and how Wakanda would face one of its biggest threats without its biggest hero. Coogler did not disappoint and actually made me appreciate him as an artist even more. Let’s start with the way that T’Challa’s death was handled. It kind of mirrored reality; in the film, we discover that Shuri was unaware of her brother’s ailment until it was too late. We all felt Shuri… at least I did when I discovered that Chadwick had passed away without warning. Although Shuri had saved him and many other MCU characters in the past, she could not help her brother due to the lack of resources…the heart-shaped herb. I felt quite connected to this character because I lost my brother six years ago this very month. To feel as helpless as Shuri is nothing short of heartbreak.

Something else I noticed about Shuri was that she had difficulty grieving the loss of her brother, like some of us do, and it wasn’t until the very end of the film that she was able to deal with that. This is not unlike how some people of color take a long time to get help dealing with grief and mental health. The film interestingly (and quite surprisingly) explores her rage and need for retribution by reintroducing her to Michael B. Jordan’s Kilmonger after she ingests the synthetic heart-shaped herb she created. I was not surprised because as Kilmonger is a wildly compelling and rage-filled Marvel villain, Shuri (in a display of similar rage) had mentioned earlier that she wanted to burn everything after her brother’s loss. One can clearly see the parallels.

Shuri’s issues seemed to also parallel Namor’s as he had lost his mom at an early age and hadn’t properly dealt with that devastating loss and all the feelings that came with it. His anger drove him to hate colonizers and “land people” outside of Wakanda. 

The origin of Namor and the Talokan as told in the film was, in my opinion, a way better story than what was depicted in the comic book. It gave Namor more motivation to be angry after seeing his people who remained on land abused and enslaved once he returned to bury his mother at the very place she had called home. 

I am a Riri Williams fan because she is a young, Black, highly intelligent character my nieces can look up to. I felt her involvement in this story was necessary. Her ability to build a machine that could locate Vibranium underwater was invaluable. So much so that her idea was stolen by her professor with the intent to make a profit…hmmm, sounds like something that could happen in real life! 

This time, Wakanda kept its quarrels within its country’s borders and did not allow for spillage into America or any other place like it did in the first film. I appreciated this because it stayed true to the comic, just like when Namor and his warriors attacked Wakanda and flooded its citizens. I must say that part hurt my heart, but I knew it was coming. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Danai Gurira as Okoye and Letitia Wright as Shuri in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Angela Basset Oscar Buzz

There is already Oscar buzz surrounding Angela Basset for her role as Queen Ramonda; she deserves at least a nomination if not more. Her expression of pain from the loss of her family is heart-wrenching. She has been through more than most could handle starting with the murder of her husband, her kids being snapped away by Thanos then brought back to only be taken away again. That’s enough to drive anyone insane! On top of that, she STILL had to deal with the greedy members of the United Nations (UN) while trying to run a country with the threat of Namor. Whew! Talk about carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders…nicely toned shoulders, I might add. Outside of Basset being a phenomenal actress, the other cast members also performed amazingly. You would think, with such a large cast, at least one person would compromise the film, but no one underperformed. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Dorothy Steel as Merchant Tribe Elder, Florence Kasumba as Ayo, Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda, Danai Gurira as Okoye in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Beware of the Talokan

For a moment there, I thought I was watching a horror film about Namor and the Talokan warriors wiping out Americans at sea. The singing Talokans hypnotizing the ship’s inhabitants to walk to their drowning death was surprising and had me thinking “What an awful way to die, but what an awesome war tactic!” The Talokan weapons were so creative, especially the water bombs that obliterated everything around them. 

Wakanda Forever
(L-R): Alex Livinalli as Attuma and Mabel Cadena as Namora in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Namor was a fierce warrior, and Attuma (although not as powerful as Namor) was just as punishing as he was in the comics. The production notes mention that Namor is as strong as Thor and the Hulk, and man did it show. My man was tossing helicopters like little dice. 

A Soundtrack That Moves You

Of course, the soundtrack for this film was fire! When “They Want It, But No” played in the background as the Dora Milaje was going to work on the soldiers, I was all for the ass whoopings they were handing out. Burna Boy’s emotional “Alone” track adds to the somber mood of the characters dealing with loss. And Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” at the end was a tribute to the legend, Chadwick Boseman. 

Ruth Carter’s Costumes

The award-winning costume designer once again displayed her talents with beautiful designs for both the Wakandans and the Talokans. The intricate detail put into the Talokan costumes was beautiful in color and detail. In my interview with Mabel Cadena, she explained, “Well, it was huge because on the one hand, I thought, ‘This is beautiful, amazing, and I’m a Latin American woman playing a superhero in this movie’. On the other hand, I was like ‘This is very heavy’! I’d never worn something so heavy and needed to be able to move so fast”.

Wakanda Forever
Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Final Thoughts

I know Rotten Tomatoes currently has Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at a critic score of 84%, but the film is more accurately reflected by the audience score of 94%, in my opinion. The fact that the film was able to use grief and mental health as part of the plot (which is vital for characters who are Black and Brown) and made it work in the Marvel Universe is a big accomplishment. The film also answered many questions I had about the fate of some characters. This is hands down the best MCU film/project to come out this year, and I can honestly say it’s in my top 5 favorite MCU films of all time. I was also surprised that the post-credit scene showed T’Challa had a son with Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), whom she raised in Haiti. This will add even more interest to the future of Wakanda as the new prince learns to eventually become king. Finally, let’s give a round of applause to the women in the film who drive the story and show ultimate strength not only physically, but in their relationships as well. Overall, Wakanda Forever is one of if not the best Marvel films of 2022. It focuses on grief, forgiveness, family, and lastly a tribute to Chadwick Boseman that is worth watching.

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Starring Angela Bassett, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Tenoch Huerta, Dominique Thorne, Michaela Coel, Mabel Cadena, and Alex Livinalli. 

09Nov/22

Sherman’s Showcase Creators Discuss the Creative Process For Season Two and Their Love for Music

Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin as Sherman McDaniels – Sherman’s Showcase _ Season 2, Episode 1 – Photo Credit: Michael Moriatis/IFC/AMC

It’s been a couple of years since Sherman’s Showcase last aired its “Black History Month Spectacular,” and now it has returned with its second season, which premiered October 26th on AMC. The second season continues to make audiences laugh with bold and funny parodies that include returning characters Dutch Sherpherd played by Diallo Riddle; Joe in a Vest, played by Keith Benard, Mary J Blige, played by Bresha Webb and Sherman McDaniels, played by Bashir Salahuddin. The creators and stars of the variety show, McDaniels and Salahuddin, gave Taji Mag the reason for the show’s hiatus. 

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): First of all, what took you so long to bring us season two of Sherman’s Showcase? 

Diallo Riddle (DR): Sherman’s showcase just landed too big the first time, so they were like, “Mm-hmm Nah, hold ’em back for three and a half years.” terrible. So, It was. 

DDF: I know you two have worked together for a long time, since the days of Chocolate News and Jimmy Fallon. What was the writing process for this project, Sherman’s Showcase season two?

DR: I can remember around 2008, we wrote a pilot that will never get. It was basically a variety show, and we would take it around to, like TBS, and some other places cause we knew we wanted to do something that sort of like merged our love of variety and music. Then we ended up, later that year, being some of the first writers of Jimmy Fallon ever hired.

So, his new show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, became the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. We would be talking music and involved in Quest Love and the guys from the Roots. We always said, “You know, that song that Ciara is singing sounds like a song that Rihanna passed on. We just kept thinking, “What’s a show that could bring all the music nerds of the world together? And that show eventually became Sherman Showcase, which was obviously based on Soul Train, the old show Solid Gold, and various shows from around that time. 

But it was also just our excuse to do nerdy comedy around everything we think about.  Whether you’re a sci-fi nerd, music nerd, or even just a comedy nerd, it’s like nerds of the world unite, you know? 

Aleksei Archer and Will A. Miles – Sherman’s Showcase _ Season 2, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Michael Moriatis/IFC/AMC

DDF: When was the first time you came up with a parody song? 

DR:  I was literally in the shower like, “What’s a song with a chorus that I can sing, and it’s just an undeniable truth?” That was the idea that popped in my head, and I texted Bashir roughly around the same time. He was like, “Yo, I finally figured out our Parliament song, and he texted me, I think it should be called F is for dunking, and I was like, What’d you say? And he said, Funking. And I was like, “Oh, it’s okay. Yeah, let’s try that.”

DDF: You guys did a lot. This second season, especially with the first two episodes. I have to ask you, has Mary J. Blige the skits you’ve done about her? 

DR: She sure has! Apparently, somebody reached out to Bresha (Webb), and they were like,” Hey, I’m with Mary. Should I show her the sketch? And Bresha said, “Yeah, show her the sketch!” They played it for Mary, and she watched it really quietly the entire time barely Mary looked up and then she finally told Bresha’s friend, “ Man! I don’t sound like that!Lol!” So I think we’re slowly winning Mary over, but I think a couple more years. Bresha is the definitive Mary j Blige.

DDF: I was thinking to myself they are picking on Mary. Lol!

Bashir Salahuddin (BS): No, we love her. We only do stuff about people we love. Certain shows have different angles when they talk about people, we really do try to make a couple of silly jokes, but ultimately, our goal is that the person (we portraying on the skit) can watch it themself and feel like this is silly, and, but it’s still kind of funny.

So I, I respect the whole, like, that’s not the perfect impression because at least that tells me at least she (Mary J. Blige) didn’t say, “Hey, this ain’t funny.”. She clearly watched the whole thing. 

DR: By the way, she said something to the effect that I ain’t never said “Mer (instead of saying, Mary). But you know, I think the last thing I’ll tell you about that is, you know, we just come from a place of, like, we love these artists. 

BS: We love Mary J, Prince, and Morris Day, and we love soul music. We love hip hop, We love Lil’ Baby, Lil Durk. We have a Lil’ Baby and a Lil’ Dirk style song both this season, and we got an actor playing Lil’ Baby.

Morris Day and Jermone Benton – Sherman’s Showcase _ Season 2, Episode 4 – Photo Credit: Michael Moriatis/IFC/AMC

DDF: Which celebrity from the past would you like to have on the show?

BS: That’s a great question. My brain immediately goes in like the seventies because I do feel like, before the internet, people were a little bit more willing to be a little wilder cause they didn’t have to worry that everybody was gonna watch it again the next day.

That’s a great question. I immediately think of, like, I don’t know why my brain went to Barry White for some reason. I think Barry White would be very fun, and I think he could take a joke. Barry versus Sherman could be a funny episode where we play enemies or something. That might be fun.

DR: I’m gonna say I think it would’ve been great to see Sammy Davis Jr. on the show. I think that would’ve been amazing. I think maybe with a young Quincy Jones since we know that Sherman’s main rival is Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones lives rent-free in Sherman’s Head; I feel like to this day, he’s still thinking,” Oh man, I still got time to catch up. I may not produce Thriller, but I’ll produce Jermaine’s (Jackson’s) album. I feel like everything that happens in Quincy’s life, Sherman wishes, could happen to him. 

BS: I think Sherman’s own pick might be like Mahalia Jackson. It might be like one of those old-school gospel artists that nobody would never go near Soul Train. 

DDF: It must be fun with you guys in the writer’s room. You guys must be cracking up all the time. 

This is how we come up with ideas. We sit around and talk about things going on and music. When we start laughing about something, it eventually becomes a sketch.

Just like this interview, Sherman’s Showcase is filled with many laughs with plenty of colorful and memorable characters that resemble the show’s first season. My favorite skits have been the “Diddy’s Eight,” “Not Passing,” and “Dumpster Buddies.” Tune into AMC+ to watch past and current episodes of Sherman’s Showcase. New Guest stars Issa Rae, Chance The Rapper, Jay Pharoah, Amanda Seales, Chris Hardwick and Porsha Williams.

About Sherman’s Showcase: The acclaimed series Sherman’s Showcase features sketches, dancers, fake commercials, movie trailers, cultural nostalgia, the Funk Monster, A-list guest stars, and original songs (“Dropit Low for Jesus,” “Marina Del Ray”) that definitely climbed the fictional charts. Each episode is hosted by Sherman McDaniels as he takes viewers through time via music and comedy drawn from the 50-year library of a legendary (but fictional) musical variety show.

19Oct/22

We Were Warned About Don’t Worry Darling… I Should Have Listened

Kiki Layne as Margaret and Florence Pugh as Alice
Photos courtsey of Warner Bros

Synopsis: A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.

Starring:  Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, and Chris Pine. 

During the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling, we can see the character Margaret, played by KiKi Layne, shoving a hand from her face. Indicating she is not feeling what is going on and that something isn’t right about the neighborhood they live in. She was warning Alice, played by Florence Pugh, but after watching the film, I thought, “ Why didn’t I listen to Margaret before finishing the movie? Because Don’t Worry Darling showed promise with its star-studded cast, a budget, and lots of money put into marketing, it did not meet the mark. I’ll just have to go down the list of what went wrong with this film. 

First, I liked the videography, and the visuals were stunning. The moments where the lead character, Alice, experiences random experiences like drowning a body of water out of nowhere or being smushed by an imaginary wall. Or even the haunting images of the ghastly-faced dancers in her visions, all are what lured me to the film and kept me interested as to whether this was in her mind or was this all just an alternate reality. Either way, these scenes were something cinemas lovers would go crazy for…if it weren’t for the plot.

Florence Pugh as Alice
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros

Here is where the movie falls short. From the first act, I felt that something was off and that Alice would eventually have to face whatever reality or intriguing plot reveal was to come. Instead, the audience was duped by a rushed third act. Even the performance of Chris Pine as Frank, who was set up to be an influential cultish leader, is wasted when you find out the truth about the almost perfect life of these characters. Harry Styles’s performance was subpar and less convincing as the story progressed. 

There were some beautiful wide-shot scenes in the desert and of the perfect neighborhood where most of the story takes place. The transition from the dark and browns colored environment to the colorful scheme of the clothing, cars, and houses was appealing, making me feel the story took place in the 1950s. Two of the other things I loved about the film was the music selection, which they played during the special NYC screening I attended. The costume design felt vintage, making the character fit the era they modeled their existence after. 

With all the actors involved in this project, one would expect a lot of great performances; unfortunately, the film’s best performance was by Pugh due to the suffering plot. She was very convicneing in her performance, especially when the character felt her reality was blurred. KiKi Layne’s short screen time did stand out as her eyes were I need to tell the fear and concern she had about their existence. Harry Style was serviceable in his performance, I think he could’ve delivered a little bit better when he betrayed his wife, but besides that, he was not bad. All the other actors were decent and did not take away from the film. 


Gemma Chan as Shelley and Florence Pugh as Lisa
Photos Courstey of Warner Bros

This film is a slow burn carried mostly by Pugh, but it just doesn’t turn out to be the film I expected, and I think many will agree. The film’s third act was so rushed and a mess that it looked like it went through a rough editing process. Don’t Worry Darling would have been a better film had there been a better payoff at the end. It makes me wonder if the outcome of this film led an all the media hoopla. This tells me that if a Black woman is warning you in a movie trailer, pay attention because it means someone will suffer, and this time it was the viewer. 

Anyway, I would catch Don’t Worry Darling when it starts streaming because it’s not worth watching in the theaters. You can watch films like the Surrogates or Stepford Wives to fulfill your appetite for a good sci-fi domestic film.

07Sep/22

Writer Kwame Kwei-Armah on His New Film“Breaking” and Making the World a Better Place

John Boyega as Brian Brown-Easley

Breaking Writer Kwame Kwei-Armah on His New Film and Making the World a Better Place

Starring: John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, and Michael K. Williams
Directed by: Abi Damaris Corbin
Written by: Kwame Kwei-Armah and Abi Damaris Corbin
Release Date: 08/26/2022

What happens when a veteran tries to make an honest living for his family but faces financial issues due to a mistake the government made? In the case of Brian Brown-Easley in the film Breaking, he asked to have his due of $892 returned from the government by holding up a bank. This sad and true story was well crafted by the writing team of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Abi Damaris Corbin in the new film “Breaking“. Taji Mag was able to discuss the writing process with Armah and get his thoughts on the project.

DDF: What was the writing process for this beautiful and emotional film?

Kwame Kwei-Armah (KKA): Well, first of all, thank you for your kind words. It means a lot. I was sent the article about Brian Brown-Easley, titled “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him,” from Abi, the director and co-writer. We knew that if we were going to tell this story together, we had to feel that we did our research as effectively as humanly possible.

So we flew to Atlanta and went to the bank where it happened. We walked from his hotel room to the bank. We walked around the area, we drove around, and we spoke to people who were there on the day of the incident. We spoke to Brian’s ex, but what was most important for us was that we listen to the transcripts of the 9-1-1 operators. So we knew every word that had been said in that room. And there was a draft of this. [It] was 200 pages long…we said the only dialogue we’ll use is the dialogue that was actually said. But it was a bit too long, so we shaped it from there.

DDF: I read in production notes that you both wrote a draft of the film and went through each one line by line. That’s absolutely surgical!

KKA: Abi did the first cut. I did the second cut. Then, from there, we just started cutting things out. We were in there together, shaving and shaving away at the script.

DDF: Were there any moments where you just had to stop and step away to take a break because, emotionally, it was too tough to get through? Especially while doing the research and listening to the transcripts?

Nicole Beharie

KKA: I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped away from your Blackness walking down the street, right? You know there’s no stepping way. If you have the luxury of being a storyteller and you’re telling a story, why? Because you wanna make the world incrementally better. You wanna put a spotlight on something that says “I do this so that people can be seen and people can be heard, and their stories can be heard”. But there’s no stepping away.

DDF: What was your process for developing the supporting characters? There’s no antagonist or protagonist in this film. It’s mostly just people, human beings.

KKA: I love how you frame it because, actually, the system was the antagonist, and that’s always hard to portray. But I think one of the big things [about writing] is that you have to love every character in any narrative you create. And if you don’t love them, you’ve gotta find something in them to love. So, actually, what we found with all of the characters was that everybody was in there, they all had a stake in how to help Brian survive that day, and it doesn’t mean that they weren’t scared. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t know how to do it at some point, but they all tried, and that’s joyous to try and write.

DDF: What song would you use to describe this film?

KKA: What song would you pick? Well, that’s funny. I don’t think there is a song. If there was one, it might be Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” If I had to choose a rap song, it would be Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

DDF: What was Brian’s family’s first reaction to the film?

KKA: I tell you it was one of the most beautiful things when we were with Brian’s wife, John (Boyega), and Abi. I switched on the film and I was really nervous. Then Brian’s wife said she saw her husband. She saw Brian when John started acting on screen, and we were all in tears over it.

DDF: What was one of the happiest moments that you experienced from the set?

KKA: Actually, I didn’t get on set. COVID was around. I was based in London and we couldn’t fly. I couldn’t come back to the states. So Abi was writing this script with me, starting at 10:00 PM LA time and off we would go.

So actually, the happiest moment was when my manager, Max Gohar, and Abi were on set. He had recorded the first slate live. I saw John’s first lines and I was so proud. The movie went forward, and that was the greatest moment for me. It had to be like the greatest award you can ever have as a writer: just to have your craft perfectly said on paper and then on film.

Michael K. Williams

DDF: What do you think people will get out of this film?

KKA: I think the universal thing we’re trying to tap into with this film is that we’re living in times where we’re all breaking a little bit. There are so many walking bombs; maybe our role as citizens is to see people more, hear people more, and help extinguish some of the fires burning inside. And that starts with listening, and that includes systems.

DDF: Is that why you changed the film’s title from 892 to Breaking?

KKA: Yes, kind of. I think part of why I changed the name was because when you sit in the film, you think, “892, I understand it now.” But we were having some problems with people wanting to access the film. Cause they were like “892. What does it even mean? Who cares?” So actually, you write for the maximum audience, not the minimum. So when that came to our attention, we went, “okay, let’s find another name” and Breaking was the name we came up with.

The Review:


Breaking is an emotional and touching film that is slow in pace but carefully detailed. Every moment in the film captures your attention as John Boyega puts on an excellent performance. From mannerisms to dialogue, you can tell Brian was a kind but broken man. At times, I understood the character’s motives and how he tried to control his emotions throughout the whole process. Boyega deserves praise for this compelling performance and hopes it’s worthy of some nominations during award season.

Nicole Beharie also had a compelling portrayal of bank Manager Estel Valerie. Estel, although she feared for her life, wanted to help make things right for Brian and assist him in getting home to his daughter. She could relate as she has a son herself. I like that Estel was brave by ensuring everyone got out before she did. This included her teller Rosa Diaz played by Selenis Leyva, who was very effective during those intense moments.

Breaking was Micheal K. Williams’ last film, and his performance as negotiator Eli Bernard was moving. He put on a quality performance. His relatability to Brian and desire to save his life made me want to keep rooting for him to get Brian out alive. I can believe the disappointment once Brian’s life was ended.

The transitions in the film from past to present were sleek and did not distract from the film’s intention. When Brian flashes back to the past, it frustrated me that he gave his life for a country that refuses to help him stay on his feet.

The film’s tone was solemn and dramatic, but not to the point where I got bored. Just enough to keep me in the moment. The tension was high, which I felt through the acting, sound design, and videography.

The film was well received at the Sundance Film Festival, taking home the “Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast” in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. At that time the film was called “892.”

Breaking is an emotionally compelling film about a man’s fight for what he is owed after sacrificing himself in a war. If you are looking for something beautiful and want something to touch you emotionally, I highly recommend Breaking, playing in a theater near you.

Co-Writer Kwame Kwei-Armah
18Aug/22

She-Hulk: Attorney At Law…Light-Hearted Comedy Exploring Serious Issues

Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Synopsis: An attorney specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases. She leads the complicated life of a single 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is on my list of must-watch Disney+ series right now. Not only does it capture the essence of the character from the comics, but it also explores life issues that most viewers may find relatable. Self-imagery and identity are big in this series. So much so that it reminds me of how Black women are often seen as spectacles and not respected for their talents or contributions. This is something Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk (played by Tatiana Maslany), deals with regularly. She wants to live a normal life and be respected by her peers; instead, most people want to see her She-Hulk form due to their admiration for her look and strength…sound familiar? One of the most recent examples is Serena Williams (who recently announced her retirement as one of the greatest tennis players of all time) who’s been body shamed for her physique. She silenced her haters in a 2018 “Harper’s Bazaar U.K.” interview by saying, “People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different from Venus (Wiliams): she was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular – and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.” We can go further to the 19th century, where Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, also known as the Hottentot Venus, was enslaved and put on display throughout Europe for her prominent female features. During that time, she was subjected to tons of harassment and objectification. The men ogled and touched her sexually, while women envied her physique. Just like She-Hulk, she was seen as a monster, subjected to endless harassment, and constantly objectified.

Did Marvel stick with the improved CGI? Yes! After the criticism they received from the released trailer, Marvel made some improvements. There are a few moments where the CGI is not as polished, but it doesn’t detract from what is happening in the series. I guess Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, has heard enough from social media and wants to redeem himself with a good show, which is indeed what he has done. The soundtrack for the series is something to be noticed with hits by rap phenom Megan Thee Stallion, keeping in line with the series’ upbeat tone. No room for dramatic or scary tunes here!

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner in Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

If one could compare this show to anything, think Ally McBeal with superpowers. A modern legal comedy about a woman in her 30s trying to find a work-life balance while trying to manage her personal life. Tatiana Maslany is a perfect fit for this role because her humor and charm embody She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters from the comics. I love that She-Hulk can break the fourth wall and provide commentary about different parts of the series, just like the “Sensational She Hulk” comic series that ran from 1989-1994. That’s around the time I was exposed to She-Hulk when I purchased “Sensational She-Hulk” #31. The fourth wall break also reminds me of Deadpool, which some may argue is a warm-up to the third Deadpool movie. 

The series’ co-stars are all unique and provide interesting dynamics, from her bestie (and paralegal) Nikki Ramos (played by Ginger Gonzaga) to her self-absorbed former employee Dennis “Buck” Bukowski (played by Drew Matthews). All these characters fit well within the She-Hulk universe, making the series colorful and fun. Honestly, if you’re a fan of the violence and grit of Daredevil or The Punisher, this one may not be for you as it focuses more on the courtroom and daily life of Jennifer Walters. Even though it lacks the action of some other Marvel shows, it makes up for it in superb character development and humor. 

(L-R): Mark Ruffalo as Smart Hulk / Bruce Banner and Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer “Jen” Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios’ SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

There are some fun cameos that are important to each episode’s plot and help to lay the foundation for the following episodes. The cameos include Wong from Dr. Strange, Abomination from the Hulk movies, Megan the Stallion, and Smart Hulk, who serves as a mentor to She-Hulk. It has been rumored that Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, is also scheduled to make an appearance. I only had access to the first four episodes, so I cannot confirm it. Jameela Jamil portrays superhuman media influencer Titania whose jealously of She-Hulk leads to an obsessive pursuit of dominance over the heroine. Titania isn’t featured much in the first few episodes, but I’m sure she will serve as a formable adversary for She-Hulk with her super strength. Multi-hyphenate actress and singer Renée Elise Goldsberry plays Mallory, a confident lawyer who is not intimidated by the She-Hulk. I’m interested to see what more Goldsberry brings to this character.

Something I want to point out in the series is that Jennifer Walters can more easily transform than Bruce Banner. Don’t worry; Walters explains how she can accomplish this, which is understandable. What I would like to see is what She-Hulk’s maximum strength looks like. With Hulk more tamed and far from his World Breaker Hulk persona, it would be fun to see a more powerful and less reserved hulk.

Each episode features a hilarious post-credit scene you don’t want to miss. One in particular just had me stuck with my mouth open. I think after its debut, She-Hulk will be green-lit for a season two and will definitely have an audience full of fans of shows from the late 90s. I know I’ll be tuned in for all future episodes. Check out She-Hulk on Disney+ streaming on August 18, with new episodes releasing every Thursday.

12Aug/22

Taji Vol32: Energy

Release Sept 7 2022 | Vol32 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Energy! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol32 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @theblack_nificent by @kundi_da_creative. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “What Emergency, the Film, Taught Me about the Value of Upbringing” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, The Got Damn Sauce; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Finding Community In Solo Travel” by dCarrie; “Good Vibes Only is Bad Vibes” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Conjuring Worlds — Exploring Afrofuturism in Education” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 32 contributed photo story, “Energy;” Fitness Highlight, Allyson Felix – Life After Olympic Track Retirement; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Chocolate Chip Cookies; “All People Who Are Strategic Are Collecting Intelligence” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; “Last Poet Daveed Nelson Re-evolves As Gg4”; Featured Art Piece by Micah BlackLight; Comic Appreciation featuring “Kishi and the Island of Dreams” by AnimeHipHop; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 32 Energy

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 32

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

10Aug/22

“I Am Groot” Is Another Win for Disney Plus

I Am Groot, exclusively on Disney+. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Synopsis: There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! Get ready as Baby Groot takes center stage in his very own collection of shorts, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.

I have seen the two Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG)films at least three times each, but I have watched the clips of Baby Groots dancing on YouTube countless times. He’s adorable, curious, and just all-out entertaining with only saying three words to express himself, “I am Groot.” The Disney Plus series with the same name will be a big win for Disney because it was for me. It has the same concept as the GOTG films, where Groot explores the environment around him and hilariously gets himself into these situations. 

The series consists of five shorts that total 20mins, including the credits. With Vin Diesel reprising the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper voicing Racoon Rocket.  My favorite short in the series is the one where he dances off with his shapeshifting liquid creature because I like seeing Groot dance. His fierce expressions and impressive moves will have you re-watching it and I won’t be surprised if clips from the series will be trending on social media.

Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) in Marvel Studios’ I AM GROOT exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 MARVEL.

There is no shortage of the CGI budget for the series as everything looks real, from the environment that Groot interacts with down to the textures and detail of Groot’s body. We all know fans will spare no insults or Twitter bashing if the CGI is not quality because we just witnessed the backlash the She-Hulk trailer received, and before that, it was Ugly Sonic.  

If you remember the GOTG II’s opening sequence where Groot is dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky,” which is my favorite part of the film. Where not only is he dancing but chasing a small furry creature as the rest of the Guardians are fighting an eight-legged giant beast, then that is basically what you will get for the series. 

There is not much dialog throughout the series besides Groot saying his infamous phrase. Except for Rocket the Raccoon, who makes an appearance during one of the episodes. But this is a Groot feature that doesn’t rely on the dialogue and mostly focuses on Groot’s reactions and facial expressions. Like the famous cartoon Pink Panther, if some of you old enough to remember? Every episode, Groot will make a mess; the question is, how big of a mess is it? Enough that it drives the other characters crazy, but since he is charming, all is forgiven. 

There are some easter eggs within the series. One is the Alf comic book that Groot uses to make a painting and some of the places where the episodes take place to feature the background of GOTG movies intending to let the audiences know that while the others are fighting or Groot is in his little world staying out of the big frays and more into trouble. 

If you have enjoyed Groot from the GOTG franchise, you will definitely love these series of shorts and can enjoy them with anyone at any age. I am sure Disney + will get a lot of views for “ I Am Groot,” and I will be looking forward to seeing of more shorts after this. Before the release of the GOTG III, tune into Disney + August 10th and watch Groot get into mischief.

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.