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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
“ 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).
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.
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?”.
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+.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every once in a while, I find an indie short film I can connect with during my coverage of film festivals. One of the films that stood out to me at the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival was Message Read by Spencer Glover. Not only did Spencer impress audiences with his touching film, but he also won over the judges for the Disney Launchpad contest. He was selected as Director for the project, Black Belts.
Taji Mag was able to catch up with the busy Writer/Director to talk about his upcoming Disney Plus project and his work as a creative.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): When did you fall in love with filmmaking?
Spencer Glover (SG): It’s been a little bit of a, well, not-so-crazy story. As a kid, I watched a lot of movies. I remember watching movies like Blood Sport and Jurassic Park. And so I think the love for filmmaking started when I was a kid. The “seed” was planted when I was young, but it didn’t really sprout until college when I got into Tennessee State.
I remember as I was walking on campus and, at this point, I was studying Music. I was walking around the music building and it was connected to the Communications department. So I walked past some students that were running the Tiger News Broadcast, which goes out to the entire school. And I just saw this group of kids and they’re running the show… the cameras, they had a director, there were students working on the sound, and they were doing interviews. Something about that just sort of struck me and, later that semester, I changed my major to Film. From there, everything exploded.
DDF: What is your process for making your films? Does it differ depending on the genre?
SG: You know, I’ve realized this: that [with] films, for me, all I’m trying to do is just connect to the emotions that I felt as a kid watching movies. So, I’m trying not to be a Filmmaker who just deals with one topic because I love so many different types of films. But I do recognize that there are certain personal dramatics that come out of your work unconsciously.
For me, the themes could be anything from losing a parent or dealing with childhood trauma to just protecting things, protecting the world that you live in. Those things have sort of found their way into everything that I’ve written so far. And I think it’s going to continue to be that way. I try to recognize that feeling when I have an idea and I feel like that inspiration comes over my body. I try to really grasp onto that and examine what it is about the idea that is sticking with me.
DDF: What is your favorite film genre?
SG: I have a lot of guilty pleasures in film. Action films are probably always going to be some of my favorite. Action comedies too! I think of films like Rush Hour shamelessly. It’s one of my favorites. It’s got a little bit of a different tune than what I regularly watch now, but I just try to appreciate the heart of the story and what it was trying to say. I’ve always been attracted to Sci-fi films and, like, the whimsy of filmmaking. So, I love to watch stuff that transports me to a different place where I can just forget about my problems and the world for an hour or two, and just kind of get sucked into the world of the movie.
I like those character-driven sort of indie dramas too. Like the ones you watch and just know that this film is going to break your heart. I was watching Drive My Car the other day and during the first 20 minutes of the film I’m like “This movie is going to break my heart.”. An hour or two later I am in tears saying to myself “Why is life like this, why do we have to go through this?”
DDF: What was your reaction when you got selected as a Launchpad finalist?
SG: Just pure joy. I remember one of the coordinators for the program set up a meeting with me for 15 minutes after the second interview. I got on the call and the coordinator said “man, I’m not even gonna waste time…you got it”. And I just had the biggest smile on my face. It was a big thing for me and I just felt a lot of joy.
I’ve gotten over a little bit of a hurdle in my career because, as Filmmakers, we all struggle with this; that idea of “can I perform at a level that’s high enough?” You aspire to that, but you do the work and then you put it out. Sometimes it doesn’t resonate or connect the way that you want. And you have that battle of, like, “Man, I don’t know if I’m in the right space or doing the right thing”. So hearing that I got into this was, it was a boost of confidence and it was really validating.
DDF: This leads to my next question. Have you ever questioned yourself at any moment in your filmmaking career? If so, how did you overcome it?
SG: I did have my moment, but I was able to get over it. The post-production of my film, Message Read, was really hard. We had plans to take it to the professional post house, do professional color, and all these other things and, you know, money is tight in our industry. We only had, I think, a $12k budget for the project, and all of that money was used up during the shoot. So I had to take on being an Editor and doing graphics, visual effects, and color. It was a lonely process, but in the end, this film is such a personal story.
I’m very critical of my own work, so I’m seeing all of the shortcomings. We sent it out into the world and we submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival and South By Southwest Film Festival and all these places. We got rejected from all of them.
I’ve learned that everything you create, you don’t control and it has it’s own life. So we put the film out and it got rejected a bunch in the beginning. Kariss (my partner and wife) had similar feelings: that we did a great job with this film. We’re happy and proud of it. We can’t control anything else. Then, at about four months into the pandemic, the movie started gaining momentum. Out of nowhere the project just started getting into festivals and people were really starting to respond to it. I think it had to do with the fact that, as a group, we were losing so many people at that time and the story is about dealing with loss. It was just connecting in a way that we didn’t expect. And it just goes back to the idea: you don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I’m thankful that Message Read is making a connection now.
DDF: Can you tell us about your Disney project, Black Belts?
SG: It’s a Kung Fu story. It’s a father and son relationship dealing with loss. It touches on aspects of masculinity and what it means to be masculine. I think you and I grew up in an era where a macho man was the way to be for boys and young men. I was talking to a friend about how from the 80s and early 90s, it was peak macho. It was, like, shoot’em up and a lot of action associated with masculinity, especially in entertainment. It was such a fun time, but it could be a little toxic and Black Belt touches on a few of those areas.
It’s coming out in 2023 on Disney Plus. We’re in development with it right now. We’re doing rewrites on the script and I’m working with Xavier Styles (the writer of the story). It’s also a true story for him, so it’s been really fun. It’s definitely a process and it’s really setting me up in a way that feels true to the studio world because this is the first film that I’m going to be directing something I did not write.
Also, a big part of this program is that it’s multi-hyphenate filmmaking. This season, they actually split it into two groups. So there are Writers and there are Directors. I just applied as a Director because I wanted to really take a shot at receiving somebody else’s script, finding myself in it, and then putting it up on screen.
You try to find your way into it and make sure that you connect with the material. It’s been a journey. We have about another month of development, then we go into pre-production, then we shoot the film in the Summer, then post-production takes place, and then there’s a release on Disney Plus.
The entertainment industry has shown progress in Black creatives getting exposure to audiences across the world. Spencer Glover is one of the names that will be on that list. I know Spencer talked about how the movie Drive My Car broke his heart. Well, Message Read broke my heart and so I’ll be looking forward to seeing his future projects. Make sure to check out his work on his website and be on the lookout for his Disney Plus project, Black Belt, in 2023.
THE ENDGAME SYNOPSIS: A pulse-pounding high-stakes two-hander about Elena Federova, a recently captured international arms dealer and brilliant criminal mastermind who orchestrates a number of coordinated bank heists throughout New York City for a mysterious purpose. Her antagonist is Val Turner, the principled, relentless, and socially outcast FBI agent who will stop at nothing to foil her ambitious plan. The gripping heist drama reveals how far some people will go for love, justice, and the most valuable commodity in the world: the truth.
While watching the pilot of the new NBC series, The Endgame, all I could think about was the relationship between lead character Val Turner (played by Ryan Michelle Bathé) and her husband, Owen Turner (played by Kamal Angelo Bolden ). The show gives us this loving couple who’d been together for years, and now Owen is divorcing Val. All the while she is having a cerebral chess match with a crime boss in custody and orchestrating multiple bank heists involving hostages all over New York City. Just brutal! Luckily for Taji Mag, we were able to sit down with actor Kamal Angelo Bolden and ask him “what’s up with Owen in The Endgame?”
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): How did you get involved with this project?
Kamal Angelo Bolden (KAB): My agent hit me up with the opportunity to audition last summer while I was in Chicago filming a TV show for AMC (61st street) and I read the script. I was lucky enough to get a script. At the time, the Owen character was named Elgin. That’s a little Easter egg for some people. The first time we encounter Owen, he’s issuing his wife divorce papers inside a correctional facility. And I was automatically like, “Wait a minute. What is this? I thought this was going to be, like, network television”.
It’s hard-hitting and not like your typical show. I was like, “this is kind of deep!” because the further I read on, I found out that his relationship with his wife goes back to when they were about five years old. So they’re, like, not just only high school sweethearts, but they’ve known each other their entire lives.
After getting to know more of the story, it was something I had never ever had an opportunity to explore or relate to. You automatically question, “How could Owen divorce his wife (Val) like that, with all that history? So, I was already taken by the script and I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna do my best…if I get this particular callback.”
I got a callback and the dominoes kept falling in place because I got the screen test while I was at home in Peoria, Illinois (my mom’s house). Obviously, I knocked it out of the park. I felt God sent the job my way.
DDF: How would you describe Val and Owen’s relationship to someone who hasn’t seen the show?
KAL: Their love is deeper than words can describe. When you encounter these two individuals who have been together their whole lives, they have a certain amount of trust to make it as far as they have.
So when you see the pilot, there’s a sense of betrayal. But they’re both fighting for something bigger than themselves. Val, played by Ryan Michelle, is fighting to keep their relationship while trying to bring down Elaina Federer over the international arms dealer who’s seized seven banks across New York City. And in the same point, she’s also dealing with some of her personal paths with her father and her mother. And then she’s also trying to figure out why her husband is in prison, you know, ’cause I’m a former FBI agent who [was] accused of stealing money.
So there’s a lot going on there. She’s trying to figure out if I’m on her side or if I’m on the side of the other people who are running these heists. And for me, I can only divulge so much information to her, even as she comes and visits me while I’m in prison.
Right now we are further along into the series and finding out some really, really deep, intricate stuff about Owen and Val’s relationship.
DDF: What is going through Owen’s mind while he is going through all this?
KAL: What I think Owen is really experiencing while he’s behind bars is a sense of struggle. There’s like a battle between feeling helpless and protecting his wife from the inside of this correctional facility, but there’s this sense of optimism that it’ll all be worth it in the end. There’s this plan that Owen has.
And so every day is a battle. It’s a struggle inside there. You’ve lost your freedom. You are in there with other criminals, and being an FBI agent in a facility like that, you’re not a welcome, you’re a persona non grata. He has got to watch his back all the time, but at the end of the day, he’s trying to work towards getting his wife.
DDF: I’m trying to get you to think objective now. Who would you choose: team Val or team Elena?
KAL: So we have two strong cerebral women that are competing against each other. You know, it changes each episode in a way. Objectively, when you start off in episodes one and two, I think it’s pretty easy to be team Val.
The thing is whether you’re team Val or team Elena, you know that both women are very strong for different reasons and have very strong motivations for why they go head to head.
So you root for Val because she has the smarts, she has the intuition, and she has the, like, stamina to go after these things with such a passion and ruthlessness.
As for Elena, she is slick, smooth, and she’s pulling off stuff that you’re like “how does she pull it off?” Because she thinks so many moves ahead! They’re both playing tough. So it was kind of like watching two chess masters go against each other.
In the end, I don’t care who wins. This is just an exciting match to watch.
DDF: What’s been your favorite experience while shooting this series?
KAL: Shooting in New York. First of all, there’s that. It’s a different energy to the city of New York, you know? I’m from Illinois. It’s just something about New York that reminded me of Chicago, but just a little bigger and a little bit more energy.
My favorite part is just the people. Everybody from the cast and crew is super dope!
They’re super goofy. We have a lot of fun, but then even our hair and makeup people…they’re hilarious! They keep the day going. And our crew is hilarious. Shooting in New York is super fun and super dope. And I think we make good TV.
DDF: In a previous interview. You said your favorite character you play was Emile Griffin. Would you be interested in turning it into a film?
KAL: Absolutely! I would love to direct it and not have to play the lead. I would be honored. I believe his story 100% deserves, like, a $50 million, a $100 million budget. His story is absolutely phenomenal. He was a great human being, but he was also coming through in a time where his sexuality and his humanity were not only questioned but attacked.
It was easy for people to kind of paint him a certain way because of what he did for a living, which is boxing. And of course what happened to him, tragically, against Benny “The kid” Paret is heartbreaking. It’s a beautiful story, man.
DDF: Say you are doing an action film? Who would be your sidekick, love interest, or villain, and who would direct it?
KAL: That’s a crazy question, man. Who would be my sidekick in this bad boy? You know what? I’ll cast for this movie right now. If I’m filming an action film, I’m going to say I want Don Cheadle to play my pop. Right. Okay. Um, I’m going to have Lisa Nicole Carson play, even though she is not old enough, to play my mother but we can figure something out. As for my sidekick, I would have to go with my boy Aaron J. Who would be my nemesis? Let me see? Dang. You got me on that. Oh, you know what? I might go with either Yaya or LaKeith Stanfield.
That’s a good question, man. That’s a good one.
DDF: Okay. So who’s going to direct this big-budget, phenomenal film?
KAL: I think I might have to go with Ryan Coogler.
Until he shoots his dream action film or biopic film, you can catch Kamal Angelo Bolden as Owen Turner in The Endgame on NBC and Peacock. Hopefully, Owen will redeem himself because where he is in early episodes is not a good look.
Release Jun 7 2022 | Vol31 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Colors! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol31 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @chrissythevocalist. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: ““Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” Explores Devotion and Relationship” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Stop The Deregulation of the NYS Natural Hair Styling License; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Who Am I Outside of My Blackness?” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Sankofa — Go back but don’t forget to also go forward” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 31 contributed photo story, “Colors;” Fitness Highlight, Rose Rollins Rocks Long Slow Exhale as Head Coach Abernathy; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Black Bean Quinoa Burger; “Use Credit to Pay Off Debt While Building Wealth in 7 Steps” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; “Healing With Hugs or Softcore Prostitution?” by Jehriko Turner; Featured Art Piece by Craig C The Artist; Comic Appreciation featuring “Kishi and the Island of Dreams” by AnimeHipHop; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
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.