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.
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.
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.
Starring: Whitney Peak, Sam Richardson, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy
Where to watch it: Disney Plus
Release date: September 30th, 2022
Synopsis: It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
With the announcement of Hocus Pocus 2 streaming on Disney Plus, I didn’t have high expectations for the sequel. After watching the film, I discovered I was right. The movie was not bad; it had the same loveable antagonists, the Sanderson Sisters (played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy), along with a new cast of teenage heroes living in the current day. If you remember the first film as I do, you will feel the same magic (pun intended) as I did while watching this film.
I did like the introduction of the new characters and how the writer was able to connect them to the first film. The candle is the catalyst, and the book of magic is still what drives the story because of the contents it possesses…the secrets to how the sisters can become the most powerful in the world. The writer was able to give the book a more human aura, which is meant to be a big payoff in the end, and it comes close.
New Characters Spoiler Alert
I have to give kudos to Disney for being cleverly inclusive in the film and adding some Black characters. Instead of characters of color being speckled throughout the film as extras, the movie has two Black characters playing huge roles. Gilbert, played by Sam Richardson, is the magic shop owner that witnessed the Sanderson Sisters’ last stint at wreaking havoc on the townspeople as a child. Then there’s Becca, played by Whitney Peak, one of the lead protagonists and an aspiring witch. She attempts to thwart the witches’ plans with her two friends Izzy (played by Belissa Escobedo) and Cassie (played by Lilia Buckingham). I won’t spoil why their roles are important, but I will say it is…..okay, I can’t help it! Y’all, we finally have a Black witch in the Hocus Pocus universe! Yes, Becca discovers she has the powers, and I am here for it! Will she defeat the Sanderson Witches? I’ll leave it up to you to find out, but all I know is I am happy.
The Sanderson Sisters, once again, keep the same chemistry and evil attitude as they did 30 years ago. They weren’t over the top, nor did they underperform. Bette Midler’s voice is about the same. Although I was not as excited with the “One Way or Another” performance by Blondie, I enjoyed their performance of “I Put a Spell On You” by Nina Simone. No one can do it better than Nina, but the Bette Midler version was fun. Bette Midler does perform “The Witches Are Back”, a very fun song, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as background singers before the final credits roll. Speaking of the Sanderson Sisters, the little girls who play the younger versions of the sisters perfectly portrayed their adult versions. Especially young Winifred “Winnie” who immediately caught my attention as she was very charismatic and clearly has a lot of talent.
Costumes and CGI
I was happy the film looked like it used more practical effects than CGI. I think too much CGI would’ve ruined the film. There was some concern, for me at least, that zombie Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) would be CGI. But Billy was still clumsy and losing his head; with Doug Jones portraying the character, there’s no need for much besides costume and makeup because of his tremendous talent.
The costumes for the sisters and Billy look as good as in the original film. The first few minutes start off in the 1600s and I felt like I was transported back then with them. It is at this time we get to see the witch responsible for giving them their power when they were just some normal kids themselves. Because of this, I would not be opposed to a Hocus Pocus installment set entirely in the 1600s.
Hocus Pocus 2 may not have me clamoring for a rewatch, but it is still worth checking out for the nostalgia and same fun energy of the original. Kids will be entertained by the film and want to see the first one if they haven’t already. Fans of the original, who are now over 30, will be able to relive the experience of the Sanderson Sisters’ introduction to new technology. With a more diverse cast that moves the story forward, Hocus Pocus 2 is stream-worthy. The only issue I had with the film was the final act because it seemed a bit rushed. But you be the judge.
Starring Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, and Bill Skarsgard
After watching the first trailer, I thought to myself, “How in the hell is this film going to turn out and what’s in the basement?” Given that Bill Skarsgård (who played IT, the clown) stars in the film, Barbarian looked like a horror film worth watching. Boy was I right! This film had a bunch of “What in the f*ck!” moments and some really scary stuff in it.
Let’s start off with Georgina Campbell: I give her two thumbs up as a horror protagonist. Her reactions to certain situations and actions are 100% believable and exactly what you’d expect. Campbell’s awkward chemistry with Skarsgard (Keith) in the Airbnb was spot on. I think two people would be awkward in this situation. With Skarsgard giving all sorts of creepy vibes, all I could yell at the screen is, “Tess baby, what is you doin’ baby?” but then Tess became warmer towards Keith as they both let down their guard and created a safe-feeling environment…well sort of.
I like that Tess was able to make smart decisions like most people would, such as not opening certain doors and staying out of certain areas. But you know it wouldn’t be a horror movie had she kept that same mindset throughout the whole film. Eventually, she let her curiosity get the best of her.
When asked about how she became a part of the film, Campbell said, “I’ve always really wanted to do a horror film, but I hadn’t come across anything that was right, that I really, really liked. I just loved it. I thought it was fantastic. Then I spoke to Zach, and he was very passionate and knew exactly what he wanted to do and just seemed like he knew what he was doing, and yeah, I was in.” Campbell was right about her selection because this is not your typical horror film; nor does it follow traditional film beats. Her character, Tess, had to figure out how to survive, have sympathy, and learn who to trust.
Outside of being creepy and awkward, Skarsgard straddles the line of trustworthiness. It works here because I couldn’t tell what the hell was causing the unusual activities in the house on that first night Tess and Keith stayed there. If you want a scary film, put Skarsgard in it! I think after IT, his performances will always fit this genre…or maybe it’s just something in his eyes.
If you remember Jeepers Creepers, then you should remember Justin Long’s classic clash with an evil demon. Long plays AJ, an actor involved in a rape allegation who needs more money to keep his lawyers on staff. I’m not holding back any words when I say that Keith is a selfish, opportunistic asshole. Long brings a lot of humor to the film as AJ. There were also some moments when I thought he was worse than the villain. With all the flaws of this character, you can’t help but feel bad for him. You don’t want to see him suffer at the hands of the murderer… until the very end when you’re ready for him to suffer the worst death imaginable. Now that’s what I call a switch-up!
The set design was amazing. I give much kudos to the crew. From the Airbnb to the rooms in the basement, every environment helped set the tone for each scene. Especially when the characters ventured into the creepy basement, but I won’t give too much away. You’ll have to see for yourself.
I can not express how awesome the sound design was. For example, as a character walks down a dark hallway, you can hear their increased heartbeat as they approach an unknown area. It had my heart pumping fast. The multiple times the victims tried to evade the killer felt like a thrill ride in the theater.
Actress Georgina Campbell shares the same sentiments saying the experience was “just incredible.” She further explained, “The set design was just amazing. It was all set on a sound stage for the interiors. And just walking into the Airbnb, it was incredible because it looks just like an Airbnb would. It’s got that Airbnb feel, where everything’s probably from Ikea. It’s all not quite got a personality, really. But yeah, so I just thought that was amazing. And then once we go downstairs into the basement, it was very easy to get lost in the scenes because everything felt and looked really real.”
Director/Writer Zach Cregger’s flashbacks in the film were unique and provided enough information to know the motivation of the antagonist. It’s interesting how he developed the idea for this film. He explained, “I had read a book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. There was a chapter primarily directed towards women, encouraging them to pay attention to these little minor red flags that men can give off in day-to-day situations. They can be very innocuous things that you might not notice. Things like complimenting you when it’s not necessarily appropriate or doing you a favor that you didn’t ask for or touching in a nonsexual way that’s not initiated by you, all these little things that seemingly don’t matter. He was basically saying [that’s] the gift of fear. It’s important to pay attention to these little red flags because you’re equipped with that to identify potential threats.”
Once the villain and its origin are revealed, the film heads into a series of chases, fights, and what the f*cks, but ends in an unexpected way. You’ll want to catch this film! And when you do, please leave a comment below on your thoughts.
Watch Barbarian on September 6th, 2022 in theaters everywhere.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.