Tomb Raider (2018)

By Jon Rutledge

Laura Croft (Alicia Vikander) is a young girl trying to live her life after her father goes missing on an expedition. She has refused to admit that her father, Lord Richard Croft (Dominic West), who has been missing for seven years is most likely dead. She gets a puzzle box from her father as his last wish. Inside is a clue that she starts following up on. She sets out after the same mystery that took her father from her. This new reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise takes a lot of flavor from the successful video game reboot in 2013. It doesn’t follow the game directly but all the same, elements are there. She hires a ship and lands an unforgiving island with hostile inhabitants trying to survive and unravel the mystery of the island. An action film with just the right touches of a story.

Looking to possibly launch the franchise again they slyly blend in some story elements from the second game in a way that gives them a logical launch of a sequel. Fans of the game series will see all the nods for setting up Laura to be the hero she is destined to be. We see her firing a bow and pick up a climbing ax as well as pick up two pistols. She now has all the tools she will need to continue the adventure in the next film… if they have one. (I hope they do). This movie almost feels like the first X-men movie; it seemed like a test run for something much bigger. I’m invested in seeing more if they do them. There is a rumor of them trying to do a shared universe vis-a-vis Marvel.  I hope they don’t try and pair this up with some of the lesser impressive video games. I shudder at the thought of a Hitman/Tomb Raider crossover.
You can’t look at this film and not compare it to the 2001 version of this same franchise. I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. The 2001 film was only tangentially related to the game. They cast a mega star, Angelina Jolie, and run her through some archeological sets with shooting and a love interests. This one seems more realistic in that they have a person who takes on the look of Laura Croft way better than Jolie’s incarnation. Alicia Vikander looks like she walked off the video game. She brings a more realistic physicality to the action scenes.  
Video game films in the hands of studios who don’t understand or respect the source material can be detrimental to the game title. Look at some of the horrible video game moves in the past years. The pitfall filmmakers stumble into is assuming that the fans will flock to the theater regardless of content. This one takes time in getting us invested in the character. It was an action film but it did an excellent job of making us feel for the characters. As a reviewer, I get to screen the film for free. You can tell a movie is good when I am willing to spend my own money on seeing it again. I am, and I am going to bring friends.


Death Wish

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

A pointless reboot, which sees Bruce Willis reviving a role, made famous by Charles Bronson in 1974 original, the film follows a citizen who turns vigilante after thugs kill his wife.Arguably, one of Bronson’s best films, the story was first told in Brian Garfield’s 1972 novel of the same name, and then in director Michael Winner’s 1974 landmark action drama that spawned several sequels.
To its credit, this millennial version does stick with the same storyline. It builds the backstory of portraying Dr. Paul Kersey (Willis) as a successful mild-mannered surgeon who has it all: a beautiful family and a lovely home, but things go horribly wrong one day after a home invasion in which his wife (Elisabeth Shue) is killed and his daughter (Ca
mila Morrone) ends up in a coma.
He initially leans on his brother Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio) for help, and Detectives Raines and Jackson (Dean Norris and Kimberly Elise who are underutilized in their roles). Once he realizes the perpetrators will never be found, his inner fury is suddenly blown into vengeance against crime in general and he turns into a vigilante.
New York is swapped for Chicago, which makes sense gave the city’s crime stats and social media and digital technology provide an added layer to this modern version. Beyond that, there’s little else to offer other than social commentary on ‘right versus wrong’ in this remake directed by Eli Roth (Hostel). Coined the Grim Reaper after a video of Kersey stalling a carjacking goes viral, Black radio hosts do their best to inject a little humor and social commentary by highlighting the racial aspect of a hooded white guy with a gun imposing his own brand of justice.
“Is he right for taking the law into his own hands?” asks radio host Sway in one scene. “He’s become a folk hero,” remarks another commentator in the footage.
Much like the original, Willis poses as a middle-aged citizen who seeks and murders criminals. We’ve seen the actor play a tough guy in the Die Hard franchise so this isn’t a stretch for Willis and the role would have been best served by a lesser-known and more enigmatic actor. Also missing is the raw music score by Jazz legend Herbie Hancock, which helped establish the mood and would have been a nod to the original.
Over the last 20 years, countless studios have sought to cash in on our love for nostalgic classics by churning out remakes and Death Wish is a remake I wish the studios could have left well alone, but then again, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.


Gringo Provides Great Opportunity for David Oyelowo
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos by Gunther Campine Courtesy of Amazon Studios

From a Botswanian Prince, a civil rights icon to a Tuskegee airmanthe , David Oyelowo has tackled an incredible variety of serious roles. In his latest project, the classically trained Afro-British actor is tackling comedy and is sure to garner a few laughs in Gringo where he plays a Yoruba immigrant who finds himself stuck in Mexico after a disastrous work trip.
“I’ve played all these roles that are fairly quote-unquote important,” shares the Golden
Globe nominated actor, “and before Gringo came along, I’d never really done a dark comedy before so for me this film was a great opportunity to express that part of my personality.”
Incredibly funny and heartfelt, Gringo offers moviegoers a fresh take on the action comedy genre as it follows Oyelowo’s character, Harold Soyinka, a hard-working peon at a pharmaceutical company, whose high maintenance wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton) is not only bleeding their bank account dry, but is also cheating on him with his boss Richard (Joel Edgerton) who is plotting to fire him. Add to that, Richard is also screwing the vice president of his company Elaine (Charlize Theron) and both are selling drugs to a Mexican cartel.
Cash-poor and concerned that’s he’s about to lose his job after hearing rumors of a corporate merger, Harold decides to stage his own kidnapping once in Mexico with plans to pocket the ransom money. Unfortunately for him, his unscrupulous boss has not only let the company’s kidnapping insurance lapse, but has also cut ties with the drug cartels, much to their chagrin, which rapidly sets off an escalating chain of violent events as Harold crosses the delicate line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal. A dark comedy drizzled with action and dramatic intrigue, the film which is directed by Nash Edgerton, is hilarious and socially poignant at the same time as it explores work ethics and riddles existing stereotypes.


Love, Simon Is An Important Story to Tell
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photo by Storm Santos(Facebook)

The gay coming-of-age story’s been done, but Love, Simon has something fresh and funny to share about the tricky intricacies of love, and how they might keep someone in the closet.
A heartfelt love story and the first film from a major studio with a gay lead at the center, it chronicles the life of Simon Spier (Nick Robinson), a 17-year-old closeted gay high school student struggling to reveal his sexuality to his family and classmates.
 26-year-old Australian/ Nigerian actor Keiynan Lonsdale, who plays Bram Greenfeld, one of Simon’s classmates, it was the perfect project.
“I’ve dealt with sexuality struggles my whole life. This was a great script and had awesome people attached to it. The fact that it had a gay director at the helm made sense for me to join the cast as I knew the subject would be handled with care.”
Directed by Greg Berlanti, who brilliantly confronts aspects of the gay struggle that are often overlooked on screen, Love, Simon was adapted from Becky Albertalli’s young adult novel Simon vs The Homo Sapien’s Agenda.
A high school romantic comedy about a kid who is going through the process that every gay individual goes through of figuring out his or her identity, it’s a relatable drama for Lonsdale who just two years ago revealed his own sexuality on social media. Admitting to the world that he is bisexual.
“It got to a point that I was concerned about everyone knowing my business, because I do have a presence on social media and I am in the public eye. That was the final step for me knowing that I wanted to put it out there so there is never a point where I am wondering if this person or that person knows,” explains the actor who was named GQ’s Breakthrough Actor Of The Year in 2016.
It’s a tad more complicated in
film for Simon Spier, a lovable, embraceable character, who, as he struggles whether to reveal his sexuality, starts a secret email flirtation with another closeted classmate, but ends up trying to appease a blackmailer when one of his emails falls into the wrong hands.
“It’s an important story to tell and that was the first thing that drew me to it,” adds Lonsdale who starred on the international hit CW series The Flash, and can be seen in Divergent Series: Insurgent and The Finest Hours.
“The fact that this is the first one of this nature from a major studio means that the representation is there for everyone who is afraid of coming out. The stronger this film performs, the better it is for the world. Everyone knows someone who is part of the LGBT community and hopefully everyone walks away with a little bit more love about this kind of acceptance,” continues Lonsdale who is also an established musician and writes and records his own music. “I hope that people leave the film and feel that they can see themselves being heard.”
An authentic film, which traverses familiar coming-of-age territory, Nick Robinson as Simon, brilliantly slips inside the skin of a sensitive young man who’s having trouble finding his place in the world.
The film also stars Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Natasha Rothwell whose scenes as the no-nonsense drama teacher, Ms. Albright, are some of the funniest and most memorable.


Oscars So Diverse
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Royalty Image and A.M.P.A.S.

An Asian, a Hispanic and two African-Americans all won Oscars at the 90th Academy Awards last month, which discarded old traditions for new ones.
Gone was the Academy president’s customary speech with longer monologues padding out the biggest night in show business.
Host Jimmy Kimmel wasted no time in addressing issues of the previous year when La La Land was initially announced as the best picture winner instead of Moonlight.
“This year, when you hear your name called,” he told potential award winners, “don’t get up right away.”
Kazuhiro Tsuji was the first winner of the evening nabbing an award for best makeup for Darkest Hour and making Tsuji, the first Japanese to receive the award for the film, which follows British wartime leader Winston Churchill.
“I don’t want to think about the fact that I’m Asian. I’m just doing what I love to do,” Tsuji told reporters backstage. “So, I hope everyone feels that way because as soon as we start to think what race we are, it’s not good. It doesn’t work that well.”
Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water which had the most nominations picked up four honors — including the night’s big prize, best picture. Del Toro took home best director for his film, which also won for original score and production design. After ensuring he double-checked the envelope to ensure it wasn’t a gaffe, the Mexican director dedicated his award to every young filmmaker.
“I was a kid enamored with movies, and growing up in Mexico I thought this could never happen. It happens. This is a door, kick it open and come in.”
Kobe Bryant won his first Oscar for the animated short Dear Basketball, based on a poem he wrote in 2015 announcing his impending retirement from basketball and Jordan Peele became the first African-American to take original screenplay for the horror film Get Out.
Backstage, Peele addressed the question of whether there would be a sequel to the horror-comedy film that explores racism in America and has grossed a massive $252,434,250 worldwide.
“I’ve often joked that if there is, it will take place at an awards show where, you know, it might look something like this.”
There were extensive monologues from several presenters including Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph who made light of this year’s diversity and Lupita Nyong’o, Kumail Nanjiani who used the stage to show support for the Dreamers living in the United States.
Frances McDormand received best actress for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Chile’s A Fantastic Woman was named the best foreign-language film and the best supporting actor went to Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Gary Oldman won the best actor for playing Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour, and Allison Janney earned her first Academy Award for supporting actress for playing Tonya Harding’s mother in the biopic I, Tonya.
The Oscars are still predominately white, but much has changed after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of previous years and we are seeing more diversity on stage with minority actors, writers and directors being nominated and earning Oscars in multiple categories this year.