Oceans 8

By Jon Rutledge

We have been short on good Heist films and Ocean’s 8 fills that void. Fairly new write Olivia Milch (Dude) and Gary Ross (The Hunger Games, Big) use the classic heist format and bring a new chapter to the Ocean’s Franchise. The best part of this is viewers do not need to watch any of the previous films to enjoy it. This film stands strong on its own. With only touches from the original trilogy, as a wink to the fans, they bring us more content in the Oceans universe.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) fresh out of prison gets to work on a plan she worked on while serving time for a previous grift gone wrong. Once out she seeks her trusted partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) who has her finger on the pulse of all the “Professionals” they need for this job. This is where we get the hiring montage. First, we meet the mark, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) an actress who is hosting the Met Gala while wearing the Cartier necklace known as the Toussaint with a price tag of $100 to $150 million.

They bring in a clothing designer, Rose (Helena Bonham Carter) a computer expert called Nine Ball (Rihanna) a jeweler, Amita (Mindy Kaling) and a pickpocket, Constance (Awkwafina). Also, you can’t forget the fence, Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Together they attempt an incredible and funny heist.
Everyone is absolutely outstanding in their roles – well cast and well performed. The on-screen chemistry with expert pace and timing of the film make it a joy to watch. This spinoff absolutely has the strength to launch another three films.

My fear is the studio will learn the wrong lesson. The take away from this movie needs to be there is a hunger for female-driven films. We have seen record box office returns on films like Wonder Woman and Girls Trip. Original content written and directed by women will provide an honest voice and a gateway to more great films. I fear they will learn gimmick movies starring all women will work. They make think Ghostbusters reboot was a failed attempt and this one has the formula right.

If you think about Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 are in the same category you would be wrong. The whole misogynistic backlash aside, Ghostbusters was a complete reboot of the original film. Fans took it personally like something as being taken from them. Many did not see Ghostbusters but made a judgment on it. Ocean’s 8 is a spinoff, so it does nothing to the original content. If viewers dismiss this film as women taking something away from the Oceans movie they are completely wrong. Go see this film then decide.

I was trying to write this review without mention the gender swapping aspect because it’s a great movie all on its own. To make this style and form of a film we have to stop looking at it from a gender perspective and look at each film on its own merits and measure it against other films of the same genres without thinking of gender, race or anything other than “is this a good movie or not.” Only then will we be free from stereotypes and start watching great films from everyone.



Incredibles 2

By Khaleel Herbert

Picking up where The Incredibles left off in 2004, the Parr Family tangoes with the Underminer and saves the city from utter destruction…sort of. Part of City Hall was damaged by the Underminer’s runaway drill and he got away.
After brash repercussions from the city and the termination of supers once again, the Parrs are forced to live in a motel to contemplate their next move. But their old friend Lucius a.k.a. Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson), wants them to meet up with Winston Deavor (voice of Bob Odenkirk).

Deavor loves supers because his dad loved supers and when they disappeared, it broke his heart. Since then, Deavor and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), took over his father’s communications company to get supers back in the limelight. Their first step isrecruitingElastigirl, because unlike Mr. Incredible, she doesn’t make a mess of things when saving the world. Mr. Incredible is now in charge of taking care of the kids in a new home,leant by Deavor.

Incredibles 2, like its predecessor, is a great family flick. The animation looks cleaner and there’s a great balance of comic relief and action, especially with Jack-Jack roughing up a raccoon in the backyard. The film also aligns with today’s views of feminism and the MeToo Movement. Elastigirl, unlike the last film, gets the spotlight and recognition female superheroes deserve, similar to last year’s Wonder Woman.

The cast holds most of the same players from the original film including Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sarah Vowell, giving a great balance with newcomers Phil LaMarr, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk and Sophia Bush.

The idea of mind control and hypnotism is nothing new in the superhero genre from Spider-Man to Batman and Robin. But Brad Bird puts his own spin on it, with the Screen Slaver as a worthy foe.
Although Incredibles 2 was worth the 14-year stint, it may have been too long for some Incredibles fans to wait. Disney and Pixar’s scheme was probably to wait until the original audiences grew up so they could make money on nostalgia, just like with the new Star Wars films. If you ask me, they need to follow under the lead of DreamWorks. We didn’t have to wait 10 years for another Shrek or Kung Fu Panda movie. Twentieth Century Fox didn’t even wait more than five years to make all the Ice Age sequels.

Part of me still favors the original Incredibles because it was the first superhero story to address the consequences of acting super. Then came Captain America: Civil War. Mr. Incredible was sued by a man who wanted to commit suicide and people on the train he saved sued him for injuries they sustained. There was Syndrome’s Stan story where he was Mr. Incredible’s biggest fan but became a formidable bad guy. Also, the scene where Samuel L. Jackson yells for his super suit is just plain hilarious. Lastly, I don’t approve of the few swear words Evelyn says. I know it’s 2018 but come on!
Incredibles 2 gets with the times having Elastigirl at the forefront, especially in this vital time of empowering women and young girls, and has its audiences take a closer look at the heroism and extraordinary powers of good parenting. Maybe Pixar should release a Frozone spinoff movie with Samuel L. Jackson. I bet it’ll rake in dollars and set records like Black Panther did earlier this year.
Plus, Pixar’s short film, Dao, was emotionally fulfilling and heartwarming. A great look at family values with an Asian-American family.  



Talking 211: “Hostage Situations Create a Lot of Danger,”

says Cory Hardrict
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Momentum Pictures

Heist flicks have thrilled audiences for more than half a century for there’s nothing more engaging than seeing cops and crooks battling on the big screen. Just ask Cory Hardrict who stars in 211, the latest adrenaline drama to hit theaters.
“You have two sides fighting each other and with civilians involved, it’s all the makings of a good film. Plus the hostage situation creates a lot of danger and puts you on the edge,” says the actor who plays a cop in the drama, which was inspired by one of the longest and bloodiest events in American police history.

Written and directed by York Shackleton (Kush), 211 is loosely based on a real bank robbery that happened in Los Angeles in 1997 referred to as the Battle of North Hollywood where there was a shootout between two heavily armed bank robbers and the Los Angeles Police Department.  In the end, the perpetrators were killed, 12 police officers and eight civilians were injured, and numerous vehicles and property destroyed by the nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition fired by the robbers and police.

The film, which uses the events as a backdrop also stars Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) and Michael Rainey Jr. (Power) and for Hardrict, who has played in action movies American Sniper and Battle Los Angeles, was the perfect action vehicle to flex his acting chops.

“I have a knack for falling into doing action movies dealing with shooting a firearm and wearing a uniform,” he shares. “My character Hanson is one of the officers who tackles the criminals and what’s cool about it is that they changed his race to African-American. York [director] had an open mind about adding diversity to the film, which I thought was kinda of cool,” adds the actor who says he heavily researched the lives of cops to get a sense of his character. “Tactical training is vital because you want to make sure you’re representing officers accurately. We have to look and act like real police officers, or the movie won’t resonate as powerfully as it should.”

Not every heist goes off without a hitch and Shackleton’s movie addresses racial elements and bias by also adding Rainey Jr.’s character who plays Kenny, an African-American teenager forced to go on a court-ordered police ride-along as punishment for defending himself against school bullies. Kenny becomes the young civilian passenger who gets caught in the middle of the massive shootout as the film delves into what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer on the streets.



Jason Mitchell: Having a style with the camera is what

Director X is really known for
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Some call them remakes, others call them reboots, but for Director X, his latest spin on Superfly, the 70s Blaxploitation film is simply called a remix.
This millennial version of a successful narcotics dealer who decides to quit the business puts a brilliant and stylish spin on the 1972 movie directed by Gordon Parks Jr. and made famous by the legendary soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield.

In this remix, X, who is known for his music videos, trades the original location of New York for Atlanta, throws in some visually stunning scenery, sprinkles in an eclectic sound and adds an exceeding charismatic cast, all while paying homage to the movie many consider a classic in Black film history.
With an excellent cast, headed by Trevor Jackson, who plays Youngblood Priest, a stylishly devilish drug dealer in control of his own destiny, the film stars Lex Scott Davis and Andrea Londo as his girlfriends, Michael Kenneth Williams as his dealer and Jason Mitchell (Straight Outta Compton, Mudbound), who rounds off the main as his best friend Eddie and provides the film’s comic relief.

“Eddie is the kind of guy that you just hate to love, but you can’t help but love him,” says Mitchell, who like several of the cast members revisited the original film once they signed on to their respective roles. “I am so serious about my craft and had to find the essence of what Eddie was talking about for he couldn’t understand why Priest wanted to quit the business after making four million dollars in two months.”

The film really kicks off after Priest gets into an altercation with a member of a Sno Patrol, a competitor in the drug game, outside of a nightclub. An innocent bystander is shot and he decides it may be time to exit the drug trade and ambitiously crafts an intricate plot to get out of the business with one last big score. As he puts his exit strategy into place, he gets pulled back into the business facing further obstacles as he becomes entangled with the Sno Patrol, the Mexican drug kingpin Adalberto Gonzalez (Esai Morales) and a pair of wickedly crooked cops.

Taking its cue from the original, the film maintains that authentic look, keeping some original scenes intact as it takes you from their luxury upscale pads, crowded clubs to downtowns tenements. There are spectacular cars and car chases, carefully choreographed fight sequences, solid cinematography, furs, flashy outfits and sophisticated, fashion-forward pieces from the likes of Phillip Plein, AllSaints, and Burberry.

“Having a style with the camera is what Director X is really known for,” says Mitchell. “He has created so many dope music videos and his mind is constantly running and it was good to be able to work with somebody who wasn’t intimated by the situation around him.”
Fans of the original will be delighted with X’s spin as the director clearly honors the iconic title. Not only has he retained key characters, he’s also maintained the essence of the story and sprinkled in some millennial swagger.



Why The Original Superfly Is Still Fly
By Khaleel Herbert

With the release of Director X’s new flick, Superfly, it’s set to speak to a new generation. But what most of these youngsters may not know is this Superfly is a remake of the 1972 flick of the same name starring Ron O’Neal, CarlLee and Shelia Frazier.

The story is set in New York with Priest (O’Neal) who’s one of the baddest drug-dealers on the block. He’s one of those guys you don’t want to steal money from because he’ll chase you across town to get it back. With his partner, Eddie (Carl Lee), Priest hopes to sell 30 kilos of cocaine to make a million dollars and leave the drug game for life. But when some crooked cops want in on the deal, Priest must use all of his brawn and brains to execute his escape.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Director X’s version is sleek, especially since he’s directed music videos for Usher, Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, Ludacris, Drake and more. But he’s got nothing on the classic. First, Superfly was part of the Blaxploitation films of the ‘70s. Along with other classics like Shaft, Blacula, Foxy Brown, The Mack and more, Superfly was one of the first films to portray African-Americans as protagonists, not victims of brutality or sidekicks to White protagonists. Although these films got much backlash for their stereotypical portrayals, they were still popular.

Next, Curtis Mayfield made an epic soundtrack for the film. Rolling Stone ranked the soundtrack #72 on its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, describing it as “astonishing, marrying lush string parts to deep bass grooves with lots of wah-wahguitar.” The album included the hits, “Pusherman,” “Freddie’s Dead,” Give Me Your Love,” and “Junkie Chase.” Similar to Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack to Shaft, Rolling Stone said Superfly’s soundtrack “packed more drama than the movie.” If you ask me, I’ll take the smooth voice of Mayfield over Future’s auto-tune-heavy mumble-rap any day.

Lastly, Eddie has one of the most epic monologues in the whole film. “You know you got this fantasy in your head about getting out of the life and setting that other world on its ear. What the f—k you gonna do except hustle? Besides pimping? You really ain’t got the stomach for that.” Jay-Z used part of this monologue on the first track of his album, Kingdom Come.

The majority of the new generation may not give a spit about the original Superfly. They’ll be too engrossed by the music video-esque style of Director X and Future’s mush mouth lyrics. But for those who appreciate the classics and were even alive during that time, will understand and accept that O’Neal’s version is still fly in 2018.