‘Coming 2 America’ Actually Goes to Zamunda for the Most Part

1 Comment

Coming 2 America (CREDIT: Quantrell D. Colbert/Paramount Pictures)

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler, Arsenio Hall, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Kiki Layne, Shari Headley, Wesley Snipes, Teyana Taylor, James Earl Jones, Bella Murphy, Akiley Love, Paul Bates, John Amos, Louie Anderson, Luenell, Colin Jost, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha

Director: Craig Brewer

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Occasionally Crude Silliness and a Drunken Sex Flashback

Release Date: March 5, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

So the big question we must all ourselves is: does Coming 2 America make me want to come 2 America? Well, I’m already in America, and have spent the vast majority of my life in this country, but I have to believe that there’s a difference between “coming to” and “coming 2,” because otherwise why even make this 30-plus-years-later sequel? Maybe in this case, “2” means the opposite of “to,” considering that this time around, Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy, happy to be surrounded by friends) and company actually spend more time in Zamunda than they do in the U.S. of A. With that in mind, maybe “America” is a state of mind more than just a physical place. Looking back at Queens in 1988, that was a magical place for Akeem, despite its rough-and-tumble exterior. It’s where he found his queen, and it can now be seen as the wellspring of his own family, and in the sequel, it’s been elevated to the level of myth with the recreation of special Queens landmarks in Zamunda (in particular, the McDonald’s-knockoff McDowell’s). Is that feeling of home just as strong in 2021?

More

In ‘The Old Guard,’ Immortality is a Burden and a Blessing

Leave a comment

THE OLD GUARD – Charlize Theron as ÓAndy” (CREDIT: Aimee Spinks/Netflix)

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kiki Layne, Matthias Schoenarts, Marwan Kenzari, Luca Marinelli, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, Van Veronica Ngo, Anamaria Marinca

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Running Time: 125 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: July 10, 2020 (Netflix)

I’m trying something out with some of my recent movie reviews in which I ask myself, “Does this movie make me want to do what the movie is about?” So therefore I ask of you, The Old Guard, “Do you make me to be immortal?” To which I answer, “No, you do not.” But in the interest of fairness, I must acknowledge that Charlize Theron and her crew aren’t quite immortal, so really I should be asking, “Do I want to live for thousands of years and then become suddenly, unpredictably vulnerable to death?” To which I would then respond, “Not particularly.” But I don’t really suppose that The Old Guard is advocating for immortality or near-immortality. If anything, it wants us to ask ourselves, “Will I take advantage of my gifts to transcend myself and make the world a better place?” And my answer in that case is, “Of course!” It takes a while to get that point, though.

I give The Old Guard 3 Bullet Wounds out of 5 Millennia.

Mini-Movie Review: Aliens Take Over a Very Gray Chicago in the Intermittently Promising ‘Captive State’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Parrish Lewis/Focus Features

Starring: Ashton Sanders, John Goodman, James Ransone, Jonathan Majors, Machine Gun Kelly, Vera Farmiga, Alan Ruck, Kevin Dunn, David J. Height, Madeline Brewer, Ben Daniels, D.B. Sweeney, Kevin J. O’Connor, KiKi Layne, Marc Grapey

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Occasional Explosions and Minorly Disturbing Sci-Fi Flourishes

Release Date: March 15, 2019

Captive State reminds me of 2010’s Skyline, a pretty awful movie that was at least fascinating for how it attempted to craft a genuinely compelling alien invasion with a fairly small budget. Captive State is a little more competent, but it has that same vibe of a director who is burning with a unique vision that he simply must deliver to the world no matter what the handicaps. That director is Rupert Wyatt, and his vision is a version of Chicago enslaved by aliens who want humans to pretend that this is actually an arrangement of unity. There’s clearly some commentary about conformism at play here, which in past instances in this genre has been about the likes of communism and consumerism. But in this case, it is not clear what the target is. (Maybe blind patriotism?) And that really sums up Captive State as a whole. You can feel that there is a plentiful mix of ideas, and even an admirably ambitious combination of genres (chase-filled actioner, paranoid thriller, even a bit of a heist flick), and the surprisingly robust cast is here to give it what they’ve got. But alas, the overall effort never quite coalesces into something with a fully fleshed-out overarching purpose.

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Implant Trackers

This Is a Movie Review: Barry Jenkins is as Sensitive and Empathetic as Ever with James Baldwin Adaptation ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures

This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Teyonah Parris, Colman Domingo, Bryan Tyree Henry, Ed Skrein, Emily Rios, Finn Wittrock

Director: Barry Jenkins

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: R for Longtime Friends Becoming Lovers and Their Families Yelling Awful Things at Each Other

Release Date: December 14, 2018 (Limited)

One of the strength of Barry Jenkins’ films is that they work much like how the human brain works. They process their stories from a clear beginning to end, but along the way they take detours, often expressionistic and dreamlike, because in their associative natures they have tendencies to temporarily disassociate. The narrative focus in If Beale Street Could Talk is on the effort to free Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James) from jail after he has been (obviously and egregiously) falsely been accused of rape. We stay close with his family and pregnant girlfriend Tish (KiKi Layne) as the weeks tick by and they do whatever they possibly can for a young black man in 1970s America. Interspersed with this steady passage of time are flashes of Fonny and KiKi’s memories, hopes, and nightmares. The images in these moments are often idyllic and tranquil, but there is an undercurrent of imprisonment demonstrating that the worst of reality cannot be fully escaped as it infects our psyches.

If On Beale Street Could Talk is based on James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, and Jenkins’ smooth hand ensures that Baldwin’s conception of Harlem is brought to tactile, contemporary life. Layne’s sweet, mischievous, and unapologetic narration; Nicholas Britell’s smooth score; and James Laxton’s crisp cinematography make for a sensuous feast that altogether works to achieve a remarkable feat of empathy generation. All films that are worth their weight put us in their characters’ headspaces and let us discover what they were all about, but Beale Street is a special case. Every moment is especially intimate and familial, and it is thus an honor to be invited in. Like most stories about false accusations and systemic discrimination, this one is frustrating to anyone who cares about justice, but amidst all that there is to be angry at, Jenkins somehow manages to achieve an odd sort of peace by the end. Everything is far from perfect, but the love between Tish and Fonny is real and worth celebrating.

If Beale Street Could Talk is Recommended If You Like: Moonlight, The Harlem Renaissance, Love & Basketball

Grade: 3.75 out of 5 People Who Love Each Other