‘King Richard’ Teaches Me Tennis

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King Richard (CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures/Screenshot)

Starring: Will Smith, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Aunjanue Ellis, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Running Time: 145 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Release Date: November 19, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)

At the beginning of the 2021 film King Richard, Richard Williams (not the actual Richard Williams, but the version of him played by Will Smith) is listening in his car about how the proper way to hit a tennis serve involves making a high-five gesture while striking the ball. This prompted me to immediately move my butt and try that technique out while sitting in the theater. I love watching tennis, and I’ve been meaning to get around to playing the game myself. (I guess I’m just looking for the right doubles partner.)

So anyway, that bit of “practice” immediately had me hyped, and that excitement lasted for the entire two hour-plus runtime. I probably would’ve been excited anyway, as sports biopics tend to inspire that reaction. But it was pretty essential that it happened right away, so that Richard’s stubbornness didn’t wear me down. In conclusion, I really loved ALL the instructional moments of this movie.

Grade: 4 Open Stances out of 1 Closed Stance

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Monsters and Men’ Knows How to Recreate a Tough Reality, But It’s a Little Undercooked

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2018.

Starring: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: R for Language, But Nothing Particularly Explicit Given the Subject Matter

Release Date: September 28, 2018 (Limited)

Monsters and Men, which details the fallout of a police officer fatally shooting an unarmed black man in Brooklyn, is emblematic of a certain strain of realistic film that leaves you hanging but justifies its anticlimax by ensuring verisimilitude. While its lack of a firm ending – or even a firm thesis statement – may be true to life, it is not exactly a formula for great cinema. It is respectable enough and hard to get angry at, but it is entirely legitimate if, as a filmgoer, you would prefer more satisfaction. A happy ending is not necessarily what we’re looking for here, but a firmer political stance or a clearer artistic point of view would have been beneficial.

The action is divided into three vignettes centered around three young men of color in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. There’s Manny (Anthony Ramos), the boy who recorded the shooting on his phone and struggles with the potential consequences of releasing the footage; Dennis (John David Washington), a black police officer who explains the racism he has experienced to his colleagues and the officer’s perspective to his friends and relatives; and Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a high school baseball star being courted by the major leagues who feels drawn to activism despite his father’s fears for his safety.

Manny and Zyrick’s dilemmas are compelling but ultimately thinly sketched. Dennis’ predicament, however, could have been meaty enough to build an entire film around. Washington has already played another code-switching cop this year in the much rowdier and more effective BlacKkKlansman. That film, in attempting to explain how a black man could justify a job in law enforcement, had the benefit of digesting the past, noting for one thing the significance of breaking racial barriers. Explaining this dilemma in 2018 may be an even thornier issue; it’s a topic worth tackling by a bold film, but Monsters and Men isn’t quite bold enough.

Monsters and Men is Recommended If You Like: The long journey of racial equality, Slice-of-life short stories

Grade: 3 out of 5 Dilemmas