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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: John Boyega

Detroit (2017)

Honestly, has much changed? NOPE.

It’s the summer of 1967 and in Detroit, there’s all sorts of tension boiling up, to go along with the non-stop heat, rioting and civil unrest. It’s starting to tear apart the seat which has every person, white or black, on the edge of their toes, not knowing what to do next, or just how to get out of this awful situation alive. The cops are constantly having to fight huge crowds and yes, the huge crowds themselves, who are predominately black, are tired of being discriminated against and they’re not going to take it anymore. But while this is all happening, somewhere outside of where all the action’s taking lace, there’s a report of gunshots that the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard decide to investigate. Eventually, they are drawn to the Algiers Motel, where they search the whole joint, looking for guns, or any sorts of weapons of any kind. Seemingly coming up empty and pissed-off, several policemen start to torture and interrogate the many suspects they have in their possession. In other words, it’s not a nice situation to be in and guess what? It’s not going to get any better.

Uniforms don’t count.

Detroit‘s marketing has smartly been revolving around the fact that it’s about the Detroit Race Riots, all of the shots, explosions, fights, brawls, and havoc that we expect with these kinds of movies. After all, it’s a movie from Kathryn Bigelow who, especially as of late, is known for her super big, bright, loud, and ambitious projects, and hell, it’s even titled “Detroit”, as if it was going to be all about the riot and not much else. And yes, even for awhile, it seems like that; we get to see the beginning of the riots, acquainted with a few characters, and even get a sense of when and where everything is happening. It’s all scattershot and a little meandering, but of course, that’s the point.

Because really, Detroit is about this one horrific moment in the middle of all other horrific moments that, needless to say, would tell us everything about what got people so pissed-off in the first place.

And hell, why they’re still so pissed-off now.

But like I said, once Bigelow gets to this infamous moment, all 55 minutes of it, the movie grabs ahold and does not let go for a single second. It’s brutal, it’s disturbing, it’s uncomfortable, it’s mean, and yeah, it’s all too real to look away from; it’s the kind of unrelenting and gritty sequence we’d get in something like a Michael Haneke film, where it’s so hard-to-watch, we can’t look away. And in Detroit‘s case, that’s a positive – it helps put us right there, with everyone, feeling the same paranoia and anguish that was felt for all parties involved, most importantly, the victims.

It’s also where Bigelow’s directing really works best, as it tells us everything we need to know, but without really hitting us over-the-head. Mark Boal’s screenplay helps us in that regard, too, because he understands that while most people know about race-relations and police-corruption within the United States, he also gets the sense that stories such as this need to be re-told. In a day and age where anyone, literally anyone, can get pulled over by a cop and wind-up dead, for no real reason at all, then yes, movies like Detroit matter and deserve to be made, seen, and spread across all countries, not just America.

Way too many similar images out there.

But by the same token, the movie does run into its fair share of problems.

For instance, when the sequence is over, the movie really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Of course, it turns into a courtroom drama, where all the surviving parties duke it out in a supposedly fair trial, but honestly, by that point, we’re already so winded, it’s hard to really keep up with everything. We, the viewers, just went through a near-hour of hell and now, we’re expected to sit around and chill out, watching as more injustices get committed and more corruption gets swept under the rug? It’s a lot to ask for and really, it depends on how you’re feeling.

Me, I was fine with it, but for different reasons. By this point, it’s less about the injustices, and more about the physical and mental scares left on these many individuals who were victimized in this one situation. No matter what happens, no matter where they go, no matter what they do, they will always remember this situation, how it turned out so damn awful, and how it never even needed to get to that point, but did, because of racism.

Plain and simple.

And that, to me, is the hardest pill to swallow here and why, despite its faults, Detroit is a compelling watch. It doesn’t get everything right – even some of the performances from a relatively solid ensemble can be a little weak and hammy – but at the end of the day, it’s about a grave injustice that should have never happened in the first place and should have immediately been stopped. Come to think of it, they still could and yet, for some odd reason, they aren’t.

Why, people? Why!

Consensus: Even with the structure-problems, Detroit still works as a hard-hitting and absolutely disturbing take on race-relations, power, corruption, and violence in America that, despite being set 50 years ago, is still awfully relevant today. Go figure.

8 / 10

Seriously. Is this from the movie, or like, two weeks ago? What’s going on!?!?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Imperial Dreams (2017)

Like Poetic Justice, except not at all.

Fresh out of prison for a gun-assault charge, Bambi (John Boyega) is ready to make a change in his life. However, the life that he left behind isn’t willing to let him go. With his son’s mom (Keke Palmer), in prison, there’s no one really to care for him, which leaves Bambi up to the task. But taking care and keeping watch over your son is one thing – keeping a stable roof over him, is a whole other completely. After Bambi refuses to help his cousin go to Portland and beat out an assault charge, his uncle (Glenn Plummer) kicks him out of the house and on the street, where Bambi and his son will have to make due with what they’ve got. In this case, it’s the car, so they begin to start calling that home, while Bambi is out looking for a job. And since Bambi is an accomplished poet, he hopes that he’ll be able to make it big somehow through that. Little does Bambi know that the streets are unforgiving to you, no matter who, or what you are.

What a swimfan.

Imperial Dreams is a movie that’s clearly set in today’s day and age, very relevant, and deals with a lot of important issues of race, gender, class, wealth, and economics, that are very hot-button now, as we speak. So why does it feel like a product of the 90’s? It’s odd, because while the “hood” subgenre of film isn’t necessarily a dated one, but it still feels like something of yesteryear, when G-funk and Dr. Dre was blasted on every car-stereo. But now, many, many years later, Imperial Dreams, while feeling like a movie made, and taking place in, the 90’s, still hits the right emotional spots that it means to, mostly because the world hasn’t changed all that much.

Okay, maybe it has. But not in the important ways it’s supposed to, anyway.

See. with Imperial Dreams, co-writer/director Malik Vitthal gets across the notion that it doesn’t matter if you’ve changed your act and have decided to become a full-fledged, law abiding citizen – if you’re young, black, poor, and ever been convicted of a crime, then guess what? There’s no future for you. Sorry. It’s a shame and it’s a sad world that we live in, but of course, it is the world and it’s one that many young, black, and/or poor ex-felons face.

But it shouldn’t sound like Vitthal is preaching here, because rather than getting on his soapbox and letting the world know his thoughts and feelings on classicism and the way the government continuously lets down its black and impoverished citizens, he tells a story that may seem to descriptive and specific to really connect to anyone, but it still somehow does. Bambi’s story involves a lot of heartbreak, death, sadness and most importantly, anger, but it doesn’t ever seem like it wants to be about any of those things, as much as it wants to be about just not giving up and trying your absolute hardest to fulfill your dreams. Sounds cheesy, I know, but in the context of the movie, it works and it makes you feel more and more for Bambi altogether.

Which is also to say that John Boyega is quite good in the role. While we have yet to fully see his talents on-display yet in a movie dedicated to exposing them, Boyega shows that he’s got a certain presence to him that keeps him interesting, even when it seems like his character could lapse into convention. Through the whole movie, Bambi remains an angry, frustrated and sometimes tortured soul, but he keeps on trying and there’s something about that spirit of his that’s, at the very least, inspirational. But like I said, it’s not as corny as I make it sound and it helps that Boyega is here to help this character out when he needs it the most.

Unfortunately, Bambi’s about the only character here that isn’t a total and absolute cliché and it’s what brings the movie down a whole notch.

Yup. Sons look like fathers. Shocking.

See, while the movie is smart about knowing and understanding these conventions of a hood movie, the characters seem to prove otherwise. For instance, Bambi’s brother is a young kid who’s future’s looking bright and beautiful, with a college scholarship and close relationship to the church. But for some reason, the movie changes its tune about halfway through and decides to make him something of a hard-ass that doesn’t want these things anymore and is, all of a sudden, ready to ruin his life for one stupid act. Doesn’t make much sense and eventually, all of the flip-flopping around gets confusing.

Same goes with Bambi’s uncle, as played by Glenn Plummer (in an obvious nod to South Central), who seems like he was ripped out of Don’t Be a Menace, thrown in here, and never told that what he was working with here was meant to be serious. It helps that Plummer’s a talented actor, but even some of the lines he has to work with, don’t always connect and seem genuine. They just seem like notes and beats these kinds of movies are supposed to touch on and use and well, it’s a bit silly.

Still though, there’s a heart and soul here that, above all other flaws, still gets itself across.

Consensus: With a good performance from Boyega in the lead and a heartfelt message about overcoming all adversity, Imperial Dreams gets by on its heart, as much as it gets taken down by its sometimes conventional and formulaic script.

7 / 10

“Listen to me, son. No spoilers.”

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, High Snobiety, Slash Film

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Wait! Where’s Jar-Jar?

Many years has gone by since the events of Return of the Jedi, and well, a lot has happened. For one, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), has gone into some sort of hiding, leaving many people to wonder where he is and also, try desperately to find him. Also, the Empire has finally, once and for all, shattered and fallen apart, but that isn’t to say that evil forces in the galaxy are over and done with; now, rising from the ashes, is called the First Order, led by a ruthless, powerful and evil baddie named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). But have no fear, kind citizens, as the Resistance still exists, however, they’re doing what they’ve always done: Fight the evil-doers and leave it at that. However, in order to defeat the baddies, the Resistance needs to find a small droid who is carrying a secret map to Skywalker, which just so happens to be by the side of a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Along the way, Rey meets Finn (Jon Boyega), a former storm trooper for the First Order who has decided to defect and do whatever he can to stay alive and safe from the evil, harmful ways of the so-called bad allegiance.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

Now, it’s hard for me to fully review/write about the Force Awakens without really bringing anything new to the table; for silly reasons, I wasn’t able to see the movie for nearly a week, which left plenty of time for people to commit all sorts of chatter about it. Mostly, it’s all been good and fine, but there are the occasional bad apples in the bunch who don’t like what they see and because they have an opinion that doesn’t fully agree with the rest of the consensus, they’re attacked, made fools of, and seen as members of “the no-fun police”. Granted, it is Star Wars, a very beloved and adored franchise, but still, it’s also a movie, and by that same token, it should be approached as any movie ever made.

Which is to say that yes, the Force Awakens is a good movie. Not great, but good. Don’t kill me, please. Just bear with me and we’ll see if we’re still friends by the end of it, okay?

Good. Let’s get to it!

No matter what’s said about any of the problems within the Force Awakens, there’s no denying the fact that co-writer/director J.J. Abrams deserves every bit of respect. First off, he took on the challenge of making another Star Wars film, which also just so happened to come out after he was working on making the Star Trek movies. Clearly, he has an affection for this kind of sci-fi geekery and because of that, he gives each and every fan from every background, something to cherish and hold onto. There’s plenty of callbacks here, most of which are well-done, and because of that, it makes it obvious, even from the very start, that Abrams cares, isn’t trying to keep this all for himself, and wants to share his love and appreciation for this galaxy, just as much as every other fan does, too.

That said, the problem with the Force Awakens is that, for one, it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s one that constantly feels the need to callback and reference the original ones. Which is, yes, fine for a punchline or two, but the references, similarities, or comparisons don’t just begin and end with the humor – it’s everywhere from the plot, to the character-development, to even the action itself. While this isn’t a spoiler really, it still goes to show the kind of disappointment that can be had when one realizes that the story-line here, starts the same, continues on the same, and almost comes close to ending, nearly the same way as A New Hope.

This is especially a problem because, well, Abrams and his band of trusted confidantes clearly had so much to work with at their disposal and well, to see them hark back to the story-lines of yesteryear, almost feels like a waste.

Why does, ultimately, the movie have to come down to it being a battle between two sides? Better yet, why does it have to be hinting at some sort of family-drama? And while I’m at it, do we really need to keep on developing Han Solo, Leia, and Chewie? Can’t we just have them around to do their things, in a way to allow for the new, probably more important characters take over, do their things, and give us reasons to actually give a flyin’ hoot about their part in this story? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that Abrams decided to include Solo, or Leia, or Chewie, or anybody else from the old trilogy, all over again and show us all that they’re still alive, well, and doing what they’ve always done, but a tad too much time is dedicated to them, and not enough time is given to these newer ones who are supposed to be the leading stars of this new franchise.

Either way, it was nice to see Harrison Ford actually give a damn in a movie again, but it was even sweeter to see him playing as Han Solo all over again. Rather than seeming annoying and shticky, Ford wears this role like a glove that any line of wit he delivers, feels like a genuine reaction someone as wild and cool as he would deliver on. Carrie Fisher didn’t really get a chance to do much as Leia, except for numerous reaction-shots, but it was still nice to see her and Ford, on the screen again, clearly still having feelings for one another, but also realizing that a lot has changed, time has moved on, and well, they’re old.

As for Luke? Well, I’ll leave that up in the air.

But like I said before, not all of the Force Awakens is bad. For a movie that runs a tad over two-hours-and-ten minutes, it’s a surprisingly quick and exciting movie that hardly ever feels like it’s slowing down or not going somewhere. One of the main issues with the prequels is that we all knew where they were headed towards, however, they took so damn long to get there; here, while we don’t necessarily know where they’re heading, we’re still on-board, seeing just where Abrams takes the story next, and how he does it all. That Abrams takes familiar situations and plot-points that we’ve seen already highlighted in the earlier movies, but also turns them on their side slightly and shows them in a new light, adds a nice touch that only someone as smart as Abrams could deliver on.

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry's face!

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry’s face!

Cause I know that a lot of what I’m saying here makes it seem like Abrams missed the ball and ruined the Star Wars franchise, because he really did not. He sets everything up in a solid enough manner that it makes me all sorts of ready and anticipated for what’s to come next (in Rian Johnson’s movie, that is), while also not forgetting to keep enough going on in this story, that it doesn’t just feel like unnecessary filler. Stuff happens, is learned and made clear to us in the Force Awakens, and while plenty is left open and ready to be discussed in the upcoming films, there’s still that great feeling of knowing that yes, Star Wars is finally back in our lives and it’s actually in the hands of people capable of being trusted.

And I’m not just talking about Abrams, either, I’m also talking about the surprisingly great cast. Even though there’s no real big names among the young cast that will get the non-conformist’s butts into the seats, that doesn’t matter because they’re all still worthy of checking out and getting invested in, even if it can sometimes feel like the script isn’t giving them a whole lot to roll with or develop.

Daisy Ridley comes absolutely out of nowhere here as Rey and is a total star.

First of all, she’s got a crap-ton of charisma. Though she’s a female character, who also seems to be taking the role of one that would have been made for a man, the movie doesn’t make a point of this; it turns out that Rey, having been on her own for almost her whole life, is just a bad-ass chick that can take care of herself, regardless of what situation comes into her way. Sure, there’s one too many obstacles that she works out too simply or quickly, but hey, the fact that she’s a fun, but compelling presence on the screen, without being pushy or annoying about it, makes her more watchable and fun to stand behind.

Jon Boyega who, granted, already had a nice role in Attack the Block, does a fine job as Finn – someone who gets plenty of development and helps him and his cause more believable. Finn’s characterization is made out to be more of that he’s just a simple, everyday guy who doesn’t want to kill people for senseless reasons, but instead, wants to just be happy and live a normal life, but Boyega also makes him funny and charming, which doesn’t seem like something the script seems to always be calling out for. Rey and Finn’s relationship, whether it be anything more than just pals right now or not, is sweet enough that it tugs at the heartstrings a bit, but also not too developed to where we’re tired of seeing them together and get it already.

But really, it’s Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who I can’t seem to get enough of. Granted, I love Driver already, but his casting as Ren, while initially, a bit strange, ends up totally working when you see it actually play-out. For one, Driver’s physical presence is demanding and intimidating, but he’s also really interesting to listen to, even when it seems like he’s just delivering “bad-guy dialogue”. Ren may appear to be a total and absolute bad-ass who can stop lasers in thin-air with the force, as well as be able to choke people from across the room, but he also appears to be a bit of whiny brat, who may not deserve all of this power and respect that’s at his disposal. We soon learn more about his backstory and why he matters throughout, but what should be said now is this: Driver’s good in the role and if anything, he makes me want to see more about Ren as well as the rest of the First Order.

As for others like Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, and Gwendoline Christie, and their characters? Well, that’s for the next movies to discuss.

Until then, we’ll just wait and see.

Consensus: The Force Awakens may be too familiar and easy for its own good, but is still an exciting, well-acted, interesting, and rather funny adventure back into a galaxy that we’ve been missing for so long, and can’t wait to see what happens with it next.

8 / 10

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies.

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies. BB-8 has arrived.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz