Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie that tells the story of Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a sultry, Harlem Renaissance singer in the late 1920s, from the South who comes to Chicago to make a record with Hot Rhythm Recordings. The film is based on the real life Ma Rainey, who was unknown to me until I saw this film. In the movie, Ma Rainey has achieved success, and good financial standing as she enters the twilight of her career. She is fiery, demanding, insecure, but confident in her ability to sing, and knows that her voice is the commodity that gives her leverage when dealing with the record label. She doesn’t tolerate any foolishness from the white label executives, nor her own band members who at times attempt to impose their own will on her vision of what her music should be. Her band is made up of four colorful individuals, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag and Levee. The movie is really about Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and his struggle to gain the limelight as a trumpeter for Ma Rainey’s band. Levee is an ambitious and talented musician, who wants to lead his own band, but his own tragic experience with racism leads to catastrophic conflict within the band itself. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom comes across as a one act play with two primary sets, the band room and recording studio, where the tense interactions take place between Ma Rainey, the record label executives, Levee and his band mates. This leads to some powerful stories on how these individuals have struggled and adapted to survive the racism, predatory practices of music labels and the regular human turmoil that comes from personal interaction in 1920s America. One could place this in modern times and see similar results! You will want to SPEND THE CASH on this one. The acting is powerful! Grade B
I had heard a lot of hype about The Undoing, but it didn’t strike me as a show that was up my alley. I was wrong! The Undoing is a six episode murder mystery starting Nicole Kidman as Grace and Hugh Grant as Jonathan her husband. Grace meets a woman named Elena at a PTO style school fundraising meeting, and next thing you know the woman has been murdered. Somehow Grace’s husband Jonathan becomes a suspect, and the race is on to prove his innocence. Although this is a story that has been done a number of times, the acting is superb and the story is tense, which makes for an enjoyable six hours of television as you try to figure out Whodunit. If you have HBO Max, definitely SPEND THE CASH on this series.
Underwater gets rolling five minutes into the movie, with explosions and water cascading everywhere as Norah (Kristen Stewart), who minutes before was brushing her teeth, attempts to escape the seven mile sea deep mining facility where she works and calls home. After several near death experiences, she reunites with surviving crew members, and they make their plan to escape the doomed underwater mining rig. This all occurs in the first ten minutes! The survivors discover deep sea diving gear and use that to exit the collapsing rig. Once they get outside, they realize that there is more going on than they thought, and their sigh of relief upon getting away from the mining rig is short lived. Norah and her fellow survivors attempt to traverse one mile of treacherous landscape in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part on the Earth, trying to find sanctuary on another mining station. During their near pitch black journey across the ocean floor, they attempt to fend off an unknown foe that picks them off one by one. Underwater is a claustrophobic, action pick that borrows heavily from Alien and The Abyss, but it is well worth SPENDING THE CASH on this film.
I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the picture of Flight Attendant on HBO Max. This isn’t a show that I normally would watch, but the plot line intrigued me and I wanted to watch something that my wife and I could both enjoy. The series follows Cassie, Kaley Cuoco, a wild flight attendant whose life is filled with drinking and pleasure seeking. During a flight, she meets a passenger and has a brief kissing affair with him in the airplane lavatory before resuming her flight attendant duties. When the plane lands, she hooks up with the passenger, named Alex, Darios from Game of Thrones, and they have a dalliance in a penthouse hotel. Cassie wakes up the next morning and discovers Alex in bed next to her with his throat slit and blood everywhere. Cassie then begins to make one bumbling foolish decision after another as she attempts to cover up that she was with the dead man. Her various actions throughout the first three episodes, which make little to know sense, leads to some funny scenes. Flight Attendant is a mix of a mature themed dramedy, mystery, thriller. My wife and I are three episodes in so far, and I am in it for the duration. It’s funny because Cassie is very much like an even more over the top version of Penny from the Big Bang Theory, except she definitely has a dark side that is just beginning to be explored. SPEND THE CASH on this one.
If you like Omari Hardwick from POWER, then his presence alone will be enough for you to see this film. SPELL is actually a pretty good mystery/horror film. Hardwick’s character Marquis is a wealthy business man who learns his father, whom he hated because of abuse has died. Marquis flies his family, wife, daughter and son in his private plane to the funeral, but they crash during a storm. He wakes up in a bed, on the farm of an older couple Eloise and Earl, who said they found him in the crash. He asks for his family, but they say that nobody was with him. Marquis soon discovers that the couple practices some form of Christian/Voodoo and he witnesses and experiences some strange and painful events at the hands of Eloise and the Boogedy that she makes of him. The movie reminds me of play Misty for Me or the classic Misery, but with a supernatural twist. You figure out what is going on pretty early, but watching Marquis try to get out of his situation is engaging. You can definitely SPEND THE CASH on this film, but make sure it is the rental price and not the full price of admission.
Kindred is a weird slow moving thriller about a young woman named Charlotte who becomes pregnant. Charlotte doesn’t want the baby, due to her mom being mentally ill and not a good mother, but her boyfriend is excited about having the baby. As Charlotte mulls over whether she is going to terminate the pregnancy, her boyfriend is killed in a tragic accident. The boyfriend’s mother and step brother, who are wealthy and live in a mansion take Charlotte in to live after she begins to experience hallucinations and losses of time. Over time Charlotte discovers that she is not necessarily a guest, but a prisoner as they try to keep her bedridden until she comes to term. The mystery of the film for the viewer is to figure out if Charlotte is becoming mentally unstable or is the family doing something to her. The movie was intriguing, had a good story, but it just dragged a bit. I would DASH from this film and wait until its free on one of the movie channels or streaming networks.
I have heard many people who are just general fans of Star Wars say they have enjoyed the Mandalorian, but true deep fans of Star Wars have found a true love for the show, and season 2 has continued to bring exciting Star Wars level experiences. If you have been a fan of the animated Star Wars Clone Wars and Rebels, then the last three episodes of the Mandalorian 3-5, are going to take you to Star Wars heaven. The big payoff comes in episode 5 as one of the most popular characters from the Star Wars animated universe makes her live action debut, and I am not talking about the awesome Bo Katan played by Katee Sackhoff who did a remarkable job portraying Bo Katan, the character she played in the animated Clone Wars and Rebels. True Star Wars fans rejoice! Ashoka Tano has arrived in all of her live action glory and she is amazing! Rosario Dawson does a fantastic job of bringing Ashoka to life. I have to admit I got emotional watching the first few minutes of the episode seeing a live Ashoka Tano wielding her twin light sabers. The history and the universe that has been created beyond the movies is rich, colorful and full of amazing stories, and now the animated and live action Star Wars Universe are finally connected. Hats off to Dave Filoni, John Favereau and George Lucas for having the grit to bring her to live action.
The actual episode itself was good as the Mandalorian, and Baby Yoda meet Ashoka as she battles a local warlord called the Magistrate. The Mandalorian’s quest and purpose from the beginning has been to deliver Baby Yoda to a Jedi. However, The Mandalorian learns a few things, one of which is Baby Yoda’s real name, and that his story his much deeper than he could have imagined. After helping Ashoka with the Magistrate, The Mandalorian discovers that his quest is not at an end, but is only just beginning. For fans of Star Wars lore, this episode is chock full of Easter eggs and information related to the Clone Wars and Rebels. Definitely SPEND THE CASH to see this!
A friend of mine recommended this wild show. I liked it, although I struggled trying to fit the program into a particular genre. I would classify this show as an action packed, road trip, innocent teen romance, dramedy, mixed in with some extreme violence. The premise of the show is a about a 16 year old boy named Wayne who lives in Brockton, Massachusetts. Wayne is the neighborhood protector of those who are treated poorly and he uses his fists and other means to give payback to those who mistreat others. Although Wayne stands up for people, it doesn’t mean he is this super fighter. He is often getting pummeled for his efforts, but that never stops him. As a matter of fact, I am starting to believe he suffers from Congenital Insensitivity, a disease where a person doesn’t feel pain. Wayne meets a 15 year old girl named Del, who has her own issues with her family and the death of her mom. After an awkward meeting over buying and selling cookies, and an even weirder interaction in his bedroom, they decided to date. Wayne’s father dies of cancer, and after giving him a Vikings funeral in his home, yes it is strange, Wayne and Del decide to travel by dirt bike to Florida, where his mom, who abandon him at five resides with her boyfriend who stole Wayne’s dad’s 1979 Gold Camero. Wayne’s mission is to go down to Florida and retrieve the Camero, which his dad had wanted to pass down to him. Along the journey Wayne and Del meet a host of colorful and funny characters, while being pursued by Del’s obsessively protective father, and her two older twin brothers. They are also being followed by the depressed school principal that hates kids and his job with Wayne’s friend Orlando, and also two funny, but strange police officers from Brockton, Mass. Wayne and Del meet a few other colorful characters that make this one of the most memorable, fun, tragic, and violent shows I have seen, yet the love between Wayne and Del is innocent and free of any sex whatsoever. In order to classify it in my mind, to me this show is very much like a highly rated R version of, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (except no super hero powers here), Shameless (excluding the shamelessness and sex) and weirdly Everybody Hates Chris. I know it is a strange combination but it works. The budding romance between Wayne and Del is cute, powerful and it just works and I was pulling for them throughout the show. It runs 10 episodes, and I blew threw them in one day, yes that is a lot of tv, but I still managed to get in 20K steps! Wayne is truly a show I would SPEND THE CASH on!
Let me start by saying Titans is not the lovable, funny and friendly show like you would see with Teen Titans Go, or the original Teen Titans cartoon. This is a gritty, mature themed Titans show that takes place in the DC Universe and it shares a connection with the Doom Patrol TV show. Titans follows Robin, the former Boy Wonder. Robin has grown disgruntled with his time with Batman and he has moved off on his own to Detroit to serve as a police officer and fight crime at night. However, no longer does he just fight to incapacitate the bad guy, he brutalizes criminals to the point of death! One scene in particular, which shows you the direction the series is moving in occurs when he is fighting a group of criminals and they are looking around in fear saying “Where is Batman?!”, and Robin replies callously “F@#% Batman!” as he beats the mess out of them. Dick Grayson (Robin) struggles with his dual nature, and realizes that he is beginning to like the violence more than just helping people. This is what makes the show interesting, it explores the motivations, and trauma of the characters and how their experiences shaped them. Robin primarily plays his real self Dick Grayson, as he tries to help a young girl named Raven who has demonic like abilities, but is on the run from “The Organization” that is trying to use her as a portal to bring her Father to Earth. Robin and Raven come across Kory who has amnesia, but has fire powers (Starfire for fans of Teen Titans), and Gar (Beast Boy) who help Robin protect Raven. It is not just a superhero show, it is a character driven show. I really love the real world take, that DC has taken with its properties, and the episodes are dark, brutal and bloody, but to me that is the reality of what getting into a fight with a real superhero or highly trained fighter would look like. This show is rated M for Mature and has some Game of Thrones and The Boys level sexuality and violence, so it is not for kids at all! However, if you love DC heroes or the genre, SPEND THE CASH!
Star Trek: Discovery season 3 has entered the 32nd Century with a bang! The first two seasons of the show were hit and miss, but so far this season Discovery has found its space legs and is striding into the future. Sonequa Green, who plays Commander Michael Burnham, has led her starship Discovery and crew from the 23rd century through a wormhole to the 32nd century to escape “Control” a sentient computer program that was hell bent on destroying all life in the known galaxy. Think Skynet from Terminator on steroids! Now in the 32nd century, 900 plus years from everything they have known, the crew of Discovery discovers that the Federation and Starfleet they once knew is a shell of its former self. A catastrophe called the “Burn” has destroyed the majority of Starfleet vessels and the Federation has shrunk from 350 member worlds to 38 planets. Once valued allies have now become enemies. Burnham and the Discovery crew try to navigate in this galaxy while trying to figure out the mystery behind the “Burn”.
As a true fan of the entire Star Trek franchise, I thought Discovery was out of place in the 23rd Century, existing merely 10 years before the launch of Captain Kirk’s five year mission into the unknown. Discovery’s technology, uniforms and everything about it just did not fit in the established canon. Although they explained it away, by stating that Discovery was a state of the art unique science vessel, it just didn’t work. Putting Discovery into the 32nd century was a great move! It allows the writers to truly work on expanding the Star Trek Universe without being closed in by established canon! Definitely spend the cash on Star Trek: Discovery season 3!