"Tyrel"

The film was a few things but not quite. Horror. Satire. Fictional. An imagination. This film is about a black man named Tyler (referred to as Tyrel in parts) who spends time with a group of white men in the Catskills.

Jason Mitchell brings humor and anger to Tyler. He plays a cook in this film, a job for most of his characters, tied possibly because Jason was an oyster shucker before becoming an actor. Caleb Landry Jones truly played into the brashness of his character, Pete. Christopher Abbott was fantastic as Johnny, Tyler’s friend who coaxes Tyler to being “one of the guys.” Ann Dowd is delightful as Silvia. Reg E. Cathey, in one of his final performances, is strong as Reggie. Michael Zegen, Nicolas Arze, Michael Cera and Roddy Bottum form a strong ensemble, amplifying the flow of the story.

Writer and Director Sebastián Silva crafted a film that highlights the struggles of being black and brown man in a predominantly white man’s space. One of the white men puts on a durag and automatically thinks they can rap. Tyler dry laughs with his discomfort shown. Tyler’s irritation heightens when he is asked to participate in asinine games, yet he wants to be a part of the crew so he gives in with a smile. The camera absorbs the convos and interactions in the home. The way I will sum up this film is white boy wasted and ruthless living from the eyes and actions of a black man. If the film was any longer, I would say it was a dud. However, clocking in at 1 hour and 26 minutes, it is long enough to get the scope of what the film tries to convey.

You can stream this film on Hulu.

"Period. End of Sentence."

“We want women to rise and fly.”

This Academy-Award winning documentary short is 26 minutes. The focus is women in rural India as they make pads and girls and women who learned about their use. There is economic growth, entrepreneurship, sisterhood and education. “Avengers: Endgame” also should have been this long.

Director Rayka Zehtabchi gave striking close-ups of the girls and women, who were curious about the camera and giddy about the pad tutorials. Gender roles are prevalently shown throughout the documentary short. For the most part, having a period was private, embarrassing and degrading. The dubbing voices for English is obnoxious. However, the documentary short is so engaging and impactful, you barely notice. I am in an awe of Arunachalam Muruganantham, who created the pad making machine. While the machine seems archaic, for the women, pads are revolutionary. He also spoke glowingly of women, our power in society. There was a woman who dreamed of being in the police force. You see women hustle to sell the pads. I am glad the focus was on the girls and women in India. Their voices are rich in the story’s timeline. It gives value to this project.

You can stream this documentary short on Netflix. You can also visit www.padproject.org.

"Avengers: Endgame"

I went into this movie in a mood. What was going to be of this three-hour opus? Watching the film I thought, "this is an obnoxious Inception.” Another moment “action-packed The Leftovers.” Having seen the film twice in the span of opening weekend, I had completely different experiences. The film does not feel that long.

The Avengers align together to defeat Thanos. It is also Chris Evans’ final (but is it really?) performance as Captain America, which he is mighty and wonderful in every facet.

The performances vary from stellar and to barely striking a match. Karen Gillan delivers a standout performance as Nebula. Jeremy Renner balanced being a stunning vigilante and compassionate hero as Hawkeye/Clint Barton. He had a scene with an attitude that harkened back to his role in “The Town.” Don Cheadle, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth and Danai Gurira are fantastic. They all have at least one comedic moment. Captain Marvel, Rocket Raccoon & Ant-Man/Scott Lang are my saving graces of the film. Brie Larson, Bradley Cooper & Paul Rudd, respectively captivate the screen. Everyone who returned did their thing! Although one person could have just been left off. Robert Downey Jr. provides comic relief and an elevated dramatic performance for Iron-Man/Tony Stark. Thanos is just a big bully with an executioner style sword. Emma Fuhrmann, Ava Russo and Yvette Nicole Brown are among the supporting cast who are exceptional in their roles. This ensemble is out of this world by Casting Director Sarah Finn.

The writing was fine. I would have preferred more action scenes than stale drama between the Avengers. That was my gripe with “Captain America: Civil War.” There were scenes that dragged on. I also do not care for Black Widow and this film established that. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo return the audience to a stellar world. The special effects team gave an outstanding look. Thanos’ spaceship slowly inches through fog and it is quite terrifying. Alan Silvestri composed a sweeping and cerebral score. My favorite scenes with his music are when Scott Lang searches for Cassie, his daughter, and when Tony discovers a way to time travel. Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky created essential looks for each character. Okoye wears a black dress that is sophisticated and snatched.

I wish Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was a surprise return to the film. She is a treasure. Don Cheadle has a scene that harkens back to his character in “Traffic.” There was a serene setting with guitar playing in the score that made me think of “A Star is Born,” and I chuckled. There is also an homage to '“The Big Lebowski.”

The real winner of this film is Audi, who has strategic & impeccable product placement.

Marvel Studios produced an exemplary and ground-breaking timeline of projects adhering to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s vision. It plays to the generations who crave these stories rooted in reality with fantasy.

Overall, the film is nerve-racking yet satisfying. I will likely see it for a third time and eat, drink and be merry.

"Fast Color"

One of the few uses of Twitter is the power of word of mouth. I learned about one of the most extraordinary films I ever witnessed thus far in my life because of my newsfeed. Three generations of black women harness and embrace their supernatural powers amidst internal rifts and leeching scientists eager to study the family’s DNA.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is one of my favorite actresses. She is powerful as Ruth, a recovering addict who has yet to understand her power. Her vulnerability livens in her eyes. Saniyya Sidney is remarkable as Lila, Ruth’s daughter eager to explore outside the confines of her home. She balances charisma, vigor and curiosity. Lorraine Toussaint is a goddess and as ever-commanding as Bo, the matriarch with wisdom and passion. David Strathairn is mysterious and smooth as Ellis, a protector and connection to the family. Christopher Denham, Sylvie Grontis Hagan and Levi Dylan Martinez are part of a complete ensemble.

Writers Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz showed the beauty and tribulations of black women. It was not just the world against them. During the course of the film, there are conflicts amidst them. The story has a dystopian edge, however a contemporary story occurs. When I watched the characters use or purchase water, because it has not rained in eight years, I thought about what residents of Flint, MI endure to have access to clean water. The story begins slowly but bursts with emotion by the magnetism of family and a love story. Director Julia Hart captures the electrifying colors with a stellar visual and special effects team. When the power is used, it is as though time stops watching each shot of the moment. Music by Rob Simonsen heightens the tension of the film with a cerebral score.

I was proud to support this film. I carried the feeling most black people have when they see themselves onscreen. To see the film in my neighborhood movie theater in Baldwin Hills was a bonus. I squealed internally because a city in the film is View Park, a neighborhood near where I live.

My heart beats a bright red after seeing “Fast Color.”

"Little"

Jordan Sanders is a powerful, revered and feared technology mogul. Her nasty attitude turns off everyone. By the wish of a young budding and persistently practicing magician, Jordan returns to her dreaded middle school where she was teased relentlessly, became guarded and learned to build success.

Regina Hall is fantastic as Jordan. She delivers hell through humor. Issa Rae is wonderful as April, an ambitious yet timid assistant to Jordan. Marsai Martin is delightful as Jordan in middle school. Issa and Marsai met each other incredibly in their scenes. I enjoyed watching older Jordan work through younger Jordan. Tone Bell, Mikey Day, Justin Hartley, Caleb Emery and Luke James form a strong supporting cast. JD McCrary, Thalia Tran and Tucker Meek light up the screen as Jordan’s friends when she returns to middle school.

Director Tina Gordon gave the scope of each scene. I saw the city of Atlanta as a character instead of a location. Jordan lives in a breathtaking condo overlooking the city. Marsai pitched the story at ten years old. Co-writers Gordon and Tracy Oliver showed the beauty of black women and girls onscreen in flaws and fruition. It felt so good to laugh. The jokes are universally funny. There were not many shenanigans distracting the story. The drama moves well in the course of the film. Costume Designer Danielle Hollowell created stellar and unique outfits for the characters. I need the “Black People Read” jacket April wears. I hope the Homegirl system becomes a reality. Producer Will Packer once again delivers a fun film with a powerful reminder of life with an inclusive perspective.

"Mississippi Grind"

This film has been in my queue for literal years. When I decided a film to watch next and saw who directed this film, I knew it was time to watch it. Gerry, a gambler seeking refuge in getting one good bet finds an ally and distant friendship to Curtis, a hopeless wanderer and fellow gambler.

Ben Mendelsohn is his signature groggy being as Gerry. Ryan Reynolds is charismatic and rewarding in his arc as Curtis. Ben and Ryan have a deep-rooted chemistry. Sienna Miller plays Simone, a fling yet love interest to Curtis, with sincerity and curiosity. Stephanie Honoré plays Denise, an interest to Gerry, with naïveté and power. She looks like Emma Stone and Aubrey Plaza’s first cousin. Alfre Woodard is in one scene and captivates and glows in her voice and presence.

Writers and Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck developed a well-rounded script with use of the scene. The wide shots captured in each city the men traveled. We experience the road trip the men are on. The location scouting was exceptionally done. The film is hilarious in parts with a pinch of shade. There could have been nine minutes shaved off the film. I was intrigued that they just directed and co-wrote the massively scaled “Captain Marvel.” Costume Designer Abby O’Sullivan gives each character a distinct look. A black older gentleman wears the heck out of a mint green button down with a forest green cap. Music by Scott Bomar created a fantastic score driving the course of the film and highlighting influences from some of the cities.

You can stream this film on Netflix.

"Monsters and Men"

This film reminded me of “Tree of Life” and “Menace II Society.” Manny, a man rebuilding his life, witnesses the murder of a beloved community member. The aftermath changes the lives of two other people and their eventual choices.

The performances are the saving grace of this film. Anthony Ramos gives a well-rounded performance as Manny, truly evoking the emotion of the film. John David Washington is distinguishable and clean-shaven as Dennis Williams, a police officer grappling with the strife of his people and his position. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is incredible as Zyrick, who enters the screen with power and curiosity. Nicole Beharie is stunning as Michelle, Dennis’ compassionate and protective wife. Jasmine Cephas Jones delivers comfort and accountability as Marisol. The women in the film do extraordinary work to not just be background characters. The children are wonderful in the film, providing a hope and motivation for the story. Rob Morgan, Chanté Adams, Brian Pollock, Joe Tippett, J.W. Cortes and Daniel Sherman Stewart lead a commanding supporting cast.

Writer and Director Reinaldo Marcus Green captures the beauty of the neighborhood. In the slew of films aiming to portray the plight of people of color, this film falls flat in parts with empty plot points. It feels like three different stories without a thread. I was confused in a couple of pivotal parts in the film. Composer Kris Bowers crafted a wonderful score along with songs capturing the essence of each scene. I believe the film is worth watching for the optimism and the darkness. Towards the end of the film, I was on the edge of anticipation.

You can stream this film on Hulu.

"Free Solo"

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin capture an extraordinary and beautifully shot film, catching every massive and heart-pounding angle. Alex Honnold is a quirky and ambitious climber. His attitude almost comes across as emotionless. He looks like Carrie Brownstein’s younger brother. He held his lifelong dream of climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, CA without ropes. This is clearly not an easy feat. The planning is a remarkable piece of memory.

At times, I could have normally done without the focus on the girlfriend. However, Sanni McCandless challenges Alex to share his emotions. They meet each other in a way that suits them. We as an audience get to witness. There is some background about Alex’s upbringing that delivers the man he is now. The focus sort of fell flat. Alex lives modestly. A documentary could have been made about him living in his van. He is also charitable. Humility is a prevalent characteristic as he plans his lifelong dream.

Music by Marco Beltrami invigorates each scene on the rock. The sound livens on your goosebumps as you may or may not look away. A quote to describe a part of El Capitan is “the most magnificent crack on the planet.” I let out the loudest laugh. Another unique part of Alex is he had climbed the rock in the beginning in Dockers and a teeshirt. He embodies a carefree spirit. He also has a “get it done” spirit. His support system, Tommy Caldwell, Peter Croft, Mikey Schaefer and Jimmy Chin are in awe of Alex.

You can stream this film on Hulu.

"Minding the Gap"

This documentary is understanding the lives of boys from Rockford, IL who skateboard. I have watched three films about skateboarders over the past few months. I’m left with the same question. Are skateboarders sad and misunderstood or are they be happy and free? This documentary is raw and unapologetic. Domestic violence, financial restraints and race are focuses of the documentary.

Zack is older than much of his crew. He’s a father to Elliot, a cute and sweet boy, with Nina, a twenty-one year old woman. At first Nina seemed selfish and immature. Then you recognize she has many responsibilities and heartache. Her wisdom is remarkable. In regards to Zack, he knows who he is particularly why he drinks a lot. Yet it is cringeworthy to watch his often lack of action towards responsibility. Kiere is a young black man, marred by the death of his father and fear of being stuck in his hometown. He has a huge smile and incredible grasp of his emotions. He mostly hangs out with white kids. In the documentary, judging their lives is easy. Kiere remembers his father telling him, “prove them wrong” in regards to how black men can thrive against what black men are perceived to be. I took this to heart broadly as I watched.

I appreciate the documentary for not featuring a lot of subjects. Additional people are featured for perspective. Bing Liu, who wears many hats for the film, is a subject. He interviews his mother, Mengyue in a heartbreaking revelation.

You can stream this documentary on Hulu.

"Captain Marvel"

I went into this film with low expectations. (I took a mini break to watch the “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. OH MY GOODNESS!). As I left the theater, of course having watched the credits scene, I was pleasantly empowered. The evolution of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) to Captain Marvel occurs as she fights the Skrulls, known as shapeshifters.

Brie Larson is marvelous in every fiber of her being. Lashana Lynch is incredible as Maria, who knew Carol from her previous life. I loved their sistership. Samuel L. Jackson is his smooth cool self as Nicholas Fury with a hilarious moment. Akira Akbar is delightful as Monica, Maria’s wildly curious daughter. Annette Bening is fierce and alluring as Dr. Wendy Lawson. Gemma Chan is commanding as Minn-Erva. Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Clark Gregg form a strong supporting cast.

Writers & Directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck deliver a world audiences have waited to witness. It is electric and fast paced by an extensive Visual Effects crew. SPOILER ALERT: Earth does not get destroyed. A miracle in this universe. Writer Geneva Robertson-Dworet with story by Nicole Perlman & Meg LeFauve developed a compelling message of humanity with women in the center. Carol as Vers is constantly told to keep her emotions in check. This is an all too real experience for women. There were some confusing parts in the development of Carol remembering who she is. Then, the story clicked. There was plenty of dry humor. The nostalgia and fun is ripe, playing into the day & age technology of today.

Costume Designer Sanja Milkovic Hays delivers in the t-shirts and looks. Cinematographer Ben Davis displayed breathtaking scenes shot in the massive open sky and trees of Louisiana. Music by Pinar Toprak hypes the nostalgia through the music with a captivating score. I thought my theater would go into a sing along when “Just A Girl” by No Doubt played. I also will only be a cat mother if it is to one like Goose.

I will see this film again.

Thank you, Stan Lee.