"On The Basis of Sex"

This film is a testament to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her extraordinary work and determination ushered in a new era of fighting for equal justice. The work on one of her cases is the crux of the film, becoming more than a biopic.

Felicity Jones is captivating as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She delivers the gravitas of Ruth’s spirit as well as the motherly and caring breaths. Armie Hammer is strong as Marty Ginsburg. I believed he was a lawyer. He met the strength of Felicity’s performance without putting the spotlight on him. Cailee Spaeny is powerful as Jane Ginsburg, challenging her mother. Justin Theroux is wonderful as Mel Wulf, who is a childhood friend of Ruth’s and runs the ACLU. Sam Waterston plays a complicated character Erwin Griswold, who believes he is progressive but is just another powerful white man keeping the status of his kind. Kathy Bates, Jack Reynor, Sharon Washington, Holly Gauthier-Frankel, Gabrielle Graham and Stephanie Costa are a part of the fascinating ensemble.

Director Mimi Leder gives wonderful guidance for the audience to experience the surroundings of the scene. The sets are stunning, from the busy ACLU office to the Ginsburg residence. Writer Daniel Stiepleman weaves in the blood boiling sexism, the next generation and importance of the ACLU. There is humor peppered in. The groundbreaking change parallels to today, how much has yet to change even in progressive efforts. Mychael Danna created a stunning score from the decades spanning the film. Costume Designer Isis Mussenden embodied the era in the costumes. Jane, as a teenager, wears a mini-skirt next to her mother who is still wearing skirts to her ankles. Ruth endures agony to look feminine but taken seriously as a man. The scarf is her ponytail was a lovely detail.

I was brought to tears by the ending of the film. Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

"If Beale Street Could Talk"

The profound introduction prefaces a tender and stirring film. Tish (KiKi Layne) is a girl pushed into womanhood by her love for Fonny, a childhood friend. The circumstances of existing in a black body drive the generational drama yet expresses the presence of hope.

KiKi Layne is refreshing. She balances the innocence of Tish and the bravado of the responsibilities and circumstances for her growing family. Her narration is remarkable. Stephan James is commanding as Fonny. He invokes the horrors of being a black man, no matter the place, and the great optimism that exists. Regina King only elevates. She is compassionate and triumphant as Tish’s mother, Sharon. Colman Domingo is righteously warm as Joseph, Tish’s father. He has a solution with a smooth smile. Bryan Tyree Henry, Teyonnah Parris, Aujanue Ellis, Pedro Pascal, Diego Luna, Michael Beach, Ebony Obsidian, Dominique Thorne, Emily Rios, Finn Wittrock and Dave Franco are a part of the stellar ensemble, mostly for how they carry even the one scene they are in. Kayden Byrd, Jr. is exceptionally cute as Alonzo Jr.

Writer and Director Barry Jenkins breathes extraordinarily into this adaptation. I can see Barry’s influences with the distinction of his eye. Daniel (Bryan Tyree Henry) tells Fonny his fears of prison, a foreshadow to Fonny’s circumstances. At first I thought this scene could be cut out but it stands for something greater. The drinking and smoking is fashioned to the era. This film is unapologetically black. A picture of black love, honestly portrayed. Caroline Esselin crafts simplistic and sophisticated costumes. I need the sweaters Tish wears in the warm air. Cinematographer James Laxton captures the world with sharp freedom. Music Composer Nicholas Britell gives a symphony to every scene, even when the characters are talking.

"RBG"

There is wonder in watching this documentary. The extraordinary life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her career begins before she wore her dissent collar yet is a testament to her tenacity. She secured rights, through a multitude of cases in the US, for women who sought to be equal in the workplace, inspired by the discrimination she received in college and after law school.

Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West show stunning archival footage of RBG, including as a child and in law school, with a sweeping timeline. The footage of her confirmation hearing is woven into the documentary leading to the nickname she earned: Notorious RBG. The most beautiful part of the documentary was the love story between her and her late husband, Marty. The work she did when he had cancer during law school swelled my heart. It was refreshing to watch RBG laugh at herself with the parody of her performed by Kate McKinnon on “SNL”. The best part of the documentary is hearing the events of her life in her words. Featuring people in her life like Bill Clinton, who nominated her for the Supreme Court, Clara Spera, RBG’s granddaughter, Ann Kittner and Harryette Helsel, RBG’s childhood friends make the documentary special with reflections of the woman outside of the robe.

May Ruth Bader Ginsburg continue to thrive, be a fierce exerciser and remain a beacon for justice.

You can watch this documentary on Hulu.

On a side note, my respect for Jimmy Carter continues to blossom as well because of the documentary.

"Aquaman"

This film was a fun ride and what a $200 million film looks like. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is called by Mera (Amber Heard) to fight his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson) against a war on the mainland and to take his rightful throne as king.

Jason Momoa was born to play this role. He balances the raucous with the emotion. I enjoyed the bond between father and son. Nicole Kidman is ever ethereal as Queen Atlanna. Patrick Wilson plays a striking foil as King Orm, particularly because it is a departure from his signature acting. Amber Heard is the heart of the film as Mera. Willem Dafoe is stunning as Vulko. I could not help but see Green Goblin but Willem gives vigor and guidance to Arthur/Aquaman as Vulko. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is vengeful as Manta, a pirate. His character was underutilized for he was a true villain. Does Michael Beach ever not play a bad guy? He plays Jesse, Manta’s father, in a seemingly unnecessary role except to build the drama for Manta’s motivation to kill Aquaman. Dolph Lundgren continues to have a year as King Nereus, who is not a villain but has loyalty to King Orm. Temuera Morrison, Ludi Lin, Otis Dhanji and Kekoa Kekumano are a part of a powerful supporting cast.

Director James Wan takes the audience into the beat of the action with electric colors. Writers David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and Will Beall with a story by Geoff Johns, James Wan and Will Beall wrote a solid script with dramatic points that moved well. I would like more backstory between Vulko and Arthur. An older gentleman in my theater laughed out loud, enjoying the funny peppered throughout the film. There are political points without weighing the film down, a reminder not to disrespect the ocean. The film is long but keeps the interest with the underwater world. Mera wears a stunning sea green suit by Costume Designer Kym Barrett. The hair and makeup department created stunning looks, especially King Orm’s and Vulko’s updos.

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

I began to enjoy the film an hour into it. The storyline was not streamlined. The animation was dizzying in parts. Then, there was a twist in the film that sat me up in my seat. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a middle school kid with street art ambitions and dislikes his prep school, much like many real-life teenagers. When he is bitten by a radioactive spider, he discovers his power and finds a mentor in Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson).

Shameik Moore gives a thrilling voice and meets each expression of the scene. Jake Johnson is cool and collected. I would have never guessed the voice was his. He sounds a tinge like Deadpool. Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman. It did not dawn on me the connection in the case of this film. Mahershala Ali is smooth as Uncle Aaron. Bryan Tyree Henry was good as Jefferson, Miles’ dad. Luna Laura Velez is lively as Rio, Miles’ mother. Kathryn Hahn is fantastically evil as Doc Ock. I lit up when I heard Lily Tomlin’s iconic voice as she played Aunt May. Kimiko Glenn is remarkable as Peni Parker. Liev Schrieber is bold as King Pin in an overly oversized body. Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Natalie Morales and Chris Pine add their voices to the astonishing ensemble.

Directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey create a world that is incredible. It is true to NYC with sweeping action and brilliant color. There is a Stan Lee cameo. Daniel Pemberton composed an excellent soundtrack for the film. I was surprised with a PG rating, Biggie’s “Hypnotized” played with the uncut version but maybe kids wouldn’t recognize it. Writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman work a multi-layered story that eventually builds well. The made-up corporate names were funny and obvious. There was an American Idol stalling to up the drama. I appreciate the ambition to make Spider-Man a person of color, which drew me to see this film and it is beautiful to witness. If anything, remember you are never too old to tell you dad you love him.

"Dumplin'"

Willowdean (Danielle McDonald) is the daughter of Rosie (Jennifer Aniston), who is not what the daughter of a former teenage beauty pageant winner is thought of. As Willow grieves the loss of Lucy (Hilliary Begley), she finds the courage with her friends and classmates to shift ideals in beauty standards as contestants in the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant.

Danielle McDonald is fantastic. She gives depth to the character. Odeya Rush is delightful as Ellen, Willow’s best friend. Bex Taylor-Klaus is sensational as Hannah, one of the classmates participating in the beauty pageant. Jennifer Aniston is stunning as Rosie, dealing with the life she thought winning the pageant would give her and learning how to support Willowdean as they could not be more different. Harold Perrineau is divine as Lee, a drag queen who helps bring the girls to pageantry. Maddie Ballio, Dove Cameron, Tian Richards, Molly McNearney, Kathy Najimy, Hilliary Begley, Luke Benward, Sam Pancake and Dan Flannerty are a wonderful supporting cast.

Screenwriter Kristin Hahn wrote a heart-warming and realistic script. The Texas charm and the twang were wonderful. Bo (Luke Benward) is the dreamy and genuine boy next door. An 8 Ball was a fun prop for Willowdean. At first, I had no desire to watch this film, believing it was another film taking tropes of making fun of plus-sized people and pretty skinny girls are desirable once again for some kind of display, which does happen. However, the characters live life and change societal expectations without teaching a lesson. The drama did not weigh down the beat of the film. Director Anne Fletcher gave the idyllic beauty of Texas, wide location shots including Harpy’s, where Willowdean works and the sparkle of beauty pageants. Music by Jake Monaco was the highlight of the film, as much of it were Dolly Parton songs, which bond Willowdean with Lucy and Ellen. Costume Designer Bina Daigeler must of had a ball with the clothes, with so much life from the sequined and colorful costumes to Willowdean’s work apron.

You can watch this film on Netflix.

Mid90s

Based on the title, I had an aversion to this film. It is too early to think of the 90’s as a time period for film. However, I would have missed out on a fascinating film. Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is in the ripe age of discovery and debauchery. As he falls in with a group of misfit skateboarders, he endures consequences and learns about life in the most unlikely of places.

Lucas Hedges is a character actor. His aggression and will to be cool as Ian can be terrifying and relatable. He is stockier and his look is if Wallace from “Wallace & Grommit” was a wannabe gangsta. Sunny Suljic acts with total expression of his face. He reminds of Shia LaBeouf’s energy when he played Louis Stevens. Fuckshit, one of the greatest film character names of all time, is played with finesse by Olan Prenatt. I believe this film is the first time I saw Katherine Waterston act and she was unforgettable, mostly because she is the only woman as Dabney, Stevie and Ian’s mother, with the care and caution of the character. Na-kel Smith is a wonder as Ray, a character with wisdom and vision beyond his years, an oracle of the group. Alexa Demie is alluring as Estee, one of the few girls in the film. Ryder McLaughlin gives a grounded performance as Fourth Grade. Gio Galicia is strong as Ruben, who delivers conflict throughout the film. The ensemble is eclectic and powerful, natural in the ensemble and attributed by Casting Director Allison Jones.

Writer & Director Jonah Hill gives an ode to Los Angeles with glowing vibes and vulgar language, bumps and bruises, both physical and emotional. This film is more than a skate movie. It is also not a PSA. There were moments that made me uncomfortable. The use of sex, drinking and drugs add to the peer pressure of teenagedom. There is violence without being gross or unnecessary, although it is alarming. The sounds effects are sharp. Score Artists Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lift the film with a ranging soundtrack, both highly hip hop and punk with bits of R&B.

"Creed II"

There is one scene in this film with Rocky that pulled at my soul. It is a wonderful place in time and generations tying with the theme of family. Boxing is the crux of this film, yet the motivation and the why and the will drove the story.

Michael B. Jordan continues to build his emotional stamina as an actor with his performance as Adonis Creed. Sylvester Stallone is ever strong as Rocky, leading with Creed yet maintaining his presence as a champion, Tessa Thompson is eclectically beautiful as Bianca, representing women who love their man and the ambition yet pursue their dreams with found will, Florian Munteanu as Victor Drago does not have many lines but carries the weight of his incredible performance with his facial expressions and gravitas, Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago is phenomenal with selfish redemption through his son and a “by any means necessary” attitude, Wood Harris delivers wisdom as Tony, one of Adonis’ trainers, Russell Hornsby plays boxing promoter Buddy Marcelle with a conniving nature peppered into the conflict. Phylicia Rashad is elegant and commanding as Mary Anne Creed with bits of humor. I am happy she was in the film more.

I have much respect for Director Steven Caple Jr., who worked through the tight schedule and delivered dedication through his craft. His attention to the grim and gray of the Ukraine contrasted to the sun and gleam of Los Angeles was one remarkably sharp detail. Bravo to the entire crew of this film. Composer Ludwig Göransson created an ode to the Rocky score with grittiness essential to Creed. Writers Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone with the story by Cheo Hodari Coker and Sascha Penn carried enjoyable references of the first film to this film. It was also not too gruesome. At one point, Adonis’ eyes were not swollen in the middle of a fight. There is an interesting middle part that awakened myself and the audience I sat with. There were at least 5-10 minutes that could have been shaved off the film. Otherwise, “Creed II” is as perfect as an imperfect film can be.

"Widows"

I saw this film twice, necessary to catch the easter eggs. The political is personal. The film is set in 2008, yet the much of the rhetoric is pure 2018. Family dynamics course the story. The title of the film details the power these women harness amidst their dire and emotional situations.

Elizabeth Debicki is astonishing in every scene she is in. Her character, Alice, is given the room to grieve and remove her pride to survive. Michelle Rodriguez is powerful as Linda. Cynthia Erivo is captivating as Belle. Viola Davis is ever sensational as Veronica. Jacki Weaver is stirring as Alice’s mother. Daniel Kaluuya is spell-binding and ruthless in his performance. Bryan Tyree Henry gives a solid performance for a character that is otherwise forgettable. Molly Kunz delivers a prolific monologue along with her performance as Siobhan, Jack’s assistant. Colin Farrell is strong as Jack, relatable to the loyalty he has to maintain in his family. Liam Neeson is suave and devastating as Harry, the masterful thief. Carrie Coon, Robert Duvall, Lucas Haas, Garret Dillahunt, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Coburn Goss, Jon Bernthal, Eric C. Lynch, Matt Walsh, Jon Michael Hill, Kevin O’Connor, Adepero Okuye and Tonray Ho carry a remarkable supporting cast.

Writers Steve McQueen and Gillian Flynn form a solid script. There are a few loose plot ends. There were at least three scenes that could have removed and definitely one. I wish a lot was left to the imagination or used in the language to secure the story. The ensemble carries the script. Director Steve McQueen delivers masterful scenes where we listen to characters talk without them in focus, only inviting the audience to see so much. In a scene, Jack is yelling in the car and we see the shift between the poorer neighborhood he seeks to “serve” and the tony neighborhood he resides in, which was only a short distance. Chicago is a centerpiece. Costume Designer Jenny Egan crafted outfits tailored to each character, shown most with Veronica in her crisp suits and sleepwear. The ending of the film is satisfying heightened by tension. The response in the theater was electric in parts of the film. The score is rich, eclectic and sensual created by Hans Zimmer.

Olivia, Veronica’s dog, is another star of the film and does not die. I was stressed about the possibility of her dying while watching this film.

"The Girl in the Spider's Web"

Guilt is the driving theme of this film. As the layers form about Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy), the Swedish hacker from the best-selling book series, the title weaves incredibly with the story, where there is no confusion.

Claire Foy is a gift. She handles her physical scenes with gusto and reality that she is not an assassin but a stealthy hacker. Sverrir Gudnanson is charming, calm and commanding as Mikael Blomkvist. LaKeith Stanfield plays Needham, a character that did not begin as a meaningful character but later on is woven with captivating delivery. Sylvia Hoeks is spellbinding as Camilla, Lisbeth’s sister. Cameron Britton (Mindhunter!) is cool as Plague, Lisbeth’s trusted friend and hacker. Beau Gadsdon and Carlotta von Falkenhayn played the young Lisbeth and Camilla, respectively, with strength. Christopher Convery is wonderful as August, the son who knows the deadly security codes. Synnøve Macody Lund as Gabriella, a part of the Swedish Secret Service, is powerful. Stephen Merchant, Mikael Persbrandt, Vicky Krieps and Claes Bang form a stellar supporting cast.

Writers Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez and Steven Knight adapt the humor to offset the drama and violence. Lisbeth’s sexuality and Camilla’s abuse are implied. The story is menacing without being too graphic. There is also a reality in the story that will leave the audience on their toes. Director Fede Alvarez delivers the bleak world and captures Sweden beautifully. The rare moments of light are stunning. Costume Designers Ellen Mirojnick and Carlos Rosario created a stark stroke in the fabric of each character. Camilla wears an all red suit that is a wonderful symbol of her power. The film accomplishes the rare feat of bringing a strong film in under two hours. The twists are strong.