The Marvels

Posted on November 9, 2023 at 5:24 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for action violence and brief language
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic book/action-style violence, references to genocide
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: November 10, 2023

Copyright 2023 Marvel Studios
“The Marvels” is not your father’s superhero movie. If you don’t want to see superheroes cry or apologize, skip this one. If you’re looking for grand-scale, innovative action sequences with wow-inspiring special effects, maybe wait for “Dead Reckoning; Part 2.’ In other words, “The Marvels” is not what many ticket-buyers and comic book fans look for in an Avengers movie. But for those who are looking for something other than the usual CGI superpowers, it has some satisfying pleasures.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can be a problematic character because even in the world of superheroes, she is the first among equals. She can pretty much do anything and has very little in the way of a kryptonite-style vulnerability. That is why she is the Marvel version of the Lone Ranger, used only sparingly in the Avengers movie, with the explanation that she is so powerful her highest and best use is somewhere out in the galaxy. There is such a thing sa being too super; it means the stakes are not dire enough to be interesting. So her vulnerabilities are one internal — some memory loss — and one external — she has made mistakes with tragic consequences. What made the first Captain Marvel movie its superpower was the realization that what she had been taught about who were the good and bad guys was not true.

As “The Marvels” begins, Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is using a memory band to try to restore the blank spots. Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau (Teyhonah Harris of “Chi-Raq” and “They Cloned Tyrone”), the daughter of Carol’s best friend, has grown up and is an astronaut. She also has some superpowers involving electrical energy. Also meanwhile, Kamala Kahn (the adorable Iman Vellani from the Disney+ series) is a high school student with powers that are also elextricity-based, thanks to a cuff bracelet she was given by her grandmother. When she is not doing her homework, spending time with her close-knit Pakistani-American family, or saving the day, she creates fan-fiction about joining forces with her idol, Captain Marvel.Her comic strips are amusingly animated for us to enjoy.

and *also* meanwhile, we have Dar-Benn, played by Zawe Ashton. She has Kintsugi’d teeth and the indispensable quality of a supervillain, an imperious British accent (though very far from “Mr. Malcolm’s List”). Ashton is really underused here, stuck with a one-note villain role that has her more petulant than evil. Also, even by comic book standards, that is an unimpressive name. After what appears to be a long and arduous search, she has found one super-power-granting cuff bracelet, and now must locate the other one of the pair, the one currently on the wrist of a Pakistani-American teenager. Dar-Benn wants to use the power of the bracelets to save her people, and if that means wiping out another group of refugees, no problem, perhaps a side benefit.

Somehow, whatever tear Dar-Benn has made in the fabric of the universe or time or reality or all three leads to a very entertaining glitch. Captain Marvel, Monica, and Kamala discover that when they use their powers at the same time, they switch places. So Captain Marvel finds herself in a teenager’s suburban bedroom and Monica (who, like Captain Marvel, can fly) and Kamala (who cannot, though she can create presumed energy blocks that can help protect her from a fall) find themselves in Captain Marvel’s spaceship or outside of Nick Fury’s outpost.

Finally the three Marvels get together, with Goose, the cat-appearing Flerken, and go after those “surges in the jump point systems” that lead to Dar-Benn.

So, be aware: this movie is more about relationships than bam-pow-chase-explosion. There is crying and there are apologies and even some praying. There’s one scene that is so over-the-top it involves the word “princess” and singing. Goose gets into some Tribble-ific territory with a song from “Cats” on the soundtrack. I was into it; many people will not be.

NOTE: Watch the credits for one extra scene.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language and extended comic book-style action and peril with characters injured and killed (or killed-ish). There is a situation where not everyone can be saved, and it is handled clumsily.

Family discussion: Should Carol have gone home as she promised? Why didn’t she? What do you think the legal issue was on the ocean planet?

If you like this, try: the other “Captain Marvel” movies, the “Ms. Marvel” series, and the comic books

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Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story Starring Teyonah Parris — on TV One

Posted on June 11, 2016 at 12:29 pm

My favorite performance of 2015 was Teyonah Parris in “Chi-Raq” and so I am very excited to see her latest starring role in “Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story,” premiering June 12, 2016 on TV One.

This is the first film adaptation of TV One’s “Unsung” series about the lives of performers. R&B singer Miki Howard’s life has had struggle and heartbreak but also resilience and triumph. The cast includes Gary Jourdan as Augie Johnson, Daruis McCrary as Gerald Levert, Lisa Raye as Sylvia Rhone and Indira Khan as her mother Chaka Khan.

Here’s the real Miki singing the title song:

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Based on a true story Biography Music Television

Movies in 2015 — Best, Worst, and Final Thoughts

Posted on December 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm

A final round-up on the movies of 2015

The best:

Tied For First: “The Big Short” and “Chi-raq,” both all the more ferocious for being as funny and purely entertaining as they are angry
Tied For Second:
“Brooklyn”
“Carol”
“Ex Machina”
“Inside Out”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”
“The Martian”
“Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
“Bridge of Spies”

Runners-up: “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Creed,” “Trumbo,’ “Spotlight,” “Son of Saul,” “Mustang,” “The Shaun the Sheep Movie,” “Mustang,” “Girlhood,” “Straight Outta Compton”

A good year for: movies by and about women: “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Miss You Already,” “Chi-Raq,” “Carol,” “Brooklyn,” “Inside Out,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Infinitely Polar Bear,” “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Suffragette,” “Sisters”

Not such a good year for: romance, comedies, or romantic comedies

Popcorn pleasures: “Furious 7,” “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” “Magic Mike: XXL,” “What We Do in the Shadows”

Top five documentaries:

“Amy”
“The Look of Silence”
“Heart of a Dog”
“Iris”
“Best of Enemies”
“The Mind of Mark Defriest”

Breakthrough performers: Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina,” “The Man from UNCLE,” “The Danish Girl,” “Testament of Youth,” and more, Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq”), Jake Lacy (“Carol,” “Love the Coopers”), Raffey Cassidy (“Tomorrowland,” , Brie Larson (“Room”), Amy Schumer (as star and screenwriter of “Trainwreck”), and John Cena, very funny in “Trainwreck,” “Sisters,” and “Daddy’s Home”

And the worst:

“The D Train”
“Mortdecai”
“Unfinished Business”
“The Gunman”
“Blackhat”
“Vacation”
“Pixels”
“Fantastic Four”
“Stonewall”
“Hitman: Agent 47”

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Commentary Critics Lists

Rogerebert.com Round-Up of 2015’s Best Performances

Posted on December 30, 2015 at 8:00 am

A living legend. A lonely shopgirl. A scientist. A spy. Several assassins. The best performances of 2015 came from various corners of the world, from actors who we expect to see in features like this to ones we had never heard of before 2015. Watching a new crop of young actors rise in some of the year’s best films (and click here for our top ten) can be invigorating, and seeing performers who we thought may have given their last great performance deliver the best work of their career can be breathtaking.

I loved reading through the comments of the rogerebert.com critics on their favorite performances of the year, and I was especially glad to get a chance to write about mine: Teyonah Parris in “Chi-Raq.”

Copyright Amazon 2015
Copyright Amazon 2015
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Actors Critics

Chi-Raq

Posted on December 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, nudity, language, some violence and drug use
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: A theme of the film is gang-related violence, guns, shooting, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Race and gender issues are the theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: December 4, 2015
Date Released to DVD: January 25, 2016
Amazon.com ASIN: B017W1P79I

“WAKE UP!” Laurence Fishburne pleads at the end of Spike Lee’s incendiary movie, “School Daze,” not just one of Lee’s best films but one of the most important films of the 1980’s. He was not talking to his fellow students. He was not talking to the camera. He was talking to us in the audience. He was telling all of us to rise above fear and petty differences — and fear of petty differences and stop hurting each other.

Copyright Amazon 2015
Copyright Amazon 2015

That message is even more urgent now, and so “Chi-Raq” is an even more powerful call for all of us to wake up, and it is Lee’s best non-documentary film in many years. It is more than a film; it is an anguished wail of grief and fury and the most important film of 2015.

We call the great Illinois city on the shores of Lake Michigan Chicago, but as the opening lines of the movie explain, for the residents of a South Side community with more violent deaths than the US military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is Chi-Raq. In the film a little girl is killed by a stray bullet in a gang-related shooting. She is collateral damage. The week I saw the film, there was a funeral in the very community where it is set for a nine-year-old boy who was a deliberate murder target as an act of reprisal against his father. Even the ultimate symbol of Chicago gangster violence, Al Capone, never went that far. This is not a documentary and the mode of storytelling here is heightened, but there can be no credible claims that what it portrays is unfair or exaggerated.

They feel completely isolated from any kind of help from the outside. Businesses are afraid to come into their community, so there are not jobs or services. The government does not help. The newspapers do not tell their story. Their news is reported by rappers, and in a sensationally dynamic scene in a club a rapper known as Chi-Raq (a fierce Nick Cannon) tells the truth about what they see all around them.

Lee, working with co-screenwriter Kevin Willmott, brilliantly positions this vitally contemporary story as an updated version of a play written in 411 BC, “Lysistrata,” by Aristophanes. Just as the savvy strategist of almost 25 centuries ago plotted with the other women of her community to bring an end to the Peloponnesian War by withholding sexual favors from all of the men, “Chi-Raq’s” Lysistrata (a sizzling performance by “Mad Men’s” Teyonah Parris) sits down with the women from the opposing gang (to continue the classical themes, the gangs are the Trojans and the Spartans) to get them to pledge that there will be no loving until there is no more shooting. The heightened classical overtones include a narrator/chorus who has a Greek-sounding name Dolmedes — inspired by the Blaxploitation hero Dolemite and played by Samuel L. Jackson in a series of natty, brightly colored suits. And then there is the dialog, all in verse, somewhere between rap and iambic pentameter, which actually have a pretty broad overlap.

Lee makes it clear that this is a widespread, even universal problem as women around the world join forces with Lysistrata. And no one escapes responsibility for the carnage, with a searing climax of tragedy and redemption. We see a mother (Jennifer Hudson) scrubbing her little girl’s blood off the street. We see people tweeting the details of a shooting as it happens. Lysistrata is inspired not just by her namesake but by the real-life Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee, who brought the Christian and Moslem women of Liberia together to stop the fighting in their country. Lee is very clear about who is to blame and who is responsible for making it better: all of us.

And when we see mothers holding pictures of their children killed by guns, we are seeing real mothers, holding pictures of their real children. All of the flash, music, sex, and spectacle are balanced with moments of intimacy, connection, and poignancy, and all are anchored in Lee’s passion for his community. That reality makes this a rare movie that can change the conversation.

Parents should know that this film features gang-related and other violence with tragic outcomes including characters injured and killed, explicit sexual references and situations with nudity, smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Family discussion: What is the best way for the community, the government, and business to stop gang-related violence? How can a movie like this make a difference?

If you like this, try: “School Days,” “Do the Right Thing,” and “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” and read “Lysistrata”

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