Southside with You

     Release Date: August 26, 2016

 

Side note: This is the first movie I’ve ever seen by myself, besides the four other people sitting in the audience (2 people black; 2 white; all past my parents’ age).

 

Southside with You stars Tika Sumpter as Michelle Robinson (who was also listed as an executive producer for the movie, along with Grammy award winning artist, John Legend), and Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama. Sumpter rose to fame in ABC’s Daytime Soap Opera, “One Life to Live” and most recently appears in the OWN television drama, “The Haves and Have Nots.” This is Sawyers first lead role in a film, and he is set to appear in the British horror film this December. 

 

 

My favorite line:

“I want to do more,” – Sumpter/Michelle Obama

Yes, Michelle, you definitely did more

 

On career:

As a recent graduate, I really appreciated the movie didn’t portray either Michelle or Barack to have their lives together. Their in the early stages of their careers. Michelle’s corporate position comes with a steady pay check, but it leaves her unfulfilled. As a double minority the movie shows the difficulty of navigating her white, male-dominated environment. In contrast, Barack seems carefree which makes sense. He’s spent the summer interning at Michelle’s law firm.

 

On family:

There’s one piece of advice the movie clings to: you forgive people for yourself.

In the short amount of time Michelle spends with Barack, she urges him not to be so angry towards his father. This is the main struggle we see from our future president. We learn that Michelle lives at home to help take care of her sick father. She holds no resentment towards him for this; rather, she is inspired by her father’s ability to care for them in the midst of his own pain.

 

On community:

Michelle spends the majority of the movie refusing to recognize her outing with Barack as a “date.” The back and forth between the two characters is endearing and even funny. As Michelle continues to emphasize that they are not on a date, Barack takes her to what might as well be his second home, a church. The community desperately wants a center for their kids – somewhere safe that the kids can play without the poison of violence surrounding so the inner city. Through the frustration, Barack emerges as a leader. This moment is the harbinger for Barack’s future.  

 

On Blacks in politics:

The movie takes an opportunity to provide an editorial note through Barack. It’s no coincidence that the future leader points to Chicago’s first Black Mayor, Harold Lee Washington and alludes to Washington’s inability to inact the changes his constituents wanted. As we look towards the end of the Obama administration, many African Americans echo this thought. To them, Barack’s campaign “change,” slogan was a disappointment. There’s reasons behind this that surpass both Washington’s and the Obama administration’s role. Thus, writer and director Richard Tanne touches on this without drowning the movie out in politics.

As a movie:

I really liked this movie. The chemistry between the two actors worked, although by the end of the movie, Sumpter’s “Michelle voice” annoyed me. The community Barack takes Michelle, made me miss being away from my own loved ones. My one criticism: I’m not sure what was fact versus what was fiction. Executive producer and singer John Legend admitted in an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, the dialogue is not a “word-for-word transcription,” but I’m hopeful the emotions backing the film were genuine.

 

I also didn’t feel that the movie was finished. It’s not as if we don’t know the ending: marriage, two kids, senator, and the nation’s first black president. But I was so engrossed with the movie that I was unsatisfied by its ending. I wanted to know about their entire relationship until the wedding (at least). But alas, there’s only so much you can cram into a movie in less than two hours.

This is a genuine feel good movie, there aren't any special effects to "wow" the audience, but the dialogue between the characters is strong. I give the movie 6 "Lees Lights" out of 10.  

The Hateful Eight

     Release Date: December 30, 2015

 

 

So much blood.

 

Well, that’s the simplest way to describe this western/comedic/action movie. Quentin Tarantino

does not disappoint his fans by sticking to his own flavor of western violence. The movie shows

bounty hunter John Ruth “The Hangman” (Kurt Russell) attempting to collect his cash award.

His ever suspicious attitude does not stop bullets from flying, nor does it stop the  blood from shedding.

 

And believe me, it was cringe worthy. His cast complimented the violence well – Samuel L. Jackson

basically plays himself. It works in a movie like this one, where the role of Major Marquis Warren was

written for Jackson. More than halfway through the movie the audience expects a laugh from

Jump Street’s Channing Tatum. Laughter comes, but not from Tatum’s character, Jody, who shows

up unexpectedly.

 

Actually, The Hateful Eight is a funny movie. It’s also offensive most of the time to every marginalized

group that appears (Blacks, Mexicans, and women). The lead female, Daisy Domergue

(Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is captured by “The Hangman,” spends most of the time chained to a man.

Her chains and smart mouth make her an easily abused target, yet through every blow she remains

defiant. These men will not hold her down. Tarantino’s strength is often found in the offensive dialogue

and actions of his characters. The groups that are often the most abused take it quite well. And their

fight is as stunning with their guns as with their tongues. Although Major Warren is called a n*****

throughout the movie, Warren lets everyone know what he thinks of them, and he usually forgets

the pleasantries.

 

This movie could fall under so many genres. Obviously a western, the rodeo hats and guns tell us that;

even more a comedy, audience members are either snickering or committing to a outright laugh;

moreover, I was jumping out of my seat or shielding my eyes to avoid the bloodshed usually accompanied

by action; lastly, and perhaps most surprising, was the air of mystery throughout the movie. Although not

intrinsic, certain parts of it had the audience wondering Who did it? Who’s dying next? and How is this going to end?

 

And the movie does end. This review won’t spoil it, but I’ll leave you with this - the best parts aren’t found

at the end. Overall, this movie gets 8 “Lees Lights” out of 10. 

 

 

Concussion

     Release Date: 12/25/2015

 

It had it all – strong performances by star-studded actors – Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw – strong production quality, and a very timely story to tell. But in its attempt to explain the tragic fate of former football stars, who tragically face an untimely death, the story was disjointed by the telling of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s (Smith) relationship with his eventual wife, Prema Mutiso (Mbatha-raw). Immediately, there’s no question of Dr. Omalu’s intelligence – his part of the story begins with him in court explaining what value he brings to a death row inmate's case. There he lists his multiple degrees; moreover, he mentions his current pursuit of an MBA. The plot takes a while to hit on the reason why we all came to the movie (to hear about football concussions), but does a decent job of building the backstory of former NFL players. This is all before Omalu picks a part their brains and realizes the impact repetitive head traumas have on these athletes.

 

Once the ball does get going, the movie shows the NFL on full defense and attack mode of Omalu’s research and Omalu himself. While the doctor’s Nigerian heritage didn’t play an all-consuming role in the movie, it was apparent when Omalu tells Mutiso he pretends to be “an older bald-headed white man” while in America because they are the best at what they do. Of course, this a problematic statement for African American viewers in a time of the Black Lives Matter movement. Gradually, Omalu himself is confronted by his race when heads of the NFL repeatedly bash his research and bring about their own to counteract it. To this point, one of the strongest moments is when Omalu is told he’s neither American nor African American. As hard as Omalu tries to fit in with American values, he just can’t seem to understand why football is such a protected treasure.

 

Smith’s ability to lose himself in order to bring out his character was no different in this movie. Audience members will find Smith is committed to the role of a Nigerian doctor who strongly believes in American values. However, what was expected to be an Oscar winning performance probably won’t take home the award. Smith has played stronger roles before (think Chris Gardner in Pursuit of Happyness), where the audience can feel the passion in their seats. However, his onscreen counterpart Alec Baldwin gave a moving performance. Baldwin played a former NFL doctor, Julian Barnes, who is torn between a game he loves and the science that reveals its ugly truth. In a critical moment Barnes explains why he kept sending players back into the game after they were hurt. This is one of the most telling scenes – the NFL will do almost anything to keep the game going. Mbatha-Raw plays the supportive wife well. Although the audience gets to know little about her, the sincerity and love her character, Mutiso, has for Omalu is there just in the way she looks at him.

 

Those daunting a suit and tie for the NFL are never given the chance to demonstrate their acting chops. For the most part, they seem tired of Omalu and his research, but never demonstrate a blatant hatred for it. Omalu’s research only seemed to make their jobs harder, which translated to audience members as executives having a bad day. Hill Harper had the potential to show his skill in his role as Christopher Jones, one of these NFL corporate executives, but the flow of the writing never gave him that chance. Similar to Smith, he was able to immerse himself in the character, if only for a few minutes, before being robbed of a chance to show his talent in this major motion picture.

 

As mentioned previously, the plot line fails to establish the connection between Omalu and Mutiso. Omalu spends so much time with the dead that his boss, Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), tells him he needs a girlfriend. In what seems like the next scene, a woman blessedly appears after Omalu goes to church, and he is asked to help his (obviously) future romantic interest out. Their relationship eventually grows and Omalu makes a bold proposal on a plot of land he says will be their future home. Audience members may find that Mutiso’s impact on Omalu is never fully explained. However, she does appear at the coroner while Omalu continues working on his research. In an attempt to balance both his relationship with his wife and his work, the writers actually dilute the story, watering down both the importance of Omalu’s research and his relationship with his wife. Rightfully so, his research outweighs his personal life.

 

Overall, Concussion was beautifully directed and the cinematography is something to be admired. While the writing could use some work to aid in the direction of the movie, I give this movie 6 “Lees Lights” out of 10.