Month: February 2017

“Get Out” earns rare 100 percent fresh rating, becomes critical darling

Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out.” (Universal Pictures)

Jordan Peele’s debut horror film, Get Out, is getting audiences out to the movie theaters. (Get what I did there? I’m here all week.)

In all seriousness, Get Out is killing it at the box office and currently reigns as the number one film in America.

The Hollywood Reporter has the deets:

“The race-concious horror film Get Out—marking Jordan Peele’s feature directorial debut—will easily win the Friday box office with a projected $9.5 million-$10.5 milloin from 2,781 theaters for a weekend debut in the $25 million -$28 million range, according to early returns.”

The film has also garnered the coveted (and rare) 100 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus so, as Rotten Tomatoes states, is:

“Funny, scary, and thought-provoking, Get Out seamlessly weaves its trenchant social critiques into a brilliantly effective and entertaining horror/comedy thrill ride.”

Here are some of what critics across the country have had to say about Get Out:

“In most slasher flicks, a guy like Chris would die first. Peele’s joke is that the cliché has it backwards. Young black men know their lives are in peril from the first frame.” —Amy Nicholson, MTV

“Get Out is the satirical horror movie we’ve been waiting for, a mash-up of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? and The Stepford Wives that’s more fun than either and more illuminating, too.”—David Edelstein, Vulture

“A refined suspense thriller, consummate film critique, savage satire, inspired horror and fierce, profane comedy. It’s archetypal, prodigious American moviemaking, smart and sly… a succession of shocking, often thrilling satisfactions.”—Ray Pride, Newcity

“One of the boldest, most audacious major studio movies to come along in quite some time. From the opening titles to the end credits, Get Out holds you in its grasp.”—Mike McGranaghan, Aisle Seat

Have you seen Get Out? What do you think? Give your mini-reviews in the comments section below!

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The critics weigh in on ABC’s “When We Rise”

Did you check out ABC’s new miniseries When We Rise? I’m going to have my official review on the site by the end of this week, but until then, let’s take a look at what the critics said.

First, a quick synopsis, courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes:

The LGBT civil-rights movement is chronicled from its turbulent infancy to the present through the experiences of a diverse family of LGBT men and women.

It sounds promising, and something that’s much needed. It’s also a project the actors and crew are very proud of. Just read some of what Rafael de la Fuente, of Empire fame, had to say about his part in the show. (Also check out my exclusive interview with him here!)

Since TV shows are now given the Rotten Tomatoes rating, I went over to the site to see how well the show fared, and turns out…it’s fresh!

The show was given an 81 percent rating, with the general consensus being this:

When We Rise works as a well-meaning outreach project with a decent cast, even if the script’s ambitious reach slightly exceeds its grasp.

Now, I know I haven’t actually watched the show yet, but the commercials alone seemed like there were going to be some elements that seemed more suited to either a more fleshed-out show or an actual movie (something to get the taste of Stonewall out of our mouths). But let’s see what some folks who have watched it had to say about it.

“As a television drama, it often plays like a high-minded, dutiful educational video. But at its best moments, it’s also a timely statement that identity is not just an abstraction but a matter of family, livelihood, life and death.” —James Poniewozik, New York Times

“When We Rise’s timid and narrow idea of what counts as progress doesn’t do justice to all the bravery, imagination, and hard work that went into making that progress a reality.”—Inkoo Kang, MTV

“When We Rise is the most impactful LGBT-centric series since HBO’s “Angels in America” more than a decade ago. Sure, it’s a small playing field, but a notable one given the challenges of today.”—Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times

“The miniseries is meant to be a Roots for the LGBT community. Unfortunately, much of it is about as enjoyable as civics class on a Saturday afternoon.”—Mark A. Perigard, Boston Herald

(Interestingly enough, Inkoo Kang compared When We Rise to a show shooting wildly for the importance of Roots as well.)

“Important television, but also wildly, maddeningly uneven TV, too.” —Verne Gay, Newsday

The reviews are mostly positive, and yet they are still all over the board. What did you think about When We Rise? Give your opinions below!

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“Riverdale” react: We’re getting Archie and Valerie!

“Riverdale” Episode 5 | “Heart of Darkness”| Aired Feb. 22, 2017

CW/screengrab

This was a fascinating episode. Not just for the drama-filled funeral for Jason (which provided us more backstory on Cheryl and her awful parents), but it also gave us the beginnings of the canonical Archie/Valerie relationship!

In the comic books, Archie writer/artist asserted his own headcanon that Archie actually ends up with Valerie, with Betty and Veronica finally coming to terms with the new monogamous relationship (of course, Valerie actually has to slap some sense into Archie, literally, to make him realize that unlike Betty and Veronica, she will not be played with). Looks like we’re getting into that canon, and I’m excited for it.

Personally, I have to admit that I’ve been rooting for Josie and Archie, mostly because Ashleigh Murray looks like how I’d envision Valerie to look and act in real life (dark skin, more coily hair, can back up her talk with her walk). Of course, I’m not saying that the actress playing Valerie, Hayley Law, is terrible. In fact, it was great seeing another black girl other than Josie finally get more than one line of dialogue in this show. But I hope that the show doesn’t pull a colorism thing in which the darker-skinned girl ends up with nobody and the lighter skinned girl with the blue eyes gets the hot, sensitive guy on the football team. That wouldn’t be cool. Since it looks like Josie’s not ending up with Archie, let Josie and Reggie become a thing. Murray would certainly co-sign it, for sure (and Ross Butler, too, since he retweeted her tweet about her lusting over Reggie).

Since Valerie’s becoming a bigger player in the show, her brother Trev is also getting more shine as well. And here I thought we’d never see him again after he was used as the Anti-Chuck in his inaugural episode. It seems like the Trev/Betty dynamic (also part of Parent’s Archie canon) is being set up as well, but Betty seems way too conniving right now to actually be interested in Trev seriously. I mean, she certainly think he’s cute and all, but she’s way more interested in the information he has and how she can use him to her ends than actually dating him. Meanwhile, he seems to be way more interested in her romantically. Poor guy.

One thing I did like about this episode in regards to Cheryl is that we finally get some more clarity as to why she’s always a bitch. Turns out her whole family is that way, especially her mother, who has a serious death wish for her daughter. Everyone in that family seems to have clung to Jason in an absolutely ridiculous way, and now that the Golden Child is gone, everyone in the family (except for the grandmother) is pinning all the blame on Cheryl, who has always been the black sheep, apparently.

Also, the only reason Cheryl has exalted her brother so highly is because he was the only one to treat her like a human being. Now that Jason isn’t around to protect her, Cheryl’s getting messed with all the time at home, to the point that she’s not even allowed to go to Jason’s funeral. Of course, with Veronica’s help, she still ends up going, but all of this blame being put on Cheryl isn’t fair. Turns out she’s only a bully at school because she has to work out her aggression on somebody. Is it healthy? No. But it brings some much-needed characterization to an otherwise static and stereotypical character.

Lastly, let’s talk about Betty’s dad. Turns out the mom might not the only loose cannon in the house. We learn that Betty’s dad’s family and the Blossoms have a blood feud, starting the day Grandfather Blossom killed Grandfather Cooper over their maple syrup business. First, I know people can make a killing off of maple syrup, but it just sounded ridiculous coming out of Betty’s dad’s mouth. I thought he was going to say something like “real estate” or “paper” or “oil” or something. Anything but “maple syrup.” Second, Betty starts putting two and two together and realizes that her dad, the only person who wasn’t present at the last night of the drive-in, was the person stole Sheriff Keller’s clue board. That means Betty’s dad could very well be Jason’s killer.

Speaking of the drive-in, where is Jughead living nowadays? We learned some startling truths about him, mainly that his dad is the head of the local gang, something must have happened to Jughead’s sister Jellybean (is she dead?), and now that the drive-in’s closed, Jughead is now…living on the street? Where is he taking shelter? And why hasn’t any of his friends come to his aid? Or has he not ever told his friends that he’s living in the drive-in? And where’s his mom? Where are any of his relatives (because if you’ve read the comics, you know he’s got a few zany ones that pop up every now and then)? So many questions, and no answers.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Give your opinions below!

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The only romance on “Riverdale” I’m rooting for is Kevin/Joaquin

Riverdale Episode 4 |”The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

Joaquin and Kevin are the only relationship I want to see succeed on this show (so far). (CW/screengrab)

After discussing the horror that is the Ms. Grundy/Archie “romance” subplot, let’s cleanse our palettes a little and talk about a more appropriate romance. I’m talking about Kevin and his new boo, Joaquin.

I’m all about living vicariously through Kevin and Joaquin’s romance. It hits all of the classic “teen romance” buttons to a T, as well as provide some progress in the realm of TV representation. Let’s talk about them in bulleted form.

Joaquin’s the bad boy with a heart of gold

Joaquin is the perfect high school “bad boy.” (CW/screengrab)

There’s nothing that gets to teens quicker than falling in love with the guy who seems like (or actually is) the guy you shouldn’t have anything to do with. Joaquin’s that guy; not only does have the “tall, dark and handsome” thing going for him in the looks department, but he’s also a member of the Serpents, the local gang (whose leader, surprise surprise, is Jughead’s father). With Joaquin being a gang member, Kevin literally should stay far away from him. But he didn’t know that before he started snogging him, so now the danger is being treated as an added bonus to their relationship.

However, despite Joaquin’s “You’re not so strong without your beard” fakeout, it seems like Joaquin might not be such a bad dude. In quite a few ways, Kevin seems like the male Betty—he’s the classic “boy next door” type—and whether or not he has secrets to spill later on in the season, it seems like Kevin’s one of the few characters with his head on straight. If Joaquin is attracted to that, as well as to Kevin’s penchant for boldness (such as when he shushed the Serpents at the drive-in), then there’s got to be some goodness in Joaquin at the end of the day. At least I’m hoping that’s the case; I don’t want Kevin getting hurt.

Joaquin and Kevin = Romeo and Juliet

The lovebirds from two warring factions is such an old trope, but it’s a trope that always works. The push and pull of whether the couple in question will make it is what keeps us entertained and enthralled. Usually, the couple doesn’t work out. But we always hope for the best with each new Romeo and Juliet-esque couple. Joaquin and Kevin are no different. Once we learned that that they were going to be together, the questions began to circle. How are they going to keep this relationship up? What happens when the Serpents and/or Kevin’s dad, Sheriff Keller, find out about this relationship? I hate to think about the worst possible scenarios. Let’s hope that, somehow, Joaquin is able to get out of the gang and these two are able to happily ride off into the sunset together.

The fact that it’s treated as a normal romance

These guys weren’t given a salacious storyline; they were treated just like any other couple on TV, which is great. (CW/screengrab)

Thanks to the Shondaland-centric TGIT block on ABC, we’ve seen a lot of normalizing of same-sex relationships, which is great. I’m not completely sure as to how much of that we’ve seen on a teen-skewing network like CW, but it seems like there hasn’t been much, which is highly ironic. If the CW is all about listening to what the teens want, you’d think there would have been a show with a high-profile same-sex relationship by now. But I guess the network is skewing more towards what they think straight teen girls want to watch.

In any case, the CW is finally in the arena with Joaquin and Kevin’s relationship. Thankfully, it’s not treated any differently than any relationship Veronica, Betty, or Archie might have. Even more refreshing was how Sheriff Keller treated his son. There wasn’t any familial drama about Kevin being gay, and his dad didn’t have any stereotypical “I’m a good dad but I’m still getting used to my son being gay” qualms about himself. Seeing Kevin’s dad worry about him and tell him not to run off with any boys at the drive-in was very sweet. It’s a shame that seeing a parent act like a parent toward their gay son is such a rarity on TV, but let’s hope that we get more scenes with Kevin and his dad in the future, as well as more scenes of supportive parents on TV in general.

It’s fun drama

At the end of the day, Riverdale is nighttime soap, and what better way to up the soap factor than to have a character in a relationship with a bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks? You can’t help but love storylines like that.

What do you love about Kevin and Joaquin? Are you excited to see more of them? Give me your comments below!

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“Riverdale” react: Let’s hope Ms. Grundy never comes back

Riverdale Episode 4| “The Last Picture Show”| Aired Feb. 16, 2017

This image is not cool. This storyline was never cool. (CW)

It’s been a week since the episode “The Last Picture Show” aired, but I’ve been sitting on this gripe for too long, and I’ve got to let it out now, even if it might be old news. Ms. Grundy can never come back, because that plot line was the worst thing ever.

Let’s go over why it was the worst thing ever: Chiefly, it was because Ms. Grundy (or whatever her real name is, since the actual Ms. Grundy died years ago) is a full-fledged predator. Technically, she’s a ephebophile, someone who is attracted to “pubescent or post-pubescent youths,” but regardless, she’s a predator taking part in illegal activity. As a character, Archie has always been 16 years old, and as such, he’s clearly under the legal age for a relationship with an adult. So when Mrs. Cooper did her darnedest to get Ms. Grundy arrested and sent to jail, I applauded her for it. Ms. Grundy deserves to go to jail.

Throughout she and Archie’s “relationship,” Ms. Grundy has always been creepy, to say the least. Not only was she having an illegal dalliance with an underage teenager, but she used that relationship to emotionally control him. I’d go so far as to say that she emotionally abused him. She kept him from telling anybody about what he knew about the gunshot heard on the day of Jason’s death, and then she kept him from questioning her about her false identity too much by revealing how her ex-husband had abused her, a story I don’t believe. It was all too convenient, and anything she said that was supposed to get us on her side went out the window once she stared those muscular guys (who looked like either old-looking, muscular teens or just muscular young 20-year-olds) as she was getting in her car to leave town.

Overall, the handling of the plotline was quite irresponsible and excused criminal behavior as just a “lapse in judgement or a “bad decision.” Ms. Grundy not only had sex with a minor (which I again remind you is a jailable offense), but she also stole another woman’s identity. On top of all of that, she had a gun in her car, possibly evidence in the Jason Blossom case. There’s literally no way Ms. Grundy should be able to escape town on literally no charges.

There could be an argument made of this being a case of “white woman sympathizing,” as in Ms. Grundy being allowed white privilege by the script (consciously or unconsciously) in order to escape going to jail. But I think it’s more likely just overzealous writing. It was a case of trying to get every kind of “OMG”moment in the show instead of judiciously picking the types of moments that actually advanced the story. The Ms. Grundy-Archie plotline might have made for eyebrow-raising headlines in order to get people to tune in to the pilot, but once that plot played its only card, it was over. It quickly became a meandering and ultimately squandered story.

Riverdale writers: You overreached mightily on this one. The show is already an edgy teen drama; you guys don’t have to go overboard to try to convince us of this show’s juicy dramatic qualities. I mean, this show is a freaking murder-mystery—there are tons of secrets to uncover. All y’all have to do is just tell us the story in a fun, sometimes campy, yet convincing way. That’s all I require.

Above all, please don’t let Ms. Grundy come back. But, if she does, then she has to go to jail. If she’s able to escape scot-free a second time, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle it at all.

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Monique talks Oscar predictions on Ebony.com

These actors and actresses could have some history-making Oscar wins. (Ebony.com)

Are you interested in knowing what my thoughts are about the Oscars when it comes to films like Fences, Hidden Figures, Loving, and Moonlight? Just click on Ebony.com and read my first post for the illustrious website!

I give Ebony readers my predictions on who has the best chances of winning the coveted Oscar trophy. Overall, I think it’s going to be a very, very tight race. Here’s a snippet about Mahershala Ali’s chances at winning Best Supporting Actor:

Yes, Ali bowled critics over with his performance in Moonlight. Yes, he’s had a banner year, starring in nearly everything from Marvel’s Luke Cage to another of the Academy’s nominated films, Hidden Figures. But if there’s one thing Oscar gamblers use to place their bets, it’s the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Ali won that award, upping the ante for what could potentially happen Sunday night. If he doesn’t win, expect people to rise up in anger.

Read the rest at Ebony.com!

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All eyes are on The Oscars

THE OSCARS® – Late-night talk show host, producer and comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host the 89th Oscars® to be broadcast live on Oscar® SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2017, on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jeff Lipsky)
The Oscars are upon us, and this year in particular, all eyes are going to be on the nominees.
We’re one year out from the phenomenon #OscarsSoWhite, which actually began two years ago by April Reign. The hashtag brought to light how lopsided the Academy nominating process has been, which resulted in showcasing primarily white actors and movies over movies with diverse or majority POC casts, like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Beasts of No Nation.”
Since then, the Academy has taken strides to diversify its board members and nomination list, and this year, the results of that process are promising.
Hidden Figures, Fences, Loving, Moonlight, and Lion are among the films getting top honors, and actors like Mahershala Ali, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Ruth Negga, Naomie Harris, and Octavia Spencer are poised top possibly go home with covetted statuettes.
With the nomination pool this diverse, it’s more of an even playing field than it’s ever been. But there’s still work to be done, chiefly with nominating women directors and highlighting actors and directors of other ethnic backgrounds. But this is just the first year in an ever-ending battle to keep the Oscars current and truly reflective of American diversity.
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