This is one of those movies that always seem to end up getting buried in algorithm purgatory. If you missed it when it was initially released, you have to search for it on Netflix’s endless catalog of original content. If it were a non-streaming release, it would probably be in constant rotation on cable TV.
Dolemite was a character created by standup performer Rudy Ray Moore back in the mid-70s. He performed as this Dolemite character during his standup routines, becoming a popular underground comedy act, and he eventually made comedy records as this character. All of those Dolemite LPs became bestselling comedy albums, reaching the bestselling charts.
Dolemite has been cited as a source of influence for many hip-hop artists that came out of the 80’s and 90s rap scene (Snoop Dog hascredited Dolemite as his most significant influence).
During the blaxploitation era, Rudy Ray Moore made and acted in a bunch of blaxploitation films. However, his Dolemite character became his most iconic role.
Eddie Murphy is superb here playing Moore. He brilliantly captures the essence of this middle-aged performer who is still figuring things out as an artist and will not stop chasing his dream of being a star at this late stage of his life.
Wesley Snipes is excellent playing D’urville Smith, the director of the first Dolemite movie, who was never really sold on the concept of Dolemite but seized the opportunity of directing this movie as a springboard into other jobs. D’urville Smith was an actor best known for playing Diego, the elevator man on Rosemary’s Baby — I’m glad to see Wesley Snipes back on top form here.
Dolemite was Directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow), who also directed Murphy and Snipes in the sequel to Coming to America. Seasoned screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote this movie; They are a screenwriting team that has made a name for themselves, writing biopics like Ed Wood, Man on the Moon, and The People vs. Larry Flint.
Dolemite is My Name is a very inspiring movie; Rudy Ray Moore teaches us that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. You get the sense watching this film that everybody involved in the making of this movie treated this story with much respect, appreciation, and reverence. It should be on everyone’s watchlist.
I was excited as hell when I heard the news of a Steven Soderbergh movie for Netflix about the Panama Papers. All told, I’m a big fan of Soderbergh, the filmmaker, not the cultural appropriator Steven Soderberg, owner and marketing face of a Bolivian national spirit brand (Singani 63), but more on this unrelated topic some other time.
I still think that Soderbergh’s 2008 two-part movie CHE is a masterpiece and, to me, one of the most influential films ever.
The Laundromat sheds light on some of the legal manipulations of the financial system by the super-rich. It has a similar vibe to the 2015 film, The Big Short, but not quite as compelling.
We have Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), the two real-life men directly involved in the Panama Papers leak. These two dudes own a law firm based out of Panama specializing in creating shell companies for wealthy people who want to protect their money from being taxed. They set up these corporations so the actual people behind the money can easily bypass tax regulations. And within said corporations, they can create shell companies; A company owns a company that owns another company, and so on and on—effectively shielding the initial corporation from anyone finding out who is truly behind ownership. These shell corporations are usually set up in foreign countries like the Cayman Islands, Panama, or the British Virgin Islands, for example.
There was some controversy surrounding The Laundromat due to the lawsuits by Mossack and Fonseca when they unsuccessfully tried to stop the movie from being released. Oldman and Banderas serve as the narrators for most of the movie, continually breaking the fourth wall and explaining how to avoid taxes, hiding money, and how creating shell companies for the super-wealthy works.
Meryl Streep is always excellent, and she is excellent here as well. She plays Ellen Martin, the victim of one of these shell companies. After her husband’s tragic death, she tries to file a claim with her husband’s insurance company and discovers that the insurance company has been sold to another company. Stringing her along and blocking her insurance claim. Therefore, she begins to investigate and discovers a world of shady practices.
Streep’s character was very compelling, and I felt like the movie needed to spend more time with her and her journey.
There are other characters and cameos by well-known actors like Sharon Stone and David Schwimmer. However, their storylines never really get any traction or enough screen time to develop their stories accordingly….. or for us to even care enough for them.
If this movie’s purpose was to illuminate, shed some light, inform and educate about the world of shell companies, then this movie fails to achieve any of that straightforwardly. I felt that it needed to deliver a more meaningful social message. The characters literally look at you while breaking the fourth wall and tell the audience in a sermon-like approach to what exactly needs to be done to fix this legal but broken, immoral, and nefarious financial system. Nevertheless, I did enjoy and recommend this movie. My main issue is that I felt like it needed to be more creative and practical when conveying its urgent message of reforming our financial laws.
In any case, The Laundromat is full of many exciting layers, segments, and sub-plots. It attempts, in the end, to connect all those things with the central plot of this movie. It is definitely worth a watch, but the Big Short somewhat spoiled me when it comes to this type of film.
It originally came out in May 2019 on Netflix, but it wasn’t until this past summer of 2020, during the confinement when I finally had the chance to sit down and binge on seasons 1 & 2. The show runs for roughly 30 minutes at 10 episodes per season, making it very easy to binge through the whole thing in a few sittings.
It’s essentially a dark comedy but with a lot more drama than comedy; the humor and comedic moments are hilarious, but when the drama arrives, the show gets dark pretty fast.
We have Jenn (Christina Applegate), a widower searching for her husband’s killer, who was the victim of a hit and run driver. She spends most of her time obsessively looking for speeding cars passing through the scene of her husband’s death, with the hopes of finding a lead to the hit and run driver who killed her husband. She theorizes that perhaps the killer might be living in her neighborhood. Christina Applegate was nominated for an EMMY for this performance, probably her most intense performance ever. She is remarkable here.
While attending a grief support group, Jennifer meets Judy (Linda Cardellini). Judy is an upbeat, positive-minded person but seems to be hiding a secret. Her interest in befriending Jenn is suspicious. Linda Cardellini made this character likable — at first, I was taken aback by her decision to get close to Jenn, but as the show progresses, you cannot help but root for Judy.
On a dual role, playing twin brothers Steve and Ben, James Marsden adds a unique dynamic to the plot. Katey Segal’s addition to the cast was an excellent choice; her character has a manipulative, sinister vibe to it. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this character in season 3, especially when she gets to interact with Jenn, which will feel like an unofficial Married with Children reunion of sorts.
The acting is what makes this type of material work. The entire ensemble cast is excellent—lots of drama, emotions, and heavy emotional content. The writing feels real and raw. The acting and the writing come together naturally and organically. The dialogue is sharp and witty. Once the two female leads are established as characters, their personality traits remain consistent. The rest of the female characters, like Detective Perez and Jenn’s mother-in-law, are well written — all the supporting characters are compelling and exciting.
There is this unique display of affluential, upper-class living portrayed by the luxury and flawless appearance of the houses inhabited by most of the central characters. They present this illusion of perfection, which is a mirage of the chaos, misery, and overall unhappiness in their personal lives. There is a particular scene when Jenn is crying her eyes out while an immaculate-looking kitchen surrounds her; A perfect example of the facade her character exhibits.
Season 1: It is mostly about Jenn’s grief and her family dynamics.
Season 2: We get to know more about Judy and explore her backstory further. There are many layers to Judy’s backstory, and season 2 gives you a more in-depth look at her life.
Netflix announced in July 2020 that a 3rd and final season would be coming, but there have been rumors of a possible cancellation, which would be sad and unfortunate. This show deserves to come full circle and bring Judy and Jenn’s story to a conclusion.
The whole concept of this series is to essentially reimagine and reinvent Post-World War II Hollywood as an alternative history of the golden age of American cinema; Where real-life Hollywood figures are mixed in with a bunch of fictional characters.
At the center of the story, we have a group of aspiring actors, writers, and directors attempting to challenge the bigotry, sexism, and homophobia of the Hollywood studio system. Created by Ryan Murphy, Nip/tuck (2003-2010) Feud (2017), there are 7 episodes, each running roughly about one hour long.
There are many things that work well with this show, and there are a bunch of things that do not work well. To me, the real-life characters were much more complex and a lot more interesting than the fictional characters.
Jim Parsons sheds his Sheldon Cooper persona brilliantly playing real-life Hollywood agent Henry Wilson who was Rock Hudson’s real-life agent. Wilson was a highly controversial figure in Hollywood’s golden age, known for developing a unique and specific “look” from his young male clients. Henry Wilson comes across as this awful person, but he is probably the most compelling character in the whole show. I could not wait to see more of this character. Rock Hudson (Jake Picking) is excellent as a young version of Hudson, who has recently arrived in Hollywood and is signing on with this nasty piece of work, Henry Wilson as his talent agent.
There are plenty of well-written scenes, and the costumes are excellent. The show is beautifully shot, capturing the glitz and glamour of the era. But on top of all that, my other favorite thing from this show was Dylan McDermott (Ernie), based on real-life Hollywood pimp Scotty Bowers. Ernie operates a male gigolo prostitution racket out of a gas station, where rich men and women would pick up young men from the station to have sexual encounters with. It was also well-known that closeted older rich gay men will often use this system to meet young men.
Many legendary and infamous Hollywood real-life stories are depicted throughout the show, like the notorious “Hollywood Orgy” parties organized by George Cukor. The show explores the predatory and abusive level of exploitation of young stars by people in positions of power and influence, which resonates deeply with the current MeToo movement.
And, of all the fictional characters, Mira Sorvino (Jeanne Crandall) has some of the best scenes, mostly relating to the abuse of power and the level of exploitation by powerful men. Her character is super compelling, considering Sorvino went through similar issues with Harvey Weinstein.
Queen Latifah (Hattie McDaniel) is terrific here, completely owning her scenes. Noel Coward (Billy Boyd), making a brief appearance, was a nice addition. Anna May Wong (Michelle Krusiec), Vivien Leigh (Katie McGuinness), Tallulah Bankhead (Paget Brewster): All of them portraying real-life figures are exceptional.
However, to me, the show became less and less interesting as the fantasy and alternate history element took over. Discerning what was real and what was not became murky and confusing at times. I sense that the main point here was to expose the level of prejudice, racism, and sexism that existed in Hollywood in that era — and how complicit Hollywood studios were in elevating certain stereotypes. Still, this show would have been much more effective in delivering their intended message by minimizing this parallel reality within the real-life storylines and remaining a lot closer to the truth. Nevertheless, HOLLYWOOD is a hyper surreal and compelling show to watch.
I noticed that most people dismissed this movie even before it was released. Most of the negativity surrounding Hillbilly Elegy was due to the political influence of the source material, which was cited as a sort of benchmark in understanding how Trump won the “white working class” vote in 2016.
Based on the controversial bestselling memoir of the same name by J.D. Vance — and adapted for film by Vanessa Taylor, best known for writing Hope Springs and co-writing The Shape of Water with Guillermo Del Toro. The Screenplay manages to remove many layers from the source material memoir to avoid any right-wing propaganda.
The movie is told through J.D. Vance’s eyes, using flashbacks, jumping forward and backward in time. J.D. is from central Ohio but considers himself to be from the Hill Country of Jackson, Kentucky (his family roots are from the Appalachian region). It is important to note that a significant number of people within the Appalachian community did not embrace J.D.’s memoir. Still, many people outside of this community were fascinated by it, primarily by coastal liberal elite types.
Nevertheless, without any of the book’s political stuff, the movie leans heavily on family melodrama. J.D. (Gabriel Basso) is a law student at Yale; he is attempting to navigate through college life away from his middle American upbringing. While at the same time hiding his family background from his college girlfriend Usha (Freida Pinto). Through flashbacks, we get to see young J.D. (Owen Asztalos) and his early family life. His mother, Bev (Amy Adams), is a single mom who works as a nurse but seems to be a chronic drug addict, mentally unbalanced, and violent. Bev’s eventual heroin overdose throws adult J.D.’s plans into disarray.
J.D.’s grandma, “mamaw” Vance (Glenn Close), is the rock of the family and teaches J.D. valuable life lessons. She teaches J.D. responsibility. She provides him with the structure needed for success.
The movie’s main plot point is about J.D. driving back home to Ohio to deal with his Mother’s relapse situation. J.D. has to figure out a place for his Mother to do rehab and then drive overnight to make a 10 am interview for a highly sought-after internship. The scenes between J.D. and his sister Lindsay (Haley Bennet) are very emotional.
There was a good story to be told here, but it wasn’t J.D. Vance’s story; it was his Mother’s and Mamaw’s story. Those two intertwined stories were the two most compelling aspects of this entire movie.
The performances are solid, considering there are many limitations to the development of each character. The actors do very well with what they are given within the script. Gabriel Basso portrays J.D. as awkward, whiny, and at times unlikable. Similar to how the real-life J.D. Vance comes across; He constantly whines about something on social media. Essentially, he is just another right-wing talking head nut job.
I get the sense that J.D. has contempt for his humble background, like he is almost looking down at it. We never get a clear understanding of the real reason why J.D.’s family fell so hard, it feels like that is how things are supposed to be no matter what, and J.D. has to find his way out of that environment at all costs.
Glenn Close ended up getting an Academy Award nomination for her performance here. Some of the best moments of the movie come from this character. Mamaw Vance is this chain-smoking, tough love granny, and Glenn Close is fantastic here. She is the mirror image of the real-life Mamaw Vance.
Amy Adams needed more screen time. I felt like we needed more time to explore her backstory on a deeper level. There was apparent emotional damage done to Bev during her upbringing. The reason for all the fights, the screaming matches, the overdoses, and the constant need to self-sabotage herself was an area that needed to be analyzed further.
My favorite thing from this movie was the cinematography by Maryse Alberti. Phenomenal stuff, as usual from her.
Hillbilly Elegy is a drama that attempts to touch on several themes like never forgetting your roots and where you come from. The inherent nature of poverty, the difficulty of escaping from it, and the importance of your ancestry. However, the story doesn’t really go anywhere within the context of the drama, and it feels rushed and condensed. It simplifies and minimizes essential aspects of the family’s troubled history. This whole story would have been better served as a limited series instead of a movie.
Director Ron Howard’s filmography is full of excellent films, some of which are American cinematic classics. And although this movie may not be one of his best works, it still manages to provide us with plenty of debate. This is precisely what films, or any form of art for that matter, are supposed to stimulate and encourage.
There is no measurable way to describe how much impact and influence the 1941 film Citizen Kane had on an entire generation of filmmakers; It continues to be one of the most celebrated films of all time. The myth of Orson Welles and the making of Citizen Kane endures to this day.
MANK is about screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) and his intense development of Citizen Kane. The authorship of Citizen Kane has been widely disputed — It has been the subject of documentaries and many articles throughout the years.
MANK depicts Herman Mankiewicz as the sole writer of Kane and not Orson Welles. Mank initially agreed not to be credited for writing Citizen Kane. But eventually, he changed his mind and received a writing credit and shared an Academy Award with Welles for Best Original Screenplay.
This movie is structured similarly to Citizen Kane, told in a non-linear manner, mostly through flashbacks, and shot in Black and White, resembling many of Kane’s artistic styles.
We see Mank bedridden, recovering from a car accident while writing and dictating the story that will become the basis for Citizen Kane. We see Orson Welles (Tom Burke) visiting Mank at the hospital and recruiting him for his upcoming project with RKO pictures. Tom Burke is dead-on in his portrayal of a young Orson Welles.
The story flips back and forth in time, with most of the flashbacks set to the backdrop of the great depression, between 1933-1940. We get to see Mank’s political leanings and all the personal and professional struggles Mank experienced during that particular decade. At one point, we see how Mank socialized and mingled with elite Hollywood circles and how those same Hollywood elites turned away from him.
The casting is remarkable. Charles Dance (William Randolph Hearst) commands the screen on every scene. Amanda Seyfried (Marion Davies) captured the essence of a 1930s Hollywood starlet brilliantly. Arliss Howard (Louis B. Mayer) was fantastic; Howard steals every scene he is in. There is a noteworthy hallway sequence where Mayer explains his rules of Hollywood to Mankiewicz….. outstanding scene.
Even Bill Nye, the Science Guy, makes a cool cameo as the author and political activist Upton Sinclair.
Gary Oldman is superb as usual; He is very convincing, pulling off all the drunk scenes. Mank, the real-life person, was also a gambler and an alcoholic, and Oldman embodied this character’s complexities exceptionally.
The relationship between William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and Herman Mankiewicz is crucial to understanding how Mank ended up framing Citizen Kane’s story. Hearst was one of the most powerful and influential characters during the first half of the 20th century, comparable to someone like a Rupert Murdoch of our time. You get the sense that writing Citizen Kane was a big Fuck You to Hearst.
It seems like this was a passion project for director David Fincher. On a technical level, this movie is excellent. It takes great skills and ingenuity to make a film like this. The glamour and corruption of the golden era of Hollywood are depicted beautifully. The cigarette burns between reels, the muffled dialogue, the sound, and the vintage vibes make for a stylish-looking film. Interestingly enough, Mank was written by Fincher’s late father, Jack Fincher, over 30 years ago, and I read that David Fincher had been trying to get this movie made since at least 1997.
There are direct parallels between the events of this movie and our current political climate. In the 1930s, Upton Sinclair was running for Governor of California. He was calling for social reforms, and some of the wealthiest California capitalists joined up and mounted a propaganda campaign to discredit Sinclair. William Randolph Hearst, Louis B. Mayer, and other elite members of their inner circle used Hollywood’s power to paint Sinclair as a radical socialist who was going to destroy California. They used movie theaters and the radio as a medium to spread disinformation and propaganda. Similar to how social media is used today to seed mistrust and division.
The real-life Herman Mankiewicz was a highly regarded writer. In fact, he was the first theatre critic for the New Yorker and member of the Algonquin Round Table. His contributions to cinema were significant. However, today his name is not well known outside of film buffs and movie historians. Hopefully, this movie will generate new interest in his work.
Mank is a movie for legit Cinephiles and anyone who enjoys the golden-era of Hollywood. It is the portrait of a complicated artist clashing with the establishment. But above all, Citizen Kane’s profound influence on generations of filmmakers is precisely what makes this movie so compelling. You may need to watch it a few times to grasp the whole thing fully.
Imagine someone showing up out of nowhere to reveal a deep dark secret that nobody is supposed to know and exposing something hidden and possibly devastating from your past? That is the unique premise of The Stranger. Based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Harlan Coben and adapted for TV by Danny Brocklehurst(Shameless).
The Stranger is a mysterious woman (Hannah John-Kamen), who pops up out of nowhere, and drops bombshell after bombshell on unsuspecting people. Revealing secrets and throwing people’s lives in complete disarray. The central character is Adam (Richard Armitage), a successful lawyer and family man. He is approached by the mysterious Stranger and is told that his wife Corinne (Dervia Kirwan) lied to him about a lost pregnancy and has kept secrets from him. After confronting his wife about the revelation of her fake pregnancy, Corinne mysteriously vanishes.
The plot moves pretty fast as Adam begins to investigate his wife’s disappearance frantically. Every single character seems to have their own unique storyline, which directly and in some cases indirectly connects all the characters in the series to The Stranger and to whatever truth she has revealed. The cool thing is that there are twists within twists, some are pretty obvious, and you see them coming, and some are entirely unexpected.
Social media and technology are effectively used in the plot. It helps propel the story forward, which not all modern shows have successfully executed when using modern technology in their plotlines.
The ensemble cast is excellent. Detective Johanna (Siobhan Finneran) is brilliant as a down to earth detective. Her character was well written and carried a unique sensibility that only a seasoned actor could’ve achieved. Paul Kaye, our old buddy Thoros of Myr from Game of Thrones, shows up as a corrupt detective Patrick Katz; he became one of my favorite characters from this show. The always fantastic Stephen Rea plays a retired cop who hires Adam to wage a legal battle to stop a redevelopment project from tearing down his neighborhood to build newer and affordable housing. The cast of teenagers was solid; they were all pretty compelling and exciting characters.
The Stranger is an engaging mystery series that keeps you on the edge of your seat; however, as far as a mystery series is concerned, it is not as remarkable as, say, The Dublin Murders, which I loved and could not get enough of. Still, The Stranger is a very well put together, entertaining, and extremely binge-able show.
It took a global pandemic to start catching up with the movies and TV series on my long-ass “To Watch List,” I had this movie on my Netflix watch list since 2018, and I finally got around to watch it…. And what a pleasant watching experience it was.
The story is set during the German occupation of the island of Guernsey, and how a group of villagers created a book group to amuse and distract themselves during the Nazi occupation. Within the first few minutes of the movie, you will find out why the book group is called TheGuernsey Literary Potato peel Pie Society (a mouthful indeed).
The main character is Juliet Ashton (Lilly James), a writer who, during world war II has become a successful writer and begins to exchange correspondence with Dawsey (Michiel Huisman), a pig farmer from Guernsey, who is a member of the Book Society.Lilly James hasan exceptionally charismatic screen presence in everything I have seen her in, and she is excellent here as well.
Juliet finds herself creatively and emotionally unfulfilled, so she decides to write about the literary society, visit Guernsey, and attend a meeting of the Book Society. Her American boyfriend Mark (Glen Powell), whom I think is supposed to be anOSS officer, proposes to Juliet right before she leaves for Guernsey.
While in Guernsey, Juliet embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She begins to take an interest in the mysterious disappearance of one of the book society’s founding members.Romance, literature, and the power of letters are central to the narrative here—the importance and relevance of culture during a dark and nasty time in world history.
Essentially, this film is an ensemble piece made up of seasoned British actors; Penelope Wilton (Amelia), Tom Courtenay (Eben), Katherine Parkinson (Isola), Kit Connor (Eli), Jessica Brown Findlay(Elizabeth), and Matthew Goode (Sidney). All the characters are compelling, quirky, and engaging. I admire how it was shot, the tone, and the color palettes capturing the atmosphere of the period — Gorgeous scenery depicting small village life, full of beautiful customs and settings.
This movieis a beautifully rendered adaptation of the novel by the same name — written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Screenplay by: Kevin Hood, Don Roos, and Tom Bezucha. And Charmingly directed by Mike Newell.
The film feels a bit light within the context of the horrors of the Nazi occupation — I wanted to see more of what life was like for those who lived in Guernsey during the occupation. However, as is, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been one of my most enjoyable viewing experiences during this lockdown.
Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society (2018). Streaming on Netflix
The Witcher was supposed to be the show to fill the void Game of Thrones left behind, or at least, that is how it was initially promoted and marketed.
It is a fantasy action drama series based on the popular book series by Andrzej Sapowski. It follows the story of a monster-hunting Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill). Geralt has a mutation of some kind that allows him to live longer than an average human. There are three storylines told simultaneously throughout multiple timelines. We have Yennefer (Anya Chalotra); a hunchback peasant girl sold to a sorceress by her family — The sorceress takes Yennefer to a training school for mages, where she learns to become a Sorceress herself. Then we have princes Cirilla (Freya Allan), who is on the run from an invading kingdom hell-bent on capturing her. Cirilla has shown to possess magical powers and has been told by her dying grandmother Queen to find Geralt of Rivia.
The Witcher is a very complicated show, with lots of exposition and lots of moving storylines. You have to follow the plot carefully and be fully invested in understanding the complexity of the multiple storylines. After the third episode (favorite episode of the series), things get easier to follow. Some episodes seem not that well constructed, but I persevered and made it to the end of the series. Nevertheless, as far as quality is concerned, the show feels like a low-budget fantasy adventure show. The quality of the customs, the sets, special effects, and dialogue of this show does not feel like, say…Game of Thrones, which isthe onlyimmediate comparison that I can make.
Henry Cavill is perfect here (I heard he is a big fan of the book series and video games); he essentially saves the show and keeps things interesting. The sword fighting sequences are awesome; Cavill shines on every scene. I came to this show completely open-minded, never having read the books or played the video games. So while this show was initially marketed as the new show for Game of Throne fans — I kept my expectations low and found it enjoyable and entertaining.