Category Archives: Book + Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Light Girls

adriana allen block
I recently had the time to stay home and catch up on the lack of television in my life.  As I was flipping through the channels, I saw that OWN’s special “Light Girls” was on.  I had heard about this documentary through a couple of my friends as well as some of my family members.  I thought seeing that I am a woman of color, and a lighter skinned one at that, maybe this would shed some “light” on the structural issues that persons of color have in the community, especially when the subject is regarding colorism.

(Just a little background)

  • Colorism: prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

After watching the “documentary” I felt a little empty.  I felt as if this film didn’t do people that look like me any justice.  In the first 30 minutes, the film did a relatively okay job on introducing the issues of color barriers within the POC community.  But unfortunately as the documentary went on, it slowly but surely turned into a collection of “who has it worse” type of monologues.  The women that they had on the show went on to say things such as “I think that lighter girls are raped or molested more because they are seen as prizes,” “no one wanted to be my friend because my hair was long and pretty,” and so on and so forth.

nicki pause

This whole documentary made it seem like light-skinned women put off an air  that makes it seem like because we are light skinned, we are better than those with darker skin.  “Oh, we didn’t have any friends because the dark-skinned girls picked on us because we’re so beautiful.”

eye roll

The film didn’t really tackle why we have colorism or where it comes from.  This documentary basically resegregated light-skinned women and dark-skinned women.  It put both types of women in different categories and then pitted them against each other…  Like society already does. This movie was supposed to be a continuation of the documentary “Dark Girls,” but “Light Girls” seemed to have fallen short of the main issues I would like to have seen discussed, such as:

  • White supremacy, and why POC feel we have to abide by European beauty standards.
  • Light-skinned privilege.
  • Why a majority of POC are divisive towards each other in regard to tone of skin.

All-in-all, I feel as if this film could have done better, and I hope that the topic of anti-black and colorism in its own isn’t squashed due to the lack of information in this documentary.

stare

Overall:  2.5/ 5 stars

Movie Review – Kingsman: The Secret Service

frank hampton block

Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kickass, X-Men: First Class), is the first major action film of 2015, and it’s kicking off the start of the year with a bang.  Focusing on Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), a pleb from a low-income area of London, Kingsman takes us through he and his mentor Harry Hart’s (Colin Firth)  journey into the secretive organization known as “Kingsmen.”  Mixing humor with fast-paced action, the two hours of playtime fly by.

 

Environment

The Kingsman organization is comprised of gentlemen, so tailored suits along with other luxury items and settings set the tone of the movie, with a little inner-city punk thrown in by Eggsy.  With locations ranging from Kentucky to London, the movie stays fresh and the pace never hits a slow point.

kingsman1

 

Cinematography

Vaughn is already well known for his action scenes, and it really shines in this movie.  From long cut scenes to multi-fight scenes, the cinematography stays on point and never resorts to cheap tricks.  If you go to see this with some friends, you’ll all be talking about that fight scene.

kingsman2

 

Acting

Egerton pleasantly surprised me; I wasn’t familiar with his work and went in with low expectations for his overall acting.  He had a great emotional range, and with Firth plus a great script alongside him, he carried the story well.  Firth showed us all how to be a British gentleman once again, mentoring Eggsy during training and pulling him away from the life of being a punk.

kingsman3

 

Overall

Kingsman was definitely an early surprise to start off the year.  While not originally on my radar, it was thoroughly entertaining and definitely worth the price of admission.

5 out of 5 stars.


frankbio

Book Review: Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi

dj bart plange blockghana 1

Taiye Selasi knocks the ball out of the park with her debut novel and New York Times best seller, Ghana Must Go, a beautifully written story of love, pain, and a family’s path to healing.  Brought together after the death of brilliantly-gifted surgeon and failed husband and father Kweku Sai, the five remaining Sai’s reunite in Ghana to bury his body, forcing them to confront dark paths and unspoken pain, stemming from far beyond the untimely and devastating departure of their family patriarch.  Ghana Must Go follows the perspectives of the six Sais:

  • Kweku Sai: Renown surgeon from humble beginnings, estranged from his ex-wife and children.
  • Folasadé Savage: Kweku’s beautiful and graceful ex-wife, who gave up a scholarship to Georgetown Law to follow her husband’s dreams of becoming a surgeon as she carried their first child.
  • Olu Sai: The driven and fastidious eldest Sai child, who followed in his father’s footsteps to become a surgeon, as outstanding as his father had been.
  • Taiwo and Kehinde Sai: the equally brilliant twins, Kehinde a famous artist and Taiwo always at the top of her class, both known for their beauty and talent.
  • Sadie Sai: the youngest child, plagued with insecurity, eating disorders, and feelings of inadequacy, yet still a gifted dancer.

Selasi’s ability to create incredibly complex and relatable characters is commendable.  The lack of novels written by and about African characters is strikingly noticeable in the world of literature, but Selasi’s Ghana Must Go effectively breaks free from the common, trite story often pinned to African characters of devastation, hunger, and war.  Selasi’s characters are a refreshing departure from the usual descriptions of African desolation, written as whole people with complex stories, showing a Western audience the many shades of Africa that exist alongside the negative but are too often erased.

author

The books starts off somewhat slow, due to the gratuitous scene descriptions that have a tendency to detract from the core of the story, but then picks up quickly.  After the stagnant beginning it became the type of book you don’t want to put down.  After the discovery of Kweku’s reason for abandoning his family in the United States and subsequent path back to Ghana, I was left scratching my head in some scenes.  It seemed unlikely that Folasadé, equal to Kweku in intelligence, could be completely unaware that after 11 months Kweku had lost his job in a case of blatant discrimination and spent almost their entire fortune fighting it.  Kweku’s departure after his inability to face his failure to his family (and most of all his wife, who had given up so much for him to succeed) was heart-wrenching, a reminder of the stresses and pressure to achieve success faced by many African immigrants.

ghana 2

Folasadé’s decision to send Taiwo and Kehinde to Nigeria to live with her drug-dealing half-brother that she herself barely knew seemed out of place with her character, even after Kweku’s departure and financial ruin.  Folasadé was fiercely protective of her children, and had no noteworthy relationship with her brother enough to entrust him with her twins.  It is quite predictable by the reader when the twins have a nightmarish experience in Lagos, marred by sexual abuse and neglect before being returned home.  Though the circumstances of their shipping to Nigeria did not seem to make very much sense, the writing remained excellent throughout the book.

All in all, Ghana Must Go proved to be an exceptional book that left me searching for any more publications by Selasi to get my hands on.  I would encourage this book for anyone, especially fans of Chimamanda Adichie, who similarly writes novels with African characters that break out of the dangerous single story stereotype of Africa, showing us the capability of these characters to be complex and whole.


Overall: 4/5 stars


dianejobio

Book Review: Premeditated by Josin L. McQuein

janine hanover block

Premeditated entices you with the suggestion of an amazing plot, but ultimately fails to do so. Dinah, our protagonist, believes that her cousin Claire’s coma wasn’t caused by a suicide attempt. She takes matters into her own hands to find out what really happened.  Upon finding Claire’s diary, Dinah starts to piece together Claire’s final days and decides to take down the boy who broke Claire’s heart.  Doesn’t this concept sound thrilling?  When I opened the book and realized I wasn’t getting everything I promised, I felt slightly let down.  The biggest issue with Premeditated is the pace of the story and how slowly the plot progresses.  For me, the book didn’t pick up until the halfway mark. However, when it picked up, believe me, it really picked up. The first half of the book consists of Dinah’s everyday activities and what happens when she is at school.  It isn’t exciting, but once I hit the halfway mark I couldn’t put the book down.  The only other complaint I have about Premeditated: I figured out the ending after only a few chapters.  Nothing is worse than a predictable ending so soon into a story.  It was a big let down.

Jack

Even with its flaws, Premeditated hit a few good marks.  The protagonist of the story, Dinah, is relatable and easy to like.  I find myself many times with young adult novels disliking the main character because their angst screams off the page.  This was not the case with Dinah. I feared her and wanted to be her best friend at the same time.  She created a plan and executed it perfectly.  The author created her as a chameleon; she twists herself into everything the boy desires without ever revealing her true intentions.  Her complexity is evident in the way that she interacts with her friends and family, then turns around and transforms into something unrecognizable to stalk the boy that hurt Claire.

zac g

The other good mark Premeditated hit is its portrayal of suicide, as well as victims of sexual assault.  Nothing the author wrote felt as if her intent was to shock the reader or portray an unrealistic view of sexual assault (I’m looking at you George R. R. Martin).  She dropped small hints throughout the book about what happened to Claire, mostly through Dinah’s eyes, and as the reader you’re able to connect the dots more clearly when Dinah recalls passages in Claire’s diary, from the first signs of abuse to the event that put Claire in a coma. The author also wrote about how sexual assault affects the victim’s families, and I have to applaud her for this.  You feel for Claire’s parents as they try to understand what happened to their daughter.

Premeditated had several flaws that brought the book down, but made up for it with a strong female lead.  Its greatest strength is the author’s ability to depict sexual assault for both the victims and the effect it has on the victim’s family in a way that is both honest and appropriate for the book’s demographic.  However, the only strengths from this novel is its ability to create an amazing female protagonist and its honest portrayal of sexual assault.  The rest of the book is incredibly boring, slow, and doesn’t live up to what I expected.  I would only pick up this book if you want a strong female lead, otherwise I’d skip this one.

JT

Overall: 2 / 5 stars


janinebio

Movie Review: The Raid 2

frank hampton block

The Raid 2, directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid, V/H/S/2), is a sequel to the 2011 martial arts classic The Raid. Unlike most sequels, The Raid 2 manages to exceed both its predecessor and expectations.

The film starts directly after the events portrayed in The Raid (also a great film!).  As a recap, rookie police officer Rama is a part of a SWAT team sent to raid an apartment complex stronghold. After their presence is made known, the apartment complex turns into hell on earth, as the landlord offers tenants free rent for life for anyone who brings him a police body. With all the exits barricaded, Rama and his squad members’ only option is to keep working towards the top of the complex in hopes of finding a way out. Upon reaching the landlord, Rama finds out that the Police Chief is in bed with the mob, and that shutting down this complex will do nothing.

At the start of The Raid 2, Rama and the other survivors are pulled straight out of the complex to an undisclosed building, where a man informs him that in order to take out the corruption in the police force, Rama has to go undercover into the heart of the various crime mobs controlling the city. Rama’s police records are wiped clean and he is sent to prison for hospitalizing a politician’s son.  After befriending Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of one of the big three crime bosses, he moles his way into the seedy underbelly of the city. Power struggles between the gangs force Rama to choose between breaking his moral code to complete his mission or blowing his cover.

 

Environment

The action set pieces used in this film vary between beautiful and incredibly grungy. One particular fight scene in a prison yard on a very rainy day accentuates the sheer chaos of the brawl and the brutality of the inmates.

theraid2_1

Another scene inside of a 5-star restaurant’s kitchen is clean and pristine, mirroring the mastery of the martial arts that the fighters are showcasing.

 

theraid2_2

Pacing

At 2 ½ hours long, this movie definitely has some pacing issues. Already being on the longer side for a martial arts movie, some of the plot exposition is done in less than efficient ways.  The fight scenes, however, are good bridges between action and plotlines.

 

Cinematography

The camerawork in The Raid 2 does not fall into the common traps of martial arts movies; shaky cam and shortcuts are non-existent in this film. In fact, some very incredible shots are taken without the use of CGI and minimal editing (steadycam from shoulder-mounted/handheld cameras, etc.)

theraid2_3

 

Just wow.

Another instance of quality martial arts filming is a particular fight with baseball bat man, in which single takes were used to do incredibly complex and flashy combos.

 

theraid2_4

Acting

Iko Uwais is actually not a trained actor; he’s a Silat martial artist first and foremost, and was actually found by Evans while the director was filming a documentary on Silat. Uwais and another actor helped choreograph all of the fight scenes in both Raid films. Given his background,  Uwais actually gives a decent performance, and helps the movie flow along nicely.

 

Overall

All in all, The Raid 2 was a movie that had me going back to the theatre for repeat viewings, taking more friends along with me each time.  I would highly recommend this action- packed film if you and your friends want a great action film that will make you audibly react to each gruesome hit.


4 out of 5 stars.


frankbio