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Movie Review: The Wolverine (2013)

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                   Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is Wolverine aka Logan. In this film, he is much more three-dimensional than in any of the X-Men films and the film X-Men: Origins Wolverine. Rather than just being the guy who tears through people with claws, he is also a person who struggles with the price of his immortality and the pain of loss. The Japanese ronin samurai forms the central metaphor of Wolverine’s character to make him a compelling and relatable to the viewer.

Besides Wolverine, the secondary characters are also worth watching the film for. There are strong female and male characters that keep the viewer engaged in the film. While some are good and others are evil, there are a couple of characters who are morally ambiguous to make the film interesting.

A final aspect of the film that is great is its setting. Once Wolverine arrives in Japan, the viewer is exposed to a modern traditional, and spiritual place that enhances the plot and Wolverine’s character. At one point in the film, the setting moves to a simple place that is connected to Wolverine’s character as well as the plot. Then Mariko, one of the film’s key characters, says to Wolverine “It is here that we learned that everything finds peace eventually.” This scene is where the setting complimented Wolverine perfectly.

Overall, this was a fantastic film that is a huge improvement over the previous film done about Wolverine. I recommend this film to any fan of the character Wolverine or the X-Men.

Written by Serena Zola

January 29, 2015 at 7:17 PM

My Favorite Web Series and Movies I’ve Seen in 2014

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I’ve seen quite a few films this year and the first season of a certain web series. Here are my favorites!

Web Series: The Misadventures of The Awkward Black Girl (Season 1)- While there are actually two seasons of the show available, I stopped at season 1 because I didn’t want to be disappointed that there would be no more episodes to watch after Season 2. All the episodes are funded through Kickstarter and either there are no more episodes that are going to be made or they haven’t gotten funding to make more episodes yet.

Anyway, I gave Season 1 a chance after hearing about this show on sites like Black Girl Nerds and Afropunk. I am so glad that I did, because this is the first time I have seen someone like me in a show. By someone like me, I mean an awkward yet quirky woman of color. This show is honest and very funny. I found myself laughing out loud  and smiling at every episode. If you haven’t seen this series, then check out the episodes on the show’s site.

Movies:

Slam (1998)– This became my favorite poetry film ever. Not only does it have great slam poetry, but it also teaches the value of hip-hop and that you don’t have to be a part of a cycle of violence and revenge to get by. As a poet, this film inspired one or two poems I wrote this year and showed me the value of using homonyms. This film also helped me appreciate hip-hop more, because I barely listened to it until this year.

Stormy Weather (1943)– This classic blues and jazz film has become a favorite music film of mine. It features four of my favorite things: tap dancing, Cab Calloway, and blues and jazz. This film introduced me to the legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the lovely Lena Horne. There is so much talent in this film that it is impossible not to enjoy the performances.

Cab Calloway’s Hi-Di-Ho (1934)- This short film is one of many short films that Cab Calloway did in his prime. This one is my favorite because you see him dance and sing live and provide a little humor at the end. I also liked that this film also doubled as an advertisement for radio, which was a fairly new product at the time.  View the short film on YouTube here.

The First Grader (2010)– This film made really appreciate the free grade school education I have gotten in the United States and made me think about the current state of education in America. I also liked that they told the true story that inspired the film in such a raw and realistic light.

P!nk’s The Truth About Love Tour: Live from Melbourne (2013)– As a huge fan of P!nk, I was very happy to see this concert film on Netflix. I’ve seen some fan shot videos of certain performances on YouTube, but it was awesome to see the entire tour. P!nk sings live while doing acrobatics, dancing, or just sitting or standing.

My favorite performances were “Raise Your Glass”, “Try”, “Time After Time”, “Fuckin’ Perfect”, “Can’t Take Me Home Medley (“Most Girls”, “You Make Me Sick”, “There You Go”, ), and “Sober”. The only thing I didn’t like were the excessive camera angles. The concert film is still available to watch on Netflix.

Big Hero 6 (2014)– When I originally saw the previews for the film, I thought it wasn’t going to be good. Then, somebody from my college’s anime club  posted about how good it was. After that, I found out that the film was inspired by Japanese anime and Japanese pop culture and I decided to give the film a chance.

As it turns out, the film was awesome. Since I lost my father two years ago, I could totally relate to the film’s main character Hiro Hamada when he lost his brother Tadashi. I also loved how diverse the main characters were and how they were all geeks.

Of course, I also loved that the film was inspired by Japanese anime and Japanese pop culture. Also, Baymax has become my favorite animated sidekick because of how he helped Hiro work through his grief, how awesome his special abilities are, and how funny he was when he learned how to do Hiro’s handshake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Big Hero 6 (2014)

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Big Hero 6

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from Wikipedia): The story of a young robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada, who forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain responsible for the death of Hiro’s older brother.

My Review: One of the best things about the film is the characters that form Big Hero 6: Hiro Hamada, Baymax, Fred, Gogo Tomago, Wasabi, and Honey Lemon. The entire team is a racially diverse group of science nerds, but each of them have their own quirks and develop cool powers. For instance, Fred is a comic enthusiast  and Wasabi is overly cautious yet level-headed.

Of the entire group, the characters that stand out the most are Baymax and the film’s main character Hiro Hamada. Baymax is a giant marshmallow robot that serves only as a healthcare companion at first. As the film progresses, he gets an awesome heroic upgrade and also helps Hiro deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Hiro is a relatable character for anyone who has lost a loved one or is trying to find their true potential.

Besides the characters, the plot is very good. It took your standard superhero film and gave it more heart and humor. Poignant themes include grief, creativity, and revenge. Furthermore, there is lots of action-adventure that kids and adults will enjoy.

In addition to the characters and plot, the setting was great. The fusion of Japan and San Francisco in the city is amazing. Furthermore, Japanese anime and pop culture fans will be pleased to see references to things such as such as the Power Rangers, kaiju, and mecha.

A final aspect of the film that was enjoyable was the animation. It made the super powers look amazing and the setting really eye-catching. The best work was during the climax of the movie in a very vivid scene that is reminiscent of the imagery found in Hayao Miyazaki fantasy films.

Overall, this was a fantastic film. I recommend this to Japanese anime fans and kids and adults alike.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

November 19, 2014 at 10:37 PM

Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace (2004)

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Maria Full of Grace

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family.

My Review: One of the best things about this film was how universal the story was. There are themes that anyone can relate to, whether you speak the same language or not. These include struggling to provide for your familial love,  community, and more. Another aspect that made the story universal is how Maria was able to be in Columbia even when she wasn’t in Colombia. For instance, a snack that she had in Columbia could also be found in New York City’s “Little Columbia” district.

Another great aspect of the film was the characters. Maria starts out as a caring yet innocent young woman who wishes to “go somewhere else”, but becomes street smart and resilient. Don Fernando, the most compelling character of the film, is a compassionate and warm figure who supports his fellow Colombians through hard times.

Lastly, the most compelling aspect of the film is how it put a human face on drug trafficking. The characters and the plot felt like it could have been a chapter in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. It is something that will haunt you and make you root for the characters.

Overall, this was a poignant film. I recommend this for foreign film fans and anyone who is willing to do anything to provide for their family or a loved one.

Written by Serena Zola

October 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: Filly Brown (2012)

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Filly Brown film

Source: IMDB

Plot Summary: (Taken from IMDB): A promising hip-hop rhymer from Los Angeles finds herself in a gray area when a record producer offers her a compromising shot at stardom.

My Review: One of the best aspects of this film is the characters. For instance, the main character Filly Brown is not just an aspiring rapper. She is also a protective older sister named Majo who is willing to do anything to free her jailed mother.

Also, Majo doesn’t take crap from anyone who hurts her or her loved ones. Meanwhile, her dad is a single parent and a contractor who puts up with prejudice from his employer to support his daughters. Another sympathetic character in the film is Filly’s younger sister Lupe, a teen on the verge of growing up too fast.

Another notable aspect of the film is the acting. Gina Rodriguez is great as Filly the rapper and Filly the person. Lou Diamond Phillips does a good job displaying the fierce and vulnerable sides to Filly’s dad. Last but not least, the late Jenni Rivera had an excellent film debut as Filly’s mother, playing the manipulative yet caring personality well.

Besides the characters and acting, the portrayal of the music industry was well done. Filly Brown’s experience shows how aspiring musicians of any genre may be forced to sacrifice who they are in order to sell lots of records. It also shows how big an ego musicians and record companies can have when they have lots of money.

Finally, the soundtrack was very good. The best songs in the film are the ones that Filly Brown does because they reflect her character development. Other tracks provide atmosphere to Filly Brown’s neighborhood or her hip-hop lifestyle.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and poignant movie. I recommend this to hip-hop music fans everywhere. I also recommend this to Latino viewers looking to see their experiences in film.

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Sapphires (2012)

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The Sapphires

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): It’s 1968, and four young, talented Australian Aboriginal girls learn about love, friendship and war when their all-girl group The Sapphires entertain the US troops in Vietnam.

My Review: One of the best things about this film is the blending of Aboriginal Australian culture with that of American culture and history. Since the film’s main characters are discriminated against for being Aboriginal and considered black, it is easy to connect their strife with the turmoil going on in America in the late 60’s. In addition, the American soul music and a hymn sung in the Yorta Yorta language all play a prominent role that is moving and entertaining.

Another good aspect of the film is its characters. Greta is the fierce older sister who stands up for herself and her sisters’ safety. Julie is  the headstrong younger sister who wants to prove herself. Kay is the fair-skinned sister who grapples with her racial identity. Cynthia is the romantic who is also slightly careless. Lastly, Dave Lovelace is the careless yet caring manager.

Besides the blending of cultures and the characters, the acting and singing are excellent. Although two of the main actresses actually sing their roles, their vocals are very good. Of the two, Jessica Mauboy is the strongest singer. As the most prominently featured vocalist, she makes Julie shine bright.

While Juanita Tipper’s vocals get a touching moment in the spotlight, it is her acting that gets the most attention. In addition to Jessica Mauboy and Juanita Tipper, Chris O’ Dawd is great as Dave Lovelace. Many of his scenes will make viewers laugh, but there are a couple of tear-jerkers too.

In addition to the acting and vocals, the film’s plot was very well done. It developed its characters realistically around historical events and racism. Although it is loosely based on a true story, the entire movie felt like a real biopic.

Overall, the movie was fantastic. If you are a fan of 60’s soul music or enjoy music films, then I recommend this film.

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 22, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: The Lego Movie (2014)

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The Lego Movie

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): An ordinary Lego construction worker, thought to be the prophesied ‘Special’, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil tyrant from gluing the Lego universe into eternal stasis.

My Review:  One of the best things about this film is the animation. The Lego world is so colorful and bright, the viewer will want to jump into the movie. Sometimes, the Lego world looks real enough that you forget its animated.

Another aspect of the film that is good is the voice acting. Will Ferrell is fantastic as both President Business and The Man Upstairs. Liam Neeson is just as great as Good Cop/Bad Cop.  Morgan Freeman lending his godly voice to Vitruvius is perfect. Other highlights include Alison Brie as Princess Unikitty.

Besides the animation and voice acting, the plot of the film was creative, humorous, and heartwarming. The Lego world felt like a hilarious satire of real-life, especially with the theme song “Everything is Awesome!” Yet, behind that world is also a touching message about uniqueness and creativity.

In addition, the film’s universal appeal is good. There’s comedy, action-adventure, romance, and a little drama. Furthermore, the characters are something kids and adults can relate to.

Overall, the film is great.  I recommend this film to everyone.

Written by Serena Zola

August 13, 2014 at 9:04 PM

Movie Review: The First Grader (2010)

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The First Grader

Source: Wikipedia

Plot Summary (Taken from IMDB): The true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time to get the education he could never afford.

My Review: One of the best aspects of the film is the characters. The main character Marugue is a resilient spirit who has survived the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. After enduring much hardship and tragic losses, Marague wants to better himself by attending school for the first time. His teacher, Jane Obinchu,  is the kind and bold.  Also, the other children lighten the story with song and dance, but a couple of them also bring out the best of Marugue.

Another good aspect of the film is the use of its setting, the country of Kenya in Africa.  It made the experience of the main character Maruge very palpable for the viewer. For instance, you see how simple his house is, a structure made of logs and the surrounding land almost bare except for a small garden and a goat. You also sympathize with him when you see how far he has to walk to get to the primary school.

Besides the characters and the use of its setting, the cinematography made the film powerful. The flashbacks are positioned so that the viewer slowly gets to know Maruge and see how traumatized he is by his terrible past.  The African vocals heard during certain scenes provide a meditative atmosphere for the viewer to think about the film as the movie progresses.

In addition to the characters, setting, and the cinematography, the film provides excellent commentary on the value of an education. One of the most striking scenes in the film involves the adult education school, which reflects so many of today’s public schools. Another powerful scene occurs when Maruge forces education officials to see why good teachers are necessary. Other commentary occurs in the form of lines like, “You never stop learning until you have soil in your ears.”

Overall, this was a very poignant film. Due to the strong violence and empowering message, I recommend this film for high school students and up.

 

 

 

 

Written by Serena Zola

August 4, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Movie Review: St. Louis Blues (1958)

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St. Louis Blues, 1958

Source: Wikipedia

Summary (Partly taken from IMDB): Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can’t stay away from the music of the streets and workers. Once he gives in to the lure of blues and jazz, Handy discovers a gift for songwriting and becomes an accompanist for the speakeasy singer Go Go Germaine. However, he must soon choose between his father’s wishes and his own.

My Review:  One of the best things about this film is its star-studded cast. Will Handy is played by musician Nat King Cole, Go Go Germaine by singer-actress Eartha Kitt, and Go Go’s husband by musician Cab Calloway. Other notable stars include gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, actresses Pearl Bailey and Ruby Dee, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Besides the cast, their performances are very memorable. Nat King Cole does a great job on playing the cornet, singing, and acting. Eartha Kitt’s character  is  sexy and assertive and Kitt plays the role well. In addition, Kitt’s singing is a lovely mix of angelic and soulful.  Furthermore, Pearl Bailey’s small singing role in the film is just as good as Mahalia Jackson’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s.

The only lackluster element of the film is the storyline. A fusion of the film The Jazz Singer and the life of the real W.C. Handy, it is nothing more than a way to incorporate some of the songs that Handy wrote. If you have seen The Jazz Singer or enough references to the film, then the storyline will be predictable.

Overall, the film is a fantastic tribute to the contributions and influence of W.C. Handy. If you enjoy blues, jazz, gospel, or love musicals, then I recommend this film.

 

Here is the trailer for St. Louis Blues

 

 

Movie Review: Slam (1998)- Rated R

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slam, movie, saul williams

Source: Wikipedia Rating: R

Plot Summary : Street pharmacist and aspiring rapper Raymond Joshua lives in Dodge City, a drug-infested war zone in Washington D.C.  One day, he is at the wrong place at the wrong time and gets caught up in the criminal justice system. Using his talent for poetic rap, Ray learns  to survive and rise above the pain of his lost generation.

My Review: One of the most amazing things about this film is the spoken word poetry and raps. Despite the description of the main character Raymond, he is more poet than rapper. His spoken word poems are intelligent, vivid,  and raw in a way that stuns you and makes you think.

It helps that those poems were written by the same person playing Ray, Saul Williams. One of his best poems and scenes is called Amethyst Rocks.

Also, Raymond isn’t the only character who does spoken word in the film. There is a writing teacher named Lauren Bell (played by Sonja Sohn) and several supporting characters that do spoken word. Bell’s pieces are just as notable as Raymond’s and the same can be said for some of the others.

Furthermore, some of the dialogue in the film is just as poetic as the actual poems. A particular scene that has striking dialogue is known as “New World”.

Besides the poetry, the realism of the setting and the storyline is thought-provoking.  Some minorities can become angry enough to destroy each other for drugs, revenge, and other things whether inside or outside of jail.  It is a vicious cycle that is a prison physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Raymond and Lauren show that it takes courage, honesty, and the realization of self-worth to break it. Despite being more than a decade old, the issues in this film are still relevant today.

In addition to the poetry and the realism, the cinematography of the film is great. There are certain scenes that are shot well enough to give you Raymond’s view and others that give you a bystander’s view. Also, the music is mostly ambient and makes the surroundings and certain scenes more palpable.

Overall, this film was fantastic. As this film has strong language, violence, and sexual content, I recommend for teaching purposes that this film only be shown to high school and college students. Of course, poetry fans will love this film, especially if they enjoyed Poetic Justice. 

 

Written by Serena Zola

April 9, 2014 at 5:55 PM

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