Review: Detroit

Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s newest picture, or should I dub it a docudrama, is a hard-hitting take on the events that transpired in the Motor City in 1967. Detroit follows the individuals and actions that lead to the horrible shootout that took place at the Algiers Motel, where the police shot and killed three African-American boys suspected of firing shots at National Guardsman and the aftermath of their actions.


Image by Annapurna Pictures

Detroit is a culmination of three subplots carried by a security guard named Melvin Dismukes, a Detroit police officer named Krauss and an aspiring Motown lead singer named Larry and his friend Fred. Each of them are eventually drawn to the Algiers where bedlam, fear and senseless violence take place after the police arrive and take drastic and dangerous steps to determine who fired the suspected gun.

Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have worked together to deliver two of the hardest hitting dramas echoing current cultural and societal issues. Detroit is no exception to the standard as it definitely packs an impact upon viewing it, but unlike The Hurt Locker and unlike Zero Dark Thirty, I found Detroit a mess.

I couldn’t get past the constant shaky Steadicam work. The cinematography of Barry Ackroyd was very unsteady to watch; I get that Bigelow wanted to go for authenticity and I respect for that but the camerawork was so over the top, I couldn’t find a way to settle.

I also found flaws in how this was written. Mark Boal is talented but I can’t help but think that he may have overdone it; especially after the film concluded and Bigelow wrote in a statement stating that a lot of the information about the events of this movie was incomplete. I understand how filmmakers can take certain liberties to enhance the appeal of a film, especially if they are based on true events but it just raises the questions how much of this film was influenced by the modern day news stories about black men killed by police for little to no reason at all.

Also I found that the script left some things unresolved by some of their characters like Dismukes, Krauss, Greene and whoever else was involved in this ordeal and managed to survive; this movie, felt incomplete primarily because of how it was written.

Bigelow made her intentions clear in Detroit and I can definitely see why she was drawn to make this movie; the problems relating to race and police violence are just as relevant and important today as they were back then and the system has not made a difference. The problem is that this film has problems and those problems dragged this film down; the writing muddles the impact and the camerawork hinders the editing of William Goldenberg and Harry Yoon, which felt very sloppy transitioning between Dismukes, Krauss, Larry and the guests at the hotel for a while.

What I can’t say is that the cast and the acting were not a problem. John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Nathan Davis Jr., Hannah Murray, Kaitlyn Dever and Jason Mitchell all do a fine job with their roles.

James Newton Howard’s music was fine, Jeremy Hindle’s production design was bold, the set decoration by Dennis Colvin and Kathy Lucas was sharp, the art direction by Greg Barry and Jim Wallis was good, the make-up and sound effects was top notch and the costume design by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck was very precise.

There were times where I tried to force myself to pay attention to this movie and that has never happened to me before with a Kathryn Bigelow movie. Detroit is an impactful film, it is, and it is worth seeing because it has relevance but it also has problems that are difficult to ignore and ultimately, it is disappointing.


Movie of the Week: Detroit

The tandem of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have delivered compelling cinema over the past few years. The Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker was an intense examination of how war can be addictive to man. Zero Dark Thirty was a relentless depiction on the manhunt for the world’s most infamous terrorist and now the two are ready to take audiences back in time to one of the most recent darkest chapters in American history. In 1967, one of America’s most prominent cities was ready to explode due to racial tensions and hostilities toward the police and the incidents which occurred at the Algiers Motel, may as well lit the fuse on those tensions. It’s time to go to Detroit.

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenwriter: Mark Boal

Starring: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Jason Mitchell, Jack Reynor, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, Jacob Lattimore, John Krasinski, Kaitlyn Dever and Hannah Murray.

What am I expecting to see?: From what I’ve heard going in, this movie is very polarizing; either people will enjoy it or people will see it as a mess, which is strange considering Bigelow and Boal crafted it. The subject itself is tantalizing considering how societally relevant it seems but even the great ones can make mistakes. I’m looking forward to being enlighted, educated and entertained by Detroit considering how much I enjoyed Bigelow’s last two features but I’m bracing myself for the worst all the same.

Review: Captain America: Civil War

There is nothing more disappointing than unjustified hype. Something is touted for so long before it arrives on the main stage, only to disappoint you upon arrival. Unjustified hype leaves a rancid taste in the mouth yet it also raises expectations for what follows.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is a prime example of unjustified hype. We all know what a rancid taste it left in my mouth when I saw it a few weeks ago, yet it raised the bar for other films to follow. Films such as Captain America: Civil War.

The Russo Brothers return to direct the third and final installment of the solo Captain America franchise, thus launching Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Utilizing the concepts of the comic book counterpart, Civil War picks up where Age of Ultron left off, pitting the Avengers against an unprecedented and unexpected obstacle: the Sokovia Accords, a measure adopted by 117 countries represented in the United Nations designed to hold the Avengers in check and accountable for their actions which yield unnecessary collateral damage. Those who sign it are subjected to act under the authority of whichever governing power to face significant threats should they arise.

Tony Stark, feeling accountable for the actions of Ultron, is of the opinion that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes need oversight, while Captain Steven Rogers is of the opinion that these accords are unnecessary and the world can trust the Avengers to act in their best interests without it. Thus sides are taken within the Avengers ranks, while Captain Rogers’ old “friend” Bucky Barnes, alias Winter Solider, is causing havoc thus putting the Avengers in a more awkward spot while a mysterious figure named Helmut Zemo is acting in the shadows while heroes who disagree find the situation escalating into something more dangerous than they could ever imagine.

Image by Marvel

In taking measures to help and protect his old friend, Captain America takes up arms with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, Falcon, Ant-Man to protect the Winter Soldier and Iron Man, Black Panther, Black Widow, Vision, War Machine and Spider-Man stand in their way for Cap’s actions act against the Sokovia Accords; the Avengers come to blows and in the aftermath, the Avengers are left broken, scarred, damaged, displaced, vulnerable, all but destroyed.

Batman v. Superman left a horrid taste in my mouth, thus raising the expectations for Captain America: Civil War. After attending an early screening yesterday, I proclaim with full conviction and a cleansed and nourished palate that Captain America: Civil War is by far, the best superhero motion picture since The Dark Knight; I am talking a comic book movie at the crossroads of nirvana and perfection!

I’ve stated that superhero mythology is my favorite and this movie had it all! The writing courtesy of Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus was superb, the Russo Brothers left it all on the screen and justified the fact that they are worthy to helm the final Avengers films in a few years and they started Phase Three with a bang! This was a grounded story that was simple to follow and empathize with, flowed effortlessly between subplots, gave every major character their respective moment to shine, the action was non-stop, this was everything you could possibly ask for in the inaugural blockbuster of 2016.

Image by Collider

It was as if the Russo Brothers and the writing of McFeely and Markus went places where Joss Whedon could only dream and the result is a superhero movie fan’s dream come true! In fact, you could say that Captain America: Civil War hit all of the notes that Batman v. Superman failed to do and you could. Because it’s true.

I feel as though I’m practically gushing and I don’t feel ashamed doing it! Going into the film, I was Team Iron Man but in the end, it doesn’t matter whose side you were on, Captain America: Civil War is one hell of a ride and I felt that even though the end is tragic, it ends on the best terms imaginable for Captain America and Iron Man while also raising already high expectations for future Marvel films to come.

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, William Hurt you couldn’t ask for more from the already established galaxy of stars portraying these heroes while at the same time the new recruits including Chadwick Boseman, who KILLED it as Black Panther, Daniel Brühl who did an awesome job as the sinister Zemo and Tom Holland, who should make Tobey MacGuire and Andrew Garfield feel honored by his portrayal as Spider-Man, had their moments to shine as well.

Trent Opaloch’s cinematography was rock-solid, Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt’s editing was top-of-the-line, the production design by Owen Patterson was superb, Henry Jackson’s music was decent, Judianna Makovsky’s costumes were outstanding, this was a technically grounded film that allowed the story to take center stage and enhance the figures who are a part of it, unlike another certain film I’ve named.

I would see Captain America: Civil War multiple times if I had the opportunity because this movie lives up to its hype, its potential and audiences of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will be thrilled by this installment because it takes everything that has led to this point and cranks it up to 11!

Looking back, if I could comment on one regret it’s that Iron Man and Black Panther don’t really get a lot of screen time together and these two, in the comics, have much in common.

This movie is Marvel at the peak of its power and the scary part is this is only the beginning. The Phase Three lineup is ready to roll and my excitement can barely be contained. I loved every moment of Captain America: Civil War and I thoroughly encourage audiences to see this blockbuster, which seems destined to take over the world!

Movie of the Week: Captain America: Civil War

It is in a hero’s nature to protect the people, but what happens when the people come together and say “enough“? This is the new crisis that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes have to face. In the aftermath of Age of Ultron, the major powers on the planet have convened and issues a series of accords requiring individuals with special abilities to relinquish their secret identities and act as operatives of the government in times of peril. Captain America leads the opposition against these accords, believing that the world can trust the Avengers to protect them without the need for governmental oversight. Iron Man is for these accords, considering that the Avengers and him personally have had a hand in putting the world in such a vulnerable state to begin with. The two heroes create factions within the Avengers and both sides are ready to fight for what they believe. Captain America: Civil War finally arrives in theaters this week.

What am I expecting to see?: Nothing short of excellence to be exact. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a fine job in building the franchise to this point and I have full faith in the Russo Brothers to bring Phase Three of the Avengers Initiative to a roaring, clashing start. Undoubtedly I can’t expect to be disappointed in this star-studded cast of heroes starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Daniel Brühl, William Hurt, Paul Bettany, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Emily VanCamp, Martin Freeman, Frank Grillo and Tom Holland to name just a few. I’ve already declared my allegiance to one faction but I expect this to be the superhero movie that really sets the tempo for 2016.

The 3 Reasons Why I’m Team Iron Man

As you may or may not have known, a couple of this year’s most anticipated superhero adventures are asking “Who’s Side Are You On?” or “Who Will Win?” The latter question, I will take the time to address later but the first question applies to Captain America: Civil War. The new trailer dropped recently and viewers were given a sense as to the philosophies driving friends-now-adversaries Captain America and Iron Man. In case you missed the trailer, you’re welcome

Anyway after much soul-searching and thorough analysis of the plot and where both main characters are coming from, I have chosen the team to stand behind in Captain America: Civil War.

It was not an easy choice to make and I had respect for both Avengers but ultimately I allied with Tony Stark over the title character. Yeah I get that Iron Man created Ultron and led the Marvel Cinematic Universe to its current and turbulent state but no one is perfect. What led me to Team Iron Man? Three reasons.

  1. Cap is too old-school for his own good! Captain America believes that the world can trust the Avengers based on their track record, but while the record can speak for itself, the collateral damage that goes hand-in-hand with it cannot be ignored. Both Captain America and Iron Man are responsible for the state of the world and Thunderbolt Ross said it best: “people are afraid.” The world can’t bring itself to work the way Cap expects and accountability must taken. I see where both sides are coming from and I think Cap resisting to abide by the Sokovia Accords lands him on the side I think is wrong.
  2. Redemption. Tony Stark is the reason why Ultron happened, and he wants to make up for the damage he has done. In trying to destroy HYDRA, Cap had to destroy S.H.I.E.L.D.; I reiterate both sides are responsible for the state of the world, but in seeing that Tony wants the Avengers to abide by the Sokovia Accords and allow the government to keep heroes in check, I think he is more in the vein of what the people want and need and he’s coming from a place where he wants to make up for what he has done. That’s what I found so appealing about the character going back to the first Iron Man film.
  3. Image by Marvel

    The Winter Soldier. This is perhaps the most important reason why I chose to side with the Machine over the Soldier. At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap was trying to convince the HYDRA assassin of who he really was: Bucky Barnes, Cap’s oldest and best friend. The Winter Soldier saved Rogers and went to Cap’s memorial at the Smithsonian to find out who Bucky Barnes is. Cap allegedly finds his “old friend,” then these Sokovia Accords are implemented across the planet, the Avengers are fractured and Baron Zemo is supposedly behind the scenes watching all of this chaos take place. Coincidence? I think not. I’m not convinced that Cap has his old friend back and I think Cap is making a mistake trusting the Winter Solider over Iron Man. I just feel as though Cap is being used.

If not for reason #3 I would be leaning toward Team Cap, but ultimately I think Cap’s faith in his restored “friend” will be his undoing. Captain America: Civil War stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Anthony Mackie, Paul Bettany, Don Cheadle, Daniel Brühl, Martin Freeman, Emily VanCamp and William Hurt. The Russo Brothers are at the helm of this epic tussle. The film that launches Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe arrives in theaters on May 6, 2016.

Captain America vs. Iron Man! New trailer.

The Soldier and the Machine came from different places and have had their differences, but they have banded together to help the world become a better place. Not this time. The world has caught on to the Avengers’ act; they act without any supervision, they are responsible for wanton destruction and they are now at a tipping point. Captain America and Iron Man are at a crossroads and their fellow Avengers are taking sides. Phase Three of the Avengers Initiative is about to begin with Captain America: Civil War!

The Russo Brothers helm this jammed-packed superhero skirmish, written for the screen by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The film stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Paul Bettany, Emily VanCamp, William Hurt, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Frank Grillo and Daniel Brühl. The Civil War stars on May 6, 2016.

Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Expectations were met in a beautiful swell of sensible chaos. That is the initial reaction I left with after departing yesterday’s screening of my most anticipated film of 2015.

Image by Marvel Studios

Certainly, The Avengers: Age of Ultron didn’t waste any time getting back in the swing of things. The film opens with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes leading a raid against presumably the final HYDRA compound, said to hold Loki’s scepter, last seen in Captain America: the Winter Soldier.

The team kicks ass, captures Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, played by Thomas Kretschmann, and secures the scepter. Too easy? Don’t worry, it sets up the inciting incident where Iron Man, played by Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr, brings the scepter back to Avengers Tower and unknowingly brings the titular villain, played by James Spader, into existence and true to Joss Whedon’s word prior to the start of production, Ultron has a bee in his bonnet and he means to take it out on the Avengers and humanity by taking a small Eastern European hamlet, ripping it out of the ground, raising it high into Earth’s orbit and turning it into a planet-killing meteor. Inventive.

In all the time, I’ve spent covering this movie I’ve been listening to Joss Whedon’s ideas and reasons regarding why he made the decisions that he did, why he made the promises he made for this film and in watching everything unfold, he and the film live up to the promises and expectations set for them.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is established with a grand design; it reaches and sprawls to go beyond the limitations and boundaries set by the previous installments of the previous films of the Avengers Initiative. This appeased my fandom of comic book mythology, hinting and referencing what has been done and what will be to come later, and does so with a sense of fervor that just can’t stay still.

The story is strong but it just becomes more spectacle than substance after a while, but that is a good thing. Also, there are some film moments and periods of humor and wit that lighten the heavy mood set by the genocidal-prone A.I. and his two helpers, the Maximoff twins, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, as the try to tear the team apart.

I thought it was nice seeing Marvel give audiences a little slice of Hawkeye, played by Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner. I’m not really that familiar with Clint Barton’s backstory, but to see him live what I like to call the Philip Rivers-lifestyle-I’m a Chargers fan BTW-certainly caught me off guard; man with a loving and growing family in his personal life while living life as professional badass? Respect.

I also found the romantic connection between Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo and Golden Globe nominee Scarlett Johansson something of an eye opener. Like watching a comic book rendition of Beauty and the Beast between Black Widow and Bruce Banner/Hulk with a touch of Ann Darrow and King Kong thrown in. Still it’s a shame both of their characters can’t get their own solo-movies; people will pay to watch Mark Ruffalo play the Hulk and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in their own motion pictures. WTF can’t Marvel do something about that?

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the cast doesn’t disappoint. Seeing these actors firmly entrenched in these roles as these characters is fun and watching them work just doesn’t get old. Downey owns the Iron Man character, Ruffalo is solid and wild as the Hulk/Bruce Banner, Johansson rocks as Black Widow, Renner doesn’t miss a beat as Hawkeye, Chris Evans is a perfect fit as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth is Thor and there is no doubt about that and you can say the same for Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. It was certainly fun to see familiar faces return to the fold such as Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Stellan Skarsgård as Eric Selvig, Colbie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, and the new guard including Spader, Taylor-Johnson, Olsen and Paul Bettany get promoted from Iron Man’s digital butler/PA to this superheroic powerhouse is stellar.

The visual effects are top notch, as was the sound-effects, the art-direction, costume design but it feels as if the visual elements outshines the remainder of the technical aspects of the film such as Danny Elfman’s music. Also, I was so lost in the visual appeal that there was no time to appreciate the cinematography of Ben Davis or the editing Jeffery Ford and Lisa Lassek.

If there was one overall flaw with The Avengers: Age of Ultron it’s that the entire film itself gets by and gets off on being one entire wow-factor. It deprives itself from being able to take a moment and allow it to wash over it’s spectator; it’s spectacle after spectacle after spectacle and it doesn’t slow down to let a moment sink in.

Photo by By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, via Wikimedia Commons

I will credit Joss Whedon for bringing home the central theme of Phase 2 to the closing chapter that is this film:

“everyone creates the thing they dread.”-James Spader as Ultron

This movie sets up the events to come in Phase 3 in one manner or another. In Andy Serkis, there is a nod to the upcoming Black Panther, the seeds of dissent between Captain America and Iron Man have been sewn for Civil War, which will then jump-start other Phase 3 projects.

Where I felt Whedon fall short was when he said that this film would be smaller. It’s definitely more painful for these characters, but this universe expanded and I failed to find where and how it would be smaller.

There are wow-moments and funny moments in the story and also moments of irony as well. The Avengers fought off the Chitari in the Battle for New York and that campaign took hours (I think) while a Scarlet Witch affected-Hulk vs. the Hulkbuster leveled the city of Johannesburg in a matter of minutes. Sure.

Also, I feel that Whedon left big shoes for the Russo Brothers to fill, since he expressed that he will not direct the sequels to this film, but I can see why he called this venture exhausting.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are the stars of the reigning mightiest motion picture on Earth. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, but who cares? It was fun to behold.