Tag Archives: mahershala ali

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018) – My rating: 8/10

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a computer-animated superhero film, based on the Marvel Comics character Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man.  Morales  becomes one of many Spider-Men as they team up to save New York City from Kingpin.  The film is produced by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation in association with Marvel, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing.  Into the Spider-Verse  is the first animated feature film in the Spider-Man franchise, and is set in a shared multiverse called the “Spider-Verse”, which has alternate universes. The film was directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman from a screenplay by Phil Lord and Rothman.  I had never heard of the Spider-Verse but for good reason, this is the first of the Spider-Verse series.  Judging by the weekend box office of 2/3, $175,424,664 and over $347M worldwide, we will see more.  Actually, I liked this film and am having trouble distinguishing between other animated features as to which is the best one.

Miles Morales / Spider-Man (Shameik Moore) is a teenager who admires Spider-Man. He struggles living up to the expectations of his parents, especially his father, police officer Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry), who sees Spider-Man as a menace. After school, Miles secretly visits his uncle Aaron Davis / Prowler (Mahershala Ali) , who brings Miles to an abandoned subway station where he can paint graffiti. While there, Miles is unknowingly bitten by a radioactive spider and begins to develop spider-like abilities.  After an embarrassing encounter with a classmate, Miles realizes the changes he is undergoing as a result of the bite. Searching for the spider, Miles returns to the station and unintentionally runs into a particle accelerator built by Wilson Fisk / The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who wishes to access parallel universes to find alternative versions of his wife and son who died in a car crash.

****  SPOILERS  ****

Spider-Man / Peter Parker (Chris Pine) of Miles Morales’ universe, whose death inspires Miles to become Spider-Man, is trying to disable the accelerator while fighting off Fisk’s enforcers, Green Goblin / Norman Osborn (Jorma Taccone) and Prowler. Spider-Man also discovers that Miles has abilities similar to his. He vows to teach him how to control his powers, but is gravely wounded by an explosion during the battle that kills Green Goblin. Spider-Man gives Miles a USB drive to disable the accelerator and warns that the machine could destroy the city if turned on again. Miles then watches Fisk kill Spider-Man in horror before fleeing from Prowler.

While attempting to master his new abilities, Miles inadvertently damages the USB drive. At Spider-Man’s grave, Miles meets Peter B. Parker / Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), a depressed and worn-down version of Spider-Man from another dimension. Peter has been brought into Miles’s dimension by the accelerator and needs to return home, so he reluctantly agrees to train Miles in exchange for help stealing data to create a new drive. While breaking into Kingpin’s research facility, they are confronted by Fisk’s chief scientist Olivia “Liv” Octavius / Doctor Octopus  (Kathryn Hahn), who reveals that Peter will deteriorate the longer he stays in their dimension and eventually die.

Being a young person has it’s props.  An adult might get totally lost in this rather hectic story or not!  While I think the plot is excellent, I think you’d better pay attention or else.  I like the message this version of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sends and I think the cast is outstanding.  There is much more to this story — a must see in order to understand the intensions of the writer.  This animated film is more organized than some of the others I’ve seen this year (2018).  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not for everyone, as this is strictly a children’s flick.  Check It Out, it’s worth it!

[Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Oscar nominated for Best Animated Feature Film]


GREEN BOOK (2018) – My rating: 8.7/10

Green Book is an American comedy-drama, based on a true story about a tour of the Deep South in the 1960s involving a classical/jazz pianist and a bouncer who served as a driver and bodyguard. Green Book is directed by Peter Farrelly, the screenplay was also written by Farrelly along with Brian Hayes Currie and Nick Vallelonga, which is based on interviews with the pianist, the bodyguard and letters written to the bodyguard’s wife. The film is named after The Negro Motorist Green Book, informally called the Green Book, a mid-20th century guidebook for African-American travelers, written by Victor Hugo Green to help Blacks find safe havens, i.e., motels and restaurants, throughout the segregated South that would accept them. This is a worthwhile movie!

Green Book revolves around African-American classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Italian-American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard.  In 1960, New York City, bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga is searching for new but temporary employment after the nightclub where he works has been closed for renovations. Eventually Tony gets an interview as a driver for someone called “Doc”. Their first encounter does not go well, as Tony’s flippant, uncultured behavior clashes with Doc’s sophisticated, reserved demeanor. The concert tour is for eight-weeks through the Deep South with plans to return home on Christmas Eve. Tony is hired after a second encounter and referrals from friends. A car along with a copy of the Green Book is given to Tony by Doc’s record studio.

They begin the tour in the Midwest before eventually heading further south. Tony and Doc clash over their differences, as Tony feels uncomfortable being asked to act properly, while Doc is disgusted by Tony’s habits. Regardless, Tony finds himself impressed with Doc’s talent on the piano, and increasingly disgusted by the discriminatory treatment Doc receives by the hosts when he is not on stage. After a bar incident leads to a group of white men threatening Doc’s life, Tony rescues him by threatening to pull a gun on them. He instructs Doc not to go out without him for the rest of the tour. Throughout the journey, Tony writes letters to his wife, Dolores Vallelonga (Linda Cardellini) and kids. Don coaches him to write more beautiful prose, which deeply moves Tony’s wife. Tony encourages Doc to get in touch with his own estranged brother, but Doc is hesitant; Doc says that he has become isolated by his professional life and achievements.

Green Book is a sensitive, touching story that is tactfully told.  I can’t say enough about how brilliant the acting is and how well the film was directed.  The 60’s was an extremely hard time for Blacks given their suppressed value and lack of respect offered by their white counterparts.  I was reminded of a taunted past and the elimination of many Blacks and Whites who fought the good fight.  This simple relationship between 2 men on opposite sides of the race divide, brought together by unprecedented circumstances  is truly a story EVERYONE should see.  I laughed, cried, stood up and clapped and sulked in my heart at every turn of this touching film.  There are many lessons to be learned from Green Book as the film tries to tell it all.  There are some incidents that will take you church and some that will take you to jail.  See Green Book by any means — it’s truly a winner in my book.  Check it out!

[Green Book is Oscar nominated for BEST: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing]


MOONLIGHT (2016) – My rating: 9/10

moonlightIf you’re expecting a great story, you’ve picked the right movie.  Moonlight is about the life of Chiron “Little” (Alex Hibbert) from the age of 6 through adulthood. He grew up with an abusive, junkie mother, Paula (Naomie Harris) and no father.  His only friends were Kevin (Jaden Piner), who he grew attached to and Juan (Mahershala Ali), a grown man and crack dealer, who takes Chiron to his house where he lives with his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe).  Chiron was bullied terribly as a little boy all the way up though adolescence, about the age of  high school. One day Chiron as a teenager, (Ashton Sanders) who was frequently bullied by Terrel (Patrick Decile), changed all that.  Obviously, he was surrounded by some of the most deplorable situations imaginable, but managed to beat the odds.  I can only say Moonlight is profound and touching.  It digs deep into the life of an unusual situation one would not necessarily know how to deal with since adult Chiron, now known as Black (Trevante Rhodes) is dealing with so many issues at once.  Black’s character changes somewhat during the years but he continues to remain shy.  We could see what a strain it was for Black to act normal, as he came off quite uncomfortable.

This story is softly and delicately told.  Of course I’ve left the best of the story out of this critique, as it would spoil any surprises and motivation to see it away.  Directed by Barry Jenkins, I say it’s a job well done.  I highly recommend Moonlight to all adults, as it has already won a Golden Globe for Best Picture.  Check it out!

[MOONLIGHT has WON the 89th ANNUAL OSCAR AWARD for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay.  Moonlight was also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Film Editing and Original Score]




HIDDEN FIGURES (2016) – My rating: 9.3/10

hiddenfiguresHidden Figures is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Based on true events, Hidden Figures reveals history about the United States space program we knew very little about.  I was shocked to know that Black women participated in the launching of the first US astronaut orbiting the earth, in space or that they contributed in any way to launching the first man on the moon.  The trials and tribulations they went through broke my heart.  This movie tells a story of profound contributions made by three highly educated master minds, toward the space race between the USA and the USSR to gain control during the space age in order to achieve peace, respect and privilege as the front runner and leader, as a nation.  The film recounts the story of three African-American women who worked in professional positions at NASA and helped the United States advance during the Space Race.

Mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, worked in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The film focuses on Katherine G. Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), who is the African-American mathematician who participated in calculating flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon.  Using these calculations, NASA supported John Glenn in becoming the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of Earth. The film also features Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), a colleague and mathematician specializing in flight paths, the Scout Project, and FORTRAN computer programming.  Dorothy was also the first Black woman to become a supervisor at a time when racism and Jim Crow laws were at it’s worst.  Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe),  also a colleague and mathematician at NASA, worked to analyze data from wind tunnel experiments and real-world aircraft flight experiments at the Theoretical Aerodynamics Branch of the Subsonic-Transonic Aerodynamics Division at Langley.  She ultimately authored or co-authored 12 technical papers for NACA and NASA.

Al Harrison, (Kevin Costner) is the director of the Space Task Group who Katherine reported to but was told not to get close with. Any positive changes that were made, came from Harrison who was brilliantly played by Costner.  Vivian Mitchell, (Kirsten Dunst) delivered orders to Dorothy and the 30 Black women Dorothy supervised and trained.  Paul Stafford, (Jim Parsons) was the head programmer under Al Harrison and like everyone else, against women and Blacks being present in the program.  John Glen (Glen Powell) The first astronaut to obit the earth and obviously a charismatic man who appeared to be non-racist.  Colonel Jim Johnson, (Mahershala Ali) married Katherine who was a widow, taking on her three children from her first marriage.

Hidden Figures is at times, very emotional but a wake up call for those who could never imagine what it was like to be treated the way Blacks were treated for no reason other than being Black.  Hate is a terrible thing and a terrible waste of energy.  I was happy to see credit given to these women who achieved so much and contributed so much.  If there is no mention of these women in taught in Black history, there should be and if you haven’t seen this movie, you should because it’s truly a great one.  The story is spot on and the acting is outstanding.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nod or two come out of this film.

[HIDDEN FIGURES is nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, and Writing Adapted Screenplay]



MARVEL: LUKE CAGE (2016) – My rating 7.5/10

marvellukecageMarvel: Luke Cage is not like your ordinary super hero flick. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard lots of buzz about the series, which is streaming on Netflix. Some say it’s too Black and some say they couldn’t keep up with the Ebonics and some say it’s too street and even too slow, as superhero flicks go.  The buzz plus the constant advertisements are what prompted me to binge watch the first season (13 episodes).  After watching the first episode, I must admit, I had mix feelings. From childhood to adulthood, Luke’s story seemed dark. As a matter of fact, the whole series seemed dark. The lighting was hardly ever bright, the characters were hardly ever cheery or uplifting and everyone seemed to be in their own personal struggle. It was as though I was viewing Harlem, where this all takes place, through the eye of Donald Trump, who paints a pretty grim picture of Black neighborhoods. Since I was born and raised in Harlem, I can say, first hand,  it’s not as rumor would have you believe. However, since Luke Cage is dealing with an underworld of corruption, drugs, gangs and poverty, the look and feel is definitely not like Spiderman or Superman. It’s more like a Black Gotham (the TV series), only the characters are real people with only one super hero, which is what I think the writers and directors were going after.

Luke Cage/Carl Lucas (Mike Colter) is a superhero who escaped from Seagate Prison after acquiring superhuman strength and impenetrable skin because of a sabotaged experiment under the hands of Dr. Noah Burstein (Michael Kostroff), a scientist conducting experiments on inmates.  Settling in Harlem, Carl Lucas changed his name to Luke Cage and took on several jobs.  As a sweeper at the local barber shop, he works for Henry “Pop” Hunter (Frankie Faison) and meets Misty Knight (Simone Missick) a NYPD detective who is investigating a shooting.  As a dish washer at Harlem’s Paradise nightclub, Luke works for crime boss, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali).  Alfre Woodard plays (Mariah Dillard), “Cottonmouth’s” corrupt cousin and mayor of Harlem while Rosario Dawson plays Claire Temple, a nurse that assisted in Luke’s recovery on a couple of occasions and appears to be a current love interest.  Perhaps the most profound character is Willis Stryker / Diamondback (Erik LaRay Harvey) a powerful arms dealer who is Cage’s half-brother and the one who framed him for the crime that sent him to Seagate Prison.

I enjoyed the series because like most super heroes, Cage is good and does his best to resolve his personal issues while fighting his enemies and trying to take care of his neighborhood. What I didn’t like, was how so many corrupt, evil murderers never seemed to get adequately punished for their crimes. I was also unhappy with the potential season ending that indicated a scenario for season 2 I’d rather not deal with.  Kudos to Netflix and Coker for the replication of Harlem’s unique atmosphere, culture and music.  Marvel: Luke Cage also comments on race, politics, and the Black Lives Matter movement.  If you have Netflix, check it out!  It’s not the best superhero flick you’ll see but it’s entertaining.






FREE STATE OF JONES (2016) – My rating: 9.5/10

FreeStateOfJonesWow, what a surprise! This movie will go down as a masterpiece.  Part truth and part fiction, it’s filled with hate but rich in history of the shameful past of this country’s treatment of Blacks and  determination to keep slaves as indentured servants for as long as they live. Free State of Jones is inspired by the life of Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) a poor farmer who lead a rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi during the Civil War. Jones’ army consisted of deserters and run away slaves creating a mixed race community.  Included in that community, was Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) a former slave who later became Newton’s wife and Moses Washington  (Mahershala Ali) an escaped slave who became a major player in Knight’s rebellion.  Before Newton started his rebellion, he served in the war for a year, then deserted when his nephew was drafted and killed.  The film brings you through the Civil War and beyond the Emancipation and the KKK to a trial in the 1940’s that accuses and convicts one of Newton’s grandsons of being 1/8 Black and as such, places him in violation of the law that doesn’t allow a Black man to marry a White women in Mississippi, where he and his wife lived.

You won’t get warm fuzzes watching Free State of Jones, quite the opposite. From bloody torn limbs of men shot up in battle to the hanging, raping and mutilation of slaves, the picture is pretty grim. McConaugheyAndKnightYou will get to see 2 hours and 19 minutes of a really great movie that holds nothing back about the Civil War, Emancipation, the Monolithic South, and Reconstruction.  This is great story telling by Leonard Hartman and Gary Ross who also has done an excellent job of directing this movie.  The acting is brilliant as this may be Matthew at his best.  Strangely, there is a resemblance between the real Newton Knight and Matthew McConaughey, as shown.  I highly recommend Free State of Jones.  It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year. I expected an almost empty auditorium instead, only the first row was available plus a few seats here and there.  It’s more than worth your time and money to see it.

NOTE:  Gary Ross along with The Huffington Post have documented why the world or at least the US should see this film.  It tells the truth as well as disperse 4 myths about the Civil War and slavery.  The following was taken directly from the Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amb-andrew-j-young/free-state-of-jones_2_b_10704230.html Free State of Jones also tells the truth about Reconstruction. It does not indulge the mythology that simple emancipation at war’s end meant true freedom. Far from it. It is perhaps the first film to show the bitter disappointment in the post-war years as the jubilation of victory gave way to the harsh reality that Confederates would return to power, institute sharecropping instead of slavery, penal servitude instead of simple servitude and the “apprenticeship” of minor children instead of more blatant “ownership.” When some in Congress tried to fight these events, the Ku Klux Klan rose up in force and there was no Northern will to combat it. So it is all the more remarkable that a white southern farmer stood up to this oppression even after the war when so many of his contemporaries would not.”


Note: Any fiction altered the actual words spoken but not the historical events!