Tag Archives: viola davis

WIDOWS (2018) – My rating: 8.8/10

Widows is an action drama directed by Steve McQueen from a screenplay by McQueen and Gillian Flynn, based upon the 1983 ITV series of the same name. Widows is a British-American co-production. The plot follows a group of women who attempt a heist in order to pay back a crime boss after their criminal husbands are killed during a botched job.  I was thrilled to see Widows, as I heard it received raved reviews and 93% rotten tomatoes.  They were right, Widows deserved every good review it received.

Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) is a renowned thief who is killed alongside his partners, Carlos Perelli (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Florek Gunner (Jon Bernthal) and Jimmy Nunn (Coburn Goss), during a botched robbery. Harry’s widow, Veronica Rawlings (Viola Davis), a Chicago teacher’s union delegate, is threatened by crime boss turned politician, Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), from whom Harry and his partners robbed $2 million. Jamal is running against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the son of the incumbent, Tom Mulligan (Robert Duvall) and needs money to help win the election.


Veronica discovers Harry’s notebook, which contains a detailed plan for what would have been his next heist, worth $5 million. She decides to carry out the heist to repay his debt to Jamal who has his blood thirsty brother, Jatemme (Daniel Kaluuya) watching the women’s every move.  Veronica recruits two of the other widows, Alice gunner (Elizabeth Debicki) and Linda Perelli (Michelle Rodriguez), to assist her. Since the fourth widow, Amanda Nunn (Carrie Coon), didn’t show to their initial meeting, Veronica visits her and learns she has a newborn child, so she opts not to mention nor include her in the heist. Alice is responsible for buying the getaway car and guns, while Linda is tasked with deciphering the blueprint in Harry’s plan.  Alice uses David (Lukas Haas), a real estate executive who identifies the blueprint as a  safe in Jack Mulligan’s home. In the meanwhile, looking for information, Veronica’s chauffeur, Bash O’Reilly (Garret Dillahunt) is murdered by one of Manning’s men. Linda recruits Belle (Cynthia Erivo), her children’s babysitter, to be their driver and Veronica visits the Mulligan home to ask Jack for protection from Jamal and to case the premises in advance of the heist, while the other women investigate the external security.

Obviously, I really enjoyed Widows.  The cast were the crème de la crème of actors who played their roles with outstanding precision.  The plot heats up with an intensity that will keep you guessing to the very surprise ending.  Widows has more twist and turns than you can imagine.  The style and flow of Widows reminds me of “How to Get Away With Murder”, only much more understandable.  I recommend this film to anyone who wants to see a good suspense feature with lots of twist, action and excitement.  Check it Out!!!


SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) – My rating: 6.5/10

suicidesquadI tried really hard to like Suicide Squad because I’m into the whole super hero thing.  I have to admit, as much as I like super heroes and meta-humans, Suicide Squad was suicide.  Some of the most deplorable meta-humans you can imagine are housed in Belle Reve Prison for their hideous crimes.

INTELLIGENCE OFFICER – Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the government official who gives out the Squad’s orders.  Ambitious and devious, she has big plans and intends to let no meta-human or military protocol get in her way. Davis stated she is fascinated by the character, singling out her psychology and strength and describing her as a “powerful black woman, hard, ready to pick up a gun and shoot anyone at will.” She described Waller as “relentless in her villainy” and noted that her powers are “her intelligence and her complete lack of guilt.” Davis read M.E. Thomas’ autobiography Confessions of a Sociopath to prepare for her role.

ARMY SPECIAL FORCES COLONEL – Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a West Point graduate who leads the Suicide Squad in the field. He is all business and executes Amanda Waller’s orders but does not always agree with her goals or methods.

In the aftermath of Superman’s death, Amanda Waller assembles Task Force X, which is placed under the command of Rick Flag, to be used as disposable assets in high-risk missions to rid the world of other deplorable rejects for the United States government. Each member has a nano bomb implanted in their neck, designed to detonate should any member rebel or try to escape.  Task Force X is comprised of the following dangerous meta-human, criminal rejects:

ELITE HITMAN – Deadshot aka Floyd Lawson (Will Smith), an expert marksman and assassin. A mercenary by day and a concerned father by night.  Deadshot is a conflicted criminal who enjoys the hunt, but is still trying to do right by his young daughter.

FORMER PSYCHIATRIST – Harley Quinn aka Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie), a crazed supervillain and former psychiatrist. Producer Richard Suckle describes this character as “a fan fave. Funny, crazy, scary. … You can’t come up with enough adjectives to describe all the different things you see her do.” Robbie describes Quinn as one of the Squad’s most manipulative members, and her relationship with Joker as “incredibly dysfunctional”, adding that Quinn is “mad about him—like, literally, mad. She’s crazy. But she loves him. And it’s a really unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship. But an addictive one.

PYROKINETIC EX-GANGSTER El Diablo, aka Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez), a former Los Angeles gang member who has powers that allow him to summon flames, and transform himself into a monstrous horned demon-like entity. He has squelched his fire-conjuring powers to a solitary flame as penance for the horrors he inflicted on those he loved. Hernandez set his character apart from his teammates as he “just wants to stay out of the fight”, while “most of [Task Force X] are happy to get out there and kill people”.

OPPORTUNISTIC THIEF – Captain Boomerang aka George “Digger” Harkness (Jai Courtney),  a thief who utilizes deadly boomerangs, described as rugged, unpredictable and mouthy. About his role, Courtney stated, “he is an absolute bogan, in the purest sense”.

SPECIALIZED ASSASSIN – Slipknot aka Christopher Weiss (Adam Beach), A mercenary specializing in tactical grappling and scaling, who is the first member of the squad to be killed.

The following are significant characters who were not part of Task Force X:

The Joker (Jared Leto), a psychopathic supervillain and major love interest of Quinn. Leto described his role as “nearly Shakespearean” and a “beautiful disaster of a character”.  Leto never broke character throughout filming, with Smith going as far as stating he never met him.

Some FYI on the Joker:  In preparation for the role, Leto spent his time alone, listened to gospel music from the 1920s—commenting he senses “Joker may be much older than people think”—and read literature on shamanism. Influences for the character’s appearance include Mexican cartel bosses and the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Leto stated that he spoke with doctors and spent time with psychopaths in preparation for his role. The character’s tattoos were added by Ayer, who believed it gave a modernized gangster look to the Joker.

Dr. June Moone / Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist who is possessed by an ancient evil force that transforms her into a powerful sorceress. Unleashed after a long period of imprisonment, the entity draws the attention of Waller who intended to recruit Dr. Moone for the squad, Enchantress instead seeks revenge against mankind for imprisoning her and her brother’s souls in artifacts after years of worshipping them. Delevingne described Moone as “an adventure-seeker who’s always wanted some excitement” and Enchantress as “a feral being.”

Tatsu Yamashiro / Katana (Karen Fukuhara), an expert martial artist and swordswoman who mourns her husband’s death. She serves as Rick Flag’s bodyguard and wields the mystical Soultaker blade, capable of trapping the souls of its victims. As she is a volunteer, not a criminal, she does not have a micro-bomb implant. Fukuhara stated that Katana “has morals and codes. She can also slice through hundreds of people without taking a breath.”

GQ Edwards (Scott Eastwood), a Navy SEAL who assists Flag during the squad’s mission.

The dialogue was slick, ultra modern and a little strange in some places.  The special effects were absolutely brilliant and the plot was really out there with multiple routes to follow.  Most of Suicide Squad was too congested and overshadowed with too many crazy plots.  It was hard to follow however, despite the busyness, bits of entertainment shone through. If you are a fan of the comic book series you will probably get more out of the movie than a novice who doesn’t have a clue what they’re walking into.  I did like the movie but it’s definitely not for everyone.  Suicide Squad is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

[Suicide Squad WON the 89th ANNUAL OSCAR AWARD for Makeup and Hairstyling]


FENCES (2016) – My rating: 9/10

fencesI heard Fences was somewhat theatrical, which it was and after seeing it, I also found it was a little slow. At times, I felt I watching a play but a very well written and a very well acted play. Never having read August Wilson’s play, I didn’t know where this story was going. Then all of a sudden, it took a turn for the better. I sat up in my seat and any boredom and any bad thoughts I harbored about having come to see Fences disappeared. Suddenly, excitement and intrigue entered the story. My emotions were coming into play and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. Was I dreaming or was this really happening? Was this boring, straight, hardly off the beaten path, Black man now full of sass and controversy with an exciting story to tell? Is he really standing here before his wife saying what I’m hearing?

Fences takes place in the 1950s and tells the story of Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife Rose Maxson (Viola Davis) and their son Cory Maxson (Jovan Adepo).  Fences is a story about a Black family with many stories of how they got to the point they have gotten to with the convictions, hopes and dreams for their future and their child’s future. Troy and Rose along with Troy’s brother Gabe Maxson (Mykelti Williamson) and their child try to make it in a world that makes it extremely hard for them to just exist and live normally. Troy works for the Department of Sanitation as a garbage collector along side his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson). However, Troy wants to be a driver like the White man and wonders why that position is excluded from the Black man. Thinking he is about to get fired for speaking up, Troy gets quite the surprise instead. From here we meet Troy’s estranged son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), who infrequently visits his father to borrow money, which upsets Troy, since he’s not on board with Lyons choice of occupation as a musician.  In addition, Troy’s son Cory wants to play football, which Troy is also not on board with since he feels Blacks can’t make a decent living in the NFL either.  Having played professionally in the Negro Leagues himself, he believes he was passed over because he is Black and not because he was too old for advancement.

Fences goes on to tell the stories that define Troy and the decision making that go into shaping his brand of raring his son and dealing with his handicap brother as well as his profound feelings of love and marriage that make him who he is today.  It also mentions the fence Rose asked him to build around their house, many times.  Having survived a near-fatal bout of pneumonia in his youth, Troy claims to have done so by defeating the Grim Reaper in a fistfight, upon which the Reaper vowed to return for a rematch. The titular fence is conceptualized by Troy as a symbolic way to keep the Grim Reaper out, but is also representative of the emotional barriers he built between himself and his sons as well as Rose’s effort’s to protect the people she holds dear.

Of course I have left out the most exciting parts of this story and urge you to go see an extraordinary classic you won’t soon forget.  Denzel and Viola really were brilliant and it’s a story that’s worth knowing about.  It goes places you would not have imagined.  Check it out!

{BTW, Viola Davis won the 2017 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture,  for Fences!}


[FENCES is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay]


HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER – My rating: 8.5/10

HowToGetAwayWithMurderThis highly anticipated mystery, How to Get Away with Murder “HTGAWM”  is well worth the wait.  Another Shonda Rhimes production is a huge success.  The series is created by Peter Nowalk, who is also the executive producer along with Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.  There is so much mystery, suspense and thrills, you just can’t ignore your racing mind of thoughts that will have you “gone wild”.  A brilliant practicing lawyer and professor uses her Philadelphia University, law students as well as her expertise as a lawyer to win cases.  Her students have turned out to be quite worthy of investigating, finding motives and evidence, as well as unproven alibis and much more.  The professor/lawyer named Annalise Keating played by Viola Davis presents all kinds of though provoking issues as she exercises her principle of getting her client off at any cost.  She doesn’t care if they are guilty or not, as long as she is representing them, she will do her best to make sure they win their freedom.  There are acts of murder, cover ups and guilty pleasure taking place behind the scenes.  We the audience are kept guessing every week as to “who done it” and what’s really going on.  Billy Brown plays Nate Leahy, a love interest, Alfred Enoch plays Wes Gibbins, a student responsible for the main case this series will focus on, Tom Verica plays Viola Davis’ husband, Sam Keating and Jack Falahee plays Connor Walsh one of Violas  students.   I find How to Get Away with Murder interesting, entertaining and quite the thrill ride.  I have not figured out everything that’s happening yet but I will certainly keep glued to the series.  “HTGAWM” currently airs on ABC.

GET ON UP (2014) – My rating: 9/10

GetOnUpHere lies another great, Oscar worthy, performance of an icon (James Brown) played by Chadwick Boseman.  What a fantastic portrayal of the God Father of Soul, James Brown).  What a story!  There’s so much about James Brown that I didn’t know.  He was a very complex individual.  This movie digs deep into the life of James Brown from a very poor little boy in Georgia to his rise to fame, to his death.  Chadwick Boseman worked extremely hard on this movie, as he had most of the screen time.  At times it seemed as though James had come back to life.  The voice and moves were superb.  I was surprise to see True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds) in another major role as James’ right hand man, and original lead singer of the Famous Flames, Bobby Byrd.  The great Jill Scott played James’ wife, Dee Dee Brown, Viola Davis played his mother, Susie Brown and Dan Aykroyd played James’ manager, Ben Bart.  This movie was enlightening on so many levels.  I find myself thinking about the scenes from the deep southern roots of Augusta, Georgia, even though the movie was shot mostly in Mississippi.  There is not too much more I can offer about this movie without giving away major spoilers, so I’ll end with all and all, Get on Up is a  “Must See”, movie, especially if you were a fan of James Brown.  It’s worth your time and the price of a movie ticket.

ENDER’S GAME (2013) – My rating: 9.5/10

EndersGameEnder’s Game is so realistic that I came away wondering if such a thing had already happened.  From the casting of a puny looking kid, (played by Asa Butterfield) to a large, menacing  Sergeant (played by Nonso Anozie) I knew this movie was going to be good.  Gavin Hood (Director and Screenplay Writer) didn’t try to make this into a Hollywood spectacular production of bells and whistles, but instead stuck to the likely issues such as kid jealousy, rivalry and adult authority, as if it was really happening.  Even the alien was painted in a better light than usual.  I loved the ending and I loved the acting.  Viola Davis played a compassionate  Major who was not afraid to speak her mind, while Harrison Ford was the no nonsense Colonel who headed up the recruitment program.

The idea in this film was to recruit the genius mind of a child to lead his team against an alien who had attacked Earth some 50 years ago but who still lingered as a threat to our very existence.  Children were used because of their extensive use of video war games and such.  Who better to understand the necessary strategy to win a war.  See this movie for more than the entertainment.  I believe there is a profound message to be had.

PRISONERS (2013) – My rating: 8.5/10

PrisonersPrisoners is one the most suspenseful movies I’ve seen in a while.  Who done it?  You won’t be able to figure this one out.  There are so many suspects, twist and plots that you’ll be literally sitting on the edge of your seat.  Two little girls go missing on Thanksgiving day.  Their families are shaken to near collapse.  One father is willing to go beyond the call of duty to get his daughter back.

I have some mixed feelings about this movie because the guessing game goes a little too far for my taste.  I can’t really explain this without creating “spoilers”.  Despite any reservations I might have, there is some great acting in this movie.  Hugh Jackman gave a phenomenal performance  showing why he will go down as one of the great and versatile  actors of our time.   Performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Terrence Howard were outstanding. One of my favorite was the performance by Melissa Leo who has done a lot of TV as well as “Frozen River” which you can find on this site as one of the highly rated movies I’ve reviewed.  Normally, I wouldn’t suggest seeing a movie with no special effects, dancing or science fiction on the big screen but this one is a “see it now” kind of movie so I suggest that you invest your time and the price of a ticket.  I rate Prisoners 8.5 out of 10 because it really gets you thinking while you’re also entertained.

[PRISONERS is nominated for Achievement in Cinematography]