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‘Get On Up’ And Go See This Movie!

August 8, 2014

Director: Tate Taylor

long poster

“You special. Yo’ mama’s a no account fool, daddy too, but you ain’t gonna be. You gonna be okay. One day, everybody gonna know your name.”

- Aunt Honey

 

by Twylo Enmamud

James Brown as a young boy played by twins, Jamarion & Jordan Scott. (But don't ask me which one this is!)

James Brown as a boy, played by twins, Jamarion & Jordan Scott. (But don’t ask me which one this is!)

My earliest memories of James Brown are from when I was a child perhaps no more than seven or eight years old. I remember my mother having parties in our basement at our house in Laurelton, Queens. James Brown was perhaps the biggest thing as far as dance music. I remember my older brother, Bunzzie, standing out because he would always be dancing, and all our relatives would be cheering him on. He had no problem ‘getting on the good foot.’ They would encourage me to dance as well, but my brother always had the spotlight, and I, already being a reserved child, was a bit intimidated. I would sometimes go to the floor and do some mediocre step that I copied from my favorite aunt, Minnie, who wasn’t much of a dancer herself, but it would be nothing to compared to my brother. And so I shied away from that spotlight in general. Back then, I knew the music of James Brown because everyone was into it, but as a child, I didn’t truly have a personal appreciation for more than a couple if his songs. It

James Brown and Mick Jagger at a concert circa 1964.

James Brown and Mick Jagger at a concert circa 1964.

was not until I was older, till I was well on the way into adulthood that I began to truly feel the music that this man had created; till I began to appreciate the genius of James Brown, and how his music influenced so much that came after. But even then, I did not know his personal story. I did not know the man behind the music.

‘Get On Up,’ was produced by Mick Jagger, who met and was influenced by James Brown very early in his career.  Jagger

Chadwick Boseman performs as James Brown.

Chadwick Boseman performs as James Brown.

was also the musical director for this film,

and with it, he has given me, and I am sure, many others, an even greater appreciation of James Brown.

This movie was excellent, and done in very good taste. Chadwick Boseman not only played the part, he channeled James Brown. It was a masterful embodiment; a consummate feat of acting and

showmanship.

Get On Up is a thoughtfully executed film; a well-tempered mix of entertainment, drama, social commentary and even an occasional dash of humor. It is both heartfelt and inspirational. Even the title itself, which comes from one of Mr. Brown’s hits from 1970 – “Get Up,” is a call to act; an invitation to rouse oneself from lethargy.
The movie progresses from James’ younger years as a boy living in a small shack of a house with his mother and abusive father, all the

Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey, consoles a young James Brown after he is disavowed by his mother.

Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey, consoles a young James Brown after he is disavowed by his mother.

way up to the eighties when he makes a comeback after being incarcerated for a time. It makes stops along the way at the most pivotal points in his life and career, but always harks back to the formative years of his childhood; to the crucible in which James Brown, the man, was forged.
There were amazing performances besides Cadwick Boseman’s James brown as well. Most memorable was Octavia Spencer as Aunt Honey, whom young James was dropped off with after his father decided to join the army,

Viola Davis plays James Brown's mother, who seeks him out once he becomes famous.

Viola Davis plays James Brown’s mother, who seeks him out once he becomes famous.

and his mother had already deserted he and his father. Aunt Honey ran a bordello that was frequented by the young men in the armed services. Young James would help out by going out in the streets and advertising her services to potential customers.

Another great performances was given by Viola Davis who played James’ mother; a character that we end up being totally disgusted by, but who is none the less well-played.

Nelsan Ellis plays Bobby Byrd, James Brown’s best friend and right-hand man. I spent almost half of the movie trying to figure out where I knew him from, and then it hit me; this was Lafayette, the character from the HBO series, True Blood!
It is Bobby who first recognizes James’ potential, and is in a position to give him exposure. They meet in a prison where James has been incarcerated, and Bobby has come to put on a gospel

Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd.

Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd.

show with his group, which would later become The Famous Flames. Bobby manages to get him paroled from a five-to-thirteen year sentence which James has incurred for stealing a man’s suit. Although Bobby is the front man of his group, he senses intrinsically that James Brown was born to bask in the light, and graciously steps to the side.
And so begins Mr. Brown’s inevitable rise to fame.
Other notable performances were given by Dan Aykroyd, who plays James’ trusted manager, Ben Bart; and Jill Scott who plays James’ second wife, DeeDee Brown.

Twins, Jamarion and Jordan Scott give heart-tugging performances in their portrayal of the boy, James Brown.   I think that Children sometimes make the best actors in that they have the natural capacity to throw themselves fully, and without reservations, into the characters they play.

Nelsan Ellis (l.) and Chadwick Boseman (c.) perform in "Get on Up."

Nelsan Ellis (l.) and Chadwick Boseman (c.) perform in “Get On Up.”

Get On Up brings together a sublimely talented ensemble of actors who work wonderfully well with each other. I can see this movie garnishing at least three Oscars.

I could go on and on heaping the sincerest praise upon this film, but I think you get the idea!

I give Get On Up five stars:

five stars

Love Is Strange: A Movie Review

August 2, 2014

 

Director: Ira Sachs

Love_is_Strange_-_Poster                                         by Twylo Enmamud
This movie is special to me for three reasons; the first being that I am actually in it. It’s just a small non-speaking background part, but I can be seen as a guest in two scenes that come very early in the film; Ben and George’s wedding, and their reception.
The second reason is because I was granted the opportunity through media connections to see an early pre-release screening of the movie — thank you, TJ! The official release date of Love Is Strange is Friday, August 22nd.
And last, but not least; from a purely objective perspective [insert smiley face] it is a good film!
Love is strange is the story of life-long partners Ben (played by John Lithgow) and George (played by Alfred Molina) who, after being together for 39 years, are finally able to outwardly express their commitment to each other when the laws are changed allowing same-sex couples to marry. They have a lovely garden wedding, and a reception in their cozy apartment with a few of their relatives and close friends from over the years. Everything seems to be going well until George, who is their main breadwinner, loses his job; well, not so much loses it, as he is fired from it. George is the director of the music department at a distinguished catholic school.

The administration knows that he is gay, and has been with his partner, Ben, for years, but when word of his marriage gets around to the archdiocese, he is suddenly, and without fanfare terminated from his position.

Alfred Molina (l.) and John Lithgow (r.) take their vows as George & Ben.

Alfred Molina (l.) and John Lithgow (r.) take their vows as George & Ben.

 

Being a religious and humble man, George is not inclined to “act up” over his loss. While he does express his profound disappointment to the principle, he takes it on the cheek, and walks away. After firing

him, the principle professes his hope that this does not lessen George’s faith in God, and invites him to pray together before he leaves the office. George affirms that it is not his faith in God that he has lost, and summarily rejects the principles offer, stating that he would prefer to pray alone.

George gets the news that he is fired.

George gets the news that he is fired.

George’s husband, Ben, is an artist, albeit a “not very successful” one, who also collects a pension.  And although George does get a few extra bucks from teaching piano lessons after he is fired, their combined income is not enough for them to sustain the tax obligations on the condo they share in Manhattan’s West Village. They are forced to sell at a ridiculously low profit, and make alternative living arrangements till

they can find a new place.  None of their

Family and friends of Ben and George meet to discuss living arrangements for the pair.

Family and friends of Ben and George meet to discuss living arrangements for the pair.

relatives or friends can accommodate both of them together, so Ben ends up staying with his nephew Elliot, who lives in an average-sized two bedroom apartment with his wife Kate, and their son, Joey. Ben has to share a bedroom with Joey where he gets the bottom of the bunk bed.

The apartment is of course too small for them to all co/exist without starting to get on one another’s nerves.  As Ben puts it, in a telephone conversation with his wayward spouse, “When you live with people, you know them better than you care to.”

George ends up in an equally (if not more) nerve-racking situation when he moves in with

friends; a gay couple who live in the same building where he and Ben had their apartment. Ted and

Marisa Tomei as Kate tries to wake up Ben so that her son, Joey, can have some privacy in his room.

Marisa Tomei as Kate tries to wake up Ben so that her son, Joey, can have some privacy in his room.

Roberto (played respectively by Cheyenne Jackson and Manny Perez) are both cops who are in their late twenties. They often have impromptu get-togethers, parties, and loud game nights where they enthusiastically play Dungeons And Dragons, much to the chagrin of George who is in his sixties and used to a much more calm and quiet lifestyle. One night George gets so frustrated over the situation that he runs over to Elliot’s apartment in the rain crying and seeking the comfort of his husband’s arms. In the process he displaces an already disgruntled Joey to the living room sofa for the night.

Through these tenuous living arrangements director, Ira Sachs explores three generations of relationships, and their varying outlooks on life, love, friendship and making a living in a city that can often be uncompromising and unforgiving.
Alfred Molina and John Lithgow have an easy rapport with each other, and they are very

Charlie Tahan as Joey, looks on as uncle Ben paints a portrait of his best buddy, Vlad, played by Eric Tabach.

Charlie Tahan as Joey, looks on as uncle Ben paints a portrait of his best buddy, Vlad, played by Eric Tabach.

believable as the married couple George and Ben. But due to the plot twist of them having to live separately, I don’t think we see them interacting with one another enough to get a really visceral sense of their relationship. Although their feelings for one another were clearly portrayed, I found myself wanting to know more about the ins and outs of their daily life together. But perhaps this is just a matter of the director’s personal choice or style. Ira Sachs has said that he prefers the asthetic use of innuendo at times

Marisa Tomei and Darren Burrows and maried couple, kate and Elliot, share a "not so intimate" moment.

Marisa Tomei and Darren Burrows and married couple, Kate and Elliot, share a “not so intimate” moment.

instead of displaying all the graphic details in front of your face. Indeed, there are times in Love is Strange where the “technicality” of transition is forgone, and we are left suddenly with the outcome.

One such scene comes when we know that Ben and George can no longer afford the up-keep of their condo, and their future is uncertain – cut to scene of seventy-seven year old Ben waking up and climbing out of the lower section of the bunk bed he now shares with Joey. (problem solved) It sort of works –in a comical way– with this particular scene, and Sachs clearly gets across his point, but I found the results of this “cut to the chase” technique to be a bit jarring at other times.  I don’t wont to give too much of the story away, so I wont go into detail on this minor point.

But over-all, Love Is Strange is beautifully done. It is accompanied by a soundtrack that is almost

George giving a private piano lesson.

George giving a private piano lesson.

exclusively Chopin. And while this does seem to strike the right chords, I felt that the volume could have been moderated more thoughtfully at times.

Darren Burrows and Marisa Tomei put in top-notch performances as Elliot and Kate, who, in addition to having their own marital problems and having to contend with the difficulties of raising adolescent, angst-ridden son, Joey, must now also accommodate uncle Ben.
The character, Joey, played sullenly by young Charlie Tahan, seems to be the most put upon in the film. He is resentful that his privacy has been invaded, and that he has to share his room with “uncle Ben.“ And he makes no attempt to mask his annoyance. There is a scene where his best buddy, Vlad (Eric Tabach), comes over to study, but ends up on the rooftop with Ben, posing for a painting. Joey walks into the scene, annoyed, and criticizes the painting remarking, “Oh, that’s so gay.” He then insults Ben’s artistic skills,

That’s me on the left with my friend Joanna and another actor. This is a still from a short, funny video on the experience of being background actor. Click on the picture!

That’s me on the left with my friend Joanna and another actor on the set of Love Is Strange. This is a still from a short, funny video on the experience of being a background actor. Click on the picture!

and storms off in a huff. But beneath the surface, Ira Sachs’ seems to insinuate that there may be more to Joey‘s acting out than his annoyance at being inconvenienced. It may be that Joey is trying to come to terms with his own burgeoning sexual identity, and having his gay uncle constantly around is forcing him to face the issue head on.

Love Is Strange is definitely a movie that I would recommend, and not only because I’m in it. [insert winky face]

I give Love Is Strange 4 stars:

3.5 star

Superman Begins: The Man Of Steel Gets “Nolanized”

June 24, 2013

Director: Zack Snyder

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By Twylo Enmamud

Christopher Nolan has brought another superhero down to Earth (pun intended). It seems he takes delight in humanizing our otherwise idolatrized superheroes, and in doing so, makes them more accessible; a model we can more easily aspire to emulate. Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) tells his young adopted son Clark (the future Superman) at one point that each of us has it within ourselves to be a hero, that you don’t have to have special powers to do good.

But don’t get me wrong, here, this movie was actually directed by Zack Snyder of Watchmen, and 300 fame. But even though Christopher Nolan was just the producer, you can see his hand in it very clearly; the master puppeteer behind the scenes.

Kryptonite, the one infernal weakness of Superman is never introduced in this movie. The word is not spoken at all. Instead, our hero, at a crucial moment, is shielded from that which gives him strength, from that which inspires him on a biological level, our Sun, and even the Earth herself.
With the Man Of Steel, Nolan/Snyder attempts to penetrate the nearly indestructible physical shell to reveal the heart of the man in red and blue. Here we find the child who just wants to fit in; but he can never completely fit in because, as he is fully aware, he is different from the rest. Early on, Clark ( Cooper Timberline) becomes aware that he is physically far “superior” to the kids around him.

Cooper Timberline, plays a young Clark Kent with his dog.

Cooper Timberline, plays a young Clark Kent with his dog.

He is perhaps ten times as strong; his hearing is equally enhanced, and his vision is so acute that it can actually penetrate objects better than an x-ray. One might initially think these abilities would be Super cool to discover, but, in a stroke of genius, Nolan turns these super abilities against the young boy, Clark. When he is first besieged by these abilities, he cannot control them. The visions of the innards of others, of flesh and organs, and blood and skeleton are terrifying to Clark, who does not know how to stop them at first. His hearing picks up every little thing (clocks ticking, water dripping, birds chirping, chalk screeching, people whispering and laughing) and amplifies it all at once. Our young Clark is assaulted by an inescapably maddening orgy of sight and sound and seeks the temporary shelter of a dark quiet closet.

And so there is a learning curve involved with the advent of new abilities. I could not help but think that Nolan is perhaps drawing an analogy here to the governing body of our own country and unscrupulous use of surveillance cameras, wire tapping, drones and other hi-tech. Have we successfully passed the learning curve, or is all this capability driving us mad? And in what

Dylan Sprayberry saves the day as Clark at age 13.

Dylan Sprayberry saves the day as Clark at age 13.

primeval closet might we seek shelter, should it all become too much.

Nolan, in typical Nolan style, also plays on the dark side of human/super-human nature.  In another flashback to a point where Clark (Dylan Sprayberry) is thirteen, we find him on the school bus with a bunch of his fellow students.  Clark is being taunted and pushed by some of the student bullies when suddenly a tire blows out and the driver loses control.  The bus careens pass the road-guard, off a bend and plunges

Harrison Ford (l.) as Jonathan Kent councils Young Clark on the dangers of revealing his special abilities

Harrison Ford (l.) as Jonathan Kent councils Young Clark on the dangers of revealing his special abilities

headlong into a river. The bus begins to sink, and the cabin floods with water as the screaming kids struggle in vain to escape.  An onlooker calls for help on his phone then watches helplessly as the bus totally goes under. Clark, who has always been told by his father that the world was not ready to know who he is and that he should never to use his powers in front of others, experiences a dilemma; should he uses his powers to save the other kids on the bus, and risk exposure, or should he keep his secret in tact, and just let nature take its course. He hesitates momentarily, but then after watching the other kids (including young Lana) struggle to make their way to the ceiling of the bus to get what little air is left, he steps into action. Clark rips open the emergency door in the back, then goes out side the bus and pushes it out of the water and safely onto the shore. Some of the kids see what he does.  He then goes back under the water, and emerges moments later with the ring-leader (Jack Foley) of the bullies in tow.  Later, the mother of the bully that Clark saved pays a visit to the Kent

Russell Crowe (l.) and Ayelet Zurer (r.) as Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, Superman's parents, cradle their new-born child.

Russell Crowe (l.) and Ayelet Zurer (r.) as Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, Superman’s parents, cradle their new-born child.

residence.  She rambles on about how her son saw what Clark did to save the others, and how it is a miracle, and how it was not just her son who witnessed it.

Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane), of course, downplay the entire event, attributing the “miracle” the traumatized kids’ over-active imaginations. Jonathan goes to talk to his son about what happened and chastises him for using his abilities in front of others. When Clark asks him “What was I supposed to do, just let them die,” Jonathan seems conflicted for a moment, then answers, “Maybe…”

I don’t want to give too much away on this point, so, suffice it to say that Nolan

General Zod, (  Michael Shannon) and his fellow conspirators stand trial on Krypton.

General Zod, ( Michael Shannon) and his fellow conspirators stand trial on Krypton.

does not give us a pristine Superman with unsoiled hands, but one with his own short-comings, his own internal kryptonite, who has to make very tough choices with lasting consequences. Nolan’s choice for the title of this movie, “Man of Steel,” rather than something with “Superman,” in the title seems to be a reflection of his intent to bring Superman’s more human qualities to the surface.

A substantial part of this movie is actually about Superman’s home-planet, Krypton and the state of affairs that leads to the planet’s eminent destruction. Nolan gives us more background on Krypton, and, true to form, he uses it as a parallel to warn us of the evils of technology and its

Superman turns himself over to the athorities to avoid Earth's destruction by General Zod's forces.

Superman turns himself over to the authorities to avoid Earth’s destruction by General Zod’s forces.

misguided use in our own society. For centuries, the Kryptonians had tapped into their planet’s core, using it as an energy source. When Man Of Steel begins, the depletion of Krypton’s core has reached a critical stage where the planet can no longer sustain itself.

Jor-El (played commendably by Russell Crowe), a scientist, and father of the infant, Kal-El (the future Superman) has tried for years in vain to warn krypton’s governing body of the impending disaster, but they do not listen until it is too late.

Nolan’s Krypton is a planet who’s population is completely controlled by genetic engineering. Even before they are “born” every individual is genetically predisposed to carry out a particular

Amy Adams (l.) as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill (c.) as Superman taken aboard an alien vessel by Faora-Ul ( Antje Traue).

Amy Adams (l.) as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill (c.) as Superman are taken aboard an alien vessel by Faora-Ul ( Antje Traue).

function in society; whether it be scientist, artist, soldier, teacher, or whatever.

Children are no longer given birth to by their mothers, but are gestated on what might be described as “farms” which were visually depicted in a very similar way to the growth pods in the movie, “The Matrix.”

Kal-El (the future Superman) unlike his fellow-Kryptonians, is born by natural child-birth. He is the first child that has not been genetically engineered on Krypton in hundreds of years. His parents, Jor-El and

Superman and Lois Lane share a tender moment.

Superman and Lois Lane share a tender moment.

Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) keep his birth a secret. Ayelet Zurer, by the way does a great job in her role. She is a capable actor with a powerful screen presence.

The villain in this movie, General Zod (played quite zealously at times by Michael Shannon), is also delved into more deeply than in previous Superman movies. We begin to see what went into making him the person that he is. Zod was engineered to be a soldier and a leader whose basic instinct is to protect his people at any cost. This leads to his ultimate confrontation with the Man Of Steel, who as it turns out is the key to the future survival of the Kryptonian race.

Superman/Clark Kent is played by Henry Cavill, whom you might remember as Theseus from the movie Immortals a couple of years back. And although he is the main character in the movie, he

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, editor in chief of The Daily Planet.

Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, editor in chief of The Daily Planet.

doesn’t actually have that many lines; or at least not that many dramatic ones. There are plenty of fight scenes (some of which might go on a little longer than necessary) and there are some moments of introspection, but his character is low on dialogue; the strong silent type, and the rest of the movie sort of revolves around him. So, his character may not be as accessible in this regard as Nolan may have intended. But hey, he is Superman – “nuff said,” I suppose. Henry Cavill does have a

Jonathan Kent reveals Clark Kent's true origins to him.

Jonathan Kent reveals Clark Kent’s true origins to him.

certain screen presence, though. He is good looking, and has the best physique of any superman I’ve seen on screen.
Other note-worthy performances include reporter, and love interest of superman, Lois Lane, (played by Amy Adams), and

editor in chief of the Daily Planet newspaper, Perry White (played by the, always dependable, and ever exuberant, Laurence Fishburne)
I liked this take on Superman, and as always, Christopher Nolan has given us a meaningful and thoughtful story. Being a comic book fan, I think I might like to see Christopher Nolan take on the X-Men one day!

I give Man Of Steel 3 ½ stars:

3 and half star

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Movie Review

May 11, 2013

Director: Mira Nair
Based on the Novel by Mohsin Hamid

poster

By Twylo Enmamud

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is the story of Changez (played by Riz Ahmed), a brilliant young Pakistani who comes to the US on a scholarship to Princeton in search of the American dream. In the beginning, everything seem to be going well; he makes friends, finishes college, lands a job as an associate “management analyst/efficiency expert ” at a prestigious Wall Street international consulting company after being interviewed by one Jim Cross (Kiefer Sutherland), who is impressed by his seeming ambition and determination. Shortly after, he meets love interest, Erica (Kate Hudson), a budding photographer from a well to do family. But then comes the beginning of the end… 9/11.

While away with his associates on a business trip to Manilla, he turns on the television to see that the North tower has just been struck by an airplane. His face reflects the emotions of disbelief, awe, and shock, and even the hint of a smile curves the corner of his lips at one point. Then, as he watches the live report on the screen, another air craft crashes into the south tower and explodes. Aghast, his body involuntarily jerks back from the screen and his hand raises to cover his mouth.
On his return to the states, Changez has barely gotten

Riz Ahmed as Changez with love interest, Erica (played by Kate Hudson).

Riz Ahmed as Changez with love interest, Erica (played by Kate Hudson).

off the plane with his associates (His boss, Mr. Cross and friend/fellow analyst, Wainwright, an African-American) when he experiences, first hand, one of the early aftereffects of 9/11; he is profiled as a terrorist because of his race, separated from his associates –under the protests of Mr.Cross, and taken to a room where he is made to strip naked and suffer the violation of a cavity search at the hands of security. He is then questioned by federal agents who seem almost comical in their determination to wrench a terrorist confession from Changez. They accusingly question him with hellbent brows and x-ray eyes, but then after a while, having no valid reason for detaining him, they let him go .

And so begins a series of events that slowly begins to undermine the illusion of Changez’s American dream.
911

Changez is racially profiled and strip-searched (quite thoroughly).

Changez is racially profiled and strip-searched (quite thoroughly).

In another incident, there is a South Asian-looking man who stands in front of a newsstand near the corner of the office building where Changez works. There are pictures of Osama Bin laden displayed over most of the newspaper and magazine covers. The man reacts to this by preaching out loud to the passersby and causing a scene. He eventually starts cursing and yelling, and seemingly making threats to Americans in his own language. Inevitably, someone calls the police, who arrive just as the man has exited down a subway entrance. Unfortunately, Changez is leaving work about this time and passes right by the newsstand. The police, seeing a Middle-Eastern looking man, automatically follow him around a corner and arrest him. He protests, explaining that he works in the building right there, and had nothing to do with what happened. But he is cuffed, and shoved into the back seat of the police car rather unceremoniously by an African-American Cop.

Other smaller incidents occur that intensify Changez’s sense of alienation, such as; when he returns from a wedding in his homeland with a short beard & mustache. This only serves to further delineate his “terrorist profile.”

Kiefer Sutherland (l.) as boss, Jim Cross with Changez.

Kiefer Sutherland (l.) as boss, Jim Cross with Changez.

He is given sideways glances by some of his colleagues at work and, and his boss, Cross, suggests that he revert back to his old appearance. However, this suggestion is softened by the news that he has been promoted to associate partner in the company.
The one straw that really puts him over the edge, however, is when his Erica, who has been sequestered away working on a new photography/multimedia exhibit, finally announces that she is finished, and invites Changez to the grand opening gala. Changez walks in to find that the exhibit is centered on him, and that Erica has displayed pictures, and very intimate dialogue from their personal relationship all over the walls, accentuated by garish neon lighting. One of the quotes is from a private ongoing joke they share that starts

Changez and Erica at the opening of her exhibit.

Changez and Erica at the opening of her exhibit.

out “I once had a Pakistani;” another is from an intimate moment in the midst of their love-making where Changez attempts to put Erica at ease by saying, “Make-believe I’m him!” “Him,” referring to Erica’s former lover who died in a car crash just over 4 months before she and Changez met. Changez becomes furious that she would exhibit their private moments all over the walls for everyone to see. He accuses her exploiting their relationship and the fact that he is a Pakistani Muslim in the midst of a volatile social climate, but Erica doesn’t seem to understand that she’s done anything wrong, or why Changez is so upset. He retaliates with some very harsh and insensitive words, then storms out.
Changez’s resolve is further deminished when he is assigned to consult a failing publishing company in Turkey. He must decide whether the company’s performance can be improved, or its assets must be liquidated. The company’s President, Nazmi Kemal (played by Haluk Bilginer) causes him question the ethics of the work that he does, and the morality of profiting from the loss of others. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Changez with journalist/CIA informant, Bobby Lincoln ( Liev Schreiber)

Changez with journalist/CIA informant, Bobby Lincoln ( Liev Schreiber)

Changez eventually has his fill of the “American Dream” and the ignorance of bigotry. After some soul-searching, he decides to leave it all and return to his own country where he gets a job as a professor teaching Revolutionary Theory at the University of Lahore. But even there, he cannot shake the aftermath of 9/11, as a terrorist event brings it right back to his doorstep. It is from this vantage point that The character, Changez, takes us back in time to tell his story.

Shortly after his return to Pakistan, Changez is contacted by a powerful man, Adil Hussain (Mustafa Fazil), with close ties to the Taliban. Hussain offers him a chance to make a difference by joining their side in the fight. After the pain and humiliation that he‘s experienced in America,

Changez in the midst of a student protest

Changez in the midst of a student protest

Changez is almost tempted to give in to the darkness; to exorcise his anger through retribution. But after thinking it through, he comes to his senses and realizes that retribution is not the answer; that spilling more blood will only serve prolong The war on terror.

There is a short but potent scene in The Reluctant Fundamentalist where Changez has just begun his teaching job at the university. He is trying to impart to his students a sense of their own power, and what they can do to make things better in the place where they live. He relates  his experience with pursuing the “American dream” to his students,  and asks them afterward to consider, “What is the Pakistani dream?” “What is the Pakistani dream that does not involve immigrating to America?”

When all is said and done, the message we are left with is that we have to be strong

Mohsin Hamid’s book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is available at Amazon.com.

in the face of that which would consume our humanity, and that we can find a way to grow and prosper without selling our soul to the company store, or taking a side in the war on terror simply because we don’t feel strong or brave enough to stand on our own with out the support of the extremist ideology of either side. The Reluctant Fundamentalist encourages us to stand up for what we know in our hearts is right, and to meet each situation and each individual without being swayed by the ignorance of bigotry. Only then can we look beyond the external differences to the core that binds us all — our humanity. This is the true power of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. And though this movie languishes at times and the end is a bit predictable, overall, it is very effective. It delivers an array of powerful and thought-provoking scenes that are executed convincingly by a cast of capable actors.

I give The Reluctant Fundamentalist 4 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Looper: The Movie Review

September 30, 2012

Director: Rian Johnson

By TWYLO ENMAMUD

I could not pass up writing this review.   This is the movie that has taken me out of my hiatus.   And I have to say that it is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Usually with movies that involve time travel, the plot that revolves around the central theory will end up shamelessly contradicting itself.  This will tend to ruin the whole movie for me; or at the very least, leave a bad taste in my mouth.  If you are going to do sci-fi, your story should be solid, or seem “realistic” or possible within the parameters that you have set.  Looper took care of this nicely without leaving glaring holes in the theory, or plot.  But even beyond the fact that it theoretically held water, this is an awesome movie with a powerful story that really delves into the psyche of people and how they tick, and what motivates them.  It taps into the best and the worst that we can be.  It brings to light, the struggle within us between right and wrong, and our power to change the world around and within us.  This movie is hard-hitting at times; it holds no punches, and offers no apologies.

I also should mention that when I first got wind of this movie, I couldn’t quite picture Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a younger version of

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Looper, Joe.

Bruce Willis’ character.  But I have to say that there were moments when the combination of Gordon-Levitt’s make-up, facial expressions, gestures and tone just totally “reeled me in.”  I was like, “Okay, yeah, yeah! I can see it!”

As the story goes, time travel is invented 30 years in the future (or rather, 30 years in the future of the future in which our main story takes place), but is immediately banned because of its potential to do irreparable damage to the time line.  But even though the technology is banned, it manages, through private interests, to fall into the hands of a large underground criminal organization in Shanghai whose leaders use it to execute and dispose of bodies without having any traceable evidence left behind.

Our story begins in the not-so-distant dystopian future of 2042.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper.  The Loopers are a clandestine group of contracted executioners whose job it is to kill people and get rid of their bodies after they are sent back in time from about 30 years in the future.

Bruce Willis as “older Joe” enjoys a quiet moment with his wife Summer (Qing Xu) before he journeys back to the past.

Joe is pretty much a heartless, drug abusing, dashing whore-monger; a lost soul who, like his fellow loopers, was picked up from the outskirts of society and especially chosen for this work.  A Looper’s contract expires (at the behest of  “management”) when the future version of the looper is sent back through time, and the Looper unwittingly kills his future self; this is called “closing the loop.”  He is given a large sum of money for his final kill, and is free to live out the remaining 30 years, or so, of his life as he chooses.  Usually this would be a “blind kill,” as all those awaiting execution are sent back with their mouths gaged, and a sack over their heads, and are immediately shot at a precise time and place from a distance of perhaps 15 feet.  Ah, but the ever resourceful, Bruce Willis’ character manages to subdue his captors in the future, and goes into the time pod with his face uncovered so that the younger version of himself (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) will recognize him, thus giving him a window of opportunity to escape – and escape, he does!

Young Joe knows that he must track his future self

An alternate version of the Looper poster from Artist, Zachary Johnson.

down and terminate him, because he is already aware of the gruesome fate (courteously demonstrated in graphic detail — thank you Mr. Johnson!) that befalls a Looper who lets his target escape; especially if that target is himself.  But this proves easier said than done as a chance meeting with a kindred spirit causes Joe to reevaluate his motives and think beyond his selfish needs.  And things are further complicated (or advanced, if you will) by the fact that a new leader, the mysterious and powerful Rain Maker, has taken over the criminal organization that controls the Loopers from the future.  This, Rain Maker, for reasons of his own, wants to put an end to the Looper program, and so begins to systematically eradicate all the Loopers in the past by “closing all the loops.”

Other noteworthy performances include Jeff Daniels as Abe, the overseer of the Loopers in the present (2042).  He is the one who was first sent from the future to gather a team of misfit young men together and train them as Loopers.

Noah Segan convincingly plays the moronic and thoroughly unlikable, Kid Blue, a young oaf of a henchman whose soul purpose is to prove himself – albeit unsuccessfully– in the eyes of father-figure, Abe.

Pierce Gagnon plays Cid, a precocious (and somewhat creepy) 10-year-old child born with a special “gift” who may or may not be the key to helping the future Joe make things right with his time-line, and saving the love of his life, Summer Qing, who was killed when he was apprehended in the future.

Emily Blunt plays the hard-edged, street-wise Sara (Cid’s mom), who, after having

Sara (Emily Blunt) protects her son and her home.

initially abandoned him in his early life, has now struggled to raise and protect him for the past six or seven years.

A few years ago, while sitting in a theater watching Batman; The Dark Knight for the first time, I remember stopping at one point in the middle and reflecting, “Wow, this movie is amazing!”  That was the first time I recall being so taken with a movie that paused to reflect on how good it was right in the middle of viewing it.  Those feelings came back to me, though not with the same intensity, while watching Looper.  This reminds me of one of those rare lucid moments when in the midst of a dream, you step back for a moment and realize, “Hey, this is a dream, I’m dreaming now,” then you continue with the dream.  I love movies, but not a lot of them leave me feeling like I’ve been given something; like I’ve experienced something truly worthy.  Looper is such a movie.  The title could have been given a little more thought, perhaps – but that’s neither here nor

Loopers, Seth (Paul Dano) and Joe (Gordon-Levitt) ride in style!

there.  I can tell you right now that Looper is going to be a classic!  And it just might be  the best sci-fi/fantasy movie that Bruce Willis has ever been in.  But I cannot say the same for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, because he has already been in another awesome sci-fi-fan move in recent history called, “Inception.”

Kudos to director and writer, Rian Johnson, for creating an amazing sci-fi action thriller of substance, and inspiring me to write again!  I look forward to seeing what he comes up with in the future!  You can click on the movie poster above to see the trailer.  Also, check out this animated trailer from artist Zachary Johnson (Rian’s cousin) inspired by the movie.  And if any of you comes across a cool Looper movie tee-shirt, please let me know!  Peace out! – The Duster.

I give Looper 4 stars:

For Colored Girls: A Movie Review

November 21, 2010


Director: Tyler Perry

I never saw the play, “For Colored Girls…” when it came out in the seventies, and I have not read Ntozake Shange’s book adaptation, so I am judging “For Colored Girls” solely on its merit as a movie. The movie was adapted from the play, and it is centered around the trials and tribulations in the lives of seven black women who are all –for the most part– aspiring in their own way to better themselves. They come from various stations in life, mostly poor to middle-class, but they are all united by their african American ancestry, and the challenges that they must overcome. And while the struggles that Shange’s characters go through certainly are valid and reflective of the experience that many black women go through, I think that her overall perspective is a bit skewed in that she presents the black male as the source of ALL their problems. Even in the character of Jo (played by Janet Jackson) an educated, very successful black business woman who runs her own company (with a cold iron hand), we see that the only problem that stands in her way is her husband Carl, played by Omari Hardwick, who is not as successful, and somewhat of a leech who is harboring a very dangerous secret that could destroy both of them. The issue/challenge of being a female CEO, or even of being African-American in a caucasian male-dominated playing field is not addressed at all. Unfortunately there is only one black man in the movie, For Colored Girls, who comes off as anything more than a dog, and that is Hill harper who plays Donald, the supportive husband of social worker,

Donald (Hill Harper) comforts wife, Kelly (Kerry Washington).

kelly (played by Kerry Washington). Never-the-less, For Colored Girls is a very interesting, and well executed movie overall.
The Play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf (wheeew) had a very experimental format (Ntozake Shange refers to it as a “Choreopoem” in her book adaptation) wherein seven woman who are each designated by a color of the rainbow tell their stories by reciting a series of poems, and at the end they bring their stories together in a ritualistic female bonding. Now the movie itself tries to mix straight story and dialogue with individual poetic recitation. And for the most part, this style of delivery works, but there are a couple of glaring exceptions where the switch between dialogue and soliloquy just doesn’t work at all, and ends up dragging the movie down. This is most evident in the case of the character Nyla, played by Tessa Thompson. Nyla is a young teenager perhaps 17. She is a very talented dancer who takes classes at a local school. Early in the movie there is a scene where she and a group of other students are sitting around doing warm-up stretches at the studio before the teacher (Anika Noni Rose) arrives. They are

Ntozake Shange's book adapted from the play.

laughing and joking and talking about “boys'” the way you might expect teenage girls to do. Then at one point, Nyla launches into her soliloquy, and she drones on for a good six or seven minutes about having a sexual experience with five brothers at the same time on the night of her high school graduation prom. She stretches and bends, and her body arcs with pleasure as she recounts the experience to her captivated peers who giggle and make snide remarks, but the content and duration of her speech seem too heavy and drawn out for her to carry as a soliloquy. I don’t know whether it was the content of her soliloquy, or her delivery, or the way it isolated her from the other actors around her and the scene itself; but it came off as very sluggish, and I found myself not particularly caring about what she was saying, and waiting for her recitation to be over. I do not mean to say that Tessa Thompson did a bad acting job, because that was not the case at all. Throughout the rest of the movie you can clearly see that she is a talented actor. But perhaps her soliloquy would have worked better if it were totally removed from the scene some how. Classically when you have a soliloquy in a play, either the actor is alone, or there is a spotlight on the actor while the other actors are shrouded in darkness.
Now, at the other end of this spectrum was Lorretta Devine, who plays the character, Juanita. Juanita is a mature black woman who spearheads an outreach program for the women in her community. She wants to empower and educate women on issues of sexuality, AIDS, motherhood, employment, etc. But even as she reaches out to help other women, she

Juanita (Lorretta Devine) hears yet another excuse from boyfriend Frank (Richard Lawson).

herself must deal with the issue of needing a man in her life in order to validate her worth as a woman.
Now, it may have been the luck of the draw, but Devine’s transition from dialogue into soliloquy was damn near flawless. She totally enraptures you with the heart-felt portrayal of her character, and she manages to pull off her soliloquies without isolating the other actors, or the audience.
Other notable performances were given by Woopie Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and kimberly Elise.
Whoopi Goldberg plays Alice, the religious fanatic mother of Tangie and Nyla. Her character is not quite what I am used to seeing from Whoopi. When she is not being intentionally funny or satirical, Whoopi’s characters are usually even keel and serious-minded; sometimes espousing great wisdom. But Alice is quite loony, and not in a funny way. She is the extreme of all those black, church-going, Good Book-thumping, holier-than-thou

Tangie (Thandie Newton) is chastised by her mother, Alice (Whoopi Goldberg)

condemnationists who see Satan’s work everywhere around them; the type of person that becomes thoroughly submersed in God and religion in order to bury the darkness that they feel within themselves.
Alice’s daughter, Tangie, is an emotionally numb and uncaring nymphomaniac whose self-esteem is intimately linked to her ability to lure men into her bed and then discard them. She is afflicted with the perspective of the stereotypical male. Tangie is portrayed convincingly and unapologetically by Thandie Newton. There is a visually stunning scene where Tangie faces-off

Tessa Thompson as Nyla

with her mother and has a revelation about her life. She is sitting on a wooden chair scantily clad in a peach-colored robe. She is slightly hunched forward, her hands resting on her knees. Her legs are open, and her feet are planted solidly on the floor. She is emotionally, mentally and physically spent, and the scene is very much reminiscent of a Lawrence Jacob painting. Here Newton and Goldberg, who is sitting exhausted on the floor behind her to the right with her back resting against a wall, do a sort of double soliloquy, a two-person poetic recitation, which is an interesting idea in theory, but doesn’t pan out quite well–Whoopi’s part is a bit weak. I like Whoopi Goldberg as an entertainer, but I am not a huge fan of her acting.
Phylicia Rashad plays nosey neighbor, Gilda. She is the one who brings wisdom to bear on the drama and proceedings in the lives of the various “colored” women. Rashad actually plays the role that I would have expected to see Whoopi playing, and she plays it with a well-seasoned ease.
kimberly Elise gives a spectacular performance as Crystal, the physically abused mother of two very young children who works hard and tries her very best

Crystal (Kimberly Elise) sees the light.

to hold-out and keep her family together, hoping that her alcoholic, total loser-of-a-man (played by Michael Ealy) will “come around” and be the man that she believes in… but she learns too late that there comes a time when we have to stop holding our breath.
And last, but not least, I have to say a bit more about Janet Jackson in this movie. Miss. Jackson, as mentioned earlier, plays Jo. First of all, Jackson’s soliloquy was the highlight of her whole performance; as well a soliloquy should be. The camera just zoomed right on into her face, and her gorgeous hunk of a husband Carl (played by Omari Hardwick) whom she had been talking to, was totally left out of the frame. The rest of Miss Jackson’s performance; however, particularly that of high-powered CEO, left a bit more to be desired. Now it is quite possible that I was distracted by the bizarre feeling that Michael Jackson’s ghost was lurking behind almost every shot of Janet’s face. It was almost like looking at a female version of Michael. The stoic and almost

Jo (Janet Jackson) with husband Carl (Omari Hardwick).

androgynous appearance of Janet’s character certainly did nothing to distract from this bizarre perception. Jo comes off as an emotionally distant and alienating woman, very uptight and a bit of a bitch. In the beginning, she does not relate well to other –less successful– colored women, or the struggles that they may face. Her whole attitude is “I had the same challenges as a black woman that they did, and I managed to become successful so they should be able to do the same.” When Juanita (Lorretta Devine) comes to her seeking funding for a community project, Jo’s reply is very much, I gave at the office.
The women portrayed in For Colored Women have a variety of tumultuous issues to deal with that run the gamut from rape to abortion, to HIV, to bad relationships and religious fanaticism, and a mother’s worse nightmare. But by the end of the movie, these women begin to see the light beyond their trials and tribulations, and they begin to find strength and solace in the powerful bond of sisterhood that unites them all.

from left: Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Lorretta Devine, Tessa Thompson and Thandie Newton

In spite of its negative portrayal of African-American men, I would still recommend seeing the movie For Colored Girls. It has a very unique and creative delivery, and lots of good performances. I love poetry in general, and I will definitely be checking out the book. Let me know what you think!

I give For Colored Girls 3 1/2 hits:

Ten Haiku

August 3, 2010
Diaphanous clouds
Diffuse the soft light of your
Creamy white fullness

Always stay with me
Even as you drift away
Into other dreams

Sweet sauce on my lips
I am stuffed to my limit
And, ooh, so thankful

Old man winter, please
Give up the ghost already
Go into the light!

Cast through bedroom shades
Just before dawn, moon shadows
Dance on barren walls

Here, he passed me by…
Tell-tale blood drops washed away
By tears from heaven

Unprecedented
Change is inaugurated.
Hopefully not too late.

Faces now and then
Again in time, take us back…
Now, then, where were we?

Chocolate cordials
Melting lover’s hearts away…
Sweetness fills the air

How lovely she is;
Slither of brilliance against
A cobalt blue sky

These are a few haiku that I have written over the course of a year. My favorite one is “Chocolate Cordials.” I like them all for various reasons, but I think “Chocolate Cordials” captures the essence of haiku more fully than the others. I wrote it for Valentine’s day. One of the main ideas that haiku strives for is the economy of words. Because of their confined structure, it is essential that haiku express the most thought or feeling with the fewest words possible. Also important is imagery. Haiku should evoke visual imagery that stays in your mind after you read it.
In addition, classic haiku usually gives give you a sense of season or nature. And of course, our modern (western)version of the Japanese haiku is typically composed of three lines of five, seven and five syllables.
Haiku capture a fleeting moment; a sensation or experience, an emotion or sentiment that might otherwise be forgotten in the course of a day.
Another of my favorites is “Cast Through Bedroom Shades.” It captures a very poignant visual, and plays subtly on the emotions. For me it evokes a sense of longing.
I wrote “Sweet Sauce On My Lips” partly for fun. This was my Thanksgiving Haiku.
Haiku is a very interesting form of poetry. It may seem very simple, and perhaps elementary at first, but the more you work with this form, the deeper you get into it, and the more it challenges you.
Anyway, let me know what you think of these, and feel free to leave some of your own Haiku here!

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