REVIEW: WHEN THEY SEE US

When They See Us (2019)

Starring

Caleel Harris (Goosebumps 2)
Jovan Adepo (Mother!)
Chris Chalk (Gotham)
Kylie Bunbury (Game Night)
Aunjanue Ellis (The Help)
Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel)
Felicity Huffman (Cake)
John Leguizamo (Kick-Ass 2)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Michael K. Williams (12 Years a Slave)

When They See Us (2019)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUESTCASY

William Sadler (Iron Man 3)
Aurora Perrineau (Truth or Dare)
Blair Underwood (Agents of SHIELD)
Joshua Jackson (Fringe)
Omar Dorsey (Our House)
Suzzanne Douglas (School of Rock)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Christopher Jackson (Moana)
Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus)
Storm Reid (12 Years a Slave)
Adepero Oduye (Geostorm)
Dascha Polanco (Orange Is The New Black)

Marquis Rodriguez in When They See Us (2019)When They See Us,  premiering on Netflix, is the kind of miniseries you get when the right showrunner assembles the right team and right performers with the unequivocating intent to correct an important story that many people still get wrong. In this case, the celebrated producer, director and screenwriter Ava DuVernay (“Selma”; “Queen Sugar”) takes on the injustice of what happened to the Central Park Five — four African American men and one Hispanic man who, as teenagers, were rounded up, taken to a police precinct office and coerced into saying they brutally assaulted and raped a white woman who was jogging in Central Park one evening in April 1989.When They See Us (2019)There was never any physical evidence that they did. The boys, who ranged in age from 14 to 16, confessed after many hours of coercion, intimidation and threats from detectives; two of the boys were separately urged by their fathers to tell the police what they wanted to hear. In media coverage, the boys were compared to savages who took part in a “wilding” crime spree. The real estate mogul Donald Trump took out newspaper ads to demand their execution. The boys — Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray — were found guilty on some of the charges in a 1990 trial. They spent between six and 13 years in detention centers and prisons. As everyone ought to know by now, the jogger’s true attacker confessed in 2002 and his DNA matched the physical evidence. A state Supreme Court vacated the Central Park Five’s sentences on the district attorney’s recommendation. As adults, the five men sued the city and finally reached a $41 million settlement in 2014When They See Us (2019)If the next words that occur to you are “Yes, but what about the victim?” (meaning the jogger, Trisha Meili, who wrote a memoir and still publicly expresses her doubt about a lone attacker, as well as her disappointment that the city agreed to a settlement), then it seems you have two options, 30 years later: You can absorb what “When They See Us” is trying to tell you, or you can retreat comfortably back to the open-shut templates of “Law & Order” reruns.When They See Us (2019)Split into four episodes, DuVernay’s approach bluntly but successfully turns this story inside-out, borrowing the look of true-crime dramas while discarding the genre’s usual tropes. It focuses primarily on the boys, their families and the irreparable effects of their jailing. Rather than lionize them, it goes one better and humanizes them. As the title suggests, it’s all about how they were seen, and, by extension, how most minority teenage boys are still often seen — not as children and young citizens, but as potential thugs. The series is deftly attuned to context, portraying a late-’80s New York that seethes with mob mentality when it comes to solving and prosecuting this particular crime — which, to be sure, was both heinous and infuriating. This is a drama about modern lynching; rather than leading to a noose and branch, it follows the Central Park Five on a ruinous trip through a penal system that finds ways to punish inmates even after they’re paroled.SEI_70399735In tone and execution, “When They See Us” fits somewhere between John Ridley’s underwatched ABC anthology “American Crime,” which also subverted the procedural genre in revealing ways, and Ryan Murphy’s FX hit “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” which taught viewers a thing or two about the effects of time and context. Without any background primer, the first episode moves quickly through the night of the crime and the days after, beginning with the adolescent lure of watching a group of one’s peers decide, in the moment, to head off to Central Park on a spring evening. The pace and dialogue are not expository, nor do they provide much time to get to know the boys intimately as characters. (That comes later.) The young actors playing the teens (Jharrel Jerome as Korey; Ethan Herisse as Yusef; Caleel Harris as Antron; Asante Blackk as Kevin; Marquis Rodriguez as Raymond) ably convey the confusion and panic of being misidentified, hauled in and falsely accused.la-1559144992-gzayf72d4e-snap-imageFelicity Huffman (talk about timing) plays Linda Fairstein, the newly appointed head of the district attorney’s sex-crimes unit, who arrives at the crime scene not long after an unconscious, nearly dead Meili was discovered. “When They See Us” is unsparing in the way it portrays Fairstein pushing detectives to make the case fit the wilding narrative. You better believe DuVernay is in no mood to re-litigate, build a Wikipedia page or pay lip service to anybody’s doubts. Here, in this telling, the cops are almost always corrupt, Fairstein is menacingly reckless and the prosecutor (Vera Farmiga as Elizabeth Lederer) lucks out in the second episode with a jury willing to convict the boys based on the videotaped confessions alone.WTSU_102_Unit_01838R-1This swift treatment of the crime and the trial allows DuVernay and her co-writers(Robin Swicord, Attica Locke, Yusuf Hassan and Michael Starrbury) to spread their wings in the series’ second half: Once the headlines die down, the boys become men — first languishing behind bars and then, after most of them make parole, trying to put their lives back together. The story of their parents and family (with fine performances from Niecy Nash, John Leguizamo and Michael K. Williams, among others) also begin to take shape. The showstopper comes in the fourth episode, as Korey, who was tried and convicted as an adult rather than as a juvenile, embarks on a violently terrifying, dozen-year journey through the state prison system, which includes a long detour into solitary confinement and a heartbreaking, hallucinatory (yet artfully envisioned) glimpse of his past and present. Jerome, the only actor in the series to play both the teen and adult versions of his character, gives a remarkable performance, as the system beats Korey down to the mental equivalent of rubble and he emerges as an entirely different man. When the news of his freedom comes — and the series reaches its full, swelling sense of the miraculous — the viewer will finally understand his or her part in all this: All that’s being asked of us is to see.

 

REVIEW: THE RESIDENT

Starring

Hilary Swank (Logan Lucky)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Losers)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
Aunjanue Ellis (Quantico)
Christopher Lee (Sleepy Hollow)
Nana Visitor (Star Trek: DS9)
Michael Massee (The Amzing SPider-Man)
Michael Badalucco (In My Sleep)

Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in The Resident (2011)Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank), an emergency room surgeon, rents an apartment in New York City from Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Juliet has recently broken up with her boyfriend Jack (Lee Pace) after she caught him having an affair, but she still has feelings for him. Unbeknownst to Juliet, someone is stalking her, observing her from across the street and apparently entering her apartment.Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Lee Pace in The Resident (2011)At a party, Juliet bumps into Max and flirts with him. As they walk home, Jack follows them from across the street. Juliet attempts to kiss Max, but he pulls back. They later go on a date. A flashback reveals that Max is the one stalking Juliet. He has rebuilt her apartment to include secret passageways and a one-way mirror, which he can use to watch her. Juliet breaks off her romantic relationship with Max because of her feelings for Jack. Max continues to observe Juliet and watches her and Jack have sex. Afterwards, he begins drugging Juliet’s wine so he can be closer to her while she is unconscious. After oversleeping for the third time in two weeks, Juliet becomes suspicious that she may have been drugged and has security cameras installed in her room.After a date with Juliet, Jack is attacked and injured by Max. That night, Max drugs Juliet and attempts to rape her while she sleeps, but she awakens and he flees after giving her an injection. The next morning, Juliet finds the cap from the hypodermic needle. At work she has her blood and urine analyzed and discovers high levels of Demerol and other drugs. She rushes back home and finds Jack’s possessions there but no sign of him. A nightshirt of hers is in a location where she did not leave it. She checks the security camera footage and sees Max assaulting her.Max enters her apartment and tries to get her to drink some wine, but she refuses. He then assaults her, attempting to stab her with a hypodermic. She gets away and locks herself in the bathroom, but Max breaks in through the bathroom mirror and pulls her into one of the secret passageways. During the process of trying to hide from Max she finds Jack’s body, who has been murdered by Max. In the end Juliet fatally shoots Max in the head with a nail gun, and escapes.You pretty much know whats going to happen about 30 minutes in, as this kind of voyeuristic thriller has been done on countless occasions. But it bounces along at a rapid pace and without the audience getting bored.

REVIEW: UNDERCOVER BROTHER

UNDERCOVER

CAST
Eddie Griffin (The New Guy)
Chris Kattan (House on Haunted Hill)
Denise Richards (Valentine)
Aunjanue Ellis (Sleepy Hollow)
Dave Chappelle (Half Baked)
Chi McBride (Human Target)
Neil Patrick Harris (Starship Troopers)
Gary Anthony Williams (The Internship)
Billy Dee Williams (Batman 1989)
Jack Noseworthy (Surrogates)
J.D. Hall (Fatal Attraction)
Shauna MacDonald (Reign)
The film begins with a back story of how black culture’s popularity with the American public began to decline in the 1980s, when style and originality began to lose appeal in the public eye due to the persistent efforts of “The Man” (Robert Trumbull), a powerful Caucasian man in control of a secret organization that seeks to undermine the African-American community as well as the cultures of other minorities. The Man is infuriated that Gen. Warren Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams), a U.S. Army general based on Colin Powell, is considering running for president, and his lackey Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) informs him of a mind control drug which The Man uses to make Boutwell abort his plans and instead open a fried chicken franchise. The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., a secret organization that battles The Man’s influence, determines The Man is behind Boutwell’s change of heart, and recruits a freelance agent named Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin) to aid them.
Undercover Brother joins B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. which is made up of the Chief (Chi McBride), Conspiracy Brother (Dave Chappelle), Smart Brother (Gary Anthony Williams), Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), and Lance (Neil Patrick Harris), an intern who is the only white man in the organization due to affirmative action. Undercover Brother goes undercover as a new employee at a cigarette company owned by The Man, where Mr. Feather discovers his identity. He deploys a secret weapon that he calls “Black Man’s Kryptonite”, an attractive assassin named White She-Devil (Denise Richards). Posing as another new employee, she and Undercover Brother start dating, and she begins to make him do stereotypical “white” things, such as buying corduroy and khaki clothes, singing karaoke, and adopting a silly set of euphemisms. Meanwhile, The Man distributes his mind control drug through Boutwell’s fried chicken, infecting other black celebrities and making them act white.
Concerned with Undercover Brother’s unusual behavior, Sistah Girl attacks White She-Devil and convinces Undercover Brother to return to the fight. White-She-Devil turns on her own henchmen to save the two, revealing she has fallen in love with Undercover Brother. They return to the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., where Smart Brother questions White She-Devil about The Man and Lance is officially made part of the group when he declares his desire to abolish bigotry after watching Roots. The group heads to an awards gala after they find out that James Brown is The Man’s next target. Mr. Feather kidnaps Brown and takes him to The Man’s base. B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. secures an antidote for the mind control drug and follows via a transmitter placed on Brown, infiltrating the base posing as a cleaning crew, to rescue Brown and a mysterious “Candidate” that The Man plans to use to land a crushing blow to black culture.
Mr. Feather prepares to administer the drug to Brown and present him as a trophy to The Man, and Brown reveals himself as Undercover Brother in disguise. Mr. Feather sends his henchmen after B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., who discover the Candidate is Boutwell, and is ordered by Mr. Feather to kill Undercover Brother. In the fighting, Conspiracy Brother accidentally begins the building’s self-destruct sequence. The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. cures Boutwell and evacuate him from the building while Undercover Brother chases Mr. Feather to the roof. The Man’s helicopter circles overhead and leaves, The Man abandoning Mr. Feather for failing him. Mr. Feather jumps onto the helicopter’s landing gear as it flies away, and Undercover Brother uses his afro picks to impale Mr. Feather in the buttocks, causing him to fall into the ocean, where he is eaten by a shark. However, The Man escapes. Undercover Brother survives the building’s self-destruct by leaping off the building and using his wide pants legs as parachutes. He and Sistah Girl kiss and leave the island, the world at peace
Neil Patrick Harris is the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.’s token white guy  and he is extremely funny. This isn’t Denise Richards’ finest performance by a long shot. Basically, everybody is funny in this movie especially Undercover Brother, Smart Brother and Conspiracy Brother. It’s a fun movie to watch.

REVIEW: FREEDOMLAND

CAST
Julianne Moore (Hannibal)
Samuel L. Jackson (Iron Man)
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)
Ron Eldard Super 8)
William Forsythe (The Rock)
Aunjanue Ellis (Sleepy Hollow TV)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Clarke Peters (Jessica Jones)
Dorian Missick (The Cape)
Aasif Mandvi (The Proposal)
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Brenda (Julianne Moore) walks through a predominantly African American housing project and enters an emergency room, apparently in shock and with cut and bleeding hands. Police detective Lorenzo Council (Samuel L. Jackson) is sent to take a statement from Brenda, who says that her car has been stolen. When Lorenzo gets there, she reveals that her young son, Cody, was in the back seat of the car. The police frantically begin searching for Cody.
Brenda’s brother, Danny (Ron Eldard), a police officer in a neighboring town, calls a massive police presence in to search the housing project for clues. This angers the residents who protest their innocence. Lorenzo begins to suspect that Brenda is holding back details from him and pressures her to tell the truth. She insists that she has told the truth and would never harm her son. With a sketch artist she produces a picture of the man she says stole her car. Danny’s white coworkers arrest a man from the housing project who they think matches the picture. Danny flies into a rage and beats him.
Desperate to find Cody, Lorenzo enlists the aid of a volunteer group which helps search for missing children. He suggests that they search Freedomland, an abandoned foundling hospital nearby. As they search, the group’s leader Karen Collucci (Edie Falco) talks with Brenda. Collucci had lost her own son years before and convinces Brenda to admit that Cody is dead. She leads them to a nearby park where they find Cody’s body in a shallow grave, covered with heavy rocks.
Lorenzo realizes that Brenda could not have moved the rocks herself. Under interrogation Brenda admits to having been engaged in an affair with a man named Billy (Anthony Mackie) who lived in the projects. She would give Cody cough syrup so that he would fall asleep and she could visit Billy. On the night in question she had returned to find Cody dead, having drunk a whole bottle of cough syrup. Billy helped her bury his body. When the police go to arrest Billy, they are confronted by residents angry over previous unfounded police harassment and a riot erupts. Brenda is charged with criminal neglect, and Lorenzo promises to visit her in jail.
Freedomland-film-images-398ff5ca-89eb-4819-ab7d-898e20339ce
On the whole a good movie. Samuel L Jackson gives a good performance.
The film deals with a number of hard topics (missing children, race riots) which wax executed really well.