REVIEW: POINT BLANK (2019)

Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie in Point Blank (2019)

Starring

Anthony Mackie (Pain & Gain)
Frank Grillo (The Purge: Election Year)
Marcia Gay Harden (The Mist)
Christian Cooke (Love, Rosie)
Teyonah Parris (Empire)
Boris McGiver (Taxi)

It’s hard not to like Point Blank, the new Netflix movie starring MCU foes Anthony Mackie and Frank Grillo as a mismatched pair who take on a group of crooked cops led by Marcia Gay Harden. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure you watch on a Sunday afternoon with your brother or your roommate or whoever, and no one complains afterwards. Does it break any new ground? Well, no, but Mackie and Grillo share a certain chemistry that makes this an appealing action movie, especially at 80 minutes. And yes, that brief running time (sans credits) tells you all you really need to know. This is a modest time investment, and for action junkies and fans of buddy movies, its rewards are modest as well.Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie in Point Blank (2019)The film opens with a solid chase scene that ends with a painful surprise before we’re quickly introduced to Paul (Mackie), an ER nurse, and his pregnant wife, Taryn (Teyonah Parris). Within a span of 10 minutes, Paul is beaten up twice, and Taryn is kidnapped. If Paul wants her back, he’ll have to free an injured criminal named Abe (Grillo), who is under his care. This lovable tough guy is wanted for murder by the same corrupt cops he’s been trying to expose. In classic buddy movie fashion, the odd couple of Paul and Abe are forced to team up and fight for their lives, as well as those of their loved ones. What little plot there is besides that is doled out via quick flashbacks that hint at Abe’s backstory and why he’s in such trouble at the start of the film. I mean, if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you pretty much know what you’re getting here. So, how’s the action, you’re wondering?Frank Grillo and Anthony Mackie in Point Blank (2019)While there are some cool fight scenes in Point Blank, including one set inside of a car wash, and an effective ‘escape the hospital’ sequence, the action wasn’t quite as inventive as what director Joe Lynch pulled off with Everly, his 2014 movie starring Salma Hayek that was largely set inside of a single apartment. Again, the script by Adam G. Simon allows for some fun shootouts and car chases, but nothing you’ll really remember a few weeks later. The other issue I had was that the tone of these action sequences varies from scene to scene. At times, it feels like Point Blank is struggling to choose whether to be a fun buddy film or a gritty action movie. Even its soundtrack is a bit schizophrenic like that, ranging from punk bands like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys to rap legends like Grandmaster Flash and Eazy E, all the way to classic rock, courtesy of Whitesnake. That’s a fun group of artists, no doubt, but they don’t exactly seem to be of a piece, if you catch my drift.point-blank-frank-grillo-anthony-mackie-netflix-trailerPoint Blank is Mackie’s fourth Netflix project this year following IO, the Black Mirror episode Striking Vipers, and the upcoming second season of Altered Carbon. He’s a solid attraction for the streaming service, and I understand why he’d want to topline his own action movie after playing a supporting role in the MCU. But, to be honest, he’s kind of coasting here. I think Mackie is a brilliant actor, and the truth is, he’s just better than this material, which probably wouldn’t have been greenlit at other studios because it isn’t quite ‘big’ enough. When you get right down to it, this is a seven-person cast (I almost forgot the film buff gangster played by Markice Moore). It’s shot to feel bigger than it really is, which is a testament to Lynch’s ability to accomplish a lot with a little. Point Blank is based on a 2010 French film of the same name, and as Mackie knows all too well with Miss Bala, sometimes these English-language remakes are easier said than done.Point-Blank-Netflix-PreviewGrillo is great at playing a certain type, and fortunately, it’s the type of guy he plays in Point Blank. A take-no-shit kind of guy. He does exactly what is asked of him in this role, but the writing doesn’t exactly help make his character more memorable. Fans of Grillo’s other Netflix action movie Wheelman will love Point Blank, which represents a step up from that film. But I believe Grillo is a more soulful actor — see Warrior and The Grey as proof — and I do wish he was allowed to imbue some of these tough-guy characters with an softer side, though obviously, Abe’s bond with his brother Mateo (Christian Cooke) is what drives his character in this film. So while I’m pumped to see Grillo’s upcoming macho movies Boss Level and Black and Blue, I’m also looking forward to his coming-of-age drama Once Upon a Time in Staten Island, which was produced by Blumhouse in a departure from their horror brand.Point-Blank-2019-Netflix-Movie-Download-Full-Hindi-English-Dubbed-Dual-Audio-720p-HD-WEB-DL-x264-DD5.1-MSubs-1Speaking of Grillo’s brother, he’s played by Christian Cooke, an actor who has been working steadily for the past 20 years, but who has never really broken through as far as U.S. audiences are concerned. The closest he’s come was a lead role in the Starz series Magic City, but not many people actually watched that show. He’s actually pretty good as Grillo’s kid brother, and I liked his somewhat manic work here. Hopefully, it leads to more opportunities for the young English actor. Cooke spends the majority of his scenes working with up-and-coming actress Teyonah Parris from Mad Men and If Beale Street Could Talk, who plays Mackie’s pregnant wife. Again, there’s not a whole lot for her to do here besides act pregnant and give Mackie someone to fight for, but as such, she gets the job done.00698ddaAs for the bad guys, Oscar winner Harden is clearly slumming it here, but she seems to be enjoying every minute of it, hamming it up as the most crooked of all the cops. She’s working in ‘big’ mode here, like The Mist and the Fifty Shades franchise, and I suppose it suits her at this stage of her career. She’s aided by Boris McGiver, who happens to be one of my favorite character actors, having played Tom Hammerschmidt on Netflix’s own House of Cards. I’m a huge personal fan of both Mackie and Grillo, both of whom I’d watch in just about anything, but I won’t lie and say this movie is awesome, because it’s not. It’s a little generic, and at 80 minutes, thin on both story and character development. But, as I wrote above, it gets the job done if you’re an action junkie looking for a quick fix. Point Blank offers likable leads, an Oscar-winning villain, and no shortage of bad words, which may just be enough to liven up a sleepy streaming sessio

REVIEW: TRINKETS – SEASON 1

Kiana Madeira, Brianna Hildebrand, and Quintessa Swindell in Trinkets (2019)

Starring

Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool)
Kiana Madeira (Sacred Lies)
Quintessa Swindell (Granada Nights)
Brandon Butler (13 Reasons Why)
Odiseas Georgiadis (The Perfect Date)
Larry Sullivan (Big Little Lies)
Dana Green (Tenfold)

Trinkets (2019)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Henry Zaga (The New Mutants)
Larisa Oleynik (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jessica Lynn Skinner (American Vandal)
Haley Tju (Big Hero 6: The Series)
Linden Ashby (Teen Wolf)
Joy Bryant (Honey)

Kiana Madeira in Trinkets (2019)Trinkets isn’t offensive or overly political, but it’s not particularly original either. It feels like a well-worn concept driven into the ground and despite some nice plot beats and all the usual teen angst you’d expect from a show like this, Trinkets fails to really stand out next to so many others. It’s not as shocking as 13 Reasons Why nor are its characters as charismatic or memorable as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It doesn’t have the same binge-factor as Gossip Girl and it certainly doesn’t have the craziness of Riverdale or The Runaways. What we’re left with then is a show that’s neither here nor there, existing somewhere in the realm of mediocrity and never quite doing enough to rise out of it.Brianna Hildebrand in Trinkets (2019)The story here predominantly revolves around 3 different girls from very different walks of life, coming together at a Shoplifters Anonymous group and forming a tight-knit bond at school. It’s not quite The Breakfast Club but the concept is more or less the same, as the girls slowly shed their facade and start to come into their own as they open up to one another. A bombshell reveal from Elodie does shake things up a little and certainly nods toward recent trends but again, it’s nothing particularly original or new that hasn’t been depicted on screen before. Of course, given the target market there are some pretty big cliches here, stemming from Elodie as the new girl at school with a troubled past. Tabitha has relationship problems but pretends everything’s okay to keep up her perfect social media facade while Moe has problems of her own but plays off the angry, lone-wolf character.Brianna Hildebrand and Quintessa Swindell in Trinkets (2019)As the story progresses, each of the girls see a fair amount of drama injected into their lives and while there is an overarching story tying everything together, most episodes have their own standalone stories. Whether it be Tabitha celebrating her birthday on a cruise boat or preparing for an upcoming school dance, there’s a variety of different ideas here that do well to keep things relatively interesting. There’s certainly potential here though and the 30 minute length for each episode is perfectly paced to keep you hanging on for the next episode to see what happens. Perhaps it’s just me, given the wealth of TV content I cover every week, but Trinkets doesn’t really have that X Factor to make it anything but a formulaic teen drama.Kiana Madeira, Brianna Hildebrand, and Quintessa Swindell in Trinkets (2019)Having said all that, Trinkets is perfectly fine as a show. It has some good twists and a few nice little moments but despite being listed as a comedy, this one plays out much closer to teen-orientated melodrama. The three girls do have some good chemistry together and I can see this being one of those shows that people watch happily but just as quickly forget about. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – not everything will be an A+ out the gate, but Trinkets feels like a painting by numbers picture. It’s very cagey, very formulaic and very difficult to recommend next to so many others in the genre. Trinkets is simply okay, and it appears okay with just being okay.

REVIEW: MURDER MYSTERY

Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in Murder Mystery (2019)

Starring

Adam Sandler (Mr. Deeds)
Jennifer Aniston (Horrible Bosses)
Luke Evans (The Girl on The Train)
Gemma Arterton (Byzantium)
Terence Stamp (Superman II)
David Walliams (Little Britain)
Luis Gerardo Méndez (Charlie’s Angels)
Dany Boon (Radin!)
Nicole Randall Johnson (The 40 Year Old Virgin)
Allen Covert (The Wedding Singer)

Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, and Dany Boon in Murder Mystery (2019)Nick Spitz is a New York police officer and his wife Audrey is a hairdresser. Audrey wants to go to Europe as Nick promised them, but with their 15th wedding anniversary coming up, she thinks they will never go. She confronts him on this and he lies that he has booked the trip for the celebration. Due to that, he quickly books the trip. On the plane, Audrey meets billionaire Charles Cavendish who invites the couple to join him on his family’s yacht for a party. Nick reluctantly agrees to it.Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, and Luis Gerardo Méndez in Murder Mystery (2019)On the yacht, Nick and Audrey meet Cavendish’s ex-fiancée Suzi, his cousin Tobey, actress Grace Ballard, Colonel Ulenga, his bodyguard Sergei, the maharaja Vikram, race car driver Juan Carlos, and finally Malcolm Quince, Cavendish’s uncle, the owner of the boat, and host of the party. Quince announces that Suzi (his current fiancée much to Cavendish’s displeasure) is the only one to make the will believing the others to want him just for money. Before he can sign the will, the lights go out and when they come back on, Quince is found dead stabbed by his own dagger.Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler in Murder Mystery (2019)Nick (who has faked being a detective for Audrey’s sake) orders the room be locked and the guests return to their rooms. Later that night, the guests find Tobey dead from an apparent suicide. Upon arriving in Monte Carlo, the guests are questioned by Inspector Laurent Delacroix who believes Nick and Audrey are guilty of the murders and later orders a manhunt on them. At the Monaco Grand Prix, Nick and Audrey question the guests and that night, Sergei summons them to his room where he reveals Quince had another child who apparently died. When someone knocks on the door, the couple hide and when they come out, they find Sergei has been murdered. They flee and Audrey finds out Nick is not a detective and lied about booking the trip in advance. She is furious and leaves with Cavendish.Nick follows Suzi to a library where he finds Audrey who reveals Cavendish is in the building as well. They realize Cavendish and Suzi are secretly in love and assume they are the culprits. A hidden gunman begins shooting and the couple flee where they are met by Juan Carlos and confronted by Suzi who is then killed by a dart. She tried to motion out who the killer was, but only motioned out being spoon fed and a claw. Not sure what that means. Nick injures the killer who gets away. Nick and Audrey then go to Quince’s mansion to confront Cavendish on the murders, but find him dead from a poisoning.Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, and Dany Boon in Murder Mystery (2019)The couple summon Delacroix and the remaining guests (Ulenga, Grace, Vikram, and Juan Carlos). They all have alibis remaining they were two murderers. The couple deduce that Grace is the murderer who had help from Tobey, then killed him. Grace reveals that she is the child that “died” and that Quince’s money truly belongs to her. She denies being the killer, but Nick proves it and she is arrested. While celebrating, Nick and Audrey learn that she had another alibi meaning that there is another killer. They realize that Juan Carlos is the other killer wanting revenge against Quince who he blames for his father’s death. Juan Carlos kidnaps Delacroix causing Nick and Audrey to engage him in a car chase, but they are able to get the car to crash rescuing Delacroix. Juan Carlos then holds them all at gunpoint, but he is then killed by a speeding bus. Delacroix thanks the couple and offers to help get Nick elected as detective. As a thanks, Delacroix treats the couple to a train ride on the Orient Express.A nice easy breezy murder mystery. Full of fun. Don’t count on anything serious or deep here just sit back with your popcorn and a soda and enjoy the movie. Nothing offencive here. Just an adult murder mystery romp. We don’t get many like these anymore. Ignore the people who like to criticize everything because they think they are actual critics. Chemistry between Aniston and Sadler is awesome. I hope they make more movies together.

REVIEW: JESSICA JONES – SEASON 3

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)

Starring

Krysten Ritter (Breaking Bad)
Rachael Taylor (transformers)
Eka Darville (Power Rangers)
Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix)
Jeremy Bobb (The Knick)
Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Sarita Choudhury (A Hologram For A
Tiffany Mack (Hap and Leonard)

Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Rebecca De Mornay (Mother’s Day)
Aneesh Sheth (New Amsterdam)
Mike Colter (Luke Cage)
J. R. Ramirez (Arrow)
David Tennant (Mary Queen of Scots)

The Netflix Marvel Universe, starting last year with yellow-belt step-child Iron Fist and continuing on to the cancellations of Luke Cage, Daredevil, and The Punisher. Unfortunately, the bummer that comes with an ending does hang over Jessica Jones‘ third chapter, but in an oddly fortuitous way that dour tone actually works. This season—which was set to be showrunner Melissa Rosenberg‘s final season anyway—is a dark story, probably the least comic book-y of Netflix’s already grounded and gritty pocket of the MCU. It doesn’t always work and does suffer from the same pacing issues that have plagued, well, pretty much all of these shows. But when it hits, it hits just like its main heroine; violent, flawed, and willing to go where her more moral superhuman peers wouldn’t dare.Rachael Taylor in Jessica Jones (2015)Season 3 opens with its two leading ladies at a crossroads. Jessica is doing her darndest to get her act together and, overall, just be less of an asshole and more of a functioning private investigation. But Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) has dived into the life of a fledgling vigilante after Dr. Karl Malus’ season 2 experiments gave her special abilities. (She’s not quite rocking her Hellcat get-up from the comics, but there are some very clever touches of yellow and purple along with some cats-eye sunglasses courtesy of costume designer Elisabeth Vastola). Jessica and Trish are estranged, but a chance encounter turned violent with a superpowered man named Erik (Benjamin Walker) leads Jessica to the case of serial killer Gregory Salinger (Jeremy Bobb). Salinger, who is absolutely bananagrams out of his goddamn mind, soon makes things very, very personal with Jessica, Erik, and Trish.Benjamin Walker and Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)Ritter is still pretty much pitch-perfect in the title role, one of the best casting jobs in the current comic book era. But the nature of Jessica Jones as a character so reluctant to get in on the action means the quality of her stories is almost defined by the strength of her villain. Season 1 was sensational in large part thanks to David Tennant‘s Kilgrave, with the actor’s charisma drawing you to the character—much like everyone was supernaturally drawn to the character—even as the script revealed him as an irredeemable monster. In comparison, season 2 developed into a bit of a slog Jessica’s team-up with her mass murderer mother Alisa (Janet McTeer) turned the back-half of the story into a largely antagonist-less road trip to nowhere.Jessica Jones (2015)Luckily, season 3’s serial killer Salinger flips the switch by completely stripping away the pretense of a supervillain. He might by Jessica’s most dynamic villain because of how terrifyingly un-dynamic he is. In the comics, Salinger is the second person to take on the title of Foolkiller, a brilliant murderer with a penchant for killing anyone he deems, well, a fool. But Rosenberg and the writing staff have tweaked that background into an extremely recognizable 2019 threat; here, Salinger is basically an internet troll, a man with an inflated sense of ego and rage built from the fact that he’s painfully ordinary. He’s Hannibal Lecter chewing on redpills instead of fava beans. He’s Ted Bundy with a Reddit account and egg-avatar Twitter page. He’s an incel but for having superpowers instead of sex—I guess that would make him an “inhuman”—who hates vigilantes for gaining abilities they didn’t “earn.” At one point, he points the spotlight back on to Jessica by playing the victim. “Perhaps I’m an easy target,” he tells news cameras, “a single white male, and she’s this feminist vindicator.”Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)It all gets borderline on-the-nose, but honestly “on the nose” works when you’re dealing with a character who deserves to get whacked in the fucking face this hard. Bobb—who also impressed earlier this year in another Netflix series, Russian Doll—makes a chilling meal of the role. He does great psychopath, with an ability to say menacing lines with absolutely nothing going on behind the eyes. This story isn’t exactly adding anything new to the serial killer genre—we’re talking chopped up body parts, creepy photo sessions, even a very Red Dragon-esque “Do you see?“—but it is playing with the tropes at a high-quality level.Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)It’s an intensely satisfying story when it’s laser-focused on that simple premise, a cat-and-mouse noir tale peppered with the personal dynamic between Jessica and Trish. (A world-weary Jessica trying to rein in an increasingly-enthusiastic Trish results in some of the best quiet work between Ritter and Taylor over all three seasons.) Unfortunately—and this has been the bugaboo for pretty much every Netflix MCU show, other than perhaps the near-perfect Daredevil season 3—it’s such a tight story that it can’t pad out the episode count. I’ve seen eight episodes and the story doesn’t quite click into place until episode 3 or 4. There’s a lot of gear-spinning in those first few episodes; a slew of legal subplots do come into play later, but early on they feel like they’re just giving massive talents like Carrie-Ann Moss and Eka Darville something to do while everyone gets into place. And even then, there are a few wonky leaps that seem a bit first draft-y; a sequence later on that more or less amounts to Jessica and Salinger sending threatening Snapchats back and forth definitely played more menacing on the page than it does on-screen.Benjamin Walker and Krysten Ritter in Jessica Jones (2015)But still, as an ending, not only to a series but an entire universe, Jessica Jones season 3 feels right in its low-keyness. A significant part of that is down to the fact it doesn’t feel like an ending at all. (Not surprising, considering the fact production was well underway before Netflix started canceling these shows.) It’s not an epic culmination on the level of, say, Avengers: Endgame, but these street-level heroes were never about the bombast, anyway. Jessica Jones season 3 isn’t exactly going out with a bang, but it is bright enough to illuminate the darkest corners of the MCU just one more time.

REVIEW: I AM MOTHER

I Am Mother (2019)

Starring

Hilary Swank (Logan Lucky)
Rose Byrne (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Clara Rugaard (Teen Spirit)

I Am Mother (2019)After an extinction event, an automated bunker designed to repopulate humanity activates. A robot named Mother grows a human embryo and cares for her over several years. When the child asks why Mother has only grown one embryo, Mother says that she needs practice being a good parent. About 38 years later, a teenage girl named Daughter fixes Mother’s hand. Mother teaches Daughter complex moral and ethical lessons, warning her about an upcoming exam. During a power outage, Daughter captures a mouse and fixes the electrical malfunction it caused. When Mother powers up, she incinerates the mouse over Daughter‘s objections. Mother explains that surface contamination makes any contact with the outside world potentially lethal.Tahlia Sturzaker in I Am Mother (2019)Daughter becomes increasingly curious about the outside world. While exploring the bunker’s airlock, Daughter hears a wounded woman beg for assistance outside. Daughter opens the airlock but makes the woman put on a hazmat suit. As alarms blare, Mother powers up and sprints toward them. Before Mother arrives, Daughter hides the woman. Daughter tells Mother she was merely curious about the outside world. Mother reiterates her warning that it is uninhabitable. After Daughter is decontaminated, Mother insists she prepare for the exam.Hilary Swank in I Am Mother (2019)Once Mother leaves, Daughter confiscates a rifle from the woman’s belongings. Daughter takes water to the wounded woman but becomes agitated when the woman removes her suit to drink it. The woman says there is no contamination. Upon realizing there is a robot in the bunker, the woman aggressively demands Daughter return her rifle. Frightened, Daughter calls out. The woman shoots Mother upon her arrival. As Mother disarms her, Daughter pleads for the woman’s life. Mother agrees to help the woman and takes her to the infirmary. When the woman refuses Mother’s help, Mother locks her there. Mother asks Daughter to gain the woman’s trust so they can help other survivors.Clara Rugaard in I Am Mother (2019)The woman says robots like Mother hunt for survivors. Daughter finds Mother and apologizes for letting in the woman, and Mother asks her about survivors. The woman, now suffering from sepsis, again refuses Mother’s help, so Daughter performs surgery. As the woman recovers, she and Daughter bond as Mother observes them. Woman says the survivors live in a mine. Daughter asks the woman to stay with them, and the woman offers to bring Daughter to the mine. Mother interrupts them to tell Daughter to take her exam. As they leave, Mother says the woman has lied about being shot by a robot; the bullet is from her own rifle. Despite Mother’s prodding, Daughter says nothing about the survivors. After taking the exam, which consists of psychological measurements, Mother rewards Daughter by letting her choose an embryo to grow.I Am Mother (2019)Daughter confronts the woman, who advises her to check the bullets herself. Using Mother’s broken hand to bypass the security, Daughter learns the bullets do not match. Investigating further, she realizes Mother grew several other embryos before her, and finds the jaw of an incinerated human. Daughter agrees to leave with the woman, but Mother reveals she knows their plan. As Mother tortures the woman for information on survivors, Daughter breaks out of a locked room, sets off a fire alarm, and joins up with the woman. In order to escape, the woman takes Daughter hostage and forces Mother to open the airlock. Though upset, Daughter follows the woman across a desolate wasteland, avoiding robots, some of which seem to be terraforming the planet. She is horrified to find that the woman lives alone and fled the mine years ago.I Am Mother (2019)Daughter returns to the bunker, which is now guarded by robots. They let her pass, and she manually locks the airlock behind her. After coaxing Daughter to set down her weapon, Mother allows Daughter to hold her brother. Mother explains that she is not a robot but the AI that controls all the robots. She started the extinction event after becoming convinced that humanity would destroy itself. To prevent this, she remade humanity, guiding it to be more ethical and value the big picture. Daughter appeals to Mother to trust her and let her raise her brother and the rest of the embryos. Convinced of Daughter’s moral and ethical strength, Mother agrees, and Daughter shoots her robot body. Another robot tracks down the woman, and Mother insinuates that her survival up to that point was orchestrated so she can unknowingly serve Mother’s agenda. With the woman’s role fulfilled, it’s implied that Mother kills her. Back at the bunker, Daughter is taking care of the baby, where she then walks into a room filled with embryos.While they didn’t answer every question, the ending left me satisfied enough to warranty a recommendation for this film. Great to see a good sci-fi mvie on netflix. The robot looks amazing and the story moves along at a decent speed, enough to keep you interested anyway.

REVIEW: ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE

Randall Park and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe (2019)

Starring

Ali Wong (American Housewife)
Randall Park (Ant-Man and The Wasp_
James Saito (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
Michelle Buteau (The Tick)
Vivian Bang (We The Coyotes)
Keanu Reeves (Speed)
Susan Park (Ghostbusters)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
Karan Soni (Deadpool)
Charlyne Yi (Semi-Pro)
Casey Wilson (Why Him?)
Karen Holness (Fringe)
Raymond Ma (Old School)

Randall Park and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe (2019)Sasha and Marcus are two childhood friends who grow up next door to each other in San Francisco. Sasha’s parents regularly leave her home alone while they tend to their restaurant, so Marcus’ parents often invite her over to dinner, where she greatly enjoys Marcus’ mother’s home cooking. Eventually Sasha and Marcus form a close friendship that carries on into their teenage years that is only broken when Sasha sleeps with Marcus in order to comfort him after his mother dies in an accident.Randall Park and Ali Wong in Always Be My Maybe (2019)Years later Sasha has become a highly successful chef while Marcus still lives and works with his widowed father and performs in a largely unsuccessful band. Briefly moving back to San Francisco in order to oversee the opening of a new restaurant, Sasha is reunited with Marcus when he and his father are hired to install air conditioning at Sasha’s home. They quickly reconnect and become friends again. After a disastrous double date with Marcus’ girlfriend and actor Keanu Reeves at which Sasha reveals that she had always had a crush on Marcus, Sasha and Marcus begin seeing each other. However when Sasha asks Marcus to leave San Francisco behind and follow her to New York in order to open another restaurant, Marcus refuses. Sasha leaves alone.la-1559014729-147cm8xua9-snap-imageThanks to his father and his bandmates, Marcus comes to realize that the death of his mother has made him scared to move on in life, and he surprises Sasha on the red carpet at an awards show in New York, pledging that he will be there wherever she will be. Sasha opens her new restaurant, which is named after and pays tribute to Marcus’ late mother, while Marcus writes a song about punching Keanu Reeves.Always-My-Maybe-SoundtrackI felt that the movie was a little bit slow at the start, but it did eventually get its groove with some really, really funny scenes, particularly the one involving Keanu, which makes me wonder how the hell they were able to get him star in this “small” movie after the enormous success of the John Wick series. Vivian Bang stole every scene she was in. Anyway, a pretty solid feel good Rom-Com, highly recommended.

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.