Posts Tagged ‘mahershala ali’


In the year 2563, 300 years after a Martian War with Earth, Dr. Dyson Ido  (Christoph Waltz) discovers a disembodied cyborg head with a human brain, he attaches the brain to a human body, and calls the cyborg Alita. (Rosa Salazar)  Alita settles down in Iron City, but cannot remember what her life was before she was disembodied.  She befriends a human named Hugo (Keean Johnson) who introduces Alita to the sport of Motorball.  Becoming Mortorball champoin one of the ways to escape Iron City, and venture to the place everyone dreams of, the sky city of Zalem.  The other way to get to Zalem is to work as a bounty hunter, and frustrated with her overprotective father figure Ido, Alta becomes a bounty hunter herself, to make money to get to Zalem..    She battles serial killers like Grewiska (Jackie Earle Haley) and fellow bounty hunters like Zapan (Ed Skrain) to get to the man who controls the passages to Zalem, named Vector. ( Mahershala Ali) Can Alita remember her past life?  Can she get to Zalem?

Alita has so many sci-fi clichés, it’s hard to count.  Some of the clichés are, yet another post-apocalyptic society, cyborgs and humans interacting, a clumsy attempt at a love story, bounty hunters, and a climactic finale between good and evil.  How many times are human going to despoil the Earth?  Can someone just finish the job, and blow it up already?  George Lucas has done cyborgs, James Cameron probably did the most famous android in movie history, why would he want to re-visit this territory? The Motorball is a ripoff of the 1970’s movie Rollerball, it’s all been done before.  Alita has lousy character development, some of the worst dialogue ever, and a way too many special effects.

Alita has a great cast, and that great cast breathes some life into this lifeless film for a while, but it can’t be sustained.  Christoph Waltz adds a folksy charm to the cyberdoctor, and makes his character funny and charming.  Mahershala Ali tries to make Vector a suave villain.  Jennifer Connolly  tries to play a conflicted doctor and does a pedestrian job of it. Newcomer Rosa Salazar does a decent turn as Alita, but half the time I was watching, I couldn’t tell if she was cgi or human and that hurt the performance.

The first thing to notice about Alita is Alta herself, and director Robert Rodriguez made her look like an anime character, which she is.  But somehow, making her look less human defeats the purpose of her being an android, because she look more android than human.  Whatever storytelling is done is soon overtaken by copious amounts of special effects, which makes the film  look even more cartoonish.  Rodriguez is in such a hurry to get to the action scenes he forgets to tell a story or create characters that people care about.  The pacing is absurdly slow, the first hour takes forever, and by the second hour, the viewer will probably lose interest.

Alita:  Battle Angel.  Never spreads its wings.


spiderman spiderverse

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a typical teen from Brooklyn, he likes his tunes, he hates the magnet school he goes to, and he has an artistic streak, which he likes to express by painting murals in the subway. One day, while finding a spot for his latest mural with his Uncle Aaron, (Mahershala Ali) Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, but he convinces himself that it’s a regular spider, after all Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is  patrolling the city, so why would there be a need for another Spiderman?  But then, Miles feels his hands getting sticky and all of a sudden, he can climb walls, but he’s clumsy, which ruins any chance he thought he had with the new girl at the magnet school, Gwen. (Hailee Steinfeld)

Just as suddenly as he got his powers, Miles finds himself in a warehouse fighting Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) with Spiderman.  Peter/Spdey tells Miles that Kingpin has a supercollider, and he is trying to open up different dimensions to bring back Kingpin’s wife and kid.  Peter gives Miles a key and tells him to use it to destroy the supercollider if he doesn’t make it out of this battle alive.  Kingpin has already succeeded in opening up five dimensions.  What else has Kingpin succeeded in doing?  Does Miles get to use the key to blow up the collider?

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse is an interesting take on Spiderman, but as hard as the writers try to make Miles a laid-back cool guy, they fail.  Miles uses spray paint to create art, lives in the cool borough, Brooklyn, wearing  the ever-present ear buds, leaves his shoes untied , it’s all meant to make him relatable to teens everywhere.  Having said that, it’s important to have an Afro-Latino superhero on screen, just for the message that it sends to all kids, that they could be heroes regardless of their race, ethnicity, or the neighborhood they grow up in.

Undoubtedly, the really cool character is Gwen Stacy, but she takes a backseat to Miles, despite having the vastly more interesting backstory.  And the other character like Penni Parker, are woefully underdeveloped, and are only in the movie to bring in a certain demographic, in the cynical way movies are made these days.  There’s a twist to the story, but the ending is as expected, and I suspect there will be sequels aplenty.

The acting is good, voice acting is difficult.  Shameik Moore does  a good job as the gangly clumsy Miles, trying to fit in and find a way to use his new powers.  Mehershala Ali does his usual fine job, as Uncle Aaron, the cool uncle, he really does bring all his skills to any role he plays.  Hailee Steinfeld does a good job as Gwe, she does a good job of keeping her mysterious and distant, the unattainable girl.  Brian Tyree Henry does a good job as a supporting actor, playing Miles’ supportive overprotective dad.  The father son bond is evident in Henry’s performance.

There are three directors in this movie.  The animation is great, eye-popping comic book animation, which is probably why it won an Oscar, but the pacing is awfully slow for an action flick.  The performances are good, but the actors deserve more credit than the directors for that.

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse:  A web of intertwined characters.

Green Book

In 1962, when classically trained pianist Dr. Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali) hires Italian American bouncer Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) to drive him on a cross-country tour, including through the segregated South,  Dr. Shirley expects trouble.  He hires Tony Lip as he’s known, for his very particular set of skills, but a strange relationship ensues, where Shirley tries to teach Tony the Lip some diction and manners, and Tony tries to teach Dr. Shirley all he knows about black popular culture, can these two polar opposites, the prim and proper Dr. Shirley, and the streetwise Tony, ever become friends?

The Green Book that the movie derives its title was an actual travel guide used by black people to find lodgings in the segregated South, which is why it’s disappointing that the movie is nothing more than clichéd schmaltz. Green Book doesn’t work because it oversimplifies complex people, during a complex and tumultuous time, and tires to reduce the importance and scope of the Civil Rights movement into bar fights, and segregated hotels, and it does this through the use of stereotypes.  Tony is a massive Italian stereotype,  filled with easy racism, aggressive mobster like  attitudes, poor diction, which are all lazy shorthand for Italian Americans. Dr. Shirley who defies an easy definition is shoehorned by the script into eating fried chicken in the back of a car, because that’s what black people eat, isn’t it? The script’s clumsiness is brought to hilarious and disturbing heights when Tony introduces black popular music to Dr. Shirley.  How insulting this is, it presumes that Dr. Shirley did not know these artists, and even if he didn’t, it’s his choice to play the style of music he wants to play.  The whole narrative of Dr. Shirley’s estrangement from the black community is a false one, and there’s the whole white savior narrative, because black people never gotten through racially tenuous situations by themselves have they?  The ending is predictable, which wasn’t exactly surprising, but disappointing all the same.  Now that I’ve seen If Beale Street Could Talk, and Green Book, Beale Street is undoubtedly the better film.  Green Book is almost cartoonish in its simplicity, in contrast, If Beale Street Could Talk is jarringly honest, and pulls no punches.

Green Book essentially is a two person movie, so it hurts the movie that the performances are mixed.  Mahershala Ali gives a restrained performance, until one of the later scenes, but when he lets go of the restraint, it is a powerful moment in this movie, and worthy of an Academy Award.  Viggo Mortensen gives an outlandishly broad performance as an Italian American man.  Luigi or Mario from Super Mario Brothers have more subtlety than this performance. He’s a low budget Joe Pesci, it’s a bad Pesci impersonation.  At least Pesci is Italian Mortenson delivers such a ham-handed over-the-top performance that it was hard to take him seriously, even when the tone of the movie changed.  He definitely did not deserve an Academy Award Nomination, I wonder how many voters actually saw his performance.

Peter Farrelly’s direction is uninspired.  He’s better known for his comedies like Dumb and Dumber, and There’s Something About Mary, and he treats this movie like it’s a comedic road trip movie and the subject natter deserves a more serious treatment than that.  The pacing is awfully slow, the 2 hours seem more like 4, and the performances vary greatly.

Green Book:  It gave me the blues.


True Detective Season 3 (2019)

Episode 1: The Great War and Modern Memory

12 year old Will Purcell (Phoenix Elkin) and his sister Julie (Lena McCarthy) go missing in rural Arkansas.  Their father Tom, (Scoot McNeary) reluctantly calls police.  Detectives Wayne Hays (Mahershala alihershala Ali) and Roland West (Stphen Dorff) begin to investigate the case, what do the find out?

Some of the writing in this episode is very pedestrian, the writers roll out the usual suspects at the scene of the crime, stoner teens, the kids’ parents doing a Southern version of Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf, the kids’ mother’s mysterious cousin.  No mahershala alitter how sophisticated the writing tries to be, the writers can’t avoid the Southern hick stereotype that permeates Hollywood.  The mood of this episode is very reminiscent of season 1.  The one interesting aspect of the writing is that the story follows the action in three separate timelines simultaneously.

The distinguishing characteristic of this season is the acting. Mahershala Ali  is great in anything he does, and this is no exception.  He plays Hays as a person on a slow simmer, seething with anger just below the surface, its a great performance.  I was pleasantly surprised by Stephen Dorff’s performance, I’ve only seen him in Blade, and he didn’t impress me, here he gives a serious, well-modulated performance.

The director adds some visual flair, but not a lot.

Episode 2:  Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye

Hays and West interrogate two suspects in the disappearance. Schoolteacher Amelia Reardon (Carmen Ejogo) helps the detectives talk to one of the children about a potentially important clue.  The detectives’ battle with the Mayor about what to do about some of the evidence they’ve found.  The detectives get a note about Julie, could she be alive?

The writing is much better in this episode.  The episode is rife with dramatic tension.  The detectives interrogations are no holds barred events, the detectives battle the mayor, the town, each other, the stress of the kidnapping is affecting everyone in this town and the stress is showing.

Great performances again by Ali, Dorff and Ejogo, playing a woman with a somewhat mysterious past.  There is great chemistry between the three leads, and that is hard to find in movies, never mind tv.  I’m excited to see the next episode.

Episode 3:  The Big Never

Wayne Hayes and Amelia Reardon explore a relationship, but almost immediately fissures are exposed between the two.  Hays collects more evidence, but what does he do with it.  In 1990, ten years after the Pernell case began, police are thinking about reopening the case, do they?

This episode is a lot about Wayne and Amelia’s relationship, and Wayne’s state of mind during the case and later on.  Amelia is used quite intelligently as the voice of guilt in Wayne’s head, but what is he guilty about?  Therein lies the mystery, and it will take 5 episode to unravel.  Agai, great acting by Ali, Dorff, and Ejogo.  There are a few visual tricks directorially, but the story is so engrossing, despite some police drama clichés, that the hour goes by rapidly.

Episode 4: The Hour and The Day

More suspects are rounded up and questioned.  Woodward,(Michael Greyeyes)  a man who collects cans to make money  (Michael Greyeyes) is harassed on mere suspicion alone.  In 1990, Hays becomes obsessed with a new piece of evidence. Amelia tries to get Lucy Purcell, (Melinie Gummer) to confide in her, but Lucy sees an ulterior motive. Tom Purcell gets beat up, and gets driven home by West.

The problem I have with this episode is that it doesn’t really move the ball forward in terms of the missing kids.  It has intensity, the acting is great, but many of  the plotlines are redundant.  In an 8 episode series, there should not be filler episodes, this felt like filler.

Episode 5:  If You Have Ghosts

A gang of vigilantes closes in on Woodward, but Woodward has a surprise for them, and Hays is caught in the middle.  In 1990, Tom Purcell goes to the evidence room and sees something he shouldn’t.  Amelia’s actions lead to tension in her relationship with Hays. New evidence leads to tension between Hays and West.  An elderly Hays seeks comfort and closure from West, what does he get?

This is a very interesting episode, the scenes crackle with tension, the sexual tension between Wayne and Amelia defines their relationship.  There are all kinds of hints and foreshadowing as to what happened, but the writers will make the viewers wait it out.  There are plenty of suspects, and no clear one as of yet, that’s what makes the story intriguing.

There is really good acting too, by Mahershala Ali Stephen Dorff, Ejogo, and now Scoot Mc Neary, the acting keeps the tension near a fever pitch, it is really fun to watch actors at the top of their game, with great writing as a compliment.

Episode 6:  Hunters in The Dark

New evidence in the case lead Detectives West and Hays question Tom Purcell, and Lucy Purcell’s cousin Dan O’Brien. (Michael Graziadei)  The detectives are also questioning Harris James, (Scott Shepherd) who is now head of security at Hoyt Foods, and used to be a detective on the Purcell case.   Amelia does her own investigation for a new book, but gets blowback for the book she just finished.

The intensity on this season’s episodes are off the charts.  The detectives are getting frustrated with the suspects, the suspects are getting frustrated with each other, and the detectives are getting frustrated with each other, the whole drama is like a pressure cooker and the pressure keeps building and building.  The end of this episode is a real honest to goodness cliffhanger.


Episode 7:  The Final Country

In the 1990’s Hays is pursuing two suspects, and both can provide promising leads if Hays and West can track them down.  Amelia is pursuing leads of her own.  Something happens to Tom Purcell and Dan O’Brien that deepens the mystery.

This episode tells me what a great season this is.  There is a deeper conspiracy to the story, and no one’s hands are clean in this season.  The viewer asks what mahershala alikes the investigation start and stop, and this episode answers a lot of questions and leaves one big overhanging question, who is responsible for the kidnapping of the Purcell children and who facilitated the kidnapping?  It’s an intricately crafted story with exquisite acting, and I hope the final episode gives the setup some justice with a decent ending.

Episode 8:  Now Am Found

The truth of what happened to the Purcell children is finally revealed, as an elderly Hays doggedly pursues answers.  What happened to the children, who is responsible?

This was a good episode, a nice way to end the series.  The conspiracy wasn’t as far reaching or as sinister as I expected, the ending was a little less dark than I wanted, but there was an ironic twist to the ending that made it bittersweet.  There was one character that the writers never completed the exposition on, and that bothered me.

My Impressions of Season Three

Season 3 of True Detective was undoubtedly the best season from beginning to end.  Season 1 was marred by a confusingly cryptic ending.  The story, the characters the flashbacks, flash forwards, everything was well constructed in season three, the whole puzzle fit together and everything made sense.

The acting was superb, Maihershala Ali deserves an Emmy for this performance that’s not even going out on a limb, they should engrave his name on it right now.  He had to play his character at three different stages in his life, and he is totally transformed as an elderly version of Detective Hays.  Age has ravaged him, and he shows the effects of it.  Gone is the swaggering tough guy of 28 years past, replaced by a forgetful, vulnerable old main.  It is a mesmerizing performance. I was happily  surprised by Stephen Dorff’s performance, he put everything into this role and imbued West with a lot of intensity.  The chemistry between Ali and Dorff is incredible, sometimes they love each other, sometimes they hated each other, and each seemed perfectly natural. Carmen Ejogo plays Amelia interestingly, she keeps the viewer off balance, does she really love Wayne or is she only interested in her own  career?  The writers should have done more to supplement this character’s story.  Egojo’s accent slips a few times, but she does a pretty good accent.

The direction was visually unobtrusive, the pacing was good, the performances were excellent.

True Detectives:  Season 3 lives up to its true potential.

luke cage

Luke Cage (Mike Colter) works as a sweeper in Pop’s Barber Shop in Harlem.  One night after sweeping up, Luke sees his co-worker Chico (Brian Mac) rush out to a car with his friend Shameek.  (Jermel Howard) Chico and Shameek want to take money from Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, (Mahershala Ali)  owner of a club called Harlem’s Paradise, and infamous gangster.  Luke also works at the club, and Cottonmouth offers him a job, but Luke has a quiet life, does he want to get mixed up in saving Chico from gangsters or being Cottonmoth’s bodyguard?

I like this episode of Luke Cage it has the requisite amount of mystery surrounding Luke.  It has some primarily African American references like the iconic if somewhat hackneyed black barbershop.  Luke has some interesting interactions with the ladies, some interesting black cultural references, Luke is reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. For all the good writing and the social consciousness, there’s a lot of the n-word flying around, I found it excessive.  I know the writers are trying to keep it “real” but Harlem is the epicenter of the black renaissance, let’s try to treat the characters with some respect.

The acting is great.   Mike Colter is very good as the laconic Luke Cage.  Mahershala Ali is a simmering cauldron of rage as Cottonmouth, and Alfre Woodard is also good as a corrupt politician who is all sweetness and light in public, but something else entirely when the cameras aren’t rolling.

Episode 2:  The Code of The Streets

Pop (Frankie Faison) asks Luke to find Chico, but Cottonmouth wants to locate Chico too. The police, headed by Detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) also want to find Chico.  Who gets to Chico first?

There is so much in this episode.  The viewers get a backstory about Pop.  There’s an interesting subplot between Misty and Luke.  There is real and largely unspoken tension between Luke and Cottonmouth.  There are the cultural touchpoints, Luke is reading Walter Mosely in this episode, and this episode finally provides the impetus for Luke to get off the sidelines.  The acting is superb, especially between Ali, and Colter, who holds his own in the scenes between him and Ali. There’s also some good chemistry between Colter and Simone Missick.

Episode 3:  Who’s Going to Take The Weight

Luke decides not to go after Cottonmouth directly, but let him suffer death by a thousand cuts.  Cottonmouth and his cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) discuss their differing visions of Harlem. Misty sees that Luke is in the middle of what’s going on lately in Harlem, but she can’t put her finger on what he’s doing. Misty’s partner Detective Rafael Scarfe (Frank Whaley) talks to Chico, he’s ready to turn on Cottonmouth.

This is more an action episode, and not an introspective episode, which is too bad, because I liked the quiet, introspective Cage, and not the action oriented Cage, anyone who watches the series will know why. Domingo Colon is introduced as head of a rival Latino gang, but there’s not much character development thee yet.  There’s a plot twist, but it’s badly written.  If I told you why, I’d spoil the plot. Good acting again by the principles, especially Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, Mike Colter, and Frank Whaley. The acting saves a somewhat shaky script in this episode.  The episode is named after an old school rap tune.

Episode 4:  Step In The Arena

As Luke tries to extricate himself and his landlady Connie Lin (Jade Wu) from a precarious position, Luke thinks about a turning point in his life.

This is mostly a flashback episode that fleshes out some of the details referred to in the first episode.  It’s interesting, although it has similarities to other Marvel origin stories. The acting is very good, and the script is interesting, as it leaves many things unexplained.  This episode is named after a Gang Starr album.

Episode 5: Just to Get a Rep

As Cottonmouth extorts small businesses in Harlem, Luke tries to clean up the streets of Harlem.  Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) comes back to Harlem, why is she here?  Cottonmouth and Luke both show up to an important event in Harlem.

This episode had some interesting things going on, a new character, Cottonmouth always plotting, an evolving relationship between Misty and Luke, and lots of lectures from Luke about Harlem’s legacy.

Episode 6: Suckas Need Bodyguards

Detective Scarfe is shot and wounded by Cottonmouth, he escapes.  Now everyone is trying to find Scarfe, Misty is looking for her partner, Cottonmouth is looking is looking to finish the job, and Luke is looking for someone to protect.  Where does Scarfe go?

This is similar to the where’s Chico episode, everyone looking for Scarfe, but who finds him first.  Not sure what Claire Temple’s function is, but she’s immediately Luke’s sidekick.  I’m usually not a fan of Rosario Dawson’s acting, but she and Mike Colter have some easygoing banter.

Episode 7:  Manifest

As Cottonmouth plays the keyboard, he reflects on life with Mama Mabel, (Latanya Richardson Jackson) Uncle Pete (Curtis Cook) and little Maraih. (Megan Miller)  He wonders what could have been, but settles into what is.  Cottonmouth thinks he has a surprise for Luke, but Mariah really has a surprise for Cottonmouth.

Most of this episode was backstory on Cottonmouth and his dysfunctional family.  Let me tell you, they put the diss, in dysfunctional.  And boy oh boy  there is more than one twist in this episode, one that I never saw coming.  And this one was well-written, and well camouflaged.  The scenes with Luke and Cottonmouth sizzle with tension  as the actors try to outdo each other. Alfre Woodard is also very good in this episode.

Episode 8:  Blowin’ Up the Spot

Something happens to Cottonmouth, and Mariah blames Luke.  Misty wants to talk to Luke, but Claire is hiding him.  Luke has a new enemy, Willis “Diamondback” Stryker. (Erik Le Ray)  What’s his problem with Luke?

For a show that started out with such high minded ideals, this show has devolved into a show with lots of shooting, killing and violence.  They’ve turned Alfre Woodard into some kind of character from Empire.  Claire doesn’t really have a well-defined role, again, the viewer has to guess what she does and where she fits in.  I’m disappointed because this show had great potential, and it seems to be jumping the shark with five episodes to go in season 1.

Episode 9:  DWYCK

Claire takes Luke to visit an old acquaintance.  Misty gets interrogated by a department psychologist.  Diamondback consolidates Cottonmouth’s empire, with Mariah’s help.

I actually like the Misty interrogation, but the Claire Luke storyline is getting utterly ridiculous, and the intensity and quality of the acting has gone way down.  The writers are featuring Diamondback, Shades and Mariah, now and Luke and Claire, but Luke and Misty have the best chemistry.  The writers should pair Misty and Luke in more episodes, but I fear the series is too far gone.

Episode 10:  Take it Personal

Diamondback and Mariah plan to get a new ammunition to cops.  Luke learns more about Reva’s past.  He also learns more about Diamondback’s past.  Police get rough in their search for Luke, who is framed for killing a cop.  Misty is in danger as she enters Harlem’s Paradise.

I liked  the backstory on Reva and Diamondback, but the actor playing Diamondback is no Maharshela Ali.

Episode 11:  Now You’re Mine

Diamondback takes hostages inside Harlem’s Paradise, including Misty, Claire, and Candace (Deborah Ayoridnde) who may have evidence to clear Luke of one of the crimes he’s accused of.  Does Luke save the day?  Or will police capture him?

This was an interesting episode, for the first time in a long time, I cared about what happened to these characters.  Claire and Misty are developing a rivalry and that is also interesting.

Episode 12: Soliloquy of Chaos

After Misty survives being shot inside Harlem’s Paradise, police arrest Luke.  He escapes and tries to find Diamondback.  Domingo, (Jacob Vargas) head of the Latin gang, is looking for Diamondback, to take back control of gun running from him.  Shades is bailed out by Diamondback, only to have his life threatened by Diamondback, so he and Mariah contact Luke with an offer to take out Diamondback, but before they can act, Diamondback shows up to Pop’s and challenges Luke mano a mano.

Here is the episode leading up to the climactic finale, I like that it was pretty much a Claire free episode, Misty is a much more interesting character, and I’m glad they’re getting her involved right in the middle of things.  Diamondback is not the villain I preferred, but he’s the villain I was given, so here goes nothing.  Let’s see what happens.

Episode 13:  You Know My Steez

The epic showdown between Luke and Diamondback ensues, but what happens next?

The epic showdown wasn’t so epic, and the other main characters squeeze through enough loopholes to ensure a second season. One of those loopholes is especially badly written, and at times this episode is edited like a Best Of Luke Cage episode.  Disappointing.


Overall, I’d say for the first 7 episodes, Luke Cage was a very sharp, well-written, intelligent series.  The acting is vibrant filled with intensity Mahershela Ali is the best actor in this cast and he brought everyone’s skill level up with him.  The scenes with him and Mike Colter crackle with excitement.  The writing was good filled with references about black writers, and lifting Harlem up.

After episode 7, the acting suffered, after an initial good impression, Rosario Dawson became nothing more than a love interest, and good actors like Frank Whaley are limited in their roles.  Even a great actress like Alfre Woodard was hamstrung by writing that turned up the violence, and turned Woodard into an Empire esque character.  I liked Simone Missick, who plays Misty Knight, but they de-emphasized her role to bring in Claire Temple, bad move.  Missick and Colter had great chemistry.  And the writers of the comic book gave Misty a lousy power, I can’t even figure out what her power is by watching the show.

The writers also forgot all the cultural touchpoints of Harlem, and Luke Cage just became another conventional show.  Too bad, it had so much potential to be a groundbreaking show and it took the easy way out. The finale was the final chance for this show to redeem itself, and it did not.

Luke Cage:  Boxed itself in.


A young African American boy, named Chiron, nicknamed Little, (Alex Hibbert) is growing up in a dangerous neighborhood in Miami. His mother, Paula, (Naomie Harris) is addicted to crack cocaine, and Little is bullied by the neighborhood kids.  His only solace from his mother and the bullies, is a local drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend Theresa. (Janelle Monae)  Juan takes Little under his wing, and gives him advice and a shoulder to lean on. In the midst of all the madness, Little finds one friend, named Kevin. (Jaden Piner)  Kevin is one of the few people Little can be comfortable with.

As Little becomes a teenager, he is given a new nickname by Kevin. (Jharrell Jerome) Kevin now calls Little, Black, (Trevante Rhodes) because of his dark complexion.  The friendship intensifies, but when a bully named Terrel  (Patrick Decile) asks Kevin to knock Black down, Kevin complies, more than once.  How does this incident affect their friendship? How does this incident affect Chiron’s adult life?

The aspect of Chiron’s life that causes him to be bullied from his childhood to his teen years is never spoken about in the setting in which this movie takes place.  That in itself makes this a unique film. The way Chiron’s life is broken up into three distinct segments, pre-teen, teen, and adult also makes for interesting storytelling. The exceptional part of this movie is how the writing balances sensitivity with realism. Moonlight is not perfect however, one of the characters just disappears in the first third of the movie, without explanation. In addition, the ending is decidedly Hollywood in a movie that is decidedly un-Hollywood.  Even with its flaws, this movie undoubtedly deserved the Best Picture Oscar, for its unique story and unique way of telling the story.

The acting is superb.  Mahershala Ali definitely deserved the Academy Award for supporting actor, there’s a debate about that, but it’s not up for debate with me, it was a great performance plain and simple. Naomie Harris plays a difficult to like role in an earnest way, she wants to take care of her son but her addiction precludes her from doing so. The kids playing Little and Black, Alex Hibbert and Trevante Rhodes are excellent and bring real emotion to their roles.  The kids playing Kevin are also very good.

The direction is good.  Barry Jenkins is wise to split the story into three parts, it makes the pacing faster and it makes the audience anxious to see what follows.  Jenkins also gets great performances from his cast.  This is a great movie and Jenkins is a large reason why.

Moonlight: Full of surprises