June 2019 Book, TV & Film Roundup
June was a quiet month for screen exposure. Well, at least the second half of it. I have a special someone visiting me so, I assure you that there will not be any complaining. This also makes up my much-needed excuse for posting a June roundup on the second day of June, rather than the first of it. While I thought these roundups would keep the blog alive when I did not know what to write about, I also realize now that they also keep me somewhat accountable. I love deadlines. I am past my deadline. Well, let’s talk about all the great things in life. Books, TV, and film. Here we go.
I have been mainly busy with reading research articles, extending my own research article, and editing my thesis. I managed to get my hands on a second-hand copy of Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (2005). It is an excellent read that is beyond a “how-to” book so far. I never got to finish it so, I’ll postpone the review to the next round up. What I did finish though, is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on Black Panther, A Nation Under Our Feet (2016).
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (2016) By Ta-Nehisi Coates
I remember reading an article by the ex-Atlantic journalist, Ta-Nehisi Coates prior to making the decision of picking up this comic book (Note that I have not read his take on Captain America, yet). The article talks about the mixed-feelings of producing a story that has been created by a predominantly White team of comic producers, Coates finding his purpose through taking the challenge, playing with a new voice and potentially making that voice sound better for many. I was curious to see how Coates re-introduced the previously primitive Black Panther (see, Fantastic Four #52) and whether the same criticisms made for the movie (2018) could also be traced back to this comic. Coates’ Black Panther actually received all of those criticisms in the comic itself: T’Challa was selfish, he was not heard by his nation, and he, perhaps, hurt his nation because he saw them as a burden rather than an honor.
The main plot revolves around the people of Wakanda attacking their own King. On the surface, they are controlled by a woman with supernatural abilities, however, Coates’ sets up the greater problem underneath, that is caused by the heaviness of T’Challa’s crown. While the enemies plot against overthrowing T’Challa, he fears his greatest challenge of failing Wakanda. Coates’ way of telling this story is beautifully poetic, complex, and one that houses an interplay of many messages. His take of the Black Panther is not actually a book of physical war but the fearful war within the King. It is nowhere close to a primitive representation, but psychological warfare that pushes T’Challa for reconsidering his ideology. It is Black Panther refreshed, yet not one that forgets history. I suggest you get your hands on it and read it. Then, read it again to truly appreciate the story behind every word.
The Small Screen
How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast) (2019)
I don’t know why I will stamp this show as mediocre yet but… I will anyway. Netflix caught me on its main page trap when the show was first released, I did not have anything to watch at some stressed point in my life and pressed play. I did not binge watch this show, rather, went back to it whenever I was desperate. Don’t get me wrong, it is wasn’t a bad show per se. It was just a real-life, coming of age story that had minimal sickening events (see, episode 8… I think), and not so sickening references to the dark web (I was forced to watch a YouTube video talking about the dark web so, I hate talking about the dark web).
The plot is about Moritz, whose girlfriend just got back from an exchange program from the US and questions the meaning of life (thanks to the drugs, hence the title of the show). So, Moritz decides to sell drugs to win her back and surprisingly makes a lot of money to fuel his greed. I don’t think the growth of Moritz’ online drug business is so typical, but the show accurately represents the German young-adult culture and the effects of the wide use of drugs. The show also deserves an A+ for its use of simplistic cinematography and tech-inspired graphic components. Overall, is it a waste of time? No. Is it an amazing show? No.
The Big Screen
Murder Mystery (2019)
A redundant, not so funny, yet okay film that I don’t think deserved the numerous harsh criticism I encountered online. This is Adam Sandler’s take on your typical murder mystery get-together game that is built upon a random sequence of events. It almost feels like a vague anecdote. An American married couple finally take the trip to Europe they always dreamt about, meet a rich guy on the plane, and go to his even richer uncle’s family cruise vacation. The whole family trip serves the purpose of revealing the uncle’s will prior to the arrival of his death and it arrives sooner than thought. It is up to the American cop who fails to become a detective and his wife (Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler) to reveal who the murderer is.
I suspect that many saw the movie for the Aniston-Sandler duo, and were probably pleased to see that their on-screen chemistry is still there. While the actors may provide enough of a reason, the film failed on many levels. Weak story, vague jokes, and a not so thought-provoking finale. I will give it a pass, but probably not worth it unless you are a die-hard fan of the two leading actors.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Before, I start—I love Sam L. Jackson. Is there any character this man cannot portray?
As Sam L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds and Penelope Cruz were busy shooting the sequel, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard all over Europe, thanks their cool photos on their Instagram accounts, I thought it was time for me to watch the first film. The first film introduces all of the characters to allow for clear cuts and flashbacks that make sense throughout the movie. Jackson (Darius) is a hitman with troubled past (I appreciate a once-was-good murderer) and Reynolds (Michael) is an ex elite-bodyguard that needs to deliver him alive to the International Criminal Court to testify against the dictator of Belarus. While we don’t see much of Hayek’s character Sonia who is Darius’ wife, she most definitely brings more laughter to the film than the main characters. The particular flashback scene of Darius and Sonia’s first meeting is iconic and very funny.
While I like the movie, I think it is a bit of a genre mish-mash. There is a lot of action and comedy, and some darkness that can’t be truly appreciated due to the sprinkle of odd jokes. I have an idea that this may be due to the confusion of the director in terms of Reynolds’ handling of his character. The portrayal of Michael almost feels like a reprise of Reynolds’ role in Deadpool with a lot more seriousness. I do think leaving the spotlight to Sam L. Jackson, rather than having Reynolds and Jackson share the witticism would have done more justice to the plot. And finally, I could not get caught on the action scenes, but the beautiful scenery took my attention instead. While this worked, such scenes would have been trash without the European landscapes. If you are looking to watch a good blockbuster, this is the movie. But, if you are looking for a great film, I recommend Loving Pablo (2017) that is of a similar fashion, but a lot more gripping.
The Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
This was a film that I would not watch by my own will. Even if I did, I probably would let it go after the first 20 minutes. A sickening, non-sense movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Clyde Shelton’s wife and daughter are murdered by a man who breaks into their house. He leaves no evidence, which results in the court letting him go without serving him justice. Shelton, the intelligent engineer, takes his revenge by killing the murderer, along with many court-workers go astray for simply following the way of the law. The results give the viewer a gross set of visuals: Body parts and blood flying off the screen.
While the story was interesting to reveal the mind of an insane father and husband who lost everything, the excessive violence did nothing for me. Note that I did not know the film belonged in the thriller genre. The film also gave me the opportunity to watch Jamie Foxx on screen, I surprisingly have never watched any of his movies. Not surprisingly though, I thought he embodied the sane father and husband perfectly. All in all, unless you are okay with horror movies, approach this film with caution.