Posts tagged film
#UnpopularOpinion: We Should Be Excited for Dark Phoenix
Thumbnail by  Darius Gordon

Thumbnail by Darius Gordon

Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame is still setting box office records entering its second weekend in theaters, making a ridiculous $1.2 billion opening weekend, growing to more than $1.7 billion worldwide Thursday. The final film in the Infinity Saga is already the fifth-highest grossing film of all-time, and is almost a shoo-in to pass Avatar for the number one spot when it’s all said and done.

But while the culmination of the last eleven years of the MCU is still fresh on everyone’s minds, let’s address the elephant in the room: Dark Phoenix. The latest X-Men film from 20th Century Fox, is due in theaters June 7th, and is expected to be the final film released by Fox before it goes away and undergoes a reboot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

"It’ll be a while. It’s all just beginning and the five-year plan that we’ve been working on, we were working on before any of that was set. So really it’s much more, for us, less about specifics of when and where [the X-Men will appear] right now and more just the comfort factor and how nice it is that they’re home."

- Kevin Feige talking about the X-Men to io9 in April

Dark Phoenix just hasn’t gotten the hype it should have; people are disinterested for a number of reasons, the impending doom being one of them. But Fox has had its inconsistencies with their timelines, and has struggled with comic book accuracy. This is also Fox’s second attempt at the iconic Dark Phoenix saga, as first-time director and long-time X-Men producer Simon Kinberg tries to fix the mistakes of 2006’s clusterfuck, X-Men: The Last Stand.

Overall, despite Hugh Jackman’s brilliant portrayal of Wolverine/Logan, Fox has been pretty sloppy with the X-Men franchise. Fans are either excited about what could be the final incarnation of this 20-year long run for the franchise, or they just want it to be over already. No in-between. In spite of your apathy, here’s why this highly anticipated movie will be good and ultimately, why you should just go into this movie ready to enjoy it!


Every X-Men fan knows there's no one character that takes the spotlight, and the people at Fox clearly forgot that. However, I've always credited 2000's X-Men as being one of the movies to revitalize the comic-book movie genre. Long before the MCU, Fox went in a very grounded direction with the famous mutants, and it worked--until it didn't. Then Marvel shook the table and created comic book movies with large-scale continuity and a shared universe full of characters that were either grounded, god-like, alien, or all of the above.

From the most recent trailers of Dark Phoenix, it looks like we’re getting the drama this story deserves. We’re getting ACTING from the Phoenix, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and as always from Professor Charles Xavier and Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr (played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively). The action in those trailers has looked incredible. Can we talk about Quicksilver and Nightcrawler? Or Storm unleashing her powers?! We didn’t get a lot of non-Wolverine action scenes in the last trilogy, and I'm excited to see what Dark Phoenix has to bring.

"I thought part of what happened in X-Men: The Last Stand is that instead of making it a Jean story, it became a story of the cure, which was really Charles and Erik and Wolverine’s story, and I really wanted this to be Jean’s story. She is the dominant character in this movie."

- Simon Kinberg when asked about Dark Phoenix's focus by EW

My only ask of you is that you simply try and enjoy this movie. Rather than being cynical and waiting until Marvel adds them into the MCU, think of Dark Phoenix as the bookend of a well-told story of the mutants we have come to love )and hate). Think of it as the end of McAvoy and Fassbender’s incredible renditions of Professor X and Magneto. Think of it as an eloquent end with the dramatic re-telling of one of Marvel’s greatest tales.

How are you feeling about Dark Phoenix? Let me know in the comments section below or follow me on Twitter: @EJtheG and be sure to read some of my other work here!

"There was no other way": Tony Stark's tale comes full circle in 'Avengers: Endgame' (SPOILER FILLED)
Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

The wait for a cinematic event over a decade in the making has come to an end. Over the course of the year-long wait for Avengers: Endgame, there was much speculation about how the Infinity Saga would draw to a close. Fans everywhere, this one included, oscillated between the events that that could occur from the moment Thanos snapped his fingers and wiped out half of life in the universe, and the Avengers reversing the effects. But there was one constant outcome: Tony Stark had to sacrifice himself to do it.

You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you

From the moment he first donned the Iron Man suit Tony Stark has gone through various changes, but the heart of his character is still his motivation. He’d always been driven by guilt. He saw his life’s work developing weapons of war at Stark Industries and saw it merited nothing but destruction. In the face of that realization, he became a walking, talking deterrent. As new additions entered his life - his love Pepper Potts, Peter Parker - who was like a son to Tony - and countless others he cared for, his guilt continued to grow. When he felt he couldn’t do enough, he walked away, but even after initiating the Clean Slate Protocol in Iron Man 3 and destroying all his suits, he couldn’t shake what he knew was coming.

I wasn’t tricked, I was shown. It wasn’t a nightmare, it was my legacy

Tony’s legacy has been a running point of conversation since the MCU began, & it was never more important than in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The vision shown to him by Scarlet Witch gave him a look at the worst version of that legacy - one where The Avengers are dead, and Steve Rogers telling Tony he could have saved them. Tony, being the embodiment of noble arrogance, believed his inactions would destroy everything, clouding his judgment so badly that he stopped thinking about the repercussions of his actions. He wanted to leave behind a world that was safer because of him to calm the chaos that came at the hands of his weapons. He could never walk away.

I hope they remember you.

In the five years since Thanos’ snap, Tony settled down with Pepper and had a daughter, Morgan. He seemed to have moved on, accepted defeat & chose to embrace his second chance with his family. But he’s built new armor (Mark 85, the 85th Iron Man armor. The one in Infinity War is Mark 50), along with a surprise armored suit for Pepper. He can’t sleep when the Avengers inform them of their plan to retrieve the stones, so much he stays up all night figuring out how to make the “time heist” work. At the end of it all, he saw his chance to repair his legacy and restore the world he aimed to protect, and he needed to be there to see it through.

I am Iron Man

Part of me believed Tony’s sacrifice would come as a result of reversing Thanos’ snap, but I realized some time ago that’s not a sacrifice; that’s penance. Just as Thor decapitating Thanos was an empty gesture brought on by not killing him in Infinty War, Tony sacrificing himself for his failures might have changed how he was remembered, but not the person he was - the man who fought for himself. So when he learns from Doctor Strange that they’ve reached their desired outcome, he makes a choice: he charges at Thanos, rips the stones from the Mad Titan and snaps his fingers; not to erase the sins of his past or to ensure “peace in our time” for himself, but because it’s his job to save the world and its future, even if he isn’t there to see it.

The last words Tony uttered before expiring were the same he used to announce his arrival to the world, but this time, it wasn’t an act of self-aggrandizement. It was simply the truth to Thanos’ lie: he wasn’t inevitable, because Tony Stark is Iron Man.

Ball Don't Lie EP 46 - The Marathon Continues

Pierce and Scott remember the life of a West Coast legend, the late, great Nipsey Hussle. Then, Nitzan Bluvstein from the Count the Dings' Friday Mailbag & the Daily Ding and Ruthless Aggression's Chris Novak joins the pod to talk the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell you to buy your fuckin Endgame tickets already.

And remember: Hussle & Motivate.

Follow Scott on Twitter: @BarbersChairNet
Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Nitz on Twitter: @nitzbluv

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

Rep THE MAN just in time for Wrestlemania with the brand new #FreeTheMan tees up now on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
teespring.com/stores/the-barbers-chair
or
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops January 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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Don't make the same mistake walking into Avengers: Endgame that you did with Infinity War

10 years after Jon Favreau’s Iron Man kickstarted what would become the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ most ambitious crossover, Avengers: Infinity War served as the culmination of a decade of world-building. It’s the crown jewel for comic book fans and those who embarked on the cinematic journey from the beginning (If you weren’t in tune with the MCU but went through the first 18 films prior to seeing Infinity War, welcome aboard! It’s good to have you!)

The critically-acclaimed film broke box office records, and became the talk of the summer on social media (today’s water cooler). But in accordance with the established, universal laws of enjoyment, there were some who didn’t obsess over the third Avengers film. I’m all for disliking things; healthy criticism promotes debate & it helps with the growth of any medium/artist, but it has to have merit. Which brings us to the most ridiculous condemnation of Infinity War…

“Why do I have to watch the other MCU movies to fully understand Infinity War?”

Let me start by being blunt… it’s a ridiculous question. You can’t complain when you chose to enter the saga 19 films in. Nobody said you had to be there from the beginning or spend every waking moment thinking about the universe, but to willingly ignore them before seeing Infinity War and using your lack of preparedness to complain is moronic. Keep crying about it. YOUR TEARS NOURISH ME!

I’m a firm believer that there’s an opposing reaction to everything. While I’m absolutely certain that a portion of those who subscribed to this asinine critique were actually ignorant enough to think they could drop in and be spoon fed everything, I also think there’s another reason this happened: people erroneously believed Infinity War was a direct sequel. It picks up in the timeline directly following Thor: Ragnarok and brings seeds that were planted as far back as 2012’s The Avengers. The plot centers around Thanos’ search for the six infinity stones, five of which have appeared in various MCU movies over the course of the last 10 years. Yes, sometimes sequels tend to contain quick re-introductions for all the base players but, again, INFINITY WAR IS NOT A SEQUEL; It is the 19th issue of an ongoing series.

The 18 that were released before it - a few stand-alone installments aside - were integral to the film’s completion. The MCU operates much like typical comic book crossover events that are set up by issues contained within individual character’s runs. There’s a list of specific titles that you can use to obtain enough surface level knowledge needed to understand Infinity War , but the full effect is only felt by having seen all of them. There is no logical reason to believe you’ll comprehend it if you’ve seen none of them, though. If you’re hell bent on considering a sequel, then the most honest way to do that is to believe it’s a sequel to every single film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that came before it. That holds infinitely more truth than it being a direct sequel to any one release.

Since I’m a humanitarian who genuinely believes in helping people and not because this entire “critique” has annoyed me far more than the narrative that Drake has classic album (editor’s note: Nothing Was the Same exists), I write this piece to all of you as an disclaimer. We are just months away from the release of Avengers: Endgame, which is intended to wrap up phase 3 of the MCU & close out important storylines 10 years in the making. It’s been rumored for a while now that there might be a time travel element to the film that will have our heroes revisiting previous incidents. If you haven’t AT LEAST watched the most vital entry’s in the MCU, then you’re gonna be even more lost walking out of Endgame. Please do not go see Captain Marvel and walk into Avengers because you think it’s the next one in line. I really don’t want to have this conversation again.

The Most Anticipated Movies of 2019

2018 brought some gems to the big screen, from box-office superhero smash hits like Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Aquaman, to critically-acclaimed films like A Star is Born, Annihilation and John Krasinski’s brilliant thriller A Quiet Place. 2019 brings even more buzz to the box office! Here’s the movies we’re looking forward to the most in the new year!

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Glass

Release Date: January 18, 2019
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson & Anya Taylor-Joy
Director: M. Night Shyamalan

M. Night Shyamalan had an amazing comeback with 2017's Split, complete with a twist ending that revealed the movie was actually connected to his 2000 supernatural drama, Unbreakable, picking up right where Split left off. James McAvoy shined in Split, and I'm excited to see him act alongside Samuel L. Jackson & Bruce Willis.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

What Men Want

Release Date: February 8, 2019
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Aldis Hodge, Tracy Morgan, Erykah Badu, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tamala Jones & Josh Brener
Director: Adam Shankman

Our first film of the year with a primarily black cast is a remake of the 2000 romantic comedy, What Women Want starring Mel Gibson. Taraji P. Henson stars as a successful sports agent struggling to navigate her career in a male-dominated field until she mysteriously gains the ability to read men’s minds. The plot is a bit cheesy and has been done before, but this will be a fun watch with Taraji's energy on-screen.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Us

Release Date: March 22, 2019
Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright-Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II & Tim Heidecker
Director: Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele's back at it again with an ambiguous psychological-horror film in this year's Us. This is Peele's second film after his directorial debut in 2017's Get Out, which won him his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Get Out was definitely one for the culture and Us will be too. The cast is what excites me the most. Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke reunite, this time outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, alongside my favorite Handmaid, Elisabeth Moss. Shout out to Yahya for snagging a role in this film after appearing in the billion-dollar blockbuster Aquaman

It wouldn't be a Jordan Peele movie without a trailer leaving much to the internet's imagination; there are even people linking the two movies together. Gotta love twitter, right?

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Pet Sematary

Release Date: April 5, 2019
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jeté Laurence, Hugo Lavoie, Lucas Lavoie & Obssa Ahmed
Director: Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer

Directors Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer brings us a reboot of the 1989 film based off the Stephen King novel of the same name with this year's Pet Sematary. The movie surrounds a family who lives near a pet cemetery that lies on an ancient burial ground, bringing its inhabitants back to life in creepy ways. When a child from the family dies and is buried in this spooky ground, he comes back for blood.

I'm really excited to see some quality scary movies this year, starting with this adaptation. 2018 gave us Stephen King's incredibly done Gerald's Game, which debuted on Netflix a month before 1922. Netflix is also coming with the heat with another Stephen King adaptation this year, In The Tall Grass

Marvel

Marvel

Avengers: Endgame

Release Date: April 26, 2019
Starring: Robert Downing Jr., Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Chadwick Boseman & the rest of the damn Avengers
Director: Anthony & Joe Russo

Need I say more? We saw Earth's mightiest heroes get wrecked by Thanos, some even wiped away from existence with the other half of the universe's population in Avengers: Infinity War. Endgame will be the last time we see some of the characters we've come to love since the MCU debuted 10 years ago. I'm sure we'll still be left empty after some of our faves get killed...for good this time.

An interesting note here is the amount of money Disney is going to pull in this year. This is one of six Disney blockbusters coming out this year. I'm confident that EndgameAladdin, Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, Lion King will easily make a billion each. Disney’s really collecting checks like Infinity Stones in 2019, and I'm here for it.

Disney

Disney

Aladdin

Release Date: May 24, 2019
Starring: Will Smith, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Marwan Kenzri & Navid Negahban
Director: Guy Ritchie

I am extremely excited to see one of my favorite Disney animated movies come to life in this live-action remake. Following the success of live-action versions of the animated classics like Cinderella and Jungle Book, Aladdin will be one for the books and a visually stunning movie to see.

I'm most excited to see what Will Smith will bring to the iconic role of the Genie. He's the perfect actor to bring a breath of fresh air to an already established role made famous by the late Robin Williams. Smith goes a little in-depth about the role in an Entertainment Weekly interview, and talks about recording the song "Friend Like Me" from the movie before he even knew he was accepting the role. Definitely expecting this to make it over the billion-dollar mark barring all positive reception.

20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

Dark Phoenix

Release Date: June 7, 2019
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Evan Peters & Olivia Munn
Director: Simon Kinberg

If you know me, you will know I am a dedicated X-Men stan and will debate your granny about anything X-Men related. 20th Century Fox’s highly controversial re-doing of the iconic Dark Phoenix storyline follows Sophie Turner's Sansa Sta--I mean Jean Grey battling a dark force within her that she succumbs to and splits the X-Men.

Simon Kinberg, longtime producer of the X-Men franchise, will be in the director's seat for the first time, looking to right the wrongs of X-Men: The Last Stand that handled the Dark Phoenix saga so poorly. The Disney-Fox merger is expected to close in March, making Dark Phoenix the first X-Men film to release after the deal is completed. Some fans are happy that Fox will be done with the franchise and some are not. I for one am ready for another X-Men movie, and my hopes are high with Dark Phoenix.

Disney

Disney

Toy Story 4

Release Date: June 19, 2019
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Blake Clark, Wallace Shawn, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Estelle Harris & more!
Director: Josh Cooley

When I found out we were getting another Toy StoryI wasn't initially here for it. Toy Story 3 came out a little before I went to college and was the icing on top of my childhood. Why mess with a good thing?

After a brief teaser was released, seeing my favorite toys come to life again had me sold. The movie will follow Woody & the gang on an eye-opening road trip, showing the toys just how big the world is. Add another billion in Disney's pockets with this one.

Marvel

Marvel

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Samuel L. Jackson & Jake Gyllenhaal
Director: Jon Watts

The highly anticipated sequel to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming seemingly takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Soooo spoiler, I guess Spidey makes it, huh?

The movie follows Peter Parker and his high school friends on a vacation to Europe where he meets and teams up with Mysterio, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, to battle the Elementals, four immortals with control over natural forces.

While I'm excited to see any role Gyllenhaal takes on, I'm a bit thrown off that his relationship starts off as an ally. My only guess as to why would be that it obviously ends up strained throughout the course of the movie, adding some depth to Mysterio's role and likely leading to his induction to the Sinister Six that the MCU seems to be delicately building. That would explain why Michael Keaton's Vulture is set to appear in the movie as well.

Disney

Disney

Lion King

Release Date: July 19, 2019
Starring: Donald Glover, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, James Earl Jones, Alfre Woodard & John Kani 
Director: Jon Favreau

Much like Aladdin, Lion King is a live-action remake of the 1994 classic animated movie following the rise of young Simba to become the king of the jungle. This cast is unreal. I've already pre-pre-pre downloaded the highly-anticipated Donald Glover/Beyoncé duet of Can You Feel The Love Tonight. One thing's for sure, this is a Grammy and Academy Award-winning knock out that I can't wait to see. Add yet another billion to Disney's account with this one for sure.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

IT: Chapter Two

Release Date: September 6, 2019
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy, Jay Ryan, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone & Andy Bean 
Director: Andy Muschietti

OK… maybe we do have some quality horror movies this year. It: Chapter Two will be a follow-up to 2017's reboot of the same name. This time we follow the adult version of The Losers Club, 27 years later when they return to their hometown to fight off Pennywise the Clown once and for all. We have an amazing older cast here to fill the big shoes of 2017's child-led cast. Additionally, the younger cast from 2017's It will return to reprise their roles as well.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker

Release Date: October 4, 2019
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Zazie Beetz, Robert De Niro, Bill Camp, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen
Director: Todd Phillips

The Crown Prince of Crime is set to get his stand-alone origin film this year. I wasn’t sold on Joker until the first images of Joaquin Phoenix on-set came out. It's a very traditional/cynical take on The Joker from the looks of the photos. I'm not a fan of comparing actors who play the same characters, but Phoenix's rendition looks closer to Heath Ledger's take on the character. Random fact, but Joaquin Phoenix was almost Doctor Strange in the MCU.

Honorable Mentions

Shazam is here solely due to Aquaman's breakout success. There's also a Charlie's Angels reboot starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart and Djimon Hounsou which has peaked my interest. Captain Marvel has generated quite the buzz as she's looked at as the end-all be-all against Thanos. Of course, the big release to end the year will be Star Wars Episode IX.

Comment or tweet me what movies you're excited for this year and check out more of my work here!

AQUAMAN: A Sign of DC’s Future
Image courtesy of Popsugar

Image courtesy of Popsugar

When Warner Bros. and DC Comics announced Man of Steel it not only signaled another reboot for DC’s biggest superhero, but a restart on the entire universe. Emulating the cultural phenomenon Disney and Marvel has accomplished with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros. sought to create their own crude, microwavable shared universe, putting faith in its two biggest names: Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne.

But after two lukewarm entries (the Zach Snyder-directed MOS and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) and a critical failure in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, the DC Extended Universe came out of the gates on shaky legs. Despite the success of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, by the time Justice League arrived, the glow of Zack Snyder’s charm had worn off, replaced with a altered and overt Joss Whedon script, essentially marking the end of Snyder’s creative involvement over DC’s projects.

Just over five years after MOS debuted with lofty goals strapped on its back, the sixth installment in the DCEU - the James Wan-directed Aquaman - may have finally lit the flame on the rocket DC hoped to fire half a decade ago.

Aquaman may not be a great film, but it’s delightfullly-average, elevated by a fun script, truly spectacular visuals & an adrenaline-pumping third act. The film does suffer from cringe-worthy dialogue, a bloated run time and some plot points that at times feel convoluted, and at others feel so simple many of its key moments are telegraphed. It may not be better than Wonder Woman, but it’s a step in the right direction for the DCEU.

Aquaman may lay claim to a more important attribute: succeeding where the past failed while finding a way to stand on its own. As one of two films (along with SS) bearing no link to Snyder, it carried the distinct vision of its creative team (even WW’s aesthetic closely resembled MOS and BVS). Where Snyder’s films opted for half-baked, philosophical ruminations with the seriousness of a barium enema, James Wan went for an old-school, Sword-in-the-Stone tale of kings and heroes, approached with the light-hearted touch you need from Atlantis. Wan embraced the outlandish subject matter; instead of grounding it in gritty realism, he used what was at his disposal to take you to the furthest depths of the ocean. Ignoring the DCEU became Aquaman’s biggest strength.

The DCEU was in jeopardy just a year ago, with personnel and studio changes abound, but Aquaman has been the pivot DC desperately needs. It may not be one of the best movies of the last year, and it’s still unknown whether the universe will be scrapped completely or not, but Aquaman is a serviceable restart. After being lost in a mire for years, it’s more than DC could’ve hoped for.

Teflon Don: a tribute to Rocky Balboa

“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”

Sylvester Stallone announced on Instagram last week that he’s “retiring” his iconic Rocky Balboa character. Whether or not that holds true - it is Hollywood so you never know - this feels like the perfect time to take a moment to appreciate everything the character’s given us & to celebrate the most underrated fact about him: Rocky Balboa was Teflon.

Stallone created the iconic fighter in 1976, loosely based on real-life boxer Charles Wepner, who was a clear underdog against then-heavyweight champ Muhammed Ali in 1975 who managed to almost go the distance before losing by TKO in the 15th round. Much like Wepner, Rocky was an underdog who got a shot at the title & stunned the world by not eating shit in the first round, then stunned the world again by not eating shit at all. He was an awkward southpaw you didn’t wanna step up to.

The critical & commercial success of the first film spawned five sequels as well as two spinoffs. While the critical success trended downward with each sequel, returning to a peak for the sixth installment, Rocky Balboa (which remains the second-highest rated in the main series), the commercial success never wavered. No film bearing the name “Rocky” in its title ever failed to, at least, double its production budget at the worldwide box office. Audiences stood by Rocky; no matter how inconceivable the scenarios were, they flocked to see him overcome his next challenge. Teflon!

Those numbers are just half the story; they have to be put in context, measured against the reality that after Rocky III, the plots to the sequels became increasingly inane. In Rocky IV, the Italian Stallion went toe-to-toe with Russia’s laboratory created, boxing version of Frankenstein’s monster, Ivan Drago. The fight, born out of revenge following Drago beating Rocky’s good friend Apollo Creed to death in an exhibition match, saw Rocky train in the wintry mountains of Russia before going 15 rounds with his steroid-infused nemesis, flooring him just seconds before the final bell rang. That’s before even mentioning his post-victory speech that gained applause from the Russian General Secretary, effectively ending the Cold War!

In Rocky V, Rock is broke, suffering from permanent brain damage, is a lousy parent & engages in good old fashioned street fisticuffs against a kid he tried to live vicariously through. It’s a ludicrous premise, its execution is flawed but, again, it didn’t matter. Then came Rocky Balboa (arguably the best main series sequel), which saw an older Rocky, mourning the loss of his wife, trying to maintain a relationship with his son all while attempting to find his way in a world he felt no longer had a place for him. It works so well as a rumination on the perils of getting old that you almost don’t think about the fact that a man in his late fifties with permanent brain damage fighting a man decades younger than him and not dying is about as likely as Ben Simmons hitting a three this season. More importantly, it made you look past the fact that the black boxer he was fighting was named Mason “The Line” Dixon. They basically named him Mason Dixon Line. Rocky Balboa named the antagonist of the film after the line used to separate slave states from non slave states and NOBODY CARED!

Therein lies the true success of Rocky Balboa, the man. It didn’t really matter what the story was. We were there for him. From his guttural screams of “Adrian”, to when he beat the 10 count Apollo couldn’t, at the iconic freeze frame ending, to when Drago said “if he dies, he dies”, all the way until he tells his son “it ain’t about how hard you hit”, we came back for him. We hung on to a character who was a testament to perseverance. An underdog to a champ. A man who loved as hard as he fought & who we want nothing more than to see happy. A character that Sylvester Stallone played better every time out with his last few appearance being top notch. If his final moment in CREED 2 is, in fact, the last time we see the legend on screen then we couldn’t have asked Stallone for a better performance. A man who was resilient but afraid, wise but still flawed &, when it was all done, he made amends with the family he has left in a subtly, beautiful scene.

A tip of that patented fedora to you, Rock, you did it.

FILM REVIEW: CREED II doubles down on nostalgia & leaves you caring more for the past than the present

UPDATE: 12:39PM

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

“It’s your time now”

As Adonis Creed beckons towards Rocky Balboa to join him in the ring following the former’s victory over Viktor Drago, Rocky offers him a simple fist bump & those words. The camera pauses on a wide shot of their arms outstretched & linked at the fist before cutting to a close-up of Adonis. He looks a bit taken aback but turns to the ring, the crowd celebrating him, & embraces his moment. The camera follows him as he’s handed his belt and walks out of the ring hand-in-hand with Bianca up the tunnel. Rocky Balboa doesn’t appear in this scene again. The future unequivocally belongs to Adonis Creed.

CREED 2 took a different approach than its predecessor. After nailing that impactful line (fun fact: a line Sylvester Stallone improvised, according to director Steven Caple Jr.), Rocky walks over to a ringside chair and takes a seat. The camera follows him, positioned steadily behind him, the ring & everything happening in it in front of him but out of focus. We see Creed’s jubilance at his triumph over his demons through Rocky’s point of view. We don’t get to experience his joy in the ringl instead we’re left with the aged legend who has finally passed the torch. It’s a somber moment, but a beautiful shot that highlights the biggest problem I had walking away from CREED 2...

I still care more about Rocky Balboa than Adonis Creed.

Nostalgia is an extremely powerful tool. Humanity loves looking back to feeling the way we felt before, or at the very least, the way we believe we felt. It was used to perfection in 2015’s CREED. Watching the older Rocky train & take care of the illegitimate child of his close friend and former arch-enemy while he walked a similar path was appropriately affecting. There were familiar beats but more than enough originality for it to feel like it’s own piece.

The sequel doubled down on that nostalgia, tying Rocky’s own past directly to Adonis’ present. The end result is a movie that belongs just as much to the former as it does the latter, in spite of the latter being the titular character. In the end, Rocky reconnects with his estranged son & meets his grandson while Adonis visits the grave of his deceased father, Apollo, & introduces him to his grandchild. Rocky’s soft spoken meeting with the only family he has left produced a small lump in my throat. Adonis’ cathartic visit to the father he never knew left me shrugging.

So we circle back to that post-match moment. That ringside fist bump. The man sitting in a chair, outside looking in. The camera resting behind him. We’re invited fully into the perspective of Rocky Balboa, engulfed completely by his somber uncertainty. We’re left as spectators to Adonis Creed’s happiness, his victory over the ties that bound him to his past. The camera is the audiences’ portal into their world. Its positioning is ours as well. It controls what we see, & what we see controls what we feel. To the right, it would’ve shown us unbridled joy. To the left was quiet doubt. The powers that be took the camera left and that seemingly small choice made all the difference.

“It’s your time now”

After watching the moment that followed, what should have been a passing-of-the-torch line, I can’t help but ask; is it?

UPDATE: Well... it may be. Earlier this week Sylvester Stallone announced on Instagram that he’s officially retiring the Rocky Balboa character. While it's a great move for the franchise, it doesn't sit well with me that the character will either be relegated to an off-screen death or passing mentions about his whereabouts in the next film. It’ll most likely be the former because it’s the only reason a prominent father figure in Adonis’ life & career is suddenly no longer around, but the latter would leave audiences questioning why he doesn’t reach out to his mentor.

Time will tell how this all plays out, but if CREED 2 is the end of Rocky & Adonis' relationship, then it ends with Rocky Balboa acting as a plot device in two films before being unceremoniously disregarded as if he were never that important to begin with.

Follow Z on Twitter: @ZTheJustOK

What we want to see in the MCU after the Disney-Fox merger
by Darius Gordon

by Darius Gordon

It's finally official: the Disney-21st Century Fox merger has been approved by shareholders and is looking to take effect mid-2019. Before we dive into what this means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, let's start off with a brief history of how so many Marvel characters ended up at different studios.

Back in 1996, Marvel Studios sold some of their heavy-hitting properties to Sony and Fox. Spider-Man went to Sony, while the likes of X-Men and Fantastic Four went to Fox, who has held onto their properties and made off with an 18-year string of superhero movies with relatively high box office numbers.

Then came the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU started in 2008 with Iron Man and little post-credit scenes connect our favorite heroes leading up to 2012's Avengers; the movie that had every other studio shook. Marvel came back and came through to dominate in shared universes and comic book movies. The MCU is undoubtedly the sole reason why every major studio is working towards having its own shared universe.

Now that we'll be seeing just about all of the Marvel Comics characters under the MCU, let's talk about what we're looking forward to from this deal. Let's chat.

A Fantastic Four movie that doesn't suck

via 20th Century Fox

via 20th Century Fox

We're towards the end of phase 3 in the MCU, which will end with Captain Marvel and Avengers 4, the follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War. With Phase 4 on the horizon, OG characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor are being ushered out and newcomers like Black Panther, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy are taking over.

Marvel's first family is the perfect leeway into the Fox-Disney merger.

The Fantastic Four have suffered from three not-so-great movies, with the most recent being Josh Trank's 2015 Fantastic 4 reboot, which goes down for being one of the worst adaptations of all time. The Fantastic Four can seamlessly enter the MCU with no previous explanation needed. Their PG-13 and family dynamic fits right in with the joke-heavy and happy-go-lucky formula that's worked so well in the MCU. With Tony Stark soon to be stepping down (or dying, yikes) this sets up the perfect opportunity for another genius like Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) to step up as the MCU's resident genius. I expect to see them at the tail end of phase 4.

X-Men

via 20th Century Fox

via 20th Century Fox

If you know me, then you know that I am secretly a mutant waiting on Professor X to send the jet and officially make me a member of the X-Men. In other words, I am a true X-Men stan and for the most part I love what Fox has done with my all-time favorite superheroes.

That said, this is what EYE want to happen.

Dark Phoenix and New Mutants are both essentially done filming and in the final stages of post-production. IMAX confirmed that both films are slated for their 2019 release with their earnings report.

There are a number of ways Marvel could integrate the concept of mutants into the MCU. I personally would love to see the X-Men be one of the consequences of the Avengers altering time/universes to defeat Thanos. Or, after Dark Phoenix and New Mutants debut next year they could scrap the X-Men altogether, and well, I will still be there opening night. I expect to see the X-Men in the MCU in 2020, apart of the end of Phase 4 or beginning of Phase 5 at the soonest.

via Marvel Comics

via Marvel Comics

With the X-Men integration, one of the most obvious comic book story lines to follow would be 2012's crossover event of Avengers vs X-Men.

The story follows the aftermath of yet another Phoenix Force phenomenon that leads Scarlet Witch to wipe out mutants as a whole during battle with the exception of the X-Men. Knowing the MCU, this would be an event that the studio would lead up to with the likes of post-credit scenes like we got with Avengers.

That said the X-Men would have to already exist in this world. I can see this being at the tail-end of Phase 5 or beginning of Phase 6. I AM READY. 

Let Deadpool be Deadpool

via 20th Century Fox

via 20th Century Fox

Literally change nothing. This is the perfect set-up for the type of character that Deadpool is. Known for hilariously breaking the fourth wall. This merger is a gold mine of material for everyone's favorite Merc with a Mouth.

Coincidentally, the four-year anniversary of the leaked animated footage of Deadpool that peaked fans' interest and fast tracked the movie into production was this past week!

Keep him rated R, and allow Ryan Reynolds’s Wade Wilson to pop in and out of ensemble movies as he pleases while his solo movies remain in their own bubble of a universe. It's working for Fox, and this character is a fan favorite that the happy-go-lucky MCU does not need to alter.

Tell me, what do you guys want to see in the MCU? Are we here for this deal or nah?

Check out more by EJ Clark here & shout out to the bro, Darius Gordon for the dope thumbnail up top!

For The Culture reviews: Coming to America

Welcome friends to another lit addition to our series, For The Culture Reviews. This week we'll be revisiting another timeless black movie, Coming to America! Much like the Paid in Full review, we'll be going over a classic to see just how well it holds up and offer a chance for movie fans to talk about something for us and by us. Let's chat.

SNL

SNL

Coming to America made its debut June 29, 1988. It was one of the only black feature films that year. The odds weren't in Coming to America's favor with the likes of BeetlejuiceDie HardThe BlobHairspray and a third Rambo all being released in the same year, but the movie held its own in a sea of white movies! The film went on to be the 3rd highest grossing movie of 1988 behind Rain Man and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, respectively. This being Eddie Murphy's seventh feature film and first go at writing, it solidified his role as a great comedian-turned-actor and established a staple in his career of playing multiple roles in one movie.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

The story follows Prince of Zamunda, Akeem (Eddie Murphy), who just turned 21 and has never even tied his own shoes. It is Zamundan tradition for the king to be to meet his arranged bride-to-be for the first time on his 21st birthday. Akeem is reluctant to marry a woman who isn't independent and doesn't truly love him for who he is rather than what he is, but his parents King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) and Queen Aeoleon (Madge Sinclair) reassure him that this is tradition and he'll soon come to love his bride just as his parents did. Akeem ain't feeling it. After meeting the supposed bride Imani Izzi (Vanessa Bell), Akeem realizes that she is nothing more than a glorified servant who, since birth, has been trained to please and serve the king. This prompts Akeem and his friend Semmi (Arsenio Hall) to go to America of all places and look for a queen. And where do they end up? Well New York City, of course (although one could argue a true queen exists on the South side of Chicago, but that's another argument.)

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Once in Queens, Akeem insists on finding the poorest/cheapest/dirtiest apartment he could find (a lot of options in NYC) so that he can experience the life of a regular guy. The two stop into a barbershop just below their apartment and we're introduced to the owner Clarence (Murphy), white Jewish man Saul (also played by Murphy), Morris (Hall) and Sweets (Clint Smith). Little known fact: the guy in the barber's chair getting his haircut was none other than Cuba Gooding Jr. in his first feature film debut. The pair finds themselves in a New York club and the women were just all bad. We get some hilarious give and take between Murphy and Hall and even see Hall dressed as a woman pursuing Akeem in the club; it was gold. After an unsuccessful night out, the locals in the barbershop suggest that they attend a Black awareness rally that's raising money for inner city youths. It's here that we meet the love interest Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley); we love a woke queen. We also get another hilarious character out of Eddie Murphy in Randy Watson, the rather zesty lead singer in the group Sexual Chocolate. Akeem sets his sights on Lisa and ends up getting himself and Semmi a job at her father's restaurant McDowell's, a McDonald's rip off. John Amos delivers a campy yet classic performance as Cleo McDowell and we meet his other daughter Patrice (Allison Dean) and Lisa's boyfriend Darryl Jenks (Eriq La Salle), the soul-glo prince.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Akeem tirelessly tries time and time again to win Lisa over but between keeping up the facade that he's poor, and keeping Semmi under control, it's a tough task. It wasn't until Mr. McDowell and Darryl conspire against Lisa to force her into a proposal that sent her right into my boy Hakeem's arms. Semmi, who is over this broke boy lifestyle, sends a telegraph to King Jaffe for more money. This brings Akeem's family to America and outing him as a prince to Mr. McDowell. McDowell, being the money hungry man he is, is ecstatic to learn of Akeem's true riches, but Lisa is not. I'll go into this in a bit, but that part always blew me, but I digress. Lisa runs off and Akeem runs after her, and in a final attempt to win her love, offers to renounce his throne. Lisa declines and Akeem returns home to Zamunda for his arranged wedding. When all is said and done, to his surprise, Lisa turns out to be the bride-to-be behind the veil on his wedding day and the two get married and ride off into Black Excellence.

Albeit, the plot itself suffers from the will they/won't they/love at first sight/you should've trusted me with the truth clichés, but Eddie Murphy & co. did such a great job at adding a breath of fresh air to this regurgitated plot. The comedy in this movie is some of Murphy and Hall's best, not to mention the outstanding performances we got from Murphy, Hall, James Earl Jones, Headley and especially John Amos as Cleo McDowell. Honestly, if it weren't for the acting of Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall, this movie, with the same exact jokes, would've fell flat.

One of the biggest things that bothered me with this movie is Lisa’s reaction to Akeem being a prince. One could argue that she was mad because she was used to the men in her life lying to her and tricking her into thinking something, but I won’t lie I feel like that’s a reach. Maybe I’m too used to Chicago women that would be fake mad for like 10 minutes then ask when she can get her crown.

The plot is a little too thin to hold up on its own, but Murphy and Hall take it home. For a movie to compete with the likes of HairsprayBeetlejuiceDie Hard and still come up as third highest grossing movie of the year is impressive. With a budget of only $39M, the movie grossed an astounding $288M. All in all, the movie holds up and solidifies itself as a classic. I'm giving it an 8/10.

Rico's Playhouse Podcast

This week in the Playhouse Rico is joined by the dynamic duo T+Godz (@tgodzmusic) out of Chicago. This week we discuss Teairra Mari’s Instagram hack and how leaking nudes is lame, Bad Boys, as well as some of our favorite sequels of all time. So Sit back relax and enjoy Rico’s Playhouse.

iTunes

Playhouse Shorts: Hollywood & the Black Film Maker
Avengers: Infinity War review

 *WARNING! Mild SPOILERS ahead!*

Well friends, it's finally here. The moment we've all waited 10 long years for. Avengers: Infinity War! Holy fucking moly bro... not only did Thanos come through and destroy any and everything in his wake, but he snatched my lining right along with them (Assuming that's the male equivalent of snatchin' edges, right?)

Whatever it is, he did it. In all seriousness, Avengers: Infinity War was an amazing movie, and easily sits at one of the top 3 MCU movies of all time (behind Captain America: Winter Soldier & Black Panther for me).  Everything was on point when it came to this movie; the writing, direction, acting, villain and most of all, the consequences all come together to make this one of the best cinematic experiences of our time.

Honestly G, I'm still shook. Infinity War literally felt like a live-action comic book, and though I've read this story countless times in the comics, I truly wasn't prepared to see some of Earth's mightiest heroes die in this movie. The acting usually takes a backseat in comic book movies, but not in Infinity War. Just about everyone acted their entire ass off, especially Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr. Stephen Strange), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Zoe Saldana's problematic ass (Gamora). The pacing was seamless as the movie transitioned from one scenario to another. There wasn't a shortage of action, but we didn't get unnecessary violence either.

Marvel Studios

Marvel Studios

THANOS. What a villain man. He was so calculated and really believed in his mission so much that I started to rationalize what he was doing. Josh Brolin really brought emotion and range to this role and the CGI on his character was amazing. I would have loved to see more of an explanation on why Thanos was so passionate about balancing the universe. Like, they explained it, but I think a proper foil would have really drove the point home. Someone on Twitter made a great point in saying that a lot of the sacrifices we saw were in the name of love, and I love that.

All in all, Infinity War surpassed expectations and I for one will be seeing this movie at least twice more in theaters. This movie had great acting and real ramifications for our favorite heroes. I'm giving the movie a 9.5/10.

Oh, and don't forget. Thanos a whole goofy, pidd.

For the Culture: ranking the best Disney Channel original movies of all time

If you read the title of this article and didn't immediately sing, "let's watch. A Disney channel mooooovie. Let's watch. Adisneychannelmovie!" leave now. This not for you.

If you weren't switching in between channels 54, 55, 56, this is most definitely not for you homie.

Below we've ranked have fifteen of the best DCOMs of all time. We'll start from decent to the absolute best DCOM of all time. Narrowing this list down to just 15 was already a struggle; the lil nigga just hit the mid-air splits, the theme song is poppin', it's time for a Disney Channel Movie.

Disney

Disney

15. Halloweentown

Release Date: October 17, 1998
Starring: Kimberly J. Brown, Debbie Reynolds, Joey Zimmerman, Emily Roeske & Judith Hoag


Verdict: Let's gone head and get this out the way now, this movie is overrated y'all. Dubbed a classic by the masses amongst my generation, it ultimately falls flat upon rewatch. But, because y'all love this dusty ass movie, be happy it made it THIS far.

14. Jett Jackson: The Movie

Release Date: June 8, 2001
Starring: Lee Thompson Young, Linda Booth, Kerry Duff & Ryan Dowell Baum


Verdict: RIP to that boy Lee Thompson Young 🙏🏾 The film follows sixteen-year-old Jett Jackson and his role as TV action hero, Silverstone. It's a fun watch that still holds up and really highlights Young's acting skills early on.

Disney

Disney

13. Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

Release Date: January 23, 1999
Starring: Kirsten Storms, Raven-Symoné, Lauren Maltby, Holly Fulger, & Phillip Rhys.


Verdict: A classic indeed and still pretty enjoyable, albeit annoying at times. The plot isn't that solid and I mean, 2049 is 31 years from now, y'all really think we finna be living on space by then? Nonetheless, the movie produced two decent sequels, starred Raven-Symoné before she disowned us, and movie gave us the HIT that is Supernova Girl. Remember that song?

12. The Proud Family Movie

Release Date: August 19, 2005
Starring: Kyla Pratt, Tommy Davidson, Paula Jai Parker, Orlando Brown & Omarion


Verdict: A good ass Disney movie if we're being honest and an instant classic for the culture. The Proud Family is arguably one of Disney's best original TV shows and the movie, which serves as the series finale, neatly ties the bow on a childhood classic. Oh, and who can forget the iconic dance battle scene?

11. Kim Possible Movie: So The Drama

Release Date: April 8, 2005
Starring: Christy Carlson Romano, Will Friedle, TahjMowry, John DiMaggio, Nicole Sullivan & Nancy Cartwright


Verdict: Yo, go back and watch this movie y'all, it's lit as hell. Dr. Drakken actually has a solid plan and is actually menacing for the first time. We see Kim Possible in a real threat and complex love triangle with the homie, Ron & new dude Eric who (plot twist) is one of the bad guys! Ron finally gets the girl and our girl Kim ends up saving the day, duh. Instantly a classic and one of Disney's last great-animated shows.

Disney

Disney

10. Up, Up, and Away

Release Date: January 22, 2000
Starring: Michael J. Pagan, Robert Townsend, Alex Datcher, Sherman Hemsley & Kasan Butcher


Verdict: A big moment for a young black superhero geek such as myself back in 2000. This is one of the first times we get a black lead in a DCOM (right behind Don't Look Under the Bed). Instantly gottaput it in the top 10 off the strength of that, and the movie has a solid plot, decent villain and good acting on all parts. 10 is a pretty solid position for a movie where all the main characters share the same weakness, fucking aluminum foil bro? Black people love aluminum foil!

Disney

Disney

9. Cadet Kelly

Release Date: March 8, 2002
Starring: Hilary Duff, Christy Carlson Romano, Gary Cole, Andrea Lewis & Shawn Ashmore
 

Verdict: Definitely worthy of a top ten spot. Cadet Kelly gave us character development, good acting from Hilary Duff & Christy Carlson Romano, comedy and that relatable feeling of starting a new school for the first time. We also gotta give Hilary a W since The Lizzie McGuire Movie technically doesn't count as a DCOM, which is a shame.

8. The Even Stevens Movie

Release Date: June 13, 2003
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Christy Carlson Romano, A.J. Trauth, Margo Harshman, Nick Spano, Tom Virtue, Donna Pescow & Steven Anthony Lawrence


Verdict: The Even Stevens Movie serves as a series finale to another Disney Channel classic. Shoutout to Christy Carlson Romano making her third appearance on the list already! The movie gave us the goofiness that we loved from the show along with tying up loose ends. Defnitely a top ten DCOM.

Disney

Disney

7. Get a Clue

Release Date: June 2, 2002
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Brenda Song, Bug Hall, Ian Gomez, & Ali Mukaddam


Verdict: Man I love a good who-done-it mystery movie & Get a Clue delivers on all parts. Lindsay Lohan was always a great actress before anything and she holds her own here alongside Suite Life of Zack & Cody's Brenda Song. The story is pretty good and keeps you on your toes as the mystery continues to unravel. Not only is this a great DCOM, but its a good movie all in all and is 2000's af.

Disney

Disney

6. Brink!

Release Date: August 29, 1998
Starring: Erik von Detten, Christina Vidal, Patrick Levis & Asher Gold


Verdict: I can hear the masses yelling: "Brink! shoul dbe in the top five!". Shut up. This is the third DCOM and let's keep it real, after seeing this you were begging your OG to get you a pair of roller-blades so that you too could be a soul-skater. We get a solid lesson on friendship and all-in-all keeping it real with yo Day 1's, at least that's what I took away from it. This is also the first time we meet Christina Vidal's fine ass that went on to star in Freaky Friday and starred as the titular character in Nickelodeon's Taina.

Disney

Disney

5. The Color of Friendship

Release Date: February 5, 2000
Starring: Shadia Simmons, Lindsey Haun, Travis Davis, Penny Johnson & Carl Lumbly


Verdict: Top 5, top 5, top 5 *Drizzy voice*.  This movie honestly may be the sole reason why I can tolerate caucasians as well as I can now, no joke. Premiering in Black History Month of 2000, The Color of Friendship wasn't afraid to tackle some heavy material like foreign affairs, racism & oppression. After a rewatch, this still is one of the best DCOM we've seen to this day. I loved the idea of using a white South-African woman as a parallel to a black African-American one. Honestly, this movie could've debuted in theaters and made a killing for Disney.

Disney

Disney

4. Smart House

Release Date: June 26, 1999
Starring: Ryan Merriman, Katey Sagal, Kevin Kilner, Katie Volding & Jessica Steen


Verdict: G this house was raw as hell! The whole time I was watching this movie, I just kept thinking of how lit a mid-2000's juke party would've been in that mf. That is until Katey Segal (Peggy from Married... with Children) crazy ass became the house personified and wanted to become a wife/mother to the kids and their dad. Smart House is by far the most fun you're ever gonna get watching a DCOM. I definitely recommend a rewatch like, right now.

Disney

Disney

3. High School Musical

Release Date: January 20, 2006
Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu & Monique Coleman


Verdict: G... getcha head in the game, you gottagetchagetchagetchagetcha head in the game! That's really all I have to say. High School Musical gave us CUTS, Vanessa Hudgens who was a certified snack back then and ZacEfron who still has a pretty solid acting career. This was definitely one of those DCOM that I didn't want to admit to watching, but c'mon, a classic is a classic. This is one of the few DCOM that had a decent ass trilogy with the third film hitting the big screen; an impressive feat that no other DCOM has accomplished. Go back and play the soundtrack, you're welcome.

2. The Cheetah Girls

Release Date: August 15, 2003
Starring: Raven-Symoné, Adrienne Bailon, Sabrina Bryan, Kiely Williams.


Verdict: Yo, let's not even flex and say this wasn't one of the greatest movies of our young lives. For the ladies, they had a plethora of HITS to sing at their slumber parties; and for the fellas, I mean we had a fake 3LW reunion alongside Raven-Symoné singing and dancing looking like snacks. This movie actually still holds up in terms of acting, plot and of course the soundtrack. Bro, the soundtrack literally went double platinum. Gone head and bump that feminist-bop Cinderella and report back with a status update.

Disney

Disney

1. Don't Look Under the Bed

Release Date: October 9, 1999
Starring: Erin Chambers, Eric "Ty" Hodges II, Steve Valentine & Jake Sakson


Verdict: The creme de la creme of Disney Channel Original Movies, Don't Look Under the Bed. I mean this movie was lowkey scary, great acting on all parts, and a good ass plot twist.


 

Honorable Mentions

As much as I'd love to keep this list going, I had a few films that ALMOST made the cut, check em out below.

1. Under Wraps
2. Johnny Tsunami
3. Tru Confessions
4. The Ultimate Christmas Present
5. Stuck in the Suburbs
6. Phantom of the Megaplex

A24's turning into a burgeoning film giant
A24

A24

The selection of films chosen by distribution company company A24 to distribute or produce all have one thing in common, taste. The company, founded by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges, has had a film nominated for best picture at the Oscars in each of the past three years, winning one with Moonlight.

The company’s momentum doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s flagship film for this award season was Lady Bird, a beautiful coming of age story about a 17 year old girl living in Sacramento, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saorise Ronan. The film is warm and affectionate and depicts the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship. The company has churned out films like Room, Amy, Ex Machina, and one of my personal favorite films of last year The Disaster Artist. They seem to continuously provide viewers with content unusual to the typical Hollywood studio and are taking off. An atmosphere has been created in which talented people can be talented without obstruction and cater content for those who are looking for something more in films.

A24

A24

A24’s taste level and championing of indies has led them to be compared with the great Miramax that did Reservoir Dogs, City of God, and Trainspotting. The philosophy of A24 is to invest in ideas, not to change them or make them their own. Barry Jenkins, the director of Moonlight, says that although the company may not know what a film means, they just care how it made them feel. They take films and handle each of them specifically to their needs. They tailor mesmerizing marketing campaigns and make it where it’s almost impossible for the viewer to not be interested in the film.

The idea of challenging conventions and maneuvering around structures to give the viewers something new and refreshing is beautiful. The company is in the business of taste and emotion. Every film they have produced and distributed is beautiful and strikes a cord emotionally with the viewer. In The Disaster Artist you get themes of camaraderie and triumph, in Spring Breakers you get vice and depravity, and in Room you get sexual assault and hopelessness.

What the company has done in five short years is simply remarkable. With seven Oscar nominations this year with Lady Bird, The Florida Project, and The Disaster Artist, the film company has officially arrived.

Black Oscars: the nominees
Shoutout Elena Winkel for the dope thumbnail! Follow her on Twitter for more work @lacheps.

Shoutout Elena Winkel for the dope thumbnail! Follow her on Twitter for more work @lacheps.

Award season is in full force right now and the 90th Academy Awards is this Sunday, so I thought it'd be appropriate for us to participate in the awards this year. You know, lend the academy the voice of a real one for a change. What we have here is the official, Black Oscars. It's lit!

"Well hell, what even are the Black Oscars?" Glad you asked colonizer! Essentially these are nominations for us and by us (us being black people). This doesn't necessarily mean the nominations will be limited to just black movies (which I'll explain exactly what that is, one day) or black actors; what it means is that these are the movies and actors that impacted us in the past year. These are OUR nominees and winners chosen by OUR academy because we lit. In a world where #OscarsSoWhite exists and Get Out is being overlooked by the old academy members, this is a much needed escape. The rules: The movie must have been for the culture or had cultural impact and been released between January 2017 to February 2018. So, let's get to it folks. Here are your nominees for the Black Oscars.

Aye Buddy Ass Went Crazy (Best Leading Actor)

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Chadwick Boseman, Marshall
Idris Elba, Molly's Game
James McAvoy, Split
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Go Crazy Shorty (Best Leading Actress)

Regina Hall, Girls Trip
Amandla Steinberg, Everything Everything
Mandy Moore, 47 Meters Down (this movie was lowkey lit af, check it out on Netflix)
Amy Adams, Arrival (yikes, we need more female-led movies)

Marvel

Marvel

Bro Decent As Hell (Best Supporting Actor)

Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
Lil Rel, Get Out
Finn Wolfhard, It (the lil homie from It and Stranger Things had us weak)
Chris Pine, Wonder Woman
Joel Edgerton, Bright

Aight Lil Mama, I See You (Best Supporting Actress)

Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip
Letitia Wright, Black Panther (Colonizer!)
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Zendaya, The Greatest Showman

Aye What's Buddy Name From Marvel? (Best Comic Book Actor)

Hugh Jackman, Logan
Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther
Michael Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming
Michael Fassbender, X-Men: Apocalypse
Forest Whitaker, Black Panther (Te powah of te Blak Pantha will now be scripped, eweh)

Shorty From Justice League Decent As Hell (Best Comic Book Actress)

Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok
Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman
Dafne Keen, Logan (I-Con-Ic)
Danai Gurira, Black Panther
Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

Aye G Wholetime, That Shit Looked Beautiful (Best Cinematography)

Baby Driver
Black Panther
47 Meters Down
Blade Runner 2049
Mudbound

Yeah They Ass Snapped (Best Director)

Jordan Peele, Get Out (#StayWoke)
Ryan Coogler, Black Panther
Andy Muschietti, It
Edgar Wright, Baby Driver
Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman

They Ass Was Flee As Hell (Best Costume Design)

It
Wonder Woman
Marshall
Detroit

We Love An Anthem (Best Original Soundtrack)

Black Panther: The Album
Baby Driver: Music From The Motion Picture
The Hitman's Bodyguard (Original Soundtrack Album)
Get Out (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Mudbound (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Whoever Wrote This Raw As Hell (Best Screenplay)

Get Out, Jordan Peele
Detroit, Mark Boal
Baby Driver, Edgar Wright
Black Panther, Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
It, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga & Gary Dauberman

Universal

Universal

G This Damn Near The Best Thing I've Ever Seen (Best Picture)

Detroit
Baby Driver
It
Logan
One For The Culture (Best *Black* Picture)
Black Panther
Get Out
Girls Trip

No Lie, This Shit Ain't Just For Kids G (Outstanding Animated Movie)

Boss Baby
Coco
Captain Underpants
Despicable Me 3

You Tryna See Black Panther For The 3rd Time? (Best Comic Book Movie)

Wonder Woman
Thor: Ragnarok
Logan
Black Panther
Power Rangers

Universal

Universal

That Shit Was Scary As Hell (Best Horror Movie)

Split
It
Get Out
47 Meters Down
Insidious: The Last Key

 

That Shit Was Lit Af! (Most Entertaining Film)

John Wick: Chapter 2
The Fate of the Furious
Girls Trip
Jumanji
Power Rangers

Bruh, I'm Weak! (Best Comedy)

Girls Trip
Jumanji
Fist Fight
Boo 2: A Madea Halloween

Screen Gems

Screen Gems

Aye, That Shit Was Trash Fam (Worst Movie Of The Year)

All Eyez On Me
Boo 2: A Madea Halloween
Proud Mary :(
Insidious: The Last Key
Kidnapped (Damn what they on with Halle?)
The Belko Experiement
Bright

And that’s all folks! Your official Black Oscar nominees are here. We got some deep thought to put into this so catch the winners this Sunday! Comment/Tweet/Share your thoughts on the actual nominees! A special shout out to my brain trust panel for helping narrow down the nominees. Y'all the real MVP's.

Living through something: Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, and storytelling in Coming-of-Age films
A24

A24

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
— Joan Didion, "The White Album"

For as long as there have been people, there have been storytellers. The philosopher Paul Ricoeur attributed it to the human desire for meaning, which naturally spills over to the human search for narrative. We desperately want to believe that our lives are building up to something, that all this makes Chekhovian sense, even as the world reminds us every day of its absurdity and randomness. We tell ourselves stories in order to live, because otherwise, we’d have no urge for going. We are all storytellers, because we cannot fathom existing otherwise.

Even so, the coming-of-age story feels more critical than most in our lifelong mythmaking project. The coming-of-age story holds a special place in the human heart because it’s by definition set at the most transitory time of most people lives, when they transition from childhood to something resembling maturity. There is no blueprint for the perfect coming-of-age story, because there is no blueprint for the perfect life, but every great coming-of-age story must approximate the rhythms of its chosen characters with clarity and compassion. Rilke once wrote that childhood was the greatest wellspring of stories one had at their disposal; in the great coming-of-age stories, the cup runneth over.

Great coming-of-age stories don’t come along every year, so we should be grateful that 2017 has given us two that have been embraced by audiences and critics alike: Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. While both are primarily about the becoming of their respective adolescent protagonists, the two films are vastly different in both structure and tone, and are in fact representative of two distinct but equally potent ways of telling coming-of-age stories: Nothing Happens and Something Happens cinema. Both films plunder recklessly from their respective traditions, and are thus inextricably entwined with their genre’s rich histories.


A24

A24

I wish I could live through something
— Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, "Lady Bird"

The opening scene of Lady Bird doubles as its statement of purpose: This film is about a girl going through her senior year of high school, with an overbearing mother and dreams of going to East Coast colleges. In one of the most effortlessly engaging bursts of exposition ever put to celluloid, Lady Bird and her mother are introduced through a winding car conversation that runs through some subtly great emotional shifts while still getting its audience up to speed with these remarkably regular people—a lower-middle class family suffering through the sort of ups and downs any sort of family would be more than familiar with.

All this makes Lady Bird sound everyday, and true enough, director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig never really reinvents the wheel with her film. On the contrary, the film’s brilliance stems directly from the way it seems to be in conversation with the ghosts of coming-of-age films past, breathing new life into familiar tropes by imbibing them with a renewed specificity.In particular, Lady Bird taps into the rich tradition of coming-of-age films I like to call Nothing Happens cinema, borrowing spare parts and old tropes to build its own classic.

Of course, Nothing Happens cinema isn’t meant to be taken literally. Events unfold onscreen like in any movie, but instead of following a defined and singular narrative through line, Nothing Happens films tend to splinter into individual vignettes, more thematically than narratively bound together. The Nothing Happens school of coming-of-age cinema reflects the very real ennui that comes with adolescence: The constant waiting for something to happen, coupled with the underlying anxiety of not being quite sure what that something is supposed to look like. Every writing class in the world will teach you—not wrongly, in most cases—that the inciting action of any story must be a point of no return for your protagonist, but both fictional and real-life coming-of-age stories are all about waiting for that inciting action, without realizing that our becoming is never as neat as a screenwriting-class script.

One of the very best iterations of this is Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, which also provides a very succinct summary of what human emotion drives films like these, as a character named Cynthia whines, “I’d like to quit thinking of the present…as some minor insignificant preamble to something else”. Every Nothing Happens narrative made before and after this film grapples with this statement in its own way, and Lady Bird is no exception. Our titular protagonist wouldn’t quite agree with Cynthia, as Lady Bird’s entire character arc is about impatience; she keeps waiting for life to happen to her, without realizing that it already is, just not in the way she thought it would. To paraphrase another Linklater film, the moment seized her, without her realizing there was a moment for her to seize.

The coming-of-age narrative that Lady Bird most resembles, however, isn’t a film, but a TV show. Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s short-lived but fondly remembered NBC dramedy Freaks and Geeks feels like a first draft of Lady Bird, or at least a spiritual big sister. Both center around headstrong young girls trying to navigate the complex social hierarchies of high school, and both have absolutely stacked benches beyond their two compelling protagonists. I’d like to think that if Lady Bird had been a television show, it would have found ways to flesh out characters like Danny and Julie the way Feig was able to turn characters like leather-jacket punk Daniel and mathlete Millie into three-dimensional characters all their own.

Most of all, both shows—and really, even the aforementioned Linklater films—have in common a sense of memory. They all feel like half-remembered fragments of a part of their lives whose importance will only become articulable with age and wisdom. It takes a certain level of maturity to be able to appreciate those long drives around the hometown you love but desperately want to escape, those afternoons killed by lying in bed and listening to old records, those lazy nights spent bar-hopping and waiting for something to happen, not yet comprehending that it’s all already happening. The very best of Nothing Happens cinema taps into that dull ache of nostalgia, of wanting to be seventeen and jittery and brimming with potential again, while still articulating that life was always meant to turn out as a low-budget version of our wildest dreams, and helping us make peace with that truth.


Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics

Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.
— Dr. Pearlman, "Call Me By Your Name"

Of course, if we have Nothing Happens cinema, there has to be a Something Happens cinema, and Call Me By Your Name is the quintessential Something Happens coming-of-age film. There’s a clear narrative through line, and each scene ably advances the plot by either fleshing out or furthering its characters towards their intended objectives, through coherent and consistent actions.  While this all sounds like Screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this properly and consistently, while also taking enough creative risks to feel as fresh and emboldening as Call Me By Your Name.

This is the film’s skeleton, but the real brilliance of Guadagnino’s film—and any film, really—lies in its grace notes. Call Me By Your Name runs on both its sensuality and its essential ephemerality, and its romance only works so well because the audience is made immediately aware that there is a deadline. In the opening scene, the film situates itself in summer, a season whose romance has always stemmed from the inevitability of its end. We are informed immediately that Oliver’s visit will only be for six weeks, and are never reminded of it until the very moment it would hurt the most. Similarly, the film has a very certain yet indefinite notion of place, as it renders its spaces so pristinely, yet relegates it geographically to some undefined “somewhere” in the Italian countryside. The film effectively situates itself in a love bubble, with the full knowledge that all bubbles have to burst sometime.

More than a few parallels have been drawn between Call Me By Your Name and two other recently released coming-of-age films that also disguise themselves as gay romances: Todd Haynes’s sumptuously sensual Carol, and Barry Jenkins’s achingly melancholy Moonlight. Beyond these surface parallels, all three films feature solid narrative through lines, and Jenkins’s film is even literally divided into three acts. All three films unfold in similar ways, but our protagonists—Therese, Chiron, Elio—all end up in distinctly different places by the end of them. Where Nothing Happens films capture the prevailing ennui of adolescence, these films simply depict watershed moments we all experience, only in vastly different ways. Many times, this watershed moment happens to be our sexual awakening, which is why every example I’ve used so far happens to be a romance.

This structure doesn’t just lend itself effectively to romance films, of course. Cameron Crowe’s iconic Almost Famous features a romance, but its real central relationship is between protagonist William Miller and music, represented by both love interest Penny Lane and idol/romantic rival Russell Hammond. The film depicts a glorified road trip, demarcated neatly by pit stops and parties, as well as a killer soundtrack that couldn’t be more beholden to the era it depicts. Both Almost Famous and Call Me By Your Name center on precocious teenagers in the midst of a sexual awakening (though Elio handles his with considerably more cool than the dorky William), and both films use external sources—pop songs, classic literature—as a makeshift Greek chorus for their characters’ inner turmoil. Perhaps most crucially, both films find much of their dramatic tension through the difficulty of translation, of moving from language to language and interaction to interaction, desperately looking to make some sort of connection.

Something Happens cinema depicts a different sort of reality from Nothing Happens cinema, but one that’s nonetheless universal. We all have those one or two memories that burned so brightly and are seared so indelibly in our memories that we can’t relegate them to mere vignettes. We all have that one summer romance that flamed out far too soon, or that one road trip that mattered a bit more than the rest. Our becoming doesn’t happen at a constant speed. Rather, it’s filled with baby steps and backslides, and sometimes even quantum leaps. The very best Something Happens coming-of-age films are about those quantum leaps, and more importantly, the people our protagonists were before them and will become in their wake.


Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics

Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name are the millennial favorites in this year’s Oscar race, because millennials are still caught in that weird space in between being young and forgetting what that was like. We’re still putting together our own personal mythologies, so we find ourselves grasping just a bit more desperately at reflections that feel familiar to us on a visceral, intuitive level. A common piece of writer’s advice is to steal from the best. On a subconscious level, to identify with a piece of art is to steal from the best, because this art gives us a blueprint to understand some aspect of ourselves, which we add to our own personal collages, which will eventually add up to a blueprint all its own. We are all storytellers, after all.

More than anything, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, as well as the coming-of-age canon in general, are emblematic of the sheer eclecticism of the adolescent experience. We stumble through our becoming in different ways, but one thing is certain: This experience, whether mundane or memorable, is important. We are living through something, regardless of whether we spend our summers waiting tables at a coffee shop or vacationing in an Italian villa. That’s what coming-of-age is really about—adding together both the memorable and the unmemorable to create some semblance of a life.

And that’s hella tight.