Girls come of age too

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French director Céline Sciamma wants to show us a spirited and insightful look at what it means to grow as a girl. This is more than the usual hollywood trappings. Sciamma isn’t interested in stereotypes or the usual melodramatic story beats. She is instead interested in moments.  Moments experienced by girls doing what each and every one of us had to do at some point….. “grow up”.

Girlhood follows the story of 16-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré) growing up in a poor french suburb outside of Paris. Her poor performance means she has not qualified for highschool. She is devastated at what is her immediate future, a trade/vocational school. Her mother works so often that she is hardly around, making Marieme the primary caregiver to her two younger sisters. Her older brother strikes fear into all three of them. Having taken the place of their absentee father, he is an abusive force they try their best to avoid.  Marieme feels like her future is outside of her control, she doesn’t want much, just the right to choose.

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It is at this low point that Marieme befriends a gang of girls. Sporting stylish clothes and long weaves, their style and attitude is much different from her own.  The three girls, Lady (Assa Sylla), Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh), and Fily (Mariétou Touré) aren’t necessarily a source of positive influence. They intimidate other students, shop lift and get into trash talking sessions with other girls. Their lifestyle reflects the sense of freedom that Marieme desperately wants.  They invite her into their crew, to be a part of something she doesn’t need to fear or report to.  They aren’t just there to steer her into a path of debauchery.. they know that strength comes in numbers. The gang is a support system and no matter the activity, the connection and bonds they share with each-other are potent and honest.

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Sciamma does some really powerful shooting with this film. Its energy is extra potent and intense from the very beginning. The film opens with a slow-motion female football game. The scene is ripe with symbolism as the girls on the field represent freedom. On the field they are unbound by society, they can run, jump and attack at will. This imagery is immediately pressed into the ground as this strong and free pack of young girls walk home. The closer they get home, the more young boys and men they walk pass, the more recluse and reserved they become. Even though the film has this serious tone, it never feels weighed down by it.  Sciamma provides us a view that is as uncompromising as it is powerful.

The film is held high by a brilliant performance by Karidja Touré. She is captivating in each scene she is in. How she bravely takes on actions and choices, especially so because you always get the sense that she doesn’t know how it will turn out. The remaining young actresses filling out the gang’s quartet is equally as compelling. Though the gang as a whole might be labeled as troublemakers, they are the walking embodiment of what friendship is, illustrating the protection/comfort it provides.  They are figuring out who they are at the same time she is. Their actions aren’t really fueled by a desire to be troublesome as it is a desire to feel free and relevant.  They follow the image of what they want and think they deserve to be. This is highlighted with an amazing scene when the girls spend the night together imagining a night on the town in a hotel room.

Girlhood struggles to maintain its energy throughout, but this also feels intentional.  It isn’t Sciamma’s goal to give us a roller coaster of anything.  True life has its ups and downs, and the girls just do their best to navigate from one scenario to another.  They will love , they will clash, and they will forgive.  It almost feels circular at times, but ultimately… that’s the exact spirit girlhood looks for.  It’s a fresh take on the coming of age story that we all think we’ve seen a few times over.  You haven’t seen something like girlhood before.

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Heroes Collide

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Batman v Superman is the culmination of any and all comic book fans. To some this day seemed as much impossible as it were inevitable. It is DC’s valiant attempt at playing catch up to the runaway train that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Pitting its two most tent-pole heroes against each other. There in lies the question. Like any highlight anticipated Superbowl, World Series or Boxing ticket, can the event live up to the hype?

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My Top Movies of 2015

Another year has gone by and it’s been a good year. As such, I will continue the tradition I started last year by doing my top six movies of the year list. Yeah, six is a rather odd number, but last year I just couldn’t settle on 5. So going forward, I hope to always just stick with six. To give myself so leeway, this list is only my personal favorite, and being such I don’t have to be overly objective. So lets jump In.

Runner Ups.

Just a quick shout out to the films that missed the cut for my list. I loved this films, but there can only be o… I mean, six.

Inside Out
Concussion
Mad Max : Fury Road
The Martian
Straight Outta Compton
Beast of No Nation

Lets dig in.

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The Story Needed Spotlight

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“If there were 90 of these bastards, people would know”. It’s not normal for me to start a review with a quote, but this quote captures what this movie aims to showcase. In 2001, The Boston Globe’s investigative journalist team Spotlight, took a deep look into the allegations of sexual misconduct of the catholic church in Boston. The result of this report, published in January of 2002 bought a harrowing truth to light. A scathing indictment to over 70 priests in the Boston area who were found to sexually abuse minors. The systematic attempt from the Boston archdiocese to cover it up.  The repercussions of this report weren’t just felt in Boston.  I was not raised a catholic, but I did attend catholic school in the Bronx NY for over seven years.  The Monsignor at my high school was charged of sexual abuse in 2002 for conduct in 1970s. The victim in question, got the courage to speak out because of the outcry from Spotlight’s report. This was something I was fortunately unaffected by, but I saw it’s effects first hand. From the steward supporters, who knew Mgsr. Kavanagh as a godly man, and the people who immediately held him in contempt. At it’s core, Spotlight is a real journalist movie. It’s subject matter is one of true intrigue and impact. It doesn’t get overly concerned with the characters because the story’s development is the actual star of the film.

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Surprisingly Delicious

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You may or may not know Stephen Chow. He is the brain behind comedy cult favorites Kung-Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. He partakes in a very nonsensical style of comedy around seemingly ordinary things. Borrowing heavy inspiration from eastern animation elements like : over the top moves, expressions and dialogue. I came across the first film he made in that style, The God of Cookery. What we have here is a very entertaining comedy about a celebrity chef, Chow, who has given himself the titular nickname “The God of Cookery”.  Those with an appreciation for eastern culture will get an extra kick out of this film.  As there are plenty of call backs and easter eggs to far eastern pop culture, some even holding weight today.  Yet the movie is still general enough for anybody to follow along and enjoy the ride.

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The Power In A Name

The original Rocky was released in 1976, almost 40 years ago. Rocky was more than a movie for its time. The quintessential underdog story, about how with enough hard work you can achieve your dreams. We’ve grown with Rocky over that time-span with five hit or miss sequels, 4 if you do the wise thing and forget Rocky 5 ever existed (I did).  However, father time is undefeated and Rocky can’t don the gloves anymore. Enter in Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s greatest in the ring rival Apollo Creed. We get a new underdog story, one for the new generation and it is as rich and fulfilling as the first time Rocky stepped in the ring.

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Maybe Not The Last

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Let’s be honest, audiences love a good supernatural film. They almost tend to come and go in phases / fads. The 80’s were all about ghost and ghouls. The 90’s were dominated by vampires, and we are currently knee-deep in a zombie craze. There is nothing wrong with this, and every now and then we get a film that is trying to find its own space. That is what “The Last Witch Hunter” feels like the most. Vampires are substituted with “Witches”. The eerie dystopian scenery is instead filled by more modern scenery.  Replacing the young “teenage” hero with a large and some what menacing Vin Diesel.  “The Last Witch Hunter” isn’t rewriting any formulas,  but it becomes clear fairly quickly that it isn’t trying to. It just wants to be different, and excelling at those differences is what ultimately makes watching Vin Diesel’s Kaulder such a fun ride. Kaulder is cursed with immortality. A curse casted on him by the witch queen when he defeated her over 800 years ago. For that time period he has faithfully served an organization that maintains the balance between humans and witches called The Axe and Cross.

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Ladies & Gentlemen , Now Introducing…

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Apple is the most highly valued company in world today.  With its current market evaluation at 650+ billion dollars ( Yeah… with a “B” ).   The name most synonymous with that success is none other than Steve Jobs.   When you mention Steve Jobs, you will undoubtedly get a mix of different options and reactions: tech visionary,  egotistical maniac,  genius,  deadbeat dad,  passionate,  uncooperative,  and uncompromising just to name a few.  “Steve Jobs”,  the latest and hopefully last biopic of the late CEO of apple,  attempts to show you the man in all the light and dark avenues.   Regardless of how you feel about the late tech legend.  His impact is felt today all over the world.

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At What Age Do Beasts Bare Fangs

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The difference between “Right” and “Wrong”, also known as morality. Morality is a subject you could spend your entire life studying. The color of every morally ambiguous situation is usually gray, and when you start adding children into that equation the color gets even more hazy. “Beasts Of No Nation” is an emotionally powerful look into such a world, the world of a child solider.  How fast can the moral compass of a child turn when confronted by extreme circumstance. Based on the same-titled novel by Uzodinma Iweala, the film waste no time putting us in the shoes of Agu (Abraham Attah).  An 8-year-old orphan, who after witnessing the death of his family finds himself conscripted into a militia.

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Space Can Be A Lonely Place

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Space is always a setting that audiences can’t seem to get enough of and why would they? As the famous Star Trek saying goes, it’s the final frontier. It’s breath of mysterious gives hollywood film makers extreme latitude to flex their creative muscles. Chris Nolan’s Interstellar and Alfonso Cuarón Gravity may have given the genre a long over due boost, and Ridley Scott’s The Martian is looking to continue the momentum. Based on the best-selling book by Andy Weir of the same name. It chronicles the story of a lone astronaut stuck on Mars. The Martian is a powerful film about dealing with adversity using a broad spectrum of human emotion : courage, fear, optimistic, desperation and despair. It’s a strong work of fiction with a strong base in some real science, which gives the film a distinct edge.  Your not expecting space magic to save the day, just good old fashion human problem solving.

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