Original Run: May 10th, 2019 – May 31st, 2019 Created by: Sacha Jenkins Directed by: Sacha Jenkins Written by: Paul Greenhouse, Sacha Jenkins, Peter J. Scalettar Music by: J. Ralph, Wu-Tang Clan Cast: Wu-Tang Clan, various
Showtime, 4 Episodes, 58-59 Minutes (per episode)
I don’t know why I didn’t know about this documentary series until a few weeks ago. I’m a lifelong fan of Wu-Tang Clan and if I’m being honest, they’re one of the few music groups that actually had an effect on my life. They forever changed hip-hop music and culture and since that was something I was a part of in my younger years, it changed the way I was doing things and my creative approach to making my own music.
This was actually quite great and I enjoyed this immensely. It really goes through the history of Wu-Tang before they were even formed up until now.
With this, you get to have an intimate view into their lives, past and present, you meet their families and you get to hear their personal stories about their struggles and triumphs.
You also learn a lot about the group behind the scenes and how even with their differences over the years, they always find a way back home to each other.
For fans of the group, there are some sad, disheartening moments in this. However, by the time you get to the end, you really understand their bond and it’s actually really inspirational to see how they still come together and unify as a family. This sort of unity is unheard of in the music industry, especially when this group has now existed for three decades.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: the Hulu drama series about Wu-Tang Clan’s lives, as well as other music documentaries.
Also known as: Son of Shaft (Germany) Release Date: June 14th, 2019 Directed by: Tim Story Written by: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow Based on:Shaft by Ernest Tidyman Music by: Christopher Lennertz Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Regina Hall, Alexandra Shipp, Titus Welliver, Method Man, Lauren Velez
Davis Entertainment, Khalabo Ink Society, Netflix, 111 Minutes
“You’re the one being misogynistic, I never even mentioned her gender! I’m an equal-opportunity ass-whooper!” – John Shaft II
I put this off for awhile, especially after revisiting the 2000 Shaft film, as I found that one to be really lackluster and not as good as my memories of it were.
However, this one was definitely better than the 2000 film and I think that had a lot to do with this installment being more comedic and lighthearted, even though it dealt with some serious stuff.
Overall, this plays more like a Bad Boys film where the buddy cop formula is played out by a father-son duo. The grandfather, the original John Shaft, joins them for the climax.
Sam Jackson is back on his A-game for this one but I’m sure it’ll rub sensitive, cancel culture Millennials the wrong way because he puts them on blast, repeatedly.
In fact, I give the filmmakers and the studio immense props for not taking the bitch route and making this an overly “woke” movie and instead, allowed it to be critical of this generation’s young adults, as seen through the eyes of the older generation.
Weirdly, though, this Shaft film seems to be a lot less obsessed with race and social politics. While I like that these issues have been at the forefront of the other four films in the franchise, it was actually kind of refreshing to see these characters just be badass and not just fighting for some sort of racial injustice.
With that, though, it sort of loses the long-lasting blaxploitation vibe that the name Shaft has carried since 1971. But maybe this was trying to convey that we were starting to enter a post-racial era before 2020 happened and fucked everything up again.
For the most part, I liked everyone in this film. Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. was annoying but his character was supposed to be, as part of the story dealt with him being kind of a pussy and overly concerned with how society sees him. He’s a “woke” Millennial that has a grudge against his uber-masculine father, who wasn’t around when he grew up.
These character traits allowed for some great criticism of his generation, though, and Sam Jackson delivers his punches without remorse or worry that his snowflake son wants to hear it or not. In a lot of ways, it felt like the writers and Tim Story, the film’s directors, were trying to send a message to the kids of today that think they’ve got the world figured out.
It also felt that it was trying to convey the importance of fathers, which Hollywood seems to hate.
Honestly, this Shaft film felt like it was really trying to be anti-“woke”.
As far as the crime story goes, it’s a bit weak but in films like this, that stuff doesn’t matter too much. This is more of a film about three generations of men coming together, in spite of their personal issues, in an effort to force justice down the throats of some shitty scumbags.
In the end, this was a better movie than I thought it could be. I don’t think it necessarily needs a sequel but I’d be much more willing to check one out if the same creative team stayed on.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: 2000’s Shaft, as well as the original ’70s Shaft trilogy.
Also known as: Backwater, The Reaper (working titles) Release Date: September 16th, 2005 Directed by: Jim Gillespie Written by: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten, Brandon Boyce Music by: James L. Venable, John Debney Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D.J. Cotrona, Meagan Good, Bijou Phillips, Method Man
“It’s a milking ceremony. It’s an old Haitian ritual. The Mambo is saving the man’s soul, clensing him of evil. It’s his last rites. The snakes are charmed by the Mamboto suck out the man’s evil, so that his soul may pass on.” – Cece
Man, this was shit.
And it wasn’t the good sort of shit. It was just stinky, funky, boring shit.
Venom is a slasher film that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. It has elements of voodoo in it too, as this film’s slasher is a victim of cursed ghost snakes that possess it and control it. Ghost snakes brought to life by shoddy CGI, mind you. I guess going to the pet store at the mall and buying a couple pythons for a hundred bucks a pop would have killed the budget. The entire CGI for this film probably cost about eight dollars.
Anyway, we get a group of teens and each one fits a predetermined role that anyone who has watched a slasher film knows exactly who’s who. Immediately, you know the girl who will survive and pretty much know the general order in which these kids will get picked off.
The villain is this scared up gas station worker with a big ass tow truck. He’s normal in the beginning but he crashes into some old voodoo lady, tries to save her but ultimately gets bitten by her cartoon voodoo snakes and becomes a swamp zombie. Seriously, he looks like a shirtless, maskless Jason Voorhees covered in mud like Dutch from Predator. Oh, and the cartoon voodoo snakes often times peek through the holes in his decaying body.
Everything about this film was predictable. Slasher films, however, aren’t known for being well-written affairs but at least the good ones tried to do something unique. I guess the voodoo twist is supposed to be unique but we’ve already had voodoo elements brought into slasher pictures; Child’s Play, Candyman and Maniac Cop III immediately come to mind.
Agnes Bruckner was the final girl in this and I thought she was carving out a nice scream queen career for herself as she did this and The Woods around the same time. The Woods is a better film, by the way, and it had Bruce Campbell in it. I can’t recall anything else Bruckner’s done but I remember seeing her in this and thinking, she might be the ’00s horror hero icon.
Method Man from Wu-Tang is in this too but just barely. I feel bad that he got roped into this when he could have done something better with his time like recording another follow up to Tical.
Probably the biggest reason why this movie sucks is that it has absolutely no balls. None. Every big kill happens just after the camera turns away. Sometimes we get to see the aftermath of a kill but the gore is minimal and this just feels like it was edited for television. Fuck this movie and its lack of anything truly horrifying.
Eh. I’m done. I hate this piece of crap. Granted, it’s not the worst horror movie of its decade but I’d rather get a tick in my urethra than ever watch this again.
Rating: 4.25/10 Pairs well with: Other mediocre or bad ’00s horror films: Stay Alive, Black X-Mas, Prom Night, Valentine, Sorority Row, See No Evil, etc.
Original Run: September 30th, 2016 – current Created by: Cheo Hodari Coker Directed by: various Written by: various Based on:Luke Cage by Archie Goodwin, George Tuska, Roy Thomas, John Romita Sr. Music by: Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad Cast: Mike Colter, Rosario Dawson, Mahershala Ali, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi, Erik LaRay Harvey, Alfre Woodard, Mustafa Shakir, Gabrielle Dennis, Ron Cephas Jones, Reg E. Cathey, Fab 5 Freddy (cameo), Method Man (cameo)
Luke Cage was the third of the four Marvel series being produced for Netflix. He is to be a member of the Defenders, who will get a minseries as a team, once all four heroes are introduced in their own series. We’ve already seen Daredevil and Jessica Jones (where Cage actually debuted) and we have Iron Fist coming up after this.
While Luke Cage is a superhero and actually a member of the Avengers in the comics. He is not an Avenger in the show, at least not at the moment. Also, the vibe of his show is much different from the ones before it. This is more of a modern blaxploitation series in its style and story.
Cage gains the power of being indestructible. It is a slow reveal as to how this happened and what it all means but he uses this ability to protect his neighborhood from the criminals that seek to exploit and destroy it. There are actually a few big villains in the show and each gets a good amount of time to be fleshed out and come to life. None of them, however, are as interesting as Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth.
In fact, the chemistry between Mike Colter as Luke Cage and Ali is pretty uncanny. They played off of each other very well and their was a real weight to the tension between the two. Unfortunately, Ali is only in about the first half of the season and then the gears shift to the villain Diamondback.
The shifting gears is one of the issues I have with the show. In a way, the first season feels like two condensed seasons of a show compressed down into one. The tension and drama between Cage and Cottonmouth is essentially wiped away, just as it is reaching a really satisfying high. Then the stuff with Diamondback just isn’t as interesting, even if he and Cage have some cool fights.
I also have to mention the awesome work of Alfre Woodard and Theo Rossi, who are both established as villains but they are big baddies to be explored more in the future. They have ties to everything that happens in the first season but are really just there to be a part of a much larger arc that has really just begun.
One thing that is amazing about the show is the score. It is produced by Adrian Younge alongside Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. Also, the hip-hop tracks that are worked into the show are all pretty much fantastic choices that give the show a gritty New York vibe in the right sort of way. Also, every episode is named after a Gang Starr song. One of the musical highlights is definitely the live performance by Jidenna as he does his song “Long Live the Chief”. Also, look for a stupendous cameo from Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan towards the end of the first season.
Another cool thing about Luke Cage is it spends significant time trying to flesh out Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, who is the link to all these Defenders related Marvel shows. Dawson and Colter have a good bond and camaraderie that I hope to see explored more in the future.
Luke Cage is pretty good. I don’t enjoy it as much as Jessica Jones and Daredevil, thus far. However, it has promise and looks to be heading in the right direction with what it established in its first season.
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