‘The Woman King’ Review

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s epic historical drama shines bright with fierce direction and stellar performances.

CREDIT: Sony Pictures

7.5/10

The days of epic historical dramas have truly come and gone. From early Hollywood classics like Ben-Hur to contemporary epics like the Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a genre that used to dominate the cultural zeitgeist and the box office prominently. Consumer patterns started to switch past it when the age of the superhero movie began to take shape, and a once-grand successful genre became rare on the silver screen. Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel even though a masterfully crafted film, bombed at the box office causing us to evaluate whether historical epics will ever be successful in this modern landscape of Hollywood. Maybe it’s the oversaturation of Western and Northern European-focused historical films that have turned off audiences. That’s where Gina Prince-Bythewood’s newest film, The Woman King, comes into play and reinvigorates a once dominating genre.

The Woman King’s script is written by Dana Stevens from contributions via the story by Stevens and Maria Bello. The film stars Viola Davis (Fences, Widows), Thuso Mbedu (The Underground Railroad), Lashana Lynch (No Time To Die, Captain Marvel), Sheila Atim (Bruised, The Underground Railroad), and John Boyega (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Force Awakens, Attack the Block). Gina Prince-Bythewood directs the film after her Netflix superhero film, The Old Guard. The Woman King made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this year and has since been playing in cinemas worldwide. The film is well on its way to making its 50 million dollar budget back at the box office at the moment.

The Woman King concentrates on the Agojie, an all-woman warrior unit responsible for protecting The Dahomey Kingdom in West Africa during the 17th to 19th centuries. The Dahomey Kingdom is led by King Ghezo (John Boyega) in 1823 who is looking to expand his kingdom but is met with challenges by The Oyo Empire and their roles in The African Slave Trade with the Portuguese as described within the film. Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of the Agojie and responsible for training the next generations of warriors as impending war looms over them. The Agojie takes in a young woman who refuses to marry abusive men picked by her father, with who Nanisca may have a close history. The plot revolves around the historical atmosphere of this incoming war, honor, love, and the sacrifices women must make to satisfy power dynamics.

Wrapped in its fierce direction, stellar cinematography, and monumental performances, The Woman King, is a grand achievement from Gina Prince-Blythewood and her extraordinary team. Viola Davis steals the show with one of her best performances along with her counterparts Thosu Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, and John Boyega. The atmosphere and locale of The Kingdom of Dahomey are one of exquisite production design, sets, and rich costuming that is bound for Academy Award consideration. It is from the get-go that you are invested in this story and I found myself falling more in love with the aura of Prince-Blythewood’s picture. It feels like the epic it deserves to be with the help of some of the best-looking fight sequences I have seen this year. The Woman King is brutal jaw-dropping cinema that cements itself as one of the best films of this year. I eagerly anticipate the many nominations that will follow this marvelous piece of art. Polly Morgan’s cinematography paired with one of the best scores of the year by Terence Blanchard creates an environment like no other.

The film meanders a bit during its second act, but it recuperates with a masterful and emotional third act. There are not a lot of things to fault the film for other than its pace. It’s a film worthy of your trip to the nearest cinema to watch. I hope for nothing but success for this film once awards season starts to ramp up!

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies; A Detailed Review

Potential Spoilers Ahead. Score 8/10

TBH. YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS, ARE LIKE, SO TOXIC…

If you’re an A24 fanatic you probably saw all eight films currently released in 2022. The one you may recognize the most, and most talked about on the world wide web, would probably be Everything Everywhere All at Once. Of course, they also released Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Men, X, After Yang, and are planning to release many more by the time this article was written. All of which have hit home with majority of the audience that went to go view them.

In addition, Bodies Bodies Bodies is their latest release while also being the latest thriller they produced this year (Men). This film is not what you’d expect from a thriller to finish with, then again this is A24 we’re talking about. Bodies Bodies Bodies plays out like any other thriller/ horror film; it has a group of young adults hanging out in a location that will have zero contact to the outside world for the night due to weather, ultimately beginning with one of the members dying then the others follow only leaving 1 or 2 survivors by morning time.

OVERVIEW

Now, this film has a great cast including Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennot, Chase Sui Wonders, Myha’la Herrolds, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson. They each bring their character to life for a film that adds a little millennial pizzaz and comedy to the mix ultimately paying off throughout the story and its climactic end of the film. If you’re like me, whenever you watch a film with ties to a murder mystery, you try your best to put the clues together before the end of the film. All I can say without spoiling is, this film throws you for a loop and if you’re a good detective it will leave you baffled by the end of it. Yet the film makes sure that it all makes sense. It’s a good murder mystery of sorts and although the pacing seemed a bit slowed and rushed at the same time in places, it has a nice flare that not a lot of other thrillers have. Let alone it also helped with its surprised twist ending. It was ultimately a nice watch for a Friday night, but kind of left me like “man… that’s it? They [the characters] had issues issues.” I still would say you should watch if you got an hour and 30 mins to spare; Bodies Bodies Bodies is a solid thriller/comedy nonetheless.

Bodies Bodies Bodies trailer provided by A24 on YouTube.

review

Like I mentioned, there’s good and there’s bad about this film. So to be fair, I’ll add the bad first as it’s fewer remarks than the good.

On the bad side, I do believe the pacing is a bit off leaving me feel like it went longer than its run time. It’s not entirely its fault, due to the film never completely revealing the big bad until the reveal at the end. It definitely left me feeling like the film was slow at times.

In addition to the pacing, I’m not saying the ending was bad since looking back at it, it’s not a bad reveal at all especially with how everything was said and done throughout the film, but definitely after the film I was internally asking myself “that’s it?” Even the group I went with agreed that the end of the film left us lowkey wanting more from it, but I have to say I love the switch from the classic one of the friends had a gripe against the group trope. Instead we see that honestly, this friend group (like a lot of friend groups I saw growing up and still see now) had issues and ultimately didn’t even like the people around them. Showing that with the way we millennials and Gen Z go about ways definitely adds bonus points to the thriller elements!

Now on the other hand, the film is definitely an A24 film as they tend to produce movies outside the box, sometimes a little TOO out of the box but honestly make for great watches. This film’s use of comedy and modern day jokes help it set the tone all around, especially poking fun at itself since the actors on the roster are of millennial age and probably also deal with similar scenarios or use some of these words or phrases. Nonetheless it’s a fun gag throughout the story, and having people like Pete Davidson add a little of their personalities into the character makes it all the better..

Davidson isn’t the only one that adds fun flares throughout the film. The other girls also add great fun and do an amazing job at showcasing mental health, people with serious problematic tendencies, and why some people may do the things they do.

I honestly enjoyed the film and although I see problems in certain things, it’s not enough to not recommend it to others who have yet watched it. So don’t just take my word for it, definitely have a peep at it. It’s only been out around a week or more since this article was published, so if you’re looking for your next weekend watch I’d recommend Bodies Bodies Bodies if you’re feeling a little twist murder mystery. Till next time, please, don’t silence me when I’m trying to speak.

Bullet Train; A Detailed Review

Potential Spoilers Ahead. Score 10/10

TODAY’S NOT HIS DAY; HE JUST WANTS HIS SUITCASE MAN!

With all types of films being released in the last two years since the pandemic’s quarantine period, we’ve received various genres of movies on streaming or in the theaters. While in the year 2022, I personally believe Everything Everywhere All At Once is the best to come of this year, it has also given us numerous blockbusters and Bullet Train is my second-place contender so far.

Brad Pitt has said he may or may not be retiring from the acting business soon, but he couldn’t leave 2022 without giving us an incredible film, of course with the help of his co-stars. Honestly, when I tell you the abbreviation for LOL is an understatement!

Overview

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I was wishing August arrived earlier, as it just seemed like a blast to watch and all just from the trailer alone. I was expecting an action comedy, having it filled with little silly jokes here and there as well as cool enough action, but when I tell you I was surprised by the amount times this movie hit my funny bone. If you can imagine a story filled with lore (which may come from the actual book this was based on) and a fight sequence in Deadpool mixed with the jokes of your favorite stand-up comedy show you’d get Bullet Train. Brad Pitt does amazing as the lead but I have to be honest my favorite parts of the film had to be Brian Tyree Henry as “Lemon” and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as “Tangerine.” Ultimately, this film had an ensemble cast that all had great chemistry for its comedy, otherwise, it could have been a film solely being sold to us because of who was in it. It’s my favorite pick for the month and I highly recommend it solely for its comedy. If you haven’t seen it yet then seek this film out!

From left; Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Source provided by Sony Pictures.

review

As I mentioned, this film has a variety of well-known names such as Brad Pitt, Brian Tyree Henry, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada, Joey King, Sandra Bullock, Logan Lerman, Michael Shannon, Zazie Beetz, Karen Fukuhara, Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio (Bad Bunny), and many other familiar faces as surprise guests.

Usually, when you have such big names together in one film it could either make or break a movie, but in the case of Bullet Train, it really does make the film all that better, at least in my filmmaking opinion.

I wish I can write a 5-page essay about all of them but to save us some time I’ll talk about the important stuff. Seeing Brad Pitt do action and hearing his joke delivery really brings you to know a new Pitt compared to his earlier works in his career. He shows a side of him that I don’t believe we’ve seen yet like his comedic side. Not to forget to mention the quirky interaction between the twins that are Lemon and Tangerine. The chemistry between Henry and Johnson really feels like a sibling dynamic, and honestly, it reminded me of times I’ve called out my siblings for the dumb decisions they’ve made. In addition, we’ve growingly seen the range both Henry and Johnson have shown in other genres, and having Henry show more of his comedic side on the big screen really ties everything that is unhinged about this film together.

King, Shannon, Sanada, and Koji also share great work together in Bullet Train. Knowing the latter two have dealt with more serious roles, it’s nice to see them in this type of setting. Now, a lot of the Latino community that doesn’t go to movies but enjoys Bad Bunny’s music went to watch the film thinking that he’d be in it longer than the 5 minutes he’s in, but with all honesty, those 5 minutes served their purpose. Benito did a good job with his part even if it was a minimal role. The same goes for Shannon, Beetz, and Lerman’s performances.

I can say more things about Bullet Train but I’ll wrap it up with this. Bullet Train is a well-made action/comedy set in a relatively one-set location. It hits its marks on the action portion, as well as going above and beyond to hit its comedic punches (from my interpretation of “funny”). Brad Pitt does well, as he usually does, and the “twins” make the film all that better. I highly recommend it if you want a fun happy atmosphere movie night, but you don’t have to take my word for it, check it out for yourselves and let me know what you think.

Nope; A Detailed Review

Potential Spoiler Ahead. Score 10/10.

AS A BROWN SUPERSTITOUS MAN; AGREED, NOPE…

Jordan Peele’s newest film has finally arrived to theaters after much anticipation. We all know Peele’s films, produced or directed, always bring big buzz on the web as they are loved by fans all around the world, especially within the horror community. His last directed film was Us back in 2019, which brought out a heavy horror factor with having a evil doppelganger.

Nope is no exception, when all we were informed about when the trailer first came out was that it was alien oriented, we all collectively said “I wanna see it!”

OVERVIEW

As I mentioned, we as a collective agreed that we were going to go watch this film, and as soon as the tickets went on sale I booked my seat as well as two extra for my younger siblings. As we sat through, I genuinely felt fear before and after the film ended. A bit of that could have been since it was a midnight screening, we could not look up at the moon lit sky. I know many have already seen the film but for those who haven’t I strongly encourage you to go watch it. I recommend especially taking a friend or loved one who enjoys scary movies. Even if that person is easily scared take ’em, why not add another fear to life if it’s shot beautifully. The acting done by the entire cast is incredible, and the sibling chemistry between Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya is phenomenal to the point that I looked at my sister and said, “we have to do that hand shake when we complete things together.” Nope is definitely in my top 5 for the year, and I loved seeing and hearing it in Dolby Cinema at AMC.

Emerald Haywood ( Keke Palmer) in Nope, directed by Jordan Peel. Source; Universal Studios.

Review

Now, when we see a trailer for Peele’s movies we have to mention his choice of titles. His thing is having the title be very literal in a way relating to what the story can be about. We see it with Get Out and Us having to first deal with our main character, also played by Daniel Kaluuya, to essentially “get out” of a very horrific situation, and the second deal with the main characters’ doppelgangers or “us”.

Now Nope is basically, explained by Daniel Kaluuya on The Tonight Show, the phrase that a black person or a person of color expresses when dealing with horror scenarios. A simple spell but quite unbreakable. I can honestly say I relate with sharing that phrase when watching/experiencing supernatural or scary things in real life.

Although we know it’s directed by a good director, we also have to mention the amazing talent on screen. We already mentioned Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya, but we also get amazing performances from Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, and Michael Wincott. All of these talented actors have great performances in other film roles and the first four mentioned have an amazing chemistry for comedic and suspenseful moments here. Throughout the entire film, I had a blast waiting for the beats to hit, and oh believe me do they hit, especially with the variety of its horror elements! I have to talk about the night scene in the barn when Kaluuya had to go investigate a whining horse, seeing those kids in the dark brought out a solid “NOPE” from me followed by a good “hell nah.”

I could continue talking about the best parts and indulging myself into explaining my favorite scenes or at least the ones that scared me, but this isn’t that type of article. Overall, the film does a wonderful job at exploring a horror aspect that a lot of other horror films released just seem to miss. It has comedy included and thrilling scenes but neither are too overwhelming, adding this film to Peele’s trilogy of horror. I know when it’s available on VOD, I’ll be re-watching it but in the meantime if you haven’t watched it do yourself a favor and head out to your local theater to catch a showing. If it is still available available in IMAX or Dolby Cinema, watching Nope in these formats is a must. Either way you are able to watch it, let me know what you think about the film!

The Black Phone; A Detailed Review

Potential Spoilers Ahead. Score 10/10

Careful who you help with spilled groceries!

The Black Phone is one of the latest releases from Blumhouse, featuring Ethan Hawke as the films lead antagonist. The film is of the few that has left theaters and has hit streaming services which is honestly a MUST WATCH!

Most would say or think Blumhouse productions bring a lot for the horror genre. But they usually have the classic jump scares and “I’m trying to scare you with imagery” tones to them which is not for everyone yet are still entertaining pieces. But The Black Phone definitely steps into the spotlight for the studio’s normal path for storytelling.

Overview

Ethan Hawke is the clear movie seller when dealing with publicity, and for good measure as he is a talented actor that has begun to be seen on the big screen again. The film brings out the “monstrous” side of his acting abilities compared to his Sinister role and he executes it phenomenally behaving like a psychotic serial kidnapper/killer. The overall film brings out fear of the real world with children being kidnapped, especially in the year this film takes place (around the 70’s/80’s). It definitely has intense moments but also adds its thrilling action points to not just leave the viewer terrified but also satisfied with the ending. Mason Thames and Madeline McGraw, who play Finney and Gwen, the two main protagonist siblings in the film do an amazing job in their roles while giving their all in their scenes. It’s honestly worth the watch if you have Peacock’s streaming service or just the weekend rental choice if you’re wanting a spooky movie night!

(From left) Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) and Gwen Shaw (Madeleine McGraw) in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.

Review

As I mentioned, Ethan Hawke is the main antagonist to Mason Thames’ protagonist role. Both men give an amazing performance especially seeing as this is Thames’ first breakthrough role! We are familiar with Hawke’s acting skills, so I’ll keep his section to a minimal, focusing on his co-stars.

Hawke’s skills have jumped from dramas, action, thrillers and so forth. He’s not shy of being a villain, as seen in his latest role from Marvel’s Moon Knight series, or being in a horror/thriller film as seen in Sinister. But his performance as “The Grabber” really show his unhinged side, even leaning on the side of performing a little TOO close to a serial killer. This film just brings you in to give him a hand for coming back into acting with such an ease in skill.

Now, Mason Thames does a great job at being a kid with cool calm headed demeanor while still being a scared having such a thing happen to you. We see throughout the film that he knows how to handle situations but lets himself be attacked by the other kids only to be in a situation of, he either allows this killer to finish him or finally fight back in order to survive. Although, he is minimal in showing emotions of the character, the small mannerisms he chose really gave the film an intense viewing even to the point of doing what all the viewers would be thinking; like the classic “don’t go in there” or “I would do this” responses we say or think while watching scary movies.

In the case of McGraw, she goes all out with showing her reactions to the situations on screen. Like giving the cry of the year when she was being spanked by her on screen father, to the point that I asked myself “DID HE ACTUALLY HIT HER ON SET?!” She does a great job at playing a hardcore little sister looking for her brother, even if she had to curse out God himself to get clues. She’s a wonderful addition to the film and ultimately doesn’t feel like a different film when viewing her side of the story.

Furthermore, without going on a long typing spree I highly recommend this film for anyone who wants a well written and directed horror/thriller movie. But you don’t have to take my word for it, check it out yourselves as it’s out now for VOD and available on Peacock.