Review: ‘Three Thousand Years of Longing,’ starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton

August 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in “Three Thousand Years of Longing” (Photo courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures Inc.)

“Three Thousand Years of Longing”

Directed by George Miller

Some language in Hellenic with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Turkey, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, the fantasy film “Three Thousand Years of Longing” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, black, Asian) as human beings and magical beings representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A Djinn (also known as a genie) is set free from a bottle by a loner middle-aged divorcée from the United Kingdom, and he tells her stories of how he was trapped inside the bottle at various times over 3,000 years. 

Culture Audience: “Three Thousand Years of Longing” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of stars Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, filmmaker George Miller and adult-oriented fantasy movies.

Tilda Swinton in “Three Thousand Years of Longing” (Photo by Elise Lockwood/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is not as weird and edgy as the movie’s trailer would suggest. It’s a sometimes-rambling yet visually striking adult-oriented fairy tale about a genie and the stories he tells to the scholarly divorcée who frees him from a bottle. The film is not a masterpiece, but it’s entertaining enough for people who can engage with a fantasy movie that’s more about storytelling than about fast-paced action scenes.

Directed by George Miller (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Augusta Gore), “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is based on A. S. Byatt’s 1994 novel “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye.” Although the movie is narrated by British scholar Alithea Binnie (played by Tilda Swinton), viewers will learn a lot more about the electromagnetic genie called the Djinn (played by Idris Elba) whom Alithea accidentally releases from a bottle. That’s because almost the entire movie is about the Djinn telling Alithea about three major times in his life that he was imprisoned in a bottle.

In the beginning of the movie, she says in a voiceover: “My name is Alithea. My story is true. You’re more likely to believe me if I tell you it’s a fairy tale.” Swinton is quite good in the role of Alithea, but she’s portrayed many uptight and quirky British women before in other movies, her work in “Three Thousand Years of Longing” is just more of the same, but not as quick-tempered and unhinged as some of her other eccentric characters in other films.

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” opens with Alithea (who lives in London) arriving in Istanbul, Turkey, for a storytelling conference. (“Three Thousand Years of Longing” was actually filmed in Australia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The movie had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France.) In addition to being a scholar, Alithea is an enthusiast of fantasy storytelling. Ever since she was a child, she had an active imagination and kept journals of her fantasy writings and illustrations.

A flashback in the movie shows how Alithea at about 10 or 11 years old (played by Alyla Browne) as a social outcast at her all-girls boarding school. During her childhood, Alithea had an imaginary male creature friend named Enzo (played by Abel Bond) that she wrote about and drew in her journals. Alithea could see and hear Enzo but no one else could. Enzo would often comfort her when she was feeling lonely and sad. Don’t expect to find out anything about Alithea’s family, except to know that she has no siblings.

Now in her late 50s or early 60s, Alithea is now a professor of narratology who has been divorced since she was in her 30s. She’s still a loner who writes and draws in journals what comes up in her vivid imagination. Alithea also still sees visions of various magical creatures that look real to her, but no one else can see them.

For example, when she arrives at the airport, she sees a short, odd-looking man who tries to help her carry her suitcase, but she refuses, and he disappears into the crowd. When Alithea tells a male professor colleague (who’s sharing a car ride with her) about this strange experience, she describes the unusual man as “hot to the touch” and “musky.” Alithea’s colleague suggests that she might have seen a ghost.

Alithea is one of the speakers at the conference, where she says that stories about mythical gods have been a part of human hstory for ages. (In the background on the conference stage is a collage portrait of comic book superheroes, to illustrate her point.) During her speech, Alithea sees in the audience a vision of ghost-like elderly man wearing all white in an ancient royal outfit, including a crown.

Suddenly, this mystery spirit lunges at Alithea. And the next thing she knows, she’s being woken up by people on the conference stage because she’s been told that she fainted. Alithea has no memory of passing out. And she insists that she’s feeling perfectly fine.

In her hotel room, Alithea takes out a blue-and-white stripped bottle that looks like a perfume bottle. A brief flashback show that she purchased the bottle at trinket shop in an Instanbul bazaar. The bottle had burn marks on it, but that just makes her more interested in buying. “I like it,” she tells the shop owner. “I’m sure it has an interesting story.”

Alithea takes a toothbrush to try to rub off some of the burn marks. And that’s when the Djinn come out of the bottle, in clouds of purple smoke. At first, the Djinn appears in giant form, but eventually, he shrinks himself down to the form of a human. He begins speaking to her in Hellelnic (a language that Alithea knows), btu then eventually spends the rest oft he time talking to Alithea in her native English language. Alithea is convinced that that the Djinn is part of her imagination, but the more he talks to her, the more she’s convinced that he’s real.

The Djinn essentially says that he’s been trapped in the bottle for nearly 200 years. And in order for him to gain eternal freedom, he tells Alithea that he must grant three wishes to her. There are some caveats to these wishes. She cannot wish for eternal wishes or anything that would end suffering. Her wishes must also be heartfelt and sincere, not taken as a joke, in order for the wishes to really come true.

Alithea insists to the Djinn that she’s perfectly content with her life and doesn’t have any wishes. She has no loved ones and is happy with her job. Alithea only opens up about her her past experiences with love and heartbreak when she briefly tells him about her lonely childhood and her divorce. It’s the only glimpse into Alithea’s personal life.

Alithea was married to her college sweetheart Jack (played by Peter Bertoni, in a flashback scene) for a period of time that appears to be less than 10 years. Alithea and Peter had many things in common, and she thought that they were soul mates. At one point, Alithea got pregnant and was far-enough along in the pregnancy that she knew she was going to have a boy. Alithea and Jack were going to name the child Enzo.

All of this information can be deduced from a brief flash of a pregnancy test vial showing a positive test result. Alithea had kept this pregnancy test vial as a memento in a scrapbook and had written the name Enzo on the vial. When Alithea tells the Djinn about her marriage, she never goes into details about happened to this pregnancy.

However, it’s implied that she had a miscarriage, since the child is never seen in the flashbacks. Alithea says that she and Jack eventually drifted apart (with the implication that the loss of the child was a big reason why), and they got divorced. Jack eventually married a younger woman named Emmaline Porter (played by Lianne Mackessey), and Alithea has seen the happy couple together in London on at least one occasion.

The Djinn has his own stories of loss and heartbreak to tell. His first story of being imprisoned in the bottle is about when he was the servant/lover of Africa’s Queen of Sheba (played by Aamito Lagum), who did not love the Djinn in the way that the Djinn loved her. A love triangle developed when a visiting king named Solomon (played by Nicolas Mouawad) began courting the queen. You can easily guess how this love triangle ended.

The Djinn’s second story of being “incarcerated” in a bottle takes place in the 1530s, during the rule of Turkey’s Ottomon Empire. The story begins with a destitute and enslaved young woman named Ezgi (played Pia Thunderbolt) releasing the Djinn from a bottle. The Djinn grants Ezgi’s wish to marry Prince Mustafa (played by Matteo Bocelli), who is next in line to inherit the kingdom.

However, a power struggle breaks out between Prince Mustafa, his younger brother Ibrahim (played by Jack Braddy) and their father Sultan Suleiman (played by Lachy Hulme). Ibrahim has a sexual fetish for plus-sized women. One of the women in Ibrahim’s harem plays a role in Djinn’s fate.

The Djinn’s third story is supposed to be the most impactful, but it’s the most underdeveloped and seems too rushed in the movie. In this story (which takes place in the mid-19th century in Turkey), the Djinn talks about Zefir (played by Burcu Gölgedar), a woman whom Djinn describes as perhaps the greatest love of his life. The Djinn says that he loved Zefir more than he loved the Queen of Sheba.

At the age of 12 years old, Zefir was forced to marry a Turkish merchant, whose name is not mentioned in the movie. This merchant is old enough to be Zefir’s grandfather. Zefir is the merchant’s third wife in his harem. His other two wives, who are close to the merchant’s age, are very jealous of Zefir and treat her like an outsider. A lonely Zefir eventually finds the bottle where the Djin was kept and frees him.

All three of the Djinn stories involve a woman freeing him from a bottle and some kind of power struggle that ensues. Djinn describes himself in his relationships as loyal and accommodating. And he is that way with Alithea too, but only after she begins to trust him. He can be impatient with Alithea when she’s indecisive about if or when she wants to make a wish.

Because the movie reveals up front that Djinn’s three stories are about how he got trapped in a bottle on three separate occasions, viewers aleady know that each story will not end well for the Djinn. And therefore, the movie’s only real question that needs to be answered is: “What will Ailthea’s wish for, if she chooses to make any or all of the three wishes?”

Alithea thinks that all stories about wishes are “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tales, so she’s afraid of making any wish that could be a big mistake. Through the Djinn’s stories, she starts to understand that life can be a very dull existence if risks aren’t taken. Alithea also learns that it’s not always selfish to ask for what you want.

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” has the look of an ambitious fantasy film, but thankfully is only 108 minutes long. The visual effects and cinematography are well-done, and the acting is perfectly fine from all involved. However, the movie is not without its flaws.

The three stories are unevenly paced to the importance each story has to the Djinn’s life. The second story that takes place during the Ottoman Empire should have been shortened and the time used to expand more on the third story about the Djinn’s relationship with Zefir. There’s not much in the movie to show why Djinn considers his relationship with Zefir to be a great love affair.

Zefir and the Djinn are not shown connecting on any emotional level. The Djinn essentially does what Zefir wants, including making himself disappear, especially when her husband is around. And, as previously mentioned, Alithea remains a bit of a mystery throughout the entire. The only other insight into Alithea’s personal life is when she returns to London and shows disgust for the racial and ethnic bigotry expressed by two nosy, elderly women who live in the house next door.

“Three Thousand Years of Longing” is not going to appeal to people who are expecting any comedic moments. It’s a brooding movie that’s not overly intense or gory, but it’s far from being lighthearted and whimsical. It’s probably one of the most serious-minded gene movies you’ll ever see, Viewers might get some enjoyment out of the acting and the storytelling format of the movie, which has a timeless message about valuing love, no matter where and when someone exists.

United Artists Releasing/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures released “Three Thousand Years of Longing” in U.S. cinemas on August 26, 2022. The movie is set for release in Australia on September 1, 2022.

Review: ‘Beast’ (2022), starring Idris Elba

August 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Idris Elba in “Beast” (Photo by Lauren Mulligan/Universal Pictures)

“Beast” (2022)

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur

Some language in Tshivenda with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in South Africa, the horror movie “Beast” features a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A British single father, who’s a medical doctor, goes on a safari in South Africa to reconnect with his two estranged, underage American daughters, and they encounter a lion on a rampage.

Culture Audience: “Beast” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Idris Elba and formulaic horror movies about murderous animals on the loose.

Sharlto Copley, Iyana Halley, Idris Elba and Leah Jeffries in “Beast” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

As a horror story about a killer lion on the loose, “Beast” is tame, predictable and often ridiculous. Disney’s 1994 animated film “The Lion King” has more suspense than the formulaic junk of “Beast.” Viewers who want to watch a movie with no imagination, terribly staged action scenes and some laughably bad dialogue will probably enjoy “Beast” a lot more than people who are looking for better-quality entertainment, considering the talented cast members who star in this movie.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur and written by Ryan Engle, “Beast” used computer-generated imagery (CGI) visual effects for the rampaging lion that causes terror in the story. And these visual effects are obvious, because the lion looks very fake. The movie has multiple action sequences where a human kicks the lion, and the lion unrealistically backs off instead of mauling the person to death, which is what would happen in real life.

In another part of the “Beast,” a severely injured person who would be unconscious from medical shock and extreme loss of blood is able to sit up and talk like a normal, healthy human being. The movie is just scene after sloppily edited scene of hard-to-believe nonsense. And to top it all off, viewers are supposed to believe that this rampaging lion does things that are against a lion’s nature because the lion has a human-like revenge plan.

“Beast” also has an over-used formula that’s often in derivative movies about families who experience terror on an adventure trip: tension-filled parent-child relationships. In “Beast,” Dr. Nate Samuels (played by Idris Elba) is a medical doctor and a British immigrant who has been living in the United States for an untold number of years. Nate was separated from his wife Amahle (played by Naledi Mogadime), a South African native, when she died of cancer. The movie never says how long Amahle (who’s briefly seen in Nate’s dream sequences) has been deceased, but conversations indicate that she died less than a year before the story takes place.

Nate and Amahle (who was a photographer) met in South Africa. At some point in their relationship, they moved to the United States, where their two daughters were born and raised. The two daughters have opposite personalities. Meredith “Mare” Samuels (played by Iyana Halley) is 18 years old, moody and withdrawn. Norah Samuels (played by Leah Jeffries) is 13 years old, bubbly and talkative. Mare wants to be a photographer, just like her mother was. Norah hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life when she’s adult, but she mentions at one point, when she’s asked, that she’s thinking about going into psychology to become a family therapist.

It might be Norah’s subconscious way of saying that her own family needs therapy. In a few guilt-ridden monologues in the movie, Nate reveals that his workaholic ways made him a mostly inattentive father before Amahle died. He also blames himself for not seeing the early signs that she had cancer.

Mare (who doesn’t want to be called Meredith) has more bitter feelings toward Nate than Norah does. Mare is especially angry that Nate had downplayed Amahle’s cancer. It’s mentioned that Nate even went as far as promising his daughters that Amahle would be okay and would recover. And that was a promise he couldn’t keep.

As a way to reconnect with his daughters, Nate has taken Mare and Norah a trip to South Africa, to go to the places where Amahle loved. It’s a trip that he promised to Mare and Norah long ago, but he feels that the trip is more urgent now that Amahle has passed away. One of the places where Nate wants to take Mare and Norah is the wildlife preserve where he and Amahle had some fond memories.

The preserve is the home and workplace of wildlife biologist Martin Battles (played by Sharlto Copley), a longtime friend of Nate’s. Martin (who is a never-married bachelor) was the one who introduced Nate to Amahle. Martin, who is also a passionate anti-poacher, is disturbed that poachers have been killing animals on the preserve and have recently been going after lions. (“Beast” was filmed on location in South Africa—specifically in Limpopo province, Northern Cape province and Cape Town.)

The opening scene of “Beast” shows one of these poacher hunts on the preserve at night. Viewers later find out that the poacher’s leader is a generic villain named Kees (played by Martin Munro), who goes with a group of native South Africans for these illegal hunting activities. In this opening scene, the killer lion goes on the attack. Later, it’s shown that the lion has gone on a rampage and killed several local villagers who have nothing do to with the poachers.

Why is this lion attacking every human in sight? It’s against a lion’s nature to attack, unless it’s to eat or in self-defense from being provoked. The lion is killing people but not eating them. Martin, who is the safari guide for the Samuels family, suddenly acts like a lion psychologist, and announces that the lion must be out for revenge because the poachers killed members of the lion’s pride.

You can easily guess the rest of what happens in this movie. And sure enough: Nate, Mare, and Norah find themselves trapped in a Jeep after the lion suddenly attacks them in the vehicle. Mare takes the wheel of the car, crashes it in a state of panic, and the vehicle is then unable to start. Meanwhile, Martin, who has been communicating with them by walkie talkie, tells the family that he’s been attacked by the lion. The attack has resulted in Martin’s right leg being severely injured, and he’s losing a critical amount of blood that could soon lead to his death if he doesn’t get medical help.

The rest of “Beast” is an unsurprising back-and-forth battle between the lion and the humans. The people who die and survive are exactly whom you think will die and survive. Although “Beast” has some stunning landscape cinematography, and the cast members give adequate performances, all of it is not enough to overcome the idiotic things that happen in this substandard movie.

In the production notes for “Beast,” producer Will Packer said he wanted to make “Beast” like “‘Cujo’ with a lion.” The 1983 horror film “Cujo,” which is based on Stephen King’s 1981 novel of the same name, is about a woman trapped in a car with her son while a rabid St. Bernard named Cujo is nearby. Considering that the “Cujo” movie failed to impress enough movie audiences and critics to be a major hit, that’s all you need to know about how low the standards are for “Beast.”

Universal Pictures will release “Beast” in U.S. cinemas on August 19, 2022.

Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ starring Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe and Natalie Portman

July 5, 2022

by Carla Hay

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Photo by Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios)

“Thor: Love and Thunder”

Directed by Taika Waititi

Culture Representation: Taking place on Earth and other parts of the universe (including the fictional location of New Asgard), the superhero action film “Thor: Love and Thunder” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Nordic superhero Thor Odinson, also known as the God of Thunder, teams up with allies in a battle against the revengeful villain Gorr the God Butcher, while Thor’s ex-girlfriend Jane Porter has her own personal battle with Stage 4 cancer. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of comic book movie fans, “Thor: Love and Thunder” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s headliners and action movies that skillfully blend drama and comedy.

Christian Bale in “Thor: Love and Thunder” (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)

“Thor: Love and Thunder” could also be called “Thor: Grief and Comedy,” because how of this superhero movie sequel balances these two themes with some results that are better than others. The movie goes big on showing bittersweet romance and the power of true friendships. Some of the movie’s subplots clutter up the movie, and any sense of terrifying danger is constantly undercut by all the wisecracking, but “Thor: Love and Thunder” gleefully leans into the idea that a superhero leader can be a formidable warrior, as well as a big goofball and a sentimental romantic.

Directed by Taika Waititi, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is also a commercial showcase for Guns N’Roses music. It’s the first Marvel Studios movie to blatantly shill for a rock band to the point where not only are four of the band’s hits prominently used in major scenes in the movie, but there’s also a character in the movie who wants to change his first name to be the same as the first name of the band’s lead singer. The music is well-placed, in terms of conveying the intended emotions, but viewers’ reactions to this movie’s fan worship of Guns N’Roses will vary, depending on how people feel about the band and its music. The Guns N’Roses songs “Welcome the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “November Rain” are all in pivotal scenes in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

“Thor: Love and Thunder” picks up where 2019’s blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” concluded. What’s great about “Thor: Love and Thunder” (which Waititi co-wrote with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) is that the filmmakers didn’t assume that everyone watching the movie is an aficionado of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), nor did they assume that everyone watching “Thor: Love and Thunder” will know a lot about the Nordic superhero Thor Odinson (played by Chris Hemsworth) before seeing the movie. Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a montage summary (narrated cheerfully by Waititi’s Korg character, a rock-like humanoid who is one of Thor’s loyal allies) that shows the entire MCU history of Thor up until what’s about to happen in “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

The movie’s opening scene isn’t quite so upbeat, because it gets right into showing that grief will be one of the film’s biggest themes. In a very barren desert, a man and his daughter (who’s about 8 or 9 years old, played by India Rose Hemsworth) are deyhdrated, starving, and close to dying. The girl doesn’t survive, and the man is shown grieving at the place where he has buried her. Viewers soon find out that this man is Gorr the God Butcher (played by Christian Bale), who is the story’s chief villain. But he didn’t start out as a villain.

After the death of his daughter, a ravenously hungry Gorr ends up a tropical-looking, plant-filled area, where he devours some fruit. Suddenly, a male god appears before Gorr, who is pious and grateful for being in this god’s presence. Gorr tells the god: “I am Gorr, the last of your disciples. We never lost our faith in you.”

The god scoffs at Gorr’s devotion and says, “There’s no eternal reward for you. There’ll be more followers to replace you.” Feeling betrayed, Gorr replies, “You are no god! I renounce you!” The god points to a slain warrior on the ground and tells Gorr that the warrior was killed for the Necrosword, a magical sword that can kill gods and celestials. The Necrosword levitates off of the ground and gravitates toward Gorr.

The god tells Gorr: “The sword chose you. You are now cursed.” Gorr replies, “It doesn’t feel like a curse. It feels like a promise. So this is my vow: All gods will die!” And you know what that means: Gorr kills the god in front of him, and Thor will be one of Gorr’s targets.

Meanwhile, Thor is seen coming to the rescue of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who need his help in battling some villains on a generic-looking planet in outer space. All of the Guardians are there (except for Gamora, who died at the end of “Avengers: Endgame”), and they see Thor as a powerful ally. However, the Guardians are worried that Thor has lost a lot of his emotional vitality. Thor (who hails from Asgar) is grieving over the loss his entire family to death and destruction.

Thor is also still heartbroken over the end of his romantic relationship with brilliant astrophysicist Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman), who was in 2011’s “Thor” and 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” Viewers will find out in a “Thor: Love and Thunder” flashback montage what really happened that caused the end of this relationship. Jane and Thor are considered soul mates, but their devotion to their respective work resulted in Thor and Jane drifting apart.

Guardians of the Galaxy leader Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord (played by Chris Pratt), tries to give Thor a pep talk, because Star-Lord can relate to losing the love of his life (Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana), but the main difference is that Thor has a chance to see Jane again because she’s still alive. As shown in the trailer for “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Jane will soon come back into Thor’s life in an unexpected way, when she gains possession of Thor’s magical hammer, Mjolnir, and she reinvents herself as the Mighty Thor. As an example of some of the movie’s offbeat comedy, Korg keeps getting Jane Foster’s name wrong, by sometimes calling her Jane Fonda or Jodie Foster.

The Guardians of the Galaxy section of “Thor: Love and Thunder” almost feels like a completely separate short film that was dropped into the movie. After an intriguing opening scene with Gorr, viewers are left wondering when Gorr is going to show up again. Instead, there’s a fairly long stretch of the movie with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy

After spending a lot of meditative time lounging around in a robe, Thor literally throws off the robe for the battle scene with Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy, as the Guns N’Roses song “Welcome to the Jungle” blares on the soundtrack. After the battle is over (it’s easy to predict who the victors are), Thor’s confident ego seems to have come roaring back. He exclaims with a huge grin: “What a classic Thor adventure! Hurrah!”

As a gift for this victory, Thor gets two superpowered goats, which have the strength to pull space vessels and whose goat screaming becomes a running gag in the movie. The visual effects in “Thor: Love and Thunder” get the job done well enough for a superhero movie. But are these visual effects groundbreaking or outstanding? No.

The Guardians’ personalities are all the same: Star-Lord is still cocky on the outside but deeply insecure on the inside. Drax (played by Dave Bautista) is still simple-minded. Rocket (voice by Bradley Cooper) is still sarcastic. Mantis (played by Pom Klementieff) is still sweetly earnest. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) still only has three words in his vocabulary: “I am Groot.”

Nebula (voiced by Karen Gillan), who is Garmora’s hot-tempered adopted sister and a longtime Guardians frenemy, is now an ally of the Guardians. Guardians associate Kraglin Obfonteri (played by Sean Gunn) makes a brief appearance to announce that he’s gotten married to an Indigarrian woman named Glenda (played by Brenda Satchwell), who is one of his growing number of his wives. It’s mentioned in a joking manner that Kraglin has a tendency to marry someone at every planet he visits.

With his confidence renewed as the God of Thunder, Thor decides he’s ready to end his “retirement” and go back into being a superhero. He says goodbye to the Guardians, who fly off in their spaceship and wish him well. Little does Thor know what he’s going to see someone from his past (Jane), whom he hasn’t seen in a long time.

Sif (played by Jaimie Alexander), an Asgardian warrior who was in the first “Thor” movie and in “Thor: The Dark World,” re-appears in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” but she now has a missing left arm and has to learn to re-adjust her fighting skills. Sif’s presence in this movie isn’t entirely unexpected. It’s a welcome return, but some viewers might think that Sif doesn’t get enough screen time.

Meanwhile, as shown in “Avengers: Endgame,” Thor gave up his King of New Asgard title to his longtime associate Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), who’s finding out that being the leader of New Asgard isn’t quite as enjoyable as she thought it would be. She’d rather do battle alongside her buddy Thor instead of having to do things like attend dull council meetings or cut ribbons at opening ceremonies. New Asgard is a fishing village that has become a tourist destination that plays up its connection to Thor and his history.

The stage play recreation of Thor’s story was used as a comedic gag in 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok” (also directed and written by Waititi), and that gag is used again in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” as this play is staged in New Asgard, but with an update to include what happened in “Thor: Ragnarok.” Making uncredited cameos as these stage play actors in “Thor: Love and Thunder” are Matt Damon as stage play Loki (Thor’s mischievous adopted brother), Luke Hemsworth as stage play Thor, Melissa McCarthy as stage play Hela (Thor’s villainous older sister) and Sam Neill as stage play Odin (Thor’s father). This comedic bit about a “Thor” stage play isn’t as fresh as it was in “Thor: Ragnarok,” but it’s still amusing.

One of the New Asgard citizens is a lively child of about 13 or 14 years old. His name is Astrid, and he announces that he wants to change his first name to Axl, in tribute to Axl Rose, the lead singer of Guns N’Roses. Axl (played by Kieron L. Dyer) is the son of Heimdall (played by Idris Elba), the Asgardian gatekeeper who was killed by supervillain Thanos in 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War.” As fans of superhero movies know, just because a character is killed on screen doesn’t mean that that character will never be seen again. And let’s just say that “Thor: Love and Thunder” makes it clear that people have not seen the last of Heimdall.

Jane has a poignant storyline because she has Stage 4 cancer, which is something that she’s in deep denial about since she wants to act as if she still has the same physical strength as she did before her cancer reached this stage. Jane’s concerned and loyal assistant Darcy Lewis (played by Kat Dennings) makes a brief appearance to essentially advise Jane to slow down Jane’s workload. Jane refuses to take this advice.

The way that Jane gets Thor’s hammer isn’t very innovative, but she finds out that the hammer gives her godlike strength and makes her look healthy. It’s no wonder she wants to explore life as the Mighty Thor. (Her transformation also includes going from being a brunette as Jane to being a blonde as the Mighty Thor.)

And where exactly is Gorr? He now looks like a powder-white Nosferatu-like villain, as he ends up wreaking havoc by going on a killing spree of the universe’s gods. And it’s only a matter of time before Gorr reaches New Asgard. With the help of shadow monsters, Gorr ends up kidnapping the children of New Asgard (including Axl) and imprisoning them in an underground area. Guess who’s teaming up to come to the rescue?

After the mass kidnapping happens, there’s a comedic segment where Thor ends up in the kingdom of Greek god Zeus (played by Russell Crowe), a toga-wearing hedonist who says things like, “Where are we going to have this year’s orgy?” Zeus is Thor’s idol, but Thor gets a rude awakening about Zeus. Thor experiences some humiliation that involves Thor getting completely naked in Zeus’ public court. Crowe’s questionable Greek accent (which often sounds more Italian than Greek) is part of his deliberately campy performance as Zeus.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” packs in a lot of issues and switches tones so many times, it might be a turnoff to some viewers who just want to see a straightforward, uncomplicated and conventional superhero story. However, people who saw and enjoyed “Thor: Ragnarok” will be better-prepared for his mashup of styles that Waititi continues in “Thor: Love and Thunder,” which has that same spirit. “Thor: Love and Thunder” tackles much heavier issues though, such as terminal illness and crushing heartbreak.

The movie’s cancer storyline with Jane could have been mishandled, but it’s written in a way that has an emotional authenticity among the fantastical superhero shenanigans. “Thor: Love and Thunder” also goes does fairly deep in exposing the toll that superhero duties can take on these superheroes’ love lives. Thor and Jane have to come to terms with certain decisions they made that affected their relationship.

The movie also provides a glimpse into the personal lives of supporting characters Korg and Valkyrie. In a memorable scene, Valkyrie and Korg are alone together in an area of Thor’s Viking ship, and they have a heart-to-heart talk about not finding their true loves yet. They are lovelorn cynics but still show some glimmers of optimism that maybe they will be lucky in love. It’s in this scene where Korg mentions that he was raised by two fathers, and Valkyrie briefly mentions having an ex-girlfriend. A scene later in the movie shows that Korg is open having a same-sex romance.

All of the cast members do well in their roles, but Hemsworth and Portman have the performances and storyline that people will be talking about the most for “Thor: Love and Thunder.” The ups and downs of Thor and Jane’s on-again/off-again romance are not only about what true love can mean in this relationship but also touch on issues of power, control, trust and gender dynamics. It’s a movie that acknowledges that two people might be right for each other, but the timing also has to be right for the relationship to thrive.

Bale does a very solid job as Gorr, but some viewers might be disappointed that Gorr isn’t in the movie as much as expected. That’s because the first third of “Thor: Love and Thunder” is taken up by a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy interactions with Thor. In other words, Gorr’s villain presence in “Thor: Love and Thunder” is not particularly encompassing, as Hela’s villain presence was in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

The movie’s final battle scene might also be somewhat divisive with viewers because one member of Thor’s team is not part of this battle, due to this character being injured in a previous fight and being stuck at a hospital. Fans of this character will no doubt feel a huge letdown that this character is sidelined in a crucial final battle. Leaving this character out of this battle is one of the flaws of “Thor: Love and Thunder.”

The mid-credits scene and end-credits scene in Thor: Love and Thunder” show characters who are supposed to be dead. The mid-credits scene also introduces the family member of one of the movie’s characters, while the end-credits scene teases the return of other characters who exist in another realm. Neither of these scenes is mind-blowing. However, they’re worth watching for MCU completists and anyone who likes watching all of a movie’s credits at the end.

What “Thor: Love and Thunder” gets right is that it shows more concern than many other MCU movies about how insecurities and isolation outside the glory of superhero battles can have a profound effect on these heroes. Saving the universe can come at a heavy emotional price, especially when loved ones die. Whether the love is for family members, romantic partners or friends, “Thor: Love and Thunder” acknowledges that love can result in grief that isn’t easy to overcome, but the healing process is helped with loyal support and some welcome laughter.

Disney’s Marvel Studios will release “Thor: Love and Thunder” in U.S. cinemas on July 8, 2022.

Review: ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2,’ starring James Marsden, Jim Carrey and the voices of Ben Schwartz and Idris Elba

April 9, 2022

by Carla Hay

James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2”

Directed by Jeff Fowler

Culture Representation: Taking place in Green Hills, Montana; Oahu, Hawaii; Seattle and various parts of the universe, the live-action/animated adventure film “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” features a nearly predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Asians) and representing the working-class and middle-class, along with some outer-space creatures.

Culture Clash: Sonic the Hedgehog battles again against the evil Dr. Robotnik, who wants to take over the world and gets help from Knuckles the Echidna, who is searching for the all-powerful Master Emerald.

Culture Audience: “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” will appeal primarily to fans of the video-game franchise and people who like high-energy, comedic adventures that combine live action and animation.

Jim Carrey and Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) in “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” does almost everything a sequel is supposed to do in being an improvement from its predecessor. While 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie looked like a middling TV special, 2022’s “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has a much more engaging story and more impressive visuals that are worthy of a movie theater experience. “Sonic the Hedgehog” panders mostly to children, while “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is an adventure story with wider appeal to many generations. To enjoy “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” you don’t have to be a video game player, and you don’t have to be familiar with Sega Genesis’ “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games on which these movies are based.

Several of the chief filmmakers from the “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie (including director Jeff Fowler) have returned for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” Pat Casey and Josh Miller, who wrote the “Sonic the Hedgehog” screenplay, are joined by John Whittington for the “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” screenplay. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has an obvious bigger budget than its predecessor, since the visual effects are far superior to what was in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. What hasn’t changed is that Sonic (voiced skillfully by Ben Schwartz)—a talking blue hedgehog who can run at supersonic speeds—is still a brash and wisecracking character with an unwavering purpose of doing good in the world.

Thankfully, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” avoids the pitfall that a lot of sequels make when they assume that everyone watching a movie sequel has already seen any preceding movie in the series. It’s easy to understand “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” without seeing the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” also picks up where “Sonic the Hedgehog” left off: The evil Dr. Robotnik (played by Jim Carrey), Sonic’s chief nemesis, has been banished to the Mushroom Planet, where he has been isolation for the past 243 days.

The first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie showed how Sonic was raised in another dimension by a female guardian owl called Longclaw (voiced by Donna Jay Fulks), a benevolent and wise character. When an apocalyptic disaster struck happened, Longclaw saved Sonic by opening up a portal to Earth and telling him that Earth would be Sonic’s permanent home. Longclaw also gave Sonic a bag of magical gold rings which could open portals and do other magic.

In the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie, Sonic settled in with happily married couple Tom Wachowski (played by James Marsden) and Maddie Wachowski (played by Tika Sumpter) in the fictional city of Green Hills, Montana. Tom is the sheriff of Green Hills, while Maddie is a veterinarian. Tom and Maddie also have a (non-talking) Golden Retriever named Ozzy, who is a friend to Sonic.

In the beginning of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” Sonic (who acts and talks like a human teenager) has been “adopted” by Tom and Maddie. Sonic sees himself as a hero who is on a mission to fight crime, just like Tom. However, Sonic’s efforts often lead to a lot of unintended wreckage.

The movie’s opening scene shows Sonic in Seattle, as he interferes in an armored car robbery taking place at night. When Sonic shows up, the car driver, who’s been taken hostage in the back, asks Sonic: “Why don’t you let the police handle it?” Sonic replies confidently, “Because that’s not what heroes do!”

It leads to a high-speed chase and car crashes, but thankfully no fatalities. The robbers are apprehended, but the Seattle Police Department is annoyed that Sonic’s excessive eagerness to stop the robbery and catch the criminals resulted in thousands of dollars in damages. All of this wreckage makes the news, so Tom inevitably finds that Sonic snuck out that night and went all the way to Seattle to be involved in these crime-stopping shenanigans.

Tom takes Sonic on a fishing trip on a small boat, where he lectures Sonic about being too reckless in Sonic’s attempts to be a big hero. Sonic gets defensive and says, “You’re supposed to be my friend, not my dad.” Tom looks a little hurt and miffed, but he and Sonic agree to a compromise that Sonic should be more careful if he ever gets involved in any more crime busting.

Sonic won’t have long to wait before he gets involved in something bigger than stopping an armored car robbery. Back on the Mushroom Planet, Dr. Robotnik has been biding his time by experimenting with mushroom juice. He says out loud to himself, “I’ve been striving to make funghi a functional drink of choice, with limited success.”

Dr. Robotnik has kept one of Sonic’s quills, which he finds out has magical energy, so Dr. Robotnik uses the quill as a conduit that summons up a portal that goes to another dimension. Just as Dr. Robotnik declares that he’s about to leave this “shiitake planet” (pun intended by the filmmakers), Echidna soldiers fly through the portal to the Mushroom Planet. The soldiers are soon followed by their red-colored leader: Knuckles the Echinda, who has superstrength in his fists. Knuckles (voiced by Idris Elba) is the guardian of the Master Emerald, a gemstone that controls the Chaos Emeralds, but Knuckles has lost the Master Emerald and is searching for it.

When Knuckles tells Dr. Robotnik about his quest, the evil doctor seizes the opportunity to get Knuckles’ help in going back to Earth to get revenge on Sonic and take over Earth. When Knuckles sees that Dr. Robotnik has Sonic’s glowing quill, Knuckles asks Dr. Robotnik where he got the quill. Dr. Robotnik says that he got it from Earth. “I’d be happy to show you the way,” Dr. Robotnik sneers before he and Knuckles enter the portal to go to Earth.

Eventually, Dr. Robotnik and Knuckles decide to team up so that they can both get what they want: Knuckles wants the Master Emerald to restore power to his tribe, while Dr. Robotnik wants revenge on Sonic and to take over Earth. Of course, a double crosser such as Dr. Robotnik can’t completely be trusted, but Knuckles needs Dr. Robotnik’s vast knowledge of Earth, which is a completely unknown and foreign planet to Knuckles.

Meanwhile, Tom and Maddie are leaving Sonic at home to take a trip to Oahu, Hawaii, for the wedding of Maddie’s older sister Rachel (played by Natasha Rothwell), a single mother who clashed with Tom in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. Rachel is marrying a man named Randall (played by Shemar Moore), who is completely devoted to her. Rachel’s daughter Jojo (played by Melody Nosipho Niemann), who’s about 11 or 12 years old, is the wedding’s ring bearer. Maddie is Rachel’s maid of honor.

Because of this trip, Sonic and his human family are not together as often as they were in the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie. It’s a refreshing departure that frees up Sonic to have some adventures on his own. While Maddie and Tom are in Oahu, Sonic is at home in Green Hills with the family dog Ozzy when Dr. Robotnik shows up at the door.

In “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” Sonic also meets a new ally coming from another universe: Miles “Tails” Prower (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey), an adolescent, two-tailed yellow fox who hero worships Sonic. Tails becomes a major asset in the battle against Knuckles and Dr. Robotnik.

Two supporting characters from the first “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie return in this sequel and continue their roles as being some of the comic relief: Stone (played by Lee Majdoub), a former government agent, is an obsessively loyal assistant to Dr. Robotnik. Wade Whipple (played by Adam Pally) is the deputy sheriff of Green Hills. Both are essentially buffoon characters. Stone is seen working as a barista at a place called the Mean Bean Coffee Co. when he ecstatically finds out that Dr. Robotnik has returned to Earth.

The “race against time quest” in this movie takes Sonic to various places, ranging from a dive bar filled with Russian-speaking, rough-and-tumble characters; a ski slope for an adrenaline-packed chase on snowboards; and Oahu for the wedding. Because “Sonic the Hedgehog” has a lot of comedy, you can bet that there will be mishaps that this wedding, where Rachel hilariously turns into a “bridezilla” when things go wrong.

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” seems to be more mindful than the first “Sonic” movie that much of this movie franchises’ target audience consists of adults who remember when the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games first became popular in the early 1990s. Therefore, this sequel has more pop-culture jokes that adults are more likely than children to understand. The wedding scenes are almost a spoof of wedding scenes in romantic comedies, while Rachel turning into a “bridezilla” will look familiar to anyone who knows about the reality series “Bridezillas.”

At one point in the movie, it’s mentioned that owls and echidnas have been fighting each other for centuries. Sonic then quips, “Like Vin Diesel and the Rock.” In another scene, Dr. Robotnik tells Knuckles of their shaky alliance: “You’re as useful to me now like a backstage pass to Limp Bizkit.” People who know about rock band Limp Bizkit’s peak popularity in the late 1990s/early 2000s are most likely to understand that joke. Carrey’s gleefully over-the-top performance as Dr. Robotnik is reminiscent of his rubber-faced, mugging-for-the-camera roles that made him a star in the 1990s.

Sometimes, sequels can be hindered by introducing too many new characters in the story. However, Knuckles is a welcome addition, since his character is one of the best things about “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” with Elba diving into the role with gusto. Knuckles is a pompous know-it-all who feels out of his element because he doesn’t know much about Earth. Much of the comedy about Knuckles is when his ignorance about Earth is showing, and he tries to hide his embarrassment with more ego posturing.

The character of Tails also brings some more personality to this movie franchise. Tails is the perfect complement to Sonic, who likes feeling as if he can mentor someone. Depending on your perspective, O’Shaughnessey’s voice makes Tails sound androgynous or like a boy whose voice hasn’t reach puberty yet. The movie has a mid-credits scene that shows another well-known character from the “Sonic the Hedgehog” video games will be introduced in the third “Sonic the Hedgehog” movie.

The pace of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is very energetic without rushing the plot too much. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is a two-hour movie that could have edited out about 15 minutes, but the two-hour runtime will fly by pretty quickly because the movie doesn’t get too boring. This is not a movie with any big plot twists or major surprises, but it fulfills its purpose of being family-friendly entertainment that might pleasantly surprise viewers who normally don’t care about movies based on video games.

Paramount Pictures released “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in U.S. cinemas on April 8, 2022. The movie will be released on digital, VOD and Paramount+ on May 24, 2022. “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” is set for release on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on August 9, 2022.

Review: ‘The Harder They Fall’ (2021), starring Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler and Danielle Deadwyler

December 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Danielle Deadwyler, Jonathan Majors and Zazie Beetz in “The Harder They Fall” (Photo by David Lee/Netflix)

“The Harder They Fall” (2021)

Directed by Jeymes Samuel

Culture Representation: Taking place in Texas in the mid-1880s, the Western action drama “The Harder They Fall” has a predominantly black cast of characters (with some white people, Latinos and Native Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class, wealthy and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: When cowboy Nat Love finds out that his arch-enemy Rufus Buck has escaped from prison, Nat assembles a posse that battles against Rufus’ gang.

Culture Audience: “The Harder They Fall” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in well-acted, action-oriented Western dramas about the underrepresented African American cowboy culture of the 1880s, but viewers of the movie should have a high tolerance for over-the-top violence.

Regina King, Idris Elba and LaKeith Stanfield in “The Harder They Fall” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

With grisly violence that is almost cartoonish, “The Harder They Fall” puts a well-acted spotlight on real-life African American cowboys of the 1880s. The movie’s excessive violence might be a turnoff to some viewers. But for viewers who can tolerate all the blood and gore, “The Harder They Fall” is a bumpy and thrilling ride with a top-notch cast.

“The Harder They Fall” is the second feature film of director Jeymes Samuel, who co-wrote “The Harder They Fall” screenplay with Boaz Yakin. Samuel, also composed the movie’s score, has said in interviews that the title of the movie was inspired by the 1972 movie “The Harder They Come,” starring reggae singer Jimmy Cliffnot the 1956 Humphrey Bogart/Rod Steiger movie “The Harder They Fall.” Samuel is a British filmmaker (he’s the younger brother of pop star Seal) who grew up adoring Western movies. However, Samuel eventually found out that these Westerns often gave inaccurate demographic depictions of what post-Civil War life was like the Old West of the 19th century.

In reality, people of color and women had much more agency and independence in Old West culture than what’s shown in most old-time Western movies, which usually portray only white men as leaders of cowboy posses. “The Harder They Fall” aims to course-correct these historical exclusions by doing a fictional portrayal of real-life African American posse members from the 19th century. In case it wasn’t clear enough, a caption in the movie’s introduction states in big and bold letters: “While the events are fictional, the people are real.” (At least the movie’s main characters are based on real people.)

“The Harder They Fall” also doesn’t sugarcoat the reality that there were good and bad cowboy posses. Black people are no exception. The African Americans in the movie are not portrayed as subservient stereotypes, but they aren’t exactly saintly either. Most are just trying to get by and live good lives, while there are some hardened criminals who create chaos for people who have the misfortune of crossing their paths. “The Harder They Fall” takes place in various parts of Texas, but the movie was actually filmed in New Mexico.

“The Harder They Fall” opens with a 10-year-old boy named Nat Love (played by Chase Dillon) witnessing the brutal murder of his parents—Reverend Love (played by Michael Beach) and wife Eleanor Love (played by DeWanda Wise)—during a home invasion. The gangsters shoot Nat’s parents, but they spare Nat’s life. The leader of this gang uses a knife to carve a cross on Nat’s forehead.

About 20 years later, Nat (played by Jonathan Majors) still has the scar on his forehead. And he’s had a lifelong obsession with getting revenge on the gangsters who killed his parents. Nat knows that Rufus Buck (played by Idris Elba) is the gang leader who is the main culprit for the murders. Rufus has recently been in prison for armed robbery and murder.

However, Nat finds out that Rufus has made a prison escape. Two of Rufus’ loyal cronies—ruthless Trudy Smith (played by Regina King) and smooth-talking Cherokee Bill (played by LaKeith Stanfield)—have hijacked the train where prisoner Rufus was being transported, and they broke Rufus out of the cell where he was being kept.

After Nat discovers that Rufus is now a free man (but still wanted by law enforcement), Nat assembles his own posse to get revenge. The other members of the Nat Love Gang are Mary Fields (played by Zazie Beetz), who is Nat’s feisty love interest; Bill Pickett (played by Edi Gathegi), who is a loyal and logical; Jim Beckwourth (played by RJ Cyler), who is a cocky young cowboy; and Cuffee (played by Danielle Deadwyler), who lives as a transgender man.

Nat makes a living by finding “wanted dead or alive” criminals for reward money. Nat has no qualms about killing these criminals if he thinks they deserve it. That’s what happens in an early scene in the movie when Nat shoots and kills a wanted criminal who shows up at a Catholic church with the intention of robbing the church. Nat’s reward is $5,000.

It turns out that Nat and his gang are outlaws too, because they make money by stealing from robbers. Therefore, one of their least-favorite people is Bass Reeves (played by Delroy Lindo), a U.S. marshal who’s determined to put a stop to all this criminal activity. In addition to seeking revenge on Rufus, the Nat Love Gang also wants to avoid capture by Reeves and his law enforcement team. The posse members on both sides are also mistrustful of Wiley Esco (played by Deon Cole), the Redwood City mayor whose allegiances can be murky.

It should be noted that in real life, Bass Reeves is the inspiration for the Lone Ranger character, which has been played by white actors in movies and television. Reeves was considered a pioneer for African Americans in law enforcement, because he did a lot to change American viewpoints that white people aren’t the only race who can become U.S. marshals. In real life, Reeves worked closely with Native American leaders. It’s an alliance that’s depicted in the movie too.

In many ways, “The Harder They Fall” follows a lot of the traditions of typical Westerns, with gun shootouts and chases on horseback. There’s also some romance, as Mary and Nat have an on-again, off-again relationship. Mary, who works as a saloon singer, has a hard time trusting Nat because he’s cheated on her in the past. Nat is an emotionally wounded rebel who’s trying to win back Mary’s heart, but first he has to learn how to heal his own broken heart.

And there’s inevitable fighting among posse members. Most of the friction in Nat’s gang comes from Jim and Bill having personality clashes with each other. Bill thinks Jim is arrogant and reckless, while Jim thinks that Bill is uptight and too cautious. It’s the classic older cowboy/younger cowboy conflict that’s often seen in Westerns.

There are also some gender issues with Cuffee, who wants to live life as a man, but some people think that Cuffee is a woman just doing a drag act. There are parts of the movie where people aren’t sure whether to call Cuffee a “he” or a “she,” since the word “transgender” did not exist at the time. And when Cuffee has to wear a dress (for reasons what won’t be revealed in this review), it makes Cuffee very uncomfortable. After seeing Cuffee in a dress, Jim blurts out that he now knows why was kind of attracted to Cuffee.

Damon Wayans Jr. has a small role in the movie as Monroe Grimes, someone who is captured by Nat’s posse members to get information about Rufus. As for Rufus, he’s a cold-blooded killer who has enough of a twinkle in his eye and swagger in his walk to indicate why his posse subordinates find him so magnetic. Mary can give Rufus a run for his money, in terms of being fearless in battle. Cherokee Bill is violent too, but he’s more likely to use psychology to try to outwit an opponent.

“The Harder They Fall” isn’t particularly innovative in the story structure and dialogue, but there are some impressive camera shots from cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr., and the movie delivers when it comes to adrenaline-filled action scenes. A standout camera shot is in a scene where the camera zooms in with a bullet-like trajectory at a group of posse members to then reveal that there are others standing behind them. Also adding to the striking visuals of “The Harder They Fall” is the first-rate costume design by Antoinette Messam, who brought a practical yet fashionable look to many of these Old West characters.

All of the actors perform well in their roles, with the best scene-stealing moments coming from Majors, King, Elba, Beetz, Stanfield and Deadwyler. Where the movie falters a bit is in how it abandons its mostly gritty realism for some stunts that are so heavily choreographed, it takes you out of the realism and just becomes a reminder that this movie’s fight scenes can sometimes look like ultra-violent parodies of fight scenes in Westerns.

What doesn’t come across as a parody is how credibly the cast members portray their characters. These engaging characters bring real heart and soul to “The Harder They Fall.” (There’s also a poignant plot twist/reveal at the end of the movie that might or might not be surprising to some viewers.) Even though not everyone makes it out alive by the end of the movie, it’s clear by the movie’s last shot that there’s room for a sequel for a spinoff.

Netflix released “The Harder They Fall” in select U.S. cinemas on October 22, 2021. The movie’s Netflix premiere was on November 3, 2021.

Review: ‘The Suicide Squad,’ starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Viola Davis and Daniela Melchior

July 30, 2021

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front row, from left to right: Joel Kinnaman, Alice Braga, Daniela Melchior, King Shark, Idris Elba and John Cena in “The Suicide Squad” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“The Suicide Squad”

Directed by James Gunn

Culture Representation: Taking place in Louisiana and a fictional South American country called Corto Maltese, the superhero action flick “The Suicide Squad” features a racially diverse cast of characters (white, black, Latino and Asian) representing government officials, superheroes, villains, fantasy creatures and everything in between.

Culture Clash: The Suicide Squad—a ragtag group of prisoners and outlaws with special abilities—is ordered by the U.S. government to go on a secret mission to destroy a nefarious scientific operation that is intended to control the world.

Culture Audience: “The Suicide Squad” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in violent, zany and foul-mouthed superhero movies that skillfully blur the lines between heroes and villains.

Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Margot Robbie, Peter Capaldi and Idris Elba in “The Suicide Squad” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“The Suicide Squad” is the bonkers and bloody action spectacle that fans of iconoclastic superhero movies deserve. It’s a worthy and memorable alternative of writer/director David Ayer’s 2016’s much-maligned “Suicide Squad,” which was a confused and muddled film that ultimately played it too safe for these roguish and rude DC Comics characters. “The Suicide Squad” (written and directed by James Gunn) gives a much-needed adult-oriented resuscitation—not just to the original “Suicide Squad” movie but also to the superhero genre in general, which has a tendency to be formulaic and predictable.

“The Suicide Squad” is the superhero movie equivalent of someone who will kiss you and kick you at the same time. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, there are surprises that most superhero movies would never dare to have. Several characters initially look like they’re going to be prominently featured in the story, but they actually get killed off early in the film. And there are more unexpected deaths that defy the usual expectations of who lives and who dies in a typical superhero film.

Because of all these unexpected deaths in “The Suicide Squad,” the only way to describe the movie without giving away spoiler information is to say that the Suicide Squad’s mission in this movie is to go to the fictional South American island nation of Corto Maltese and destroy a top-secret scientific operation called Project Starfish. Just like in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie and in the DC Comics series that inspired this movie franchise, the Suicide Squad (whose official name is Task Force X) consists of dangerous inmates who are held at a federal prison called Belle Reve in Louisiana. The members of the team have special skills or powers that make the Suicide Squad an above-average combat group.

Belle Reve is a recruiting center for a no-nonsense, tough-talking U.S. government official named Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis, reprising her role from 2016’s “Suicide Squad”), who is in charge of monitoring the Suicide Squad members when they go on their black operations (in other words, government-classified missions), under orders from the U.S. government. If the Suicide Squad members complete the mission, then they can get a pre-determined number of years shaved off of their prison sentences. In case any of these Suicide Squad members try to escape or defy orders, an explosive device is implanted in each of their heads, and Amanda has the power to detonate this explosive device.

While Amanda keeps tabs on the Suicide Squad in a control room with elaborate high-tech surveillance, her subordinate Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinnaman, also from 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie) is the military commander who accompanies the Suicide Squad on their missions. In other words, he does a lot of dirty work that Amanda doesn’t have to do, and his life is more at risk than hers. Colonel Flag is a loyal government employee. He’s gritty but not as cold-blooded and ruthless as Amanda. And in “The Suicide Squad” movie, viewers will see how he handles an important ethical dilemma.

Who are the members of the Suicide Squad in this movie? They are, in alphabetical order:

  • Blackguard (played by Pete Davidson), whose real name is Richard Hertz, an American guy in his 20s who’s an immature and nervous jokester.
  • Bloodsport (played by Idris Elba), whose real name is Robert Dubois, a cynical, grouchy, middle-aged Brit who’s an expert marksman and who is in prison for shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, which landed Superman in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
  • Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney), whose real name is George “Digger” Harkness, a hot-tempered Australian in his 30s who uses a deadly boomerang as his main weapon.
  • Javelin (played by Flula Borg), whose real name is Gunter Braun, a cocky German in his 30s who has a javelin as his main weapon.
  • King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), a talking mutant shark that has the intelligence of a 3-year-old human child and an appetite for eating humans.
  • Mongal (played by Mayling Ng), an orange alien with superhero strength and agility.
  • Peacemaker (played by John Cena), whose real name is Christopher Smith, an extremely patriotic middle-aged American who is an expert marksman and immediately has a rivalry with Bloodsport.
  • Polka-Dot Man (played by David Dastmalchian), whose real name is Abner Krill, an insecure American guy in his 40s who has “mother issues” and the ability to eject deadly flying polka dots from his body as weapons.
  • Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), a ditsy American maniac whose past heartbreaks (including her former romance with iconic villain The Joker) and personal grudges affect many of her decisions.
  • Ratcatcher 2 (played by Daniela Melchior), whose real name is Cleo Cazo, a compassionate Portuguese orphan in her 20s who has the ability to command rats to do her bidding.
  • Savant (played by Michael Rooker), whose real name is Brian Durlin, a jaded, 61-year-old American who is an expert in weapons and hand-to-hand combat.
  • T.D.K. (played by Nathan Fillion), a stoic American man in his 40s, whose real name is Cory Pitzner and whose T.D.K. nickname initials stand for The Detachable Kid, because he has the power to detach his limbs and use them as weapons.
  • Weasel (played by Sean Gunn), an easygoing, giant weasel that cannot talk.

Harley and Boomerang were in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” movie. The other characters are new to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) live-action movies. Of these new characters in “The Suicide Squad,” Bloodsport, Polka-Dot Man and Ratcatcher 2 are the ones with the significant backstories that are described in the movie. Amanda tells a reluctant and anti-social Bloodsport that he will be the leader of this revamped Suicide Squad.

Corto Maltese is a country in a lot of political turmoil. For years, the country was ruled by royals called the Herrera Family, but the entire family was murdered by a public hanging during a miltary coup of the government. The leader of this coup is General Silvio Luna (played by Juan Diego Botto), whose right-hand man is Mayor General Mateo Suarez (played by Joaquín Cosio), who’s old enough to be General Luna’s father. General Luna has appointed himself as the military dictator president of Corto Maltese.

Meanwhile, General Luna and his inner circle know all about Project Starfish. The secrets of Project Starfish will give Corto Maltese the ability to become a world superpower. The geneticist in charge of Project Starfish is a Brit named Gaius Grieves (played by Peter Capaldi), who has the nickname the Thinker. He’s the key to getting access to Jotunheim, the name of the scientific research facility that houses Project Starfish in the Corto Maltese city of Valle del Mar. The Thinker is also easy to spot, because he has electrode-like amps, spark plugs and valves portruding from his head, in order to enhance his intelligence.

The only information that the Suicide Squad has about the Thinker is what he looks like and that he often likes to go to a “gentleman’s club” after work. It’s at this point in the movie that you know that the Suicide Squad will be going to a strip club, and there’s going to be a big fight scene there. The way the scene is filmed is not cliché as it sounds. And it has moments of comedy, such as when the Suicide Squad members get drunk and some of them awkwardly start dancing.

In addition to many surprise twists, what makes “The Suicide Squad” different from most other superhero movies is how it manages to be a nihilistic, graphically violent movie with heart and genuine sentiment. It’s a tricky balance that most movies with these intentions would not be able to achieve. The Suicide Squad members might have reputations for being amoral, but the movie shows (in ways that 2016’s “Suicide Squad did not) a certain depth to their emotional damage.

Bloodsport has a rocky relationship with his 16-year-old daughter Tyla (played by Storm Reid), a rebel who has recently gotten into trouble for stealing a StyleWatch, which is described as a device that’s a lot like an Apple Watch. (Tyla’s mother is dead, by the way.) When Tyla comes to visit Bloodsport in prison, she tells him about how she’s gotten in trouble for this theft. Instead of giving the usual parental lecture, Bloodsport chastises Tyla by saying that she should’ve had a thief partner so she wouldn’t get caught.

They yell “fuck you” to each other, because Tyla has a lot of resentment over having an absentee father who has not been there to give her the guidance that she obviously wants. She shouts at Bloodsport that she’s ashamed that he’s her father. And the hurt expression on Bloodsport’s face shows that he’s not so tough after all, at least when it comes to his daughter. Later, after Bloodsport meets Ratcatcher 2, he shows his vulnerable side again when he tells Ratcatcher 2 that she reminds him of his daughter.

Other characters reveal how their family-related traumas have affected them. Polka-Dot Man had a mother (played by Lynne Ashe), who worked at Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories, also known as S.T.A.R. Labs. According to what Polka-Dot Man tells the other Suicide Squad members, his mother was obsessed with making her children superheroes, so she conducted illegal scientific experiments on them.

Polka-Dot Man’s polka dots on his skin are an interdimensional virus that he got from these experiments. His face can balloon into a bloated disfigurement with polka dots unless he expels them. (This transformation is shown in the movie.) Polka-Dot Man says at one point, “I don’t like to kill people, but if I pretend they’re my mom, it’s easy.” And yes, there are some scenes were the Polka-Dot Man hallucinates seeing his mother.

Ratcatcher 2 is the daughter of Ratcatcher (played by Taika Waititi, in a flashback cameo), who taught her how to summon and control rats. The rats kept them company when she and her father lived on the streets of Portugal. During a bus ride with other Suicide Squad members, Ratcatcher 2 talks about how she moved to the U.S. from Portugal, and she’s an orphan because her father died from his “burdens.” (Ratcatcher 2 never talks about what happened to her mother.)

The flashback shows that Ratcatcher’s main burden was a needle-using drug addiction, and he died of a drug overdose. Ratcatcher 2 also says after she moved to the U.S., she was arrested for armed bank robbery, and she can’t believe that her rats were considered a weapon. Ratcatcher 2’s closest companion is a very intelligent rat named Sebastian, which Colonel Flag jokingly calls Ratatouille.

Meanwhile, there’s a running gag in the movie that macho Bloodsport is very afraid of rats. On that bus ride, he reveals why: His mercenary father, who gave him weapons training, would punish Bloodsport as a child for not doing something correctly. One of those punishments was to lock Bloodsport in a crate for 24 hours with hungry rats. Bloodsport’s rat phobia is used for comic relief as well as a very touching moment in the movie.

Harley does not have her signature baseball bat in this movie, but she has a rocket launcher and a javelin that she puts to good use. How she got this javelin is revealed in the movie. In 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” Harley was depicted as a scantily clad sexpot who was lovesick over the Joker. In “The Suicide Squad,” she’s more of an independent badass, just as she was in the 2020 movie “Birds of Prey,” but not like the two-dimensional caricature that she was in “Birds of Prey.”

In one part of the movie, Corto Maltese president Luna summons Harley to his palace for an elaborate lunch date, in order to seduce her and convince her to become his wife. Luna is very anti-American but he’s attracted to Harley because her hellraising antics seem to be anti-American, and he thinks she’s very sexy. Harley is dressed for the occasion in a frilly red gown that she wears for the rest of the movie and during her biggest action scenes. Wearing the red gown while in combat is a symbolic contrast of how Harley sees herself as both girly and gonzo when it comes to fighting.

“The Suicide Squad” has fun with Harley’s image as the Suicide Squad member who’s most likely to make a fashion statement. Early on the movie, Harley wears a red and black leather suit with a jacket emblazoned with the words “Live Fast, Die Clown” on the back. And later in the movie, when she’s wearing the red gown, it’s shown that she has a back tattoo that reads, “Property of No One” next to a jester head that’s mean to signify the Joker. She also has a chest tattoo that reads “Daddy’s Lil Monster,” in a nod to the T-shirt that she famously wore in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”

Harley might come across a flaky and erratic in some ways, but “The Suicide Squad” presents her with a fascinating and complex mindset. She has a monologue in the movie that’s very revealing in how she still has some inner conflict over how much she’s willing to let her head, not her heart, rule over any decisions that she makes. This movie is Robbie’s most compelling portrayal of Harley Quinn, because she’s finally given the dialogue that this character should have.

Visually, “The Suicide Squad” is the best so far of any live-action movie featuring Harley Quinn. There are some whimsical qualities, such as plot developments spelled out in giant words that are part of the scenery. (“The Suicide Squad” was filmed in Atlanta, Panama, Puerto Rico and Portugal.)The most gruesome and bloodiest scenes have an almost cartoonish quality, so that things don’t appear to be completely depressing and grim. And some of the action scenes have a poetic beauty to them, particularly one sequence involving Harley Quinn and a cascade of flowers in bloom, which are very metaphorical to the blossoming of her character.

What will affect viewers the most is not the violence but who dies in the movie. These deaths are examples of why people in this ragtag Suicide Squad are reluctant or afraid to get emotionally attached to others. (However, in the end-credits scene, it’s revealed that the one of the “dead” characters actually survived.) Although the violence in “The Suicide Squad” is brutal, it’s not without consequences. Too often, superhero movies make most of the villains die and all of the heroes live. “The Suicide Squad” is a big middle finger to that idea.

The rivalry between Bloodsport and Peacemaker provides a lot of comedy, as well as tension-filled moments. As an example of the insult jokes between these two alpha males, Bloodsport derides Peacemaker for his shiny chrome helmet, which Bloodsport says looks like a toilet seat on Peacemaker’s head. Later in the movie, Peacemaker snaps back, “It’s not a toilet seat! It’s a beacon of freedom!”

The acting in “The Suicide Squad” is not going to be nominated for any prestigious awards, but all of the cast members get the job done well for their characters. Robbie and Elba stand out for bringing some nuance as emotionally wounded troublemakers Harley Quinn and Bloodsport. Melchior and Dastmalchian also have some standout moments as Ratcatcher 2 and the Polka-Dot Man, who are the kindler, gentler members of the Suicide Squad. King Shark is written as very simple-minded, so there’s not much going on with this character except fighting, eating humans, and a standout scene where King Shark is fascinated by the contents of a giant aquarium.

The Suicide Squad members have two outside allies from Corto Maltese in their mission: Sol Soria (played by Alice Braga) is the leader of a resistance movement against the military coup. She has a very negative first impression of the Suicide Squad because of a colossal mistake that directly affects Sol. Milton (played by Julio Cesar Ruiz) is a hired driver who becomes the butt of a joke about how people don’t pay attention to service employees in movies like this or in real life.

It’s an example of some of the offbeat sensibilities that Gunn (who’s also known for directing “The Guardians of the Galaxy” movies) brings to “The Suicide Squad.” Another example is how Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo” song is used in one of Harley Quinn’s big action scenes. And in Amanda’s surveillance control room, her subordinates take bets on which Suicide Squad members will live or die during a mission.

One of the ways that “The Suicide Squad” doesn’t play it safe is by having some political themes about American patriotism and how Americans are often perceived by people in other countries. These themes in the movie might get divisive reactions from audience members. But considering that so many superhero movies deliberately avoid politics, “The Suicide Squad” should be commended for going outside the norm and taking some bold risks, even if they might alienate some viewers.

In others words, “The Suicide Squad” is not for the type of superhero movie fan who only wants pleasant, lightweight, family-friendly entertainment. The movie shows the good, bad and ugly sides of humanity in a way that will elicit a wide range of emotions in viewers. But one way that “The Suicide Squad” won’t make most viewers feel is bored.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “The Suicide Squad” in U.S. cinemas and on HBO Max on August 5, 2021, moved up from the original release date of August 6, 2021. The movie was released in cinemas in select countries, including the United Kingdom, on July 30, 2021.

One World: Together at Home worldwide TV event honoring coronavirus health workers will include appearances by Elton John, Paul McCartney, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Chris Martin, Lizzo and more

April 6, 2020

Updated April 14, 2020

Lady Gaga (Photo by Erik Voake/Coachella)

The following is a press release from ABC:

Building on the success of the digital series “One World: Together at Home,” Global Citizen and the World Health Organization (WHO) are partnering for a special one-night event of the same name to air across NBC, ABC, CBS and other global networks and platforms on  Saturday, April 18, 2020 (8:00-10:00 p.m. PT/ET).

“One World: Together at Home” is not a telethon – but rather a global broad entertainment special to celebrate the heroic efforts of community health workers and support the World Health Organization and the global fight to end COVID-19. The event is curated by Lady Gaga and will feature exclusive appearances by Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, Alanis Morissette, Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder. Friends of Sesame Street will also be on hand to help unify and inspire people around the world.

The two-hour program will be hosted by a trio of network late-night hosts: Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert and will include performances from the world’s biggest artists with multimillion-dollar pledges to the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund. Audrey Morrissey (“The Voice,” “Songland”) and Live Animals will produce the special in partnership with Global Citizen.

The show will lift viewer’s spirits with exclusive, special cameos from the worlds of music and arts, sports superstars, and comedic sketches, while always drawing back to its core purpose – to educate and inform on COVID-19 risks, prevention and response. The broadcast will feature interviews with experts from WHO as well as stories of frontline healthcare workers from around the world – their courage and sacrifice a reminder of the urgency of this moment.

The special will connect artists with audiences on a global scale, airing on the following networks and platforms:

· NBCUniversal: NBC, Bravo, E!, MSNBC, MSNBC.com, NBCSN, NBC News, NBCNews.com, NBC News on YouTube, Peacock, SYFY and USA.

· Walt Disney Television: ABC, ABC News, ABC News Live, Freeform and Nat Geo.

· ViacomCBS: CBS, Channel 5 in the UK, Network 10 in Australia, and Telefe in Argentina; BET and MTV globally across 180+ countries; and CMT, Comedy Central, Logo, MTV2, Paramount Network, Pop, TV Land and VH1 in the U.S.

· Bell Media platforms in Canada, MultiChoice, and RTE.

· BBC One will broadcast an edited version of the event for UK audiences on Sunday, April 19.

“One World: Together At Home” will also be a multi-hour digital broadcast streaming online on multiple global platforms, including Alibaba, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Facebook, Hulu, Instagram, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, TIDAL, TuneIn, Twitch, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube. This digital special will include additional artists and performances from all over the globe as well as unique stories from the world’s healthcare heroes. For information about how to tune in and take action, visit www.globalcitizen.org/togetherathome.

Commitments from supporters and corporate partners will go to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, powered by the UN Foundation, to support and equip healthcare workers around the world, and to local charities that provide food, shelter, and healthcare to those that need it most. These local groups have been vetted to ensure they are helping communities impacted by COVID-19.

April 14, 2020 UPDATE: International advocacy organization Global Citizen today announced an expanded list of artists that will appear in the “One World: Together at Home” global broadcast special, being held in support of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic being led by the World Health Organization.

The newly announced artists include Alicia Keys, Amy Poehler, Awkwafina, Camila Cabello, Celine Dion, Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Lopez, LL COOL J, Lupita Nyong’o, Matthew McConaughey, Oprah Winfrey, Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, Taylor Swift, Usher and Victoria Beckham. Curated in collaboration with Lady Gaga, the artists announced today join a lineup of entertainers who were unveiled last week that includes Andrea Bocelli, Billie Eilish, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Burna Boy, Chris Martin, David Beckham, Eddie Vedder, Elton John, FINNEAS, Idris and Sabrina Elba, J Balvin, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Kerry Washington, Lang Lang, Lizzo, Maluma, Paul McCartney, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Shah Rukh Khan and Stevie Wonder.

“One World: Together at Home” will be hosted by Jimmy Fallon of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Jimmy Kimmel of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and Stephen Colbert of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Friends from Sesame Street will also be on hand to help unify and inspire people around the world to take meaningful actions that increase support for the global COVID-19 response.

Leading up to the global broadcast special, there will be a six-hour streamed event, curated from around the world, to support brave healthcare workers doing life-saving work on the front lines. The “One World: Together at Home” streamed event will reach millions around the world digitally and will include performances and appearances from Adam Lambert, Andra Day, Angèle, Anitta, Annie Lennox, Becky G, Ben Platt, Billy Ray Cyrus, Black Coffee, Bridget Moynahan, Burna Boy, Cassper Nyovest, Charlie Puth, Christine and the Queens, Common, Connie Britton, Danai Gurira, Delta Goodrem, Don Cheadle, Eason Chan, Ellie Goulding, Erin Richards, FINNEAS, Heidi Klum, Hozier, Hussain Al Jasmi, Jack Black, Jacky Cheung, Jack Johnson, Jameela Jamil, James McAvoy, Jason Segel, Jennifer Hudson, Jess Glynne, Jessie J, Jessie Reyez, John Legend, Juanes, Kesha, Lady Antebellum, Lang Lang, Leslie Odom Jr., Lewis Hamilton, Liam Payne, Lili Reinhart, Lilly Singh, Lindsey Vonn, Lisa Mishra, Lola Lennox, Luis Fonsi, Maren Morris, Matt Bomer, Megan Rapinoe, Michael Bublé, Milky Chance, Naomi Osaka, Natti Natasha, Niall Horan, Nomzamo Mbatha, P.K. Subban, Picture This, Rita Ora, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sebastián Yatra, Sheryl Crow, Sho Madjozi, SOFI TUKKER, SuperM, The Killers, Tim Gunn, Vishal Mishra and Zucchero. The digital stream will be available on Alibaba, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Facebook, Instagram, LiveXLive, Tencent, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, TIDAL, TuneIn, Twitch, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube.

As part of the “One World: Together at Home” campaign, brands including Analog Devices, Cisco, Citi, The Coca-Cola Company, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, State Farm(R), Target, Teneo, Verizon, Vodafone and WW International, Inc. have supported the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO and regional charities that are working to meet immediate COVID-19-related needs locally.

“We are grateful to the private sector who have listened to the public’s call for action and come together to support the global response to COVID19. This pandemic is too large for governments to tackle alone,” said Hugh Evans, co-founder and CEO of Global Citizen. “We are also incredibly grateful for the continued support from the artist community to make ‘One World: Together at Home’ a moment of global unity. Our hope for the special is that everyone will come away believing that we, as a shared humanity, can emerge from this moment forever grateful for the work of doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers and all those who are the backbone of our communities.”

“One World: Together at Home” will air on Saturday, April 18, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. PDT/8:00 p.m. EDT, appearing on ABC, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks, The CW, iHeartMedia and Bell Media networks and platforms in Canada. Internationally, BBC One will run the program on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Additional international broadcasters include AXS TV, beIN Media Group, MultiChoice Group and RTE. The digital stream will begin at 11:00 a.m. PDT/2:00 p.m. EDT and will inspire unity among all people who are affected by COVID-19.

At this critical moment in history, Global Citizen is also calling on individuals, governments and philanthropists to join and support immediate COVID-19 response efforts. Changemakers, investors and foundation leaders are being urged to actualize their giving and invest quickly in related efforts, like stronger health systems and vaccine development.

Last month in response to the global pandemic, Global Citizen launched an urgent campaign in support of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO. Calling on individuals to take action and asking world leaders and corporations to support the response with sufficient resources, Global Citizens from over 150 countries around the world have taken hundreds of thousands of actions in support of the response fund. For information about how to tune in and take action, visit globalcitizen.org/togetherathome.

For more information about Global Citizen and their campaign to support the WHO’s Solidarity Response Fund, please visit globalcitizen.org and follow @GlblCtzn Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #GlobalCitizen.

To learn more about WHO’s response to the pandemic and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, please go to www.who.int/COVID-19 and follow @WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.

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