Movie and TV Reviews

Tribeca Film Festival Spotlight

88 (Photo by Paul De Lumen)
Four Samosas (Photo by Aakash Raj)
God Save the Queens
God’s Time (Photo by Jeff Melanson)
January (Photo by Andrejs Strokins)
The Lost Weekend: A Love Story (Photo courtesy of May Pang Collection)
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Peacock)
Rounding (Photo by Nate Hurtsellers)

Reviews for New Releases: May 6 – June 24, 2022

A Chiara (Photo courtesy of Neon)
All My Puny Sorrows (Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures)
The Ancestral (Photo courtesy of T2 Group)
Beba (Photo courtesy of Neon)
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)
The Black Phone (Photo by Fred Norris/Universal Pictures)
The Bob’s Burgers Movie (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
Brian and Charles (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)
Cha Cha Real Smooth (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)
Crimes of the Future (Photo courtesy of Neon)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
Downton Abbey: A New Era (Photo by Ben Blackall/Focus Features)
Eiffel (Photo courtesy of Blue Fox Entertainment)
Elvis (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Emergency (Photo by Quantrell Colbert/Amazon Content Services)
Escape the Field (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)
F3: Fun and Frustration (Photo courtesy of Sri Venkateswara Creations)
Family Camp (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)
Fire Island (Photo by Jeong Park/Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
Firestarter (Photo by Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures)
Frank and Penelope (Photo courtesy of Redbud Studios)
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Photo by Nick Wall/Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
Happening (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
The Innocents (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
The Janes (Photo courtesy of HBO)
Jayeshbhai Jordaar (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)
Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story (Photo courtesy of The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Sony Pictures Classics)
Jurassic World Dominion (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)
Kehvatlal Parivar (Photo courtesy of Coconut Motion Pictures)
Lightyear (Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar)
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Image courtesy of A24)
Men (Photo by Kevin Baker/A24)
Montana Story (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)
Paap Punyo (Photo courtesy of Impress Telefilm)
The Phantom of the Open (Photo by Nick Wall/Sony Pictures Classics)
Pleasure (Photo courtesy of Neon)
The Roundup (Photo courtesy of Capelight Pictures)
Samrat Prithviraj (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)
Tankhouse (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)
Top Gun: Maverick (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
Watcher (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

Complete List of Reviews

1BR — horror

2/1 — drama

2 Graves in the Desert — drama

2 Hearts — drama

2 Minutes of Fame — comedy

5 Years Apart — comedy

7 Days (2022) — comedy

8 Billion Angels — documentary

8-Bit Christmas — comedy

The 8th Night — horror

9 Bullets (formerly titled Gypsy Moon) — drama

9to5: The Story of a Movement — documentary

12 Hour Shift — horror

12 Mighty Orphans — drama

17 Blocks — documentary

21mu Tiffin — drama

37 Seconds — drama

76 Days — documentary

88 (2022) — drama

The 355 — action

The 420 Movie (2020) — comedy

499 — docudrama

2040 — documentary

7500 — drama

Abe — drama

About Endlessness — comedy/drama

Above Suspicion (2021) — drama

A Chiara — drama

The Addams Family 2 — animation

Adverse — drama

Advocate — documentary

The Affair (2021) (formerly titled The Glass Room) — drama

After Class (formerly titled Safe Spaces) — comedy/drama

After Parkland — documentary

After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News — documentary

After Yang — sci-fi/drama

Ailey — documentary

AKA Jane Roe — documentary

Algorithm: Bliss — sci-fi/horror

Alice (2022) — drama

Aline (2021) — drama

All Day and a Night — drama

All I Can Say — documentary

All In: The Fight for Democracy — documentary

All Light, Everywhere — documentary

All My Friends Hate Me — comedy/drama

All My Life — drama

All My Puny Sorrows — drama

All Roads to Pearla (formerly titled Sleeping in Plastic) — drama

All the Bright Places — drama

Almost Love (also titled Sell By) — comedy/drama

Alone (2020) (starring Jules Willcox) — horror

Alone (2020) (starring Tyler Posey) — horror

Alpha Rift — action

The Alpinist — documentary

Amalgama — comedy/drama

Amazing Grace (2018) — documentary

Ambulance (2022) — action

American Fighter — drama

American Gadfly — documentary

An American Pickle — comedy

American Street Kid — documentary

American Underdog — drama

American Woman (2020) — drama

Ammonite — drama

Amulet — horror

The Ancestral — horror

And Then We Danced — drama

Annette — musical

Another Round — drama

Antebellum — horror

Anthony — drama

Antlers (2021) — horror

Apocalypse ’45 — documentary

The Apollo — documentary

The Arbors — sci-fi/horror

The Argument — comedy

Army of the Dead (2021) — horror

Artemis Fowl — fantasy

The Artist’s Wife — drama

Ascension (2021) — documentary

Ask for Jane — drama

Ask No Questions — documentary

As of Yet — comedy/drama

The Assistant — drama

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal — documentary

Athlete A — documentary

Attack of the Murder Hornets — documentary

Azor — drama

Baby God — documentary

Babysplitters — comedy

Babyteeth — drama

Bacurau — drama

Bad Boys for Life — action

Bad Detectives (formerly titled Year of the Detectives) — drama

Bad Education (2020) — drama

The Bad Guys (2022) — animation

Badhaai Do — comedy/drama

Bad Therapy (formerly titled Judy Small) — comedy/drama

Ballad of a White Cow — drama

Banana Split — comedy

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art — documentary

A Banquet — horror

Barbarians (2022) — horror

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar — comedy

The Batman — sci-fi/action

The Battle at Lake Changjin — action

The Battle at Lake Changjin II — action

Beanpole — drama

Beast Beast — drama

Beastie Boys Story — documentary

The Beatles: Get Back — documentary

The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert — documentary

Beba — documentary

Becoming — documentary

Behind You — horror

Being the Ricardos — drama

Belfast (2021) — drama

Belle (2021) — animation

Beneath Us — horror

Benedetta (also titled Blessed Virgin) — drama

Bergman Island (2021) — drama

Best Sellers (2021) — comedy/drama

The Beta Test — comedy/drama

Better Nate Than Ever — comedy/drama

Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 — horror/comedy

Big Time Adolescence — comedy/drama

The Big Ugly — drama

Billie (2020) — documentary

Bill & Ted Face the Music — sci-fi/comedy

The Binge — comedy

Bingo Hell — horror

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) — fantasy/action

Black as Night — horror

Black Bear — drama

Blackbird (2020) — drama

Black Box (2020) — horror

Black Box (2021) — drama

Black Is King — musical

Blacklight — action

Black Magic for White Boys — comedy

The Black Phone — horror

Black Widow (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Blast Beat — drama

The Blazing World (2021) — horror

Blessed Child — documentary

Blithe Spirit (2021) — comedy

Blood and Money — drama

Blood Conscious — horror

Blood on Her Name — drama

Bloodshot (2020) — sci-fi/action

Bloodthirsty (2021) — horror

Bloody Hell — horror

Blow the Man Down — drama

Blue Bayou (2021) — drama

Blue Story — drama

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island — horror

The Bob’s Burgers Movie — animation

Body Cam — horror

The Body Fights Back — documentary

Bố Già (Dad, I’m Sorry) — comedy/drama

Boogie — drama

The Booksellers — documentary

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — comedy

The Boss Baby: Family Business — animation

Box of Rain — documentary

The Boys (first episode) — fantasy/action

Brahms: The Boy II — horror

Breaking (2022) (formerly titled 892) — drama

Breaking Fast — comedy

Breaking News in Yuba County — comedy

Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists — documentary

Brian and Charles — comedy/drama

The Broken Hearts Gallery — comedy

Brothers by Blood (formerly titled The Sound of Philadelphia) — drama

Browse — drama

Buckley’s Chance — drama

Buffaloed — comedy

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn — documentary

Burden (2020) — drama

Burning Cane — drama

The Burning Sea — action

Burn It All — drama

The Burnt Orange Heresy — drama

Cactus Jack — horror

Cagefighter — drama

Calendar Girl (2022) — documentary

The Call of the Wild (2020) — live-action/animation

A Call to Spy — drama

Call Your Mother — documentary

Candyman (2021) — horror

Cane River — drama

Capone — drama

The Card Counter — drama

Carmilla — drama

Castle in the Ground — drama

Catch the Bullet — action

Catch the Fair One — drama

The Cellar (2022) — horror

Censor (2021) — horror

Centigrade — drama

Cha Cha Real Smooth — comedy/drama

Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World — documentary

Changing the Game (2021) — documentary

Chasing the Present — documentary

Chasing Wonders — drama

Chehre — drama

Chick Fight — comedy

Children of the Sea — animation

Chinese Doctors — drama

Chop Chop — horror

Circus of Books — documentary

City of Lies — drama

Clean (2022) — drama

The Cleaner (2021) — drama

The Clearing (2020) — horror

Clementine — drama

Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021) — live-action/animation

Cliff Walkers (formerly titled Impasse) — drama

The Climb (2020) — comedy/drama

Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun — documentary

Cloudy Mountain (2021) — action

Clover — drama

C’mon C’mon — drama

Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert — documentary

CODA — comedy/drama

Coded Bias (formerly titled Code for Bias) — documentary

Coffee & Kareem — comedy

Collective — documentary

Color Out of Space — sci-fi/horror

The Columnist — horror

Come as You Are (2020) — comedy

Come Play — horror

Come to Daddy — horror

Come True — sci-fi/drama

Coming 2 America — comedy

Compartment No. 6 — drama

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It — horror

Console Wars — documentary

The Contractor (2022) (formerly titled Violence of Action) — action

Copshop (2021) — action

The Cordillera of Dreams — documentary

Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes — documentary

The Courier (2021) (formerly titled Ironbark) — drama

Cow (2022) — documentary

The Craft: Legacy — horror

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words — documentary

Creem: America’s Only Rock’n’Roll Magazine — documentary

Crimes of the Future — horror

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution — documentary

Crisis (2021) — drama

Critical Thinking — drama

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan — documentary

The Croods: A New Age — animation

Crown Vic — drama

CRSHD — comedy

Cruella — comedy/drama

Cry Macho — drama

Cryptozoo — animation

The Cursed (2022) (formerly titled Eight for Silver) — horror

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw — horror

The Curse of La Patasola — horror

Cut Throat City — drama

Cyrano (2021) — musical

Da 5 Bloods — drama

Daddy Issues (2020) — comedy

Dads — documentary

Dangerous Lies — drama

Dara of Jasenovac — drama

The Dark Divide — drama

Dark Web: Cicada 3301 — action/comedy

Dating & New York — comedy

Dave Not Coming Back — documentary

Dawn Raid — documentary

A Day in the Life of America — documentary

Days of Rage: The Rolling Stones’ Road to Altamont — documentary

Days of the Whale — drama

A Deadly Legend — horror

Deadstream — horror

Dear Evan Hansen — musical

Dear Santa — documentary

Death in Texas — drama

Death of a Telemarketer — comedy

Death on the Nile (2022) — drama

Decade of Fire — documentary

The Deeper You Dig — horror

Deep Water (2022) — drama

Deerskin — comedy

The Delicacy — documentary

Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil — documentary

Demonic (2021) — horror

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train — animation

Denise Ho—Becoming the Song — documentary

Desolation Center — documentary

Desperados — comedy

The Desperate Hour (formerly titled Lakewood) — drama

The Devil Below (formerly titled Shookum Hills) — horror

Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge — horror

Devil’s Pie—D’Angelo — documentary

The Devil You Know (2022) — drama

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy — documentary

Die in a Gunfight — action

Disappearance at Clifton Hill — drama

The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu — comedy/drama

Disclosure (2020) — documentary

Diving With Dolphins — documentary

The Djinn — horror

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Dog (2022) — comedy/drama

The Dog Doc — documentary

Dolittle — live-action/animation

Dolphin Island — drama

Dolphin Reef — documentary

Do Not Reply — horror

Don’t Breathe 2 — horror

Don’t Look Back (2020) (formerly titled Good Samaritan) — horror

Don’t Look Up (2021) — comedy

The Doorman (2020) — action

Dosed — documentary

Downhill — comedy

Downton Abbey: A New Era — drama

Dream Horse — drama

Dreamland (2020) (starring Margot Robbie) — drama

Drive My Car (2021) — drama

Driven to Abstraction — documentary

Driveways — drama

Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America — documentary

The Dry — drama

The Duke (2021) — comedy/drama

Dune (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Duty Free — documentary

Earwig — horror

The East (2021) — drama

Easy Does It — comedy

Eggs Over Easy — documentary

Eiffel — drama

El Cuartito — comedy/drama

Elephant (2020) — documentary

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things — documentary

Elvis (2022) — drama

Embattled — drama

Emergency (2022) — comedy

Emma (2020) — comedy/drama

The Emoji Story (formerly titled Picture Character) — documentary

Encanto — animation

Endangered Species (2021) — drama

End of Sentence — drama

Enemies of the State (2021) — documentary

Enforcement (formerly titled Shorta) — drama

Enhanced (2021) (also titled Mutant Outcasts) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Enola Holmes — drama

Entwined (2020) — horror

Epicentro — documentary

Escape From Mogadishu — drama

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions — horror

Escape the Field — horror

Eternals (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Etruscan Smile (also titled Rory’s Way) — drama

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga — comedy

Everything Everywhere All at Once — sci-fi/action

Evil Eye (2020) — horror

The Evil Next Door — horror

Exit Plan — drama

Extraction (2020) — action

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) — drama

F3: Fun and Frustration — comedy

F9: The Fast Saga — action

A Fall From Grace — drama

Falling (2021) — drama

Falling for Figaro — comedy/drama

The Fallout — drama

Family Camp — comedy

Family Squares — comedy/drama

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — fantasy

Farewell Amor — drama

Fatal Affair (2020) — drama

Fatale — drama

The Father (2021) — drama

Father Stu — drama

Fatima (2020) — drama

Fatman — comedy

Fear of Rain — horror

The Feast (2021) — horror

The Fight (2020) — documentary

Finch — sci-fi/drama

Finding Kendrick Johnson — documentary

Finding You (2021) — drama

Firebird (2021) — drama

Fire Island (2022) — comedy

Fire of Love (2022) — documentary

Firestarter (2022) — horror

First Cow — drama

First Date (2021) — comedy

Flag Day — drama

Flashback (2021) (formerly titled The Education of Frederick Fitzell) — drama

Flee — documentary/animation

Flipped (2020) — comedy

Force of Nature (2020) — action

The Forever Purge — horror

For They Know Not What They Do — documentary

The Forty-Year-Old Version — comedy

Four Good Days — drama

Four Kids and It — fantasy

Four Samosas — comedy

Framing John DeLorean — documentary

Frank and Penelope — drama

Freaky — horror

Free Guy — sci-fi/action

The French Dispatch — comedy

French Exit — comedy/drama

Fresh (2022) — horror

Friendsgiving — comedy

From the Vine — comedy/drama

Funhouse (2021) — horror

Gaia (2021) — horror

Game of Death (2020) — horror

Ganden: A Joyful Land — documentary

Gap Year (2020) — documentary

The Garden Left Behind — drama

The Gasoline Thieves — drama

The Gateway (2021) — drama

Gay Chorus Deep South — documentary

The Gentlemen — action

Get Duked! (formerly titled Boyz in the Wood) — comedy

Get Gone — horror

Ghostbusters: Afterlife — comedy/horror

The Ghost of Peter Sellers — documentary

Ghosts of the Ozarks — horror

A Girl From Mogadishu — drama

A Girl Missing — drama

A Glitch in the Matrix — documentary

The God Committee — drama

God Save the Queens (2022) — comedy/drama

God’s Time — comedy

Godzilla vs. Kong — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Go-Go’s — documentary

Gold (2022) — drama

Golden Arm — comedy

Goldie — drama

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande — comedy/drama

Good Posture — comedy

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind — documentary

Greed — comedy/drama

The Green Knight — horror/fantasy

Greenland — sci-fi/action

Gretel & Hansel — horror

Greyhound — drama

The Grudge (2020) — horror

Guest of Honour — drama

The Guilty (2021) — drama

Gunda — documentary

Half Brothers — comedy

The Half of It — comedy

Halloween Kills — horror

Halloween Party (2020) — horror

Happening (2021) — drama

Happiest Season — comedy

The Harder They Fall (2021) — action

Hard Luck Love Song — drama

Hatching — horror

The Hater (2022) — comedy/drama

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics — documentary

Haymaker (2021) — drama

Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation — documentary

He Dreams of Giants — documentary

Held — horror

Hell Hath No Fury (2021) — action

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful — documentary

Here After (2021) (formerly titled Faraway Eyes) — drama

Here Are the Young Men — drama

Here Today — comedy/drama

A Hero — drama

Hero Dog: The Journey Home — drama

Hero Mode — comedy

Herself — drama

The High Note — comedy/drama

His House — horror

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard — action

Hive — drama

A Holiday Chance — comedy/drama

Holler — drama

Holly Slept Over — comedy

Honest Thief — action

Hooking Up (2020) — comedy

Hope Gap — drama

Horse Girl — sci-fi/drama

The Host (2020) — horror

Hosts — horror

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania — animation

The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 — comedy/horror

House of Gucci — drama

House of Hummingbird — drama

How It Ends (2021) — comedy

How to Build a Girl — comedy

How to Fix a Primary — documentary

Huda’s Salon — drama

Human Capital (2020) — drama

Human Nature (2020) — documentary

The Humans (2021) — drama

The Hunt — horror

Hunter Hunter — horror

Hypochondriac (2022) — horror

Hysterical (2021) — documentary

I Am Human — documentary

I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story — drama

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation — action

I Carry You With Me — drama

If I Can’t Have You: The Jodi Arias Story — documentary

I Hate New York — documentary

I Hate the Man in My Basement — drama

I Love My Dad — comedy

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me — documentary

Impractical Jokers: The Movie — comedy

I’m Thinking of Ending Things — drama

I’m Your Man (2021) — sci-fi/comedy/drama

I’m Your Woman — drama

Incitement — drama

India Sweets and Spices — comedy/drama

Infamous (2020) — drama

The Infiltrators — docudrama

Infinite Storm — drama

The Informer (2020) — drama

Initials SG — drama

Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica — documentary

The Innocents (2021) — horror

In Our Mothers’ Gardens — documentary

Instaband — documentary

In the Earth — horror

In the Footsteps of Elephant — documentary

In the Heights — musical

Intrusion (2021) — drama

The Invisible Man (2020) — horror

Iron Mask (formerly titled The Mystery of the Dragon Seal) — fantasy/action

Irresistible (2020) — comedy

I Still Believe — drama

Italian Studies — drama

It Takes a Lunatic — documentary

It Takes Three (2021) — comedy

I Used to Go Here — comedy/drama

I’ve Got Issues — comedy

I Want My MTV — documentary

I Will Make You Mine — drama

Jackass Forever — comedy

Jakob’s Wife — horror

The Janes — documentary

January (2022) — drama

Jayeshbhai Jordaar — comedy

Jay Myself — documentary

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story — documentary

Jethica — comedy/drama

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey — musical

Jiu Jitsu — sci-fi/action

Jockey (2021) — drama

Joe Bell (formerly titled Good Joe Bell) — drama

John and the Hole — drama

John Henry — action

John Lewis: Good Trouble — documentary

JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened? — documentary

A Journal for Jordan — drama

Judas and the Black Messiah (formerly titled Jesus Was My Homeboy) — drama

Judy & Punch — drama

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 — animation

Jungle Cruise — fantasy/action

Jungleland (2020) — drama

Jurassic World Dominion — sci-fi/action

Kajillionaire — comedy/drama

Karen (2021) — drama

Kat and the Band — comedy

Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On! — documentary

Kehvatlal Parivar — comedy/drama

Kicking Blood — horror

Kid Candidate — documentary

Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections — documentary

Killer Among Us — horror

Killer Therapy — horror

Killian & the Comeback Kids — drama

The Killing of Two Lovers — drama

The Kill Team (2019) — drama

Kill the Monsters — drama

The Kindness of Strangers — drama

Kindred — drama

The King of Staten Island — comedy/drama

King Otto — documentary

King Richard — drama

The King’s Daughter (formerly titled The Moon and the Sun) — fantasy/drama

The King’s Man — action

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time — documentary

La Guerra Civil — documentary

Lair — horror

La Llorona — horror

Lamb (2021) — horror

Land (2021) — drama

Lansky (2021) — drama

The Last Duel (2021) — drama

The Last Full Measure — drama

The Last Glaciers — documentary

Last Night in Soho — horror

The Last Vermeer — drama

The Lawyer — drama

Leftover Women — documentary

Les Misérables (2019) — drama

Let Him Go — drama

Licorice Pizza — comedy/drama

The Lie (2020) — drama

Life in a Day 2020 — documentary

Lightyear — animation

Like a Boss — comedy

Limbo (2021) — comedy/drama

Limerence — comedy

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice — documentary

Lingua Franca — drama

Little Fish (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Little Things (2021) — drama

The Lodge — horror

The Longest Wave — documentary

Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos — documentary

Long Weekend (2021) — sci-fi/drama

Lorelei (2021) — drama

Lost Bayou — drama

The Lost City (2022) — comedy

The Lost Daughter (2021) — drama

Lost Girls — drama

Lost Transmissions — drama

The Lost Weekend: A Love Story — documentary

Los Últimos Frikis — documentary

A Lot of Nothing — comedy/drama

Love and Monsters — sci-fi/horror/action

The Lovebirds — comedy

Love Is Love Is Love — drama

Love Sarah — comedy/drama

Love Type D — comedy

Love Wedding Repeat — comedy

Low Tide — drama

Luca (2021) — animation

Lucky Grandma — action

Lucy and Desi — documentary

Luz: The Flower of Evil — horror

LX 2048 — sci-fi/drama

Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over — documentary

Ma Belle, My Beauty — drama

Madres (2021) — horror

Mai Khoi & the Dissidents — documentary

The Main Event (2020) — action

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound— documentary

Malignant (2021) — horror

Mallory (2021) — documentary

Mama Weed — comedy/drama

Mandibles — comedy

Mank — drama

The Manor (2021) — horror

The Man Who Sold His Skin — drama

The Many Saints of Newark — drama

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — drama

Marathon (2021) — comedy

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On — live-action/animation

Mark, Mary & Some Other People — comedy

The Marksman (2021) — action

Marry Me (2022) — comedy

Martha: A Picture Story — documentary

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words — documentary

Masquerade (2021) — horror

Mass (2021) — drama

Master (2022) — horror

The Matrix Resurrections — sci-fi/action

Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back — documentary

The Mauritanian — drama

Mayday (2021) — action

Measure of Revenge — drama

Meat Me Halfway — documentary

Memoria (2021) — sci-fi/drama

Memory (2022) — action

Men (2022) — horror

Midnight in the Switchgrass — drama

Mighty Ira — documentary

Mighty Oak — drama

Military Wives — comedy/drama

The Mimic (2021) — comedy

Minari — drama

The Mindfulness Movement — documentary

Misbehaviour — drama

Miss Americana — documentary

Miss Juneteenth — drama

The Mitchells vs. the Machines — animation

MLK/FBI — documentary

Moffie — drama

The Mole Agent — documentary

Monday (2021) — drama

Monster Family 2 — animation

Monster Hunter — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Montana Story — drama

Moonfall (2022) — sci-fi/action

Morbius — horror/action

Mortal — sci-fi/action

Mortal Kombat (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Most Dangerous Game — sci-fi/action

Most Wanted (formerly titled Target Number One) — drama

Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. — docudrama

Mothering Sunday — drama

A Mouthful of Air — drama

Move Me (2022) — documentary

Mr. Soul! — documentary

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado — documentary

Mulan (2020) — fantasy/action

Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story — documentary

Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story — documentary

My Boyfriend’s Meds — comedy

My Country, My Parents (also titled My Country, My Family) — drama

My Dad’s Christmas Date — comedy/drama

My Darling Vivian — documentary

My Love (2021) — comedy/drama

My Octopus Teacher — documentary

My Salinger Year (also titled My New York Year) — drama

My Spy — comedy

Mystify: Michael Hutchence — documentary

Naked Singularity — drama

Nanny — horror

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind — documentary

National Champions — drama

Navalny — documentary

Needle in a Timestack — sci-fi/drama

The Nest (2020) — drama

Never Forget Tibet — documentary

Never Gonna Snow Again — drama

Never Rarely Sometimes Always — drama

Never Stop (2021) — drama

Never Too Late (2020) — comedy

New Order (2021) — drama

News of the World — drama

A Nice Girl Like You — comedy

The Night (2021) — horror

The Night House — horror

Nightmare Alley (2021) — drama

Night of the Kings — drama

Nightride (2022) — drama

Nina Wu — drama

Nine Days — drama

Nitram — drama

Noah Land — drama

Nobody (2021) — sci-fi/action

Nocturne (2020) — horror

No Exit (2022) — drama

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin — documentary

Nomadland — drama

No Man’s Land (2021) — drama

The Northman —fantasy/action

No Small Matter — documentary

No Time to Die (2021) — action

Notturno — documentary

The Novice (2021) — drama

The Nowhere Inn — comedy/drama

Objects — documentary

Old — horror

The Old Guard — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Old Henry (2021) — drama

Olympia — documentary

Olympic Dreams — comedy/drama

On Broadway (2021) — documentary

Once Upon a River — drama

Once Upon a Time in Uganda — documentary

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band — documentary

One Hour Outcall — drama

One Night in Bangkok — drama

One Night in Miami… — drama

Only — sci-fi/drama

The Only One (2021) — drama

On the Record — documentary

On the Rocks (2020) — drama

On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries — documentary

Onward — animation

Open — drama

Ordinary Love — drama

Origin of the Species (2021) — documentary

Otherhood — comedy

The Other Lamb — drama

Other Music — documentary

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles — documentary

Our Friend (formerly titled The Friend) — drama

Our Ladies — comedy/drama

Our Time Machine — documentary

The Outfit (2022) — drama

Out of Blue — drama

The Outpost — drama

Out Stealing Horses — drama

Paap Punyo —drama

The Painter and the Thief — documentary

Palm Springs —sci-fi/comedy

Paper Spiders — drama

The Paper Tigers — action

Parallel (2020) — sci-fi/drama

Parallel Mothers — drama

Paranormal Prison — horror

Paris, 13th District — drama

Parkland Rising — documentary

Passing (2021) — drama

A Patient Man — drama

PAW Patrol: The Movie — animation

A Perfect Enemy — drama

The Personal History of David Copperfield — comedy/drama

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway — live-action/animation

Petite Maman — drama

The Phantom of the Open — comedy/drama

Phobias (2021) — horror

The Photograph — drama

Pig (2021) — drama

The Place of No Words — drama

The Planters — comedy

Playing God (2021) — comedy

Pleasure (2021) — drama

Plucked — documentary

Plus One (2019) — comedy

The Pollinators — documentary

Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys — documentary

Port Authority (2021) — drama

Possessor Uncut — sci-fi/horror

The Power of the Dog — drama

Premature (2020) — drama

The Prey (2020) — action

The Price of Desire — drama

The Princess (2022) — documentary

Prisoners of the Ghostland — sci-fi/action

Profile (2021) — drama

Project Power — sci-fi/action

Promising Young Woman — comedy/drama

The Protégé (2021) — action

Proxima — sci-fi/drama

P.S. Burn This Letter Please — documentary

Public Enemy Number One — documentary

PVT CHAT — drama

Queenpins — comedy

The Quiet One (2019) — documentary

A Quiet Place Part II — sci-fi/horror

Quo Vadis, Aida? — drama

The Racer — drama

Radioactive — drama

Raging Fire — action

A Rainy Day in New York — comedy

Raising Buchanan — comedy

Rare Beasts — comedy

Ravening (formerly titled Aamis) — drama

Raya and the Last Dragon — animation

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks — documentary

Rebuilding Paradise — documentary

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — documentary

Redeeming Love — drama

Red Penguins — documentary

Red Rocket — comedy/drama

Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs — animation

A Regular Woman — drama

Relic — horror

Reminiscence (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Rental (2020) — horror

Rent-A-Pal — horror

The Rescue List — documentary

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City — horror

Resistance (2020) — drama

Respect (2021) — drama

Retaliation (formerly titled Romans) — drama

The Retreat (2021) — horror

Rewind — documentary

The Rhythm Section — action

The Ride (2020) — drama

Ride Like a Girl — drama

Riders of Justice — drama

Ride the Eagle — comedy/drama

The Right One — comedy

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It — documentary

River City Drumbeat — documentary

RK/RKAY — comedy

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain — documentary

Roald Dahl’s The Witches — horror/fantasy

Robert the Bruce — drama

Ron’s Gone Wrong — animation

The Rookies (2021) — action

Room 203 — horror

Rounding — drama

The Roundup (2022) — action

Run (2020) — drama

Runner — documentary

Run With the Hunted — drama

Rushed — drama

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words — documentary

Safer at Home — drama

Saint Frances — comedy/drama

Saint Maud — horror

Saloum — horror

Samrat Prithviraj (formerly titled Prithviraj) — action

Save Yourselves! — sci-fi/horror/comedy

Saving Paradise — drama

The Scheme (2020) — documentary

Scheme Birds — documentary

School’s Out Forever — horror

Scoob! — animation

Scream (2022) — horror

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street — documentary

Screened Out — documentary

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth (formerly titled Seahorse) — documentary

Seberg — drama

The Secret: Dare to Dream — drama

A Secret Love — documentary

The Secrets We Keep — drama

See for Me — horror

See Know Evil — documentary

See You Yesterday — sci-fi/drama

Selah and the Spades — drama

Sell/Buy/Date — documentary

Separation (2021) — horror

Sergio (2020) — drama

Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days — documentary

Settlers (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Seventh Day (2021) — horror

Shadows of Freedom — documentary

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — fantasy/action

Shattered (2022) — drama

She Dies Tomorrow — drama

She’s in Portland — drama

Shine Your Eyes — drama

Shirley — drama

Shithouse — comedy/drama

Shortcut — horror

The Short History of the Long Road — drama

A Shot Through the Wall — drama

Showbiz Kids — documentary

The Show’s the Thing: The Legendary Promoters of Rock — documentary

Siberia (2021) — drama

Silent Night (2021) (starring Keira Knightley) — comedy/drama

Silk Road (2021) — drama

A Simple Wedding — comedy

Sing 2 — animation

The Sinners (2021) (also titled The Virgin Sinners; formerly titled The Color Rose) — horror

Sissy — horror

Six Minutes to Midnight — drama

Skate Dreams — documentary

Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story — documentary

Skin Deep: The Battle Over Morgellons — documentary

Skin Walker — horror

Skyman — sci-fi/drama

Slay the Dragon — documentary

Small Engine Repair (2021) — comedy/drama

Smiley Face Killers — horror

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Sno Babies — drama

Soft & Quiet — drama

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2020) — documentary

Some Kind of Heaven — documentary

Sometimes Always Never — comedy/drama

The Sonata — horror

Songbird — sci-fi/drama

Sonic the Hedgehog — live-action/animation

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — live-action/animation

Son of Monarchs — drama

Sorry We Missed You — drama

Soul — animation

Soulmates (2021) — comedy

The Sound of Identity — documentary

Sound of Metal — drama

The Sound of Violet (formerly titled Hooked) — drama

The Souvenir Part II — drama

Space Jam: A New Legacy — live-action/amination

Spaceship Earth — documentary

The Sparks Brothers — documentary

Spell (2020) — horror

Spelling the Dream (formerly titled Breaking the Bee) — documentary

Spencer — drama

Spider-Man: No Way Home — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Spiral (2021) — horror

Spirit Untamed — animation

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run — live-action/animation

Spontaneous — sci-fi/horror/comedy

Sputnik — sci-fi/horror

Standing Up, Falling Down — comedy/drama

Stardust (2020) — drama

Starting at Zero — documentary

The State of Texas vs. Melissa — documentary

Stealing School — comedy/drama

Stevenson Lost & Found — documentary

Still Here (2020) — drama

Stillwater (2021) — drama

The Story of Soaps — documentary

The Stranger (Quibi original) — drama

Stray (2021) — documentary

Stray Dolls — drama

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street — documentary

Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash — drama

Studio 666 (2022) — horror/comedy

The Stylist — horror

Subjects of Desire — documentary

Sublime — documentary

Sugar Daddy (2021) — drama

The Suicide Squad — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Summerland — drama

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) — documentary

Sundown (2022) — drama

The Sunlit Night — comedy/drama

Supernova (2021) — drama

The Surrogate — drama

Survive — drama

Swallow — drama

Swan Song (2021) (starring Mahershala Ali) — sci-fi/drama

Swan Song (2021) (starring Udo Kier) — comedy/drama

Sweetheart Deal — documentary

Sweet Thing (2021) — drama

The Swerve — drama

The Swing of Things — comedy

Sylvie’s Love — drama

Synchronic — sci-fi/horror

Take Back — action

Take Me to the River: New Orleans — documentary

Tango Shalom — comedy/drama

Tankhouse — comedy

Tape (2020) — drama

Tar — horror

A Taste of Hunger — drama

A Taste of Sky — documentary

Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman — horror

The Tender Bar — drama

Ten Minutes to Midnight — horror

Terrorizers — drama

Tesla — drama

Then Came You (2020) — comedy

They Call Me Dr. Miami — documentary

The Thing About Harry — comedy

Think Like a Dog — comedy/drama

This Is Personal — documentary

This Is Stand-Up — documentary

This Is the Year — comedy

Those Who Wish Me Dead — drama

A Thousand Cuts (2020) — documentary

A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy — documentary

Through the Night (2020) — documentary

Tick, Tick…Boom! — musical

Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison — comedy

Time (2020) — documentary

Time Is Up (2021) — drama

The Times of Bill Cunningham — documentary

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made — comedy

The Tinder Swindler — documentary

Titane — horror

The Tobacconist — drama

Together (2021) — comedy/drama

Together Together — comedy/drama

To Kid or Not to Kid — documentary

To Kill the Beast — drama

Tom and Jerry — live-action/animation

Tommaso — drama

Tom of Your Life — sci-fi/comedy

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers — documentary

Too Late (2021) — horror/comedy

Top Gun: Maverick — action

The Torch (2022) — documentary

Totally Under Control — documentary

Trafficked: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare — drama

The Tragedy of Macbeth — drama

The Trial of the Chicago 7 — drama

The Trip to Greece — comedy

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts — documentary

Trolls World Tour — animation

Troop Zero — comedy

The True Adventures of Wolfboy — drama

The Truffle Hunters — documentary

Trust (2021) — drama

The Truth — drama

The Turning (2020) — horror

Turning Red — animation

Twas the Night (2021) — comedy

The Twentieth Century — comedy

Two of Us (2021) — drama

Tyson (2019) — documentary

Tyson’s Run — drama

Ultrasound — sci-fi/drama

Umma (2022) — horror

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent — action/comedy

Unbelievable (premiere episode) — drama

Uncaged (also titled Prey) – horror

Uncharted (2022) — action

Uncorked — drama

Under the Volcano (2021) — documentary

Underwater — sci-fi/horror

Undine (2021) — drama

Unhinged (2020) — action

The Unholy (2021) — horror

The United States vs. Billie Holiday — drama

Un Rescate de Huevitos — animation

The Unthinkable — drama

Until We Meet Again (2022) — drama

Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music — documentary

Uprooting Addiction — documentary

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own — documentary

Utama — drama

Val — documentary

Valley Girl (2020) — musical

The Vanished (2020) (formerly titled Hour of Lead)— drama

Vanquish (2021) — action

The Vast of Night — sci-fi/drama

Vengeance Is Mine (2021) — action

Venom: Let There Be Carnage — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee — comedy

The Vigil (2021) — horror

The Village in the Woods — horror

Violet (2021) — drama

Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations — documentary

The Virtuoso (2021) — drama

Vivarium — sci-fi/drama

Voyagers — sci-fi/drama

Waiting for the Barbarians — drama

Wander Darkly — drama

The War With Grandpa — comedy

Watcher (2022) — horror

Watson — documentary

The Way Back (2020) — drama

We Are Freestyle Love Supreme — documentary

We Are Little Zombies — comedy/drama

We Are Many — documentary

We Are the Radical Monarchs — documentary

Weathering With You — animation

We Broke Up — comedy

Welcome to Chechnya — documentary

We Need to Do Something — horror

Werewolves Within — horror/comedy

West Side Story (2021) — musical

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali — documentary

What We Found — drama

What Will Become of Us (2019) — documentary

When the Streetlights Go On — drama

The Whistlers — drama

A White, White Day — drama

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America — documentary

Widow of Silence — drama

Wig — documentary

Wild Indian — drama

Wild Mountain Thyme — drama

Willy’s Wonderland — horror

The Windermere Children — drama

Wine Crush (Vas-y Coupe!) (formerly titled Vas-y Coupe!) — documentary

Witch Hunt (2021) — horror

Wojnarowicz — documentary

Wolf (2021) — drama

The Wolf and the Lion — drama

The Wolf House — animation

The Wolf of Snow Hollow — horror

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem — documentary

Women (2021) — horror

Wonder Woman 1984 — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation — documentary

Words on Bathroom Walls — drama

Work It — comedy/drama

The World to Come — drama

The Worst Person in the World — comedy/drama

Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York — documentary

Wrath of Man — action

The Wretched — horror

A Writer’s Odyssey — fantasy/action

The Wrong Missy — comedy

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse — horror

X (2022) — horror

XY Chelsea — documentary

Yakuza Princess — action

¿Y Cómo Es Él? — comedy

Yellow Rose — drama

You Are Not My Mother — horror

You Cannot Kill David Arquette — documentary

You Don’t Nomi — documentary

You Go to My Head — drama

You Should Have Left — horror

You Won’t Be Alone — horror

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn — documentary

Zack Snyder’s Justice League — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Zappa — documentary

Zeros and Ones — drama

Zola — comedy/drama

Zombi Child — horror

Review: ‘Beba,’ starring Rebecca Huntt

June 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rebecca Huntt in “Beba” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Beba”

Directed by Rebecca Huntt

Culture Representation: The documentary “Beba” features a racially diverse group of people (African American, Latino and white) in director Rebecca Huntt’s autobiographical account of her life experiences as a young person.

Culture Clash: Huntt, who identifies as an Afro-Latina, talks about the prejudices she’s experienced in white-dominated environments, violence in her family, and her own personal flaws that have led to negativity in her life. 

Culture Audience: “Beba” will appeal primarily to people interested in a very personal and introspective documentary that tackles issues of race relations, social classes, domestic violence and self-identity.

Rebecca Huntt in “Beba” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

What does it say about a filmmaker when the first feature film directed by the filmmaker is essentially a documentary where the filmmaker talks about herself and her life? This choice and the end results often depend on who’s telling the story and how it’s told. In the case of “Beba” (the feature-film debut of director Rebecca Huntt), this unconventional autobiographical documentary comes close to being self-indulgent, but Huntt’s ability to point out her troubling personal flaws makes it a candid and fascinating story.

“Beba” had its world premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, and made the rounds at several other film festivals, including the 2022 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. “Beba” is a non-traditional documentary because the format is Huntt’s voiceover narration, with the movie’s visuals consisting mostly of photos and archival video footage from her life, with only a few interviews done specifically for the documentary. The only people interviewed are a few of Huntt’s family members and one of her former professors at Bard College.

“Beba” gets its title because it’s one of the nicknames that Huntt has had since her childhood. She says her other nicknames are Beca and Bebe. In the documentary, Huntt says that she was born in New York City on May 9, 1990. New York City is where she grew up with her parents (Juan and Veronica) and her two older siblings (Juan Carlos and Raquel).

According to Huntt, her working-class parents, who met each other in New York City in the 1970s, “sacrificed everything” so that the family could have the prestigious street address of Central Park West, where they lived in a small one-bedroom apartment that was rent-controlled. Rebecca says half-jokingly that she and her siblings were “the poorest kids on Central Park West.” Her parents had the choice to rent a larger apartment, but it was in a less-safe neighborhood where they didn’t want the family to live.

In one of the early scenes in “Beba,” she explains why she took a first-person narrative for this documentary: “You are now entering my universe. I am the lens, the subject, the authority. As the product of the new world, violence is in my DNA. I carry an ancient pain that I struggle to understand. I use it to hurt those closest to me.”

She continues, “Every one of us inherits the curses of our ancestors, but we may put an end to the cycle by constantly going to war with ourselves. I’m watching the curses of my family slowly kill us, so I’m going to war. And there will be casualties. This cannot be our legacy.”

Rebecca also describes herself as “brave, stubborn, narcissistic and chronically cruel. Existing is to hold space for all of this.” This narration takes place within the first five minutes of “Beba.” And this point so early in the movie, viewers will either be turned off or intrigued to find out more about this filmmaker who’s doing an autobiography where she will reveal unflattering and messy things about her life.

Rebecca’s comment about “going to war” isn’t about political issues. It’s about personal issues and the conflicts she has with herself, her family and other people. She explains why her family history is intertwined with who she is.

Her father’s side of the family is black and has roots in the Dominican Republic. When her paternal grandfather told people he wanted move from the Dominican Republic to the United States, he was laughed at for this idea because he was “poor and black.” At this time, it was 1965, the year of the Dominican Civil War. Rebecca’s father Juan told her vivid memories of his experiences during this period of civil unrest. When people (especially men and boys) walked outside, they had to walk with their hands up, to show that they were unarmed.

Rebecca’s paternal grandfather wanted a better life for his family. And so, in 1966 or 1967, he brought his family of nine people to New York City, where they settled in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, which has a large percentage of residents who are African American or immigrants. Rebecca describes her paternal grandfather as “illiterate” who was just as likely to be seen carrying sugar cane as he would be likely to be seen carrying a belt to whip his kids to discipline them.

Later in the movie, she talks about how domestic violence seems be an inherited curse in her family. Rebecca comments on her father, “I know him better than anyone, yet I have no idea where my father’s mannerisms come from. When I’m angry, I remind him of his father.”

Her mother’s side of the family has roots in Venezuela. Rebecca says that her mother Veronica grew up in Venezuela and studied at Pace University in New York City to escape from Veronica’s “glamorous” mother who had schizophrenia. Veronica settled permanently in New York City after meeting and marrying Juan, and their children often spent summers in Venezuela.

Growing up with parents of two different races came with its share of identity issues. Rebecca says that when she was a child, she once got into a fight with a Jamaican boy who said that Rebecca was black, and Rebecca denied it, because her mother taught her to identify only as Latin. In a documentary interview, Rebecca’s mother Veronica admits, “I’m a Latin person, and I raised my kids as a Latin person, because I don’t know anything else. I don’t know about being an American, white or black.”

The documentary also hints that Veronica could have suffered from some mental illness, since it’s revealed that Veronica used to hit herself with a belt instead of disciplining her kids. Rebecca describes her father as the parent who would get violent when disciplining her and her siblings. Rebecca says multiple times in the documentary that this domestic violence is a family curse.

Rebecca also says that she and her siblings would sometimes get violent with each other and other members of the family. Rebecca describes how her older sister Raquel once took a machete from a closet and swung it at her parents. Raquel also “[handed] me my first [marijuana] joint at age 10, to apologize for choking me until I can’t breathe.” Later in the documentary, Rebecca describes an incident where Rebecca (as an adult) choked her own mother during a vicious argument.

And there are more family feuds and dysfunction detailed in the documentary. Rebecca says, “If I am Daddy’s girl, and Juan Carlos is Mama’s boy, my sister falls into a neglected dimension I don’t even try to understand.” Rebecca then goes on to describe that Raquel graduated from boarding school but skipped college to “hop trains with junkies.”

According to Rebecca, Raquel’s life experiences include “agoraphobia, disability checks, solitary confinement, destruction and pathological lies. Now, she has two daughters of her own who will inherit our curses.”

Rebecca’s older brother Juan Carlos is also described as troubled. She shares a story of how the family went to Disney World on her seventh birthday, and she got into an argument with Juan Carlos. It was the last time that their father spoke to Juan Carlos. For the documentary, Rebecca’s father Juan still refuses to talk about Juan Carlos.

Rebecca also says for a period of two years, she and Juan Carlos stopped talking to each other. And there were feuds that Rebecca had with her mother. She says that her mother called her a “snitch.” In response, Rebecca reveals what she did at the time: “I [made] sure to call her at work the next day to tell her that she’s garbage.”

These days, Rebecca says that she and Juan Carlos are on speaking terms. However, their conversations seem to be very superficial. Rebecca says, “Juan Carlos only talks to me when a new Jay-Z album is out.”

Toward the end of the documentary, Rebecca shares what she thinks she inherited from her family’s history. On her mother’s side, Rebecca thinks she inherited “passion, resilience and crippling delusion.” On her father’s side, Rebecca thinks she inherited “courage, ambition, abuse and rage.”

But at what point should people stop blaming their parents or ancestors and take responsibility for their own lives and their own actions? It’s an existential question that seems to be a major struggle for Rebecca. She seems to want to stop the cycle of domestic violence in her family, but in the documentary, she doesn’t really say what she’s doing about it. For example, she doesn’t mention if she’s chosen to seek help through therapy or other resources.

Rebecca describes her childhood summer vacations in Venezuela (where she stayed with her mother’s relatives) as being an oasis from all the chaos she experienced at home with America. These vacations inspired her to see more of the world when she was an adult. As she says in the documentary: “I backpacked the world in search of what Venezuela gave me: freedom, unconditional love and a room of my own.”

In another childhood story, Rebecca mentions a community garden in Manhattan where she and her sister Raquel would spend time as children, but the only other people she used to see there were white. When she was a child, she found crack vials in the garden and brought them to school for an art project. She didn’t know what the crack vials were, and she got in trouble for bringing this drug paraphernalia to school. It confused her at the time because she didn’t think she did anything wrong.

In another story about her childhood school experiences, Rebecca says that when she was in fifth grade, the students had a class assignment to come to school dressed as a hero. Rebecca chose Harriet Tubman and went to school in a Harriet Tubman costume, using makeup to “make fake whip marks and broccoli to recreate a plantation.” She also brought Ken dolls with her to represent slave masters, while she had Barbie dolls and Ken dolls depicted as enslaved people. Whatever “Beba” viewers make of this story, it seems to be Rebecca’s way of saying that she had a bit of an iconoclastic streak in her at an early age.

Throughout the movie, Rebecca discusses how her identity was shaped by growing up in a working-class family of color but spending most of her education and social life in environments with mostly white people from more privileged backgrounds. It goes without saying that people who have to navigate being in very different environments often have to present themselves in different ways in order to fit in whatever environment where they want acceptance. And it’s impossible to escape from racism, no matter where people go in life.

In high school, Rebecca says she began to discover herself and what she wanted to do with her life. She says that it was through Maya Angelou’s writings that she first found out that the Afro-Latin identity exists. Rebecca also remembers that in high school, “Shakespeare lights my brain on fire, and not even the bulletproof windows in my high school can contain it.”

Comments like that make Rebecca sound pretentious, but at least she’s honest about her tendency to be pretentious. This truthful self-awareness will either make viewers want to keep watching “Beba” or want to stop watching it. For all of her admitted flaws, Rebecca seems willing to bare her life in ways where she will undoubtedly get criticism. Too often, directors who narrate documentaries about themselves aren’t willing to show the worst sides of themselves.

“Beba” also shows a perspective that isn’t seen too often in documentaries: What it’s like for an Afro-Latina from a working-class background to attend a mostly white university or college where many of the students come from affluent backgrounds. At Bard College, Rebecca was hanging out with children of millionaires.

The friends she met through Bard College included Rumer Willis (daughter of movie stars Bruce Willis and Demi Moore) and Lola Kirke (daughter of Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke), who had very different childhoods from the childhood that Rebecca experienced. “Beba” includes some footage of Rebecca, Rumer Willis and Lola Kirke hanging out somewhere outdoors and doing an acoustic performance of a song called “Cocaine Blues.”

Later in the movie, there’s a staged recreation of Rebecca and some of her unidentified white friends have a heated discussion about race and white supremacist racism. The two white men in the room seem to be the most uncomfortable when Rebecca talks about white privilege. She also makes this comment: “There is nothing honorable about trying to assimilate into a system that is designed to destroy you.” Rebecca might want to sound like Malcolm X, but there’s nothing in the movie that shows she’s an activist for civil rights. Talking is one thing. Doing is another.

Rebecca doesn’t spend a lot of the documentary’s screen time on her college friends, but she does interview a Bard College professor who made an impact on her because she was one of the few African American professors who was part of the Bard College faculty. In the movie, this professor is only identified by her first name (Annie), and she says she remembers advising Rebecca on how to conduct herself as a Bard student. Annie says that she told Rebecca that college wasn’t a utopia but a reflection of how the real world is, so she suggested to Rebecca to stop wearing belly shirts to class and start showing up on time. Later, Rebecca says that she decided to study for a semester in Ghana, in part to get more in touch with her African ancestry.

Rebecca also reveals some details about her love life. She says she lost her virginity at age 17 to an “asshole” who is not named in the movie. Later, when she was in her 20s, she had a volatile love affair with a bipolar man named Michael, who was around the same age and grew up in New York City’s Bronx borough.

In “Beba,” Rebecca bravely exposes a lot of her personal failings, emotions and struggles. Her narration is admirable for being unapologetic and not trying to be crowd-pleasing or contrived to make as many people like her as possible. What’s missing in the documentary is any clear sense of why she wanted to become a filmmaker.

Who or what inspired her the most in the cinematic arts? What types of movies does she want to make? What types of movies does she like to watch? Does she think she’ll be in it for the long haul, or is filmmaking something she’s dabbling in until something else comes along that interests her? These are questions that are never really answered in this documentary, which gives the impression that Rebecca wanted to do a lot of venting about her family rather than present a completely well-rounded self-portrait.

Perhaps at the time she made this documentary, Rebecca was still figuring out what she wants to do with her life. If she decides to do another autobiographical documentary, it will be interesting to see how much time has passed and how much she might have changed. If “Beba” is any indication, she has many more compelling things to say as a filmmaker and as a person.

Neon released “Beba” in select U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022.

Review: ‘Samrat Prithviraj,’ starring Akshay Kumar

June 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Akshay Kumar in “Samrat Prithviraj” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Samrat Prithviraj”

Directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and Afghanistan, between the years 1177 and 1192, the action film “Samrat Prithviraj” has a nearly all-Indian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and royalty.

Culture Clash: Prithviraj Chauhan has battles with rivals over his leadership power of Delhi.

Culture Audience: “Samrat Prithviraj” will appeal primarily to viewers who are looking for a biopic action film that relies heavily on shallow and violent clichés instead of being an accurate historical drama.

Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chhillar in “Samrat Prithviraj” (Photo courtesy of Yash Raj Films)

“Samrat Prithviraj” is an example of a biopic that’s a huge waste of time and money. This sorry spectacle amounts to nothing more than looking like a big-budget, mindlessly violent video game version of the story of real-life Indian historical figure Prithviraj Chauhan. The movie’s epic fight scenes in battlefields look very fake and hollow. And the human interactions that don’t involve fighting are also poorly contrived and acted. With a total running time of 135 minutes, this bloated and repetitive mess wears out its welcome very quickly and then drags on until its very predictable end.

Written and directed by Chandraprakash Dwivedi, “Samrat Prithviraj” (which means “Emperor Prithviraj” in Hindi) is just a series of historically inaccurate scenes showing feuds over power and revenge. All of the cast members just look like they’re going through the motions with no authentic-looking feelings. In some parts of the movie, it really does just look like a video game. There could be CGI visual effects instead of real actors, and there wouldn’t be much difference in the performances.

The movie, which takes place in India and Afghanistan from 1177 to 1192, opens with an over-the-top unrealistic scene taking place in 1192 in Ghazni, Afghanistan. A stadium full of people will be witnessing the torture of a blind prisoner fighting off three lions that have been set loose in the stadium. That prisoner is exiled Indian leader Prithviraj Chauhan (played by Akshay Kumar), whose eyes are missing for reasons shown later in the movie. The scene is grossly unrealistic in how Prithviraj, who is armed with an axe and a spear, is able to kill all of the attacking lions. After he kills the lions, Prithviraj collapses from exhaustion.

“Samrat Prithviraj” (whose original title was “Prithviraj”) then shows flashbacks that depict what led Prithviraj to this far-fetched “battle with the lions” scene. The story goes back a few years before in India, where Prithviraj gets caught up in a power struggle over leadership of Delhi. It all starts when Prithviraj is ruling over Ajmer, and he is visiting the land of Kannauj. It’s where he meets and falls in love with a princess named Sanyogita (played by Manushi Chhillar), whose ruthless king father Jayachandra (played by Ashutosh Rana) does not approve of the relationship.

Meanwhile, back in Ajmer, Prithviraj offers asylum to a man named Mir Hossain (played by Anshuman Singh), who has come to Ajmer because he ran off with a woman named Chitralekha, who was the concubine of Hossain’s brother Muhammad Ghori (played by Manav Vij), the sultan of Ghor. Ghori dispatches an underling named Qutb al-Din Aibak (played by Sahidur Rahaman) to Ajmer, to send a message demanding that Prithviraj send Hossain back to Ghori, or else Ghori threatens to declare war against Prithviraj and the people of Ajmer.

Prithviraj refuses this demand. And you know what that means: Ghori and Prithviraj go to war. Soldiers from their respective lands getting caught in this power struggle, and often lose their lives as a result. One of the casualties is Mir Hossain. Prithviraj is victorious in this war. Ghori is captured, but is then foolishly released a few days later.

Prithviraj then becomes the ruler of Delhi, which he inherited when the previous ruler gave the leadership of Delhi to Prithviraj instead of a biological heir (his grandson), who becomes yet another person to hold a grudge against Prithviraj. With Prithviraj now the ruler of Delhi, this rise to power does not sit well with Jayachandra, who does not want his daughter Sanyogita to marry Prithviraj.

Sanyogita and Prithviraj get married anyway. As the saying goes: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” And so, this marriage leads to Jayachandra forming an alliance with Ghori to get revenge and kill Prithviraj. Eventually, the movie shows what happened after Prithviraj fainted in the stadium after he killed the lions.

“Samrat Prithviraj” has several mind-numbing battle scenes that should be suspenseful but they actually become very boring after a while. The scenes that don’t take place on a battlefield are just as monotonous. Supporting characters—such as Prithviraj’s closest confidant Chand Vardai (played by Sonu Sood) and Prithviraj’s uncle Kaka Kanha (played by Sanjay Dutt)—are completely underdeveloped.

Worst of all, “Samrat Prithviraj” does very little to make viewers care about the characters, especially because this movie looks more like an overblown fantasy film rather than a historical drama based on real people. Everything about this era’s conflicts between Hindus and Muslims is over-simplified to the point where none of it is believable. “Samrat Prithviraj” shows what can happen when filmmakers take a lot of money and put very little of it to good use.

Yash Raj Films released “Samrat Prithviraj” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on June 3, 2022.

Review: ‘Elvis’ (2022), starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks

June 22, 2022

by Carla Hay

Austin Butler in “Elvis” (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Elvis” (2022)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1946 to 1977, in various parts of the United States, the dramatic film “Elvis” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy in this biopic of superstar entertainer Elvis Presley.

Culture Clash: Presley had many personal battles in his life, including those related to racial segregation, his drug addiction, his doomed marriage to Priscilla Presley and his troubled relationship with manager Colonel Tom Parker. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Elvis Presley fans, “Elvis” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and music biopics that go big on spectacle-like filmmaking.

Austin Butler, Helen Thomson, Tom Hanks and Richard Roxburgh in “Elvis” (Photo by Hugh Stewart/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The vibrant biopic “Elvis” continues filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s pattern of making a protagonist’s life story look like a manic-energy carnival. The musical numbers are fantastic, but viewers should expect a very glossy version of Elvis Presley’s life. Luhrmann directed and co-wrote “Elvis,” and he is one of the movie’s producers. People who are familiar with Luhrmann’s previous movies (including 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!” and 2013’s “The Great Gatsby”) will already know that he isn’t a filmmaker known for being miniminalist or showing restraint.

Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” just like Elvis Presley, is a mass of contradictions but can be counted on to deliver spectacular performances on stage. Even with a total running time of 159 minutes, “Elvis” leaves out or fast-forwards through many important aspects of Presley’s life. But other parts of the movie drag with repetition and linger too long in scenes where the story should have already moved on to something else. Luhrmann co-wrote the “Elvis” screenplay with Sam Bromell, Craig Pearce and Jeremy Doner. The movie was filmed in Luhrmann’s native Australia.

At times, this “Elvis” movie looks like a lengthy music video, with enough quick cuts to give some viewers the cinematic version of whiplash. Other times, “Elvis” attempts to get into the more serious and emotionally complex areas of Presley’s life before zipping off into one of several whirling-dervish montages that fill up this movie. It’s a change of pace and tone that might be off-putting to some viewers who are looking for a more conventional way of telling the story.

For example, the courtship and marriage of Elvis and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (played by Olivia DeJonge) are very rushed into the story and aren’t given a lot of depth. The movie leaves out the fact that in real life, when Elvis began dating Priscilla in 1959, she was 14 and he was 24. They met when he was enlisted in the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany, where Priscilla’s U.S. Air Force stepfather was also stationed at the time.

In real life, Elvis also convinced Priscilla’s parents to let her move in with him when she was still an underage teen. It’s probably not a coincidence that Priscilla is portrayed by an actress who never looks underage. That’s because bringing up possible stautory rape in connection to Elvis would ruin the movie’s intention to make him look like a superstar who was exploited by a greedy and corrupt manager.

Sometimes, the actors give performances that look like impersonations, while in other scenes, the actors seem to truly embody their characters. This dictonomy is especially true for Austin Butler (who portrays the adult Elvis Presley) and Tom Hanks (who plays manager Colonel Tom Parker), whose love/hate business partnership is the movie’s central conflict. Their best scenes are those where they look the most natural and don’t try to overdo the “larger than life” aspects of their respective characters’ personalities.

Butler’s performance is much better in the scenes depicting Elvis in the last 10 years of his life, when Elvis’ health was on a steady decline due to his drug addiction. (Elvis died of a heart attack in 1977, at the age of 42.) In the scenes of Elvis’ adult years before he became famous and during his fame from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, Butler just looks like he’s doing a competent Elvis impersonation. The movie starts to improve considerably when Butler shows more emotional depth as the sweaty, “hooked on drugs” version of Elvis, because it’s a portrayal of man who’s on a downward spiral but still desperately trying to stay on top.

Elvis’ controlling manager Parker, whose real name was Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk, was born in the Netherlands, but he pretended for years that he was born and raised in the United States. In real life, Parker (who died in 1997, at the age of 87) hid his true identity and undocumented immigration status. This deception is in the movie, but as a plot twist reveal that will not surprise anyone who knows about Parker, or anyone who notices Hanks’ very over-the-top European accent in the movie. There are parts of the movie where Hanks’ prosthetic makeup and his Dutch-like accent are very distracting. Hanks’ accent also sometimes sounds German and sometimes sounds like a western European trying to sound American.

In real life, when Parker was Elvis’ manager, Parker did not have a heavy European accent, as portrayed in this movie. Parker had a very believable American accent in real life. How else would he have been able to fool so many people into thinking that he was a born-and-raised American if he had a European accent? This quasi-European accent is one of the characteristics of Parker that this “Elvis” movie gets wrong.

Because so much of Elvis’ life has already been dissected and depicted in many other ways (including Elvis impersonators becoming both a cottage industry and the butt of a lot of jokes), Luhrmann’s “Elvis” at least takes a unique approach of telling this story with narration from Parker. The movie’s opening scene shows Parker collapsing from a heart attack and taken to a hospital. During this narration, Parker repeatedly says versions of this statement: “Without me, there would be no Elvis Presley. And yet, there are some who would make me the villain of this here story.”

Elvis’ childhood gets a comic-book panel treatment (literally) in this “Elvis” movie, as the movie uses comic book panels and comic-book-type illustrations to show chapter transitions in Elvis’ youth. Born on January 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Aaron Presley is portrayed as someone who was influenced from an early age by music, particularly R&B and gospel music. Elvis had a twin brother named Jessie Garon Presley, who was stillborn. The film briefly mentions the death of Elvis’ twin brother, but the movie does not explore (as other biographies have done) how Elvis was haunted by this death.

Elvis was famously a “mama’s boy” who worshipped his mother Gladys (played by Helen Thomson), who was a strong-willed and dominant force in his life. Elvis’ father Vernon (played by Richard Roxburgh) is portrayed as someone who was often overshadowed by Gladys in Elvis’ eyes. However, Vernon still had a huge influence on Elvis, especially after Parker decided that Vernon should be Elvis’ business manager.

It was a ultimately not a good decision, considering that Vernon had trouble keeping a steady job up until that point, Vernon had no experience as a successful businessperson, and Elvis experienced major financial problems in the years leading up to his death. It also didn’t help that Parker was a gambling addict. The movie portrays Parker’s gambling addiction as one of the reasons why he was so money-hungry and willing to do unscrupulous things to get access to Elvis’ fortune.

When Elvis was 13 years old, he and his family relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, the city that is most closely associated with Elvis’ childhood and young adulthood. (Chaydon Jay has the role of the adolescent Elvis in the movie.) Vernon got into trouble with the law in 1938, when he was imprisoned for eight months for check forgery. As a result of these legal problems, the family lost their home and had to move to a lower-income area that was populated by mostly African Americans.

The movie makes it look like Elvis was the only white kid in his area who was allowed or interested in going to the African American religious church revivals that were held in tents, where he would watch the passionate gospel performances in awe. Elvis was also a fan of R&B music at a time when it was concered “race music” that was only supposed to be performed and enjoyed by black people. Sometimes, Elvis would get teased or harassed for liking this music, but his decision to perform his version of this music ultimately set him on the road to stardom. Elvis was also a fan of country music, which he incorporated into many of his songs.

While an underage Elvis was sneaking into church revivals in tents, the movie shows Parker spending a lot of his time in another type of event that uses tents: carnivals. Parker is portrayed in flashback scenes as a carnival huckster skilled at selling and at coming up with con games. It’s a skill set that Parker brought with him when he decided to go into the music business. The movie takes a little too much time with scenes of Parker managing country artists such as Hank Snow (played by David Wenham) and his son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee), a musician who would eventually befriend Elvis.

Later, when Elvis and Parker meet in person, the movie stylishly stages this meeting in a carnival hall of mirrors. It’s an example of how this “Elvis” movie has fantastical elements. In real life, the first time Elvis met Parker was probably in a much more non-descript setting. Catherine Martin (Luhrmann’s wife and filmmaking partner) is a producer of “Elvis” and the leader of the movie’s top-notch costume design and production design.

Elvis’ imitation of African American R&B and early rock and roll (rock pioneers Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino were big influences on Elvis) could be considered cultural appropriation or an extreme form of flattery, depending on your perspective. But what most people can agree on is that Elvis’ performance of this music is what caught the attention of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who is widely considered the person who gave Elvis his first big music break.

Elvis’ early recordings on Sun Records were then brought to the attention of Parker, who is portrayed as someone who couldn’t believe that the singer on the recordings was white, not black. And when Parker sees Elvis perform for the first time, Parker says in a narration voiceover what his first impression of Elvis was: “Greasy hair, girlie makeup. I cannot overstate how strange he looked.”

But what really convinced Parker to want to represent Elvis as his personal manager was seeing the audience reaction (especially from females) that Elvis got when Elvis performed on stage and thrust, shook and swiveled his hips and legs in a sexually suggestive manner. The movie makes a point of showing how these stage moves had a primal effect on women and teenage girls in the audience, as Elvis often got them into a frenzy. Expect to see several scenes of Elvis being branded as “lewd and lascivious” for these stage moves in various scenarios, with the controversy fueling his popularity.

One of the odd things about this “Elvis” movie is that there’s a scene where Elvis is on stage early in his career and his band members are the ones to tell him to wiggle his hips more. If you believe this scenario, Elvis wasn’t the one to come up with these sex symbol moves. He had to be talked into it by his band members. Parker says in his ever-present voiceover narration when commenting on women’s lusty reactions to Elvis: “He was a taste of forbidden fruit.”

The movie correctly shows that it was Parker who convinced Elvis to ditch Sun Records for a more lucrative offer from RCA Records, which had the type of national distribution and radio clout that Sun Records did not. Sun Records released some singles from Elvis in 1954 (including his first single “That’s All Right”), but they weren’t hits. Elvis’ first RCA Records single was 1955’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was a smash hit and became his first No. 1 single.

In a flashback voiceover, Parker brags about how he was the first person to create a merchandising bonanza around a pop star. In a very over-the-top scene, Parker shows off a huge stockpile of Elvis-branded merchandise that is cluttered all over a room in a Presley family home. It looks like an Elvis product hoarder decorated the room.

As Elvis became more famous and was spending more time away from home, it started to bother Gladys. The movie has a scene that’s a little on the Oedipal creepy side, where Gladys tells Elvis that she’s worried about the way that his female fans look at him. Gladys acts more like a jealous girlfriend than a mother. And then, Elvis tells his mother, “You’re my girl.”

Elvis’ experiences with groupies are very toned-down in the movie, which has no explicit sex scenes or even explicit sex talk. Priscilla is sidelined for most of the movie. After Priscilla and Elvis get married in 1967, she’s just shown as someone who’s part of his entourage and becomes an increasingly unhappy bystander when he kisses and flirts with female fans at concerts.

For a while, Elvis and Priscilla lived in Los Angeles, but Elvis’ world-famous Graceland estate in Memphis was always considered to be his main home. After Elvis’ death, Elvis Presley Enterprises (which approved this movie) turned Graceland into a tourist attraction. The movie shows some of Elvis’ indulgences, including his lavish spending habits and his tendency to carry around a lot of guns. As expected, there’s a scene of a drug-addled Elvis destroying a TV set by shooting it up with a gun—something that he was known to do in real life from time to time.

Lisa Marie Presley (Elvis and Priscilla’s daughter, who was born in 1968) appears briefly in a few scenes. Priscilla’s breakup scene with Elvis is predictably melodramatic. She screams at him that she’s leaving him not because of his infidelities but because of his addiction to pills. Priscilla throws pills at Elvis before walking out the door. Priscilla and Elvis divorced in 1973, but their legal battles are never shown in the movie. Near the end of the film, there’s a tearjerking scene that’s the final word on their ill-fated romance.

Elvis’ movie star career is rushed through in a series of scenes that culminate with the media reporting that Elvis was cast as Barbra Streisand’s co-star in a 1976 remake of “A Star Is Born,” in which he would be playing a drug-addicted, has-been rock star. Elvis experiences the embarrassment of hearing a radio announcer comment that Elvis wouldn’t have to do much acting for this role. Elvis, who had been trying with no success to become a serious dramatic actor, never did this remake of “A Star Is Born.” Kris Kristofferson ended up in the role.

With his movie career going nowhere, Elvis continues as a Las Vegas attraction at the International Hotel (which is now the Las Vegas Hilton), and as an artist doing several successful U.S. tours. Elvis wants to tour outside the U.S., but Parker keeps coming up with excuses for Elvis not to do these international tours. When the truth is exposed about why Parker is holding back on working outside the U.S., it leads to a turning point in the relationship between Elvis and Parker.

One of the more curious aspects of “Elvis” is that it doesn’t spend a lot of time showing Elvis in the recording studio. He was not a songwriter for almost all of his hits (an exception was his co-songwriting credit for “Heartbreak Hotel”), but this biopic doesn’t provide much insight into how he worked in a recording studio setting. And this “Elvis” movie doesn’t have any significant scenes of actors portraying the major songwriters (including Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) who were responsible for writing Elvis’ biggest hits.

However, the movie has several scenes acknowledging the artists who inspired Elvis. Big Mama Thornton (played by Shonka Dukureh) is seen belting out “Hound Dog,” a song that was famously covered by Elvis. Little Richard (played by Alton Mason) appears briefly in a performance clip. During a media event, Elvis points to Fats Domino and says that Domino is the real King of Rock and Roll.

Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (played by Gary Clark Jr.), Sister Rosetta Tharpe (played by Yola) and Mahalia Jackson (played by Cle Morgan) have small roles in the movie. B.B. King (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Elvis became mutual admirers of each other, and the movie briefly shows that friendship. If these influential African American artists are shown performing in the movie, it’s for a very limited amount of screen time.

The movie shows glimpses of Elvis being a concerned citizen who wanted to get involved in the civil rights movement, but he was ordered by Parker never to talk about politics in public. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy (both in 1968) and the civil unrest in the U.S. in the late 1960s are all portrayed as media news backdrops to Elvis’ personal problems, while Parker gripes about how America is going downhill because of the hippie counterculture movement. Just like many other Elvis biographies, the movie depicts Elvis as becoming more isolated the older he got and the deeper he got into drug addiction.

Elvis’ entourage, which was famously called the Memphis Mafia, is portrayed as not much more than being a bunch of “yes men” in the movie. The one who gets the most screen time is Jerry Schiller (played by Luke Bracey), who’s mostly seen acting like a personal assistant/security employee. A few of the other Memphis Mafia members portrayed in the movie are Steve Binder (played by Dacre Montgomery), Bones Howe (played by Gareth Davies) and Scotty Moore (played by Xavier Samuel), who don’t do or say anything noteworthy.

Because Elvis was a drug addict, the movie shows that he had his own Dr. Feelgood on the payroll to give injections and pills of whatever drugs were requested. In the movie, this enabling doctor is called Dr. Nick (played by Tony Nixon), and he’s based on the real-life Dr. George Nichopoulos, whose nickname was Dr. Nick. Just like in the movie, the real-life Dr. Nick had a reputation for being a drug supplier to many celebrities, including Elvis. The movie shows that Elvis was mostly addicted to amphetamines and opioids.

A harrowing scene in the movie shows Elvis collapsing backstage during a concert. Members of his entourage frantically try to revive him, but to no avail. The decision must be made to take Elvis to a hospital, or summon Dr. Nick to give Elvis an injection so that Elvis can continue the show. You can easily guess what decision was made in a world where people live by the rule “The show must go on.” The movie makes a point of implying that this scenario happened too many times behind the scenes, and it led to Elvis’ downward spiral.

None of this is really shocking because there have already been so many exposés of Elvis’ private life, there’s really almost no new information to uncover. Luhrmann’s “Elvis” movie isn’t concerned about being a celebrity “tell all” biopic as much as it is concerned about presenting Elvis’ life in ways that are served up like it’s on a conveyor belt and in other ways like it’s part of a splashy musical.

In other words, “Elvis” is a very mixed bag, but it shines the best and brightest in the area that matters the most: showing Elvis as a music artist. The movie has performances of Elvis hits such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “That’s All Right,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “Suspicious Minds” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” Butler does very good renditions of some these classics, with standout show-stoppers depicting Elvis’ 1968 “comeback” TV special (“Elvis” on NBC) and some of his performances in Las Vegas.

The movie’s soundtrack also has some contemporary, hip-hop-infused remakes of classic songs, such as Doja Cat’s version of “Vegas” and Swae Lee and Diplo’s version of Crudup’s “Tupelo Shuffle,” a song that Elvis also recorded. Eminem’s original song “The King and I”(featuring CeeLo Green) is also part of the movie’s soundtrack. These songs don’t sound completely out of place in the movie, but the contemporary music does take viewers out of the 1950s to 1970s, the decades when Elvis made his music. However, “Elvis” is definitely a crowd pleaser in being a feast of Elvis music, as it should be.

“Suspicious Minds” is the most prominently used Elvis song in the movie. Even though the lyrics are about lovers who’ve lost trust in each other, “Suspicious Minds” could also be a theme song about the growing mistrust in the deteriorating relationship between Elvis and Parker. How much did Parker really play a role in causing Elvis’ downfall? The movie leaves it up to viewers to decide. Even with all of Elvis’ pitfalls and self-destructive excesses, “Elvis” has a clear message that any problems he had in his life were always surpassed by his love of performing and connecting with his fans.

Warner Bros. Pictures will release “Elvis” in U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022. The movie was released in other countries on June 22, 2022.

Review: ‘Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,’ starring the voice of Jenny Slate

June 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (Image courtesy of A24)

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On”

Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp

Culture Representation: Taking place in Los Angeles, the animated/live-action film “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one Latina) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young male seashell and his grandmother, who are living by themselves in an Airbnb rental house after their other family members have gone missing, have to adjust to a new life when a documentary filmmaker moves into the house.

Culture Audience: “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky films that blend animation with live action.

Marcel (voiced by Jenny Slate) and Dean Fleischer Camp in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (Image courtesy of A24)

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” could have been an excessively cute film about tiny sea shells with human-like characteristics, but this unique movie is an offbeat charmer with an appealing mix of comedy and sentimentality about life and love. The movie has an artistic blend of live action and stop-motion animation that looks organic, not forced. And although there are some parts of the film that get repetitive and not all of the jokes land well, the positive aspects of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” far outnumber any of the movie’s small flaws. “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” had its world premiere at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival and made the rounds at other film festivals, including South by Southwest (SXSW), the Seattle International Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The origin story of “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is self-referenced throughout the movie, which has a plot that’s similar to how the movie’s title character first became an international sensation. In real life, filmmaker Dean Fleischer Camp and actress Jenny Slate did a series of short comedy videos called “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” beginning in 2010. In these videos, Slate voiced the character of Marcel, a talkative one-inch sea shell with one eye, human feet and a wryly observant and inquisitive view of life. Based on the way that Marcel talks, he has the intelligence and emotional maturity of a human boy who’s about 9 or 10 years old.

These videos about Marcel became a worldwide hit on the Internet and inspired children’s books written by Slate and Flesicher Camp. And now, there’s an entire movie about Marcel. The feature film “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” directed by Fleischer Camp (who co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Slate and Nick Paley) takes viewers on Marcel’s often-emotional journey to find his missing family members. Marcel lives in a middle-class house somewhere in Los Angeles, where the unmarried human couple named Larissa (played by Rosa Salazar) and Mark (played by Thomas Mann), who previously occupied the house had a bitter breakup. The house is now being used as an Airbnb rental.

Marcel’s wise and practical grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) is Marcel’s only family member who hasn’t gone missing. Among the those who have gone missing in Marcel’s family (they are all one-eyed small shells with feet) are Marcel’s parents Mario and Connie and Marcel’s brother Justin. What bothers Marcel and Connie the most is that they didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, and they have no idea where the other family members went. Marcel and Connie have photos and illustrations of their family members as visual mementos.

Marcel and Connie have a very close relationship. She often teaches Marcel things about life, often in answer to Marcel’s seemingly endless stream of questions. Connie and Marcel also love to watch “60 Minutes” together and are big fans of “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl. Marcel describes Connie as very independent and resourceful. For example, Marcel says that Connie taught herself how to farm. Connie also loves to garden and spends a lot of her time in the home’s garden.

At times, Marcel has a childlike wonder and curiosity about the modern world. Other times, he has a simple clarity about how to react to difficulties or problems because he doesn’t have as much emotional baggage or insecurity as someone who is an adult. Throughout the movie, there are whimsical moments and more serious moments where Marcel’s personality and quirks get various reactions to those around him.

In the beginning of the movie, Marcel says that he and Connie are living by themselves in the house, along with their pet lint named Alan. Their solitude ends when an Airbnb renter moves into the house with his white terrier mix dog named Arthur. He’s a mild-mannered filmmaker named Dean Fleischer-Camp (playing a version of himself), who needs a new place to stay because he has recently separated from his wife. In a case of art imitating life, Slate and Fleischer Camp (who used to spell his surname as Fleischer-Camp) got married in 2012 and then got divorced in 2016.

As expected, Marcel is curious about the house’s new human resident, and the feeling is mutual. It takes Marcel much longer to get used to Arthur, Dean’s dog, since Marcel is sometimes annoyed by how the dog smells and keeps interrupting Marcel like a curious and playful dog would do. Marcel shows Dean around the house, including the potted plant where Marcel sleeps on a slice of bread. Marcel describes where he sleeps as his “breadroom.”

Marcel might seem like a precocious child, but he doesn’t know a lot about modern technology. Dean tells Marcel that he’s making an online documentary. Marcel’s response is “Online? You lost me.” Eventually, Dean shows Marcel how the Internet works when Dean begins posting videos of Marcel online. The videos become an international sensation, with Marcel developing a huge fan base. (Sound familiar?)

Marcel is overwhelmed and often flabbergasted by all this newfound attention. However, he thinks it can be put to good use when he asks Dean to help get the word out about Marcel’s missing family members. You can easily predict which TV news show might get involved. Someone who doesn’t really want to get too caught up in the fanfare is Connie, who is very skeptical of the Internet and all modern technology.

The first third of “Marcel the Shell With the Shoes On” seems like a series of skits weaved together, with a lot of wisecracking remarks from Marcel, as he and Dean start to get to know each other and eventually become friends. The other two-thirds of the movie begin to have more substance when it story focuses more on the search for Marcel’s family members. The movie has themes of love, heartbreak and grief that are handled with sensitivity without being mawkish.

For example, Marcel begins to notice after a while that Dean is very curious about Marcel, but Dean is very reluctant to talk about himself. And it’s not just because Dean wants to be an journalistic documentarian. Dean is having difficulty processing the breakup of his marriage.

Dean’s preoccupation with Marcel’s problems are a way for him to cope or avoid his own personal problems. The movie doesn’t fully show Dean on camera until a pivotal part of the story when he’s essentially forced to talk about himself. It’s a clever way that the movie has Dean “coming out of the shadows” that reflect his own willingness to be open up more about himself and show more vulnerability. Fleischer Camp gives a solid performance, but the character of Dean seems to know that Marcel is the real star of the show.

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” has terrific voice work from Slate and Rossellini, who make an endearing and believable duo as a grandparent and grandchild. Connie isn’t a new character, but this movie is the first time that Connie gets her own backstory and story arc. Not everything in “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” is comedic, since the movie has some tearjerking moments that might catch some viewers by surprise. In a cinematic era when animated/live-action hybrid films are so focused on dazzling viewers with big adventures that are visual spectacles, it’s nice to have a movie like “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” that focuses more on everyday emotional connections and appreciating loved ones during life’s difficulties.

A24 will release “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” in select U.S. cinemas on June 24, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2022.

Review: ‘The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,’ starring Rosa Parks, LisaGay Hamilton, Carolyn Williamson Green, Lonnie McCauley, Jeanne Theoharis, Georgette Norman and Keisha Nicole Blain

June 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rosa Parks at the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March in “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Peacock)

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks”

Directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton

Culture Representation: The documentary film “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” features a nearly all-African American group (with one white person) of historians, activists, family members and associates discussing the life and legacy of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

Culture Clash: Even though she was world-famous, Parks refused to profit from her fame, as she was sometimes disrespected within the civil rights movement because of her gender and her age. 

Culture Audience: “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a comprehensive documentary about an important public figure in the U.S. civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks at the 1968 Poor People’s March on Washington in “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Peacock)

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” follows a conventional documentary format, but it’s still a well-made biography that should be informative for people who know very little about civil rights icon Rosa Parks. Directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” is based on author Jeanne Theoharis’ 2013 biography of the same title. Thoharis is one of the people interviewed in the movie. In the documentary, portions of Parks’ letters and memoir are read as narration by actress LisaGay Hamilton. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.”

Unless someone is a Rosa Parks expert, people who watch “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” will find out something new about Parks that they didn’t already know. Parks is most famous for an act that is widely credited with sparking the racial civil rights movement in the United States: On December 1, 1955, when she was 42 years old, Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man on a bus in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, and she was arrested for it.

This arrest happened during a shameful time in U.S. history when white supremacist racial segregation was legal. If white people and non-white people were gathered in the same space, such as on a bus, a white person could legally demand to make the non-white person move. During this Jim Crow racial segregation era, anyone who wasn’t white had to sit in designated seats in the back of the bus and could sometimes sit in the middle section of a bus, as long as white people allowed them to sit there. Parks’ act of standing up for herself and refusing to give in to a racist law inspired the U.S. civil rights movement to grow and move forward.

“The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” tells Parks’ life story in mostly chronological order. However, the movie (which announces a pivotal year in big and bold letters that take up the entire screen) occasionally jumps around the timeline when it goes more in-depth about a certain landmark event in the civil rights movement, to put an emphasis on how this event related to Parks’ life. (Parks died in 2005, at the age of 92.) “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” has the expected mix of archival footage and new interviews that were done exclusively for the documentary.

Parks had a soft-spoken and unassuming way about her that endeared her to a lot of people. However, one of the myths that this documentary aims to dispel is that Parks’ humble image should not be mistaken for Parks being a passive people-pleaser. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” makes it clear that she was all about disrupting anything to do with white supremacist racism. And far from being a pacifist, she believed that people of color needed to physically defend themselves and fight back if necessary.

The movie also explains how Parks had to come to terms with and overcome her own racism. Because of violent bullying that she experienced by white people in her youth, she spent much of her youth fearing and hating white people. It wasn’t until she got involved in the civil rights movement, when she saw how many white allies were willing to fight for the same causes, that Parks changed her views and came to understand that not all white people were “the enemy.”

Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913. Her early views on race relations were influenced by racism she experienced and hearing about the horrible treatment that her biracial maternal grandfather received throughout his life, when he wasn’t completely accepted by white people or black people. Her maternal grandfather Sylvester, who could pass for white, was the son of a white plantation owner named John Edwards and an enslaved African American woman who worked in the plantation owner’s house.

Both of Sylvester’s parents died when he was very young, so he was sent to live with African American relatives. Carolyn Williamson Green, a cousin of Parks, comments in the documentary on Sylvester: “He looked white, but he wasn’t afraid of white people” Williamson Green adds that because Sylvester was often harassed for being biracial, he passed on to his family a strong sense of not putting up with bad treatment from anyone. He kept a gun with him at all times and taught his family how to defend themselves.

Sylvester married a woman named Rose, and they both helped raise their grandchildren Rosa (the future Rosa Parks) and Sylvester when the kids’ parents split up. The elder Sylvester was the father of the children’s mother Leona (a teacher), who was married to a carpenter named James McCauley. By all accounts, Rosa was very protective of her younger brother Sylvester, although their relationship at times became strained later when they were adults.

In an era when African American kids weren’t expected to complete an education past sixth grade, Rosa’s mother Leona insisted that Rosa continue her education at a private school called Ms. White’s, which was an all-girls school for African Americans. The documentary mentions that this school had a tremendous impact on Rosa, because it further taught her not think of herself as inferior or set limits for herself because of her race. She graduated from high school during a time when most African Americans could not.

Georgette Norman, former director of the Rosa Parks Museum, says that Rosa knew from an early age that the racist Jim Crow laws (which were especially prevalent in the South) could only be changed when the oppressed fought back: “Rosa got the idea [of] ‘I want to change that what makes me have to need to be protected.’ White supremacy was the threat.”

Rosa met her future husband Raymond in 1931. By all accounts, he was the first political activist she ever met. And she wasn’t very attracted to him at first because he was a light-skinned black man who could pass for white. Rosa thought that the man she would marry would have much darker skin.

However, Raymond won over Rosa with his intelligence, compassion and willingness to treat her like an equal. The couple married in 1932 and had no children. After she became world-famous, people in the documentary say that Raymond didn’t mind being overshadowed by Rosa whenever they would go out in public together. It was through Raymond that Rosa got involved with the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the earliest national groups to spur the U.S. civil rights movement.

Rosa became a secretary for the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter by accident, when the regular secretary didn’t show up for the chapter’s election day, so Rosa was voted into the position instead. The documentary mentions that this secretary position was a catalyst that inspired Rosa to become a more outspoken activist. Along with other members of the NAACP, including NAACP Montgomery chapter chairman E.D. Nixon (one of Rosa’s early civil rights mentors), she helped fight for justice in many cases where African Americans were unjustly treated.

These cases included the Scottsboro Boys case where nine African American teenagers and young men who were falsely accused of raping by two white women 1931); Recy Taylor, a sharecropper’s wife who was gang raped by white men in 1944 in Abbeville, Alabama; and the brutal murder a Emmett Till, a 15-year-old boy who was viciously tortured, lynched and slaughtered after being accused of whistling at a white woman in Drew, Mississippi. One of the NAACP’s victories was helping in the defense of Joan Little, who was found not guilty of murder in the 1974 death of a white prison guard whom Little said she killed in self-defense when he tried to rape her.

In the case of rape survivor Taylor, whom Rosa had to interview for NAACP evidence testimony, Rosa was personally invested, because Rosa was also a victim of a sex crime. In a letter that Rosa wrote and is read in the documentary, she describes how she was nearly raped by a white man, who only stopped after Rosa told him that he would have to kill her if he was going to rape her. In other words, she warned him that she was prepared to fight to her death if he was going to try to violate her.

As historian Robin D.G. Kelley tells it: “One of the biggest myths in the Black Freedom movement is that non-violence is a default position. That’s not true. It’s the other way around. And Rosa Parks grew up in a movement culture where armed self-defense was simply taken for granted.”

Rev. James Watson, a former Detroit city council member, adds this comment: “Mother Parks supported self-defense. She couldn’t have been a supporter of the Republic of New Afrika had she not been. To her, there was no conflict in supporting Imari Obadele [Republic of New Africa president], Robert F. Williams and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she loved. She saw that as the same line of freedom fighting. She was holistic in her approach to the right of all people to be free.”

Rosa was also heavily involved in the movement getting more black citizens registered to vote and acting on their right to vote. It wasn’t easy, when voter suppression based on race was not only blatant but also legal. Many people believe that legal voter suppression that targets mostly people of color still exists today. Rosa also led several NAACP Youth Council groups. Doris Crenshaw, Elaine Huffman and Rosalyn O. King—three interviewees in the documentary who were part of these youth groups—have nothing but praise for Rosa.

What many people might not know is that Rosa was not the first person the NAACP considered backing after being arrested for not giving up a bus seat for a white person. As has been reported elsewhere and repeated in the documentary, a 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin, who was a member of a Rosa Parks-led NAACP youth group, was arrested for not sitting at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 5, 1955.

At first, the NAACP seemed to be willing to give major public support in Colvin’s defense. Ultimately, the NAACP declined to put its clout behind Colvin’s case. African American historian Keisha Nicole Blaine explains in the documentary: “At the age of 15, they did not think she would make a good witness, that she would not be reliable. Some people described her as being a bit rebellious and feisty. And Claudette Colvin was a dark-skinned black girl. There was colorism.”

Rosa fit the profile of what the NAACP needed as a symbol for the civil rights movement: She was a middle-aged, married woman who was well-respected in her community and looked non-threatening. It made her arrest look even more like racist bullying. She was already well-informed about peaceful ways to protest and to be an activist. And she was also an insider at the NAACP. Williamson Green adds, “Her quietness was her strength.”

Rosa was arrested during other civil rights protests, but her 1955 arrest for not giving up her bus seat was what catapulted her into the international spotlight. The arrest inspired the widespread bus boycotts in Alabama and other parts of the U.S. where racial segregation was still legal and enforced. The NAACP helped with planning and scheduling carpools that African Americans could take instead of public transportation that had racist segregation.

The boycotts spread to other racially segregated businesses and were instrumental in the progress on legislation that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that made it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. These successful boycotts are an example of how oppressors often don’t change their ways until they get hurt financially. Rosa and Raymond eventually settled in the Detroit area in the mid-1960s.

The documentary rightfully points out that even with all of Rosa’s accomplishments in the civil rights movement, Rosa and other women experienced prejudice within the movement. At civil rights protests and rallies in the 1950s and 1960s, women were rarely allowed to give speeches. And if they did get to say anything resembling a speech, their speech time was very limited, while the men were allowed to give long speeches.

Over the years, Rosa received many accolades, awards and honorary university degrees for her civil rights activism. For example, the U.S. Congress named her as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.” She became a close ally of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who were both murdered at 39 years old. (King died in 1968, while Malcolm X died in 1965.) However, the documentary mentions multiple times that Rosa (whose day jobs were mostly being a housecleaner or a secretary/administrative assistant) never tried to get rich from her fame. She turned down many lucrative offers and gifts.

In fact, Rosa and her husband Raymond sometimes lived in poverty. Theoharis says in the documentary that in 1959, the couple’s tax return reported a combined income of only $700. In addition, Rosa often lived for years in obscurity after becoming a civil rights activist. For example, after a “where are they now” type of article was published about Rosa and reported that she was living in poverty, donations poured in from around the world to help her and Raymond with their financial problems.

Rosa’s niece Rhea McCauley says that Rosa had the type of personality where Rosa wouldn’t complain about personal problems, and she would to be too proud to ask for financial help: “Auntie Rosa never discussed financial hardships. You would not know she was hungry, for instance. You wouldn’t know that she couldn’t pay this bill.”

Raymond was a barber as his main money-making profession. Vonzie Whitlow, who used to be Raymond’s barber apprentice, is one of the people interviewed in the documentary. It’s an example of how the documentary goes a little bit off-topic, but it takes up such a small amount of time that it’s not a major flaw.

As mentioned in the documentary, Rosa didn’t get her first paying full-time job in politics until 1965, when she became a secretary for John Conyers Jr., a U.S. Representative from Michigan. She held the job until 1988. Conyers died in 2019. The documentary has an archival TV news interview of Conyers that was conducted when Rosa and Conyers worked together. In the interview, Conyers says he was in awe of Rosa and looked up to her, even though he was her boss. And it wasn’t until 1992 that she published a memoir: “Rosa Parks: My Story,” which she wrote with Jim Haskins.

But even the great Rosa Parks was not immune to ageism. Years after Rosa and Raymond settled in the Detroit area, civil rights activist Joe Madison worked with Rosa in the NAACP’s Detroit chapter. He tells a story in the documentary about how he and Rosa wanted to be running mates for the chapter’s open leadership positions, but several members thought that Rosa was too old for the job. Madison and Rosa didn’t win in their campaign, but Madison says it was a huge honor for Rosa to be his running mate.

Other people interviewed in the documentary include Rosa’s great-nephew Lonnie McCauley; activists Bree Newsome, Dan Aldridge, Ericka Huggins, Barbara Smith, Bryan Stevenson, Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, Dorothy Aldridge and Patrisse Cullors; historians Francis Gourrier and Mary Frances Berry; journalists Herb Boyd and Tiffany Cross; and Ed Vaughn, founder of Vaughn’s Bookstore, an African American-oriented bookstore in Detroit where Rosa and Raymond Parks were frequent customers.

Rosa had a life of triumphs and tragedies. The documentary mentions how cancer claimed the lives of her husband Raymond, her brother Sylvester and her mother Leona—all within a two-year period. Raymond died in August 1977, Sylvester passed away in November 1977, and Leona died in December 1979. Rosa also survived a brutal home invasion assault and robbery in 1994. The attacker was convicted of the crime.

An example of how Rosa had periods of obscurity is shown in the documentary’s opening scene, which features Rosa in a 1980 episode of “To Tell the Truth,” a game show where three people claim to be the same person, and celebrity contestants have to guess which one out of the three is telling the truth about their identity. In this episode, the contestants were entertainers Nipsey Russell, Tiiu Leek, Kitty Carlisle and Gordon Jump. Three women, including the real Rosa Parks, claimed to be Rosa Parks.

Leek and Carlisle incorrectly guessed someone else was Rosa, while Jump made the correct guess. Russell abstained from voting because he says he already knew who Rosa was since they were both involved in the civil rights movement. The fact that half of the contestants didn’t know who Rosa was is an example of how many people didn’t really recognize her.

Unfortunately, they’re not unusual, since there are probably millions of people in America who have never heard of Rosa Parks—or if they’ve heard of her, they’re not quite sure what her claim to fame is. Keep in mind that most people in America can’t even name the politicians who represent their state in the U.S. Senate. However ignorant or knowledgeable people are about the civil rights movement in the U.S., the documentary “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” is a worthy history lesson for anyone who wants to learn more about this impassioned activist who made a positive impact on the lives of countless people.

Peacock will premiere “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” in 2022, on a date to be announced.

Review: ‘God’s Time,’ starring Ben Groh, Dion Costelloe and Liz Caribel Sierra

June 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ben Groh in “God’s Time” (Photo by Jeff Melanson)

“God’s Time”

Directed by Daniel Antebi

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the comedy film “God’s Time” features a racially diverse cast of characters (Asian, white, Latino and African American) representing the working-class and the middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two best friends, who met each other in an addiction recovery support group, try to stop a woman in their support group from murdering her ex-boyfriend. 

Culture Audience: “God’s Time” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching rambling “race against time” movies where the potential and talent of the cast members cannot overcome low-quality filmmaking.

The smug and idiotic comedy “God’s Time” is a waste of time in how it inexcusably bungles a simple but over-used slapstick concept of two friends on a wacky “life or death” mission. Sloppily written and directed by Daniel Antebi, the basic premise of “God’s Time” is about two male best friends who try to stop a woman from murdering her ex-boyfriend. There’s not as much action in “God’s Time” as the concept suggests, because too much of the film has repetitive and dull scenes of people in support group meetings for addiction recovery.

“God’s Time” doesn’t get going with any real action until the last third of the movie. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s to build up suspense, and if the action in the movie delivers in a way that’s unique and memorable. But the action that comes very late in the movie is poorly staged and written in such an amateurish way, any hope gets squashed that “God’s Time” will go out with a bang. The end of the movie can barely muster a whimper. “God’s Time,” which is Antebi’s feature-film directorial debut, had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

The two best pals in “God’s Time” (which was filmed on location in New York City) are two men in their 20s named Dev (played by Ben Groh) and Luca (played by Dion Costelloe), who are both aspiring actors. You might as well just call them Dumb and Dumber, because that’s how Dev and Luca act in this movie. Dev is the story’s narrator, and he frequently talks directly to the camera to spew a lot of self-indulgent gibberish.

Dev explains early on in the movie that he and Luca met in a support group meeting for recovering drug addicts. They’ve been best friends ever since. They go on auditions together, they help each other rehearse for auditions, and they go to support group meetings.

Luca and Dev apparently have nothing else going on in their lives but going to support group meetings and going to auditions. That’s how boring these two shallow pals are in this movie. The movie never explains how these two unemployed and unsuccessful wannabe actors make money.

Dev thinks of himself as being more of a rebel than Luca. For example, the two friends have an upcoming audition where Dev is going up for the role of a firefighter named Rico from Staten Island. Luca thinks that Dev should cut Dev’s long-ish hair for the role, so Dev could look more like a firefighter. However, Dev refuses to cut his hair. Dev is also frequently annoyed that his Indian heritage is often mistaken for being Latino. The movie has some unfunny jokes about Dev’s ethnicity being misidentified.

The beginning of “God’s Time” actually starts off with a promising scene. Dev, Luca and some other people in their support group are gathered for a meeting. A very outspoken and opinionated member of the group is Regina (played by Liz Caribel Sierra), who is also in her 20s. Regina makes a point of bitterly mentioning in every meeting how she was betrayed by an ex-boyfriend named Russell about a year ago.

Regina, whose name is pronounced in the Spanish-language way (“re-hee-na”), angrily repeats in every meeting the details of what went wrong in this doomed relationship: Regina let Russell temporarily stay at her place while he was recovering from spleen surgery. Two months into this temporary stay, things went horribly wrong, but what they argued about remains unclear.

As Regina tells it: “The aforementioned dirtbag kicked me out of my own place and took my little dog Parranda.” Regina likes to show photos of the dog, which is a Boxer. Dev looks into the camera and says after Regina tells her sob story in yet another meeting: “Yo, it’s all true. I remember the day he kicked her out.”

The movie has a montage of Regina in different meetings telling similar versions of the same story. Even though Regina says some hateful things about Russell, such as wishing that she could kill him or that we would die some other way, she always ends her rant by saying that she is praying for Russell. “And I have faith he’ll die in God’s time,” she concludes.

Dev has his own confession, which he only tells to the camera: He’s secretly in love with Regina. As time goes on, it’s obvious that Regina knows that she’s very attractive and that Dev has feelings for her. Regina uses her good looks to manipulate the men who are attracted to her. She’s also a habitual liar.

During another support group meeting, Regina goes on her usual diatribe against Russell. And once again, she says she’s going to kill him. But this time, she doesn’t end her rant by saying that Russell will die “in God’s time.” This omission freaks out Dev, who’s convinced that Regina is going to murder Russell soon, especially when Dev find out that Regina plans to leave town the next day.

Unfortunately, the movie wastes a lot of time to get to that point. There are some dumb shenanigans with Dev and Luca canceling and rescheduling callbacks for an important audition because they get caught up in trying to find out what Regina is going to do. During one of the many scenes that show Dev and Luca in support group meetings, Luca announces that if he doesn’t get the job in his next audition, he’s probably going to quit acting. No one in the support group really cares, and neither will viewers of this garbage movie.

At one point, Dev and Luca end up stalking Regina. She has told people that she works as a “life coach,” and she meets with clients in their homes. However, Dev and Luca find out that in her “life coach” session with a client, she’s really doing cocaine with a middle-aged man (played by Harry Bouvy), who doesn’t have a name in the movie. He lives in an Upper West Side building that has a doorman. It’s implied that Regina is a sex worker because she and her client are shown snorting cocaine in their underwear.

It all just leads to a silly scene where Dev and Luca sneak into to the apartment where Regina’s coke-snorting client lives, so that Dev and Luca can find Regina when she’s there. The two bumbling buddies tell the building doorman Robert (played by John Pope) that they are Gentile assistants hired by their Jewish client named Mr. Goldstein, who doesn’t want to do anything on the Sabbath, due to strict Orthodox Jewish beliefs. The doorman uses a key to let them into the apartment, where Regina has already left, unbeknownst to Dev and Luca.

The man’s wife, whose name is Mrs. Levy (played by Emily Fleischer), comes home, sees Dev and Luca with her partially undressed husband, who has cocaine on his nose. She incorrectly assumes that Dev and Luca are gigolos who were hired by her husband. “How long have you been fucking my husband?” she screeches as she maces Dev. Luca and Dev then make a hasty exit. That’s what’s supposed to be one of the movie’s funny slapstick scenes.

What’s so stupid about this scene is that no doorman who wants to keep his job would let strangers into an apartment unit without verifying first that it was authorized by someone who lives there. When the enraged wife finds out how these two bozos got into the apartment, she screams at the doorman: “Do I look fucking Jewish?” This anti-Semitic reaction from a woman named Mrs. Levy reveals that Dev and Luca also used the wrong name to get into the apartment, which makes the doorman and this movie look even more idiotic.

It gets worse. The movie throws in a subplot about Dev thinking that he’s being stalked by someone who was in a road rage incident with Dev. While Dev and Luca are on a subway, Dev happens to see this man nearby (but he doesn’t see them), so an anxious Dev tells Luca about this incident.

A flashback shows that when Dev was riding his bicycle on a residential street, a truck driver cut him off. The two men started cursing at each other. Dev then threw a plastic bottle of his urine into the man’s truck and sped off. Dev is convinced that the man is now trying to find Dev and get revenge.

Regina lives with her single (possibly widowed) mother, who’s identified in the movie as Mrs. Reyes (played by Sol Miranda), who has the misfortune of encountering Dev and Luca, as these two imbeciles become more obnoxious as the movie continues. Regina isn’t home when Dev and Luca show up at her house. And you know what that means. Expect to see at least one very predictable break-in scene by these two moronic clowns, who race around New York City trying to find Regina and Russell.

By the time Russell (played by Jared Abrahamson) shows up in the inevitable confrontation with Regina, some secrets are revealed that are very underwhelming and unimaginative. The entire nonsensical execution of this concept relies heavily on the flimsy assumption that viewers are supposed to believe that Dev never tried to find out what Russell looks like before Dev and Luca go on a mad “race against time” to prevent Russell from being killed. That’s why any surprises that come in the movie look too phony and hard to believe.

In addition to Dev’s tiresome comments when he talks to the camera, “God’s Time” over-uses irritating effects, such as slowing down and distorting people’s voices during the action scenes. Because the movie takes too long to get to the main concept, “God’s Country” looks like it could have been a short film, but with a lot of filler to stretch out the movie to its 83-minute run time. The movie’s outtake scenes that are shown during the end credits just prove that these scenes shouldn’t have been in this already dreadful movie.

The grating performances by Groh and Costelloe could have been more engaging if they had a better screenplay and better character development. Forget about learning more about who Dev and Luca are as people. This movie has no significant backstories for them or any indications of who else in their personal lives get quality time with them outside of the support group.

It’s briefly mentioned Dev’s mother in an Indian immigrant, and he used to live in Kentucky. Luca quickly mentions his own father a few times. That’s it. Dev and Luca are written as utter fools who don’t have much about them to like, and they aren’t even entertaining in their buffoonery.

Sierra’s performance as Regina has flashes of very good comedic timing. However, the Regina character is written in a way that’s almost misogynistic. Dev and Luca go out of their way to be her “rescuers” (Luca’s motivations are later explained in the movie), but Regina is really nothing more than a selfish, arrogant and dishonest brat. Other than Regina’s good looks, the movie never explains why Dev is so “in love” with Regina, since she doesn’t seem to care about anyone but herself and maybe her dog.

Dev and Luca know about Regina’s continued drug use, which is never adequately addressed, other than Regina giving a relapse confession (with insincere-looking tears) during one of the many support group meetings that keep disrupting what should have been a better flow for this unevenly paced movie. The people in these support group meetings are written in generic and forgettable ways, with adequate acting from the people in these roles. “God’s Time” is more concerned about staging self-congratulatory scenes with bad gags instead of crafting memorable characters.

“God’s Time” looks like it’s trying to be a dark comedy, but there’s too much goofy nonsense for this movie to have any edge. If anyone wants to see a well-acted and edgy dark comedy set in New York City, with a “race against time” plot and a similar title, then a much better option is 2017’s “Good Time,” directed by Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, and starring Robert Pattinson. “God’s Time” is an unfortunate misfire where the filmmakers forgot that in a movie whose concept is a chase comedy, audiences should care about at least one the main characters, the screenplay and direction should be solid, and it shouldn’t take too long to get to the chase scenes.

True Crime Entertainment: What’s New This Week

The following content is generally available worldwide, except where otherwise noted. All TV shows listed are for networks and streaming services based in the United States. All movies listed are those released in U.S. cinemas. This schedule is for content and events premiering this week and does not include content that has already been made available.

June 20 – June 27, 2022

TV/Streaming Services

All times listed are Eastern Time/Pacific Time, unless otherwise noted.

HBO’s six-episode limited series “Mind Over Murder” premieres its first episode on Monday, June 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series will also be available on HBO Max. 

Monday, June 20

“People Magazine Investigates”
“Alibi” (Episode 603)
Monday, June 20, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“#TextMeWhenYouGetHome”
“April Millsap” (Episode 103)
Monday, June 20, 9 p.m., Lifetime

“Fatal Attraction”
“Caught on Camera” (Episode 1222)
Monday, June 20, 9 p.m., TV One

“Fear Thy Neighbor”
“Appalachian Vendetta” (Episode 802)
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Payback”
“Mary Ann Langley” (Episode 103)
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., TV One

“Mind Over Murder”
(Episode 101) **Series Premiere**
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., HBO

“Sleeping With a Killer”
“Ashley Mead” (Episode 103)
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., Lifetime

Tuesday, June 21

“Dateline: The Last Day”
(Episode 104)
Tuesday, June 21, 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT, Peacock

“Dateline”
“The Eastlake Conspiracy”
Tuesday, June 21, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“Gangsters: America’s Most Evil”
“‘Baby Joker’ Oscar Cabrera” (Episode 614) **Season Finale**
Tuesday, June 21, 9 p.m., Reelz

“Body Cam”
“Get Out” (Episode 508) 
Tuesday, June 21, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Body Cam: On the Scene”
“Nor Surrender” (Episode 116) 
Tuesday, June 21, 10 p.m., Investigation Discover

“I Went Undercover”
“Flirting With Murder” (Episode 106)
Tuesday, June 21, 11 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Wednesday, June 22

“Dateline”
“Friends Until Death”
Wednesday, June 22, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“See No Evil”
“Savage By Name” (Episode 908)
Wednesday, June 22, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Thursday, June 23

“Catching a Killer”
Episode 4
Thursday, June 23, 3 a.m. ET, Topic

“Accused: Guilty or Innocent?”
“Carless Adult or Swimming Pool Tragedy?” (Episode 305)
Thursday, June 23, 9 p.m., A&E

“Crimes Gone Viral”
“Terrified for Ther Lives” (Episode 216)
Thursday, June 23, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Interrogation Raw”
“Unrequited Love” (Episode 105)
Thursday, June 23, 10 p.m., A&E

“Devil in the Web”
“Scammed On” (Episode 105) **Season Finale**
Thursday, June 23, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery and Discovery+

Friday, June 24

“Cops”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 6 p.m., Fox Nation

“Cops: All Access”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 6 p.m., Fox Nation

“Dateline”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 10 p.m., NBC

Saturday, June 25

“The First 48”
“No Warning”/ “Over the Edge”
Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., A&E

“Murdered by Morning”
“Murder in the Mountains” (Episode 208)
Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., Oxygen

Sunday, June 26

“Exhumed”
“Groomed for Murder” (Episode 209)
Sunday, June 26, 7 p.m., Oxygen

“American Monster”
“It Was All Them” (Episode 715)
Sunday, June 26, 8 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Someone They Knew…With Tamron Hall”
(Episode 117)
Sunday, June 26, 9 p.m., Court TV

TV/Streaming Services

All times listed are Eastern Time/Pacific Time, unless otherwise noted.

HBO’s six-episode limited series “Mind Over Murder” premieres its first episode on Monday, June 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The series will also be available on HBO Max. 

Monday, June 20

“People Magazine Investigates”
“Alibi” (Episode 603)
Monday, June 20, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Fatal Attraction”
“Caught on Camera” (Episode 1222)
Monday, June 20, 9 p.m., TV One

“Fear Thy Neighbor”
“Appalachian Vendetta” (Episode 802)
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Payback”
“Mary Ann Langley” (Episode 103)
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., TV One

“Mind Over Murder”
(Episode 101) **Series Premiere**
Monday, June 20, 10 p.m., HBO

Tuesday, June 21

“Dateline: The Last Day”
(Episode 104)
Tuesday, June 21, 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT, Peacock

“Dateline”
“The Eastlake Conspiracy”
Tuesday, June 21, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“Gangs

“Body Cam”
“Get Out” (Episode 508) 
Tuesday, June 21, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Body Cam: On the Scene”
“Nor Surrender” (Episode 116) 
Tuesday, June 21, 10 p.m., Investigation Discover

“I Went Undercover”
“Flirting With Murder” (Episode 106)
Tuesday, June 21, 11 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Wednesday, June 22

“Dateline”
“Friends Until Death”
Wednesday, June 22, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“See No Evil”
“Savage By Name” (Episode 908)
Wednesday, June 22, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Thursday, June 23

“Catching a Killer”
Episode 4
Thursday, June 23, 3 a.m. ET, Topic

“Accused: Guilty or Innocent?”
“Carless Adult or Swimming Pool Tragedy?” (Episode 305)
Thursday, June 23, 9 p.m., A&E

“Crimes Gone Viral”
“Terrified for Ther Lives” (Episode 216)
Thursday, June 23, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Interrogation Raw”
“Unrequited Love” (Episode 105)
Thursday, June 23, 10 p.m., A&E

“Devil in the Web”
“Scammed On” (Episode 105) **Season Finale**
Thursday, June 23, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery and Discovery+

Friday, June 24

“Cops”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 6 p.m., Fox Nation

“Cops: All Access”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 6 p.m., Fox Nation

“Dateline”
TBA
Friday, June 24, 10 p.m., NBC

Saturday, June 25

“The First 48”
“No Warning”/ “Over the Edge”
Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., A&E

“Murdered by Morning”
“Murder in the Mountains” (Episode 208)
Saturday, June 25, 8 p.m., Oxygen

Sunday, June 26

“Exhumed”
“Groomed for Murder” (Episode 209)
Sunday, June 26, 7 p.m., Oxygen

“American Monster”
“It Was All Them” (Episode 715)
Sunday, June 26, 8 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Someone They Knew…With Tamron Hall”
(Episode 117)
Sunday, June 26, 9 p.m., Court TV

“Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?”
“Queen Bee” (Episode 101) **Series Premiere**
Sunday, June 26, 9 p.m., Starz

“Very Scary People”
“The Hillside Stranglers, Part 1” (Episode 407)
Sunday, June 26, 9 p.m., HLN

“Very Scary People”
“The Hillside Stranglers, Part 2” (Episode 408)
Sunday, June 26, 10 p.m., HLN

“On the Case With Paula Zahn”
“Lost Life, Evidence Found” (Episode 2416)
Sunday, June 26, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Radio/Podcasts

The Execution of Bonny Lee Bakley

Premiere: Monday, June 20

Description from Wondery:

On May 4, 2001, Bonny Lee Bakley was found fatally shot in a car on a dark North Hollywood street. The prime suspect was her husband, famed actor Robert Blake. But Bonny, a longtime con artist, had plenty of enemies. She left behind a trail of men she’d scammed, and she had a volatile relationship with Christian Brando, the troubled son of movie star Marlon Brando.

Not since the O.J. Simpson case had the eyes of the nation been so fixated on a homicide. The search for Bonny’s killer took detectives on an eleven-month odyssey across the country and through Hollywood’s underbelly of hustlers, drug addicts, and would-be hitmen. It would be the most expensive murder investigation in LAPD history to date.

This is the story of Robert and Bonny’s toxic relationship, her shocking murder, and his chaotic trial. Did actor Robert Blake kill his wife? Or was the murder someone else’s vendetta?

From Wondery, and the team behind the hit series Hollywood & Crime (The Dating Game Killer, The Wonderland Murders, Death of Starlet) comes a six-part series about love, obsession and fame gone wrong. Co-hosted by Tracy Pattin and Josh Lucas.

Events

Events listed here are not considered endorsements by this website. All ticket buyers with questions or concerns about the event should contact the event promoter or ticket seller directly.

All start times listed are local time, unless otherwise noted..

No new true crime events this week.

Review: ’88’ (2022), starring Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton, Thomas Sadoski, Michael Harney, Amy Sloan, Orlando Jones and William Fichtner

June 19, 2022

by Carla Hay

Thomas Sadoski and Brandon Victor Dixon in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

“88” (2022)

Directed by Eromose

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in the Los Angeles area, sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election, the dramatic film “88” features a racially diverse cast of characters (African American, white, with some Latinos and Asians) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A Super PAC (political action committee), which is raising funds for a Democratic candidate for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, finds itself embroiled in political intrigue and potential scandal when the Super PAC’s financial director finds out the source of the majority of the donations received by the Super PAC. 

Culture Audience: “88” will appeal primarily to people interested in a tension-filled political thrillers that have good acting and realistic discussions of race relations.

Brandon Victor Dixon, Naturi Naughton and Jeremiah King in “88” (Photo by Paul De Lumen)

With compelling performances and an absorbing story, the intriguing drama “88” succeeds in its intention to get viewers to think about how U.S. political campaign fundraising is directly tied to race relations in America. The movie has some minor flaws—the pacing drags in a few sections, and some of the dialogue is a little hokey—but these flaws are far outweighed by the above-average acting, realistic conversations and the riveting direction of the movie, which takes viewers on various twists and turns. “88” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Nigerian British filmmaker Eromose wrote, directed and edited “88,” which packs in a lot of issues without being too overstuffed. Eromose (whose real name is Thomas Ikimi) is also one of the producers of “88,” which takes place in the Los Angeles area sometime before the primaries of the 2024 U.S. presidential election. The movie’s protagonist is the smart, talented and ambitious Femi Jackson (played by Brandon Victor Dixon), who has recently become the financial director of a Super PAC (political action committee) called One USA. At the moment, One USA’s main focus is supporting a Democractic Party candidate named Harold Roundtree (played by Orlando Jones), who is the Democractic Party frontrunner for the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

Femi and his wife Maria Jackson (played by Naturi Naughton) are happily married and live a comfortable, middle-class existence. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning of the movie that Femi and Maria have applied for a mortgage loan. Maria, who works as a bank loan manager, is about eight or nine months pregnant when the movie begins. Femi and Maria are expecting their second child together and have decided to wait until the birth to find out the child’s gender. Maria and Femi have an adorable 9-year-old son named Ola (played by Jeremiah King), who eventually becomes the center of a disagreement that Femi and Maria have about teaching Ola the realities of being a black male in America.

Femi admires Harold so much, he listens to Harold’s speeches when Femi does workout exercises. It’s shown in the movie’s opening scene when Femi is on his exercise bike at home, while a recording of one of Harold’s speeches that he gave at a factory can be heard playing loudly. Femi isn’t an ardent supporter of Harold just because both men happen to be African American. Femi thinks that Harold (who can be described as a moderate Democrat) has political values that are completely in line with Femi’s political values.

Harold says in the speech that Femi is listening to while on the exercise bike: “I was the first person in my family to go to college. My great-grandfather was a slave.” Harold then goes on to mention that Harold’s father and grandfather worked at the same factory where Harold is giving the speech, However, Harold says that his father and grandfather barely made living wages at the factory because they both lived in the Jim Crow era of legal racial segregation that treated anyone who wasn’t white as second-class citizens.

Harold then says in his speech: “I am the architect of my own destiny! I want to give every American the opportunity to be all they can be, to make a stronger home, to make a stronger America.” The assembled crowd can be heard giving enthusiastic cheers and applause after this speech.

Femi’s hero worship of Harold is not shared by everyone in the Jackson household. Maria has political leanings that are more left-wing and more progressive than Femi’s political beliefs. She doesn’t discourage Femi from working to get Harold elected, but she’s skeptical of Harold as a political candidate. It’s not mentioned which candidate (if any) Maria is supporting in this presidential election, but it’s definitely not Harold. Maria is also worried that Femi might be becoming too much of a workaholic in his campaign work for Harold.

The spouses’ different political views can be heard in a conversation early on in the movie. Femi and Ola are big fans of the blockbuster “Black Panther” franchise, based on the Marvel Comics, about an African king superhero named T’Challa (also known as Black Panther) and his colleagues from the fictional African country of Wakanda. When Femi and Ola say the catch phrase “Wakanda Forever!” (which was made popular in the 2018 “Black Panther” movie) and give the Wakanda handshake, it sets off Maria, who is uncomfortable with Ola and Femi being fans of the “Black Panther” franchise.

Maria has issues with “Black Panther” because she feels the stories in the franchise don’t show enough of the Wakandan leaders helping fellow Africans. Maria and Femi have a spirited debate about the merits of the “Black Panther” franchise and how much (or how little) it can be perceived as empowering to black people. When Femi argues that the franchise has made a fortune worth billions, Maria then counters with this statement: “For whom?” It’s her way of saying that even in entertainment that centers on black people, white people make the most money from it.

If this is the type of conversation that makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t want to watch a movie that has this type of discussion, then you might not like “88” very much. The movie has even more uncomfortable and sometimes disturbing conversations about how white supremacy and racism affect many aspects of everyday life. It’s a very thought-provoking film about how insidious and how deep the poison of racism goes in manipulating the outcomes of political elections.

And on a less frequent level, “88” has some discussion about prejudices within the African American community. Femi and his father were born in the United States, and Femi’s mother is a Nigerian immigrant. Femi tells Maria in one of their debates over race and nationality that he’s not going to consider himself less American, just because he has an immigrant mother and Maria’s ancestors were enslaved people in America. Although “88” doesn’t go into the hot-button topic of U.S. reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the U.S., this conversation between Maria and Femi brings up the complicated issue of who is a “real American,” and how race and nationality of origin affect people’s definitions of being a “real American.”

Aside from some tensions in his otherwise stable marriage, Femi is dealing with an ongoing health issue: He’s a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for an unspecified period of time. At his job, Femi is visited by his unnamed addiction recovery sponsor (played by Kenneth Choi), who is also a recovering addict. The two men have a candid discussion about race, including how Asians and black people are perceived differently by each other and by racist white people. They both agree that racism can come from people of any race, but not everyone is racist.

Femi thinks his job is going smoothly, and he’s very proud of what One USA has been able to accomplish by raising millions in campaign funds for Harold. It’s shown in the movie that One USA has about 20 people working the phones in its non-descript Los Angeles-area headquarters. Harold’s campaign has recently gotten a haul of $40 million in donations from One USA. And that amount has come under scrutiny in the media.

While driving to work, Femi listens to the radio and hears two talk radio hosts wondering suspiciously if the money came from a secret super PAC. The movie also shows several scenes of Harold being interviewed by a TV journalist named Ron Holt (played by William Fitchner), who has a talk show that looks similar to the self-titled PBS show that used to be hosted by disgraced TV journalist Charlie Rose. Ron digs hard at Harold to try to get Harold to slip up and reveal any flaws. However, slick-talking Harold always seems to have an answer that makes Harold look honest and admirable, but always with a hint that maybe Harold is not revealing everything about himself.

The two biggest donors to Harold’s campaign are the non-profit groups Independence.nyc and Future Movement Frontiers. Donations from both of these groups account for about 75% of Harold’s campaign funds that were raised by One USA. As explained in an animated clip shown on Ron’s TV show, big-money donors launder their money through non-profits, which then donate to Super PACs. The non-profit groups don’t have to report these donations to the Federal Elections Committee (FEC) because these particular non-profit groups have 501 (c) (4) tax status.

The big mystery in the movie has to do with Femi discovering how and why 75% of the donations are coming from Independence.nyc and Future Movement Frontiers, which are relatively small non-profit groups. Femi emails some computer files to his friend Ira Goldstein (played by Thomas Sadoski), a former investment management executive who is now a financial investigative blogger. Femi asks Ira for his opinion on what he thinks is going on with these financial figures. Femi says, “Whoever is doing this, they’re masking their donations through the non-profits, packaging them, and then sending them to us as larger sums.”

Femi also takes his concerns to his immediate supervisor: One USA executive director Agatha “Aggie” Frost (played by Amy Sloan), who dismisses Femi’s concerns and rejects Femi’s idea to have this matter investigated further. As far as she is concerned, a Super PAC such as One USA isn’t supposed to care where the money comes from and should only care about getting the money. Agatha tells Femi sternly, “I gave you a chance when no one else would. Please don’t make me look like an asshole.” It’s later mentioned in the movie that Agatha’s work background is being the owner of an ad agency, which partially explains why she’s very concerned about One USA’s image.

In a staff meeting, Agatha enthusiastically introduces Femi and two other people who have recently joined the One USA team: deputy executive director Fred Fowlkes (played by Michael Harney) and a committee research director named Sahar (played by Pegah Rashti), who happens to be Agatha’s wife. Fred, who is in his 60s, is a well-respected political campaign veteran with a very impressive track record, because it mentioned that all of the candidates that he’s worked with in the past several years have won their elections.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Agatha gives a pep talk to the One USA employees, by saying: “We raised more money faster than any other Democratic Super PAC [in] this election cycle. And we won’t slow down until Harold Roundtree is in the White House … We’re more than suits and ties. We’re a movement.”

During a lunch meeting in a diner, Femi and Ira talk about Femi’s curiosity about why so much of the One USA’s donation money is coming from two small non-profit groups. Femi tells Ira that Femi’s boss Agatha has ordered him not to investigate further, but Ira is eager to look into this mystery. After some coaxing, Ira convinces Femi to give more files to Ira, so that Ira can do some independent research.

And what Ira finds and tells Femi further deepens the mystery: All of the donation figures, if each digit is added up in different combinations, end up totaling the number 88. Ira has a mind-blowing theory of what the number 88 means. This theory is spoiler information that won’t be revealed in this review. However, it’s enough to say that it’s a vast conspiracy theory that goes beyond just one presidential election.

The rest of “88” has Femi going further down a proverbial rabbit hole of investigating this conspiracy theory. He ends up crossing paths with an author/conspiracy theorist named Hans Muller (played by Jonathan Weir), an elderly recluse who uses a wheelchair and has to breathe through an oxygen mask. Femi’s meeting with Hans is one of the intentionally creepy scenes in the movie because of what Hans tells Femi.

There’s also a British billionaire named Sam Trask (played by Julian Wadham), who’s vacillating between supporting Harold and supporting Hank McGonville, who is Harold’s main Democratic Party rival in the presidential election. Hank is never seen in the movie, but his TV campaign “attack” ad against Harold triggers some desperate reactions from members of the One USA team. Harold’s campaign manager Tom Woods (played by Jon Tenney) plays an important role as a gatekeeper and decision maker in this story.

And just who is Harold Roundtree, the candidate at the center of all these political schemes and machinations? It’s revealed in Harold’s interview scenes with Ron that Harold used to be the CEO of the fictional City District Bank, until the bank went out of business during the bank financial crisis of 2008. But by 2009, Harold had started a non-profit group called the Roundtree Institute with an initial investment of $15 million. In the TV interview, Harold spins his bank failure as being a positive learning experience, and he says that at least his bank didn’t take any bailouts from the U.S. government.

One of the best things about “88” is that it has memorable characters and conversations that are very true-to-life. The dynamic between trusted friends Femi and Ira is entertaining to watch and brings a few moments of comic relief. Some of the movie’s best scenes with Dixon and Sadoski are when Femi and Ira are together.

Dixon (who is one of the “88” producers) gives a fascinating performance as someone who has to come to terms with his political ideals and harsh realities. Jones is quite effective in his portrayal of shrewd politician Harold, who is as calculating as he is charismatic. Harney and Sloan also give believable performances, especially in a scene where Fred and Agatha are in a pivotal meeting together.

The movie tends to wander from the main political story when it shows a subplot involving Maria and her willingness to help an ex-con named Jose Gutierrez (played by Elimu Nelson), who wants a bank loan to start a business selling his hand-carved wooden toys. Jose is having trouble getting a loan because he was a convicted felon. (He was in prison for selling marijuana, before California decriminalized its marijuana laws.) And “88” starts to veer a little into soap opera drama when Maria gives birth, and there are some health issues involved in this birth.

However, Naughton has some standout scenes showing where Maria’s political beliefs and life experiences affect Maria’s view of the world and how she interacts with people. There’s a great scene where Maria has a tense discussion with her supervisor Veronica Verton (played by Kelly McCreary) about Veronica’s decision for Jose’s loan application. This powerful scene speaks to issues that people of color have when it comes to helping other people of color.

What’s admirable about “88” is that the characters are not stereotypes but have complexities that are very authentic to real people. The movie shows how Maria isn’t a shallow cliché of a Black Lives Matter extremist who hates all cops. Maria’s sister is married to a white cop named Harry Quale (played by Jonathan Camp), who is welcome in the Jackson home and who spends some quality time with Ola. Maria and Femi teach Ola that there are good cops and bad cops, just like there are good people and bad people in any profession, but that people can be treated differently because of their race.

“88” writer/director/editor Eromose keeps a mostly taut pace throughout this 122-minute film, which sizzles with an intensity of a political thriller that could be based on real events. The conspiracy theory revealed in “88” is not far-fetched, considering all the wild and crazy facts about politics that have been uncovered in real life. Even though “88” is a fictional drama, it sounds an alarm to voters and other people to pay more attention to the sources of political funding. As the movie’s tag line says: “Follow the money.”

Review: ‘Four Samosas,’ starring Venk Potula, Sonal Shah, Sharmita Bhattacharya, Nirvan Patnaik, Karan Soni, Summer Bishil and Meera Simhan

June 18, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

“Four Samosas”

Directed by Ravi Kapoor

Culture Representation: Taking place in Artesia, California, the comedy film “Four Samosas” features an all-Indian and Indian American cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: When a wannabe rapper finds out that his ex-girlfriend is getting married, he and three other people plot to steal the ex-girlfriend’s dowry of diamonds from her father.

Culture Audience: “Four Samosas” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky comedies and don’t mind if there are too many silly plot developments and irritating characters.

Sonal Shah, Venk Potula, Sharmita Bhattacharya and Nirvan Patnaik in “Four Samosas” (Photo by Aakash Raj)

If the annoying comedy “Four Samosas” were an actual meal, it would be junk food that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. This crime caper film has too much nonsense and bad acting to be enjoyable. The basic concept of “Four Samosas” had a lot of potential, but it’s ruined by scatterbrained plot developments and the movie’s desperation to be a quirky slapstick comedy.

Written and directed by Ravi Kapoor, “Four Samosas” had its world premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. However, “Four Samosas” looks like a student film or the type of movie that amateur filmmakers put on the Internet in the hopes of being discovered. The movie should be commended for having characters with easily identifiable personalities. Unfortunately, those personalities are shallow and can be described in two ways: obnoxious or dull.

And the most off-putting character is the “Four Samosas” protagonist: Vinesh, who goes by the nickname Vinny (played by Venk Potula), a wannabe rapper in his 20s, who lives in Artesia, California. Artesia is a small city that’s about 23 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Artesia has the nickname Little India because a large percentage of its population consists of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans.

Vinny has a day job as a sales clerk at a store that sells South Asian clothing. Expect to see some unfunny scenes of Vinny’s inept sales skills, as he tries to sell people items such as saris. Vinny has a mute female co-worker named Pushpa (played by Poonam Basu), whose muteness is mocked in some unamusing scenarios. Vinny’s so-called “rapping” is even worse than his sales skills. Kapoor co-wrote the original songs that are performed in the movie. Let’s just say that the songs range from forgettable to just plain embarrassing.

Vinny lives with his divorced mother Kamala (played by Meera Simhan), a seamstress who works out of the garage in their modest house. It’s mentioned early on in “Four Samosas” that Vinny’s father (played by “Four Samosas” director Kapoor), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, abandoned the family when Vinny was a child, but he still lives nearby. This deadbeat dad is now a Hindu priest, and Vinny seeks his advice in a few scenes that (much like most of this movie) end up falling flat in its attempt at being funny.

Vinny is living an aimless existence when he gets news that shakes him to the core: His ex-girlfriend Rina (played by Summer Bishil) is engaged to be married. Vinny and Rina dated for two years and broke up three years ago. Rina owns a hair salon, where Vinny goes to confront Rina about her upcoming wedding.

And in a very contrived scene, Vinny happens to meet Rina’s fiancé Sanjay (played by Karan Soni) outside of the salon. Sanjay is as confident as Vinny is insecure. Predictably, Vinny and Sanjay have an argument over Rina. It’s the type of silly scene where Sanjay brags that he’s better than “goat shit” and that he’s the “GOAT [greatest of all time] of goat shit.” It’s an example of the idiotic dialogue in “Four Samosas.”

And then, Vinny goes in the salon and argues with Rina, because an egomaniac like Vinny just can’t believe that Rina could marry someone else and possibly be happy without Vinny. Vinny asks Rina to break up with Sanjay and give Vinny another chance to date her. However, Rina essentially reminds Vinny why their relationship didn’t work: “You were so insecure. I got tired of waiting for you to realize that you deserve me.”

Vinny didn’t think he was good enough for Rina because she comes from a family of a higher social class. Her father, who’s only identified in the movie as Mr. Juneja (played by Tony Mirrcandani), owns a successful grocery store in Artesia called Juneja’s. (Rina’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the movie.) Vinny always believed that Mr. Juneja didn’t think Vinny was worthy of Rina. There are hints that Rina might still have feelings for Vinny, but she knows deep down that they were a mismatched couple.

Vinny is determined to stop Rina from getting married to Sanjay. He comes up with a plan to steal Rina’s dowry from Mr. Juneja. And it just makes Vinny look like an even more pathetic loser. The movie rapidly goes downhill from there.

Vinny ends up recruiting three accomplices for this crime:

  • Zak (played by Nirvan Patnaik), who is described as a “Bollywood dreamer,” is the only person in Vinny’s life who seems to be Vinny’s friend. Zak is a mild-mannered person who works at a server at a casual South Asian restaurant called Chaat House, but what Zak really wants to do with his life is be a Bollywood star. (You can easily predict that Zak will have a Bollywood musical moment in the movie.)
  • Anjali (played by Sharmita Bhattacharya), who is described as an “under overachiever,” is an aspiring journalist. She’s the editor-in-chief and publisher of a new start-up publication called the Great Little India Times, which she calls a newspaper, but it’s really a newsletter. Anjali has a crush on Zak, and the feeling is mutual. A running gag in the movie is that Anjali comes up with elaborate ideas that are more complicated than what needs to get done.
  • Para (played by Sonal Shah), who is described as a “malcontent engineer,” is an arrogant and cranky immigrant. Para is bitter because her plans fells apart to get a work visa or a green card. Para thinks she’s always the smartest person in the room. But in a badly made movie like “Four Samosas,” she’s just one of many idiots.

Somehow, Vinny knows that Rina’s dowry includes diamonds that her father keeps locked up in a safe in the back office of the grocery store. Vinny believes that they are “dirty diamonds” that were purchased on the black market. He tells his cohorts that stealing the diamonds will be “wealth reappropriation” where they will be stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Zak is hesitant about getting involved in this crime, but Vinny tells him, “It isn’t right that people like Rina’s dad get rich, while good people like my auntie are dying because they can’t afford an operation.” Vinny says he’s going to use the money to pay for his aunt’s heart valve operation. Zak plans to use the money to finance Zac’s dreams of being a Bollywood star. Anjali wants more money for her start-up publication, while Paru plans to use the money to sort out her immigration problems. In other words, most of the money is going to be used for selfish reasons by these thieves.

“Four Samosas” has some supporting characters who are nothing but distracting nuisances. Nikki (played by Maya Kapoor) is Vinny’s teenage cousin, who tries to convince him to be a contestant in the Little India Cultural Show, a local talent contest. Vinny is very reluctant to participate. And you know what that means: There will eventually be a scene of Vinny in this talent show. Nikki is an aspiring rapper too. Her heinous shouting and screeching when she raps will make viewers want to cover their ears or stop watching this train wreck movie.

There’s also a group of five bizarre activists who call themselves the Revolutionaries. They all dress in identical red track suits, like they’re in some kind of cult, and they congregate outside an empty grassy lot to gather signatures for a petition. What is their cause? The Revolutionaries want to create an “independent South Asian state” on this tract of land. They want to name this state Aisetra, which is Artesia spelled backwards.

When Vinny walks past them on the street, the Revolutionaries ask him to sign their petition, but he refuses. “This is America,” he responds. “I want to keep it that way. If I wanted to be in South Asia, I’d go to South Asia.” The Revolutionaries then say that their proposed state could be the 51st state in the United States. Meanwhile, Vinny repeatedly tells the Revolutionaries in a condescending voice that Aisetra is Artesia spelled backwards. That’s what’s supposed to pass as “comedy” in this dreadful movie.

There are so many terribly conceived moments in “Four Samosas,” the movie just becomes a mishmash of people mugging for the cameras in nonsensical scenes. (And the mugging looks worse because of the movie’s over-reliance on close-up shots.) There’s no explanation for how Paru met the other three accomplices. She just shows up in her first scene with a rushed explanation about her immigration problems.

There’s a dumb scene where Anjali shows up unannounced at Mr. Juneja’s back office at the grocery store to pretend that she wants to interview him for the Great Little India Times. He agrees to the interview. Meanwhile, Zak begins to dance on a checkout counter in the store, so that the movie can waste a little time doing a Bollywood musical fantasy sequence. Mr. Juneja sees on surveillance video monitors in his office that Zak is causing a commotion in the store, so Mr. Juneja leaves the office to investigate.

It’s all a setup so that Anjali could be alone in the office to take pictures of the closed safe where Mr. Juneja keeps the diamonds. The safe also has a wad of cash, but the would-be thieves only want to take the diamonds, because they think they’re “dirty diamonds” that Mr. Juneja won’t report as missing to the police if the diamonds gets stolen. What’s so asinine about this “get Mr. Juneja out of the office” scene is that there’s no real reason for anyone to take photos of a closed safe (which can be opened by a combination code on a touch-tone keypad) when it doesn’t really help the would-be thieves figure out what the safe’s combination code could be.

Needless to say, more witless hijinks ensue before and after the theft. The thieves decide the best way to steal the diamonds is to hide in the grocery store when it’s closed, so that they have plenty of time to crack the safe. The movie’s opening scene announces that the theft did occur, and the thieves are shown running out of the grocery store, so there’s no suspense leading up to that moment.

One of the few things that seems slightly amusing in “Four Samosas” is that the four thieves decide to disguise themselves by dressing up as the opposite sex. These drag disguises could have been the source of some hilarious comedic scenarios, but this idea is just a cheap gimmick that goes nowhere. It’s one of many examples of the movie’s half-baked ideas that are overshadowed by ditsy dialogue and characters with terrible or boring personalities.

Sagar Desai’s musical score for “Four Samosas” is better-suited for a tacky sitcom rather than a screwball comedy movie. It seems like the “Four Samosas” filmmakers mistakenly thought that dialing up the grating music and the manic energy would somehow make everything funnier. It doesn’t. The aftermath of the theft is just ridiculousness that will make viewers dislike the characters even more.

“Four Samosas” also has a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene that have no bearing on the main story. These credits scenes just reek of self-indulgent garbage with no real thought put into making anything truly funny. Anyone who keeps watching “Four Samosas” until the very excruciating end will feel like they’ve gone through a more squirm-inducing endurance test than any of the foolish shenanigans inflicted by the moronic characters in this time-wasting movie.

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