Breaking In Review

It was just last summer when Halle Berry’s Karla Dyson took matters into her own hands when she jumped into her minivan and chased down a pair of villains who abducted her son in Kidnap. That marked the first time in far too long that we saw a woman of color — and “of a certain age” — centralized as a badass hero and a mom on the big screen. She was no longer merely the sidekick or the villain the main character (usually a white actress) knocks off within the film’s first 30 minutes. She was the star.

I felt a similar sense of progress while watching Breaking In, the new thriller starring Gabrielle Union. In it, she plays a mother who stops at nothing to fight off armed criminals (Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Levi Meaden, and Mark Furze) who break into her home and threaten her and her children.

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The Strangers: Prey at Night Review

The merit of most sequels is hard to evaluate without bringing up their predecessors — especially when it’s The Strangers. The 2008 horror film written and directed by Bryan Bertino that had all the makings of a rudimentary home invasion thriller ended up being a statement on the weaponization of idle behavior among seemingly innocuous young adults. It remains brutal, unsettling, and remarkably relevant.

So director Johannes RobertsThe Strangers: Prey at Night has big shoes to fill. But that’s okay, because it doesn’t ever really seem concerned with besting the original film. Instead, it moves with the confidence of an entirely separate narrative, one that just so happens to not only pay homage to the 2008 film, but also successfully present its message to a 2018 audience.

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Male Directors and Actresses

Shelley Duvall’s frantic, desperate face throughout almost the entire runtime of director Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining will forever be burned in my memory. Not only because it’s brilliant and deeply unsettling (as is the film). It’s also because amid that is the actual terror and sheer exhaustion Duvall experienced while having to deliver and re-deliver countless takes of her character being emotionally battered to the point where, to the actress’ own admission, it had become “excruciating.” Further, she felt no vindication for all that effort as the conversation around the film later centered on its male auteur. “The reviews were all about Kubrick, like I wasn’t there,” Duvall told Roger Ebert back in 1980.

This is an all too familiar position that many actresses find themselves in for the sake of authenticity, a sense of suffering that almost always serves as an impetus for the female character’s eventual empowerment. While the character’s self-actualization is an important one — apparently at whatever cost — there is much to be said about how a male filmmaker interprets and navigates female characters whose bodies are first consumed by audiences before they utter even a single line of dialogue. That said, they are either weaponized, brutalized, lusted after or a combination of all these things.

But those aren’t conditions that a male filmmaker often considers when it comes to his female muse, which indicates a lack of partnership in the portrayal that is more prevalent between a male filmmaker and a male muse. As a result, the character is at risk of becoming compromised through the male gaze. With all of this in mind, let’s explore some of the most renowned female muse/male director pairings on screen.

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Black Panther Phenomenon

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Black Panther is a film that celebrates blackness…and that should become the new normal.)

For some, the Black Panther movie may be a new phenomenon, a perhaps radical showcase of black talent in which both the men and the women are centered equally — and where they stand tall like royalty as accolades continue to pour in far and wide. It’s supposedly an anomaly, a moment to celebrate. And that it is; an important example of black excellence taking center stage.

The red-carpet presentation at its January premiere was by itself a sight for sore eyes, black decadence at its finest, accessorized with deep hues and pops of gold.  It was that rare mainstream occurrence in which our beauty literally radiated in a space historically dominated by the likes of Greta Garbo, John Wayne, and Frank Sinatra. And finally, FINALLY, others saw in us what we’ve seen in ourselves since the dawn of time.

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i tonya trailer

As far as unlikable characters go, Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding has always been in a league of her own. She’s got a potty mouth. She’s never really cared about making friends. She’s generally just not nice. And oh yeah, she was kinda sorta involved in one of the biggest sports scandals ever — a criminal plot to literally attack the America’s sweetheart of figure skating, Nancy Kerrigan. Folks might get past the sharp tongue and cold stares, but if there is anything that will turn them off faster it is when a high-profile figure comes for the girl next door (just ask Kanye). Top that with the brazenly conservative ’90s media takedown of the supposed black sheep of figure skating, who had frizzy hair, a bad attitude, smoked, and whose mom made her costumes — all of which were strictly taboo in the elite world of pretty upper crust young women who could twirl on ice.

So Harding didn’t really stand a chance in that world, especially during that time. And it has left such a deep stain on her image that, even to this day ,she remains written off. But the new film I, Tonya sees to it that her story gets told anyway and in her own words, whether people want to hear it or not.

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the exorcist season 2

It was the last panel of New York Comic Con, but The Exorcist panel — consisting of actors Ben Daniels, Alfonso Herrera, Kurt Egylawan, John Cho, Zuleikha Robinson, with executive producer/writer Jeremy Slater and showrunner Sean Crouch—still commanded a packed room that was bursting with superfans of the small screen adaptation of the classic horror film. Despite the show’s shift to Friday nights, each and every audience member was clearly a dedicated fan (especially proven by how they raised the roof for each panelist announced on stage), and was psyched to see what they were going to reveal about the new season. Myself included. Just two episodes into the season, I can already tell that the show is moving into some interesting territory—especially with priests Tomas and Marcus (Herrera and Daniels) going rogue together.

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Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Trailer

This week brings the release of the second movie to tackle the origin of Wonder Woman this year, but unlike the superhero movie released this past summer, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is about how the Amazon warrior princess came to existence on the pages of DC Comics.

A panel at New York Comic-Con took a closer look at the movie starring Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote, and that included releasing a new trailer for the movie arriving in theaters at the end of the week.

Watch the new Professor Marston and the Wonder Women trailer and find out what happened at the NYCC panel below. Read More »

Archer Danger Island - Archer Season 9 NYCC Panel

Two words: Peanut butter. If I remember anything about what went down at the Archer: Danger Island panel at New York Comic Con Saturday evening, it’s that Lucky Yates (Dr. Krieger) was taught how to poop at age 3, when he opened the refrigerator, spied a jar of peanut butter and…success!

This story, shared by Yates himself, set the tone for what would become a delightfully random panel conversation between actors and apparent friends Aisha Tyler, Amber Nash, and Lucky Yates along with writer Casey Willis and director Bryan Fordney about their hit animated FX series held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in front of a packed audience that extended all the way down the street. While the crowd found this entertaining, the talk focused on the show, which will be celebrating its 9th season premiere early next year. And we got a chance to watch it.

Find out more from the Archer season 9 NYCC panel below. Read More »

Black Mirror Season 4 NYCC Panel

“We are in competition with the news,” Charlie Brooker, writer/creator/executive producer of the Netflix series Black Mirror, addressed the uncomfortable truth about the drama’s darkest themes Saturday night at New York Comic Con in front of a standing room-only audience.

I always thought it was funny when folks would remark on how far the dystopia would go on the show. To which I would always respond, “This is not unlike the world we live in.” So, I was happy to hear that Brooker agreed that some of the show’s most disturbing plot lines come from reality itself.

Find out more from the Black Mirror season 4 NYCC panel below. Read More »

Ash vs Evil Dead Season 3

You know you’re about to see something crazy when Bruce Campbell comes out on stage wearing a Hugh Hefner-like pimp suit. That was just the first of many amazing surprises in store for us at the Ash vs Evil Dead panel Saturday afternoon at New York Comic-Con.

There was already an air of anticipation in the Hammerstein Ballroom in the moments leading up to the cast’s entrance on stage. But luckily we didn’t have to stare at a blank screen or listen to a hype man try to pump up the crowd. On the screen in an endless loop was a vintage clip of a bobcat mascot in a high school hallway staring menacingly at the camera from a distance. Then in the next moment, there’s a jump cut with the mascot much closer to the camera. This time it had blood streaming from its eye sockets. Just like that, the audience was hooked. And it wasn’t even time for the panel yet. This was idle time!

Find out what happened during the Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 NYCC panel below. Read More »