Friday, October 26, 2018

Movie Review: The Hate You Give (2018)

This is a masterfully told story by director George Tillman, Jr. who presents us with several perspectives on the issues and fallout surrounding police shootings of unarmed black men happening in urban cities across this nation. Based on the acronym and music of Tupac Shakur, THUGLife, The Hate U Give explores how complicated life can be for black families who live at the intersection of race, culture, economic disparities, policing in black and brown communities and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Starr Carter, played Amandla Stenberg, is a high school student that lives in two distinctly different worlds where code switching is her teleport between the two. Her family is a stable two parent and 2.5 children African American home. They continue to reside in the urban neighborhood where her parents were raised although they could afford better. Her mother Lisa (Regina Hall) and father Maverick (Russell Hornsby) are married and raising their children, Starr and her brothers Seven (Lamar Johnson) and Sekani (TJ Wright) in a loving home. 

The kids go to a private school across town in a mostly white upper class neighborhood. The mother is a nurse while the father is an entrepreneur and owns a grocery store in their neighborhood. And yet, as the parents work everyday to achieve a better life for their family and keep their kids out of trouble, their lives are affected and impacted by the shooting of one of Starr's close childhood friends, an unarmed young black teenager who was shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop.

The movie does an excellent job of raising complicated issues and arguments on both sides of the debate concerning police shootings of unarmed African Americans. Common, a trusted voice in the Black community known for his art and activism, was a superb choice for his law enforcement role in the movie. Regina Hall represented well the plight of black mothers who are the encouragers, advisors, peacemakers, and fire when necessary. Russell Hornsby embodied a black father who is both a protector and provider, but also the voice of "the movement".

You'll also get a chance to hear from white "allies" who don't always understand why their voices are met with ambivalence by members of the Black Community. I will say this, Starr's boyfriend Chris (KJ Apa) "gets it" and responds appropriately when communicsting and reaching out to Starr during her crisis. 

The ensemble cast was incredible and Amandla did a tremendous job of humanizing the cool Starr and the "nerd" Starr without over the top antics. And it was also good to see Issa Rae on the big screen.

Bottomline, George Tillman has crafted another story that is both relevant, encompassing and entertaining. You should see this movie and discuss it with your friends, children and other family members. #THUG

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Movie Review: Widows (2018)

When I first saw the trailer a few months ago for the movie "Widows" (20th Century Fox), I wasn't feeling it. Although I absolutely love Viola Davis, the movie's lead character, as previewed in the trailer, the film didn't really move me. So when I decided to give it a chance and go see an advanced screening at the inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Fest presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. on 10/24, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Surrounding Davis in this thriller is a diverse cast of strong female characters including Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious), singer/actress Cynthia Erivo (Color Purple on Broadway and OITNB), and Australian newcomer Elizabeth Debicki. The supporting characters from the Oscar nominated actor Liam Neeson to Emmy award winner Robert Duval to Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell and Oscar nominated Daniel Kaluuya, who was most recently seen in Get Out and the blockbuster Black Panther, all gave strong performances.

Two-time Oscar winner Davis carries the film which had so many plot twists that you were kept on the edge of your seat waiting to see what would happen next. She is subtly brilliant and was really the rue for this incredible gumbo of a cast. Kaluuya showed us a side of his acting we've never seen before. And Erivo showed great athleticism in her role; Rodriguez and Dibecki depicted women in different stages of coming into their own; and veteran actor Duval displayed his usual magnificence in his portrayal of an overbearing father.

Academy award winning director Steve McQueen (12 Years A Slave) was the head chef tending to the rue and he delivered a great gumbo that moviegoers will enjoy consuming. Set in modern-day Chicago, the movie had everything you could ask for in an urban thriller except maybe shady cops. The story was smooth to the taste and delightfully fulfilling. Widows opens on November 16 and I encourage you to go see it. It's definitely worth the price of admission.

Also, the African American Film Fest runs through this Saturday, October 27. Most of the films they are screening are $10 and they even have some free events. Go to for more info and tickets.

--Nona Ogunsula for