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Fifty Shades Freed Entertains [MOVIE REVIEW]

Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) return in the third and final film series based on the bestselling Fifty Shades novels.

The film opens with Christian and Ana trading marriage vows, looking to a new life of shared love and luxury.

Of course, there’s a lot of sex, but Fifty Shades Freed, more than anything else entertains and it gets a See It! rating.

The story does strain credibility in an effort to bolster the story. In the scenes after the couple gets married, Anastasia behaves more like someone who just met Christian than someone who knows and agreed to marry him: She didn’t know he had a domestic staff at his apartment, he had his own plane, and that she will have a security detail following her around. Apparently, after the long and extensive history of sexual gymnastics, they don’t know each other’s viewpoint on having children.

However, the characters are fuller and richer than in Fifty Shades of Grey where they both seem empty and vacuous. In this edition, they are more interesting and more balanced characters. While sex can be a draw to a movie, there has to be more to a film for it to succeed. Here there’s drama and amusing dialogue.

Fifty Shades Freed gets a B+ for cast diversity. Set in Seattle, a city in which people of color make up about a third of the population, the film has a diverse group of people of color in supporting and background roles.

Fifty Shades Freed is rated “R” for strong sexual content, nudity, and language and it is approximately 105 minutes in length. Fifty Shades Freed will be worth your time and money.

T.A. Moreland

T A MorelandA film critic for over 20 years, T. A. Moreland, also produced and hosted a film review television program in New York City for four years.

Moreland wrote for The New York Amsterdam News, The Harlem World Magazine and a Harlem Critic Blog on World Press. His reviews have appeared in and international publications: and Similarly, he provided commentary on the entertainment industry for Essence magazine and BET.

Moreover, T.A. Moreland’s description of the 2008 film “Valkyrie” as a “True Life Mission Impossible” was prominently featured and was the lead quote in the nationwide and international ad campaign for the film starring Tom Cruise.

A prolific writer, T.A. Moreland has written three screenplays and numerous television treatments.

T.A. Moreland resides in Harlem and is an attorney who specializes in energy and economic development issues. He holds a B.A. from Indiana University in Bloomington, Juris Doctorate from the University of Dayton, and Masters from the University of Pennsylvania.

Murder on the Orient Express; take this thrilling train ride

English crime writer, Agatha Christie’s 1934 classic whodunit, Murder on the Orient Express, first filmed in 1974, returns to the big screen for the second time. In the 2017 film version of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh directs and leads an all-star cast including Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom, Jr, and Josh Gad. Murder on the Orient Express is the story of 13, first class passengers traveling on a luxury train to London when one of the passengers is found dead in his cabin, the victim of multiple stab wounds.

Hercule Poirot (Branagh), the internationally known, fictional, detective happens to be on board and is coaxed into solving the brutal crime. The film takes viewers though Poirot’s painstakingly, thorough examination of the suspects and their possible motives.

Murder on the Orient Express is a fascinating, far-fetched, yet definitely entertaining film. And it’s a See It!

It has a Titanic feel to it. Wealthy passengers travel opulently to their destination. Like Titanic, the mode of transportation is damaged. In Titanic, it’s an iceberg; in Murder, it’s a snowy avalanche which derails the train.

While I was familiar with the story title, I was unaware of how the crime would be solved, which added additional intrigue to the mystery. And, the outcome is a truly a surprise.

Again, this is a star studded cast which enriches the production. Murder on the Orient Express gets an “A” for cast diversity. Among the 13 passengers, there is a black man, Leslie Odom, Jr., who starred in the Broadway musical, Hamilton, and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is a Hispanic man. Further, there are many characters of color in background and small roles. Often movies set in time periods such as the '30s have all-white casts, as if people of color only came into the being in the '60s and '70s.

Additionally, the cinematography is creative and exceptional. With scenes shot from a multitude of angles and ranges.

Murder on the Orient Express is rated, PG-13, and is 116 minutes. And it’s a See It!

The Mountain Between Us is a bit bumpy but you should see it. [MOVIE REVIEW]

They don’t know each other but they are both desperate to reach their destinations. Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) has a 10-year-old patient waiting for surgery. And photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) has to get to her wedding. After the cancellation of their flight due to stormy weather, they hire a charter plane. The plane crashes midflight, the pilot dies, but they, along with pilot’s dog, survive the incident with injuries. They battle to survive the subzero weather in the Colorado mountains, trying to hang on until they are found.

The Mountain Between Us is often tedious, but ultimately, an entertaining film and gets a See It! rating.

The plot’s not new or unique; there are a number of films before The Mountain Between Us, which were popular with filmgoers including Cast Away and Alive. This movie like others of its type shares the survivors’ painstaking efforts to stay alive.

Also, like Hollywood films in general, it makes sure that dogs are unharmed. While Ben and Alex ration the food from the crash and what they are able to scavenge, while showing the effects of not having enough to eat, the dog somehow always seems well fed and full of energy.

The writers do their best to help viewers get to know Ben and Alex but with only modest success. Great writers develop individuals so rich and full that moviegoers could pass tests on the personalities of the characters in the film. However, Ben and Alex remain enigmas.

While not giving too much away, the story does develop in a way that ultimately works.

This is an interracial pairing, yet race is never an issue or even discussed in the film.

The Mountain Between Us gets an “A” for diversity. Obviously, there is a person of color in a leading role; however, there are others in supporting roles.

It’s rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, peril, injury images, and brief strong language. The Mountain Between Us is 103 minutes in length and is a film you should see.


American Made is Made Just Right [MOVIE REVIEW]

Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), an unassuming TWA pilot, is married with kids when the CIA comes a knocking. He’s got the right stuff to fly arms to support Ronald Reagan’s attempt to thwart a growing communist threat in Central America. Seal also gains the attention of what will become the Medellin drug cartel. They figure that while the pilot flies guns surreptitiously from the U.S. to Central America and back, he could add some cocaine to his cargo. Seal eventually agrees. However, as the Bible warns, you can’t serve two masters. Ultimately, Seal’s double-dealing comes crashing down around him.

American Made is a convoluted but never boring film. And it works because Tom Cruise single-handedly makes it work. Barry Seals is actually a sleazy guy but Tom Cruise makes him an appealing character that viewers root for. On the other hand, Tom Cruise’s wife, Lucy, played by Sarah Wright, is supposed to be a small town girl who worked at the KFC when they met, the 5’9” blond, comes across just like what she actually is: a former model.

The movie shows just how government agencies are often at odds with each other. Here the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency are in constant conflict.

American Made gets an “A” for cast diversity. The film has a large number of Hispanic actors, as it should, with other performers of color included as well.

American Made is rated R for language and some sexuality/nudity including Tom Cruise mooning his family. It’s 115 minutes in length and Cruise makes American Made a See It!

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is Roundly Entertaining. [MOVIE REVIEW]

In 2014, Kingsman: The Secret Service introduced filmgoers to the international intelligence agency operating at the highest levels of diplomatic, scholarly, and gentlemanly behavior with the ultimate goal of keeping the world safe.

In the 2017 version, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the heroes from the first film (Taron Egerton as Eggsy; Colin Firth is Harry Hart; Michael Strong plays Merlin) face a new challenge with a drug kingpin (Julianne Moore) set on not only manufacturing and selling her products, she wants them as socially acceptable as alcohol. She gets the Kingsman’s attention by destroying their headquarters and targeting their leadership. To bring the villain down, the Kingsman team up with a previously unknown to them American operation called the Statesman, an old, well respected whisky making organization with Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry playing operatives. They have their own agenda but agree with the Kingsman that the dealer must be dealt with quickly and severely.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle thoroughly entertains and it’s a See It!

It follows some of the tried and true techniques for action films, like beginning with an intense, theatrical battle. Despite a vicious fight with multiple, likely bone crushing blows landing to his body and face, Eggsy goes unmarked and his perfectly fitting suit, untarnished.

Also, there’s plenty of split-second lifesaving events and, technology, like vicious mechanical dogs.

The film also raises such questions as: would ground up human beings look like ground beef? Would America have a dishonest man as president?

As to the cast, the performances are fittingly appropriate. None of the roles require any great acting range.

When the Kingsman travels to Kentucky to meet the Statesman, the background music is Take Me Home Country Roads which is actually about West Virginia. But I guess to the British - Kentucky, West Virginia – what’s the difference?

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, cast diversity wise, gets a “B+”. This is a movie set in the cloak and dagger world of the United Kingdom and U.S. which is primarily a white male environment. However, Halle Berry has a major supporting role as the character, Ginger, in the Statesman’s organization. And there are other people of color in smaller roles.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout and some sexual material. And my common complaint about films: too long. At 2 hours and 21 minutes, its 21 minutes too long.

However, Kingsman: The Golden Circle gets our highest rating, See It!, because it’s powerfully entertaining!

A Young Mother! Didn’t Do Her Job [MOVIE REVIEW]

A woman (Jennifer Lawrence) and her middle-aged, successful writer, husband (Javier Bardem) celebrate moving into their large, newly renovated, remotely located, early 20th century home. That evening – unexpectedly - there’s a knock at the door. A physician (Ed Harris) has been told that the couple’s home is a bed and breakfast. The doctor recognizes the writer whose work he deeply admires. The two bond over drinks. The doctor accepts the writer’s invitation to stay over. His wife not exactly thrilled about a stranger staying the night. The next day the doctor’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives with the intent of staying for a while. Things go from strange to outright bizarre when the couples’ adult sons show up to confront their parents over the terms of their father’s will.

This is the start of an invasion of the household by a series of strangers with the husband comfortable with the arrivals.

Mother! is a bad film! And, it is Dead on Arrival! It starts with the all-too-common big, old, isolated house as the setting. I guess scary things just can’t happen in a big city high-rise. The early scenes feature Ms. Lawrence in teasingly revealing nightwear. And for some reason, and maybe the symbolism escapes me, but she’s barefoot in every scene; even when she’s walking around a dirty basement.

The cinematography scheme shoots the actors very closely, possibly to create a sense of intimacy between them and the audience.

The film develops where the viewer, like the wife, try to figure out the abnormal goings on which don’t bother the husband. Is he naïve or just overly generous, or insensitive or clueless in accepting an increasingly large number of “guests” into their house? As more people arrive the more bizarre events become.

Ultimately, all of these highly perplexing happenings have to be explained. And in the end, they are not. This failure results in this film’s failure.

The performances are adequate; except for Michelle Pfeiffer who is outstanding as the catty, doctor’s wife. However, in horror films, it’s the story itself which is the star.

As to the diversity rating, the film gets an “A”. The story is such that the cast is as diverse as could be expected in light of the remote, rural setting.

But by not tying up its loose ends and not giving the viewers the satisfactory explanation of what they just saw, Mother! you failed! And you are Dead on Arrival!

Mother! is two hours and one minute in length and is rated R.

Patti Cake$ is a tasty dessert [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s not only hard out here for a pimp, it’s also tough for a young struggling would-be rapper named Patti (Danielle MacDonald). She’s the primary breadwinner in her household which includes her grandmother whose respiratory system is ravaged by decades of smoking and her mother who also has dreams of singing stardom. Between working a series of low-end jobs, Patti does everything she can to advance her career. And she’s not alone in her visions of fame; there’s Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), an East Indian pharmacy tech who’s just as fascinated with rap as she is.

So you have a chubby blonde girl and her Indian sidekick in hot pursuit of becoming part of rap royalty. They can write and rhyme but their team becomes complete when they come across a black kid, Anti-Christ (Mamoudou Athie) who has a functional recording studio in the remote shack where he lives. They create a demo tape which gives them a product to promote.

Patti Cake$ is a production that has a lot to overcome to make it work. And it does overcome. Patti Cake$ is a See it!

It starts with the film’s writer/director, Geremy Jasper. Patti’s lyrics had to be solid, credible rhymes - with rhythm. They are. There’s a saying: write what you know. Geremy is a video music director. He knows and understands this genre. Next, Danielle MacDonald, a native of Australia, had to master the craft. She does. Her rapping is smooth, natural, and authentic. Her ability and familiarity with rap reflect the universal appeal of black America’s music. Rebel Wilson of the Pitch Perfect film series, who is also Australian, said her favorite song growing up was Jump! by Kris Kross, which reached No. 1 in the land down under. And you should “Believe dat”.

The film features the necessary debate as to Patti’s right to rap. While working as a server at a private party hosted by a rap legend, she bursts into a performance as he sits alone waiting for his guests to arrive. He is thoroughly unimpressed and accuses her of abducting a culture that is not hers. She also gets fired.

Another part of Patti Cake$’s successful recipe is the quirky but perfect performances of costars, Siddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie. However, Athie’s character keeps very expensive recording equipment in his shack where it could easily be stolen. Coupled with the fact that much equipment requires at least a 440 electrical system, unlikely wiring for that hovel, makes that part of the storyline dubious at best.

This film gets an “A” for cast diversity. The cast reflects both the working class white community Patti lives in and the rap world which has a primarily black following with a substantial number of fans of other races.

Ultimately, Patti Cake$ works because it combines an interesting story, strong acting and absolutely, necessary credibility from a white girl effectively performing what is considered a black art form.

Patti Cake$ is 108 minutes and rated R for strong language throughout, crude sexual references, some drug use and a brief nude image. And it gets our highest rating, See It!

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