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Topics - stanleyballard

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Latest Flicks / Parasite- international Film
« on: October 23, 2019, 03:35:01 pm »
Excellent presentation here with a big story with equal parts filled with humor and tragedy with deeper messages throughout this epic film.  It does have sub titles but the overall subject matter and execution is worth every minute because this film almost feels like something from decades past in American cinema when movies featured powerful actors, stronger scripts and top notch directors. 

Possibly the best movie of 2019.

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Latest Flicks / The Mule by Clint Eastwood
« on: March 02, 2019, 08:39:39 am »
Top notch screenplay and directing from Eastwood who is 88 years old!  This is an old school tale that slides in with a few surprises and even social commentary.  A dynamic cast delivers on all fronts and a timely story that many won't see coming.  Mr. Eastwood is a master at the game and a bonafide actor/director.

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Latest Flicks / The Mule
« on: January 07, 2019, 08:20:52 am »
Excellent work from Clint Eastwood here both as Director and actor with gritty, realistic tones and subject matter revolving around crime, race, family dynamics and politics.  Again, Eastwood sets the bar for this genre as he has done throughout his career.

It doesn't get any better than Eastwood!

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Latest Flicks / Whitney Houston Documentary
« on: August 18, 2018, 11:57:39 am »
Saw this one weeks ago and was so saddened by her life as told by Cissy Houston, her brothers, Bobby Brown and others.  Hardcore facts about her molestation by a family member were shocking and the open admission of her homosexuality and drug usage.

Most shocking was her reaction to Blacks booing her when she went straight pop- remember that time and could understand the audience because I felt the same in 87 to 88.  She knew she was trying to appeal to Whites with “I Want To Dance With Somebody”- no question.  Also Bobby defended her legacy and proved to be much better than what many were lead to believe.

An insightful film on a pop icon.

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Latest Flicks / Denzel in “The Equalizer” II
« on: August 18, 2018, 11:41:42 am »
First sequel ever for one of the best actors in America brings more depth to the main character snd adds a few twists to a summer movie.  Mr Washington does his usual top notch delivery with a surprise tussle in the car convincingly played out to deadly results and a fantastic scene where the title character reconfigures the scene of the crime to full effect.

Arguably better than the first movie and definitely has more diversity, quiet political moments and nuance.

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Latest Flicks / The Black Panther
« on: February 03, 2018, 05:23:10 pm »
Priest saw the film and reviewed it without spoilers.

“Well, my date and I got stuck in LA traffic and almost missed it. But that story is for another time.

Despite toiling under the now very tired superhero movie formula (Act Three: The Hero Faces Off Against His Doppelganger!) director Ryan Coogler manages to pull off a few surprises– something I honestly did not think possible. This is not my Black Panther– it is a young king who is still learning and thus still growing and thus capable of being surprised in ways my T’Challa never could. Michael B. Jordan’s more linear and bombastic villain’s hip hop soundtrack tends to drown out Chadwick Boseman’s far more nuanced, surgical prince-who-would-be-king, so you’re likely to read lots of praises or complaints about Jordan “stealing” this movie. The actual thieves are the women– Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, and Lupita Nyong’o, who are given the most dynamic of the action scenes and who, along with an absolutely glorious Angela Bassett, solve all of the plot’s problems (including rescuing T’Challa)–which is both good and bad. But Jordan’s Killmonger is kind of an idiot. He is an idiot who has a legitimate case– real complaints and concerns about Wakandan tradition along with a thirst for simple revenge (revenge always works in plots)– but make no mistake about it: movie Killmonger is an idiot–something he was not in my comics.

While taking absolutely nothing away from Stan Lee, who was one of the people who taught me this biz, or Jack “King” Kirby, I was disappointed and a little disturbed by one thing. I would guess at least 80% of the characters up on that screen were created by Don McGregor, who was in attendance at last night’s premiere. Forget me or Reginald Hudlin or even Ta-Nehisi Coates (who sat with us), the vast and rich infrastructure of this film was a product of years of hard investment by Don, who was paid some paltry page rate. Don built the world of Wakanda, literally, maps of the place and extensive biographies and character sketches. He deserved much more than to be buried in a “Special Thanks” paragraph in the closing credits. Stan wrote, to my knowledge, only one Black Panther story, and Jack jettisoned virtually everything Don did when he did his own run on the book. Black Panther the movie is Don McGregor’s world brought to glorious life. I’d have liked him to have a larger credit for it (and better seats than waaaaay in the back with the rest of us peons).

There are at least four audiences for this film: Black Panther comic book fans, general comic book fans, African American general audiences and general audiences. This film offers high octane entertainment to all of these groups, but it will be the African American general audiences–who neither know nor care who I am–who will struggle the hardest to make it through the first act of this film without tearing up. The film’s glorious fairy tale of a highly advanced African civilization is enough to drop even the most cynical among us to our knees. A love letter to African Americans, the first half hour of this film had me wiping away tears at the sheer beauty of a people–my people–brought to glorious and amazing life in ways I never could on a static comic book page. Here, Black Panther finally had a soundtrack, and it is the soundtrack of my ancestors, my homeland. It was emotionally overwhelming and something I’d not quite prepared myself for.

There are many laugh out loud moments in the film but almost none of them come from Martin Freeman’s Everett K. Ross. Freeman does the best he can, often eliciting big laughs with simple body language and facial expressions–the mark of a master thespian. But the film gives Ross little to do and almost no lines, which will disappoint fans of my run while the other audiences will simply wonder what he was doing there in the first place.

Unfortunately, by either decree or simple fate, and despite my pleadings with the decision makers, Black Panther nonetheless sticks to formula. Are we really not capable of creating a film that resolves its core conflicts without the predictable big fight at the end? The best parts of the film–and there are many–are the places where Coogler is allowed to vary from this formula or, even better, practice a kind of slight of hand where he doesn’t really fool me so much as he waves a hand puppet, “Hey! Look over here!” distracting me long enough that when the film snaps back to formula I am actually surprised where I, a grizzled old writer, really shouldn’t have been.

All of the performances–including Freeman’s–are near-flawless. These are brilliant actors chewing scenery through each and every frame of this film. They all seem to know they are working on a landmark film–likely the biggest-budget blockbuster film with a mostly black cast, and every single actor here rises to the occasion.

While I’d have wished for much more originality in the final act of the film, I do not hold Mr. Coogler responsible for not reinventing the wheel. But I _am_ tired of watching the same movie over and over and over and over and over– And Then They Fight! I like even less the lesson these films repeatedly teach our children: conflict resolution through violence.

Having said that, I am overwhelmed by a sense of relief that the movie far exceeds my fears about what this thing might have been. It is an amazing spectacle with a rich, thick, multi-layered, often conflicted and expertly nuanced pseudo-Hamlet at the center–a brilliant performance that is bound to be overrun by Jordan’s more flamboyant, focused and bombastic challenger. My self-interest in the success of this film notwithstanding, I am confident the film will be a huge hit with African American audiences and certainly with comic book (and comic book film) fans, leaving only Priest-specific Black Panther fans a bit disappointed, and, of course, the Donald Trump crowd who will hate it even as they buy their ticket."

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Latest Flicks / Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing MO
« on: January 23, 2018, 05:29:36 pm »
Gritty film in rural America with unapologetic characters dealing with a brutal murder.  Brilliant acting fills some spaces where this film veers into arthouse movie territory- especially with its ending. But this one is unique and has a defining scene of dark humor that brings to the fore the deeper message of the entire work- it will make you think and it's not perfect.  Possibly the best movie of last year,

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Latest Flicks / Thor Ragnarok
« on: November 03, 2017, 12:54:16 pm »
Saw it last night and was blown away by its fresh take on Thor, Odin, Loki, Hela, The Hulk and Heimdal.  Very tight directing and phenomenal cinematography.  Loved the balance of humor with drama throughout the film and dare it be better than both its predecessors in scope and range?  Also just as good as any Iron Man or Captain America film.  All the actors gave dazzling performances.

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Latest Flicks / Crown Heights
« on: October 01, 2017, 09:27:52 pm »
Sobering film about the limits of freedom in America and the treachery of President Clinton is mentioned (he is the harshest President in current times on so called super predators making Trump look more innocent on the subject of imprisoning innocent men).  Solid performances streamline this harrowing tale of a man seeking justice in what is far too often called The United Snakes of America.

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Latest Flicks / Chasing Trane- John Coltrane Documentary
« on: May 26, 2017, 05:00:34 pm »
Saw this incredible work about Coltrane and was blown away.  A fine  VO from Denzel  Washington and equal contributions  from Coltrane's family make this into a riveting personal glimpse into a legend who we all should know and share information on now.  An inspiration.

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Latest Flicks / I'm Not Your Negro
« on: March 01, 2017, 07:21:04 am »
Stunningly relevant in 2017 with an unflinching James Baldwin speaking on issues of human rights issues and justice here in America.  Strange how the 60s Civil Rights Movement has brought us to eerily similar situations in modern times. 

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Both were talented and played their own instruments on records and live.  Rock was created by Little Richard and both groups incorporate elements of it with soul.  But who does it better?

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Books / Dark Alliance
« on: January 31, 2017, 12:10:42 pm »
Dark Alliance by Gary Webb details how President Reagan was responsible for the crack cocaine epidemic much more intensely than media outlets and the US government will admit- specifically through his Iran Contra deals and efforts to  control S. American countries.  Detailed narratives of all the smaller players like Oliver North and Freeway Rick Ross make this expose a haunting reveal of how crack cocaine was used to funnel millions to the contras at the expense of Black people.

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Latest Flicks / Spotlight
« on: November 12, 2015, 08:50:23 am »
Haunting film about religion, politics and pedophiles based on actual events in Boston and worldwide.  Superior performances from Stanley Tucci, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo make this project one of the best of 2015.  Best film.

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