Rhode Island’s own Viola Davis teams with the late Chadwick Boseman to bring August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to the screen in this …
Rhode Island’s own Viola Davis teams with the late Chadwick Boseman to bring August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” to the screen in this powerful tale of racism and hardships for black musicians back in the ’30s. Blues singer Ma Rainey is one tough lady, filled with anger and resentment toward the white men who control her career making money off her recordings while underpaying her for her work. She strikes back by being arrogant, impudent and impossible to work with. There’s a poignant scene
as Ma insists that her stuttering nephew introduce her on the record. She arrives late for her recording session, refuses to sing until her agent brings her the Coke she asked for, and insists on singing her versions of the songs.
She acts out like she is in control, but in reality she is not. Neither are her band nor the talented trumpet player and songwriter (Boseman) whom she constantly challenges. There is a lot of dialogue in the confining basement rehearsal room, as each has a story to tell about their difficult life in the south. There is a moment of violence that culminates those years. And there is an epilogue that illustrates the blatant racial injustice that dominated
the music industry. Wilson’s writing is cutting edge, and Davis and Boseman do it poetic justice. While not always easy to watch, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is theater at its best, brought to the screen with great care and emotion.
Michael Shannon stars as an FBI negotiator who becomes physically and emotionally involved in the Branch Dividian standoff led by David Koresh back in 1993. Netflix is at its best when portraying actual events, taking a few liberties to embellish the facts, and making those events real again. “Waco” is no exception. Filled with tension, the story shows many sides of the situation as it escalates out of control over 51 long days. It is a warning tale that needs reminding, and also needs to be seen by young people who do not know it. Seventy-six men, women and children died in the out-of- control showdown, and the blame can be shared by all involved.
Sacha Baron Cohen stars as Eli Cohen, an Arab Jew who is recruited as a spy for the Israeli government and
sent to Syria. Based on a true event back in the 1960s, the limited series follows Cohen as he works his way into the military and government, gaining their trust to the point of being considered for Minister of Defense. The movie is dark and violent at times, and would be hard to believe if it were not based on a true event.
If you like ballet, you will enjoy the dance in this series, which takes place in a prestigious Chicago school of dance. While the dance and music are exciting to watch, the story gets a bit soap operaish at times. And the young performers are better dancers than actors. The series opens with a top dancer who is not popular jumping or being pushed off the roof, remaining in a coma while a policewoman tries to determine if she fell or who pushed her. Everyone has secrets, and things do not always appear as they are in this inside look at the negative side of the world of ballet. Competition is heavy and dancers will go to any means to move out of the background and into the lead. At theWarwick Showcase
***½ (Joyce) *** (Don)
Michael Ealy stars as a Derrick Tyler, a wealthy businessman who strays from his seven-year marriage for a one-night stand with a woman he meets in a bar. His home is broken into and he confronts the perpetrators, only to be questioned by the police. And who turns out to be the chief investigator? The woman he had spent the night with. Hilary Swank is terrific as the psycho detective with ulterior motives who involves poor Derrick in herattempt to gain back her daughter from her ex-husband. Sound interesting? It gets deeper as a number of twists and turns will make your head spin. Joyce liked the intricacies of the plot, while I found it a bit too much at times. What also bothered me was the overpowering background music. We both enjoyed Swank’s chilling performance. Rated R with sex, profanity and violence.
(Good action and effects; dragged-out story) We first meet Wonder Woman as a young girl competing in an ancient Roman “Ninja Warrior” event. Action then swings to 1984, where she assumes the role of Diana, a museum curator, hiding her superpowers and taking on the bad guys in a wild and exciting mall scene. The movie then slows to a crawl as a complicated plot is developed around a con artist oil magnate who steals an ancient stone with superpowers. Kristen Wiig is good as Diana’s friend and co-worker who turns into the nasty Cheetah, teaming up with the evil Maxwell Lord to dominate the world and control the minds and wishes of its citizens.
It gets a bit out of sync and could use a bit of editing, as the story drags on for well over two hours before the big showdown where Wonder Woman saves the world and we are left with hope for the future. (Not a bad ending for what’s going on in the world in 2020.) Chris Pine shows up as Diana’s former lover, but he is just excess baggage.
The effects are good, especially a scene where Wonder Woman takes on a convoy of trucks and tanks. DC Comics fans will enjoy the patented plot and characters. I found it a bit tedious. Joyce stayed home. So did lots of other folks, who have chosen to watch it on HBO Max.
(Delightful children’s story brought to life) This delightful old tale brought back memories of my favorite book as a child. “The Adventures of Pinocchio” are brought to life in a stunning, colorful wonderland of strange creatures who surround the puppet who wanted to be a boy. The movie is blessed with a wonderful performance by Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, the Italian woodcarver who creates Pinocchio. We miss his presence as his puppet runs away and we need to wait until they meet again in the belly of a whale and find their way back home. As a child, I remember my mother telling me that mynose will grow long if I tell a lie, just like Pinocchio. We watch this happen in a charming scene. We also watch him being turned into a mule, a scene filled with excitement and delight. I thought the two-hour movie slowed down in the middle, but Joyce disagreed, being mesmerized by the
pastel colors and delightful characters that Pinocchio encountered. And there’s that moment when the puppet becomes a real boy! Take the kids and grandkids to see this one.