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Movie Corner: Last Night in Soho

Movie Corner: Last Night in Soho

Universal (2021) ★★★★★ By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Last Night in Soho to its credit is quite spellbinding, thanks in large part to cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung (who also is the cinematographer with director Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz . What director Edgar Wright does convincingly well is how he segues genres, drama, horror and mystery. Adding to this fascinating film is a tribute to many 1960s rock/R&B songs. (The title for Last Night in Soho is a reference to a 1960s rock band, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich.)             The story begins with a young woman, Eloise (Thomasin McKenkie from JoJo Rabbit), with big aspirations to go London to be a fashion designer but not without a warning about moving to the big city from Peggy (Rita Tushingham). Eloise loves 60s music and styles. Her first nights are in the dorm with some other students who love to party and go to bars. She feels out of place but she does go to the bars with them. Eloise, not satisfied living with the other students, rents a second-floor apartment from an old landlady (Diana Rigg).        But before long, Eloise begins to have strange dreams (some might say hallucinations, or maybe reincarnation) about a woman named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), from the 1960s, with aspirations to be a famous singer. But Eloise is pulled into these dreams like a spectator as this glamorous blonde goes into her performances, seemingly gliding through with singing and dancing before crowds and louche men. However, these dreams become darker leaving her to believe she's no longer a spectator, but something more sinister. She wants to find out what really happened to the promising talented woman. But a clue may be on the way from her landlady who, attempting to ease Eloise's agitation, remarks, "This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building..." And Eloise remembers what Peggy warned her [...]

Something I Said: Mario and Melvin

Something I Said: Mario and Melvin

By DWIGHT HOBBES The original title of Mario Van Peebles’ Baadasssss! (Sony Pictures, 2003) was How To Get The Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass, entirely fitting for the social commentary his father Melvin Van Peebles’ film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (Yeah, Inc., 1971) put forth in a time when grassroot black America had grown sick and tired of this country kicking us around to keep us down. Indeed, Baadasssss! is a dramatized, making of historic document, looking at what went into Melvin returning the favor and putting his foot in American cinema’s behind, profoundly challenging its cherished tenet of supremacist propaganda. There is a reason, after all, The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense lauded it, in Huey Newton's words as "the first truly revolutionary…" that, in the opening credits, starred "The Black Community," It became required viewing for Party members. There is the same reason Bill Cosby, who’d narrated CBS’ Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed three years earlier, stepped in with a $50,000 loan to complete funding after Columbia Studios suits turned their backs and left production high and dry. Neither was going to see this landmark depiction of black reality go by the wayside. The days of demeaning portrayals of mammies and shiftless men were done. There was a downside. It pried the door loose for Spike Lee, which continued to revolutionize cinema, but also ushered in an era of the new, “blaxploitation” stereotype: studs and sexpots – even if scores of actors did get work. These days it no longer turns the world upside down when black filmmakers including, finally, female producers and directors have something serious to say. For which we can thank a scrappy brother - the late Melvin Van Peebles - who made history on a shoestring budget of $150,000 (unfortunately bouncing a check to then-fledgling Earth, Wind & Fire) in just under three weeks. We can also be grateful to Mario Van Peebles for honoring that [...]

Movie Corner: Melvin Van Peebles

Movie Corner: Melvin Van Peebles

He's the ManMelvin Van Peebles (1932-2021) Melvin Van Peebles. Photo by John Matthew Smith By HOWARD McQUITTER II The African American filmmaker-actor Melvin Van Peebles, a fiercely independent filmmaker, could make memorable and remarkable films on a shoestring budget such as the 1971 bombshell film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song about a Black pimp who kills two policemen for beating up a Black militant and how he eludes law enforcement. (His son Mario, is also an actor/director.) And with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, in particular, but in conjunction with his body of work (his directorial debut is Watermelon Man in Hollywood), the man is often known as the "Godfather of Black cinema". (The late Black director Gordon Parks is also a modern pioneer of Black cinema.) Mr. Melvin Van Peebles graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a B. A. in 1953. He decided to travel heavily in Europe, Mexico and the United States taking on jobs such as postal worker, painter, street performer and for a while in the air force. Fluent in French, while he lived in Paris he wrote several French-language novels, including La Permission (1967), turning it into his first feature film. The genre is a romantic drama released in France, and in the United States (as The Story of a Three-day Pass) the next year. Van Peebles in Hollywood used largely nonprofessional actors and technicians, usually African Americans. He fit well in the blaxploitation era drawing huge success with African American audiences and drawing much criticism from many white critics. Violence, nudity, scurrility, gangs and drugs dominated much of not onlySweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, but in many blaxploitation films by him or other directors. But what's often misunderstood by many viewers - both Black and white - of blaxploitation films, the messages are really anti-drug in nature. Feeding into the backdrop of Van Peebles' films, as well as other blaxploitation directors, is whatever [...]

Nobody

Nobody

MOVIE CORNER By HOWARD MCQUITTER II Universal Pictures Nobody Action/Crime/Thriller Universal Pictures   ★★★☆ By Howard McQuitter II Needless to say, Nobody is that movie where in real time safety is an issue never guaranteed, much less respected in an era of dystopia, reining in all subjects whether they like it or not. Crime is such, whether serious or petty, that doesn't stop at the sleepy-eyed white suburbs. Hutch (Bob Odenkirk from TV series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) is a quiet hard-working gentleman with his wife Becca Mansell (Connie Niesen) and children. Perhaps his worst frustration is missing the garbage man every Tuesday. However one night, while Hutch and his family sleeps, two robbers stage a home invasion. He holds one robber off with a golf club and forces the other to step back before they steal some cash and his daughter's kitty-cat bracelet. Well, the theft of the kitty-cat bracelet sets him off. Not long after Hutch's house invasion, he comes to the rescue of a lone adolescent girl on a city bus from thugs harassing her. Hutch makes the thugs pay in the physical way. What's unknown to him at the time is one of the baddies he's punished is the younger brother of Yulian Kuznetsov (Alesksei Serebryakov), a cold-hearted Russian mobster who loves to party. Yulian visits the hospital to find out who did the damage on the bus. But before Yulian sends his heavily-armed men to Hutch's house , Hutch hustles his family away to a convenient shelter in the basement. Then all hell breaks loose as gunfire and severe violence ensue. When Yulian's goons go after Hutch's eldely father in a nursing home , the ex-FBI agent (Christopher Lloyd) turns the tide on them.         Nobody  is worth seeing if only for Bob Odenkirk who carries the movie. The testosterone is high until the bland end. Cast: Bob Odenkirk (Hutch Mansell), Conne [...]

Ninja Assassin

Ninja Assassin

By Howard McQuitter II Demon from Hell surprises Raizo (Rain) and his party of men and some women in a warehouse suite slaughtering the men except Raizo, of course, the main character. From the opening scenes, the body count begins to soar and so does the martial arts in conjunction with sanguineous displays. Raizo is raised in an orphanage where the caretakers treat the children like slaves even murdering children deemed as traitors. The orphanage is run by a cruel master Lord Ozuni (Sho Kosugi) to whom Raizo becomes his archenemy. Raizo strikes out on his own but one thinks Lord Ozuni instills in him: hate all weakness. Raizo rents a large apartment with spare furnishings where he can practice his martial arts Raizo, unlikely ally Agent Mika Coretti (Naomi Harris), find themselves in dangerous circumstances as ninjas seem to be coming from all directions. Her cohort Agent Ryan Maslow (Ben Miles) reluctant to believe early in the goings Raizo is the “good guy.” The ninjas Raizo is up against are unconscionable hired killers to steal 100 pounds of gold. (Why not go for gold the dollar is nearly worthless nowadays?] Raizo is a stealthy character who will face his nemesis, Lord Ozunu. Rain shirtless (remember Sylvester Stallone”'s excellent physique “First Blood,” “Rocky, “ “Rambo:First Blood, Part 2,” etc.) packs an impressive physique with a nice six-pack of abs to go. Lots of kicking butts (literally) largely what martial arts pictures are about but do not expect anymore than a whimsical story. Howard may be reached by email. Check out his website.