Film Review: THE HATE U GIVE (USA 2018) ***

The Hate U Give Poster
Trailer

Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

Writers:

Audrey Wells (screenplay by), Angie Thomas (based upon the novel by)

The film earns its title THE HATE U GIVE from the very early scene in which an ex-con father, Maverick, just released from prison instructs his two children, daughter Starr (Amandla Stenberg) and son on the black person’s code as well as the survival technique when confronted by a cop, especially a white one.  When accosted, both hands must be in full view of the cop, so that he does not become nervous and reach for his weapon.  This Starr commits to memory.  Later in the film when she and friend Khalil (Algee Smith) get pulled over for not signalling a turn, she puts her training into practice.  Khalil, however reaches for his hair brush and ends up

shot by the cop.  Both the cop and Starr are shocked.  The riots and protests that occur when the white cop goes free is what propels the film’s story.

This is a story right out of today’s headlines – cops’s misuse of authority; minorities targeted; cops acquitted, riots etc. etc.

Based on Angie Thomas’s award-winning bestseller, THE HATE U GIVE is as urgent and gripping as its source material, with performances that deepen the impact.  It is time and again that a cop shoots an innocent person dead.  So common is this news that most of what occurs on screen often seem cliched.  The common things that come to mind is “We have seen all this happen, time and again.” 

Angie Thomas’ novel makes the story personal and does its best to have the readers and the audience identify with the protagonist.  Starr Carter (Stenberg) lives two lives.  In her working-class neighbourhood, she is Starr Version One, at home among family and friends, just being her teenage Black girl self.  At school she is Version Two, code-switching her speech and behaviour to fit in with the rich, white world of her classmates.  One night back in the neighbourhood she reconnects with her childhood sweetheart, Khalil who is shot dead with her as the key witness.  There are only two witnesses: the police officer and Starr.  Caught between worlds at a time when she is still working out who she is, Starr struggles to make the right choices. Should she testify or keep the code of silence demanded by the neighbourhood drug lord (Anthony Mackie)? Should she listen to her uncle Carlos (Common), a police officer who urges her to trust the justice system? And what can she say to her friends at school?

These questions are dealt with to some detail which makes the film interesting.  Chris, Starr’s new boyfriend is too kind and obliging for credibility.  Director Tillman is also quick to manipulate his film for the purpose of crowd pleasing.    When Starr video records the rough house attics the cops pull on her father,  the film is quick to have her utter the words “I have to right to record this.”  These lines got loud cheers from the audience at the screening I attended.  There are two other similar segments in the movie that got the audience applauding.  The ways the cops mistreat the blacks are also too well geared to anger the back folk.  The white characters are mostly easy targets for a angry black audience which makes the film seem even more manipulative.  But Starr’s charter is at lest to shown to be perfect.  Her character is allowed to get angry and hurl a rock at the cops during an angry protest scene.

Stenberg displays sufficient range of emotions to serve her character.  Anthony Mackie is almost too good-looking to portray the bad guy drug King-pin.  Common’s cop is well written character that offers a cop’s point of view.

THE HATE U GIVE ends up a well orchestrated film, the only flaws being it being too manipulative, predictable and a crowd pleaser.  This film contains as a result no surprises and no new insight.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MM8OkVT0hw

Film Review: THE DARKEST MINDS (USA 2018)

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The Darkest Minds Poster
Trailer

Imprisoned by an adult world that now fears everyone under 18, a group of teens form a resistance group to fight back and reclaim control of their future.

Writers:

Chad Hodge (screenplay by), Alexandra Bracken (based upon the novel by)

 

The first of a trilogy, THE DARKEST MINDS is a young adult sci-fi action movie similar to films like the THE HUNGER GAMES, DIVERGENT series that made a whole lot of money for Lionsgate.  20th Century Fox (or Disney for that matter) obviously hopes for the same.  But THE DARKEST MINDS is quite the disappointment.

The premise  involves a devastating disease abbreviated IAAN, whatever it stands for.  

98% of the children are dead and the 2% surviving develop powers that no one understands.  The audience witnesses only one of these deaths though millions have occurred in the world in a school cafeteria of all places.  The film gets worse.  Poor African American Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) sees the poor girl die and the film suddenly focuses on Ruby.  Ruby has some powers that cause her to be taken, again like all the other children in the world to concentration camp like hospital centres to be cured of the powers.  Apparently the government wants to harvest these powers for their own army to fight against …..?  This part is never explained.  There are several levels of powers possessed by children, colour coded.  Ruby is orange which means she has the rare highest of the powers and those with orange are to be eliminated by death – a case of adults scared of the unknown.  (The future is orange!  Joke for the British.)

   One can hardly blame director Nelson whose other credits are the two KUNG FU PANDA animated features which were not half bad.  So one could blame the source martial or the kind of film she had been instructed to direct.  Based on the story described, THE DARKEST MINDS could be a real scary horror/satire involving the end of the world.  Instead, it turns out to be young adult fantasy that despite a few good ideas (like the colour coded powers) no one believes in.  

The film poses lots of unanswered questions.  Questions like: Why do all the parents not care about their children?  How did the disease originate?  What is the reason for the superpowers?  The synopsis in wikipedia describes a vicious bounty hunt by the name of Lady Jane which only appears briefly in the film.  The character must have been either edited out of the film or perhaps she appears in the sequel.

It is hard to describe the film’s best scene as there are none.  The film’s worst scene has the two leads declare their love for each other in a long 5 minute sequence that keeps them babbling sweet nothings to the audience’s yawns.

To the director’s credit, the film was made on a modest $38 million, looks acceptable and probably satisfies the studios.  She has some good images on screen, like the raised coloured hands at the end of the film signalling sequels to come.  I would like to quote a line used by the late Toronto film critic, John Harkness from NOW Magazine to describe the Hulk Hogan film he hated: “Recommended for backward children.”, a line that got him into a lot of trouble for writing, but for obvious reasons I will not use it for this film.  THE DARKEST MINDS shows a little promise and is interesting in certain parts, but could have been a much better start of the trilogy.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tN8o_E_f9FQ

 

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Film Review: EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING (USA 2017)

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everything_everything.jpgA teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door.

Director: Stella Meghie
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay), Nicola Yoon (based on the book by)
Stars: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is the kind of film that teenagers in love would flock to see. It falls in line with the most awful films of the 70’s like THE BLUE LAGOON, YOU LIGHT MY LIFE and S.W.A.L.K. Young lovers fall in love despite all odds and love conquers all. All logic should be thrown to the wind.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING based on the book by Nicola Yoon tells the story of Madeline Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) suffering from some immune deficiency. It can hardly be believed that a book was actually written with this storyline. Any Harlequin paperback would have sufficed and been more believable. The deficiency (referred to as SID – severe immune deficiency in the film), as explained in Maddy’s voiceover prevents her from being exposed to the outside world. She lives in a locked and sealed glass house, with only her mother (Anika Noni Rose) and angelic private nurse, Carla (Ariana Grande) (a latino for political correctness) being her only human contacts.

So what happens? She falls in love with the new neighbour, Olly (Nick Robinson), gets the courage to leave the house and lives happily ever after with no more illness. How does this state of affairs happen? If you really need to know, it is best to read a review with the spoiler than watch this totally bore of a movie. After the first 10 minutes, I was dying for the film to end. No pun intended!

Worst of all, the audience is ‘treated’ to a trip to Hawaii. Apparently Maddy is smart enough to use mother’s credit cards or hack the internet to buy plane tickets for Hawaii and her Olly. They arrive in Hawaii. Lo and behold, they are able to travel in a jeep (courtesy of credit cards) and stay in a stunning resort by the sea. They go swimming and jump off cliffs.

The story skips the details of Olly’s life. The audience sees Olly beaten up by his father. The mother finally separates and leaves with the family to NYC. How can Olly’s family afford such a beautiful home next to Maddy with no solid income?

The attempted political inter-racial romance does not work either. The kissing scenes look awkward. At least the audience is spared from any graphic sex scenes. Kissing is as far as the romance goes. Of course, there is a lot of hugging and shots of smooth teenage skin.

It would have helped if the script by J. Mills Goodloe was at least a bit funny. The only humour present is Ollie’s lame attempts to amuse Maddy through the window. His antics of dropping of cakes as a joke looks more silly than funny. The use of the astronaut as a symbol for Maddy’s seclusiveness is odd. Whenever the couple communicate by text, the film shows them in ridiculous settings, like in a library or in outer space.

One thing that one might do when watching the film is to take out paper and list all the loopholes in the story. Bring lots of paper!
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING has absolutely nothing to offer in terms of insight into young love, the sickness or family drama. EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING is totally lame in all departments – acting, story, pacing, direction and writing.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42KNwQ6u42U
 

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Happy Birthday: Amandla Stenberg

amandlastenberg.jpgAmandla Stenberg

Born: October 23, 1998 in Los Angeles, California, USA

I come from a very musical family. My dad taught me to play guitar. I play violin and drums as well. Violin, I started in elementary school. Drums actually came when I was in a program called ‘Rock Star,’ which was really awesome. We were doing a song by the Ramones, so I thought, ‘Why not play the drums?’

 

 

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