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: SUPPORT THE GIRLS (USA 2018)

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Support the Girls Poster
Trailer

The general manager at a highway-side ”sports bar with curves” has her incurable optimism and faith, in her girls, her customers, and herself, tested over the course of a long, strange day.

Director:

Andrew Bujalski

 

What is worse that working under an unreasonable boss?  A reasonable boss having to support all of his or her employees.  This is the premise of SUPPORT THE GIRLS, a film with the appropriate themed title that centres on an angel (but with a foul mouth) who supervises a burger and beer joint called “Double Whammies”.  This is not a strip club but the staff are scantly clad, which is a formula for trouble.  But the “Double Whammies” franchise is not that far out an idea.  Toronto has “Hooters” a franchise which is basically the same thing.

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the mother-hen manager of “Double Whammies”.  When the film opens, the audience sees her at work.  She is faced with a number of problems while hiring a few new girls.  There is a man stuck in the duct, some guy trying to break into the place – a good idea at that time.  At work, she has to find a babysitter for one of the other girls, organize a fundraiser to support one of the girls in distress and a cable outage just before the big fight when business is expected to pick up.  “You are the best manager ever, ” Lisa is complemented by one of the staffers in the film.  Lisa runs the place so that there is zero tolerance for abuse.  Touching and insulting are not allowed.  She does not need to call the cops as the cops are usually present in the venue as customers.

Of all the dramatic set-ups, the best segment is the one where a biker calls one of her waitresses fat.  She forces him to apologize or get kicked out of the place.  This scene caused a stir in the audience when the film debuted at SXSW 2018.  It is always a pleasure to watch an asshole, especially a female abuser get his comeuppance.  There are a number of rules that must be followed at “Double Whammies”, the first of which is “No Drama”.  How can one keep that one?   Lisa complains to the ass-hole owner of the place.

The soundtrack is mixed including some rap and Motown music.

Regina Hall holds her own playing Lisa.  Also starring as the wait-staff are Haley Lu Richardson as the cheery pro, Shayna McHayle (aka music artist Junglepussy) as the unflappable vet and Dylan Gelula as the newcomer who’d like to sleaze things up a bit.

The film is summed up by Lisa’s point of view expressed at an interview for a job at Man Cave.  The film’s climax has two staffers screaming at the top of their voices from a rooftop with Lisa looking on.  Their screeching voices are nothing short of irritating.  What should be an exhilarating segment turns out the complete opposite.   What was director Bujalki thinking?

SUPPORT THE GIRLS, good intentions aside (the film stresses the message of respect) runs down the predictable route.  Nothing really expected or surprising is in the script which he also wrote.

Recommended maybe for the staff of “Hooters”!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp-8oB53P7k

 

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Movie Review: BARBERSHOP – THE NEXT CUT

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barbershop_the_next_cut.jpgBARBERSHOP – THE NEXT CUT (USA 2016) **
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

Starring: Ice Cube, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson, Cedric the Entertainer, JB Smoove, Common, Nicki Minaj, Sean Patrick Thomas

Review by Gilbert Seah

The fourth instalment of the BARBERSHOP films (counting the spin-off BEAUTY SHOP) has Calvin’s Barbershop in South side Chicago doing their usual shenanigans. Calvin’s Barbershop is owned by Calvin (Ice Cube), of course with his partner Angie (Regina Hall).

This time around, the all male barbershop has incorporated female hairdressers as well. This gives the script an excess to lots of verbal battle of the sexes – all mediated of course by Calvin. The ensemble cast has lots of comedic material here to show their stuff.

As there are many characters in the film, the film includes several parallel stories in the plot, all of seemingly equal importance.
The main one involves Calvin relationship with his coming-of-age son.

Calvin’s son is about to join a gang, obviously not realizing how fortunate he is tom have his parent’s love and care. Another tied-on plot addresses the violence of Chicago. Too many kids are killed everyday due to gang related crimes. The barbershop decides to do something about it by offering free weekend haircuts to create a ceasefire. Other subplots involve Rashad (Common) fooling around with Draya (Nicki Minaj) under the eyes of his suspicious wife. Calvin is also in the process of buying property north and to move his barbershop to a safer place. All these plots are loosely tied together and are intercut as if the director is a traffic cop.

The blend of drama and comedy does not mix well. Ice Cube appears to be in Tyler Perry mode, being too preachy and trying to be goody-two-shoes in the African American community.

It takes a full third of the film to get its footing. The first third clumsily re-introduces all the characters of the barbershop, most of whom the audience have forgotten as the last barbershop film was made about 10 years back. The last part gets too sentimental and preachy and all the good intentions appear a bit too much.

But the film contains a few good comedic set ups. When the film just lets the actors loose and do their thing, it generates the most laughs. One is Nicki Minaj shaking and showing off her booty. The bit where all the employees in the barbershop break out into an impromptu dance is extremely well done with Common stealing the show with his break-dancing. Cedric the Entertainer is always very funny and is the funniest barber in the shop. Ice Cube proves again he can do both serious and comedy.

But the film should cater more to African Americans. For others, the accent is a bit difficult to follow and a few jokes will go above the heads on non-black audiences. But BARBERSHOP fans should not be disappointed with this entry. The film is tagged to be number two this weekend following THE JUNGLE BOOK.

 

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