Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Roxanne, Roxanne, or: Queen of Queens

March Madness continues with a throwback to the ’80s–chunky earrings, high-waisted jeans, and mink coats included.

The Film:

Roxanne, Roxanne

The Premise:

Roxanne Shante, a teen in 1980s Queens, paves the way for women in hip-hop as an overnight rap sensation.

The Ramble:

Initially facing off in rap battles to earn money for her family, Shante is unbeatable by the age of 9.  As she grows into her teens, she continues to compete to support her young sisters and struggling single mom, Peggy.  At least Shante has her bff, Ranita, who is essentially her DJ and hype (wo)man.

3

Things go from bad to worse when Peggy’s boyfriend runs off with the family’s savings.  Peggy, who has always been hard on Shante, leans on alcohol and bitterness to carry her through.  Shante rarely shows up for school as her focus is on keeping the family afloat.  According to her mom, no school = no home, and Shante must find another place to live before too long.

4.png

It’s not long before Shante returns, attempting to make money and keep up with chores.  As she is washing laundry, a neighbor asks her to do a quick recording in his studio.  They do a single take, and history is made–seemingly overnight, Shante is a rap star.

7.png

As Shante’s success takes off, she enjoys the ride but makes almost no money from her endeavors.  She happily takes gifts from fans, but has a falling out with her DJ over it.  During this time, Shante’s long-term relationship with the waaaaaaaaaay older Cross begins to unravel as he becomes increasingly abusive.

Will Shante rise above these challenges and find success, peace, or all of the above?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh, this was a bit of non-story in terms of plot.  Shante’s story is worth telling, but the way it’s told here could be more compelling.  Chanté Adams, Nia Long, and Mahershala Ali all stand out in their roles, though I really hated what a sleaze Cross was.  It’s hard to watch Cross treat Shante so badly for so much of this film.  We don’t ever really get inside of Shante’s head–perhaps as a survival technique, she remains quite aloof.

That being said, I do love the relationship between Shante and her bff, as well as a very brief scene between Shante and her “rival” Sparky D.  I think I could’ve gotten behind this more with a focus on those strong female bonds, but instead we see Shante’s dysfunctional relationships dominate the story.

As a side note, this is also somewhat light on actual rap scenes for a film about a rapper.

Was my blog wife feeling the beat or would she send this one off with a mic drop?  Find out here!

Advertisements
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Atomic Falafel, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Noms

Appropriately for March Madness, this week’s film is about what happens when petty, short-sighted megalomaniacs control frighteningly destructive weapons in ways that are in no way reflective of the reality we currently live in.

The Film:

Atomic Falafel

The Premise:

With Iran and Israel on the brink of nuclear war, it’s up to two teen girls, a hacker, a German, and a falafel truck to save the world.

The Ramble:

Present-day Israel.  Secret underground bunker.  Scale model of the desert with…toy planes?  Though all of the elements of a spy thriller are there (including sinister eye patches and intimidating beards), it’s clear early on that the men assembled are a bunch of bumbling fools.  Unfortunately, they may be just unhinged enough to end life on Earth as we know it.

1.png
You know you’re one of the good guys if you have an eye patch AND well-groomed facial hair.

Convinced of Iran’s plans to unleash nuclear war, the Israeli military decides they must strike first with their own secret nuclear weapons.  The catch?  They have only a matter of days to strike, and must first survive a visit from a UN-type committee examining their nuclear facilities.  The plan is to fool the inspectors and then proceed to annihilating Iran (and likely a significant chunk of other countries in the process).

Ha ha ha…ha?

Since we’ve taken care of the “atomic” part of the title, on to the falafel.  Mimi and her teenage daughter, Nofar, run a falafel truck whose main business comes from following the military around during maneuvers and offering the only meal option for miles around.  Pretty nifty strategy.

10.png
Gilmore Girls I guess?  But with falafel?

Helping with the business is taking a toll on Nofar, who is falling behind in class,  letting her short temper get the best of her, and making no progress with her cautious hacker boyfriend.  In an effort to distract Mimi from her daughter’s shortcomings, Nofar is determined to set her up with a new man.

Enter Oli, stage right–the German member of the visiting committee and, coincidentally, the only moderately good looking one.  After Mimi’s overly spicy food sends Oli to the hospital, he conveniently recovers at her house.  While Mimi and Oli bond, they are unaware that the Israeli government wants Oli out ASAP, even attempting to blackmail Mimi into persuading him to leave.

5.png
The fist bump:  a universal symbol of human bonding.

Meanwhile, Nofar has befriended Sharareh, a teen girl who has recently moved to a small town in Iran.  Initially trying to get help with her family tree project, Nofar really connects with Sharareh and discovers she’s an aspiring rapper.

8.png
And has a pretty sweet recording studio set up in her room.

It just gets even more bananas from here on out, with government officials hacking into Nofar’s Facebook account in an attempt to humiliate her.  She gets the last laugh when a CD with important codes falls into her hands.  That is, until she realizes that just as Israel plans to strike in a matter of days, Iran will do the same.  Worse, Israel will strike Sharareh’s hometown.

How will this group of meddling kids prevent nuclear disaster when they’re the only ones acting like adults?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Taking many cues from Dr. Strangelove, this film is a fun, silly romp.  I half expected several characters to tear off their masks to reveal Peter Sellers.  However, this is significantly more optimistic with some moments of very dark humor and absurd satire.

This may also be the most positive depiction of social media I’ve ever seen on screen.  Facebook and even this sort of Chatroulette type thing where Nofar and Sharareh meet have the power to bring people together across difference here, rather than devolving into the usual festering mass of extremist hate groups we all know and love.

I should’ve jumped on this film when it came out as it would’ve been funnier 3 years ago–or really at any point when the US leadership wasn’t threatening other unhinged narcissists with annihilation every other week.

I honestly do believe if anything can bring us world peace, it’s falafel.

Would my Queen of Falafel go back for seconds or push the big red button instead?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Fits, or: Sequins Sequins Sequins

It’s time for March Madness, aka doing what the fuck we want on the Collab!  You know, in contrast, to every other month on the blog.  Though Feminist February is over, we’re still all about celebrating the achievements of ladies with this month’s pick.

The Film:

The Fits

The Premise:

The future of a dance drill team is in doubt when the girls on the team begin experiencing mysterious seizures.

The Ramble:

Toni is a quiet pre-teen who mostly keeps to herself.  She boxes with her brother until one day she sees her school’s dance drill team at practice.  The girls on the drill team are practically royalty, winning trophy after trophy, having each other’s back as a girl gang, and wearing phenomenally glittery sequined costumes.

7.png
Sparkle sparkle sparkle sparkle.

When she shows up for practice, Toni gets a place to belong even while her brother feels disappointed and left behind.  Though Toni initially has trouble getting the moves down and demonstrating the poise that seems to come naturally to the other girls, she is persistent and practices constantly.  She also makes her first friend, which is flipping adorable.

6.png
Friends don’t let friends wear dirty pants.

The girls are on track for their next competition until the girls on the team begin experiencing seizures–the titular fits.  Initially concerned parents believe the school’s contaminated water supply have caused these side effects, but tests find nothing amiss.  As the girls are struck with the fits one by one, they wonder with fear and excitement who will be next.  Will it be Toni?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’ll be honest–I had real difficulties staying focused on the first half of this.  There are some wonderfully shot scenes, but there’s so little plot and not much dialogue either.  Toni is initially very closed-off, so it can be hard to feel overly invested in her character.

However, the last half is thoroughly absorbing and conveys the fear and excitement of girls growing up and embracing their strength.  I love the symbolism of the fits as black female power that draw out the girls’ confidence in themselves and each other.  The drill team becomes a force unto itself by the end of the film, and Toni stands successfully on her own and as part of the girl gang.

Also shout out to a film set and shot in Cincinnati, a mere stone’s throw from my hometown!

Did my blog wife get a case of the fits or would she say no to these sequins?  Find out here!