Review: The Kitchen

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Nothing was really cooking in this kitchen. #TheKitchen flamed-out with a dismal $5.5 million debut given the high-voltage cast (Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss) and a production budget nearing $38 million.

I went into the film expecting to be entertained, instead I was caught in a world-wind of inane dialogue and a storyline that is at the apex of improbability. There is so much to unpack with this film, where does one begin. It is set in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen in the 70’s. The story is about three women married to members of the Irish mob. Their husbands are arrested by the FBI, convicted and sent to prison. The mob is supposed to take care of them while the men are away, but it’s not quite turning out the way they thought, so the three women devise a grandiose plan to take care of themselves. They take over the protection rackets and then violently snuff-out the competition.

We saw a much MUCH better film of this nature in #ViolaDavis‘ #Widows. But in The Kitchen, we have a jumbled mob/crime thriller that is DOA, dead on arrival because it just doesn’t fit the era nor is it remotely believable. The 1970s was an era when patriarchy, sexism, misogyny and racism was still very much in-your-face. Here we have three women, with one being Black, who not only takes out members of the Irish mob to control Hell’s Kitchen, but they encroach upon the Italian mob’s territory, then forms a partnership with the Italian mob boss. Come on now. I know there were and are women in the mob, and many are prominent figures, but three ordinary housewives suddenly becoming hardened killers and taking all of five minutes to learn the business, is ridiculous. Then let’s not even get into all of the subplot’s twists and turns. It was dizzying and not in a good way. This film shows us that even when you have talented actors, they can’t save a bad script and bad direction.

#MelissaMcCarthy #TiffanyHaddish #ElizabethMoss

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Review: Hobbs & Shaw

 

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No shade, but I didn’t like Hobbs & Shaw as much as I thought I would. There were some elements in the film that were cool, but overall, it was just a meh action flick. I like Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and of course Idris Elba. But the preachy monologues about “family” were way too syrupy for me, the macho testosterone fueled banter and posturing was tedious, and though Vanessa Kirby was supposed to be a badass, they still found a way to sexualize her. Hell, instead of #HelenMirren’s character being in prison, she would have been more fun to watch kicking ass. But, the way this film was shot and written, Mirren was too old for the demographic Hobbs & Shaw is geared toward. On the surface, I appreciated the homage Johnson paid to his Samoan heritage, but it honestly felt forced and had the feeling of pandering.

 

The action was good, but there was nothing in this film that I haven’t seen before in other action/adventure films in one form or another. Hobbs & Shaw was truly made for 18-24 year old males because “macho and testosterone” was in overdrive. I know Hobbs & Shaw is under the banner of the Fast & Furious franchise, and I also know that it rankled many of those who feel that Johnson swooped in and basically made the franchise about him instead of about the ensemble. But Hobbs & Shaw is definitely a stand-alone film. Other than the eye-rolling family subtext, this film has absolutely nothing to do with the Fast & Furious franchise. And by the way, killing Idris Elba was a bit irritating. A film about his character and how he came to be that evil and murderous, would be great. But it is Hollywood, his character can always be resurrected.
Directed by David Leitch. Starring #DwayneJohnson,
#JasonStatham#IdrisElba#VanessaKirby.

 

Synopsis: Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative join forces again, when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

#HobbsandShaw

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Arte Johnson, Emmy-winning star of the 60’s and 70’s comedy sketch show “Laugh-In, Dead at 90

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Arte Johnson, Emmy-winning star of the 60’s and 70’s comedy sketch show “Laugh-In,” died July 3 in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was 90.
Arte Johnson was born on January 20, 1929 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA as Arthur Stanton Eric Johnson. He was an actor and writer, known for Love at First Bite (1979), Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1967) and The President’s Analyst (1967). His best-remembered characters on Laugh-in were a German soldier with the catchphrase “Verrrry interesting…”, and an old man who habitually propositioned Ruth Buzzi’s spinster character.
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In 1972, Johnson guest-starred in an episode of The Partridge Family as Nicholas Minsky Pushkin in the episode, “My Heart Belongs to a Two Car Garage”. In 1973, Johnson guest-starred in an episode of the situation comedy A Touch of Grace. In 1974, he appeared in the first season of the Detroit-produced children’s show Hot Fudge. He also appeared, for one week, as a celebrity guest panelist on the game show Match Game. In the late 1970s, he was a semi-regular celebrity guest panelist on The Gong Show.

In 1976, he played the animated cartoon character “Misterjaw”, a blue, German-accented shark (with a bow tie and top hat), who liked to leap out of the water and shout “HEEGotcha!” or “Gotcha!” at unsuspecting folks on The Pink Panther Laugh-and-a-Half Hour-and-a-Half Show. He also voiced the character “Rhubarb” on The Houndcats. Also in 1976, he appeared as a guest on Canadian TV show Celebrity Cooks with host Bruno Gerussi and a clip from his episode was featured in the opening credits until the show ended in 1987.

In September 1977, Johnson appeared on an episode of the NBC daytime version of Wheel of Fortune as a substitute letter-turner, both to fill-in for an injured Susan Stafford, and to promote his short-lived NBC game show Knockout, which aired through early 1978. Instead of being introduced by the show’s announcer, he would start the show with a small monologue, then the announcer would introduce the day’s contestants. In 1979, he was cast as “Renfield,” the comic sidekick of George Hamilton’s Dracula in the surprise box office smash, Love At First Bite. The following year he appeared in the all-star television disaster movie Condominium.

In 1985, he voiced “Weerd” in The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and played a disgruntled employee denied severance pay in an episode of Airwolf. He also voiced several characters, such as: Dr. Ludwig Von Strangebuck and Count Ray on two episodes of Ducktales, Devil Smurf on The Smurfs, Top Cat and Lou on Yo Yogi!, Newt on Animaniacs, and many other shows.

In 1987, Johnson guest-starred in the Murder, She Wrote episode, “No Laughing Murder.” Johnson’s character, Phil Rinker, is a guest at a wedding engagement party of the children of a legendary, but bitterly estranged, comedy team, Mack & Murray (played by Buddy Hackett & Steve Lawrence and based loosely on the genuinely legendary Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis split). After discovering that their on-going dispute is a result of the theft of a video deal’s residuals, Johnson’s character is murdered but the death is made to look like a suicide.

In 1990, Johnson appeared in an episode of Night Court. From 1991 to 1992 Johnson appeared in multiple episodes of General Hospital as Finian O’Toole. In 1996, he played the old laboratory head of a team of scientists working on a serum of youth in Second Chance. He has performed more than 80 audio-book readings, including Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan (2006) and Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey. In 2005, he appeared in the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Ties That Bind” as the voice of Virman Vundabar.

He retired from acting in 2006.

Made It To The 2018 Cannes Film Festival

 

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The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious events within the entertainment industry. Careers are made, others are reignited and all are vying for the adulation of the press and fans, as well as validation from their peers. It’s like the qualifying rounds for the Olympics, except in this case, it’s next year’s Oscars.

One day soon, I’ll be on the other side of the camera because my projects will be contending for a nod from power-players as well as distribution. But at least after years of covering celebs and working in this industry, I know the pressure they’re under and how to handle the press.

But out of all of the premieres, award shows, various industry events, including the Oscars, Golden Globes and other film festivals, the Cannes Film Festival is still my absolute favorite. There’s something about the history and how everything about it, harkens back to that quintessential old Hollywood glam. I can almost see Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, William Holden, Marilyn Monroe, and the rest of the true old school  Hollywood glitterati, dressed in their finest gowns, dripping in diamonds and wrapped in furs, with the men in their dapper tuxedos, behaving in a manner that us mere mortals would imagine movie stars should…regal, otherworldly and what fantasies and dreams of a film career are made of.

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Famous Stars of the Cannes Film Festival

James Bond at Cannes

Vintage Cannes Film Festival Photos

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Even walking through the corridors of iconic hotels like The Martinez and the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes (formerly just the Carlton Hotel), are filled with history. Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant has the Carlton  featured prominently. It really is true when people say…if walls could talk.

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Present day

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The Martinez

 

At the Red Carpet Hollywood Premiere of Avengers: Infinity War

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Women’s March LA – 2018

I arrived at the Women’s March VERY early with my staff because it was important to show support for what women, minorities and immigrants are facing in this country. While I was chatting with all of the wonderful men and women who came to march and protest, my god-daughter sent me a text that she and her friends were somewhere in the madness at 20 strong. I was more than proud of her because millennials are the group that will be negatively impacted the most with this administration’s policies. I was also proud of all the women, men, teens and younger kids gathering to make this year’s march a success, as well as to make their voices heard, not just in this country, but around the world.

If my mom were still alive, that first sign above referencing the 1960s, is the one she’d be holding. She believed in equality, was a staunch feminist and would have been at this march, or some march across this country. But she also would have been thoroughly pissed-off that we’re back at square one. But believe this, we’ll make it right mom, one day soon! We cannot and must not continue to allow history to keep repeating itself.

Today women and our allies, came together across this nation and around the world for the Women’s March. Let’s get something done. Rallies and protests are great, but we need to come together as a cohesive unit every single day and not just one day out of the year. I don’t want my nieces, god-daughter or any young girl in and outside of this country, to still be fighting the same fights we’re fighting today, and the fights our ancestors thought would be in my generation’s rearview mirror, against an extremist, patriarchal government who wants to have total control over women, our reproductive rights and how high up the ladder of success we can go. Our gender should NEVER be a deciding factor on any achievement in our lives, and our bodies and what’s inside of them, are our own to govern. The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction and we should never EVER allow something like that to become a life imitating art moment.

As for immigration, everyone should be welcome in this country no matter what race, creed, ethnicity or religious affiliation. The Statue of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

There’s no caveat in that statement which says you’re only welcome if you’re White. This is only one of a multitude of reasons why we’re marching, protesting, resisting and signing people up to vote. The very heart and soul of this country is dependent upon reclaiming our right to call ourselves decent and moral people. We cannot and will not allow a small group of racist oligarchs and kleptocrats to reverse the progress we’ve made in the US regarding race, religious freedom, immigration and women’s rights just because they long for a bygone era of White Male Supremacy. The buck stops with each and everyone one of us and by now, we should have all had ENOUGH!

Film Review: Proud Mary

I wanted to support Taraji P. Henson in her film “Proud Mary” and I’m glad I did. I know the critics savaged it and Rotten Tomatoes gave it 23%. But I’m veering off the freeway with this film. I think a lot of critics didn’t like it because they didn’t understand it, nor did they pick up on or appreciate the nod it gave to the so-called “blaxploitation” films of the 70’s. Another issue the critics appeared to have with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t filled with a ton of CGI, Special EFX and grandiose stunt sequences with the hero, or in this case, the heroine doing a lot of slow motion acrobatics, while mowing down 100 bad guys trying to kill her.

Proud Mary is a definite throwback to 70’s linear storytelling. It wasn’t filled with a multitude of subplots, random characters popping in and out, with no real connection to the overall narrative, and a bunch of not too subtle societal messages pounding the audience over the head like a sledgehammer. People in the theater also didn’t need a Ph.D in – “I think I’m so damned clever filmmaking”. It was a very easy film to watch and follow. The cinematography was clean, the action was just enough to move the story along and make you go WOW, the acting was good; Taraji P. Henson killed it as a badass hitwoman who can dispatch her targets without a second thought. Jahi Di’Allo Winston, who played the kid she looked after, was great. Danny Glover was also on-point as the crime boss Taraji’s character Mary worked for. Everyone cast in Proud Mary did their jobs well.

Were there some issues, of course. I thought the first half of the film moved a bit slow and there were a few small holes in the storyline, but it wasn’t enough to say Proud Mary is a bad film. The major problem with Proud Mary is that it wasn’t promoted enough, and for those who are addicted to slick, colorful, special EFX-laden films with an abundance of camera angle trickery, you’ll probably find Proud Mary boring and flat. But if you want a film that follows the screenwriter’s go-to, as in Freytag’s Pyramid, then you’ll find a warm place in your heart for Proud Mary.

As a sidenote: There were two films in the same vein as Proud Mary. The 1980 film Gloria with Gena Rowlands and the 1999 remake of Gloria with Sharon Stone. If you ever saw either of those films and liked them, then you’ll probably like Proud Mary.