Justice League

By Laurence Washington

Thankfully, the long awaited Justice League has arrived, and it’s better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (’16). But it’s not as good as this year’s Wonder Woman, even though Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has a starring role in the film.
Following a familiar storyline that echoes Marvel’s The Age of Ultron (’15) and The Avengers (’12), Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman scour the globe in search of other Super Friends to fight super-baddie Steppenwolf who commands an army of flying bug-like minions trying to take over the world. And like the Tesseract, the ancient Asgardian artifact in the Avengers movies, there are three cosmic cubes that Steppenwolf has to
obtain, and merge together to gain absolute power to destroy the Earth and the rein of the Super Friends.

The action takes place in a world without Superman (Henry Cavill), who was killed in Batman v Superman nod, nod, wink, wink. So Batman and Wonder Woman go forth recruiting The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to form the Justice League. And like the Avengers, there is some assembly required, as there is infighting within the group. However, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so Steppenwolf’s actions bring the team together.
Justice League feels too familiar down to the two after credit scenes, which are entertaining by the way, and sets up the next film. But then again, we’ve seen it all before, and the characters don’t jell as well the Marvel characters do. That’s not to say Justice League is not an enjoyable movie, you can see where they spent a lot of money on the special effects, and comic book fans will probably have a good time, but it doesn’t break any new ground. Sorry Super Friends, Marvel was there first.



Thor: Ragnarok

By Laurence Washington

There’s a new Thor movie in town, and thankfully it’s far better than the first two. In fact, this new installment Thor: Ragnarok, isn’t really your run-of-the-mill Marvel fare. Admittedly, it has more CGI special effects than the law allows, however,Ragarok offers a sense of humor, and doesn’t wait for another franchise to parody it. There’s plenty of self-deprecating humor, which makes it fun to watch for two and a half hours.
From the beginning of the film, Thor, (Chris Hemsworth) is a wisecracking superhero. Not on the level as Deadpool or Tony Stark, but enjoyable nonetheless. Maybe that’s what is fresh about Ragnarok, plus the action takes
place on a parallel world and not on Earth. So there is something new there. The film’s premise finds Thor banished to an intergalactic trash dump planet by his sister Hela (Kate Blanchett), the goddess of death, who destroys Thor’s hammer and wreaks havoc on Asgard.

Actually, Hela, who was banished herself by Oden, has daddy issues and is looking for a little payback. Since Oden isn’t available, Thor will have to do. Thor is caught by a bounty hunter (Tessa Thompson) in the trashdump, and is forced to compete in gladiator battles against intergalactic beings by the planet’s emperor Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Also, it bares mentioning that Jeff Goldblum basically plays a quirky character modeled after himself. He’s wonderful, and he moves the film along.
I’m not giving away any spoilers when I say that Thor’s first opponent is The Incredible Hulk. Every trailer produced about this film reveals that fact. The film would have been better if it were a surprise. Not sure how the Hulk arrived on the trash planet, I was probably reaching over for some popcorn and missed the explanation. The fact is, the Hulk is there, and he doesn’t remember Thor from the good ole days with the Avengers. Maybe Thor’s new haircut has something to do with it. Hard to say.

That being said, Thor and the Hulk renew their battle from their first meeting in The Avengers (’12). The pair eventuallyteam up to take on Hela, who’s sporting a gawd-awful antler-hat. Oden should have banished her for wearing that hat alone. Ragarok also has cameos by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and clothes from Tony Stark’s wardrobe. Idris Elba returns as Heimdall, the all-hearing guardian sentry of Asgard. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki, Thor’s mischievous adopted brother, who still cannot be trusted. And as expected, there are two after credit scenes; one of which sets up the next Avengers movie - why I say with every Marvel film review: “Remain seated until the houselights come on and you’re asked to exit the theatre.”



Last Flag Flying

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

War is dirty and destructive. That’s the clear and concise message in Richard Linklater’s war dramaLast Flag, which follows three Vietnam War vets who reunite after 30 years to bury a young Marine killed in the Iraq War.

Based on a novel by Darry Ponicsan and set in 2003,Last Flag begins with Steve Carell’s character Doc, an introverted ex-soldier who needs to collect his only son’s body for burial at the military cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Without much support (his wife recently died of cancer), Doc looks up two of his old buddies he hasn’t seen since they served in the Vietnam War three decades ago. Sal (Bryan Cranston) is now a cynical, alcoholic who owns a dive bar in Norfolk, Virgina and the other, Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne), is a happily married family man and a charismatic pastor of a small, predominantly African-American church.

After convincing the reluctant duo to join him on a mission to collect the coffin at the Dover Air Force Base, they set off on a road trip, but things take a drastic turn when Doc discovers the real circumstances behind his son’s death and dismisses the military’s plans to bury his son, opting for a civilian burial in his hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This change of plans finds the trio, along with a young marine Washington (J. Quinton Johnson) who served with the dead soldier, hauling the casket up north on a train with stopovers in New York and Boston. Cicely Tyson (The Help) also has a small role as the mother of a fallen comrade the trio visit in Boston.

Last Flag Flying is not your typical Hollywood war movie. There are no bloody battle scenes or acts of heroism. The movie’s power comes from words: America sends our people into bad places and not always with good intentions or motives.
A tad long, the beauty of this drama is watching the veteran actors at play. It’s a road trip theme, a fun buddy movie and an intimate friendship theme all rolled into one. All three characters have their individual quirks and it’s a joy watching the three commiserate, trade gibes, give insults and reminisce about their tour of duty in Vietnam and debate the existence of God.

Watching Mueller’s (Fishburne) pastor persona slips away after a few hours in the company of his former comrades is what draws the most laughs. It’s a male bonding, road trip drama and although it deals with a devastating subject matter — the emotional and political impact of wars, director Richard Linklater (Boyhood) addresses the subject lightly, but directly, without gimmicks or gambits and it’s that juxtaposition of humor and tragedy that makes it a worthwhile film.



Mudbound: A Very Challenging Project for Makeup Artist Angie Wells

By Samantha Ofole-Prince

One of the most important elements of a goodfilm, is good make-up. Just ask Angie Wells who ran the makeup department for Mudbound, a film adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel about racial disparity in 1940s Mississippi.

With an ensemble cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund and Mary J. Blige, the film is set in the South and follows two farming families, one white, the other Black who are pitted against one another by a ruthless social hierarchy, but bound together by the shared farmland of the Mississippi Delta.

To bring alive the palpable sheen of dirt and sweat that coats the faces of the cast, Wells, who has a passion for period makeup, did a lot of photographic research to learn about trends of the time period and figure out how to make the female characters appear natural. Battling the Southern heat and humidity was a challenge and she used a lot of cream based products for the actors
“I knew the movie had to look raw and real, and I had to do things like mixing mascara to give
definition around the eye. There were freckles for Carey’s character and liquid makeup for her foundation and as Florence’s look — which is zero glam — is not something Blige normally pulls off. It was interesting to get her onboard with all the zero-glam. She really got into it and owned it,” says Wells who also had to resort to using adhesive to keep Garrett Hedlund’s mustache firmly intact.

“When it’s humid and there’s so much water involved, it’s tough to get adhesive to stay on — it required babysitting,” she says. “It wasn’t possible for Garrett to grow a natural mustache for the movie because we didn’t shoot in that order, and it wasn’t a long shoot, so we used lace hairpieces. We were constantly running after him on the set to make sure his mustache didn’t fall off in the rain and humidity,” adds the makeup connoisseur who has worked on more than 50 feature films and 25 television series from Soul Food, to The ArtistThe Aviator to Thor, and runs the makeup department for the ABC hit show television show Black-ish.

Wells first made a name for herself on John Singleton’s 2001 film Baby Boy where she worked with Taraji Henson and earned her first Emmy nomination for the television film Gifted Hands in 2011, following a year later with a second nomination as part of the makeup team for the hit show Mad Men. With work on big-budget blockbusters as well as low-budget dramas, she has one of the most well-rounded resumes in Hollywood.

“There are things I get calls for that I turn down,” she admits. “If I have to be somewhere for 16 hours a day, I want to enjoy what I am doing and it has to speak to me and has to be something I feel is worthwhile. It could be something that makes me laugh like Black-ish or something that really makes me think like Mudbound.

Directed by Dee Rees, Mudbound released in theaters and on Netflix November17.