By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Twelve strangers wake up in a field, gagged, unarmed and with no clue where they are, or how they got there, but as the day progresses, they discover they have been chosen for a very specific purpose — to be hunted and killed by a group of elites with a grudge. That’s the premise of this satirical horror flick, which has action, suspense and drama and is a great cautionary tale of how wrong first impressions can be.
Riveting from the first scene to the last, it’s an action-thriller-suspense movie with a very high-violent body count that explores conspiracy theories. The brilliance of The Hunt is that it’s not immediately clear what the strangers have in common with each other, and that makes it harder to understand what the agenda of those hunting them might be, which nicely drives the story.
Directed by Craig Zobel and produced by Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions (The Purge, Get Out,), most of the hunted strangers are nameless and meet violent ends, but there’s always a hero and she’s Crystal, played by Betty Gilpin, (Glow), a menacing, unstoppable assassin who remains stoic and steadfast throughout the film in her pursuit of those hunting her, methodically killing each one off one by one till she gets to the ringleader Athena (Hilary Swank).
Unlike almost all genre films, the two principal roles of The Hunt, villain and hero, are both women who ultimately face off in a battle of brains and brawn with a brilliant fight scene where kitchen gadgets, appliances and utensils are turned into weapons. It’s a lengthy fight scene reminiscent of the one between Vivica A. Fox and Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film Kill Bill.
In a digital age, with the dissemination of fake news, an assumption, accusation, email, text or message can be the spark that ignites a controversy, destroying reputations and wrecking lives and that’s ultimately the frightening and dark premise of The Hunt.
The Invisible Man
By Jon Rutlege
This current revision of The Invisible Man is a prime example of the winning strategy at Blumhouse Productions – it’s freaking outstanding. The failed shared universe that Dark Universal started with the Mummy, should have started with The Invisible Man. This picture would have given the filmmakers the momentum to start building a franchise worth seeing. The whole idea of an invisible force that you know is there, but no one else can see, or understand what you are going through. The script does an excellent job of bringing us along with the main character as she struggles to make everyone understand what she is going through. The filmmakers employee the philosophy of Alfred Hitchcock in sharing with the audience all of the information they need to create their own feeling of suspense. The Writer/Director (Leigh Whannell) creates as close to the perfect cinema experience I have had in a long time.
Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) plays a woman who escapes an abusive relationship. Her husband takes his own life, but now she’s free only to be harassed by a monovalent being. That is more of a slug line than an outline. Trust me; it’s for a good reason. There is a fresh connection between the trailer and the movie. I suggest watching the trailer right before you see the film.
There are no a bad performances in this film. Aldis Hodge (Hidden Figures, Leverage) proves his screen presence in this film. His long career in television is exceptional, but he needs to spend more time on the big screen. He could carry a film. Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) is so strong in this film she carries an entire scene with no other actors on the screen. She pulls it off, she takes us along her treacherous path, and you feel every spin tingling step.
What makes this a good film is how they develop the characters, and the effects are seamless. The mark of a great movie is how the story outweighs the technical aspects of the film. Forest Gump had a lot of special effects that were utterly overlooked as effects elevated the story. The same goes for The Invisible Man. The invisible entity affects the real world, and that presence enhances the performances and the story.
Universal has learned the wrong lesson from the shared universe stories from Marvel. It’s not that all of the stories interact with one another, and they all share the same space. It’s that each individual story stands on its own, and just happens to share the same space. We did not arrive at End Game because it was all effects and characters crossing into each other’s films. We grew to love the characters individually; each character has to stand alone. The Invisible Man could be the cornerstone of that same kind of magic.
There are some intense emotions in this film. The journey that Cecilia takes is profoundly emotional and, at times, hard to watch. You won’t be able to close your eyes, but you also won’t see what is coming next.
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
There’s a scene in Blue Story, where gang members argue over the avoidable death of one of their own who has just been shot by a rival gang. “What are we even fighting for?” One angrily exclaims, “A postcode that we don’t even own?!” It’s the dialogue in this film about gang rivalry in South East London, which sets the stage for writer/director Rapman’s tragic tale of brotherhood, rivalry, romance and gang violence.
For its star Stephen Odubola, it is one of the most powerful scenes in this moving drama. “It wasn’t in your face, but it was posing the question of what the violence was really about. You have people fighting for an area they don’t even own and one questioning whether it is worth your life.”
Filled with details of daily life, rap music and street lingo, Blue Story follows two high school boys from warring zip codes that form a firm friendship which is tested when they wind up on rival sides of a street war. There are good directorial touches and earnest playing by a fresh-faced cast that includes Odubola as Timmy, a smart, naive young boy whose character goes from sweet to savage as the film evolves on the streets of South London.
“The film shows how certain circumstances can make friendships go wrong and it is for people to see that gang life is not worth it and for people who are not aware of that life to be educated so they won’t get caught up in it,” continues Odubola. Karla-Simone Spence plays his love interest, Leah, the central narrative to this tragic tale, Micheal Ward (Netflix’s Top Boy) is Timmy’s (Odubola) best friend Marco and Eric Kofi-Abrefa wraps up the main cast making a strong impression as Marco’s older brother Switcher, and the leader of the Peckham gang who ignites the war between the two best friends.
“It shows different versions of love. Brotherly love, romance love and the love between two best friends,” adds Spence, who admits she was initially skeptical of making the movie. “I wasn’t sure it was a route I wanted to go down. People say, ‘There’s a lot of hood movies out, make something new.’ But when I read [the script] I realized it was something different. Usually with films like these females are sex symbols and stereotypical, but Leah was completely different. She was innocent, had ambitious and is the moral compass of the story. Their love drives the narrative all the way to the end and I really liked that. It’s very authentic and it’s shining a light on what is actually happening today. It depicts what actually does go on in London. American audiences will be able to relate to it because it’s so universal.”
For Odubola, a Rapman fan, joining the cast was a no brainer. He was very familiar with Rapman having seen the YouTube short film version of Blue Story years ago. “When I heard he was casting for it, I instantly wanted to get involved as I was already familiar with the story. Timmy is not too far from myself in the sense that I was raised by Nigerian parents and grew up in South London and aware of all the things that were happening around me and so I used all those things to get into my character.”
Much of the film’s strength comes from the actors and the rap narration by Rapman adds a symphonic touch. Tautly paced with a powerful climax, there’s plenty to create a box-office stir in “Blue Story” which tells the story of a never-ending cycle of gang war in which there are no winners only victims.
By Laurence Washington
I guess love conquers all. Well, at least in writer/director Andrew Heckler’s racially charged film Burden. A true to life story that explores the question: “Can a Klansman forsake the Klan, to be with the love of his life?”
Enter Mike Burden (Garrett Hedlund), a rumpled mumbling redneck, who spits tobacco and seems angst all the time. Burden was raised by the town’s head businessman and chief racist Griffin (Tom Wilkinson), who enjoys agitating black youths and reminiscing about the good old days of lynching.
Forest Whitaker stars as South Carolina Revered David Kennedy, who leads a peaceful protest when a museum opens in his town celebrating the Ku Klux Klan. The museum, dubbed The Redneck Shop, offers assorted trinkets, T-Shirts and bobbles featuring the Klan and the Southern states Stars and Bars. So be prepared, because Burden is layered with the squirm factor. In fact, you can’t throw a rock in this town without hitting a good-old cross-burning, a hooded Klansman or the N-word being bantered about in everyday conversation.
But alas, Burden meets Judy (Andrea Riseborough) does not tolerate any of his racist views. Suddenly Burden’s simple life becomes complicated. Judy tells Burden to choose between her and the Klan. Of course this doesn’t sit well with Burden’s Klan buddies, or with the town’s black citizens who say Burden can’t quit something that is born within him.
Burden becomes persona non grata by the town’s white and black citizens. Rev. Kennedy is the only person who, at the risk of alienating family, takes Burden and Judy into his home protecting them from the Klan.
Whitaker leads an inspired cast, including Usher Raymond and Crystal Fox who should have had more to do in the film. It’s never fully explained why Burden changes his ways, but the filmmakers want us to go with love. So let’s run with that. I guess one can say, “Burden” is about racism. But pealing away the layers, the film punctuates social conscience and one’s integrity. Standing up and be willing to change your position and take responsibility for things you have done.