Monday, November 24, 2014


When I first heard about The Hunger Games I didn't know it was a teen book series. I leave that kind of important information to my fellow geek and avid reader Shumara a.k.a. @Illumeenous and other book geeks like her.

My first thought of the original film was that it must be a Battle Royal rip by the looks of it. But after seeing it I gathered the story had much more going for it. The second installment - CATCHING FIRE, with the introduction of other characters and underlying plots, solidified my understanding that the series was a more complex dystopian future than I first realized.

MOCKINGJAY brought the overall story to a whole new level.  The acting and drama were excellent. The story of Katniss stiring the fires of rebellion in the fascist state of Panam matured into a quality political piece which made you forget that this was supposed to be a teen oriented science fiction film.

Hats off to Jennifer Lawrence, who came back to reprise her role with even more gravitas after expanding her filmography in other major Hollywood projects (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle).  But, as good as Lawrence was, she did not outshine the rest of the cast including Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson and many others.  Hutcherson especially delivered a gripping scene in the third act.

Though a seasoned film-goer would probably see a few of the twists coming, the film worked in keeping the story believable through its intense situations and emotional tension.  Most of this was done by keeping Katniss in the middle of opposing factions, but also keeping her character genuine in light of the previous films. When you thought Katniss was among friends with the rebels you started to get the feeling  that they were only using her to meet their goals. And even though there were plenty of closeups of Katniss and Peta tearing up at each other, and people brainstorming on how Katniss could fan the flames of revolution, the movie had several scenes of life threatening or explosive action.  And a personal note: I liked how director Francis Lawrence mirrored the endings of the second and third film with a closeup of Katniss having all the feels of the moment.

Now that I've seen the first part of the final story I can see that the studio wasn't just doing a cash grab for more box office dollars by spitting the third book into two parts.  They probably needed two films to expand and complete the story properly.  I'm glad they went in that direction because one story might have rushed the plot.  But I'm sure they also wanted more money too. It is a business, right?

You can't watch this film by itself. It just wouldn't make sense just dropping you into the middle of it. You have to go back and watch the first two. That's the only drawback to an otherwise great continuation to the story arc.  In light of that I give THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY a rating of 4.25 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Top 10 Black Directors for Marvel's BLACK PANTHER Film

Last week Marvel released their slate of films coming out until 2019 including Avengers: Infinity War. Two films that fans were waiting to see were The Black Panther and Captain Marvel.  I'm glad they chose Chadwick Bosemam to play the ruler of Wakanda.  Of course we talked about the news on our podcast in depth.  One of our callers and friend of the show - @Bison4Life asked if Marvel should also pick a black director? We all agreed that it would be cool, but as long as they picked a great director, black or otherwise, we would be happy. Well Marvel, if you so decide on a talented director, that happens to be black, here are my top ten choices (in no particular order). Incidentally, I heard a rumor they were thinking of Reginald Hudlin, who wrote a Black Panther comic story and is an accomplished director.  Mmmmaybe he would be a good choice, but read my list and see what you think.

1. THE HUGHES BROTHERS - Okay, that's two.  But they come in a pair like an awesome pair of pants.  Well, they used to come in a pair. The directors of Book of Eli and From Hell have said they retired and went their separate ways. Do you think the Black Panther film would bring them back together?  Even if one of them decided to take on the project, I think either of them would be a good choice.

2. ANTOINE FUQUA - He knows his action with films like The Equalizer remake, Training Day and Olympus Has Fallen.  He's a serious director, but would he be interested joining the Marvel team?

3. TIM STORY - Say what you want, but this brother is the only director that I know of that directed not one, but TWO major superhero films.  Sure we didn't like the cast, the story plot, the writing and the characters of the Fantastic Four films. But was the directing bad?  If this man had a good story, script and a great cast to work with, what would happen?

4. SYLVAIN WHITE - Another brother that directed a film based on a graphic novel.  Did you like The Losers? 

5. MALCOLM D. LEE - He knows how to work an ensemble cast.  And he knows how to bring a range of emotion to a film as seen in his recent work Best Man Holiday.  Lee's style might not be too unique, but nuance may be the key for directing a Panther film.

6. KASI LEMMONS - Another director that would bring emotion and depth to the Wakandan Kingdom.  Talk To Me is one of my favorite Don Cheadle film. And since he's already War Machine, maybe we can have a head to head with Kasi directing the epic confrontation.

7. F. GARY GRAY - Action, Drama and Thrillers are under this man's resume. Gray has directed some classic films and his Panther film would probably be packed with a lot of awesomeness.

8. JOHN SINGLETON - This man knows how to bring the 'Cocky' out of a character and T'Challa isn't anything if he isn't cocky.  But from that Singleton also tells the story of the heroes journey in his films and the lessons learned from assuming too much too soon, which is a staple for some of Marvel's heroes.

9. PETER RAMSEY - Director of the feature animation Rise of the Guardians, Ramsey would be a great fit to bring the fantasy of the Panther universe to life.  Working as an artist, he would probably be familiar with the Black Panther comics and the essence of the material the film would be based on.

10. STEVE McQUEEN - He would bring an introspective character portrayal to the Black Panther.  I think McQueen's Marvel film would be atmospheric and draw you wholeheartedly into the story.  I could see scenes of T'Challa pondering the desperation of some parts of Africa while his kingdom flourishes.

So what do you think?  Are there better choices I missed, like maybe Denzel Washington? Yeah, he's a pretty good director too. Feel free to add to the list so Marvel can't say we didn't try to help them out.

Monday, October 20, 2014

GSB Film Review: DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (2014)

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over a popular "African American" themed party thrown by white students.

Justin Simien weaves an intricate story about the subtleties of how racial issues affects us, and how the entire subject is tenuously defined by the idea of black and white.

There are a few heavy drops of race talk given for the sake of comedy and setup.  But underneath is the true nature of the discussion.  Several points of view were sifted through the storytelling lens.  And in the middle of it all was the observant Mr. Higgins, who didn't quite fit on any side of the conversation.  Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) gave a very good performance as Lionel, a kid trying to find his way as a journalist, but having trouble just being accepted in any facet.  One of the things I enjoyed about Williams' performance was the many times he commented on the conflicts in the film with priceless facial expressions.  Tessa Thompson and Brandon P. Bell also did a decent job of carrying the weight of the drama in this overall comedy.  They sold me on their characters going from the stereotypical pro-black or integrate argument to revealing their multifaceted sides as they became more three dimensional and emotive.  Kyle Gallner and Justin Dobies also provided good portrayals of the varying degrees to which white people understand or dismiss the open conversations of black people.

Simien also paid a healthy dose of homage to Spike Lee and his classic SCHOOL DAZE.  But this film was a more intelligent look at race relations and how far we have come, or not come, in the current generation.  It doesn't hide the fact that there are many white people that still have to comprehend the complexity of being a person of color in this society. But the story also provides a view of how some black people struggle to define themselves, or rather struggle with the supposed need to define themselves because that's what society tells them to do.  By the end you are left wondering if it all means anything.  But you also know that addressing these topics are necessary.  Because if we don't have these conversations then 'Hip Hop' parties will continue to plague us.  You will see when you watch the film.

I wasn't rolling in my seat with laughter.  Nor was I downtrodden with overt racial themes.  I enjoyed the film because it became interesting in how the characters and their stories became intertwined and culminated into a final climatic outcome.

And I have to say something about the cinematography and directing.  Simien's use of parallels in the framing of some early scenes were striking metaphors for the polarized interactions of the characters while also reminding us of the backdrop of an ivy league school.  That's for you film students out there.

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE is an enjoyable film that has some laughs and several good messages that you will mull over in your brain.  It carries on a realistic conversation that I wish was being carried on in reality more often.  Geek Soul Brother gives it 4.25 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

GSB FIlm Review: THE MAZE RUNNER (2014)

Gladly this isn't Lord of the Flies in a Maze. THE MAZE RUNNER is actually an intriguing story about young men that are trapped (in a maze of course) for reasons unknown, and have to decide if they accept their prison or escape it. But that's only the initial setup as the story unfolds into one mystery after another, and the audience realizes that the towering stone puzzle is not just a maze but something more sinister. The mystery starts with the fact that none of the young men can remember exactly who they are or how they got to the maze.  And also how the entrance to the maze opens and shuts each day. Was someone controlling it? And were they the same that put the boys there?  And what's up the monsters in the maze at night?  The combination of the mystery, action and drama was enough to keep most people's attention.

Teen Wolf fav Dylan O'Brien delivered as courageous (or just plain stupid) hero Thomas. The supporting cast were just as convincing.  I liked the performances of Ami Ameen, Will Poulter, and especially Thomas Brodie-Sangster who plays like a young Jude Law.  The only criticism I had with the cast is that I could tell who was going to buy the farm from the beginning of the film. But any seasoned film watcher could see that.
Surprisingly good directing from newbie Wes Ball. He kept things visually exciting and at a great dramatic pace.  Seeing the scale of the maze as compared to the live action elements, I have to give Ball and the creative teams credit for imparting the feeling that the characters were actually there.

Also the science fiction aspect of the film was much more relevant than I had first thought. When I first watched a trailer I thought it was more on some primitive tip.  Then another trailer showed laser scanning and giant moving walls and I figured I should check it out.  It was an interesting mix of tribalism, cyborg monsters, and more.

For those of you like myself that may not have known, The Maze Runner is based on a book series, so the film ends on a cliffhanger as a setup for the next one. Still, it should be entertaining to teens and adults that love the genre. For a Teen Sci-fi flick comparable to The Hunger Games, Geek Soul Brother gives it 4 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Afro Commentary: SDCC Is Not A Place Where Fake Violence Reigns

I recently read an article in the New York Times that, as a part of the geek community, upset me. The article, written by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, uses the stance that geeks consume violence-ridden media and we turned out okay, so there just can’t possibly be a correlation between it and behavior. I find the logic of this piece not only fundamentally flawed and ultimately crap journalism, but an insult to the geek community at large.

You are probably saying to yourself, “Well they are right, aren’t they? We are good little girls and boys and we watch stuff blowing up all the time.” That’s not the point. The authors, in their infinite wisdom and presumed good intentions, do us a disservice while using the backdrop of the San Diego Comic Con. Also, the stance taken that we are an exception amongst society is a misnomer; in fact, it has become quite apparent over recent years that we are becoming a majority.

In the article, we are depicted as a group that is very well mannered and nice. Well, aren't we being obvious. Of course there is no elaboration as to why or other adjectives added to this assessment, most likely omitted to service the prose of the article. Even more disparaging is that we are singled out not for who we are - a diverse community of intelligent and sophisticated individuals - or what we represent, but as an example to push an editorial agenda. There are reasons for our civility; ones that the authors neglect to go into in order to satisfy a stance.

First and foremost, we are a passionate and creative community. We may disagree with one another and have the occasional troll, but we are like minded individuals.  We are diverse, coming from all walks of life and look to experience new things from various cultures. At the end of the day, we understand that we do not want to be embroiled in conflict; that is what we have comics, TV and movies for.

But make no mistake; we are also legion when it is necessary. If we disagree with something, whether it is a Marvel editorial change or gay marriage, we do voice our opinion in unison. There are things we need to rectify within our own ranks (misogyny being at the top of that list), but we always make our voices heard when we feel slighted. More so than society gives us credit for.

SDCC is a time where we celebrate our culture and community as geeks. We do not celebrate violence at the convention. We celebrate our love for these properties. Some of us are more creative and up front about it than others (like cosplayers), but that’s the reason why we congregate like this. We do not care about the contents of a story unless it is produced well and it is riveting (Doctor Who is a big example of this.) We never asked the studios to be at SDCC and bring movies like The Expendables 3 or the Twilight series; they hitched a ride on the crazy train of their own free will long ago. So insinuating we go to SDCC or any other convention to project our love of MDK (Murder Death Kill for anyone who was born in the 90's or later) is an insult to our community. In fact, the authors completely missed the point of these conventions.

The authors also attempt to mention us and Elliot O. Rodgers (the Santa Monica assailant), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook shooter) and James Holmes (Aurora mass killer) in the same breath to prove a point. We take no responsibility for them. In fact, despite The New York Times writing an article regarding a major factor in these incidents -  unlike other US "news" outlets - Cieply and Barnes refuse to acknowledge it. It is the one detail that not only clearly sets them apart from us, but many in society in general. In all three instances (much like the kids in Columbine and others who perform these acts) the perpetrators were psychologically unbalanced. You have one who had Asperger’s (Lanza), one who was clinically depressed (Rodgers) and a third who is clearly a sociopath (Holmes.) All three disengaged from society for any number of reasons, their reality becoming so warped they felt their actions were not only justified but actually a good idea. Society does not care about those who have mental illness; it is considered a dirty secret no one wants to talk about. Such an unwanted topic in fact, that when these tragic events occur we start pointing fingers in the wrong directions. The news outlets automatically go into the hypocritical arguments of "This is the fault of <insert either media or guns>!" Not the fact that when people get to a certain low point they withdraw themselves from society and have no one to talk to without fear of being locked up. No, our society never reacts the way they should in these scenarios. We are quick to blame others than reflect on the causes or solutions to the problem. News agencies only perpetuate the behavior further with sensationalistic pieces like the one Cieply and Barnes wrote.

The geek community is the only one that I know who responds to such topics correctly. We care about what happens to our society in general, because we understand that if affects all of us as a whole. We do not wear blinders until a tragedy occurs. It was our community that had the right dialogs and responses after Sandy Hook. It was us who denounced James Holmes’ gruesome attack at the movie theater in Colorado. We are always talking about issues such as how society should be equal and strive to get others involved both within and outside of our community.

Cieply and Barnes questioned how we can be around such violence and not be affected. I have questions for them. Don’t worry, they are very simple. 

Where were you when our community took to social media to not only renounce the tragic act at Sandy Hook, but had a real conversation about how mental illness was the cause? When 50,000 gamers took a pledge to not play FPS’s for 24 hours in response to the Sandy Hook shootings? Or when the studies that came out before and after Sandy Hook which illustrate how video games are actually good for people by helping their eye/hand coordination, cognitive reasoning and decision making skills?

Where are you when girls and women are harassed or treated objectively at conventions? Where were you when a 17 year-old female SDCC attendee was found bloodied and unconscious on July 27th, possibly a result of an assault? Or when it was discussed on a Kevin Smith podcast that Cartoon Network does not care about having females watching DC/Warner Bros. Animation shows

Where are you in the discussion of the lack of people of color developing projects for a mass audience that are not racially stereotyped? That there are many non-white creatives out there who have great story ideas but are unable to break through into a general audience? That a recent study suggests that Hollywood movies do not reflect the diversity of the US?

Where were you when DC refused to allow Batwoman, a lesbian character, to marry her same sex partner? While we’re at it, where was the larger article when the gay Marvel character Northstar married his boyfriend? Why would you care at all, when you normally leave such news items to outlets that are apparently beneath you?

Ah, that’s right; editorial agenda. You are filling the need of your advertisers, the same studios that spent millions pushing their products on us at SDCC. 

Do the geek community a favor New York Times, and stick to journalism. If you really cared about what we think, then cover items or concepts that concern us like racial, gender and sexual equality. Don’t come to these here parts unless you want to write a real article about our community.

Monday, August 4, 2014

BLERD - Why Do Black Nerds Need The Word?

Black Nerds: Integration vs. Segregation

Black People have always been on the fence when it comes to integration or segregation. At times one seemed better than the other. Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington, Fredrick Dougelass fought on the side of integration, believing that it was a more strategic road for racial equality. On the other side of the fight - Malcolm X, W.E.B. DeBois, and Martin Delany (founder of Black Nationalism) were part of the community that believed empowerment resided in building our own social and economic infrastructure.

Personally, I think integration won out because that was the solution White America could live with. And though it's never been perfect, Black America (and others of color) have been able to make headway into the mainstream. The most obvious evidence is our first African-American President.

The problem with integrating into the mainstream is that it's not very embracing of ethnicity. Cultural food, clothing, language, hair styles, and other elements that make a people unique, don't always have a place in what many consider the 'American standard'.

And let's be real, by mainstream I'm talking about an idea of White America. The reason I say 'idea' of White America is because many families that now consider themselves white shed their French, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Polish, British, Irish, Scottish, Portuguese, Spaniard and other ethnicity in order to embrace that 'idea'.  And not to generalize, because some still celebrate their ancestry, but many treat ethnicity as something foreign or 'old world'.

Not quite the case with African-Americans. Though we've been in America for centuries, our ethnicity is as much a part of us as the heavy doses of melanin in our skin (everybody has it, we have a lot). Part of it is by choice, but most of it is probably because 'Our Skin don't fit In'.  Don't get me wrong - we have made our way into the mainstream, but we as a people love our food, dress, linguistic flavors, hair styles and other aspects that make us unique.  So African-Americans aren't going to shed their ethnicity anytime soon like other groups have in this country.

And so here we are, striving to be part of the mainstream, and having succeeded in many ways, but still separated through choice or chance by our love of ourselves, our culture, our ethnic identity.


This is where I focus on my beloved nerds of color. The geeks and geekettes with a particular outer hue, and an inner urge to argue over STAR TREK and STAR WARS. Those exquisitely bronzed individuals that shred their hesitations and cosplay as Naruto, or Sailer Moon, or Black Panther. I'm talkin' about the Afro-Nerds, Black Geeks, Black Nerds - BLERDS. It is a term that's been around, but Donald Faison made it popular in SCRUBS.  It's a group that can be part of the greater because of their knowledge and passion for the geek universe. But also a group that has its own flavors and sounds and lingual flair that the larger geek culture just doesn't understand or embrace.

There are two choices for a black nerd:
One - leave your black culture separate and join in the general definition of a nerd. Many have done so, as nerds and in general. Results may vary.
Two - be a nerd, but continue to embrace your culture and identity as a black person, and have them complement each other. It's still a balancing act though.

It isn't as black and white as I illustrate, but there are obvious problems with the first choice - self-identity, dealing with occasional insults that start out as "I'm not racist but...". Choosing the second has its own issues, but it doesn't mean you have to accept the term BLERD. Yet and still, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Accepting Blerd

Up until the 90s, I've felt that black nerds were sporadic islands of afro-awkwardness, floating in the caucazoid seas of geekdom. It wasn't until around the 2000s, and being blessed with getting a job at an art school full of talented and nerdy artist of color, that my vision was cleared and I saw that we were many... well, several. In the past year I've discovered even more of the community out there, and also became acquainted with the term BLERD.  Personally, I wasn't too sure about the word at first. Then I started to see what other blerds thought, and how they identified with it.  I connected with sites like Black Science Fiction Society and Blerd Nation. Made friends with Black Girl Nerds and The Black Geeks and many others. After seeing what kind of celebration revolves around it, I embrace the word as much as I embraced my fellow black nerds.

It's Not About Segregation, It's About COMMUNITY

We have come out of our closets and Tardis' in great numbers, and Blerd is the banner that we march under.  But many black nerds ask each other "How can you be part of Nerd culture and separate or segregate yourselves from it also?" I, like many geeks of color, didn't see the need to have a word that defined black nerds as something separate from the nerd culture. The internal argument in my mind was "Aren't we separated enough? Aren't we outcasts from general culture already? Why would I want to identify with something that makes me an outcast even more? A nerd is a nerd, that's it!" Calling yourself a blerd doesn't mean you want to separate from anything. It only means that you are telling the world that you want to still identify with the part of you that makes you 'black'. And incidentally, the part that doesn't quite fit into mainstream culture as I pointed out earlier. It means that there's a whole community of black nerds and geeks out there that share with you some experiences others don't. Blerd is just a simple term that expresses the many facets of being black and nerdy. It's a signpost for other black nerds out there, that travel those dusty roads to Mordor, to see that there's a comfortable rest area for them to geek out at.

And blerd also serves as a social platform to discuss some of the issues that black people have in nerd culture - lack of representation in media, racist trolling and other topics. Groups like the NAACP were created to deal with those issues in the general culture, why not 'Blerd' for our geek culture The term "STEAMFUNK" seems to have been created in the same vein in dealing with lack of diverse story and representation of black people in the world of Steampunk.


Many people (even some of you reading this) state that if there was a special term for White Nerds (Wherds?) it would be racist. Well, if white nerds felt separated or under-represented in some way in nerd culture, then it would be fine. If white nerds believed there were issues of identity between being white and a nerd, then by all means Wherd should be a term. If a white cosplayer caught flack for dressing up as an anime character because of his race, with critics saying he or she "Just wasn't keeping with the true nature of the character", then Wherd would be a great way to call all the white nerds together for a discussion about said cosplay incident. Would it be racist? No. Unless the Wherds made their group exclusive and didn't embrace other nerds. Hmmmm.

From my experience so far, the groups surrounding the term Blerd aren't exclusive. On the contrary, they are actually very inclusive - inviting white and other nerds of color to the discussion. If you're reading this and haven't found Blerds in general to be very inviting, you better check yourself; the problem is probably not them.


Blerd isn't a separatists movement, but a cultural beacon in nerdism so that black people can know that they aren't as alone or isolated as they might have imagined. You would be surprised how many of us have felt or still feel that way. Yes, it sounds like a club, but there's no major cry for "Down with Whitey".

Blerd is a word shouting out in two voices - one to the whole black community saying "I'm a nerd, deal with it", and the other saying "I'm a Black Person, Deal with it" to his and her fellow nerds. You as a black nerd can accept it or not, and that's okay. But the way I see it, Blerd is just another way of being comfortable with yourself. Comments Below Please.


Above is a little something extra for you to enjoy. It is an episode of my night time podcast - GEEK SOUL BROTHER: AFTER DARK - where I asked my Five Nerdy Venoms and guests about how and when Geeks Segregate themselves based on race, gender, sexuality and culture. I think it compliments this post very nicely. Thanks so much to Big Baba Rob and Renaegade Storm of The Black Geeks, and Jamie from Black Girl Nerds for joining the conversation, and Inda Lauryn (Corner Store Press), Well of Truth and all the guests that participated in the chat.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Marvel takes us to the stars with this 10th installment of their Cinematic Universe - GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.  It's a colorful space romp where reluctant heroes come together to save millions of lives against evil forces.  El Camino from our Podcast predicted it would be this generation's Star Wars.  I wouldn't go that far, but you could consider this a Star Wars Jr. with 5 Han Solos, no slave Leia, and The Force whittled down to a purple gemstone.

For the adult audience, it was predicable but entertaining.  For a younger generation it should be even more enjoyable. But it may not be as memorable as other great space adventures.  It was lush with aliens, spaceships and dark villains, but underneath it was a little 2 dimensional. One reason is because the main villain Ronan wasn't really the main villain.  Just like Loki in the Avengers, Ronan played by Lee Pace, answered to another.  That took some of the malevolence away from his characterization. Where Loki was established as a major threat in the first Thor film, we didn't have that background setup for Ronan.  His monologue and motivations were somewhat glossed over, though we understood where his pain and zealous acts of violence came from.  This is not to say that Pace didn't give a genuinely good performance as The Accuser. Au contraire, he was menacing. It's just that your heroes are only as good as your villains.  Truthfully, he's probably the same in the comics so I can only criticize so far.

And speaking of the heroes, I did like Chris Pratt as Peter Quill a.k.a Star Lord.  His casting was probably spot on. I say that only because I'm not up on the newer versions of the GotG comics and don't know Star Lord like that.  But just coming from his performance, Pratt as Quill was entertaining and carried the film well as the protagonist.  Zoe was also decent as Gamora.  Though we've seen her reach more emotional depth in films like Avatar, there were some scenes where Saldana had good chemistry with the rest of the cast. Even Batiste was much better here than in his previous projects and delivered some great tongue-in-cheek comedic lines.  Groot and Rocket Raccoon were most certainly the heart of the film.  Especially when Bradley Cooper emotes through his voice performance the inner pain that Rocket feels from his tortured origins.  I liked the casting of Hounsou, Gillian and Reilly.  And watching Rooker as Yondu Udanta was as fun as watching Merle Dixon from Walking Dead if he were painted blue and running a spaceship full of pirates. 

Directors like James Gunn have an eye for mixing action and levity.  It was perfect for this film, especially with Chris Pratt as the lead.  The other aspect that set it apart from most other space adventures is the classic music in the form of Quill's Mixtape.  It's a signature sound that I think will help specialize any future GotG films and the MCU franchise as a whole where the Guardians are included. 

Though it's not quite apparent, the film did introduce or expound on several key elements from Marvel Comics into the Avengers movie story arcs that I was exited in seeing -
  • The Kree - A race and empire that span the galaxy.  This also connects with Agents Of Shield
  • The Nova Core - a space police force.  It's also where a character Nova comes from.
  • The Immortals in the form of The Collector
  • And the story of the soul-gems and how they figure into the cosmic tapestry. 
It also revealed more of Thanos by introducing his relationship to Gamora and Nebula

The good thing about the movie is there's so much landscape, or rather space-scape, presented that the stories could be boundless.  Especially if our motley crew don't focus on some giant story arc like an infinity-gem and do some smuggling or inter-stellar bank heists in the future.

For us that stay informed of what Marvel is up to with their Avengers Phases, this is a piece to the puzzle that leads up to a possible story in Phase three.  But the uninitiated into the Avengers cannon might look at the characters from Guardian as great but not that relevant.  On the other hand, Marvel has given us another group of heroes that we can cheer for and I'm sure the next film will have more character and story texture.  With the predicted success of Guardians who knows what will come next - Inhumans, Young Avengers, Marvel Knights... there are several to choose from.

I'm just waiting for Marvel and Fox to get off their little studio butts and give us the Kree-Skrull War that we deserve.  You can't have the Kree without having the Skrull.  Hopefully there are some young and nerdy executive producers from each studio that are having midnight pillow-talk conversations about how awesome it would be to have a collaboration between Marvel and Fox for a giant galactic war with the Avengers, Guardians and the Fantastic Four all teaming up. Throw in the X-Men also with their recent success. Yes the film would cost $500 million to make, but it would probably make $2 Billion globally if done right. Maybe a two parter would be better.

Anyway, if you're a fan of the Marvel films you will certainly like Guardians of the Galaxy. You don't have to know them from the comics.  But if you do you should be satisfied with the Quill and the others brought to life.  Geek Soul Brother gives GotG 4 out of 5 Cosmic Afros.

BONUS PODCAST REVIEW: Here is the review of Guardians with my co-hosts - The Five Deadly Venoms and yours truly.  We break down what we liked and didn't like about the film. @Illumeenous gave it such a low score that she was about to get thrown off the show.

GEEK SOUL BROTHER and the 5 NERDY VENOMS podcast airs 10pm eastern on Tuesdays for News and Movie and TV reviews on  Search for Geek Soul Brother in iTunes and subscribe to get up-to-date downloads of each episode.  And keep up with future episodes by subscribing on Talkshoe, or give us a 'like' on Facebook and get updates when a new show is scheduled.

Friday, July 25, 2014

THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014) - One Of The Most Terrifying Nights In Cinema!

When you think of films where people are caught on the streets at night and things are about to go down; classics like Escape From New York, The Warriors or Assault on Precinct 13 may come to mind.  Although these legendary films have a great following, a new entry has been brought to the screen and could easily garner a cult all its own - THE PURGE: ANARCHY.

I can't say that Anarchy will become a classic as other films of the same kind.  But I feel like it has several moments of craziness to get there.  For those that don't know, The Purge: Anarchy is the sequel to The Purge.  A story set in the near future where a new US government has been established by the 'New Founding Fathers'.  An annual event called The Purge was created to allow citizens to unleash all the aggression and murderous tendencies during 12 hours on a single night.  Every crime is legal including murder.  There are no police, no fire and rescue, no public assistance of any kind.  If you're rich you can afford protection for your home.  That was shown in the first film.  But if you are on the not-so-rich side, you just have to try to live through the night.  And you certainly don't want to be on the street during these 12 hours, unless you want to participate in the purge.

I appreciated the concept of first film, but The Purge was missing a few things. Mainly that it didn't show the ramifications that such a dystopian future would foster.  The Purge: Anarchy took care of all of that!  The film starts out with three different points of view of people preparing for the purge.  One is a couple that's traveling to a relative who has a safe home to wait it out. Another was a waitress and mother who can't afford heavy protection for her, her daughter, and her elderly father in their small apartment.  The third player is a man that wants to participate in the purge, though his reasons are not as simple as some of the maniacs that show up later in the film.

I appreciated most of the actors and performances in this film.  Particularly Frank Grillo and Carmen Ejogo who sold their symbolic roles representing the two sides of the purge, those of predator and prey.  And to his credit writer / director James DeMonaco created a few villains that would be great choices for Todd Toys.  Keith Stanfield as 'Young Goul Face' definitely deserves a figure. Just another word about Frank Grillo - I could easily see the influences of Snake Plissken, Mad Max, and for a spit second, even Terminator.  It's been going around the net that Grillo could even be The Punisher if they decide to make another film.  If he bulks up, I'm all for it. 

What makes this film work is how DeMonaco blended the visuals of rats caught in a maze with the feeling of constant danger around every corner.  Tension never really let up because even when you thought the characters were safe, you had the uneasy feeling that things weren't quite right.  DeMonaco turned the cityscape into a night-lit jungle filled with beasts great and small.  Adding to it was the unfolding of the true nature of the purge.  Who was the purge really for? The general population? Or was there a more sinister purpose?

But as much as I liked certain things about The Purge: Anarchy, there were some predictable moments that played a little cliche.  Not that the story could go in too many directions, but there were some things that could have been thought out more.  Not a big deal though, because the film delivered some nice little surprises. 

As you watch The Purge: Anarchy a terrifying thought might come to mind.  If the government fell into the wrong hands, this crap could possibly happen! It's the constant warning of all Sci-fi dystopian stories that we that have a conscience need to keep our asses vigilant, and not let small and power hungry groups take over.

Geek Soul Brother gives it 3.75 out of 5 Cosmic Afros. 364 Days until the Next Purge! Your Government Thanks You.

GSB Film Review - LUCY (2014)

Lucy doesn't kick too much gangster ass. But she does kick Reality's ass on many levels!

In the beginning of the film we see an image that one wouldn't expect from a Besson film - a prehistoric cave woman sitting by a river drinking.  If you watched the trailer at all you know that this story involves the evolution of a girl's brain to the use of 100 percent.  After the initial imagery I figured this wasn't going to be Luc Besson's usual shoot'em up female action film.  I didn't even know the half of it.

There is no real character setup, initially.  We are simply introduced to Lucy, played by Scarlett Jo-hotness, I mean Johansson - a student living abroad that has a shady boyfriend who wants her to deliver a briefcase to some 'people'.  In minutes she's swept up into a world of organized crime, bloody fresh corpses and unwilling drug smuggling; all orchestrated by a Mr. Jang played by the exceptional Min-sik Choi.  And the drug that she was carrying was some crazy blue stuff that even Walter White couldn't have cooked up in his lab.  Breaking Bad? No?  You should get on that!  Through a painful event, the drug gets into Lucy's blood stream and she starts becoming more than your average girl.

Another thing I didn't expect from Besson was the periodic inter-cutting of metaphoric scenes like a cheeta and gazelle chase during Lucy's initial interaction with the goons of the mob.  I immediately got a sense that Besson was expanding his way of storytelling as well as his subject matter.

As for Johansson, I loved her in the role.  Besson's signature closeups took advantage of Scarlett's waves of emotion she expressed in the first act of the film.  And that's good.  Because once Lucy got the drug in her system she didn't express much emotion through the rest of the story.  We did get to see Lucy become an expert killer with a gun though.  But the action didn't last too long as the story started evolving as fast as Lucy's neurons in her brain.  The cool gun-play was replaced with cool telekinesis, mind reading, and really fast typing. That always means a person is really smart in science fiction.

There was an urgency to the film, but the resolution to the story didn't seem to equal it.  I can't quite say it was anti-climatic, but I wish it was more impacting.  This could be because of one - the film catapulted into a cool episode of Morgan Freeman's Through The Wormhole TV series and left the Columbiana action behind.  Or two - because Lucy was so powerful early on in the film that nothing seemed to be a real threat to her anymore except to reach her goal in time.  It's just that the goal seemed less important than the journey, which was kind of incredible by the end of the film.

There were a couple points in the story that needed more of an explanation, but it didn't hurt the telling of it.  Just some choppy moments.  This may also have been because of Besson's choice of film style that went along with the inter-cuts I mentioned.

Just another mention of the cave woman in the beginning; the scene was very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  And the film swiftly unfolded like 2001, but with the subplot of mobsters.  It was a unique polarity expressed in the nirvana like journey of Lucy and the lower-man efforts of the crime boss to get his drugs and kill this young woman.  If you're going to mix a story about a girl, the Asian mafia and Quantum Physics, this is about the best you can do.  I tip my afro-antenna to Besson in that his was a deep and thought provoking existential message based in a science fiction story.  But it needed a more delicate execution which other classic films were able to achieve.

I'm hard pressed to give this a rating because I can't put my finger what the general scifi audience will not like about this film.  But if you like theories about the purpose and existence of life, matter and the universe more than a hot girl with guns and telekinesis, then you might think that my rating of 3.25 out of 5 Cosmic Afros is too low.  The trouble is I like both too.  But if you want to see super-powered Johansson kick major ass from beginning to end then you're going to be very disappointed.

Side Note: I think that soon Scarlett will want to write her own science fiction story.  This is the forth film in the last year that she's done that's based in science fiction.  And 3 of those were hard scifi wrapped in some human experience - HER, UNDER THE SKIN, and now LUCY.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Afro Commentary: Stop Worrying About Guardians of the Galaxy

Ever since Guardians of the Galaxy was announced at the San Diego Comic Con Marvel panel two years ago, there has existed some skepticism amongst both the geek community and Hollywood analysts at large. How could a space movie – a genre that does not perform well in the theaters unless it begins with Star and ends with either Trek or Wars – be a success in an already tepid summer movie season? After looking at everything that has been released, combined with the early buzz and reviews, I have a good feeling that Marvel Studios will have another hit on their hands.

I admit I was one of the concerned at the beginning when they first announced Guardians. Despite Marvel’s vast cosmic roster of characters and storylines, (a good portion which may or may not be tied up due to the Fantastic Four rights over at Fox,) their first step was a group of misfits who end up becoming one of the universe’s best protection forces (after the Nova Corps, who sanctions the team.) A film directed by a relatively unknown who's claim to fame is scripting the Scooby-Doo live action movies and the Dawn of the Dead remake, not to mention helming the cult movie Super. Yet, the more I saw what James Gunn was doing with Guardians and the comments made by him and Kevin Feige (President of Marvel Studios), I became comfortable with the idea. Even with my reservations with some of the casting (I still want a Rocket with a gravely, Cockney accent dammit) I still held out hope; which was well placed when the trailers were released.

Yet, with all the promotion media presented for Guardians, there is still doubt on how well it will do. It may even be quite understandable, especially with the box office being down this year. Yet, I feel there are many factors that will help this film succeed.

1. It's Marvel, Dammit!
You can call Marvel many things, but at the end of the day there is only one adjective that describes them best: shrewd. They may be open to new directions and concepts for their characters (except for Fox's plans for Fantastic Four), but you cannot accuse them of making moves that do not have the brand or their IP's at heart. They will not hesitate to cut someone from a project if the person does not have either aspect in mid. There are many examples of this (anyone remember Ed Norton Jr?), however the most recent one is probably the best one. Fans were crushed that Edgar Wright had left the Ant-Man project, feeling he was wronged for the fallout over the script and direction. Up until that point, it had seemed both sides were on the same page with the concept and overall visual feel. It was a shock to many that Wright and Marvel butted heads; however some creative relationships just cannot co-exist, especially when one party is justifiably protective of their brand.

How does this fit in with Guardians? Simple: Marvel wouldn't have dipped their little piggies into the space portion of their portfolio if they weren't sure money could be made while keeping the brand intact. They have enough experience with movies - with a proven track record, mind you - to gauge what will work in their strategy. They are confident to the point of being bat-ish crazy that this concept will work.

Speaking of bat-ish crazy...

2. It Is Such A Crazy Idea, That It May Actually Work!

As I said before, Marvel is not afraid to try new things with their properties. Some bad (everyone remember Spidey wiping his marriage away to save Aunt May?), but many turned out good. Whether it is the comics or the movies, many of their ideas look crazy on paper but work out when put into place. After the initial excitement over the announcement of the Phase 1 of movies would lead up to The Avengers, many people became skeptical. A lot of the "How will they make this work" kind of questions began to be asked. People became hesitant, almost fearing the final result of the project. Fast forward a few years later, and the film became the undisputed film of the year, breaking several box office records and grossing $1.51 billion worldwide.

During a Twitter discussion on the recent news that Falcon would be taking over as Captain America, one thing that resonated with me is that Marvel is a lot smarter than fans give them credit for. They know the treasure trove of material they have at their disposal, and are apparently not afraid to use it. Some of it so crazy - such as Guardians of the Galaxy, where you have an assassin, a being whose sole purpose is to kill Thanos, a mercenary rodent, his deciduous friend and a rogue thrown together to be heroes - that with the right people, it will work on screen. They have both Feige - who has been with Marvel Studios since its inception in 2000 and an overall comic geek - and Joe Quesada at the helm; both men willing to take calculated risks. The company itself converted the comic’s division, beginning with “The Ultimates”, into a testing ground for concepts and storylines for motion pictures and television, while staying true to putting out quality material. They also used the One Shot stories as potential jump off points for other projects such as Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter. They are giving the fans what they want to see while experimenting with things that can be used in multiple formats.

This organized, yet reckless abandon approach has paid off for the House of Ideas. For the last 15 years, barring stunt issues that DC frequently throws out, Marvel has been #1 in comic sales as a whole. They have consistent success in the theaters ever since the studio arm released their first film, Iron Man, seven years ago. Their only weak link right now is their television/animation division, and this is something that could be resolved with the replacement of an individual or two.
The company knows what it is doing, and if the early buzz heading into San Diego Comic Con is any indication, Guardians should do well. And why shouldn't it? It appears to be a fun romp that many of the films this year are lacking.

3. Hollywood Predictability
I know it sounds like an incredibly douchy response as an outsider looking in, but think about it. Why else would you release a movie at a time when you throw most of your junk in? Most Hollywood analysts had come to the conclusion months ago that Marvel slotted Guardians in the August 1 release slot because they did not have much faith in the film.

I'd have to disagree with that assessment.

I feel that the decision was equal parts desperation and opportunity. Okay, desperate may sound harsh, but not without its merits. Ever since Marvel announced that they planned to release two films a year, I feel an ever increasing problem arose for them. There are now so many movies jammed packed into the traditional summer blockbuster schedule, that slotting Guardians in a release date where it would stand out most likely became an issue. This year you had Transformers: Age of Extinction, Godzilla, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, X-Men: Days of Futures Past and others that took the prime spots of the season. With Hollywood's currently mentality of barraging people with "blockbusters", the conventional scheduling of films becomes useless.

Leave it to Marvel to do the unconventional. I am sure somewhere along the scheduling process, someone asked "Why not August", with question receiving "Yeah, why not August" as a response. August through September is considered a dumping ground, where studios usually send movies they are not too sure about to die a quick death in obscurity. The logic to put Guardians at the cusp of the summer dumping ground gives Marvel an advantage. They have already experimented placing projects on months that are considered awkward for films (April for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World in November) with great success. Each time, neither film had any competition for weeks, allowing them to rake in a combined $465 million domestically. The company has already proven that if you put out a product people are interested in, they will go to the theaters.

Guardians only competition in early August is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has not been well received so far. Guardians also has the added weight of the post-San Diego Comic Con buzz as well. Marvel is expected to focus on promoting the project heavily in addition to announcing future ones as well. Yes, Disney may be concerned with Guardians tracking (which has resulted with the intensive advertising campaign), but I feel between Marvel’s strategy, experience and the word of mouth, The House of Ideas will have yet another great film that will be number one.

Ultimately, I could be very well off-base in my logic. Guardians could be Marvel Studios first goose egg, which will make Feige and others re-evaluate their entry into the space genre. Many of the company’s future plans could be affected by what could be a turd in a can for them. It is a scenario that can happen come August 1.
However, after everything we know of this film, Marvel’s track record and just the sheer potential of more Marvel stories in space (Kree/Skrull war, anyone?), I feel confident in saying that Guardians will perform well. I welcome your thoughts on the matter. How do you think the film will do going into SDCC? I want to know!