Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis ~ The Skinny

Ophelia (Cicely Tyson) runs the comb through Annalise's hair (Viola Davis)

Ophelia (Cicely Tyson) runs the comb through Annalise’s hair (Viola Davis)

How to Get Away With Murder
ABC 9/8 CST ~ “Mama Here Now”

It was a most intimate moment on primetime television last Thursday night: daughter-between-momma’s-legs getting her hair parted, her scalp scratched, and her hair combed. Annalise Keating, Esq. (Viola Davis), the fierce instructor of criminal law, dresses to the nines and leads a cadre of bright students who sit at her feet in Shonda Rhimes’s drama How to Get Away With Murder. Then, there is Anna Mae, the abused child who never received an acknowledgement from her momma that something went wrong that night when the uncle came to stay. So Anna Mae grows up and transforms herself into Annalise, and hides under a wig the hair that the uncle touched when something went wrong that night. Momma Ophelia (Cicely Tyson) knows the truth; so, Anna Mae can come out now, and let her hair be.

Momma Ophelia went for Anna Mae’s natural as she observed (and I paraphrase), “come here let me get at your hair; your kitchen is tight.” That gesture accompanied by a gentle command was all too familiar (as well as the ‘kitchen’ code) because it reminded me of my mother’s call for me to sit in the chair to let her “run the comb” through my hair when I came home for a visit. Not one thing was wrong with my hair, but I intuited as I answered her call that mom wished to keep going the ritual of dressing the hair of her eldest daughter as she had done for her three girls from the time we came out of her womb.

Yes, it was a ritual. Every night, mother sat on her bed and called us one-by-one to sit between her legs on the floor. There, she would part our hair, apply Ultra Sheen or Royal Crown to the scalp, brush and comb our tresses, patiently plait our hair, and wrap up her handi-work to make sure each plait stayed in place. In the morning, she untied our wrap, brushed our edges, accentuated the plaits with barrettes or ribbons, and prepared us for school or church. When we grew into teenagers, the time came for us to wear our hair down and in curls. In other words, we were ready for the press and curl. My sisters and I would wash our hair on Friday night, plait it up, and then loosen the tresses early Saturday morning for them to air dry as we did our chores. That’s right: no hair dryer nor blow dryer. Then, Saturday night, mom parted our hair into sections. As she gently glided the hot comb through our hair, she told stories of something or someone or other, and we would nod, or laugh, or attend with “really?” “you’ve got that right”, and so on and so forth. The result? A fresh press we would roll up with pink Goody sponge rollers. It never was a painful process as most women with these memories often posit; momma had a gentle hand, and this home salon ritual made possible a kind of bonding between my mother and her daughters.

"Don't ya'll know a VIP when you see one?" Momma Ophelia

“Don’t ya’ll know a VIP when you see one?” Momma Ophelia

My heart saddens–almost breaks–as I imagine what mother must have felt when we, in our young adult years with a little money in our pockets from our first jobs, released her hands from our hair in favor of a hair salon and a beautician–a stranger–who applied the Revlon mild perm to our scalp, shampooed then wet set our tresses, and put us under the dryer for the heat to make our curls. I guess that is why I obliged her every command to let her “run the comb through it” on my treks home when I began to let my hair grow into its natural state.

The sound of Momma Ophelia’s comb through her daughter’s hair sent me. It did, just as hearing the sound of the comb made from wood Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) pulled through Denver’s (Kimberley Elise) hair in front of a cackling fire in the movie Beloved moved me; or, the memory of the scene in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God when Teacake scratches the dandruff from the scalp of Janie’s head made my heart sing. It wasn’t just the combing of Anna Mae’s hair. No. The storytelling Momma Ophelia brought along with it added depth and substance to the Annalise’s onscreen presence. Even more significant, her revelation released her daughter from the night terrors brought on by an abusive relative her little girl experienced that only a “long match and a very flammable hooch” could handle. That Annalise, a grown and well-accomplished woman, allowed her mother to be momma initiated the process for Anna Mae’s healing, as only a momma’s validation of her little girl’s pain could do–all of this the night she dropped down in between her momma’s legs on the floor in her house.

Last Thursday night brought that intimate moment and, in that moment, I missed my momma calling for me to run the comb and her hands through my hair.

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime,
Catch a film …
Share the Popcorn …
Feed Your Soul!

Advertisements

‘Into the Woods’ ~ The Skinny

Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Milky White

Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) and Milky White

The singing? Crystal clear! The acting? Committed! The cinematography? Fantastic! From the Broadway stage to the silver screen, screenwriter James Lapine and director Rob Marshall have produced admirably Stephen Sondheim’s heartfelt musical, and we carry with us a host of platitudes when we leave the theater. The music seamlessly is interwoven within the dialogue, and you will not declare through gritted teeth, “just one more !@#$%&* song, and I am out of here!”

Into the Woods is an adventure into the business of wish-making and the tedious processes it takes to make wishes come true. The story also delves into the tensions between children and parents; the search for the charms that will grant motherhood; spells mothers cast on their daughters; and, the hell you pay for touching and taking things that do not belong to you.

Baker's Wife (Emily Blount) and Baker (James Corden)

Baker’s Wife (Emily Blount) and Baker (James Corden)

Tiffany Little Canfield & Co. have assembled a laudable cast for the production, and the actors portray each character with honesty, compassion, and courage. Johnny Depp plays the prurient Wolf that brings to mind a pedophile most nefarious; his rendition of “Hello Little Girl” would cause a rattlesnake to recoil! By contrast, James Corden’s Baker is precious, and the actor interprets the Baker well as a protective husband but reluctant father. Emily Blount as the Baker’s wife, Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood, and Chris Pine as Prince Charming, among others, ably transport us into the world that critiques the usual suspects who inhabit the land of make believe. A small but significant note: Canfield & Co. sprinkles the palace crowds with people of color.

The darling of the film is, however, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack, and his performance is the reason his photo opens this review. His confidence is catching, yet, he refrains from playing a precocious know-it-all adolescent. Instead, Huttlestone’s Jack trusts in his own world and, with a bit of dash, explores its wonders (and steals from it too) because “you’re free, to do whatever pleases you … exploring things you’d never dare ’cause you don’t care …”

The Wolf (Johnny Depp)

The Wolf (Johnny Depp)

Overplayed and overdone is–here it comes–Meryl Streep as The Witch (did I just hear a shriek?) Simply put, she is miscast! What is all of that whirling dervish mess she acts out in the middle of the wood? Her delivery of “Last Midnight” is hollow–no … maddening, as are her obnoxious over-the-top appearances! For me, she fails to reach the depths of the Witch’s emotions.

While I am at it, I have an issue with Lapine, Marshall, and Mr. Sondheim: The Witch, the eldest of the group, finally gets her wish only to be dismissed? Into the Woods suggests, then, that happy endings are reserved only for young adults and not for the communal elders. Yet, as I call to mind fairy tale endings, their suggestion is par for the course.

Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford)

Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford)

Before closing, here are some more things to ponder: Little Red Riding Hood sings Wolf made her “feel excited and scared”; and, exactly what were those secrets she learned of “down a dark slimy path” that Wolf slid her through? As for Jack, he sings the Woman Giant “draws [him] close to her Giant breast, and [he knows] things now that [he] never knew before”, and this friendship causes Man Giant to “come[] along the hall to swallow [him] for lunch … when the fun is done”?

I’m just thinking on these very lyrical moments that rang out with passion into the woods!

And that’s the Skinny!

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary right here on The Dreher Report.

In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

‘The November Man’ ~ The Skinny

Peter Devereaux, The November Man  (Pierce Brosnan)

Peter Devereaux, The November Man (Pierce Brosnan)

In the spirited vernacular on the street, “alright now Pierce Brosnan! Go’on with yo’ bad self! You wear it well–age ‘n all!” Brosnan ably carries the cinematic load (yes, load) as Peter Devereaux, a retired CIA agent, in Roger Donaldson’s espionage thriller The November Man. Devereaux is pulled out of retirement by a “friend” Hanley (Bill Smitrovich) who makes known to Devereaux that his former lover, Natalia (Mediha Musliovic), is in trouble and asks for him to come to Belgrade and help her out.

Devereaux and Alice (Olga Kurylenko)

Set in Russia and Romania, the movie is a rough and tumble spy-thriller in a creaky used European vehicle full of spies, car chases, shoot-outs, a neo-cold war, murder, rape, and brutal assassins. Luke Bracey plays Mason, Devereaux’s protégé, and his performance barely moves beyond surfer-dude-on-vacation–he is out of his league! It is as if he signed on for a game of paint-ball on a putt-putt golf course. Ridiculous, yes? His motivation to ‘turn’ on his mentor is so weak that it goes to the ‘what for?’ or the ‘really?’

Natalia (Mediha Musliovic)

Natalia (Mediha Musliovic)

The script written by Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, certainly needed a second glance from an editor. Of course, Hollywood just had to go for the May-December pairing of Devereaux with Alice (Olga Kurylenko), the girl–oh, excuse me, the young woman who has the information that could get her killed. Tch. So unnecessary, especially since he and Natalia were a perfect fit! While I’m at it, what took so long to relay to the audience why Devereaux is called the ‘November Man’?

Mason (Luke Bracey)

While I’m still at it, see the visual on the right with Mason crashing through the door? Sexy, huh? He’s there to save Devereaux’s daughter, Lucy (Tara Jevrosimovic). Well, remember John Shaft’s (Richard Roundtree) crash through the window to save Bumpy Johnson’s daughter? Same action only Shaft did it better–way better! Yes, I’m talking about Shaft! (I could not help myself!)

If you can wait for The November Man to come out on DVD or is available for streaming. If you are a Pierce Brosnan fan, go to the theater. He’s worth the time and the money.

That’s the Skinny!

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.
In the meantime, Catch a film … Share the Popcorn … Feed Your Soul!

‘Hercules’ ~ The Skinny

Megara (Irina Shayk) looks on as Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) returns home from battle

Megara (Irina Shayk) looks on as Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) returns home from battle


dir. Brett Ratner

Myth is strong because in its more benevolent sense, it gives communities some idea of beginnings and meanings to things, people, and places not easily understood. Myth is the stuff that legends are made of. Mythmaking, however, is powerful and, depending on who’s telling it, this part of storytelling can inspire fear, awe, and wonder in its listeners.

Tydeus (Aksel Hennie)

Tydeus (Aksel Hennie)

We all know the story or the myth of Hercules, the strongest man in the ancient Greco-Roman world who, in the words of my mother, “didn’t let any grass grow under his feet.” Yes, the demi-god made many adventures and completed his 12 labors before he embraced his own myth. Director Brett Ratner with screenwriters Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos brings this weathered hero to the screen in his adaptation of Steve Moore’s Radical Comics mini-series.

Hercules & Crew

Hercules & Crew

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson admirably interprets the gigantic legend, and earns respect as he casts aside his own legend as “The Rock” to give Hercules room to breathe. He looks good—real good—yet Johnson plays his muscular body to Hercules not to “The Rock”. Johnson’s Hercules is compassionate, loyal, and, even more commendable, aware that all of his heroic feats in battle could not be accomplished without his crew, among them Amphiarus (Ian McShane Deadwood), Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), a mute warrior, and Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the uber-skilled archer of Greek Myth. The keeper of the stories of Hercules is his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), who as a young man comes of age fighting with his uncle.

Atalanta, Archer extraordinaire (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Atalanta, Archer extraordinaire (Ingrid Bolso Berdal)

Hercules & Crew invigorate in exhibitions of ride-or-die loyalty in battle scenes that are worth the price of the ticket.

The screenplay is credible, and the plot twists not far-fetched as comments on power and how it is brokered to retain kingdoms are delivered plausibly by King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes) and Lord Cotys (John Hurt).

And that’s The Skinny!

Watch a movie … share the popcorn … feed your soul!

‘Maleficent’ ~ The Skinny

Angelina Jolie delivers as Maleficent

Angelina Jolie delivers as Maleficent

… and here we were thinking it was all because she was not invited to the baby shower! Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Robert Stromberg’s feature film debut of the same name. Once upon a time, there lived a young and confident fairy named Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy and Ella Purnell), who, though an orphan, loved life and all that it had to offer her. She had wings that gave her freedom, joy, excitement, and pure unadulterated happiness. They were so large that they dragged behind her when she walked. They were strong and they never faltered–not once–and [she] trusted them. She lived in The Moor, a land of innocence where an animated forest, fairies, pixies, water sprites, and other magical creatures roamed free in a verdant lush land undisturbed by the threat of violence–that is until a human stumbled into their land. Stefan (Sharlto Copley), a farm boy, had all the panache of dried leaf. He and Maleficent, nevertheless, formed a friendship in the Moor that is sealed with “true love’s kiss”. Betrayal then followed, fueled by ambition, and a treacherous act Stefan committed that cut deep into the heart. Had I no hope of the recovery, I may have walked out of the theater!

"They were strong [...] and I trusted them!"

“They were strong […] and I trusted them!”

Some parts of the narrative, however, made me wonder. For instance, is Maleficent the only fairy of her kind? Why is Maleficent so isolated in a forest of thorns with creatures for whom she has no direct association? Who are her friends? Why isn’t there someone–an elder, perhaps–with whom she can consult and who can stand with her while she bears her grief? Perhaps, that’s just it: Maleficent lays bare the threat of isolation and how it breeds abuse, even the will to murder, even the act of rape. In this film, Maleficent’s isolation marks her as an open/easy target for those who wish to devour the very essence of who she is. Isolation sets her up for the kill, and Stefan does with abandon! On another note, there were times in the film I kept asking: you’ve got magic! Why won’t you use it get you out of this situation? Perhaps, that’s just it, again: Sometimes, a woman just has to stay the human course and rest on the hope that she will get out alive to use her magic! After all, her body is the vessel she need to deploy her magic. Hope does come to the rescue in the things which have been stolen from Maleficent. They beat for her. They find her. They lift her up out of the muck and mire! They save her! Therein lies the grace of Maleficent. Mercy!

Anne Sheppard’s costume design is grandiose, but Jolie inhabits it with the confidence of a stalking cheetah. The actress easily transitions from a once trusting, vulnerable friend into a bruised and almost-broken double-crossed villain. I tell you, it is a heart-wrenching scene, and the dialogue written by Linda Wolverton (one line in particular) under girds Maleficent’s most traumatic experience.

Maleficent might disappoint in some scenes but go and watch the film. The twist to Sleeping Beauty is inspiring. Let me just say this: the boys ain’t waking us up any more (think Frozen)! You will not be disappointed!

Watch for in-depth Film • Television • & More reviews & commentary.

In the meantime
Catch a film …
Share the Popcorn …
Feed Your Soul!

‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ ~ the skinny

Muriel, the Bad Witch after Gretel's pure heart (Famke Janssen)

Muriel, the Bad Witch after Gretel’s pure heart (Famke Janssen)

There is only one word for Hansel & Gretel: Witches! They are fierce! They are fearless! They ride the cadillac of brooms and are masters of hand-to-hand combat. They are as beautiful as they are ugly, but each witch is a force to be reckoned with! The fight scenes between them and the Hunters alone are worth a run to theater.

Tommy Wirkola directs a pretty good fantasy as he imagines a back story on the classic fairy tale. In addition to his exploration of the socio-cultural dynamic of the rumor mill once it is unleashed within a small town, Wirkola, too, imagines why mom (Kathrin Kuhnel)  & pop (Thomas Scharff) decided to take their children to the forest and what became of Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Aterton) after they save themselves and burn the witch (Monique Ganderton) in her own oven in the gingerbread/candy house. All grown up now, H&G have mined a celebrated reputation as witch hunters. Wirkola might have worked in a collage of flashbacks to give some idea as to how they made it from 10 or 12 year-old children to very skillful adult hunters.

Quite revealing, however, is that the witch hunt is the hunt for mature and/or single powerful women who have magic; they live by themselves on the outskirts of town deep deep into the verdant forest apparently minding their own business! What makes them prey is their magic (if not, H&G’s revenge for their childhood trauma), and, even more dangerous, they appear human but will turn into something-or-other and hiss and grunt at you.  When the evil Muriel kidnaps children, every witch is in danger–you will pinpoint the historical tie-ins.

See the movie and enjoy. There’s even an adorable Troll named Edward (Derek Mears) lumbering about the forest.

Witch 4

In the meantime, watch for film television & more to come!
“I insist,” says the witch!

%d bloggers like this: