Rating: B+/ I was reluctant to read this book because I was afraid it was going to be overly political. I don’t mind stories about racism and racial bias but it feels like that’s all people talk about these days and frankly, I needed a break from all that (I initially thought the same thing about the film Fruitvale Station, which turned out to be an exceptionally fair-minded and thought-provoking movie.) Monster is a very short novel and creatively utilizes a screenplay format, along with excerpts from the main character’s journal, to tell it’s story. Continue reading Book Review: Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Rating: B/ The Rag and Bone Shop is unlike any young adult novel I’ve ever read. I knew that Cormier wrote some really dark books for teens that frequently courted controversy, and although The Chocolate War was his best known novel, this was the one that peaked my curiosity the most. This book is extremely short, probably about the length to read as a movie script, and a lot of it is set in one windowless room, chronicling the conversation between an interrogator and his twelve-year-old suspect. The tone is unrelentingly dark, with no moments of relief or humor to be found to upset the bleakness that exists throughout. Continue reading Book Review: The Rag and Bone Shop by Robert Cormier
Rating: A-/ Over the last few years, but particularly since Trump’s vile ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ comments recently resurfaced in the form of a viral video, sexual assault has been a commonly discussed topic in the American media. Most people would probably agree that it’s a subject that needs to be talked about, and incidents like Brock Turner’s trial have brought to life time and again the rampant issues concerning sexual violence against women and the justice system. Continue reading Book Review: Lucky by Alice Sebold
Rating: A-/ I have extremely mixed feelings about the Black Lives Matter movement and the all-around virulent attitude toward law enforcement officers over the past few years (my dad has been a cop for as long as I can remember, and I think the political climate toward police, most of which are not racially biased and have never shot anyone in their life, has become extremely hostile and the media machine is not only feeding into things more than is honestly necessary, but actually making everything worse.) Continue reading Movie Review: Fruitvale Station (2013)
Rating: B/ This ain’t the vision of Rio di Janeiro you see on travel brochures! Told in a nonlinear style somewhat akin to Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, City of God tells the disturbing story of a Brazilian gangster named Lil’ Ze (Leandro Firmino) living in the crime-ridden ‘city of God’ who really wants to make a name for himself, and climbs up to the top of the food chain amid the senseless slaughter of hundreds of unfortunates.
Continue reading Movie Review: City of God (2003)
Rating: B+/ In a predominately black Chicago neighborhood, Calvin (Ice Cube) reluctantly maintains a small barbershop that his father left to him in his will. The business offers a sense of belonging and community for its employees and scarce but devoted clientele, and Calvin doesn’t really think about how important it is until he tries to sell it to a slimy loan shark (Keith David) who wants to turn it into a strip club. Observing the regular’s individual dramas, Calvin doesn’t realize the value of his father’s legacy until it’s nearly too late, and despite signing the loan shark’s lease agreement assuring that he will not back out on the sale of the business, Calvin puts it all on the line to save the barbershop that meant so much to his father, risking life and limb in the process. Meanwhile, two incompetent hoods (Lahmard J. Tate and Anthony Anderson) try to open an ATM they’ve pilfered from a local business, and the two stories coverage in a satisfying fashion.
Continue reading Movie Review: Barbershop (2002)
Rating: B/ Charlie Bronson (Tom Hardy) is a guy who loves to kick the shit out of people. It’s as simple as that, this film carefully avoids wrapping Charlie’s derangement into a neat package or coming up with pat psychiatric explanation for his crazy out of control behavior. As far as we know, Bronson was never molested, beaten with a belt, or locked in a cupboard. Born Michael Peterson to average comfortably middle-class parents (Amanda Burton and Andrew Forbes), Charlie (who picked the moniker from the name of the Death Wish star with the help of his uncle (Hugh Ross,) the proprietor of a sleazy nightclub) just really loves to fight. In fact, he’s famous for it, dubbed ‘Britain’s Most Violent Prisoner’ for his unhinged savagery. Continue reading Movie Review: Bronson (2008)
Rating: B+/ Based on homeless advocate Alexander Masters’ biography of his late friend, Stuart Shorter, this movie is an emotional roller coaster. Stuart (Tom Hardy) is the kind of guy people cross to the other side of the street to avoid. Drunk, drug-addicted, physically handicapped and mentally unsound, sporadically homeless junkie and Muscular Dystrophy patient Stuart is a man many would pity, but few would have the inclination to call ‘friend.’ Yet Alexander (Benedict Cumberbatch) reluctantly befriends him, after much initiating on Stuart’s part. The two men campaign together to release two homeless shelter aides wrongfully imprisoned by the courts, and along the way Alexander begins writing a book about Stuart’s troubled life story, which includes physical and sexual abuse, bullying, and early brushes with violent crime. Continue reading Movie Review: Stuart- A Life Backwards (2007)
Rating: B-/ Flaws aside, I don’t think this movie is as bad as the critics say. Sure, the characters are fairly unlikable and the plot twist doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but I was invested throughout the entire film in what was going to happen next (which is strange, since the lead character actually kind of annoyed me.) Plus, I love Charlize Theron, no matter what kind of fucked-up head case she’s playing (take the Oscar-winning crime drama Monster, for example. ) Continue reading Movie Review: Dark Places (2015)
Rating: B+/ In this drama based on Dennis Lehane’s short story Animal Rescue, Tom Hardy plays Bob, a quiet guy with a dark past who works as a bartender and tries to stay out of trouble. In the process of avoiding the temptations of a life of crime, he meets a girl (Noomi Rapace) with her share of bugs in her attic and reluctantly adopts an abused pit bull puppy. But when the girl’s boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts) starts pushing Bob to his limit and some mob money gets stolen from Bob’s boss’ (James Gandolfini)’s bar, Bob reveals his capacity for animalistic savagery that lingers behind his mild exterior. Continue reading Movie Review: The Drop (2014)