No Concessions: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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I sat in anticipation as the theater began to fill. Kids aged three to 43 filed in with their overpriced popcorn, candy and sodas to view the newest Marvel entry — Spider-Man: Homecoming. It had been a few years since the last reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield. It was even longer for me, last seeing Toby McGuire in his final go as Peter Parker. With that memory in my database, I hadn’t been the least bit interested in another installment.

But Spidey’s cameo in Captain America: Civil War peaked my interest. The subsequent campaign for his solo film sounded more promising, with a coveted bonus: diversity. Marvel Studios and Sony promised a true reflection of our bustling, multi-colored world. One that always existed despite media’s depiction of a paler place.

After the half hour of trailers, I sat concessions-free immersed into this familiar narrative. Luckily it was totally refreshing. Being the story has existed since the 1960’s, it felt as new and daring as it had been for me back in the early 2000’s. Now a new generation of fans could appreciate Peter Parker in a contemporary light.

When a dutiful construction manager (Michael Keaton) is shafted by Stark Industries, he takes matters into his own hands to provide for his family. Wanting to prove he’s more than Tony’s understudy, Peter (Tom Holland) makes it his mission to bring these thugs to justice. Simultaneously Parker is balancing life as a fifteen-year-old kid with crushes (Laura Harrier), bullies (Tony Revolori) and besties (Jacob Batalon, Zendaya).

The film is as much a superhero story as it is a high school dramedy. In hindsight its a coming-of-age tale. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is a brilliant mind at a school for the STEM gifted. As if perils of being a teenager aren’t enough, his hormonal sophomore year is compounded with the fact he’s now the newest member of The Avengers. A secret identity that places him and loved ones in danger’s cross-hairs.

Tom Holland perfects this balance with ease, charming viewers along the way. He has great comedic timing and holds his own in action sequences. When the time is right, he pulls the drama. Keaton is brilliant as the resourceful Toomes/Vulture. His goal isn’t pure evil, which makes his villainy a grey area.

Just as strong is Batalon who plays Ned, Peter’s best friend. As his first major role, Batalon isn’t just an ordinary sidekick, he’s the best man to the union that is Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Zendaya is perfect as nerd Michelle, the millennial MJ. A secret held tightly by Marvel, the reveal is a feel-good moment in the film. Fans cannot wait for her and Peter’s relationship to flourish.

Overall, Spider-Man’s return to the MCU is a fun, action-packed look at the future of the superhero film. One that looks a lot like the neighborhood in which you may reside.

 

No Concessions | Wonder Woman

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My introduction to the Wonder Woman universe was the syndicated 70’s series starring Lynda Carter. I watched in amazement as Diana Prince – in a twirl of light – would transform into her alter ego, the super heroine Amazon. With her bullet-blocking wrist-lets and Lasso of Truth, she fought for justice.

Naturally I was excited to hear WW was finally hitting the big screen. After decades of defunct attempts and that horrible NBC reboot, the first female superhero was going to tell her story. And despite doubt patriarchy conjured at every turn, Wonder Woman exceeded expectations commercially and critically.

First off Gal Gadot was great. The best part of Batman vs Superman continued her streak, doing the role justice. She was equally strong-willed and naive as she entered a world more complicated than the home she knew. Her chemistry with Chris Pine was on point, as he never seemed to outshine her. As Steve Trevor he played greatly as second fiddle to her protagonist.

The fight scenes were awesome and accurately spread out. The opening battle on Themyscira was brilliant, pitting our Amazons against their first sight of man. Also enjoyed Diana’s battle within the village, where she triumphantly leaped into a church steeple taking down a sniper.

As for the villains, they weren’t as menacing as I’d hope. Dr. Poison didn’t have much of a backstory, and neither did her German counterpart. Other than being a part of the Nazi regime, they were pretty basic. I guess this is because Aries remained the ultimate adversary.

I did side-eye the depth of representation. There were WOC on Themyscira, but minimal. I think more time on the oasis may have opened opportunities for more appearances. Also once in London, very little people of color in general. Hopefully we see a stronger effort in the sequel.

Overall I enjoyed the message of hope in the face doubt. Love in the time of war. D.C. hit it out the park, hopefully this continues with the winter debut of Justice League.

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Courtesy of variety.com

 

 

No Concessions: Oprah & the HeLa Cells

Saturday night HBO premiered the Oprah Winfrey-led film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, based on the New York Times best-selling book. Lacks tells a particularly American story of race and healthcare as a freelance writer seeks to uncover the untold life of medical science’s most valuable patient. What she and the youngest Lacks child discover is just how strong familial ties are bound against time and space.

 

Just who was Henrietta Lacks you ask? She was an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken for research by John Hopkins Medical School. After passing from cervical cancer in 1951, her cells remained in Hopkins possession for years to come, enabling them to finally sustain cells’ outside of the body. Known as HeLa cells, they became the basis of almost every major medical advancement including stem cell research,  cornea replacement and even AIDS research. Her family was never notified nor compensated for the use of their mother’s cells. A hospital is not obligated to receive permission from family or kin as long as the deceased patients’ name is changed. Henrietta Lacks became Helen Lane, and the rest became untold history.

Fast forward to a little over a decade ago, when Rebecca Skloot (Rose Byrne) comes across Lacks’ identity and wants more information about the woman who changed science in America. This leads her to Deborah Lacks (Oprah Winfrey) and her siblings, all in their early 50s and 60s, residing in Baltimore. The film traces Skloot and Lacks’ eventual friendship in uncovering the truth of what happened to Henrietta. It also chronicles the unhealthy distrust African Americans have of our medical system.

Running a little over a hour and a half, the film moves pretty steadily, using flashbacks of memories to re-tell the Lacks’ lives without Henrietta and what other perils plagued them. Winfrey is incredible as Deborah, a passionate woman who’s determination for truth has left her physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. By the time Skloot found her, Lacks had experienced a devastating mental episode, leaving her body stricken with innumerable ailments.  In many ways Oprah reminded me of her character in Beloved haunted by the search for something, someone stolen from her.

The cast was stellar with Hamilton’s Renee Elise Goldsberry (fresh from her The Get Down gig) portraying Henrietta in flashbacks. While Winfrey owned every scene she was in, two actors challenged her force. House of Cards’ Reg E. Cathey shines as Winfery’s youngest brother. The two share a special bond because of the ugliness that defiled their childhood. Second is John Beasley as a cousin who in a pivotal scene, rocks viewers souls as he deescalates a maniac Deborah.

Where I thought the film lacked in more flashback scenes, it made up for in its underlying, harsh reality — systemic racism infects everything. The film highlights the abusive relationship African Americans have with the healthcare system. Lacks’ story is one of many in which white lab coasts have treated black bodies like they always have — as property to scratch and prod for personal gain. Tales of black people disappearing from the streets of Baltimore to the clutches of John Hopkins are supported by tragedies like the Tuskegee Experiment — in which black men were unknowingly infected with syphilis and not treated, to view the disease’s effects on the human body. More recently discovered, PoC women being sterilized by abortion clinic professionals. They even covered the disheveled state of mental health — which still seeks major reforms — especially for people of color.

As I digested the magnitude this woman’s black body made in our country’s healthcare system, the medical advancements she created to heal millions of Americans as her children suffered from disease, I couldn’t help but associate this real-life drama with Jordan Peele’s metaphorical statement of appropriation with Get Out. Peele’s antagonists heinously kidnapped blacks’ bodies to replace white ones. Henrietta was secretly hijacked to save millions in a white-supremacy-laden nation. Just as the tale of Katherine Johnson and Hidden Figures laid dormant for ions, there’s no telling how many more narratives sit unknown on the shelves of history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is available via HBO or HBO Now. The book is offered wherever best-sellers are sold.

 

No Concessions | Movie Reviews

Much like someone may prefer cats to dogs or Coke to Pepsi, I’ve always chosen TV over film. I think primarily because one doesn’t have to leave the comfort of one’s house to do so. (Anyone born after 1996 may not understand this premise). Secondly, with TV series a rather bad episode or season can be forgiven with the promise of something better. A bad film experience can’t be compensated — that is time you’ll never get back. Thirdly its an arm to attend and a leg to eat at the theater. It’s a no for me. So here at LorinHates, I’ll occasionally expound on my cinematic encounters. Luckily I’ve traversed to the local AMC theater multiple times in last two months. Here are my thoughts.

ATTENTION : SPOILERS MAY APPEAR PENDING ON HOW LONG A FILM HAS BEEN OUT 

 

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