Category Archives: Film Review

Reel Spotlight: “Escorts” Webshow

At Reel Reality we love to put the spotlight on talented artists, businesses and professionals so every month we have decided to spotlight new, up and coming, and dope projects or people we have come across.

This month Reel Reality came across the web show Escorts! A drama filled show about the ups and downs of a young entrepreneur starting his own escort business. The show starts off with a group of people at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but the audience soon learns how everyone is connected through Jay Miller. Eager to find a cash flow to support his family Miller starts his own escort service using his college campus as the perfect recruitment location. The tables quickly turn when something tragic happens to one of his call girls leading Miller to face blackmail, incarceration, and more! Check out episode one below and let us know what you think of this series!! Reel Reality is definitely excited for season two!

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Director’s Cut: Zoe Saldana as Nina Review

The very black and unapologetic superstar known, as Nina Simone has not always been given her fair end of the stick. Breaking out as a star in the 1960s, 70s and beyond is no easy feat especially for a black woman that refuses to mold into society’s standard of beauty. Even with all the broken glass ceilings many do not know her life and the amazing success and fame she built for herself.

I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the movie Nina at the School of Visual Arts hosted by African American Women In Cinema (AAWIC). Many acknowledge the movie from the controversy over Zoe Saldana performing in “black face” as Nina Simone. Personally I was quite skeptical about why they decided to color Saldana to make her look more like Simone but that is exactly why I could not miss an opportunity to witness either greatness or mediocrity.

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The opening scene set in North Carolina during the 1940s set the tone for the strength of the movie. A young Simone with two braids pulled back into pigtails and a schoolgirl dress walked on stage towards a grand piano in an auditorium full of white faces. You see her finely dressed parents standing to the back of the auditorium by the door. Simone sits down ready to perform and slowly pauses, sitting still for a while an older white woman approaches Simone. She thoughtfully but boldly tells the white woman she will not perform unless her parents can sit in the front row. The woman tells her they cannot, as if her request was forbidden, and Simone simply repeats herself refusing to play until they are seated. The woman reluctantly walks away waiving Simone’s parents over towards the empty seats on the side of the room. Of course a couple of white people felt disrespected and left while the majority stayed to hear the prodigy pianist, Nina Simone. Her strength as a young child was just a little piece of the tenacity and power shown throughout the film and her life.

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Surprisingly the film only depicted the last ten years of Simone’s life, showing her struggle with alcoholism, mental illness, and her fight to get back to singing and her home country, America. The film was pleasantly surprising showing aspects of Simone’s life that many have not seen. The relationship she had with her young assistant, Clifton, who eventually became her manager and helped Simone stopped drinking, rebuilding her reputation and career. The film also showed Simone’s internal issues with men, love, family, mental illness, and touched on the anger she had towards a country she believed failed her and its people.

“Being an outspoken black women I feared for my life. It’s only natural I want acceptance from my own country, but I was tired of needing it,” stated Simone on why she left America.

The film had many layers I did not expect to see which was refreshing. I can definitely say that Zoe Saldana’s depiction of Simone was beautiful. She totally gave her all for this role, embodying Simone and tried to honor her the best way Saldana could. Something that surprised me the most was finding out that Saldana sang all the music in the movie and she sounded great! Unfortunately, with all good must come a little bad. Now the time has come to talk about the critics concerns, the makeup!

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While watching the film I really had to put aside all the negativity I heard beforehand about Saldana’s “black face” and really focus on the story itself. Now being truthful the make up was distracting in some scenes where she was darker than previous shots. Other times I was not sure about her age or what decade the scene was in because there were flashbacks in the film, but no significant change in her appearance. Although the make up was distracting at times it did not take from Saldana’s amazing performance. One thing that was greatly missing for me was more of Simone’s backstory. For many millennials they may not know Simone’s legacy and grandeur and that was not shown well in my opinion as to why and how she became the NINA SIMONE! Honestly, that may have been too much of a backstory to put in this movie considering the fullness of her life.

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Regardless of the backlash about this film it should definitely be seen. Nina embodies the boldness and strength of Simone along with the roller coaster of emotions she dealt with while being a successful black female star in a white world. Lastly, Nina made me thankful for Simone’s greatness and inspired me to want to be more like Simone and learn more about her life and share it with those around me. NINA is definitely Reel Approved! To actually watch the movie visit the Urban Movie Channel.

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Director’s Cut: Will Smith’s Newest Movie Concussion

Counting all the men you know that played football, either recreationally or professionally at some point in their life, it would not be a fun task. Well after watching “Concussion” I did exactly that, sat down, and started to think about those men and young boys. The fact that playing football as a child may cause mental health issues later in life is a chilling thought. Even though it is not too surprising considering the physicality of football. The results of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research are very disturbing and the exact reason the National Football League had a frenzy when they heard about his findings over ten years ago.

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Concussion starring Will Smith dissects how professional football players are affected mentally, physically, and emotionally by hard hits and an excessive amount of games. The movie beautifully shows the tragic stories of Pittsburg Steelers hall of famer Mike Webster, Andre Waters, Dave Duerson and others, and how pathologist Bennet Omalu discovered that these athletes had the crippling disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

I had the privilege of attending a prescreening of the movie (thank you Blogxilla and Global Grind) and for me the experience of seeing how these athletes’ entire lives was centered around football to only have the center of their world be the cause of their demise was heart breaking. The movie so gracefully shows the dirty truths of CTE and how the disease not only kills these athletes mentally, spiritually and emotionally, but also affects their families and friends. Concussion had clever and strategically placed humor, which made the movie feel less somber. Ultimately, it was the drive for survival through Omalu and the players that made the biggest impact for me. Not only was Omalu fighting for his career he was fighting for the players and the voice they lost from CTE. It is interesting to see how football caused all these men including the coaches, players and Omalu to fight for something bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, that same drive caused some athletes their lives, but their need to succeed and support their families was powerful. Concussion is definitely one of the most groundbreaking and impactful sports movies to date. I strongly encourage you to see the movie Concussion hits theaters on Christmas Day!

DIRECTORS CUT: Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus”

 

The thought provoking and controversial director, Spike Lee, has done it again with his newest movie Da Sweet Blood of Jesus! This thriller centers around Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams) who becomes cursed by an ancient African artifact that he finds through an art curator Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco). This cursed artifact makes Hess obsessed with blood.  No, Hess does not become a vampire, and he does not have super powers or have eternal life! In fact, the movie becomes a twisted love story once Lafayette’s wife, Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams), comes looking for him but becomes involved in a dangerous romance with Hess.

Last week I had the privilege of attending Spike Lee’s event, In Conversation: Brooklyn Renaissance at the Brooklyn Museum. This was my first time hearing Spike Lee speak in person and I really enjoyed the conversation that was had with painter Kehinde Wiley and graphic illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

The conversation touched on a lot of different topics about art, film, women’s rights, racial discrimination, and travel but what I loved most about the conversation was when Spike Lee was asked what made him want to have this event and Lee’s answer was “I like working with artists.” So simple but so profound, that it takes a village of great minds and creativity to create profound work.

Wiley and Fazlalizadeh’s work is presented throughout Lee’s movie Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. To see more of Kehinde Wiley work you can catch shows like Empire every Wednesday night at 9pm on FOX or visit the Brooklyn Museum to see his exhibit “A New Republic.” For more of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh work you can walk the streets of New York City and see several of her posters from her street art project called “Stop Telling Women To Smile.”  Check out both of these artists work they are both making such a profound change in America’s perceptions of women and race.

Make sure you check out Spike Lee’s newest movie Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus in theaters now!

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