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‘American Fiction’ movie review: Write stuff from Jeffrey Wright 

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‘American Fiction’ movie review: Write stuff from Jeffrey Wright 

A still from ‘American Fiction’ 

One is almost looking over one’s shoulder to avoid the hyperbole that American Fiction so cleverly and savagely attacks. Based on Percival Everett’s 2001 novel, Erasure, Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut is a glorious ride through the earnest silliness of academia and the publishing industry.

American Fiction

Director: Cord Jefferson

Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Issa Rae, Sterling K. Brown

Storyline: A literary author decides to write a trashy book as a joke only to have it turned on him when the world takes the book seriously

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Run time: 117 minutes

Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is a literary author whose books, though well reviewed, do not sell. His agent, Arthur (John Ortiz) says publishers reject his latest manuscript for not being ‘black’ enough. After an altercation over race with a student at the Los Angeles college where he teaches, Monk is asked to go on a leave of absence and spend time with his family in Boston.

While attending a literature festival, Monk finds his panel poorly attended though another author, Sintara Golden’s (Issa Rae), is packed. Sintara is the flavour of the season with her novel We’s Lives in Da Ghetto, which is full of the expected argot, teen pregnancies and poverty. Meanwhile, Monk meets his sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross) a recently divorced doctor, who is left as the primary caregiver for their mother, Agnes (Leslie Uggams) after Monk and his brother Cliff (Sterling K. Brown) left home.

Cliff is a plastic surgeon whose wife left him on finding him in bed with another man. Monk begins a relationship with his neighbour Coraline (Erika Alexander), a lawyer, who has read and enjoyed one of Monk’s books. Eventually frustrated with the critics’ and publishers’ efforts to reduce the black experience to a bunch of stereotypes and in urgent need for money to pay for his mother’s care, Monk writes My Pafology, packed with gang wars, drugs and pathetic fathers.

Writing under the ridiculous pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh, Monk is shocked to find his publishers giving him a hefty advance and Hollywood producer Wiley (Adam Brody) offering millions to make a movie based on the book. In an effort to give the “limousine liberals” grit and reality, Monk pretends Leigh is a fugitive from the law. As the book zooms up the bestseller charts, the FBI is after him and Monk has to judge his book for a literary prize.

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A still from ‘American Fiction’ 

A still from ‘American Fiction’ 

Sintara is also on the panel of judges and while the other three judges are all for Leigh winning the prize, Monk is surprised that Sintara finds the book fake and pandering. The climax at the literary award dinner reveals a surprise.

American Fiction is beautifully written and acted, as Wright breathes life into Monk with deft, small touches — his rage, bemusement and tenderness are delightfully understated. The love between the housekeeper, Lorraine, (Myra Lucretia Taylor) and the policeman Maynard (Raymond Anthony Thomas) is a sweet path one can go down as is the fractious yet ultimately warm relationship between the siblings.

Stagg’s characters — Willy the Wonker (Keith David) and Van Go Jenkins (Okieriete Onaodowan) — coming alive is fiendishly clever. The film is filled with these bright touches, including the names and is so reminiscent of the intense discussions in literature class. Indian writing in English went through these labels that literary criticism delighted in from post-colonial to diaspora. Indian movies could also be divided into exotica featuring snake charmers and ruminating cows, the Raj movies, with fainting English roses, and others featuring the oppressed and foul-mouthed gangsters who end up shot to death in bathtubs full of money.

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Up for five Oscars including Best Picture and Actor for Wright, American Fiction proves one does not need to be gloomy to make a point; one can have loads of fun while doing so.

American Fiction is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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Movie Reviews

‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review

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‘Abigail’ is a Delightfully Gory Addition to Vampire Movies – Review

Becky checked out Abigail to see how it stacks up to other vampire movies.

I need to start off with a bit of blunt honesty: I initially thought it was a mistake for the trailers to give away that Abigail is a vampire. It would’ve been an immensely satisfying twist had the audience gone in completely blind to the truth of what Abigail really is.

That being said, having seen the film, I can now admit that it wasn’t a mistake at all. In fact everything given away in the trailer only serves to whet the appetite, so to speak, for what’s to come in the rest of the film.

Abigail, an extremely loose re-interpretation of Dracula’s Daughter (1936), follows a group of kidnappers as they snatch a wealthy mogul’s daughter, the titular Abigail, to hold her for ransom. It seems like a simple job: hold the girl until her father coughs up the ransom, everyone gets paid, everyone is happy. There’s just one little detail the kidnappers don’t know: Abigail is actually a vampire, and she’s very hungry.

The story does take a bit of time to properly get going, with a major chunk of time passing before anything remotely supernatural happens. However, once the creepy vampire activities start happening, the story kicks into a whole new gear. The basic set up is frightening, as these criminals find themselves locked in a house with a vampire and no exits. The thing is, the story also comes across as funny at times, in a weird and twisted sort of way.

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For instance, there’s a scene revealed in one of the trailers where the group debates how they’re going to take the vampire down and they list off the different kinds of vampires known in fiction (citing Anne Rice, True Blood, and Twilight among other things). It makes sense that this is how most people would have any information about vampires, yet the way it’s presented you can’t help but laugh a little when it comes up.

The cast is one detail that makes Abigail a very good film. Alisha Weir almost completely steals the show with her performance as Abigail and proves she has a bright future in movies. Kathryn Newton also rocks as Sammy the hacker. This is the second horror film I’ve seen her in this year and she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actresses. However, all praise needs to be given to Melissa Barrera’s performance as Joey. She absolutely killed it throughout the film and it’s mesmerizing to watch her interactions with Abigail shift throughout the story.

One thing that needs to be noted is that Abigail is a very gory film. It’s not constant, but when it does happen, it’s a lot. The filmmakers definitely played these moments up for maximum effect and it works.

Something that worked unexpectedly well is the theme of ballet that is woven throughout the film. That is one detail I wasn’t sure would work, but if anything it serves to make Abigail even more terrifying. To be followed throughout the mansion by a vampiric ballerina is quite unsettling and definitely makes Abigail one of the more memorable additions to the lore of vampiric cinema.

In conclusion, Abigail is equal parts scary, gory, and believe it or not, fun. It likely won’t win any awards, but I truly feel that most people who go in to see it will leave feeling satisfied. Abigail is the very definition of a good ‘popcorn movie’ and one I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

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Short Film Review: Wooden Toilet (2023) by Zuni Rinpoche

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Short Film Review: Wooden Toilet (2023) by Zuni Rinpoche

“You separated from us”

Winner of Best LGBTQ Short Film’ at the International Kolkata Short Film Festival this year, “Wooden Toilet” had an extensive festival run before premiering in its country of production, Bhutan.

The 11-minutes short begins with a rather impressive sequence, of a procession of people dressed in white through the mountains, with an exception of one woman who is eventually revealed to be the one whose husband’s funeral the group of people were attending. The sudden laughter of a man breaks the ritualistic approach, and we find out that there is something unusual about this man, who is later on trying to explain it to the aforementioned woman. The back story of another man, where he is trying to reveal something to his father but is instead met with anger and scorn, highlights, to a point at least, what the issue with the two men is. One of the final scenes makes it rather clear, while the last scene connects the short with its title.

The first thing one would notice about “Wooden Toilet” is its impressive visuals. Starting with the initial procession, the close ups that emit a sense of horror, the hanging ropes and the red bedroom are all truly memorable, with Zuni Rinpoche implementing symbolism in order to make his comments. The symbolisms, however, are somewhat difficult to understand what they are about, although the comment about the racism and lack of understanding queer people have to face is made quite clear.

The non-linear approach, which also includes much surrealism, apart from the aforementioned symbolism, adds much to the narrative, particularly through the implementation of the aforementioned scenes. One could say, that on a number of levels, the film could be described as experimental, although there is also a basis in terms of story, that does not allow it to go fully towards that direction.

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All in all, “Wooden Toilet” is an intriguing short by Zuni Rinpoche, who would definitely benefit from a longer duration, that would allow the director to unfold his story and his symbolisms in more eloquent fashion. Still, the film deserves a watch for its visuals and the overall approach to the queer concept.

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“Unsung Hero” Movie Review: A True Story of Faith, Music, and a Family's New Beginning –

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“Unsung Hero” Movie Review: A True Story of Faith, Music, and a Family's New Beginning –

Staff Report

“Unsung Hero” is an inspiring tale of resilience and hope that charts the journey of the Smallbone family from the shores of Australia to the heart of America. After the collapse of his music company, David Smallbone, portrayed by Joel Smallbone of for KING + COUNTRY, along with his pregnant wife Helen, played by Daisy Betts, and their seven children, embark on a daring move to the United States. Armed with nothing but their luggage, a shared love for music, and unyielding faith, the family seeks to rebuild their shattered lives.

Set for release in the United States on April 26, 2024, “Unsung Hero” is directed by Joel Smallbone and Richard Ramsey, with Lionsgate handling distribution. The film’s poignant and uplifting score is crafted by Brent McCorkle, ensuring that music plays a pivotal role in narrating the Smallbones’ story. Produced by Justin Tolley, Josh Walsh, and Luke Smallbone, and brought to the screen by Kingdom Story Company and Candy Rock Entertainment, this film promises a heartwarming cinematic experience.

“Unsung Hero” delves deep into the challenges and triumphs of the Smallbone family as they navigate their new environment. Helen’s unwavering faith becomes a beacon of hope for her family, inspiring her husband and children to cling to their own beliefs even when their dreams seem out of reach. It’s this foundation of faith that ignites the musical talent within their children, ultimately leading them to become two of the most acclaimed acts in the world of Inspirational Music. The story not only celebrates their eventual success—highlighted by GRAMMY awards for both for KING + COUNTRY and Rebecca St. James—but also pays homage to the silent sacrifices made by David and Helen.

“Unsung Hero” is more than just a biographical film; it’s a testament to the power of faith and family, and the incredible impact of nurturing talents. As the Smallbones find their footing in a new country, they also discover that their greatest strength lies within each other and their shared passions. This film is a must-watch for anyone who believes in the power of starting anew and the magic that music and faith can bring to life’s darkest moments. For more information, visit Rotten Tomatoes’ page dedicated to “Unsung Hero”

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Reference link:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/.

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