Netflix’s Southern Gothic Noir The Devil All The Time Will Leave You Speechless!

Photo from Business Insider.com

Netflix released its film adaptation of Donald Ray Pollack’s book “The Devil All The Time,” in which the author also provides the narration. The Devil All The Time is a southern gothic thriller that presents the viewer with serval stories that appear scattered at first but slowly intertwined into a thrilling surprise ending.

The film follows three small-town residents during the 1950s-60s who live in two rural West Virginia towns: Knockemstiff, Ohio, and Coal Creek. Each is affected by a dark twist of murder, sex, and religious experiences. Flashback sequences follow the resident’s stories.

The standout performances were, Of course, Bill Skarsgard as a battered WWII vet who finds God again during a horrible time of his wife having cancer and dying. He trains his son to pray for the dead in front of a makeshift cross in the woods for miracles to happen. The boy Tom Holland grows up with a disdain for religion and uneasy.

Meanwhile, across town, a local photographer (Micheal Clarke) has a twisted evil sex fetish as a hobby and meets a gullible young waitress who joins in the oddity of sex and murder hitchhikers.

Next scene a new preacher who graduated from bible college , Robert Pattinson blows the town people away with his intense saint-like gospel from on high with a sex addition at night for younger girls.

All these characters’ stories, in one way or another, collide with one another in a bloody bath of murderous affairs, religious symbolism, and vigilante justice. I was surprised by Pattinson’s southern accent the most for some reason? But I am slowly seeing him less as the twilight guy the more he takes dark, twisted roles.

I liked the film, but the ending was odd? At first, I wasn’t sure how the character’s stories would tie together, but it was a slow burn that left a bitter mark on me for some reason? Also, I felt dirty watching this film but also wanted to watch more to be cleansed! I kept waiting for some light but got more darkness, which is fine but it would have been nice to have a little light in the script.

I think it is an excellent cast of characters with intense dark themes in a small rural town. Nothing like small-town murder right mix with religious overtones? I recommend this movie, but also it would be good to read the book as well.

You can catch The Devil All The Time streaming now on Netflix.

(Librarian Ninja Girl)

Disney Regroups for Its Strategy on Black Panther 2

Photo from Screen Rant.com

With the tragic loss of actor Chadwick Boseman to Colon Cancer over a week ago now, Disney executives are grappling with how to continue with the Black Panther franchise.

According to Hollywood reporter.com, a source close to Boseman reveals that up until his death, the actor thought he would beat his four year battle with cancer and was looking forward to continuing his role as King T’Challa in the Disney franchise. The film was set to go into production in March, and Boseman was preparing for his acclaimed role for September.

Now Disney studios are dealing with his loss as he was beloved on-screen and off by his fellow co-stars. Also, the character Black Panther was set to appear in more Marvel interconnected films. Boseman has already appeared in Captain American: Civil War, Endgame, and Infinity War.

The studio has reported that their main focus is to grieve and pay tribute to Boseman and not worry about a sequel to Black Panther right now. Only a few non-family members knew of Boseman’s illness, including his agent, trainer, and director Brian Helgeland. No one immediately involved with the film knew of the actor’s condition. As he wanted to keep his battle with cancer private.

Many are left scratching their heads, wondering how the actor kept his sickness under wraps with a multi-billion dollar film such as Black Panther. But film finance attorney Schuyler Moore suspects a Marvel Star like Boseman wouldn’t require a medical examination for insurance purposes. He goes on to state that “Big Studios do not often get completion bonds … sometimes a film will only look to insure a particularly well-known actor in a movie as opposed to one not well known.”

With other films where big-name stars suck as Carrie Fisher and Heath Ledger have died, studios have been able to carry on the franchise while honoring these actors in the process. But with Boseman playing the main character of this film, differences occur between the former deaths of those actors mentioned. The only film that has dealt with such an enormous loss such as this was Brandon Lee in the 1993 film “The Crow.”

In the movie The Crow, the script was tweaked and finished with CGI stunt doubles in place of Lee’s scenes. Some observers suggest that Disney has a few options in replacing Boseman, which would start a fan outcry and alienate their base audience. With a set date of 2022 for Black Panther 2 amid the pandemic, it will be a strict deadline to meet if Disney decides to continue, and few actors would be frightened to fill Boseman’s shoes.

The second option, which is more viable and in the Black Panther comics, would be to make T’Challa’s sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) take the reins as the new Black Panther. Whatever direction Disney chooses, the loss of Boseman will be a considerable void felt by many. I suggest the comic book option as the most viable choice since the movie follows along with the storylines. It would depend on how much the actress Letitia Wright is willing to fill those shoes and step into the training required.

Director Brain Coolger wrote in remembrance of Boseman “spent the last year preparing, imagining and writing words for him to say, that we weren’t destined to see. It leaves me broken, knowing that I won’t be able to watch another close-up of him in the monitor again or walk up to him and ask for another take.”

What are your thoughts? Should the franchise continue? Or will this be the last we hear of the Black Panther franchise? In my opinion, the franchise should continue. I feel Boseman would want it to carry on since this film is a groundbreaking historical moment! It features the first African American superhero on the big screen in a Marvel movie to make over a billion dollars worldwide! Carry on Boseman’s legacy and follow the comic! The fans will come around and in the end, thank you for it, Disney. Whatever the studio decides, it is better to be smart and strategic. Also, push the release date back to 2025.

Rest In Peace, Chadwick Boseman! Thank you for giving me Black Panther and for making me a proud African American geek. (Librarian Ninja Girl)

“Don’t Throw Away Your Shot” to see Hamilton on Disney+

Photo from Collider.com

When I first heard of the musical Hamilton, I was not sure about it? But as I found out more, I became more intrigued and put it on my Broadway bucket list. I checked for the prices to go down every time the play came to Atlanta. Still, no luck until I found out Hamilton was coming to Disney + on July 3rd, I became overjoyed! I can pay 4.99 instead of 100 or so dollars to have a front-row seat.

On July 4th, I found a comfortable seat. I began watching the play in anticipation of all the hype I heard over the years. As the play started, I noticed I had goosebumps? How is that possible? And it continued? These goosebumps came from the editing and camera angles of Director Thomas Kali, the producer of the play.

Odie Henderson from Rodger Elbert.com describes Kali’s use of intimate close up camera angles are engaging, as they are used at the precise moments to convey the emotional and powerful moments of the play. These close-ups are not overwhelming to the point that it can become distracting to the viewers.

Hamilton on Disney + was initially filmed in 2016 during its two-night live-stage production at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City, which is now temporarily closed due to Covid-19. The 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton by author Ron Chernow inspired this play production. The focus of the play is on the life, achievements, and death of Alexander Hamilton. He was one of the founding fathers of America. I know what you may be thinking? A boring history lesson about Alexander Hamilton? No thanks! Well, creator Lin – Manuel Miranda must have predicted the groans and moans of presenting this play to a mainstream audience because he added a hip hop twist to the story. A hip hop twist to the story of Alexander Hamilton? Yes, I just said that!

This play has rap battles and references of old hip hop quotes, along with blues and gospel scores, ballots, drama, action, suspense, comedy, romance, elaborate costumes, and a PG -13 language disclaimer. It stars Lin-Manuel Miranda as the emotional, cocky, and quirky battle MC version of Alexander Hamilton, along with Daveed Diggs ( Blackish), playing duo roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis De Lafayette (French / American General), Leslie Odom Jr. (Harriet), as Aaron Burr (Vice President to Jefferson), Renee Elise Goldberry (Altered Carbon), as Angelica Schulyer, Phillipa Soo as Elizabeth Schulyer , Hamilton’s wife, Jonathan Goff ( Mindhunter ), as King George of England, Christopher Jackson ( CBS Bull), as George Washington, and John Lauren ( A Star is Born), as Alexander Hamilton’s son.

Some of my favorite scenes of the play include; the rap battle between Jefferson and Hamilton, as they argue over assisting France in the battle of Great Britain, King George’s smug ballot after discovering the formation of the United States, as he claims “You’ll be back !”, and Hamilton writing about his affair in the Reynolds Pamphlet, which his wife read and became heartbroken as well everyone in the political sphere. The soundtrack to Hamilton is on Apple Music, iTunes, and other music services. I recommend not only seeing this fresh take on history but also getting the soundtrack. Hamilton is now streaming on Disney+

Happy Watching,

(Librarian Ninja Girl)

27 LGBTQ+ Films, Television Shows, and Documentaries Celebrating Pride Month

Photo from Jasmin Sessler unsplash

June is pride month or LGBTQ+ month. So what’s the big deal about pride month, and how does it relate to films? I am glad you asked! June 28th, 1969 police raided a popular gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual bar called the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The reason for the police raid was that the bar did not have a liquor license, which is false. Police have raided gay bars throughout the 1950s and 60’s always without an excuse out of prejudice. On that night of June 28th, the police used brutal force in beating up many LGBTQ+ patrons of the bar.

Many spectators jeered the police beating these men and women. One patron named Marsha P. Johnson fought back by throwing a glass bottle at the police; this act began the Stonewall Riots. Marsha P. Johnson was an African American transgender woman and activist. Her act started the long fight for LGBTQ+ civil rights that continues today, and this fight is why pride month is celebrated. 

Each year the LGBTQ+ community all over the world march in the streets, hold parades, and celebrate those brave men and women who fought for their rights to be treated as human beings. You may ask, what does this event have to do with movies and tv? As I mentioned in my previous article on the Black Lives Movement, films and tv shows can be used as a tool in educating and celebrating inclusion and diversity. In this article, I have compiled a list of 27 movies, tv, documentaries and animation shows, some of which my friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters of the community have helped me to compile. I dedicate this article to Shelby, Elizabeth, Samantha, Desiree, Sabrina, and others.

Pariah (2011), centers around seventeen year old Alike, who is exploring her sexuality as a young lesbian while facing rejection by her religious parents. As her parents, school, and society force her to reject any notion of her sexuality, she begins to embrace it and find love with her female neighbor. You can catch Pariah on Amazon Prime for ninety- nine cents and other streaming platforms. 

Disobedience (2017), focuses on a young Jewish Orthodox woman who has returned to her Jewish community after being shunned for falling in love with her female childhood friend. She tries to gain acceptance from the community, but encounters her childhood friend and begins to rekindle those passionate feelings again. This film centers on faith and sexuality. You can catch Disobedience on Youtube to rent for 3.99

Call Me by Your Name (2017), is a coming of age story about a young man name Ello Perlman and his family spending the summer in an Italian countryside. As Ello is taking in the landscape, he meets a young doctoral student named Oliver. Soon the two men form an intimate bond that makes their summer an unforgettable one. Call Me by Your Name is available on Amazon Prime and VUDU to rent.

The Danish Girl (2015) examines the life of transgender danish artist Elinar Wegner (Eddie Redmayne) and her wife Gretta Wegner(Alicia Vikander). Elinar’s wife supports her reassignment surgery but soon discovers that Elinar has found love with someone else. This film won multiple Academy Awards for best director, actor/ actress, and cinematography. Danish Girl is now available on Netflix and Amazon Prime to rent. 

Tomboy (2011) is a French drama film that centers around Laure, a young girl who dresses as a boy to play with the neighborhood kids. While dressing as a boy, she soon discovers her sexuality as a transgender child. As the truth of her identity is revealed, she decides to live her truth by not conforming to societal norms. You can catch Tomboy on Amazon Prime, VUDU, and Itunes to rent. 

Milk (2018) is a biopic drama that follows the life of gay rights activist Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), becoming the first openly gay politician in California during the 1970s. Unfortunately, he was murdered in his office by rival politician Dan White (Josh Brolin), who became upset with Milk and others for not supporting his reappointment into office. Harvey Milk opened the doors for many gay politicians to serve after his untimely death and fight for the civil liberties of all LGBTQ+ men, women, and non-binary people. Milk is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) is a documentary about Trans female activist Victoria Cruz, investigating the murder of her friend and fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was suspiciously murdered in 1992. Ms. Cruz investigates the last known whereabouts of Marsha, her importance as the forerunner of the LGBTQ+ movement, and enemies she may have had. This documentary, at its core, is about a woman who wants to know what happened to her dearest friend, who was murdered. You can watch the Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson exclusively on Netflix.

Disclosure (2020), This Netflix documentary examines Hollywood’s depiction in film of transgender people from the 1900s to the present age. In addition to clips from Hollywood films, this documentary features interviews from transgender actors, authors, and producers who share their challenges in the film industry. Disclosure is now streaming on Netflix.

The Gospel According to Andre (2017), this documentary follows the life and career of fashion icon Andre Leon Tally, who grew up as a black gay man in the segregated south and rose to fame as one of the most influential curators of fashion. The Gospel According to Andre, is now streaming on Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.

RuPaul Drag Race (2009- Present) is an American reality competition television series that focuses on finding the best drag queen superstar. This show is hosted by RuPaul Charles, one of the most famous drag queens in television and film history. It features 13 contestants who all compete in a series of challenges that center around talent, comedy, and acting to be the next drag superstar. RuPaul’s Drag Race is one of my favorite shows because gay men share their challenging experiences as drag queen performers while being gay in America. This series is now in its 12th season! You can catch RuPaul’s Drag Race on Vh1, Sling TV, and Logo. 

Pose (2018- Present),  is a dramatic musical series created by Ryan Murphy set against the 1980’s big business era. It centers around the ballroom culture( fashion show) of the LGBTQ+ community. The series features the first and largest cast of transgender actors and actresses in television history telling transgender people’s stories, especially in the African American and Latino communities during the 80s and today. The show’s outbreak stars are Bill Porter, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, and Mj Rodriguez. Pose is now in its 3rd season and is available to watch on FX and Netflix.

Bessie (2015) is an HBO feature film that examines the life and death of Bessie Smith, an African American lesbian blues singer during the 1920s swing era. She was one of the first African American blues singers to perform for a mainstream audience. Queen Latifah stars in this riveting film! You can catch Bessie on HBO Max, Hulu, Youtube, and other platforms.

I love you Phillip Morris (2009), is a dark romantic comedy based on the real-life story of the con artist and infamous prison escapee Steven Jay Russell (Jim Carey ), who falls in love with fellow inmate Phillip Morris (Ewan Mcgregor). Morris motivates Russell to turn from his life of crime, but change can sometimes be hard to come by. This film is available on Hulu and Youtube.

The Legend of Korra (2012-2014) is an animated sequel to Avatar, The Last Airbender. The Legend of Korra series follows Avatar Korra, the successor to Aang, as she navigates through a 19th-century steampunk world of racism, zealous religious leaders, governmental taskmasters, sexism, and sexual orientation. This show became controversial because of these themes featured on a Nickelodeon kids show. Unlike its predecessor, Avatar, The Last Airbender, this series incorporated LGBTQ characters Korra and Asami, a wealthy female industrialist. The show’s finale had two endings: One of Korra and Asami kissing each other in the final scene, but fearing controversy the producers of the show changed the last scene to Korra and Asami facing each other and holding hands in a ceremonial wedding pose. The Legend of Korra is available on CBS access, Amazon Prime, and VUDU for 1.99. 

(Steven Universe) 2013- 2020, a groundbreaking animated series and the first of its kind to be created by a female for Cartoon Network. The series follows a young boy named Steven, a half-human/ gem humanoid, and a group of gem warrior women who fight to protect humanity from evil forces and foes sent to destroy it at every turn. It was groundbreaking because of a same-sex marriage scene between the two characters Ruby and Sapphire, at a time when same-sex marriage in the US was illegal in 2016. In an Entertainment Weekly article, creator Rebecca Sugar recalls how challenging it was to make LGBTQIA characters within a G- rated cartoon setting. 

 In one episode entitled “What Can I Do For You?, “Ruby and Sapphire’s dancing scene is censored from UK broadcasting networks that aired the show. Also, a petition on change.org was drafted to cancel the show back in 2016 because of the same-sex marriage concept in a children’s television show. Never the less, Steven Universe remains popular because of its animation, songs about inclusion, love, individuality, and queer characters. You can watch Steven Universe on Cartoon Network, Hulu, HBO MAX, and other streaming platforms. 

She- Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018- 2020), a reboot of the 1985 series, follows teenage princess Adora, as she gains supernatural powers by welding a magical sword that transforms her into She- Ra , the warrior princess. She- Ra fights alongside the Princesses of Power in destroying the evil horde bent on destroying the universe. The main character She- Ra develops a lesbian relationship with her friend and moral enemy Catra.

In an Indiewire.Com interview, creator Noelle Stevenson admitted the challenge of incorporating an LGBTQ love story within an already established cult classic series. Also, how introducing these characters in an animated setting becomes a challenge for parents who are protective of their kids’ views on life. She- Ra and the Princesses of Power is now streaming on Netflix.

Moonlight (2016) isa Barry Jenkins film that introduces its main character Chiron, in three chapters of his life exploring his sexuality as a young black gay man in Miami. This film challenges masculinity and being gay in the black community. You may remember the controversy of this film at the 2017 Oscars when Warren Betty announced that La La Land won for the best picture category, but Moonlight was the actual winner. This controversy went down as one of the pivotal and disconcerting moments in Oscar history. Moonlight is now streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime (3.99), and Youtube (3.99). 

We Were Here (2011), LGBTQ documentary about the booming gay and lesbian community in 1970’s San Francisco and the AIDS crisis during the 1980s that changed the city forever. This documentary includes interviews from those affected by the AIDS epidemic through losing partners and family members to the virus. We Were Here is available to rent through Itunes (0.99), Youtube (2.99), and Amazon Prime (0.99)

The Normal Heart (2014), HBO film directed by Ryan Murphy and written for television by Larry Kramer, who wrote the stage play of the same name. The film is based on the true story of Larry Kramer’s campaign to educate gay men about safe sex during the 1980s AIDS crisis and the American government’s lack of concern in finding a cure for this virus. The film stars Mark Ruffalo (Avengers ) and Jim Parsons (Big Bang Theory). You can find this film on Amazon Prime (HBO subscription), HBO MAX, and HBO GO. 

Paris is Burning (1990), an American documentary film that chronicles gay ball room culture in New York City during the 1980’s trump era from the perspective of African American and Latino gay and trans men and women who performed at these balls. Fun fact! Madonna discovered the dance move Voguing from attending these underground balls. Her inclusion of the dance move in the music video Vogue brought it into mainstream media in the 1990s. 

Another fun fact, the FX series Pose is also inspired by this documentary. The controversy of Paris is Burning comes from those featured in this film feeling exploited after the film’s big box office debut and critical acclaim garnered all over the world. A problem I ran into with this film is that it was impossible to find! The film was taken off of Youtube and is only available to buy and rent on Itunes and The Criterion Collection. I suggest renting it on Itunes personally or checking Kanopy.

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012) examines the activist group ACT UP, who demonstrated powerful protests and evidence of the government’s slow response to the AIDS epidemic in the gay community during the 1980s. United in Anger is available to rent on Youtube, iTunes and Amazon Prime. It is also available on Kanopy with a library and school-university subscription.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), a musical film following the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury from the band Queen. Also, this film exams his life as a closet gay man who suffered and died from AIDS in 1991. Fun Fact: Adam Lamber, the new lead singer of Queen, has a small role in this film. You can watch Bohemian Rhapsody on Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime. 

Rocketman (2019)  a biographical film about the life and musical career of singer Elton John (still living) , who suffered from drug addictions and his experience as a closeted gay man in rock music. Fun Fact: Elton John was one of the consultants on this film. His new Autobiographical book “Me,” covers many aspects in more detail from the film. Rocketman is available to stream on Hulu, Sling TV, and Youtube.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) is anAmerican romantic drama by director Ang Lee (Li of Pi), it explores the sexual relationship between two cowboys hired to herd sheep in the Wyoming Mountains. Mainly, this film examines and challenges the rugged masculinity of cowboys in the American West. Brokeback Mountain is available on Starz, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999), a biographical film about a young transgender man named Brandon Teena, who moves to a rural town in Nebraska to start his life over. While in this small town, his life seems to change for the better with new friends, a girlfriend, and a job, until his life as a transgender man is revealed in a gruesome and deadly way. This film is based on the true story of Brandon Teena, murdered by a group of small-town locals who killed him and his friends; including a young closeted black gay man. Boy’s Don’t Cry, is now available to stream on Hulu, HBO Max, and Youtube.

The Birdcage (1996), Now onto a lighter note with the 1996 comedy/drama The Birdcage starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. This film is a remake of the French film “La Cage Aux Folles,” which centers around a happily married gay couple who owns a gay night club in Miami. When the couple’s son comes to visit, he brings good and bad news! The good news is he is getting married! But the bad news is his parents have to hide their sexuality to appease his fiancee’s conservative parents. Despite the comedy involved, this film addresses themes of gay marriage, politics, and bigotry. The Birdcage is available on Showtime, Hulu, Pluto TV, Youtube, and Amazon Prime.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), a comedy/ drama film starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo as three drag queens that travel to Hollywood to compete in a drag queen pageant. On their way to Hollywood, the car breaks down in a small rural town where they encounter bigotry but change the residents’ lives in the process. I remember watching this film for the first time as a kid thinking how unattractive Wesley Snipes is as a drag queen lol! You can catch this film on Cinemax, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. 

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999), a satirical romantic comedy about a high school cheerleader whose parents suspect she is gay. They send her to a conversion therapy camp to “cure” her of her lesbianism. The joke or punchline of the film is that the main character is in denial about her sexual orientation because “Cheerleaders can’t be lesbians so she must be straight, right?” It challenges the stereotypes of high school norms and the discovery of one’s sexual orientation. But I’m a Cheerleader is now streaming on Vudu, Tubi, Amazon Prime, and Pluto TV. 

Happy Pride! ( Librarian Ninja Girl )

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What to Watch: Gordon Ramsay’s Uncharted on the National Geographic Channel.

Photo from National Geographic Channel.com

We all know Gordon Ramsay from such shows as Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, and so on. Now Ramsay has taken on a new challenge by globetrotting around the world, learning about new cuisines, and going head to head with local chiefs in a “friendly” competition in his new show Uncharted. I started watching this show when it premiered last year in 2019, and I love it! If you’re a fan of Gordon Ramsay, you will enjoy seeing his adventurous and curious side. Also, Ramsay is not in charge this time around! Instead, he is learning how to catch, cook, and put together local specialized dishes from each global location.

For those of you who do not know who Gordon Ramsay is? Allow me to introduce him briefly. Gordon Ramsay is a Scottish/ British chef from the UK. When he was younger, he wanted to be a famous rugby football player, but an unexpected injury dashed his dreams as a professional athlete. After coming to terms with this loss, he went to college to major in hotel management. This change in careers set the course for his career path in becoming a professional chef. At age 35, after training and working in restaurants, Ramsay opened his first one called what else but Gordon Ramsay! In 1998 he received the convenient Michelin star, which is like getting an Oscar but for food.

Now Ramsay owns multiple restaurants in the UK, Paris, New York, and Las Vegas. His cooking style is upscale European/ American Cuisine. From his notoriety, Ramsay became a tv star on the top related FOX show “Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef, Master Chef Jr, and The F-word. Also, in the UK, his appearances include Gordon’s Great Escape and Ultimate Cookery Course. His latest show on the National Geographic Channel is called Uncharted.

As I have mentioned before, the television series Uncharted is a globetrotting and educational show that centers around food, travel, and culture. One of my favorite episodes is Ramsay traveling to Tasmania, Australia, to learn about the food culture by catching spiny tail lobsters, trout, Wallabee, and pure honey. He learns how to prepare these local dishes and cooks them up against the local chef in the region. This show can be described as a cooking competition and travel series. Another favorite episode is when he traveled to Laos, Vietnam, to learn how to catch the local fish and cook with Vietnamese spices to prepare a local dish for the monks! I must admit seeing Ramsay nervous was a delight! As in his previous shows, he is the one in control whipping chefs in shape in his competitive shows. Uncharted is now in its second season, but you can catch season one on the National Geographic Channel, Disney +, Hulu, and other streaming platforms. His other shows, such as Kitchen Nightmares, are located on the FOX channel, Hulu, Netflix, BBC America, etc…

Happy Watching, ( Librarian Ninja Girl )

What to Watch: Netflix’s 2018 The Outsider

photo from Netflix.com

In this first installment of our new series “What to Watch,” we will report on movies and tv shows on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms that are interesting and worth binging. Let’s begin with Netflix’s 2018 original film The Outsider, directed by Martin Pieter Zandvliet and starring Jared Leto and Tananobu Asano. This film is set in World War II Japan, where Nick Lowell (Jared Leto) is an American POW soldier in an Osaka prison. One day he saves the life of a fellow prisoner named Kiyoshi (Tadanobu Asano), who is part of the Shiromatsu, a Japanese organized crime family. Kiyoshi was hanged by a rival gang while in prison, and by saving Kiyoshi’s life, Nick is offered a way out of jail. From this debt, Nick is initiated into the Shiromatsu and becomes part of the crime family.

Throughout the film, you can see Nick’s transformation from American POW soldier to Japanese underground criminal. His hair becomes slicker, suits sharper, fighting skills more precise and dangerous. His body is covered in Irezumi ( Traditional Japanese Tattoos), falls in love with Kiyoshi’s sister, and he learns Japanese. Of course, Nick’s transition into Japanese culture is not met without challenges. He had to adapt to not only Japanese culture but the rules of the Yakuza (a network of crime families in Japan) . As Nick is becoming the number two muscle of the group alongside Kiyoshi, he is met with jealousy within the ranks by Orochi, a member of the group and best friend of Kiyoshi. Nick is always known as an outsider in this underground world. The film touches on the themes of cultural appropriation, American/Japanese relations during World War II, belonging, finding a path, and being lost in translation (I love that movie too!). Many other overarching themes are throughout the entire film. To learn more about the Yakuza check out this video below :

At first, it was strange seeing Jared Leto transform into a Japanese gang member? He looked vicious and eerie, just like his character in Blade Runner 2049. Still, Jared Leto is known for his method acting and transforming into various characters we love and hate ( Joker, debates starting). Overall, I enjoyed this movie because it introduces the audience to the organized crime families of Japan and the traditions of that group. The audience is on a journey with Leto’s character. We are introduced into this world through his eyes. Not to state the obvious, but there was criticism of this film. Most of the critics did not like the fact that Nick was the “White Savior” of Japan, or the plot was dull and meaningless. One of the critics was Andrew Barker from Variety magazine. Barker says, the film:

takes a decisive turn for the problematic, ending with a final shot that places it in the ignoble white- savior tradition of films such as “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last Samurai,” It may make viewers angry, but at least they will feel something from this movie.”

Initially, Tom Hardy and acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike were set to be apart of the movie, but they bailed, and a new director and lead actor replaced them. Dan Jackson from Thrillist.com says:

” Leto’s dreamy looks in the film clashes with the intent of the movie or his desire to be taken seriously as an actor.”

I agree Jared Leto cannot help that he is pretty LOL! His features are very striking in this movie to the point you forget about the other characters. Some aspects of the film needed more of an edger feel to it. I do think the director and writer could have dug deeper into the Yakuza traditions and had sharper fighting scenes. Jared Leto could have brought more of a sinister performance as an organized member of a crime family.

Regardless of the criticism from this movie. I still think it is worth watching! As I mentioned before, you are introduced as an audience member into the organized crime world of Japan. I did not mind Leto’s character being immersed in the culture because it was not for profit, nor was he forced into it but chose this path. Now could the plot have had more depth? Yes, and the characters fleshed out more? Yes. I agree somewhat with the critics about this film, but Leto did a good job for what it was worth! I do not know what actor could have been better for this film? But some of Leto’s choices in roles pay off in significant ways like the Dallas Buyer’s Club.

For some reason this film made me want to know more about the Yakuza, or maybe I am just interested in learning about all of Japanese culture, which has nothing to do with this film. I give this film a B – ; it could have been a lot better, but it is still a good story plot and has exciting themes throughout. Also, I think Jared Leto’s acting in the film was good for what it was worth. I would like to see more movies similar to this one without the “White Savior” syndrome (which I do not think was too much in this film). Instead, I want to see characters placed in unfamiliar settings navigating the world around them. I do wish this film was an animated series instead! Check out the trailer and the movie now streaming on Netflix and let us know what you think?

( Librarian Ninja Girl )

ESPN’s 30 for 30 docuseries will feature new insight into the life of Bruce Lee.

photo from Hollywood Reporter.com

ESPN’s 30 for 30 docuseries highlights crucial moments in sports history. But this is not just any old sports history docuseries. It features groundbreaking and in-depth interviews from sports and entertainment heavyweights on the figure that is featured. Last week I saw the Micheal Jordan one, and it was pretty damn good. Some people may think, why is ESPN featuring Bruce Lee? Wasn’t he an entertainer or film icon?

First and foremost, he was a Martial Arts instructor who believed anyone could learn martial arts regardless of race or ethnicity. One could say he brought this traditional fighting style into the American counter-culture. Before I get too deep, let’s focus on the article at hand.

According to Collider.com, the series will air June 7th and provide an in-depth look into Bruce Lee’s life and career as it pertains to him becoming one of the first Asian movie stars in Hollywood, as well as battling racism in America and bringing martial arts into the forefront. Aside from this, he dealt with criticism from abroad and understanding the way of life through his personal philosophies.

This series also includes the controversial 1972 Kung Fu series, in which Lee was passed over for David Carradine because producers feared American’s would not be ready for a lead Asian actor. Also, there will be archival footage and new interviews from those who knew Lee personally like his widow Linda Lee Cardwell and his daughter Shannon Lee, who oversees the Bruce Lee Estate and Foundation. Be sure to check out the trailer below and series on ESPN June 7th at 9pm ET.

Be well, Be Safe!

(Librarian Ninja Girl )

Joe Manganiello’s Epic Dungeons & Dragons Campaign!

Photo from Nerdist.com

Who would have ever thought celebrities are just like us? Wait! They play Dungeons and Dragons too! Long time player Joe Manganiello, the actor from True Blood and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, has been playing D&D since he was a kid. He also credits the game for helping with his acting career and writing creatively in his gaming campaigns. Currently, he is the ambassador of the highly esteemed gaming company Wizards of the Coast, which put such games on the map as Magic: The Gathering.

So what is Dungeons and Dragons, you ask? Well, it is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974. The basis of the game is storytelling. You and seven or more friends tell a story together that guides your characters along dangerous and epic journeys into the unknown or whatever world you choose to create. The game is lead by a Dungeon Master or narrator of the role-playing game. This game consists of teamwork, critical thinking skills, some math, pencil and paper, a 20 sided die, and your imagination. Anyone can play this game no matter what your age, sex, race, and creed are. Dungeons and Dragons is for everyone! Currently, I play in an all-girls D&D group and have done various one-shot campaigns as well.

Now that you are all caught up with the background information, let’s get to the real reason you are reading this article. Recently Nerdist.Com reported on Joe Manganiello’s current two-year gaming campaign ” The War of the Dragons.” Manganiello hosts his celebrity D&D campaign as Dungeon Master with some big-name celebrities like musician Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), actor Vince Vaughan (Wedding Crashers), director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), and WWE wrestler Paul Wight (The Big Show).

Manganiello and his friends continue to play despite the COVID-19 restrictions by using Zoom. Joe Manganiello hosts these campaigns from his home basement that is filled with D&D memorabilia, maps, miniature figurines, and gothic furniture. This basement is every gamer’s dream of running an epic campaign. Other celebrities who have played with Joe are Vin Diesel (Fast and Furious), Terry Crews (Brooklyn nine-nine), and host Stephen Colbert (The Late Show). Check out Manganiello giving a tour of his basement ” The Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon” to D&D Beyond:

Besides hosting gaming campaigns, Manganiello has managed to turn his love of gaming into a business empire with his streetwear clothing line called Death Saves. This clothing line features artwork inspired by the Dungeons and Dragons game with influences from heavy metal music. In a 2019 article by Comicbook.Com, Manganiello talks about his new merchandise company and the inspiration behind it :

When I was a kid, I listened to Metallica, and I loved the artwork of Iron Maiden, and listened to Led Zeppelin as well as hung out in arcades reading comic books and Steven King novels. Also, I was influenced by horror and fantasy movies. I know where all the artwork comes from that inspired me, and I thought, who better than me to start my own clothing line. 

Death Saves is just one of the many passion projects Manganiello has. He is very active in commissioning the artwork for his clothing line and promoting it at popular conventions such as SanDiego Comic-Con, Gen Con, and New York Comic-Con. According to Manganiello, this clothing line is more than just D&D clothing. It incorporate all genres of music, books, and movies that have been apart of his childhood. The clothing line is a chance to connect with his fans on a personal level as a gamer, who grew up as an oddball and was told that he is different. More and more gamers have worn the Death Saves brand t-shirts at gaming conventions and stores. Death Saves continues to be popular to this day! Joe Manganiello is proof that you can turn a hobby into a business that you can be proud of. You can view the website for his clothing line Death Saves here: https://death-saves.com/

( Librarian Ninja Girl )