Unleashed A Beachy Anthology

I am thrilled to announce that a short story I wrote will be featured in an upcoming anthology, alongside 14 other stories by very talented writers from one of my writing groups, Unleashing the Next Chapter. This book will be a fun beach-inspired read.

Blood In Blood Out

So my students recommend movies to me all the time. Keep in mind that I mostly teach teenagers currently so the last film I watched that they recommended was “How to Be a Latin Lover.” I wasn’t able to finish it. However, they really respect Blood in Blood out a movie that was released in 1993, A decade + years before they were even born.

Two half-brothers and a cousin full of piss and vigor get themselves involved in life-altering compromises.

This movie was three hours of my life, that I don’t want to get back. It was that awesome. Great storyline, double crossing everywhere you turn and a young Benjamin Bratt , Delroy Lindo and an Aryan Brotherhood Billy Bob Thornton! They filmed in an actual prison, and used real prisoners as extras… Need I say more?

Benjamin Bratt as Paco with Carlos Carrasco as Popeye in 1993’s Blood In Blood Out

If you’ve watched this before, it may be time for a re-watch.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Eat Drink Man Woman

Sihung Lung as Chu and Chien-Lien Wu as Jia Chen in Ang Lee’s 1994 hit Eat Drink Man Woman .

Thankfully I got a notification alerting me about the movies leaving Kanopy this month. If you don’t know about Kanopy, it’s an awesome, free movie streaming service that allows students, professors or public library card holders to stream incredible films.

So, Eat Drink Man Woman was on my list for a while, and I finally got the chance to watch it. This is such a beautiful film. Stunning cinematography showcasing the bustling Taiwanese landscape, an amazing story line about a renowned chef and widower Chu who lives with his three brilliant and strong-willed daughters. I won’t spoil the plot for you, but it’s a film about food and the difference between truly living and merely existing.

The film was nominated for best foreign film at the 1995 academy awards, but lost to Burnt By the Sun. It is an incredible film.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Good Latimer (2021)

Kitchen Dog Theater

Show Runs From October 8 – 24, 2021

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Guinea Bennet-Price and Jamal Sterling star as a struggling couple in Good Latimer at The Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas. Photo by Matt Mrozek.

The deterioration of a middle-aged, working class, childless Black couple from Dallas, Texas ,isn’t the usual subject of a play, so Angela Hanks’ Good Latimer is a welcome and timely work of art.

This charming and universal play offers an intimate look inside of an overlooked part of the Dallas microcosm. Ravinia and Good are a couple celebrating, er enduring 35 years together. One day Ravinia wakes up and realizes that she is no longer in love with her devoted, albeit unsatisfying partner, Good. This play is an exploration of the transformation of their partnership as Ravinia makes the brave and bold move to choose herself.

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Playwright Angela Hanks will be in attendance at the World Premiere of her play Good Latimer. Photo by Molly Hagan.

The script is rife with Dallas references and delights as it explores the metamorphosis of two lovers as one begins the quest to find their truth and the other struggles to reinstate what is being transfigured. There is lots of tension, struggle and dramatic static as both characters work voraciously towards opposing goals.

Ravinia and Good are portrayed by two Dallas -based acting juggernauts, Guinea Bennet-Price and Jamal Sterling, who also happen to be Dallas ISD theatre arts directors. Both partners in the play hold their own, masterfully capturing the essence of Hanks’ words and expertly building this world though bold acting choices and depth of character. It is easy to root for both characters as the actors display their acting prowess.

Guinea Bennet Price, Rhonda Boutlè and Jamal Sterling star in Good Latimer at the Kitchen Dog Theater. Photo by Matt Mrozek.

The on stage couple is joined by Dallas legend Rhonda Boutlè, who plays a direct and helpful octogenarian, one of those quirky and unforgettable characters that one encounters at the bus stop. As always, Boutlè delivers a riveting and astute performance.

The production quality is excellent. The intimate stage space is expertly manipulated into submission as the city of Dallas comes to life right before the audience’s eyes, through the use of carefully thought out set details, like an Observer newspaper stand and a DART bus sign. There is even a scene with a functioning jack hammer on stage.

It is said that through the specific, writing becomes universal. You don’t have to be a DART rider from Dallas in an unhappy union to enjoy this gratifying production.

Good Latimer is a well-done piece of theatre that should not be missed. COVID protocols will be followed. Please see Kitchen Dog’s website for COVID protocol.

The World Premier of Good Latimer is tonight at the Trinity River Arts Center. For tickets please visit:

https://kitchendogtheater.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S5c00000FECTJEA5

BOX OFFICE: 214 953 1055

PERFORMANCE ADDRESS: 2600 N Stemmons Fwy, Suite 180 Dallas, TX 75207

Ticket Prices:

Adult: $20 (Thurs/Sun) & $30 (Fri/Sat)

Student, Senior, KERA Discounts: $15 (Thurs/Sun) & $25 (Fri/Sat)


Subject to availability – Box Office Opens 30 Minutes Prior to Curtain

cast:

Ravinia Whitfield: Guinea Bennett-Price Good Latimer: Jamal Sterling*^ Faith Lester: Rhonda Boutté *

production team:

Director: Christopher Carlos*+ Stage Manager: Ruth Stephenson* Set Design: Jeremy Davis Light Design: Lisa Miller* Costume Design: Gelacio Gibson Sound Design: Jorge Amador Prop Design: Cindy Ernst-Godinez* Tech Director: Abby Kraemer* Assistant Technical Director: Gonzolo Novoa Covid Safety Manager: Claire Carson *KDT Company Members *+ KDT Co-Artistic Director *^ Member of Actor’s Equity Association

In the Heights (2021)

IN THE HEIGHTS Takes the Stage with Two New Trailers - Nerdist
Anthony Ramos as Usnavi and Melissa Barrera as Vanessa, star in In the Heights.

Summer NYC, Usnavi, Vanessa and the Bodega from ’round the way are all back in town singing, dancing and acting in this film rendition of Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical , In the Heights. I will go ahead and answer the question I’m sure you all are asking. “Is this film as good as the live-musical?” The answer ,friends, is no. No it’s not as good. It doesn’t even come close.

All the “Paciencia y fe” in the world isn’t going to redeem this movie.

Watching this film felt like looking at an uninteresting magazine. The characters are untouchable, unidentifiable and distant. There are so many extras it’s hard to keep track of who is who, and even though the movie spans for more than two hours it doesn’t really delve deeply into any of the character’s stories, not even Usnavi’s. There is a pool sequence with plenty of T & A and shirtless muscles that feels completely gratuitous.

In a contrived sequence that plays throughout the film Usnavi has an over- extended Storytime with young children, telling his story as we are watching the story unfold. The scenes don’t really add anything to the overall story and it breaks up the film’s momentum in an awkward way.

The only time we get any real depth from any of the actors on screen is when Marc Anthony who plays Usnavi’s tio (Uncle in Spanish) makes an appearance. His moment is brief so it’s unclear what his exact afflictions are but it’s obvious that he’s messed up. His uncle isn’t the only thing that’s messed up about this film.

*Spoiler Alert

Marc Anthony doesn’t sing. This is not a joke. Marc Anthony the incredible singer, gets a role in a musical and does not sing a single note.

The best films and television shows created in NYC feature the city as a character. In this movie, musical version of NYC all of the dirt and grime and hustle that makes NYC great is air brushed to oblivion. Despite all of these glaring disparities in the production , I’m still rooting for this brown-driven musical to succeed. I think it’s better suited for tv.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

In the Heights opens in theaters on June 4, 2021.

Sing Song (2017)

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Floris Bosma and Georgiefa Boomdijk star in Sing Song.

This year’s From Europe With Love children’s film festival was virtual, and I had the opportunity to catch Sing Song ,a musical adventure film from Suriname. The film tells the story of Jasmine (Georgiefa Boomdijk), a 16 year old singer who lives with her single father. She gets accepted to a singing contest in Suriname, but she lies and tells her father the contest is in Berlin. She is allowed to travel alone to Berlin but instead she travels with her guitarist and best friend Stijn (Floris Bosma) to Suriname. When she is there, she meets plenty of other young talented singers but the contest takes a back seat to her primary goal of tracking down her long lost mother who abandoned her.

Anyone viewing this film has to watch it through a “this is a kid’s film” filter. Meaning that the viewer trusts that nothing dangerous is going to happen to our protagonist even though she has traveled to a foreign country alone and is sneaking around unsupervised. She goes to remote villages alone searching for a mother by the name of “Grace, no last name ” , armed only with an old photograph and her determination.

Georgiefa is graceful, adorable and talented enough to lead the film. In a contrived bit of storytelling, Felicity (Tyra Koning), a young girl who is also at the singing competition, becomes a frenemy with Jasmine. She tries to win the heart of Stijn, Jasmine’s love interest, and one day she randomly comes into their bunker wearing the same exact dress Jasmine’s mother is wearing in the photograph. When she leaves the bunker Jasmine checks Felicity’s phone and she sees that yes, they share a mother. Instead of asking any questions of Felicity about their mother, she takes it upon herself to travel to a remote village, miles and miles away from the singing competition to reunite with her mother.

The film is cute and innocent. It’s a refreshing change to see young talent, not being forced into adulthood prematurely. The script however, could use some work.

Sing Song runs 1 hour and 36 minutes, it is in Dutch with Subtitles.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Never Goin’ Back (2018)

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Maia Mitchell and Camilla Morrone star in Never Goin’ Back.

Native Texan Augustine Frizzell made her feature film debut with the 2018 film Never Goin’ Back. Starring Camilla Morrone, Maia Mitchell and a gang full of Dallas actors, Never Goin’ Back is the tale of two teenage fuck-ups with entirely too much freedom on their hands. The girls face down the Texas heat, being too broke and having adult responsibilities in this stoner film.

The movie was loosely based on Frizzell’s youth, growing up in Garland , Texas. She had a best friend that was like her family and she wanted to give a nod to that period of her life.

The film feels realistic and shows the mishaps that befall misguided, reckless drug aficionados. It’s always funny to see how someone who can’t make their rent manages to afford a drug habit, but the heroines somehow manage to keep their drug use going throughout the film. The films heroines are far from perfect.

Costume designer Annell Brodeur creates charming looks that help to capture the movie’s sticky, grungy feel. Although Fizzell herself is not a millennial or a gen x-er her film still manages to encapsulate the vibe of entitled youth that lack the education, direction or grit needed to get what they feel they deserve.

Never Goin’ Back is a fun watch.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Uncut Gems (2019)

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Kevin Garnett, Lakeith Stanfield and Adam Sandler, starring in Uncut Gems.

In Uncut Gems, the Safdie brothers really sing. Their fast paced, color driven, action-packed scenes all come together to make an opus that is a cinematic treat.

In Uncut Gems, funny man Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a sleazy jewelry hustler with a gambling addiction. The film was loosely based on the brothers father’s experience working in the NYC’s diamond district.

In the film, Lakeith Stanfield plays Demany, a jewelry liaison that works as a go between Howard and rich and famous basketball players and musicians. Stanfield perfectly embodies the character, as do all of the actors. It seems as though they are just being themselves, not really acting at all.

The movie takes an interesting look at wealthy, fool-hardy men and the people that flitter around them trying to get their money. The film also features a charming acting performances by Broadway great Idina Menzel and basketball legend Kevin Garnett, who plays an exaggerated version of himself.

Well written and well acted, Uncut Gems manages to get you caught up in Howard’s journey as he makes one deadly deal after the other. The stakes continuously rise as greed, miscalculations and grime permeate each of the character’s actions.

There is a scene where Howard breaks down in front of his mistress. The stress of his misdeeds is proving to be too much. You can’t help but feel sorry for the slime ball.

This was a pretty decent film. Sandler was snubbed by the academy, but he did a great job of bringing Howard to life, and grounding him so well that the audience roots for him and all his grimy dealings.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Rider (2017)

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Brady Jandreau and his sister Lilly Jandreau in the 2017 film, The Rider.

The vocals of Paula Cole’s “Where have all the cowboys gone” rings in my head, as the tale of Brady Blackburn, a young, up and coming cowboy who is medically banned from riding , graces my television screen. Chloé Zhao’s The Rider is a tale of a cowboy for whom riding is no longer safe.

I knew that I was going to be seduced by this tale of forbidden love, set in the breathtaking South Dakota Badlands, but I wasn’t expecting to be THIS seduced.

The Rider is a documentary-style, fictionalized tale of Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau) , an injured, famous bronco rider. Naturally like any good existential dilemma exactly what feeds his soul the most is exactly what is the most deadly to him. Brady has to choose between a life without riding, which is no life at all, or being more responsible and courageous while forging a new path.

Chloé Zhao, a Chinese born, NYU educated filmmaker wrote an intriguing 65 page script which mirrored parts of Jandreau’s real life. His father and sister in the film are his real family, and his best friend in the film is his best friend in real life. Jandreau actually did suffer a life-threatening injury that forced him to stop riding.

The film is a pleasurable watch. Seeing the natural beauty of the badlands, peppered by the stresses of daily life on the plains, medical pains, money struggles and excessive drug use made the drama of life in the Dakotas , palpable.

The stunning film was shot by cinematographer Joshua James Richards who made the film with an Amira camera.

The Rider is a relatable journey about growth, transformation and letting go of things we love, in order to find new loves. Brady Jandreau currently trains horses with his family’s company Jandreau Performance Horses.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Good Time (2017)

The Safdie brothers, fraternal twins Benny and Josh , have created a visceral, high-stakes, thriller, Good Time, a movie that will make you feel uncomfortable in a physical way like most well-made films do, but has its flaws.

Robert Pattinson aka R.Patz stars as the conniving mastermind Connie Nikas, a broke, criminal mastermind, who like all optimistic criminals believes that he too, has plotted out the perfect crime.

SPOILER ALERT

He’s wrong.

Connie enlists the help of his mentally handicap brother/ bestfriend Nick (Benny Safdie) and the world as they know it slips continuously and painfully out of their grasp.

A good thing about the script: it deals with race in an interesting way. So many of the green lights Connie gets on his quest were because he was a fast-thinking, white guy like when he chats up a cop on guard at a hospital where he plans to break out his brother. The cop isn’t suspicious about Connie’s presence on the floor, and doesn’t recognize him as the brother of one of the inmates even though his face is literally plastered all over the news.

Race play comes up again in a surprise twist where Connie frames an African security guard. The story also includes a “thug” who is heavily inspired by urban, hip-hop, Black culture. (An all too familiar trope, but I’m not mad at it.)

Script positives: The two main characters, the Nikas brothers contrast in a delicious and delightful way. The way the brothers are loyal to each other and the circumstances that surround their brotherhood will certainly strike a chord.

Script Flaws: In the story the heroes journey is well defined and Connie’s motivations are easy to follow and distinct, however, the story relies far too much on fortunate and at times down right fantastical opportunities to drive it forward. For example the entire scene in which Connie breaks Niko out of the hospital borderlines on fantasy, it’s that far fetched and unrealistic.

At some points it was as though the filmmakers were asking us to suspend belief and just go with the story, instead of fleshing out these holes and others in the script.

Anytime a Hollywood, A-list, pretty boy decides to get “gritty” or takes a role out of their type, everyone fawns over them. R.Patz does a decent job of bringing Connie to life. Even though he’s a violent criminal, he manages to get you to root for him and is likeable, which is not an easy feat. The character did however seem a bit one-noted, and not all that complex. He was hell-bent on getting what he wanted and relying solely on razor sharp mental prowess and cunning that would’ve put Macgyver to shame, but it’s Safdie’s understated and steadfast portrayal of Nikolas that anchors the film.

Good Time is a visually good time, with lots of pretty lighting, witty banter and heightened characters that are certainly fun to watch, but it’s hard to build on a film that lacks a solid foundation.

This flick will make you feel something, the characters stay with you, more Niko for me than Connie, and it is certainly entertaining.

Rating: 2 out of 5.