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Justin Timberlake jumps to “serious actor” in Palmer.

We could be seeing a lot of him during awards season.

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I do not feature Justin Timberlake in any way, shape, or form. I was a fervent NSYNC stan and I was annoyed that Justin got the star treatment as opposed to JC, who had the best voice from any boyband of the era. I will never forgive him for how he left Janet Jackson out to dry. I hated how his watered-down R&B was so palatable to a certain genre of people who compared him to Michael Jackson. I rolled my eyes when he made the pivot to being a Man in the Woods to shine a spotlight on Americana after he made all his money on Black radio.

In short, if Justin Timberlake is in a movie, I do not care. The movie can be great and I still won’t watch it because he’s in it.

Until this one.

He has a beard, he looks old and haggard, and he’s grumbling all of his lines, so that’s the three ingredients for a Serious Actor right there. I was ready to turn off the trailer because I don’t care about his character and I don’t care about the actor playing his character.

And then Sam shows up with a Barbie doll and I was hooked. I haven’t seen this story before! It could go left. It could be another Heartwarming Tale for Straight People where the queer character is basically used to teach the main character something about themselves, but I’m not getting that this time. It’s reading like a classic outcast story of two people reaching out for each other after being shunned by their community. It’s why I was a nerdy little gay kid sitting with the goths at lunchtime when I was outed.

The script is a (debut, I think) screenplay from Cheryl Guerriero, a novelist who grew up a lesbian star athlete, so I trust her to have a deft hand writing a young gender-non-conforming character. A quickdive into social media has turned up Amy Allen, the mother of the actor who plays Sam, and she very much gives me Millennial White Mom with Good Politics vibes, and the account she runs for her son has a post featuring his gay vocal coach on a gay suicide advert. I just finished Raising Dion, and the stressed out Alicia Keys mother on the show (Alisha Wainwright), plays Justin’s love interest in Palmer, so I’m very much here for that. Plus, Juno Temple is in it and she rarely picks a bad project.

So Palmer is looking like the serious heartstrings project to take Justin Timberlake into the next phase of his career, but it also looks like a fresh take on a current topic and possibly a story of acceptance that some of us need to see. Despite my JTim reservations, I’m putting this one on the list.

Still skipping his verses on No Strings Attached though.

 

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Hot Takes: Cruella

Emma Stone is rarely upstaged in any project, but it really was a battle of The Emmas this time with Emma Stone eating up every scene.

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1. I’ve never seen 101 Dalmatians so nothing I say about Cruella is from the POV of someone who has source material to go on. I went to see Cruella because I like going to movie theaters and Emma Stone always understands the assignment.

2. Releasing this movie during pride month is Gay Rights. No I can’t explain to you how — it just is. Cruella is The Joker for people who drink iced coffee in sub-freezing weather and have an opinion on Pop Ariana Grande vs. R&B Ariana Grande.

3. The fashions! Jenny Beavan knows how to style a film and if there’s any justice she might get her 11th Academy Award nomination. Imagine winning an Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road  and then winning one for Cruella. The range!

4. This movie is stupid. The whole premise is convoluted. The “origin” of Cruella’s obsession with Dalmatians is so far-fetched I probably would have been annoyed about it in a less enjoyable film, but the movie is such a fun ride, you immediately forgive the deficiencies in the plot.

5. And the movie is such a fun ride party because Emma Thompson is eating up the scene every time she appears on screen. She left no crumbs anywhere. I don’t know what direction they gave her or where she drew her inspiration (it feels a little Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly meets Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector meets Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode meets RuPaul) but she looks like she is having the time of her life. For me, Emma Stone is rarely upstaged in any project, but it really was a battle of The Emmas this time.

6. Gay-coded characters annoy me sometimes because it’s usually over-the-top caricature that wants you to believe they’re gay without actually telling us they are, so it’s not representation so much as it is reinforcement of stereotypes. I love the camp on display in Cruella though. So that’s my hypocrisy for this week I suppose!

7. Thank god they didn’t shoehorn an unnecessary romance in here. I kept waiting for it, because the subtext was there, but they never did it, and I would like to thank everyone in the writing room. I’m always so annoyed by the Forced Attraction That Does Not Improve The Plot in 90% of Hollywood films.

8. Wink is the cutest little pupster. I want one.

9. Is it a rule that the Disney Mom has to die to set up the plot? I could have put a spoiler alert, but since it’s Disney, I’m sure almost everybody expects the mom to die anyway. Let’s be more creative? It’s 2021. Moana was great without killing mom and I think we can follow that path a little more.

10. This is kind of a spoiler so skip this last little bulletpoint.

I almost laughed out loud when Anita popped up as an adult to help save the day. Listen, if you’re gonna have The Selfless Negro with an Afro come back in adulthood to help the unhinged white woman put her life together, do it the way Cruella does it, by giving her a job and more layers and a reason to put in the work aside from “this white girl from childhood needs me.” I’m still mad at Queen’s Gambit for totally shitting the bed with their magical Negro savior and I thought I was about to leave Cruella just as upset, but I didn’t. So — close call! but ultimately it was okay.

Score: 7 / 10 

 

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Hot Takes: A Quiet Place II

If Emily Blunt is doing a dramatic reading of a Bell South telephone book from 1987, I will have a ticket to the show.

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1. Who woulda thunk Jim from the Office would be the horror writer/director I would be most looking forward to? I’m really interested to see what he comes up with next, because I like the fact that these monsters landed from outer space and simply started tearing up everything. No master plan. No higher purpose. Just violent pests. Sometimes a movie can just be an enjoyable experience based on the characters and how they react to their situations.

2. Since we’re on that — I got into an argument with a guy about how no world-building happened between the first and second movie. If you go into A Quiet Place II needing to know further details about the world at large, then you will be disappointed, because these are not those kinds of movies. Essentially this is a Very Tense Family Drama — the first was about parenting, and the second is about the independence of the children (mostly the daughter, because the son is completely burdensome). We’re watching character development with the backdrop of an apocalyptic horror movie.

3. Emily Blunt can do anything. I will watch anything with Emily Blunt in it. If Emily Blunt is doing a dramatic reading of a Bell South telephone book from 1987, I will have a ticket to the show.

4. What’s wrong with the marina people and why do they look like that? Of all the unanswered questions in this world of A Quiet Place, that is the one I’m most looking forward to getting an answer to in the next one.

5. Horror movies just refuse to let Black people be great!

6. If we are in an apocalyptic world where our safety depends on how quiet we can be and you show me a BABY IN A BOX, my reaction is not “aww, how cute, of course I’ll help you.” Does that make me a sociopath? I’m not risking my life for A BABY. I know my worth and what I can bring to society. I don’t know if that baby will grow up to be a doctor or an axe murderer. What if that baby gets me killed and then ends up working at GameStop? Was it worth it???

7. When are we getting Miss Millicent Simmonds in some more movies? I think she has such a unique face for Hollywood and I really enjoyed her in Wonderstruck.

8. When the movie started, we had this guy behind us talking to the screen. You know those people who just have to be heard, who think they’re so amusing that people want to hear their running commentary of every single thing. I honestly thought about leaving, because I knew from the first installment that part of the tension of the film would be the contrast between silence and horror movie noise. But he stopped talking. That’s how good it was. He forgot that he wanted to be talking through it and didn’t make a sound for the rest of the movie after a certain point. If you can make annoying people focus, you have made a good film.

Score: 7.5/10 

 

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Marvel should go headfirst into “SJW” movies.

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I’m genuinely excited about everything Marvel has coming up.

I’m also annoyed that all the Basement Babies are perched and poised to give their hot takes about the lower box office returns being a product of Social Justice Movies since the next slate is so women & POC centered.

I’m sure Marvel knows this, but it is impossible to recreate the BILLION DOLLAR openings they had the past few years because:

1) We’re coming out of a pandemic.

2) We’ve reached FULL Marvel saturation.

Nobody is going to have box office returns like we saw just before COVID for a very very long time.

But more important probably, there’s just way too much MCU. The movies are coming fast and more people will skip more of them and just catch a synopsis before a big Event Movie.

If I was Marvel, I would just lean full force into women, POC, and queer stories because the Cavemen are already upset….so just let them be mad, and draw in more of the people who don’t typically go see Marvel movies. The returns will be lower anyway, so make it count.

 

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