Tag Archives: Aldis Hodge

Bubblegum Noir


by Christie Robb

Newbie prisoner, Baron (Joe Keery, Stranger Things), needs to be back on the street by three p.m. Luckily, his new cellmate is a veteran at all things illegal, including successful jail breaks. And he’s bored. If Baron can spin a compelling enough yarn about why he needs to make his three o’clock meeting, Otis (Aldis Hodge, Black Adam) will get him there on time.

Veteran character actor Keir O’Donnell takes the helm to write/direct his first feature with Marmalade.  And his casting is pretty great. Keery’s Baron shares a lot of the qualities that made his Steve from Stranger Things so much fun—great hair, the charisma of a golden retriever puppy, and a relentless devotion to his loved ones.

Here, Keery’s the caregiver of a bedridden mamma whose prescription medication just jumped up in price. All seems bleak until Marmalade (Camila Morrone, Daisy Jones and the Six) rolls into town. She’s got the pink hair, tattoos, and unconventional fashion sense of a manic pixie dream girl. But she’s also got a gun and a plan to rob a bank, so more a noir femme fatale who shops at vintage stores.

Marmalade is a little bit Forrest Gump and a little bit Natural Born Killers and a lot bit of another movie that I won’t mention because…spoilers. But you’ll figure it out before the credits roll.

It’s a stylish movie with good chemistry between cast members and some fun twists. However, the script deserved another few drafts before filming. In order to pull off what the film is trying to do, you need a tightly woven script that works the first time without giving away the ending, and that holds up to multiple viewings once you know. Here, there were plot holes as big as those in the hot pink fishnet tights that Marmalade so often wears.  

But if you don’t mind that, Marmalade is pretty sweet.

The Room Where It Happened

One Night in Miami

by George Wolf

The room where it really happened was in Miami’s Hampton House. After a young Cassius Clay won the Heavyweight title from Sonny Liston on Feb. 25, 1964, he joined his long time mentor Malcolm X, NFL legend Jim Brown and soul sensation Sam Cooke at the South Florida hotel.

Writer Kemp Powers first imagined how that meeting of legendary minds might have played out, and now Regina King – who already has an acting Oscar – jumps into the race for Best Director with a wise and wonderful adaptation of Powers’s stage play. Propelled by a bold, vital script from Powers himself, King invites us into a frank discussion about the steps in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and about each man’s role in the struggle.

Though existing mainly inside that single hotel room, One Night in Miami is in a constant state of motion, as four talented actors serve and volley through a ballet of insight and intellect.

Portraying a bigger-than life-personality such as Clay without a hint of caricature is no easy feat, but Eli Goree handles it with smooth charisma.

Clay’s braggadocio is as playful and charming as you remember, but Goree also finds authentic shades of apprehension about the societal role Clay (who would publicly join the Nation of Islam and announce his name change to Muhammed Ali just weeks after the meeting) was about to accept.

Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Malcom X is a measured voice of wisdom, but the film finds its gravitational pull in the forces of Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom, Jr.

As Brown, Hodge is beautifully restrained power, a man of incredible strength still able to be staggered by sudden blows of racism. Brown’s path as a leader of the civil rights movement contrasts sharply with Cooke’s, and Odom, Jr. gives the singer surprising and resonant layers that include anger at the thought that he’s not all in for the cause.

The characters continually challenge each other, as King and Powers challenge us with a profundity that comes from their refusal to settle for easy answers. Each question the film raises connects past to present with committed grace, and One Night in Miami finds a beautiful dignity that shines in the face of bigotry. 

Feeling Seen

The Invisible Man

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Leigh Whannell likes him some mad science.

Two years ago the Saw and Insidious writer found his footing as a director with the unreasonably entertaining Upgrade. In what amounted to Knight Rider as imagined by David Cronenberg, the film gave the old yin/yang concept a robotics feel thanks to the work of an evil genius.

The evil genius concept is back for Whannell’s reimagining of The Invisible Man. But the most interesting thing about this version of the old H.G. Wells tale is that the man—invisible or not—plays second fiddle.

Instead of the existential ponderings that generally underscore cinematic Invisible Man retellings, Whannell uses this story to examine sexual politics, abuse, control and agency.

It’s a laudable aim, but the reason it works is casting.

How fucking great is Elisabeth Moss?

Not just in this film—but make no mistake, she’s fantastic. Whether it’s her TV work, small bits in indies like The Square or The Kitchen, or leading film roles, she’s been brilliant in everything she’s ever done. (Last year’s Her Smell is making its cable TV rounds – watch it!)

Whannell’s script is smart, with much needed upgrades to the invisibility formula as well as the havoc wrought. There are a handful of unrealistic moments, mostly in terms of character development, but a game cast (including Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer and Michael Dorman) consistently elevates the material.

There is also an irritatingly convenient employment of security footage: there when it suits the film, but weirdly unmentioned when it would derail the plot.

The fight choreography, on the other hand, is evenly fantastic, and these one-sided battles had to be hard to execute.

But the success of The Invisible Man is almost entirely shouldered by Moss, who nails every moment of oppressed Cecilia Kass’s arc. And early on, Moss has to sell it – pardon the pun- sight unseen. We’re only told Cecelia is abused, but Moss makes sure we never doubt that it is so.

Cecelia’s desperation, her fear, her logic, self-doubt as well as belief—all of it rings absolutely true. When you’re building a fantasy film in which one character is invisible and most actors are responding to an empty room, authenticity is key (and often very hard to come by). Moss makes it look easy.

But beyond the sci-fi and horror elements, Whannell’s success at weaving this tale through a #metoo lens comes from our total investment in Cecelia as a person first, personification of a systemic problem second. Without that, the gaslighting is less resonant and the eventual payoff less earned.

The two-hour running time does come to feel a tad bloated, but this new monster vision boasts plenty of creepy atmospherics, controlled tension and – wonder of wonders – well developed jump scares.

At its core, The Invisible Man is an entertaining B-movie horror propped up by contrivance. Whannell’s aim is to give the story new relevance, and thanks to Moss, his aim is true.

Have Mercy


by Hope Madden

Alfre Woodard has primarily provided crucial supporting turns in film and television since 1978. With writer/director Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, Woodard delivers an astonishing lead turn as a prison warden dealing with inmates on death row.

Examining capital punishment from the eyes of a prison warden is certainly a novel approach. The warden has generally been relinquished on film to a cowboy hat wearing good ol’ boy with no qualms about flipping that switch. Chukwu and Woodard are disinterested in clichés. Instead they carve out something truly new in this genre.

The thing Chukwu gets most right in this film is an overwhelming sense of responsibility and grief, and it’s a tough line to toe. Warden Bernadine Williams understands that, while her own grief threatens to swallow her whole, it doesn’t compare with the pain she comes in contact with. For that reason, she never defends her position or betrays her sympathies when confronted by victims’ families, the families of the condemned or the condemned themselves.

Her own grief is so acutely individual that she refuses to seek sympathy and she outright rejects empathy, because who could put themselves in her place? She is in charge but has no control. She is responsible, yet she does not determine these men’s fates.

If Chukwu hits the right notes here, it’s Woodard who sings. This journeyman has played just about everything across her four decades in the business, and she brings a palpable sense of hard won wisdom to this role.

The film is essentially a character study, and one of a character determined not to discuss or betray her feelings. That’s a tough nut to crack because you have to let the audience know what’s going on without telling us anything at all. More than that, what Woodard has to convey is far beyond the scope of what anyone in the audience can really understand. And yet, she succeeds poignantly.

Aldis Hodge, playing death row inmate Anthony Woods, balances Woodard’s practiced stoicism with barely contained jolts of emotion. Clemency gives Hodge the opportunity to shine and he grabs it, conveying a tumult of raw feelings that will leave you heartbroken.

If Clemency is a miraculous package of performances, it doesn’t entirely work as a film. Bernadine’s story—her existential crisis—doesn’t have a beginning or an end, just an unhappy middle. But maybe that’s necessary for a film that breaks new ground while delivering the same message: we need criminal justice reform.