Tag Archives: Taylor Paige

We Love the 80s!

Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F

by George Wolf

Within the first ten minutes of Netflix’s Axel F, we hear the big hit songs from both Beverly Hills Cop 1 (“The Heat Is On”) and 2 (“Shakedown”). So the promise of 80s nostalgia is made early, and then part 4 in the franchise makes good on that promise for nearly two hours.

Thirty years after the dreadful BHC III, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) still has the same Detroit Lions jacket, and the same penchant for stirring up trouble.

He also has an estranged daughter named Jane Saunders (Taylor Paige, classing up the joint) who’s a successful defense lawyer in…anyone?…Beverly Hills. And Jane sometimes works with now P.I. Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold), who left the Beverly Hills police force after now Chief Taggart (John Ashton) didn’t have his back on a complicated case.

Jane is defending an accused cop killer that Billy thinks might have been framed. Their work doesn’t sit well with Taggart, or with the Rolex-wearing Captain Grant (Kevin Bacon), head of the new narcotics task force. So when some goons try to scare Jane off the case, Billy feels responsible and….anyone?…calls Axel.

First-time feature director Mark Molloy dutifully rolls out a workmanlike series of recognizable franchise faces (Bronson Pinchot, Paul Reiser) and situations (Axel crashes an exclusive club, Axel startles cops by jumping in the back seat of their cruiser). And while it’s nice to see the addition of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a well meaning cop/ex boyfriend of Jane, little of the script from Will Beall, Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten deviates from the convenient and the predictable.

But is it fun? Yeah, it kinda is.

Murphy seems engaged about the character again (especially during a surprisingly relevant exchange with a parking valet), and the film is perfectly happy to remind you of happier times and take your mind off of Supreme Court decisions.

Come back in the room after feeding the cat: oh, look it’s Serge! Check your phone for minute: there’s a shoot-em-up car crash! You know who the bad guys are, you know fences will be mended, and you know you love the 80s.

Axel F knows you know, and this time, that’s just enough.

You know?

Florida Project


by George Wolf

Is it surprising that movies are now born from Twitter threads? Maybe, for a minute. But you’ll find good stories on Twitter, and Zola tells a ferociously good story, even if some of it may not be exactly true.

In 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King took to her Twitter account, and in 148 tweets told a jaw-dropping yarn about meeting Stefanie, traveling south with her to dance in Tampa strip clubs, and quickly regretting it all.

Director/co-writer Janicza Bravo adapts David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article with an undeniable vision. She brings a vital, in-your-face aesthetic that succeeds in putting the tale’s social media roots right up on the screen without a hint of pandering or desperation hipness.

Anyone who’s seen Taylor Paige in strong supporting roles (Boogie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) knew her breakout was coming soon, and now here it is. She owns every frame as Zola, guiding us through this mashup of hilarity and horror show with captivating bursts of sass, shade and poignant vulnerability.

Riley Keough has a tough job finding the soft spots in the outlandish Stefani, but she lands them repeatedly. Is the offensive Stefani we’re seeing just a cartoon villain from Zola’s memory, or is she also a victim? Keough give us important glimpses that make us care enough to wonder.

Bravo, Paige and Keough (with solid support from Colman Domingo, Nick Braun and Jason Mitchell) each brings indelible talent to Zola, and the sheer buzz of this wild ride becomes irresistible.

Is it truth? Fiction? A bit of both?

It matters only in that it doesn’t matter at all. Because whatever truth still exists in the digital age, Zola speaks it.

Hoop Fantasies


by George Wolf

What’s the greatest moment in Asian-American history?

According to Alfred “Boogie” Chin’s father, it’s Micheal Chang’s upset of Ivan Lendl in the 1989 French Open final. And though Boogie’s sport is basketball, the Chin family is hoping some similar court magic will take them all the way to the NBA.

And that’s the first trouble sign with writer/director Eddie Huang’s first feature. From what we see on the court, the idea that Boogie (Taylor Takahashi in his screen debut) is good enough to play in college – let alone the NBA – is laughable.

Wisely, Huang keeps the in-game action to a minimum, focusing instead on the pressures of an Asian teen who must shoulder the burden of being his family’s savior while coming of age in Queens, New York.

Boogie transferred to City Prep High School, so a high-profile showdown with Brooklyn phenom “Monk” (rapper/musician Pop Smoke, is his last role before his tragic murder last year) would help land a college scholarship. But so far, the scouts aren’t promising anything more than walk-on opportunities.

The opportunities with Eleanor (Taylor Paige, so good in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and the clear standout in this cast) are looking much brighter. As the big game draws near and the “manager” Mom hired makes things even more tense at home, Boogie leans on Eleanor for a quiet sense of comfort.

Huang (creator of TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”) throws out some solid ideas, but his attempts to develop them stop at vague generalities. Much like the hooping talent, the cultural struggle of the Chin family is told more than shown, never giving us a reason to get emotionally involved.

And if you’re going to cast a completely inexperienced actor as your lead, why not someone who’s actually a basketball talent? Takahashi was apparently a high school standout, but that doesn’t translate here. Still, even without the inexplicable basketball charade, the coming-of-age drama is only G league material. Huang may yet prove he got game, but it’s going to take some work in the film room.