Set in the early 1990s, The Little Things centers around Joe “Deke” Deacon (Denzel Washington), a deputy sheriff in Bakersfield, California. One day he is suddenly called to Los Angeles to retrieve a piece of evidence. It quickly becomes clear he has a deep and troubled past with the LAPD. When the evidence is withheld due to the bureaucratic process Deke is forced to stay longer than intended.
He crosses paths with his successor detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) who is working a new set of serial killer cases eerily similar to one Deke had previously been assigned. They initially butt heads but Baxter warms to the idea of working together when Deke finds some important clues. The two men eventually come to the conclusion repairman Albert Sparma (Jared Leto) is their most likely suspect. As the film progresses, Deke becomes increasingly obsessed with catching the killer, while Jimmy follows his lead.
It was difficult for me to get through this film. Although I know noir films are known for ‘overcooked’ performances, in this case it didn’t work well. The film is a very classic take on noir. All three actors are successful, Oscar-winning talents, but whether it was the script or the stylized performances, the characters fell flat and seemed dated.
This is a huge divergence from the style of films John Lee Hancock is known for. He typically makes bright, upbeat films about hard work and success such as The Rookie, The Blindside, and The Founder. In those films the characters are well-developed and we are given a clear structured tale. The Little Things on the other hand, lacks information and boundaries that would have been paramount to grounding usin any sense of reality.
While his films typically make use of bright natural light, this film makes good use of darkness and filters in light from flashlights and headlights creating an ominous look. I could see how much respect the director has for the genre. It is clear he wanted to make an homage to classics but it ended up getting lost along the way. This could easily be attributed to the nearly 30 years this film was left to gestate. I think the mistake was trying to emulate the classics instead of draw inspiration while creating something new. For me recent comedy/ thrillers that draw inspiration from noir, such as Promising Young Woman and Parasite were much more successful than Motherless Brooklyn or this film.
Ultimately, I think this project should have been left on the shelf as it brings nothing new to the table.
– Review by Jessie Zumeta
Have you seen THE LITTLE THINGS? Well, what did you think?
This weekend we lost a young but powerful figure of cinema… Chadwick Boseman, who died at the age of 43 after a four-year battle of colon cancer. I was in the midst of watching a movie on Friday night, specifically a miniseries, on Amazon Prime that I had been wanting to watch for ages. I usually left my phone away while watching a movie, but I somehow checked on it in between episodes, and was absolutely flabbergasted.
If you’re like me, most likely you had been totally blindsided by the fact that Boseman had been sick all these years. The statement on his Twitter account read that he was was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and thus he filmed many movies during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.
All the while he kept his condition and suffering privately, instead, Boseman chose to bless others with his talents… not just in his astounding performances, but also to his many, many fans. Such as this moment where he surprised many of his fans on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon:
I remember being moved to tears by his genuine gentleness and grace, and you could tell he really appreciated his fans and they knew that. Perhaps Boseman was excellent in portraying real-life heroes, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, not only because he was a gifted actor, but also because he too, was a real-life hero.
Many film fans knew him as King T’Challa aka Black Panther, in the smash hit Marvel superhero movie. It was definitely one of my top 10 favorite MCU movies, as Black Panther was more than just a superhero movie… it became a phenomenon and statement of success for representation and diversity. It’s as if the #WakandaForever became a defiant force for the under-represented in Hollywood that people of color ought to have a voice and when they’re allowed to shine, the world will respond in kind. Yes, the film was a state of the art, competently made by Ryan Coogler & his team, and filled with terrific supporting actors… but it’s the power, grace and dignity of Boseman who lead the film that made us believe in T’Challa’s heroism, and what he stood for.
As Boseman was a private person, there were few known facts about him when he lived… and I really respect that. I read a bunch of articles in the past couple of days, simply trying to get a glimpse at who Boseman was, not just as an actor but as a human being… and many of the facts confirmed just what a hero he was in real life.
Here are seven lesser-known facts to me that I thought you might find interesting:
He fought to give An African Accent To T’Challa
Per this article, before filming began, Chadwick was presented with two options: keep his American accent or take on a British one.
Chadwick felt that either option implied that Wakanda had been colonized. He worked with a dialect coach to produce his accent in the film, which is based in the Xhosa language.
He received his Bachelors in directing
Per The Things website, initially, Boseman wasn’t going to become an actor. He wanted to become a writer and director instead. Even when he was at school, he wrote and staged a play. Then Boseman went on to study to Howard University and majored in directing there. After graduating, he moved to Brooklyn and began pursuing his career — writing and directing small off-Broadway plays. Boseman decided to take acting courses only to better understand the actors better.“I really only started acting because I wanted to know what the actors were doing, how to communicate with the actors.”
He was a playwright
Per TheaterMania, Boseman wrote his first play in high school. Crossroads, which was performed by students, was written in response to the death of a classmate, a young man on his basketball team who was shot and killed.
More about his theatre roots from that article:
After graduating, Boseman taught acting to students in the Schomburg Junior Scholars Program, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. He immersed himself in the hip-hop theater scene, working with Howard classmate Kamilah Forbes to create the play with music Rhyme Deferred, which toured the United States and appears in the Hip Hop Theatre Anthology The Fire This Time. He wrote and directed the play Hieroglyphic Graffiti, which was produced at Negro Playwright’s Theatre, Kuntu Repertory, the National Black Theatre Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival.
Boseman’s most well-known play is titled Deep Azure, which was commissioned and produced by the Congo Square Theatre Company. It earned him a 2006 Jeff Award nomination for Best New Play.
He did not have to audition for Black Panther
Due to his history of biopics and tremendous roles, Boseman didn’t even have to audition for Black Panther. After seeing the actor in Get On Up, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige knew that it was the man he wanted to see as King T’Challa. “I think it was 24 hours between saying his name in a creative story meeting and talking to his agent and getting on a phone with him and offering him the role of Black Panther, which he accepted,” Feige said,
It’s incredible given the fact that Boseman had just been acting in films for about five years prior to his Black Panther role. His big movie break came in 2012 (when he was already in his 30s) when he got the career-breaking role in 42 as Jackie Robinson. He was up against 25 actors for the role of the baseball great. According to this article, it was rumored that Robinson’s widow was initially unhappy with the casting and had hoped that Denzel Washington would play the role. However, she was happy with the final result of the film and has since become friends with Boseman.
He was a Christian
I read in several articles that Boseman was raised a Christian and he still kept his faith. Per Christianity Today, Boseman grew up in the church, and it has been reported that his former pastor praised him for always being involved in serving at the church and helping others. Baptised and raised as a Christian, Boseman maintained his Christian faith through his development into Hollywood stardom.
In the video below in his tribute to Denzel Washington, he referenced a Bible verse of Ephesians 3:20, saying, “May God bless you exceedingly and abundantly more for what’s in store than He ever has before. God bless you.”
He owed a lot to Phylicia Rashad + Denzel Washington
Following graduation from Howard University, Boseman studied at the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford, England. Thanks to his acting mentor, Phylicia Rashad (from the Cosby Show) that Denzel Washington ended up paying for his tuition, plus nine of his fellow Howard theater students, at Oxford University.
He was trained in Martial Arts
Per that TvOverMind article, Boseman was also trained in martial arts. This came in handy for his role as Black Panther and he was well prepared for the action scenes. However, he and other cast members had to attend a boot camp to fully prepare them for the physical aspects of their roles. The stunts in Black Panther’ were predominantly performed by Boseman and the cast members rather than by stunt professionals.
The Yasuke Movie
The hard-working actor had a lot on his plate and one of the films he had signed on to do was to play Yasuke, the first and only black Japanese Samurai.
Per Deadline, Yasuke was a native of Portuguese Mozambique who was brought to Japan as a slave to Jesuit missionaries. The first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. A complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga’s friendship, respect — and ultimately, the honor, swords and title of samurai.
This is what Boseman said about the role in that article written in May 2019:
“The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best kept secrets, the only person of non-Asian origin to become a Samurai,” Boseman said. “That’s not just an action movie, that’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.”
Oh how awesome would it be to see Boseman in this film… he’s so perfect for the role, and his martial arts training would’ve been put to great use. Alas…
It remains to be seen what would happen to this project. I sure hope it would still get made after Boseman is gone. One thing for sure though, I do NOT want to see Black Panther 2 get made without Boseman… I simply cannot imagine another actor for the part. I think Disney/Marvel should scrap the sequel idea, as it would be disrespectful to recast him and I don’t think it would’ve been successful anyway as fans would refuse to watch it.
I’m still trying to come to terms with Boseman’s untimely death… he’s gone far, far too soon. My heart goes out to his family and friends… and to his wife Taylor Simone Ledward whom he apparently married before he died. I pray the Lord would comfort them during this painful times.
In his relative short career, Boseman made such a huge impact – as a human being AND as an artist. I know he will be missed by many, me included… but for sure, his legacy shall live on.
THANK YOU, Chadwick Boseman… for everything you had done. May God rest his soul.
With such a long and successful career, it’s hard to believe that Denzel Washington has never starred in a sequel until now. The first Equalizer film was a modest success at the box office, but I didn’t think it warrants a sequel. But then again, this is an era in Hollywood when every movie can be turned into a franchise.
Retired secret agent Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) still lives under the radar and uses his special skills to help the helpless. As the story begins, he rescued a little girl from her evil father and returned her to her mother. After the successful mission, McCall is back in Boston where he works as a Lyft driver. He lives a mundane life and try to stay out of the limelight as much as possible. One day he was notified that his friend and ex-colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) was murdered while investigating an assassination of an asset who worked for the CIA. He realized someone from his past is trying to get rid of his teammates and he must use his skills to find out who’s responsible. He enlisted the help of his old partner Dave York (Pedro Pascal) and the two must work together again to find out who’s behind the killings.
Written by Richard Wenk, who also wrote the first film, the story is pretty straightforward. There aren’t any surprises or anything that hasn’t been done in this kind of genre. There are couple of subplots that didn’t really add much to the narrative. One involves McCall trying to help an old man reunite with is long lost sister and the other involves him trying to help his young neighbor kid from gang violence. These two subplots just slowed down the main plot of the story and made the film a lot longer than it should’ve been.
With not much of a deep plot, you’d think director Antoine Fuqua would fill the void with big action scenes after another, but surprisingly the film lacks big thrills. The film contains only couple of fight scenes and a big climatic sequence that takes place during a hurricane. Now I don’t know if Fuqua couldn’t get enough money to shoot more action scenes or he just wanted to make this one more of low key action film. I do have to give shout out to director of photography Oliver Wood, who I think is very underrated, this film looks pretty great. The aforementioned hurricane sequence was one of the best shot action scenes I’ve ever seen. He and Fuqua did a great job of combining practical effects and CGI.
Washington again commands the screen and he’s great as usual. He’s able to convey a character who has all these special skills and willing to help people, but his personal life is nothing special. Here’s a man who’s trying to escape his past and trying to atone for whatever he did by helping others, but he can’t seem to help himself. The rest of actors were kind of just there to fill the screen so Washington to interact with. None of the supporting cast members stood out to me.
The film is way too long and needed better pacing. Hopefully for the third sequel, they can come up with a better story and give us more action. I still enjoyed this one, just like the first film, I don’t have the urge to see it again anytime soon.
So have you seen EQUALIZER 2? Well, what did you think?
Denzel Washington is at the top of his game in the new movie Roman J. Israel, Esq. from writer/director Dan Gilroy. Having seen and been impressed by Gilroy’s 2014 debut film Nightcrawler (with Jake Gyllenhaal), I was curious what the director had in store for us.
This film starts out slow, with Roman (Washington)’s firm in crisis as his law partner dies after suffering a heart attack. Roman’s left picking up the pieces and tying up loose ends in court – something he had not previously done before as he was the behind-the-scenes attorney at the small firm. His (what should have been) normally routine court appearances are a disaster; his tendency to blurt out what he perceives as the truth gets him held in contempt by a less-than-understanding and impatient judge. Without a job and out of luck, Roman (sporting his trademark ‘70s Afro hairstyle) walks the streets of Los Angeles, lugging around a huge briefcase filled with his lifelong passion project. What we eventually learn is that that he hopes to file a brief to bring about a class action lawsuit that will change the justice system for African American sentencing and those already incarcerated.
Roman interviews at a nonprofit run by Maya (played by Carmen Ejogo), but instead of finding a job, he gains an ally in Maya. She is not in the same mindset as her younger staff at the nonprofit are – that Roman is like something from another time that is outdated and out of the current mainstream. Maya believes that Roman should be respected and listed to. They end up developing a personal connection and she calls him to ask him out on a date, even though the talk he gave to some young students at her nonprofit doesn’t go very well.
Roman finds a job at George (Colin Farrell)’s firm, where George acts more like a legal shark, putting profits ahead of people. Roman does gain some valuable mentorship from George, who sees Roman’s scholarly ability to memorize a library of law books as an asset. Surrounded by wealth and unethical behavior, Roman chooses to claim a reward for $100,000 with the knowledge he acquires from taking on a case of a gang member who’s accused of murdering an Armenian store clerk. Once Roman gets his hands on the cash, he suddenly starts living large – taking a day off to get bacon maple-glazed doughnuts by the beach (something he always talked about doing but never had the time), purchasing pricey business suits and getting a modern hairdo, among other things. He takes Maya out on a fancy date and shows off his new suit and hairstyle. Maya shares with Roman some her life struggles with idealism and the reality of life, but Roman seems to lack compassion, even though he actually does feel it, he is really preoccupied with other things. The date ends on a high note as we see that they still have a strong connection.
The movie takes more of a predictable turn as Roman ends up paying the price for his unethical behavior and becomes a sort-of martyr for his cause. His real undoing comes about when he quips “I’m tired of doing the impossible for the ungrateful.” The Roman we met in the begging on the movie would have never said that. Gilroy wraps the movie up neatly, with George doing what Roman wasn’t able to do – filing Roman’s brief in court — and Maya being inspired to mentor her students with Roman’s kind of activism and resistance. This ending in no way detracts from Denzel Washington’s brilliant performance, playing a man who is living with a mild-yet-obviously-present case of autism.
Washington brings his best effort to deliver an outstanding performance — one for which he may soon end up being rewarded for — in a movie that is headed for a predictable and unoriginal ending. As Roman tells us early on in the movie, the “Esquire” in his name means he is “above gentleman but below knight.” Similarly, Gilroy’s movie Roman J. Israel, Esq. is above average but below the greatness that we associate with Denzel’s most recent movies (i.e. Fences, Flight).
Have you seen ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’? Well, what did you think?
Well this is the first year where the Oscars almost escaped me… It’s funny, there’s a line that my lead character said in my Hearts Want script, ‘I don’t give a f*** about the Oscars…’ Well, it seems his um, lack of enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off on me a bit. Suffice to say, I’ve just been so preoccupied w/ prepping my short film that I really couldn’t be bothered. In fact I stayed past 1:30 Saturday night making updates to the script. But y’know what, though I’m exhausted I don’t feel tired, I pretty much operate on adrenaline rush these days.
Before I posted about my thoughts on the Oscars though… what a sad news 😦
Well, I think overall the ceremony is pretty boring… and Jimmy Kimmel is annoying generally. I did enjoy that whole bit about bringing a tour bus full of unsuspecting tourists to the Oscars. Especially these moments…
Emma’s performance in the Audition scene made me cry… so yeah, I have no problem w/ her winning. And her speech felt real and sweet. Leo presenting her the Oscar made me wonder why they haven’t worked together though.
I gotta say though, the La La Land producers, esp. Jordan Horowitz, was a good sport about the whole ordeal. I mean it must’ve been so devastating, not to mention embarrassing, to have started a speech and be told someone else had won!! But hey… in the end the Oscar voters got it right when it comes to Best Picture 😀
Directed By: Denzel Washington Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo Runtime: 2 hrs 19 minutes
The cinema year gone by was extraordinary for the richness of offerings centred on the African-American experience. Several of these films share a world once fenced off, notably Moonlight (2016), Loving (2016), and Hidden Figures (2016). The quality of these films is remarkable and they reflect wider cultural changes that have been underway for some time. The adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences (2016) is another important contribution to this growing body of cinematic work. Its power comes from superb acting that weaves together a unique domestic narrative with themes of universal relevance.
The sparse plot is framed around a set of domestic vignettes that are found in any family, regardless of colour. Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) is a jovial, larger than life, might-have-been-famous baseball player who works at the dirty end of a garbage truck. Both his sporting ambitions and desire for promotion have been stymied by racial discrimination, so sport and work are recurring metaphors. His devoted and tolerant wife Rose (Viola Davis) is the peacemaker between Troy and his two sons. Young Cory (Jovan Adepo) is keen to pursue his own sporting ambitions but is blocked by Troy. Older son Lyons is a musician who drops in every payday to ask Troy for money. Scenes of father and son conflict recur to the bitter end, punctuated by the impacts of Troy’s infidelity. A brain-damaged brother Gabe enters the stage regularly to speak non sequiturs with lyrical messages, like a court jester offering snippets of garbled wisdom. Troy desperately wants to assert masculine dignity but the world of the 1950s had no respect or place for people of his colour. Without respect he is just “a black man who has two strikes against you before you’re even born”. Life is stacked against men like Troy, but worse without a woman like Rose.
It is easy to see this as a filmed play rather than a play adapted to film. The wide-frame setting turns Troy’s backyard into a place where he holds court within his kingdom, where fences are for keeping in and locking out. The colour palette evokes an era of rich vibrant tones that reflect African-American heritage punctuated with rhythm and blues musical themes. Troy and Rose are the quintessential black American strugglers forgotten by history and ignored by the newly rising racial consciousness of the times. The generation that followed were promised better lives while they were left with the crumbs of the American dream, a dream that belonged to white people.
The two stars push their performances to the limit: Denzel doesn’t play but is angry, conflicted, unfulfilled; Viola is strong, altruistic, hopeful of a better life. Their performance duet is a memorable tour-de-force. Troy has spent his life both building and fighting fences, but what he most craves comes too late. This film feels like live theatre with intimacy of characterisation and dense lyrical dialogue delivered with authenticity and depth. It is classic powerhouse drama.
Richard Alaba, PhD CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
I gotta admit, I’m not much of a Western fan. Though interestingly enough, I’ve liked three western remakes in the past decade: 3:10 To Yuma, True Grit and then this one. Confession: I have NOT seen any of the original films. Now, people who have seen the original films would likely have a different opinion about the remake. For me, I guess I get the benefit of seeing the story for the first time, with nothing to compare it with.
The main draw for me to see this is the cast. Reportedly director Antoine Fuqua pitched the film to financiers with ‘Denzel Washington in all black riding a horse.’ Well if I were one of those financiers I’d definitely say ‘hell yeah’ to that, and that is quite a sight to behold. As with a lot of Westerns, well those I’ve seen anyway, we see the lone hero riding into town on his horse before we finally see his face. It’s interesting that Denzel being Black in that era naturally drives extra attention from townsfolk, even more so as he goes into a saloon. He’s definitely got the natural charisma, and here he’s got that cowboy swagger to boot!
In the opening scene, we see a merciless and cruel industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (a slimy Peter Sarsgaard) terrorizing and murdering people in the tiny town for their land and mines. Poor Matt Bomer barely lasted past the opening credits! The first half pretty much is a recruiting process as Denzel’s Sam Chisolm gathered enough men to fight against Bogue and his men. First one he recruited is Josh Faraday (a great name that fits Chris Pratt nicely), a strapping cowboy w/ a devil-may-care attitude. Next are Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and his partner in crime Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), tall-dark-and-handsome Mexican outlaw Vazquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and lastly, Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). Each member of the awesomely-monikered gang has their own special skills, and given that Fuqua employed actors of various races, the skill is tailored to their heritage. Billy Rocks is a knife-wielding expert and Red Harvest is a master in archery, etc. but of course all of them are adept with guns as well. Out of the seven riders, naturally Denzel is my fave. Pratt looks like he’s having a blast here and I really like the dynamic between Hawke and Lee as the unlikely BFFs. I also couldn’t help swooning over Garcia-Rulfo, I sure hope to see more of Mexican actor in the future.
I have a great time watching this thanks to the eclectic cast. Apart from the calm and wise Chisolm, they look like they could be killing each other too and the banters are pretty fun throughout. Naturally this is not a character-driven piece, so details such as what exactly happened to Robicheaux is unclear. The only one with somewhat of a backstory is Chisolm, which isn’t revealed until the very end. Given that it’s 2016, writers Richard Wenk and Nic Pizzolatto updated the story with a strong woman in the core of the conflict. Emma Cullen (newcomer Haley Bennett) isn’t so much a damsel in distress, as she actively seeks out Chisolm to help avenge her town and she refuses to just sit and watch the battle unfolds. I think the weakest link here is Sarsgaard who is more annoying than menacing. Even the last mano-a-mano is rather lackluster as he barely hold a candle to Denzel in terms of charisma and screen presence.
The action and shootouts are what one would expect, peppered with humor and one liners, mostly from Pratt. Some of the action is preposterous, as some of the heroes manage to stay alive despite being shot several times but they can take down their enemies with a single bullet. But hey, I was expecting a fun action comedy instead of a deep, story-driven piece, so I’m not exactly disappointed. What it lacks in genuine suspense it’s more than made up by the well-staged action and stunning cinematography. I sure hope Mauro Fiore‘s name will come up during award season as he’s done amazing work here that made me wish I had seen this movie on IMAX! He’s a longtime Fuqua collaborator who’s also the DP for Avatar.
I have to mention the fantastic music as well. The late James Horner wrote seven pieces of the score before he died, so this was his last project. His wonderful score still has a bit of the iconic theme by Elmer Bernstein, and I love that they used the rousing original score (which I called the Marlboro score as it’s used in its commercial) at the end of the movie. I’m definitely going to do a Music Break on it as my hubby and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack all weekend!
I’m glad I saw this movie and it’s one I don’t even mind seeing again. I can’t tell you if it’s as magnificent as the original, but if you’re looking for a fun ride full of entertaining characters, you could do far worse than this remake. In fact, my hubby and I are contemplating about seeing this again on an IMAX screen, it just might be the first Western I’m willing to see twice on the big screen!
Have you seen this movie? Well, did you like it more or less than I did?