NOC Review: ‘Stowaway’ is Thought-Provoking and Soulful

We’ve seen it a lot in our lifetimes, but after decades of films like The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, or The Martian, studios are finding that there’s something about space movies that usually allows for filmmakers to speak more profoundly about universal truths regarding humanity. Much of the time, it is about the strength of the human spirit, and the will and determination to survive. And Netflix’s Stowaway, is no exception. However, interestingly enough, where Stowaway deviates from the formula, is that it introduces the twist of a philosophical conundrum that says more about humanity than many other films I’ve seen in years: what if literally not everyone actually can survive? What options do you have then?

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Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ Satisfies in Every Way

Television adaptations of fantasy books tend to have a bad reputation. Many fans of such novels are so protective of their favorite characters and storylines that there is added pressure for studios to get the story right. So when Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling novel Shadow and Bone was first announced to be made into a television series for Netflix, all eyes were on showrunner and executive producer Eric Heisserer to bring this world to life in a way that would do it justice. Heisserer took on the difficult task to not only adapt Shadow and Bone into eight episodes, but to also include the characters from Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology, which is set at a different point in time in the novels. With Bardugo consulting on the script and phenomenal casting, Shadow and Bone is absolutely remarkable.

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NOC Review: ‘Chad’ is Good, but Revels in Cringe

Being a Middle Eastern kid in an American high school can be an awkward experience. You may struggle to fit in and have an unclear sense of your identity, making friends and relationships as a result. With the new show Chad on TBS, in which she plays the titular 14-year old character, Nasim Pedrad seeks to encompass that experience through reveling in the awkwardness that being an insecure MENA teenager can often entail. And it works for the most part, though the humor sometimes falls flat, especially when it leans too much into the awkwardness.

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NOC Review: ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’ is Giant Fun but Has Giant POC Problems

As you, our loyal readers know, The NOC was created to provide input on the pop culture stories and trends we all love, but with a perspective that assess them from the greater lens of representation for people of color; fans like you. Sometimes in my reviews, I’ll assess a movie purely from an entertainment standpoint. But sometimes, a movie will come along that honestly needs to be looked at closer with both lenses. And Godzilla Vs. Kong, of all things, is actually one of those movies. To be frank, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like this movie. From an entertainment standpoint it’s actually a huge blast! But for a film in a franchise so heavily tied to Japanese roots, and prior to this installment, honored those roots proudly, it honestly gets me a bit angry whenever I think about it. So, with your permission, and because it’s cheaper than therapy, I’d like to use this review to talk about the things I loved about the film from an entertainment standpoint, the things I disliked from an entertainment standpoint, and the things I hated from a cultural standpoint as a fellow Nerd of Color.

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Review: ‘Shadecraft #1’ Brings Some Light to the Darkness

As a teenager, it’s hard living underneath your popular siblings shadow. Zadie Lu knows quite well. She’s the little sister of the most popular kid in school who, after an accident, left him in a coma. It’s already hard being a teenager, but now be known as the girl with the brother who is in a coma. Despite the trauma of her brother’s condition, Zadie wants some normalcy in her life, but supernatural forces get in her way in the form of evil shadows.

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NOC Review: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Goes for Grounded Over Grandiose

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST EPISODE OF MARVEL STUDIOS’ THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER

It’s easy to see why The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was originally intended to be the first of the Disney+ Marvel Studios series before WandaVision. And it is because, by comparison, it is a safer show and an easy toe dip for Marvel Studios into the world of serialized streaming shows. Many may see that as a bad thing, but, frankly,  it’s not. The greatest joy in seeing the Marvel Cinematic Universe unfold the past 13 years is we can have a gritty political thriller like Captain America: The Winter Soldier AND a cosmic space opera like Guardians of the Galaxy, and have it all make sense together. And here we see that level of versatility on display again. The sheer fact that there’s room in our world for an insane, reality-bending sitcom/drama show about grief, and a realistic action drama about two people and their insecurities regarding living up to the mantle of their closest friend is nothing short of amazing.

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NOC Review: The Snyder Cut is Good, Actually

Long time readers of this site will know that I have a a complicated history with Zack Snyder’s take on DC’s most iconic characters. While my opinion on his first foray, Man of Steel1, has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve never been able to see Batman v Superman as anything more than a convoluted mess of bombast and pretension feigning to be more profound than it actually was (Batman’s fight in the warehouse was cool, I guess). Moreover, the ferocity of the online debate about these films — both the religiosity of Snyder’s fans and the unnecessary cruelty of his detractors — turned me off to the whole enterprise. Talking about these movies on the internet was not worth the hassle or the harassment (says the guy who actively engaged in online arguments defending Last Jedi for at least three years).

In other words, I didn’t come into my screening of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (the official title of the Snyder Cut which will finally be streaming on HBO Max on March 18) with a lot of high expectations. Well dear reader, I am as surprised as anyone to say that not only did I like what I saw, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing how a proper sequel to this version might play out. Oh my god, am I actually hopping on the #RestoreThe Snyderverse bandwagon?!

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NOC Presents: A SEA Conversation about ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’

With Raya and the Last Dragon out for about a week now, there are many thoughts and opinions being shared across the Internet about it. While a few of us here at The Nerds of Color have written extensively about Disney’s first Southeast Asian film, I thought it would be appropriate to gather together the Southeast Asian Nerds of Color writers and discuss it. Together with Laura Sirikul, Mike Manalo, and Patrick Michael Strange, in a conversation about as long as Raya and the Last Dragon itself, we go in-depth on everything from the film’s plot, how it tackled the topic of trust, the characters, the majority East Asian cast, the lack of Filipino culture and actors, and more.

WARNING: The following contains major spoilers from Raya and the Last Dragon.

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Netflix’s ‘Moxie’ Should Have Been a TV Series

There is nothing wrong with a good ole’ fashion teen feminism story. It seems the appropriate time to show off the power of angry women at a time when men, who behave badly, still seem to get away with it, especially one targeted towards teenagers. Directed by Amy Poehler, who is known for her funny, tough characters, Moxie is a cute story about girl power that’s been done before but, this time, written to fit this generation’s wokeness.

Based on the 2015 YA book of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu, Moxie follows a shy and very sheltered high school junior named Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who lays low to avoid any attention. She has lived in the shadows of high school with her childhood best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai of Terrace House fame). It’s not until the arrival of a new student, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) who quickly becomes a target for speaking up against popular jock, Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger), that Vivian realizes how sexist her school is. Inspired by her mother’s (Poehler) teenage rebellion stage and a Bikini Kill song her mother used to play for her, Vivian creates her own anonymous feminist zine — ‘Moxie’ — calling out the toxic behavior from classmates and the school, led by Principal Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden). The zine is a hit among the girls in school sparking a Moxie Club created to topple the patriarchy — or at least in the school.

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NOC Review: ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is Relevant, Rollicking, and Remarkable

In 1937, Walt Disney debuted something that changed the history of cinema — the release of the first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This in turn gave birth to Walt Disney Animation Studios and a long history (at times problematic) of classic stories and adventures involving dragons and princesses that has, for the most part, arguably withstood the test of time from generation to generation. But generations change. Art and time change the world and, in turn, the world and time must also change art. Our expectations on the types of stories we can tell, and the cultural sources of those stories must evolve and expand, because life has become more complicated since 1937. And thus today (or rather this Friday), the world will see how far we’ve come since Snow White, when Disney introduces the world to it’s newest game-changer Raya and the Last Dragon. Now you’re probably thinking, “C’mon. Is it really a game-changer? How? Why?” And if you are thinking that, first off, that’s just rude (just kidding). And second, if you’ve been reading my reviews long enough I’m sure you’re used to my dramatic flair for hyperbole. However, to answer your question, yes. I believe it is.

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NOC Review: ‘Us Again’ Charms Right Before ‘Raya’

If you have the great fortune of seeing Raya and the Last Dragon in a safe, socially distant drive-in theater this coming weekend, I’m happy to say you’ll be treated to a neat little short from Walt Disney Feature Animation called Us Again.

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NOC Review: ‘They Call Me Babu’ Visualizes an Untold Story

The archival documentary filmmaking style is able to take us to times long past that can’t necessarily be recreated with the same sensitivity and grace through mere recreation — as opposed to just seeing footage of the actual subject matter in question. Unlike casting an actor to portray someone else’s experience or reinterpreting events through animation, using archival footage helps to see the real faces that once lived in spaces that no longer exist, to actual haunting, horrifying scenes of war in places where peace now exists. This synthesizes both the preservation of both art and history, because beyond just pinning names to a person on a list, archival footage can help better visualize untold stories and those who lived through them. 

They Call Me Babu is an documentary that composites archival footage to tell the story of Alima, a nanny who worked for a Dutch family in the former Dutch East Indies — Indonesia — during the 1940s. It originally premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) to audiences within the Netherlands. It was also slated to debut and tour in other regions in 2020, if not for the disruption of many events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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NOC Review: Optimistic ‘Flora and Ulysses’ Will Charm Even The Most Cynical

I gotta say, the cynic in me considers many family comedies to be easy cash grabs of slapstick energy designed to pull in a few bucks for multi-billion dollar studios targeting the wallets of easily amused kids and their parents … Continue reading NOC Review: Optimistic ‘Flora and Ulysses’ Will Charm Even The Most Cynical

‘To All the Boys: Always and Forever’ is a Love Letter to the Fans

There is a lot of responsibility when it comes to the final installment of a trilogy. With The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, fans are expected to see the fairytale conclusion for the characters that they learned to love from the first two films. The YA romantic comedy To All the Boys series is no exception to this rule. After falling in love with idyllic dreamer Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) and her dreamy boyfriend Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), there was a lot riding on To All the Boys: Always and Forever.

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NOC Sundance Review: ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

While the details of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus Christ are debated, Judas goes down in history as one of the most infamous traitors — all over 30 pieces of silver. Maybe Judas didn’t like the fact that the people hailed Christ as a “Messiah” — a title the FBI used as code names for Black radical liberators in the 1960s to the late 1970s. One such “Messiah” is the young Black Panther activist and Chicago native Fred Hampton, mercilessly killed thanks to Black a panther Party (BPP) infiltrator and informant William O’Neal, FBI Agent Roy Mitchell, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Directed Shaka King, Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Fred Hampton’s betrayal in great detail. As an activist, Hampton aimed to unite people from all walks of life against systemic oppression. Still, the counter intelligence program (COINTELPRO) FBI death squad stopped all. Can’t have people of color and poor whites thinking they have any power.

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Give Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield Their Roses for ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’

With regard to director Shaka King’s masterpiece, the aforementioned sentiment goes double for Kaluuya’s fellow cast members Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Dominique Thorne, and Jesse Plemons. Judas and the Black Messiah follows the life and times, and tragic end, of Fred Hampton (played by Kaluuya), the Black Panther Party Chairman of the Illinois chapter in the late 1960s. Most importantly, the film lays bare the attempts of the FBI to infiltrate and destabilize Hampton’s civil rights campaigns through the aid of petty criminal William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) after applying enough pressure on O’Neal to force him into working as their informant.

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NOC Review: Weird and Wacky ‘WandaVision’ Wows the MCU

By Laura Sirikul and Mike Manalo

When WandaVision was first announced by Marvel in 2018 as a series centered around Wanda and Vision’s love story, fans were excited to watch their journey since their relationship was introduced in Captain America: Civil War. Prior to the debut of Infinity War, there was hope that Wanda and Vision would make it out alive since they were getting their own show on Disney+. Unfortunately, after Vision’s inevitable death at the hand of Thanos, many of us were confused at just how WandaVision would play out. What would be the premise of the series if Vision is dead? How could Vision come back? Why are they stuck in a series of sitcoms? Why sitcoms?

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‘After the Rain’ Graphic Novel Review

Every once in a while, there’s a stand-alone graphic novel that is an event. It’s an event because of who made it, who released it, and the artifact itself. After the Rain is one of these events. Adapted from Nnedi Okorafor’s “On the Road” from her short story collection, Kabu Kabu, it is, if I’m not mistaken, her only outright horror offering. And it is truly frightening.

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NOC Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Wish Granted

So real talk time: I’m sure this won’t make me very popular, but I’m not a fan of 2017’s Wonder Woman. I think it’s a movie with a lot of really good ideas, some really terrible villains, a lot of bad acting (the terrible, cartoony “Boris and Natasha Show” that is Danny Huston and Dr. Poison, along with Mortal Kombat Lupin at the end), and a terrible final act that invalidates some of the best themes introduced in the first two-thirds of the movie (Steve explains to Diana that wars don’t just end because one person dies, then 20 minutes later she kills Ares and the war ends). So for me to go into Wonder Woman 1984 expecting more of the same, but coming out, not just surprised, but actually quite happy should be a testament to how much I think the film improves on its predecessor. As a film, I think it’s not only going to make the millions of fans of the first happy, but also make believers out of the skeptical, like myself. And that, I think, all comes from the incredible storyteller that is Patty Jenkins (with a great assist from Geoff Johns).

**Please note, it’s a bit difficult to get into the intricacies of what I liked about the movie without diving into some spoilers, so please be warned, and feel free to skip ahead to the final verdict if you don’t want details spoiled for you! (Then come back and read this after you see it.)**

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NOC Review: Disney+ Brings the Brotherly Love with ‘Safety’

I’ll be the first to admit I’m absolutely the least qualified person to review a sports film. It’s not generally my genre of choice. Frankly I don’t follow sports at all, and they’ve just never really interested me. I was — like many of our readers — more into comics and video games and such growing up. But in being close-minded, one sometimes forgets that sports movies aren’t usually actually about sports. They’re about the human spirit and will. They are about people overcoming challenges to achieve something greater than they ever believed themselves capable of. When you think about it, it’s not any different from your average Captain America movie at the end of the day. The difference more times than not, however, is the heroes are actually real. And in this case, all of the above can be easily applied to the protagonist of the true-story behind Safety, Ray McElrathbey.

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‘Waikiki’ Doesn’t Pull Any Punches about the Realities of Tourist Hot Spot

The Hawai’i International Film Festival is capping off its 40th rendition with Christopher Kahunahana’s feature film debut, Waikiki. The story follows a woman, Kea (Danielle Zalopany), as she works multiple jobs in order to break away from her abusive relationship and get herself a place to call home. When she accidentally hits a homeless man, Wo (Peter Shinkoda), with the van she’s living out of and later finds her van missing altogether, the two sporadically travel and connect with each other, all the while Kea confronts the traumas of her past.

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‘Water Like Fire’ Explores Life and Loss in Contradictory, Unexpected Ways

Water Like Fire is another film part of the lineup for the 40th Hawai’i International Film Festival. Directed by Mitchel Viernes, Chanel (Taiana Tully) navigates her days working at a local restaurant, while surfing in her spare time. With both her parents gone, her only remaining family member is Caleb (Randall Galius); her brother who’s fighting a drug addiction. No matter how strained their relationship is, nothing keeps Chanel from being by Caleb’s side, after he winds up in the hospital from a hit-and-run. Continue reading “‘Water Like Fire’ Explores Life and Loss in Contradictory, Unexpected Ways”