Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Voices of:  David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan

          To watch Anomalisa, the viewer needs to be prepared to see an internal fantasy world in which we observe the inner life of a frustrated, despairing middle-aged man who feels that everyone he meets wants a part of him, and he cannot find for himself the peace and contentment he craves.  To accentuate the surreal qualities of his existence, writer/director Charlie Kaufman in collaboration with animation specialist/co-director Duke Johnson populate the film with puppets in stop-motion animation.  In bringing home a specific point, only Michael Stone (Thewlis) and Lisa (Leigh) are voiced by the actors; everyone else is voiced by Tom Noonan.  It’s helpful to know beforehand that the film references the Fregoli delusional disorder in which one imagines that everyone else is the same person, and that person is against him.  That Michael checks into the Fregoli Hotel sets up the scenario.  The experience is illustrated early on in the film when the screen turns black and all we hear is a cacophony of almost indistinguishable voices talking about the mundane. 
        Michael is a Brit now living in Los Angeles with a wife and son and is on his way to Cincinnati where he is to give an important speech.  He is an expert in customer relations and has written a book entitled, How May I Help You Help Them?  The man seated next to him on the plane, the taxi driver on the way to the hotel, and the hotel attendants all chatter in banalities to which he responds politely with gritted teeth.  Each one is indistinguishable from the other to him.  He is clearly bored, and follows a routine when he gets to his room.  Call wife who insists he talk to son, order room service, look over speech, call old girlfriend. 
        Somehow, Michael, this expert in customer relations (whose bottom half of his mask falls off in the hall at one point), inevitably manages to offend (his real bitter self and intentions are revealed) and he is ultimately left on his own, lonely and isolated.  He does manage to engage two women during the evening, and the story proceeds to show how Michael deals with personal relationships, including his life at home.  With little ability to introspect and learn, Michael continues on in his existential misery, never understanding how to the bridge the gulf that separates him from everyone.
       Anomalisa has been a critical favorite in its questions about the nature of identity and what it means to be human, to ache, to be alive.  It’s generally considered to be a comedy.  My objection to it is its pessimistic, cynical point of view and the absence of any movement of the main character out of his miserable condition.

Anomalisa, a film for Charlie Kaufman fans.

Grade:  C               By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Jennifer Lawrence   Bradley Cooper   Robert De Niro   Virginia Madsen   Isabella Rossellini   Diane Ladd   Edgar Ramirez   Elisabeth Rohm

            David O. Russell knows families, and in Joy he portrays them once again in all their glory—and shortcomings.  He wrote the script based partly on a true story by Annie Mumolo about a young housewife who was creative and resourceful from childhood.  Her grandmother predicted she would soar to great heights someday, although the journey would be challenging.  In young adulthood with a divorced husband still at home, two kids, a grandmother, and resident parents who are divorced, Joy (Lawrence) is the mainstay for all of them.  When it is clear she will need to support everyone financially as well as emotionally, she invents a handy “Miracle Mop” that doesn’t have to be wrung out by hand and can be thrown into the washer to clean it for the next room.  In addition to showing what happens across time in the family, the film shows the development of this remarkable woman from a simple housewife to an astute but compassionate businesswoman.
            Russell goes a bit over the top in depicting this motley group, with a helpless mother (Madsen) who stays in bed and watches TV, a father (De Niro) who lacks the sharpness to run his own auto shop business and needs a woman to support him, and an ex-husband (Rodriguez), a club singer who can’t seem to get a place of his own, and a competitive half-sister (Rohm) who is rather a dim bulb.  They are all dependent on Joy and continually interrupt her for something they need.  She does have support from her grandmother (Ladd) and her kids, whose expressions always indicate that they are clearly understanding their mother and what is going on around them.  I always appreciate Russell’s respect for children’s perceptiveness and wisdom.
            Family members contribute to the comedy in Joy (and there are dozens of funny moments), but the serious, more in-depth and fascinating aspect of the drama is Joy’s transformation across time, giving credence to her grandmother’s predictions and encouragement and her early creativity and intelligence (valedictorian of her graduating class).  Without anyone to show her the way, Joy has to try to sell her own product on television’s QVC, out-maneuver contractors who try to cheat her, and somehow secure the patent she needs for her own invention.  Bradley Cooper, a staple in any Russell-Lawrence film has the role of a supportive executive at QVC who gives her a second chance when the first attempt fails.
            Danny Elfman’s music meshes artistically with the 1980’s culture and the mood of each scene, helping to carry it along its lyrical way.  Similarly, Linus Sandgren’s cinematography is ordered and sharp in the chaos of the story, helping to convey mood and spirit.  Or starkness, as when we see Joy in a bare, austere hotel room confronting a man she has never seen before to negotiate a settlement. 
            Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell seem to have a special synchronicity in their work together (and Bradley Cooper fits in seamlessly here, although he has a small role), and it shows in the quality of the films they make.  The supporting cast couldn’t be better, especially Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, and Edgar Ramirez.  But the topper is Isabella Rossellini, the wealthy widow who stands to lose everything she has by investing in this crazy family.  Rossellini brings such authenticity to the role you could swear she must have lived some aspect of it.

Joy—a joy to see—except when it’s sad and exasperating, and even then it’s entertaining.

Grade:  A-                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Charlotte Rampling     Tom Courtenay

            45 years refers to a couple’s marriage when they’re approaching their 45th wedding anniversary, which will be celebrated with a huge party.  The couple, Kate (Rampling) and Geoff (Courtenay), are elderly, but still active in their daily lives.  They have an easy-going relationship; Kate is nurturing when Geoff needs something like a thumb damaged from fixing a lavatory, and although Geoff is a bit absent-minded, he is attentive and responsive to Kate.
          One morning when Charlotte returns from walking the dog in the beautiful English countryside, Geoff is reading a letter written in German, but needs to dig up his German dictionary to understand it fully.  As the two go through their things in the storage room and attic, we get a hint that the past will be encroaching upon the couple and figuring into present experience, a favorite theme of David Constantine, the author of the short story (“In another Country”) on which the film is based.
       Indeed, the letter is to inform Geoff that the body of a woman he was very close to fifty years ago has been discovered preserved in the ice in a Swiss Alp after she fell into a crevasse by accident during a hiking trip.  Her body was never found until recently.  Geoff is informed by virtue of his being listed as “next of kin.” 
      Kate remembers hearing a bit about Katia, but Geoff hasn’t been completely open about this earlier relationship.  When she finds out how close they actually were, she becomes uneasy, even though this is something that happened years earlier before she even met Geoff.  She can’t let it go, and keeps quizzing him and even goes through old memorabilia to find out more.  This only makes her feel worse, but she feels compelled.
     Geoff has mulled over the possibility of going to Switzerland, but Kate is emphatically against it, so he dismisses the idea, and reassures her.  She is bothered enough, however, to make him promise that he will be present at their anniversary party.
      45 Years may seem like 45 years to those who love films with a lot of action.  But Kate and Geoff lead fairly conventional lives, and most of the film is showing us a picture of their lives and their personalities.  Much of the value is the way in which the two, especially Rampling, fill up the screen as powerful actors.  They are in sync the way couples who have lived together for years become, and that will be the appeal for viewers who enjoy observing people in their everyday lives. 
       Another highlight is Geoff’s toast to his wife at the dinner party; it is tender and says the things Kate would seldom hear from him.  They dance together lovingly, but the story doesn’t quite end there.  Constantine is a gifted storyteller who delights in last minute surprises.

A look at a marriage approaching its 45th year.

Grade:  A-                      By Donna R. Copeland

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Samuel L. Jackson   Kurt Russell   Jennifer Jason Leigh   Walton Goggins   Tim Roth   Bruce Dern   Demian Bichir   Channing Tatum

          The Hateful Eight is divided into chapters.  Chapter 1 is entitled, “A Last Stage to Red Rock”, the full meanings of which are not immediately clear.  On the stagecoach is John Rich (Russell), a hangman and bounty hunter (“When The Hangman catches you, you don’t die by no bullet; you hang”) with his prey Daisy Domergue (Leigh) handcuffed to his wrist so she can’t escape.  They’re racing to Red Rock trying to beat the blizzard fast approaching behind them, and come upon Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) needing a ride because his horse perished on the trail.  As usual for him, Rich grills him like he does anyone, and if they succeed in convincing him, he turns out to be rather folksy with them.  Despite a brutal exterior (he continually batters Daisy), he is a soft touch if someone hits a certain button, but his mood can change on a dime.
          In Chapter 2, “Son of a gun”, we meet another potential rider, Chris Mannix (Goggins), soon to be the sheriff of Red Rock if he can just get there.  He manages to get a ride as well, and the group continues until they have to stop at Minnie’s Haberdashery to wait for the blizzard to pass.  This is the site of most of the action in the picture, with skirmishes between different parties.  An air of suspicion rules since this is just after the Civil War (in Wyoming) and some are southern Confederates, and some Union sympathizers.  Racial tension is high in the presence of blacks, Mexicans, and whites.  And finally, the two bounty hunters, Rich and Warren (who’s bringing in dead bodies for his reward) must always be alert to protect their bounty.
        Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino is a master of plot twists and thrills, and here he keeps us guessing and thinking a resolution is imminent through six chapters, continually springing plot twists that give new meaning to a situation.  Additional characters include an old Confederate General (Dern), a British gentleman (Roth); Bob, the caretaker of Minnie’s place (Bichir); and the Brit’s driver (Michael Madsen).  When suddenly, death visits unexpectedly, the plot turns to a mystery and deducing who the killer is. 
        Characteristic of a Tarantino movie, violence is so rampant, the viewer becomes inured to it, and after a while, someone like me stops reacting so much, especially since he often blends a bit of humor into the violence.  Or he has made you hate a character so much you get satisfaction in seeing that one get his/her due. 
        Tarantino likes to work with people from his previous films, such as Samuel L. Jackson, musician Ennio Morricone, and cinematographer Robert Richardson, editor Fred Raskin, casting director Victoria Thomas, and costume designer Courtney Hoffman.  Their excellent contributions help make his films masters of art.  Particularly notable here is Morricone’s haunting musical score and Richardson’s sweeping snow-laden landscapes and the menacingly colorful interiors that capture the drama of suspicion and violence.  Remarkably, the film was shot with the old Panavision lenses in 70MM, which is purported to be spectacular; however, unfortunately, my screening was in the current digital projection.
    Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, and Channing Tatum are Tarantino first-timers, but they are all superb in their roles.  Russell and Leigh constitute a unique pair that plays perfectly into sado-masochistic roles.  No matter how many times she gets battered, the Leigh character yells out whatever truth comes to mind, only to get immediately knocked in the teeth—and she never learns to keep her mouth shut; nevertheless she always comes out smiling and feisty.
        I must say I did have reservations about seeing a female so despised by almost all the males (there are notable exceptions), who seemed to be acting out deep-seated hatred.  Perhaps Tarantino is aware of this in our culture and means to highlight it.  Or is this coming from something deep inside him?  I obviously don’t know.

Another significant work of the artist Quentin Tarantino, master of plot twists and thrills, always with injections of humor.

Grade:  A-                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Amy Poehler   Tina Fey   Maya Rudolph   Ike Barinholtz   James Brolin   Dianne Wiest   
John Leguizamo   John Cena   Bobby Moynihan

          Sisters is a waste of good talent, the stars’ Poehler and Fey as well as a large supporting cast (Rudolph, Barinholtz, Brolin, Wiest, Leguizamo, Cena) are really fine actors who always hit the mark if they’re given good material.  Moynihan’s role was so lame I couldn’t appreciate his skill in acting.  It seems that Fey and Poehler are always much better when they write their own material.  The “comedy” in this film mainly has mainly to do with human weakness, failing, sniping at one another, hiding the truth, and drunkenness.  That is, we’re supposed to laugh, but I don’t find much of it very funny.  I regret especially when filmmakers send the message that unless there is overindulgence in alcohol and/or drugs a party is a dud.
The work of director Jason Moore and writer Paula Pell has mostly been in television, and the film plays much like a sitcom:  brief sketches chained together without much depth of meaning.  There were a few good points made.  In the beginning Maura (Poehler) sees a man sitting on the sidewalk and immediately assumes he is homeless and begins to “give” him items that will “help” him.  He ends up thinking she is nuts and walks to a pick-up that will take him back to work.  So, first impressions are not always accurate—especially purely visual ones—and people should be given a chance to accept or reject help being offered.  There is another point made about family members keeping important information under wraps for various reasons—none of which are very good.  And finally, rigid family roles of “giver” and “taker” put undue pressure on both parties.
The music of Christopher Beck and cinematography by Barry Peterson lend high notes to the production.  Beck includes soft, sentimental tunes when a scene calls for it, and loud party dance tunes when it is going strong.  Peterson is especially skilled in showing the gradual destruction of a house and the interactions among various people that give a sharp picture of the character.  The action can be slapstick at times, though, which detracts from what could have been a uplifting family drama.

A family drama that goes too far over the top and lasts too long.

Grade:  C-                                    By Donna R. Copeland


Daisy Ridley   John Boyega   Carrie Fisher   Harrison Ford   Oscar Isaac   Adam Driver   Domhnall Gleeson   Simon Pegg   Lupita Nyong’o   Andy Serkis   Max von Sydow

          The Force comes on strong in this seventh episode of Star Wars directed by J. J. Abrams.  Expectations are high among hard-core fans, and they’re not likely to be disappointed.  Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprise their roles (with Leia now a general), grieving for their son who may have gone to the Dark Side.    Also reappearing are Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and, briefly, R2-D2 and C-3PO.  The special effects are just as spectacular as always, and although bits of story are inserted here and there, the battle scenes constitute most of the picture. 
          New characters include Rey (Ridley) and Finn (Boyega) who meet for the first time when he rescues her from a dire situation.  She is a scavenger with powers she is unaware of so far and he is a former First Order Stormtrooper who abandons his post out of conscience; he regards the First Order (Dark Side) as immoral.  Another new character is Poe (Isaac) who works for the resistance and has been trusted with part of the map that will lead to the missing Luke Skywalker.  Captain Phasma (Christie) is a female on the dark side.  This version of Star Wars has tried to incorporate more strong female roles, e.g., Rey and Phasma, and these two show their strengths appealingly.  Dombnall Gleeson as General Hux (for the dark side) is appropriately unlikeable and efficient. Andy Serkis as the Supreme Leader Snoke is appropriately terrifying and ominous.  A refreshing new robot, BB-8, originally sketched out by Abrams, is a light-humored, tender addition to the cast.
      The spirit and excitement hearkening back to the previous Star Wars has been preserved by Abrams with his writer Lawrence Kasden and composer John Williams; and just enough new material and characters have been added to sustain interest in the series.  So it appeals to both ends of the spectrum, nostalgia for the past and suspense for what will come next in the continuing saga.  This is the first of a concluding trilogy. 
          The intriguing ending is enough to keep viewers engaged for the next episode.
         Disney Pictures, which bought LucasFilms, has achieved production values equal to the original series.  The technical and visual effects are as breathtaking as we would expect in terms of production and art design, set, and costumes. 

Rely on The Force.

Grade:  A                                                By Donna R. Copeland


Eddie Redmayne     Alicia Vikander     Matthias Schoenaerts     Ben Whishaw

          The Danish Girl is a remarkable account of the transgender experience, not only from the subject’s point of view but for those close to him/her as well.  David Ebershoff’s book on which the film is based is a fictionalized account that used a transgender person’s diary for inspiration.  In the hands of screenwriter Lucinda Coxon and director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and their fellow filmmakers, the drama blossoms into a visually beautiful, lyrical production with emotional realism and depth. 
         A young Danish couple, Einar (Redmayne) and Gerda (Vikander) (immeasurably more attractive than their names!), are both painters, she of portraits and he of landscapes.  He is better known, partly because this is in the 1920’s when women were “not supposed” to be painters.  They are obviously in love and playful with one another, and in one of their games, they dress him up as a woman to pose for her portraits.  It turns out that he revels in the feel of the fabric, moving like a woman, and calling himself Lili.  He shrinks from art shows; but once, for fun, they dress him up as a woman to attend a benefit, and he is hit upon by Henrik (Whishaw) who tries to kiss him. 
        The problem is that he so enjoys his “woman-ness” he goes into an identity crisis, starts dressing like a woman frequently at home, and it begins to affect his relationship with Gerda.  Eventually he realizes that he has always been female on the inside.
          One of the strengths of the film is that Gerda is not shown to freak out in response to these changes, but is genuinely troubled because she loves Einar.  And her love is the kind we always seek—one that flexes with change and sees into the soul of the other person.  She sticks by him throughout his major decisions while still giving him room to explore, and she eventually accepts him as Lili.  “We have to let Einer go”, Lili advises her at a sensitive moment, and she does.
         Redmayne is as good at playing a woman as he was in playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, for which he won an Oscar earlier this year.  Vikander is bursting on the Hollywood scene with premium and very diverse performances in Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Burnt—all this year!  Both Schoenaerts and Whishaw contribute to the quality of the film in their supporting roles. 
         Danny Cohen’s cinematography and Alexandre Desplat’s music play essential roles in making this a top-notch film.  The beginning and ending scenes of the Danish fiords are redolent with nostalgia and longing, and Cohen’s capturing Lili’s sensual qualities are palpable.  He has received awards from the American Academy, BAFTA, and the Golden Globes for his work in The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Painted Veil and The King’s Speech along with numerous nominations for other films.  Desplat’s compositions always seems to capture the mood and essence of the films he scores, most notably, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Philomena, and he does it again in The Danish Girl.

A film to help you understand and marvel at the power of love.

Grade:  A                                                   By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Michael Fassbender   Marion Cottiliard   Paddy Considine   David Thewlis 

          “Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive” (Sir Walter Scott,Marmion, 1808).  This could be a comment about MacBeth.  The bloody tale is made even more striking in this film by the watchful eye of Director Justin Kurzel and the expressive cinematography of Adam Arkapaw.  The two preface and enhance every scene with the camera and the brilliant use of colors, especially red.  Red symbolizing not only copious blood, but as well the danger as fear and suspicion become activated when power and supremacy are issues.  I think the battle scenes are especially well done in slowing down at times to show individual actions, but still maintaining the frenzy of such battles.
             It seems quaint in contemporary times to see how much weight “prophesies” had in previous generations of man.  But when three mysterious witches appear to Macbeth (Fassbender) prophesying his elevation to king and the nature of his death, he elaborates on their words with constructions from his own mind.  But Macbeth’s friend/colleague and fellow warrior Banquo (Considine) is also present and hears prophesies related to him and his son.
           Upon hearing that her husband was awarded positions of thane in two counties and then one being abruptly withdrawn, Lady Macbeth (Cotilliard) enters the picture.  She believes the prophesies, and being as ambitious as Macbeth, sees no reason to simply wait for prophesies to be fulfilled.  She urges Macbeth to take action.  
           When King Duncan (Thewlis) is killed, Banquo has some reason to suspect Macbeth, and when Macbeth senses this, we see the infective nature of paranoia, which blossoms freely in the rest of the plot. 
         Fassbender as Macbeth is flawless, and he and Cotilliard as Lady Macbeth make a perfect duo, carrying us through the tragedy and her ultimate guilt in bravado performances.  Supporting actors Considine and Thewlis, along with Sean Harris (Macduff) and Jack Reynor (Malcolm) measure up nicely.
          This is a very good production of a classic Shakespeare play, and it is noteworthy for the clarity of the dialog even though spoken in Shakespearean language—something oftentimes difficult to understand for American audiences. 

A worthy new production of a classic tale.

Grade:  B+                              By Donna R. Copeland

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Will Smith   Gugu Mbatha-Raw   Alec Baldwin   Eddie Marsan   David Morse   Albert Brooks

          Young Dr. Bennett Omalu is from Nigeria, and from the time he was a boy he dreamed of coming to America.  He obtained medical degrees (bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery) at the University of Nigeria, obtained a residency position at Columbia University in New York, and along the way earned multiple advanced degrees and certifications, eventually ending up as a forensic pathologist.  When the story of Concussion (based on a true story) begins in 2002, Omalu (Smith) is at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office in Pittsburgh, with the notable Dr. Cyril Wecht (Brooks) as his mentor.
              Omalu will soon gain recognition as the physician-scientist who first discovered that head injuries among professional football players have long lasting and sometimes devastating consequences.  He called the condition chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  No small thing, because when it progresses, it eventually makes the person crazy, often driving them to suicide.
           Now, football is big business, employing hundreds of thousands of people, seeing that disadvantaged kids get an education, and making senior executives in the National Football League very rich.  The NFL will not take Omalu’s discovery lightly, and will fight circulation of the information about the damage to players like the tobacco companies fought the truth about the danger of cigarettes.  It will attempt to destroy the careers of Omalu and his mentor Wecht using every scheme the executives can think of.
           The themes of the film are very interesting and educational.  First is the dramatic story of how Omalu came to his conclusions, primarily by studying the brains of five or six players after they began developing problems.  This is not a smooth journey, and Omalu faces all kinds of objections and derision along the way, always with the backup of a strong mentor, Wecht.  Keep in mind that this drama is taking place in Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers, with one of the largest fan bases in the country.  Fans are just as vociferous in their objections to Omalu’s work as the NFL is. 
          Another enlightening theme is what the affected players go through once they develop the condition.  It’s heartbreaking to see the devastation to their minds, and consequently, the destruction of their families and finances. 
Another theme that lightens the burden of learning about a shocking condition is the romance between Omalu and his eventual wife, Prema (Mbetha-Raw) that gradually develops after his priest puts pressure on Omalu, a loner completely dedicated to his work, to take in a border who recently arrived from Nigeria.  She brings order to his home life and provides impressive support as he goes through his trials.  A touching item she brings up at one point is that his last name in Nigerian means “If you know, you must come forth and speak.”  She reminds him at a time when he is doubting the wisdom of pursuing such a controversial subject. 
         Writer-director Peter Landesman (Kill the Messenger, Parkland) is gifted in his presentation of controversial subjects, maintaining a comfortable balance of factual information and emotional experiences of the players.  He does not preach, but maintains a neutral stance in laying out material for the viewer to consider.  His storytelling is captivating.
           I would say that this could be Will Smith’s most important and well-done performance in his acting career.  He has been nominated for and won numerous awards, but he completely loses himself in this role and consistently maintains a plausible Nigerian accent throughout.  He and Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights) a gifted performer as well, have good chemistry and come across as a very believable couple somewhat awed by their new love.  Supporting actors Albert Brooks, David Morse, and Alec Baldwin live up to their usual standards of quality.

A most enlightening and timely account of a troubling scientific discovery.

Grade:  A                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Nick Cannon   Teyonah Parris   Wesley Snipes   Angela Bassett   Samuel L. Jackson   John Cusack   Jennifer Hudson

            Spike Lee’s latest production is a modern operetta with rap music.  (I was grateful for the subtitles in the opening number, “Pray 4 my City” by Nick Cannon.)  Chi-Raq is a rapper’s term signifying that with its high murder rate, Chicago is more of a death zone than Iraq.  With the story’s basis in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, the black and brown women in Chicago deny their men sex until they give up their guns:  “No peace; no pussy.”  The movement swells, and after the involvement of city and national officials, word spreads, and soon the chant is heard in native tongues around the world.  Women state emphatically that “Saving lives is our job” and advocate peace for all.  The film gets even more idealistic by the end when suddenly Fortune 500 companies are creating jobs for black men (at higher than the minimum wage), poor people are getting loans from banks, and so on.
        I got a big kick out of Chi-Raq with its rap-opera quality, the basis of it being drawn from an ancient Greek play, and the suggestion that a movement for peace could spread around the world.  I particularly like the funeral service for a child killed by a stray bullet in which Father Corridan (Cusack) indicts politicians for bowing to the National Rifle Association’s pressure on them to defeat reasonable legislation on the sale of guns.  Corridan (based on a real person, Father Mike Pfleger, in Chicago) explains very well how the violence in the black community has developed (e.g., economic and social deprivation, disenfranchisement, and increased incarceration of black males for minor violations).  
         The cast is strong, beginning with Samuel L. Jackson’s narration, John Cusack as the white priest, Jennifer Hudson as Irene, one of the aggrieved mothers, and Angela Bassett as an older sister of Lysistrata with wise council.  Carrying the drama throughout are the main players, Nick Cannon and Wesley Snipes as leaders of rival gangs and Teyonah Parris (Lysistrata) as Chi-Raq’s (Cannon) girlfriend and leader of the movement calling for peace. 
      Chi-Raq is a serious film that points the finger at guns and gangs, but as well at government and society for disregarding the plight of the poor in our cities.  It places blight on our conscience, and Lee emphasizes the immediacy of these problems (constituting an emergency) that should receive as much attention as we pay to the disenfranchised in other countries.

Spike Lee indicts society’s role in Chicago’s designation as the murder capital of the U.S.

Grade:  B+                                    By Donna R. Copeland