Film Review: White Boy Rick (dir by Yann Demange)


Last night, as a part of my attempt to get caught up with the films of 2018, I watched White Boy Rick.

As you might guess from the title, this film is about a white boy named Rick.  It’s based on the true story of Richard Wershe, Jr., who grew up on the streets of Detroit.  His father sold guns out of the trunk of his car and, by the time he turned 14, Rick was running with drug dealers and street gangs.  (The fact that he was white while all of his friends were black is what led to him getting his nickname.)  Rick became an informant for the FBI and, according to Wershe, the government helped him build up his reputation by supplying him with the drugs that he would then sell on the streets.  When the FBI eventually decided that Wershe was no longer a useful asset, he was arrested for dealing and sentenced to life in prison.

The story seems like one that has the potential to say a lot that needs to be said about not only the economic realities of life in a dying city but also about the role that race plays in America’s often misdirected “war on drugs.”  Unfortunately, the film falls flat because, with the exception of a few scenes, it never really convinces us that Rick was really worthy of being the subject of a film.  While the film surrounds him with interesting supporting characters, Rick himself remains something of a cipher.  Rick is played by a young actor named Richie Merritt.  Merritt’s has the right look for the character but you never get the feeling that there’s anything going on underneath the surface.  Rick comes across as just being a moron who got lucky and then, eventually, not so lucky.

The supporting cast fares a bit better.  For instance, Matthew McConaughey plays Rick’s father with just the right amount of manic energy and Bel Powley has a few harrowing scenes as Rick’s drug addicted sister.  Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie don’t get to do much as Rick’s grandparents but it doesn’t matter because they’re Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie.  (All Bruce Dern has to do to make a character interesting is look at the camera.)  Jennifer Jason Leigh plays one of Rick’s FBI handlers with the perfect hint of subversiveness.  You’re never quite sure whether she’s messing with Rick’s life because she’s incompetent or because she’s enjoying it.  Unfortunately, the supporting characters are often so interesting that Rick often gets overshadowed.  He’s a bystander in his own story, which may have been the film’s point but, from a storytelling point of view, it hardly makes for compelling viewing.

Admittedly, there are a few memorable scenes to be found in White Boy Rick.  At one point, Rick goes to a wedding at the mayor’s mansion and he’s a sight to behold in his blue tuxedo.  In another scene, it’s explained to Rick why, when it comes to being arrested, charged, and incarcerated, the stakes are very different when you’re black than when you’re white.  In scenes like that, you kind of get a hint of White Boy Rick could have been if it had been centered around a more compelling character.

As it is, though, White Boy Rick is well-made but kind of dull.  It’s definitely a missed opportunity.

 

A “Migraine” You’ll Actually Be Glad To Have


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Featuring one panel per page and a pocket-sized horizontal format, lianhuanhua have been a staple of Chinese popular culture for decades, providing an affordable, and eminently portable, “delivery system” for mass-appeal sequential art storytelling. Some of the more dominant genres to grace the pages of these easily-digestible miniature magazines over the years, according to Paradise Systems editor/publisher R. Orion Martin, have been “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” but with his own imprint’s entry into the world of lianhuanhua Martin seeks to bring something of an “art comics”  ethos into a field that has been previously closed off to anything that fell outside a generally populist aesthetic sense. As always, he’s clearly not short on ambition.

My first exposure to lianhuanhua Paradise Systems-style comes by way of Shanghai-based cartoonist Woshibai’s recently-released Migraine, and to say I’m eager for Martin to get more of these…

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Wild Wyler West: Gary Cooper is THE WESTERNER (United Artists 1940)


cracked rear viewer

It’s hard to believe that, except for two films in which he cameoed, I haven’t covered any movies starring my namesake, Gary Cooper . Nor have I written anything about any of major Hollywood director William Wyler’s works. So let’s kill two birds with one stone and take a look at 1940’s THE WESTERNER, one of the best Westerns ever. It’s a highly fictionalized account of the life and times of Judge Roy Bean (1825-1903), played by Walter Brennan in his third and final Oscar-winning role, with Cooper as a drifter at odds with “The Law West of the Pecos”.

That “law” is Bean, who sides with the open range cattlemen against the homesteaders who’ve moved into the area. Into the town of Vinagaroon rides Coop as Cole Harden on his way to California. Unfortunately for Cole, he rides in on a horse stolen from one of Bean’s cronies, and…

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Spider-Man: Far From Home Teaser and International Trailers


spider-man far from home

Spider-Man: Homecoming was the Spider-Man that fans have been waiting for. It was able to balance the character of Peter Parker and his alter-ego of Spider-Man. Where the Sam Raimi version was able to make the former stand-out at the cost of the Spider-Man alter, the Marc Webb version swapped the two dynamics. Webb’s version had a great Spider-Man but had a Peter Parker whose moral compass was a bit skewed.

Jon Watt’s Spider-Man and Peter Parker were a nice balance. It helped that the character was now free (to a degree) to play in the huge cinematic sandbox that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Last we saw Spider-Man and Peter Parker, he was dusted just like half the living things in the universe following the Thanos Snap. The question that gets brought up whenever Spider-man: Far From Home, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, gets talked about is does this film take away from the emotional sucker punch that was Avengers: Infinity War and it’s upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame.

From this teaser trailer and it’s international version has shown, the question still remains as both teasers mention nothing about the Avengers and keeps the timeline of the film vague enough to make one wonder if this sequel happens before Avengers: Infinity War.

I guess fans will find out on July 5, 2019 when the film is released worldwide.

….and here’s the International Teaser trailer

Music Video of the Day: Oops! …. I Did It Again by Britney Spears (2000, dir by Nigel Dick)


Before The Martian, there was …. Oops! …. I Did It Again!

Oops! …. I Did It Again is one of Britney Spears’s best-known songs and it’s certainly one of the most fun to sing at the top of young lungs when you’re speeding down the interstate on the way to Lake Texoma.  (Just ask my sister.)  But I think that people forget just how weird this video is.

Basically, we’ve got an astronaut (Eli Swanson) exploring Mars when he comes across an image on a Martian stone, the cover of Britney’s second album, Oops! …. I Did It Again.  On Earth, the nerdy NASA guy is impressed while the astronaut wonders if it’s possible that Britney Spears has come all the way to Mars just to play with his heart….

And she has!  Suddenly, there’s a stage on the Martian surface and Britney and the backup dancers are performing while the astronaut watches.  Eventually, Britney approaches him and proceeds to …. TAKE OFF HIS HELMET!  (Britney will not only play with your heart but apparently, she’ll also try to kill you.)  For a few brief seconds, it appears that the astronaut’s head might explode but no, he survives.  He then hands her the Heart of the Ocean, the extremely tacky blue diamond that was at the center of the film, Titanic.  The astronaut explains that he went down to the bottom of the ocean to get it for her and then he took it to Mars for some reason.  (Remember, the video makes it pretty clear that the astronaut wasn’t expecting to run into Britney Spears during his Martian exploration.)  In one of the most badass moves of all time, Britney says, “Oh, you shouldn’t have” and then walks away.  As for the astronaut, he hopefully managed to get home.  I mean, if Matt Damon could do it, anyone could do it….

Yeah, yeah, we know….

This video was directed by Nigel Dick, who also directed the video for ….Baby One More Time.  During filming, Britney was actually struck in the head by a falling camera and had to get four stitches before she then went to finish the video.  Like all great artists, Britney suffered so that you may enjoy.

So, enjoy!