Category Archives: Featured

iReview | STAR WARS The Last Jedi

The continuing adventures of a galaxy far, far away are finally coming to a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD – Star Wars: The Last Jedi proves the most complex chapter in the ongoing saga that is the Skywalker legacy.

With the Force now awakened, STAR WARS: The Last Jedi the next chapter in the new trilogy is perhaps the most controversial narrative in the continuing adventures. As the galaxy races against time a mounting Resistance emerges to prevent the tightening totalitarian grip of the evil First Order from suffocating all that is good and right! After Disney purchased the franchise from its creator George Lucas, filmmaker J. J. Abrams was given the daunting task of reigniting the continuing saga, and went to work immediately to expanded on the universe.

In The Force Awakens Abrams introduced a new generation of heroes, the original trilogy’s cast was there too, but as a new threat to the galaxy emerges, the First Order, the Rebellion that defeated the Empire and destroyed their tyranny with the destruction of the second Death Star, has been mounting a new Resistance to stop this evil from taking root. Lead by the legendary might of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) her ragtag group strike from hidden bases, but the First Order is growing and use a new super-weapon to destroy the New Republic.

It becomes apparent to the Resistance that if they are to defeat The First Order they must seek out Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who must once again inspire them with renewed hope. The search for Skywalker is only the beginning for a lonely young woman on a journey of discovery, Rey (Daisy Ridley) who along with her companion, First Order defector Finn (John Boyega) and the astromech droid BB-8 begin an adventure that reunites them with the ill-fated Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his trustee co-pilot Chewbacca.

Episode VII which sets in motion the events for this new trilogy, also introduced Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is the Force-wielding son of Leia and Han once known as Ben Solo. Luke Skywalker attempts to train his nephew, but loses him to the Dark Side. Rey is able to best Ren in combat as her own Force powers begin to surface, but she needs the self-exiled Luke Skywalker to help her. Once Kylo Ren mercilessly murders his own father, his path into the Dark Side becomes nearly complete, but Rey feels the conflict within him and is convinced she can save him.

After destroying Starkiller Base, The First Order’s weapon of mass destruction, the Resistance regroups, and Leia sends Rey to seek out Luke Skywalker with a map that will lead her right to him, but will Rey be able to bring the Jedi Master back into the fold, to rejoin the fight?

…in a galaxy far, far away.

Fans had waited nearly 40 years to see their favorite Rebel heroes back together! Although Abrams had sacrificed the rogue spacer Han Solo appropriately in the final act of his film; Harrison Ford had always expressed a desire to have his character meet a heroic end. Hoping to save the soul of his son, who is on the brink of complete corruption, Han exposes his vulnerability and pays the price. Abrams passed on directing the next installment and Kathleen Kennedy sought out Rian Johnson to both write and direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi the next chapter in the ongoing saga.

The filmmaker took a decidedly risky approach to expanding the universe, by elaborately deconstructing much of what Abrams had engineered to reestablish. The most obvious course for Johnson was to focus his attention on the new generation of characters specifically Rey and Kylo Ren whose fates appear intertwined. After Rey finds Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Master doesn’t live up to her expectations. Instead of a Rebel hero, she finds a cynical isolationist, who has lost the will to fight and is instead resigned to let the Jedi Order end.

Sensing the conflict within Kylo Ren, Rey uncovers secrets about the relationship between student and apprentice and the incident that leads to both their downfalls. Fearing that he’s failed his nephew as the evil influence of The First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) Begins to take over the young Ben Solo, Luke feels he has no other alternative but to strike Ben down! The attempt delivers Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren right into the hands of Snoke, who sets his new apprentice on the path once traversed by his own grandfather Darth Vader.

For much of The Last Jedi the Resistance are at the relentless mercy of the seemingly unstoppable First Order and the advancing fleet that is slowly picking off each one of their vessels one by one. It seems foolhardy to say the least that the impressively powerful navy of the First Order doesn’t simply dispatch auxiliary ships to descend on the Resistance, giving the willful rebels an opportunity to strategize an action plan to make haste their escape. Dispatching Finn (Boyega) to the casino planet Canto Bight manufactures an opportunity to revisit a Star Wars trope indeed.

The film feels the most alien and not just because Johnson has created an entirely new world with Canto Bight, but introduced the idea of a corrupt capitalism and profiteering from war. The lines between who is good and who is bad are blurred, and even the question of whether the Jedi are necessary is questionable. These aren’t all-too new ideas within this universe, but it is the first time that they are so dynamically portrayed inside the narrative — and it is unexpected. As in The Empire Strikes Back, at the end of The Last Jedi there is a significant amount of loss.

The Resistance is decimated and ultimately make their escape aboard the Millennium Falcon; in effect all the remaining fighters fit within the smuggling ship’s seating area. Perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow is the uncharacteristic interpretation of Luke Skywalker; the actor himself, Mark Hamill had been very vocal about how disappointed he was with how the one-time Rebel hero and Jedi Knight was portrayed in what is obviously his last film. Johnson stood by his decision, even though Hamill protested. Whether it will ultimately serve the final act, has yet to be seen.

The most astounding aspect of the film is the complex relationship that is developing between Rey and Kylo Ren. How that is going to play out is still to be determined, and even now J. J. Abrams is figuring out what course to set with Episode IX, whether there is time to course correct will be determined by how much of Episode VIII, he intends to stick with; seeing as how much Johnson retconned to meet his own ends, will Star Wars Episode IX be something as obscure as The Last Jedi? Will The Force be with it?

The Blu-ray bonus features include several deleted scenes that fill out key action sequences, including pertinent dialogue that would have helped give Finn a little more bite not to mention a powerfully much more potent moment with First Order military Captain Phasma. The package also includes a specially produced documentary on the filmmaking process from Rian Johnson’s perspective that gives detailed insight to his process.

STAR WARS Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is directed by Rian Johnson and available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

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TuneIN | THE FLASH “Enter Flashtime”

It’s going to take more than one Flash to stop a nuclear device from turning Central City into a crater! The latest episode of The CW hit series reinforces the importance of The Flash’s legacy with guest appearances from the Flashes of two worlds!

This season of The Flash may well test the metal of its titular hero in a way that previous seasons wouldn’t have dared to tread. After successfully traversing the multiverse and sifting through space-time itself, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has come face-to-face with an adversary that is as quick with his wit than the Scarlet Speedster is on his feet. When it was announced that The Thinker, Clifford DeVoe (guest star Neil Sandilands) would enter into the picture many “Flash” fans were ready for a new kind of Battle Royale!

Season 4 of The Flash hasn’t disappointed in tripping things up very differently for the protectors of Central City. Previous years had audiences walking into this world of super-powered metahumans alongside a largely untested hero who found himself at the center of the impossible. Barry Allen has come a long way since going to the mat with the likes of evil speedsters like the Reverse-Flash and Zoom, and faced his worst nightmare when confronted with his evil twin in the godlike Savitar.

With The Thinker setting off fires all over the city, The Flash has found himself in the line of sight of an evil mastermind with only one goal in mind, and that’s to bring down Barry Allen’s alter-ego. In the latest episode of the season “Enter Flashtime” while DeVoe’s plans continue to unravel in the background, Team Flash find themselves at the mercy of terrorist organization that has set off a nuclear device that will decimate all of Central City, unless The Flash can find a way to stop it. Fortunately for him — he doesn’t have to do it alone!

Barry (Grant Gustin) and Jay Garrick John Wesley Shipp) work together to prevent the destruction of Central City, a criminal plot that requires the speedsters to “Enter Flashtime” to save the day.

Joining the team in their efforts this episode will be Jesse Quick (Violett Beane) the Flash of Earth-2 and Jay Garrick (John Wesley Shipp) the Flash of Earth-3. This will be the first episode actually this season since the departure of Kid Flash that will be bringing together the comic book’s legacy characters, proving that when all else fails — this is a job for the Flash Family! Jesse Quick’s return has been hinted at for sometime, since her father Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) has been conflicted with how he and his daughter parted ways recently.

Certainly the pair will be able to resolve their issues, but also popping in to lend a hand in “Enter Flashtime” will be the much-beloved character of Jay Garrick (Shipp) who has been absent for most of Season 4. Garrick who is played by veteran actor John Wesley Shipp (who also portrayed The Flash in the 1990 CBS original series) will be proving how powerful The Flashes of all-worlds can be especially when they work together. Fans had been expecting, Shipp’s Garrick to have a more prominent role since his introduction as the Golden Age hero.

Perhaps the series’ writers and producers are preparing to tease the show’s fans and introduce an arc that will get back to the important legacy attribute that sets The Flash apart from his DC Comics contemporaries. The Flash has been around for generations and the Speed Force has been passed from one speedster to another through the Silver Age and into the Modern Age; with the series having hinted at a potential adaptation of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” story arc, the significance of exploring The Flash legacy of heroes will never be more important than it is now!

Since Barry and Iris West (Candice Patton) tied the knot this year, it has been hinted that their future may be catching up with them. There’s a mysterious interloper that’s been hanging around — a “mystery girl” — who knows an awful lot about our heroes, and although she doesn’t appear to pose any kind of threat, she has an indelible connection to Barry and Iris that is yet to be defined!

The Flash “Enter Flashtime” airs on The CW Tuesday, March 6 @ 8pm EST.

iINTERVIEW | Black Lightning’s NAFESSA WILLIAMS :: It’s Like Thunder!

On The CW’s newest superhero series Black Lightning NAFESSA WILLIAMS is preparing to bring down the house as the iconic DC Comics hero gets back into the game and brings the “Thunder” down on social injustice.

When Greg Berlanti had announced that he and his production team had begun to lay the ground work for another DC Comics property to emerge in primetime, many speculated that the bubble was near about to burst on the superhero genre. Berlanti and his squad had co-opted most of the primetime line-up on The CW beginning with the hit Arrow and followed up the success of that series with the spin-off of The Flash. Without missing a beat they would soon launch the team-up series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and when CBS gave up on Supergirl they simply brought the Maid of Might over to The CW properly aligning with the rest of the primetime legion of wonders.

Where Berlanti and his production team would find the slot on The CW for another DC adaptation was just incomprehensible, especially after adding the seminal reimagining of the Archie Comics with Riverdale. There are other networks on the air after all, so they persevered. They had come up with a decisively different premise, pitched not as an origin story, but a reintroduction of one of DC’s most groundbreaking characters. It wasn’t long before the show was announced and Black Lightning had found a home — on FOX. The network is home to another DC property; the Batman prequel Gotham. A modest draw for the network, but not a ratings monster.

FOX requested a pilot based on the pitch, and the partnership between Berlanti and the series’ creators/show-runners Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil two of the entertainment industry’s most outspoken creatives dedicated to championing cultural diversity and awareness got to work. Black Lightning hadn’t even gone to lens and it was already proving super-charged! Audiences were getting amped…and then FOX “passed” on the show, but before it even had a moment to make news, it broke that Black Lightning had already found a new home — and of all places: The CW! The annual crossover stunt just got EPIC!

When Lightning Strikes Twice

Black Lightning follows the story of Jefferson Pierce (played by Cress Williams) a single father, celebrated Olympic athlete and high school principal, who at one-time had led a double life as a costumed avenger defending the streets and urban neighborhoods of Freehold against drug lords and crooked politicians. The hero became a beacon of hope for his community, and struck fear in his adversaries. Unfortunately, where his contemporary super-powered friends in nearby metropolises won the adulation of its citizens, the Black Lightning was hunted as a vigilante. 

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Cress Williams as the titular hero .

The late nights avenging took a toll not only on Pierce’s own body and soul, but created strife in his marriage. Ultimately hanging up his suit, Pierce returned to life as a private citizen. He now takes on a different kind of challenge. Jefferson has his hands full keeping an entire student body on the straight-and-narrow, and he’s the principal of a charter school dedicated to empowering those who might otherwise feel disenfranchised. Although his marriage dissolved largely due to his super heroics, he maintains a strong bond with his wife Lynn (Christine Adams), and is a single father raising two daughters in a radically toxic climate and an era of growing social concerns.

Already it’s easy to frame how unlike its predecessors Black Lightning is. The series is not centered on the heroic journey of discovery as the hero navigates the responsibilities of wielding great power for good and carries the weight of that burden. Jefferson Pierce knows all too well exactly the high voltage potential he’s capable of generating, and the consequences of using that force, especially when it comes in defense of his family and in service to his neighbors. The times are growing more uncertain and the Black Lightning is needed once again!

A Thunder Storm

His two daughters, fiercely independent and conscious of daddy’s helicopter parenting — never mind living in the ably impressive shadow of their father, have their own obstacles to face. Stepping out from under the cloud of comfort is Anissa Pierce, the eldest daughter played by Nafessa Williams who is proving as formidable in real life as her primetime alter-ego. Stepping up and into a spotlight that is undoubtedly much more scrutinized than the average new primetime drama. DC Comics fans are a unique and fiercely dedicated group, but Williams has already familiarized herself with much of the hero’s backstory and its primal significance.

Nafessa Williams Photo credit: Ricky Codio

“Black Lightning was the first black character to stand-alone in his own comic published back in 1977 created by DC Comics,” Williams reveals. “Black Lightning’s not your typical superhero, [or] in his earlier twenties — you watch him navigate those challenges of having to come out of retirement — and the effects that might have on him physically, mentally along with his family.” Williams agrees that for her superhero father Jefferson Pierce to decide to return to his secret identity is not a decision he approaches lightly, but fortunately for him, he won’t be alone in his battle for truth and justice.

Similarly Nafessa identifies heavily with her primetime alter-ego, Anissa Pierce. “I come in as his older daughter, who is a fighter, the advocate, the activist, the lesbian, the medical student — the superhero — overprotective big sister,” she details. “There are so many dynamic layers to who she is — that was one of the reasons why I was really excited to take on this role. It was unlike anything I had ever done before. She just comes with a really strong voice that I believe little brown girls who look just like me need to hear from.” The way that Williams describes Anissa it appears that there is a lot of her father in the character.

“I love what Jefferson Pierce stands for,” Nafessa asserts. “He’s an advocate for education; he believes that through education we can all come out superheroes.” The fiercely determined actor dove deep into knowing as much as she could about the world of Black Lightning. “I studied as much as I could about who he was, the essence of who Black Lightning was knowing that I inherit a bit of that essence. Black Lightning is a hero to us — he’s a savior, and when I’m working on my character I imagine that Anissa is like the son he never had.” Indeed Anissa does literally inherit some of her father’s strength and power, and will eventually assume her own dual-identity.

Black Lightning — Image BLK_FIRST_LOOK_THUNDER.jpg — Pictured: Nafessa Williams as Thunder — Photo: Bob Mahoney/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

Though she still revealed the excitement she and the cast all felt the first time that Cress Williams walked on set as his powered-up namesake: “We freaked out when we saw him! He is Black Lightning — his voice, his physique — he really just embodies Black Lightning. He just gives you the vibe!” The pride in her voice is evident, as is the enthusiasm she has over the camaraderie that is developing among her TV family. “The chemistry we all have — was just instant!” It’s a trait that follows into all of the Berlanti shows; the casting is pivotal especially if the audience is to believe in this nuclear family that can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

“When I first got to my audition and I saw China Anne McClain (who plays little sister Jennifer, the soon-to-become “Lightning”) in the hallway and we spoke,” Nafessa said, “it was like an immediate sisterly bond — from the minute we saw each other. It was beautiful — it was destiny!” Which is exactly what series creators Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil are hoping will come through on screen for fans; Akil has said he has had to remind himself that he and his wife are producing a superhero series, especially when at the core the authenticity of the family is what is driving the drama forward — their fierce love and devotion is the true force powering Black Lightning.

Nafessa admits that working with the Akil’s is a dream come true. “The fact that they were a part of the show was the number one reason why I wanted to do it,” she said. “I’ve been wanting to work with them since the beginning — I love the way they tell stories. They are keeping things really true and authentic to who we are as people and as a culture — and it’s not just about being a black family — it’s about love, and inspiring people. Being true to who you are makes us all superheroes.” The Black Lightning family won’t always be fighting the metahuman villain of the week. Sometimes Anissa might have to face more complicated issues at home.

“Although she’s very feminine, there’s a masculine side to her — a tomboy inside of who Anissa is.” In the series pilot episode several references are made about Anissa’s own activism, including her sister’s pet name for her: Harriett Tubman referring to the civil rights heroine who saved countless lives braving the Underground Railroad. “There are these wonderful messages placed so well within our script, and I’m honored to be named after Harriet Tubman — it keeps these legends alive.” While in the midst of celebrating Black History Month and especially highlighting the importance of cultural diversity, the arrival of Black Lightning is well apparent.

The series debuted in the nation’s capital during the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr’s weekend, and the placement of such an honor was on the forefront of the actress’ mind. “It’s such an emotional ride for me,” Nafessa revealed about premiering at an event celebrating the late civil rights icon. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just one of those people that you’d wish you could have met. He’s the epitome of ‘everything’ to me! It’s a blessing — I’m so honored.” Pulling it all together for the rising star, who gave up a particularly significant position in the DA’s office in the homicide division, Williams charted her own path that’s led her to Black Lightning.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, while pursuing a degree in law, Williams never lost sight of her passion for acting. “The creative process is awesome — I’m very particular of the music that I listen to as I’m preparing for my role. Beyonce’s ‘Freedom’ is getting pumped up — you have no idea!” She carves out a place in trailer, alongside her formfitting crimefighting ensemble, to remind herself of the trailblazers that have paved the way. “In my dressing room I have pictures of Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. — I want to be a voice for them — reminding myself in my creative process that I am a voice for them.”

Indeed as politics continue to carve up the pieces creating strained divides, Black Lightning will endeavor to remind us that in coming together, we are stronger. “He’s a hero for today,” Nafessa proclaims with fierce certainty. “I’m from Philly, which is very similar to Freeland (the city in which the story of Black Lightning evolves) and this black superhero is coming to save us! That image alone…when kids turn on the TV and they will see themselves — It is time! It is necessary and it’s needed — here we are!”

Black Lightning starring Nafessa Williams as Anissa Pierce aka “Thunder” airs on The CW, Tuesday nights @ 9pm.

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Nafessa Williams Photo credit: Ricky Codio

Cover2Cover | Entertainment Weekly on SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Entertainment Weekly put the latest chapter in the growing Star Wars saga on its cover this week giving fans a “First Look” at SOLO.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a great civil war waged by a feisty rebellion against an evil Empire, and in the middle of it all there emerged an unlikely hero…a roguish smuggler named Han Solo and embodied by Harrison Ford. His star was then still on the rise, but without a doubt Ford’s role in the original Star Wars trilogy solidified his place as one of Hollywood’s biggest box office draws — and many wondered who actually came first: Solo or Ford! Regardless, both have achieved an iconic level.

40 years later, Hollywood had returned to that galaxy no longer so far away and revisited many of the heroes from that first space-faring adventure, and Han Solo met his end in a rather Shakespearian move, at the hands of his own son. It’s no secret that Ford has often been quoted as wanting to have had Solo killed off in the Original Trilogy, but the series’ creator George Lucas wouldn’t hear of it, and instead it took the acquisition of the franchise by Disney to fulfill that prophecy, but not before plans were unveiled for the continuing adventures of Han Solo!

Following the success of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which took a formatively unique perspective of an event within the narrative of the established mythology, SOLO: A Star Wars Story (out May 25) is promising to elaborate on the man before he becomes the legend. Stepping into the daunting role of a young Han Solo is relative unknown Alden Ehrenreich who has already revealed the very “Solo-ish” advice he got from Ford about playing the outlaw smuggler, will lead a cast of heavy genre-hitters including Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton.

Amid controversies with the film’s first set of directors, the studio parted ways with Phil Lord and Chris Miller citing creative differences, and opening the door for Oscar winner Ron Howard to chart the path for Solo and his trusted wookie co-pilot Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo) to bring a spanking brand-new looking Millennium Falcon into a multiplex near you! The trailer introduces Donald Glover as a certain charismatic Lando Calrissian and Woody Harrelson as a new player to the table Tobias Beckett who appears the catalyst for Solo’s collision course.

See the trailer here and pick up this week’s Entertainment Weekly for the full story:

Trailer | Marvel Studios AVENGERS: Infinity War

As if this summer wasn’t looking any more stellar here comes the ultimate team-up film! The trailer for Marvel Studios AVENGERS: Infinity War brings together all the title characters from the Marvel features released over the last decade. It’s all come to this! As the Avengers take out the otherworldly might of the mad god Thanos in what will surely end-up this summer’s biggest blockbuster event.

Check out the trailer here:

Trailer | JURASSIC WORLD: Fallen Kingdom

You’d imagine that they would have learned their lesson, but no — the box office tally don’t lie! Everyone’s favorite Guardian of the Galaxy hero Chris Pratt returns for JURASSIC WORLD: Fallen Kingdom the newest installment in the Steven Spielberg produced franchise, which has the velociraptor handler returning for another go-around with the dangerous dinos, but this time natural selection is intervening and the result may be cataclysmic!

Check out the trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom here: