Release Dec 7 2022 | Vol33 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Renewal! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol33 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @_raven.nicole_ by @theonewillfocus3. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Monica Calhoun on The Best Man, Love, and Being Grateful” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: My Recommendation – Ask More Questions” by dCarrie; “What Does Spiritual Health Look Like?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Be Extra! A Campaign for Extracurricular Activities” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 33 contributed photo story, “Renewal;” Fitness Highlight, Marshawn Lynch Retires from the NFL with $49Million; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Garlic Jalapeño Rolls; “Why Everyone—Including You—Needs Financial Therapy” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece by Justin Moultrie; Coloring Book Appreciation featuring “MERKIDZ” by Micah BlackLight; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
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Wakanda Forever is a very emotional film; the feelings started to boil up within the first six minutes (so make sure you’ve got your popcorn ready before the movie starts, you don’t want to miss a second). It’s no surprise that Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa would die in this film because Marvel had made it clear that they would NOT be recasting Boseman’s role. Nothing hit harder than when the infamous Marvel introduction appeared sans music with various cutscenes of Boseman. I’ve seen the film twice, once with other critics and once with a crowd of people; both times, I could hear sniffling and see tears falling from many an eye. Hell, I even got misty-eyed during my first screening. If you have not yet seen the film, (1st of all, shame on you for missing opening weekend) be prepared to bring tissues or wear an ugly shirt to cry on. Wakanda Forever not only pulls on the heartstrings but also has some of the best action scenes I’ve seen in the MCU with a nice helping of humor sprinkled in here and there. This film was also incredibly well-directed. Next, allow me to go into more detail about this incredible Ryan Coogler-helmed project.
I was concerned about how Ryan Coogler would make this film work with the characters rumored to appear and how Wakanda would face one of its biggest threats without its biggest hero. Coogler did not disappoint and actually made me appreciate him as an artist even more. Let’s start with the way that T’Challa’s death was handled. It kind of mirrored reality; in the film, we discover that Shuri was unaware of her brother’s ailment until it was too late. We all felt Shuri… at least I did when I discovered that Chadwick had passed away without warning. Although Shuri had saved him and many other MCU characters in the past, she could not help her brother due to the lack of resources…the heart-shaped herb. I felt quite connected to this character because I lost my brother six years ago this very month. To feel as helpless as Shuri is nothing short of heartbreak.
Something else I noticed about Shuri was that she had difficulty grieving the loss of her brother, like some of us do, and it wasn’t until the very end of the film that she was able to deal with that. This is not unlike how some people of color take a long time to get help dealing with grief and mental health. The film interestingly (and quite surprisingly) explores her rage and need for retribution by reintroducing her to Michael B. Jordan’s Kilmonger after she ingests the synthetic heart-shaped herb she created. I was not surprised because as Kilmonger is a wildly compelling and rage-filled Marvel villain, Shuri (in a display of similar rage) had mentioned earlier that she wanted to burn everything after her brother’s loss. One can clearly see the parallels.
Shuri’s issues seemed to also parallel Namor’s as he had lost his mom at an early age and hadn’t properly dealt with that devastating loss and all the feelings that came with it. His anger drove him to hate colonizers and “land people” outside of Wakanda.
The origin of Namor and the Talokan as told in the film was, in my opinion, a way better story than what was depicted in the comic book. It gave Namor more motivation to be angry after seeing his people who remained on land abused and enslaved once he returned to bury his mother at the very place she had called home.
I am a Riri Williams fan because she is a young, Black, highly intelligent character my nieces can look up to. I felt her involvement in this story was necessary. Her ability to build a machine that could locate Vibranium underwater was invaluable. So much so that her idea was stolen by her professor with the intent to make a profit…hmmm, sounds like something that could happen in real life!
This time, Wakanda kept its quarrels within its country’s borders and did not allow for spillage into America or any other place like it did in the first film. I appreciated this because it stayed true to the comic, just like when Namor and his warriors attacked Wakanda and flooded its citizens. I must say that part hurt my heart, but I knew it was coming.
Angela Basset Oscar Buzz
There is already Oscar buzz surrounding Angela Basset for her role as Queen Ramonda; she deserves at least a nomination if not more. Her expression of pain from the loss of her family is heart-wrenching. She has been through more than most could handle starting with the murder of her husband, her kids being snapped away by Thanos then brought back to only be taken away again. That’s enough to drive anyone insane! On top of that, she STILL had to deal with the greedy members of the United Nations (UN) while trying to run a country with the threat of Namor. Whew! Talk about carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders…nicely toned shoulders, I might add. Outside of Basset being a phenomenal actress, the other cast members also performed amazingly. You would think, with such a large cast, at least one person would compromise the film, but no one underperformed.
Beware of the Talokan
For a moment there, I thought I was watching a horror film about Namor and the Talokan warriors wiping out Americans at sea. The singing Talokans hypnotizing the ship’s inhabitants to walk to their drowning death was surprising and had me thinking “What an awful way to die, but what an awesome war tactic!” The Talokan weapons were so creative, especially the water bombs that obliterated everything around them.
Namor was a fierce warrior, and Attuma (although not as powerful as Namor) was just as punishing as he was in the comics. The production notes mention that Namor is as strong as Thor and the Hulk, and man did it show. My man was tossing helicopters like little dice.
A Soundtrack That Moves You
Of course, the soundtrack for this film was fire! When “They Want It, But No” played in the background as the Dora Milaje was going to work on the soldiers, I was all for the ass whoopings they were handing out. Burna Boy’s emotional “Alone” track adds to the somber mood of the characters dealing with loss. And Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” at the end was a tribute to the legend, Chadwick Boseman.
Ruth Carter’s Costumes
The award-winning costume designer once again displayed her talents with beautiful designs for both the Wakandans and the Talokans. The intricate detail put into the Talokan costumes was beautiful in color and detail. In my interview with Mabel Cadena, she explained, “Well, it was huge because on the one hand, I thought, ‘This is beautiful, amazing, and I’m a Latin American woman playing a superhero in this movie’. On the other hand, I was like ‘This is very heavy’! I’d never worn something so heavy and needed to be able to move so fast”.
I know Rotten Tomatoes currently has Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at a critic score of 84%, but the film is more accurately reflected by the audience score of 94%, in my opinion. The fact that the film was able to use grief and mental health as part of the plot (which is vital for characters who are Black and Brown) and made it work in the Marvel Universe is a big accomplishment. The film also answered many questions I had about the fate of some characters. This is hands down the best MCU film/project to come out this year, and I can honestly say it’s in my top 5 favorite MCU films of all time. I was also surprised that the post-credit scene showed T’Challa had a son with Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o), whom she raised in Haiti. This will add even more interest to the future of Wakanda as the new prince learns to eventually become king. Finally, let’s give a round of applause to the women in the film who drive the story and show ultimate strength not only physically, but in their relationships as well. Overall, Wakanda Forever is one of if not the best Marvel films of 2022. It focuses on grief, forgiveness, family, and lastly a tribute to Chadwick Boseman that is worth watching.
It’s been a couple of years since Sherman’s Showcase last aired its “Black History Month Spectacular,” and now it has returned with its second season, which premiered October 26th on AMC. The second season continues to make audiences laugh with bold and funny parodies that include returning characters Dutch Sherpherd played by Diallo Riddle; Joe in a Vest, played by Keith Benard, Mary J Blige, played by Bresha Webb and Sherman McDaniels, played by Bashir Salahuddin. The creators and stars of the variety show, McDaniels and Salahuddin, gave Taji Mag the reason for the show’s hiatus.
Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): First of all, what took you so long to bring us season two of Sherman’s Showcase?
Diallo Riddle (DR): Sherman’s showcase just landed too big the first time, so they were like, “Mm-hmm Nah, hold ’em back for three and a half years.” terrible. So, It was.
DDF: I know you two have worked together for a long time, since the days of Chocolate News and Jimmy Fallon. What was the writing process for this project, Sherman’s Showcase season two?
DR: I can remember around 2008, we wrote a pilot that will never get. It was basically a variety show, and we would take it around to, like TBS, and some other places cause we knew we wanted to do something that sort of like merged our love of variety and music. Then we ended up, later that year, being some of the first writers of Jimmy Fallon ever hired.
So, his new show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, became the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. We would be talking music and involved in Quest Love and the guys from the Roots. We always said, “You know, that song that Ciara is singing sounds like a song that Rihanna passed on. We just kept thinking, “What’s a show that could bring all the music nerds of the world together? And that show eventually became Sherman Showcase, which was obviously based on Soul Train, the old show Solid Gold, and various shows from around that time.
But it was also just our excuse to do nerdy comedy around everything we think about. Whether you’re a sci-fi nerd, music nerd, or even just a comedy nerd, it’s like nerds of the world unite, you know?
DDF: When was the first time you came up with a parody song?
DR: I was literally in the shower like, “What’s a song with a chorus that I can sing, and it’s just an undeniable truth?” That was the idea that popped in my head, and I texted Bashir roughly around the same time. He was like, “Yo, I finally figured out our Parliament song, and he texted me, I think it should be called F is for dunking, and I was like, What’d you say? And he said, Funking. And I was like, “Oh, it’s okay. Yeah, let’s try that.”
DDF: You guys did a lot. This second season, especially with the first two episodes. I have to ask you, has Mary J. Blige the skits you’ve done about her?
DR: She sure has! Apparently, somebody reached out to Bresha (Webb), and they were like,” Hey, I’m with Mary. Should I show her the sketch? And Bresha said, “Yeah, show her the sketch!” They played it for Mary, and she watched it really quietly the entire time barely Mary looked up and then she finally told Bresha’s friend, “ Man! I don’t sound like that!Lol!” So I think we’re slowly winning Mary over, but I think a couple more years. Bresha is the definitive Mary j Blige.
DDF: I was thinking to myself they are picking on Mary. Lol!
Bashir Salahuddin (BS): No, we love her. We only do stuff about people we love. Certain shows have different angles when they talk about people, we really do try to make a couple of silly jokes, but ultimately, our goal is that the person (we portraying on the skit) can watch it themself and feel like this is silly, and, but it’s still kind of funny.
So I, I respect the whole, like, that’s not the perfect impression because at least that tells me at least she (Mary J. Blige) didn’t say, “Hey, this ain’t funny.”. She clearly watched the whole thing.
DR: By the way, she said something to the effect that I ain’t never said “Mer (instead of saying, Mary). But you know, I think the last thing I’ll tell you about that is, you know, we just come from a place of, like, we love these artists.
BS: We love Mary J, Prince, and Morris Day, and we love soul music. We love hip hop, We love Lil’ Baby, Lil Durk. We have a Lil’ Baby and a Lil’ Dirk style song both this season, and we got an actor playing Lil’ Baby.
DDF: Which celebrity from the past would you like to have on the show?
BS: That’s a great question. My brain immediately goes in like the seventies because I do feel like, before the internet, people were a little bit more willing to be a little wilder cause they didn’t have to worry that everybody was gonna watch it again the next day.
That’s a great question. I immediately think of, like, I don’t know why my brain went to Barry White for some reason. I think Barry White would be very fun, and I think he could take a joke. Barry versus Sherman could be a funny episode where we play enemies or something. That might be fun.
DR: I’m gonna say I think it would’ve been great to see Sammy Davis Jr. on the show. I think that would’ve been amazing. I think maybe with a young Quincy Jones since we know that Sherman’s main rival is Quincy Jones. Quincy Jones lives rent-free in Sherman’s Head; I feel like to this day, he’s still thinking,” Oh man, I still got time to catch up. I may not produce Thriller, but I’ll produce Jermaine’s (Jackson’s) album. I feel like everything that happens in Quincy’s life, Sherman wishes, could happen to him.
BS: I think Sherman’s own pick might be like Mahalia Jackson. It might be like one of those old-school gospel artists that nobody would never go near Soul Train.
DDF: It must be fun with you guys in the writer’s room. You guys must be cracking up all the time.
This is how we come up with ideas. We sit around and talk about things going on and music. When we start laughing about something, it eventually becomes a sketch.
Just like this interview, Sherman’s Showcase is filled with many laughs with plenty of colorful and memorable characters that resemble the show’s first season. My favorite skits have been the “Diddy’s Eight,” “Not Passing,” and “Dumpster Buddies.” Tune into AMC+ to watch past and current episodes of Sherman’s Showcase. New Guest stars Issa Rae, Chance The Rapper, Jay Pharoah, Amanda Seales, Chris Hardwick and Porsha Williams.
About Sherman’s Showcase: The acclaimed series Sherman’s Showcase features sketches, dancers, fake commercials, movie trailers, cultural nostalgia, the Funk Monster, A-list guest stars, and original songs (“Dropit Low for Jesus,” “Marina Del Ray”) that definitely climbed the fictional charts. Each episode is hosted by Sherman McDaniels as he takes viewers through time via music and comedy drawn from the 50-year library of a legendary (but fictional) musical variety show.
Synopsis: A 1950s housewife living with her husband in a utopian experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets.
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, Olivia Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, and Chris Pine.
During the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling, we can see the character Margaret, played by KiKi Layne, shoving a hand from her face. Indicating she is not feeling what is going on and that something isn’t right about the neighborhood they live in. She was warning Alice, played by Florence Pugh, but after watching the film, I thought, “ Why didn’t I listen to Margaret before finishing the movie? Because Don’t Worry Darling showed promise with its star-studded cast, a budget, and lots of money put into marketing, it did not meet the mark. I’ll just have to go down the list of what went wrong with this film.
First, I liked the videography, and the visuals were stunning. The moments where the lead character, Alice, experiences random experiences like drowning a body of water out of nowhere or being smushed by an imaginary wall. Or even the haunting images of the ghastly-faced dancers in her visions, all are what lured me to the film and kept me interested as to whether this was in her mind or was this all just an alternate reality. Either way, these scenes were something cinemas lovers would go crazy for…if it weren’t for the plot.
Here is where the movie falls short. From the first act, I felt that something was off and that Alice would eventually have to face whatever reality or intriguing plot reveal was to come. Instead, the audience was duped by a rushed third act. Even the performance of Chris Pine as Frank, who was set up to be an influential cultish leader, is wasted when you find out the truth about the almost perfect life of these characters. Harry Styles’s performance was subpar and less convincing as the story progressed.
There were some beautiful wide-shot scenes in the desert and of the perfect neighborhood where most of the story takes place. The transition from the dark and browns colored environment to the colorful scheme of the clothing, cars, and houses was appealing, making me feel the story took place in the 1950s. Two of the other things I loved about the film was the music selection, which they played during the special NYC screening I attended. The costume design felt vintage, making the character fit the era they modeled their existence after.
With all the actors involved in this project, one would expect a lot of great performances; unfortunately, the film’s best performance was by Pugh due to the suffering plot. She was very convicneing in her performance, especially when the character felt her reality was blurred. KiKi Layne’s short screen time did stand out as her eyes were I need to tell the fear and concern she had about their existence. Harry Style was serviceable in his performance, I think he could’ve delivered a little bit better when he betrayed his wife, but besides that, he was not bad. All the other actors were decent and did not take away from the film.
This film is a slow burn carried mostly by Pugh, but it just doesn’t turn out to be the film I expected, and I think many will agree. The film’s third act was so rushed and a mess that it looked like it went through a rough editing process. Don’t Worry Darling would have been a better film had there been a better payoff at the end. It makes me wonder if the outcome of this film led an all the media hoopla. This tells me that if a Black woman is warning you in a movie trailer, pay attention because it means someone will suffer, and this time it was the viewer.
Anyway, I would catch Don’t Worry Darling when it starts streaming because it’s not worth watching in the theaters. You can watch films like the Surrogates or Stepford Wives to fulfill your appetite for a good sci-fi domestic film.
Starring: Whitney Peak, Sam Richardson, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy
Where to watch it: Disney Plus
Release date: September 30th, 2022
Synopsis: It’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
With the announcement of Hocus Pocus 2 streaming on Disney Plus, I didn’t have high expectations for the sequel. After watching the film, I discovered I was right. The movie was not bad; it had the same loveable antagonists, the Sanderson Sisters (played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy), along with a new cast of teenage heroes living in the current day. If you remember the first film as I do, you will feel the same magic (pun intended) as I did while watching this film.
I did like the introduction of the new characters and how the writer was able to connect them to the first film. The candle is the catalyst, and the book of magic is still what drives the story because of the contents it possesses…the secrets to how the sisters can become the most powerful in the world. The writer was able to give the book a more human aura, which is meant to be a big payoff in the end, and it comes close.
New Characters Spoiler Alert
I have to give kudos to Disney for being cleverly inclusive in the film and adding some Black characters. Instead of characters of color being speckled throughout the film as extras, the movie has two Black characters playing huge roles. Gilbert, played by Sam Richardson, is the magic shop owner that witnessed the Sanderson Sisters’ last stint at wreaking havoc on the townspeople as a child. Then there’s Becca, played by Whitney Peak, one of the lead protagonists and an aspiring witch. She attempts to thwart the witches’ plans with her two friends Izzy (played by Belissa Escobedo) and Cassie (played by Lilia Buckingham). I won’t spoil why their roles are important, but I will say it is…..okay, I can’t help it! Y’all, we finally have a Black witch in the Hocus Pocus universe! Yes, Becca discovers she has the powers, and I am here for it! Will she defeat the Sanderson Witches? I’ll leave it up to you to find out, but all I know is I am happy.
The Sanderson Sisters, once again, keep the same chemistry and evil attitude as they did 30 years ago. They weren’t over the top, nor did they underperform. Bette Midler’s voice is about the same. Although I was not as excited with the “One Way or Another” performance by Blondie, I enjoyed their performance of “I Put a Spell On You” by Nina Simone. No one can do it better than Nina, but the Bette Midler version was fun. Bette Midler does perform “The Witches Are Back”, a very fun song, with Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as background singers before the final credits roll. Speaking of the Sanderson Sisters, the little girls who play the younger versions of the sisters perfectly portrayed their adult versions. Especially young Winifred “Winnie” who immediately caught my attention as she was very charismatic and clearly has a lot of talent.
Costumes and CGI
I was happy the film looked like it used more practical effects than CGI. I think too much CGI would’ve ruined the film. There was some concern, for me at least, that zombie Billy Butcherson (played by Doug Jones) would be CGI. But Billy was still clumsy and losing his head; with Doug Jones portraying the character, there’s no need for much besides costume and makeup because of his tremendous talent.
The costumes for the sisters and Billy look as good as in the original film. The first few minutes start off in the 1600s and I felt like I was transported back then with them. It is at this time we get to see the witch responsible for giving them their power when they were just some normal kids themselves. Because of this, I would not be opposed to a Hocus Pocus installment set entirely in the 1600s.
Hocus Pocus 2 may not have me clamoring for a rewatch, but it is still worth checking out for the nostalgia and same fun energy of the original. Kids will be entertained by the film and want to see the first one if they haven’t already. Fans of the original, who are now over 30, will be able to relive the experience of the Sanderson Sisters’ introduction to new technology. With a more diverse cast that moves the story forward, Hocus Pocus 2 is stream-worthy. The only issue I had with the film was the final act because it seemed a bit rushed. But you be the judge.
Starring Georgina Campbell, Justin Long, and Bill Skarsgard
After watching the first trailer, I thought to myself, “How in the hell is this film going to turn out and what’s in the basement?” Given that Bill Skarsgård (who played IT, the clown) stars in the film, Barbarian looked like a horror film worth watching. Boy was I right! This film had a bunch of “What in the f*ck!” moments and some really scary stuff in it.
Let’s start off with Georgina Campbell: I give her two thumbs up as a horror protagonist. Her reactions to certain situations and actions are 100% believable and exactly what you’d expect. Campbell’s awkward chemistry with Skarsgard (Keith) in the Airbnb was spot on. I think two people would be awkward in this situation. With Skarsgard giving all sorts of creepy vibes, all I could yell at the screen is, “Tess baby, what is you doin’ baby?” but then Tess became warmer towards Keith as they both let down their guard and created a safe-feeling environment…well sort of.
I like that Tess was able to make smart decisions like most people would, such as not opening certain doors and staying out of certain areas. But you know it wouldn’t be a horror movie had she kept that same mindset throughout the whole film. Eventually, she let her curiosity get the best of her.
When asked about how she became a part of the film, Campbell said, “I’ve always really wanted to do a horror film, but I hadn’t come across anything that was right, that I really, really liked. I just loved it. I thought it was fantastic. Then I spoke to Zach, and he was very passionate and knew exactly what he wanted to do and just seemed like he knew what he was doing, and yeah, I was in.” Campbell was right about her selection because this is not your typical horror film; nor does it follow traditional film beats. Her character, Tess, had to figure out how to survive, have sympathy, and learn who to trust.
Outside of being creepy and awkward, Skarsgard straddles the line of trustworthiness. It works here because I couldn’t tell what the hell was causing the unusual activities in the house on that first night Tess and Keith stayed there. If you want a scary film, put Skarsgard in it! I think after IT, his performances will always fit this genre…or maybe it’s just something in his eyes.
If you remember Jeepers Creepers, then you should remember Justin Long’s classic clash with an evil demon. Long plays AJ, an actor involved in a rape allegation who needs more money to keep his lawyers on staff. I’m not holding back any words when I say that Keith is a selfish, opportunistic asshole. Long brings a lot of humor to the film as AJ. There were also some moments when I thought he was worse than the villain. With all the flaws of this character, you can’t help but feel bad for him. You don’t want to see him suffer at the hands of the murderer… until the very end when you’re ready for him to suffer the worst death imaginable. Now that’s what I call a switch-up!
The set design was amazing. I give much kudos to the crew. From the Airbnb to the rooms in the basement, every environment helped set the tone for each scene. Especially when the characters ventured into the creepy basement, but I won’t give too much away. You’ll have to see for yourself.
I can not express how awesome the sound design was. For example, as a character walks down a dark hallway, you can hear their increased heartbeat as they approach an unknown area. It had my heart pumping fast. The multiple times the victims tried to evade the killer felt like a thrill ride in the theater.
Actress Georgina Campbell shares the same sentiments saying the experience was “just incredible.” She further explained, “The set design was just amazing. It was all set on a sound stage for the interiors. And just walking into the Airbnb, it was incredible because it looks just like an Airbnb would. It’s got that Airbnb feel, where everything’s probably from Ikea. It’s all not quite got a personality, really. But yeah, so I just thought that was amazing. And then once we go downstairs into the basement, it was very easy to get lost in the scenes because everything felt and looked really real.”
Director/Writer Zach Cregger’s flashbacks in the film were unique and provided enough information to know the motivation of the antagonist. It’s interesting how he developed the idea for this film. He explained, “I had read a book called The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. There was a chapter primarily directed towards women, encouraging them to pay attention to these little minor red flags that men can give off in day-to-day situations. They can be very innocuous things that you might not notice. Things like complimenting you when it’s not necessarily appropriate or doing you a favor that you didn’t ask for or touching in a nonsexual way that’s not initiated by you, all these little things that seemingly don’t matter. He was basically saying [that’s] the gift of fear. It’s important to pay attention to these little red flags because you’re equipped with that to identify potential threats.”
Once the villain and its origin are revealed, the film heads into a series of chases, fights, and what the f*cks, but ends in an unexpected way. You’ll want to catch this film! And when you do, please leave a comment below on your thoughts.
Watch Barbarian on September 6th, 2022 in theaters everywhere.
Breaking Writer Kwame Kwei-Armah on His New Film and Making the World a Better Place
Starring: John Boyega, Nicole Beharie, and Michael K. Williams Directed by: Abi Damaris Corbin Written by: Kwame Kwei-Armah and Abi Damaris Corbin Release Date: 08/26/2022
What happens when a veteran tries to make an honest living for his family but faces financial issues due to a mistake the government made? In the case of Brian Brown-Easley in the film Breaking, he asked to have his due of $892 returned from the government by holding up a bank. This sad and true story was well crafted by the writing team of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Abi Damaris Corbin in the new film “Breaking“. Taji Mag was able to discuss the writing process with Armah and get his thoughts on the project.
DDF: What was the writing process for this beautiful and emotional film?
Kwame Kwei-Armah (KKA): Well, first of all, thank you for your kind words. It means a lot. I was sent the article about Brian Brown-Easley, titled “They Didn’t Have to Kill Him,” from Abi, the director and co-writer. We knew that if we were going to tell this story together, we had to feel that we did our research as effectively as humanly possible.
So we flew to Atlanta and went to the bank where it happened. We walked from his hotel room to the bank. We walked around the area, we drove around, and we spoke to people who were there on the day of the incident. We spoke to Brian’s ex, but what was most important for us was that we listen to the transcripts of the 9-1-1 operators. So we knew every word that had been said in that room. And there was a draft of this. [It] was 200 pages long…we said the only dialogue we’ll use is the dialogue that was actually said. But it was a bit too long, so we shaped it from there.
DDF: I read in production notes that you both wrote a draft of the film and went through each one line by line. That’s absolutely surgical!
KKA: Abi did the first cut. I did the second cut. Then, from there, we just started cutting things out. We were in there together, shaving and shaving away at the script.
DDF: Were there any moments where you just had to stop and step away to take a break because, emotionally, it was too tough to get through? Especially while doing the research and listening to the transcripts?
KKA: I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped away from your Blackness walking down the street, right? You know there’s no stepping way. If you have the luxury of being a storyteller and you’re telling a story, why? Because you wanna make the world incrementally better. You wanna put a spotlight on something that says “I do this so that people can be seen and people can be heard, and their stories can be heard”. But there’s no stepping away.
DDF: What was your process for developing the supporting characters? There’s no antagonist or protagonist in this film. It’s mostly just people, human beings.
KKA: I love how you frame it because, actually, the system was the antagonist, and that’s always hard to portray. But I think one of the big things [about writing] is that you have to love every character in any narrative you create. And if you don’t love them, you’ve gotta find something in them to love. So, actually, what we found with all of the characters was that everybody was in there, they all had a stake in how to help Brian survive that day, and it doesn’t mean that they weren’t scared. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t know how to do it at some point, but they all tried, and that’s joyous to try and write.
DDF: What song would you use to describe this film?
KKA: What song would you pick? Well, that’s funny. I don’t think there is a song. If there was one, it might be Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.” If I had to choose a rap song, it would be Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
DDF: What was Brian’s family’s first reaction to the film?
KKA: I tell you it was one of the most beautiful things when we were with Brian’s wife, John (Boyega), and Abi. I switched on the film and I was really nervous. Then Brian’s wife said she saw her husband. She saw Brian when John started acting on screen, and we were all in tears over it.
DDF: What was one of the happiest moments that you experienced from the set?
KKA: Actually, I didn’t get on set. COVID was around. I was based in London and we couldn’t fly. I couldn’t come back to the states. So Abi was writing this script with me, starting at 10:00 PM LA time and off we would go.
So actually, the happiest moment was when my manager, Max Gohar, and Abi were on set. He had recorded the first slate live. I saw John’s first lines and I was so proud. The movie went forward, and that was the greatest moment for me. It had to be like the greatest award you can ever have as a writer: just to have your craft perfectly said on paper and then on film.
DDF: What do you think people will get out of this film?
KKA: I think the universal thing we’re trying to tap into with this film is that we’re living in times where we’re all breaking a little bit. There are so many walking bombs; maybe our role as citizens is to see people more, hear people more, and help extinguish some of the fires burning inside. And that starts with listening, and that includes systems.
DDF: Is that why you changed the film’s title from 892 to Breaking?
KKA: Yes, kind of. I think part of why I changed the name was because when you sit in the film, you think, “892, I understand it now.” But we were having some problems with people wanting to access the film. Cause they were like “892. What does it even mean? Who cares?” So actually, you write for the maximum audience, not the minimum. So when that came to our attention, we went, “okay, let’s find another name” and Breaking was the name we came up with.
Breaking is an emotional and touching film that is slow in pace but carefully detailed. Every moment in the film captures your attention as John Boyega puts on an excellent performance. From mannerisms to dialogue, you can tell Brian was a kind but broken man. At times, I understood the character’s motives and how he tried to control his emotions throughout the whole process. Boyega deserves praise for this compelling performance and hopes it’s worthy of some nominations during award season.
Nicole Beharie also had a compelling portrayal of bank Manager Estel Valerie. Estel, although she feared for her life, wanted to help make things right for Brian and assist him in getting home to his daughter. She could relate as she has a son herself. I like that Estel was brave by ensuring everyone got out before she did. This included her teller Rosa Diaz played by Selenis Leyva, who was very effective during those intense moments.
Breaking was Micheal K. Williams’ last film, and his performance as negotiator Eli Bernard was moving. He put on a quality performance. His relatability to Brian and desire to save his life made me want to keep rooting for him to get Brian out alive. I can believe the disappointment once Brian’s life was ended.
The transitions in the film from past to present were sleek and did not distract from the film’s intention. When Brian flashes back to the past, it frustrated me that he gave his life for a country that refuses to help him stay on his feet.
The film’s tone was solemn and dramatic, but not to the point where I got bored. Just enough to keep me in the moment. The tension was high, which I felt through the acting, sound design, and videography.
The film was well received at the Sundance Film Festival, taking home the “Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast” in the U.S. Dramatic Competition. At that time the film was called “892.”
Breaking is an emotionally compelling film about a man’s fight for what he is owed after sacrificing himself in a war. If you are looking for something beautiful and want something to touch you emotionally, I highly recommend Breaking, playing in a theater near you.
Synopsis: An attorney specializing in superhuman-oriented legal cases. She leads the complicated life of a single 30-something who also happens to be a green 6-foot-7-inch superpowered hulk.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is on my list of must-watch Disney+ series right now. Not only does it capture the essence of the character from the comics, but it also explores life issues that most viewers may find relatable. Self-imagery and identity are big in this series. So much so that it reminds me of how Black women are often seen as spectacles and not respected for their talents or contributions. This is something Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk (played by Tatiana Maslany), deals with regularly. She wants to live a normal life and be respected by her peers; instead, most people want to see her She-Hulk form due to their admiration for her look and strength…sound familiar? One of the most recent examples is Serena Williams (who recently announced her retirement as one of the greatest tennis players of all time) who’s been body shamed for her physique. She silenced her haters in a 2018 “Harper’s Bazaar U.K.” interview by saying, “People would say I was born a guy, all because of my arms, or because I’m strong. I was different from Venus (Wiliams): she was thin and tall and beautiful, and I am strong and muscular – and beautiful, but, you know, it was just totally different.” We can go further to the 19th century, where Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, also known as the Hottentot Venus, was enslaved and put on display throughout Europe for her prominent female features. During that time, she was subjected to tons of harassment and objectification. The men ogled and touched her sexually, while women envied her physique. Just like She-Hulk, she was seen as a monster, subjected to endless harassment, and constantly objectified.
Did Marvel stick with the improved CGI? Yes! After the criticism they received from the released trailer, Marvel made some improvements. There are a few moments where the CGI is not as polished, but it doesn’t detract from what is happening in the series. I guess Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, has heard enough from social media and wants to redeem himself with a good show, which is indeed what he has done. The soundtrack for the series is something to be noticed with hits by rap phenom Megan Thee Stallion, keeping in line with the series’ upbeat tone. No room for dramatic or scary tunes here!
If one could compare this show to anything, think Ally McBeal with superpowers. A modern legal comedy about a woman in her 30s trying to find a work-life balance while trying to manage her personal life. Tatiana Maslany is a perfect fit for this role because her humor and charm embody She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters from the comics. I love that She-Hulk can break the fourth wall and provide commentary about different parts of the series, just like the “Sensational She Hulk” comic series that ran from 1989-1994. That’s around the time I was exposed to She-Hulk when I purchased “Sensational She-Hulk” #31. The fourth wall break also reminds me of Deadpool, which some may argue is a warm-up to the third Deadpool movie.
The series’ co-stars are all unique and provide interesting dynamics, from her bestie (and paralegal) Nikki Ramos (played by Ginger Gonzaga) to her self-absorbed former employee Dennis “Buck” Bukowski (played by Drew Matthews). All these characters fit well within the She-Hulk universe, making the series colorful and fun. Honestly, if you’re a fan of the violence and grit of Daredevil or The Punisher, this one may not be for you as it focuses more on the courtroom and daily life of Jennifer Walters. Even though it lacks the action of some other Marvel shows, it makes up for it in superb character development and humor.
There are some fun cameos that are important to each episode’s plot and help to lay the foundation for the following episodes. The cameos include Wong from Dr. Strange, Abomination from the Hulk movies, Megan the Stallion, and Smart Hulk, who serves as a mentor to She-Hulk. It has been rumored that Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, is also scheduled to make an appearance. I only had access to the first four episodes, so I cannot confirm it. Jameela Jamil portrays superhuman media influencer Titania whose jealously of She-Hulk leads to an obsessive pursuit of dominance over the heroine. Titania isn’t featured much in the first few episodes, but I’m sure she will serve as a formable adversary for She-Hulk with her super strength. Multi-hyphenate actress and singer Renée Elise Goldsberry plays Mallory, a confident lawyer who is not intimidated by the She-Hulk. I’m interested to see what more Goldsberry brings to this character.
Something I want to point out in the series is that Jennifer Walters can more easily transform than Bruce Banner. Don’t worry; Walters explains how she can accomplish this, which is understandable. What I would like to see is what She-Hulk’s maximum strength looks like. With Hulk more tamed and far from his World Breaker Hulk persona, it would be fun to see a more powerful and less reserved hulk.
Each episode features a hilarious post-credit scene you don’t want to miss. One in particular just had me stuck with my mouth open. I think after its debut, She-Hulk will be green-lit for a season two and will definitely have an audience full of fans of shows from the late 90s. I know I’ll be tuned in for all future episodes. Check out She-Hulk on Disney+ streaming on August 18, with new episodes releasing every Thursday.
Release Sept 7 2022 | Vol32 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Energy! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol32 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @theblack_nificent by @kundi_da_creative. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “What Emergency, the Film, Taught Me about the Value of Upbringing” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, The Got Damn Sauce; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Finding Community In Solo Travel” by dCarrie; “Good Vibes Only is Bad Vibes” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Conjuring Worlds — Exploring Afrofuturism in Education” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 32 contributed photo story, “Energy;” Fitness Highlight, Allyson Felix – Life After Olympic Track Retirement; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Chocolate Chip Cookies; “All People Who Are Strategic Are Collecting Intelligence” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; “Last Poet Daveed Nelson Re-evolves As Gg4”; Featured Art Piece by Micah BlackLight; Comic Appreciation featuring “Kishi and the Island of Dreams” by AnimeHipHop; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.
Synopsis: There’s no guarding the galaxy from this mischievous toddler! Get ready as Baby Groot takes center stage in his very own collection of shorts, exploring his glory days growing up—and getting into trouble—among the stars.
I have seen the two Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG)films at least three times each, but I have watched the clips of Baby Groots dancing on YouTube countless times. He’s adorable, curious, and just all-out entertaining with only saying three words to express himself, “I am Groot.” The Disney Plus series with the same name will be a big win for Disney because it was for me. It has the same concept as the GOTG films, where Groot explores the environment around him and hilariously gets himself into these situations.
The series consists of five shorts that total 20mins, including the credits. With Vin Diesel reprising the voice of Groot and Bradley Cooper voicing Racoon Rocket. My favorite short in the series is the one where he dances off with his shapeshifting liquid creature because I like seeing Groot dance. His fierce expressions and impressive moves will have you re-watching it and I won’t be surprised if clips from the series will be trending on social media.
There is no shortage of the CGI budget for the series as everything looks real, from the environment that Groot interacts with down to the textures and detail of Groot’s body. We all know fans will spare no insults or Twitter bashing if the CGI is not quality because we just witnessed the backlash the She-Hulk trailer received, and before that, it was Ugly Sonic.
If you remember the GOTG II’s opening sequence where Groot is dancing to “Mr. Blue Sky,” which is my favorite part of the film. Where not only is he dancing but chasing a small furry creature as the rest of the Guardians are fighting an eight-legged giant beast, then that is basically what you will get for the series.
There is not much dialog throughout the series besides Groot saying his infamous phrase. Except for Rocket the Raccoon, who makes an appearance during one of the episodes. But this is a Groot feature that doesn’t rely on the dialogue and mostly focuses on Groot’s reactions and facial expressions. Like the famous cartoon Pink Panther, if some of you old enough to remember? Every episode, Groot will make a mess; the question is, how big of a mess is it? Enough that it drives the other characters crazy, but since he is charming, all is forgiven.
There are some easter eggs within the series. One is the Alf comic book that Groot uses to make a painting and some of the places where the episodes take place to feature the background of GOTG movies intending to let the audiences know that while the others are fighting or Groot is in his little world staying out of the big frays and more into trouble.
If you have enjoyed Groot from the GOTG franchise, you will definitely love these series of shorts and can enjoy them with anyone at any age. I am sure Disney + will get a lot of views for “ I Am Groot,” and I will be looking forward to seeing of more shorts after this. Before the release of the GOTG III, tune into Disney + August 10th and watch Groot get into mischief.