Spoiler Review | The Falcon and the Winter Solder

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted this Friday on Disney+, and fans are in for a wild, action packed spy thriller worthy of an IMAX screen. Picking up six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, this brand-new Marvel Studios show follows the characters Sam Wilson a.k.a Falcon, and Bucky Barnes a.k.a Winter Soldier, as they try to rebuild their lives and find new purpose in a broken world.

Created by Malcolm Spellman, who’s a former producer and writer for Fox show Empire, and directed by Kari Skogland, known for directing some of the most unforgettable episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes viewers back to a world of espionage that was first introduced to MCU fans years ago during Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The first episode of the series starts off with Sam Wilson having a reflective moment in his bedroom as he irons a shirt and puts on a suit. Sam stops, and looks at the Captain America legendary shield on his bed, while a voiceover conversation between him and an older Steve Rogers conquers the moment. “How does it feel?”, Steve asks, “Like it’s someone else’s”, Sam says, prompting Steve to try to cast his friend’s doubts away by affirming that “It isn’t”.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier / Marvel Studios

The show then cuts to the most thrilling eight minutes air chasing scene I’ve ever watched, with Sam fully suited up as the Falcon, and trying to race time to rescue Air Force Captain Vassant before the terrorist group LAF reaches the Tunisia/Libya boarder.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, Bucky Barnes wakes up from a nightmare, or memory, where he sees himself as the Winter Soldier, breaking into a hotel lobby and assassinating everyone in his path. “Hail Hydra!”, he says after finishing his mission. The next morning, Bucky attends government mandated therapy with Dr. Raynor (Ami Aquino), who makes him reluctantly describe to her all of his recent efforts to amend for his past, as part of a pardoning agreement.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a return to the MCU as we’ve known for the past decade, and a total shift from what we watched on WandaVision, the first Disney+ Marvel Studio show, that aired its series finale a couple weeks ago. However, it feels like coming home after being away for so long, even though it’s still very early to say where the story is taking us.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier / Marvel Studios

It thrills me that Kari Skogland decided to mostly film on location and use very practical visual effects. The fight scenes were extremely well choreographed, and its exciting to see every punch and every kick, just like old action movies used to do. I was a bit worried that the air sequences would look weird, but fortunately that was not the case. Watching the Falcon take down enemies and their helicopters while flying almost as fast as a military jet felt very real, and it was probably one of the best action scenes in the entire MCU.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a return to the MCU as we’ve known for the past decade

By focusing on Sam’s uncertainties and Bucky’s traumas, Malcolm Spellman’s writing adds even more layers to these two characters, and gives both Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan ample space to shine. I can’t wait to see them finally reunite onscreen, as that still didn’t happen in episode one, which ends with the character John Walker (Wyatt Russell) being introduced as the new Captain America by the United States government – shield and all.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an exciting adventure with two of the most important comic book characters to ever take on the mantle of Captain America. With five more episodes to go, and even more important players to be introduced, we’re in for a very thrilling ride.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

TV Review | Wandavision

Marvel Studios WandaVision aired its electrifying series finale this weekend, but viewers everywhere are hardly free from its spells. Breathing new life into the Marvel Cinematic Universe one episode at a time, WandaVision was an epic tale of love and grief, pain and eventual healing, as Wanda refuses to experience a world without those she cherished the most.

Anchored in the flawless performances by Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and telling a strong, well-written, character-driven story, creator Jac Schaeffer and director Matt Shakman completely altered our streaming experience. Met with skepticism and engulfed in the traditional “hex” of secrecy involving every MCU production, WandaVision was announced in April 2019, months after reports came out that the studio was working on projects for Disney+, involving characters that never received their own full-length movie.

WandaVision / Marvel Studios

Ushering in a new era of the MCU, and its Phase Four, WandaVision debuted on January 15, 2021, as a nine-episode show that could easily be described as “I Love Lucy meets the Avengers”. With just one episode released every Friday, WandaVision completely took over the lives and minds of Marvel devotees all over the world, some of which would wake up at the wee hours of the morning in a mad race to avoid spoilers.

Chronologically set after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, WandaVision follows Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and the mysteriously resurrected Vision (Paul Bettany) as they try to adjust to normal life as husband and wife, in the suburban city of Westview, New Jersey. However, nothing is what it seems, and their troubles start as soon as they move into their new house.

The first great surprise of WandaVision was the score and soundtrack, led by the Frozen and Frozen 2 duo, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. They quickly captured the spirit of the show and created the most original, catchy soundtrack since Let it Go. The song Agatha All Along is likely to live rent-free in everyone’s mind for a very long time.

Additionally, each episode of WandaVision resembles and pays homage to a specific decade of sitcom history, with the first two episodes recorded in black-and-white, and in front of a live audience. Costume and set design did a phenomenal job throughout the series, and you can distinctly see where the visual references were coming from, down to the smallest details.

WandaVision / Marvel Studios

And It was a real treat to watch how naturally Olsen and Bettany work together, whether they’re madly in love or fighting the bad guys. Their chemistry is beyond natural, and both of them are perfect as a couple. The love and happiness their characters display transcend the imagination, but so do Wanda’s pain and grief. Elizabeth Olsen is a master actor, and her range is absurd. She completely disappears into her character, giving Wanda space to communicate a huge scope of emotions, from happy 1950s housewife to present-day Wanda with villain tendencies.

The song Agatha All Along is likely to live rent-free in everyone’s mind for a very long time.

Ultimately, WandaVision‘s success was due to an extremely well-written, character-based story. Both Jac Schaeffer and Matt Shakman knew from the beginning what they were trying to accomplish by exploring Wanda’s unbearable grief and give her the chance to grow into the legendary sorceress known as the Scarlet Witch. Nothing more, nothing less.

WandaVision was an experiment that worked out great. The level of dedication put in by those who created the show paid off by giving viewers the kind of television experience that we have not seen in a very long time. What’s next for Wanda and Vision after the show, we’re not sure. Elizabeth Olsen is reprising her role as the Scarlet Witch next year, on Doctor Strange in The Multiverse of Madness. However, there’s no doubt that wherever Marvel decides to take these two, we will be there to watch.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Review | God’s Own Country

God’s Own Country, written and directed by British filmmaker Francis Lee, is gay cinema at its finest.

Rough, dry, and sometimes hard to watch, the movie is a simple but empathetic story of newfound love between an unruly Yorkshire farmer, Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor), and a Romanian immigrant worker, Gheorghe Ionescu (Alec Secăreanu). When Johnny’s ailing father, Martin (Ian Hart), hires Gheorghe to help around their decadent family farm, the two young men discover a strong physical and emotional attraction to each other.

Debuting with great critical acclaims during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, God’s Own Country got nominated for Outstanding British Film at the British Academy Film Awards, the BAFTA, with Josh O’Connor winning for Best actor. O’Connor would later play Prince Charles on Netflix’s drama series, The Crown.

God’s Own Country / Picturehouse Entertainment

Director Francis Lee does a great job setting the tone for the movie during the first act, and viewers quickly understand that the Saxby are a broken family. Their farm is a land of pain and dreams never fully realized, a place where words of kindness were nonexistent, such lack of affection contrasting with Gheorghe’s calm and warmth.

And my favorite aspect about God’s Own Country is how Lee sets his movie apart from the LGBTQ genre, where sadness generally permeates most scenes from beginning to end. As the story progresses, the sadness and discomfort so present in the first act subdue to hope, healing and acceptance.

God’s Own Country is a beautiful little gem in the LGBTQ movie scene – a singular piece about finding gentleness in the roughest places. Three years after its release, God’s Own Country remains a great addition to every watchlist.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Review | Pelé

Pelé, Netflix’s newest documentary about the legendary Brazilian soccer player, is a disappointing and incomplete account of the life of the man known to be the greatest soccer player of all time. Directed by Ben Nicholas and David Tryhorn, the documentary is often dark and gloomy, as it revisits its subject’s life from its humble beginnings to the glorious days of his career.

Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé is a star like no other. Considered by FIFA as the world’s greatest player, and voted by the International Federation of Football and Statistics (IFFS) as World Player of the Century, Pelé was named by Time as one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century and is by many considered the “king of soccer”.

But Pelé’s life was not all glory and accolades, and not addressing his transgressions is a great disservice to the story. Although the documentary briefly mentions the player’s friendship with authoritarian Brazilian president, Emilio Garrastazu Médici, and suggests that his lack of political positioning was beneficial to his career during the country’s dictatorship, one of the cruelest in Latin America, it didn’t surprise me that the matter wasn’t discussed with more care and depth. Pelé has long been known for avoiding hard conversations.

Pelé / Netflix

It is unusual that the directors did not include interviews with Pelé’s family members, with the exception of his sister, Maria Lúcia do Nascimento. The commentary on his life is entirely done by former teammates, renowned sports journalists and politicians, such as former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso. All these exclusions make the documentary incomplete and one-sided.

On a positive note, deep care is given to illustrate the significance of Pelé’s life with black and white pictures on his days as a player for the Santos Futebol Clube, and impressive colored footage of his participation during various FIFA World Cup championships and street celebrations, which was to me the highlight of the documentary, and a huge contrast with the overall gloomy tone that carries throughout everything.

Therefore, it is unfortunate that a series of bad decisions by the directors turn Pelé into a cheap and mediocre documentary, one that, instead of commemorating the singular life of a legendary athlete, tries to paint him under a mushy and nostalgic light. And as Fernando Henrique Cardoso brilliantly said, “Pelé managed to weld his glory to the glory of Brazil. His myth is our myth,” but no one would know that by watching Pelé.

⭐️ ⭐️

Review | Blithe Spirit

Here’s my most honest advice about Edward Hall’s new comedy, Blithe Spirit: sit this one out. Set to be released this week in most theaters nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic, you really shouldn’t risk your health for a movie that will have you bored out of your mind within the first hour.

Adapted from a 1941 play created by Nöel Coward, Blithe Spirit tells the story of an uninspired writer, Charles Condomine (Dan Steve), who hires a medium, Madame Arcati (Judi Dench), to perform a seance at his house in the hopes to gather material for his novel. When Madame Arcati accidentally brings back the spirit of his dead ex-wife, Elvira (Leslie Mann), Condomine’s caught in an unconventional love triangle between his new wife, Ruth (Isla Fisher), and the ghost of the dead one.

Blithe Spirit / Protagonist Pictures


Although Blithe Spirit is considered a classic play, Edward Hall turned a theatrical masterpiece into a mess. It is surprising to know that Hall spent his career as a theater director and on shows like Downton Abbey and The Durrels in Corfu. Set and costume design also failed to deliver, making me feel like I had just watched a 95 minutes long school play.

It was also unfortunate that two great, funny actors like Leslie Mann and Isla Fisher were not only underused but had their characters become victims of the woman against woman trope. And speaking about acting, Judi Dench remains a mystery. Is she just having fun being part of bad movies or going through a bad-luck phase in her decades-long acting career?

Going in – virtually – not knowing what to expect and just with the trailer as a reference, Blithe Spirit was a very disappointing experience, but one that, fortunately, was free and that I could watch from my couch.

Review | Judas and the Black Messiah

Over the past couple of years, very few movies have impacted me like Judas and the Black Messiah. From the electrifying opening credits to its tragic conclusion, Shaka King’s new directorial masterpiece hit me like a ton of bricks. Debuting on the heels of the first anniversary of the brutal assassination of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the hands of police officers, Judas and the Black Messiah is a clear reminder that little has changed in the United States when it comes to civil rights.

Set in the late 1960s, Judas and the Black Messiah recounts the betrayal and subsequent murder of Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya), a freedom fighter and chairman of the Black Panther Party chapter in Chicago, Illinois. When a criminal named William O’Neal (Lakeith Stanfield) agrees to infiltrate the organization in exchange of having felony chargers being dropped, Hampton becomes the victim of an elaborated plan by the FBI to take him down.

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Glenn Wilson

Judas and the Black Messiah is a superb cinematic experience. Viewers should expect to be ripped from their reality and thrown into a moment in history marked by the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., protests, violence and the creation of the Rainbow Coalition – a progressive racial alliance founded by Hampton himself, to fight poverty and police brutality. Such time travel being a testament to the great work of cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, and production-designer Sam Lisenco.

The acting is on point, and both Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield lose themselves in their roles. I love to watch them reunited on screen, four years after their outstanding performance in Get Out, by director Jordan Peele. When Kaluuya delivers his lines, it makes almost impossible not to feel like you, too, want to join the revolution. But it is Lakeith Stanfield who shines, his performance excruciatingly making you question if the burden of betraying his brothers and sister eventually played a part on O’Neal’s decision to end his own life in the winter of 1990.

Judas and the Black Messiah is a masterpiece like no other, the kind of movie that will stand the test of time and become a clear point of reference in our conversation about police brutality and civil rights. With the award season already underway, it remains to be seen if Shaka King will get the love and recognition he deserves, or have his name added to the always-growing list of Black talent being shut out from big nominations.

An experience worth of your time and money, Judas and the Black Messiah debuts HBOMax on February 12th, 2021.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Review | Finding ‘Ohana

Finding ‘Ohana debuted on Netflix this weekend, and it’s already one of my favorite movies this year. Directed by Jude Weng, a Taiwan-born American director who made a name for herself behind the camera on shows like Black-ish and Fresh off the Boat, Finding ‘Ohana is a fast paced, family friendly adventure about uncovering pirate treasures and mending broken relationships with loved ones.

Taking advantage of the beautiful island of Oahu as a backdrop for its story, Finding ‘Ohana shows what happens when two New York raised, always-bickering siblings, Pili (Kea Peahu) and Ioane (Alex Aiono), are forced to spend summer in Hawaii with their mother, and help their estranged grandpa recover from a heart attack. Their troubles start when Pili comes across an old pirate journal and decides to search for its treasure.

Finding ‘Ohana is a captivating experience from beginning to end – it’s only problem being that it runs a bit too long. However, it is highly entertaining, funny, and parents won’t have much problems keeping the little ones engaged.

JENNIFER ROSE CLASEN/NETFLIX © 2021

The movie is also a great push by Netflix towards representation. Filmed in Hawaii, most of its cast is local and brings back veteran actors Kelly Hu, who played the character Lady Deathstrike in 2003 X2: X-Men United, and Branscomb Richmond. And, speaking as someone who’s trying to raise a multicultural family myself, I loved the simplicity of how the movie shows the importance of knowing where you came from.

For those who enjoyed classics like “The Goonies”, or even more modern movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Tomb Raider, Finding ‘Ohana may be just the perfect watch for you and your family.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐