Movie Review: Tangerine

August 4, 2016

Tangerine (2015)
128 minutes
Rated – R
Directed by Sean Baker
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor


Grade: B+

If this is the movie that people talk about because it was shot on iPhones, then that’s too bad because Tangerine is truly a one-of-a-kind film. But yes, let’s address the elephant in the studio because I’ll be completely honest, this was probably the main reason why I checked out this film on Netflix a year after its release. Filming this movie on iPhones isn’t really a gimmick, it’s merely a perfect match for the style and tone Tangerine demands. It’s also an independent film, but if you can make a film at a fraction of the cost without losing anything, then why not?

There are plenty of films that want to create that edgy and grainy feel to enhance its voice as an art-house production, but that’s not the purpose during Tangerine. Using iPhones truly captures the frantic feel as we zigzag through the characters on the streets of Los Angeles. Sean Baker forces us into this tumultuous world that our main characters live in.

It’s Christmas Eve and Sin-Dee just got out of a 28-day prison sentence. She’s talking with her best friend, Alexandra, at the Donut Time and the film takes off when Alexandra leaks some information that her pimp (and boyfriend) cheated on her while she was in jail. Sin-Dee makes it her mission to find this girl and to bring it up to her boyfriend, Chester. This involves visiting everyone she knows, harassing drug dealers and defying any logic until she’s able to track down this girl that all she knows is white and whose name starts with a “D.”

Did I mention that Sin-Dee and Alexandra are transgender women? It’s not necessary to point that out, but it’s quite obvious once the movie begins and plays a very important role as the plot progresses. The amateur actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, are a riot and a pleasure to watch on screen. They’re loud, profane, and full of energy while displaying incredible chemistry with one another. They carry the film with their unique and bad-ass attitudes, delivering every single line with passion as if they were speaking to a sold-out arena.

Tangerine is a sad film, but told within a plot with many funny moments and naturally hilarious characters. There is never a moment when I felt like the film was overplaying the transgender angle, or the prostitution angle, or even the low-budget/iPhone angle. With diversity being such an important issue in Hollywood, it’s a miracle that this film was made and viewed by anyone. The result was a very well-made film that made dozens of critics’ top ten lists from 2015. It most definitely deserves all of the accolades and I am more than glad to have been able to watch this gem. Tangerine might not be ground-breaking, but it supports everything that needs to be changed with filmmaking. It celebrates the potential that a powerful and entertaining story has without passing it onto celebrities and million of dollars.

Oscars Nominations Predictions 2016

January 4, 2016

The polls have been open since December 30, and they will be closing later this week on Friday, January 8. The nominations won’t be announced until Thursday morning on January 14. In the time being, let’s make some predictions!

Best Picture

The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Big Short
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Notes: Obviously I have no idea how many nominations there will be this year, but I think assuming there will be 8 or 9 is a safe bet. That being said, I did rank them in order with the movies I’m more certain about at the top. I really believe my top five are definitely receiving a Best Picture nomination, but from The Revenant and below, I’m not so sure. I do have Star Wars as my 8th ranked film, so yes, I do believe the positive reviews plus the enormous box office total will push it above the more traditional and small Oscar films like Brooklyn and Room.

Best Director

Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Alternate: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)

Notes: Right now, Spotlight seems to be the front-runner all around, but I still believe that Ridley Scott has a very good chance at winning this award. With three nominations and zero wins, this might be the 78-year-old’s last chance at winning this award. Meanwhile, George Miller has a lot of momentum throughout awards season. This will be his first Best Director nomination. Can Inarritu repeat Best Director two years in a row? Don’t count on it because I don’t have him being nominated, but he definitely could spoil the likes of Haynes or McKay come Thursday.

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
Will Smith (Concussion)
Alternative 1: Johnny Depp (Black Mass)
Alternative 2: Matt Damon (The Martian)

Notes: Could this finally be Leo DiCaprio’s year he wins an Oscar? I’m saying yes and many experts also agree that this will be his year. First off, he’s well over-due for the golden statue and number two, this isn’t a crazy competitive year. Sure, Fassbender, Cranston, and Redmayne are practically locks to receiving a nomination, but who will sneak into that fifth slot? I’m guessing Will Smith, but it can very well be Depp or Damon.

Best Actress

Brie Larson (Room)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Supporting Actor

Michael Keaton (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Paul Dano (Love and Mercy)
Alternative: Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation)

Notes: Keaton lost to Redmayne last year in the Best Actor race. Not that he doesn’t deserve it for his performance alone, but it’ll definitely help get him some sympathy votes this year for the Best Supporting Actor race.

Best Supporting Actress

Rooney Mara (Carol)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Best Original Screenplay

The Hateful Eight
Inside Out
Bridge of Spies
Straight Outta Compton

Best Adapted Screenplay

Steve Jobs
The Big Short
The Martian

Sufjan Stevens @ Loew’s Landmark Theatre, Jersey City (Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015)

November 1, 2015

Went to this concert with Vivenzio on Halloween night. We were both looking forward to this show and as we glanced at the setlist from prior shows, we knew that Sufjan would be playing every song off of his latest album “Carrie & Lowell.” This forced us to listen to the new album instead of hoping he would play tracks from his whole catalog, but this was a blessing in disguise because “Carrie & Lowell” is a masterpiece. Written about the death of his mom who abandoned him when he was younger, Sufjan addresses the pain and confusion dealing with his personal tragedies with beautifully simplistic songs, usually with just an acoustic guitar and his whispering voice. The best word I can use to describe the experience of the album is “haunting.”

To no surprise, the concert experience was the same way. In front of a sold out crowd in Jersey City, Sufjan played an amazing set, stripped down to merely his acoustic guitar and himself. He had four band members playing back-up instrumentals and vocals, but this was definitely the Sufjan Stevens show. It was also one of the darkest concerts I have attended, without a single person taking out their cell phone to take pictures or videos. Everyone was mesmerized by the magic of Sufjan’s voice and finger-picked guitar riffs. From the first song of the night, “Death with Dignity,” home videos of Sufjan’s childhood were displayed behind him. It set the tone for the night, that he was going to invite all of us to some of the most personal moments that he can remember, some being painful and others more accepting. The audience listened to every lyric and every note played with their undivided attention.

During the first 80 minutes of the performance, Sufjan didn’t speak one word to the audience. Not even a simple “hello,” but instead played his songs with an efficient light show up on the stage to a respectful and seated packed auditorium. And as incredible the album is, some of Sufjan’s live versions of his songs were even better. Those highlights include: John My Beloved, Fourth of July, and All of Me Wants All of You. These live interpretations stood out from the rest of the pack. Also, as Sufjan ended his set with Blue Bucket of Gold, this resulted in a ten-minute jam session of crasing drums, wild guitar melodies, and a never-ending synth loop with a crescendo to fill your ears of so much noise you wouldn’t think possible.

The encore had a much different tone. He finally spoke to the audience, thanking us for the applause and then telling us “Happy Halloween.” What better night is there to sing songs about death? He then dipped into his catalog and played some of my favorites such as For the Widows in Paradise For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti and John Wayne Gacy Jr. He also played an acoustic version of Chicago, probably his most well-known song. But to truly end the night on a high note, Sufjan with his opener Gallant, played a cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and it was both hilarious and awesome. It was really nice to see Sufjan just let loose by busting some dance moves while singing “You used to call me on my cell phone!”

Overall, this concert only fortifies my feeling that Sufjan puts on one of the best live shows in the business today. Seeing him during his Age of Adz tour and now with Carrie & Lowell, you couldn’t pick two shows more different than these two from the same artist, but both were equally spectacular. I can’t wait for Sufjan to come around again… maybe in another four or five years.


1. Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou)
2. Death with Dignity
3. Should Have Known Better
4. Drawn to the Blood
5. Eugene
6. John My Beloved
7. The Only Thing
8. Fourth of July
9. No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
10. Carrie & Lowell
11. All of Me Wants All of You
12. Vesuvius
13. I Want to Be Well
14. Blue Bucket of Gold


15. Futile Devices
16. For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
17. John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
18. Chicago
19. Hotline Bling

Mr. Robot – “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi”

September 4, 2015

Season One, Episode Ten


Grade: B+

Season One Grade: A

After two incredibly thrilling episodes back-to-back, it was impossible for Mr. Robot to keep its foot on the acceleration pedal through the first season’s finale. But we did get answers, and boy did they ever give us the results we wanted. Or did we? It’s easy to go along for the ride with Fsociety and say “F the world! Hack them all!” because we’re not a part of that world. If this was really a possibility, would we go along with it? That’s the dilemma here but it’s not what the main story is about during the finale.

Elliot wakes up in the driver seat inside Tyrell’s car. Apparently he’s been missing for days and whatever happened after he explained the plan to Tyrell, Elliot doesn’t remember (and therefore neither do we). What we do know is that the hack went through and the world is now in panic mode except for a few people. Let’s break them down.

Darlene is loving life right now that, and despite her other fellow hackers of Fsociety not exactly thrilled like she is, they all know what kind of difference they’ve just made. The world is now without debt and there doesn’t seem to be a way that the White House or E Corp can fix it. The global economy is a mess and everyone is now in a world where they cannot use credit cards or access their bank records. But what is there really to celebrate?

Angela isn’t exactly in panic mode, nor is she excited about what’s happening. She ends up taking that job at Evil Corp but she doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. It’s strange for her to be working in the same company that she was in a legal battle over. It’s the same company that almost directly killed her mother, yet here she is, just another part of the powerful and heartless organization. She even does her part as her heart is as hard as stone after her boss kills himself during a live interview. But Phillip Price, the CEO of E Corp, is able to influence her to simply get new shoes and attend the afternoon press conference.

As for Phillip, he is incredibly calm and collected after what has just happened. Angela even brings it up and his response was more a distraction than a direct answer. He says that people caused this mess, and he’s sure that people will turn things around eventually. The most important role we see Phillip take part in was the after-credits scene between him and the White Rose. A great way to hint that there is something we’re not seeing yet, and by we I mean Elliot and Fsociety. Could they be part of the Dark Army maybe?

As for Elliot, he goes through most of the episode trying to figure out what the hell happened and why he can’t remember anything. Last thing he remembers was telling Tyrell the whole plan, and the next thing he knows it the hack was successfully damaging. Though the world is now free of its debt, Elliot will never be free of his family, including his father Mr. Robot. It was predictable that Mr. Robot wasn’t real, but what’s interesting now is how Mr. Robot is playing the alter-ego. Elliot struggles to believe in everything that’s happening. He doesn’t want the people protesting and rioting in the streets. He doesn’t want the world to be crumbling and society to be rebranded. But Mr. Robot does and he’s just a part of Elliot’s subconscious. And like what Mr. Robot and the family said, Elliot can’t get rid of them. They’re a part of him forever.

It’s sort of a cheap trick to skip through the actual hacking that flipped the world upside-down, but it’s a useful technique to keep us invested towards the second season. We still want to know what happened during those days Elliott doesn’t remember. And to end the season with a knocking on Elliot’s door only intensifies the feeling. It has to be Tyrell though, right?

Before I go, I just want to mention that pre-opening credit scene between Krista and Lenny. He’s trying to make a case with the police to locate Elliot and have him arrested for hacking him. Sure, he’s a sleaze-bag but he does have a point, but like the police told him he’s going to need a lot of proof to put him away. Can we assume this is going to at least be one of the plots in the second season?


Fear the Walking Dead – “So Close, Yet So Far”

September 3, 2015

Season One, Episode Two


Grade: B+

I’m trying my best not to compare Fear to The Walking Dead, but one thing has been a glaring similarity: the show kills off its black characters. It’s been a criticism since the second season of The Walking Dead, which has now killed off more than a dozen supporting characters (T-Dog, Bob, Tyreese, and Noah just to name a few). It’s only been two episodes for Fear to kill off THREE supporting black characters: Art, Matt, and Calvin. The show-runners have to be aware of this criticism, but have no intention of turning it around whatsoever.

Okay, now that’s out of my system I’ll say that I did enjoy the second episode. One thing that Fear is doing well that TWD also succeeds in is showing how sometimes people can be a lot more frightening than the undead. The world in Fear is still in the “confusion” state, but we’re quickly moving forward into the chaos stage a bit prematurely. The chaos is beginning not because the world is understanding what’s going on, it’s because it has no idea why police are shooting people point-blank. The reactions of the crowds certainly trigger some current events, but that’s the point.

One of the scenes worth acknowledging was when we saw a police officer filling his trunk with bottled water. It’s clear he, along with other authority, knows that something is happening. Whether he’s aware that a zombie apocalypse is around the corner isn’t relevant. It’s how things are escalating so fast that there’s not time for the world to figure out what’s happening. Just like Tobias said, how can you prepare for something catastrophic that’s happening the same day?

As for Tobias, I’m going to miss him. I really expected him to join Madison and her family but he’s likely aware that he has a better chance surviving on his own, since he’s the only one who seems to know exactly what’s going on. Still, the show could use his narration and voice of reason to speed everyone up to pace. What’s disappointing is how it seems like Travis’ ex-wife and teenage son, Christopher, is going to be around for at least a little while. Who knows, maybe they’ll actually be developed into great characters but as for right now, they’re the two I wish would get bit.

I’m not a fan of splitting up Madison and Travis so early on in the series. During the pilot they had great on-screen chemistry and the show will suffer without them together. At least Nick took a backseat during this episode as he was going through withdrawal. What Fear is doing well this early on in the season is engaging the audience despite us knowing what’s going to happen next. We’re witnessing the chaos alongside Madison and Travis and putting ourselves in their shoes, wondering if we would make the same decisions that they made. For now, this is as good as it can get, but can Fear keep moving forward before the shit hits the fan?

But while the streets have turned violent, there is the barber and his family who takes in Travis, Liza, and Christopher. There is something that tells me the barber is going to have more to play in this season. His wife seems to realize something bad is happening as she prays, but the barber is more alert, first to the strangers inside of his home and second to the madness that has erupted outside. It should be fun to watch how that plays out, but I’m hoping Travis makes his way back to Madison real soon.

Podcast: The War on Pop Culture

August 27, 2015

I would like to present my new podcast, The War on Pop Culture.

This is a new project with my good buddy Mike V. where we discuss all things pop culture, but mainly movies, television, and music. We just posted our very first episode. Please check it out!

Fear the Walking Dead – “Pilot”

August 24, 2015

Season One, Episode One


Grade: B

Well what do you think Walking Dead fans? I’m sure you’re mostly disappointed with the pilot of the spin-off series, mainly because it was pretty dull. What Walking Dead fans want during the months without traveling alongside Rick and Daryl is more zombie chaos! Unfortunately for those, there weren’t many in the Fear the Walking Dead pilot. Instead, it did something that the Walking Dead didn’t from the beginning, establish and fortify a backbone of its core characters.

The core consists of a happy and smart family, and their junkie child. Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her fiance Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) both work at the high school. Madison is a guidance counselor and Travis is an English teacher. Madison’s daughter, Alicia, is smart and for the time being, not an absolute brat. But Madison’s other child, Nick, is a handful. The show opens up with Nick waking up from one of his loaded nights in an abandoned church where him and other junkies spend a lot of time in. As he searches for Gloria, he witnesses death and eventually, the sight of Gloria eating another junkie. He runs out into the daylight only to be hit by a car from behind.

That opening scene was pretty cool, but it gave the audience a false hope of what to expect for the rest of the pilot, which ends up being very tame and not scary at all. But that’s okay, because in this series the outbreak hasn’t occurred yet. In Fear, we’re going to live through the central family and the citizens of Los Angeles as the chaos begins. It might not be as cool and fun as The Walking Dead’s first season, but it might very well be more interesting (if done right).

One thing that I was fond of during the pilot was how much I actually liked the family. Dickens and Curtis do a great job at coming off as a couple who genuinely care about their family, their jobs, and each other. This is good and bad though, because while I’ll surely be rooting for them throughout the inevitable collapse of society, it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be in any real danger throughout this series, which is half the fun watching a show like this. Just look at the death totals of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. Knowing that any character could die at any time keeps the audience on its toes. Can you really see either Madison or Travis dying anytime soon? It’s highly doubtful.

But while this series might play off like a tamer version of The Walking Dead, at least here we have diversity from the get-go, though already an African American character has been killed off. Will Alicia’s boyfriend be next?

So what can we expect from Fear the Walking Dead? I expect to be stuck in the “confusion” stage for most of this first season, and maybe a finale turning to chaos. Whatever the case, I’m willing to continue to watch this tight family will themselves to stay alive and fight for each other’s survival, except maybe for Nick. We can also assume that the group will expand to more than just the immediate family, but it’s safe to declare that Madison and Travis will be the driving force of this series. Is that good enough? It’s good enough for me, for now.

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