He SAID: Street Justice… Fuqua Style

Scott F. Evans

I’m going to heap almost nothing but praise on Antoine Fuqua’s big screen interpretation of The Equalizer, so prepare yourself.

Got it?

Good.

equalizer7I love this movie. Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk made the smart choice to not do a faithful adaptation or a parody of the mid-80’s CBS television series. Instead this is something of an origin story, on how “retired” spy Robert McCall decides to dedicate his life helping those in need. They’ve altered the ‘James Bond in retirement’ hook a bit, adding a nice element to explain why the character seems to lead such a simple life and why he struggles with it. Even calling this iteration of McCall a spy seems inaccurate, because he’s much more than that. The filmmakers also resisted the urge to make it TV friendly by softening the violence. Make no mistake, the film has a hard R rating for language and graphic violence. This is not your father’s The Equalizer.

equalizer4Antoine Fuqua needs to work more. It’s true that his films may be hit or miss, but that’s usually a result of shoddy screenplays. Visually, he stands with the best of the modern action directors. The Equalizer is filled with perfectly framed hero shots that showcase exactly what this film is selling. This is everything The Expendables franchise wishes it was. Fuqua’s classic shooting style never overwhelms the narrative with distracting cinematography. Camera movement is coherent and justified. Some of the fight scenes on this one are slightly over edited but they’re never confusing. Viewers are always 100 percent clear on what’s happening onscreen, even if the scene itself is chaotic. He’s also good with actors, consistently getting solid work from his cast. There’s not one phony performance in this entire piece.

As Robert McCall, Denzel Washington delivers another excellent performance. He brings nuance to the character that’s vastly different from the original.equalizer5 Instead of the archetypal suave former government operative, this performance is maybe a more realistic one. He’s done some things in his past and as a result has got a seriously damaged psyche. This McCall is haunted and strains to maintain control of his dark side. But Washington never falls back on clichéd acting choices. He doesn’t show much surface emotion in this film, instead opting for subtle, easily missed changes in facial expression or even smaller shifts in his eyes. It looks so effortless, untrained viewers may think he’s phoning it in, repeating bits from recent bad-ass roles. They’d be wrong. He’s doing something much different from what he did in 2004’s Man on Fire (which The Equalizer most closely resembles).

equalizer3The supporting cast shines as well. Chloe Grace Moretz turns in a nicely restrained performance as Teri, a prostitute employed by vicious Russian mobsters. She’s essential to the plot, as what happens to her sets McCall in motion, but the trailers oversell her actual screentime. Marton Csokas as the aforementioned vicious Russian mobster Teddy is equalizer8the other standout star in The Equalizer. He’s able to elevate what was probably, on paper, the standard overly sophisticated Eastern European bad guy role. You’ve seen this part before, and in the wrong hands, it’s every villain in every direct-to-video action movie since Die Hard. But Csokas brings such an efficient ruthlessness to it, the character seems fresh. Teddy and McCall are in many ways mirror images. Two highly skilled men with violent pasts who take great pleasure in their work. But where McCall fights to control that part of himself, becoming a near recluse because of it, Teddy relishes in it and works in an industry that allows him to thrive.

The Equalizer leaves the door open for franchise opportunities, but it works fine as a one and done. Anything after this first outing runs the risk of becoming formulaic and stagnant pretty quickly. That being said, this is the kind of film that Hollywood should make more of. Good, mid budgeted, thoughtful genre films. Not dopey, insanely expensive spectacles that can’t turn a profit until they approach that billion dollar mark or smarter but micro-budgeted indies that can’t compete in the crowded theatrical market. Action romps do not have to be stupid. They don’t have to cost a hundred million plus.

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RATING: See this film in theaters. Support quality adult genre film-making.

 

 

She SAID: Matte Season

Shahada Karim

Forget about the actual weather for a minute (let’s face it, it’s still hot as hell in some places), and celebrate the official arrival of Autumn. Ideally, a shift to cooler temperatures means a switch from sundresses to sweaters. In makeup, the finish shifts from Summer sheers to Autumn mattes.

The good news is, there are plenty of matte formulas from foundation to lipsticks to choose from. The bad news is, all mattes are not created equal. Simply removing the ‘shimmer’ from a product is not enough. Formulas have to perform on multiple platforms, from visual finish to staying power.

givenchyTom Ford got ahead of the foundation game with the new release of the Traceless Perfection Foundation. But new is not always better. There are still plenty of matte formulations to choose from, that work as well as the newest offer from the luxury makeup brand. Givenchy is holding true with Teint Couture Fluid Makeup, and if you can deal with the applicator… Armani’s Maestro Fluid Makeup still packs the most punch with the least weight. Urban Decay’s NAKED foundation sets within seconds, and stays put until you take it off. All have demi to full matte finishes, without the weight or ‘cakey’ finish associated with many formulations.

Matte formulas set the best canvas for the most ‘natural’ looking contour. We’re over the moon for Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze and Glow. It’s the only thing that takes our mind off of the now extinct Chanel Notorious (if anyone finds another one for sale, find me. No… seriously). Kevyn Aucoin offers the perfect contour shade for medium to deeper skin tones.  The Sculpting Powder in Medium creates the suggestion of a shadow, instead of a full on dirt streak under the cheekbones or alone the bridge of the nose.

You can still get away with a low shimmer or satin finish with blush, but if you’re going for full matte you’d be hard pressed to do better than MAC. The company still offers the most accessible range of matte colors. Bobbi Brown comes in a close second, with colors that range from bright pink to deep cocoamiragered.

Autumn is the perfect time to take a break from all of those shimmer eyeshadow shades, and settle into rich matte colors. If you’re a sucker for neutrals, Tom Ford’s Cocoa Mirage is a winner. The oldie but goodie still delivers strong color that stays put for hours. Charlotte Tilbury (who worked on Tom Ford) released the Sophisticate eyeshadow quad, which is also matte. Individualists can express themselves to their heart’s content single Artist Shadows from MAKE UP FOR EVER, which allow you to customize a palette to suit your personal taste.

Matte lipsticks can go either way; either they set off an entire look or date it all to be damned. Unless you want to go around looking like your Great Aunt Edna, stick with the  mantra that less is more. Instead of going straight from the bullet, try dabbing the color on with fingertips and layering until you get the color you want. It’ll stay a lot longer that way too. Our favorite formulas are yet to come: Both Tom Ford and Charlotte Tilbury are releasing matte formulas that are as light as they are saturated with color.

 

 

 

We SAID: Fall Into Skin Care

Staff Writer

Autumn is here! Time to break out the sweaters and make the most of this transitional weather. We scoured the best beauty cabinets on the planet for the most effective transitional products, to carry you into the new season with ease.

CLEANSERS

We can’t think of a more ‘Autumn appropriate’ cleanser than Darphin Aromatic Cleansing Balm. It’s the smell. It just smells like falling leaves and fireplaces (Rosewood Essential Oil is the reason) and natural yummy goodness. Best suited to the driest skin types, this balm melts away makeup and just about anything else that ails you. It goes on like Vaseline, but emulsifies on contact with water and rinses away to leave your skin soft and residue-free.

Marula Cleansing Lotion performs the same task, with a lighter touch. It goes on a like a lotion and stays that way, even when you wash it away. We found it works best with a damp cloth.

Oily/Combination Skin Types might do best with Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip. It contains refined clay, to help extract impurities and  minimize pores. It also pulls double duty as a quick mask: lather it on and wait a few minutes before washing it off. Works like a dream.

EXFOLIATORS

One of the best ways to shed any Summer skin damage is with an effective exfoliator. One of our favorite natural remedies is Eminence Yam & Pumpkin Peel. This enzyme-rich formula works quickly to break down dead skin cells and help reveal fresh, new skin.

Tammy Fender offers another natural alternative in the form of their refreshing Epi-Peel. They use Moroccan Rosemary to  help improve circulation, and oxygenate the skin… and Spearmint to detox. This formula is  best used like a mask: Apply to skin, wait a few minutes, then remove with a warm moist cloth.

If you simply don’t have time to wait for a formula to work, one of the fastest ways to get the same results is with an exfoliating pad. Radical Skincare Age Defying Pads are packed with Glycolic and Fruit Acids, to help exfoliate dead skin cells in a single swipe. They also contain Witch Hazel to disinfect, Coffee to stimulate, and Grape Seed Extracts to nourish.

MOISTURIZERS

hydra-globalWhen it comes to moisturizers we’ve learned two things: thicker formulas are not always the most effective. The weight of a moisturizer can sometimes have little to no bearing on how well it works (sometimes those heavy creams just ‘sit’ on the skin without ever penetrating the dermis).

One of our favorite examples is Sisley Hydra-Global. The cream-gel texture goes on light and sets matte. It’s full of essential goodies like marjoram, lavender, and sage… and uncommon ingredients like wild pansy (what?) and malachite extract. The formula is designed to help the skin ‘hold’ moisture without feeling heavy or greasy.

Tata Harper seems to have also mastered the ‘less is more’ moisturizing effect, in their Repairative Mositure formula. It’s specifically designed to soothe skin in colder and drier months, with Mango Butter and Aloe. Add to that the extensive (and impressive) list of organic and naturally sourced ingredients, and you’re looking at a moisturizer that dares you to need anything more for your basic skin care needs.

wei mingIf you’re just not into lotions for deep moisture and still want a cream formula, you’d be hard pressed to do better than WEI Royal Ming Firming Cream. This formula is best suited to the driest skin types, and uses Goji Berry, Chinese Angelica Complex and White Lotus to energize and moisturize the skin. It’s thick enough to double as an eye cream (hey, we’ve had to multi-task in a pinch), and since it helps to also minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkes… we’ll go ahead and call it a win.

 

He SAID: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Scott F Evans

Goddammit…

When I first heard that the latest film featuring Taraji Henson and Idris Elba was coming out, I was genuinely excited. Black lead films aren’t unique, but this wasn’t a romantic comedy, biopic, or historical drama. No Good Deed would be something thoroughly distinct from most modern African-American cinema… A thriller. A conventional suspense flick refreshingly free of broad comedy, social issues, politics, or religious undertones. Individually, Henson and Elba can be great with the right material. They’re even able to elevate mediocre work, just on the strength of their committed performances.

But this film might have been too tall an order, even with the abundance of talent between them.

nogoodeed1Henson plays our heroine Terri Granger, a smart former DA who’s found herself stagnant and trapped in suburbia hell. Elba is Colin Evans (no relation), a highly intelligent serial killer who suffers from ‘malignant narcissism.’ The two find each other on a cold rainy night, and terror ensues. Sort of.

The first warning sign is rating. Assigned the family friendly PG-13, No Good Deed was bound to be toothless. There are some writers and directors who can push that sterile rating to its limit, and create something that delivers both intensity and graphic thrills. But Aimee Lagos and Sam Miller are not among them. The film feels like it may have had an edgy beginning, but was sanitized along the way as different producers ( with their own agendas) came aboard. You can feel the restraints, as the narrative flinches every time it begins to wander into more adult territory. The murder scenes, which are an essential element to making these types of films work, are unremarkable in every way possible. Not only are they ponderous and unimaginative, they’re framed and edited in a way that completely rob them of any real impact.

nogoodeed2Lagos must have had the word “innocuous” written in the margins of every page of her script, because No Good Deed works overtime to solidify its rightful place as a Lifetime television rerun. You’d be hard pressed to find a screenplay more derivative and shallow. Interesting story ideas about race and class bubble just under the surface (maybe because of casting more than writing) that could have made this a minor masterpiece. But the writer flinches and never explores any of it. She never even bothers to explore the psychological aspects of an ex-district attorney protagonist versus a sociopathic serial killer.

This is also one of those stories where the antagonist is supposed to be so much smarter than everyonenogoodeed3 else. But instead of actually scripting an intelligent character, the writer has to make everyone around him completely inept. There’s also a ridiculous twist in the third act that is not only irrelevant and unearned… it changes the narrative to send a disturbing message about Black males. No Good Deed is a watered down, subtly racist, exposition heavy TV movie script that’s peppered with a couple of F-bombs so it can pretend to be a movie for adults.

And that’s just the writing.

nogoodeed4When film schools need a modern example of the term “ham-fisted”, they need look no further than Miller’s direction. His TV roots betray him because No Good Deed looks like a network television show. The bulk of the film takes place in Atlanta, but it could have just as easily been shot on a theater stage. Throughout the movie, we are mostly contained to Granger’s McMansion. And Miller doesn’t even utilize the setting effectively. We’re given no solid visual information of how big or small the house is. The foyer and kitchen suggest the home is sizeable, but the bedrooms feel small and disconnected from the rest of the house. There’s a location change where Evans inexplicably forces Granger and her two young children to accompany him to the home of someone he killed earlier in the film. It’s visually confusing because the interior of this location looks exactly like the interior of the Granger home. I can’t even give him credit for getting strong performances from his leads because they are good in every film you’ve seen them in. He actually does them both a disservice with many of his directorial choices. Instead of letting Elba sell his fragile grip on sanity through – you know… ACTING – Miller uses trite audio and visual gimmicks whenever Elba is about to lose control. You’ve seen them in every lousy thriller ever made. The sound gets hollow, the picture flips about…

Goddammit…

…because I really wanted this movie to be good. Because it wasn’t the same basic three films Black people have been producing since the 1990’s.   Because I wanted to see a film where the two amazingly talented leads were allowed to be sexy and dangerous and even morally ambiguous. Taraji Henson is a fiery, gutsy performer. Idris Elba is the man that men want to be, and women want to be with. They’ve both got edge and aren’t afraid to get dirty. But here they are… stuck in this emasculated, Disney-fied thriller.

RATING: Rental (maybe)

She SAID: O-Beautiful

Shahada Karim

I’m just going to cut to the chase: this works. In a market saturated with products that promise the perfect balance of nature and science, The O-Live Skin Care collection from Phyto-C delivers on nearly every single promise.

DrOmarThe brand is spearheaded by Dr. Mostafa M. Omar. He serves as Professor of Pharmacognosy at the University of Rhode Island, School of Pharmacy. His cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical formulations are  based on modern application of ancient herbal medicine. Dr. Mostafa boasts 40 years of expert research and application, and an “Excellence Award in Research” by University of Rhode Island Alumni Association. So I really  had no problem trusting him with my acne-prone, sensitive skin.

When the Superheal O-Live Serum arrived at my door, I was dealing with cystic pimples oliveserumbrought on by too much stress and too little sleep. I incorporated the serum into my regular nighttime regimen, and began to see results in about 48 hours. After a week, my cystic pimples were gone and I had no new breakouts. To help the process along, I used the Superheal O-Live Mask twice a week. Within 3 weeks my skin was perfectly clear, with no evidence that I’d been a sensitive bumpy mess in the days prior.

olivemaskThese two items are now a permanent part of my ’emergency skin care’ kit. They work quickly (best overnight). I found that these are not everyday items; continued use left me a bit irritated around the nose and mouth. I dare say they are too powerful for regular use. Put me down as  a believer. Dr. Mostafa can handle my skin, and all of its many issues, any day.

He SAID: You’re The Worst

Christopher M. Enis

Like an experiment, but without the boring science part, like milligrams and elements and sh*t.“— Lindsay

Writer/Author Jimmy (Chris Geere) & music publicist Gretchen (Aya Cash) are not good people.  They meet at the wedding of Jimmy’s ex… after Jimmy gets thrown out for going off on the ex and Gretchen’s sneaks out after stealing a wedding gift.  These two young cynics get right down to business and have a long night of kind of revenge-y, kind of definitely crazy-stupid sex.   Afterwards, they decide they have a good thing going, so they decide to keep it up. They drag along Jimmy’s former college drug dealer and Gretchen’s enabling BFF along for the dysfunctional ride.

The set up is fitting for a show called You’re The Worst.

The storyline comes from the mind of Stephen Falk, who is also partially responsible for Orange Is The New Black and Weeds. Falk’s experience of working on two non-typical series comes in handy for You’re The Worst, which kind of sneaks up on you.

I say this because initially you’re suckered into thinking that you’re watching another lame Millennial Hot Mess sitcom that’s pretending to be ‘edgy’ — although in reality it’s just stupid. Instead, YTW starts to open you up to the idea that there’s more going on beneath the surface of these characters, and the atypical Los Angeles setting in which they exist.

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Although Jimmy and Gretchen are (appropriately) the worst, both characters are actually layered like an onion (a bitter, bitter onion).  Over the course of the first season, YTW has revealed the method of both of our anti-heroes vulgar and rude madness. Beneath their shallow, attractive exteriors there’s something resembling what one might consider a soul. We find out that both have been bruised and abused by life… and by their parents in particular. They both want love and acceptance, but are afraid of what comes along with it. And much like a dog that constantly chases cars, would be confused with what to do with it once they had it. So they put up these outer images that serve as shields to broken, scarred hearts.

Once you get past the show’s title (and the initial contact with these abrasive characters), you find that You’re The Worst is about putting up fronts, to shield what’s the most vulnerable in even the most cold hearted of us. It’s a DL romance that might just have you rooting for Jimmy and Gretchen, and in the process set the stage for the best rom-com  series of the year.

The season finale of  ‘You’re the Worst’ airs tonight on FX.

RATING: Must See