She SAID: Get the Glow

Shahada Karim

Summer may not have arrived in official capacity, but that hasn’t stopped legions of beauties from acquiring bronzer by the ton. The quest to look ever ‘sun kissed’ is more abronze 1live than ever. This season, the top beauty brands are getting in on the hype with a series of new releases.

Always one to put presentation above all else, Chanel’s latest bronze addition is shaped as the company’s signature camellia flower. The decidedly darker hue goes on with a subtle shimmer, and works better as a contour than an all over color. Some can even get away with wearing it as a blush.

Tom Ford continues the trend of his ‘clutch sized’ products with the release of miniature versions of bronze 2the bronzers in Terra (semi-matte) and Gold Dust (shimmer). At a fraction in size of their larger counterparts (but only $30 less), it’s really a matter of personal preference whether these are worth it. Two of the miniatures would cost more than one of the larger bronzers, and still amount to less product. But if you’re one to carry bronzer around in your purse for quick touch ups, we get it.bronze 3

NARS went big for the season, with an cool-toned, limited edition version of its bestselling Laguna bronzer. The massive compact comes with a brush, and imparts a decidedly neutral glow (not fake bake) on just about any skin tone. Like Chanel, this bronzer works better as a contour. It also offers the most bang for your buck, costing about $60 for more (.35) than the Tom Ford (.29) version.

Despite the universal sun-kissed result, bronzers are as individual as the people who wear them. We suggest trying before you buy (and testing them out in natural sunlight) because the right bronzer can make the difference between a glow, and a glaring error in judgement.

He SAID: Yes to Ex Machina

Scott F. Evans

Ex Machina gets right what so many (much more expensive) sci-fi films get wrong. It doesn’t try to dazzle us with spectacle and effects. It doesn’t try to impress us with its mastery of technobabble. It doesn’t get bogged down with pompous machina 3performances. Alex Garland’s directorial debut is direct and truly thoughtful.

Garland, who is known primarily as a screenwriter, crafts yet another cautionary tale on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence. Ex Machina could be the spiritual predecessor to The Terminator, The Matrix and every other film where A.I. runs amok. But Garland has much more on his mind than rampaging killer robots at war with humanity for world domination. He’s more interested in telling an intimate story where the stakes (while low for blockbuster standards) are actually much higher than they seem. Code writer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is tasked by his boss Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to test the effectiveness of a new bit machina1of technology he has created. The tech is Eva (Alicia Vikander), a female robot with artificial intelligence. Caleb has seven days to determine if Eva’s A.I. is advanced enough to pass as real human emotion.

The performances in Ex Machina are stellar across the board. Each one is underplayed and natural despite some tech heavy dialogue. Gleeson is our de facto lead, and he delivers the right amount of innocence without being too precious or cloying. He’s smart, but he’s also sort of a pathetic nerd. Gleeson rides it right downmachina 4 the middle, finding the perfect balance between the two.

Vikander is equally as good. She plays Eva with just the right amount of otherworldly quirk and detachment. Her artificiality is never an issue, as much of her circuitry and machining are on full display. Nathan hasn’t finished fully assembling her yet. But Vikander brings a nice mixture of caution and curiosity to Eva, and manages to come off equally shy and seductive.

machina 2Isaac steals this movie from the both of them. Nathan is probably insane, due no doubt to a combination of extreme wealth, isolation and alcoholism. A lesser film would have had him play it much more obvious, giving Nathan a bunch of surface eccentricities and bizarre appearance. Not here. Isaac has a strong screen presence and he pours that charisma into the character. Nathan’s a bit of an asshole, but you get the feeling that his circumstances forces him to be that way. Isaac plays him so relaxed and with such lucidity that you find yourself rooting for him.

Garland’s direction is beautifully sparse. His camera is nonintrusive. He lets the performances sell the film, and focuses on his actors instead of elaborate shot machina 6choices or jarring edits. The set design, like the film’s science, is well thought out but unobtrusive. Garland doesn’t want to distract us from the story with fanciful visuals. The effects are all fairly low key and serve the story, and his script follows suit. Although he presents big ideas that demand your attention, Garland doesn’t beat us up for not being MIT graduates. You won’t need an advanced engineering degree to enjoy Ex Machina.

The leads are all extremely smart people, but they talk or relate to one another like nerdy techno elites. Caleb is attracted to Eva’s femininity. Eva may (or may  not) have a crush on Caleb. Nathan treats Eva like a daughter, and Nathan and Caleb bond over drinks and talk about women.

machina 5This is what makes Ex Machina work so well and why it stands head and shoulders above its peers. It resists the cliché. Eva has no interest in the extinction of the human race and doesn’t necessarily long to be a “real girl.” Nathan doesn’t want an army of killer robots to take over the world.   Caleb isn’t the chosen hero, the only one that capable of saving us from the robot terror. As a matter of fact, there really isn’t even a hero or villain in this film. Just three individuals with exceedingly human needs and desires.

See this. Support intelligent sci-fi.

RATING: Theater

He SAID: DAREDEVIL the Stripped Down Superhero

Christopher M. Enis
The next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in play, with the release of Daredevildaredevil1 on Netflix. It’s the first of five series (A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders are the other four) that will be released on the streaming network over the next two years.
Daredevil is Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), who was blinded as a child while saving a man from being hit by a truck carrying unknown chemicals. Those chemicals took his sight, but enhanced his remaining senses. The combination gives him what’s know among Comic Book fans as ‘Radar Sense’ or ‘Fire Vision.’ Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to get it right away. All will be revealed in time.
daredevil3Murdock was born, and continues to live in Hell’s Kitchen, a historically Irish neighborhood in Manhattan.  He was raised by his father, Jack (John Patrick Hayden), who as a boxer instilled the desire to keep fighting… and incidentally, the ability to take one heck of a beating. These ‘skills’, coupled with a strong dose of Catholic Guilt, are the building blocks of young Murdock’s moral code.

All grown up now, Murdock makes his living by day as a lawyer in a fledgling practice with best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and murder-suspect-turned-indespensibe-daredevil4right-hand Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). At night, he gears up and hits the streets as DareDevil, to clean up the mess in constant creation by Russian, Chinese and Japanese criminals. They all flock to one man (he who shall not be named) who claims it’s his desire to clean up the streets… even as he leaves a bloody trail of death and destruction in his wake. As DareDevil is but a mortal man, he daredevil6cannot survive without the help of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who faithfully patches him up as he expertly survives one epic beating after another.
Marvel’s Daredevil is more grounded and realistic than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point.  It’s not an extension of the big screen action (like ABC’s Agents Of SHIELD), but still a part of that world through mention of events that occur on both the big and small screen in real time.

The series succeeds on multiple levels.  For the comic book fans, it’s a relatively faithful adaptation. But the dialogue and situations are modernized and elevated to attract scores of new fans. Despite the PG-13 rating, the show pushes the limits. It’s decidedly more gritty and morally ambiguous than straightforward and absolute.
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Daredevil fully embraces the Netflix binge mentality, with the release Season One in its entirety. Season Two has already been greenlit, so there’s bound to be a lot more Marvel goodness coming down the pipeline. Comic book fan or not, this series is a must see. Do yourself a favor and block out a day (or two), shut off the phone, order in, and enjoy.

She SAID: NUDE for Every Body

Shahada Karim

“In order to make money… TRULY make money… you have to do two things: Sell something that makes people’s lives easier, and do it at a price point where people don’t feel like they have to spend too much to get it.”-‘Mr. Wonderful’ (Shark Tank)

The creator of Nubian Skin has introduced something so wonderfully simple and so desperately needed, nubianskin6the true crime is that someone didn’t come up with it sooner and commit to the idea long enough for it to take hold. In a world where brown skin is anything but just… BROWN… Ade Hassan is addressing the need for nude lingerie to flatter every hue.

SAID: They say necessity is the mother of invention. What is your personal experience with shopping for nude lingerie as a woman of color?

Hassan: I wanted a product that I couldn’t find in shops, so I decided to create it.  I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt the same way.

 SAID: When did you decide that enough was enough, and take the plunge to start your own company?

nubianskin1Hassan: I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I’ve always wanted my business to be fashion related. When I took 15 months off work several years ago, I decided to take sewing and pattern cutting classes. I had several ideas in the past, but ultimately this idea truly stuck. It was so essential for me, and I figured it had to be something other women of color would want. 

SAID: Did you find starting your own company challenging? How did you overcome those challenges?

Hassan: The biggest hurdle to overcome at the start was finding a good quality manufacturer.  As a new and small business, a lot of manufacturers simply didn’t respond to queries. Others were looking for incredibly high volumes, so it was tricky.  Once you actually secure a manufacturer, it’s always a battle to manage expectations. 

SAID: People of color come in a myriad of hues, with special shades and undertones that are unique and often individual. How do you adjust for this need when you source fabrics/materials/shades for different skin tones?

Hassan: More than a year’s worth of research went into the color selection.  No fabric will match anyone’s skin-tone exactly. But the aim of having ‘a different kind of nude’ is for women of color to nubianskin5have lingerie and hosiery that looks close to their skin colour and disappears under sheer or light colored clothing.  After a lot of research at make up counters and artists, and testing on countless women, we decided four colors would cover the majority of our target market.

SAID: Where is your largest market to date?

Hassan: Our largest market is in the United States. After that it is the United Kingdom and Europe. We’ve had orders from as far away as Australia.

SAID: Who wears Nubian Skin?

Hassan: Age, income, education isn’t so much the priority.  It’s a woman who cares about how she looks, and how she expresses herself and isn’t willing to settle.  She knows what she wants, and she goes for it.

nubianskin9SAID: How are celebrities responding to Nubian Skin?

Hassan: We received a tweet from Kerry Washington when we first launched. We’ve also had support from Thandie Newton!

SAID: How does one care for your beautiful garments, to ensure they last as long as possible?

Hassan: NEVER put your lingerie in the dryer!

SAID: What does the future hold for Nubian Skin?

Hassan: We have listened to our customers and will be releasing larger back sizes this Spring. Larger cup sizes will be available this Autumn. We also have some exciting products in the pipeline!

My dream is that Nubian Skin becomes a household name.  I can’t wait for the day any woman of color walks into a department store and can pick up a pair of Nubian Skin tights or bra.

He SAID: Furiously Signifying Nothing

Scott F. Evans

Furious 7 is cinematic Kool-Aid.  The latest film in the juggernaut “Fast” franchise is far too sweet, and ultimately not very good for you.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, it is a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
To be clear, Furious 7 isn’t all bad.  It’s a fireworks show: loud, bright, and empty. Fireworks shows furious1are great because they enter, dazzle you, and exit well short of an hour.  Furious 7 comes in loud and make no mistake… it does dazzle, but it overstays its welcome. With an almost two and a half hour run time, it’s easily 45 minutes too long.  The bloat makes the film feel overeager, desperately trying to outdo its predecessors and compete with cinematic peers.  It wants to be some bizarre hybrid mix of a superhero, espionage, and heist movie — but it ends up being a spectacular mess.
furiousOne thing it does nail is spectacle.  Director James Wan has done primarily lower budgeted horror films prior,  and Furious 7 feels like he lost the film amidst the obscene $250 million budget, studio demands, and star egos.   The big action scenes are all well executed but Wan commits some structural missteps with placing.  There’s a chase through the Caucasus Mountains about a quarter of the way through. It’s  so effective that it should have been saved for the climax.  But a lot of the action is repetitive and… well… dumb.  Wan is a lot more adept at the larger sequences than he is with the smaller fight scenes.  Most of the hand to hand bits are nearly ruined by his intrusive camerawork.  Extreme tilts and hyper editing obscure what looks like some truly impressive choreography.  And Wan is definitely in love with closeups of feet slamming into clutches and hands jamming gears…
furious6
In his defense, Wan is fighting against Chris Morgan’s atrocious script.  The dialogue is awkward and feels almost perfunctory, like Morgan had no real investment in it and was just biding his time until the next overblown set piece.  Even the puns are forgettable.  In all fairness, some of the issues with the story could be attributed to the untimely death of series regular Paul Walker. There’s a lot of exposition and fumbling around, and that may be the result of trying to save the film after losing such an integral part of the cast.
furious3That said, the acting is all over the place.  Walker, as Brian O’Conner, has an easygoing charm that makes up for his limited range.  The series other lead, Vin Diesel, as Dom Toretto, has apparently giving up any attempts at levity or depth.  He just scowls, sulks and growls all of his lines in exact same flat cadence. The crime is, he’s in almost every scene.  The rest of the cast are a mixed bag as well.  Dwayne Johnson (returning as Luke Hobbs) takes none of this seriously and gleefully chews up his goofy tough guy dialogue.  Michelle Rodriguez also returns as Letty Ortiz.  She handles the action well (glowering with the best of them) but falters when called furious2on to be vulnerable.  Her character’s romantic relationship with Toretto strains credulity.  Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges (as Roman and Tej respectively) do their best with the very limited amount of material they are given.  You can actually feel Morgan struggling to make these characters matter.  Kurt Russell makes his series debut as CIA spook Frank Petty, who serves as the team’s M (Bond) or Nick Fury (Avengers).  Russell tries to give the character some spark, but Morgan’s weak dialogue fails him in every scene.  Jason Statham appears as Deckard Shaw, an unstoppable ex SAS assassin.  He’s a solid physical presence, but he’s reduced to being basically a Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers type slasher, unexplainably showing up to challenge the heroes when the script demands it.  Rounding out the villains are the underused Tony Jaa and Djimon Honsou, and  MMA superstar Ronda Rousey furious5makes a cameo appearance to participate in a needless fight with Rodriguez.
Believe it or not, I didn’t hate Furious 7.  It’s mostly dumb fun (even though Diesel would have you think otherwise).  These films have always required a generous amount of suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, but this installment really pushes that need to a breaking point. The need to constantly top itself has pushed an already outlandish series into cartoon land.  Each stunt is progressively more ridiculous (yet no one really gets injured).  Taken in smaller doses this would all be fine. But with an epic run time and nonsensical plot, you not only feel fatigued by the end but it begins to fade from memory nearly the moment you exit the theater.
Despite all this, I say…
RATING: Theater

We SAID: Quick Fix

Staff Writer

If you constantly feel like there’s more to do and less time to do it, you’re not alone. Millions of people consistently find themselves shoving tasks into little pockets of time, all while trying to put their best face forward. Americans in particular are so busy, that more than half of them forfeit much deserved vacation time. With that kind of stress, who has time to look like they’ve just popped off the pages of a beauty magazine?

You do.

The latest crop of beauty fixers to hit the market are designed to take the least amount of time to deliver maximum results.

Too Faced easily tops the list with the Hangover Primer. The all-skin-types friendly formula is packed with goodies like Coconut Fruit Juice (what?) and Olive Fruit Oil. One pump (two for you exhausted types) will help to liven up skin and prep it for foundation. The result: the illusion of about six hours of sleep, even if the reality is more like four.

NARS continues to prove that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Radiant Tinted Moisturizer consistently blows the competition out of the water (even the latest offerings from competing brands haven’t been able to hold a candle to this formula) in terms of application and performance. The wide range of shades covers just about every skin tone (and undertone), and the formula is user friendly. It mopickup 1ves on the skin like a tinted moisturizer but covers like a foundation. The effect is hydrating and brightening, with a finish that looks just like… well… radiant skin. Just use clean fingers to smooth it on like a (tinted) moisturizer, and you’re good to go.

If you’re looking for even more radiance, Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonder Glow Skin Illuminator is a multi-tasker that performs on bare skin, as a primer before foundation, or mixed with any tinted moisturizer or foundation. The non-intrusive formula leaves a gentle sheen on the skin, without the greasy after-effects of many shimmer formulas. The base metal in this primer is gold, so the overall effect is warm, not ashy. This little bottle of sunshine also multi-tasks below the jawline: add a bit to the decolletage or shoulders (or arms and legs) for an overall glow that looks lit from within.