October 3, 2022

The Woman King: Viola Davis is a tour de force. She is always playing strong, fiercely independent women who can also show tremendous empathy for those around her. Through it all she has this skill through the simple looks on her face to reveal much about her character and what they are feeling in that moment.

Viola Davis being a bad ass

This story is based upon a true story of a tribe in the early 1800s. John Boyega plays the King of Dahomey who is forward-thinking in his views about women, as he has decided to have troop of women warriors, who are led by the formidable Nanisca (Davis). It is a time of slavery where African states are selling their people, and those that they capture in battle to the foreign white people. The Dahomey city is threatened by a larger African tribe who look to defeat them and show their (male) superiority.

As this goes on, enter a young woman, Nawi, who has refused her father’s offering for a husband, as she has wanted to become one of these female warriors. She is dropped at the door of the female warriors and taken in. Her journey of training shows her individuality, with her desire to live her life on her terms. It can put her in direct conflict with Nanisca the general looking to build a larger military force, mostly for defensive purposes.

This film has an excellent cast of surrounding characters among the female warriors. Notably there is Izogie, who brings the young Nawi under wing as well as Nanica’s most trusted friend Amenza. Together this band finds out new things about their circumstances and themselves. Some of these are predictable, with a generally predictable arch. But this doesn’t take away from the quality of product in getting there. The production value is high. The fight scenes are very well done, as well as anything we have seen in Braveheart (the higher water mark for these scenes in my mind) and then following with Gladiator, among others. It is violent. There are scenes that are uncomfortable to watch, but necessary. Interestingly there is not nudity, at least with the female warrrior cast who can seemingly jump, lung, fight and turn in a tube top without ever having a wardrobe malfunction. I will also say that the hair department would have been very busy, even from scene to scene with Viola’s charatcer. The use of shells in an African city that doesn’t seem to be beachfront is a bit surprising. There are moments when one’s logic has to stand aside but they are so aggregious in the name of entertainment. I found that Boyega’s King was the least compelling aspect within the production. His character wasn’t explored all that deeply, and he seemed to go from one ceremony and speech with his people and entourage to another. But this Viola’s movie and she makes the most of it by delivering fully. I would expect that there will be nomination or two in this movie come Oscar time.

Last Night in Soho: This 2021 psychological thriller is presently available on Crave. Set in London, it tells the story of a young woman Ellie , played by Thomasin McKenzie, who lives with her Granny in Cornwall but she has dreams of being a fashion designer. Her Mom had passed away years before. She is accepted to the London School of Design and heads off into the big city. There she is teased by her classmates for her eccentricity (like making her own clothes with a 60s flare to them). She moves out from the dorm to a nearby apartment, whose landlord is a elderly woman with plenty of rules for renting there. Ellie begins to have dreams while she sleeps taking her back in time, back to the sixties with a young woman close to her age named Sandie, who is an aspiring singer. She is played by Anya Taylor-Joy with the very widely set eyes and seemingly working everywhere these days. Sandie is introduced to Jack played by Matt Smith who seems to manage many of the local girls in a similar position. The intrigue begins with the seemingly playback on history impacting young Ellie and playing with her mind. She is fiercely protective of Sandie, while admiring her style, talent and drive. It helps too with her designs at school, because Sandie becomes her model for new designs in class which are positively accepted by the professors there. Things begin to unravel for both Ellie and Sandie, with the dreams that Sandie initially had not exactly turning out as planned. Add in Terence Stamp playing an older gentleman who is a barfly at the pub where Ellie is working, and the audience wonders who is involved. Things happen and Ellie is wondering what she can do with her updated visions. The rest I will leave for the reader to find out.

Ellie seeing Sandie in the mirror as she views the past

I thought that this was well done. They manage to keep you guessing as to what is real, what is not, what was really happening and how can someone like Ellie impact the visions she has had from the past. Questions like “why is she even having these visions?” are answered in time. The acting is good, and the production design also good. I have spent time in London but not in Soho that I recall, but I imagine that the look and feel of Soho in the sixties would be well represented. There are some graphic scenes that can make viewers squeamish. Fair warning. All in all, a good effort and I was glad to watch this.