I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
COMING 2 AMERICA
Rated PG-13, 109 minutes.
Director: Craig Brewer
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Jermaine Fowler, Shari Headley, KiKi Layne, Teyana Taylor, Leslie Jones, Paul Bates, Nomzamo Mbatha, Wesley Snipes and James Earl Jones
I’m sorry, but no.
Coming 2 America is yet another comedy sequel in a string of terrible twos (Zoolander No. 2, Dumb and Dumber To, and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot) that’s frustratingly bad.
The much-anticipated sequel to the 1988 original film brings the action back to Queens, New York. Well, just for a bit. There’s little movement between a barber shop and the royal home in the African country of Zamunda (a.k.a. rapper Rick Ross’s mansion in Atlanta). The film wrapped before COVID, but it looks like it was made with limited sources. The green screen polish and mostly interior settings don’t expand the world in any exciting ways.
The plot concerns newly-appointed King of Zamunda, Akeem (Eddie Murphy), facing a potential military coup, led by Wesley Snipes’s General Izzi. To stop the takeover, Akeem and his confidante, Semmi (Arsenio Hall), venture back to the states to find Akeem’s long-lost male heir (Jermaine Fowler).
Aside from KiKi Layne’s performance as Akeem’s daughter and some wonderfully designed costumes (by Ruth E. Carter), there’s not much to this second Coming. It’s remarkable how unfunny and senseless it is. You can feel the charm and originality deflate within minutes. Rather than feature quality gags like Akeem learning to mop or navigate his fish out of water story, we get Akeem’s son trying to remove the whiskers of an African lion to prove his worth as a prince.
The culture doesn’t feel genuine enough to warrant any laughs or emotional connection. The familiar faces are placed on the back burner in favor of new characters who fail to live up to the kineticism of the original players. It’s a tall order to capture the spirit of the original film, and this new entry is nowhere close to wearing a crown.
Stick to the original Coming to America or watch Craig Brewer’s other (better) comedy, Dolemite is My Name.
Now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Rated R, 89 minutes.
Director: Eddie Huang
Cast: Taylor Takahashi, Pamelyn Chee, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Pamelyn Chee, Perry Yung, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Mike Moh, Domenick Lombardozzi, Alexa Mareka and Eddie Huang
Sports dramas can be truly impactful if there’s a proper balance of stakes on and off the court.
Boogie, directed by Eddie Huang (ABC sitcom Fresh Off the Boat), has all the elements to nail a three-pointer of a movie. It has a coming-of-age story (about a Chinese-American basketball phenom living in Queens), a little romance, and relatable family drama. Still, it suffers from one too many narrative fouls.
For one, it’s tonally inconsistent. At times, it’ll resemble a raw high school movie (f-bombs and all). Other times, it’ll slip into soap opera territory. Lofi hip hop plays over actors doing their best to get out the emotions required by the story. However, it plays out awkwardly. The film doesn’t seem to trust audiences’ patience enough to pump the brakes every once in a while. There’s always something going on, whether stylistically or story-wise.
Boogie‘s best aspects tie to exploring Chinese culture and the parallel narrative framing of parenting and growing up. The film opens with a fortune teller sharing that the titular character’s parents need to be kind to one another and allow “love [to] melt the sharpest sword.” How Huang positions the parents’ story alongside Boogie’s is a beautiful way to structure the film. It’s just unfortunate Boogie loses its way during the in-between moments.
Now playing in theaters.