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Zola Review | An Imaginative, Darkly Comedic Adaptation

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In October 2015, A’Ziah “Zola” King’s 148-part saga of a trip to Florida took Twitter by storm. The viral story was hilarious, suspenseful, and disturbing at times, all told through Zola’s compelling and singular voice. It brought about a new kind of storytelling via social media whose influence lives on in Twitter and newer platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Film is certainly not a new medium but Janicza Bravo’s feature based on the thread offers an experience so fresh and imaginative, it feels like a new form.

Zola (Taylour Paige) befriends Stefani (Riley Keough), a patron at the restaurant she works at. Despite Stefani’s unapologetic use of blaccent and over-the-top ratchedness, the two women (one black and one white) have an instant connection after bonding over stripping and frenemy activity on social media. When the two are together, their surroundings fade as they appear alone in a beautifully lit hall of mirrors. The chemistry between the characters during their first encounters is not unlike the meet-cutes of the rom-com genre. Mica Levi’s music box-like score, along with the film’s shiny visuals, convey a dreamy setting at the beginning that soon becomes a nightmare as the story unfolds.

Stefani invites Zola on a “hoe trip” to Florida, where their plan is to dance and make a ton of money. The women are accompanied by Stefani’s boyfriend Derrick and her shady “roommate” X, played by Nicholas Braun and Colman Domingo. Both characters are contrasting figures in Stefani’s life, with Derrick being hilariously weak while X is terrifyingly controlling. Domingo’s enigmatic performance and flip-flopping accents further prove that he is one of the best character actors working today. 

As soon as the four arrive in Tampa, it is clear that this trip is not what Zola expected and we watch her navigate through a dangerous weekend that, as she says, is “full of suspense.” Bravo gives us a brightly colored palette and Twitter sound effects to capture the outrageousness of the twisty story. Still, it’s Paige’s performance that keeps the film grounded. Paige can adeptly deliver Zola’s sharp wit in Bravo and co-writer Jeremy O. Harris’ script but it’s her more silent moments that give the movie depth. Twitter gave us Zola’s funny take on a night gone wrong, but Paige and her expressive eyes show us her at her most vulnerable. Keough has the difficult task of portraying a woman that will make you laugh, cringe and even feel sorry for her despite all of her wrongdoings. It’s a bold performance (particularly when the movie changes its POV for a bit), but Keough is able to give the character balance and avoids becoming a full blown caricature. 

Not only does Zola tell an entertaining and raucous story, it also exposes the facade of social media presence. Vibrant costumes, candy-colored visuals, and even a car ride turned mini music video all give the impression of a fun and sensory experience but under the surface is a dark story. People’s real lives are different from what they put on their social media accounts and Bravo uses contrasting elements to shed light on the duality of online and offline lives. Zola also breaks down another facade in the form of Zola and Stefani’s interracial friendship. Stefani immediately endears herself to Zola but eventually, her bad intentions come to light. Stefani’s blatant cultural appropriation is played for laughs in the beginning but her betrayal toward Zola is a reminder that in modern society, there are still strides to be made between white women and women of color. Just like Zola says, “the same bitch that wanna smile in your face be the same bitch that gonna come for you later.”

★★★★☆

Zola is now playing in limited U.S. theaters and will be released in UK cinemas on August 6th.

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Comedy

Don’t Look Up | Official Trailer

The story of two low-level astronomers, who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet earth.



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Release Date:

December 24, 2021

Director:

Adam McKay

Cast:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett

Plot Summary:

The story of two low-level astronomers, who must go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet earth.

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Comedy

Sex Education Season 3- Review

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This review doesn’t contain any plot spoilers but if you want to go in totally blind, don’t read more than the first and last paragraphs!

Yesterday, Netflix dropped the trailer for the third season of its hit show Sex Education. The raunchy TV show first premiered in pandemic-less 2019, and after COVID disrupted the filming of the third season, Season 3 is finally here. And it soars. Netflix gives us more of the same in the best way possible. Check out the new trailer below.

The opening scene of the newest series sets the tone we are familiar with at Moordale; a sex-filled romp full of comedy, intimacy, and a great soundtrack! And that’s about right. The newest season is more of everything we love about Netflix’s one-of-a-kind show picks up with a time-jump, Jean is heavily pregnant (and still hasn’t told Jakob), the summer is over and it’s back to school for our impressive ensemble with the worry of university looming over everyone. After being heartbroken by Maeve ignoring his voicemail confessing his love for her, Asa Butterfield’s Otis is secretly having casual sex with one of the most popular girls in school.



Emma Mackey’s Maeve, having never heard the voicemail after Isaac (George Robinson) deleted it is focusing more on herself and her friendship with Aimee and Isaac after the devastating end of season two which saw Elsie, Maeve’s little sister, being taken into care after Maeve called the police on her mum, which has also led to Maeve being shut out completely by her mum. The two leads of the show spend a lot of the season sharing tension-filled scenes as Otis is upset with Maeve for ignoring his message, and Maeve is upset with Otis, thinking that he hasn’t spoken to her all summer, and you’re just screaming at the TV hoping Otis tells Maeve about the voicemail and when the truth finally does come out, it’s cathartic. 

Headmistress Hope and Head Boy Jackson

A big change in Season 3 is of course that, after the explosive end to the last season, Mr Groff is no longer the Headmaster at Moordale. He is unemployed and living with his brother, played by Jason Isaacs, and pretending to go to work. This obviously leaves a vacuum in Moordale which is quickly filled by new headteacher; Hope Haddon, played by Jemima Kirke. Kirke is the villain you will love to hate as she brings a totally new and incredibly strict leadership to Moordale. She really is one of the most brilliantly unlikeable villains in a long time. Hope’s main aim is to rebuild the reputation of Moordale after the events of the previous two seasons have left Moordale with the nickname “The Sex School” in the press. Hope goes above and beyond to fix this and makes more than a few enemies along the way. You will love watching and rooting for everything she does to fail!

Sex Education has always been impressive with its inclusion and this season takes a big step with the introduction of Dua Saleh’s Cal, the show’s first (though not only) openly non-binary character and so the writers must deal with what it’s like to be non-binary in school. Saleh’s performance is fantastic in this regard bringing xyr real-life experience as a non-binary person to the role. They have to deal with gendered school uniforms and being told to wear a skirt or stand in the girls’ line outside a lesson (yes, Headmistress Hope really is that contemptible), and while the writing around this sensitive topic can feel a little ham-fisted at times, it’s all well-intentioned and is handled well. Cal is strong and funny and stands up for themself and makes a great, compelling addition to the already impressive and busy cast of the show. Cal begins an unlikely friendship with Head Boy Jackson Marchetti as they both decide to take on the tyrannical new Headmistress.

My biggest issue with Sex Education, though, is Adam Groff (Connor Swindells). Specifically, his relationship with Ncuti Gatwa’s Eric. His performance is great but the ‘homophobic bully turns out to be queer’ trope is overused and harmful. It’s harmful enough on its own, but Sex Education takes it to the next level by having Eric and his bully fall in love. It’s as though Eric has Stockholm syndrome and has fallen for his abuser. And season 3 doubles down on this trope, having the two begin the series in a relationship and much more openly. Adam admits to being “a bit of a puff” in school, but still can’t tell his mother. Adam could have had a great redemption arc across the show if he’d have just realised that homophobia is bad and trying to make amends with those he has hurt rather. I also think exploring Adam’s bisexuality a little more would’ve been beneficial. It’s as though any interest he had in women in seasons 1 and 2 is totally gone here, which was a little disappointing. The writers do their best to redeem Adam and show us that he’s changed, particularly when he’s stuck next to Raheem on a coach trip to France which ends with the show trying to replicate the classic and iconic “it’s my vagina” moment from its first season, but it never quite feels like Adam deserves Eric.

All of the performances this season are brilliant. Ncuti Gatwa’s performance dealing with the complexities of his relationship with Swindells’ Adam is done very well, the two have an intimate personal relationship and Swindell does a wonderful job of opening up as Adam for us more and more each episode. As Eric Effiong, Otis’ best friend, Gatwa balances the comedy and the very serious issues perfectly in a charming performance. In one episode, Eric goes to Nigeria for a family wedding, and it is a fantastic exploration being queer and black in a religious Nigerian family in a country where it is illegal to be gay and Gatwa does it flawlessly. Mimi Keene is given much more to do as Ruby and she becomes much more than the ‘untouchable’ she has been limited to thus far. BAFTA winner Aimee Lee Wood returns as everyone’s favourite Aimee and is back to her usual charming and hilarious self, who now drives, although not very well. Butterfield and Mackey make compelling characters who are growing as people as each episode passes. While sometimes the comedy does seem a little lazier than previously; a lot seems to be relying on toilet humour and fart jokes, Sex Education still knows how to make us laugh. A lot. And I’m elated to report: there is MUCH more of Madam Groff!



So, strap in and get ready to dive into the hilarious and heart-warming world of Sex Education once more with its third season which is a conclusive hit! No show is tackling real social issues as well as this, it handles the most sensitive topics seemingly with ease. It’s a funny, NSFW, unique, inclusive look at love, sex, and being a British teenager. 

Make sure to stream Sex Education, exclusively on Netflix from September 17th.

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Comedy

Only Murders In The Building Episodes 1-2 Review

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Only Murders in the Building is a hilarious and sharp Murder mystery that will have you on the edges of your seats laughing and shocked with plenty of reveals and surprises. It embarks on exactly what viewers are looking for in a suspenseful, comical mystery, which makes it more compelling to watch, especially with It’s star studded cast of characters. 

Neighbours Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short) and Mabel (Selena Gomez) live at the Arconia, an Upper West Side apartment building. However after being evacuated from their apartments they bond over dinner and discover each have a shared love of true crime, especially the podcast “All Is Not Ok In Oklahoma”. So when a fellow resident named Tim Kono (Julian Cihi) dies in their building a seismic shift occurs and the trio are determined to solve the mystery whilst recording an accompanying podcast (also named Only Murders In The Building). 

still courtesy of Hulu

This Podcast is truly an integral part of the overall storyline as it seems to shape directions of their investigation in unexpected ways. This Murder mystery feels like a vehicle which is moving more towards a character-driven story, especially when there’s plenty of residents keeping secrets. Though deep down the first two episodes that are available on Disney Plus Star in the UK show that Charles, Oliver and especially Mabel are hiding secrets themselves. 

The show reunites beloved iconic comedians Steve Martin, Martin Short, who team up with Selena Gomez as the three neighbours brought together by the murder of their fellow tenant. Each brought different skillsets to the case and the series gives a good look into their backstories. 

I especially loved that each characters apartment reflected their personalities, the interior of the Arconia building is absolutely gorgeous. Steve Martin’s character Charles is a former television star, so his apartment seems to be stuck in the past. He made lots of money and has consistently updated his apartment with modern art pieces. Oliver’s (Martin short) apartment truly displays a career of glory but also failure as a theatre director. His apartment is a little overdone and lavishly luxurious. The apartment even included a grand dining room.

There is a real sweetness to these character interactions, especially with Charles and Mabel. Who is a twenty something with plenty of dry wit and a home renovation on her hands. Martin and Short are absolutely fantastic and it was great to see Selena’s return to tv in a great way. Her opening scene definitely foreshadows the unexpected but thrilling direction the series is taking as we get to know Mabel a bit more including her close circle of friends. 

Especially in episode two when these three neighbours begin to research more about the victim, especially when Mabel’s secret past starts to unravel.

still courtesy of Hulu

In the End, ‘Only Murders In The Building’ episodes one and two take the idea of a whodunnit? and reinvent the mystery in a thrilling, suspenseful comical way. All these aspects add to the appeal of the show and will certainly make you get your detective cap on and join in this Manhattan Murder Mystery. I can’t wait to see where Episode three takes us next week. 

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