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‘The Banker’: Two Black Men Build an Empire in the Jim Crow Era

In 1954, in America, a black man owning a bank was something unattainable and seemed practically impossible but for Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) anything was possible. Bernard was smart and ambitious and would stop at nothing to make his American dream come true. His dream was for black people to have access to capital for their businesses and have access to home loans to invest in real estate. Bernard knew the importance of ownership and was dedicated to educating his community and helping pave the way. He was an innovator and truly ahead of his time. He had the knowledge, he had the ambition. The only problem was…he was black.

Bernard had to find a way to get over this hurdle and use his talents to provide a better life for his wife Eunice (Nia Long) and their son. Eunice introduced Bernard to club owner, real estate investor and future partner Joe Morris (Samuel L Jackson). Joe had more experience in real estate along with money and connections that Bernard needed. The two didn’t really hit it off when they first met but they eventually got on the same page about their vision. Bernard met a young white man named Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult) who knew nothing about real estate or banking but was the perfect face to get his goal accomplished. Together, Bernard and Joe taught Matt everything he needed to know to impress the real estate moguls and investment bankers – math, finance, and even golf. Once Matt was ready, they made their first big purchase – a building that held all major banks in Downtown Los Angeles. Bernard and Joe have done the unimaginable.

THE BANKER / APPLE TV+

The duo got busy purchasing many more properties in white neighborhoods to help black people move into better areas of the city. With all the success they had in Los Angeles, Bernard thought he could try his luck in his small hometown in Texas. Things, however, did not go as planned as in the South they faced even more racism and segregation. Again, with Matt’s help, they were able to purchase two more banks in Texas. As soon as they took ownership, the duo started to quickly lend money to black home- and business owners. The number of loans that Matt approved in such a short time made other bankers suspicious and the bank was audited. In the process of the audit their scheme was uncovered, and Bernard and Joe’s identities were revealed. The banks were shut down by the Feds and both black men were sentenced to three years in jail. They only served nine months for mishandling bank funds and fraud.

Although Bernard and Joe did time in jail, at the end of it all, there is a silver lining to this story – these black men made history and beat the odds by purchasing two banks in the United States in the Jim Crow Era. The Banker is an eye-opening story of courage and hope; it is an important part of history that is relatively unknown. Two black men generations before us had the vision and enough courage to pursue their dream. All of this was done to advance the lives of black people in America. This is a tale of two heroes that was long overdue. This story is an amazing gem in American history and an inspiration to all.

The Banker is now available for streaming on AppleTV+.

Film

Zendaya’s “Malcolm & Marie” – Review

by Betti Halsell

Malcolm & Marie speaks to the ‘authenticity’ of a young millennial couple in the entertainment industry, projecting their insecurities onto each other. The film follows the couple home after the big premiere of Malcolm’s (John David Washington) motion film. Although the film was heavily influenced by his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), Malcolm is reluctant to admit to her contribution, and so the war begins.

Marie’s mood is tense from the very beginning, setting the stage for an all-out verbal brawl. In the twilight hours of the night, they unpack layers of the truths between the two of them. Ultimately, it reflects the narcissism that lives in both of their narratives; a completely relatable tale for two artists in relations (who secretly are in competition). Additionally, the film gives an inside look at the entertainment industry from the artist’s perspective.

The project was shot in black and white with a grainy effect. If one didn’t pay attention to the modern style of the house, it could pass as a movie that was set in the 1970s. There were epic shots of the backyard, lights cascading through the trees, and shots taken through the window panels of the master bedroom. It gave the story tremendous depth and continued the silent dramatic aesthetic. It kept the air heavy around the couple, when they backed away into their corners, reloading verbal ammo for each other.

MALCOLM & MARIE (L-R): ZENDAYA as MARIE, JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON as MALCOLM. DOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021

Marie, unable to see the bigger picture of what the night meant for Malcolm, pouts, and passive-aggressively makes her boyfriend macaroni and cheese. Malcolm, unable to read between the fine lines of his woman’s subtle frustrations, is still looking to celebrate until a fake smile slaps him into the reality that something is wrong.

There have been critics of Washington’s character being self-centered. However, it was his night, the night of his big premiere as an acknowledged director, and yet Marie made it about her. Throughout the romantic spat, Malcolm was trying to get past the issue, apologizing, and then genuinely apologizing, but after one resolved issue, Marie went on another rant, tearing him down as an artist. There is concern about credibility, Marie wanted acknowledgment for the lifetime contribution to his debuted film, she forced it out of him. The audience is left thinking… if the acknowledgment is forced, does it make it real?

The monologues shared between the two, were phenomenally written. Washington exerted so much raw energy–building the depth of his character. Malcolm was spewing endless amounts of knowledge about the film industry and what it means to be on the end of the critique, as the creator.

It’s interesting that Marie begins to look at her life and her role in the relationship, simultaneously as her partner begins to shine. There are jabs of jealously and envy as she spews out words of mediocracy and “character theft” when describing his film. Those are literal fighting words, and Malcolm came back with excruciating blows, boiling over to painting a world of hurt.

Everything is interrupted when the review comes back from the infamous L.A. Times critic, and Malcolm loses it, in the most beautiful way. He reveals his love for film as an artist, throwing names of legends in the film industry, stressing the lack of understanding from critics; they don’t share the same romanticism or devotion to films. This brings up a valid point; the perspective of critics is obviously skewed. They are based on their own perspective and knowledge of the subject, yet the words of these noted critiques hold threads of influence over the success of the production.

The featured film was first produced, written, financed, and shot during the fluctuating stages of COVID-19. It was filmed with discretion in June and July of 2020. Malcolm & Marie had a limited release day earlier in January before it was available on Netflix the following month. Producers of the film included Kid Cudi, Sam and Ashley Levison, Zendaya, and John David Washington. The cast and crew definitely redefined the world of drama from a new lens of the creators.

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Film

Brandy and Whitney Houston-Led Cinderella Coming to Disney Plus

Better get excited because the Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella movie that stars Brandy and Whitney Houston, is officially coming to Disney Plus!

On Thursday (Feb. 4) morning, Brandy made an appearance on ABC’s The View and reunited with host Whoopi Goldberg, who also starred in the beloved musical, to announce the news.

“It’s pretty remarkable that people have been begging for Cinderella to be re-released for almost 24 years. I mean, what do you think, is it possible?” Goldberg asked.

“It’s definitely possible. I appreciate the fans,” Brandy replied. “I’m so excited that Cinderella has a home now at Disney plus and we can celebrate, and share, and inspire a whole new generation.”

Cinderella will launch on the streaming service “at the stroke of midnight” on Feb. 12.

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Film

‘Coming 2 America’: trailer #2 teases Prince Akeem meeting his long-lost son

Amazon has released the second official trailer of Coming 2 America one month ahead of the premiere.

The 1988 original story follows Akeem (Eddie Murphy) as he travels from Africa to New York, in hopes to find his queen. In this sequel, newly-crowned King Akeem and his trusted confidante Semmi (Arsenio Hall) embark on an all-new hilarious adventure that has them traversing the globe from their great African nation to the borough of Queens, New York – where it all began

The star-studded cast also includes Jermaine FowlerLeslie JonesTracy MorganKiKi LayneTeyana TaylorWesley Snipes, and Nomzamo Mbatha. Actors James Earl JonesJohn AmosBella MurphyVanessa Bell CallowayShari Headley, and Paul Bates will reprise their roles 30+ years later.

The screenplay is by Kenya Barris (Black-ish) and Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield (The Nutty Professor).

Craig Brewer (Dolemite is My Name) directed the sequel.

Coming 2 America will be available to stream via Prime Video on March 5, 2021.

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