Childish Gambino Strikes Again With ‘Guava Island’!

Last year, I remember reading that Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino and Rihanna were in Cuba working on a super secret film project.  I hoped they were shooting a music video with a similar vibe to “Telegraph Ave. (‘Oakland’ by Lloyd)” for the track “Saturday” (the song Gambino performed on SNL when he hosted last May) or perhaps for a duet they recorded.  As time went on and a few more (but not many) details about the project came to light, it was clear that the finished work would be a lot more ambitious than that.

Fast forward to this past Friday (Apr. 12, 2019), it was revealed that Guava Island was actually a feature length film, and it would premiere during Childish Gambino’s Coachella set.  For the people that weren’t fortunate enough to snag a ticket to Coachella this year (me), the film became available to stream on Amazon.com for 18 hrs., as well as You Tube, staring 12:00 AM PST on Sat. Apr. 13.  After 18 hrs., the movie would only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers (also me)As most of y’all know, I fell in love with Childish Gambino last year.  With his insane multi-talent (he’s a writer, comedian, singer, rapper and actor), and his phenomenal career in entertainment, this man could do no wrong in my eyes.  So, it should be no surprise that I woke up in the middle of night on Friday (which was technically Saturday morning) and checked out Guava Island for myself.

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Guava Island tells the story of Deni (Gambino) and Kofi (Rihanna), a young couple that live on the titular Caribbean island (I’m assuming it’s Caribbean, considering most of the people there are black and half of them speak Spanish).  Guava Island is beautiful, but po’—and yes, I meant to say po’—thanks to industrialist Red Cargo (played by my boy Nonso Anozie, who’ll always be Renfield from Dracula to me).  Red’s family took control of the island a long time ago by making a profit off the blue silk produced by the island’s silkworms, and as Red became richer, the other inhabitants of the island became poorer, being forced to work day and night for peanuts on the docks or in sweatshops.  Deni, who is a local musician, hopes to bring the island together with a music festival, but Red’s greedy ass isn’t feelin’ that concept.  The festival is supposed to take place on a Saturday night, and Red knows that if everyone’s having fun all night on Saturday, they won’t get up and go to work on Sunday, because God forbid these folks actually have a day off.   With that being said, Red pays Deni with 10 G’s to make him cancel the festival.  What will Deni do?

Guava Island was written by Stephen Glover (Donald’s brother) and directed by Hiro Murai (who also directed the “This Is America” video), both of who whom work with Donald on Atlanta, which tells you that this film won’t have your typical ending.  The film was described as a thriller with elements from the Brazilian film City of God and Purple Rain.  I personally have to disagree with that assessment.  The movie has the aesthetics of City of God, due to the grainy picture and tropical setting (plus, the characters are in abject poverty, much like the ones in City of God), but that’s about it.  The film is a musical like Purple Rain, but the difference is Prince’s film debut had more of a semi-autobiographical feel (like 8 Mile, which most folks have deemed the “hip-hop version of Purple Rain“), whereas Guava Island doesn’t have that same effect, and it shouldn’t, considering that Deni has very little in common with the real Childish Gambino.  As for Guava Island being a thriller, the last few moments were pretty tense, but if that alone makes it a white-knuckle type movie, you might as well say Under the Cherry Moon is one as well, considering Christopher Tracy and Tricky spend the last 20 minutes running from goons and cops.  I know, I’m using a lot of Prince references today.

This isn’t to knock the film, however.  Despite disagreeing with Gambino’s perceived vision of it, I really enjoyed it.  In my opinion, Guava Island is a cute, extended music video (the film runs at about 55 min.) with a beautiful message.  The animation sequence used in the opening credits and the start of the film was especially adorable.  It reminded me a lot of The Princess and the Frog.  A lot of people were upset that Rihanna didn’t contribute a song to the venture, and although that would’ve been great, I can’t say that I was disappointed.  There were so many Gambino tracks to enjoy—new and not-so-new—that I was in hog heaven regardless.  Some of my favorite Childish Gambino songs were included in Guava Island, such as “This Is America,” “Summertime Magic” and “Feels Like Summer,” and nearly all of them were performed as musical numbers.  I loved it.  The acting was on point as well, but with the cast appointed to the film (which also included Leticia Wright, who plays Shuri on Black Panther), that was to be expected.  The only real issue I had with the movie is that it was supposed to be on a remote island in the Caribbean, and nearly everyone had an accent…except Gambino.  Right before the “This Is America” musical number begins, one of Deni’s co-workers mentions migrating to the US for a seemingly better life, and Deni immediately shuns the idea, all the while, speaking with an accent that’s as American as apple pie.  Right.

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Y’all, this film was really good for what it was.  Unless you have an Amazon Prime subscription like me, the 18 hr. window of opportunity to see it has since passed, unfortunately.  However, in this age of technology, I’m sure there’s some other ways to get around the limited screening time to see the movie.  My advice is to try to check it out any way you can; no judgment.  Guava Island is like City of God in visuals only, and all it has common with Purple Rain is the fact that there’s music throughout the film, and it doggone for sure ain’t no thriller per se, but it’s still a great way to spend an hour.  Plus, Gambino and Rihanna make a cute couple.  😃❤️

—Written by Nadiya

Have you seen Guava Island yet?  What did you think of it?  Did you see it at Coachella during Gambino’s set, or did you stream it at home?  Did it put you in the mind of Purple Rain and/or City of God?  Did you like the musical numbers?  Let me know in the comments section!

 

‘Blackout’: The Podcast That Hardly Anyone Is Talking About

What’s poppin’, y’all?  Those of y’all that’ve been reading my blog for the past few months know that lately I’ve been obsessed with all things Rami Malek aka Elliot, and I’m sure some of you are sick and tired of me talking about him.  Well, that’s just tough, because I have yet again another Rami Malek inspired article.  However, it has nothing to do with Mr. Robot or Bohemian Rhapsody.  This is all about Rami’s podcast, Blackout.  Yes, you read that correctly.   It’s a podcast.  Here’s the trailer below:

In Blackout, Rami plays a DJ named Simon Itani that lives in a small New Hampshire town named Berlin (pronounced BURR-lin, which is the cherry on top of the weirdness), that suddenly loses all its electricity, including their landlines and cell phones.  Simon tries to use his position at the radio station to be a voice of reason and bring the community together, but after it’s revealed that the power outage hasn’t just occured in Berlin, but other areas of the country, he and his family soon learn that the idyllic little town they’ve called home is full of nutbags—and I mean serious nutbags.  Prime example, less than 24 hrs. after the power goes out, some dudes start patroling the streets with assault rifles claiming to be part of the neighborhood watch.  I’m assuming they’re part of the George Zimmerman chapter, but I digress.   As more time goes on, it appears that some of those nutbags may have been the cause of the power grid going down.

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This is my first time listening to a serial podcast, and I’m seriously enjoying Blackout.  The series is four episodes in, and it gets better and better each week.  This show is the perfect way for me to partially quench my thirst during my long and torturous Mr. Robot drought.  When it comes to expectations, however, I have to say the same thing I said during my Us movie review.  The same way you shouldn’t go into Us expecting Get Out, you definitely shouldn’t listen to Blackout hoping for an audio clone of Mr. Robot.  Whereas Mr. Robot is about a young man that is very reliant on technology to help people (although his assistance usually blows up in his face), Blackout tells the tale of a man that has to try to protect his family now that technology is scarce to the point of almost being non-existent.  Not only that, but the character of Simon Itani is an affable, sociable, laid back family man in his late 30’s.  Elliot Alderson, on the other hand, is a single man in his late 20’s that’s the complete opposite of sociable, unless you count his long conversations with Mr. Robot, who only exists in his head.

All the actors do a terrific job with their roles, and although you can’t physically see what’s happening, the well-written script and impeccable performances allow you to visualize this dystopia in the making.  Of course, I have to give individual props to my boy Rami, who also serves as a producer to this project.  Rami continues to prove why he’s been showered with numerous accolades in the past few years.  When I first heard that he was going to play a DJ, it was hard for me to visualize that, considering his signature slow and smooth voice.  If anything, I figured he’d be hosting the Quiet Storm.  However, he pulls it off with ease, showing what a great character actor he is.  It’s easy to see an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy Oscar, Tony Winner) in his future.  He’s already well on his way.  My only gripe with the podcast is the commercials.  Unfortunately, each episode contains about five or six annoying (and mind numbing) commercials that take you right out of the exciting story line.  There’s even an advertisement that plays before the start of each episode in the series.  And OMG…they all seem to drone on forever.  Thankfully, you’re able to skip over these atrocities and get back to the good stuff.

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There is one other thing that’s bothering me considering Blackout….no one’s really talking about it.  There were a few articles discussing it before it was officially released, and there’s been about one or two reviews written since the podcast aired.  Aside from a couple of viewer comments I’ve seen on some lesser known sites…that’s about it.  Rami doesn’t really have the time to do a press tour for Blackout; he’s busy filming season four of Mr. Robot in NYC (yay!).  Now that four episodes have aired, the word is starting to pick up just a little bit, and writer/creator Scott Conroy is taking on some interviews discussing the show’s content.  There’s even some talk about QCode—the studio, who along with Endeavor Audio, helped produce Blackoutcreating another podcast with Bad Times at the El Royale’s Cynthia Erivo.  Hopefully in time, the show will build up enough steam to really get people to have conversations about it.   The Deadline article mentioning Cynthia Erivo’s new podcast also claims that Blackout may be made into a series.  I haven’t seen any other reports stating that, but I really hope it’s true.  If so, I hope Rami continues to play Simon, seeing how he’s been killin’ the role so far.

I know that folks haven’t been into radio plays since Ralphie was gifted his Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and advised to drink his Ovaltine (all fans of A Christmas Story already get this reference), but Blackout is a great podcast and it’s well worth your time.  It’s action packed, suspenseful, and engaging (folks from New Hampshire may not care for the Bostonian accents most of the characters have, though).  You can stream the podcast for free via Apple Podcasts (or your ITunes/Apple Music account on your PC; this method won’t work on your Android) or Google Podcasts.  I suggest that all of you check this series out and let’s get the word out about it.  I need more people to start talking about one of my favorite shows!

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Blackout airs every Tuesday on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

—Written by Nadiya

Have you listened to Blackout yet?  Do you like it?  If you haven’t listened to the series yet, are you interested?  Do you think more people should be talking about it?  Let me know in the comments section!