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Monday
December 06th, 2021

naomi osaka miniseries spotlight pageNaomi Osaka prepares to serve in this scene from Garrett Bradley’s new Netflix miniseries “Naomi Osaka.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

Naomi Osaka has been gaining a name for herself thanks to her strong tennis game and recently, she let fans more inside her life with a short docuseries on Netflix. The 3-episode series follows Osaka throughout the course of two years and starts with her defeat of Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open, when Osaka was only 20 years old. The series also follows some of Osaka’s tennis training, a few of her bigger matches, and briefly mentions how she got interested in tennis. 

The first episode, “Rise,” interweaves clips of Osaka’s matches with excerpts of commentators’ comments on Osaka’s talent while also subtly exploring the relationship between athletes and sports media. The second episode, “Champion Mentality” explores Osaka’s life during the off-season as she finds ways to express herself beyond tennis and her bereavement at the loss of one of her idols, Kobe Bryant. The final episode, “New Blueprint” shows Osaka overcoming other personal obstacles and realizing why current precedent for being a celebrity and athlete won’t work for her anymore, culminating in her finding more of her voice. 

black widow spotlight pageScarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in an early scene from Marvel’s newest, “Black Widow.” Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

I’ve mentioned on here a few times how I’m a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as part of the MCU fandom, I’m one of the many people who has waited for Scarlett Johansson’s turn for the spotlight in a solo “Black Widow” film. 

After much anticipation (and multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I finally got to see that effort this past weekend, and thankfully, I was very much not disappointed. The movie takes place shortly after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and sees Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff confront some past demons. 

The first thing I noticed about the movie was its tone, it definitely did NOT feel like any of the past MCU movies. I thought the tone felt darker and much grittier than the past MCU movies, and it somewhat threw me for a loop, mostly in a good way. Instead of feeling like a typical superhero movie, “Black Widow” feels more like a spy thriller film, not entirely unlike “Captain America and the Winter Soldier,” and it ultimately ends up paying off for viewers. 

Something else that really impressed me about the movie was the fight choreography. The MCU movies have plenty of memorable fight scenes, but the fight scenes in “Black Widow” really stood out to me. Each move is precise and sharp, and for me, it was almost like watching a dance each time  characters came up against each other. The people in charge of the fight choreography definitely knew what they were doing, and I feel like they did a great job. The only minor qualm I had with that aspect, however, is the movie seems to somewhat depower Natasha. Every other MCU film sees her able to take out pretty much anyone that comes her way, but “Black Widow” has her getting knocked down more than usual, and that somewhat bugged me – Natasha’s definitely one of the strongest Avengers (to me, at least), so why would they write her as weaker for her solo film?

the conjuring 3 spotlight pageCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

“Dude, that was a WILD roller coaster ride.”

These were the words uttered by my younger sister, Hayley, as we exited the movie theater this past weekend after finishing “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” while I was home for the 4th of July holiday. 

The movie is the latest in the “The Conjuring” franchise and follows the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, a murder trial that took place in 1981 Connecticut, and has Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga returning as paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren as they help with the investigation into the case. I had seen the trailer for the movie a little while ago ahead of “A Quiet Place Part 2” and it definitely got my attention. 

The movie actually opens with an exorcism pertaining to another case of the Warrens, which sees plenty in the way of scares right out of the gate. And for my sister and I, the remainder of the runtime saw plenty of scares to keep us interested and almost too scared to move, because we didn’t want to miss anything. In that same vein, the pacing of the movie was also done very well, and everything in the movie moved along very quickly – nothing was put in the movie that didn’t have a purpose, and the end result was a well-paced story that was able to keep us fully invested for the runtime. 

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