Reviews: Mariah’s ‘Caution,’ ‘Widows’; ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

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Caution – Mariah Carey
Album Review
(Epic Records/Sony Music Entertainment)

‘I’m not your world, no, I’m not your life.
Tell me what that means to you?’
-“8th Grade”

Listen to me. Mariah Carey did not come to play with you heaux! On her 15th studio album, she put in work and you can absolutely hear it! It’s a solid 10 tight tracks and they are back-to-back jams. There are no interludes, no skits, no intros, no outros and unlike her past semi-autobiographical titles, this one is simple and direct; Caution.

As the Giver of Life, the Queen of Clapbacks, the Mighty Mistress of Midtempo, the Snatcher of Weaves, Wigs & Wannabes, she is indeed back to remind us just how truly formidable she can be.

The record boasts two strong ballads “With You” and “Portrait,” but the latter is refreshingly tender and moving. “Portrait” is arguably one of her finest and most emotional ballads in decades. It’ll take you places you may not even want to go.

And while she can get you all up in your feelings, she’s still that girl who can sit in a studio on a bar-stool, take deep drags on cigarettes and concoct signature midtempo jeep and club-bangers. Lest we ever forget, she’s the one who basically created and perfected the formula.

The title-track “Caution” is a layered, sly, almost serpentine-like groove that’ll have your neck swerving. The supremely confident and operatic swag of “Giving Me Life” (with Slick Rick and Blood Orange) is a low key hip hop opus. The smirky, percolating deliciousness of “GTFO,” the bouncy naughtiness of “Stay Long Love You” (featuring Gunna) and the grown-ass “One Mo Gen” are notable as well.

The triumphant, throbby, excellence of “The Distance” (with Ty Dolla $ign) is particularly impressive. Listen for that faint, partial, Prince Do Me melody that Quincy Jones once describes as ‘ear-candy’ that average listeners may not even pick up on.

What really gets the party start tho’ is the 90’s flavored “A No No.” With that instantly addictive sample of Jeff Lorber’s “Rain Dance” and its latter counterpart “Crush On You.” It’s a splendid, exuberant jam that begs for an already rumored remix with Cardi B and a Lil’ Kim.

But oh! On the exquisite, meditative succor of and Timbaland’s “8th Grade,” Carey is having a moment! On the opening? With those elegant finger-snaps? Bay-Bee? You know she’s getting ready to let us have it! With Carey’s vocal alacrity, between her honey-soaked alto, soothing, soaring backgrounds Timbaland’s soothing percussive beats, the latter third is melodically hypnotic.

“8th Grade” is probably one of her best hip hop collaborations ever. It is a superb paring and you may not want it to end. 

For those who insist on bemoaning the long-gone days of records like Music Box, what can I tell you? She’s a twice-divorced, single mother of two now. She’s just not that girl anymore. She is, however, a grown-ass woman and as such, she’s now proudly, rightfully and defiantly doing ”her,” and you can either stay in the past or keep growing along with her. I know which of those two scenarios I prefer and projects like this solidify that supremely well. “Caution” is a total bop!

Film Review

Rated R
(20th Century Fox & See Saw Films)
”I think sometimes people are afraid of who we are as women. I think that’s why sometimes we’re watered-down. We’re only made pretty. We’re only made an extension of either male or female’s fantasy. Female fantasy cuz women wanna’ see what we wanna’ be when we, I dunno, twirl and get the golden lasso and men just wanna’ be turned on by us. But really, Steve McQueen is like, ‘I don’t want any of that. I want YOU.'” 

-Viola Davis to George Pennacchio on the authenticity of the roles in Widows.

What I loved most about Widows was by action or by words, you knew the exact motivation of every single character. Everyone had a distinct voice.

Co-writer and director Steve McQueen (“Shame,” “12 Years A Slave”) utilized a masterful and engaging manner of non-linear storytelling throughout the film, and special attention should be paid to some unconventional camerawork as well as specific use of sound design to draw us in even closer.

Sometimes, I actually resent films like this because they purposely force you to care for people you normally might not otherwise, and that further engages you into their unsavory circumstances and situations. You find your heat racing right alongside characters that you’d just as soon scream at.

“Widows” is a superb heist-drama that thrills, entertains, moves you and will deeply satisfy. The work treats the viewer intelligently, as it tasks you to keep up with some of its fast-moving scenes and dialogue.

As much as it challenges viewers ethically and as intense as it was in parts, it is a must-see, definitive crowd-pleaser.

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Crazy Rich Asians Film Review
Rated PG-13
(SK Global & Starlight Culture Entertainment)

‘I had known you for quite some time,
but the thought of love never crossed my mind.
It seemed to be on the other side of the world.’
-Luther Vandross

First, the loaded, interest-piquing title, “Crazy Rich Asians” is not only humorous, it’s a direct quote referring to the dynastic, 1% of the 1% old money families of Singapore.

Second, the film is absolutely wondrous, opulent and as extravagant as anything you might imagine. It’s also remarkably warm, hilarious, culturally thoughtful and surprisingly relatable given the ultra-lavish situations of the characters.

Based on the international best-selling Kevin Kwan book series and co-scripted by Adele Lim (“One Tree Hill,” “Reign”) “Crazy Rich Asians” is the multigenerational story of one woman’s journey (Rachel Chu) to meet her boyfriend’s family who, unbeknownst to her, turn out to be insanely wealthy, outrageously eccentric, ridiculously colorful and all under the commanding gaze of the iron-fisted (though, cashmere-gloved) and traditionally draconian matriarch Eleanor Young (Michele Yeoh.)

The characters, the locales even the clothes and cars are breathtaking as production values go, and you’ll be totally immersed within their world as the inevitable clash of cultures ensues. You’ll learn much about them as well as a little about yourself.

Rapper-turned actress Awkwafina (Peik Lin) and comedian Nico Santos (Oliver T’sien) are true scene-stealers by themselves, but when onscreen together? They will have you gagging!

There’s a quiet, mysterious strength and presence about Astrid (Gemma Chan) that I was particularly drawn to as well as the torn-between-worlds favored son Nick Young (the handsome, Clark Kent-like Henry Golding.)

Michelle Yeoh is always a marvel to behold and seeing her matched against the crafty and fierce new girlfriend, Constance Wu, who more than holds her own, contributes to this magical, absorbing, vastly entertaining romantic comedy.

Andre is a Los Angeles-based writer and stand-up comedian.

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