Category Archives: Viewing Pleasures

Television, movies, web series… all my guilty pleasures, yo!

On My Block: A peek into the neighborhood with humor and gravitas

(LA -LA STATE OF MIND)—Hometown is a big place for me. Heck, I’m from Los Angeles. Ain’t nothin’ small about it. I live in the DC area now, but whenever I get homesick and am stuck between plane tickets, count on me looking for movies with those damn trees in the air.

But the Netflix series called On My Block dropped into my lap instead. And I let it stay awhile. The opening track by Daye Jack had me at hello.

On My Block immediately gave me the Friday feels—with a lado de la vida en South Central Los Angeles. And the first two minutes hooked me.

However, and this doesn’t happen often, nine minutes in, my thoughts degraded quick-fast. “This show is corny AF. What’s up with this dialogue. Ain’t no way these characters come up out the hood,” I scrunched my face.

T’was a fleeting thought, though. The storyline tugged me back in—conflicting feelings and all. Throughout the season, yes–I binged it, I kept checking myself for some of the words that were swirling around in my mind.

So how do I know what all hood kids sound like, how they talk? “What does it mean, linguistically, sonically to be a kid from the ‘hood or barrio? Do you have to talk a certain way? Sound a certain way? Act a certain way? Behave a certain way? “Hon, don’t even trip,” I thought. “First question can be complicated. Second, third, fourth and fifth—the answers are all—NO,” I told myself. “Besides, are you not a walking contradiction your own damn self?

This story has the usual cast of characters in “neighborhood” TV or cinema: The smart hood/barrio girl, gangsta life guy—whether he wants to be or not, the sports guy whose parents want him to play football, and the smart guy with a long-range plan.

Main Characters

Monse—is a biracial girl who doesn’t know her mother, and that is woven into the storyline. She’s also a writer and faithful friend who is willing to do without an organically bloomed romance so it won’t damage the crew’s foundation of friendship. Well, maybe not totally do without— she and her love interest tell all kinds of fibs to shield their affections for one another.
Ruby—Ruben as he wants to be called now that they’re in high school. This kid is hasn’t had his growth spurt, it appears. He’s creative, an organizer, and even does taxes of some relatives of the neighborhood Cholos.
Jamal—a brotha and budding football player (in his parent’s eyes). But the possibility of getting CTE scares him crapless. He’s also a curious investigator and finds an unlikely ally in Ruby’s grandmother to solve a neighborhood mystery.
Cesar—is smart and kind. And struggles to remain loyal to his friends and family. That family loyalty tugs him in a direction where his skills can be of use…. While simultaneously stifling his chances to legally practice his smarts. Monse and Cesar also share a secret that Cesar to spilled to keep her safe, so he says. And Cesar’s family, like I said earlier, is all Choloed up on all sides. He even gets jumped into the family way of life early into the season. Cholo life is part of his family inheritance, and the most poignant line of the first episode is when he said “My family crest is a gang sign.”

Those are the main characters, but there’s also an On My Block version of Felicia. Except her name’s Jasmine and she isn’t a crackhead. She’s just an asthmatic who constantly hits the inhaler to try to keep up with her neighbors who keep trying to ditch her.

Then there’s Abuelita. ¡Dios mio! Okay, so one part of the storyline is Ruby’s quest to get his own room. He finally got it in the first episode after his brother left for college. But it’s always an out-of-reach goal. First he shared with Abuelita and her illuminated escena de Natividad. Then a girl whose parents got deported moved in. And Ruby was suddenly okay with sharing space with his peer. But his mom was like “Nope. You’re bunking with your twin siblings.”

That’s where Olivia enters the scene to provide the second girl in the crew and a slight complication for an already budding intra-squad romance that’s still leaving skid marks on the street because one person keeps trying to hit the breaks on that love.

This show is so corny at times. Just like teen life. Well—at least my teen life was corny. It was also funny, solemn, somber, and FULL of laughs. It takes a blended dramedic look at the individual and collective coming of age stories among a group of childhood friends with surprisingly cheesy humor and moments of surprising gravitas… and reminders that sometimes gangsta life can bring you to a potentially fatal crossroads with folks you’ve known all your life.

This show is highly recommended for that cheesy chuckle humor, surprising predictability coated with 10 inches of dramatic surprise and guttural laughs.

No, the characters hardly look or sound like they’ve stepped into or out of anyone’s hood. But as a person raised in the hood, I can testify with an organ and church tambourine—that when it comes to hood kids, things aren’t always what they seem. A book should never be judged by its cover. They may or may not speak the king’s English with the king’s accent, but who the EFF cares? This is America. There is no king here.

I’m not sure who is the intended audience for this show…but it seems to provide a wider scope of neighborhood kids who are indeed individuals. And this group of individual kids leans toward the nerdy persuasion. They’re not seeking to ascend the popularity stack. They just want to keep their squad intact.

You know, they kind of remind me of my hanging buddies from high school, where there was no rule on how we were supposed to talk, what slang we had to use. We just were. We also had some half-and-half diversity going on. We were a Black and Latino group of friends. Now that I think of it, between the five of us, we were half black, half Latino. Two Mexican-Americans, two African-Americans, and an Afro Latina. And we had good times.

I totally enjoy these corny-dialogue having, nerd-assed hoodlings who are in the hood, but not of the hood. But don’t get it twisted. They are well-versed in the ways, means and norms of how both Cholo and thug life work. Monse, Ruby, Jamal and Cesar don’t totally fit the stereotypical hood mold. And it’s a constant reminder that a lot of hoodlings don’t. (BTW, hoodlings is NOT meant in a disparaging way whatsoever.)

No spoilers—so the end is near

I really don’t want to give away any key points of this season, so I’ll just drop breadcrumbs…

The dialogue may be corny, but clever zingers include Jamal talking to Oscar and replying— “No Shit Cholock!” I had to rewind to make sure I heard what I heard.

One of the OG homies expressed a love for Sherlock Homles. Why? Because. Holmes, homes.

Episode 4: La Negrita Choo-Choo (I almost peed my pants over this one, but you’ll have to see it for yourself.)

What disturbs…

One thing is disturbing to me. Depending on the individual’s experience, this might be real. The season opens and closes with gunshots… which always seem to punctuate dialogue in the wrong places. In this series, and in real life, those bullets can sometimes mean punctuating a life and leaving a fragment instead of a well-crafted sentence that develops into a beautiful story. Hopefully in this case it’s a comma, but season two should reveal whether it’s worthy of a Punchbowl Damn.

The end

When I was looking for a relief for my homesickness, I only wanted the tall trees. Not Ghetto Birds and neighborhood lockdowns. But all in all, I pleasantly received more than I sought, so I do pleasantly and highly recommend On My Block—corny lines and all.

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Five things you MUST know about Greenleaf 2.3

There’s this scene:

  1. Grace Greenleaf morphs into a vandal.  Has this child lost her ever-loving mind? Or her ever bat swinging mind? Must be the case. Because why is she doing steak-outs at Uncle Mac’s apartment and watching him closer than a hawk in the sky?
  2. Kevin has a mother.  And hallelujah!  His backstory is unfolding! His mom pays a visit and brings her brand of drama to the Greenleaf dining table.  She’s felt out the loop because Kevin kept putting her off when she wanted to know Charity’s due date.  She eventually found out Kev had been living in a hotel. Kevin didn’t spell out why, but his mom seemed to grasp it quickly.  “Oh,” she said.  ”There it is.” There what is?  What is this IT of which she speaks?  Makes me wonder if she had an inkling he’s gay.  If that’s the case, did she try to talk him out of it?  Did she try to do what he’s trying to do to himself right now?  Try to talk him out of being gay?  Who knows. But I want to find out!  Oh, and Ipecac syrup plays a role in this storyline.
  3. Zora has a thing for that Isaiah Hambrick singing dude.  The same dude Sofia told her she’s crushing on.  Apparently Zora’s crushing on him, now.  The child’s phone is even blowing up with texts from this dude. She’s sitting with Sofia for lunch, and of course Sofia wants to know why her cousin is giggling like the schoolgirl she is. Poor Sophie. She isn’t happy her cousin is in good with Isaiah, but still takes one for the team and covers for Zora when the child sneaks away from a youth meeting to hang with Hambrick.
  4. Back to Grace.  She’s still obsessing over Uncle Mac. Who wouldn’t? He raped her sister who committed suicide as a result. The man raped other girls and is STILL not in prison. Shooooot. Someone crazier than Grace might’ve done more than bust the windows out [of] his car.
  5. Kerissa may have met her match at throwing shade.  Her name is Tasha Skanks, first lady of Triumph Church.  To her credit, Tash was trying to be friendly and helpful to Kerissa.  But K is a do-it-yourself kind of woman, and she rebuffed all Tasha’s efforts to help decorate the parsonage, shop for clothes, do girly-girl things. So she broke the news about Zora’s galavanting away from the youth meeting.  She didn’t want to make it sound as if Kerissa can’t control her daughter, she said.  Then she extended another offer (with a light dusting of shade) to help Kerissa keep an eye on her daughter.
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Lady Mae cans choir director, tension between cousins begins burble

First of all, Lady Mae is going after Carlton. But it’s not because he’s gay.   That doesn’t mean she’s on the right side of wrong, though.

Meanwhile, I predict some boy-related tension is about to go down between Sofia and Cousin Zora. Sofia likes this young singer at Triumph Church, and Zora’s coaching her on ways to get his attention. But when they go watch Isiah Hambrick rehearse, he bores his attention into Zora as if awkward Sofia doesn’t exist.

Continue reading Lady Mae cans choir director, tension between cousins begins burble

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Lawd, them Greenleaves are back with tawdry church drama to boot!

At the final scene of season 1, Uncle Mac’s still a cad. And he’s fresh out of jail. Poppa Greenleaf is still struggling with his disease and trying to hide it… I think it’s Parkinson’s. But the cops come for his ass as they drop Uncle Mac off at the mansion doorstep. They warn Pastor to stick around town. Why? Because he’s accused of being complicit in the death of a church caretaker who died in a fire at an early church Bishop ran during the 1980s. Lady Mae’s father (who is also a cad we’re learning) told Grace that fire wasn’t an act of God as had been previously thought. Some Johnny struck a match but the match DIDN’T go out.

Continue reading Lawd, them Greenleaves are back with tawdry church drama to boot!

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Flynn’s in his feelings, saves a life on this week’s Timeless

What are Garcia Flynn and Anthony after? Wish I knew. All I know is they travel through time to stop Rittenhouse from being able to… Not sure. But the writers keep throwing bread crumbs each week. Seems our villains—who might be our heroes, but seem really dastardly right now—don’t want Rittenhouse to learn how to travel through time.

Our villains might be our heroes, but seem really dastardly right now

In this week’s episode, they’re in 1969, trying to make sure Flynn doesn’t thwart the first moon landing.

He doesn’t, and our heroes manage to save the day yet again.

Viewers can’t expect to gain tons of new knowledge about Flynn’s motives, outside of him wanting to stop Rittenhouse from learning secrets of time travel. However, this episode reveals more learn about Flynn’s family background.

Flynn ends up meeting his mom, then a young widow who also worked as a secretary for an aerospace company. By the time Flynn is born, she’s an engineer. He tells her, after giving his mom’s son a shot in the arm, he remembers her as a sad woman, and he wants to make her life happier.

That shot? Saved his half-brother who was going into anaphylactic shock—the same day as the first moon landing. According to Flynn’s recollection of history, his half brother who died before Flynn was born. Flynn saved him that day and somehow ends up curing the boy’s allergic reaction to bee stings. When our heroic trio return to the present, that boy is now a man—living in Paris.

Meantime, Rufus doesn’t like the person he’s becoming as a result of these time hopping excursions. For the first time, he killed a man and didn’t feel anything about it. But before that, he was in nerd-man’s heaven with all his heroes doing their thing in mission control that day. (By the way, I consider “nerd” a compliment.)

This week’s episode also gave a long-overdue nod of recognition to NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose calculations were instrumental to some of the agency’s groundbreaking missions.

This week’s episode here:

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Secrets escape the bag and big decisions—This Is Us Episode 8

This is Us. A show that’s remarkably human.

In previous episode I didn’t recap…

Beth finds out Rebecca met William years ago. She learned this while she and William got high off some “adult brownies.”

Toby is grubbing down his spaghetti. Talking about what they’ll do in New York for the part of Thanksgiving holiday. Kate tells Toby the trip for both of them is a no-go because he’s chucked the diet and now Kate’s chucking him.

Kevin pretty much gave Olivia a rundown of his life. She intimated she felt he was from a typical bland middle-class family. “Wonder Bread,” she called it.

Yeah. They’re anything but that.

Continue reading Secrets escape the bag and big decisions—This Is Us Episode 8

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Timeless Episode 7: Stranded in the past, Chocodiles and returning trust

They’re stuck. In 1754. Around the time of the French and Indian war. Some of Garcia Flynn’s henchmen put explosives on the Lifeboat, the prototype time machine that our main characters need to get back to the 21st century. The henchies were going to blow it up, but Wyatt gets their attention to try and stop them. Wyatt shoots one henchie to death, but another shoots at one of the explosives attached to the mothership.

It’s damaged, the henchmen leave, and Lucy, Rufus and Wyatt are stuck.

Rufus runs down possible ways to fix the machine… then remembers he may not have to. There’s “The Protocol.”

It involves digging a hole three feet in front of the Lifeboat and burying a message on special paper that’s sealed in a special, environmentally-unfriendly capsule.

They bury this message so folks in the future can find it. Then they get to moving… walking. And walking. And more walking. They find a dead soldier and get caught by Shawnee.

They’re in captivity and Rufus makes me wonder where he grew up because he starts talking about how he’s craving Chocodiles!!!! I ain’t neva heard any character talking about Chocodiles. I used to grab one on the way or from school every now and again. They cost a quarter back in the day.

Lucy geeks out when the chief walks in, because this tribe is run by


A woman! And she doesn’t trust the English-speaking white folks.

They’re about to kill Lucy and Wyatt but not Rufus. Why? Because he didn’t have a choice to be there… he was forced. She assumed Rufus was a slave. Of course, he isn’t, but he really didn’t have a choice because he was the only person who can pilot the Lifeboat. Anyway, the chief wanted to kill Lucy and Wyatt because they, according to her words, chose to be there.

Rufus comes to their rescue, like the magical negro he is, and says if they kill Lucy and Wyatt, they’ll have to kill him, too.

So the tribal leader agrees to spare them all because of Rufus’ honor, but if they act shady, she promises to kill them all.

Back in the future, the feds and folks from Mason Industries are digging up someone’s yard in a suburban Pittsburgh neighborhood. The Feds cleared the whole block by saying Zika-infected mosquitoes were found nearby.

They excavate and eventually find a capsule with the paper Rufus buried inside. Only the capsule is cracked and the special paper has partially disintegrated from time’s wear and tear.

So how will they get home? Well, unless the show arc is about to take a sharp turn to the who-knows-where, I assumed they’d figure out a way to get the trio back home.

They did.

You’ll find out when you watch that episode.

One thing to note: All of the angst and mistrust that Rufus, Lucy and Wyatt waded through in the Watergate episode was resolved, it seems. And they all acknowledged the reasons behind each other’s desires… Their pilot doing whatever it takes to keep his family safe, to also keep Rufus from selling out to Rittenhouse (Wyatt threw the recorder Connor Mason gave Rufus in some large swampy-looking hole), to bring back Lucy’s sister, and prevent Wyatt’s wife from getting killed.

Oh, and they made history, too.

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From coonskin caps to leisure suits: Timeless and the Watergate

So the crew bounces from The Alamo to the leisure-suit 70s, but not before we get a glimpse inside Rufus’ life.

He’s at home. His mother tells him about a game Rufus missed. His athlete brother missed a shot at the final buzzer, and was a little despondent about it. Rufus apologies for missing the game, but his mom says they both understood because he (Rufus) is working so hard for his family. Apparently he’s making bank and used his earnings to buy them a nice pad.
But Connor Mason shows up to their home with the Rittenhouse man…the same man who Rufus encountered on the street one night after his car konked out. Thanks to a Rittenhouse initiated hack. See, that happened after Rufus told Connor he wasn’t going to spy on his time traveling partners anymore.
Yeah. They stopped his car AND threatened his family the way men and suits do. They didn’t state it outright, but we all knew if Rufus didn’t feign cooperation his fam would be done for.
So or kept spying on them.
But in this episode all the secrets come spilling into the open. Including Lucy’s chats with Garcia Flynn.
But they both discover Rittenhouse is a name they have in common. And Wyatt discovers they’ve both been lying to him. And they all discover they have secrets. I think this includes Wyatt, whose motivation for time travel could be to make sure he alters events so his wife isn’t murdered. Wyatt also learns, from Flynn, about a diary Lucy has written… although she hasn’t yet written it… that talks about Wyatt’s obsession with his wife’s death.

This week’s location: Washington D.C. Watergate. Rittenhouse wants what’s still a mystery today… an 18 1/2 minute gap in a taped conversation between then-president Nixon and H.R. “Bob” Haldeman.

They also want some document… that turns out to be a “who.” A person they want Rufus to get rid of, but instead he helps to flee. The Doc knows all names of Rittenhouse member as by heart. And she’s been hiding out with the black liberation front.
Funny moment. Rufus finds their location with Lucy, but this time, she’s the odd one out. Instead of Rufus waiting outside in the 1930s with folks looking at him like he’s suspect, it was Lucy’s turn. And Rufus returned her advice. “Try not to make any eye contact.”

The full episode here and at’s Timeless page:

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This is Us episode 6: Tapping into suppressed emotions, embarrassing dads, and making connections

Back in the day: Jake decides to get a desk job to make more money for his family. But he still plots the course for his own company: Big Three Homes. But… Jake and Rebecca are starting to realize Randall is academically razor sharp, REALLY sharp, after his teacher calls them in for a meeting and suggests he attend a school for gifted kids.


Present day
After William sings and plays the piano for his granddaughters, they want either him or uncle Kevin to speak at their school’s career day. They have the cool jobs. Actor. Musician. Not their dad. They don’t even know what he does for a living. Randall’s youngest daughter only knows he has an awesome chair to swivel in when they visit him at work.

Randall trades commodities based on weather pattern predictions. Weather derivatives. How funl;;aodjljcnaop;dmlcjh;idcixnkaodjclnk.aejocl….

Oops, sorry about that. Just fell asleep at the keyboard. Not saying weather derivates aren’t fun to SOMEONE. I get it. Every career, every area of interest has its charm. For someone. Wifey Beth can’t even explain what the man does for a living.

But learning William plays the piano got Randall wondering if he has an untapped creative side.

First thing outta that mouth when looked up from that phone and saw Kate? “Oh, so you hired the fat one this time.”

Continue reading This is Us episode 6: Tapping into suppressed emotions, embarrassing dads, and making connections

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NBC’s “This is Us” finds relatable levity in gravity…

Okay, so there’s a show I really enjoy on NBC. It’s one of a few that’s caught my eyes this season.

This one’s called “This is Us.” I’m about five recaps late to this party, but no me importa, it still gets mad love.  “This is Us” toggles back and forth between the present day and, I want to say, the 1980s.  Maybe the cusp of the 70s and 80s.  Now that I think of it… it looks like some of those short-shorts… Yeah, they came from the early 80s. And in one flashback episode, one character was touting her Care Bears bikini as if it were the sh!# like Underoos were back in the dizz-ay.

But anyway, the show toggles back and forth between the 1980s and the present day.  It’s about a husband and wife, and their three children.  So, the first scene opens with a woman, Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore) who is very pregnant. With triplets. Rebecca and her husband Jake (Milo Ventimiglia) are in what looks like their sparsely furnished home on his birthday. Rebecca’s so very, very pregnant, and he wants her to do this little sexy dance. Imagine: she’s not feeling it at all probably because of her triple-packed uterus. Oh the humanity (inside). She starts to indulge him, but her water breaks. All goes well… until it doesn’t. One of their babies dies.  So now Jake shares glory and tragedy with his triplets:  The birthday of a girl and boy, and the death day of a son.

So into the hospital nursery comes a baby, a freshly-born little black boy whose drugged-out daddy (cliche) dropped him off in front of a fire house.  After Rebecca and Jake lose one third of their triplets, they decide to adopt and raise this little boy, Kyle, as their own. That’s what they called him at first. In one episode, there was even a line about giving each of their three kids names that start with K. “

Kevin, Kate and Kyle. All Ks,” Jake proclaimed to the doctor.

Continue reading NBC’s “This is Us” finds relatable levity in gravity…

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