This Week in Theaters and Network Television: S.W.A.T. Series Premiere, LBJ, and Thor: Ragnarok

Giselle Lopez

November 7th, 2017

Shemar Moore as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson in “S.W.A.T.” (Monty Brinton/CBS)

Over the last week, I have watched a lot of television shows and newly released movies. This evidently seems to be the bulk of how I spend my spare time.

Without considering the exhausting pile of homework I had lingering in the depths of my mind, I’d say it was a week well spent.

In terms of movies, only two really stuck out to me, which were Thor: Ragnarok and LBJ. Thursday evening found me anticipating Shemar Moore’s newest television series, S.W.A.T.

Read at your own terms, and understand that there will be spoilers galore for the aforementioned titles.

S.W.A.T. (2017)

Ever since his departure from CBS’s Criminal Minds back in their eleventh season, fans of Shemar Moore have wanted to see the charming, lovable actor return to their television screens.

Barring Moore’s return to the hit cop-drama for Criminal Minds’ season twelve finale and one episode in season thirteen, we finally got our wish granted.

On November 2, CBS launched the series premiere of S.W.A.T., a drama where Moore stars as Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson, team leader of a group of highly skilled S.W.A.T. agents in South Central Los Angeles.

While I adore Shemar Moore, and while I definitely find no opposition in having him lead his own television series, I was a little confused by this choice in genre and by the premise this show is portraying.

S.W.A.T. commences its pilot episode with a firefight between the police force and weapons dealers. During the fight, a stray bullet from Hondo’s white partner hits a black teenager, an innocent bystander of the fight.

Immediately, we’re hit with the conflict of the two worlds Hondo is trying to balance. He is struggling between his loyalty to the people of streets where he grew up as a black man, and the loyalty to the brothers-in-arms he has on the police force.

This is a rather obvious reflection of the Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter movements occurring in real life, though the show does not directly refer to it on-screen.

In fact, Hondo is only really offered the promotion of team leader because of the conflict between the two movements, forcing this real-life issue to turn into a plot device.

The engagement between civilians and the police force may create more trouble within the television series and the thematic issues it is choosing to represent.

I’m a little worried that Hondo’s position as a POC leader on S.W.A.T. will be used as a method to further the story and create a false sense of unity between civilians and the police he is working with.

This has already happened on the show. In the middle of the premiere, Hondo visits the black teenager who was shot in the hospital, and recounts how when he was younger he also got into it with the cops.

“If you want to do something to change the police, then you should join them,” Hondo relays, offering his father’s advice to the teenager.

Later in the episode, the teenager’s brother offers critical information about the suspect Hondo’s team is looking for. This makes it seem like Hondo’s character and background exists only to bridge the gap between civilians of color and the police.

Hondo himself is a “good character.” He handles his position as team leader with grace, and it’s clear that he fits into his new role well. He’s fair and desires for his team to respect one another and respect the role they have as enforcers of the law and protectors of their city.

But in terms of characters, the show has a lot to cover if they wish to have their audience likes the remaining members of the S.W.A.T. team. Besides Hondo, the only character that truly stuck out was the new officer, Jim Street (Alex Russell), a passionate new guy who runs head-first into danger and ignores protocol for the sake of catching the bad guy as quickly as possible.

It’s clear that Street is going to cause problems for Hondo and the department in the future, though I can safely say that this appears to be without malicious intent; his heart is in the right place, at least.

And of course, what’s a cop-drama if it doesn’t have a sprinkling of personal drama to go along with it? For Hondo, it comes out in the character Jessica (Stephanie Stigman), a woman he is sleeping with and who is also his boss on the S.W.A.T. team.

Yet another boss-employee relationship entanglement we must endure on television.

As shaky as S.W.A.T.’s premiere was as an introduction, I feel that the show has certain potential to evolve into something great. It may need time, but hopefully can find its standing with other successful procedural cop shows on CBS, such as Criminal Minds.

The newest episode of S.W.A.T. will air on Thursday, November 9, at 9PM on CBS.

LBJ (2017)

Woody Harrelson as Lyndon Baines Johnson squares off with Michael Stahl-David’s Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in the Rob Reiner biopic “LBJ.”
-( Electric Entertainment)

This movie deviated from the genres that I would normally go to the theaters to watch, but I wanted to try something new. By the movie’s end, I was glad I did.

Rob Reiner’s LBJ is a political drama starring Woody Harrelson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy’s Vice President and successor following Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963. It was released in theaters on November 3.

Harrelson’s portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson was outstanding. Bellowing at the top of his lungs, cursing and making crude remarks that no president should, ideally, make in public or in office, he made a fantastic President Johnson.

According to my father, history buff that he is, Harrelson’s portrayal was spot-on to what President Johnson was.

LBJ immediately starts off with the day of Kennedy’s assassination. Johnson is clearly not happy to be there; he’s viewing newspaper articles that highlight the impending change in office as Kennedy threatens to drop Johnson as Vice President.

The film jumps back and forth in time lapses for about the first hour of the movie. Kennedy’s assassination is the concrete frame we always return too, but we witness Johnson’s journey as he goes from majority leader for the Southern Democrats four years earlier, to Vice President for President John F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan).

As we witness the changes in Johnson’s life during these jumps forward and backward in time, Johnson’s professional and personal dilemmas are displayed.

Successful as he was as majority leader in the Southern Democrats, his position as Vice President grants him little to no power with the issues he wished to fight for or against.

He is dismissed by both President Kennedy, his brother Bobby (Michael Stahl-David), and Senator Richard Russell (Richard Jenkins) as they struggle to come to an agreement or compromise on the sole political issue the movie wishes to address: the Civil Rights Act.

Johnson can say all he wants to the Kennedy brothers and Senator Russell, but overall his words come across as helpless as the position he finds himself in, and his struggle to find balance between who he was and where he is now is tangible.

Also, Johnson’s self-esteem plays a huge role in the film. His desire to be “liked” by the people of the United States or by just the people he works with, slowly burns away at him.

It adds a realistic element of humanity to the movie, as well as to the character of President Johnson; watching him break down, overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, in the arms of his wife following his initiation as President of the United States was painful to see.

There were many scenes of the film that were staggering to witness, mostly isolated to the Kennedy assassination; the shooting itself, Jackie Kennedy (Kim Allen) reaching for her husband as they sped away, and Johnson being shoved to the floor of the car, his eyes wide and haunted.

But the scene that made me shiver in my seat was when Malcolm Kilduff (Travis Wester) walks into the hospital room where they had taken Johnson following the assassination, and he announces that President Kennedy had died.

Then, in the following silence, he proceeds to call Johnson, “Mr. President.”

Just that singular moment, where Johnson looks up and realizes what just happened and how his life was about to change completely, was phenomenal.

Rotten Tomatoes has LBJ rated at 51% with sixty-three reviews. I suppose from a historical standpoint, the movie received its proper rating; however, LBJ was a fantastic movie to watch as it focuses on the story of President Johnson as he grapples with presidency following Kennedy’s assassination.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Chris Hemsworth in “Thor: Ragnarok.” (Walt Disney Studio)

Perhaps by now it’s been realized that I’m a bit of a Marvel fan, so it obviously wouldn’t have come as a surprise that I went to go see the third Thor movie during its opening weekend.

On November 2, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was released in theaters, and let me tell you all right now, I love this movie.

The movie starts off with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) having been captured by Surtur, a fire demon who introduces the prophecy of Ragnarok, which is the apocalyptic event said to destroy the realms.

It’s revealed that Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor’s father, is no longer in Asgard; instead, he has been taken to Earth and has since been impersonated by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who Thor believed to be dead.

Together, Loki and Thor – with the help of a cameo appearance by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) – find Odin in Norway. Odin warns them of the arrival of Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death and Thor and Loki’s older sister. Odin tells them that Hela’s arrival is inevitable, especially once Asgard is left vulnerable following Odin’s death.

Guess what happens to Odin next?

Thor and Loki meet Hela for the first time, and the inexplicable happens: she obliterates Mjolnir, Thor’s trusted hammer, as easily as if it were made of glass.

Wow. This Hela character may bring a bigger fight to the table than we’re used too.

Through a mishap within the Bifrost as they attempt to escape, Hela is sent to Asgard while Thor and Loki are sent to Sakaar, a garbage world on the other side of the universe.

Thor is made to enter a gladiator battle, where he encounters Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) for the first time in two years.

A legitimate Hulk vs. Thor battle was something I desperately needed to see from Marvel, and while I hated the fact that it was unclear who truly won, I loved how it left the winner semi-ambiguous.

The Hulk and Thor battle also revealed another thing. Without Mjolnir, it was uncertain whether Thor could prevail within a battle. However, as he fights Hulk, the true extent of his powers is unleashed as thunder and lightening enveloped him while he fought Hulk.

At risk of sounding like a cliché, I suppose he didn’t need the hammer to fight; his true power was inside him the whole time.

Also, I adore the relationship the Hulk/Banner has with Thor in this movie. It’s not a friendship that’s heavily explored in prior Avengers films, and it was refreshing to see.

It was truly a great scene when Thor reached for the Hulk’s hand, soothingly saying Natasha Romanoff’s (Scarlett Johansson) lullaby to calm him down. It provided a nice little throwback to Avengers: Age of Ultron – even if it turned out to be a failure for Thor anyway.

Witnessing the Hulk become turn his rage into petulance in his encounters with Thor was endearing, and it was a nice change to see Hulk have mannerisms that deviated from smashing and roaring at everything.

And Bruce Banner disguising himself as Tony Stark? That scene made my entire day.

Thor also meets Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a warrior who was formerly a part of an elite group of female fighters called the Valkyrior, and now found solace at the bottom of whatever drink she could get her hands on.

Initially, she enraged when Thor asks for help in fighting Hela, and outright refuses to provide any assistance. However, she eventually agrees to help, desiring one last chance at destroying the entity who ruined her life.

Valkyrie was an intriguing character and gave the film a strong female presence on the side of the good with Hela on the other side of the spectrum.

Armed with great characters, incredible actors, a good storyline, and coated with familiar Marvel humor, Thor: Ragnarok was a fantastic movie for the weekend.

Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 93% with 259 reviews. I highly recommend watching this movie, even if it’s only to see Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston running around.

Giselle Lopez

Features Editor

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