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Putting the Nasty into Dynasty: PAFF’s Centerpiece an Empire Wannabe

Ed Rampell: With Media being a knockoff of Knots Landing crossed by Empire, along with betrayal, corruption, conniving and jiving, sexual hijinks abound, with heaps of infidelity.
Media

25th Annual PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL: MEDIA Film Review

The world premiere of Craig Ross, Jr.’s Media is the Centerpiece special screening of the Pan African Film Festival. Media is about competing clans, pitting the Jones against the Randolphs as they vie for hegemony of Atlanta’s communications industry. As the feuding families put the nasty into dynasty, Media strives to be like the hit series Empire, but set in the world of radio, print, et al, instead of the music industry. The 90 minute production is also reminiscent of TV soap operas and of series such as Dallas and Dynasty - except Media’s characters are mostly Black.

There are also clear reference to the classic films The Godfather and Citizen Kane: Michael Jones (Brian White of 2007’s Stomp the Yard) is the only one of matriarch mogul Jackie Jones’ (Penny Johnson Jerald of TV’s 24 series) four children who is not pursuing the family business. Instead, he has become a crusading assistant district attorney with ambitions to run for mayor of Atlanta. But plot complications arise, ensnaring Michael, who previously walked the straight and narrow, into the communications company. This not only causes him to abandon his mayoral aspirations, but to become complicit in dubious activities. Like Al Pacino as that other MICHAEL - Corleone - every time he tries to get out, they pull him back in.

With Media being a knockoff of Knots Landing crossed by Empire, along with betrayal, corruption, conniving and jiving, sexual hijinks abound, with heaps of infidelity.

Of course, with this being a knockoff of Knots Landing crossed by Empire, along with betrayal, corruption, conniving and jiving, sexual hijinks abound, with heaps of infidelity. The onscreen sex ranges from the tepid to the genuinely kinky, although as Media seems to aspire to be the pilot for a network TV series, there is no nudity or graphic explicit acts per se.

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Indeed, much of director Craig Ross, Jr.’s background is in television, and Media has a very TV-ish, small screen feel, as opposed to a big screen motion picture sensibility. The melodramatic and mediocre Media is soap opera-ish instead of cinematic; at best, it’s a mildly entertaining drama about sex and power plays where all’s unfair in love and war in the world of mass communications.

There is, for some reason, no writing credit for it at IMDB.com, but the cast includes Gary Dourdan of a CSI franchise as rival mogul Jabbar Randolph; Moneyball’s Stephen Bishop as his younger brother Will Randolph; Jillian Reeves of TV’s Moms series injects a feminist note into the corporate world as Giselle Marks, as does Chrystee Pharris (TV’s Scrubs) playing Jackie’s daughter Crystal Jones. While there are many snakes in Media’s garden, this Cain and Abel melodrama is no Citizen Kane (based, of course, on that other media mogul, WILLiam RANDOLPH Hearst).

The Pan African Film Festival is taking place from Feb. 9-20 and is screening Media as its Centerpiece at 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Feb. 15 at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Cinemas 15 (formerly RAVE Cinema), Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008. PAFF info: https://www.paff.org/.

Ed Rampell

L.A.-based critic and film historian Ed Rampell is the presenter and programmer of “10 Films That Shook the World”, a cinematic centennial celebration of the Russian Revolution, premiering 7:00 p.m., Feb. 24 at the Los Angeles Workers Center, 1251 S. St. Andrews Place, L.A., CA 90019.