January 8, 2012
A Freudian Slip
Now Playing: A Dangerous Method
Topic: Movie Reviews
After nearly six months of anticipation, I finally saw A Dangerous Mehod starring Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung; Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud; and Keira Knightley as Sabina. Sabina is a woman suffering from mania because of a repressing masochistic tendencies. She is delivered to Vienna to be cured by Dr. Jung and the new "talk therapy." Dr. Freud is Jung's confidant, friend, and the father of the psychotherapy movement in which Jung has great ambitions to succeed.
I thought the acting was good and the premise was interesting, but the movie fell a bit flat. The marketing oversold the relationship between Sabina and Jung for it wasn't even the most interesting parts of the movie. Their relationship felt shoehorned into the plot, and sex didn't feel as passionate as it could have been with all the build up to it in the movie.
The most fascinating bits, which I wish David Croneberg had elaborated on, were the conversations of about psychoanalytical theory between Freud and Jung and later on Jung and Otto. Freud and Jung had the most passionate relationship! They were like father and son, and then almost like lovers towards the end when they "broke up." Jung and Freud eventually had a difference on opinion when it came to psychotherapy, and Freud felt betrayed by Jung's distancing of Freud's idea that all psychosis was based in sexuality.
Finally, I wish they had focused a bit more on Freud's fear of the anti-semitic reaction to psychotherapy. He mentioned it twice it the movie, and had even hinted that the protestant Jung had a prurient interest in Jews.
October 9, 2011
Fists of Steel, Heart of Blood
Now Playing: Real Steel
Topic: Movie Reviews
Let's get a few things out of the way first before I lodge into my review of the latest Hugh Jackman flick “Real Steel.” If you are a regular reader of this blog or of anything I ever posted on the internet over the past ten years, then you know that I love Hugh Jackman. Although there's a 50-50 chance that a Hugh Jackman film will be good, Hugh, himself is always charismatic and fun to watch on film. He never phones it in. Second, yes “Real Steel” is reminiscent of the 1980s toy "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots," which I desperately wanted to own.
Thirdly, lets acknowledge that we are all in the electronic artificial intelligence age and that we are more slaves to our computers than ever, and that we are selling humankind up a mechanic river filled with chips, metal, and plastic.
Finally, let’s also acknowledge that we are bloodthirsty creatures. From the ancient times, we liked gladiator matches. We, as humans, like watching UFC, football, boxin, WWE, etc. We like watching a good beat down, which is probably why people pull out there phones to video record fights before they call the police. “Real Steel” doesn’t acknowledge any of those personality quirks of humankind, because it isn’t that type of movie. “Real Steel” is not a morality play about humans becoming as cold as the technology we carry or why we enjoy blood sport. It is a feel good movie that both older children, teens, and parents can enjoy together. It is a family film where we root for the underdog.
Charlie (Hugh Jackman) is a washed up human boxer turned robot boxer, who trolls scrap yards looking for pieces to create a great robot boxer to pull him out of his poverty-ridden existence. Even when Charlie discovers he has an 11-year-old son, Max, he still chases after the dollar with horrible circumstances until Max discovers an old robot that can take a ticking and keep on licking. Even better, it can be taught to fight because it shadows the moves of anything in front of it. From this point, the movie begins its upward trajectory. The junkyard dog robot Max discovers, Atom, moves up the ranks until it is given a championship match. Charlie and Max bond over boxing, cans of Dr. Pepper, and training Atom. You know where this story is going (actually not all of it because the ending is a bit of a surprise), and it is a pleasing ride.
The robot animatronics is awesome. Whoever worked on the robotics on this movie should takeover the Transformers franchise. They made the most clunky robot boxer graceful and light on their 2 ton feet. The boxing matches are engaging. The audience I saw it with was as hooked as I was. They were shouting at the screen; mirroring the punches; grimacing with each body blow; and clapping after each victory. Even better, Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo (who plays Max) are just engaging on screen as their metal counterparts. The little boy has attitude, moxie, street smarts, and just enough moppet to not him appear as a pint-size asshole. The same could be said for Jackman. His character is a totally jerk, but he gives him just enough tenderness that we forgive him for being an absentee dad.
The kinetic and mostly urban soundtrack add to making the audience hyper. Tracks by Timbaland, 50-Cent, and Eminem feature prominently in the movie and adds to the grittiness of underground robot boxing as well as underscoring the hungriness of Charlie, Max and Atom to win.
You will not waste your money seeing this crowd-pleaser especially if you go with your tween-age kids or younger. (There was a little boy in my audience, no more than 4 years old, who shouted out that he wanted to be a robot. Too cute.)
Real Steel Soundtrack on @Spotify
February 7, 2010
Things I'm Digging This Month Feb. Edition
Now Playing: Avatar
Topic: Movie Reviews
I've severely been neglecting this blog, because of life--my kids, my hubby, my job, and my sanity! lol. However, I don't want to abandon it in total so I've decided to do a monthly post called "What I'm Digging This Month." I ripped off the idea from a blog I'm totally digging called "Manolo for the Big Girl." (The weekly feature is called What Plumcake Is....)
Make-up/Beauty Product: In December, I won a trio of eye colors from Orglamix. Orglamix is a cosmetic company whereas the creator, Cheri, makes all the products with 100 percent pure minerals. According to the product card I received in my prize package, Orglamix "has built up a cult following as mineral specialist...." I can attest this is true for I have read testimonies in some of the beauty blogs I follow. In my prize package, which was beautifully and lightly scented (talk about awesome presentation), were five eye shadows in subtly shimmery yet vibrant colors--Cherry Blossom; Pomegranate; Mandarin; Lilly Pilly; and my fav of the quintet, Geranium. Geranium is beautiful and rich violet pink mix. (I'm such a fan of purple-y eye shadows.) See my attempt of a pic below of the color on my eyelid with black Senna cream eyeshadow. With prices starting as low as $3.99, I'm definitely going to go back for me as I am a huge fan of bright shimmery shadows! Don't let the loose powder scare you off, it comes in a sifter and a gentle tap gives you enough color for both eyes.
Movie/TV Show: You know, I had been really made at James Cameron for a really long time since he came out with that bloated, too long, huge money maker called Titanic. He gave permission to movie makers and movies companies to start turning out huge, most times boring, and overly long movies that weren't very good but garnered tons of press and award coverage (i.e.: The Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). With all of the hoopla over his latest flick, Avatar, I was prepared more than over to dis Cameron and not see his movie on GP although he is the creator of one of my favorite sci-fi movie and flim series (The Terminator) of all time. James Cameron earned back my respect with Avatar, which is a visually beautiful, stunning, breathtaking, awe-inspiring science fiction movie. Although it was a little too long, I'm at a loss to say where it could have been edited and kept the story in tact. As an African-American woman, I didn't find anything offensive or racist about the movie although there was a mini controversy that it was. The plot was slightly cliched as it explored colonialism through history's and Hollywood's apologetic eyes, but it draw you in emotionally. As the world recovers from natural disaster after natural disaster and the affects of global warming, Avatar really is a beautiful and vibrant love letter to nature. See it on the big screen. I don't think it is Oscar-worthy but it is good.
Book: I was lucky enough to participate in an author giveaway on Facebook, and I received the audio and traditional version of the novel The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. The Sugar Queen is about 27-year-old Josey Cirrini, who is a near recluse who spends all of her time taking care of her aging mother out of guilt for being a bratty child. But, this all changes when tough talking and and hard living Delle Lee takes refugee in Josey's huge walk-in closet that is filled with forbidden-by-her-mom sweets and romance novels. One part realist and one part fairy godmother, Delle Lee motivates Josey to break out of her shell and grab the world throat--mainly the attention of the postal carrier for which she carries a torch.
Food: My final thing I'm digging this month was spawned by my rejoining Weight Watchers per doctor's orders. (For more on that, check out my Fat Chick blog http://brooklynshoebabe.weheartthis.com.) Although a little expensive at nearly $1.80 a can, I've become a fan of Campell's Soup At Hand--a microwavable soup that comes in a portable hot cup. Of the varieties I've tried, even the New England Clam Chowder, they don't eat up more than 2 WW points. Add five Ritz Whole Wheat crackers (5 crackers equal 1 WW point) and you have nice light dinner or a very filling snack!
So, check out these things and let me know what you think. If you write Campbell and tell them how much you loved the product like I did, you might get some coupons. If you order from Orgalmix, please tell them that KikiShoes sent you!
See you next month!
December 7, 2009
The Virgin & Shirtless Supernatural Boys
Now Playing: The Twilight Saga:New Moon
Topic: Movie Reviews
I am a movie enthusiast. Simply, I love movies. I love the experience of watching a new or an old beloved movie whether it be on television, a DVD, or at the theater. Don’t mistake my self-proclamation of being an enthusiast as my being a movie snob. I enjoy all levels of movie. I love great movies made with care and passion—those are my favorites that I can watch over and over again. I loathe movies that are badly written; badly edited; badly acted; badly executed; sloppy; and just made with little or not thought.
Then there are those fair-to-middling movies which get slapped with descriptors such as “guilty pleasures” or “just okay.” Those movies are usually made with some care, maybe a bit of passion, and delivers what the audience wants. These flicks don’t win Oscars. They piss off most of the higher browed critics and viewers. They cause some film elitists and sociologists to write off the current generation, and decry how stupid culture consumers have gotten. They keep B-list actors employed ad infinitum. Lol. And, you know what? I like some of them. They’re comfort food for my brain. Sure, I can appreciate Liam Neeson playing Oskar Schindler, the businessman who saved many Jews during the Holocaust. But I also loved him as the vengeful father in the shoot ‘em up Taken. This is where The Twilight Saga: New Moon falls.
I enjoyed New Moon probably more than I should have. I had refused to read the novels, because I knew there were better young adult novels out there worth my time. Once I started reading reviews and analysis of it, I definitely knew I wasn’t going to like it. I was too much of a teenage feminist to like protagonist Bella Swan—klutzy, clueless, and always in need of some male to save her. And perhaps I was too much of a traditionalist, because I like my vampires to die in the sunlight! I was overtaken by curiosity, and my lips hovered over the glass of Twilight Kool-Aid. Pleasing many of teen Twi-fans, I hosted a DVD viewing of the first movie at my library. I prepared to watch it with a sardonic smirk on my face, but, at the end, I found myself a wee bit smitten.
My husband likes to joke that I’m secretly a thirteen old girl, because of my like of tweeny Nintendo DS games and the desire to get a cell phone charm. Well, he can also add because of my like of the movies Twilight and New Moon. The palatable virgin teen sexual tension took me back to my awkward adolescence and young adulthood, where I longed to be desired by two hot dudes. Admittedly, I am (and would have been as a teen) on Team Jacob—the hunky werewolf. Edward Cullen’s lanky bod and paleness leave me a bit cold. (No pun intended.) New Moon was filled with killing, hunting, mysteries, and ancient lore. The forbidden romantic triangle put it over the top as prime guilty pleasure fodder.
In the second installment of Stephenie Meyer’s series, Bella (human girl) is dumped by her vampire boyfriend Edward so she is no longer in harm's way. Except, this causes her to spiral into an angst-ridden depression where she can only see Edward when she is danger (which is often). Now a bon a fide adrenaline junkie, she starts to refurbish a pair of motorbikes with her long time friend Jacob. Jacob is a Native American teen hiding some supernatural issues of his own. Blah, blah, blah…shirtless buff boy-men standing in rain…long passionate kisses…werewolves and vampires face off. Bella chooses to be with Edward who promises to turn her into a vampire when she’s 21, and Jacob threatens Edward. But danger still lurks in the air as dangerous red-headed vamp named Victoria wants to kill Bella. It all sounds corny, right? But I was all in and I can’t wait for the sequel. (Three-quel?) Plus, Dakota Fanning's small role was awesome and there was promise of more of her deadly vampire in Eclipse.
Yes, it dragged in some parts. Yes, some of the dialogue was a bit schmaltzy. But, there was some subtle jokes and sarcasm that only a wizened adult could spot and laugh at. If you know that this movie was made for soft-hearted teens rooting for their generation’s star-crossed lovers, you will not be disappointed. Enjoy the fluff today, go see the Oscar-bait tomorrow. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give New Moon 2.75 stars.
If you want to check out a grown folks’ fantasy/adventure/love story, peep the 1981 King Arthur tale Excalibur. It stars a younger Liam Neeson, Helen Mirren, and Patrick Stewart.
September 14, 2009
A Little Salt in Your Sugar
Now Playing: (500) Days of Summer
Topic: Movie Reviews
(500) Days of Summer is an irresistible and sweet movie directed by former music video director Marc Webb. It is common knowledge now that this anti-romantic comedy is actually based on a real woman. (She was the girlfriend the writer Scott Neustadter.) The movie starts with an intro that reads: “Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you, Jenny Beckman... Bitch,” which puts a small damper on one’s enjoyment of the movie. It reminds me of how women are insulted when they turn down a man’s advances. Instead of accepting the refusal quietly, they call her “skank” or a “whore.” Some even worse insults include shouting that her vagina smells. It’s a false bravado, which everyone recognizes yet the stares and the tsk tsking are aimed at the woman as though she deserved the haranguing. Although the viewer already goes into (500) knowing it is about the unraveling of a relationship, which is the fault of both parties, we are immediately biased against the woman.
With that said, I did enjoy (500) Days of Summer much more than I should have since it does have a subtle disgust of women and our secret, mysterious ways that men always complain about. But it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of Tom, a charming and romantic emo twenty-something, which draws you into the movie and Tom’s pov. With the oversized projection of Gordon-Levitt’s face on the screen, you can’t help to fall into his inviting smile and playful eyes—he’s a nice guy who’s not a doormat. As you fall deeper in love with Tom, you wonder why the object of his affection ends up dumping him.
The casting is what really makes this movie. A too comedic of an actor or a too brooding of an actor would have alienated us from Tom’s pain and need for closure. Zooey Deschanel’s kooky prettiness lends an ethereal quality that fits perfectly Tom’s rhapsodizing and near worship of Summer. A more traditional beauty would have made Tom’s deep feelings for Summer seem shallow. The audience can understand somebody being head over heels in love with a curvy woman with come hither eyes like Eva Mendes, but such a fascination of a woman with such quirkiness allows the audience to accept that Tom loved her for more than what was on the outside.
(500) Days did have some faults. It was only 100 minutes long, but did seem to drag in some places. It lacks somewhat broad appeal for it’s cultural references are steeped somewhere between 1986 and 1991. Although this movie wasn’t written for women in mind, it was a little disappointing that Summer was such a 1-dimensional character.
Out of 5 stars, I give this movie 3 solid stars. (Also an extra half star for the cool soundtrack.)
May 4, 2009
Now Playing: X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Topic: Movie Reviews
There are probably very few comic book heroes that evoke such a fanatic following and worship as Wolverine a.k.a. Weapon X a.k.a. Logan. In the Marvel Pantheon, he must rank in at least the top 3. Wolverine existed for nearly 25+ years in the comic book world before they even delved deeply into his origins. So, you can imagine the problems that 20th Century Fox and Hugh Jackman must have had in bringing such a legendary character to the screen. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is going to be a polarizing film to the most hardcore fans to the passer bys.
Since joining the X-men franchise nearly ten years ago, Hugh Jackman has done justice to the Canadian-born, cigar chomping, enigmatic anti-hero. Jackman and Liev Schreiber do a good job of bringing some emotional depth to the mutant brothers Jimmy and Victor (Jackman and Schreiber respectively), who grow-up to become Wolverine and Sabretooth. Most superhero movies are not successful in bringing 30, 40 or 50 years of characterization to the screen without weighing down the action that the movie going audiences want to see. Spider-Man 1 and 2 and Batman Begins is a perfect example of how to create that balance. Superman Returns is an example of how not to do it. X-men Origins: Wolverine errs on the side of conventionality, and gives you a straight story without plowing too deeply into souls of Wolverine and Sabretooth. They give you just enough to set up the action.
Aside from Jackman and Schreiber, the acting is a little stilted especially from Black Eyed Peas rapper Will.I.Am as a teleporting mutant. (Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the sarcastic, buff and crazy mutant swordsman.) Luckily, Schreiber is the one who gets to deliver the best lines and sneers. Unlike most summer blockbusters, this flick doesn’t weigh itself down too heavily in CGI, car crashes, and aerial dynamics. Most of the action is the hand to hand (or is it claw to claw?), and it is easy to follow. Most action movies nowadays have a blinding number of action sequences that are harder to follow than the spin-offs of Marvel X-men comics.
Jackman and Ryan Reynolds give a nice show of their chiseled bods (WOO HOO!), and a luscious lipped actress Lynn Collins give the lads something to fantasize about when the fighting is done. The lack of emotional connection that made me a fan of the X-men comics and the first two X-men movies left me with a bit of a hollow feeling. Hugh Jackman can do no wrong, and even his worst movies are still entertaining. And, Wolverine is still my favorite anti-hero.
I give X-men Origins: Wolverine a B-, bub.
April 15, 2009
Bring on the Damn Popcorn
Now Playing: Summer Movie Previews
Topic: Movie Reviews
In 1999, the release of the Matrix pushed up the start of the blockbuster summer movie season to the beginning of May instead of Memorial Day weekend. So, in about two weeks it will be summer movie time although the weather in New York will still be very much fall like. However, to hell with temperatures. I'm ready for my Summer Blockbusters. Below I've made a list of the movies I can't wait to see in the theaters. Chime in and let me know what you're waiting to see.
X-Men Origins:Wolverine: featuring my favorite film and stage honey Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber, whom my intellect finds sexy.
Star Trek: Because they’re taking a chance with the franchise and the trailer looked hot. Not to mention, I love the Details magazine coverline “Eric Bana Makes Capt. Kirk His Bitch.” (In my heart, I’ve always been a sci-fi movie/Star Trek freak.)
Terminator Salvation: Because I love Christian Bale, and I’ve seen all of the Terminator movies. I’ve grown up with the franchise, but I still might wait until video.
Up: I love Pixar movies, and I really liked the trailer. Finally, I have two small kids and they need to see some summer movies too. (Induct them early into my favorite pastime.)
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: One of my favorite Harry Potter books, and I’m hoping it will be my favorite Harry Potter movies. I’ll probably rent this one, though.
Maybe-Maybe Not in the Theater:
Funny People: It’s written and directed by Judd Apatow who made two of the funniest movies this decade. It has a cast I absolutely adore—Adam Sandler, Eric Bana, Seth Rogen, and Jason Schwartzman. The trailer is funny as all get out. I think Adam Sandler is brilliant when he is in a semi-serious role, and I don’t think Judd Apatow hasn’t peaked yet.
Public Enemies: It’s directed by Michael Mann, who hasn’t made a movie I’ve connected with since Manhunter starring CSI’s William Peterson. His movies should be good and I usually watch them to the end, like Miami Vice, Heat, and Collateral, but I’m always left cold. Not to mention, the film’s trailer reminds me too much of The Untouchables (one of my favorite gangster movies of all times) and Bonnie and Clyde. But, it does star Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and the severely underrated Billy Crudup. (I watched Almost Famous for the first time this year, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of Billy Crudup. I didn’t want to watch a scene unless he was in it. I kept asking myself, who is this actor? When I saw his name in the trailer, I was like “of course.”)
Movies I’m Guaranteeing Will Suck:
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen will suck because the first one was horrid, so the sequel is guaranteed to be worst.
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra because I’m sick of movies made from cartoons from my youth. I hope it is good, but I think it might suck because the director isn’t that great.
January 22, 2009
Thoughts on the Oscars
Now Playing: Oscar Nominations for 2008
Topic: Movie Reviews
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
- NOMINATIONS BY CATEGORY - 81ST AWARDS -
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films) --I haven't even heard of this film.
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal) --Hooray for Count Dracula
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) --Surprised because I found Brad Pitt to be surprisingly detached
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight) --I hope and pray that Mickey wins, because I love a great comeback story.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features) -- He was awesome in No Country for Old Men. He plays a good anti-hero/villian, no?
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) --I had a dream witih Heath Ledger in it the other night. I simply love him as a talent. He was excellent as the Joker, but this is a tough category.
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics) --I would love to see Anne win because she really is a great actress, and this movie has been getting great reviews. Plus, if she won, I'd truly forgive her for starring in that anti-feminist flick Bride Wars.
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal) -- Who would have thought that Angelina would grow up to become a serious actress.
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics) -- I'd like her to win just on the strength of starring in one of my favorite television shows ever, Homicide.
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax) -- Hey, it's Meryl. Has she ever won?
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) -- Hey, it's Kate. She should go back to being a red head.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company) --She is really proving herself to be a talent, and I'd like to see this movie on the strength of Javier Bardem
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) --I loved her in Hustle and Flow!
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight) -- Ever since I saw her in The Slums of Beverly Hills, I've been a fan of her acting. Also, I thought her Golden Globes outfit was wonderful and non-traditional.
Best animated feature film of the year
"Bolt" (Walt Disney) Chris Williams and Byron Howard -- I don't know if this Oscar-worthy. I just think they're trying to fill out the category.
"Kung Fu Panda" (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount) John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
"WALL-E" (Walt Disney) Andrew Stanton -- I love WALL-E!
Achievement in film editing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.) Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall -- Really? No, Really? If you're movie is 3 hours long, what effing editing are you doing?
"The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.) Lee Smith
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
"Milk" (Focus Features) Elliot Graham
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Chris Dickens
Best motion picture of the year
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
A Kennedy/Marshall Production Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
"Milk" (Focus Features)
A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production Nominees to be determined
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)
A Celador Films Production Christian Colson, Producer -- I'd love to see this movie win just on the strength of it being an outsider and not your typical Oscar fare.
December 22, 2008
Play that Funky Music
Now Playing: Cadillac Records
Topic: Movie Reviews
Let me clear the air in case you have the same fears that I had about Cadillac Records. Cadillac Records is not the Beyonce Knowles movie. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t show up until halfway through the film. Her performance was surprisingly good and raw. When you hear her curse up a blue-streak as the damaged blues singer Etta James, you get the feeling that the Beyonce Knowles we see in the media is a fake and this is how she really gets down behind the scenes.
CR had two things going for it that did make me want to see it. First was the incomparable and oft-under mentioned Jeffrey Wright. The second was director Darnell Martin who I liked since she had made since her first flick, I Like It Like That. Neither disappointed in this too-short biopic about Chess Records, the record company that pushed blues into the forefront of American culture and laid down the foundation for what we now call Rock-n-Roll.
Darnell neither demonizes nor canonizes the troubled musicians that make up the roster of Chess Records. She shows artists, like Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Etta James, as musical geniuses with a whole lot of personal problems. Even better is her portrayal of Leonard Chess, one of the brothers who founded Chess records. Although he is a white man giving black artists a chance to make records, earn money and get on the radio waves, he is also shown as more than a savior. He’s a crook with a heart. The stories of the artists and their Svengali that Darnell weaves leave you wanting to know more. Each person could be the story of their very on biopic.
Each actor stands out in this movie. Mos Def proves to be a talented, charismatic, and engaging actor. Jeffrey Wright, as usual, is excellent. Beyonce shows her acting chops. Adrien Brody is solid and intense, as normal. The stand out in this film, however, is the relatively unknown Columbus Short playing the self-destructive Little Walter. When Little Walter’s seduction of his mentor Muddy Waters’ wife is rejected, you can feel it. Once he realized that he has crossed the line, the guilt, pain and frustration is written all over his face. I’d like to see him nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar.
This movie made me want to smoke a cigarette, drink a brown liquor, and f*** like only a good blues song can.
November 30, 2008
Nor Rain, Nor Wind, Nor Crying Baby, Nor Mixed Rewiews Stopped Me
Now Playing: Review: Australia
Topic: Movie Reviews
I saw five movies in the movie theaters this year, which is something I haven't done since becoming a mother nearly four years ago. I saw Australia, Quantum of Solace, The Dark Knight (twice), and Iron Man. All four movies I saw during their opening weekends, and I enjoyed them all immensely for various reasons. But none satisfied my mushy, slushy, overripe, dramatic, romantic core like Australia. It satisfied all my expectations of sexy stares, double entendres, mean scoundrels, naked kissing, pretty clothes, and a sweaty, dirty, muscular Hugh Jackman. *swoon, swoon* I give Australia two quivering lips up!
In order to be fair, I must lay out my criticisms plainly. As of all movies of late, Australia was at least 15 minutes too long although I didn't get the feeling of it dragging in any part. The orchestral scores were too loud and dictatorial. It forced the audience's emotional reactions instead of letting the acting/writing/scene lead the audience to the desired reaction. The admiration of the Aboriginals was raised to almost a near-condescending level. (Perhaps it was Baz Lurhmann's trying to alleviate his version of white guilt. If this was an American-made movie about the love affair between two white people living in the Jim Crow south and who were enraged by their peers' racism and admired the Negroes quiet yet proud way of life, as a Black woman I probably would have found Australia offensive.) The critics were right with their middle-of-the-road reviews. Cinematically, it wasn't bad but it wasn't that good either.
With all that said, I wasn't disappointed by Australia. It wasn't as frenetic or eye-straining as Moulin Rouge or William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. Nicole Kidman's acting was pleasant as the Lady Sarah Ashley playing her both straight and with tongue firmly in cheek. (I've never found Nicole Kidman as pretty as she was by the end of this movie when she was lightly tanned and freckled with pink chapped lips and tousled hair.) Hugh Jackman yet again proved that he can be both a guy's guy and a girl's guy playing the rough-hewn Drover-a man who can control females of both the horse and human variety while drinking cheap rum from the bottle and with a hand-rolled cigarette dangling from his lip. The entire cast was a delight especially the young Brandon Walters who played the mystical bi-racial Aborigine boy at the center of most of the movie's non-romantic action.
The big scenes of the movie, a cattle stampede and the bombing of the Australian city Darwin, was worth the price of admission. It made my heart race and gasp with anticipation even when I knew the outcomes. (I will not reveal them here because I'm no spoiler.) There was one scene I really did enjoy, but only because of the audience's reaction. The Drover, who is an outcast because he was married to an Aboriginal woman and still lives among them, sets high society's tongues a wagging when he arrives at a ball to claim his lady. As the camera pans up to reveal the lean, well-dressed, clean shaven handsomeness of Hugh Jackman, there are audible contented sighs (from the ladies in the theater) and groans (from the men in the theater). But the sighs were louder, and that pretty much sums up Australia.
November 26, 2008
Slightly Dampened Spirits
Now Playing: My Pre-Viewing Feelings of Australia
Topic: Movie Reviews
Today, the movie Australia was released in the United States to fair-to-middling reviews. I've been looking forward to seeing this movie for three months, and the reveiws are not going to dampen my desire but I do have some mixed feelings that have been exacerbated by the reviews.
I have not seen the movie Strictly Ballroom. I did see William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (WS R+J), and it is one my favorite movies. The unique cinematography and locations put a fresh spin on the star-crossed lovers' story. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Dane's chemistry was absolutely palpable.
Unfortunately it did take me several years and several attempts to view Moulin Rouge in its entirety. The movie was packed so tightly with strange little characters, colors, music, set design, and quick cuts that I simultaneously got a migraine and had a seizure every time I tried to watch it. Broken over several months, I did watch bits and pieces of the film until I was able to piece together the whole flick. I suppose it was good, but I'm not sure it was worth all the hoopla. I found Ewan McGregor dreamy and Nicole Kidman very pretty. (She has a type of a detachedness that makes her pretty but not necessarily sexy. Sexy is something you can touch, and Nicole comes across as a china doll you just want to admire from afar. Because of this, I couldn't really buy her as a courtesan.)
All the above mentioned movies were directed by Baz Lurhman, and he directed Australia. Because of my mixed-reactions to his previous projects, I'm not sure what to expect with Australia. Will I melt from sensory overload or will I leave the theater with my heart racing and feeling satisfied?
1. I've been looking for a sweeping romance book or movie like The English Patient for months .
2. I did like WS R+J a whole lot.
3. I normally don't see (or not see) a movie based on the critics.
4. I LOVE HUGH JACKMAN (People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive, thank you very much, about time People), and I love him when he's sexy, scruffy and wet which Australia promises to deliver several times over the course of 2+ hours.
5. I've been looking forward to seeing Hugh on the big screen for over two years now, since a complicated pregnancy forced me to miss The Prestige, The Fountain, and Scoop in the theatres.
1. Moulin Rouge was too frenetic and long for me to enjoy.
2. I normally don't like movies longer than 2 hours especially when they're not stellar. (Munich, The Godfather, and The Color Purple were all over two hours long and super stellar.)
3. There have been no shining reviews, just a handful of "okays."
4. Nicole Kidman is one of the most overrated beauties and talents in Hollywood. Her botox'd features, pin straight blonde hair, and ultra slim body make it hard for me to relate to her female characters. I miss the curvy, firey curled, and expressive Kidman from her To Die For days.
5. I generally don't like movies billed as epics.
I hope to have a review of Australia for you by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Wish me luck and good time. I hope I'm not disappointed.
November 17, 2008
A Rugged, Thuggish Spy
Now Playing: Quantum of Solace: A Review
Topic: Movie Reviews
Until I saw the DVD for “Casino Royale” and the trailer for its sequel “Quantum of Solace,” I never had a desire to see a James Bond movie on film. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up as a fan of Sean Connery’s version of James Bond—suave, smooth with a little rough-n-tumble. All of Roger Moore’s James Bond flicks were made during my childhood, and we faithfully watched them on television out of loyalty to the franchise. Although my brother and I were too young to get most of the tongue-in-cheek camp, we did realize it was more about the gizmos, gimmicks, and explosions than it was about plot and character. Eventually, as teens, we got Timothy Dalton as a rather boring and un-sexy Bond, but it was as much the writers’ faults as Dalton’s.
Finally, in my 20s, we got Pierce Bronson whom I thought would be an excellent Bond replacement after Roger Moore but got cheated out of the opportunity when NBC forced him to return to the show Remington Steele (a favorite of mine). Although a bit older, Pierce was still sexy, charismatic, and smooth: A perfect spy. Due to no fault of his own, his James Bond films got weighed down by convoluted plots, a mess of flashy toys, and hyped-up Bond girls. (Did we really need Denise Richards, Halle Berry, and Teri Hatcher to all make appearances when they were already stars in their own rights?) In other words, they got boring.
I’m an über-fan of many television shows, movie franchises, and comic books, but I’ve always been a bit liberal-minded so I had no qualms about Daniel Craig playing James Bond (although I fancied Clive Owen or Hugh Jackman as a replacement). When I saw a more uncouth, thuggish, and emotional 007 in “Casino Royale,” I got excited not disappointed. I liked the focus on character development, foot & car races, and gun play. We weren’t thrown a hundred cheesecake shots of women in itsy bikinis or the mission briefing with requisite display of the mind-defying gadgets. We were given a spy with a newly minted license to kill, and unafraid to use it. I loved it!
“Quantum of Solace” picks up where the last film ended—an angry spy out for revenge while trying to put down the world’s next terror. This movie was tightly scripted and edited—slim, brisk, and built to please (as was its star Craig, *snicker, sneer*). Although the surprise of a much more hands-on Bond had worn off a bit, it was still a thrill to watch Craig chase, beat, and sometimes kill his prey.
Everyone in this movie was spot on from the slimy eco-industrialist out to control the world’s water supply to the jaded CIA agent to the revenge-seeking hot babe. There were explosions, chases, shootings, and a sexy middle-aged woman in a bikini, but nothing took away from the flick’s true star—Daniel Craig’s brooding spy, with a hint of cruelty in the eyes, walking the thin line between doing right and doing what feels right.
Out of five stars, I give “Quantum of Solace” 3.5 stars. It is a solid piece of entertainment.
August 9, 2008
Brokeback part deux
Now Playing: Brokeback Mountain...again
Topic: Movie Reviews
Today I re-watched Brokeback Mountain today for the first time since my initial viewing nearly two and half years ago. It was refreshing to watch the movie so far removed from the hype of being the “gay cowboy movie.” Michelle Williams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Heath Ledger’s performances all hold up very well. Their best acting moments occur in the movie when they’re not speaking, but portraying their characters’ inner thoughts through facial expressions and body language. The movie takes place during an era where homosexuality, infidelity, or dysfunctional marriages were not talked about openly thus a language for public discourse didn’t exist. Alma Del Mar (Williams), Jack Twist (Gyllenhall) and Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) have no words to express themselves. (If they did, this movie might have become very talkative and lose some of its quiet charm.)
There was some confusion from audiences and critics about the depth of sheep herders’ Ennis and Jack’s love relationship. Their love is never verbalized, and their acts of sex can only be classified as violent, at best. Once you get past the shock/disgust/arousal from the sex scenes and focus on the tender moments between the men, you will see the deep emotional connection they have. There is a scene where the older men realize that their relationship is unraveling and Ennis drives away with Jack staring at the departing truck with longing. While driving away, Ennis remembers a particular affectionate moment on Brokeback Mountain during the beginning of their relationship.
Jack is swaying gently from side-to-side trying to shrug off exhaustion. Ennis comes up behind him, and nuzzles Jack’s ear. Ennis shares a sweet nothing his mother used to say to him when he was sleepy, and proceeds to sing Jack a lullaby. Their bodies relax against each others. End scene. This is an important moment for it is how a tight-lipped Ennis tells Jack he loves him. Ennis doesn’t talk nor does he initiate conversation. It pains him just to say his name, so to reveal such an intimate memory speaks loud volumes. A second and a far removed viewing make these nuances easier to recognize.
The movie is a solid film where the acting raises the quality of the film. I wish there was more physical passion that was less violent and a few more tender peeks into Jack and Ennis’ relationship. It would have made the 20+-year grip they had on each seem more believable.
July 20, 2008
Ask Me How I Got This Smile on My Face
Now Playing: The Dark Knight
Topic: Movie Reviews
The Dark Knight was a brilliant movie despite being about 15-minutes too long. (I’m not going to complain about the length, because all movies are at least 20-minutes too long nowadays and to complain about it would be a redundant criticism.) The movie was dark, philosophical, fast paced and action packed. Some critics will state that The Dark Knight was too dark or too philosophical for a “funny book” movie. People who say that are not too familiar with the world of comic books, and the alternate realities in which superheroes live. Never confuse a comic book with the bright bang-pow, drink-your-milk and say-your-prayers type of heroes in the Sunday papers’ comic strips. Comic book heroes (and villains) who are brought to life on the big screen come with much depth and baggage that is ripe for exploring.
The Dark Knight explores the yin and yang relationship of the Batman and the Joker. Good versus Evil. Order versus Anarchy. Without the existence (even the theoretical existence) of one, the other cannot exist. The Joker, with his scarred mouth and whacked-out make-up, points this out with glee to Batman. Batman as the vigilante hero has created a villain who elicits as much fear as Batman does hope. The Joker, with his guns and bombs, has thrown the Gotham City into a tailspin. The police, the mobsters, and the everyday folks don’t know how to capture him. Batman and District Attorney Harvey Dent (a scene-stealing Aaron Eckhart) fight to control the chaos through the rules and laws they’ve privately and publicly promised to uphold.
To say anymore would give away too many of the surprising and excellent plot twists. As Heath Ledger’s more-than-excellent Joker keeps pushing the envelope of evil deeds, the audience stays riveted to their chairs and their eyes to the screen. Each time the Joker appears, the audience whoops in disbelief at his mayhem. Oh, shit! Did the Joker just do that? The audience struggles with Christian Bale’s Batman and Harvey Dent’s dilemma of stepping outside the boundaries of their laws to bring down the Joker. (Dent nearly shoots one of the Joker’s goons to get his whereabouts, and the Batman has to restrain himself from killing the Joker with his bare hands.)
The actors all do a very fine job in their roles. Bale is an excellent Bruce Wayne, hamming it up as the millionaire playboy in order to keep is true identity a secret. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a sexy and fiery A.D.A and love interest of both Dent and Wayne. Aaron Eckhart, with his strong jaw and a cartoon superhero’s chin, brings depth to his character’s arc. And of course, there is the late Heath Ledger who is unrecognizable as he is so steeped in his character. He fully embodies the insanity of the Joker making him scarier than Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top cartoonish performance from nearly 20-years-ago. You never look at this Joker and say “Heath does a good Joker.”
Christopher Nolan has made some very fine character movies, Memento and The Prestige, and he does great with the characters in this new Batman franchise. Unfortunately, it is hard to follow the action sequences. You get the idea in theory of what is happening, but you don’t understand what you’re seeing. That is the main flaw of The Dark Knight. Well, that, and the fact that you won’t see anymore face-offs between the Joker and the Batman that is hinted near the climax of the movie.
See this movie. I wouldn't bring any child younger than 12 to this movie.
March 8, 2008
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