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Movie Review: Contagion (2011) The Long & Short of It

The short review: All human beings are selfish and will try to make a buck off of anything; the selfless will die unless immune. Oh, and wash your hands, cook your meat, and do not commit adultery. Thank you.

A longer review:

One cheating woman almost brings down all of civilization while one virtuous one saves what’s left of it in Contagion. As much as contagion is the story of an outbreak of a disease, it’s also the story of how crisis reveal our true nature as human beings, and it’s not always from our best sides.

The movie begins with one sick (literally) woman on her way home from a business trip overseas with a stop-over to meet up with her lover. Once she is home, she greets her husband and son, infecting more folks, then proceeds to get sicker. Queue montage of people in China (where she is coming back from), Chicago (where her layover was) and somewhere in Minnesota (where she lives) getting sick and dying.

Once this epidemic comes to the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, things only get worse. The CDC decides to play it cautious, telling everyone to wash their hands and other practical things people ignore every day. The WHO tracks the dissemination of the disease to the cheating wife (played by Gwenyth Paltrow) in China. Both send women (Kate Winslet for the CDC and Marie Cotillard for the WHO) out to find those infected, disseminate information, set up treatment facilities and quarantine areas, and report back to their bosses. Meanwhile, back at the lab, brillant minds are months away from a cure while a vicious virus is eating its way through humanity at an alarming level.

Enter an annoying journalist, played by Jude Law, the CDC director played by Laurence Fishburne, his young fiancée played by Sanaa Lathan, a bewildered widower played by Matt Damon, and all the faces of humanity trying to survive. People begin to do the usual things we do in crisis (at least in the movies): kill, loot stores, take advantage of people, barricade ourselves in our homes; you know, the usual.

It seems that the real disease in this movie is not so much the virus as it is the politics of those who oversee disease control and world health, their selfish motives and political maneuvering, as well as the way we not only tend to look out for ourselves in a crisis, but we tend to try to sabotage everyone else. But then there are those whose compassion and caring help others, who keep their humanity. These people either die or get sabotaged.

What worked in this movie: This movie had some great actors doing great acting. The acting fleshed out a pretty linear story and gave it some heart. Jude Law and Kate Winslet really stood out among the best actors in the movie.

What didn’t work: The rushed explanation of what actually caused the outbreak. At that point, I didn’t really have to know what caused the outbreak. Certainly the health organizations hadn’t figured it out. Once I knew what it was it made sense, but if they were going to show it…I don’t know. I just feel like it could have been done better.

Plot: This movie is pretty low on plot. It’s more of a character study of who people really are with the right motivation…or the wrong motivation. People get a virus and then they die. Some people that work for the health bureaus try to find a cure. Panic ensues. –Your plot in a nutshell.

However, this works for this movie. It’s not the movie to see for fast paced action, but it works if you want to see a good movie that provokes thought.. and gets people to wash their hands.

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Source Code (2011)

Source Code is a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in another man’s body aboard a train that is going to explode…a lot.

The premise of this movie is that some government group has discovered and developed a technology that allows them to access a mental source code–the eight minutes of photographic memory & the synaptic pathways of the brain that, when accessed, can allow someone to “live” someone else’s last eight minutes. But that’s all high level and besides the point. The point is, the person who gets to live this other person’s last mentally recorded moments has to be the same height and build and have very similar synaptic pathways in their brain, and it’s lucky for us that Colter Stevens fits the bill.

You see, the bombing on the train was just the first target. Now they’re going after the city of Chicago. It’s up to Colter to keep reliving this man on the train’s last eight minutes until he can find the bomber so the next attack can be prevented.

Before my review, two things: 1) why is Chicago now the go to city to destroy/blow up? Is it sensitivity to the 9/11 ten year anniversary, or the quest to make new buildings go boom that we haven’t seen ten thousand times? and 2) Ever since Vantage Point, I’ve seen too many movies use this continuous loop of slightly different action. It was innovative in Vantage Point; now it’s just annoying.

If I had to choose an actor to act in a box, it wouldn’t be Jake Gyllenhaal. If I had to pick a soldier to act in a box–still wouldn’t be him. The movie could have benefit from a different casting choice in this central role. Not that Gyllenhaal was all that bad–he has just enough fight and scrappiness to make his meager allotment of story work– but it all depends on him being confused about what’s happening through the most of the film, and his selfish desires through the rest. I grew weary of him interrrupting the pressing quest to find the bomb with his side mission to…well, if you watch it, you’ll see. He conveyed the right emotions, but in a few places, it was a little wooden, like a dancer whose face reflects that they are counting in their head.

The supporting characters were great, even if ninety percent of them had no clue what was going on and were just in the last eight minutes of some random guy’s life.

The action was a bit subpar. They didn’t exploit the tension of the time constraint enough, nor were we able to see a protracted explosion shot. The special effects of things going boom were a bit cheesy in places.

What saves this movie from blah is the supporting cast, hemmed by Michelle Monaghan & Vera Farmiga. These two women, one clueless to what’s going on and one who knows more than everyone else, made the movie enjoyable. You desperately wanted one to be saved and the other to…well, you’ll see if you watch the movie.

Short review: I hated the loops and there wasn’t enough action, but the acting made the movie worth a rental.

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Something Borrowed (2011): The Long & Short of it

The Short Review: This movie sucked! A few good laughs, but no substance. That is all.

The Long Review: Something Borrowed is the story of how Rachel is pulled in two different directions when she falls in love with her best friend Darcy’s fiancé, Dex. I had heard bad things about this movie, but a) I love romantic comedies and b) it has the girl from He’s Just Not That Into You, who does awkward/embarrassing romantic comedy girl SO much better than Katherine Heigl. The story is based on a best selling book, which I heard was wonderful. Also, since it was Tuesday, it was $.75. I could have gone to see Limitless or The Lincoln Lawyer, but where’s the fun in that, right?

I wanted to like this movie. I really, really wanted to. I did like some parts of it. The supporting cast who played Ethan, Marcus, and Carla were hilarious. But in the end, the story just wasn’t right.

It was a stretch to believe that these two had been pining for each other for over six years–well, to believe that he’d been pining away for her. The romantic tension wasn’t there. Neither was anyone’s shame. It didn’t seem to bother Dex to go from sleeping with Rachel to sleeping with Darcy (in loud pornographic stereo). He seemed to be more concerned with what his father thought (and then only marginally so) than he was with Darcy’s feelings. The movie seemed to be saying that since Darcy was self-centered and attention seeking, it was alright to creep behind her back. They tried to make Darcy just as culpable as these two, who had a lot of time to decide whether or not to date before Darcy entered into it. By not having them seem torn about what they were doing, it was hard to make it believable there was anything standing in their way of being together.

Dex (played by a taller, blue eyed version of Tom Cruise in Top Gun) was robotic and stiff. Darcy (played by Kate Hudson) was played a little over the top. Somewhere, Hudson lost that loveable quality she had in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I didn’t feel properly sorry for her. When I mentioned this movie, one of my coworkers likened the premise to My Best Friend’s Wedding. I immediately remembered how likeable Cameron Diaz was as the bride to be, how that made this whole thing all the worse. You couldn’t completely root for Julia’s character–she was wrecking a nice girl’s life. Then again, she’d loved him since childhood. Then again…All of that was missing here, when it should have been even more prevalent, as Rachel was the BRIDE’s best friend as well as friends with the groom.

Thanks to the supporting cast, I laughed a lot during this movie. But I didn’t feel the romance. I wasn’t sold on Rachel being with Dex, or Dex ending up with Darcy. The dilemma they tried to create for Dex wasn’t gripping. I’ve never seen or read The Notebook, but the tension in that love triangle thing glimpsed in just a short preview blows this out of the water.

I didn’t feel they did a good job of ending the movie either. There were too many loose ends, such as Dex’s situation with his family, and the friendship between Rachel & Darcy. This movie didn’t finish; it just ended.

Yet another weak offering in the romantic comedy genre. I’m still waiting for a return to the classic storytelling and well rounded characters the genre used to have.

Overall Rating: C- (points for great supporting characters)

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Jumping the Broom Movie Review

Cover of "The Inkwell"
Jumping the Broom is this…with a wedding. Cover of The Inkwell

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Jumping the Broom tells the story of a young woman, Sabrina Watson (played by Paula Patton) who just wants to fall in love and get married, but always ends up with losers. She makes a hilarious promise to God if he will just send her the one. Her prayers seem to be answered when she hits the perfect man, Jason Taylor(played by Laz Alonzo) with her car. After a whirlwind romance, they get engaged and decide to marry at her parent’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. Her parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell) love him. She loves him. There’s just one tiny issue; they haven’t met his family.

If you’re like me, you are wondering how someone can neglect to meet their future in-laws until a day or two before the wedding. Don’t worry about this; you’ll find out eventually. In the beginning, allow yourself to be carried along by the movie. The filmmakers do a wonderful job of setting up the tensions and conflicts, showing you where there may be secrets without giving away too much of what those secrets are. It adds to the shock of the revelations as they slowly but surely come out.

Jumping the Broom is a character study in intraracial relations and the things that divide us. This film touches on socioeconomic divisions within the Black community in a way I haven’t seen since The Inkwell. The movie explores the different traditions, foods, and education of the Black elite versus the Black working class. The bride’s family speaks French, goes to Yale, and vacations in Martha’s Vineyard. The groom’s mother (played by Loretta Devine) is a postal worker in Brooklyn who is known for her sweet potatoe pies. It’s rare that you get to see both of these sides to Blacks and our culture onscreen. We are finally presented not as a monolith, but with the diverse socioeconomic and sociocultural characteristics that African-Americans encapsulate.

Although both matriarchs can come off as archetypal at times and the two lovebirds are emotional weathervanes, swinging from love to angry resentment with each little tiff, the supporting characters are, for the most part, well fleshed out. I was skeptical at the thought of Mike Epps and DeRay Davis in the same movie. I thought for sure that tomfoolery the likes of which would make even Tyler Perry shake his head were going to ensue, but both of these gentlemen surprised me. They showed more depth than I gave them credit for. It was also nice to see the former CSI castmember, Gary Dourdan, again as the chef for the wedding and Percy Romeo Miller (formerly known as Lil’ Romeo) as the cougar chasing Yale student. Sidenote: Why is Tasha Smith playing a cougar again? I know she plays it well, but I’d love to see her do more.

The great importance that this movie gave to the tradition of jumping the broom is understandable, but I don’t think they did as good of a job of conveying anything more than the passion the mother’s personal request. What does it mean to Black people as a whole? To be honest, I’ve only been to one wedding where they jumped the broom, and all I know of it is the where it comes from. How many of us do it?

I liked the opening montage of all of the couples getting married (and I clearly spotted the eighties picture–long live the jheri!). Other minor touches I loved were Geneva (played by Valarie Pettiford, Big DeeDee from Half & Half), the wedding planner, and the opening scene.

I would give this movie a B overall. At times, there were a bit too many subplots moving at the same time. They could have done without the subplot between the Watsons. Scenes between Geneva and Mrs. Watson were a little melodramatic and strained. There was a misstep or two in the dialogue there. Other than that, I found this to be a thoroughly enjoy movie.

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The Social Network

Before the movie The Social Network began to get buzz in Hollywood ahead of its theatrical release, I’d never thought much about the kind of person/personality behind a site like Facebook. Once the movie began to generate the aforementioned buzz, it crossed my mind that this person would be someone most people wouldn’t “like.” Most geniuses, especially those of the computer/technical variety, don’t do well with social interaction for one of two reasons (usually): either they are shy or they are megalomaniacal. Due in large part to the previews, I assumed Mark Zukerberg to be the latter.

Only, the way the movie portrayed Mark Zukerberg was (thankfully) more layered than I’d expected. At the core, his motives were universal to teens/college students–to be cool, be accepted, to fit in with an exclusive crowd. He wanted to have the three P’s–power, popularity, and praise. To a much lesser extent, he wanted money.

When I watch a movie, five things stick out to me: character, plot, setting, cinematography (what little I know about it), and the all important one liners/dialogue. Here’s my take five for The Social Network.

Characters: The Mark Zuckerberg character was classic–bored computer genius with a dash of biting sarcasm, dying to be popular but not wanting to let it show; obsessed with being cool; socially inept (to the point of rudeness). The speech pattern that the actor gave him was spot on to most of the tech people I talk to. Not only did he have the “geek speech pattern” down, he also had the mannerisms down. Indeed, most of the “geeks” did a good job portraying this college subset.

Edouardo was played very well. I think the actor did a great job of escalating Edouardo’s feelings of being shut off and made his motivations clear, so it didn’t seem he was overplaying the part when he got angry.

The Shaun Parker character was pretty well acted as well. JT made me forget he was JT. 

Lastly, the twins were hilarious. Every time the twins were onscreen, I laughed about something.

 Plot: First of all, let me start with the “bad.” The love angle was WEAK. I’m sorry, I don’t believe it. It wasn’t that the acting was bad or anything; it just didn’t make sense. Whether it’s true or not, I just don’t buy it. Also, the way they portrayed Zuckerberg discovering the need for a relationship status could have been cut. It was just silly. The timeline was murky. I had thefacebook very early, and I had tagging well before the time I think it was when they mentioned it in the movie. I almost wanted a little date to show up on the bottom in parts. I know the pacing was set to convey the whirlwind of the phenomena, but help me keep up with the timeline. Lastly, I didn’t like how they wrapped up action of the movie. I was dissatisfied with the last exchange between Zuckerberg and the person he was talking to. It went too fast, wrapped things up to quickly, and the last thing said to him was like hitting me over the head with something that, if I was even remotely paying attention, I would have been able to conclude on my own. We got it, already!

As for the good elements: I think the issue of intellectual property was dealt with well. They did a great job of progressing the development of the site. The explanation of the concept of facebook–to move the social experience online and have it be cool–was interesting. I liked the way they arranged the story to be told alternating between the hearings and when the events actually happened.

Setting/Cinematography: I liked the dark mood created by much of the cinematography of the story, contrasted by the almost blinding light of the hearings. The bar scene at the beginning was amazing to watch because of the contrast of what they were saying to where they were saying it. The darkness of the scenes made them feel secretive, shady, a little less than above board, while the lightness of the hearings added to the feeling of everything being dragged out into the open.

One Liners/Dialogue: I loved the “why does your status say ‘single’?” line because it was true to life (I’ve seen people having these conversations). I think one of the funniest exchanges in the movie was “Why do you keep saying I don’t have to study?” “You go to BU.” (Note: I know a few  people that went to BU, so this was doubly funny to me.) In fact, this whole opening exchange was funny. As aforementioned, the wrap up at the end, in my opinion, was a misstep. Other than that, the dialogue was spot on.

I feel about this movie the same way I feel about Inception: it was a solid movie, not exceptional in a great movie season, but when it came out, is was among the best simply because it was good. From what I hear, Black Swan, The King’s Speech, and 127 Hours by and large blows this film out of the water. It’s a good film, with strong acting, a solid plot, good cinematography, and a top notch script. I was thoroughly satisfied with my $.75 purchase (I saw this at our discount theater that has $.75 movies on Tuesdays).

My rating: ****/A

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The Other Guys Review

The Other Guys
Image by WorthingTheatres via Flickr

I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Other Guys since it first came out. I wasn’t really in the mood to see another crude comedy, which seems to be the direction of comedies these days with men in them. I don’t enjoy crude masturbation humor and such. I like smart humor, especially satire (when done correctly) and romantic comedy (again, when done correctly). I avoided this movie in regular theaters, and missed it in the discount theaters in favor of other movies. In the end, I needed a good laugh and decided to give it a try when it came up on my Netflix queue.

The Other Guys, it turns out, is a satire of the buddy cop movie genre–at least, I think it’s supposed to be a satire of it. Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson are buddy cop movie cliché, down to their car and the action sequences. Everyone aspires to be the next hero cops on the squad, to be like these guys. And then you have the other guys.

Mark Wahlberg plays a detective who had a promising career–until he messed up an assignment, earning himself an embarrassing nickname and a less than glorious partnership with a forensic accountant, played by Will Farrell.

There is a plot, but the plot is largely unimportant. These two dichotomous characters are fun to watch. Between Wahlberg’s anger management problem and Farrell’s cheery yet socially awkward friendship overtures, I was doubled over laughing.

This movie isn’t the funniest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not the most cohesive movie I’ve ever seen. Mark Wahlberg didn’t take off his shirt and show that fantastic body once. But Will Farrell wasn’t as annoying as I usually find him; he was funny. Mark Wahlberg as a hot head was funny. Michael Keaton and Eva Mendes–funny. There wasn’t one character in this movie who wasn’t funny at least once. They blasted a few cliches (such as movie people walking away as things explode) and played with the line between satire and just another stereotype-fulfilling movie with verve (a word I don’t get to use often enough).

If you want to laugh, watch a movie with a plot you can follow, and actually appreciate a comedy more on the second viewing, then you need to watch The Other Guys asap.

*Shoutout to The Other Guys for having on of the best narrator’s of a cop comedy. No, I’m not going to tell you who, but boy, was it appropriate and random and funny.

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For Colored Girls Review

Felt
Image via Wikipedia

This post has been a long time coming, partly because it took me a while to sort my feelings of the subject matter from my feelings about the actual movie. I posted in my other blog about how I felt about the issues addressed, ( you can read that here), but I never got around to reviewing the actual movie, so here we are.

First of all, I must admit I’ve never read the play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf (at least, I think that’s the whole title) in its entirety, nor have I seen it performed. I think this was good, in a way, because had I known what I would see in some instances, I would have been even more opposed to seeing it, and whatever else I say, I am glad I saw it.

A word about the soliloquies. I heard murmurs of people not liking the way he used them in the movie and saying they were awkward (I banned myself from actually reading reviews before or since I saw the movie until this was done). Most of the soliloquies worked fine. There were a few that I feel would have been better served by being broken up. Some of them were awkward because, where in a normal movie/conversation, someone would react, interrupt, or at least put out a comforting hand, people just sat looking shocked. Those were unbelievable, but most of them were moments when I felt “What could anyone really say?” It was good Perry didn’t try to invent any responses in this moment, and the original material seemed to convey the feeling better than the couching material Perry came up with.

In order for me to do this review, I’ve broken the review down by women, identified by the colors they wore (I’m glad Mr. Perry subtly kept the color identification and rarely named the women; it lent the story a feeling of universality it wouldn’t have had otherwise). I felt that, despite how long the movie was (and it WAS long), it wasn’t long enough to satisfactorily resolve some of the story lines with some of the women. I will indicate those as I go along.

Woman in Blue: There didn’t seem to be a crisis point or resolution to this storyline. I felt how conflicted she was when dealing with the woman in purple, given her situation, but what was the resolution? What did she and her husband decide to do? Where did we leave her?

Woman in Purple: Where were the consequence, the falling action? It seemed she had her crisis and had to own up to what happened, but there didn’t seem to be any residual effects. She was at a party by the end as if nothing had happened!

Woman in Red-I was conflicted about Janet Jackson’s performance. On the one hand, she was wonderful at being the uncaring diva, but the emotional parts fell flat. I felt like she could have done so much more with a woman used to being in control actually showing some emotion while still trying to be in control. That sorry soliloquy was one of the most hard hitting, emotional soliloquies in the movie, and she didn’t bring it on that soliloquy (although the content still made it one of my favorite parts of the movie).

Tangi: Her resolution fell flat to me, as well. This was doubly disappointing because Thandie Newton played this part so well. I kept thinking, Mariah Carey was supposed to play this character? No, honey; Thandie IS Tangi! She was born to do this. A fortuitous happening for all involved, that pregnancy.

Woman in Yellow: I feel like Anika Noni Rose did a great job with the material she was given, but I feel like they rushed her story after her traumatic event. Still, one of the most touching scenes was her watching that clock…I felt that scene stire something in me (cynical though I am).

Woman in Green: Loretta Divine was divine–again. Her soliloquy to Frank in the mirror, in which she utter my favorite line “I didn’t want to be sorry and colored too; that’s redundant”–was epic. However, I don’t see how her story line concluded. I didn’t see the point in which she decided to do things differently this time. I didn’t see why it stuck that time. And I wanted to, because she had played the character so well up to that point.

I don’t know what color she was, but Kimberly Elise was amazing. Even though I’m tired of seeing Kimberly said and broken (Woman, Thou Art Loosed, Diary of a Mad Black Woman), she plays that part so well, and this movie is no different. I felt the tension in her scenes. She had a really good chemistry with Michael Ealy (a strange thing to say in the circumstances, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it).

Macy Gray, Phylicia Rashad, and Whoopi Goldberg shined in their supporting roles, as well as the aforementioned Michael Ealy and Khalil Kain (whom I adore–just not his character in this movie). Overall, the acting was pitch perfect and spot on, except for a few places. Everyone came to this piece with great respect for the subject matters and prepared to really bring it.

The frame work of the movie felt contrived and a bit claustrophobic–all of this suffering and tragedy being lived out in tandem literally on top of each other was a bit exhausting. I liked how some of the stories were weaved together through occupations and such, but the ones who lived in the same building were a little to close and it was unimaginative to put them together that way. The ending was, as is usual with Perry, contrived and heavy handed.

It felt a bit dated in parts (the use of the word colored, and some of the subject matter has faded from popular view). I kept thinking that in 2010 we should know better than to do a lot of the things these women did, but do we?

I’m not sure if it was the beauty of the source material used, the awe-inspiring performances of the cast, or the reality of seeing so much Black talent being put on display, but I liked this movie. While it only showed a limited view of a type of Black Woman’s experience, it did so well overall. There were parts that didn’t gel, but overall, I wanted more of the movie rather than less.

I still want to get my hands on the original source material and see what makes the difference, but I was happy with Perry’s efforts, happier than with any of his other offerings. I think this is worth a DVD rental with your friends.

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The Crazies

The final stage of the Trixie disease took thr...
This is beyond creepy... Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps laying on my living room floor while recovering from an allergic reaction all by my lonesome wasn’t the best time to watch The Crazies.

I should explain that though I’m crazy about scary movies, the really good ones that scare you spitless, I’m just a little…frightened of the really good ones. Fortunately, or rather, unfortunately, there haven’t been many good ones in a looong time.

Ever since I saw the preview for The Crazies, I had a feeling it would be good, really good. Only, the last few promising scary movies had let me down. The Happening was good, but the reveal of what was causing the mass suicides was anti-climatic,  the science was cooky, and it wasn’t so much scary as thought provoking. While Devil was better at being creepy and gave me more to think about, it wasn’t high in the scare stakes (unless you count the horror of possible damnation). From the previews, The Crazies started off well, but where would they go with it? Had the previews ruined the best parts?

Any good horror movie has to do a few key things: either question or validate our humanity, which means it either shows the awful cruelties we can inflict on one another, usually in a bid for survival or it makes us feel comfortable in the knowledge that in the face of great evil, we never lose our humanity and care for others; it has to challenge societal norms or government policy (indeed, George Romero claims his zombies were greatly influenced by the times–Vietnam, especially), and; whether anyone actually lives, there is no real happy ending. The Crazies hits every single mark.

The Crazies takes place in a small town outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The local sheriff (played by someone who looks just like Josh Duhmel (sp?), in my opinion) has to kill the town drunk at a baseball game. Later that same day, a man murders his family. At the same time, the Sheriff and his deputy are investigating the discovery of a parachuted body in the river. As bizarre instances of violence mount, and the army becomes involved, the citizens must fight for their survival. 

It’s difficult to say in how many ways this movie scared, aggravated, and touched me without giving away too much of the movie, which, I think would be especially cruel. Part of what makes this movie good is the slowly dawning horror of just what has happened here. The climax of the movie was a little unbelievable, but with all of the groundwork that they laid for it made it believable enough in the context of this fictional world. They pulled off the dramatic twist at the end as well. Rather than worrying whether or not they would force feed me a horrible sequel, I was amazed at what it implied for these ficticious people I’d been watching and rooting for.

The special thing about this movie was not only was it horrifying, I really cared. I wasn’t just watching to see how gruesomely they could kill people; I actually wanted these people to live. The horror wasn’t in the effects but in the story, the scenario.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update: Through extensive Netflix research, I found out that this is a remake of a *gasp* George Romero film. How ON was I? Seeing the original is on my list of things to do now. The consensus seems to be that this version improved upon the original.

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Movie Review: Madea’s Big Happy Family

Tyler Perry mixes it up with the media on the ...
"I'm going to keep making Madea movies as long as you want to see them." Image via Wikipedia

People don’t cut Tyler Perry any slack. He’s known as the man that any Black (or African-American or whatever we are calling ourselves at that moment) person who wants to be seen as intellectual loves to hate. Why are all of his plays/movies the same? Why are there no good men, or only one good man in every play/movie? Why does he dress up like a woman? Why do we go and see every one of his stereotype filled movies and plays when we know that if we do, Hollywood will think this is what we want to see and only make movies, plays and TV shows just like this?

I’ve had my issues with Mr. Perry’s work (like why he changed the ending of Diary of a Mad Black Woman when it was turned into a feature film), but overall, I can appreciate it for what it is and what it’s supposed to be: funny, idiosyncratic, subjective (this IS some Black people’s experiences), full of great singers, and guaranteed to have at least one gratuitous, gorgeous man for me to oggle (and for no other reason I can think of). I don’t get my life advice from Tyler Perry; I’m merely entertained by him. Yes, people can see that and think all Black people are that way, but I see a hundred little things every day that I feel more compelled to distance myself from. But to Madea’s Big Happy Family.

Congratulations to all those who complained about the lack of good men in Mr. Perry’s plays: you have more than one to choose from. For once, there are multiple women who are shrewish, manipulative, or golddiggers. There is a “ghetto” “baby mama,” a shrewish career woman, and brow beating wife….and good men. The men are flawed, but good. There aren’t the squeaky clean, Mr. Perfection, captain save ’em types here.  There are good women as well.

Perry still relies on cheap laughs a little too much, particularly of the oversexed older person variety. I still can’t tell you how all of these people are supposed to be related (there isn’t a lot of continuity). Yes, Madea towers over everyone at 6’5″ or so. Some of the songs are random, unnecessary, and a shade too long. I’m tired of the back in the day old music segments that are supposed to uplift the spirits, and the “surprise” incredible vocalist.

But what I enjoyed about this play is that it tackled current issues and had something to say about them. Whether or not I agree with Mr. Perry’s take on my generation or not, he said a lot with this play. It dealt with cancer, drug dealing, golddigging, children out of wedlock, overbearing women, henpecked men, not using helping others to hide from yourself, intimacy in marriages, and coming together as a family when you need to.

I’m always conflicted about Mr. Perry’s work. I support Black film. I know some of these people (very well, in fact). I enjoy a good laugh. I applaud Mr. Perry trying new things with For Colored Girls (although my thoughts on how that worked out are for another review). I just hope that as he evolves, so will his movies. I hope he becomes a better filmmaker and refines his style without loosing the authentic voice he has that has connected so many people to his work. I hope he never, ever makes another Why Did I Get Married, at least until he has something deeper to say about the institution.

Overall, I liked the play for what it was…but I’m glad I saw it on Netflix and not at the Bob Carr. It was no Color Purple or Fiddler on the Roof.

***/B+

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For Colored Girls Who Have Other Things to Worry About

"North Hampton is a Domestic violence fre...
What on Earth in the world is a Domestic Violence-Free Zone? Can I hit her over there? I'm just saying. Image via Wikipedia

This is not my For Colored Girls review; that can be found here on my review blog. But this movie was about so much more than a review of how well it worked to me. There were other things that I felt needed to be said, things I couldn’t just let fall by the wayside in favor of staying true to reviewing it as just a movie.

It’s taken me a while to decide how I really feel about the movie as art, but not how I feel about it on a visceral level, how I feel about the intent and messages, and how people will take this film. The first thing that stood out to me was the shortening of the name. There is a reason the play has that long drawn out name: this piece is speaking to a specific demographic of women. This is a piece about “colored girls” (Black women) who have considered suicide; in other words, this really isn’t my story just because I’m a Black woman. By shortening the title to For Colored Girls, it makes it seem as if this movie is for all of us, is about all of us. So I could reasonably expect to see something of myself in it, from a literal standpoint.

Mr. P. joked around a lot about “all y’all” in the aftermath of the movie, and even though he was joking, I’m sure someone else watching this movie thought the same things seriously. This is how all of us are. This is all that ever happens to us. This is why we’re bitter and angry. There’s a good reason for it, the film suggests, but we are still bitter, angry, oversexualized, naive, taken advantage of, and don’t know when to leave.

I realize that Mr. Perry was dealing with a source material, one that dated back quite a few years and was close to a lot of women’s hearts. I realize issues of date rape, contracting  HIV, domestic abuse, abortion, and no good men still exist. But I kept longing for something more. I kept longing to see my struggles on the screen. I wanted a movie that claimed to be for me about me to be…for me and about me.

It irked me that all of these women’s struggles came back to men. Abuse men, rapist men, cheating men, scheming men, men who were good but didn’t have the power to make the hurt of the previous man’s misdeeds go away (and only one of those). My issues are much more pedestrian than all of that. I’m dealing with the economy, the glass ceilings, racism, familial relationships, relationships with other women in my friendship circle. I’m dealing with debt and deferred dreams. I’m dealing with hormones and weight struggles, self-esteem and my hair. Yes, I deal with the struggles of relationships with the male species, but if that were all I had to deal with, it would be a good day.

So that’s what I want to speak on today. What are you still waiting to see acknowledged and portrayed about you and your journey in film and in print? What would you like to get off of your chest that you are struggling with? Where is your movie?