Archive for September, 2010

Easy A (Will Gluck) 2010

Posted in E on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Olive (Emma Stone) is an unpopular high school student until she tells a lie that leads to a rumor she lost her virginity. Olive likes the attention she gets and decides to keep the ruse going. Other students approach Olive and ask if she will give them imaginary flings in order for them to shed some of their loser status. The school soon after brands her a whore and Olive adopts a scarlet A to match The Scarlet Letter they are reading in English.

You will hear this worn out phrase a lot but it fits. This movie owes a lot to John Hughes movies. Not only does it share many themes of a John Hughes flick, it makes many references and jokes about them. This is a high school fantasy with Emma Stone playing more the female equivalent of Ferris Bueller. Olive is an intelligent girl who is not at a loss for a smart ass quip. I do appreciate the fact though her dialog doesn’t get too smart for its own good (like Diablo Cody’s script for Juno).

There are things people can nitpick about this movie. You do have adults playing teen roles, you have the beautiful Emma Stone playing an unknown book worm, and you have peculiar plot elements like people giving way too much of a crap over someone losing their virginity. Seriously, you have people branding her a whore for losing her virginity when I would argue in today’s high school it is more a question of who ISN’T getting some kind of action. And this isn’t some kind of small town in the middle of Bible country this is California. However, like I said this is fantasy complete with singing numbers (Ferris Bueller) and the cliched nerdy girl transformation into beautiful girl.

This movie is very funny. In addition to the many references, the dialog is funny and witty. Much of the praise can go to Emma Stone who carries most of the movie. She plays well with the cast and has good banter to what could have been a stale teen sex comedy. Much of the rest of the cast also has funny supporting roles from Thomas Haden Church, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, and Amada Bynes. The only weak spot would probably be Lisa Kudrow who probably doesn’t know how lucky she was she had Friends in her career.

I don’t get into many comedies but I enjoyed this one. This will be a movie I will get when it comes out on DVD. This isn’t a classic, but it had me laughing consistently throughout. The trailers may not have been that good, but I give this a recommendation.

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American Ninja 5 (Bobby Gene Leonard) 1993

Posted in A on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Ah, I have now seen the entire American Ninja series.  My life is officially complete.  Well, it really isn’t but at least I’ve checked one thing off my list.  So what do we do in a fifth installment to kill the franchise.  If your answer was ‘ninjas in space’ you are wrong…this time.  Instead we introduce a kid into the film.  In this case he is some Junior Karate Champion for 1992 or some such crap.  Believe me, it doesn’t make the concept any less annoying.

So I asked in my American Ninja 3 review why they would bring back David Bradley (star of 3 and 4) back for 5 and not have him as Sean.  Instead in this movie his name is just Joe.  After seeing this movie I still have no idea.  I mean, it’s not like there is any good reason why not.  Sean doesn’t die at the end of AN4 or anything.  He doesn’t become disillusioned and quit being a ninja or go into exile or any of that crap.  At the end of 4 he is happy and content with being a ninja and helping people.  The only conclusion I could think of is they had Bradley for another ninja type movie, they figured it wouldn’t sell, so they slapped on the title of American Ninja 5 to draw in some fans of the series.  But looking on IMDb there are no other alternate titles besides the cable TV title of American Dragons.  It just makes no sense.

So anyway Joe is just some dude who runs a karate dojo and is also a ninja.  Some brat kid gets pushed onto him to train for some reason.  Joe’s girlfriend is later kidnapped by terrorists to blackmail some scientist.  This scientist is working on some pesticide which is untraceable and in large enough doses can kill humans.  So Joe and his little buddy have to save his girlfriend and the scientist.  And for STILL unexplainable reasons, our bad guys have hired multi-colored ninjas.

I love this main villain of a ninja.  He dresses up in bright read puffy shirt and cumber bun like some bull fighter then adds a black and red cape to top it all off.  Since when did Liberace become a master ninja?  I know this question is long been asked but aren’t ninjas, I dunno, stealthy?  It’s rather hard to be stealthy when you are one step away from Bedazzling your ninja costume with rhinestones.  He also dies in a rather bizarre fashion.  Our hero throws a lit piece of wadded toilet paper at him and his cape bursts into fire.  Hmmm, yet another reason not to wear a cape I suppose.

Oh, don’t be fooled into thinking Pat Morita is in this movie despite billing.  He shows up for literally two minutes.  Morita drops the kid off, tells Joe the kid is his responsibility, and before Joe gets to ask “Huh? Why? Who the f*ck are you?” Morita literally throws a smoke bomb and gets the f*ck out of this picture.  I am not kidding or glossing anything over.  Morita shows up, says “Hey, take care of this kid for a week” and BAM smoke bomb.  Out for the movie!  What the f*ck!?  Have we got to this point yet?  Are we now explaining away plot holes with the ‘look over there!’ smoke bomb explanation?  Ugh.  Also there is some false advertising on my Netflix cover.  The cover states that Vincent Perez (Crow 2: City of Angels, Queen Margot) is in this movie.  Um no.  VICENTE Perez is in this movie as a stunt man for Ninja #2 according to IMDb.  Thank you Netflix.

I really wish I could talk about the plot but honestly there is none.  Our heroes are just walking along looking for the bad guys base and literally (again with that word) our Liberace villain pops out from a smoke cloud, points, and multi-colored ninjas come out to fight Sean/Joe.  When Joe beats them, the villain pops back out with another smoke bomb.  I swear I am not kidding.  That is how the movie goes.  This is like a film version of Final Fight or something.

Ugh, this movie just hurts.  The action is pure crap.  The ninjas will telegraph there punches and will be dropped with one punch.  The main reason this movie hurts is the buddy relationship between Joe and his kid.  This kid makes Short Round a comic genius.  You will be praying for even a Uwe Boll movie sidekick for better delivery and timing.  He is just painful and you will applaud every time Liberace ninja will smack him.  This is not even fun in an American Ninja cheese kind of way.  This is painful.

The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski) 2010 Minor spoilers

Posted in G on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

The spoilers are more in line with discussing the theme of the movie.

A ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired on to help finish the memoirs of former Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan).  There was a previous writer that did most of the work, however died under mysterious circumstances.  Lang is a highly controversial figure and is in trouble with the World Court.  The Ghost starts to find revealing facts about Lang and is caught in the middle of a mysterious plot.

I, of course, can’t reveal too many details about the plot because this is a thriller and a mystery about a conspiracy.  While Polanski never mentions such names as Tony Blair, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove or mention a little thing like the War in Iraq, it is hard not to get the pointed inferences.  However, this is not your usual (what some would classify) liberal Hollywood ramblings against the War in Iraq.  Even though Adam Lang is pale cover for Tony Blair, Pierce Brosnan is not trying to do an impression nor are their any direct comparisons between the two careers.  The message is more directed in general at the brand of political leaders Polanski sees nowadays.

Lang is a playboy actor and a competent speaker.  He is not someone who has an incredible intellect (he is no dummy, just not a scholar) but can charm voters over with his demeanor.  However he is simply a mouthpiece for the many interests behind the scenes.  It is an indictment of politics as a whole instead of just saying “Cheney is the devil, Tony Blair is a dick.”  On the whole the movie is far enough from reality that we don’t feel lectured and not far enough that the conspiracy plot is complete horseshit.

For the most part the conspiracy plot works.  Now conspiracy theories usually aren’t credible.  I am simply talking about in the context of this movie, the plot never does something so radical that would have you calling bullshit.  The movie ends with a bit of a hiccup, but not anything that would ruin the movie.

The movie, for the most part, works as a thriller.  There is a nice atmosphere of paranoia going around that while there isn’t anything terribly shocking going on, you get the sense that something bad is around the corner.  By that I mean it doesn’t descend into typical action movie tropes.  The tension is slow building and the fear is that of the unknown: both in the men behind the scenes and what could potentially happen to the ghost writer.

Pierce Brosnan does a good job as Adam Lang.  He is not playing James Bond nor Tony Blair.  Brosnan does a good job of being a charming guy while at the same time carrying an undertone of menace about him.  The other really good job is by Olivia Williams who plays Lang’s wife Ruth.  She has to do a lot of different things with her character and they all feel natural.

There were some problems I had with this movie.  As I said, the ending is not quite what I hoped for.  Again, it isn’t a deal breaker but…I’ll just say its rushed in comparison to the rest of the project.  My main problem is that with the character McGregor plays.  The Ghost (simply titled on the credits) is not a character we fully get behind because his character is a little erratic.  At one moment he is a writer with no morals or qualms about what he writes about, and the next he is a crusader, one minute he is meek, the next he is challenging people, one minute dumb (sometimes when the script necessitates) and the next brilliant.  In fact, part of the reason the ending doesn’t work is because The Ghost does something that I don’t completely see his character doing (at least not without some more characterization).  And as I alluded to earlier, at times Ghost is as dumb as a post only because the script needs him to be to keep the intrigue going.

That may seem like some harsh criticism but I really did like this movie.  These types of movies usually crumble upon heavy examination but aside from some cracks I think it does hold together (again in movie logic).  The suspense was well done, the mystery was interesting, and overall it was very entertaining.

Unrivaled (Warren Sonoda) 2010 Part One

Posted in U on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

It’s rare to find cinematic schlock these days quite like the movies Hector Echavarria churns out.  Most of the direct to DVD movies that come out are usually so bland and dull that it’s not worth the bit space on the internet.  But these movies are so horribly bad and Echavarria’s ego is so outrageous that it’s just glorious.  I’ve never seen such whoring of a sports entertainment medium since WWE: Big Apple Takedown; the book where WWE superstars are in fact secret agents for the CIA.

The first two movies in the series, Never Surrender and Death Warrior, are practically the same movie but uniquely shitty in their own ways.  Both movies star Echavarria as an MMA supergod who somehow gets caught up in the world of illegal cage fighting.  Apparently rich consortiums have nothing better to do than to kidnap UFC’s greatest stars and making them fight to the death.  Ever wonder why Fedor takes so much time in between fights?

Before these movies I have never even heard of this ass clown.  The only thing I could really get from his IMDb was a guest appearance on the Miami Vice TV show.  So how does a guy like this get to make movie after movie which seemingly fail but continue to prop his ego?  Well after an exhaustive and thorough search (of Wikipedia) he is apparently is to South America what David Hasselhoff is to Germany.  He was at one time a world kickboxing champion and master of many different styles of martial arts.  Many sports magazines and even NBC’s Extra called him the soon to be breakout action star of the 21st Century.  His movies and TV shows (which he produces) break records down there and he also has comic strips, trading cards, action figures, and other collectibles.  So remember everyone: Germans love David Hasselhoff and South Americans love Hector Echavarria.  But enough of this rambling and actually dig into the latest (I dare not call it the last) entry of Echavarria MMA films.

So apparently Hector learned his lesson that making your main character completely unbeatable smug prick does not win over your audience.  Here it is quite apparent from the first five minutes the pendulum has swung and Hector is now playing an amalgam of Ram Jam from The Wrestler and Rocky Balboa.  We see him in some dump of a fight club basically fighting for whatever loose change is scraped off the floor.  His first opponent is Nate “The Great” Marquardt. Hector’s fighter is still very good and Nate can only win by cheating.  Nate grabs a piece of metal, wraps it around his fist and proceeds to beat Hector about the face so many times it looks like Bruce Willis turning Nick Stahl’s face into yellow goo.  What’s funny is the ref is directly looking at it and lets the match continue.  And I thought TNA refs were bad.

And just when you think Hector is trying to get serious and classy with his movies, the opening credits are nothing but shaking asses and even full frontal tit shots.  Stay classy Hector…

So the result of Hector getting wailed on by a piece of steel for ten minutes is he has a small cut above his left eye.  Hector wanders around dejected to a montage of some sappy Lisa Loeb type piece of schmaltz.  So Hector comes to work at a strip club and we get five minutes of stripping.  Nice to know we are focused on the story here.  Anyway a group of loan sharks come in and maaaaybe break Hector’s arm (its hard to tell because he sells injuries worse than John Cena) because Hector owes $20,000.  Hector has till the end of the month to pay.  More shots of tits.  Man even Showgirls took more time building a story than this movie.

Okay back to the Rocky copying.  So Hectors arm is hurt and he gets whooped in a sparring match with Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine and its here we meet Hector’s Mickey like mentor.  This sets up the complete underdog portion of the storyline.  Cut next to a news cast from this movie’s UFC equivalent called Torko.  Torko?  Really?  Torko?  What the hell does that mean?  Anyway we now meet Apollo Creed, I mean, Pressure Holland (played by Rashad Evans).  Apparently they are looking for an undiscovered fighter to ultimately challenge Holland.

So there is a tournament set up with the winner getting a chance to challenge the champ.  Apparently Pressure doesn’t want Hector because he is a little scared of him.  Why, I don’t know but he stacks the deck against him in the tournament.  Oh the odds are so stacked against him!  Cue the Rocky montage…set to bland pseudo Christian rock sounding crap.  We come back to one of my earlier gripes.  I won’t deny that Echavarria is in great shape for his age.  But you expect me to believe he can take on a world class fighter in his prime.  Even Rocky Balboa had the justification that Rocky was fighting someone in a lower weight class; setting up a power vs. speed match up.  Here there is no such concession.

I’ll cut through 20 minutes of useless bullshit (and for this movie that’s saying something).  So Hector…okay hold up.  I know I am using the actor’s name here instead of his character’s name.  His character’s name is Ringo.  That’s stupid.  So anyway, Hector’s first opponent is Forrest Griffen (who in this movie is apparently the brother of Nate Marquardt).  Griffen is given a pair of UFC gloves with steel inside of them and Pressure tells Griffen the refs won’t inspect them tonight. DUM DUM DUUUUUUUM!!!

So Mickey tells him the strategy to take on Forrest Griffen.  It is something he has never tried before which is why he lost.  It is called doing spin kicks and making your opponent lower his hands.  So Forrest’s corner tells him to stop taking those spin kicks and to actually punch him.  How does Hector counter Forrest’s lead fist?  He *sighs* gets him on the ground, takes Forrest’s hand and smacks him across the face with it knocking him out.  Wow.  I didn’t know the “quit hitting yourself” tactic was so effective.

Hector’s bookie is a little pissed by this victory.  See since Hector is such an underdog, that his bookie bet $100,000 that he would get his ass kicked.  So the bookie goes to Pressure saying that he owes him (why I dunno) and tells Pressure to make it up to him in the next fight with Keith Jardine.  The bookie then offers Jardine $250,000 to take a dive against Hector.  Well he doesn’t throw it and Jardine still loses.

An odd little thing I should mention about these fights.  We cut in between the action with a pair of commentators who repeatedly insult one another.  Stuff like this:

Twenty seconds can be a long time…
Yeah, that’s what your mom said last night.

Now this idea could be funny if it weren’t so out of place with the rest of the movie.  Plus, if we are doing this we need Will Farrell to play the obnoxious jackass role.  What is also funny is that in every one of these fights there are a total of 40 people in the crowd.  I understand this is a relatively low budget movie and they cut cost by only having like 40 people and the rest of the arena blacked out.  But it is still funny when people remark that it’s a “packed house” or “this event is drawing in the fans”.  I’ve seen bingo halls with more people.

So anyway the bookie is pissed that Jardine didn’t throw the match and threatens to kill him.  Which doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.  I mean, Jardine was supposed to lose, and he lost!  Unless you are really betting on when he would take a dive but I think that would take the combined efforts of both fighters to get it down that well.  So Hector fights the champion Pressure next.  Soooooo let me get this straight.  Torko is doing a nationwide tournament to find the greatest undiscovered fighter and it is only a four person bracket?  And a person can walk off the street, win two fights and get a shot at the heavyweight championship!?  Are you kidding me!? By that logic Roy Nelson should be getting a shot at the Undisputed Championship.

So the bookie wants to guarantee that Hector will lose the next match.  How do you do that?  The next logical step; ninjas.  Okay its Keith Jardine in a ski mask, but its close enough.  I mean, do you know how hard it is to contract actual ninjas for shit?  It’s damn hard fellow readers.  So Hector gets beat up and his plucky sidekick gets accidentally run over by a truck (don’t ask) putting him in a coma.

Hector is feeling dejected an Mickey comes over.  Mickey asks why Hector’s arm is broken and he says “ninjas lol”.  So Mickey decides to tell Hector a story about his mom.  Yeah a dump truck of character development just spilled over us.  So Hector’s mom was a world class MMA fighter who Mickey also trained.  Sorry, I’m calling bullshit.  Anyway, Mickey tells a story about a fight she had where she broke her leg early on and she gutted it out through an entire match.  And blah blah blah that’s what fighting is all about.  Everyone feeling good now?  No? Well tough shit; on with the movie!

Yes so a guy with a 2-300 and 1 No Contest record now has a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.  Mickey says Hector doesn’t have a prayer.  Gee, thanks for the moral support Mickey.  Mickey does offer advice in that he heard something “on the street” that Pressure had a lot of concussions on his left side.  Um, you can have localized concussions?  Whatever.  Anyway the advice is punch him a lot.  Again, thanks Mickey.

Oh, and why was Pressure so scared to face Hector?  Never answered.

Hector vs. Rashad Evans.  Here is the fight; I’ll boil it down for you.  Rashad throws several punches and Hector lowers his hands to take them.  Hector then throws several punches and Rashad lowers his hands to take them.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Is it really that hard to stage realistic matches?  This is Mixed Martial Arts we are showing, not curling.

So Hector’s arm gets dislocated in the fight.  Everyone wants him to quit but he fights on just like his mother.  GET IT!  GET IT!?  *hits audience over the head with a clown hammer*  This could only get more schmaltzy if he sees his dead mother…OH F*CK YOU MOVIE!!!  GODDAMMIT!  PIECE OF SHIT MOTHERFU–

*ten minutes of profanity later*

*sighs* Okay, I’m calm.  I am calm now.  So Hector becomes the new Torko champion, comic relief comes out of his coma, bookie gets whacked, Hector gets the hot stripper love interest, and we are played out by more pseudo Christian rock.

This movie blows.  It is even worse than Death Warrior or Never Surrender.  At least there you could laugh at how over the top it was.  Here you have an legitimate attempt to cash in on Rocky and it fails worse because of it.  I’m sure you could say this completes some trilogy but I wouldn’t dare say it.  Because I’m sure in four months time I will be strolling down the aisles and seeing another one of these movies cleverly titled something like Tap Out! or The Octagon. Wait, that was a Chuck Norris movie.  Whatever.  Point is, this movie sucks.

Kick Ass (Matthew Vaughn) 2010

Posted in K on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Time for me to be the contrarian! Hooray!  Everyone seems to lining up to love this movie: CHUD rates it a 10 out of 10 (yeah CHUD overreacting?  Who would have guessed?), Spill thought it was better than sex, and I’ve seen more people use the lame joke that “Kick Ass does indeed…kick ass!” my head is red from facepalming so much.  I suppose it was time.  Most people accuse me of being generous to movies I guess I was due to be the buzz kill for a movie.  Simply put, Kick Ass was a let down.

Now I’m not going in for this lame controversy that has sprung up about Hit Girl and some perceived exploitation or whatever.  Ebert also gave a one star review about the movie having no morality.  Again, I don’t give a shit.  As long as the movie is funny, I don’t care.  But that’s the problem; the movie isn’t funny.

Funny is being very subjective and when it comes to comedy it is doubly so.  People love Carlos Mencia for gods sake.  And no, I am not comparing people who love this movie to Carlos Mencia fans.  I am just saying everyone has their own tastes and trying to tell someone what funny is is about as easy as explaining the rules to baseball.  It is not as easy as it seems.  But for people about to claim I’m being unfair or that I came in with a bad attitude I’m going to try to explain the best I can as to why this didn’t work for me.

To boil it down in simplest terms; this movie needed to be just about Hit Girl.  No, I don’t feel her presence is a problem in fact quite the opposite.  The movie is about 75% about Kick Ass and 25% about Hit Girl and it needs to be at least the other way around.  I would frankly be happy with cutting all the footage with Kick Ass, burning it, and burying the ashes.

Kick Ass is a completely useless character.  And before anyone jumps on me I will say I get it.  I really do get it.  The whole point is that Kick Ass is a completely useless superhero.  He gets caught up in something way beyond his abilities.  While he may set all the actions of the story in motion, he is a complete non-factor in anything after that point.  And that is the problem.  I don’t mind the writers making a statement about this character and superheroes in general, but they made the movie a dull mess by following him around for the majority of the movie.  It is like if Desperado were told from Steve Buscemi’s point of view with El Mariachi in about 20 minutes of screen time to do the cool gun fights.  The gun fight scenes would be cool yes, but I would be wondering why we were spending so much goddamn time on an irrelevant character.

The plot line with Kick Ass’s character tries to be to superheroes what Zombieland was to the zombie movie.  It tries hard to be this hipster referential parody of comic books.  While it does have some funny jokes like Kick Ass competing for friends on MySpace, the rest of the humor is remarkably lazy.  We spend about as much time with Hit Girl as we do with Kick Ass’s romance with a girl at school.  The running joke is that she thinks KA’s alter ego is gay.  I was terribly disappointed by a movie that tries to be referential and mocking of the genre would pull out lowest common denominator humor.  Look, gay people are funny *sarcastic laugh*.  Get it?  No?  Yeah, I don’t either.  I’m frankly surprised they didn’t go for toilet humor either.

Kick Ass is played by an actor who is seemingly a cross between Jesse Eisenberg and Screech from Saved By the Bell.  He squeaks out a bland voice over about how he is not loved by anyone and all he wants is to be a superhero and this is too much for him and blah blah blah blah blah.  This ultimate nerd gets unobtainable hot woman angle has been done so many times I was banging my head against the seat in front of me in sheer boredom.  Even though I say KA is in over his head, it would be more dramatically relevant if he rose to meet the occasion.  That would be…heroic.  And while he gets a little nod his way, he is still frankly a p*ssy.

What everyone is going to be talking about and what this movie should have been all about is Hit Girl.  You could have made an entire movie which is a revenge action movie with her in it.  I almost consider it the comic book version of some juiced up remake of Leon: The Professional.  Chloe Moretz was great as Hit Girl and Nic Cage was entertaining channeling some bizarre Adam West/Punisher superhero.  Every one of her scenes were fun, action packed, and entertaining.  Most of the clever bits of writing were in those scenes.  Most of the really gripping and dramatically shocking moments were in her storyline.  You cannot say the same thing for Kick Ass.

So I don’t want to give the impression I loathe this movie and damn all of you for loving it.  There were times that I was really into this movie and enjoying myself.  But then I had to trudge through the hour and a half snoozefest which was the main plot of the movie.  I’m sure I can write a ton more but I just wanted to get my initial reactions down.  This was a movie with a ton of potential but overall failed in execution.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Oliver Stone) 2010 Minor Spoilers

Posted in W on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

Yet another movie that is misrepresented in the trailer. So MNS is about Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) who is a wall street trader. His mentor/father figure Louis (Frank Langella) commits suicide after gets his career ruined by Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Jake wants to get revenge on Bretton by going to his fiance’s father Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gordon is also seeking to get back in good standing with his daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan).

Now I was actually interested in seeing a follow up to the original Wall Street. After all, the most recent crash is indicative of much of the ‘greed is good’ culture represented in the first. But it’s odd when the financial collapse kind of takes the back burner to a revenge plot and a subplot of Gordon making good. I also don’t expect Jake to be a bigger goodie good than Laura Ingalls nor do I expect a bizarre alternative energy macguffin in a movie about the financial collapse. Was this really made for the financial crisis, or did Stone have this script tucked away and added some banking stuff in to provide a minor update?

While we are on the subject of odd, why are we making Gordon Gekko a good guy? I hear that Stone hates the fact Gekko is liked by so many of the original’s fans although I think he is in error about his audience. We don’t want to be like Gekko (or, at least, not through thievery). Michael Douglas is just such a charismatic guy (and maybe even more charismatic as a dick) that we love the performance. I mean, take the Joker for example. He is a complete psychopath, but damn if he isn’t a scene stealer. Anyway, it is just bizarre that we have to kind of change the story about Gekko. He wasn’t sent to prison for Bud Fox’s testimony as indicated at the end of the original movie, but instead he has to be set up by the EEEEEVIL Bretton and wrongly convicted.

The acting in this movie is actually very good all around. Believe it or not, but I think Shia LaBeouf can be a good actor on occasion. If I ever had a problem with him, it was the fact he was shoved down my throat like he was the next big thing. When they indicated that he might be the next Indiana Jones almost made me vomit in the theater. But in this movie he actually does a good job. He is a damn sight better than Charlie Sheen to be brutally honest. Carey Mulligan is alright, although I wish she did something other than pout and cry. Seriously, I think she cries in every scene she’s in. Let’s not kid each other though, this movie belongs to Michael Douglas. He steals every scene he is in, just like he stole them all in the original. If the movie were really about him, he might have carried this whole movie. However he is made to play supporting role to Shia so he gets limited screen time.

The direction is really a distraction, and this is coming from someone who didn’t mind Natural Born Killers that much. The camera work is really (I can’t believe I’m using this word but) embarrassing. He uses every camera trick in the book to the point I expected a star wipe. There are cheesy transitions, stupid animations, and enough forced symbolism to get you kicked out of the theater for screaming “SYMBOLISM!!!” too much. I won’t spoil the ending, but all I have to say is; LAAAAAAAAAAME.

Sadly this movie is a big MEH from me. This wasn’t painful to watch. For some reason I was mildly entertained in the time I was watching it (probably due to Michael Douglas), but I would never watch it again. Unlike the original, this movie eventually be forgotten.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (Darren Grant) 2005

Posted in D on September 27, 2010 by moviemoses

I have never seen a Madea movie, yet I have talked a lot of shit about it.  And before I be labeled a hypocrite for slamming something I have not seen, I thought in the spirit of Black History month I would review a Madea movie.  Why?  Well because many claim Tyler Perry to be one of the only voices for African American cinema today.  So I figured I would take her first and probably most recognized film to review.  Now I really only intended to watch the movie and do the full review.  Buuuuut, it only took me ten minutes into the movie before I was so worked up I had to put fingers to keys.  So, I guess I have to post my thoughts of the movie as I go through.

Everyone talks about the melodrama in Tyler Perry movies but you don’t quite understand until you actually see one of these movies how bad it truly is.  In the beginning of the movie Helen bemoans the fact that while they live in a mansion and her husband is a successful lawyer that she doesn’t know who this man is she’s married to.  At least I am thinking there is going to be some subtlety to this story like he is just too busy for her.  There are some people (don’t mean to paint with a broad brush stroke) sometimes from an older generation that see love as supporting your family financially.  They will work themselves to death to make sure their families are in a nice home and their children are secure and do not want for anything.  While they may not be there in a completely parental sense they are showing their love through giving them something maybe they didn’t have as a kid.  I’m not saying that’s wrong; just how some people see it.  Other people see love as being there to spend time with them and showing affection through time and not money.  The point of this tangent about talking about sociological differences is that you can have a movie about a couple that drifts apart not because one is a bastard but because of differences in their upbringing and beliefs.  But here is the very first exchange between our married couple.  See the subtlety in action:

Helen: How bout I run us a hot bath?
Charles: I left something at the office. I have to go.
Helen: Who is she?
Charles: When you get a job that pays one of these bills, then you can ask me questions.
Helen: I’m still your wife.
Charles: *chuckles* That’s cute.
Helen: Charles I don’t want to fight. This is your night let’s just enjoy it. Tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it.
Charles: You really want to know what you want to do? *opens car door* Get the hell out of my car.

Wow.  In case you didn’t get Helen is the wounded flower trying to make the marriage work and Charles is an evil prick then just wait another five minutes.  In the following scenes Charles moves Helen’s stuff out of his mansion and moves in the woman he is currently having an affair with.  Of course, he doesn’t tell Helen until he takes his new girl home to knock boots in their old bed.  Charles then tells Helen to get in the UHAUL truck where he paid the driver to take her anywhere in the country and physically DRAGS HER OUT OF THE HOUSE KICKING AND SCREMING AND LOCKS THE DOOR BEHIND HIM!!!

Holy crap!  Could you make that scene any more melodramatic and over the top?  The only way I can is if Helen stated she was pregnant and Charles said “Oh no you don’t” and booted her in the stomach.  Keep in mind people, this is not supposed to be over the top like it is a farce.  No, these scenes are played as straight faced as possible and we are supposed to be deeply concerned for the characters.

That is my first problem when we come upon Madea.  We are expected to jump from extreme melodrama to high camp that you get whiplash.

Ten minutes down…an hour and 40 minutes to go.

So we finally come across Madea who is Helen’s aunt (I think).  She is apparently an amalgam of Perry’s real life aunt and grandmother.  She is a no nonsense woman who is willing to speak her mind no matter what.  More problems arise with her appearing.  The first is what I already mentioned.  Madea is simply too much of a character to be in a movie like this.  If the A plot was anything more light or whimsical then I could perfectly accept her entrance but it is just so jarring.  And it is not like it would be so hard to have the same A plot but to play it in a lighter tone.  It would however require a skilled writer and that is something this movie is lacking.  This is why I would think the Madea thing works better as a stand up act rather than a feature movie.  It is one thing to be up on a stage telling funny stories of your crazy Madea growing up and quite another to make a Christian themed melodrama and include Madea humor.  I’m not saying you couldn’t do one or the other, but you can’t do both at the same time.

Another problem crops up when I see that Perry is taking the Eddie Murphy route and is playing multiple characters all in different stages of make up.  This frustrated me with Murphy and it is no better with Perry.  I understand they both want to show producers and audiences they are good actors and can play different characters (in this case not being typecast as Madea).  But in the end it smacks of a certain kind of ego that really gets under my skin.  To me it is them saying “Oh look how great and funny I am.  I don’t even need anyone else.  I could make an entire movie where I play all the parts and you would love it because I am Tyler Perry; the God of comedy!”  Again, I know it is nothing that bad, I just find it an annoying practice.

So Helen tells Madea she did her best but Charles abused her both physically and mentally the past 18 years and due to the fact she signed a pre-nup she is not entitled to a dime.  Madea promptly parrots the audience reaction and tells Helen she is a rather pathetic woman and she needs to get what’s owed.  They go over and confront Charles and his skank and Madea chainsaws many of the pieces of furniture in half.  Where Madea pulled a chainsaw out of I’ll never know.  Maybe it is the same place where Duncan McCleod pulled the katana out of when he just got out of a shower one episode.  I’m getting sidetracked though.  I will admit I can see why people can like the Madea character.  In a way, she is the lone voice bitching about how stupid the plot is mirroring my reactions to an inanimate television screen.  Somehow though, I don’t think that was what was intended.

Anyway, we cut to a scene where Charles meets with a frantic drug dealer in a back alley.  Apparently this dealer killed an undercover cop and wants Charles to bribe a judge to get him off.  When Charles says he would rather not do that, the dealer threatens him (with an over the top Emperor Palpatine like voice) that Charles essentially owes him because he set up Charles with all the cocaine trafficking he did for him.  You have no idea how many times I facepalm when I write down what is going on with the A plot.  This is so stupid and over the top I cannot believe people wrote this with a straight face.  All I can say is Steve from TV’s “The Practice” has fallen a long way.  I really wish I was watching the Practice right now.

So Helen goes to visit her mother who is in a home.  Apparently Charles is enough of a bastard he is not content with screwing up Helen’s life but will not pay to keep her mother in the home.  Can we just admit it here?  Charles is Hitler reincarnated.  All he needs to do is grow a small Chaplin mustache and make skin lamps and the picture will be complete.  Subtlety movie!  I need subtlety!

So we finally get to the Christian preaching side.  Helen says the break up is especially hard because Charles was her “everything”.  Mom gets pissed saying God is everything and God is a jealous god and does not like Helen putting a man in front of Him.  I really won’t go too deep into that other than saying the Bible does command wives to be subservient to men and not exactly something promoting feminism.  I will simply accept it to be mom telling her daughter to believe in something other than a drug dealing, physically abusive, elderly abusive, skin lamp making, morally reprehensible adulterer like Charles.  That’s something I think people of any faith can go for.

So Helen gets a job and an apartment and is trying to move on with her life.  She even meets Orlando who is very sweet on her despite being bitter and resentful at him for no reason whatsoever.  Despite that, they eventually warm to one another.  A subplot then shoves its way into our movie.  Madea is helping a druggie who also happens to be the former wife of Brian (Tyler Perry without any makeup).  We are then subjected to pure torture in the form of a montage with the soul rendition of “What if God was one of us?” I would personally rather hear nails on a chalkboard with the sound of sawing through Styrofoam than hearing to that song but that’s just me.

Now Orlando and Helen are fully and love and Helen believes he is the perfect man (uh oh, here comes the plot contrivance).  Meanwhile evil drug dealer is convicted of murder.  On his way out, drug dealer grabs a deputies gun and shoots Charles.  I am fairly confident in calling complete and total bullshit on that one.  For one, firearms of any kind are not permitted in many courtrooms.  But I am willing to over look that since it is not even a hard rule in my own state.  But this is a capital case involving a murder of a POLICE OFFICER.  Believe me when I say at all times he would have five officers (at least) just waiting (praying in fact) for the opportunity to whoop his ass.  Any overt movement or even the idea in one officers head of an overt movement and the prisoner would be spending the next few months in traction.  I cannot stress enough how much this scene is bullshit.

But we need this plot contrivance for the “drama”.  Helen rushes to Charles’ side in the hospital and Charles gets his comeuppance for being such an asshole.  The bullet is near Charles’ spine and Charles’ hoochie gives the order to kill Charles (since he would not want to live without the ability to walk).  Oh my god this movie is so ludicrous I am getting red marks from all the facepalms.  This is so…you can’t…fuck it let’s move on.  Helen rushes in and tells the nurse she is his wife and to keep him alive.

Next on The Practice: Steve becomes a born again Christian.

We then get to one of the more reprehensible parts of the whole movie.  Charles only has the ability to use his head and cannot do anything for himself.  As they would say in Wolf Creek, he is a head on a stick.  Helen takes Charles back to his mansion.  She then starves him and makes him live in his own feces for several days.  Helen then nearly drowns him in the tub to teach him the errors of his ways.  This is a horror movie.  We have officially crossed over into horror movie territory.  This is unlawful, this is evil, this is repugnant, and it is ugly because we are supposed to sympathize with Helen.

We are coming on one of my last problems with this movie.  This is a Madea movie, yet we only get about 15 minutes of her in a two hour movie.  This is like watching an Ernest movie and having 10 minutes of Ernest with an hour and a half of melodrama about abortions.

Everyone then has a talk with Helen.  They are not quite upset with Helen over the fact she is torturing Charles in the basement but rather they just want her to move on with her life.  Talk about not getting the freaking point.

So Helen goes back and both Helen and Charles forgive one another.  I guess Steven Seagal was right in On Deadly Ground.  Beating someone to a bloody pulp does cure people of being evil.  So anyway, Charles learns to walk and finds Jesus, druggie goes into rehab and finds Jesus, Brian let’s his daughter sing in the choir and um, still believes in Jesus, and Helen and Orlando get back together and find Jesus.  The end.

Wow, this was waaaaaay longer than I ever thought this review would be.  Now to give this movie the tiniest bit of credit this is completely African American cinema.  Tyler Perry is free to make movies on his own with no studio interference with whatever cast he wants which speaks to primarily his audience.  Hopefully these movies are the precursor to some minority directors really getting their start.  I will also say Madea is a somewhat likable character despite being in these movies for only like ten minutes at a time.

However, that being said, this is some of the worst writing I have seen in a movie in quite some time.  These words barely scratch the surface of what the story is: cliché, overwrought, unbelievable, melodramatic, overdone.  That is being generous.  This plot is clown shoes.  High school English students could probably do better.  You get the idea.  This movie was a trial to get through but I made it.  May I never see another Madea movie as long as I live cause believe it or not, the movies get more melodramatic from here.