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The Help (2011)
I went and saw The Help last night.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't as offensive as "The Blind Side" (ala the big overgrown, illiterate, strong as an ox, loyal, gullible, clown saved by a white Christian savior caricature) but the overall story was pretty watered down.
The acting is solid, but I was torn about this movie. It does elicit the "Great White Hope" character, in that the maids only come together through the unlikely liberalism and goodness of a young white character. Its message for the future is also disturbing. For example, toward the end, one maid is offered salvation by a white couple who offers her the security of being their maid for the REST OF HER LIFE...a deal that makes her eyes grow wide with happiness. Meanwhile, the main white character goes off to greener pastures outside the limitations of her town.
There are also some unsettling caricatures...like a "Mammy" figure who gets misty eyed when she talks about how frying chicken makes her feel good inside.
I think they were pretty spot on in the portrayal of the white "southern belles (given that I'm from Jackson myself)." They were mostly ridiculous, petty and cold...which, to my understanding, is how they really were. It makes for some good comedic moments.
This is a "safe" film...there's no violence, and the threat of violence doesn't feel very immediate or nearby. The racism of the day feels like an omniscient boogey-man...and the white men in the film are all portrayed in an indifferent "they could care less" light...which seems VERY unbelievable. And the Black men were either abusive, docile or messengers...I mean, not a single, strong Black man?
The real sad thing about this film is what it says about Black progress in Hollywood. I haven't seen "real" roles for black women this year...and it's telling that the project that employs the most black women at once is one where they all have to play maids. Even in a trailer shown before this film for "Tower Heist," Gabourey Sidibe (from "Precious") is playing a maid...complemented by Eddie Murphy playing a convict with expert knowledge on robberies. So, blacks are either subservient, criminals, comedic clowns...or the ever present "token black friend." The exception to this rule are the few Blacks that are seen as being "negro-lite"...e.g. Will Smith, Halle Berry and Beyonce.
Many whites don't understand why Blacks are sensitive to their portrayals on film...but whites have to realize...you have an abundance of images to choose from. However, we have very few. Imagine taking your children to the movies...and the people that look like them, on screen, are usually stupefied, marginalized, subservient or comedic to the point of buffoorney. That's not the reality whites EVER have to accept, adapt to or address. This is not playing the race card...as there is no card to play when this is your life.
My grandmother was a maid, like these women in the film. She went to work every day for the local car dealer's family...doing housework, cooking their meals and taking care of their kids for $5/day. She supplemented her income ironing white people's clothes from town. She raised 10 kids and helped with the war effort at home. While a film like "The Help" gives her a voice, it also robs her of hope that things will get better. After all, one maid quits her job even though her options are extremely limited and she has jeopardized her own safety by helping Skeeter...the other maid accepts a position to be the lifetime maid of another couple and then leaves her abusive husband...and the third maid that we come to know is rotting in jail. The only people who make out with better futures are the white characters....Skeeter is off to New York. Celia learns how to cook and, through the "wisdom" of her maid, learns how to communicate with her husband and develops self worth. The young white child Viola was raising may get a "fighting chance" because Viola tells her mother to give her one. And Hilly may actually become a better person who's finally learned the error of her ways.
Finally, there is one part that really summarized this whole film to me. At one point, Skeeter is sitting at Viola Davis's table. She asks her if she ever wanted to do anything else rather than be a maid. Viola Davis nods...and Skeeter never follows up with her to ask her what she wanted to do. My feeling was she didn't ask because it was irrelevant...irrelevant to the story and to the reality of the time. Black women didn't have choices, so there was no reason to speak of dreams that they both knew were empty.
All in all, I think this film is a nice effort for what it was, and fluff for what it was not.
Love & Other Drugs (2010)
I avoided this movie like a sober ex-girlfriend until my cousin gave me a recommend. After tanking a job interview, I watched it on Apple TV. Now, I'm not sure if I was just in a crap mood or if it really was good, but I actually enjoyed it.
1. Anne Hathaway's body. Respect. Never thought of her as hot...but damn, the girl embodies a new kind of girl next door sexy.
2. Anne and Jake. They got chemistry. It's obvious they've worked together before and are comfy with each other. I totally bought them as a couple.
3. The disease. I like that they bring it out in the open up front, rather than build up the relationship only to end in some make-me-wanna slit my wrist "Love Story" crap (hello, "Autumn in New York" and "Sweet November"). This is much more complex because he falls in love with her despite her illness. Makes him a much more interesting character and their relationship much more than some surface B.S.
1. Jake's brother. Totally annoying. I cringed every time this ass was on screen. In my opinion, he was the only eff-up on the film.
For a romance film...this is definitely one of the best.
(8/10 stars) You had me at Anne Hathaway and Viagra.
Friends with Benefits (2011)
Hmmm...so, I had hopes for this one. Justin and Mila are both hot and they have great chemistry...when they're not on screen.
I actually liked "No Strings Attached" more, though not by much more, but it was more believable. A better movie, in my opinion, is actually "Love & Other Drugs" which I thought would be like watching a poodle crap through a window while I eat my lunch. However, it surprised me.
Don't get me wrong, the movie was fun...but it got caught in that last week's Velveeta (not even respectable cheese) crap.
See this movie if you:
1. Genuinely want to compare it with "No Strings Attached"
2. Can appreciate the long-term benefit in seeing Mila Kunis exposed
3. Really don't want a relationship with the guy you're dating
Also men...avoid this movie like the plague if the girl you're hoping to sleep with imposes a "5-Date Rule" on you. Let her watch it after you've made it to date 5 and then stop calling her.
(5/10 stars) Self-Stimulation has more benefits, but this'll do.
Real American Hero...Was Hoping for Better
OK...so this movie looks GREAT...the actually look of it. And, while it's fun to root for the little guy, the story on this is a bust and there are some key ridiculous moments:
1. If you're in a convertible traveling at about 200mph and the blades of an airplane are over your head, and a drop off from a cliff awaits you at the end of the runway...the idea that you'd make time for a kiss...? Seriously??
2. Film was trying sooooo hard to be "PC." Poor Derek Luke and Kenneth Choi. They are the only minorities in the WHOLE movie. The film goes out of it's way to bring attention to that fact, pointing out how "American" the Asian guy is because he's from Jersey and how smart the black guy is because he speaks several languages. The biggest farce is that these two men were serving along, and were accepted within, the all white squad. NEVER WOULDA HAPPENED. For making American race-relations seem better than they were...this film gets a big WTF?? On the flip side...unlike "Saving Ryan's Privates," "Band of Spielberg's Romanticized Brothers," etc. or any other WWII show/film...at least Captain America rightly put minorities in the film and didn't ignore that countless minorities were there, gave their lives and got little/no recognition for their contributions. So, on that note...Kudos.
3. Best propaganda film since the original "Superman" with Chris Reeve. And my god...how much crap can the Germans take? I mean yes...they brought us Nazis, but that's the only way we hardly ever see Germans on screen....as the crazy Nazi or sex slave selling maniacal glutton, etc. I think Hollywood's trained us to equate a German accent with = "Bad guy." Can you imagine watching this movie if you're not an American?
4. What was that ending? "You've been asleep for 70 years?" In a coma? In a cryogenic state? Does that mean this guy can't die? Talk about a crappy convenient ending.
5. The fact that this was just a set up next year's "Avengers." For those of us who stuck around after the credits, we were "treated" to a sneak peek at next year's sequel to this crap. That's when, finally, this movie made sense...because it was made to roll out the other.
All in all, it's a nice looking piece of cotton candy made with bad sugar. You know the kind. When you see it in the bag, all nice and pink (or blue), you can't wait to get your hands on it. But, then you bite into the stuff and it tastes like it was made from discarded sugar cane that was plucked out of a Columbian sewer. But, you eat it anyway because you paid your $2 for it.
(1.5 stars/4)...Makes me salivate for the final Batman.
This crap is like watching paint dry. I'm so disappointed because I was so eager to see it.
There simply is no meaning to this film. If it were never made, no one would notice or care. It's hyped up because of all the big names in it, but if "nobody's" were in, nobody would give this film any love.
Seriously, I was at the point where half-way through the film I would look at Vanessa Redgrave and think, "Hurry up and die already!" This is like the "Joy Luck Club" without any of the friggin' joy. It's the "Ocean's 13" (nothing but a big-named cast) of mother-daughter movies and completely anti-climatic...oh until it's finally over.
I'm sure they'll all be nominated for Oscars...
- 4 stars for cinematography and the ability to convince great actresses to commit to this junk.
Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Strip Tease...Geisha Style
THIS MOVIE LOOKS SOOOOO AMAZING...but the amazement stops there.
The film is cloaked in perfect cinematography, a beautiful score, and the wonder of the whole "Geisha" world. Yet, there's no significant story in that cloak. Just a beautifully packaged Oscar nom.
I, personally, stopped feeling any connection with the main character after the 1st act. You're sent into a journey on this dark and "forbidden world," and at the end of the movie, you'll be asking yourself why you stayed for the whole 2 1/2 hour journey? The stakes are never high enough for Siyuri, so there's never a satisfying resolve. The whole film is just long and...pretty.
The characters are one-dimensional and most of the so-called "Japanese" actors, are really Chinese. It would be nice if Hollywood learned the difference one of these days. Normally, I wouldn't make such a big deal about this, but this is such a Japanese story. I wonder how the film will be received in Japan?
The performances are solid, especially by Li Gong (aka Gong Li). Look out for her. She's been acting for a while, but I think you'll see a lot more of her in the States.
Ultimately, the film is like a strip tease. The visuals will excite the hell out of you, but like a stripper, it doesn't give you much substance to go along with the good looks.
Full Metal Witch Project
Just saw an advanced screening of this tonight. While it isn't the film that has been so brilliantly advertised, it's a very solid film. It feels a lot like "Full Metal Jacket" early on, but with more humor. Then, it becomes an entirely new animal. More of a psychological study. I would actually call this the "Blair Witch Project" of war films in that you (and the characters) know the Boogeyman's "out there," you're just waiting for him to strike. And the longer you wait, the more stir-crazy you become within your own mind.
The acting is superb and the cinematography is stellar. It's an anti-war film without being distinctly liberal about it. It's a true story, and for the most part, Mendes tells it like it is. So, you can make your own judgment about it. But based off what you see, and all that happens, you have no choice but see the absurdity, not only in war, but perhaps in some of the USMC's tactics as well. It's heartbreaking to see what an experience like this can do to young men.
If you're looking for action, this is not the film you're looking for. No heroism, judgments, insight, or hope. Just the documentation and reflection of build up, the destruction of lives, psychological torment, boredom, camaraderie, and...waiting.
Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Stop comparing it to the documentary because...
THIS IS A MOVIE! And a great one at that.
People have to stop comparing it to the doc, because they are very different things! If you compare this to the doc, then you have to compare every movie that was ever adapted to its original source material. It's one thing to list the differences, but it's crazy to tell people not to see a movie because of the differences. When was the last time you heard a critic (which can be anybody) say, "...that film was nothing like the book. You should read the book instead." If people really think like that, then they should treat each film the same.
You have to remember, THIS IS A MOVIE, based on reality. That means that some of it will be FICTION. With most films, people should be entertained. Ms. Hardwicke does a great job of entertaining the audience and staying true to the source material. Obviously, she can't cover every single skater that was introduced in the documentary, but she does give them a presence while dedicating the film to Dogtown's three most recognizable skaters.
People should give this movie a chance, and allow themselves to be taken on a fun ride. It's a cool film that isn't just for skateboarders (which I am not), just like "RAGING BULL" isn't just for boxers.
Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised.
Here are fifteen things I hated about this movie:
1. The characters are supposed to be Greek, yet most of them have very noticeable Irish accents. In fact, one guy even says, "Arse," when referring to "ass."
2. Alexander's mother has a bad Russian/Transylvanian accent.
3. Angelina Jolie is not even a year older than Colin Farrell in real life, yet she plays his mother.
4. The "gay" men in the movie wear more eyeliner than hookers.
5. Colin Farrell has blond hair in the movie, yet his roots are brown, along with his eyebrows. Did Revlon exist in those days?
6. An eagle is inserted or referenced to for really no apparent reason.
7. The set looks more like Caesar's Palace in Vegas, or the cheap gold look that fills a Trump building, than a real "empire."
8. The speeches before the battles will make you want to kill yourself rather than die from boredom.
9. Jared Leto looks eerily like Jennifer Connelly.
10. Val Kilmer's eye looks like the makeup job a kid would do on himself for Halloween -- that, in itself, makes it scary.
11. The sex scene -- why are Colin and Rosario hissing and growling at each other like a couple of rabid dogs in heat?
12. Rosario's accent -- "You...lav heem." Why?
13. Why do they portray Rosario's character (Roxane) having the comprehension skills of a 3 year old --
Alexander: "We'll talk about this later."
ROXANE: "Later. Talk."
14. There's not one real Greek person in the movie!
15. It's 3 very long, very painful hours in which you simply want to kill Alexander yourself, just so it will end.
Here is one thing I liked about this movie:
1. It finally ended.
So, the only way I could recommend this film is if you have three hours to kill and are somewhat masochistic. Otherwise, don't do this to yourself. If you really must see cute men in short skirts engaging in homoerotic behavior, see "Troy" instead.