Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The movie features Samuel L. Jackson (Black Snake Moan) as police officer Abel Turner, and Kerry Washington (I Think I Love My Wife) and Patrick Wilson as Chris and Lisa Mattson, Turner’s new neighbors. Abel is a disciplinarian to his teenage daughter and young son, and their sole provider. Although the movie begins with him behaving in a relatively normal manner, there is a hint of menace beneath his authoritarian demeanor. He takes an almost instant dislike to his new neighbors, particularly Chris. Chris seems like the kind of guy who’d have a “kick me” sign stuck to his back, and Abel takes full advantage – screwing with Chris enough to rattle him, but not enough to do serious harm or amount to an actionable complaint. For example, after pretending to be a carjacker under the guise of teaching neighborhood safety, Abel tells Chris to turn down the rap music playing from his car radio. Chris complies, and at the end of their exchange, Abel tells Chris that no matter how much he listens to that music, “he’ll still be White.” Yep. Oh yeah. Make no bones about it, the reason Abel dislikes his new neighbors is because he’s not down with the swirl, at all. No ebony and ivory. No salt and pepper, get it? Lisa is Black and Chris is White, if you didn’t know that already. And if you’re offended by my corny references to interracial dating, then I suggest you avoid Lakeview Terrace, because much worse is said in the movie. Abel refers to Lisa as Chris’ little “chocolate drop,” and numerous disparaging references are made to the couple’s racial makeup throughout the movie. It’s kinda funny at first, in an uncomfortable way. Sam Jack has a way of making everything sound funny, you know it’s true. But after a while it becomes trite and a little gimmicky. It’s fine to deal with the interracial marriage aspect in an intelligent manner, and we see glimpses of this when Chris and Lisa argue about having a child and their relationship with each other’s families, however; I think some of Jackson’s lines were rather low-brow. All that aside, there were some good moments in the movie. Jackson is great as the villain. He goes from mildly unsettling to vengeful to homicidal, and it doesn’t feel extreme until the movie is almost over.
I like Kerry Washington and thought she had good chemistry with Patrick Wilson, but some of their scenes just annoyed me. I hate when couples do the whole kissy-face smoochy smoochy thing. Just get it on, or cut it out. I predict this movie will not be a favorite amongst the brothers for the very same reason Sam Jack’s character had beef with Chris: a lot of people still dislike the idea of Black women dating White men. There, I said it. Right or wrong, it’s true. Now how’s that for life imitating art and vice versa?
This article first appeared on Poptimal and can be found at http://poptimal.com/2008/09/welcome-to-the-neighborhood/. The article was reprinted with permission.
All in all, I think Igor was wonderfully voiced by a very good cast featuring the likes of John Cusack (1408) and Steve Buscemi (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), but the movie was too morbid and offensive for me to recommend. Who thought this would be a good idea for a kid’s movie?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The two star as veteran police detectives who are pursuing a serial killer who is murdering criminals that have been allowed to slip through the cracks of the criminal justice system. The evidence points to a cop being the culprit. The killer leaves a poem at the scene of each crime, explaining the victim’s offense. DeNiro is the hot-headed one and Pacino is more even-keeled. Good cop/Bad cop all day. You wanna know my problem with Righteous Kill? Look no further than writer Russell Gewirtz, a guy who was clever enough to pen Inside Man but managed to squander his opportunity with Pacino and DeNiro. Director Jon Avnet didn’t fare much better, and made Al Pacino look every bit as ridiculous here as he did in 88 Minutes, which he also directed and which sucked. I can never truly criticize Pacino and DeNiro, and I feel so bad for not loving this movie – believe me I really wanted to! I’m not saying it was bad, I’m just saying that you should lower your expectations. The only reason anyone is gonna see this movie is because of Pacino and DeNiro, and if people are really honest with themselves they will admit that once you get over the initial hype of seeing them on the screen together, the movie will start to raise questions. And I don’t mean the provocative kind of questions; I mean the “why the fuck did he do that?” type of questions. I hate when writers try to hide the ball with audiences, when they deliberately mislead viewers. If I’m outsmarted, I want it to be like The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects,not on some dumb shit. I didn’t like the set-up, I didn’t like the script, and I didn’t like a lot of the dialogue. Oh, I feel so dirty, like I need a shower. How can I not love a movie starring two of the greatest actors of all time??? Again, I’m not saying it was bad – it just wasn’t as good as you’d expect. You should check it out off GP, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Regarding The Family That Preys, Perry assembles a very good cast, comprised most notably of Kathy Bates (Misery-sorry it’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of her, admit it!) and Alfre Woodard (Something New). They turn in fine performances, and I was particularly impressed with Bates, mainly because her character was the only one that wasn’t totally flat. Bates portrays Charlotte Cartwright, a wealthy magnanimous CEO and best friend to Woodard’s character, Alice Pratt. The movie opens with the wedding of Alice’s daughter Andrea, played by Sanaa Lathan (Something New). Charlotte is footing the bill for the wedding, and it is here we are introduced to the main players, including Charlotte’s son William (Cole Hauser, Higher Learning). Upon their first meeting, William and Andrea share an awkward exchange, with William suggestively telling Andrea to come see him about a job. Cut to four years later, and it’s obvious that the two are sleeping together. Andrea is a total bitch to everyone around her, especially her devoted husband, played by Rockmond Dunbar. I like to call her the dream crusher. She is belittling and mean-spirited to the point of absurdity. Once again Perry goes overboard. In a way, I feel like he’s trying to dumb it down. Does he think that his audience won’t be able to appreciate subtlety? Whatever the reason, the movie felt very implausible and contrived. I will give Perry credit for his depiction of the friendship between Charlotte and Alice. It was a warm and caring friendship that came across as authentic. Both actresses showed their pedigree, and I wish the rest of the cast had the opportunity to do the same. Overall, the quality of the storyline was comparable to what you’d see on daytime TV, and it was very predictable. I’m glad the brother is doing well, but there is always room for improvement and I hope Tyler Perry continues to evolve as a filmmaker.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Traitor opens with a young Samir (Cheadle) playing chess with his father in their Sudanese home. The game concludes and Samir’s father leaves in his car. As he enters the vehicle it explodes, the flames searing his flesh as the image becomes seared in Samir’s memory. Fast forward to the present day and Samir is selling explosive technology to terrorist groups in the Middle East. Here is where everything gets all sketchy. The natural inclination is to root for Samir as the protagonist, but…he’s a bad guy, right? Maybe, maybe not. When a deal goes wrong and Samir and his cohorts are imprisoned, he is accused of being a traitor, hence the title of the movie. Of course double entendres abound, and I won’t spoil the movie for you. It’s too complicated for me to spoil because several moments left me confused – which is either proof of my own stupidity or a convoluted script – take your pick. Cheadle’s performance was great, and he effectively captured the conflicted duality of his character, but something was just missing from this movie. It’s a great one to add to your netflix queue or to catch on pay-per-view – but it was not a very memorable movie, despite being well-acted. I’m also unsure of what agenda Traitor tried to advance. Some parts felt very anti-American, but other aspects of the film seemed to feed into negative stereotypes about Islam. Go figure. Maybe this was a good thing since it mirrored the complexity of religion and real world politics, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Cheadle doesn’t really give bad performances, so it won’t be a total waste if you decide to check it out – I just can’t give it an unmitigated stamp of approval.