UrbanRhetoric

UrbanRhetoric

4.30.2016

KEANU



MICROWAVE REVIEW

I'm not exactly sure how I felt about sitting in a Williamsburg, Brooklyn theatre full of white millennials laughing hysterically at the comedic use of the N-word by Key and Peele.  It was a little disconcerting.  And full disclosure - I don't like cats... more specifically, I don't like house cats.  That said, Keanu was a little cute in an "I still don't want one in my apartment" kind of way.  But, once I put those things aside, I was able to laugh a sufficient amount to consider this a legit flick and worth seeing.  I wouldn't recommend making plans around seeing it.  It's not as good as some of the more recent comedies like Let's Be Cops, Dope, Trainwreck, Deadpool, or 50 Shades of Grey. It is, however, funny enough to see in the theatre or to 


VITALS
Jordan Peele & Alex Rubens  - Writers
Directed by Peter Atencio  
Keegan-Michael Key - Clarence
Jordan Peele - Rell Williams
Tiffany Haddish - Hi-C
Method Man - Cheddar
Luis Guzman - Bacon
Will Forte - Hulka


IF YOU MUST KNOW

Rell Williams (Peele) has just been dumped and loses the only thing he has going for him - Keanu, his kitten. His cousin and best friend, Clarence (Key) decides to join him in his quest to find and reclaim Keanu.  They end up posing as drug dealer/assassins, which cause them to get in just a little bit of trouble with real drug dealers/killers known as the Blips (folks who've been kicked out of the Bloods and the Crips - funny).  There's a little bit of character growth for both Rell and Clarence in this comedy that gives a slightly different twist to the "fish out of water" theme.  

There were some amusing George Michael bits that ran throughout the film.  Peele is still the funnier of the comedy pair in my book (Obama translator aside).  Good amount of laughs, lots of N-Words - but all within a context that made sense from a black improv comedic point of view, and the character arcs that take Rell and Clarence from somewhat pathetic man-boys (in different ways) to full grown men.  

It's worth a look, but not if you're expecting hilarity.  It's a slow Saturday afternoon or date night flick that is sufficient for sh#s and giggles as they say (probably a better laugh if you get lit first,  but I won't make fun of you for spending your bread on it anyway.  

IMTHATDUDE gives Keanu: 3

RATING SYSTEM:
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

4.23.2016

Miles Ahead


Don Cheadle's big screen directorial debut... Miles Ahead. Truth is, I love Miles Davis's music but I know precious little about the man himself.  I own copies of Kind of Blue, Birth of Cool, You're Under Arrest, and Bitches Brew.  I don't have the album they refer to most in this movie, so I'm going to have to cop Sketches of Spain.

VITALS
Steven Baigelman (Get on Up) - Co-Writer
Don Cheadle (Talk to Me, Avengers, Devil in a Blue Dress) - Miles Davis
***Cheadle also Co-Writes, Directs, and Produces Miles Ahead

Emayatzi Cornealdi (Addicted, Middle of Nowhere, The Invitation) - Frances Taylor
Ewan MacGregor (Moulin Rouge, Big Fish, Mortdecai) - Dave Brill
Keith Stanfield (Dope, Straight Outta Compton) - 
Michael Stuhlbarg (Steve Jobs, Blue Jasmine) - Harper Hamilton


IF YOU MUST KNOW


This was a movie about Miles Davis, but seems to have avoided being a biopic.  It was more like watching Don Cheadle brilliantly portray someone who has largely been a famous but mysterious musical legend.  Miles Ahead is a snapshot of a glance of the music icon's life.  The good news is that you want to learn more about Miles after watching this movie, but the bad news is you almost need to do it.  You don't get much more than what we already know.  He was as talented as he was brilliant and he was brilliantly flawed.  He walked that fine line between genius and insanity and may have crossed back and forth a few times.  He loved a woman (and then some more of them).  

Cheadle does an incredible job of portraying the enigmatic jazz virtuoso/iconoclast, but as a writer and director, he tells us next to nothing.  In fact, the movie was a little weird.  There were multiple fights, a gun fight or two, and even a car chase with a gun fight - none of which were things that I heard about Miles when my Pops forced me to listen to Jazz 88's Rhythm Revue way back when I was travelling back and forth to the barbershop or during those Saturday early mornings or late evenings for Prep for Prep - I was forced to listen to the Rhythm Revue and eventually developed a love for "old-timey" music.  The drugs, I knew about, but nobody ever mentioned him in a reckless car chase through the city.  I feel like I would have remembered that.  

Like many male driven movies, the highlight is often the female lead.  Sometimes what is supposed to be window dressing can really save a movie (see my comments about Wonder Woman in the Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice).  So, she may have appeared in one of my previous posts... then again, maybe not.  In any event, she would have been my choice for the Nina Simone movie they did with my ex, Zoe Saldana.  


As much as Cornealdi (Taylor) is talented and incredibly beautiful (I would totally karaoke Prince's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" to her if she were in the vacinity - hell, I'd do it a cappella), she doesn't elevate this movie in the way Gadot/Wonder Woman elevated Dawn of Justice.  She is, obviously easy on the eyes and remarkably talented - every bit Cheadles acting match, but she didn't have a hell of a lot to work with here.  



Nevertheless, this is still a fairly good directorial debut.  The odd matching cuts that Cheadle has throughout the film give it a certain feel - I think he was going for something jazz-y - forced.  I thought it was a pretty good film, but not a good biopic.  There are many facets to Miles that clearly were not explored, but the overall movie came off as a bit of a short story that left you wondering why they picked this particular period in his life rather than do something that was more encompassing and generally more engrossing.  It's Miles FREAKING Davis.  An audience interested enough to see a movie that no one expects to have car chases could totally have sat through a 150-180 minutes of his life story.  

This movie was just not aggressive enough in its breadth or depth for me to recommend going out to see it.  It is worth watching, just not something you need to spend 12-15 bucks on. 

Should be on Amazon or Netflix pretty soon, so feel free to save your dough.  Or, if you're a real Miles aficionado... save your bread.  You'll get nothing out of this flick.  Movie lovers can enjoy the acting talents of Cornealdi and Cheadle (they should totally team up again... they have an interesting on-screen chemistry that should be explored further), but do not expect to feel enlightened or fulfilled on any level when the end credits roll.

IMTHATDUDE gives Miles Ahead: 3, by a hair

RATING SYSTEM:
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!

4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

3.26.2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The movie trailer has includes #WhoWillWin  - the short answer is... not us!  Dawn of Justice was a little on the boring side.  It's less that this was a bad movie, it was a lame near lifeless movie that would have been trashworthy if it wasn't for the lovely and talented actress who played Wonder Woman.  This movie should be re-titled Batman v Superman: Waiting for Gadot (I know some of you will get that).  

They created a startling crap load of story problems going forward, but I'm gonna skip those for now and just say that this is your one and ONLY SPOILER ALERT...SPOILER ALERT...SPOILER ALERT.

VITALS
Zac Snyder (300, Watchmen, Man of Steel) - Director
David S. Goyer (Dark City, Blade II, Batman Begins) and Chris Terrio (Argo) - Writers

Amy Adams (The Fighter, American Hustle) - Superman's Boo Thang
Henry Cavill (Immortals, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) - Clark Kent/Kal El/Superman
Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious, Triple 9) - Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, The Town) - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network, American Ultra) -
Jeremy Irons (Kingdom of Heaven, Beautiful Creatures, Race) - Alfred
Holly Hunter (The Piano, The Firm, Won't Back Down) - Sen. Finch
Tao Okomato (Wolverine, and Amazon's The Man in High Castle) - Mercy
Honorable mention to Lawrence Fishburne, Diane Lane, and Rebecca Buller.

IF YOU MUST KNOW:

Okay, I lied, this is your last warning - SPOILER ALERT!  You had your chance... 

Bruce Wayne (Affleck) witnesses one of his office building destroyed and some of his employees die tragically in the wake of the big fight scenes, spliced into this film from Man of Steel - when Superman and General Zod (Michael Shannon) go toe-to-toe through Metropolis.  The seeds of Wayne's disdain for the son of Jor-El were hatched on that day.  Fuel is added to that fire by billionaire wunderkind Lex Luthor (Eisenberg), who is bananas and mangoes in this film - and not the hilarious, yet brilliant criminal mastermind that Gene Hackman was in the original Superman movies or even the dude that played Luthor in Smallville.  
The best parts of this movie, by far, were the ones that involved Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.  I think that is incredible given Gal Gadot was eviscerated in the blogosphere when she was announced as the next Wonder Woman.  They said she wasn't tall enough, or thick enough, or whatever.  But when you look back at Lynda Carter, you have to think that those critics were morons. Gal Gadot has some depth in her acting that a lot of pretty girls that fit the bill (like Megan Fox) in Hollywood don't have at all.  Her and Amy Adams save this movie.  Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was weird and weak.  

First Mistake - Ben Affleck was the most wooden-emo Batman since Val Kilmer.  Not as cool as Keaton or as grounded as Bale.  Plus, he will always be Daredevil to me - not the cool one with the dope show on Netflix; the one that put the breaks on the entire DC comic book movie experiment. Much like he had to do in this interview, Henry Cavill had he unenviable task of trying to carry Affleck and make the shi#y casting of Ben look halfway decent.  Superman failed.  I just don't think Affleck is suited for this sort of stuff; the acting (particularly in action films) should be left to Matt Damon (said in my Team America World Police voice).

Side Note: Daredevil and Elektra were two of my least favorite superhero movies in life (that includes thehighly garbage Flash Gordon and post-Keaton/pre-Bale Batman movies).  

Anyway, Wayne and Kent meet, battle lines are drawn, and in short order there is beef and no secrets between them. One thing leads to another and Lex, in the interest of protecting the planet against the potential tyranny of Superman, gets his hands on some Kryptonian technology and builds what he calls a Doomsday weapon to fight and destroy Superman.  For Superman fans, you know what Doomsday means for Superman.  And if you aren't fans, well... use that obviously sharp mind of yours (and we know you are smarter than smart because you are reading UrbanRhetoric).  Doomsday = Superman dead.  If he dies, Clark dies.  Hence the story line issues for movies going-forward.  Obviously Supe's coming back - like he did in the comics.  He has a couple of Justice League movies to do.  

Let's be clear.  Dawn of Justice isn't straight garbage; it's just lame and a bit disappointing.  This movie seems to have done the impossible - I began thinking Superman is better than Batman.  He was in the movie.  Batman was easily manipulated.  They didn't give us enough of what this should have been.  There should have been more fighting between the titular characters.  Ironically, there's better fight choreography in a single episode of Daredevil, than there was in this entire film.  This would have been better if we had less Lex.  Better use of Amy Adams.  More Wonder Woman.  A lot more Wonder Woman.  In fact, I'm officially looking forward to when she gets her own origin story on the big screen soon.  The only other highlights are when the other Justice League members (Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg) make an appearance by way of the Inhuman Files.

PS: They didn't have the decency to give us a tiny glimpse at what the next movie is going to be about or even to throw a scene from the upcoming Wonder Woman movie.  What kind of utter disdain must the studio have for them to not even bother with a easter egg on Easter weekend?  I call BuSh!

IMTHATDUDE gives Dawn of Justice: 3 (BARELY - because Gadot brings this up by one full point)

RATING SYSTEM:


5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!

4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

2.14.2016

DEADPOOL




This joint right here... ain't your every day Marvel Comics superhero movie.

Now, I may not have read a single word from a Deadpool comic, but I heard about him through friends who were fans.  He always seemed like a cool idea.  I didn't think it would be remotely as successful as the X-Men or Spiderman (or anything of that ilk).  I was right.  But I was so intrigued by Ryan Reynolds taking another stab at the superhero thing given the horribleness of that piping hot garbage of a movie called Green Lantern.  The movie is ridiculous and it is from the very start.  It doesn't take itself seriously and that is the perfect tone for this particular character.  It's like what Clive Owen and Monic Bellucci's Shoot'em Up would have been if it were actually a good movie with better action and wittier, comedic dialogue.


VITALS

Tim Miller (was most notably the creative supervisor for visual effects on Scott Pilgrim vs The World, which basically makes him a newbie) - Director
Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Zombieland, GI Joe: Retaliation) - Writers
Ryan Reynolds (Green Lantern, R.I.P.D., Woman in Gold) - Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Ed Skrein (The Transporter Refueled, Sword of Vengeance) - Ajax
Morena Baccarin (Serenity, Spy, and TV's Homeland) - Vanessa

ASIDE: I've been in love (well, in-crush) with Baccarin since her days on the entirely too short-lived Joss Whedon series Firefly back in 2002/3 and she is STILL fire (no pun intended) and talented as all hell.

TJ Miller (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Rock of Ages, and TV's Silicon Valley) - Weasel
Brianna Hildebrand (Prism, First Girl I Loved - in fairness, never heard of either of those movies, which makes Brianna a newbie as far as I'm concerned) - Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Leslie Uggams (Sugar Hill, and Kizzy from Roots - not to be confused with The Roots) - Blind Al
Gina Carano (Haywire, Fast & Furious 6) - Angel

IF YOU MUST KNOW

The movie's opening credits clue you into the type of irreverent tone the film will have.  Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is not the quintessential anything.  He's an ex-special forces cat who has a crap life. a smart mouth that runs non-stop, and a cynical approach to life that naturally masks the tiny sliver of a heart that he has buried deep... deep... deeeeeeeep down below his cantankerous exterior.  He meets Vanessa (Baccarin) a woman of let's call it "questionable" repute and falls in love... just in time to find out he's dying.  Set in the same world where the X-Men exist... Reynolds is given a not-so classic new lease on life.  He loses everything, including Vanessa, but his sense of humor in the process.  
This Valentine's Day movie has all the right 
elements for a date movie, but with a dark rated-R twist to it.  Sex, constant graphic violence, adult humor, a bit of nudity and some grown up language would lead you to believe that ya better not brang ya kids... yet, that didn't stop the nominees for "Parent of the Year" in the theater I went to last night after 9pm from bringing the rugrats to see six strippers stripping, four Reynolds butt shots, 3 bullets in a-holes, 2 heads cut off, Baccarin get schtooped and a a partridge in a pear tree. Fly as Morena remains so many years post Firefly... this is no movie to drag your kids out to as it may lead to more questions than you want to answer in the movie theater.
Anyway, the movie tells you everything you need to know in the opening credits.  They forego the usual names and tell you what role each person in the film plays (e.g., instead of saying Edward Skrein, they just say "Villain with British Accent").  Yes, it is that kind of movie.  Ajax is a mutant making war profiteer that has messed with the life of our antihero.
The comic book  version of Deadpool did not just break the fourth wall (for those who don't know, that basically means he spoke directly to the readers as if he were stepping out into the real world/audience and away from the fictional story), he shattered it.  In the movie, Deadpool is not just a narrator; apparently, he is a self-aware character - to the extent that he lets us all know that he knows we're watching and every time he does it we laugh. 

It's impossible to tell you what you should think about this movie (usually, I'm quite comfortable telling people that they should agree with me as I am firmly of the belief that life would be better if more people did agree).  It is a thoroughly irreverent flick with some terribly crude potty-mouthed humor.  It is ultra-violent for the sake of simply being violent.  And, majestically, the only N-word dropped in the entire film was from a DMX song in the soundtrack - hmmm, I guess you can be edgy, have gratuitous violence,  without having characters unnecessarily do that.  Could some one call QT and let him know?

Deadpool, is not for the kiddies.  Hell, it may not even be a good date night movie - unless, you're like me and date someone who has a little bit of a dark and twisted side of their sense of humor. Nevertheless, it is fun and funny.  Skip the after movie scene and just google it.  It was more of an announcement than a legit-scene.  Aside 2: Shout out to Regal Cinema Battery Park for handling that insane crowd so well and for putting their security to work keeping people from skipping lines.  That job looked like it sucked (and I'd wager you get paid in buckets of popcorn, so it must have sucked hard).  This was bound to be pretty good given that I've never disliked anything Baccarin has done (I choose to forget that absurd V remake), Reynolds was able to successfully find a character with the humor balance, and most importantly - the guys from Zombieland (awesomeness) wrote the doggone film.

IMTHATDUDE gives Deadpool: 4


RATING SYSTEM:


5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!

4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

12.24.2015

The Hateful Eight (The Rantings Before Christmas)

Rarely do I take time out to write about a movie when I'm not writing a review.  The Hateful 8 calls for such an occasion.  I had the chance to see The Hateful Eight (the almost 3 hour version) a little early - preview, fell off the back of a truck, I had a hook up, whatever... I saw it. But for the last few years, Quentin Tarantino has been on my list of celebrities/personalities on the edge (along with the likes of Donald Trump. Justin Bieber, and Carrie Underwood - people who say things that make me wonder if they secretly utter what Tarantino so freely writes in his scripts).  Django Unchained (as technically good as it was) started my recently raised eyebrow on its upward trajectory.  My problem is two-fold. First, Tarantino is a "n!gger" lover - by that, I mean he LOVES that word.  He loves it so much, he probably has had biblical knowledge of it in his dreams. Seriously, you can't find that word as much on a damned Drake and Future album as you can in one of his movies.  If you think I am tripping and being overly sensitive, that's fine.  Click on this NSFW link and watch the Gawker compilation on youtube - Gawker Compilation (I could only tolerate 11 minutes of it before my irritation began to border irate.  Second, he seems to have no problem putting black male masculinity in jeopardy.  I know in today's world, that statement leaves room for ample debate and discussion, but forgive me I am fairly old-school.  Emasculation, in my book would include what happened to Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction, what almost happened to Jamie Foxx in Django Unchained, and what happened with Sam Jackson in The Hateful 8.

Let's be clear, I don't think Quentin is a racist.  Although, it is a little hard to tell the difference between him and racists.  One might argue that his movies are the flip side of Birth of a Nation.  He's no racist, but he is a self-satisfied idiot who strongly believes that if anyone having a problem with his work, can go screw themselves; it's his "art" so FU, don't watch it.  That, makes him either an ass or the hole indicative of one.  

Let's keep it 100... Tarantino has an issue that he seriously needs to come to grips with eventually. Here's the problem in his own words, “But when the black critics came out with savage think pieces about Django, I couldn’t have cared less. If people don’t like my movies, they don’t like my movies, and if they don’t get it, it doesn’t matter.”

Contrary to popular belief, there's no such thing as post-racial America.  There's a reason why at damned near 40 years old (yikes!!!) I would never use certain words in front of my grandfather or my mother.  I have too much respect for them to make them uncomfortable with hearing me say certain things.  My grandfather would be offended if he understood that a white guy was writing that word with this level of proliferation and we were patronizing him and giving him accolades because it was "so real" or "ground-breaking." For the record, there's precious little that is ground breaking about a white dude saying or writing the word nigger with impunity.  It's an all too familiar refrain. Tarantino's callousness (despite his lunches with Sidney Poitier) demonstrate the zeitgeist of those who feel that because they have black friends, they should receive some sort of a pass for their sh#y lack of deference and respect to racial issues.  Oh no, it's cool.  That's how people talked back then... that's not an acceptable response.  Verisimilitude is not a shield when you also have anachronisms in your film or you allow certain cuts and edits so as not to offend the Chinese and have your film seen in that country (that isn't artistic integrity, it's pecuniary commitment).  Interesting justification, but how frequently did you use anti-semitic terms in your rip-off... eh ehm!  I mean REMAKE of Inglorious Basterds.  That joint was set in Germany and Nazi occupied France, but the derogatory terms didn't even approach Django levels - not even the same ball park, playboy.  So, don't feed me the "that's how they talked" line when yo decide to use nigger 100+ times in one flick.

No, he didn't break the 100 mark in H8, but he did get about one in every 90 seconds or so by my best guess.  I'm not on my soapbox like I was with Skids and Mudflap in that Transformers crap, this is a pattern of - at minimum, oddly manifested and unhealthy infatuation with black male-ness and masculinity, which is often demonstrated by his over use of the N-word and the relative objectification of us via that unnecessary usage as well as the completely out of place sexual jeopardy that he seems hell bent on putting his important black male characters in (see, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, and to a reverse degree - the Hateful Eight).  No, there isn't an rape scene in every Tarantino movie; but I defy you to find a Tarantino film with a black character of any significance, and the film does not include at least 3 uses of that word.  So what, Sam Jackson keeps working with him.  Sam Jackson, mercenary that he is, will defend any role he plays (see, Black Snake Moan, Snakes on a Plane).  Besides, he's kind of a bully and I would give him as much deference on social issues as I would give his commercial-mate Charles Barkley - ABSOLUTELY NONE.

Look at Pulp Fiction... Even in a scene where there's no apparent reason for him to use the N-bomb, given that his character (a white dude helping out Jules, his black friend - played by Jackson) is married to a black woman, he still uses it with reckless abandon - something that multiracial couples know is a no-no.  My sister's been married to a white dude for a decade and as much as he may love her, he knows that he would receive an beatdown of the royal variety posthaste, if we even thought he thought  to utter the phrase "dead n!&&er storage" even if the name of the storage container had a sign on it of the same name while he was watching Pulp Fiction.

The fact is between the ball-gagged rape of Marsellus in Pulp Fiction, Django hanging naked, upside-down with a buck knife at his genitals, and the scenes in Hateful 8 where (SPOILER ALERT) another emasculatory act occurs, Tarantino is batting way too high an average for his film count.  I'm vexed by the amount of effort he puts into justifying his issues.  He didn't need to use it when Dennis Hopper gave his famous speech about the Moors and Sicily to Christopher Walken in True Romance, but he dropped it in English and Italian (just for good measure).  I'm annoyed by the pass that I gave him for all the times he has done this before.  He's an exceptional story teller and he doesn't need to rely on a term that would make the blood curdle of the civil rights activists still living in my family.  I mean, it wasn't that long ago that my dad was called that in the military, it was within my lifetime that James Byrd was lynched, that black folks are getting shot on the street for wearing hoodies, or shot in the back by cops... but we're giving this cat a pass because... we don't have to see his movie?  Come on, son.  I don't have to be the cat getting shot to be affected by it.  As much as I don't like the majority of Spike Lee films I've seen since X, I am inclined to agree that Tarantino should be checked if for no other reason than he is using a word that has a powerful and negative history deeply embedded in it as a literary device.  

Black Lives Matter, Quentin, he's dead right on that one.  But show me they matter.  Recognize that you can do damage by throwing that word around haphazardly.  Tarantino can't dismiss that and hide behind claims of historical accuracy in a FICTIONAL FILM.  A film where we are to suspend our disbelief on so many other things, but on your n-word count, we have to accept that because it may have really happened like that?  One tenth of that wretched excess you so readily embrace could have been more powerful.  He made the conscious decision to write what he wrote. He could have easily have opted not to.

As always, his movie had some really cool elements all of which were overshadowed by the pervasiveness of his abuses and the wretchedness of his excesses.  But this particular n!gger, is not going to cosign Tarantino's playful or artistic emasculating of yet another brother or his whimsical abuse of a term that even I barely use.

IMTHATDUDE gives The Hateful 8: 2 (because I would cuss QT out)

RATING SYSTEM:
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

12.21.2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII)

The Force Awakens... indeed!  In some respects, JJ Abrams surpasses my expectations; in others, he misses the mark.  His version of Star Wars was a good amount of kitsch and banter on a Coney Island caliber emotional roller coaster, but without all the onscreen chemistry in A New Hope or Empire Strikes back.  WARNING THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS (but very few of them and nothing that you don't find out in the opening text crawl).

VITALS
JJ Abrams (Armageddon, Mission Impossible III, Super 8) - Director/Co-Writer
Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark) - Co-Writer
Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) - Co-Writer

The old cast is back with Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, 

Lupita Nyongo (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop)  - Maz Kanata
Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis, Lincoln) - Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley (don't front like you watched Scrawl or Mr. Selfridge- No, you never saw her before) - Rey
John Boyega (Junkhearts, Attack the Block) - Finn
Gwendolyn Christie (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2) - Captain Phasma
Max Von Sydow (Shutter Island, Flash Gordon - a movie dying for a remake!) - Lor San Tekka
Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes) - Supreme Leader Snoake
Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year, Ex Machina) - Poe Dameron

Also seen in The Force Awakens were the kicka$$ martial artists from The Raid 2, Yayan Ruhain and Iko Uwais.

IF YOU MUST KNOW

Last chance - SPOILER ALERT, you've been warned... 

The Force Awakens starts some time after Return of the Jedi. So, if you thought the Galactic Empire was devastated or destroyed when Luke, Han, Leia, and the rebel alliance killed the Emperor and Darth Vader was done-zo, then you're mistaken.  The empire has not collapsed.  In fact, the "civil war" (as it was referred to in the text crawl for A New Hope) rages on.  Like most failed corporations, it seems the Empire's decided to re-brand itself as the Third Reich... I mean, the First Order.  Luke Skywalker is... well, let's just say... he's about as active in the ongoing war as Jabba the Hut would be at a Blink Fitness.  The story centers around the accidental conscription of Finn and Rey in the fight against the First Order and the search for Luke.  

If you saw Episode IV: A New Hope, this movie will not hold many surprises for you at all.

PHOTO: Scene from the new Star wars:The Force Awakens trailer released during Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, April 16, 2015.Episode VII lacked the originality of Episodes IV, V, and VI, but it was still really, really good.  In fact, I might go out on a limb and say that... eh ehm... people will go out in droves and see Episode VII.  And they will like it a lot, they may even go back to see it again.  Neil deGrasse Tyson has ruined my ability to suspend disbelief in a lot of sci-fi movies and I'm sure he would have a serious problem with the major danger element created for The Force Awakens; still, you have to give it to George Lucas, Disney, LucasFilm and anybody else with a points on this movie.  It is likely to have moviegoers raving and running back to see it on 3D, Imax, and every other expensive format they've created even though it's just an introduction of new characters doing the same thing.  A solid movie all around and one of the top 3 in the series, but it wasn't without issues.  My first concern was that JJ Abrams didn't really create a whole new story, so much as rehash one and add the newbies.  Hopefully, this is all a set up for what's coming.  Kylo Ren struck me as a weird combo of Hayden Christensen's annoying Anakin Skywalker and that kinda weird tall, long haired guy from Girls... which I later found out, that's who played Kylo Ren - I never actually saw the show Girls for longer than the few seconds it took me to identify the show and find my remote control. Another issue with the flick is that they didn't shoot it like Cameron did Avatar.  I'm no expert but the 3D quality wasn't remotely as good as Avatar, which suggests that it was not filmed completely in 3D or that JJ Abrams didn't upgrade on the frame rate - either way, it could have been visually better than it was (and I know they had a budget through the roof).  No, The Force Awakens is not a perfect film and aside from there being a heroine and a black male lead, there is nothing novel to it.  The Force Awakens is more of an homage and relaunching of the Star Wars brand after the debacle that introduced us to Jar Jar Binks (me'sah thinks George still regrettsa dat... AND HE SHOULD).  



It is nice that they have Rey (Ridley) and Finn (Boyega) doing the heavy lifting.  I do love a female action hero (like Zoe in Colombiana).  I grew up around a lot of tough women, so I have an affinity for women who can kick butt and keep it moving.  Rey has that potential.  They tease us with glimpses of her back story, which will need to be fleshed out in future films and if they hold to form, in the next episode, we'll find out who Rey's father and/or mother are.  Female leads in action and sci-fi are always fun even when the movie sucks, and better when the movie doesn't suck.  Daisy Ridley is a fresh face and a fresh change of pace.  I like that about her.  Time will tell if she gets to be in the upper echelons of female action leads like Scarlett Johansson, Qi Shu, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Ann Moss, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Anjelina Jolie, Linda Hamilton, or even Pam Grier.  (SPOILER ALERT 2!!!)  Although a buddy of mine (we used to call him "Wheels" Muhammad) points out that bringing in a female lead/jedi - as well as making the black male lead a possible love connection in a sci-fi mega series like Star Wars - translates into a major funding opportunity because it makes the series more accessible to two demographics that typically do not get much to look for in these kinds of movies.  Now, you have a reason for women and non-white guys to go see movies that generally whitewash race to the extent that brown folks do not exist in fictional distant futures or universes or alternate worlds - see everything from Dune, to Blade Runner, and the Hobbit (sorry to the #BoycottStarWarsVII racists, but I hope JJ Abrams makes more history in the next Episode by incorporating Marvin Gaye in the score by having BB8 play "Let's Get It On" while Finn and Rey get busy on the Millenium Falcon).


The salient points about The Force Awakens are 1) true Star Wars fans should love this movie, if for no other reason than it gives them another look at something they already love + they do it so well that it is almost a remake, 2) the graphics are far superior to what was available back in my infancy (when the A New Hope dropped, I was almost a full year on this earth and just 40 years away from taking over the world... I'll send out a memo when I do), 3) there's a black Storm Trooper, son!  I don't think you heard me... A BLACK STORM TROOPER.  Although, I don't understand why he had to lose the accent for the role?  We seem to cast an awful lot of people from across the pond, just to have them lose their posh English accents, but I digress.

BTW: Shout out to PAJ1 for calling out the similarities to Spaceballs (if you never saw Spaceballs, it's a freaking Mel Brooks classic - your life won't be right until you see it.

Anwya, if the Force Awakens happens to be too full, or sold out... I strongly suggest that you check out Creed or even Chi-Raq (but not with the kiddies).

IMTHATDUDE gives Star Wars: Episode VII (The Force Awakens): 4 

RATING SYSTEM:
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.

12.13.2015

CHI-RAQ


Damn.  I really had to think about this one. (Truth, I'm still thinking.)  Whenever you base a movie on a satirical play by Aristophenes - as I'm sure you were all planning to do - and that movie comments on real issues that hit close to home with a great many people in our culture, you are bound to get some harsh critiques.  In fact, you would be wise to expect more than a little outrage.  (POINT OF INFORMATION: You may recall, I'm not a critic, IMjustTHATDUDE.)  I understand that Chi-Town rappers - Chance the Rapper (who will likely make a scene on SNL tonight), Twista, and Rhymefest (who co-wrote Jesus Walks, but didn't make half the bread off that song that Yeezy did - then again, he doesn't have to be married to a Kardashian, so... let's call that a push) - have criticized this movie with particular vigor.


No peace, no "piece." Given the times, this may well be the most serious satire I have ever seen (or read, and I was a philosophy major - forced to read some of this Aristophenes type stuff) on so many levels. 

VITALS
Spike Lee - Director & Co-writer
Kevin Willmott - Co-writer
Angela Bassett (Black Nativity, Olympus Has Fallen) - Miss Helen
Teyonah Parris (TV's Mad Men, Dear White People) - Lysistrata
Nick Cannon (Drumline, Day of the Dead) - Chi-Raq
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls, Black Nativity) - Irene
Steve Harris (Takers, Minority Report) - Old Duke
Samuel L. Jackson (approx. 28% of all movies since 1963) - Dolemides (a.k.a. Dolemite)
John Cusack (The Ice Harvest, Hot Tub Time Machine) - Father Mike Corridan
DB Sweeney (Taken 2, Miracle at St, Anna) - Mayor McCloud
Harry Lennix (Man of Steel, State of Play) - Commissioner Blades
Wesley Snipes (Brooklyn Finest, Expendables 3) - Cyclops
Dave Chappelle (Chappelle's Show Dave, but on that ill Creatine diet) - Morris

IF YOU MUST KNOW

Lysistrata (Parris - who might actually be the sexiest actress alive - real talk, no joke) is with a gang-banger who goes by the name Chi-Raq (which also happens to be the nickname of Chicago).  As you may know, the murders and gun related violence that happens in Chicago is UNHEARD of anywhere else but in the war zones and conflict ridden areas in places significantly East of here.  So, after the accidental shooting of a little girl on the South Side of Chicago, Lysistrata - encouraged by Leymah Gbowee and the African movement that did the same - removes herself from Chi-Raq (not the city, her boo) by moving out and putting the 'snappy' on lock and enlists all the women directly and indirectly involved in that life to to do the same in order to stem or stop the violence occurring on the streets of Chicago. NOTE: Ladies, this is a terrible, horrible, no good idea.  Long story shortened... the movement becomes a worldwide phenomenon and begins to have positive repercussions (depending on who you ask).  

Yo, Spike... they ain't ready for this one.  I'm not even sure I'm for this one.  But when it is all said and done... this movie is Oscar worthy (most likely, it will not even be nominated), but it is soooo provocative and fresh that it makes all those Shakespeare in Love type flicks look hackneyed.  It's too bad Nick Cannon (acting and rapping) and Wesley Snipes make it mediocre. It's smart, but preachy. The dialogue is so true, but nobody wants to admit things like... men do most of what we do for money and sex (and usually, the money thing is related to the perception that having it puts you in a position to put someone else in a position, yah feel me? no pun intended).  Jennifer Hudson was great, Angela Bassett (black don't crack, for real) and she is never off, Harry Lennix is the man, John Cusack made you forget all the great comedies (Hot Tub Time Machine, Better of Dead, Grosse Pointe Blank), and Teyonah Parris... aside from being gorgeous, she should be the next IT girl (well, for chocolate women - I know Hollywood is only infatuated with lightskinneded women, but every so often there is an Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyongo, or Teyonah Parris).

Problems?  Sure.  1) The dude from the Wire (the cat that played the Clay Davis) was in it with his, now famous, one word line that starts with - Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii....  Well, he was in the movie for 2 minutes. 2) Nick Cannon was a humongous mis-cast.  Okay, so that should be the first problem, but right now I'm going stream of consciousness.  3) The ChiRaq sex scenes had no chemistry and should have just been implied rather than as explicit as they were - one of my friends actually commented that in a certain scene it looked like Nick Cannon did had never seen a "piece" from that angle before - I found that hilarious.  I'll let you all judge, but I agree.  4) Wesley Snipes was annoying; he was supposed to be a little bit, but... okay, that's a personal one.  I just can't stand that idiot.  5) Sam Jackson doesn't need to be in every Spike Lee movie.  Chappelle would have been better as the Narrator/Dolemides (based on Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite).  SJ may sound like Rudy, but Chappelle is a comedian who would have made a much better Dolemides and made the movie feel less like a Spike Lee flick and more like the bold, experimental film that it was.  6) Back to Nick Cannon.  He can't rap.  Why, oh why!? Did they let him wrap for the entire intro to the movie.  Bad call, Spike.  I was tempted to bounce when the song wouldn't stop.  The opening was literally 4 minutes of reading and listening to the lyrics that I hear were written by Nick Cannon and performed by the same, which makes you feel a bit violent and violated at the same time.

I am looking forward to watching this movie again in a few months, and again in ten years.  Look, I hated She's Gotta Have It, and it still isn't a "good" movie, but there is a rawness to it that makes it stand out as good film-making and it stands alone.  This movie is ahead of its time.  Maybe a little too much ahead of its time, but it is worth seeing.  I do enjoy movies like this and I may be in the minority, but it is worth seeing even if you are a Chicago rapper or native.  Historically, meaningful satires always had difficult and serious present day issues as their subject; flawed as it may be, this is a meaning and poignant satire.  Chi-Raq Spike Lee's most brave endeavor since X (the movie that should have earned Denzel and Spike the Oscars they deserved), I would recommend seeing it. It's not Dope, but Chi-Raq made me believe in Spike Lee as a filmmaker again.  Oddly enough, some of the people I know who hated this would still buy a movie ticket for Tyler Perry poo-poo.  


IMTHATDUDE gives Chi-Raq: 3 

RATING SYSTEM:
5 = You should be about halfway to the theatre by now… Well… GET!
4 = Definitely worth the bread. Niiice.
3 = I won’t cuss anybody out and demand my paper back.
2 = Somewhere SOUTH of under-whelmed./I know it has a pulse, but…
1 = Not a good look. They played me AND I played myself.