UrbanRhetoric

UrbanRhetoric

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 Neal "Wheels" Muhammad) points out that bringing in a female lead/jedi is a major funding opportunity as well as making the black male lead a possible love connection in a sci-fi mega series like Star Wars translates to 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 is 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.

11.29.2015

CREED



Creed is so legit that I am still surprised - days later.  I kid you not, I felt like Italians must have felt in 1976.  This movie had all kinds of heart.  I even got, dare I say it, a little emotional.  Knowing that the last 3 or 4 Rocky movies were - as the French say - garbaaaage, I sure as hell did not expect to like a "spin-off" of Rocky.  And, on the heels of the Floptastic Four, Michael B. Jordan completely redeems himself. Maybe it's because Stallone didn't write or direct it that this movie ended up being something I could endorse...  Okay, it's definitely because Stallone didn't write or direct it that I can cosign a spin-off of the shaky, albeit iconic franchise.  I've been a fan of Tessa Thompson since Dear White People... you had me at cultural misappropriation, girl.  Jordan, The Wire put him on the map, but Fruitvale Station made him legit.  Stallone - hwhwhwiuhokay (he'll understand that was a compliment).  

VITALS
Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) - Writer/Director
Michael B Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Fantastic Four) - Adonis Johnson
Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) - Bianca
Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, The Expendables) - Rocky Balboa
Phylicia Rashad (let's just say Clair Huxtable instead of mentioning the best sitcom in history because of a certain jello pushing, pill slipping, comedian) - Mary Anne Creed
Tony Bellew - "Pretty" Ricky Conlan

IF YOU MUST KNOW

Adonis Johnson (Jordan) is young man with a heavyweight chip on his shoulder (I bet somebody will steal that line).  He didn't know his father, bounced around foster care and juvy, until Mary Anne Creed (Rashad) - Appollo Creed's widow (ooops, SPOILER ALERT... you did see the one with Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago, right?) tracks him down and magnanimously raises him in her home.  I would love to think I am a good enough guy to take in the offspring of a woman who was unfaithful to me if the kid had no one else, but... IMnotTHATDUDE!  Anyway, Adonis ends up taking after pop-dukes in a way that displeases Mrs. Creed and seems unnecessary in light of his promising career in finance.  These crazy kids... leave it to a millennial to skip out on a solid, lucrative career for the long-shot prospect of something that is inherently dangerous.  Dummies.  Fortunately for him, this pays off in a huge way.  Due to a random series of events that are only unheard of in real life and a storyline reminiscent of "The Great White Hype" (Damon Wayan's at his most foolish, worth checking out) - in reverse, Adonis finds himself boxing for the championship against a seasoned fighter with everything on the line.   
Adonis wins a fight agains "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Bellew, a fighter in the real world - although he looks about as cut up as I do after eating half of my mother's Thanksgiving turkey and a couple of servings of peach cobbler - which happens to be how I look right now). Johnson has the great Rocky Balboa in his corner as Rocky gives him the tools to battle his [CLICHE ALERT] toughest opponent... HIMSELF!  WHUUUUH?  He does MJ one better.  He's not standing with the man in the mirror, he's shadowboxing that dude to the mantra "one punch at a time; one step at a time; one round at a time."  Actually, that part was a pretty decent philosophical position that I would encourage people to adopt in either a physical or metaphysical context, but... that's for a different day.

I won't tell you how this movie ends, but I can say that I cheered right along with the idiots who forget that a movie is only a movie.  Adonis Johnson is just a made up character, fighting a choreographed fight that was shot on a movie set with countless takes-retakes. Still, I literally moved as if I had to bob & weave right along with Adonis as he fought through each round.  That's a sign of investment.  Kudos to Michael B Jordan and Ryan Coogler for making Adonis a likable albeit flawed millennial - much easier said than done!  The emotional rollercoaster ride and all the talk of battling memories and the feelings of loss that a adult child has to deal with when losing a parent(s) got me thinking about struggle and responsibility and all that business.  As a dude who grew up with a father who was widely respected from the streets to the pulpit, and whose name was bigger than most (in the Stuy and beyond), I found myself getting a little verklempt; then, I shook it off and remembered it was a damned movie spin-off of Rocky, son.  Rocky.  SMDH@IMTHATDUDE

IMTHATDUDE gives Creed: 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.

11.19.2015

James Bond: Spectre

Don't believe the hype!  Yeaaaaah, boyeeeeeeeee!  Forgive me.  It has been too long since I dissed a Bond film... Bardem was weird and whack in Skyfall as the villain - but the concept was there.  Movie was pretty lame though - re-watched it a while ago before this one dropped. Here you go (and shout out to my homegirl, Ellis; she said this looked like whackness, but then again, she hates all things Bond, so who would trust her movie selection on anything?)...

I fell asleep twice in one sitting.  TWICE!!!  Sure, I was tired, but it's James Bond... I don't fall asleep  in action movies (aside from that bananaballs flick that had Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis).  I am a bona fide movie-warrior.  I have denied young moviegoer's requests for me to move down so they can sit together - Sorry, suckers... get here earlier.  I picked my seat and skipped the concession stand for a reason.  I have braved the crappy 42nd Street and Prospect Park Pavilion theaters - No, sir.  No threat of bed bugs scares my fastidious a$$... I'm lying!!!  I will never hit those theaters again until I am satisfied they don't have a problem.  But, I did survive the dark depths of Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, Soul Plane, Punisher, Desolation of Smaug, Fifty Shades, and countless other craptastic nightmares without batting an eye.  Yet, I am rarely ever tired enough to sleep through a flick I paid for.  I am far to stingy with my paper to waste it on movies I don't actually watch.  I watched 95% of Spectre, and it was the most boring Bond I have ever seen next to In Her Majesty's Secret Service (Remember that one?  Stop lying, you don't.  Nobody does.  It was a$$.)

VITALS

Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) - Director
John Logan (Sweeney Todd, Gladiator) & Neil Purvis (The World is Not Enough, Johnny English) - Writers
Daniel Craig (Munich, Casino Royale) - Bond, James Bond... kinda
Cristoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Muppets Most Wanted) - Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List, Grand Budapest Hotel) - Q
Lea Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color, Fairwell, My Queen) - Madeleine Swann
Monica Bellucci (Shoot'em Up, Melena) - Lucia Sciarra
Naomie Harris (Miami Vice, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) - Eve Moneypenny
Ben Whishaw (Layer Cake, Cloud Atlas) - Q
Andrew Scott (TV's The Hour and Sherlock) - C
Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick) - Mr. Hinx

IF YOU MUCH KNOW [SPOILER ALERT... STOP READING NOW IF YOU CAN'T HANDLE SPOILERS]

Bond has girl and disses her for a mission.  Almost gets killed, but escapes in a very Bond like way.  Gets a full grown woman (Monica Bellucci) after claiming responsibility for killing her hubby; but only needs her for information, so it's a smash and run job... again.  Then, he finds himself involved with the barely legal daughter of a target who has yet another piece of information for him... all the while he is running into or being hunted by the mysterious cabal of villains known only as as "Spectre" which turns out to be run by Ernst Gustavo Blofeld (Waltz).  Blofeld, for all his criminal mind mastery, puts Bond in a painful yet EASILY escapable situation and, shockingly, Bond escapes. Additional chasing ensues (literally and figuratively), before Blofeld and Bond meet again - eventually one must kill the other permanently.

What perplexes me is that Bond is not Bond midway through this movie.  He regressed to his Vesper-loving days of when we were first supposed to be learning how Bond became the misogynistic prick that we have all known and loved for decades.  Instead, he gets a little whiff of that young "strange" and he changes into a lovestruck ordinary Joe.  I don't watch Bond movies to see him fall for some dame.  I watch to see his brackishness, callousness, machismo, a$$kicking and impossible stunts, and love of fine things (women, cars, winning, etc.).  Instead I got a Spectre of the Bond I knew and loved (see how I did that there? I make this look easy... enough).  Dude, you're an assassin with a license to kill.  Assassinate already.

As for Blofeld, he had flashes of awesome villainy, but then there was the whole tell my enemy everything and let him escape thing that usually wouldn't have troubled me if I didn't think the movie was so boring.  Even if the villain had a white damned cat.



Not enough Casino Royale action for me (or ever Quantum), and too heavy on Craig showing his actor-y nuance made this one of my least favorite Bonds in Craig's filmography.  Then again, what do you expect when your theme song is sung by the n'er happy Sam "Depress Me" Smith.  Great voice, but if you're down and happen to have a bottle of scotch, you might want to leave that Sam Smith playlist right next to your tickets for Spectre... on the shelf until a much happier time surfaces.  In fairness, this is a more chick-friendly Bond movie, but IMTHATDUDE and the same way I refuse to get a filet mignon at a pancake house, or go to a business meeting with a suit and my Sean John sneaks, I refuse to let a watered-down, sensitive James Bond retain its vaunted position on my list of all things dope.

IMTHATDUDE gives Spectre: 2.5 (Benefit of the Bond)

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.

9.21.2015

Sicario

Sicario apparently means "dagger-man" (according to the movie and wikipedia - it comes from the latin, but then shares a history with Hebrew and Spanish words meaning substantially the same thing - dagger man or assassin); which makes this a serious movie and not to be confused with the tequila brand with the raunchy (but greatly appreciated) ad campaign.

Although, I would not have had a problem with a little of this in the film, it's probably a good thing that it was not connected... just sayin'.

By now, you know that I love spy movies, action movies, and thought-provoking movies, but when you successfully combine all of those together with great casting and strong writing... IMTHATDUDE that heads to theatres no where near me to catch the film the first weekend when they are in limited release.  (Thank, God it was playing at a theater that doesn't have bed bugs. That, would have been a problem.)  While most people I spoke to on my way to the theatre had no idea what movie I was referring to when I mentioned it, they all became interested when they found out that Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and the great Benicio Del Toro were starring in the film.

VITALS

Denis Villenueve (Maelstrom. Prisoners) - Director
Taylor Sheridan (a feature writing noob) - Writer

Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods) - Agent Kate Macer
Benicio Del Toro (Usual Suspects, Escobar: Paradise Lost) - Alejandro
Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, Oldboy) - Matt
Maxamiliano Hernandez (The Namesake, Thor) - Silvio
Daniel Kaluuya (Kick Ass 2, Johnny English Reborn) - Reggie
Victor Garber (Argo, Self/less) - Jennings
Jeffrey Donovan (Hitch, J. Edgar) - Steve Forsing

Other noteworthy performances include:  Raul Trujillo (from Apocalypto and Riddick), John Bernthal - my ninja, Shane from The Walking Dead.  RIP Shane, but hell of a way to exit a show!

IF YOU MUST KNOW

Kate Macer (Blunt) and her partner, Reggie (Kaluuya) are vigilantly fighting the good fight against kidnapping associated with the never-ending drug war and the brutal violence proliferated by the drug cartels and visited upon the cities along the U.S. - Mexico border.  After a particularly gruesome discovery and deadly incident, Macer is recruited to "volunteer" for a chance to strike at the heart of the cartels responsible for the mass murder and increasing bloodshed in her Arizona jurisdiction.  She enlists and works with the oddball Matt (Brolin) - is he FBI, Homeland Security, DEA, CIA...?  What matters most is that this team along with the ultra-mysterious Alejandro (Del Toro) are poised to disrupt the flow of drug traffic into the U.S. and deliver a major blow to the asinine war on drugs waged by a country who basically finances a controlling interest in all "illegal" drug operations.

Why is this movie dope (no weak pun intended), one might ask - in a word Benicio.
Del Toro is one of the very few big named actors who can successfully accomplish going from playing Fenster (in the Usual Suspects) to the Collector (in Guardians of the Galaxy) to Pablo Escobar (in Escobar) and then to Alejandro in Sicario and you don't think about how it is all the same guy while you're watching it.  He's the anti-Will Smith.  He's a legit actor with chops that make you respect and see the character rather than the actor and that says a lot to persnickety folk like me. Blunt's American accent was nearly flawless; Kaluuya's was very good too (call him the anti-Cheadle; see Oceans 11-13).  Then, there's the writing!  To say it was taut would deprive you of sufficient description.  Taylor Sheridan works seamlessly with the director, Denis Villenueve to make a film that doesn't waste a moment on useless or throwaway dialogue.  What could be spoken is said instead with furtive looks, shooting angles, and pregnant pauses.

Sicario is one of the best movies I've seen in the last few years.  It ain't perfect, but it is very, very good.  Great kid friendly film - aside from the mutilated bodies, domestic abuse, and language. When it hits theaters in wide release, you should go see it.

IMTHATDUDE gives Sicario: 5

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.

9.07.2015

Straight Outta Compton



As always, I'll be honest.  I didn't think this would be much of a movie, so I put the trip to the theatre on pause.  Sure, there'd be some nice breastage, lots of profanity, and a the possibility of a cinematic circle jerk between the surviving members of NWA bordered the line of more probable than not; while it was pretty much everything I figured it might be, it still managed to be a legit film.  I put the credit on F. Gary Gray, SOC's director.

I admit that aside from F$#@ the Police, I never listened to NWA because I wasn't feeling the shootem up jheri-curl thing.  (NOTE: No offense, but Pop dukes was a firm believer that real men do not have "hair-dos" and they certainly don't use "activator" in it if they did.)

VITALS




Whoever did this graphic, did my job for me - but poorly...  As usual one of the most critical components to any movie-making process was excluded from the above graphic.  THE WRITERS!!! My favorite part of any decent film is the writing.  So, the forgotten vitals are -

F Gay Gray (Friday, Law Abiding Citizen, Italian Job) - Director
Jonathan Herman (well, from what I can tell, he's a rookie, so...) & Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center) - Writers
**Okay, fine.  I see why they didn't mention the writers filmography, but still... they're important.
Also not included in the graphic are Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller (pretty pivotal figure in the whole NWA saga), Lisa Renee Pitts as Verna/ Dre's Mom Dukes, and Marlon Yates, Jr. as D.O.C.

IF YOU MUST KNOW

Dre (Hawkins) was a a DJ with a love for hip-hop, but a passion for the intricate details musical details that make songs, Cube (Jackson, Jr) was high-schooler and wannabe rapper hopping the school bus back and forth from the hood, and Eazy-E (Mitchell) was a dope dealer of some sort with gang affiliations and some bread, but they were all from or living in Compton in the 80s.  For the youngins reading this (all 10 of ya), the 1980s was a terrible decade: it was the height of two of the greatest plagues in US history - the crack epidemic & the AIDs epidemic, both of which feature in the makings of the groundbreaking group N.W.A.  (If my name was Quentin Tarantino, I'd say the full name 150 times in this review for the sake of "reality" and call it art, but I'm not, so I wont.)  Also, prominently-featured in this film are also other images that I remember vividly from my own youth - police brutality, racial and social inequalities manifesting in judicial injustices (oh wait, that could easily be snatched from the recent news headlines).


Here's the story... Dre, Eazy, Cube, along with MC Ren and DJ Yella combine forces and funds to create NWA.  They are the West Coast's version of irreverence hip-hop (a less activist, more gutter version of PE, some might say... hell, I DO say) and they end up fighting battles against everyone from themselves, to their management, to the Po'lice and even the federal government.  While it should have been hard for any brown person in this country who had a microphone and a voice to not have spoken up in the midst of the Rodney King incident, Eleanor Bumpurs, Yusef Hawkins (the list goes on...), not every rapper, writer, movie star, or singer had the intestinal fortitude to so speak.  If for no other reason than, FTP - I give Ice Cube (the primary writer for most of the music I know from them) and NWA a ton of credit for vocalizing that frustration felt by so many.  (NOTE 2: I have several friends and family in law enforcement, I love them... I hate badge wielding, gun-toting, chumps with a god-complex who justify their violence by pointing at their shield.  See... talking all this NWA and Public Enemy stuff got me tapping into my Huey Newton/Freeman side.)


Back to the flick - it was surprisingly well cast.  Cube's real life son played Cube to near perfection, but one would assume that's an easy task.  The Dre character, I couldn't speak much on aside from the fact that the character establishing scene in the beginning of the film made me feel like that is what Dre's process MUST look like - listen to all kinds of music, surrounded in a sea of rich tones, and air-tickling the keys as you let the soul of the sound wash over you.  I knew I wasn't the only one to do that. (NOTE 3: I prefer a DJ who carries wax LPs to one who mixes MP3s - if  I had to choose; just like I prefer paper books to e-books.)  Aldis Hodge did a pretty convincing Ren, from what I know about him.  But the movie really centered on the degradation of the relationship between Eazy and the rest of NWA and the cause for the splintering of the group.  It only sniffs at the introduction of Tupac, Snoop D O double- G, and the affiliation, then swift dissociation with Suge Knight.  Not essential to the story being told, but some fun stuff that could be a movie of its own.

As Jerry Heller, Giamatti is an appreciably pathetic semi-villain in the best way possible (unfortunately, his voice kills me), Mitchell puts in a performance that makes you reconsider what you thought you knew about the man, and still... when it is all said and done, I still will not buy an album or the soundtrack to the music that is essentially the precursor to all that I hate about today's i'gnant hip-hop (I'm looking at you, Fetty Wap, Bobby Shmurda, and all your cohorts). No, you don't really learn anything from this movie.  Yes, I was right about what I thought would be in this movie (breastage, prolific profanity, and circle-jerk included - can't help but notice the absence of Doc Dre's allegations of domestic abuse). No, the writing was nothing to... well, write home about... hmmm, I can do better than that, but not tonight.  And, yes, it was still a good movie.  I might even watch it again - not pay for it, but if it comes on HBO... I'll give it a look.  It's kicking butt in the theatre, so that's awesome. It's not better than DOPE, but it wasn't too shabby at all.

IMTHATDUDE gives Straight Outta Compton: 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.