2 1/2 STARS
Well, I've give Tyler Perry some points here for trying. I'm not a fan of Perry, who recently has named the biggest money-earner in Hollywood, yes, Hollywood, and he's basically created a mini-entertainment Empire in Atlanta in recent years, but I've mostly been baffled by his popularity. His characters are often more like caricatures, and often his stories rely too on faith as a storytelling device, which really is the worst device you could use to tell a story, believably. But apparently he strikes a cord with audiences. Audiences, he doesn't usually screen his films for critics. He did screen this one though, and this isn't his typical film either. In fact he adapted it from the famous Ntozake Shange play "for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf," which is a very ambitious play to even try to adapt. That play, doesn't have a narrative, and it involves multiple African-American women, who are only named after a color, telling many varied and different tales of some of there experiences. Probably, a similar, more familiar example to what he's working with here, would be "The Vagina Monologues," which also has a similar structure. Here, Perry gets about as good a collection of actors you can find, and at times, the movie shines, but Perry's just a little faithful to the poetic monologue structure of the play, inserting many of them in between regular bits of conversation as he tries to bring all these character into some form of a relationship structure between them. I don't know how anybody could've adapted this play onto the screen successfully, so I'm certainly impressed that Tyler Perry gave it a try, but he might have just been a little too faithful to it. I won't stop anybody from watching this though, for the parts that are good, and there are a good number of them, and there's one particular scenes, involving multiple characters witnessing a very inhumane vile act that is just devastating. It might be the best scene Perry's ever directed.
MADE IN DAGENHAM (2010) Director: Nigel Cole
3 1/2 STARS
"Made in Dagenham," recieved 4 BAFTA Awards nominations last years (British Equivalent of Oscars), including a Supporting Actress nomination for Miranda Richardson. Frankly, I'm a little surprised at these nominations, Richardson's role is good but basically amounts to an elevated cameo, but the movie a nice little feel-good, based-on-a-true-story tale. It's about the 1968 strike involving the all-female seat-cushion sewers who worked at the Ford Dagenham, England plant. Ford at this time was having union trouble all throughout the world, and this strike, which consisted of a little over a couple hundred people. They were declassified from skilled laborers to unskilled, and the eventual strike would be the first step in required Equal pay laws in England. The strikers are lead by Rita O'Grady, (Sally Hawkins) who's eventually takes over as the Shop Stewart, and Albert Passingham (Bob Hoskins) who's their boss. This movie is one of many films from Britian in recent years that takes a very light and flighty approach to some looks at recent minor (or sometimes) historical moments, that I don't quite know what to make. Director Nigel Cole, previously made one of the "Calendar Girls," and there's also been "Kinky Boots," a few years back. They're like Richard Curtis meets "Norma Rae," type stories, and there's nothing particularly wrong with that, but there also isn't a lot particularly interesting about them either. This movie has good performances by Hawkins and Hoskins, as well as Richard Schiff and that's realy what holds the film together, and it does shed some light on a lesser-known part of modern history. We never did pass the ERA, did we?
2 1/2 STARS
I never thought I'd see an animated feature film that uses so many AC/DC and Guns 'n' Roses songs in it. (Well, at least one that didn't have "Heavy Metal" in the title) Dreamworks' film "Megamind," starts with a parody of the Superman origin story, as it tells the story of how Megamind (Will Ferrell), became the villainous lifelong arch-enemy of Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the protector of Metro City, which Megamind calls Metrocity. Unexpectedly, during one of Megamind's latest ill-fated plans, Megamind accidentally kills Metro Man, leaving him without a nemesis to battle, and his life, surprisingly unfulfilling. You ever wonder what would happen if Lex Luthor or the Joker would've actually succeed in thier plans? Apparently, they'd be so disappointed at the lack of an opponent, that he decides to form a new superhero to battle against. He decides on Hal (Jonah Hill) the lowly cameraman who's in love with the town's Lois Lane, Reporter Roxanne Ritchie (Tina Fey). After Metro Man's defeat, Roxanne soon begins dating Bernard, the local gallery owner of the Metro Man Musuem, unaware that it's actually Megamind in disguise. "Megamind," does suffer from having come out shortly after the Pixar animated, "Despicable Me," which also involves a story of a master criminal type that eventually changes his worldview, although that film certainly uses different storytelling methods, it is a better movie. But my main problem with "Megamind," was that it kind trounches along very slowly at times. After the initial battle sequence, the movie doesn't get off the ground, for almost an hour, and frankly, this wasn't leaning in the right direction to begin with. I think there's some interesting material to use and satirize here, especially considering the explosion of Superhero films from Hollywood in recent years, but it really just doesn't get off the ground until late, almost like it took it's protagonist's dilemma a little too existensially. While the animation is good, and the final battle sequence is quite exciting, the film is ultimately a very forgettable entry in the Dreamworks canon.
THE SWITCH (2010) Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck
This movie begins with an obviously rash decision by one character, (well, if you include a subsequent party, two bad decisions) a drunken act by another, and then an idiot plot for the rest of the film. I would normally start a film review like this off by saying something like "Poor Jennifer Aniston..." and begin talking about her amazing comic abilities in other films, and how underrated she is as an actress, possibly bringing up her amazing Indy film work, but on top of starring in this, she's also a producer, and it's made by her production company, so obviously, she must have thought this pet project was better than it actually was. The movie begins seven years ago, where Kassie (Aniston) decides it's time to have a kid, and chose a sperm donor. She reveals this information to her longtime guyfriend Wally (Jason Bateman, wow! Two bad films with him this week, just as I'm finally coming around on "Arrested Development", too) who's offended that she didn't even bother to ask him if he wanted to donate, but is also still madly in love with her, long after their brief romantic fling subsided. At Kassie's party to celebrate her insemination, (Yeah, you read that right) Wally gets drunk, and does something he would greatly regret if he could remember it. If you can't quite figure out what it is he does by now, think of the film's title, and think of what would be the absolute worse thing somebody could do at that moment, and odds are, you've got it. After losing touch for seven years, Kassie moves back into town with her quirky son Sebastian (Thomas Robinson), and Kassie starts to take an interest in her newly-single sperm donor, Roland (Patrick Wilson), just around the time when obvious character similarites begin to show between Wally and Sebastian. Suddenly, Wally's drunken memory slowly returns to him. Wally should probably tell Kassie what happened, but he doesn't, at least, not right away, he waits 'til, right around the most embarrassing and inconvenient time possible. Not only is this film not funny, it's fairly disturbing, and it's completely cliche-ridden. Even Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis, playing the main character's friends-they-tell-everything-to, can't save this piece of crap.
THE EDUKATORS (2005) Director: Hans Weingartner
I generally like to think of myself as being very knowledgeable about history, but the unfortunate fact is that I don't know as much as I wish I did, especially about other countries. "Cautiva," or "Captive," is a film from Argentina that shows a very real situation that's occurred down there in recent years, that's a direct result of it's recent dictatorial past. The film is centered around an amazing performance by young Barbara Lombardo, as a 15-year old student named Christina, who lives with her well-to-do, and seemingly innocuous family, until a blood test reveals that she is in fact, not Christina, but Sofia Lombardi, a young daughter of Communist activists, and both of her real parents, suddenly disappeared after her birth. She's forced to move in with a grandmother that she doesn't know. She has no idea how or why this happened, and while her parents have hired the best lawyer they can, she slowly begins to dig deeper into her birth parents' past, trying to find any clues regarding what exactly happened to her, and to them, and it becomes clear that people only seem to know very minor details of the events, and a lot of suspicious coincidences are involved. This is one of those rare times I implore people to watch a movie just to learn something. I didn't know something like this was/could happen in fairly recent time (The movie, creatively parallels some of the events with a famous World Cup Soccer game), and it seems like many of the people who were there, didn't even know what was going on in the room next door. That's seems to be a similar pattern of commands in dictator regimes, where one person would have a specific job, and they're attention to that job is so intense that they don't notice anything, or anyone else happening. The old expressions, where if it's benefits oneself not to something, they will make sure to be the last to know it. This is a very memorable and powerful film, that's apart of recent history, that we're still working on correcting the wrongs on.