If only Madea decided to dress-up for the occasion.
The plot centers on Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) trying to resolve a series of grisly murders by the cunning and sadistic killer (Matthew Fox), who just so happens to be more of a threat than Cross, or anybody else on the task-force, had originally imagined.
Since I’m not much of a reader, I usually depend on the movie-adaptations to give me something good and reasonable that makes me feel like I have already read the book, without even opening it up. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m a dummy, and maybe I depend too much on movies, but all I know, is that I like to watch movies rather than read books. That’s why I’m a movie critic and not a book critic (thank the heavens for that). However, movie-adaptations like this make me feel like it’s time for me to get my ass out to a Barnes & Noble (notice how I didn’t say Borders, RIP), and start reading what was really supposed to happen in the first-place, until Hollywood had to take it over and shit everything up.
This is not the first Alex Cross movie to ever be done before. Apparently Morgan Freeman starred in two of those adaptations and did pretty well, both for the movie and for the books as well. Sadly, it seems like Hollywood wanted to see what they could stretch out of that series once again and it’s a stupid-move that they should have just left with the Freeman. But, you would think with a director like Rob Cohen (who has done fun, but dumb action-flicks like The Fast and the Furious, XXX, and Stealth), that there would be something even remotely promising to see, but somehow. Cohen totally drops the ball on that idea.
I’ve never been a fan of Cohen, but the guy does have some fun movies to his credit but this one, is not one of them mainly because it seems like a lazy direction from the guy. Nothing here feels like anything new, original, or improved that we haven’t seen before already and just feels like one, long episode of CSI that you have to go out and pay for actually see. That wouldn’t have been so bad either, if the film just decided to relax a little bit with it’s camera-movements but they didn’t, and instead gave me a freakin’ head-ache. And when I mean that it gave me a head-ache, I mean exactly that.
I’ve seen so many damn films that have this shaky-cam, and they have all bothered me but have never made me sick or had any physical impact on me, until I saw this movie. Seriously, it’s so bad that during one scene where Perry and Fox face-off in what was supposed to be a climactic/epic head-to-head battle, that you cannot what is happening to who in the fight. You see people getting hit and you hear some damage being done, mainly because of the corny sound-effects, but there’s no actual sight of or understanding of what’s happening. It’s just a camera moving in such a rapid-fire way that it will anger even the biggest Tony Scott fans. Yes, it’s that bad.
However, when there’s a will, there is a way and I can’t say that this movie was all that terrible in every-aspect, especially in terms of the acting. I highly doubt that people imagined Tyler Perry would be the go-to-guy to take over a role that was once captured so famously by Morgan Freeman, because so many people thought it would have been Idris Elba in the role. And in all honesty, Elba would have done such a better job with a this role, even though Perry’s not all that terrible either. It’s obvious that Perry has a decent-amount of likability to him that shines through most of the movie, and for about the first 30 minutes, he captures that well and makes it seem believable. The problem that he runs into is when the film, and his character start to take a darker-edge towards everything and it feels very-forced in a way that didn’t even seem like Perry was all that infuriated. His character is supposed to mad and hellbent on revenge for something tragic that has happened to him, but it never feels like he actually is, and more or less, just feels like a guy that’s a little ticked-off. Can’t say why he’s ticked-off in the first-place, but it’s something that would infuriate anybody, but apparently Alex Cross is too composed for that.
The main villain who causes this tragedy, is named Picasso and is played by an almost unrecognizable Matthew Fox. When this movie was all said and done, I felt really bad for Fox because the guy goes through this huge and insane physical transformation that really seems like he put a lot of hard-work into, but seems undeserved for a movie that doesn’t really do anything with it, let alone even show it all that much to freak us the hell out. Since the camera is always shaking it’s ass off as if it was in a wild, ecstasy-fueled rave, Fox’s clean-cut body never gets to see the full light-of-day and is barely shown in it’s full-look to actually have us intimidated by what this guy can and most likely could do with his body. However, I can’t put too much of the blame on the camera as it’s also Fox to blame for this character being an ultra-lame villain that just seems like he’s phoning it all in, with crazy eyes and all. He’s a laughable villain, that never seems like a real threat to Cross and for the most part, never feels like Cross is even a real threat to him either. They just feel like two guys that have a problem with one another, but still don’t have anything special about either of them that could really eff-up the other person. It’s just a lame and boring rivalry that never feels fully-established.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re all okay but once again, it’s a bunch of talent that feels wasted on material that couldn’t give a shit if they were in these roles or not, they’re just there to fill them in. Edward Burns is good as Cross’ buddy/fellow-cop and does his usual Irish-guy shtick that we all know and love by now, but even his relationship with Cross feels lack it really lacks something to make it memorable and believable friendship that could stand all of the heart-ache that they go through. Rachel Nichols once again shows-up as another sexy girl, in a movie that sucks and does fine with it, but still feels like she deserves bigger and better for her looks and talents; Jean Reno is fine, but only shows up for 7 minutes throughout the whole film; Dr. Cox, aka John C. McGinley feels like he’s really lost in this movie and deserves way, way better; and Cicely Tyson probably does the best job of the whole cast as Cross’ mommy, who shows up to give nice advice on life and what he should do next.
Consensus: Alex Cross is what you expect from any conventional/unoriginal detective-movie that feels like it could have been so much better, but just isn’t because of it’s lazy-direction, under-written roles that feels like a big waste of time for the talent that’s in them, and an incredible over-use of the “crack-cam” that I always hate to see in movies, except for The Bourne Ultimatum, but I’m going to act like I didn’t even mention that movie in the review for this one.
Where’s Kevin Costner when you need him?
Set in the 1960’s, three sisters form a Motown singing group, but fame has a heavy price, and Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) is seeing her family fall apart right before her eyes. While Sparkle is writing her songs, it’s her sister, named Sister (Carmen Ejogo), who has center stage. The other two sisters are backup for her, but she is a troubled soul and could make all their hopes and dreams come crashing down.
Being one of the only three white people in a crowd full of black people, I went into this expecting nothing much except for good music, some good times, and also, something that may have not necessarily been targeted towards me. Thankfully, I got both with just a bit more than I expected and yes, it was for me.
I never saw the original Sparkle, and to be honest, I have no plans on doing so since it seems like this one takes that story, adds nothing new, but somehow still makes it work. I think a lot of that credit has to go director Salim Akil who actually generates a lot of nice touches here and there with rich human moments that sometimes ring true, and plenty, and I do repeat, plenty of great music to listen to and even dance along to. The Motown sound is one of the best and this film remembers it all in the best ways with a lot of of fine tracks you may have, or may have not heard before but regardless, you’ll be tapping your toes and fingers. Now maybe if the Motown sound isn’t your bag, then this probably won’t be the best film to jam around too but since it’s mine, I enjoyed that aspect of this movie. Hell, I already listened to the whole soundtrack so you know it got me going!
But once you get past all of the exhilarating and fun musical numbers, you get what is none other than your usual, predictable story of a bunch of gifted singers, trying to make it big but end up falling short due to some terrible occurrences. Yeah, it goes down the road you would expect it to within the first 5 minutes and it’s a shame because this film could have really shown off some real twists and turns that would have gripped me a lot more had they decided to go down the road less traveled with musical flicks. You get wives being beaten, race cards being pulled, felonies committed, and racial politics being discussed, and it just gets to be the usual cliché-ridden tale you would expect from a story about a bunch of singers in the 60′s and 70′s.
But at the end of the day, everything is predictable and obvious but you never once get left out the story. There’s a type of sensitivity that Akil brings to this material where he spends times with these characters, allows us to get to know where they come from, and where their dreams are headed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a rich character drama that takes time with it’s story and characters, but at least it gives us something to hold onto and make us root behind these people when their lives really seem to go to shit. But it wasn’t just Akil’s direction that made these characters work, a lot of that has to be because of the ensemble cast of characters on-display here that make every one-dimensional character, seem like a hell of a lot more despite what’s on paper.
American Idol hopeful Jordin Sparks does a fine job as Sparkle because as cliché and obvious this character’s motivations can be, she at least makes her appealing and cute to the point of where she’s at least someone we like to watch on-screen, even if everything she says and does is pretty much calculated. Carmen Ejogo kicked ass as her sister, aptly named Sister, who is the obvious Beyoncé of the group who’s live eventually starts to go down-hill once too much fame and drugs come into play. I’ve seen this Ejogo gal before in other stuff before but whatever it was, it doesn’t matter because she did a great job giving a character that is pretty two-dimensional, more of a heart and soul that feels battered (literally) and bruised due to all of her problems with breaking out of normality. Maybe I gave the character more to chew on than this flick actually did but at least she kept me interested and I wouldn’t have minded seeing a whole film about her.
As for the dudes in the cast, they all do fine with a certain somebody, once again, stealing every scene he was in. Mike Epps did a phenomenal job as the hated comedian, Satin Strothers, who just disrespects everybody he comes around and doesn’t do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, but yet, you still want to see more of him. Epps is one of these actors that can use that perfect blend of seriousness and comedy to his advantage, which he does in-fact show here very well, but there’s a type of intensity to him here as well that makes his character so damn scary whenever he’s on-screen. Yeah, the dude is pretty much your essential dickhead that doesn’t do anything pleasant throughout the whole movie, but with Epps playing him, it’s all fine and dandy.
The real shame of this movie was that this was going to be Whitney Houston‘s big comeback and sadly, as everybody knows, she died about three months after completion for it and what a freackin’ tragedy that is man because she does a great job here as the girls’ strict momma. Houston has never been an actress to write home about but at least she gives it her all and this flick as the momma that is never, ever allowing them to make the same mistakes that she did and you can feel her love and emotional support from her the whole movie. It also helps that when Houston belts out one song, she tears down the house, as you would expect from her and it’s just another sign that she could have really came back after all, and tore it down once again. Sadly, that did not happen and it’s a total disappointment.
Consensus: Sparkles features little or no surprises when it comes to its story, but features a great load of nostalgic music that takes us back to the Motown days, some fantastic performances from the cast that actually elevate these characters, and a couple of nice touches here and there of melodrama that work more than they should.