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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Do The Right Thing

Red Hook Summer (2012)

Does this count as Sunday Mass?

Flik (Jules Brown) is 13-year-old, spoiled-brat who is forced to live with his grand-daddy (Clarke Peters) for a whole Summer. However, Flik isn’t doing exactly what he dreamed of this Summer when he’s with his Grandfather Enoch, who just so happens to be a pastor and trying to get Flik back in the eyes of God.

After giving us two, relatitvely-solid mainstream movies (Inside Man, Miracle at St. Anna), Spike Lee finally returns to his roots, in more ways than one. Firstly, he’s going back to indie-filmmaking which he seems to have abandoned for the longest time, and secondly, he’s back to filming in his native Brooklyn, where it just so happens that Mookie is still delivering pizza’s for Sal. However, cool your jets while you still can, people, because even though Mookie is in this flick and shows-up for about 3 minutes, this is nowhere near a Do the Right Thing sequel, or even a Do the Right Thing-caliber movie. Heck, it’s not even a Spike Lee-caliber movie, if we’re not including She Hate Me.

In the past, Lee has been attacked for being too self-indulgent with his material and not knowing how to separate style from substance, and in the past, I have stood-up for him and said, “nay”, to those attackers but here, he makes me look like a fool. The usual trademarks that we see with a Lee flick are here, however, there’s no driving-narrative to really help it out. Instead, there’s just a bunch of scenes where kids are being kids, and a crap-load of sermons about God. And for all of you people out there who were pissed about Michael Parks’ over-long sermon in Red State, don’t worry, it’s even worse here as I would say about 30 minutes of this flick is probably dedicated to these preaches about everything from God, technology, being black, being poor, being white, Obama, and so on and so forth.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

No, just let them talk it out. Maybe, just maybe, the kid will become a better actor after.

As usual, the points that Lee bring are up are reasonable and very smart, considering that this is a guy who has a big brain and a very big mouth, but they aren’t done well-enough here to be considered in your mind. Instead, all of the smart views, points, general ideas Lee has in his head and tries to get out on-screen for all of us to see and get into our minds, just fall-flat on the ground as if somewhere after the 4-year hiatus from filmmaking Lee has taken, he lost his sense of telling an important issue, with an important story. In ways, this doesn’t really feel like a Lee flick because it’s almost as if the guy just lost his skill and if that is the case, then damn. It’s disappointing to see a filmmaker of these heights just get so high up there, in terms of knowing what he’s doing, how to do it, and master his craft, to just fall-apart right in front of our eyes. You can talk as much shite on Tarantino as much as you’d like to, Spike, but the fact is: he’s making better films than yo ass.

The film runs a very long 130 minutes (that actually feels twice as long) and for about the hour-and-45-minutes, I was bored stiff-less. However, the last 20 minutes or so of the flick came-around and automatically, I found myself alive and interested in what Lee was bringing to the table. Without giving too much away, there’s a curve-ball that Lee throws at us that shows us more about Enoch than we originally thought and really livens up the story and gives us a new-perspective on all that we see. Yeah, it could be viewed at as a cheap-way for Lee to make a conventional-story, seem less conventional and more thought-provoking, but at the same time, it didn’t matter to me because it kept my interest, almost all the way until the ending, and then everything fell apart once again. But hey, those 20 minutes still kept me watching and that’s a hell of a lot more than I can say about the rest of the flick.

Get back to work, Mook!

Get back to work, Mook!

Everything in this flick may suffer, big-time, but the only person who really gives it his all and actually comes out on-top is Clarke Peters as Da Good Bishop Enoch. There is a lot about this character that could be terribly annoying and terribly one-sided, as he spends almost half-of-the-film just constantly yelling and preaching to people about how they need to get “the big man” in their lives, but Peters shows more effort than that. Peters makes this guy seem very nice, very comforting, and like a relatively normal guy that just so happens to be so high-strung on the G-O-D, that is is a rather off-putting, to say the least. Still, once this twist by the end is actually shown to us and comes into our minds, Peters handles the material very-well and gives us a glimpse at a real man, with real problems, and real, deep, dark secrets that can come out at any time. Peters is definitely the flame that keeps this fire moving and without this dude, doing his own thing, the flick would have definitely been a lot worse and painful to watch.

The reason I say that, is because when the flick isn’t focusing on Peters and all of his sermons, it’s about the forming of love between the two kids in this movie, played by youngsters Toni Lysaith and Jlues Brown. Now, as much as I hate to get on kids’ case about how they can’t and handle the material that’s thrown at them, I still can’t get past the fact that in this movie, where half of the film/story revolves around them, Lee actually gave the “okay” on some of these final-cuts, because being a director that knows how to direct actors and give some of the best performances of their careers, this is almost an embarrassment  Seriously, these kids are drop-dead terrible and the stuff they say to each other not only doesn’t feel genuine, but seems like Lee has lost his touch and should have just stuck with Nate Parker and the gang of Bloods that he lead. To be honest, and I hate to say this, but his performance, his character, and his gang, would have probably been a lot more of an interesting story to focus on, and probably a better-road for Lee to go down considering the guy is one of the best at writing stories for them. However, when it comes to kids, I think he’s got to stay away, as dirty as that may sound.

Consensus: It’s great to see Spike Lee finally back in-front of and behind-the-camera, but Red Hook Summer is not the type of flick that I was imagining all that glee coming from. It’s long, poorly-scripted, boring, and to be honest, only good and worth a recommendation for the last 20 minutes where a phenomenal performance from Clarke Peters, gets better and better by each scene.

5/10=Rental!!

"Please God, don't let Oldboy be a bust."

“Please God, don’t let Oldboy be a bust.”

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He Got Game (1998)

Ray Allen ain’t got shit on Denzel.

Denzel Washington stars as Jake Shuttlesworth, a prisoner who suddenly finds himself temporarily paroled and with the promise of a commuted sentence if he can accomplish one task: he must persuade his estranged son Jesus (Ray Allen) the number one high school basketball player in the USA – to sign with Big State, the Governor’s Alma mater.

Writer/director Spike Lee has been known to love the game of basketball, but it seems pretty strange that he would almost go as far as actually casting a real-life basketball player in one of his leading roles. It’s also even more strange how much he makes people not want to even think about pursuing their basketball careers considering how much ish talking he does.

No matter what he does in any film, Lee always knows how to make everything pretty. He uses a lot of different lenses that add this dirty and gritty feel but he’s also able to change it up at any moment and place us in a different time and place. Once again, Lee is just playing around with his certain camera tricks and is seeing what he can and can not do, but it still works all of the same and makes Lee the wonder he is usually known as. Well, that is when it comes to his art-direction.

What Lee does perfectly here with his script is that he is able to talk about two different story-lines but have them both come together in the end. Lee satirizes the whole art of a celebrity where we see Jesus going from person, to person, to person and being asked the same damn thing as to where he’s going and if they can get some pieces of that pie. We get to see how much promises people actually make to Jesus just to have him play some b-ball at their universities and the way Lee shows this in a more grotesque way than ever before, is a real surprise. Lee exposes the underbelly and daily happenings of what happens in college recruiting and how much pressure this can put on that high school basketball player themselves. Even though I don’t play any sports (does Ultimate Frisbee count?), I can definitely say that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about getting all these offers, promises, and calls either.

At the center of the flick though, and where it really works, lies within the father-son relationship that just gets better and better each and every time these two show-up on-screen together, which is a very rare thing here. We see how much of an impact Jake had on his son’s basketball playing skills and as much as Jesus wants to deny it and push himself away from his father, he can’t escape the fact that it’s his father who made him the man he really is today. Lee’s script touches on a lot of points about family, moral issues, and staying loyal but I think it was the fact that Lee chose to show this hurt relationship these two had in such a compassionate and realistic way is what made this flick ten times better than your ordinary sports movie and a hell of a lot more emotional.

My main gripe with this flick is that I do think that the ending was wrapped up a little too well for my taste. I get that the film was definitely trying to appeal to the natural audience that wants to see a happy ending but Lee could have done so much more at the end, that could have really made this film’s ending emotional impact stick on you. Still, don’t get me wrong when I say it’s a happy ending because it still is a little dark and sad but nothing that you would really expect from the dude that showed us Radio Raheem getting his ass chocked out.

Denzel Washington is once again playing another great role here as Jake. This is one of the first roles that shows Denzel in a very subdued and laid-back feel rather than being that hero type and going all-over-the-place with his emotions and it’s also one of those rich performances that gives you the kind of comfort that you should feel whenever he’s on-screen. The character he’s playing may be a guy that is obviously effed up in the head, but he is also a guy that you know is good and only wants to do the right thing which is what makes this character so much richer and better, especially because he’s being played by the man himself.

The one performance that I was really surprised by was how good Ray Allen was here as Jesus (yes, that really is his name). Whenever people see that a first-time actor is given his chance for a lead role, they usually shriek and see horror happen right before their eyes but somehow Allen makes me think otherwise about that idea. Allen was a great pick because he shows a character that is obviously very angsty, very confused, and very angry at everyone around him and Allen shows that perfectly on-and-off the court. Even his scenes with Washington feel real and it’s a real wonder as to why Allen didn’t get more acting roles or even go for other ones during his off-season. At least he has a championship under his thumb now but whats better: Oscar or NBA Championship? Hmmmmmm, I think I would go with the first.

Consensus: Though it may end a little too neatly, He Got Game is a film that not only looks great, but also has a real emotional story at its core and works with just about every point it’s trying to make, even if it does sometimes get a little too over-stuffed. Then again, that’s what we come to expect from a Spike Lee joint.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in The Hood (1996)

Not one of the best parodies of all-time, but funny none the less.

Ashtray (Shawn Wayans) moves to South Central Los Angeles to live with his father (who appears to be no older than he) and dope-smoking grandmother. He falls in with his gang-banging cousin Loc Dog (Marlon Wayans), who counts a thermonuclear warhead in his arsenal of weapons. Will Ashtray keep living the straight life, or will he join up with Loc Dog’s gangsta homeboys?

I cannot lie when I say this, but I love almost all parody films. There are certain ones, that just are drop-dead terrible, and don’t look like their even trying, but when they do, I give them credit. This is one that deserves credit.

I liked a lot of the jokes they made in this film, however, some of it did annoy me. The spoofing is very, very obvious, which kind of takes away from the joke, because the idea with spoof films, is to think what movie their from, and basically here, it’s literally right in front of your face, so a lot of the fun is lost. Also, plenty, and I do repeat plenty of gags fell short, or just felt weak, and over-used.

The gags though were funny, when used correctly, and  a lot of the silly willy jokes they used here, were even funnier. They spoof films from Boyz N The Hood, to Menace II Society, and to Do the Right Thing, and each spoof is funny it’s own way, and I’m sure the people involved with those movies, must of had a great laugh watching their films be made fun of.

Some people will feel violated, and down-right disgusted with the jokes, but hey that’s what it’s all about, sometimes the funniest things in films, are the down-right disgusting. Watch this with a bunch of your friends if your bored, and see if you don’t start laughing, or talking like you are from the hood.

Marlon and Shawn Wayans do great jobs at playing these two funny as hell, black ghetto stereotypes, and never stop at once from backing down. There are also other little cameos, and supporting acts you may notice like Vivica A. Fox, Bernie Mac, and Keenan Wayans, and plenty others that are just funny as hell.

Consensus: Though many gags fall short, Don’t Be a Menace is 90 minutes of pure humor, wit, and satirical fun, that will make you want to watch any of the hood movies, this film is parodying.

7/10=Rental!!!

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

This title is so false! They have obviously not seen me hoop it up on the courts.

Pretending to be a goofy white guy with no skills, Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) earns his keep by hustling pickup basketball games in Los Angeles. But when one of Billy’s victims (Wesley Snipes) subsequently becomes his partner, the pair gets a taste of real success. They must also contend with some shifty characters — and their own competitiveness

A good sports comedy in today’s world is hard to come by, especially in today’s world. But when used right, it brings comedy lovers, and sports lovers together.

The best thing about this movie is that it comedy almost never seems to get taken out of proportion. A lot of the stuff they say in here is straight up laugh-out-load funny, but it never becomes one of those huge joke fests that you can’t take seriously. However, I will say some of the best yo-momma jokes come from here, ones that I have never heard, and will use soon on some sucker who’s trying to diss me and my game.

There is also a lot in this film that is real. The film shows these two guys’ lives, and how their own wives live with the fact that their two men, are just boyish characters. The film shows how if you make one decision on, or off the court, you never know what the out-come may be, whether it be good or bad. I had a problem with the film by the middle act, where it seems to get stale. The jokes are flying everywhere but they don’t seem to stick quite as well as the first act. Also, the little sub-plot with the gangsters trying to find down Harrelson and take over his debt, was kind of dumb, but hey it didn’t totally ruin the movie.

If your a huge b-ball fan, like me, your going to love the basketball playing sequences themselves. There shot in a nice style, with just the right type of music, to bring out the energy a lot in a film, that strives so well for it.

The trio of leads is what makes this film its best. Wesley Snipes is at his funniest, as big-time street baller Sidney Deane. he brings out all the charisma he has in his character, and it works in his advantage cause we actually end up liking him a lot more than you expect. Woody Harrelson’s character, Billy Hoyle, starts off as likable and smart, but then he kind of turns into a dick head, and you start to kind of dislike him, mostly cause you don’t know his intentions. But besides that he still gives a funny performance here. Rosie Perez almost steals every single scene she’s in, cause that high-pitched voice just works so well with this material, and really does have you laughing, even when the film is semi-serious. She played the same character in Do The Right Thing and every other movie after, but hey it always seems to work. The genuine chemistry between Snipes and Harrelson is what makes the film click, but also the message that the film brings up. Whites and Blacks, may never get along when it comes to the sport of basketball, and that is not racist, it’s just the truth on how both sides see the game differently.

Consensus: The plot may meander, however, White Men Can’t Jump is a great blend of fun, sports, and comedy, lead by a great trio of leads.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Do the Right Thing (1989)

A title in which nobody in the film does.

On a sweltering hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, everyone has their own issues to deal with and tensions between Blacks and Italians rise. Issues of pride and prejudice, justice and inequity come to the surface as hate and bigotry smoulder–finally building into a crescendo as it explodes into violence

Spike Lee’s films are ones that I thoroughly enjoy, as hard as they are to get through, their enjoyable. This is probably one of his most challenging ever, but also his best.

Lee’s screenplay is what really makes this film click, mostly cause it’s all so real. You have comedy, drama, racism, tension, political justices, all of these things are talked about or happen in one day, and it all seems too real.  I mostly like how Lee controls the camera to keep up with all the stories in one day. You see all these people in one close-knit community, how they react with each other, and what their differences are as people. Everybody has something to say, and I enjoyed hearing almost every word of it, because this is how real people actually speak, especially when it comes to the subject of racism.

The main reason why Do the Right Thing is so memorable, is because of its final 30 minutes, and main message at hand. The huge ass riot at the end, is filmed so well, you can just feel the intensity coming off the screen, and you feel like this is how a real riot would ensue and end. Also, Lee ponders the question that hits us many times throughout this movie: “who does the right thing?”. To be brutally honest, it may seem like an easy answer, but after watching this film, you can’t really tell who does, or who should have, everything is just based on first instinct. Lee also does something that almost never happens in race films such like this, he shows us both sides of the story. Lee doesn’t always back up black people, and with this you can see that he shows the white people, as good people too. Lee raises us with a lot of questions, and instead of just having us answer them right away by what he shows us on film, he makes us keep pondering the questions to ourselves, even after the film is over.

Spike Lee as Mookie, is good, because the guy is so laid back, so chill, and so cool, that he really is a great character to watch, as he basically walks through the streets of Brooklyn, delivering pizzas for about 2 hours each. Danny Aiello as Sal, is also very powerful here, playing a guy that seems so tough with his work, but then you see the people that come into his place, and you can understand why he is, like he is. There are just so many more memorable characters in this film, like Ossie Davis, playing the neighborhood drunk, or John Turturro, playing the son of Sal, who is just a total d-bag. So many more characters but I would be taking forever if I had to explain every single dynamic one.

Everything about this film will just make you understand racism a whole lot more. Even though it is about 20 years old, it still holds up today showing us a look at just a small little neighborhood, that can still have racial tensions, as much as any other place. Just remember to be ready for a second viewing, and always raise the question: “who does the right thing?”.

Consensus: Lee’s masterpiece, although about 20 years old, is just as powerful as it was then, with it’s powerful performances from memorable characters, and a direction and script from Lee that shows the many people that live in the world, who deal with racial tensions, just almost every day.

10/10=Full Pricee!!!!

Summer of Sam (1999)

The film for people who don’t like Spike Lee’s other films.

During the sweltering summer of 1977, the notorious killer Son of Sam set New York City on fire, and a chance encounter with the homicidal maniac sends the life of a philandering Bronx hairdresser named Vinny (John Leguizamo) spinning out of control. As the authorities hunt the killer, Vinny’s life unravels amid a haze of suspicion, drugs and promiscuity.

I was surprised by this film because all of Lee’s other works are about race or politics in society. All of the other one’s also include a very large cast of black people which this one doesn’t actually I think there are only like 5 black people shown throughout the whole film, including himself. This change I liked a little bit better.

The film isn’t so much about “The Son Of Sam” himself, but more of the frightened atmosphere he created with his killings. This reminds me a lot about Do The Right Thing with less of a message. It produces some very entertaining visuals. Colors change along with the setting it takes place in and there are montages that feature some high quality looks at the city and the people who inhabit it as well. Lee shows with this film is that he knows where to put the camera and have it stay where it needs to be throughout and it is really dazzling to see him work.

The one huge problem I had with this film was that there was so much. This surely is one of Lee’s most trashy films with the “f” word used about 500 times, soft-core porn sex scenes, and violence beyond belief. It gets out of hand at points and I understand what Lee was trying to show but he shows in a way that were just disgusted.

Another thing with the film is how these characters aren’t very likable which in every Lee film he has. These characters all have a bad thing about them even if they seem normal. Everybody in this film seemed either immature or just low in society and you never feel sympathy for them cause their too busy screwing up their own lives, and really you don’t care what happens to them.

The screenplay as usual is highly entertaining, and you can tell these are real people talking, because you can see they know what’s going on and their scared but they can still add in some humor to brighten up the tone and make the film a lot better.

Performances from its main cast is very good. John Leguizamo does a good job and you can tell the frustration on his face with these killings and his urge to cheat on his wife. Most notably Adrien Brody who uncharacteristically plays the punk is the highlight as he plays a person that is fed up with the society he lives in and just wants to rebel and you can tell by through his actions and through his motives we feel fed up as well.

Consensus: With a highly energetic script, dazzling visuals, and great performances, Summer of Sam is good but too ugly for some viewers and surely not one of Lee’s best.

5.5/10=Rental!!!

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