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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Miracle At St. Anna

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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Red Tails (2012)

It’s like a mixture of ‘Flyboys’ without all of the white people and ‘Miracle at St. Anna’ without all of the whatever the hell else Spike Lee put in there.

The film is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first all black combat squadron who fought in World War 2. Besides the war against the enemies overseas the men also had to fight against racism and prejudice in the military and back home.

And so marks my first ever press screening ever after about 2 years of reviewing films. Yay!! It was great to see the packed crowd, all of the soldiers in uniform, fellow press agents, and even the original dudes that this film is based on, but for some reason that wasn’t enough to get by the fact that this film is pretty bad in the first place.

Although the film is directed by first-timer Anthony Hemingway, it still feels very much like a George Lucas flick, who actually produced this and tried to get it off the ground for over 23 years even using his own money. This could have easily been directed by Lucas because everything here just feels like him. Everything here feels dull from the characters, to the story, to the planes, and even to the special effects which over-power just about every scene to where it’s noticeable right away and very distracting.

The film’s script also tries so hard to be funny, dramatic, and moving but just comes off as terribly hokey. I was in a crowd full of people that laughed at just about every single damn word that these characters said but I couldn’t find a single, genuine laugh other than when the characters were all trying to be serious. The tale itself though is a very important one none the less and I was at least glad that this was actually getting some love for the first time but it’s all bogged-down by the painful predictable story arcs. Anybody who has seen this kind of film before can definitely notice all of the clichés here such as the love-story sub-plot that still seems forced no matter what, the kid who just isn’t ready for war/battle, the one soldier who has personal demons of his own to fight along with the war, one soldier who gets too cocky and could put himself into danger, and the fact that not only are these soldiers fighting the enemy up in the air, but they are also fighting them on the ground…with racism!! Don’t forget to bring your check book of war-movie clichés because I can promise you that every single one will be checked off by the end of this long as hell film.

The only time that this flick actually has some life brought into it is when they filmed the aerial battles themselves. The dogfights here, have a certain energy that the rest of the flick doesn’t really have and to be honest, they are very entertaining to watch considering we don’t get to see much of aerial-fights in war films nowadays. However, even when these aerial fights do happen, they still feel like something we have all seen done before. Instead of actually giving these high-flying fights some real danger, the film feels and looks more as if it was a just another video-game sequence like ‘The Adventures of Tintin’. After all of this time, you would have thought that Hollywood and films would start to find out new and improved ways of portraying these fights in the air, but they never really change.

Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard are given top-billing for this film to ensure that it has some star-power to it but the problem is that they aren’t really in the film all that much which is a shame considering that these two need a big come-back of sorts. Nate Parker and David Oyelowo are the two here that actually stand-out and give their characters some real authenticity but they can never get past the fact that they are still one-dimensional war hero’s. Out of the rest of the supporting cast, everybody here is basically just running through their lines without any real emotion or feeling, and it’s weird to say this but the one out of the whole cast who actually had me laughing was freakin’ Ne-Yo. Yes, that dude who sang that song about being so sick of love songs, was the funniest part of this film considering he had me chuckle about twice.

Consensus: Its heart may be in the right place, but Red Tails is still a terrible-looking CGI action flick with wooden performances from almost everybody involved, and cliché upon cliché to really take the heart out of what could have been an important story.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)

The only other “black” war film I can think of is probably Menace II Society. But I don’t think many Nazis are in that one.

During World War II, four black American soldiers (Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso and Omar Benson Miller) find themselves trapped in a Tuscan village behind enemy lines. As they attempt to evade German forces and reunite with their comrades, the four experience firsthand the tragedy and triumph of war.

Way before this film came out, director Spike Lee was fighting Clint Eastwood about how Clint never puts any black people in any of his war films. Once again, it’s just another case of Lee running hos mouth and kind of proving a point. Hence the words, kind of.

The good side to Lee’s direction here is that he knows how to film anything, and make it beautiful and interesting even though it doesn’t all jell together well in the end. Lee has a lot of great moments as a director where he shows some beautiful set pieces, and then bloody it up with some great war action sequences. To be truly honest, there’s not that much action here, but somehow Lee, kept them beautiful when they did show up.

The problem with this film is that it is almost over 2 hours and 40 minutes which means we have a lot of time for a lot of ranting from Mr. Lee, and he does not let us forget about it. I always like what Spike has to say in any film, and he makes some good points about how extremely different people can find themselves pulled closer together through war, but it all gets bogged down by his way of trying to do too much.

The film starts off as a murder mystery, then turns into a combat film, then history lesson about blacks involvement with the war, then a Holocaust tale, then a sentimental unspoken love between two different people, and then a character study. All of this seems like too much, which it is and probably because there’s a lot of scenes that didn’t feel needed at all. I mean there was a couple of scenes where they were just moving the story along, but there could have been more character development to actually have us care more for these characters, rather than just get rid of them and add more sub-plots to the story.

The editing with this film was also a huge problem as well because too many scenes that didn’t even need to be needed, were there and the pace is sort of all-over-the-place. It builds up more and more as the film goes on, which isn’t such a bad thing really, but the problem with that here is it feels episodic like were just randomly going from one random bit of characters to another, and nothing really feels like it even needed to be there because if the crowd was as smart as Lee should have thought they were, we wouldn’t need so much goshdarn explanations about everything happening.

All four soldiers here all played well, but they are sort of like types rather than your average full-fleshed out characters you usually root behind. Derek Luke is strong as the leader, Aubrey Stamps; Laz Alonso was probably my favorite as the sympthatic, but street smart, Hector Negron; Michael Ealy is basically that cocky, asshole-like dude every war film needs to create some conflict; and Omar Benson Miller is goofy but also endearing as the big clown, Samuel Train. The rest of the cast is filled with un-knowns or little names, but they all do good with their own respective jobs. It’s just such a shame that the film didn’t really focus on these characters that much as we would have liked to because we cheer for them, but if we got to know more about them probably, more would have probably been liked.

However, with any Lee film you have to start to wonder, does it at least hold your interest? The question is..yes! I can tell that his heart in the right place for this film because he is paying tribute to all of the black soldiers that fought and died for their country just as much as any other white man has, and just how Lee pulls everything together by the last act, proves that he can make any subject an interesting one.

Consensus: This is a messy, overlong, and way too busy film that tries to be so many things at once and has scenes that don’t even seem like they needed to be there in the first place. But just as messy as this one may be, Lee still pulls it off in the end, with keeping our interest the whole film and paying tribute to some forgotten heroes.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Miracle At St. Anna (2008)

Spike Lee is known for showing racism on the streets but now moves to racism on the battlegrounds.

Miracle at St. Anna follows four black soldiers of the all-black 92nd Infantry Division who get trapped near a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of World War II after one of them risks his life to save an Italian boy.

First of all this film is like no other from Spike Lee. All of his other films have had light and sometimes dramatic tones. This whole film is of a time that wasn’t too happy and features characters that don’t appreciate much in their life now. Not such a very light tone.

I enjoyed how the story evolved starting with a murder and then showing actual man behind the murder in the war. The problem was that at times it seemed very disjointed with its direction. I was happy about Spike Lee and his great passion for this story of the understated Buffalo Soldiers of WWII, but it soon gets washed away by the out of order direction.The film was also in need of a heavy editing job. Many scenes that weren’t needed would’ve been taken out and at times it seemed to long.

Though I’m not centered around the score in many films I just felt I could not get my head around it. I mean for example in Saving Private Ryan all the battle scenes do not feature scores or their battles and it becomes more effective that way.

Lastly my worst thing about the film was that it’s tone was all over the place. It went from dark humor, to drama, to humor, then back to drama. And sadly to say every time they tried, it failed. Despite Lee’s always brilliant scripts this script seemed a little more cliched than effective than a lot of his other films.

The praising of this film is mostly centered around the four leads played by Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, and Omar Benson Miller. Each actor does a brilliant job as their respective character, fully capturing the feel of soldiers who are trapped fighting for a country that doesn’t want them.

Lastly, the final praising of this film is probably the thing that saves it which is the battle scenes and its gritty pictures of 1940’s Italy during the war. I swear to you the final 20 min. of this film are the most heart-drenching in a war film you’ll ever see that you may just start crying. Just Kidding.

Miracle at St. Anna is a strong homage to the Buffalo Soldiers during WWII which is probably one of Lee’s most strong films. But by all means not his best. Still if you love war movies go and see it, but if you don’t care for war movies then don’t bother.

I know I’m gonna catch a lot of heat for this but I have got to give this film a

7/10=Rental!!

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