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.
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.
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.
Billionaires are never fully satisfied.
Robert Miller (Richard Gere), is a troubled hedge fund magnate who is forced to turn to an unlikely person (Nate Parker) for help after a crucial mistake involving a sale in his trading empire.
I’ve been hearing a whole lot of buzz about this movie for one thing: Richard Gere. Now for all of you DTMMR lovers out there (and there better plenty of them dammit!), you have to already know that even though Gere is a fellow Philadelphian, he is still one of my least favorite actors. That’s sort of why I wasn’t really looking forward to this one but you know what, it’s not so bad sometimes giving an actor that you hate a chance. Still not yet sold on you yet though, Harrison Ford.
This is the directorial debut of writer/director Nicholas Jarecki and the guy does a pretty solid job with his material. This isn’t your typical thriller where it’s constant car-chases and quick-cuts to allow there to be tension and excitement, it’s more about the pacing and how Jarecki takes his time with everything and doesn’t let it get too crazy for his own good. There’s just something about this whole story of lust, greed, and money that just seems so current in today’s world and how it plays out in this flick and it makes for a fun, but very grim watch. It doesn’t get as dark as you may think, but it at least flirts with that idea quite a few times and that’s the strength of Jarecki’s direction.
The problem that I think Jarecki runs into with this flick is that it is essentially two movies in one, with only one of them actually being good. The first movie is about how this billionaire gets himself all caught-up in a financial crisis that he seem to get out of, and the other movie is about the death of his mistress and how that effects everything and everyone around him. The latter story is the one I was most interested by as I found it really made the suspense and mystery flow within the film. Seeing all of these other reviews, I know I’m sort of alone in that boat but there was just something there that intrigued me and kept me watching.
Problem with that is, is that when Jarecki would go right into the whole financial crisis this guy was going through, I didn’t really seem to care. Not just because this guy is a dick but it’s something about people spouting out numbers and stocks that just doesn’t do it for me quite as much as an interrogation does. This makes the film a bit uneven in the way it transitions from one plot, to another and it just gets a bit annoying after awhile and sort of kills all of the tension and excitement that the one story had going for itself in the first-place. Maybe Jarecki got some directorial jitters where he felt the need to pack all of this stuff in just to make it exciting and entertaining, but ended up making something that was a bit too ambitious for his own good. Not saying it was a terrible decision on his part, but it definitely wasn’t the right one, either.
Now believe it or not, and I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but I think it’s Richard Gere himself who makes this film a bit more watchable than I expected. I don’t want to go out there and say that Gere gives the performance of his career here as Miller, because I don’t really think he does anything different other than be pretty mean to everyone around him, but he does give a very good performance that makes this reprehensible guy seem a bit more human than I expected at first. He’s not a total Gordan Gekko as he just gets money, gets the babes, and gets more greedy, he’s just another rich dude that has a lot of respect to his name, and doesn’t want to lose that because of a couple of dumb-ass decisions he’s made and tried to get away with. Gere is good in this role because he sort of humanizes Miller and gives him an older-edge that makes him feel more realistic. As for all of the Oscar talk, I don’t think so. Honestly, I’am willing to throw down my hatred for somebody if they give an all-out, perfect performance, but Gere didn’t really blow me away here and I think if he ends up getting nominated for anything, it will most likely be because he’s never been nominated before and the Academy feels a bit guilty. No offense to the poor guy, but it’s sort of the truth.
Gere is also backed-up by a great supporting cast that all give their two cents into the whole, final product. Susan Sarandon comes out of nowhere as his wife that seems like she has no clue what’s going on behind closed doors, but a couple of scenes by the end proves otherwise and shows you that this chick doesn’t take any shit because she know’s what’s up. It’s a shame that Sarandon doesn’t get more screen-time here, but she takes advantage of what she’s given and that’s all that mattered to me. Brit Marling was okay as his daughter, but could have been a bit stronger in the way she carried herself, especially when things started to go South for her and her daddy. I was also very surprised to see Tim Roth here as Det. Michael Bryer, because it’s been quite some time but he still shows that he’s got it. There’s a little sense that the guy is a bit of a dirty cop, but after awhile, you do realize that he’s just another detective trying to do his job and trying to get the bad-guys, for doing the bad things. The one performance that really stood-out above the rest for me was Nate Parker as I think he made his random character, somebody we can actually sympathize with and stand behind as he seems like the only one who actually has a conscience. The guy definitely holds his own against heavy-weights like Roth and Gere, but when it’s just him doing his own thing, he’s very, very good and shows that he can try and make us all forget about Red Tails. “Try” being the key-word.
Consensus: Arbitrage is essentially two movies all slapped into one which may prove to be a bit uneven for the whole flick, but still features some great performances from the cast and a nice sense of tension that lies underneath the whole time.
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.