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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Spike Lee

Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's, but...aw, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

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.”

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!!

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!!

Jungle Fever (1991)

At least Spike Lee doesn’t totally hate white people.

Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. Also, Flipper’s crack-addicted brother (Samuel L. Jackson) causes many problems as well.

Writer and director Spike Lee is a man who is most known for being very controversial with the things he has to say, and here he really talked about something that was actually kind of taboo way back when.

The one thing that Lee does so well here is create a script that shows two different races view points on the same subject of interracial dating and how everything all these people say only pops up when the actual idea of having this kind of dating is heard of. Lee brings up points that most just use it out of curiosity, and while both races don’t hate one another, blacks and whites still have problems when it comes to sex and how we don’t know how to be sexually intimate with each other.

It’s great to see and hear Lee hit this film with such honesty because we see both sides basically talk and there’s no real right or wrong side here, this is just basically two sides voicing their opinions on what they feel is the truth about interracial dating and the races. Lee is masterful here at bringing up these points as well as never fully telling us what we should and should not know about each race. I guess that’s something we have to do when it comes to being sexually attracted to another race.

Lee has a great script here but his problem’s lie within his direction because even though he shies away from the constant cliche romantic scenes once this couple gets together, Lee shows how both races feel which worked in it’s advantage for the most part. However, the problem is that we never actually see these two together too much and when we do the chemistry is just sort of piss-poor. It would have been a lot better if we saw how two actually felt for each other while all this craziness from everyone around them was going on.

Another problem here is that the film has way too many random sub-plots that by the end of the film kind of give it that cluttered feeling to the point of where the ending is actually a lot weaker than it could have been. The film also goes from character to character with no real idea as to who it wants to focus on the most and rather more about just being able to voice all of these other people’s opinions on the subject of interracial dating which made it seem more about the countless other characters that supported this story, and totally getting rid of the relationship that practically is the reason for this film.

Wesley Snipes is good as Fluffy Purify, but the problem with this character is that he is either incomplete as a character or just a total jerk that deserved all this bad crap to happen to him after this relationship starts. I don’t know what Lee was trying to show here but despite how much Snipes tries, this character just wasn’t that likable and a bit naive actually. Annabella Sciorra is also good as the smart-talking, and charming Angie Tucci who brings a great sense of likability to her character even though she is almost an unknown by the end of the film by how much they barely don’t focus on her. There’s also some very good performances from the likes of Spike Lee himself, Anthony Quinn, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lonette McKee.

However, everybody in this film is actually over-shadowed from the amazing presence of Samuel L. Jackson as Flipper’s crack-addicted brother, Gator. Every time this guy is in the film he just totally lights up the screen (pun intended) and it’s just Jackson’s approach to the role is what makes it incredibly likable, a little funny, and kind of sad by just how messed up this guy really is. If you think about it, there’s actually no real purpose for Gator to be in this film but Jackson makes him incredibly watchable and is just a great performance all-around.

Consensus: Much more could have been focused on the actual couple as opposed to the numerous side characters and subplots the film also showed, but Jungle Fever shows Lee swinging for the fences and giving some frank and brutally honest talk about sex, race, and just how do we separate love and sex. A flawed film but still very well-made.

7.5/10=Rental!!

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!!

Summer of Sam (1999)

Good thing I was born in 1993, and didn’t live in New York.

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. Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody also star in this tense crime drama from director Spike Lee.

Spike Lee has always been one of my favorites no matter what he’s directing really. He is very smart, innovative, and thought-provoking, but not without entertaining. Here, he does almost all of that.

There is a lot of stuff going on in this film, and for the most part Lee handles it all pretty well. It’s just that some parts feel like they shouldn’t have even been put in, and you can tell where the film drags. The editing seems like it could have been better, because the tone goes up and down, as well as the story.

However, Lee always steps up to the plate. He perfectly captures the fear and paranoia that was going through the mind of many New Yorkers during the Summer of Sam. He uses a lot of intense visuals, as well as some incredible set pieces, to really show you how everything back in those days, were so tense. The soundtrack also gives us more of a feel that we are in the 70s, and there are a couple of cool little musical montages to 2 songs from The Who, and it really is amazing. It’s always nice to see Lee branch out and do something different, while still making it fresh and enjoyable.

The problem with this film is that it is that for some viewers this may be too much. There is a lot of ugliness within this film that will take some people by surprise, and leave others in total disgust. I didn’t mind it at all really, but the many sex scenes, drugs, and violence will actually be hard for others to watch. For 142 minutes, I think some people will find themselves switching the channels about 30 minutes into it.

The acting is superb, especially from John Leguizamo. His sex-addicted, Catholic-guilt-ridden, married, adulterous, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up is out of control. Cool. Adrien Brody‘s sexually-confused, swinging, punk, radical, liberated, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up, Brit wannabe is more subtle, but equally as out of it. They both have great scenes when their together, and you can feel the real chemistry between these two, as we follow their two different lives. Mira Sorvino is beautiful, but also amazing as Leguizamo’s wife, and shows that she doesn’t need to be that goody-goody we all know her for, she can be equally as sexy, and tear down the house. Jennifer Esposito doesn’t do much anymore, and it’s actually a shame because she’s very good here, and it makes me miss her a whole lot more.

Consensus: At times, it’s a muddled mess, at other times brilliantly entertaining. Spike Lee handles this material with plenty of ugliness, but also with great visuals, and amazing performances from the cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!!

Inside Man (2006)

A Spike Lee Joint, for people who don’t like Spike Lee Joints.

Dispatched to the scene of a bank robbery, detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) must match wits with a cunning thief (Clive Owen) who’s always one step ahead of the cops. When a loose-cannon negotiator (Jodie Foster) is called on for help, the unstable situation spins out of control. Keith soon finds himself questioning the motives of everyone around him.

One of my fav directors, Spike Lee, is always known for making witty dramas on race, prejudice, sex, gang violence, and etc. I know plenty of people who don’t like his films mostly because of his opinions on the various subjects. But this is one everybody can enjoy.

Lee does not write this film, which I was pretty bummed out about. I like how all of his films usually have a compelling script, with some great character spotlights. This film doesn’t really have much of one. It is your ordinary heist film, but there could have been more that went the extra mile. We get little hits on prejudice and race, but the questions are brought up to the point of where it’s the main theme. For some, I guess their glad it wasn’t like that, but for me, who loves it when Lee get’s big into the themes, I was kind of bummed.

The good thing about this movie is that it is entertaining, with a screenplay that has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. I like hostage films, like Dog Day Afternoon, and this was a fun modern-day scenario twist. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, and although not everything is not fully explained, it soon does all come together. Everything you would expect from a heist film, is turned on its side, and made in a smart way.

There are also some beautiful shots of New York City, not as beautiful as the one’s in 25th Hour, but they still give off the post-9/11 vibe that all of Lee’s films do now.

The one part of this movie that keeps it going, is the incredible ensemble cast. Denzel Washington is perfect here, he’s funny, strong, and you can also tell that he’s a character, when pushed to the edge, he can really just set off, and become your worst nightmare. There is one scene that shows it, and its great. Clive Owen plays the villain in this film well, and he’s smart. He doesn’t give too much of his villainous character away, and by the end you actually start to wonder if he’s the good guy, or the bad guy. Jodie Foster’s character is played well, but she’s put in the film without any real reason, and it doesn’t make sense as to why she’s in there, but it’s still well-acted. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Willem Dafoe, and a great casting job of Christopher Plummer, are also all good too at what they do, and each give in their own little tidbit of acting skills.

Consensus: Inside Man is not one of Lee’s best, and not like his others at all, for better or worse, but keeps you on your seat with its twists and turns, and great ensemble cast.

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!!!!

Clockers (1995)

I was so pissed to see how the poster for this film, totally ripped-off Anatomy of a Murder. But my temper soon calmed down as soon as I saw this movie.

Strike (Mekhi Phifer) is from the mean streets, working his way up in the drug rackets. When a local kingpin (Delroy Lindo) tips him off to an opportunity for advancement, a rival dealer is killed, and Strike gets caught between two homicide detectives (Harvey Keitel and John Turturro).

I have always been very very mixed with some of Spike Lee’s work. Sometimes, their just way too racy and themed that I can’t stand them, other times the amazing to watch, fully gripping your attention almost every second of the way. This is one of those films.

I have to say Lee does direct this to his fullest. In the beginning, the film seems like its going to fall underneath the tracks of a racial hood film. However, totally turns the other chick into being a character-driven thriller film about, well, the hood. The thing that Lee does is make this film about something, not what you see much in Hollywood today. The bullet holes in the bodies of the black men in the beginning of the film, are resurrected and given some sort of individuality, rather than just some broke-ass bluff from the street. Thank you for that Boyz N the Hood.

The film is slighlty fair-minded with its script. The script shows how all of these people are human, and not just a bunch of stupid stereotypes you see in many other hood films. You see these people for what they are, human just like you and me. The whole film shows how all these people are blocked into one world, where they have no idead what’s going on, on the outside. And the ending proves, that there is another block of the world to see. Hope I didn’t give too much away there.

However, the problem with this movie is that there are many other times where Lee depends his looks on the urban enviroment these people live in. I knew that they lived in a shitty hood, where drug deals were always going down, and people were getting constantly locked up, and I they showed that way too many times. There was a little sub-plot with another detective, trying to nab this little yuppie for drugs. Totally random, and a pointless story.

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the film, O, starring Clocker’s own, Mekhi Phifer. I said that he is one of the most underrated actors of all-time, and doesn’t get enough rep because he’s known for like two performances. And I will stand by that statemeant until the day I die. He gives a knock-out performance, in his first performance, I may add. Showing so much anger, but also remorse for the things that he has done, and giving us, the viewer, a great protagonist we can root for. Keitel and Turturro are great s the two detectives, and although I think their could have been more scenes dedicated to the both of them together, ehh they were good just for being in the film. Delroy Lindo is also one scary-ass dude in this film, showing that even though you don’t look like a pimp, you can be one just by the way you act. Isaiah Washington, is also quite something to talk about, since he hasn’t been for the last couple of years due to his big mouth. But he does show some great emotionally tied-down scenes here, and shows that he does have a lot of talent and heart, he just can’t stop from saying that “word”.

Consensus: Lee’s script gets a little messy, but still has great performances the wonderful cast, that can handle Lee’s direction, character-driven script, and plot twists and turns.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

She Hate Me (2004)

Why so many people hated this really does go by me.

When John (Anthony Mackie) blows the whistle on his corrupt bosses at the biotech company where he works, he touches off a maelstrom of investigations headed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and winds up jobless. But when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington) pays him to get her and her lesbian lover (Dania Ramirez) pregnant, he may have found his new calling.

This film is directed by one of my favorites, Spike Lee. It combines office politics, sexual politics, and well politics politics. The film has enough imagination and material for 3 movies the only problem is that it doesn’t know which film it wants to be.

I found this to be a problem throughout the whole film. Sometimes it would act like a sex farce, then suddenly change into a proactive drama about a scam within the banking system. I felt like if they had just stayed with the one mood throughout the whole film I think it would have made this film a lot much better.

Though the plot falls to pieces by the end I was always interested. The film never came off as boring and the intelligence of this film actually really did capture me. Spike Lee is the person I give credit to the most because he makes this film provocative, outrageous, and daring. In a world of timid and conditional movies, he swings for the fences and makes this film controversial in a way to get a point out there. Lee doesn’t lose faith in his characters and script and that is what really makes this film a daring but heartfelt story.

Anthony Mackie is what makes this film a great watch for me. He plays this person with such little pacing and when he snaps he just snaps. His acting really did make me feel as if I was watching a real person on screen and not once did I think he was a stereotype at all. Kerry Washington does the best job out of the whole supporting cast and what I was really astonished about is how she showed her love for her girlfriend and for her ex-husband both differently, and I felt like she was very believable as a lesbian.

One last problem I had with the film was that the whole thing about Mackie being able to go six times a night, and not having any side effects from it whatsoever. The chicks also some of the loudest and craziest orgasms that I have ever heard in a film and I felt that they were very unbelievable.

Consensus: She Hate Me has identity problems and gets out of hand at point, but I liked the courage and the entertainment that Lee brings to the table, and although the film never captures its message it still has some great acting and inventive ideas.

7.5/10=Rentall!!!!

Love & Basketball (2000)

I never thought that two completely different things could go together so well.

It’s about winning, losing and playing the game. Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps) grow up next door to each other playing basketball, fighting and falling in love. When simultaneous turns in the big leagues throw their off-court relationship off-kilter, the pair discovers that very little is fair in Love & Basketball.

This is a very savvy but mostly warm-hearted sports film that is kind of like the 21st century basketball reaction to Bull Durham. I though that this movie would be a little too African American for me, seeing as it was produced by Spike Lee. But, I had a wonderful time with it and it actually turned out to be one of my favorite romances in awhile.

This is a sports movie that is not how each particular game turns out. It’s about the love and the faith these two people have for the game. It’s about practicing for the game, prepping for the game, and most of all winning the game. Not every film you see about basketball shows the practice scenes where as this one shows them, and the effects it has afterward.

The one thing that was very fresh about this film was that it did not take advantage of the subject they had. Since it is the first film to feature woman playing the game of basketball, it really does focus on how Monica feels about the game and doesn’t use it for more profanities.

This film really does start to shoot itself in its own foot by the end. Almost every scene becomes more cliched than the one before, and it really started to aggravate me and have me wondering how a film so genuine about love and all it’s speed bumps could be so oblivious to what is thought about when thought about Romance films.

This film does feature some real great acting from both of its two leads. I found Epps very smart and believable, and Lathan an absolute sensation, she’s strong, smart, witty, and most of all believable. The chemistry between the two stars is exactly right. They are entirely believable as friends, as rivals and as lovers this is a tricky combination for any acting pair. There are also plenty of side characters that take over this film and do some good jobs at supporting acts.

Consensus: Though it is heavily cliched, Love & Basketball features some fresh writing and direction, along with two very believable performances and unmatched chemistry between the Epps and Lathan.

8/10=Rentall!!!

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!!!

He Got Game (1998)

Spike Lee has always been known for looking at the slums of New York but now he looks at it in through basketball, also in New York.

A man (Denzel Washington) convicted of murdering his wife is offered a chance to have his sentence lessened if he can persuade his heavily-recruited basketball star son (Ray Allen) to sign with a local college.

Even a non-basketball fan can enjoy this surprisingly gentle film about the reconciliation of a father and son. When I say “surprisingly gentle,” I mean the tone of the film, not the content. This film grows out of its feelings about the numerous pressures that are put on high talented athletes in high school. This film can be seen as a very angry but passionate film. The real theme of the story really does come off about a father and a son who come to each other and learn to love and accept one another.

The one thing I was mostly surprised about was how there weren’t many scenes of ball-playing which you would suspect from a movie about basketball. This is more about the relationship between the father and son but also how basketball connects each other. This film captures a distant if no relationship between a father and son and how each try to cope with their tossed relationship.

The film is a great visual fest for Lee as all of his trademarks come out of this film. Many scenes feature great color work and excellent editing which we always see in each of his films. I was surprised that this wasn’t as political or based on race as many of his other works have been.

The acting from Denzel Washington is surely a wonderful and charismatic performance as he shows that he can have the power within without even having it come out. He is always calm with Ray Allen’s character and just waits for that anger to come out. Ray Allen I thought did alright but was very flat. He tries very hard but can barely keep it together on screen with Washington.

There were a lot of scenes and parts that were not needed. The gratuitous sex and some drug use were not needed and were just put in to be put in. I also didn’t enjoy the score that was involved in many of the scenes. The beginning montage I thought was good, but the score didn’t connect to the scenes, and I thought kind of distracted me from the real scene at hand. I did how this wasn’t a regular basketball film and doesn’t feature much rap music.

Consensus: He Got Game is flawed but in the end features a powerful message from Spike Lee about the important relationship between a father and son.

7.5/10=Rentall!!!

Jungle Fever (1991)

A love between a black man and and white woman is something that can be hated but it’s all about the love.

Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. A subplot considers the problems of drug abuse, with Flipper’s brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson) a crack addict.

Director Spike Lee (as if you couldn’t tell), his main message is that both blacks and whites in America have been so bombarded stereotypes about each other to the degree that some relationships are transpired by Jungle Fever.The movie has many scenes of uncommon power, some with sure greatness, and others that just don’t work.

Lee as usual shows a great way of handling these characters of each race and in a way that doesn’t support these stereotypes. The one thing I liked mostly about this film that I didn’t see from his others is that hes not all against the whites and he shows how blacks can be wrong in decision making too. The one strong point of this film is the strong focus that Lee puts on the family’s reactions to this relationship.

The big problem with this film is the couple itself. Lee does not focus too much on the couple and we do not feel that these two people actually like each other. Lee misses the point that he’s trying to get at with in this film and the couple don’t seem believable. The chemistry between Snipes and Sciorra is not very strong and you do not feel the connection beating off of the screen like I would imagine in a film about relationships. The attraction seems to stem entirely from curiosity, which makes the background material – the relationships of each with their families and communities – the real point of interest.

Much of the writing and editing seems very tired as well. In all of Lee’s films his way of showing these characters actions and personalities through a clever and at times true script does not work so well. The whole movie’s script is mostly just conversations about racism and how one doesn’t prefer the other race. The editing also feels kinda lackluster as many scenes were put in just to be put in and kind of had no real meaning.

This is surely a great film for many reasons however despite the downs. I liked the little inter-stories that featured Samuel L. Jackson as a struggling crack addict who brings dismay to his whole family and John Tuturro’s story as he himself looks to start a relationship with a black woman. Those stories were very interesting and very well executed by the cast and Lee. Another great factor of this film is the set pieces that are shown in this film are surely great that feature a very breathtaking look at a crack house that is very graphic but very strong.

The chemistry as I said before between Snipes and Sciorra is not very strong. Though the acting from the rest is very good. Mostly Samuel L. Jackson does an amazing job at portraying a struggling crack addict and fully shows off his amazing acting chops and his performance stand out most importantly. The rest of the cast with John Tuturro. Spike Lee, Ossie Davis, and Anthony Quinn also do very good jobs at portraying their own respectable characters.

The resolution of this film is very gloomy and doesn’t seem as effective as it has in other films from Lee and I don’t fully connect to the message he was trying to get at with.

The film shows a good look at how interracial couples are viewed as and features some very good breathtaking scenes and performances but doesn’t have a very effective message and screenplay like many others from Lee.

7.5/10=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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