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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Anika Noni Rose

Imperial Dreams (2017)

Like Poetic Justice, except not at all.

Fresh out of prison for a gun-assault charge, Bambi (John Boyega) is ready to make a change in his life. However, the life that he left behind isn’t willing to let him go. With his son’s mom (Keke Palmer), in prison, there’s no one really to care for him, which leaves Bambi up to the task. But taking care and keeping watch over your son is one thing – keeping a stable roof over him, is a whole other completely. After Bambi refuses to help his cousin go to Portland and beat out an assault charge, his uncle (Glenn Plummer) kicks him out of the house and on the street, where Bambi and his son will have to make due with what they’ve got. In this case, it’s the car, so they begin to start calling that home, while Bambi is out looking for a job. And since Bambi is an accomplished poet, he hopes that he’ll be able to make it big somehow through that. Little does Bambi know that the streets are unforgiving to you, no matter who, or what you are.

What a swimfan.

Imperial Dreams is a movie that’s clearly set in today’s day and age, very relevant, and deals with a lot of important issues of race, gender, class, wealth, and economics, that are very hot-button now, as we speak. So why does it feel like a product of the 90’s? It’s odd, because while the “hood” subgenre of film isn’t necessarily a dated one, but it still feels like something of yesteryear, when G-funk and Dr. Dre was blasted on every car-stereo. But now, many, many years later, Imperial Dreams, while feeling like a movie made, and taking place in, the 90’s, still hits the right emotional spots that it means to, mostly because the world hasn’t changed all that much.

Okay, maybe it has. But not in the important ways it’s supposed to, anyway.

See. with Imperial Dreams, co-writer/director Malik Vitthal gets across the notion that it doesn’t matter if you’ve changed your act and have decided to become a full-fledged, law abiding citizen – if you’re young, black, poor, and ever been convicted of a crime, then guess what? There’s no future for you. Sorry. It’s a shame and it’s a sad world that we live in, but of course, it is the world and it’s one that many young, black, and/or poor ex-felons face.

But it shouldn’t sound like Vitthal is preaching here, because rather than getting on his soapbox and letting the world know his thoughts and feelings on classicism and the way the government continuously lets down its black and impoverished citizens, he tells a story that may seem to descriptive and specific to really connect to anyone, but it still somehow does. Bambi’s story involves a lot of heartbreak, death, sadness and most importantly, anger, but it doesn’t ever seem like it wants to be about any of those things, as much as it wants to be about just not giving up and trying your absolute hardest to fulfill your dreams. Sounds cheesy, I know, but in the context of the movie, it works and it makes you feel more and more for Bambi altogether.

Which is also to say that John Boyega is quite good in the role. While we have yet to fully see his talents on-display yet in a movie dedicated to exposing them, Boyega shows that he’s got a certain presence to him that keeps him interesting, even when it seems like his character could lapse into convention. Through the whole movie, Bambi remains an angry, frustrated and sometimes tortured soul, but he keeps on trying and there’s something about that spirit of his that’s, at the very least, inspirational. But like I said, it’s not as corny as I make it sound and it helps that Boyega is here to help this character out when he needs it the most.

Unfortunately, Bambi’s about the only character here that isn’t a total and absolute cliché and it’s what brings the movie down a whole notch.

Yup. Sons look like fathers. Shocking.

See, while the movie is smart about knowing and understanding these conventions of a hood movie, the characters seem to prove otherwise. For instance, Bambi’s brother is a young kid who’s future’s looking bright and beautiful, with a college scholarship and close relationship to the church. But for some reason, the movie changes its tune about halfway through and decides to make him something of a hard-ass that doesn’t want these things anymore and is, all of a sudden, ready to ruin his life for one stupid act. Doesn’t make much sense and eventually, all of the flip-flopping around gets confusing.

Same goes with Bambi’s uncle, as played by Glenn Plummer (in an obvious nod to South Central), who seems like he was ripped out of Don’t Be a Menace, thrown in here, and never told that what he was working with here was meant to be serious. It helps that Plummer’s a talented actor, but even some of the lines he has to work with, don’t always connect and seem genuine. They just seem like notes and beats these kinds of movies are supposed to touch on and use and well, it’s a bit silly.

Still though, there’s a heart and soul here that, above all other flaws, still gets itself across.

Consensus: With a good performance from Boyega in the lead and a heartfelt message about overcoming all adversity, Imperial Dreams gets by on its heart, as much as it gets taken down by its sometimes conventional and formulaic script.

7 / 10

“Listen to me, son. No spoilers.”

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, High Snobiety, Slash Film

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Dreamgirls (2006)

White music? What crap!!

Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are three life-long friends that share something that we all have in common: dreaming. They all dream of one day, becoming the best singers in the whole, entire world and will stop at nothing to have that dream come true. After a show-stopping performance one night, they get picked-up by cool, collective, and charming manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who promises them that all of their wildest dreams in the world will come ture if they just stick with him and his main act, aging-superstar James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). However, as usual, once things get hotter and bigger as the years go by, times start to get tougher, egos begin to clash, and people start to give up on all their hopes and dreams.

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I do love musicals. Well, let me correct that: I do love musicals when they are done right. This is one of those instances where it is done right for the sole purpose that the movie makes no gripes with trying to do anything new or original, it’s just having fun being itself. People singing, dancing, lip-syncing, and doing some heavy-emoting can always guarantee a fun watch, that’s if you can handle it and can handle what the director has done with it, which is why Bill Condon was such a great choice for this material, despite it not seeming so in the beginning.

Condon seemed like a strange choice for this type of material, but after watching it, you’re going to wonder just why the hell he hasn’t dabbled in music much more? He obviously seems to be loving every second he’s working with this movie, the cast he has time to play with, and even better, takes the music and singing seriously. It’s weird how some songs are filmed as if they were performed in a concert and then, out of nowhere, people start singing and dancing to each other on the street as if it was a cut-scene from Grease, but it didn’t matter because Condon barely even had me noticing after awhile. Once I got used to it all, I realized that this was a movie all about people singing their freakin’ hearts out, and you can’t ever go wrong with that.

Then again, there are those types of people that will get on your case for liking a movie like this, regardless of if you’re a dude or a chick. If you’re a chick, it’s sort of obvious and cliche for you to like this, but for guys? Just forget it! Dudes get picked on for liking movies like this all of the time, but what I always wonder is why? If the movie is having fun, wants you to have fun, and is singing it’s heart out til the time the final credits roll-up, then what’s the problem with liking it? You like Nirvana, you like Jay-Z, and you like Metallica, which is something we all accept for what it is, but once some man comes right out and says that he enjoys musicals, all of a sudden, he’s a huge softy? Awww baloney, I say! Baloney!

Anyway, besides that rant up above, I really enjoyed myself with this movie because Condon seemed to as well. The music is entertaining, catchy-as-hell, and surprisingly, even for a major, Hollywood production, very energetic. Most musicals like to do its song-and-dance, chill out for awhile, mellow things down, and then bring it all back up for a big old, grand finale, but not this one. This one keeps the blood pumping, the attention span up, and the lungs flailing, without ever seeming to miss a beat. Well, without missing a beat in the musical sense. In the actual story sense, well, there are plenty of beats being missed.

Being that this is a musical about the age old story of having dreams, gunning for them, and never giving up to achieve them, the story does go into places that are fairly conventional and predictable. Obvious themes like how fame overpowers friendship, love vanishes once control comes into play, etc. all show up, do their thang, and leave with a push of a button. It doesn’t take too much away from the flick, but it doesn’t seem to ever really give it an original stamp that the musical genre hasn’t played with before. Everything plays out like you’d expect it to, but with the exception that everything here is practically sung and danced to. Sometimes.

Oh well, at least the movie is still entertaining for what it is and that’s also mostly thanks to the huge cast Condon was able to assemble here. Jamie Foxx is fine as the ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., and is obviously the Barry Gordy-type in the way that he wants shit done his way, or the highway. Foxx is very good at this type of role because you see the charm of his character fade in, and then totally black-out once things get so big for the ladies. Beyoncé Knowles plays Deena, the apple of his eye and the leader of the singing-group (aka, Diana Ross), and is fine, even if all her character really does is look a little disappointed with the way Curtis is acting and treating her, and singing her fucking heart out. Which, in her case, can’t really be that hard to begin with.

"Bitch, quit asking me if I'm making waffles or not!"

“Bitch, quit asking me to impersonate that donkey again!”

Playing the one whom she eventually shit-cans to the side of her, for fame and glory, is Jennifer Hudson as the lovable, plus-sized diva that can sing better and can stick up for herself more than any other woman in this movie, let alone just little, poor Deena. As we all know, Hudson won the Oscar for her role as Effie and with good reason: The chick is not a great actor, but a way, way better singer than anything else. Obviously, she will always be remembered for her jaw-dropping rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,”, but even when she isn’t telling Jam-Foxx and all of the other girls to go ‘eff themselves by using her vocal-chords, she’s still pretty good as the sassy gal that won’t put up for nothing. Hudson is a very underrated actress and I think it’s about time that she started getting more quality roles in Hollywood, rather than just some nun in the Three Stooges movie. Yup, that was her.

Another star in this movie who found their name getting some Oscar attention was Eddie Murphy as the aging, but still sturdy soul man known as James Early. Murphy is dynamite in this role because whenever Jimmy is fun, quick-witted, and having a great time on-screen, so is Murphy and you can tell that he’s working with material he really appreciates. However, when Jimmy is being a bit down in the dumps, upset, and a bit unstable, Murphy shows shades of his acting-prowess that we’ve never seen before from the dude (even in Pluto Nash, if you can believe that!). It’s no surprise that Murphy was nominated for his work here, as it not only was a change-of-pace for a guy that seemed to be putting on the same silly face for the past 30 years, but because it gave the guy a chance to show us what he’s got, even with the short-amount of time the dude may have had on-screen. Hey, if the Academy wasn’t being so generous to old-school vet Alan Arkin that year, Donkey might just have been looking at some Oscar gold that year. However, we all know who the Academy loves to favor in a position like that. Wah.

Consensus:  You might not find yourself realizing that Dreamgirls changes the way, the look, or the structure of the movie-musical, but you will still find yourself humming along to the tunes, toe-tapping away, and enjoying the hell out of yourself with material that seems to be doing the same as well.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. How times have changed.

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. My oh my, how times have changed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

For Colored Girls (2010)

Never thought I’d say this, but I needed Madea.

Being a woman can be hard, but being an African American woman living in New York City, can be even worse. We get a glimpse at nine different stories as we see them through the eyes of women who need love, feel love, feel pain, need pain, and just want to be accepted in a world that’s tearing them down. If you’re a member of the KKK, you may not want to see this, because it’s all black, ALL THE TIME, with little to no white in sight. But then again, you’d expect that coming from Tyler Perry.

No matter how much you may hate his Madea movies, or the fact that he hasn’t contributed any type of positive aspect to the world we live in, you still have to give Tyler Perry credit for keeping the black spirit alive and well, especially in today’s day and age where it almost seems like it can be made a mockery of sometimes. That’s why it seemed like a very, very ambitious step for Perry to take, and go on about adapting the 1975 play that apparently ever black women, man, or child lauded, even till this day. Ambitious is exactly what it was for Mr. Perry, and it was the ambition, the skill, or anything else for that matter, that he could handle. That’s right, folks. This here is a train wreck.

I’ve never seen the original-play, but I can already tell that it was made for the stage, and meant to stay there as well. Whatever the hell that Perry added to the mix of this movie, does not work a single bit and comes off like the guy’s trying too hard to get his point across, without surprising us or even being subtle about it. Literally, characters will be talking about their problems, and then start breaking-out into long, 5 minute metaphorical speeches about how they can’t handle being a woman, and letting the men take them down. Maybe for people that actually go through these types of problems on a day-to-day basis can relate and in a way, can have this material touch them, but even for a person like that, I don’t think this is going to work since it all seems so unbelievable.

She can see the light, and it's a better movie.

She can see the light, and it signifies a better movie.

The dialogue can be okay at times, especially when they are discussing real-life problems that all women go through everyday, not just black women, but it doesn’t get any deeper than that. It all plays out as if it was a daytime soap opera that you caught your mom or your secretly gay brother watching, and what’s even worse about that is that Perry never seems to get the hint to tone things down a notch. Nope, instead, he continues to have everybody scream, holler, yell, piss, moan, and practically beat the shit out of one another, only to show that they are angry as hell, and ain’t gonna take it anymore. Once again, maybe to some this may work and really connect with them, but I highly doubt it since Perry seems way out-of-his-league here, and that’s really saying a lot.

If anything, I have to give kudos to Perry for at least trying and being able to show us the side of black women that most of us need to see, but it actually begins to feel like the type of movie that I talked about earlier, in the way that it almost does more harm than good for the people it’s supposed to reach out towards. For instance, almost every women in this movie has a yelling scene where they can’t control their emotions, and just feel the need to let loose on one another for whatever reason they may have. That’s fine and all, but EVERYBODY at least has one or two of those scenes, and it doesn’t depict them as real-life people, it depicts them as a bunch of annoying women you can’t stand to be around, let alone be married to.

I can’t lie though, some sad shit actually does happen to most of these ladies, and I can’t say that I don’t blame them for being the least bit upset about what happens, but it gets to a point of where it’s almost as contrived as the dawnest day, where everything bad, happens for a reason. There’s always a problem with one of these women, and they always, no matter what, seem to bring it out on the others around them. Yeah, some of them are dealt a bad card and have people that treat them like crap, but the fact that they can never seem to hold their emotions and just love the one’s they’re with, doesn’t humanize them in the least bit, it just makes them seem shallow. You don’t really care for much of these women, although you do share their sympathies because like you, they are human, they have feelings, and they do have problems. However, they are problems that don’t feel genuine and coming from Tyler Perry: that’s saying a fuck load.

The only area this film comes even close to succeeding in are the performances, but once again: that’s not saying much. The problem with most of these performances, is that some are actually VERY GOOD, whereas others, are just TERRIBLY BAD. One of the performances from the first-category that I thought was worth mentioning was Janet Jackson as the upper-class wife, who owns and runs a fashion magazine, but also has problems running and owning her hubby who’s up to no good (as usual). Jackson has never really struck me as the type of gal that can act, but she does very, very well here showing us that she can be a total bitch, but also allow us to sympathize with her as well. It’s not easy, but by the end, you definitely feel like you got the full round-about of who this character is, and what she stands for in life. Other’s that do knock-out jobs with their roles are Loretta Devine as a woman who can’t seem to get control of her already-married boy-toy; Michael Ealy who does over-do it sometimes, but still keeps it grounded in-reality as one of the hubby’s that’s a bit out of control (sarcasm intended for the term “a bit”); and Phylicia Rashad as Gilda, the wise, black women who knows it all, and always love to tell others about everything she knows, even if they don’t want to hear it.

"AWWWWW HELL NO, BITCH!! YO ASS AIN'T OUT-ACTING ME!!!"

“AWWWWW HELL NO, BEEEITCH!! YO ASS AIN’T OUT-ACTING ME!!!”

Then, we get to the second category, and that’s when things really start to run off the trail. One of the worst performances in this movie, and one that I’ve seen in awhile, is Whoopi Goldberg as the religious mother of two girls, that seems to love her religion and everything she stands for, but is wacko beyond belief. Goldberg is an Oscar winner, but none of that ever shows in this movie, because she is absolutely, freakin’ crazy, and not in the good way either. She’s always screaming about Jesus, the righteous way of living, and how to see the Lord through your eyes, but is always going about it by yelling at people, and sometimes hitting them. It would have been fine if she at least toned it down a bit, but Goldberg goes full wack-job on us and it’s as hilarious to watch, as it is compelling. After all of these years of sitting her boothang on that couch from the View, I think Whoopi got a bit rusty. And if that’s the case, then just stay the hell away from movies.

Others in the cast aren’t as bad as Whoopi, but they aren’t good either. Thandie Newton comes into a close-second by almost out-acting Whoopie, and the funny thing is that Newton is playing Whoopi’s daughter, that always has a man in her bed, and can never be real with anybody. Newton is usually a solid actress in whatever shit-pile she is in, but here, she over-does it, almost to the point of where she seems like a caricature of that ghetto, slut-gal that most women frown-upon. In fact, this is probably the only character that never learns a single thing throughout the whole damn movie, and instead, just seems like she’s going to continue to whore-around, fuck whoever she wants to fuck, and maybe, just maybe, end up with a little person in the pit of her stomach, along with a beautiful-case of AIDS. Also, shame on this movie for giving a talented and beautiful actress like Kerry Washington, nothing else to do but piss and moan about how she can’t have a baby. Seriously, just go to the freakin’ orphanage, pick up a Indonesian baby, and put a smile on. Brangelina did it, and look at them.

Consensus: Tyler Perry deserves a small-amount of kudos for trying to really break out of his shell, and go for the gut when it came to adapting a classic-play like For Colored Girls, but deserves no credit for the job that he actually pulled-off. It’s laughable, stupid, shallow, does nothing for the group of people it’s speaking for, and even worse, makes you feel like all of these talented-actresses that took this material, were a little too busy to take any roles in Precious, so instead, decided to go with a shit-ass script and movie like this. Shame on all of you, especially you, Mr. Perry.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Come on girls, we gotta stick together and hope our careers don't all end at the same time."

“Come on girls, we gotta stick together and hope our careers don’t all end at the same time.”

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Of course this is Disney’s first black princess, and she’s a frog half of the film. Classy Disney!

Down in New Orleans during the fabulous Jazz Age, young Princess Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) searches for true love and comes face-to-face with snooty debutante Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), ancient voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) and the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David). But with the help of her mother (Oprah Winfrey), a crooning alligator and other friends, Tiana’s fairy-tale dreams may come true after all.

When you have a film that’s advertised as the people who made ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’, you got a lot to live up to. However, I can say that black isn’t better, but still alright.

With all of the talent involved, I have to say that they really did do a great job with this material. Granted, the original story isn’t much different from anything else we’ve seen before, but they do a great job of actually expanding on that idea and giving it a little fresh twist of actually having the princes be a frog too. Not much of a huge shocking twist in the story, but still a good one none the less.

I think if anything was to really stick out about this film was the setting of New Orleans which really did a lot for this film. You go from the southern swamps, to the mansions, and to French Quarters which all give it a really cool look especially with this beautiful 2D animation that just pops out here. With just about every film being released in 3-D nowadays, it was kind of cool to actually see a film, let alone animated, that could have really benefited if given the extra dimension. It’s a film that is very very pretty to look at but if this was in 3-D, I think it would look even better. Especially this scene where some kind of crazy voodoo is going on and these constant colors are just flying all-0ver-the-place and bring you into this sort of acid trip, which would have been even more awesome, if I had those glasses on.

The songs are also another strong-point by how much different types of song genres that come about and give Randy Newman a lot of space to show his talents in. One song is typical jazz, another is gospel, another is Cajun, and then so on and so forth and it was just awesome how great all of these songs sounded. Hell, the film even opens up with some Dr. John here as well and once you open up with him, you know you got the flavor.

The cast and characters in this film are also all pretty good with the likes of Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Bruno Campos, and Oprah Winfrey among others. Probably the most stand-out job of the whole cast was Keith David (aka THE EFFIN’ Man) as Dr. Facillier, the voodoo man. He not only proves he can deliver sinister dialogue but he can also sing like a professional. He has totally got some major respect points from me now.

However please don’t get me wrong, I do not think this is a bad film by any stretch of the means, it is just not as memorable as any of the other Disney-animated films. When I walked away from Aladdin, I always remember humming “A Whole New World” or “Friend Like Me”. Even with The Little Mermaid I caught myself singing “Under the Sea” or “Part of Your World”. Damn I’m even singing it now! Even though the songs here may be fun to listen to and very well-done, they still don’t match up one bit to any of these other songs from any of these other films and I still can’t remember one off the top of my head.

There is also no real break-out character that we’re always so used to seeing. With Aladdin it Robin Williams as The Genie, and with The Little Mermaid it was Sebastian. Here…I’m guessing maybe the big ass alligator named Louis, who just wanted to play in a jazz band because he was very good at the trumpet. How ironic that his name is Louis too. Even though these characters aren’t memorable, they’re still amusing.

Consensus: The Princess and the Frog benefits from good music, a sweet and tender love story at it’s core, and the beautiful look of the film, but nothing else really stands out and even though the film doesn’t have much wrong with it in general, it just lacks in comparison to so many other Disney classics. Not a bad film just not a memorable one either.

7/10=Rental!!