Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Regina King

Year of the Dog (2007)

Save the animals. Don’t save yourself.

Peggy (Molly Shannon) seems to have a pretty normal and relatively safe life going for her. She’s surrounded by friends and family, as well as her beloved beagle that she cares for each and every chance she gets. She’s not married and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so basically, it’s her one and only responsibility. But after the beagle dies, Peggy soon begins to look for all sorts of ways to fill the void in her life. This leads her to getting involved with people she doesn’t quite care for, watching over her friends’ kids, and also doing other monotonous tasks that only a person in the sort of funk she’s in, would ever be bothered with. But then, Peggy gets the grand idea: “Save” all of the dogs in the world. Meaning, it’s time that she doesn’t just adopt one dog, or hell, even two, but maybe like, I don’t know, 15 at a time. Why, though? Is it grief? Or is just because Peggy literally wants to save every dog in the world and believes that she can, slowly by surely, dog-by-dog?

That’s how it all starts: With just one dog.

One of the great things about Mike White and his writing is that no matter how zany, or silly, or downright wacky his characters and their stories can get, he always has a certain love and respect that never seems to go away. In the case of the Year of the Dog, with Peggy, we see a generally goofy, sad, lonely little woman who seems like she could easily just be the punchline to every joke. And, for awhile at least, that’s what she is; Year of the Dog is the kind of movie that likes to poke fun at its main protagonist, while also realizing that there are people out there in the real world just like her and rather than making fun, maybe we should just accept them.

While, of course, also making jokes at their expense.

But still, that’s why White’s writing is so good here – he knows how to develop this character in small, interesting and actual funny ways, without ever seeming like he’s trying too hard. The comedy can verge on being “cringe”, but in a way, White actually dials it back enough to where we get a sense for the languid pacing and it actually works. We begin to realize that the movie isn’t really as slow, as much as it’s just taking its time, allowing us to see certain aspects of Peggy’s life and those around her.

Hey, guys! Here’s Peter Sarsgaard playing a normal human being! Wow!

It also helps give us more time to pay close-attention to Molly Shannon’s great work as Peggy, once again showing us why she’s one of the more underrated SNL talents to ever come around. It’s odd because when she was on that show, Shannon was mostly known for being over-the-top and crazy, but in almost everything that she’s touched since, including this, the roles have mostly stayed down-played and silent. You can almost sense that she’s maybe trying to prove a point, but you can also tell that she’s just genuinely trying to give herself a challenge as an actress and show the whole world what she can do.

And as Peggy, she does a lot, without it ever seeming like it. It’s a very small, subtle performance, but there’s a lot to watch here, what with the character’s constant quirks and oddities, making her actually a very compelling presence on the screen. We don’t know what she’s going to do next, or to whom, and for that, she’s always watchable and constantly keeping this movie interesting, even when it seems like nothing is happening.

But that’s sort of the beauty about a Mike White film: Nothing seems as if it’s happening, but in a way, everything is.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Shannon, Year of the Dog gets by despite some odd quirks, but also remembers to keep its heart and humor.

7 / 10

I think everyone aspires to have this car, with all these same types of furry friends in it.

Photos Courtesy of: Plan B Entertainment


Friday (1995)

I guess the hood ain’t such a bad place to live after all.

Craig (Ice Cube) spends most of his days doing nothing, staying unemployed, and just trying to get by in life, constantly chilling with his boy Smokey (Chris Tucker). However, the day that comes between Thursday and Saturday hits and for some reason, there’s something different about the day that isn’t like every other one.

By the mid-90’s, the hood subgenre of film became a bit of a joke. The themes, the violence, the stereotypes, etc., had all been played-out so much so that by a point, there was even a Wayans spoof on it all. What once had been a reliably sad and effective genre of film-making, soon became a bit of a stale product, that only seemed to get worse with each and every attempt at creating something close to resembling Boyz N the Hood.

Every neighborhood’s got a dude like this.

Which is why, at the time, and of course, now Friday is such a breath of fresh air.

Sure, is it a “hood film”? Yeah, it is, but it’s a different kind of one. It doesn’t really try to lay down some life-altering message about getting out of the hood and making a better future for yourself, nor does it ever seem to try and ever take itself too seriously. If anything, it’s just a smooth, relaxed, and downright silly comedy about one day in the hood, where some good stuff, some bad stuff, and some wacky stuff happens in, of all places, the hood.

And yes, Friday works because of that; it’s a very chilled-out kind of movie that doesn’t rush itself, doesn’t have too much of a plot to really get going with, and it sure as heck isn’t running too long with its barely 90-minute run-time. And none of this is a bad thing, either – most comedies, like John Waters always says, should barely be 90 minutes and Friday works well for that reason. A lot of the gags are so quick and random, that they somehow just work and come together, because the movie doesn’t harp on them too much, just like it doesn’t slow itself down with jokes, either. And it all matters, too, because, well, the jokes are actually pretty funny in and of themselves.

Which is why it’s hard to go on and on about Friday without talking about the one and the only, Chris Tucker.

Gotta get down on….

I think it goes without saying that Tucker makes Friday as funny as it can get. He’s often the scene-stealer, using his high-pitched squeal and delivery to make any joke land, as well as seeming like the funniest guy in the room, amongst a pretty funny crowd. It’s not really known how many of his lines were scripted, or how much everyone involved just trusted him to do his thing, but whatever it was, it works and it’s because of Tucker that even when Friday seems to meander a bit too far away from itself (which it often does), it still comes together in the end.

Which isn’t meant to take away from everyone else here, but yeah, when compared to Tucker, it’s hard not to notice. For instance, Ice Cube plays the straight-man, and seems to be having fun, even though often times, his role seems to just be used as the protagonist we see everything through. John Witherspoon is also a lot of fun as his daddy and kept me laughing every single time he showed up but also provided a lot of insight into how daddy’s usually are with their older, bum-like children. Nia Long is also nice as, once again, the romantic love-interest in a hood flick, while such comedic-greats like Michael Clarke Duncan, Faizon Love, and Tiny Lister, and oh, of course, Bernie Mac, all show up, do their things and remind us why they’re so funny in the first place.

But where Friday doesn’t hold up for me (and granted, I have seen this movie about four-to-five times now), is that it’s direction is a bit sloppy, however, with good reason. At barely 25 years of age, F. Gary Gray took over Friday and seemed like he didn’t have to do all that much, but somehow, the movie is still a bit messy. The best aspect of the movie is how, for the longest time, there’s really no plot and nothing needing to drive it by, but by the end, all of a sudden, there’s a plot, there’s a serious conflict, and there’s a, unfortunately, message that we’re all supposed to learn from. If anything, it feels lame, tired and annoying, and it seemed to only happen because Gray was just getting started and needed to get his foot in somewhere.

Thankfully, he did.

Consensus: Even with a slightly amateurish direction, Friday still works because of its odd gags, relaxed, yet pleasing tone, and of course, the exciting cast, led by a stand-out performance from Tucker.

8.5 / 10

Damn, indeed.

Photos Courtesy of: Filmaholic Reviews

Ray (2004)

I still think Jamie Foxx should have won the Oscar for Booty Call.

Jamie Foxx stars as rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles, who lost his eyesight after contracting glaucoma at age 6. Despite a hardscrabble upbringing in Albany, Ga. and repeated struggles with racism, romantic letdowns — and his own heroin abuse — Charles went on to become a world-famous pianist and performer.

Now to be honest I have never been a real listener of Ray Charles, but I won’t lie when I say that by the end of this film I didn’t want just blast out “What I’d Say” right away.

This is a great rock biopic because it shows us the man behind the music without ever leaving a single story out, good and bad. I got to see this man for everything that he was and everything that he wasn’t. (Apologies for the cliché.)

He was a music genius that blended all sorts of music such as country, R&B, soul, blues, and even gospel music. But he was also a heroin junkie for the longest time and missed out on plenty of opportunities with his wife and kids, as well as not being able to keep it in the pants on the road. You don’t get too many biopics that are as frank as this one and I have to say good job to director Taylor Hackford for that.

To go along with the story which works so well in the first place too, is the actual music that is performed many upon many times in this film and just makes you want to dance. Hits like Unchain My Heart, What I’d Say, I Got a Woman, Georgia On My Mind, Hit the Road Jack, and much more are played and just had me so enjoyed by what I was hearing and seeing. Your feet will tap, your fingers will snap, and your head will nod. It’s almost surprising that this dude didn’t invent rap while he was at it.

However, my problem with this film is that it does try to cover too much ground and goes on for way too long. This film is almost 2 hours and 33 minutes, which to me, kind of felt like a stretch considering that we were already an hour in the film and we didn’t even get to the part where he got signed to the really big label (ABC) just yet. I mean everything else held me over, but with two-and-a-half hour time limit, there could have been some cutting down here and there.

Let me also not forget just how abrupt the film actually ended because although I liked how it finally went out and everything, I just felt like it went on so long, covering all this ground, and then to just finally end so abruptly, with leaving plenty of questions unanswered, really made me mad because I knew there was a better way they could have ended it. Not to say that I would be a good director with this material, but I could have made it worked a bit better than Hackford had it.

The real show to see here though, is none other than Jamie Foxx as the man of the two hours and 30 minutes I already talked about, Ray Charles. Before production began, Ray auditioned Jamie, jamming for two hours on the piano and was so happy that he stood up, hugged himself and said, “He’s the one… he can do it.” And boy was Ray not wrong one bit. Foxx just seems so happy to play Charles and fully finds himself within this almost larger-than-life figure. Foxx keeps the energy going throughout almost every scene he has and when he’s actually playing those songs, it seems so real and you feel as if you’re not just watching Jamie Foxx do an impersonation of Ray Charles, you’re actually watching Ray Charles himself. Glad to see this guy actually win the Oscar, he deserved it! The rest of the cast is pretty good too with names like Terrence Howard, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell, and Regina King.

Consensus: Though it goes on too long and has its deals of flaws, Ray is a fun and exciting take on a musical legend, that isn’t made out to be some sort of God, and more of a real person with real problems, that is played just so perfectly by Jamie Foxx. If you like music, you will like this!


Our Family Wedding (2010)

I hope my wedding isn’t like this, and Carlos Mencia isn’t at it.

Forest Whitaker and funnyman Carlos Mencia butt heads as two domineering dads forced to set aside their culture-clash differences and team up to plan their children’s wedding, with only two weeks until the big day arrives. America Ferrera plays the pregnant bride-to-be opposite Lance Gross as her medical resident fiancé.

Basically think of Father of the Bride mixed with a little bit of the racism from American History X. Yes, I know, that is a terrible way to describe it although those movies are actually good.

The film has an interesting premise surprisingly, the problem here is that the film doesn’t know how to be funny one bit with its script. There are too many racist jokes that just aren’t funny, or even tasteful to say the least. I mean, for the most part at least bring out good jokes, with enough heart to satisfy its viewers, but don’t shower me down with crappy jokes, and a goat taking Viagra and humping people at a wedding. That is right, you heard exactly what I said. Goat, Viagra, humping, I thought I’d never say those words in the same sentence.

The film also has plenty, and I do mean plenty of plot holes that come right out as soon as the film gets going. In the beginning, we see that Whitaker has a job as a DJ, but that is the only time we see him doing it, and apparently due to that job hes a millionaire. How can this dude be a millionaire, when he has been at work once in the past two weeks? There is also a lot of formulaic stuff here, but the fact of the matter is that its not just a film about two clashing races, its more about an Oscar winner, and a turd comedian.

The performances are what makes this film seem a bit enjoyable I guess. Ferrera and Gross are good as a couple and you can actually see how they could turn out to be a couple, but the film takes down their chemistry so much, that you are just wishing they would get a divorce. Whitaker is likable here, but likable does not mean funny, ad that is not what he is at all. If anything, i should call him awkward, cause that is exactly what he is but not as bad as the other dude, Mencia. Carlos Mencia actually had a good show running on Comedy Central, then it got canceled, and he hasn’t really been in much since. Then he gets this script, and if I was the director I would choose anyone: George Lopez, Erik Estrada, hell even Speedy Gonzales, would be a better choice than this failed funnyman. Mencia has that hammy, terrible comedic timing, that all comedians-turned-actors dread, and for some reason I actually felt pity for Mencia, something I don’t ever want to feel again.

Consensus: Our Family Wedding may be a good movie for the family, but other than that is just written awfully, with its contrived plot, and even worse jokes, with performances that just turn out to be awkward.


A Thin Line Between Love and Hate (1996)

Don’t watch this movie if you need relationship advice, actually don’t watch it at all.

Big-time player and club promoter Darnell (Martin Lawrence) does a double-take when a sophisticated beauty named Brandi (Lynn Whitfield) catches his eye at the club. But as he tries to win her over, the prize is far from what he expected. When Darnell decides he’d rather be with an old friend (Regina King), Brandi won’t take the hint — she’s ready to get even.

Being a Martin Lawrence comedy, I was expecting side-splitting, rolling on the floor laughter, but in the end it didn’t even get a giggle out of me. I tried to like this movie, but I couldn’t. It’s just a dry and humorless comedy.

Now Lawrence directs, writes, and produces this film and shows that sometimes, this is the reason why actros should stay on-screen instead of behind it. Somewhere in this film, is an actually interesting premise about how this one playboy deserves this Fatal Attraction treatment because of the way he treats women, but is narrowed down by stupid supporting casts spots, and unneccessary sex jokes.

I mean in all honesty I didn’t know if this film was supposed to be so funny, cause the film doesn’t have any good jokes here, and by the end of the film it actually starts to turn into a serious thing. I mean this man is almost killed, how is that funny?

I mean I’ll give Lawrence the shadow of the doubt because he does give the usual funny, charm that he always does so well in all of his films. But his hamming it up for the camera seems unwanted since the film can’t even take that humorously, too. Lynn Whitfield’s role in the movie as a woman who goes berserk after being treated like dirt is excellent, I actually believed her.

Consensus: There in no thin line here when it comes to witty dialogue, and funny jokes, since there is none of that in this boring, supposed comedy.