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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Rodney King

LA 92 (2017)

So is this what that Sublime song was all about?

It was one of the most heated and controversial times in our country, the spring of 1992, in Los Angeles to be exact. With all sorts of racism, hate and anger brewing in the air, everything came to a head when four cops were acquitted of the crime of nearly beating Rodney King to death. It was a decision that shook the whole world, but for most of the citizens in Los Angeles, they not only felt like this was a personal attack, but a time for them to strike back, have their voices heard, and stand up exactly for what they believe in. And of course, this lead to some of the most shocking and upsetting violence ever seen in mainstream culture.

There’s going to continue to be a lot more documentaries out there like LA 92. Technology has gotten so grand by now that nearly everyone and their grandmothers have a camera with them, meaning that they’ll be able to capture whatever it is that’s happening in front of them. In a way, there’s no privacy and everything can be seen for the whole world, which may make someone very paranoid, but also makes it possible for small events, inside these huge ones, appear and finally be seen.

Wanna let it burn!

And it’s why LA 92 is so surprising, considering that this was around the time where not everyone had a cell-phone, nor did they have a video-camera along with them. So the fact that both directors T.J. Martin and Dan Lindsay were able to tell a whole documentary about the LA Riots, solely through video-footage, without any present-day interviews or narrations, or what have you, is truly astounding.

And yeah, the fact that it’s downright intense the whole two hours, is an even greater achievement.

Needless to say, there’s a great deal of energy simmering throughout LA 92 that plays out just like the real timeline of the events presented. The movie starts off slow and melodic, but there is no doubt an unsettling feeling in the air; it’s as if we, just like the people involved, know exactly what’s going to happen, and it’s only a matter of time. However, just waiting for it all to happen is pretty damn suspenseful and it makes certain horrors and thrillers shame in comparison.

Hey. I was using that.

That said, when it does come to the actual riots, there is nothing left to the imagination. You’d think that with all of the press-coverage this infamous event got and still does get, that there wouldn’t be anything new or surprising to see here, but there actually is. We get a lot of hand-held footage that puts us right there, on the ground, and in the action, and it’s absolutely terrifying. There’s this feeling that we, the viewers, are in danger and it’s hard to keep your eyes off of the screen. We know what the end result of this whole situation is, but for some reason, it’s still so insanely crazy and wild that it’s hard to not get involved with.

And because of that, LA 92 is an achievement. Not just in documentary storytelling, but editing and storytelling in general. It’s the kind of documentary that’s hard to really talk on and on about, without just saying that it deserves to be seen. Everything that happens is still relevant to this very day and while the documentary doesn’t quite try and make that comparison as well, it’s obvious, therefore, it doesn’t even need to be said.

The only thing that needs to be said is that you need to see LA 92. Please. Do yourself a favor.

Consensus: Exciting, tense, and masterfully put together, LA 92 is not just an alarming recount of the infamous time in our nation’s history, but a sign that moments like these will only repeat themselves.

9 / 10

Some things, you’ve just got to let figure itself out.

Photos Courtesy of: (not) to docFlavorwireSuddenly, a shot rang out

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Malcolm X (1992)

MalcolmposterSometimes, one biopic will do.

At an early age, Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) faced racism almost everywhere he went. His family was terrorized by local KKK members, his family was broken up, and he was always told that he would never be allowed to practice law. So basically, Malcolm X, no matter how hard Malcolm tried, he was always brought down to the color of his skin. As Malcolm grew older, and the troubles he enduced became more frequent, he started to realize that the only person who was going to look after him was him and himself alone. That’s why, when he was put into the slammer for burglary, he found a new calling in life. Around this time in his life, Malcolm began to find faith and discover a new voice that was always inside of him, just waiting desperately to come out. Finally, it did. Problem was, many people didn’t like what he had to say; rather than being like MLK and promoting peaceful protests in order to gain the respect and gratitude of the white man, Malcolm was all about fighting back and giving white man the hell that they deserved. Many adored and praised Malcolm for this stance, however, many others didn’t. Eventually, the latter would ultimately change his life forever.

He was a leader.

He was a leader.

At three-hours-and-20-minutes, there’s a lot of ground that Spike Lee covers. Malcolm X is the kind of biopic that knows that it should be the only biopic ever made about Malcolm X, so in order to ensure that no others come out and try to tarnish said person’s legacy, it goes out of its way to focus on just about everything in Malcolm’s life, without leaving any gray areas whatsoever. In a way, you have to applaud for Lee going as far as he can possibly go.

At the same time, the movie’s pretty long.

There’s a good half-hour or more that I felt like could have been blocked-out of this movie and made it just nearly three hours. All of the early scenes concerning Delroy Lindo, as he good as he is, don’t really work in the latter-part of the flick; while it’s trying to show how Malcolm has changed and is willing to forgive those who he has wronged, it’s also, at the same time, feeling a bit unnecessary because, well, we get it. Malcolm X is a changed man and he wants to let the whole world know it.

That said, there’s a lot about Malcolm X that deserves to be seen, regardless of the small amount of filler that always seems to be around in Lee’s films. For one, it’s a powerful statement on the act of protesting. While Lee has been known to be awfully preachy with just about each and everyone of his flicks, here, he seems to genuinely sit back and just let the speeches, and film tell itself. Because Malcolm X was such a compelling presence no matter what he was doing, when you hear his famous speeches play-out here, and the sort of effect they have, it’s hard not to want to get up, scream, and shout along with him. It doesn’t matter what color, gender, or class your are – there’s something about Malcolm X that’s easy to relate to.

That general sense of telling the opposing side to, “f**k off”, is universal and it’s one of the main reasons why Malcolm X works so well. It not only gives X’s teachings more spotlight, but also likes to show us just exactly what he was fighting and yelling for; while maybe not all that much has changed, it still goes to show that somebody like him, who was way ahead of his time, wasn’t afraid of those he may piss-off or offend. While some people may say that X’s teachings were more than just pure “fighting words”, the fact remains: When Malcolm X did a speech, you sat down, listened and hung on to every word that he had to say.

There’s nothing more powerful than that.

And as Malcolm X, Denzel Washington is, in all honesty, a revelation. It’s actually no surprise to anyone, but throughout the near three-and-a-half-hours, Washington remains engaging, interesting and most of all, believable through it all. This is all the more special due to the fact that X himself, went through so many transformations over his 40 years of living that to have someone play all of these different sides and personas in an understandable manner, to where we can still believe it’s the same person, is definitely something to boast on and on about. That Al Pacino won the Oscar that year is totally beyond me, but hey, it’s the Oscars.

A lover.

A lover.

How am I not surprised?

Perhaps what surprised me most about Malcolm X was how Spike Lee doesn’t set out to fully lionize X, his words, or even the movement he was so desperately fighting for. While this could have been an easy praise-piece where, no matter what he did, Malcolm X was always in the right and never made a mistake, the movie shows that he did, like many other humans and civil rights activists, get stuck in some sticky situations that he couldn’t get out of. That not everyone around him is fully on-board with what he has to say or do, already shows that maybe, just maybe, X himself may have taken things a tad too far in some perspectives.

Some could make the argument that X himself needed to take that extra step, just to force the change to happen, but still, it makes you wonder. Malcolm X, above all else, is the biopic that gives us every shade to X’s character; he was a kind, warm-hearted man who loved his wife and family so much that he never wanted anything harmful to ever happen to them, but he was also a bit of a nasty, sometimes irresponsible man who let his emotions get the best of him. Was he human? Of course he was. Was her perfect? Hell no. Then again, that’s what made Malcolm X, the person, such an iconic figure to latch onto: He was a person trying so hard to see a change.

Sadly, it didn’t bode out so well and most of us are still stuck, trying to figure out what to do next.

Consensus: Though it is quite lengthy, Malcolm X is, at the same time, a necessary biopic that gives power to its figure’s voice, and also allows for Denzel Washington to give one of the best performances of his career and keep us intrigued practically the whole way through.

8.5 / 10

And yeah, a pretty solid speech-giver, too.

And yeah, a pretty solid speech-giver, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Dredd 3D (2012)

Imagine if it was this guy beating Rodney King.

The story takes place in a violent, futuristic city named Mega City One where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop named Dredd (Karl Urban) teams with a trainee (Olivia Thirlby) to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO (lead by Lena Headey).

Maybe I’m alone on this boat but I have never ever seen the 1995 Sylvester Stallone original, so I went into this flick with a pretty open-mind, expecting good, bloody things, even if the trailer didn’t do much for me. Now that I’ve seen this, I don’t even think I need to bother with the original. Sorry Sly! I gave you all of my money a month ago!

Another reason besides the trailer, as to why this film didn’t do much for me was because it’s directed by Pete Travis, aka the dude who did the political Groundhog Day, Vantage Point a couple of years back and we all know how that crap turned out. However, the guy actually brings out a certain type of fun, but controlled energy that it seems like this source material needed in the first-place. Since this is an R-rated action flick, you can expect all sorts of action, violence, blood, and guts shooting at the screen, (in fine 3D, may I add) but this time is used with a grittier edge. Actually, a very grittier edge as I don’t think I have ever really felt the need to take a shower from watching a movie in awhile but it adds to the whole look and feel of this flick.

You also can’t help but love how Travis seems like he knows his audience this time around and doesn’t ever seem to alienate them by giving them a cheesy subplot to flesh these characters out, or give them any heartfelt emotional breakthrough that doesn’t seemed deserved. No, the guy sticks straight to the violence and blood, and actually lets loose a couple of funny, but dead-pan one-liners hit you when you least expect it. Sometimes I even missed it because everybody in the theater that I was at with just started howling and I don’t know what happened there. As for all of the political themes that apparently translates from the comics themselves, I couldn’t really find much but you can tell that a lot of this talks about the world we may be fore-seeing due to high-levels of violence and crime running rampant throughout the streets. It’s pretty obvious, but not as heavy-handed as most movies, let alone action ones, that use the same premise and idea.

Where I think that this film sort of screwed itself up with was how the action never really came full-force for me. Yeah, there’s a bunch of cool scenes where people are getting their heads blown-up to pieces and a couple of sweet slo-mo scenes that look even cooler when somebody’s getting shot, but it all happens in a spread-apart fashion that sort of takes away the intensity that this film could have really had. It’s not a slow movie by any means, it just doesn’t really pick up the full head of steam that you thought it would and ends up being a film that follows the pattern of “short burst of action, follow plot. short burst of action, follow plot.” This goes on the whole film and even though I was never bored with it, I couldn’t help but wish they added more action to the mix.

Also, where the hell was that final, big shoot-out? Now, I’m no full-on lover of action movies but when I see an action movie that has such promise between two opposing forces like this one here, you think there’d be some final show-down where both go at it like no other. We do sort of get that, but it happens in a way that’s a bit anti-climactic to the point of where I was reminded of the last showdown in Gangs of New York, where there is all this set-up, all of this hype, and all of this suspense, and it ends up just doing nothing, really.

Despite the action, the plot also could have been a bit more wild and crazy, but also a bit more believable in it’s strange way. The reason I say this is because you’d think with all of the people that are going after Dredd and the rookie, that they would have a hell of a lot harder time getting to the top and killing Ma-Ma, but that’s not really the case. Somehow, someway, without giving too much away, they get to where they need to go pretty easily and it sort of ties into the whole action-element of this flick to where I felt like they really needed to give it an extra-dosage of extreme and wild action to make it all the more exciting. Still, this is a bit of nit-pick if I must say.

It was reported that Karl Urban had been wanting to play this character for the longest time, and 9 times out of 10, that usually means it’s going to be a passion project, by a certain star, that nobody else really shares the same passion with. That 1 time out of 10 is actually what we have here as Urban seems to have a lot of fun playing the straight-laced, vicious, dead-pan hero, Judge Dredd. Granted, Urban isn’t doing anything other than killing people, making serious one-liners, and talking with the same growl that Clint Eastwood had back in his glory days, but he owns it and makes this character a pretty kick-ass one that makes you know when he shows up, shit’s going to get fucked up for sure. It also helps that the costume is really, really cool.

Olivia Thirlby seemed like a strange choice to have in an action film, but she actually does a good job with it because I think that is her whole act here. She isn’t a sadistic and violent mofo like Dredd, instead, she’s a lot more compassionate towards her victims and likes to think about what’s right and what’s wrong with certain people and situations, which causes her and Dredd to actually create a cool chemistry. It was also cool to see this action flick have a chick as the villain here and Lena Headey does a marvelous job at playing the villain, a drug-lord named Ma-Ma, who is just as sadistic and violent as Dredd but instead, is on the opposite side of the law. Headey is good here because she doesn’t over-play the role and is a lot more subtle with it, using her scarred-look to convey some sick and evil ideas that could possibly be on her mind. Nothing spectacular, but at least it wasn’t over-the-top crazy like I was expecting from her, no offense ladies. Also, it was great to see Wood Harris have some juicy screen-time as one of Ma-Ma’s right-hand man that seems to be having a lot of fun with this material, as well. Been awhile since I’ve seen that guy in a prominent role and I’m glad to see him in one here.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t fully satisfy in terms of action, Dredd 3D is still a fun, bloody, and R-rated piece of entertainment that benefits from a gritty look and good performances from a strange, but well-cast group of stars.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Dark Blue (2003)

Still wondering what this had to do with Rodney King trials.

Director Ron Shelton’s thriller illustrates how deep corruption runs in the Los Angeles Police Department in April 1992, days before the acquittal of four white officers in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. In this charged climate, brutal veteran Elden Perry (Kurt Russell) and others in Chief Holland’s (Ving Rhames) Special Investigations Squad are assigned a high-profile quadruple homicide — and their win-at-any-cost attitude must go.

I have seen so many cop dramas, that it’s really hard to say when one is fresh. They each have the same exact plot line mostly, and same out-come, but it all depends on how great those performances are that make the film fun and new, this is one of them with some new takes.

The best thing about this film worth mentioning is the randomly casted Kurt Russell. Out of all the actors working in the biz today, you would not expect Russell to be acting in such a role that demands so much, but even though its a surprise he’s cast as the lead, it’s an even bigger surprise that he’s totally believable with all of it. He plays this third generation cop, who has so much to live up to, and so much to give that it’s hard for him not to fold under pressure, so he does these terrible things to make him look better: kill innocents, plant evidence, etc. But he also goes from bad cop, to hate able cop, to completley evil cop that you want to see dead. He plays this character so well, that he’s not such a guy you hate so much, even though he does these evil things, but also, you feel sympathy for him, cause these things that he does do, are all because of the pressure he feels from supporting his line of work, that hiss family already succeeded with.

Scott Speedman is also pretty good, playing the rookie cop well, even though there’s only one real way you can play it. However, some other cast members were just bland. Ving Rhames is one-note the whole time, never barely showing emotion, and delivering his lines like he was just asking for the paycheck. Sadly, Brendan Gleeson, isn’t very exciting to watch, and his accent is still not believable, especially when he’s trying to sound like an American dude, when he just sounds like he got done from doing 28 Days Later, which he probably was.

The story by the end is interesting with its nice twists and turns, however, does have some problems it comes to being original. I have seen this story done many and many of times, and this shouldn’t have been any different. The last and final speech by Russell is well-acted, but comes off as too random and poetic for me. Mostly, cause it comes at a time when the Rodney King riots are happening, and its just such a coincidence.

Consensus: It’s a by-the-numbers, unsurprising film with a mediocre script, but Dark Blue still features a great performance from Russell that is still worth seeing.

5/10=Rental!!