Category Archives: 2009

I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009)

There is a strange back story with Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself. During a random blackout, my family wanted to intending to see this movie when we were waiting for the electricians to come. They came before we left. It was also the same day when Whitney Houston’s interview with Oprah was coming out and I missed it. I believe it was the universe’s way of telling me to avoid this movie.

If you are not familiar with a Madea movie, I’ll give you a crash course. Tyler Perry dresses up in drag to be the brash, pistol-packing grandma and he also plays her cantankerous brother, Joe. You’re caught up.

In the middle of the night, Madea wakes up to find somebody breaking into her home. She sees that it is three kids trying to take Joe’s first generation VCR. Upon getting caught, they drop the VCR and breaks it. Madea’s first instinct was not to brandish her gun, but to offer the kids something to eat.

Sixteen year old, Jennifer (Hop Olaide Wilson) is the girl with the smart mouth that rolls her eyes at everyone. She has to take care of her diabetic/asthmatic brother, Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and her mentally challenged brother, Byron (Fredrick Siglar) when their grandmother has gone missing for the past four days.

Their only family left is their alcoholic lounge singer aunt April (Taraji P. Henson) who is having an affair with a married man, Randy (Brian White), who doesn’t like kids even though he has four going on five on his own.

When Madea takes the kids over to her house, they figure out a way for the kids to pay for the broken window and VCR by doing chores at Madea’s house. April doesn’t want to take the kids in, because she doesn’t want the responsibility and her house is in shambles when her father left it to her.

She might have a leg up when a Colombian handyman, Sandino Ramirez (Adam Rodriguez) shows up at the doorstep to find a place to stay while fixing up the place. He was sent by Pastor Brian of  the Zion Liberty Baptist Church from down the street and Miss Wilma (Gladys Knight).

This hodgepodge of a household has to work together to get through one of the darkest moments of their lives.

Tyler Perry’s movies have always been criticized for being racist. I don’t think that they are racist. I think that they are terribly predictable. He always has the same type of character in different configurations. There is the heartless bastard (Randy), the scorned woman (April), the nice guy (Sandino), the smart-ass kid(s) (Jennifer) with the loud Madea bringing up the rear.

His movies always have that “Shug Avery” moment, that moment where the lead character figures out the wrongs in their life and be open to change. They try to sell you that church is the panacea. Go to church, all your problems will be solved. You will get the good man, house, kids and life. I don’t believe that.

I was very bored with this movie. I kept looking at the time. When is this movie going to be over? The only things good about this movie were seeing Gladys sing and a brief shot of Brian White’s ass. There were a couple of chuckles in it. That’s it.

Judgment: I’m done talking about this movie.

Rating: 4/10


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been on the news lately with the trilogy by deceased author, Steig Larsson is getting a lot of buzz with David Fincher is talking about remaking it. The movie was released last year in Sweden and got a small release here before it was released on DVD recently. I actually bought the paperback version of the book and haven’t cracked it open before I saw the film. I should read the book to get a better sense of the story.

The film is split up to two sections that would eventually intersect. One side of the story deals with a watchdog journalist from Millennium magazine, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) that is sentenced to three months imprisonment for slandering the name of slimy industrialist, Hans-Erik Wennerström (Stefan Sauk). Mikael accused him fraud and selling illegal firearms. The magazine and he has to pay damages to him. He resigns from the magazine to take the heat off them. His name is on the news everywhere.

The other side of the story is the actual girl with the dragon tattoo, a hacker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace). She works for Milton Security to do a background check on Mikael. What secret is he hiding? She thinks that he was framed with false information by his anonymous source. She is a troubled woman with her violent behavior in her past. She requires a guardian to take charge of her decisions. Her new guardian, Nils Bjurman (Peter Andersson) takes his power too far.

Dirch Frode (Ingvar Hirdwall) contacts Mikael on behalf of Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) to come to his residence. Mikael reluctantly accepts the invitation. Henrik wants to have his investigative skills to solve the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who disappeared in 1966 under mysterious circumstances. They are very close. Henrik is obsessed with finding justice for Harriet when every year on his birthday he gets a flower portrait that was Harriet’s thing. Henrik believes that someone in his immediate family had something to do with her disappearance. He wants to find out whom.

Mikael decides before he has to begin his sentence to take up the cold case. He has to be reminded that Harriet was his babysitter back at the time that she disappeared. Mikael moves into Henrik’s gust house and begins work on the available materials that were a part of the investigation from Gustav Morell (Björn Granath). The more that he hammers away at solving the puzzle, secrets begin to unravel.

Not being familiar with the story or reading a single page of the movie, I was unsure about this movie. The movie is long. Over two and half hours in Swedish could be daunting. The first half of the movie was packed with exposition, strange interactions with Lisbeth and the guardian and staring at the black and white photo of Harriet close-up. To be honest, I got kinda bored with it. The tone seemed off. I believe when the two plotlines come together, I started getting into the movie more.

I’m not saying that this is greatest movie ever. The cold case aspect of the movie was nice, but it was predictable about who did the deed. Being a mystery buff, it was easy to discern who would capable of doing the deed.

The original title of the book was supposed to be “The Men Who Hate Women”. I could understand that why that had to be changed, because a title like that would not have sold or be a successful trilogy. There are some brutal scenes of rape, S&M, misogyny and all that sort. This movie is not for the squeamish. After watching this movie, it makes me want to read the book to put the pieces together that I missed watching this movie. I got confused in some parts.

Judgment: I cannot outright recommend this movie for everyone. Be cautious with this one.

Rating: ***1/2

Coraline (2009)

You are NOT my mother.

— Coraline Jones

Coraline was on my radar to see since it was released in February of 2009. People were talking about how wonderful this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book was. It was my intention to see it, but never got around to it. When it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, it was on the fast track of my viewing schedule. I’m glad that I saw it. I wish I saw it in 3D.

Director Henry Selick of The Nightmare before Christmas fame forgoes the staple of computer animation to the painstakingly slow process of stop motion animation. This movie is like a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland where a family moves from Michigan into the Pink Palace apartments, which is a Victorian house in the middle of nowhere.

A precocious little girl named Coraline Jones (Dakota Fanning) is trying to fight for the attention of her parents, Mel and Charlie (Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman) who are too busy finishing up the work on a gardening catalogue. Coraline explores the surroundings and meets up with a peculiar kid named Wybie (Robert Bailey Jr.) who may or may not be a stalker. There is also a feral cat (Keith David) that is following her as well.

Feeling bored, Coraline looks through the house finds a small door hidden behind a covering of wallpaper in the living room. She wants to know what is behind the door. When the door is opened by her mother, it is bricked up.

That night, Coraline is awakened by a jumping mouse that leads her to the very same door that opens up to a parallel universe where everything is the complete opposite. Her “other mother” cooks her favorite meals and the other father is very attentive and could play the piano. The trouble is that they have black buttons for eyes in this other world. She starts to warm up to this world.

She wakes up back to her normal life. She befriends the other inhabitants on the other apartments like the Russian circus performer, The Amazing Bobinsky (Ian McShane) who tells Coraline not to go into the little door again. His own jumping mice told him so. The old vaudeville duo, April and Miriam (Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French) have her over for tea. Reading her tea leaves, they also warn her that she is in great danger.

She ignores their incessant warnings and travels to the other world again, because she is so unhappy with her mundane existence. Her other mother makes a proposition for her. Since she loves this other life so much, she should stay. The catch is that sews has to sew the black buttons on her eyes. She is resistant about it, but the other mother is not happy with it and she becomes less than motherly.

It is so freaky that this movie was made in stop motion. It was a mice change of pace for the typical kid friendly movie. The story was not groundbreaking, but enjoyable nonetheless. It was a good time spent.

Judgment: It makes me wonder what Henry Selick will do next.

Rating: ***1/2

Crank: High Voltage (2009)

Where’s my fucking pumper?

— Chev Chielos

After I was surprised that enjoyed the batshit crazy movie Crank by directors Neveldine/Taylor, here comes the WTF sequel to the film, Crank: High Voltage. I didn’t see this movie in the theaters because of the bad buzz surrounding it. It tried to top everything that happened in the first movie that nobody could enjoy it.

If you haven’t seen the first movie, I will spoil the ending to that movie to introduce this movie. Be warned.

Picking up three months where the first movie left off, Chev Cheilos (Jason Statham) falls to his supposed death on the concrete after killing the bad guy in a helicopter. His body is quickly recovered by the Chinese mob, The Traids where a pair of surgeons in a dingy backroom promptly cut out his heart and replaces it with an artificial one. Chev quickly dispenses both of them when the new heart starts up.

He gets the name of the person that his “strawberry tart”, Johnny Vang (Art Hsu) from a thug that he sodomized with a lubed shotgun. He has taken his heart in a cooler to an old man named Poon Dong (David Carradine). The one heart that would continue to beat after a person was clinically dead.

Chev realizes that he is attached to a monitoring machine that measures how much power the heart has left. He calls Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakum) to tell him that he doesn’t have time to repower. He gets into a car crash that destroys the device. The only thing he could do is create static electricity to keep it pumping.

He goes to the Cypress Social Club where some of the Triads are at and cleans house trying to find Vang Vang narrowly escapes with the cooler in his hands. Chev meets a hooker, Ria (Bai Ling) who knows where Johnny Vang is at, a local titty bar where Chev’s girlfriend, Eve (Amy Grant) is dancing at. Thinking that Chev was dead, Amy tried to make a living.

In a backroom, Johnny is roughed up by a rival gang member, Chico (Joseph Julian Soria). Chico wants to get the heart for his boss, El Huron (Clifton Collins, Jr.) who wants to settle a debt. Johnny wants to make a deal. There is a confrontation with the gang and Chev with a shoot-out in the club. Vang slips away again.

The police catch up with Chev for the bloodbath at the strip club and what happened three months earlier. He meets Venus (Efren Ramierz) who is the twin brother of Kaylo who was killed in the first movie. Venus has full body Tourette’s. He tries to make any way to receive an electrical charge from tasers to shock collars to dry humping an old lady. Chev goes to the Hollywood Horse Track to find Vang and get his heart back.

I checked my brain at the door when I saw the first movie. This movie is ridiculous with the quick cuts, the non-stop action, the score were too much for me to handle. It was like this movie was on crack. There are no words to express how insane this movie is. Wait a minute. I have three words for you, “Godzilla fighting sequence.”

Judgment: I cannot recommend this movie that anyone that this sober. You have to be a crystal meth to enjoy this movie.

Rating: *1/2

Of Time and the City (2009)

I have never heard of Of Time and the City until I noticed that this was on Michael Phillip’s 2009 list on the now canceled At the Movies. Let’s have a moment of silence. It came highly recommend with a Metacritic score of 81. I knew very little of the movie until I saw it. I don’t get what the fuss is all about.

British actor/director Terence Davies wanted to transport the viewer to his childhood when he was growing up in Liverpool. Instead of writing a memoir recounting every detail of his life, he decides to create a documentary using newsreel and documentary footage from that era to illustrate his narration.

It starts like a secret movie club with a screen uncovered from behind a curtain. The movie starts with the said footage as Terence recounts growing up in a time where strict religious upbringing clashes with hedonistic pleasures, the daily struggles of the working class, the Korean War, mocking the Queen Elizabeth II, the privilege of the royal family, the rise of The Beatles, the decay of his town and the resurgence of the city now.

I thought it was be a journey with Terence Davies physically goes back to Liverpool and recounts his life and how the city has changed. It felt distant. Sometimes I felt bored. There were minutes were you saw endless footage and swelling music. The movie peppered with prose and Davies reciting poems and quotes, but it felt like it has times undeserved praise.

Judgment: You could only enjoy this movie if you are from that time and era.

Rating: **

The Invention of Lying (2009)

The television spots for The Invention of Lying had me befuddled with a world that could only tell the truth. The spots let the main character knows how much the other characters hated him, which I thought was strange that they wouldn’t hold up. They would be lying by omission which goes against their code, sort to speak. The movie has a lukewarm reception last fall when it was released; I thought that this film was much more than brutal honesty.

In this alternate universe, the human race has evolved with only the ability to tell the truth. Anything that pops into their minds comes out of their mouths like oral diarrhea. Damn it, some of their bluntness has rubbed off me. Oh, well. The narrator of this story is an ordinary man named Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) that recounts the events of his before telling the first ever lie. He is afraid that he will be fired from his job as a screenwriter for Lecture Pictures. There is no fiction in this world so everything is researched from found documents are recited into the camera by an orator. Mark works with the 14th century, which is mostly about the Bubonic Plague.

His slacker friend, Greg (Louis CK) sets Mark up on a blind date with his longtime crush, Anna (Jennifer Garner), who is not terribly impressed by Mark when she opens the door. She doesn’t have high hopes for their date, because he is poor, fat with a smug nose. Anna is the complete opposite with discussing all the material things that she can get for work that she doesn’t want to do. Making her feelings known throughout the date takes Mark by surprise where Anna kisses him on the cheek. He thinks that he has a legitimate shot with her.

His worst fears are realized when the next day; he is canned by his boss, Anthony (Jeffery Tambor). Then, the landlord comes by for the rent. He has only three hundred left in his account. He has one day until he is out on the street. Going to the bank to withdraw the amount with the system down the teller asks Mark how much to withdraw, a switch is triggered in his mind to say eight hundred. The systems goes back online, the teller sees three hundred, but she trusts that Mark is telling her the truth and gives him the eight hundred.

Mark is giddy like a schoolgirl. He tests out his leap of the evolutionary ladder by telling Greg about this new idea he stumbled upon. He is drunk his new found power that he could do whatever he wants; cheating at a local casino, telling white lies to keep people from killing themselves like his neighbor, Frank (Jonah Hill), write a fictional screenplay that stick it to fellow screenwriter, Brad (Rob Lowe) and former assistant, Shelley (Tina Fey) and have the “stature” to have a second date with Anna. The more lies he tells, the greater the ramifications of those multiply.

I’m surprised that people aren’t depressed in this world. Some subjects should have been explored more with the damage done by hearing nothing but the truth all of your life. I thought some instances of this world rang false. There is supposed to be no doubt in this world, but at the end of the movie a character is having them. Wouldn’t that be a lie? There were some instances about genetic match ups that got on my nerves a little bit. The movie is not laugh out loud comedy. It’s actually sweet and touching.

Judgment: It makes you rethink about what is right instance of telling the truth and telling a white lie.

Rating: ****

Drag Me to Hell (2009)

You’d be surprised what you’ll be willing to do, when the Lamia comes for you.

— Rham Jas

Don’t hate for this proclamation, but I am not familiar with Sam Raimi’s comedic horror past with The Evil Dead series. I should visit them in the future, but I thought I would start with Raimi going back to his roots with Drag Me to Hell. This movie freaked me out.

A plucky loan officer, Christine Brown (Alison Lohman) longs to be assistant manager at her bank, but she is constantly undermined by ass kisser, Stu (Reggie Lee). Her boss, Mr. Jacks (David Paymer) is deciding between the two of them. In order for her to get the position, she needs to make tough decision to secure it.

As by maligned fate, a decrepit woman Mrs. Ganush (Lorna Raver) appears at her desk, asking Christine to stop the repossession of her house. With two extensions under her belt, there is nothing for Christine to do. She decides to turn her down. Mrs. Ganush begs her to try to save house. Christine stands her ground. Mrs. Ganush pounces on Christine and is forced out.

When Christine is going to her car after work, she is attacked by Mrs. Ganush who felt that she has publicly shamed her. They fight. Christine thinks she defeated her, but the old hag got the upper hand reciting an incantation by using a button from her jacket. She hands the button back to Christine.

Visibly shaken from the ordeal Christine wants to get her fortune read when strange occurrences start to happen. Her boyfriend, Clay Dalton (Justin Long) goes with her. The fortune teller Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) says that she has been cursed by the old woman. A dark spirit surrounds her. Clay is skeptical of the fortune teller’s powers.

After Christine arrives home alone, she hears strange noises in her house when she is alone. She sees a demonic figure. A doctor thinks that it’s post-traumatic stress disorder because of the attack. In the middle of night, a fly enters her body. She thinks it’s not real but she can here is buzzing inside her. She begins to see the old woman in nightmarish hallucinations.

She tries to get back with Mrs. Ganush to ask her for forgiveness, but she is recently died. She goes back to the Rham Jas; he tells her about the dark spirit that is haunting her. It is called a lamia, which takes the possessor of the cursed object to Hell. He offers alternative to rid of the curse. She wants to do anything to not be condemned to hell in three days time.

I thought that this movie would be a cup of tea. Damn, I was sucked into this movie. The genesis of how Christine got the curse was a little ridiculous, but I could forgive it because of nature of the movie. Besides I think the posters and the trailer kinda give away the ending. That’s unfortunate.

Judgment: It’s a wild ride that everyone should get on board.

Rating: ****1/2

Food, Inc. (2009)

There are no seasons in the American supermarket. Now there are tomatoes all year round, grown halfway around the world, picked when it was green, and ripened with ethylene gas. Although it looks like a tomato, it’s kind of a notional tomato. I mean, it’s the idea of a tomato.

— Michael Pollan

Food, Inc. is another documentary that flew under the radar to general audiences. I have heard about this movie before it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature. Numerous podcasts were talking about that when you see this movie, it would make you a vegetarian. While this film didn’t make me a vegetarian, it made me sad for the fried chicken that I had for dinner that night.

Director Robert Kenner delves into world that Americans don’t know about the food that they have been ordering in fast food restaurants across their country. Where does the meat in those Big Macs or Chicken Club Sandwiches come from? This documentary sheds light on the notion that we think that when we goes to grocery stores there is a lot of varieties on the shelves. The truth is that four companies control almost of all of the meat that is served to Americans everyday.

Corporations like Tyson are placing growth hormones in feed to make chickens grow rapidly. The chickens’ bones cannot support the weight of their ever changing bodies. The beef industry has a huge slaughterhouses that are force feeding cows to eat corn so they could grown big and fat to be slaughtered. The problem is with these huge slaughterhouses is cows are cannot digest the corn in their four stomachs, they stand in their own shit, when they are slaughtered nobody is testing for any contamination.

You think that the FDA or the USDA would step in to regulate the food industry? Wrong. The corporations are trying to force the feds out of their plants. They are turning to high tech solutions to try to solve the country’s problem. There is still leaks in the system where the Mad Cow’s Disease was found in tainted meat, the E.Coli scares in the past couple of years in ground beef and spinach or the salmonella poisoning in peanut butter.

The companies are buying independent farmers to work for them by forcing them into massive debt to upgrade their chicken coops or the way their crops are utilized. The ways that corporate products like soda, hamburgers, etc are cheap and fresh vegetables are expensive. The average American family has to go to the drive thru than buy fresh vegetables, because it’s cheaper. The chemicals in the food are focusing the obesity epidemic and are leading the diabetes in most people.

This movie is a call to action for farmer to stand up to the corporate greed, to go to the farmer’s markets for organic foods. Personally for me, I understood for a long time that there were growth hormones in meat, genetic modified crops, pesticides and all that. I am not one of those people that eat a lot of vegetables. I’m a carnivore. Do I wish I changed my eating habits? Of course. I think that Americans are complacent about the way things are going that nobody is realizing that the corporate chokehold is killing us with the infrequent inspections of products or putting ammonia in the meat to “kill the E.Coli” in it.

Judgment: This movie will make you think about the monopolizing of how the food supply is being handled.

Rating: ****1/2

Logorama (2009)

Logorama was recently nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Short Film. I heard about this movie from article on the Cinematical website. They were saying that it was a must-see, that it was brilliant, I decided to see it. I have to say that the movie is very good watch.

The movie takes place entirely in a stylized town where the buildings, vehicles and landscapes in made of corporate logos. This movie anthropomorphize mascots like the Michelin men into foul-mouthed cops who are chasing after a bad guy that turns out to be Ronald McDonald. Caught in the middle of the action are Bob’s Big Boy and an Esso waitress. There is a stand off between the two factions when a natural disaster happens to put a wrench into each side’s plans.

I was surprised to learn that the creators François Alaux, Herve de Crecy, Ludovic Houplain used over 2,500 logos in the movie. Incorporating the numerous in different ways was very creative and inventive. How could they create this movie without being up in their eyeballs in lawsuits for copyright infringement? I believe that the filmmakers people aware the humans are obsessed with labels, name brands that it has infiltrated our lives like a virus.

You have to watch to see cartoon junk and ass, Mr. Clean as a lispy tour guide, the Pringles guys tries to hit on a girl and interesting way using the X-box, Pepsi, NASA, and Milky Way logos.

Judgment: You could check the movie on YouTube by searching for the title. It’s under fifteen minutes. It’s well worth your time.

Rating: ****1/2

Crazy Heart (2009)

I want to talk about how bad you make this room look.

— Bad Blake

Crazy Heart is the movie that could finally win Jeff Bridges an Academy after four unsuccessful nominations. People think that it’s time for him to get his due. While I do believe that wholeheartedly, I think this is not the Best Actor performance of the year. This is a performance for the Academy to award, which is a shame.

Based on the book by Thomas Cobb, the movie centers around an aging country musician simply named Bad Blake (Bridges) that had been hitting the bottle too many times to write any songs that made him famous in the first time. He is a down and out guy barely living off the money that his manager Jack Greene (Paul Herman) sent that he pissed away on gas for his jalopy, Betsy, drunk groupies, and his vice of choice; whiskey. Out of the spotlight for so long that he is subjected to playing in bowling alleys and dive bars just to have to chance to sing one more time.

When Bad Blake is playing in a dive bar in Santa Fe, a bar manager, Wesley Barnes (Rick Dial) asks him that his niece, Jean Caddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal) could interview him before he performs that night. When Jean shows up at his motel room, Blake is taken with the young woman that wants to get to know the “real” Blake. Jean is weary about Bad Blake’s drinking could be a huge hurdle for their relationship. They begin a love affair inexplicably. What is it about this disheveled 56-year-old mess with greasy hair, permanent sweat stains on his shirt, his pants always unfastened? Is it because of the great song that he wrote that go into his soul? I don’t know.

Blake has a chance to get his name back out there to the modern day audiences if he could be the opening act for a former protégé, Tommy Sweet (Colin Firth). Not having that much money, he decides to do it. After concert, Tommy asks Bad Blake that he could write songs for him for his upcoming album that he is recording. The problem is that Bad Blake hasn’t written a song in over three years. Blake is trying to find some way to his name out of obscurity before he could be another forgotten tragic music legend.

Everybody is comparing this movie to The Wrestler, which is an apt comparison, but this movie feels soulless. Without the performances of Bridges and Gyllenhaal, this film would be nothing but another rags-to-riches story. I thought the first twenty or so of this movie was very good, but when you have the pseudo-family element tacked on in there, the movie falls apart. I was bored. People were groaning that there was more movie when it fades to black before the last sequence.

When I see Jeff Bridges, I kept thinking about “The Dude” that mumbles his lines and the songs. I didn’t understand most of what he is saying. I don’t understand why Bridges is getting the awards lately, except for sympathy.

You have to classic Oscar-bait tropes here, an alcoholic, poor, has a relationship with the only woman onscreen, he pukes, has some sort of breakdown, running around undressed. The Academy shouldn’t be falling for this, but they are. Bridges will get the Oscar, which is unfair.

Before I close out this review, I had one giant question. When he comes back to Houston, he goes to his house. If this guy doesn’t have two nickels to rub together, how could he afford a decent sized house with running water and gas?

Judgment: This is purely a performance only movie. Don’t expect to be entertained by anything except the music.

Rating: **1/2

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