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Talk to Me (2007)

 I’ll tell it to the hot, I’ll tell it to the cold. I’ll tell it to the young, I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’. This is Petey Greene’s Washington.

— Petey Greene

I did not mean for this to be a Kasi Lemmon’s double feature, but I was taken aback when I saw her name as the director of Talk to Me. I vaguely remember the movie when it was in theaters in 2007. It seemed like a nice enough movie, but I never got the nerve to watch until now. I’m glad I did.

An uptight radio program director, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) visits his brother, Milo (Mike Epps) in prison. He comes out of obligation. They overhear an abrasive voice coming over the loudspeaker. It belongs to do Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. (Don Cheadle) who is broadcasting his show out of Warden Smithers (Peter MacNeill) office. Milo has been writing Dewey about Petey.

The station that Dewey works for, WOL is sagging listenership and is looking for a new deejay to replace Sunny Jim Kelsey (Vondie Curtis-Hall) in the morning shift. Dewey doesn’t like Petey’s delivery and tries to leave the prison. Dewey is cornered by Petey’s main squeeze, Vernell (Taraji P. Henson) to give him a chance when he gets out of the joint.

Dewey blindly agree to it. When Petey is released from prison and come barging through the doors asking for the job, Dewey acts stupid about it. After not getting the position, Petey decides to protest the station doors until he could get the position. Dewey asks the station owner, Mr. Sonderling (Martin Sheen) to give him an opportunity.

After a shaky start, Petey becomes a prominent voice of the black community during the civil rights movement in the late 60s. No other station was talking about black issues at the time. People needed to hear the stories that are happening in their community.

I was laughing my ass off with this movie. Don Cheadle has a delivery that make you believe that he is this character. I enjoyed the way that Petey told it like it is. He didn’t give a damn about who he offended. Some things needed to be said. I loved that. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as Dewey. He even won the Indie Spirit Award for his performance. It was well-deserved.

Judgment: I love watching a story about a person that I never heard of and I would like to get the chance to know more.

Rating: 8/10

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Boogie Nights (1997)

You don’t know what I can do! You don’t know what I can do, what I’m gonna do, or what I’m gonna be! I’m good! I have good things and you don’t know about! I’m gonna be something! I am! And don’t fucking tell me I’m not!

— Dirk Diggler

Since Julianne Moore has been wisely picked as the next LAMB Acting School 101, I thought I would revisit some the movies that she has made that made us fall in love with her onscreen. First is the movie that nobody thought would get made because of the subject. Nobody has a made a Hollywood mainstream picture about porn before. Julianne was nominated from an Oscar for her supporting work as well as Burt Reynolds and director Paul Thomas Anderson for his script for Boogie Nights. This movie is still memorable to watch and it is not because of the last shot of the movie. Get your minds out of the gutter.

The movie borrows the life story of legendary porn star John Holmes and his involvement in the Wonderland murders in this movie to a certain point. Recast in the role of John Holmes is 17-year-old high school dropout, Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a down on his luck young man who is blessed with a tripod in his pants. He works for Maurice TT Rodriguez (Luis Guzmán) at his club, Hot Traxx as a bus boy.

Major porn director Jack Horner (Reynolds) spots Eddie and wants to put him in his upcoming movie that he is shooting soon. He considers the offer. Looking upon the coiled snake in his briefs, Eddie thinks that is his ticket out of his humdrum life in Torrance with his ice queen of a mother, (Johanna Gleason). Jack decides to thrown in a ringer with the willing mouth of Rollergirl (Heather Graham), which prompts him to further audition with Rollergirl in home he shares with motherly Amber Waves (Moore).

Decided to go under the tutelage of Horner, Eddie meets some of his co-workers like the man who tries to be hip, but fails miserably, Buck Swope (Don Cheadle), the black superstar, Becky Barnett (Nicole Ari Parker), the everyman, Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly), Little Bill (William H. Macy) who has to keep tabs on his cheating wife (Nina Hartley), the cameraman Kurt Longjohn (Ricky Jay) and the sound guy that develops a crush on Eddie, Scotty J (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

The producer of Jack’s films, The Colonel (Robert Ridgely) asks Eddie to change his name into something that he is comfortable with. He decides on his name from a dream that he had, Dirk Diggler. On his first day on set, he is natural having sex in front of a room full of people with Amber. Dirk quickly becomes the number one male porn star in the business with the fancy clothes, polished cars and the awards. As is customary with stardom, what goes up must come down. This is all about Dirk’s tumultuous journey in the industry.

The movie is playful with the bad porn dialogue the actors have to recite, but there is also some touching moments Rollergirl gets called out in during the exam, Amber trying to talk to her son or Dirk’s downward spiral were devastating to me.

I loved the performances from Mark Wahlberg’s first leading role in a film was beyond what I expected from a former pants-dropping rapper, Burt Reynolds was calm, cool and collected and of course, Julianne Moore looked like she was in 1970s with her fiery red hair, freckles on her porcelain skin and her demeanor as Amber Waves. It was her laid back presence that give her notice during the 1998 award show season.

Judgment: This is the best movie about the porn industry ever created.

Rating: ****1/2

Iron Man 2 (2010)

I wanna make Iron Man look like an antique.

— Justin Hammer

I thoroughly enjoyed the surprise hit, Iron Man and I was eagerly anticipating this sequel, Iron Man 2. I had to go into boot camp put the kibosh on that. When I came back, everybody was meh with it. People were saying this just a bridge between this and the upcoming Avengers movie. I blasted this film on a recent LAMBcast without watching a single frame of the movie. I wanted to make sure were my unfounded criticisms were validated and they were for the most part.

After revealing to world that he is Iron Man, Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.)  popularity has skyrocketed to epic proportions. With notoriety comes a detractor like Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) who summons him to the Arm Services Committee to recommend giving up the technology to the US government, because it is a weapon in a civilian’s hands.  Stark’s inflated ego tries to dodge giving the Iron Man suit away as his rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) tries to embarrass him with turning Col. Rhodes’s (Don Cheadle) word on him. Hammer is found out by Stark to have tried to replicate the technology to sell it to enemies of the US.

His company is in shambles with Tony headlining the year long Stark Expo while his trusty assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) tries to fan the fires. Tony has enough to deal with the core that is keeping the shrapnel from getting into his heart is unstable and is contaminating him from the inside out. Stark is worried that his time in running short and needs to find a successor. He quickly appoints Pepper as Chairman/CEO of Stark Industries. Potts replacement, Natasha Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) is brought in and the women get off on the wrong foot.

During the Monaco Grand Prix, Tony brazenly commandeers a car to race it when the event is rudely interrupted by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who replicated the core technology to use for his whips on each hand. A fight ensues between Vanko and Iron Man. When Vanko is defeated, he is hauled off to jail where Tony visits him to see why Vanko attacked him. Vanko explains about his father working the same technology with Tony’s father, Howard (John Slattery) decades earlier. Justin Hammer enlists Vanko to develop personal Iron Mans of his own to bring down Stark.

I think that the massive success of the first movie tainted the quality of this movie. It seems a bit bloated with the meandering dialogue that went nowhere. The character acted like they were children. Bickering back and forth would turn you off. The wow factor of the first movie was not here. I thought the supporting people were completely wasted here. They have a little dialogue to say and they are gone for fifteen minutes. It was great that they introduced Tony when would get drunk, but I thought the climax of that was a bit too much for my taste. The only person I liked was Rourke. He was deliciously evil that I couldn’t wait for him to pop back on screen.

Judgment: The magic of the first movie could not be replicated in this movie. It was a cheap imitation.

Rating: ***

Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)

You know, you’re half smart, Ocean.

— Willy Bank

Soderbergh and company wanted to conclude the Ocean’s saga with Ocean’s Thirteen. This installment is a return of form with the gang returning to their roots in Las Vegas. I am glad that everyone returned to the slick caper story like the first movie.

During their absences between capers, the gang is reunited when Reuben suffers a cardiac infarction when a deal with an egomaniacal property owner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino) goes south. When one of the Twelve is wronged, a price needs to be paid. Danny pays Willy a visit when he was at the construction of his place, The Bank Casino.

The Bank Casino is an extravagant showplace with no expense spared with its marble floors and golden silverware. Willy wants to win another “Five Diamond” necklace for the best hotel in terms of customer service and overall cleanliness. Willy’s right-hand woman, Abigail (Ellen Barkin) is his eyes and ears to see if anybody would do anything during their soft opening.

Danny and Rusty seek the advice of Roman to find a way to seek revenge on Willy before the official opening of The Bank Casino on July 3rd. After some brainstorming, the team decides to destroy Willy from the inside out. First, they have to get inside of the building by bribing the lead concierge, Debbie (Olga Sosnovska), rig all of the games so the gamblers win, create a seismic event and distract a “Five Diamond” critic (David Paymer).

If they pull off this feat, they could get away with over $500 million dollars and at the same time bankrupt Willy Bank in the process. As their plan goes along, they realized that they bit off more than they can chew. Begrudgingly, they seek the help of Terry Benedict to help them carry out the mission.

First, what was up with Al Pacino’s skin? He was fluorescent orange. He was tanoxeric. It distracted me. I’m glad that they recaptured some of the magic from the first movie. I have a problem with some of the lighting. The shadowy scenes muddled everything. Nothing popped out of the screen. Soderbergh ended the series of a good note.

Judgment: If you want to see a return to form, watch this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)

Terry, I can’t predict the future. I pay professionals to do that, and even they get it wrong sometimes.

— Reuben

After the massive success of the first movie, Soderburgh and company came back together for Ocean’s Twelve. This setting and story are dramatically different from the glitz and glamour from the first incarnation. Instead of the bright lights of the Las Vegas, the Eleven are focused their attention on Europe. I think that this was a mistake, because it hurt the caper aspect of the story.

When the Eleven successful pilfered Terry Benedict out of his $150 million dollars at the ending of the first movie, (spoiler alert) the beginning show how the gang was doing during the three and a half since the heist. Most of them spent some or all of their $13 million dollars cut.

They get a rude awakening when Benedict tracks them all down wherever they were hiding. He offers them a chance to correct their mistakes by stealing his money. Benedict gives them two weeks to return the money with interest, which is roughly $200 million dollars, or he will kill them.

The gang has a pow-wow to discuss how they could get the money is that short amount of time. They decide to go to Amsterdam to meet up with Matsui (Robbie Coltrane), who gives them an assignment to steal the world’s oldest stock certificate from 1602 worth $2.5 million Euros.

When they do, they realize that a famous cat burglar named “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) got the stock first. Not only that, but the team realizes that The Night Fox made the call to Benedict that ratted them out.

The Night Fox issues a challenge to the Ocean’s Eleven to steal a Coronation Faberge Egg from exhibit in Paris. They want to beat The Night Fox at their own game. Eleven becomes Twelve when they enlist the help of Roman (Eddie Izzard) to help pull off the switch-a-roo.

This movie as a whole is not well executed. The dialogue was not up to par. The scenes dragged on way too long. I was bored to tears. The movie looks grainy. The interaction with the members felt clunky and stagy. There wasn’t the synergy from the first outing. I was disappointed with this movie, especially the last thirty that fell off the tracks.

Judgment: This is one of the instances that the sequel is not better than the original.

Rating: **1/2

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

You guys are pros. The best. I’m sure you can make it out of the casino. Of course, lest we forget, once you’re out the front door, you’re still in the middle of the fucking desert!

— Reuben

Breaking away from his trademark quirky sensibility, Steven Soderbergh remade the 1960s Rat Pack classic heist film, Ocean’s Eleven. Instead of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammie Davis, Jr., the main leads are George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Quite a departure. Soderbergh has some success with mainstream movies; I think that his subsequent Ocean’s trilogy exposed himself more to the mainstream consciousness.

Re-channeling his Out of Sight persona, George Clooney plays the titular Danny Ocean that is recently paroled after four years. When he is released, he goes to old stomping grounds to reconnect with his former crewmembers, travel across the country to reconnect with the poker teacher to the stars, Rusty (Pitt).

Ocean’s plan is to steal “x” amount dollars from three casinos, the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand all of them owned Las Vegas casino owner, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He would need a large crew at least a dozen to pull off the multiple cons needed to pull off the heist.

Seeing that they need a way inside the way, Danny and Rusty pay a visit to a former casino owner that was wronged by Benedict and knows the ins and outs of the security system, Reuben (Elliott Gould). After he is in, the rest of the crew is assembled like Frank (Bernie Mac), two drivers the twins, Virgil and Turk (Casey Affleck, Scott Caan), electronic expert Livingston (Eddie Jemison), explosives Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), a “grease man” Yen (Shaobo Qin), Saul (Carl Reiner) and last but not least, master of disguise, Linus (Damon).

They have pow-wow to lay out the foundation of this impossible feat. If they succeed, they stand to get 150 million dollars when the casinos are distracted from an upcoming fight between Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko that same day. In order to let the heist run slowly, they have to lay the groundwork like plant a device on the casino’s closed circuit camera, recreating the vault to practice, the daily routine of their mark.

While relaying the routine of Benedict, Linus thought it would be a good idea to enlist the help of Benedict’s main squeeze, Tess (Julia Roberts) who was also Danny’s ex-wife. Danny’s ulterior motive becomes clear that steals the money is not his only motivation. He wants to get Tess back.

The movie is slick and a little too polished. I had the same problem with this movie as I did with Spike Lee’s Inside Man. I don’t like it when a filmmaker talks down the audience. We don’t need to know every single detail that needed to be explained. When the heist was taking place, I didn’t believe that these people would be able to pull that off. The only person that I liked was Andy Garcia. He has a permanent stoic look on his face that works well with his dickish Terry Benedict.

Judgment: Have a good time with Ocean and the gang in this solid remake.

Rating: ****

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