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Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.

— Eve

It has been a decade since I have seen Kasi Lemmons’ Eve’s Bayou. I remember that it was sitting in my grandmother’s VHS shelf for years gathering dust for all I know. I saw a copy of the movie that my library and picked. I remember certain parts of the movie, but it’s good to have a refresher.

1962 Louisana is where we have the story of the Batiste family. Eve (Jurnee Smollett) named after an ancestor that saved her master from dying, is being treated unfairly by the family. Being the middle child, she is left out in the cold.

During a house party one night, Eve caught her father, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) being intimate with a woman, Metty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson) in the carriage house where she was hiding. Traumatized about what she saw, Louis tries to keep his secret quiet from his wife, Roz (Lynn Whitfield).

She tries to tell her older sister, Cisely (Meagan Good) about what she saw, but Cisely chooses not to believe her. She thinks that she is lying. Cisely spins the story to say that they were drunk and falling on each other.

Eve begins to have terrible nightmares or maybe they are premonitions of what things are to come. She hangs around her Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) who is the psychic around the bayou and possibly practices voodoo.

Roz knows deep down in her soul that Louis is being unfaithful to her. She regrets leaving her family for a snake in the grass. Walking down by the bayou, Roz and Mozelle stumbles upon Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a rival psychic of Mozelle’s. Curious Roz decides to have a reading that warns her of impending doom in her family. Unimpressed by Elzora, Mozelle asks for a reading. Elzora tells her that she is a “black widow” cursed with having the loves of her life dies in front of her very eyes.

Slowly but surely, the secrets that were long-buried deep come up in unexpected ways. The family lives turn upside down.

It is refreshing to see a black movie that has complex characters. They are fully realized. I especially enjoyed watching Debbi Morgan’s performance. She won nominated for a couple of awards for her performance and won the Indie Spirit Award. It was well deserved.

Judgment: A movie that has heart, but tends to veer into the melodramatic at times.

Rating: 7.5/10

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The Sunset Limited (2011)

I don’t believe in God. Can you understand that? Look around you, man. Can’t you see? The clamour and din of those in torment has to be the sound most pleasing to his ear.

— White

I was mildly interested in seeing The Sunset Limited when it came on HBO a couple of weeks. When I first saw the film, I fell asleep halfway through it. I thought maybe it was that I was tired. Looking at the film again, I almost fell asleep again. The movie was very dry.

Based on the play by famed author, Cormac McCarthy adapted it to become a television movie directed by Tommy Lee Jones. The main thrust of the movie is about an ex-con, Mr. Black (Samuel L. Jackson) saving a philosophy professor, Mr. White (Tommy Lee Jones) from being a Jackson Pollack painting on a subway car called “The Sunset Limited.” The whole movie is taking place at Mr. Black’s rundown apartment where he is trying to dissect why would an educated man wanted to end his life.

It was a verbal chess match with the two opposing forces trying to get to the checkmate. Mr. Black is the spiritual man trying to find the good in people where Mr. White sees nothing but darkness. Mr. Black wants to save Mr. White from doing the same thing again the next day by having a lengthy discussion with him about faith, the human condition and man’s existence in the world.

I understand the intention of what Cormac McCarthy was trying to do. The eternal debate of nihilism and blind faith. Black and white. Light and darkness. He tries to turn traditional images of this on its head. Have the “white” character be filled with darkness and have the “black” character be very hopeful about life and God. I do not believe that a philosophy professor would have an existential conversation on a deep level with an ex-con.

Besides, I thought Jackson blow Jones out of the water. I felt like a play being filmed. Is this a knock on Tommy Lee Jones as the director? Yes. I was bored by the end of the movie. There were some moments of brilliance in the movie but it was too few and far between.

Judgment: What was the point of the movie, to advocate atheism?

Rating: 5.5/10

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: ***

True Romance (1993)

 

Hi. How are you? My name’s Elliot, and I’m with the Cub Scouts of America. We’re… we’re selling uncut cocaine to get to the jamboree.

— Elliot

Quentin Tarantino penned the script for True Romance for director Tony Scott. I heard about this movie, because when I saw the IMDb page of Inglourious Basterds. He made one of the characters “Bear Jew” Donowitz the grandfather of one of the character in this movie. I thought I might check it out. I think this was Tarantino’s attempt to have a bloodily romantic movie, but it fails.

Taking place in Detroit, a comic book store worker, Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) goes to a Sonny Chiba “Street Fighter” triple feature. A beautiful young woman, Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) intentionally bumps into him there. They take a liking to each other and meet each other for pie. He tries to get to know her more, but she is coy.

They quickly fall in love and have sex. Afterwards, Alabama confesses to him that she is a call girl that was hired by his boss to get him laid on his birthday. They promise to be with each other always and get married the next day. She tells him about her fucked up life and how needed to get her stuff back from her pimp

When shit is about to go down the spirit of Elvis (Val Kilmer) gives Clarence a quick pep talk in the bathroom. Clarence wants to retrieve Alabama’s stuff from her former pimp, a Rasta man named Drexl (Gary Oldman). Going over there, things go wrong when he kills Drexl and takes a suitcase. It turns out that suitcase is filled with a million dollars worth of cocaine from a drug lord, Blue Lou Boyle.

The duo doesn’t know this. When Clarence comes back to the apartment bloody and bruised, Alabama is turned on by doing anything for her. They go over to a trailer house to meet his father, Clifford (Dennis Hooper), who is a police officer. They haven’t seen each other in three years. He wanted to know if the cops are after the twosome. Clifford tells them that they are in the clear.

They take a road trip Clarence’s best friend in Hollywood, Dick Ritchie (Michael Rappaport), an actor with his stoner roommate, Floyd (Brad Pitt). After the duo leaves, Vincenzo Coccotti (Chirstopher Walken), the local counsel for Boyle, pays Clifford a visit. The thugs interrogate him when Clarence dropped his license at the crime scene. They want to get their score back.

The movie is supposed to be a modern version of Bonnie and Clyde, but the movie felt false. You know you hear Tarantino dialogue when the characters ramble on about movies and minute trivia. The movie as whole laid flat. There was no oomph. I didn’t care if the characters lived or died. It was disappointing.

Judgment: Words cannot describe how terrible this movie is.

Rating: **1/2

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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I’m prepared to scour the the Earth for that motherfucker. If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.

–Marsellus

It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction, which ushered Quentin Tarantino in the mainstream. The movie has been heavily quoted since its release. It did win for Best Original Screenplay. That’s says a lot. It was also nominated for seven Oscars. It’s currently #5 on the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It belongs there.

I owned the VHS of this movie and played it repeatedly. I could quote almost every line from the film. It sucked that my brother’s former girlfriend took the tape with her when they broke up.

It been awhile since I have seen this. After watching Inglourious Basterds, I wanted to see this movie again. I still enjoy the dialogue, the classic music and most of the performances. This fringe movie bent the rules of the Academy. It deserved a lot more acclaim.

If you don’t know the plot of the story – shame on you – revolves around multiple narrative that intercept and become jumbled up. It starts with a pair of robbers, Ringo and Yolanda (Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer) holding up a restaurant where two hit men who had a interesting day on the job, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield (John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson).

In his signature broken narrative, there is also stories about Vincent taking his boss’s wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) on a night on the town, dealing with a skuzzy drug dealer, (Eric Stolz). The boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) dealing with an aging boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis) to throw a fight.

Tarantino is known for his long, drawn out dialogue scenes with some sprinklings of violence. One sequence still bothers me to this day. It’s the moment about the origin of “the gold watch”. It didn’t make any sense to me. Why was that in the movie? Why was that the motivation to Butch?

Judgment: If you haven’t seen this movie, return your movie snob card immediately.

Rating: ****1/2

The Spirit (2008)

spirit_ver14

My city, I can not deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Spirit.

— The Spirit

Universally panned by critics and the word mouths of the entire internet, The Spirit was unfortunately brought to us by writer/director Frank Miller who tried to parlay his successful collaboration of Sin City into this movie. It delivered on the pure suckage that it was promised.

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is a crime fighter and notorious womanizer that lives in the fictional Central City. He is constantly fighting the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) that gets into his mind about why he could withstand a lot of punishment and is able to heal himself. Octopus and his partner in crime, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johannson) and his team of idiotic goons Pathos, Ethos, Logos (all played by Louis Lombardi) look for a vase filled with blood of Heracles to make him immortal like a god.

The Spirit teams up with a local detective that loves the word “goddamn” Dolan (Dan Lauria) and a rookie with high pitched voice, Morgenstern (Stana Katic) to uncover any connection between the random crimes to the Octopus, and a beautiful jewel thief named Sand Saref (Eva Mendes). She wants to attain the ultimate prize, a lost artifact from the Argonauts, Jason’s Golden Fleece.

The movie is classic style over substance. Having a comic book writer, as film director does not go hand and hand with Miller being more interested in the visual look of the film that he forgets to realize that the actors need to be on the same page with the look. The actors struggle to make this movie make any semblance of coherent sense, but they fail because Miller dropped the ball actually directing them.

Macht throws on his “I’m Batman” Christian Bale voice having long conversations with himself and loving his pussycat. Jackson is like a chicken with its head cut off talking about eggs for some reason. Johansson is so wooden; you believe that her soul was missing. Mendes’s character is obsessed with shiny anything and her ass that wants to be a femme fatale, but it makes you want to kill yourself. Sarah Paulson as The Spirit’s love interest, Ellen Dolan acted like she was in a bad soap opera. It’s a damn shame.

The movie is hallow. The action is over the top and cartoonish. It’s laughable. The plot is non-existent and filled with plot holes. You don’t have any idea what the fuck is going on. Who are these people? Are they living in the 1940s? Present day? The dialogue is atrocious with such gems as “Shut up and bleed,” “I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead,” and “All the enemy has is gun to knives. I have the entire city as my weapon.” Are you serious?

Please, Frank Miller, I implore you. If you want to direct another movie, stop and think. Take some classes about the art of filmmaking. With this movie, it looked like you were mocking it. You didn’t care about the joy and satisfaction of making a competent movie. Collaborate with other directors. Stick your feet in with short films to gain some experience. Something.

Judgment: If you are a person that enjoys shitty movies, this one is the Holy Grail for you.

Rating: *

Black Snake Moan (2007)

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God put you in my path and I aim to cure you of your wicked ways.

— Lazarus

Being that I was indisposed for a couple of days, I wanted to get back to the work at hand. Being bedridden over the weekend, I was bored. So, I decided to visit a movie that is the follow-up to Craig Brewer’s Oscar nominated film, Hustle & Flow is Black Snake Moan. This is a solid movie that you should see.

In the beginning of the movie, Rae (Christina Ricci) is an uneducated nymphomaniac that has to cope with the fact that her military boyfriend, Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) is leaving for basic training. When he leaves, she gets one of her “spells” and sleeps with any guy with a heartbeat, including a local pusher, Tehronne (David Banner).

Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) is a lonely bluesman that is reeling the betrayal of his second wife, Rose (Adraine Lenox) shacking up with his younger brother. The unconventional Reverend R.L. (John Cothran Jr.) bumps into Laz to urge him to come back to church. Laz refuses.

One night, Ronnie’s friend, Gill (Michael Raymond-James) makes a move on Rae when she refuses his advances, he beats her up and dumps at the side of the road. It happens to be near Laz’s house. He discovers her.

He tries to take care of her including her cough. Laz visits the local drugstore to asks the pharmacist there, Angela (S. Epatha Merkerson) about medicine to help Rae out.

Going around town, including a conversation with Tehronne, suggests that Rae is possessed by a sex demon and Laz has no choice but to chain Rae to his radiator to exorcise the demon inside of her.

In my opinion, the central message of the movie is that secrets can away at your soul. You need to free yourself of those bad vibes before it encompasses you entire life. Comparing this to his debut, the musical elements are integral to move the plot along. It’s woven seamlessly here.

There was a major element in the movie that I didn’t understand. If you have seen the movie, let me know. Laz is a guy that doesn’t go to church, but when he finds Rae on the dirt road. He decides to exorcise the sex demon that is inside of her, but he doesn’t do that. Also, Justin Timberlake was not believable in the role of Ronnie. He did not have the chops to pull it off.

Judgment: I would suggest this movie to people who have seen Hustle and Flow and want to see the next film by Brewer.

Rating: ****

Lakeview Terrace (2008)

“What could be safer than living next to a cop?”

Here is another movie that I was intending to see in the theaters last September, but I didn’t.

Lakeview Terrace is the latest offering of director Neil LaBute. It tells the story of Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), a recently widowed father living in the titular neighborhood in Los Angeles. He is a stern disciplinarian to his daughter, Celia (Regine Nehy) and Marcus (Jaishon Fisher).

One day, a moving van comes up to the house next door. Abel sees a interracial couple moving into the vacant house, Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington). Being a cop, Abel is the head of the neighborhood watch keeping tabs on the new neighbors.

I understood Abel’s intentions to keep his family safe from the frisky new neighbors, but his actions turn sinister when he tries to force the couple out.

Personally for me, I was bored. The only thing that kept me going is that you could see Patrick Wilson shirtless through out most of the movie. Yummo!

My rating: **1/2

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