Movie Review: The Secret Lives of Bees with Queen Latifa and Dakota Fanning is Sad and Spectacular

I’m a cryer when it comes to movies, and boy was this one a tear-jerker. It’s told as a story about a 14 year-old girl in South Carolina in 1964, just as Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and made it so that black people would be allowed to vote – but for real this time.

Lily (Dakota Fanning) and her housekeeper Rosaleen run away from Lily’s mean and abusive father after Rosaleen is beaten for standing up for her right to vote. Lily is in search of information about her mother’s past, who died when Lily was four at Lily’s own hand. That’s the premise and the setting and I’ll leave it at that because truly I won’t be able to do this beautiful movie justice.

I will say a word about Dakota Fanning. She was once one of the best child actresses around, but for some reason fell off the face of the screen for a good stretch there. I don’t know why, but I always wondered if and when she’d be back and if she’d be as good as she was before. Well, it’s safe to say that she is that good and most assuredly has a long and fruitful career ahead of her. I don’t know if she truly understood the roles she was playing as a child or if she was just really good at playing, but I think she really understood the depth of the character and the situation that she was in with this film.

It was truly excellent.

9 Chocolate Salty Balls.

Movie Review: Lakeview Terrace with Samuel L. Jackson is Not As Bad As I’d Have Thought

I expected a pretty horrendous movie when my girlfriend’s little brother came back from Blockbuster with this, the latest of 8 million Samuel L. Jackson movies. Don’t get me wrong. I love Mr. Jackson. He screams and yells and he’s a badass motha fucka, but generally I find that he’s best not as the central focus of a film but as an enhancement and a complement to its general quality. Know what I mean? And I didn’t even think the plot revolved around him so heavily – but it does.

Jackson is an L.A. cop and a single dad to a teenage girl and a younger boy. And he’s a strict single parent. His wife died. He’s sad and misses her – and there’s a twist to her death! In next door moves an interracial couple, and Mr. Jackson doesn’t like one bit that a white guy is with a black girl. And basically he doesn’t treat them so nice. I was surprised at the degree to which the movie fleshed out a generally unexplored racial tension: older black men disapproving of relationships between white men and black women. Who knew!?

The situation devolves into a tit for tat battle of escalating proportions. The thing that gets frustrating is that you’re like, okay! We get it! It’s escalating – bring it to the next level. But it keeps escalating. Again, the movie’s not that bad. The things that happen between the couple next door and Mr. L. Jackson are interesting and sometimes a little twisted. The film even makes you uncomfortable in spots and adds a decent element of suspense. It’s just like, okay, fine, get on with it.

If you’re looking for cheap action and mild engagement then knock yourself out but otherwise, I say veer in the direction of some more classically entertaining Samuel L. Jackson – like say, Pulp Fiction.

4 Chocolate Salty Balls. Get your copy of Lakeview Terrace.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more movie reviews.

Movie Review: SAG Award Winning Slumdog Millionaire is One of the Best Movies of the Year

Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan made one of the finest movies of the year. I loved this movie. It was well made, finely directed, excellently executed, and spectacularly acted (and it did not abuse adverbs so heinously).

Dev Patel plays the main character, Jamal Malik, an Indian boy from the slums of Mumbai, who haphazardly ends up on India’s, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The drama of his life – and his love for Latika, played by costar  Freida Pinto – propels the movie through both past and present. I want to refrain, however, from talking about the plot, because going in blank will make it all the more poignant.

What compelled me most was a look at a life and culture – one experienced by millions and millions of people half the world away – so distant from and unfamiliar to my own. Truly, an American such as myself can’t even imagine what it is to grow up as Jamal has, and the way in which this life was so accurately portrayed is something to be wondered at. In depicting life in an Indian slum there was no pity or sorrow, woe or misery.  The movie just showed it as it is, never attempting to pull at our heartstrings or to make us sad for the billions of lives harder than our own. It just showed us through this captivating story. And that was enough.

The cast of Slumdog Millionaire won the Screen Actors Guild’s award for outstanding performance by a motion picture cast, and boy howdy did they deserve it. They were all spectacular.

10 Chocolate Salty Balls.

What did you think about this movie? Get your own copy of Slumdog Millionaire

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more movie reviews.

W. – A Movie Review By Kush

The following is a movie review of W. by my friend Kush. He wrote it a while ago, recently reviewed it and told me that I was welcome to share it with you. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments at the bottom. And, of course, thanks to Kush!

The prospect of a film that would illustrate the inner workings of the Bush Administration, presidency, and perhaps even mind of George Walker Bush, seemed compelling. Furthermore, Oliver Stone’s illustration of all of the above in the context of JFK (199X) and Nixon (199X), with a Josh Brolin performance to boot, made W look like a required trip to the box office.

What the moviegoer got was not, however, the colorful, biting account of Bush or his presidency, that was expected. Instead, we got Josh Brolin impersonating Bush, rather than playing him, a story that focused more on Bush’s life between Yale and the White House than his presidency, and a slew of bad performances doing little more than paying lip service to some of the most critical members and events of the Bush Administration.

On the bright side, Stone’s account of Bush gave us something that more liberal viewers did not have going in:  a picture of Bush as a man, a son, and a Christian. The appropriately named W. features George W. Bush less as a protagonist than as the focal point through which the world is viewed. In this manner, we see Bush come to terms with the meaning of his family name, defiantly enter politics both because of and despite his father’s influence, defeat alcohol addiction, and be born-again into the Christian faith.

The only thing missing is a struggle.

Often times, it felt as though whenever W. decided to do something, it happened, less through sheer will than through the selfish maneuvering of the people around him – that and his father’s ability to pull strings whenever possible. This sense of “happening” may be due in part to the fact that the story itself is uncompelling, or perhaps because we all know the ending, but even at times when the story was new to most viewers, the plot came out flat.

Another problem with the movie is that almost the entire cast c0mes across as either lousy versions of the people they were cast to play, or below-the-belt charicatures of the real members of the Bush Administration. The actors cast to play Karl Rove and Condoleeza Rice, for example, seem built as assaults on the true versions of these people. They look and talk oddly, and don’t seem to resemble the already distinctly rich characters that we know from the news. On the other hand, Dick Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss) and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) played such terrible versions of the true characters that I spent more time focusing on how incredibly bad their characterizations were rather than the content of their delivery. George Bush Senior also came off as whiney, weak, and tired: a seemingly inaccurate characterization of a president that waged America’s last successful war.

Not only where the character portrayals poorly done, the movie focused so infrequently on the events leading up to the Iraq war that almost all scenes involving discussion of this pivotal issue took place in a windowless war room. Surely there was more to the decision to invade Iraq than three afternoon meetings in the White House Situation Room. This is the only view of “America” we see outside of the myopic Bush lens through which the movie is shot – save a short sequence of out-of-place anti-war footage, shots of the UN meeting where Colin Powell presented the case against Iraq against his will, and Bush’s address to Congress to invade Iraq.

Overall, the movie disappoints not because of the poor character renderings but because the story itself ultimately lacked conflict and drama. Stone portrays a man too preoccupied by his father’s opinion of him to really appreciate the fact that he was elected to the highest office in the most powerful country on earth. Because he never wanted to be president for the sake of being the president, he ultimately judged the decisions he made through a different lens than those who respect the office for what it really is.

Get your copy of W. (Widescreen).

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more movie reviews.

Nicholas Cage Makes One of His Worst Movies Yet with “Bangkok Dangerous”

Holy crap, it was so bad. The acting throughout was pathetic and worthless. The attempts at symbolism were nauseating and over the top, slammed in my face like being kicked in the nuts. The directing was deplorable with scene after scene included surely because the directors (shame on Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang) thought it would be cool (the pointless shoot out in the room with the water bottles? WTF!?) – and what was with the stupid lighting choices in the climax. And what a ridiculous attempt at a love story.

Usually my reviews don’t go into these kinds of commentaries, but each of these elements (directing, symbolism, etc.) was so blatantly and obnoxiously noticeable that I couldn’t help but point them out.

In short, it was deplorable. It was reprehensible. It was bad. My dad likes to watch action movies when he walks on his treadmill, and he mentioned to me that he had this one in his queue. This review just reminded me to call him and warn him off of this one. If he tries this he’ll never want to get back on the treadmill again.

2 Chocolate Salty Balls – because no man should have fewer.

Potential Sequels: Peking Putrid, Singapore Stupid, Kuala Lumpur Retarded

If you either don’t believe me and want to see for yourself or love shitty movies, get your own copy of Bangkok Dangerous.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more movie reviews.

Bride Wars with Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway is Cute but Predictable

I did not go to this movie voluntarily. My girlfriend had been asking me for weeks. I finally succumbed on Friday night by using two free Fandango movie passes to get us tickets for a ‘date-night,’ not something we get many opportunities to do. We met for dinner, got popcorn and candy (though I wasn’t too keen on sharing my candy) and then settled in to watch Bride Wars. Good old Friday night date style…ish. Other than a gay couple – or two chummy male friends? – I was among very few men, all of whom were there with their ladies, presumably by force, coercion or bribery.

It was certainly better than I’d expected but, a. that’s not saying much and b. movies for which I have low expectations are almost certainly better than they would have been if I were expecting the cinematic experience of a life-time.

There were some hardy laughs, and jokes of differing style and laugh potential, depending on what makes you chuckle. So, there, I have to give Bride Wars credit. But is that enough? It was far from hysterical all the way through. The antics and shenanigans (can there be both at once?) were mildly amusing but they hardly elicited bouts of guffaws throughout. It was, to say the least from the perspective of a man who actually does enjoy romantic comedies but prefers for them to have a little something more (do they ever?), tolerable. I was not unhappy or uncomfortable being there. It wasn’t too long and I didn’t look at my watch. It kept moving quickly enough, but that brings me to my final problem.

It was predictable.

Now, I think most women, though their powers of prediction generally surpass mine, consciously ignore the inclination to predict when watching romantic comedies for fear of realizing that the vast majority of the genre is silly and not worth blue-lighting. However, I can’t turn that switch off and found the entire thing mesmerizingly predictable. Part of that is, no doubt, due to the commercials which leave little to our imaginations, and the rest is a result of the number of possible outcomes there could be (very few, in case that was unclear) and then picking up on the none-too-subtle hints that the director drops (but I don’t think means to!).

But what of it? Is it a crime to work within an inflexible genre? No. Is it my fault for going to see this movie that I had to know the end to before it happened? Partly.

So at the end of the day I’ll give this flick 5 Chocolate Salty Balls.

Shia LeBeouf and Billy Bob Thornton are Great in Eagle Eye

Off the bat, I liked this movie. It was fast-paced, entertaining and somewhat thought-provoking, which is about all you can ask from most movies these days. Shia LeBeouf, as I think everyone loves to remind us, is quite the up and coming little actor and with Stephen Speilberg keeping him tucked tightly beneath his wing, he’s sure to be just fine (if inserted after the fact into a few digitally enhanced remakes).

Sort-of Spoiler Alert

The plot of Eagly Eye was a combination of iRobot – a supercomputer that thinks it knows how to protect human beings better than they can protect themselves – and Die Hard IV – cyber-terrorism and losing control to the technology that we’re so dependent on. So, it wasn’t the most unique idea ever, but it was a combination of interesting ideas done in their own way. Eagle Eye pushed reality and technology a few steps further than they go, and in that sense it could remind one of a Michael Crichton approach.

Billy Bob Thornton was very funny, even though I don’t think he was supposed to be haha funny. But I laughed. I think he’s hilarious. Michelle Monaghan, the female lead, was okay. I never find her to be a particularly engaging actress (think Mission Impossible III), but Rosario Dawson wasn’t bad. She’s also in a hell of a lot more movies than I remembered at the time, and could be a lot more badass (remember Sin City) if they’d let her be.

At the end of the day, if you like action flicks then this one is entertaining and probably worth your time.

7 Chocolate Salty Balls.

Get your own copy of Eagle Eye.

Get a FREE Bonus Chapter from The Zen of South Park.

Read more movie reviews.