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Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Good, The Kinda Bad, And The Completely Wack.....

I went on one of my "mmm's" this weekend (mini movie marathons). So here are my mini reviews of what I saw.....

First up, The Good:

City Of God

I have read so very, very many wonderful things about this film. I have avoided it before, as I am ashamed to admit, sometimes I do not feel like reading subtitles. There I said it.

But my laziness has made me late on a completely amazing film on every level. It is a story of young hoodlums trying to rise above their poor and desperate hardscrabble life in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. But it is so much more than that. There were twists and turns and multiple storylines everywhere, and it worked. Beautifully.

It conjures up memories of Scorsese's "Gangs Of New York", and Quentin Tarantino when he is good. It sometimes has the look and feel of a spectacular 70's black exploitation flick, and the high tension "anything could happen at any time" dread of "The Sopranos". Yet though you are reminded of all of these things, this film has a look and voice that is completely unique.

I once took an Italian Neo-Realism film class (not to sound uppity, but it's relevant). These films were well noted worldwide because it was the first time that cinema was shown in a ultra realistic way, and not Hollywood script style, right after WWII. They showed the human condition in a way that was in your face and unflinching, and the actors did not seem like actors at all, but folks really living the experience.

City Of God is like that; it shows Brazil in all it's beauty and it's seedy ugliness of the poor and working poor--the people are amazing to look at in this film (Brazilians are legendary for their diverse beauty, with good reason) from the darkest black to pale ginger red heads. It shows how people are forced to make choices out of desperation, cause they don't want to be left behind in a bleak hopeless world that they had no part in making, and how those choices can be so very f**ked up, to say the least.

To put it simply, this film was the s**t, the kind that you think about for days after you see it.

Also on The Good:

The Great Debaters

Yes, I finally broke down and saw it. In my opinion, though the film had high quality content, I think it would have been an even better film sans the overly sappy soundtrack. I'm just being honest.

I think one of the reasons I am such a fan of independent film is that it's lacking the swelling, manipulative music that is a staple of the Hollywood Machine. You know, the Disney-esque crescendo of the orchestra "happy music-feel happy here!" "serious, slow, tender music-feel sad here!" "uplifting loud music-feel happy again here, especially at the end!"

You know what I'm saying. That type of sound is preachy and tiresome. And I think The Great Debaters would have been a very solid film, taken a bit more seriously, and been a little longer lasting without it.

I felt the same about "Talk To Me". Just my opinion.

Next up, The Kinda Bad:

Meet The Browns

I don't want to straight out call this film bad, cause it wasn't. But it wasn't what you would call good either. Meet The Browns was pretty much everything you expect from a Tyler Perry movie, but this time with a couple of minor attention grabbing aspects.

Angela Bassett gave one of her Angela Bassett performances, and she can't help it---she is soooo serious. Even scenes that call for her to laugh light-heartedly seem very forced and unnatural. But she keeps your attention at all times, something that Tyler Perry's movies haven't really been able to do for me before. Seeing her very well toned body, jaunty, well placed hair scarves, and calm, sensible demeanor really didn't fit in that "Good Times" style project apartment she lived in either. Also lmao off at the babysitter scolding Angela multiple times, talking about "You young mothers these days". Ummmm.....Angela is 50?

Of course there is the "family-and-friends-sitting-around-the-dinner-table-while-major-life- changing-revelations-are-brought-to-life" scene (that honestly I am beginning to loathe). The one in this film is particularly out there and over the top, even for Tyler Perry.

Insert everything else from every other Perry film, and you have this one. It's almost comforting in it's sameness: a good man is a cure for all a woman's ills, the sassy/nosy/blunt neighbor/relative, the moral of "Put your faith in the Lord first", and the ever classic "Family is family, no matter what".

On a side note, even though he really hasn't done anything at all for me in the past, Rick Fox was looking mighty...."magically delicious" in this film. In other words...that negro was fine as hell! haha

*sigh* On to The Completely Wack (and inexplicable)

"Alvin And The Chipmunks"

Don't ask.

Miss B's Hair Salon

Holy sh*t. I don't even know what to say about this one. Let's first start off with the fact that the women on the DVD cover were nowhere to be found in the movie. It seemed like it was one of those films advertised on Craigslist calling for actors and crew with the line "no pay, but food and credit will be given!" They then proceed to film the movie on the cinematic equivalent of a camera phone, have everyone change "costumes" at the Exxon gas station, and have the movie take place in one room, two at the most. The script and dialogue seems like it was self-generated and wrote itself, as no breathing human being could possibly be this talentless. It makes Vivica Fox's "The Salon" look like "There Will Be Blood".

It was about a bunch of very badly done stereotypes and cliches rounded up in some sort of scary beauty shop, with Tiny Lister somehow involved. He is the only person with even a glimmer of recognition in the whole movie. The almost hypnotically insane side story was about some dude whose face they never showed-- only his crusty, blackened, weed smoked lips that he kept licking and crooked teeth, who had a parade of women coming to this house, supposedly lusting after him. He would proceed to have some type of level 3 sex offender type pre-coitus dialogue with them, all the while brushing his nappy chest hair above his open to the navel shirt (?!!) with a wig brush (?!!) as he was talking. WTF?!

This film was "written" and "directed" by some dude named Jean-Claude La Marre , who is a repeat offender on the horrible Black Cinema list. He has brought us such classics as "Don't Touch Me If You Ain't Prayed", "Gang Of Roses", "Voodoo Curse", and "Nora's Hair Salon".

Two abhorrently dismal hair salon movies? Someone arrest this man before he writes/produces/directs again!


aulelia said...

I completely agree with the gangster overtones about City of God. That film is a masterpiece; the guy who plays Ze was a bloody tour de force, putting all these pseudo actors (Orlando Bloom etc) to shame. I cannot sing the praises of the film enough. I love love that scene where Rocket goes to the woman in the newsroom who printed the pictures and has a massive go at her - one of the many powerful scenes in the film (hope I haven't spoiled it for anyone). Although to be honest, I have a theory about films like City of God, they come around like once every 6 years or so. City of God also reminds me of the French inner-city classic "La Haine".

I am still so depressed about "Great Debaters" and how it was not released in the UK, yet countries like Singapore got it!!

Rick Fox -- any day, at any time, even when "Eastenders" is coming on BBC.

MsMarvalus said...

I love, love, love City of God! I rented this a long time ago and watched it three times in one weekend! Absolutely brilliant! I went out and bought it after I had to return the video...I was so taken with the aura of the film, the contrast between the beauty of Brazil and the downright ugliness of the crime scene and gang culture...

This has to be in my top 3 favorite movies of all time, and I usually don't do movies with subtitles!

black | woman | unhinged said...

L'il Ze = classic gangsta

justjudith said...

great post :-)

Qadree said...

If you get a chance, or anyone else for that matter, check out "Medicine for Melancholy".
The films site is @

I would post about the film myself but I'm still setting up a new site for my blog to reside in and the film hasn't been to Chicago yet. I've been hearing about this film for a while and apparently they were getting a lot of love a the SXSW festival.

It doesn't look like they will be showing in Chicago anytime soon, but they have a few dates in San Francisco, Philly, Boston, and a couple of other places.

Anonymous said...

The Great Debaters was fabulous. I just saw "Meet the Browns". I will admit, I haven't laughed that much in a long time, but there were huge holes/inaccuracies in the plot. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but for ex. What are the odds that Rick Fox would continue to follow Angela's family around over and over again?

Danielle said...

City of God is part of my permanent DVD collection. I love that film and the documentary enclosed in the "special features section"; very eye-opening.

I haven't seen "The Great Debaters" and I'm sure it's good. I'm just tired of always reaching into the past for excellence.

I remain apathetic when it comes to Tyler Perry and I don't think it will change anytime soon.

If I see another goddamn "beauty shop" movie from black folks, I'm gonna get out my swirch blade and start cuttin'.

Wonder Man said...

I wish there were more diverse black movies put on the big screen. It's kind of scary that Tyler Perry's "God heals the black world" movies are huge hits. I want him succeed, but I don't know if I want his stories defining our culture. His movie are good, but almost one-sided. I would love more drama, mystery, thrillers told from a black view. Oh, and lets take a break from the comedies. I don't think our lives are that funny in these screwed up times

aulelia said...

completely agree with wonderman all the way. said...

Great post, IW. Ima definitely catch City of God... and I will watch Meet the Browns. Seems like I should watch Great Debaters. One day.

And I too, totally agree with wonder man.

@ Danielle

If I see another goddamn "beauty shop" movie from black folks, I'm gonna get out my swirch blade and start cuttin'.

You ain't neva lied. That's why I ain't seen one yet.

Sergio said...


Hey, this Sergio and we will unless something happens we will be showing Medicine for Melanchoy at this year's Black Harvest Film Festival this summer. It's a terrific film and as about as far removed from Tyler Perry as you can imagine... THANK GOD!

janice said...

the best part of Jean-Claude La Marre dvd's are the making of features.

fishesalot said...

Wonderman, I can relate on your points.

I get lost whenever I see another brother running around the big/little screen in a dress, wig, and makeup. These dudes need to man-up cause the shit is tough out here and it's getting tougher every day. Last thing we need is more brothers in drag selling(out) their take on the Black experience to the world for a buck. These dudes have big voices but small words - time to man-up!

Great Debaters was good, a rare and nice change for the positive. I thought both Whitakers were the shizz-it, as were all the young actors. Good film..

City of God was the bomb, shit was blood raw, ...saw it last year and loved it. Touched on quite a few universal themes as these young folk were trying their best to survive. Great flick.

Peace all.

Thembi said...


I agree with you on subtitles and for the same reason have not seen City of God. But you MUST check out Underground, directed by Kusturica. I swear you will laugh and cry and everything else you can think of. I'm not a film person but I easily reccommend it as my favorite movie. In fact, when I do, I consider it a favor.

Re: The Great Debators - poor Jurnee Smollett. I really want her to find her way...

Re: Meet the Browns - your review is ons of the ones that inspired my new Angela Bassett post!

Re: Hair Salon Crap - this man must be punished. Ive spoken on Noras Hair Salon but another? We DO have other things to do than get our hair did...right?

Darkbrotha said...

I'm glad you finally caught City of God. That was a fantastic movie!

Invisible Woman said...

@aulelia: oohhh, I can't wait to see that French film now...

Eastenders is still on? Damn!

Are you able to order things from Amazon in the UK?

Ms M: I think I'm going to buy it too

@bwu: Agreed--right up there with Joe Pesci in Goodfellas

@jj: thanks! I love it when you like my posts

@qadree: I will definitely check it out--I really trust your taste

aulelia said...

@IW, i am the queen of soaps. i watch every soap possible. i watch all the UK ones but eastenders is the BEST lol :) definitely check out ''la haine''. if you liked cidade de deus, you will really like it.

but i love watching subtitled films!to an extent, i also think non-anglophone cinema is not as sanitised as hollywood.

Invisible Woman said...

@anonymous: you would not believe what some men would do for a woman!

@danielle: Girl I feel you--I have the machete!

@wonderman: welcome...and agreed 100%!

@tba: def see City Of God asap. As far as The Great Debaters, I was soooo apathetic about it, but it wasn't a chore like I thought it would be.

@janice: I read that article--so true. But what I really want to see are those "extras"....he's got some 'splainin' to do!

Invisible Woman said...

@Sergio: you sure love Tyler Perry!

@fishesalot: welcome--you are spot on with your observations

@thembi--I thought Jurnee did OK, save for that mangled southern accent...

Girl, do you know this fool is making Nora's Hair Salon 2? Danielle, time to get ta cuttin'!

@darkbrotha: you mean we finally agree on a movie? Alert the media! haha

Invisible Woman said...

@aulelia: that is the same reason I watch foreign and independant film too.

Janice said...

wha wha wait, did you mean eastenders is coming back to bbc america.

Invisible Woman said...

@janice and aulelia: I really have to check it out.

LaJane Galt said...

City of God damn near had me in tears. It is an amazing film.

ummmmmmmm Jean-Claude La Marre (is that your ballroom name?) needs to be shot.

"Don't Touch Me if you Aint Prayed!"


Invisible Woman said...

LaJane, you are too funny! Hope he never reads this blog, but he seems like a dude that would google himself, haha