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Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays, blah, blah, blah....

Ok, I'm a bit of a Scrooge about Xmas. I just think most of it is kinda ridiculous, and I do my best to stay out of the way. But I do take full advantage of the aspect of folks going into complete slack mode, hence-my lack of posting. I will be back this weekend to give some real movie news (there is some good stuff) as well as a terrific interview I did with "Premium" director Pete Chatmon, that I believe you'll find a good read.

Until tomorrow, I'll leave you with some reposts of the reviews I did last year on "The Perfect Holiday" and "This Christmas". Read while drinking egg nog with lots and lots of brandy...peppermint schnapps in hot chocolate also allowed! On a side note, the picture above is from a real film, with the taglines "One man delivers hope...with a vengeance!" and "He Knows When You've Been Naughty". The plot is described as: "A down-and-out Santa is robbed of all the toys for all the poor kids in town. He searches for the thugs responsible and serves up his own brand of holiday cheer." Hmmm...don't think I'll be reviewing that one...


Your Black Cinemist At Large was on her j-o-b this weekend, having seen both "The Perfect Holiday" and "I Am Legend". Since I am not up to 100% yet, I'll write about the former one today, as I'm sure it's still a little too early to give spoilers on the latter. Plus I have a lot more to say about "I Am Legend", so I'll wait a couple more days.

I went into "The Perfect Holiday" with zero expectations, to say the least. I mean, I'm not afraid to say it, I am not the biggest Latifah fan, and the director's last handiwork was "The Cookout", what I consider to be possibly the most abysmal black film ever made in history. Lance "Un" Rivera started his career as a rap mogul, whose most famous claim to fame was being supposedly stabbed by Jay-Z....but I digress.

I find it very unfortunate that this film had a dismal showing at the box office, (early predictions were less than $3 million total), 'cause to my very great surprise, I actually enjoyed it. Seriously. No one was more surprised than me.

Since it's easier for me to give observations as opposed to reviews, I'll just do that. It is, I guess, in a way, a sort of capsule review....and also kind of a lazy mini cop-out, haha.

-One thing that bowled me over was that Charlie Murphy, playing a self centered Jay-Z type rapper, is now officially funnier in every way than his brother Eddie. Who saw that coming?

-Speaking of funny, Faizon Love is finally returning to his earlier promises of hilarity he touched on with "Big Worm" in "Friday". My man got in some serious zinger time.

-Gabrielle Union is not much of an actress, but she is starting to grow on me, and sometimes I find her pretty charming, and definitely a pleasure to look at...she has the most marvelous skin I've ever seen. Pass that secret on, girl!

-There were only a couple instances of side-eye; the soundtrack could sometimes get very loud and out of place (a la "The Cookout", work on that, Lance), and also the stylist in me noticed and was distracted by a couple of wildly inappropriate outfits...but when I saw the "Costume Designer" was Misa Hilton-Brimm, Puffy's first baby's mama, it made more sense. She is singlehandedly responsible for the whole 'ghetto fabulous' look, beginning with Lil' Kim and continuing on from there.

-Morris Chestnut is so fine, he is almost painful to look at. Gawtdayum! Nuff doesn't even matter what came out of his mouth or how he performed (satisfactorily, by the way).

-I really, really, like Rachel True (Half & Half). She seems so cool, sweet, and "peace and love". You can even believe her being cool enough to get with Faizon Love, which she does in this.

-Gabrielle and Morris had real and genuine on-screen black love chemistry...VERY refreshing to see.

-The kids had just the right amount of sassiness, without being brats or getting on your nerves; (can anybody say "Are We There Yet?"-yikes) they almost seemed like real-life children.

-My man Katt Williams was in it, with only one or two hair processes instead of six, haha.

-King Latifah and Terrence Howard seemed to be there strictly for marquee value only...they had absolutely nothing to do with the story, tho Terrence was just as surly as ever....and he literally had about 2 lines of dialogue. I mean, why bother?

Lance Rivera either went to film school after that "Cookout" travesty, or he sat down and watched every holiday and Doris Day film ever made back to back, and copied their look and feel verbatim. And lo behold, it worked.

I was talking to someone the other day about how I would absolutely love to see a film with an all black cast, that didn't make a whole big deal about being "BLACK". That it just told a story, but the cast could easily be replaced by any ethnicity. This is one of those films; it reminded me of any garden variety Doris Day/Rock Hudson film that I used to watch growing up, and I loved it. All of the characters of this film were interchangeable with any of those in Doris' movies, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

That is the exact reason why I feel so bad about how this film is performing....there was a crystal clear bootleg copy available to the public the same day it opened, and since this movie doesn't have the crossover appeal of "American Gangster", it was doomed to fail, as a whole household can pay to see it for $5.00.

Bootleg can be the devil folkses.

I mean, we have a film that is charming, minimal coon, fairly intelligent, that looks like some actual money and effort were put in. A film that has good looking, positive, articulate folks; a family oriented script with a little sexiness thrown in, with a production value that is crisp, clean and beautiful, not to mention well-edited. Isn't this what we've been saying over and over we want to see?

And guess what? It's going to do buttkist at the boxoffice.

So next time those of you who buy bootleg before paying box office, think about where the problem lies when we can't get the "YT" studios to support and distribute black film. It called C.R.E.A.M.**

And it's as simple as that.

**c..r.e.a.m.=cash rules everything around me

"This Christmas"

I neglected to write about "This Christmas " yesterday, which actually did a very respectable 2nd place over the holiday weekend behind "Enchanted" (??!!) a movie I only heard about the day before it came out. How did a film like that break records? But I digress...

When I first saw "This Christmas", I wasn't exactly bowled over by it. To me, it was an extra large helping of "Soul Food" (even Mekhi Phifer was in it!) with a side of "Mo Betta Blues" with "Waiting To Exhale" for dessert. But in hindsight, there were some elements that did bring some thoughtfulness (spoilers ahead):

- Why does every movie like this have a long suffering matriarch that always says "family is family, no matter what"?

-Why is there always so much drama at one family dinner? I don't know about y'all, but on a typical holiday get-together with my family no one is being chased by thugs for money, no one is AWOL from the armed services, no one is secretly married to a white girl with a baby on the way, no one gets caught having an affair within two days of said event, no one pushes a car off a cliff, no one pulls a gun out on somebody at a club, two siblings don't have a knock down drag out fight in the rain on the front lawn, and nobody gets caught trying to have sex in the closet. (Yes, all of these happened in a 2 day span in the movie). Even one of these factors would be enough for my family to talk about for the next 10 holidays.

- Was it wrong for me not to feel sorry for the YT secret wife when she showed up and her AWOL man was in jail? He ruined his whole military career over her, and from what I could tell, she had no discernible attributes that seemed worthy of ruin. She didn't seem to have a job, much less a career, no money, not particularly charming or charismatic...she wasn't even that pretty...I mean, could they have cast someone else? Even Paris Hilton would have been more interesting.

- Was it wrong that I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Regina King hands down whupped her husband's ass with a belt and a ton of baby oil? (Sorry guy readers, haha)

-Lauren London is so very, very Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls, Half & Half), on the other hand, always seems stiff and uncomfortable to me, tho this is the loosest I've ever seen him. Regina King has obviously been working out a lot--her body looks great.

-Who knew Sharon Leal could be so sassy and actually hold screen time? She seemed like an entirely different person. In "Why Did I Get Married" she was like a lump on a log. Maybe cause she had to kiss Tyler Perry in that film, instead of Mekhi, like in this one. I would've been sour too. LMAO at her line "You decided to be with that fraction of a man!"

-I love Chris Brown and all (as I stated in my Omarion comments the other day), but why do they keep sending a boy to do a man's job? First, a remake of a Donny Hathaway song, which is admirable, but let's be real, no one can eff with The Don. Then they have him sing "Try A Little Tenderness" originally sung by Otis Redding in the film? Painful! That song is to be sung by someone that looks like Idris Elba or Delroy Lindo (both in the film), not some teeny-bopper that makes it sound like a pop song. And what is up with the older women attraction for him? He looks like someone's 16 year old kid brother. Damn, Gabrielle Union.
-Speaking of Chris Brown, why is it in the first scene where he had his shirt off, all I could hear was WOOOOOO!!! By all males by the way. Interesting.

The positives are that everyone had something valuable to contribute to the world (except YT), the film looked crisp and professional, and there were no bad wigs and weaves (the make-up was on point, too). Cooning was kept to a bare a matter of fact, I don't remember any to speak of. People had nice cars without rims, and no one seemed to live in the ghetto.

If anyone had time to see this, I would really like to know what you thought of it....sucio!

P.S. Everyone: A peaceful journey to Ms. Eartha Kitt.


Undercover Black Man said...

Gabrielle Union is not much of an actress...

The hell you say? I think she's got the stuff to be a big star (probably in TV as opposed to movies).

Thinking about her got me thinking about Judy Pace, from my childhood days. Remember her?

Regina said...

I remember all the hoopla last year and I finally gave in and watched both of these movies last week (on the same night back to back, can you say black family drama overload, I had to watch something white and stupid afterwards...)
Anyway, they both had a few OK qualities but I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote.
Chris Brown needs to stick to the teen songs cause he is no where near man enough to sing ANYTHING by Donny or Otis!
Regina King is under rated and Gabrielle Union is over rated.
Black family drama gets a bad rap. Charlie Murphey is better than his brother or maybe he is just not over exposed like Eddie was?
No words for Queen, except why can't she EVER find a decent color lipstick?
Oh yea, I ABSOLUTELY HATE Terrence Howard!
Now, I'm off to find that Jamie Fox clip and get my laugh on!

The Obenson Report said...

I saw "This Christmas" and Tyler Perry’s, "Why Did I Get Married" (WDIGM) around the same time last year, and I remember thinking about how narrow both films portray black families in this country, with every member of each family hoarding some potentially hurtful secret from all the others.

Like you, I instantly thought of "Soul Food." Both share similar story traits – large families in some order of dysfunction, brought together by the sheer will/presence (even posthumously) of the family matriarch, a woman who is more often than not, a replica of the "Mammy" stereotype; which means she’s heavy, somewhat servile, hopelessly selfless, asexual, and of course full of a never-ending stream of words of wisdom. It’s a trite and limiting depiction of the middle-aged to elderly black woman in America – one that we have seen duplicated repeatedly by, unfortunately, black men, in drag, notably Martin Lawrence (twice in the "Big Momma’s House" series), and of course by Tyler Perry, in his Madea films.

Certainly our mothers and grandmothers are significantly more varied than portrayals like those will have us believe.

Also - can we have a film about a family with members of the family who actually look like they’re from the same mother and father? Can we have maybe even a smidgen of familiarity (other than the fact that they are all black) or some obvious similarities, whether in height, or lip/nose size, or something.

Overall, not really my cup of tea; but I did appreciate the film's generally good intentions :o)

V-Knowledge said...

Hey IW, I just discovered your blog via a comment you left on my Martin Scorsese post. You've definitely got a great blog here!

Regarding the topic at hand: "This Christmas" just doesn't grab me, as it looks like some ordinary schmaltzy stuff. Obenson Report raises a great point about the "Mammy" stereotypes perpetuated by the Madea role, which is partly why I'm not a fan of Tyler Perry's movies. But I do respect Perry's entrepreneurial acumen.

I do like "Soul Food" the movie, and the TV series even more. More nuanced & true-to-life black dramas are needed.

boris said...

i agree with v-knaledge lol. black cinema codes and conventions and narrative needs to change. always rthe same narrative and whatnot

i have heard bout those 2 movies but i havent(prob wont) see em unless i find the bootleg :0(

i will always love Eartha for her "Heeeeello daaarling" in Boomerang. she was a black Marilyn monroe back in the day too

PS: what does Sista IW think about the new Notorious film. personally i think it looks really really good, hope they revela some shit bout the shooting

uglyblackjohn said...

A Perfect Holiday?
Hmmm... I gotta' check it out just to see what is up with those matching Christmas outfits. Seeing that it will probably be on the bargain rack of BlockBuster, I'll probably just buy it.

Last Christmas?
I bought it and gave it away.
It seemed like a Tyler Perry meets Soul Food knock off.

sdg1844 said...

I haven't seen either one and hadn't even heard of A Perfect Holiday. Damn, I'm terrible.

Invisible Woman said...

@UBM: Ummm...UBM, have you been dippin' in the "holiday cheer" aka "nog and Henessey"? lol.

I almost always consider "star" and "actor" mutually exclusive these days, with very few exceptions. Gabby fills in the former catagory for me as opposed to the latter. Her seeming willingness to do anything and everything short of "Dancing With The Stars" probably takes her a long way, as well as her thousands of cheesecake photos. that I think about it, one thing I've noticed is that the U-Man has quite the eye for the purdy ladies...but I'll take your word that you're being objective :-)

@regina: "No words for Queen, except why can't she EVER find a decent color lipstick?"

And I thought I was random...haha! As for Charlie/Eddie Murphy, I think you have a point--I never thought about it that way. Happy New Year to you, lady :-)

@obenson: well said as usual. i know we've touched on the topic sometimes...i think it's getting better; haven't seen anyone on the big screen in a dress besides TP in a while.

And I know what you're saying about the families differing wildly. Can't that at least be a mild consideration? Even though I have lightest and darkest in my family, Regina King and Sharon Leal as full blooded sisters is just a bit too much, yes?

@v-knowledge: hey there, welcome :-) Obenson, our readers, and I have broached that subject a few times on our blogs. It seems to be almost a dead horse, but I am encouraged by some of the Black films as of late. Keep reading Obenson's blog--he goes into much greater detail about them than I do....

Invisible Woman said...

@boris: see my comment to v-knowledge above...

earth was indeed very sultry yes?

as far as the notorious movie, i'm not really checking for it. especially since i read this yesterday:

it is by far the most plausible account of the shootings, and sadly, the ghetto at the height of it's dumbness and pointlessness.

@ubj: i liked a perfect holiday more than this xmas, but neither one of them was what you would call masterful cinema.

a perfect holiday was a lot more lighthearted, and in turn, a bit corny, but it was an pleasant sunday afternoon watch.

@sdj1844: ya slipin' gal! lol!

madame z said...

@ IW,

I haven't seen either of these films, and to be honest am reluctant to rent them for two reasons:

1) I'm a total Scrooge; this time of year...*sigh*

2) I just have no interest in seeing two films (these you've highlighted) where I know the format is about the same.

I must admit, however, to watching Last Holiday and loving the hell out of it. LOL. But I can only handle so many Xmas movies around this time of year. Christmas Vacation would be the one I've viewed most and love. LOL.

Invisible Woman said...

@madame z: it is my life's journey to see these kinds of films--fortunately for you, you don't have to go there :-D

So trust me when I say if you never see these 2 movies in your lifetime, you will be more than