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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rainy Day MMM (Mini Movie Marathon)

The rain has finally broken here in the Bay, but it is still grey and bleak. I've been holed up like a winter bear in hibernation, as I completely detest rain. Honestly, I would rather be in snow. It was so bad that earlier in the week I had tickets to see Raphael Saadiq at the Fillmore, and didn't even go, and I always see Raphael. Is it possible to look cute in the pouring rain? I think not, unless you have an entourage like Kimora Lee Simmons.

Besides the weather, one thing I miss about LA. is the diversity, and the randomness of the celebrities I would spot. A favorite game I would play while waiting in the horrid Sunset Strip traffic from work was "spot that random celebrity". It would veer off in all different directions; Jessica Biel, Alfonso Robeiro, Ryan Reynolds, Vanessa Bell Calloway, the dude from Korn (don't ask me how I knew that), The Empress Of Lucite (my fellow D-Listed readers know that one). While watching the movie "Cover" over the weekend, it made me almost feel like I was playing that game. More on the later. And yes, I am still a bit grouchy, and the following Black Cinema films did nothing to help.

Starting off my MMM were several just as random YT films--"Final Analysis", a thriller that was made when Richard Gere was still semi-hot*, "The Prime Gig" a sleep inducing movie about a big ticket telemarketing scam starring Vince Vaughn, when he was still semi-hot*, and a film that I highly recommend called "Dogtown and Z-Boys", which is a semi-documentary with great footage about the very beginning of the skateboard movement in Santa Monica, CA. Don't confuse it with the weak, fictionalized, commercial version "The Lords Of Dogtown". "Z-Town" made a very pedestrian subject extremely engrossing, and I wear my Vans a little prouder now (for those who don't know, Vans are a sneaker that first became popular by being favored by the surfer and skateboarding cultures in L.A.).

But I seriously digress...on to Black Cinema, yes?

The first one I saw was a perfectly awful movie called "The Last Stand". You watch the strangest things when you can't get back to there anyone more unlikeable than Guy Torry? Oh yes, Kevin Hart, who also happened to be in the film. Just grand.

The "movie" premise was about 4 Black comedians trying to rise to fame, overcoming the various challenges in their personal lives. The challenges are wholly contrived, as if they were ripped from the pages of "How To Write Your First Screenplay 101". The guy just out of jail struggling with credibility in the civilian world, the woman abused by her mom's boyfriend, the dude with the unsupportive wife who tells him he's living a pipe dream...ho-hum. Kevin Hart and a very loud Anthony Anderson are secondary characters. Also involved is the strange calamity that is Red Grant (who I wrote about HERE), always a sure sign that you are involved in a z-grade movie.

Then there is Guy Torry as the unfunny comic (the only part of the film that rang true), who runs away from his family life to prove to Daddy he can make it. Oh, and he has a drinking and drug problem that causes him to self-destruct. Why does Guy Torry get more work than Joe Torry? Guy plays the exact same character, the exact same way, in everything I see him in. Never engaging, never funny, always laughing at his own jokes, and never easy on the eyes. And Russ Parr (who "wrote" and directed)? I think dude might seriously want to stick to radio.

So--Kevin Hart, Guy Torry, generic plot, and some arbitrary secondary story about how one of the comedians jumped to their death. The film begins with that, and the body is covered with a sheet. It keeps flashing back to the crime scene throughout the film, and we are supposed to guess who it is. The only problem? The first story is so weak you don't give a flying fig.

Not even worth buying at the barber shop from Hustle Man. Here is the trailer, which makes it look much better than it actually is, believe it or not:

The next is "Cover". Hmmm. I passed on this film at a Black film festival when I had to choose between it and "Three Could Play That Game". Can you believe I chose the latter? Even more so, can you believe I attended a festival that would show it as a selection?

I really wanted to like this film, as I have always been a big fan of Bill Duke, the director. But he is definitely starting to get the telephoto side-eye from me. Between this and "Not Easily Broken" I think he might be paying for his children's Ivy League education or something. Surely a man of his caliber can create his own projects? Or are these films something he actually wanted to do?

This isn't a spoiler, as all of the film descriptions and publicity tell ahead of time what the film is about. It is about a couple who moves from Atlanta to Philly, the husband being some sort of successful doctor. Many of his long time friends are there, all of them extremely shady and suspicious. The husband is hiding a secret, which we all know 10 miles before the clueless wife--he is on the "down-low". Because there is no mystery, and the "twist" is so obvious, you get fed up with the build-up. "Just get to it already!" you want to yell, waiting for the supposed big reveal.

Instead, I busied myself by looking at the most random cast since....ummm....well, ever. Though you may be mildly surprised at who's in it, you definitely won't be at their performances.

Roger Guenveur Smith: weird, creepy, and wild eyed as usual

Paula Jai Parker: ho'n it up and acting crazy, as usual

Patti LaBelle: sassy and for real gal not takin' any mess, as usual

Clifton Davis Junior: bland and boring, as usual

Leon: preening, arrogant, vain, and self-involved, as usual

Vivica Fox: plays the "mmm-hmmm, girlfriend!" role, lip twisted and with one eyebrow raised, as usual

Louis Gossett, Jr.: serious and no-nonsense, as usual

Mya: contributing as much to this movie as she does to the music industry.

Fun fact: the preacher's wife from the Richard Pryor classic "Which Way Is Up?" is in it, and she is still pretty funny. At least I think it was her.

Besides the tired theme of "forgiveness", the main problem is with one half of the leads. Aunjanue Ellis plays the wife, and she does the best she can with what she has. She is accused of murdering Leon, the husband's HIV positive lover, which is the other mystery in the plot. She is the only reason this film has any credibility at all, and I really wish she would get a lot more work...say substituting her for everything Gabrielle Union is in. She is also from San Francisco, a big plus in my eyes. It is Razaaq Adoti who plays the husband, Dutch Maas, that is the bad apple that spreads to the rest of the film. He is supposed to be the object of affection for at least four people in this film, yet he is not very good-looking, and is completely charm and charisma free. He didn't even seem that bright. I think he won this part on a bet, as even in the most dramatic scenes in the film--crying, fighting, scared, whatever--he is massively and totally unbelievable.

He was in another film that I saw on another mini movie marathon a while back, "Haven", with Anthony Mackie and Zoe Saldana. Even though that film wasn't that great, he did pretty well in that one, so I guess there's hope for him in the future. Ms. Invisible says rent this one when they are out of everything else at the video store. Here is the trailer--it takes a second to start:

And last (and least) is "Madea Goes To Jail".'re gonna have to read about that elsewhere, as I don't want to dedicate another drop of my precious posting space to that mess of a movie. Guess this picture's from the play:

So there you have it. Basically nothing to see here folks. Except "Dogtown and Z-Boys". I might have some movie news later, as I'm in a writin' mood today.

*i say semi-hot, cause i was never that attracted to these guys in the first place


IntrospectiveGoddess said...

Hey there delurking, I have been reading your blog for the last week going through the archives, I love your commentary and the fact that you have are knowledgeable about the film industry and you hold a high standard to black cinema.

Most of the independant movies you have featured I have seen on cable channels like Starz, Encore and IFC...anyway I saw the last stand and it was somewhat entertaining but yes Guy Torry was everything that you said and then some he was quite annoying, so was the henpecking wife of the other comedian...the plot was pretty predictable and a little too melodramatic, for it to be about comedians it wasnt very funny...

Cover has been coming on TVone but I always miss it,

Oh and quick question Panther came on cinemax this weekend, have you done a review of that movie, just wanted to know what you thought of it.

Sergio said...

Reading your reviews of those films and watching the trailers, sort of bummed me out. What is it going to take for black filmmakers to step up their game? Same plots with the same actors with the same cut rate production values. (And just because you have a low budget means that your film has to look crappy. Medicine for Melancholy was made with a five man crew and it looks great)

I keep waiting for black filmmakers to expand their reach and vision and so far, with a few exceptions, it ain't happening. I mean at least Spike tried with Miracle of St. Anna. Just too bad he blew it with his heavy handed approach. O.K. I get it. It's tough being a black man in America, but did anybody to have that pounded into their heads like a sledgehammer over and over again every ten minutes in the movie (And by the way it's funny for Spike to keep pushing that issue like as if he's suffering. He's made tens of millions of dollars in his career from films, TV commercials and all his other venues and he's married to the lightest skinned black woman on the planet - no doubt a substitute for what he really wanted...a white woman - so what exactly is he angry about. That he's short?)

Sorry I digressed there for a second...

Still what the problem with black filmmakers? I've said it before and I'll say it again but I'm totally convinced that black filmmakers think they're no where as good as white filmmakers. That they have all the talent and the smarts while black filmmakers stay happy and satisfied making their crummy uminagamative, little pictures. Most white filmakers, I dare say, don't have that atiitude. Even Jim Jarmusch's upcoming new film The Limits of Control with Isaach De Bankole judging from the trailer looks like it's going to be an unique and ambitious film even within it's very modest scope

Look at Zack Snyder. Just a few years ago, the guy was directing music videos and commercials and now he already his thrid film out Watchmen, a $150 million dollar sci-fi comic book film. (which I admit I did not like at all, but then again I'm not into comic books I was when I was 12, but by 13 I grew up) I doubt that even once he had any doubts that he could make that film. Now I know what a lot of you will say that, of course, because he's white and Hollywood will give him a lot more opportunities than a black director. Yeah that's true, but on the other hand how many black directors you think believed that they could have made a film like that?

Harlepolis said...




As usual :p

Do you know what the sad thing about the Russ Parr movie? Thats as good as it gets lol I dug it for what it is as I didn't really expect a LANDMARK per4mance beforehand.

As for "Cover", I think everybody did a damn good job(except the hood rat girlfriend role)....

But I hate how black filmmakers rely more & more to "Christian themes" now,,,its like thats their ace, they know it, and they'll milk it to death.

Don't get me wrong, its not a sudden thing, but hell, at least the shit used to be subtle.

Thats the ONLY thing that ruined the movie for me,,,it could've been a real intersting story had it not been for the rehashed, forced, redundant "Jesus Is The Only Way" message.

So much for change and variety.

omar said...

What's up! I am so happy you gave dogtown and z boys some love. That doc is incredibly compelling and far more interesting than one may think. I think I may rival your love for cinema - stay after it.

SolShine7 said...

The only thing that looks good is Dogtown, I'll pass on the rest. But I do want to see the fictionalized version The Lords Of Dogtown though. It has Heath Ledger in it.

voyage2atlantis said...

dang it must have been ugly out if you missed raphael. i love him more than that frog loves sugar smacks.

SDG said...

I saw "Haven". Hot messy, mess w/good scenery. Loved "Dog Town and Z-Boys". It opened my eyes to the beginnings of skate board culture even though I was a Tony Hawke fan back in the 80's. lol

As for the rest, I'll pass. I'm getting less patient the older I get and patience has never been my strong suit.

Anonymous said...

That Dogtown & Z-Boys documentary looks pretty cool. I'll put it in my queue.

boris said...

i soooo wanna move to LA. i live in a small predominantly white hillbilly uneducated town but i spend most of my time in london at university and goin out etc. LOVE diversity. and i always hear good shit bout LA.

lol whos that cut up YT woman in the glass chair. so do u really get loads of random 'celebs' on the sunset strip???

ive seen dogtown and z-boys, even lords of dogtown was pretty good. woop woop high5 for Team Vans. "got our vans on coz they look like jor'ans"...HAHAHA

Last Stand actually look reeeeally good hahaha

how was 3 Can Play That Game lmao??? Cover looks wicked, will def check it out

well Miss IW, i think the box office figures have something to say about ur opinions about Madea Goes To Jail. haha i kid, i kid. looks aaaaawful and generic anyways

Invisible Woman said...

@IntrospectiveGoddess: so glad you're here! as you can see, since you went thru my archives, that i am not really grouchy all of the time...just critical and opinionated! lol really like your blog, btw---very real.

i saw panther when it first came out, but thought it was very, very lightweight for the subject matter. i am hoping someone does a very proper Black Panther film one day.

@sergio: you have given me some great comments the past few you mind if i use a couple on the blog?

@Harlepolis: you know you love it! haha

i think we have such low expectations for our art, cause that's all we're allowed; i'm looking for that to change this year....i believe Black blogs are helping a lot.

@omar: i thought the same thing about z-boys! i never thought i would be riveted by that subject matter.

if you can rival me and reelwhore for movie love, then you must not have a :-)

@solshine: the funny thing is, i never thought of heath as much of an actor, really, until batman.

Invisible Woman said...

@voyage2atlantis: lol at your comment :-) me too, girl, and now i regret not going--i heard it was awesome!

@sdg: co-sign with haven and for "As for the rest, I'll pass. I'm getting less patient the older I get and patience has never been my strong suit." check and double check!

@v-knowledge: you'll love it---i look forward to your review, for sure

@boris: i think you would fit in very well with l.a. and yes, you see celebrities everywhere all the time there, but no one reacts, as that would be way uncool and declasse' :-)

and please don't think i'm recommending 3 can play that game---yuck!

Sergio said...


Sure go ahead and use whatever you want.

By the way, did you see Heart of Fire yet?

MrsGrapevine said...

I think you named 2 movies, that I may be excited about seeing. I'm interested in reading your post about the evolution of Pam Grier. Do you watch the L-Word, or did you watch the L-Word...

Anonymous said...

I love this site! It is always informative and open to allow others to give their opinions regarding black cinema and other ethnic works in the mix! I did watch the movie "Cover" and I have to say, that I thoroughly enjoyed it.