Sunday, June 30, 2013

Movie Review: White House Down

Check your knowledge of civics and government at the door, and go into White House Down purely for the action. Do it that way and once it gets going, you’ll have a good time; otherwise, you’ll end up saying “WTF???” over and over again.

Starring and executive produced by Channing Tatum, Channing plays John Cale, a Capitol policeman who wants to be a Secret Service agent and who won’t be winning Dad of the Year. His precocious 11-year old daughter Emily (Joey King) calls him John. But he’s trying to win points with her by taking her on a tour of the White House (she’s a political junkie and knows as much about the White House as the obviously flustered tour guide). Meanwhile, head of Secret Service Finnery (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is wishing her mentor Walker (James Wood) a happy retirement. President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is brokering a controversial Middle East peace plan. And then … well … and then all hell breaks loose.

Led by homegrown terrorist Stenz (Jason Clarke) and uber-hacker Tyler (Jimmi Simpson), first the Capitol and then the White House go under full assault.

It took a while to get going. In fact, there was way too much exposition. We got it five minutes in. The president is working on a controversial peace plan. After looking at my watch (theoretically because I don’t really own a watch and it is rude to do the phone thing in a dark theater) several times, the action finally started rolling. And when it did, it never really stopped.

I truly hope the people guarding the president and the members of congress are more skilled than what we saw in this film. It is if the baddies just walked in and killed EVERYONE on the president’s detail without breaking a sweat. Seriously, they made it look easy. Not to mention, there is one glaring plot hole at the end. And I usually get swept away in the movie enough to gloss over a few plot holes so this one had to be major (and it was).

Yet, Tatum and Foxx have great chemistry and little Joey King held her own as the plucky, smart daughter. But the plot took itself way too seriously and got increasingly over-the-top as it went on. The politics were a little too obvious and easy. President Obama Sawyer … good, anyone that doesn’t agree with him … bad. In this movie, not agreeing with the president makes you an extreme right-winger hell bent on destroying the country. It was just a little too pat for me.
The casting almost made it too easy to tell who would end up being a bad guy. There are just some actors that you know, right off the bat, will end up on the wrong side by the end. That was true in spades here. As characters made their first appearances, I knew they'd end up bad just based on casting.
I enjoyed it but that is because I saw it at an early matinee. Not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I had paid full price.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z

 Before I get into the review, I have two things to say. First, within the ‘monster universe’ I like Zombies the least. At least vampires are seductive and sexy. Werewolves are animalistic and .. sexy. Ghoest are terrifying but kind of cool. Zombies? Zombies are unattractive, not especially bright, have no charm to speak of and their cannibals… Gross!

Having said that, I went into World War Z with an open mind. As always, I saw it at a morning show. It’s always a good thing for a film’s box office when a 10:15 a.m. has a healthy audience. It is also good for the film when there is spontaneous applause when the credits begin to roll. What that says to me is that regardless of what the critics say, if this is your kind of movie. Then you’ll probably like it.

We never find out exactly how World War Z started. Basically former UN operative Gerry (Brad Pitt) and his wife Karen (Mireille Enos) are the happy parents of two happy daughters. While taken then to school, all hell breaks loose. Really it does. A traffic jam turns into madness and mayhem when zombies take to the street and begin turning people into zombies.

Brad Pitt gets called back to duty and before we know it, he’s jet-setting around the world – from South Korea to Israel to Europe in search of Patient Zero or some kind of cure.

The action starts and never stops. However, there is a great deal of humanity to the activities that make the action more than just gratuitous scenes action for the sake of action. I also appreciated the fact that the gory was kept to a minimum. Flesh-eating zombies can give filmmakers carte blache to get all bloody and gory and gross. Thankfully, they didn’t go that route.

Can’t say I loved it but I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Review: Man of Steel

Superman is not the easiest hero to bring to the screen. Lately, with Iron Man, Spiderman, and of course, Batman, it was achingly obvious that he was the one most in need of a reboot. What makes Superman so hard to bring to the screen is his perfection. While we all strive for perfection, no one wants to see a movie about a perfect flawless hero. Batman is just dark. Spiderman has teenage angst, awkwardness and the guilt from losing Uncle Ben to contend with. Iron Man has to grapple with his ego and his daddy issues. And the Hulk? Well, it would be an understatement to say that he has anger issues. Superman with his chiseled good looks, strong morals and indestructibility, makes for difficult character development.

So, with Man of Steel we begin again. We see how Clark Kent a.k.a  Kal-El (Henry Cavill) got to earth. We meet his parents Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Faora-Ul (Antje Traue). As their planet imploded, they sent their newborn Kal-El off into the unknown while they perished with their planet. However, before their demise, they thwarted a last minute coup from General Zod (Michael Shannon) and his group of power hungry Kryptonians. Zod and crew escaped the end of their civilization by being sent away in a prison shuttle doomed to an eternity of frozen solitude.

We see Clark’s earthy parents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). And as a child and young adult, he struggled with his powers and, more importantly, with hiding his true nature (and strength) from the residents of Smallville, Kansas who wouldn’t know what to make of this superhuman alien in their midst.

So as an adult, Clark roams. From fishing boatman to busboy, he bounces from scene to scene. Once he displays his powers – to save a group of men on an exploding oil rig or to come to the aid of an overworked waitress – he has to move on.

He ends up at the South Pole, helping a group of military types who have an unidentified object on their hand. It piques his interest and it should. It’s the last vestiges of his home planet. There, he meets his father, or his memory, and is able to learn about the last days of his people. As fate would have it, a nosy reporter, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is on this case and follows Clark. She learns the truth about him, though no one wants to believe her. Meanwhile, Zod has managed to locate Clark on earth. He holds the planet hostage until they can get a hold of him.

Christopher Nolan, of The Dark Knight Trilogy, produced Man of Steel, but he clearly didn’t direct it. I wanted desperately to love this movie. Henry Cavill was a solid Superman and a very good casting decision. I even liked Crowe, Costner and Lane as his parents. Normally, I can take or leave Amy Adams but she was a plucky Lois Lane. So what was the problem?

I enjoyed the scenes on Krypton and as Clark was growing up. They had heart. However, that heart was lost of the modern day scenes. And heart was needed in the Kent-Lane relationship, in particular, and in these scenes in general. The last half-hour is just a series of explosions and special effects. It went on so long that the intensity was replaced with boredom.

A little romance, or at least a little levity would have been nice. Because Superman is not a Dark Knight, it would have been appropriate to have a little bit of humor. My introduction to Superman wasn’t the comics. It wasn’t the George Reaves of the old black-and-white television show. It was Christopher Reeve, whose Superman was romantic and charming.  A dose of that would have gone a long way in this film.

Having said all of that, I will be back in my seat, munching on my popcorn when the next installment comes out. Speaking of being in your seat, you can leave yours when the credits start as there is no post-credit scene to wait around for.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie Review: Hangover 3

I went into The Hangover 3 with high hopes … even though part of me knew better. Comedy trilogies, in my open lose steam with each version. The first is always the funniest. The second is still funny but doesn’t quite have the magic of the first and the third? Well, the third is always the least funny of the bunch. This is exactly what happened with the Hangover series.

This is a departure from the first two in that there is no major blackout involved. They know what is going on the entire time. Long story short … when Alan’s (Zach Galifianakis) father dies, he goes off of his meds and is in dire need of an intervention. So the Wolf Pack reunites: Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Doug (Justin Bartha). The group is responsible for taking Alan to the rehab facility in Arizona.

But, a funny thing happens on the way to the facility. They run into Marshall (John Goodman) and Black Doug (Mike Epps). Apparently the Wolf Packs hijinx from the first two films ended up with Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) stealing $21 million in gold bars from Marshall … and he wants his gold back. Since Alan has been writing to Chow throughout his stay in a Bangkok prison, Marshall determines that The Wolf Pack are his best bet for tracking Chow down and retrieving his gold.

They start in Tijuana and, of course, end up in Vegas where the Wold Pack saga comes to a close.
I had some chuckles but I don’t think I had any real laugh out loud moments. Unfortunately, Hangover 3 suffers from trailer-it is – when all the best parts show up in the trailer. You knew the funniest moments were coming a mile away. I would have loved to see a cameo from Mike Tyson, we do get a scene with Heather Graham but it wasn’t all that funny. What was funny were the scenes with Alan and his lady love Cassie (Melissa McCarthy) but then again, the best part of that scene was featured in the trailer too.

I have to say, I’ve never been a huge Bradley Cooper fan but he was definitely bringing the hotness here. Is it wrong to say that I would have loved to see him shirtless? Nevertheless, the end of the Wolf Pack saga was a satisfying one. I just wish it had been a funnier journey.

In the previous Hangover movies, the best outtakes were shown during the credits. While you don’t get outtakes here, there is one great scene that probably had the only real laugh out loud moment (okay there was ONE).

Monday, May 20, 2013

American Idol Reboot

The Dawg is already gone, Ms. Mariah needs more than tight
dresses to stay at the judges table. Ryan - aint goin' nowhere.
Nicki? We all know she's already gone. Keith Urban, the only
one I would want to see again next season.
I've been watching American Idol since the beginning. I have to admit, the past few years have been a challenge - lackluster contestants (with Adam Lambert being an exception and probably Philip Philips) and a parade of 'celebrity' judges who have not earned their large paychecks. With the lowest ratings in the show's history for this past season, Idol producers need to take note. Do something different. Do something completely different.

So what happened?

I get it. A lot of reality shows thrive on tension and drama ... but American Idol isn't one of those shows. The immature conflicts between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey was painful to watch. So guess what? A lot of people opted not to. Take a look at The Voice which has benefitted from the great and positive chemstry between judges (and a note to Voice producers, keep this foursome!).

Out of the four, the only one I could possibly see coming back would be Keith Urban. Randy has already bowed out. Nicki Minaj has ticked so many people off that she won't be back and really, I know she's 'Mariah' but I don't think she needs to be back either. The best judge isn't even a judge, it's Jimmy Iovine. He knows what he's talking about and gives targeted feedback.

Then there are the contestants. It ended well, (love me some Candice) but getting there was at times painful. Zonette? Really? Some of the people that made it to the live shows had me questioning the judges' train of thought.


Go back to basics. When Idol started, no one knew who Simon Cowell or Randy Jackson were. I'm pretty sure they didn't break the bank to get Paula Abdul. Yet, it became the #1 show. AI made Simon and Randy stars and revived Paula's career.

Find several industry-insiders who can provide some Jimmy Iovine-style credibility and personality and put them at the judges table. Add a star that is past their heyday, but who has some knowledge and put them at the table. Yes, this would be a Paula Abdul-like role, but don't look for the next Paula Abdul.

Save the Drama for your Mama. And truth be told, your mama probably doesn't want to hear all that mess either. Have judges that actually get along.

Enough of the Judges Already! American Idol is at its best when it operates as a singing competition. In other words, make it about the contestants again and less about the judges. Find contestants that the audience can root for. We should be tuning in each week to see what the singers are going to sing not which diva is going to act the bigger fool.

Current Theme Weeks: After this season when the contestants relieved their painful ignorance of archaic, little known acts like The Beatles, I propose losing the decade-based themes. Instead go with different kinds of themes: Best Break-Up Songs, Diva Week, Acoustic/A Capella Week, Best High School Song.

If Idol wants to dominate the ratings again, they will have to do more than a little tweaking.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Movie Review: Star Trek: Into Darkness

Weather wise it hasn’t even really started to heat up yet, but the Summer Movie Season is underway. This week’s major release was the second in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek series, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I enjoyed it but I expected it to be pretty good (just not great).

Jim Kirk (Chris Pine) is still a renegade, ignoring orders and doing things his way. The problem, at least in the beginning is that Dr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is still, well, Spock – logical, pragmatic and unable to tell a lie. So after Kirk goes against order and saves Spock’s life, Spock gets him in trouble for it! Of course, there are bigger problems afoot when John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up with quite an explosive entry. In fact, his actions threaten to start a war between the Federation and the Klingons. Never fear, the faithful Enterprise crew is here: Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Checkov (Anton Yelchin), and Sulu (John Cho).

The performances were good – especially Pine and Quinto who have an easy chemistry with each other – and Cumberbatch who has the intensity necessary of an action movie villian. However, this movie was all about the effects and the action. It starts at the beginning and never lets up. This is a good thing; however, a little more attention to the plot and the story would have made a good thing a whole lot better.

I saw this in 3-D and it was worth it. This is the kind of movie that needs to be in 3-D. It isn’t gimmicky but essential to this kind of movie. I will tell you this upfront, don’t bother staying though the credits. There is no teaser or aster-the-credits extra scene. So when the credits roll, so can you.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

 I haven’t seen Les Miserables and, despite the great reviews, I don’t know if I ever will. You see, some 20+ years ago, I was forced to read about Jean Valjean and Cosette and the whole very sad, very miserable crew and I hated every minute of it. I hated it so much that decades later I can’t even bear the thought of a cinematic version. It was the exact opposite with The Great Gatsby. I read it in high school and I loved it. I enjoyed the adaptation with Robert Redford (Gatsby), Mia Farrow (Daisy) and Sam Waterson (Nick). I couldn’t wait to see this one.

For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job of capturing Jay Gatsby’s determination and hopeless hopefulness. Normally, I’m not a huge Tobey McGuire fan but he did a solid job of capturing the role of the trying-to-be-objective narrator, Nick Carraway. For those who aren’t familiar with the story, five years earlier, a penniless Gatsby met Daisy Buchanan and fell head-over-heels with the beautiful young privileged girl. He went off to war and made Daisy (Carey Mulligan) promise that she’d wait.

Daisy, however, broke that promise and married Tom (Joel Edgerton) a boorish, philandering man who, like her, came from old money. If she would have waited, Gatsby would have come back. It was always his plan. In the years he was away, he earned millions, enough wealth, he thought, to earn Daisy’s heart.

With Tom’s constant cheating, Daisy seemed like she might be ready for what Gatsby had to offer but as Nick warned his friend, "You can’t recreate the past."

As I said, I really enjoyed DiCaprio as Gatsby the hopeful dreamer who, you could tell, wasn’t afraid to be ruthless to get what he wanted. Like his character in Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio (and the character of Gatsby) have mastered the art of reinvention. Edgerton's Tom also proved to be a formidable challenger for Daisy’s heart.

Now, the movie opens and closes in a snowy asylum where Nick pins The Great Gatsby as part of his therapy. What? Hey, kids, if you want to bypass the book and just use the film instead, know that this little artistic license did not happen in the novel. I didn’t understand why Nick, for one, would end up in an asylum and, two, why the book would have to be written there. Couldn’t it just be a memoir based on an important and pivotal time in his life?

Then there is the matter of Daisy. I thought Carey Mulligan was good but I left wondering if someone else could have been better in that role. Mulligan was good but not great. Director/co-writer Luhrmann gave Daisy a lot more depth than she had in the book. As she was written by Fitzgerald, Daisy just wasn't the kind of woman who would ever be capable of the kind of love that Gatsby demands … and never was. Part of the tragedy is that the past Gatsby so desperately wanted to create was never there.

Yet this is a Baz Luhrmann spectacle and he brings on the dazzling visuals. The infamous parties Gatsby is known for as well as the speakeasies and mansions give him a colorful playground to romp and play in. The soundtrack, has more than a nod to executive producer Sean “Jay-Z” Carter. It is a mash-up of rap and current songs with a 20’s feel. Jay-z, Beyonce, and Will-I-Am are featured. There is even a 20’s version of Amy  Winehouse classic Back to Black.

Gatsby is a kinetic visual spectacle with a few really strong performances. We saw it in 2-D, if I could have done it again, I’d do the 3-D version.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 appears to be the last in the Iron Man trilogy. If so, the movie went out with a bang, lots of bangs. Out of the three, I have to say I think the first one is the best but 3 makes a very valiant effort to usurp that first one. It says a lot that I saw the movie twice over the weekend.

Iron Man 3 takes place after The Avengers. As a result of going through the wormhole in that film, the Tony Stark in this film is scarred. He can’t sleep and he’s having panic attacks. His solution? Throw himself into his work. He ends up with over 40 Iron Man suits that respond to his beck and call.

He’ll need all of those suits to combat the latest terrorist threat, The Mandarin (played deliciously by Ben Kingsley and not to be confused with the delicious little oranges usually in a light syrup). Working for The Mandarin is Aldrich Killian (played by a slightly bulked up Guy Pearce), a scientist that Stark blew off at a party over a decade before.

The Mandarin is wreaking havoc through a series of televised terrorist events. It is first up to the Iron Patriot (a red, white and blue Iron Man worn by Don Cheadle) to vanquish him. Adding to the mix is the head of Stark Industries and Stark’s significant other, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – who could use a few sandwiches with cheese and extra mayo) and her new head of security, Iron Man’s best friend and former bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau).

Lovers of action will love Iron Man 3 which has some seriously intense and long action sequences. Yet, Robert Downey Jr. has always brought the fun and comedy to the series and he definitely does not disappoint here. Some of his best lines are exchanged with Harley (Ty Simpkins) a young boy he meets along the way to saving the world.

If I had a problem with the movie it was the nature of the villain. The Mandarin’s warriors have the ability to regenerate limbs and survive just about anything. Yet, to me, it was never clear what could actually kill them and what made some of them blow up. Was it intentional? Was it accidental? It was never made clear.
However, the villains did turn into a freaky red-orange color and the fact that they could blow up made for a lot of cool explosions and ratcheted up the action feature a few notches.

The film ‘ended’ the trilogy satisfactorily. It seemed like a fitting conclusion - so much so that a 4th Iron Man would seem a little disingenuous. Of course stay until the very, very end for a funny little after the credits sequence.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Movie Review: A Place Beyond the Pines

At its core, The Place Beyond the Pines is a tale of fathers and sons. It’s about how the actions of the father affect the son and ultimately how he son eventually comes full circle incorporating a lot of who the father was into who he is. With award-worthy performances from Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper, this two hour and twenty minute film sometimes meanders but redeems itself in the end. It’s a movie that stays with you.

In the beginning, Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a carnival worker whose act involves motorcycling in a circular cube. As he travels from city to city, he has his share of hook-ups with the local ladies. One such connection comes in the form of Romina (Eva Mendes). When he returns to her town the following year, he’s surprised to find that she’s had a baby, his baby. This is a game-changer for Luke and he vows to be the father he never had. Immediately he quits the circus. Yet he doesn’t make the money to support himself, not to mention a child.

When his friend and landlord, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) suggests they rob a bank, Luke initially balks. However, he realizes that he isn’t much good at anything else and the pair set off to make some fast cash. All goes well until Luke gets a little too cocky. After a botched robbery and a high speed chase, he ends up trapped in a house. Enter patrolman and father of his own one-year old, Avery (Bradley Cooper). The two have a showdown that ends up making Avery’s career.

Soon, the privileged son of a judge and law school graduate is making a name for himself as an assistant district attorney. Years pass and as his career climbs, both boys get older. The film’s final act show the boys as teens on the cusp of manhood.

Director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance paces his movie slowly and takes time to let it evolve. This is both a good and a bad thing. We have the time to see the characters develop – which is awesome given the caliber of the performances. Gosling especially embodies the intensity and the desperation of a man who wants to be better but doesn’t know how to go about it. For his part, Cooper’s character doesn’t have the same intensity but he has the thoughtfulness and ambition that a man like his character would require. While not as flashy, he gives a very solid performance.

Both Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, who play the teenage sons of Luke and Avery also give genuine performances.

However, there are lulls and moments when the pace seems too slow. The film is long, but in retrospect, it isn’t a case where I could see where it was indulgent. It is long because it has to be to tell the story it’s telling fully. The film has a lot to say and none of it can be said quickly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Movie Review: 42

My grandfather was a huge baseball fan. In fact, I can’t think of baseball without thinking of him. He was a fan, a Cleveland Indians fan, for life. He was an adult in 1947 and rooted for Jackie Robinson as he made history (and later Larry Dobie as the first black man on the Cleveland Indians). As I walked into the theater to see 42, Grandpa weighed heavy on my mind. When I left the theater two hours later, he was still there and he would have been proud.

42 chronicle the decision by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to bring the first African-American to professional sports. At the time, Jim Crow and segregation were the law …. But that didn’t mean blacks weren’t playing baseball. It just meant that they were relegated to playing in their own league where players like Satchel Page were making names for themselves. Rickey chooses Jackie Robinson (newcomer Chadwick Boseman). In their first meeting, he asks Robinson, if he is strong enough to fight back by not fighting back. Throughout the film, Robinson proves that turning the other cheek took a lot more strength than giving into the quick and understandable response of fighting back.

And fight he must. He fights against teammates, fans, members of the opposing teams and his own desire to fend for himself. In his corner the entire time is his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie). Hailing from California, the missus hadn’t encountered Jim Crow segregation until she traveled with her husband. She too, had to restrain her urges to fight back (although she does walk into a Whites Only bathroom to prove a point).

42, wisely chooses to focus on the decision to make Robinson a Brooklyn Dodger and his first year on the team. The movie does lag at times, but by focusing on this targeted and critical time period, it moves along without being mired in years of a long life well-lived. I also liked the fact that writer/director Brian Hegleand chose not to go with a basic black and white portrayal (pun intended). Of course, blacks rooted for him. However, not all white people were against him. A lot of them were but not all of them. I also appreciated the fact that many of his teammates eventually came around (but it took time) and others never did (and in several instances were traded).

When I looked up Chadwick Boseman, I found that he had a number of guest roles on a variety of shows (Law & Order, Castle, Justified, Fringe, etc.) and roles in several series, Lincoln Heights and Persons Unknown. However, 42 is his first lead role. I want to see him in more. He was great. He carried his rage with restraint and dignity. Quite a performance! Hats off to Beharie as his wife. I was introduced to her in 2008 with her debut American Violet. She played a single mother facing serious prison time for trumped up drug charges. I’ve wanted to see more of her as well. Hopefully, we all will now. Finally, Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey got to act. He’s getting a little long in the tooth for all of those action roles and it is good to know that he can still act.

My least favorite sport (sorry Grandpa!), 42 even made baseball look interesting.  And that’s saying something. Like any bio-pic, there is more to this story than meets the eye, but 42 is a solid effort chronicling an important moment in American History.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Movie Review: Tyler Perry's Temptation

I know what I am about to write is tantamount to heresy in some circles but I have never been a huge Tyler Perry fans. Sure Madea is funny and he has gotten some solid performances from his actors. However, his tendency to sermonize, his  kitchen sink approach to storytelling (let’s throw about four or five stories into the plot and see what happens) and his tendency to cast himself into a number of his films often leave me wanting more … a lot more. So I was surprised that I liked Temptation as much as I did.

Based on his play, The Marriage Counselor, the story is told by a counselor speaking with a client. She tells the cautionary tale of her sister Judith (Jurness Smollett-Bell) who was married to her childhood sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross). After college, they leave the country and head to the big city, Washington D.C. He is a pharmacist in a small pharmacy and she takes a job as a counselor in a matchmaking firm run by the very French Janice (Vanessa Williams) and her designer label-conscious co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian). Judith desperately wants to run her own marriage counseling practice while her practical (and absolutely delectable husband) sees her dream as coming to fruition in about 10 years.

Complicating matters is Harley (Robbie Jones), an ambitious young Internet billionaire, who isn’t a client at the matchmaking firm but is considering taking their company and Judith’s compatibility test to the Internet. The two work together very closely and before long he’s giving her the attention her husband has often overlooked. He also stokes the fires of her ambition and before long he’s stokes some other fires as well. Judith’s mother, the Reverend (Ella Joyce) sees exactly what’s going one while poor Brice takes longer to realize what’s really going on.

This is still a Tyler Perry morality play. The people who behave badly (sinfully) will pay the price for their actions and the ones who stay the course will eventually get the pay-off they deserve. However, what I liked were the performances … especially by Smollet-Bell and Gross. I liked the fact that there was a main plot and a sub-plot, involving Brice’s new pharmacist’s assistant (Brandy Norwood). There weren’t a ton of distracting sub-plots. And, Perry didn’t play one of the leads. While he is coming into his own as a director, his acting leaves a lot to be desired, especially if the role requires sexiness. Lance Gross had it in spades, Robbie Jones not so much but he was the rich guy who paid attention to her and I guess that was what mattered most with his character (he did bring some shirtless sexy but Gross outsexied him by a mile).

I do think that this movie is a bit of a risk for Perry. It is sexier that any of his previous films and I think that will alienate a sizable portion of his Christian audience. Yes, there is a strong moral and Joyce plays the Voice of Religious Reason well (a bit too over the top at times) but there are several sex scenes as well. Tame sex scenes but sex scenes none the less.

This was a pleasant surprise. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lose the 'Tude!!!

If you just looked at these pictures, you'd
think the Idol judges were the ones having
all the fun. You'd be wrong!
The Voice started last week. Because I’m obsessed with The Following on Mondays and I don’t get home til late on Tuesdays, I caught the encore episodes on NBC last night. Almost immediately, I realized why The Voice was the #1 music competition show. It was fun. The judges seemed to be having fun. The contestants seemed to be having fun. I was having fun watching it.

Now move over to FOX and take a look at American Idol. It becomes painfully clear why Idol is experiencing the lowest ratings in the shows history. Yes, they got several ‘big names’ but they also have a ton of unnecessary drama.

On The Voice, the single-monikered newbies, Shakira and Usher, fit in nicely with Blake Shelton and Adam Levine. Yes, it’s a competition, but it’s an enjoyable competition and the chemistry between the four of them is pleasant to watch. In fact, I am liking Shakira, as the resident girl much better than I ever liked Christina Aguilera (especially in her last season when she really let the bitch out of her cage).

On Idol, the only judge I like now is Keith Urban. He’s engaged and enthusiastic. Randy, Nicki and Mariah look like they don’t want to be there. Nicki showed up late for one of the live shows, since then she’s managed to show up promptly but is it any better? Not really. Her crazy, rambling, bitchy commentary is unnecessary (The one she gave about fixing pancakes with syrup and butter on a Saturday morning was the most ridulous thing I've heard in a while). Plus, she has already stated repeatedly that she wants to see all five girls in the top five. Biased much? Great quality in a judge!

Mariah is a joke. She’s literally phoning it in … yes, she’s been caught several times texting during performances. Really? The live shows are an hour-long. She’s being paid a shitload of money (sources say $18 million for one season) for Idol. Crazy idea but maybe just showing up isn’t enough. Try earning the money. Dare I say, work for it? It’s not really a hard job.

Then there is the two of them together. I guess not all train wrecks are that worthy of watching. These two ‘divas’ can’t even stand or sit next to each other. One cringes every time the other one speaks.  Well, I guess no one said topping the charts required maturity.

With the low ratings (which are still pretty damn good), it’s clear that Nicki is not bringing in the younger audience and Mariah doesn’t have the pull everyone thought she would. Neither one of them need to be back next season. In fact, throw Randy out too!

Finally, there is the talent. The Idol formula is no longer working. Effeminate black men, obligatory country girls, a couple of cute white guys, someone who appeals to an ethnic audience (Filipino or Hispanic…)Yawn! The Voice has better talent and it’s not nearly as cookie cutter.

Whether we are talking the not-so-dearly departed (from The Voice) Christina or Ms. Minaj or Queen Carey, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to television ratings or just making good TV show that diva attitude that serves them so well on stage and in the recording studio doesn’t translate to television. If these divas want to do reality TV, they should ditch the competitions and go the way of the Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Whatever. They can build an entire show around diva-tude, bitchiness and grown women acting immaturely. There is definitely a market for that kind of bad behavior, it just isn’t the Idol/Voice market.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Good Reason to Watch SNL!

It seems like Adam Levine is trying to give Samuel L. Jackson some competition for the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. Maroon 5 is so popular that their latest effort is called Overexposed. He's about to start on the fourth season of The Voice. He tried his hand at acting in this season's American Horror Story. So what is the next frontier for our Jack of All Trades? Comedy. He'll be hosting the January 26 episode of Saturday Night Live. The band will get to rest a bit because Maroon 5 will not be the musical guest - that duty will fall to Kendrick Lamar.

Each time Maroon 5 has performed on SNL, Adam has appeared in a sketch. I'm a little scared though, SNL is so hit or miss when it comes to writing for their hosts. I hope they do my boy justice. I will be counting down the days.

Here's a Digital Short he did with Andy Samberg and Jake Gyllenhaal (blink and you'll miss him!) a few seasons ago.

Oops ... I Forgot!

I was looking at my last post and realize I forgot several programs that I really am looking forward to.

Catfish (Monday, January 7, MTV, 11:00 pm): I've only seen trailers and excerpts of the documentary, Catfish, but I know the story. A young man (Nev) was duped by a woman he 'fell in love with' online. Of course, the dowdy middle-aged housewife was nothing even remotely close to the hot young thing she claimed to be. In fact, she had lied about almost everything. Now, Nev, together with MTV, is helping people meet and uncover the truth about their online loves.

I cannot stop watching this show. The only thing more amazing than people willing to maintain a relationship, in some cases for years, with someone they've never met is the lengths people will go to to lie and manipulate someone else. A new episode airs this Monday night and I can't wait!

Scandal (Thursday, January 10, ABC, 10:00): I got hooked on Scandal when it debuted late last season. It started off strong but since then, it's really picked up momentum. Kerry Washington is a crisis management expert who can manage any crisis but has a much harder time managing her own life. With her true love, The President of the United States, fighting for his life after an assassination attempt and one of her staff members being blamed for it, she'll have her hands full Thursday night!

Nashville (Wednesday, January 9, ABC, 10:00): I can't say that I am a country music fan, but over the past few years, I've come to really appreciate it. However, it says something when a show called Nashville can stand on its own, outside of the music. Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, play a country music icon and a country It Girl who will eventually have to work together (it helps that they can't stand each other). It also has family drama and politics thrown into the mix.It also has Powers Boothe as a powerful and corrupt family patriarch.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Praise the Lawd and Pass the Remote!

The holiday season is great for friends, family and, of course, shopping but it’s not so great for TV viewers. Ah the Doldrums of December! Three weeks of repeats and Christmas movies that you’ve already seen a million times. I was just about to crawl out of my skins; but, starting tonight, things are going to start getting better.

Wednesday, January 2: It starts with a new episode of American Horror Story tonight at 10:00. It looks like someone beside Sister Jude (or should I say the former Sister) has seen the real Mary Eunice.

Saturday, January 5: There are repeats of Once Upon a Time all evening. I can live with that because it’s a lead-up to an all-new episode Sunday night.

Sunday, January 6: Finally, new Once Upon a Time! I’ll go ahead and say it. This will probably be the best part of my weekend. I know I need to get a life but for now this will have to do!

Monday, January 7: Castle (ABC, 10:00)is back. I know most people don’t like it when the couple finally gets together on a show but I think Beckett and Castle work well as a couple. I enjoy watching their banter and chemistry. Yet, I’m sure there relationship will be tested on this evening’s show when Castle’s ex-wife moves in to care for a sick Alexis. I’ll most likely DVR Castle and watch ….

Deception (NBC, 10:00) is a new show I plan on checking out. Megan Good plays a detective trying to infiltrate her best friend’s family to find out who killed her.

Tuesday, January 8: All of my FOX comedies are back: Raising Hope, Ben & Kate, The New Girl and The Mindy Project. Although Ben & Kate got a full season order of 19 episodes, ratings are far from hot. It isn’t expected to last past the season. The Mindy Project is firmly on the bubble and could go either way. Having watched several episodes of both shows, Ben & Kate is definitely funnier. If I were a FOX exec, I’d keep Ben & Kate and axe The Mindy Project.

Other Midseason Shows on my calendar.

American Idol (Wednesday, January 16, FOX 8:00): I know all about the Nicki Minaj/Mariah Carey feud and I couldn’t care less. Am I the only AI fan who, and call me crazy, actually watches for the talent. It really doesn’t matter if NM and MC get along or not. What matters to me is if they can spot and put through good talent that makes me want to watch.

The Following (Monday, January 21, FOX 9:00): Kevin Bacon doesn’t really do TV. I’m hoping that since he’s signed on to The Following that it will be pretty good. He plays a former FBI agent on the hunt for a serial killer (James Purefoy) who has escaped from prison and has a legion of followers who are willing to kill for him. Really looking forward to this one.

Smash (Tuesday, February 5, NBC 10:00): The second season of Smash moves from Monday to Tuesday and it opens with a two-hour premiere (starting at 9:00). We’ve gotten rid of four old characters and welcomed in a few new ones … including a recurring role for Jennifer Hudson!

Celebrity Apprentice (Sunday, March 3, NBC 9:00): By far, this is the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. I am dying to know what will top last season’s Clay Aiken “I’m a grown ass man!” rant. This is the All-Star season which includes former winners Trace Adkins and Brett Michaels. However, it also includes LaToya Jackson, Gary Busey, Dennis Rodman and Omarosa (who was never on Celebrity Apprentice but became a celebrity after being featured in the first season of regular Apprentice).

The Voice (Monday, March 25, NBC, 8:00) Adam Levine and Blake Shelton are back for Season 4 of The Voice. However, we’ve got two new stars in our revolving red seats. Replacing Cee-lo Green and Christina Aguilera are Usher and Shakira.

It's getting cold (hey, I'm in North Carolina). It's a great time to sit in my favorite chair, in my nuggie and watch some good TV. .... Oh, and the dog has a Snuggie too ... yeah, I kind of need to get a life.