What The Flick | BET.com http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:18:41 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Movie Review: ‘Boyhood’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-boyhood/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-boyhood/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 18:00:33 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7809

(Photo: IFC Productions)

Writer and director Richard Lanklater hit a critics jackpot with Boyhood.  The film is praised as a masterpiece and it’s tough to find anyone who doesn’t think it is The Godfather of 2104. Consider me the exception.  Yes, I am in the minority here.  The creation of Boyhood is interesting, but regardless of innovative film-making the movie s lacks passion and soul.

Boyhood’s main accolades focus is that it was filmed over a 12 year period, a first of its kind in filmmaking. The audience watches the characters grow, no special effects makeup or casting different actors. However, the lack of plot or story are never mentioned when describing Linklater’s latest. That’s because the film misses most of those elements. You won’t walk out of Boyhood saying, “That one scene was so incredible!” If it wasn’t for the gimmicky, how-the-film-was-made publicity, the coming-of-age story would be panned as unoriginal, predictable and boring. Boyhood is less of a movie and more of an experiment. Arguably, an experiment that ultimately works. But I would never sit through it again.

The film stars a 5-year-old Ellar Coltrane as Mason and follows him until he is 17 years old. Linklater filmed the movie every year or so as Coltrane and the rest of the cast aged. Coltrane’s performance is casual, natural and much of the dialogue is improvised. Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and the rest of the supporting cast are solid, but with a script that isn’t much different than an after school special (alcoholism, domestic violence, divorce, puberty, college).  There’s no denying movie is destined for awards glory. However, the average moviegoer won’t see the brilliance alleged by critics and cinephiles. For those of us who prefer a bit of story with our acting, the flick less conventionally entertaining, and more of an act of cinematic narcissism.

Boyhood is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘Life Itself’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-life-itself/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-life-itself/#comments Fri, 07 Nov 2014 05:00:32 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7795

(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

Roger Ebert was a master at film criticism. Therefore, it is fitting that the documentary on his life would achieve his standards of a thumbs up film.  Life Itself succeeds with grace and joy. Directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams), one can only imagine Ebert insisted on giving the raw truth, which is the main ingredient of any good documentary. Filmed during the last five months of his life, the Chicago critic was an open script, yielding a deeply introspective film which tackles the heaviness of death while not forgetting the happiness of life.

Never avoiding uncomfortable moments like Ebert’s medical procedures — arguably the most difficult parts of the film to watch — and strife with his on-camera partner Gene Siskel, James smoothly unravels Ebert’s journey. Unlike some docs on high-profile figures, Ebert isn’t presented as an angel. All sides of him glow onscreen, from the ferocious film critic with a sharp tongue to an older man still passionate about cinema even while fighting a terminal illness.

James, an appropriate choice to direct the documentary given Ebert’s championing of Hoop Dreams, is the reason that film is an American classic. He engages the audience using archival footage, pieces from Ebert’s memoir and candid interviews with everyone from Martin Scorsese to Ebert’s wife, Chaz Hammel-Smith. The latter is the leading lady in Roger’s life, and their relationship is a highlight of the film. Chaz candidly talks being in an interracial relationship (they married in 1992) and how they both allowed each other to be who they were.  In many ways, Life Itself is a love story about a man who found his passion at the movies and found a loyal, strong woman in Chaz. The movie is truly about the resiliency of love without being sappy or a long funeral.

Roger Ebert’s presence is immortal and, considering his body of work and influence on movies, he is American history. Life Itself is one of the best documentaries of the year.

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Maleficent on DVD/Blu-Ray Now http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/maleficient-on-dvdblu-ray-now/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/maleficient-on-dvdblu-ray-now/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 13:47:02 +0000 smundhra http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7781

(Photo: Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

What could make a better stocking stuffer than Angelina Jolie? The actress’s fantasy drama Maleficent, which comes to DVD and Blu-Ray today, is high on our Christmas list this year. The twist on Sleeping Beauty looks at the classic story from the perspective of Disney’s most iconic villain. Jolie couldn’t be more perfectly cast as the evil queen.

While the movie was a box office hit and even a critical fave, which is a rarity, Maleficent on DVD/Blu-Ray is an even better movie-watching experience. Presented in digital HD, you will get the full impact of the hauntingly beautiful film, directed by Robert Stromberg. Plus, Maleficent’s extras  do not disappoint: deleted scenes, a feature on the eye-popping special effects, how the movie went from a classic fairytale to a feature film and much more.

Pick up a copy of Disney’s instant classic for everyone on your Christmas list, regardless of whether they’ve been naughty or nice!

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Movie Review: ‘Gone Girl’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-gone-girl/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-gone-girl/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:00:45 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7755

(Photo: New Regency Pictures)

The world is anticipating Gone Girl, and why shouldn’t they? The film hits all the Hollywood checkpoints: A-list director in David Fincher, Ben Affleck as a husband suspected of killing his wife, Neil Patrick Harris as an eerie ex-boyfriend and Tyler Perry as a no-holds-barred lawyer. Based on the book by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, the main question is, does Gone Girl live up to the hype?

With buildup this enormous, some audiences are destined for disappointment. That said, ignoring the epic promotion, superb director and all-star cast — Gone Girl comes down to the storyline. By the time the flick clocks in its 149-minute running time (whatever happened to the art of editing?), it’s simply a laborious Dateline ID episode with a ridiculously disappointing ending.

Gone Girl starts strong, a standard whodunit with every bit of publicity building you up for the “shocking twist.” In an effort to not ruin the film with spoilers, no specifics will be mentioned in this review. However, when the “shocking twist” hits, it’s anticlimactic and wildly illogical. Moviegoers require a suspension of disbelief for any film, but the last hour or so of Gone Girl was so implausible that it nearly ruined the entire film. To the film’s credit, the movie stayed true to the book, so if you were a fan of the novel, Gone Girl might be a home run for you.

On the positive side, the pacing is solid, even for its long running time. But the most fascinating aspect of the film is the commentary on fame, media and how quickly the public turns on you. It makes you wonder: how many have been vilified in the press when they were actually the victim?

Although Perry’s role as a cursing, ballsy lawyer is small, it’s one of his best performances — so unlike anyone he has played in previous films. Without Madea, his talents still shine. In addition, Ben Affleck is a master at carrying a film — even when Gone Girl struggles with extreme absurdity, the Oscar winner manages to make the audience believe, but he can’t save the entire film. Fincher and Flynn also attempt morbid humor, with awkward transitions to campy one-liners which didn’t quite work and often tainted the otherwise dark, stylish thriller.

Gone Girl is far from a terrible film, but it is the “date movie of the year.” The flick might be a blockbuster hit and critics may rave, but the average moviegoer will not be as hypnotized by the hype.

Gone Girl is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘Nas: Time Is Illmatic’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-nas-time-is-illmatic/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-nas-time-is-illmatic/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:48:42 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7734

(Photo: Tribeca Film Institute)

Twenty years ago, Nas‘ debut album blew up hip hop.  The cultural impact of songs like the “The World Is Yours,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and “One Love”  resonated in hip hop and beyond.  The movie honoring the rapper’s legacy over the past 20 years, Nas: Time Is Illmatic, accessibly analyzes the album’s impact and, like any good doc, informs, entertains and jars your emotions.

Directed by One9 and written by Erik Parker, don’t think the doc is just another behind-the-scenes look at an artist. Without cheap gimmicks or exploitation, Time Is Illmatic unravels how a young boy loses his innocence on the streets of Queens and transforms into an icon. Considering the endless stories of police brutality and our collapsing public education system (one of the most powerful scenes is Nas’ father brilliantly breaking down public education and its epic failures), the movie is deeply relevant, representing the lives of black men who live in an environment where their lives are not valued. Nas is a clever voice for the voiceless, but this isn’t a story for just Queens, black men, or the ‘hood.  Time Is Illmatic transcends hip hop, the doc is an all-American story, peeling back the beauty and grit of America’s roots.

Ten years in the making, director One9 thankfully avoided the cliche of attempting to encompass an artist’s full career.  By using interviews from Nas’ past (like the legendary Roxanne Shante who gave him his break) to his present (Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip) the movie is polished, cohesive and moves at the pace of a vibrant hip hop album. It’s a full circle film, touching on the feeling of the times without pushing an agenda. A humble Nas candidly tells his story, clearly trusting his directors, and the result is one of the best documentaries of the year.

Time Is Illmatic is sure to be a seminal piece of work for scholars and fans of hip hop for years to come.

Nas: Time Is Illamtic opens in select cities October 1 and VOD on October 3.

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Broadway Diva Jennifer Holliday Returns to New York City http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/broadway-diva-jennifer-holliday-returns-to-new-york-city/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/broadway-diva-jennifer-holliday-returns-to-new-york-city/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:48:23 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7732

(Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for the Jackie Robinson Foundation)

On Friday night at B.B .King’s Blues Club in Manhattan, the legendary Jennifer Holliday proved once again why she is not going anywhere. Fresh off the release of her first album in 21 years, The Song Is You, the original Effie White remains a vocal prowess and looking younger at 53 than she did at 19. Opening with ”I Ain’t Been Licked,” a song about survival, the Diana Ross song is fitting for Holliday who has weathered decades in the music industry. “You’ll never know how much this means to me,” said a humble Holliday to a loving audience.

The diva belted out song after song including 1983’s “I Am Love,” 1991’s “I’m on Your Side” and two classics from Etta James —”At Last” and “Tell Mama.” While some singers struggle in between songs, Jennifer Holliday kept the audience entertained telling stories of singing at the Oscars for Barbra Streisand, her ups and downs with marriages and the early days of Dreamgirls. She was charismatic, funny and there wasn’t a dull moment in the over 90-minute set.

Of course Ms. Holliday belted out one of the most covered songs of all time, “And I Am Telling You,” like only she could. Holliday explained she didn’t know what love meant when she first sang the Grammy winning song at only 19. Now at 53, the song has new meaning for her. For many artists, singing their signature hit later in their career can be anticlimactic — they are clearly tired of the song and sometimes lazily turn the mic to the audience. Not Holliday. Her passion in “And Am I Telling You” is still jaw-dropping.

One would think “And I Am Telling You” was the best moment of the night, but no. Ms. Holliday managed to top her signature song with the heartbreaking “Love Me By Name,” which is on the new album. Sitting on a stool, Holliday finessed the melody, singing the haunting lyrics, “You’re surely not the first I’ve had / Who held me gently / Who took the sweet time to ask me about me.” By the time Holliday reached the end of her set, she brought the crowd to a frenzy as she repeatedly growled, “Love me by name!” And it was clear from the audience, Jennifer Holliday is certainly loved.

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Movie Review: ‘Into the Storm’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-into-the-storm/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-into-the-storm/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 01:57:51 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7714 (Photo: New Line Cinema)

(Photo: New Line Cinema)

Disaster films are inherently crowd-pleasing if the formula includes likable characters, an acceptable script and fun-to-watch special effects. Unfortunately, Into the Storm failed on two out of three.  The tornado fiasco managed to nail the CGI, but fancy computerized twisters could not redeem the flick’s consistent dimwittedness. Half-baked characters include a work-obsessed single mom, a work-obsessed single dad, stereotypical hillbillies, testy storm chasers and a flock of teenagers. The general plot: everyone is scrambling around the most epic and implausible cyclones of all time — think Final Destination meets Twister, but not nearly as entertaining.

Directed by Steven Quale, the first twenty minutes is teen babble with one character filming his high school graduation.  The first-person cam bounces to each character, attempting to give us an “intimate” look at twitsers. Yep, another “found footage” film in the style of Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield. This overused style only works if there is an extreme sense of urgency and drama, which Into the Storm lacked.  Furthermore, how is it possible to maintain a handheld cam while enduring a biblical tornado?  The shaky cameras were more annoying than suspenseful and just one of the many ridiculous fumbles in the film’s 89 minutes.

Hopefully the actors, who are clearly working hard with the flat script, will get more chances to prove themselves. Sarah Wayne Callies, who famously played Lori in The Walking Dead, has a strong on-screen presence even with atrocious dialogue that frequently made the audience burst into laugher. Arlen Escarpeta, who plays Bobby Brown in Lifetime’s Whitney Houston biopic, is no novice to the big screen. The Belizean actor has appeared in several horror films, so hopefully Into the Storm in one of his last stops in B-movie land.

When you are sitting in a movie like Into the Storm and the two people next to you are huffing, puffing and shaking their head at the flick’s stupidity, you can’t help but think, “How do movies like this even get the green light to be made?”  There are so many filmmakers with original, fun — and not just indie-style — ideas from disaster to horror.  With appropriate backing, fresh ideas would undoubtedly perform better at the box office rather than badly rehashing the old, as Into the Storm does.  The film is an indication of why this year has been one of the worst summers for the box office.

Into the Storm is in theaters tomorrow.

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Movie Review: ‘Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-cabin-fever-3-patient-zero/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-cabin-fever-3-patient-zero/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 15:00:19 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7698

(Photo: Film002)

When it comes to melodramatic, campy horror films with ludicrous sex scenes and B-movie foolishness, Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero is right up there with the worst of them — but in a good way. The third installment and prequel of the cheese-ball series, directed by Kaare Andrews, is strictly for its genre. Don’t expect Silence of the Lambs or The Exorcist. Starring Sean Astin (of Goonies fame), Cabin Fever 3 is the kind of flick you watch with friends, tossing popcorn in each other’s mouths and laughing at every haphazard scenario.

With decent special effects, Cabin Fever 3 is not a bore, which is about all you can ask for in horror. The plot, too, is interesting enough — better than many bigger-budget blockbusters. The night before a wedding in the Dominican Republic, the groom and his three friends travel to a random island for a bachelor party. Who knows why  twenty somethings would want to be on a deserted island for a party, but this is horror movie land.  We can quickly determine that something in the water ain’t clean, and a flesh-eating virus infects two members of the group. Yet, they still managed to get their freak on, even with limbs falling off … sexy! On the hunt for help, the groom and his BFF find a medical facility where the virus has wreaked havoc due to Patient Zero, who we see in the opening scene. They must find their way off the island and Patient Zero is hellbent on escaping with them.

Cabin Fever 3 includes acceptable plots twists, funny one-liners (my favorite line, a “nurse” tells a woman whose face is falling off, “I think you need a referral!”) and a solid, horror flick ending.  Obviously, this is not a great film and it isn’t supposed to be, but Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero more or less does its job of delivering equal parts laughter and fright.

Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero is in theaters and on iTunes today.

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Movie Review: ‘Get On Up’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-get-on-up/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-get-on-up/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:30:48 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7674

(Photo: Imagine Entertainment)

Summary: A biopic on the late, great James Brown. Directed by Tate Taylor, the film chronicles Brown’s life as an impoverished child in rural Georgia to legendary superstardom.

Review: Get On Up opens with James Brown in 1988, high on PCP, armed with a rifle and hollering at insurance agents for taking a dump in his private bathroom. It’s an uncomfortable start to the film, which is written by British siblings Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. Imagine if What’s Love Got to Do With It opened with Ike Turner punching Tina or if the first frame of Ray was Mr. Charles shooting up heroine. Maybe the objective was to move from dark to light, but considering the oddball first ten minutes, the film had much to redeem. Thank the cinematic gods for Chadwick Boseman. Get On Up is no Malcolm X or Lady Sings the Blues, but the performances and infectious music repairs many of the film’s flaws.

Get On Up is directed by Tate Taylor, the controversial director of The Help. Similar to The Help, which earned Octavia Spencer an Oscar, there is a hard-to-describe absence of feeling and rhythm. Get On Up needed a bit more grit and grime. With the campy one-liners and soft handling of race, you wanted Taylor to dig deeper, go to the gutter of the soul, which is what James Brown effortlessly represented. So you can’t help but wonder how different the film would have been if Spike Lee, who was originally signed on to direct, was at the helm. The blogosphere went mad when Lee was replaced by The Help director, but maybe Tate Taylor has it right. A Spike Lee version of a James Brown biopic might be too much for the public to consume. Taylor plays it safe, which equals box office gold. Personally, though, I love an artistic risk.

Steering clear of the traditional biopic format, the film is not linear. There are constant flashbacks to Brown’s tragic youth.  However, the flick sometimes gets lost in the flashes, which can be annoying when you are invested in one scene and are suddenly fast-forwarded to a new wig and different characters.  When the original scene returns, you’ve already checked out.  In addition, Taylor also relies heavily on talking directly to the camera, which is a device viewers will either love or hate.  The random monologues into the camera tossed me out of the film, but they might have been necessary for a non-chronological script. Between the erratic narrative and distracting techniques, linear storytelling might have been a better move for Get On Up.

Chadwick Boseman’s performance makes you forgive the obvious hiccups. Though many raised an eyebrow that he would take on playing another historic figure so early in his career, there is no residual of his portrayal of Jackie Robinson in 42. Boseman avoided a common impersonation of Brown, adding soul, humor and drama. The best scene is with Viola Davis (of course, the most powerful moment would be with the consistently astounding Tony winner), who plays Brown’s mother, meeting James Brown for the first time since she abandoned him. It was one of the few scenes Boseman was able to present a sensitive side of Brown with Davis upping the acting stakes.  I’ll go on record to say Boseman has the potential to be the next Denzel Washington or Matthew McConaughey, he is a star.

Even with the overwhelming 139-minute running time and many flaws, Get On Up is a hard film not to enjoy. Most importantly, what the director, producers and cast effectively communicated was the resilience of the human soul. Similar to Josephine Baker, Tina Turner and Ray Charles, Brown grew up in the dirt of poverty — no running water, no social services, abandoned by family, zero education — and managed to become an icon. Brown’s story of survival will make you want to get on up and better your own life.

Get On Up is in theaters tomorrow.

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Movie Review: ‘Lucy’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-lucy/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-lucy/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:00:59 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7661 (Photo: TF1 Films Productions)

(Photo: TF1 Films Productions)

Don’t you hate when you are enjoying the first 15 minutes of a film and saying to yourself, “This is going to be good!” Then, the movie takes an odd turn to the left, completely goes off course and you’re soon thinking, “When the hell is this going to be over?” That is the best way to describe Luc Besson’s Lucy. Yes, the debunked myth of “humans only use ten percent of their brain capacity” is an interesting premise for a film, but the idea quickly gets lost in being a cerebral life lesson rather than entertaining. Don’t expect a fun femme fatale flick like the Underworld franchise or 1993’s Point of No Return.

Despite a great start and the presence of the always-excellent Morgan Freeman, Lucy suffers from a deadpan script packed with laughable dialogue, harebrained (even for sci-fi) scenarios and an awkward performance from Scarlett Johansson, who stars as Lucy, a young woman caught up in corrupt deal with well-dressed Korean gangsters. After ingesting a powerful drug, her senses are heightened and she becomes Miss 100 Percent.  What’s amazing about Lucy’s ability to access her full brain capacity is that she becomes less human with each second. She feels no pain, spots diseases, creates a black blob of computers complete with a stylish USB card, travels in time and all with perfect blonde trestles of hair.

Clearly, the Tony winner was doing her best to make a flat character work, which might have looked better on paper (Angelina Jolie was once attached, but ultimately dropped out of the film).  However, with eye-rolling babble and not enough sensical action, Lucy fails due to its own premise and Johansson’s zombie-like portrayal couldn’t save the film.  The good side: Lucy only clocks in 88 minutes, which is a relief considering the unnecessary, nearly three-hour epics we have today. Just when you cannot take anymore, the film swiftly ends.  With my limited ten percent brain capacity, it’s possible that I couldn’t grasp the film’s greatness … but I doubt it.  Lucy is bland on arrival.

Lucy is in theaters now.

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