What The Flick | BET.com http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick Tue, 17 Feb 2015 19:33:12 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Movie Review: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-fifty-shades-of-grey/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-fifty-shades-of-grey/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 18:00:07 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7923

(Photo: Focus Features)

Fifty Shades of Grey is in theaters and it is a box office smash. Luckily, the film is critic-proof because without the rabid fan following of the novel, the flick would be another cinematic dud. The filmmakers and studio smartly positioned the film for a Valentine’s Day release, counting on the notion that it is the one weekend of the year that scores of women could successfully drag their husband and boyfriends into the theater to see it.

The leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, seem to know they are in an awful film. Johnson is Anastasia Steele, a plain Jane (well, Hollywood’s version of “plain”) who falls for Christian Grey (Dornan), a billionaire lothario who doesn’t “do” relationships, he only “f***s.” For a reason that is never fully fleshed out, Anastasia decides to pursue a sexual relationship with Grey even though it leaves her sobbing every other scene.  Even the young lady sitting next to me in the theater said, “Why the hell is she crying so much!”

The chemistry between Johnson and Dornan is soulless, the build up to their relationship is laughable and the BDSM (bondage, discipline and sadomasochism) is ridiculously sanitized. In one scene, Dakota Johnson’s character cries, “Show me the worst of it! Show me how bad it gets!” This results in six spanks. Watch any Madonna video from the early ’90s and you’ll get more BDSM than Fifty Shades of Grey. In 15 years, this will be a film they will both regret and refuse to talk about in interviews.

Grey is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, who has openly complained about difficulties working with the author, E L James, and creative restrictions from the film studio. Therefore, it’s quite possible Grey could’ve been a much stronger film about the complexities of a BDSM relationship had she been given free reign, but hands were tied to go for a marketable PG-13, even though it was still Rated-R. Fifty Shades of Grey was less about making a good, edgy, smart film and more about capitalizing on the following of the bodice-ripper on which it is based.

Lastly, all of the rants that the film is anti-feminist and promotes domestic violence is foolish. Fifty Shades of Grey is so awful, it has zero ability to possess any political or social impact. The movie is simply a profitable pop culture movement with the only good thing coming out of it being  Beyoncé’s remix of “Crazy in Love.”

Fifty Shades of Grey is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘American Sniper’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-american-sniper/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-american-sniper/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 05:00:16 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7910

(Photo: Warner Bros Pictures)

(Photo: Warner Bros Pictures)

American Sniper is sparking debates across the country. Some argue the film glorifies violence, inaccurately portrays the Iraq war and valorizes the most legendary sniper in American history, Chris Kyle, who killed 160 “savages,” as he called them in his 2013 autobiography of the same name. Bill Maher recently called Kyle a “psychopath patriot.” Jesse Ventura said Kyle was a “liar, not a hero.” On the other side, the film is rocking the box office, further exalting the legend of Chris Kyle. The right wing is using the film as the ultimate sign of cinematic patriotism and its defenders are as loyal as the Beygency. Politics, commentators and nationalism aside, American Sniper is a damn good film.

One of the major complaints concerning American Sniper is that Kyle’s book, which details his time in active duty in Iraq, was packed with lies (allegedly, many of the stories detailed in his autobiography could not be fact-checked). But why  is anyone seeking out truth in a Hollywood film? Tinseltown cannot even properly cast Cleopatra. If you are looking for a history lesson, a film directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Bradley Cooper and distributed by Warner Bros. is not the best route. As a film, American Sniper is beautifully directed by Eastwood and Cooper gives a performance that is one-note but fascinating in its subtlety and strength. With a screenplay by Jason Hall, this isn’t another war flick. American Sniper has heart and the engaging story stays with you long after the credits roll.

Yes, I was disturbed by the one-sided view of Muslims. I was also shook by the praising of gun culture — God, country and guns. In addition, the way Kyle’s post traumatic stress after the war was wrapped in a little bow was wildly unrealistic, which was a major failure of the flick. But one has to be careful when politicizing art from your perspective, especially in film. There are too many creative liberties in the movie-making process, therefore it is futile to make American Sniper the latest bullseye for political divide. The acting, script, direction and cinematography were excellent. And regardless of being politically correct, those elements translate to a stellar film.

American Sniper is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘The Boy Next Door’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-boy-next-door/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-boy-next-door/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 05:00:44 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7892

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

It has been years since Jennifer Lopez had a hit movie, and The Boy Next Door will be another film in her long legacy of box office poison. Eighteen years ago, the Bronx native received a Golden Globe nomination for playing the title role in Selena, but the acting chops she displayed in that iconic movie are nowhere to be found in her latest trio of films: The Back-Up Plan, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and now The Boy Next Door. The last one is a cheap, stupidly unoriginal thriller that even Lifetime would pass on … and we all know how much Lifetime loves a bad script.

Lopez stars as Claire Peterson, a lonely teacher going through a divorce. She becomes fascinated with a 19-year-old boy next door, Noah, played by Ryan Guzman (the actor is 27, just one of the many cinematic falsehoods audiences are expected to believe), a young man who will be a senior at her high school. In a weak moment, Claire has sex with Noah and, while the film starts at a low, it goes even further downhill with an awkward sex scene. In the theater where I saw the film, the audience howled with laughter seeing Guzman cup Lopez’s breasts and struggle to create chemistry. Like most of the film, this much-talked about sex scene was stiff and unrealistic.

Frame by frame, The Boy Next Door gets increasingly terrible with endless illogical scenarios. Claire is stalked by Noah, but for some reason she has no desire to call the cops. He breaks into her classroom and plasters naked photos of her on the walls (How did Noah break into a locked room? Does he have magical powers?), hacks her email (Noah is suddenly a computer genius?), tampers with the brakes on her husband’s car, assaults her in a bathroom and more. Thrillers need wit and logic to be suspenseful, directed by Rob Cohen and written by Barbara Curry, this flick lacks every element of a successful thriller.

The Boy Next Door’s supporting cast includes Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth, who arguably has the best lines in the film…which isn’t saying much, and Hill Harper with brief scenes as Lopez’s boss, the high school principal.  Hopefully Guzman will get another chance in a leading role, he does possess an on screen glow.  One redeeming quality is the diversity in the film, even if J.Lo continues to play racially-ambiguous roles, something an African-American actress would be blasted for on social media and beyond.

Overall, The Boy Next Door is even worse than J.Lo’s last album, which is a hard feat. The film, which was produced by Lopez, is full of bad ideas, from script to screen. However, with its modest four million dollar budget, it may likely turn a profit. Maybe the goal wasn’t to create a good movie after all. Either way, the strikingly beautiful Jennifer Lopez is already a star; hopefully in the future she will demand better material as a producer and actress.

The Boy Next Door is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘Taken 3′ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-taken-3/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-taken-3/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 12:00:10 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7872

(Photo: 20th Century FOX)

For Liam Neeson to sign on for the third installment of Taken, he wanted no one to be “taken.” Hmmm … so Taken with no one taken? That would be like The Exorcist with no exorcist. Cabin in the Woods with no cabin in the woods. Nightmare on Elm Street with no nightmares. Taken 3 ultimately blunders because there isn’t enough of the Taken that audiences loved and made a box office smash.

Maybe the lack of someone being taken is the only direction Olivier Megaton (he didn’t direct the first and most successful Taken) felt the film could go. How many times can Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills rescue his family with his MacGyver-ish talents? It might be ludicrous to do it a third time, however, from the start, Taken in 2008 was ridiculous. But the movie was fun, action-packed and smartly stuck to a formula for 90 quick minutes. This Taken shakes up the formula, totals 109 minutes and takes itself too seriously.

Part of the success of first two was playing on the fears of traveling out of the country. Many wondered, “Could that happen to me or family?” Playing on fears is a major ingredient of a successful thriller. The third time around includes none of those thrills, everything is based in Los Angeles and it’s just another flick about a man trying to save his family. Liam Neeson is still as charismatic as ever, but even he couldn’t make the drab script work like he did with Non-Stop and The Grey.

Taken 3 includes Oscar winner Forest Whitaker in a role he could play in an Ambien-induced sleep. He is the detective on the hunt for Bryan Mills, who was framed for the murder of his wife. Most of Whitaker and Neeson’s scenes take place via phone, missing an opportunity for the two phenomenal actors to have a great moment on screen. Maggie Grace as Bryan’s daughter is the same damsel in distress as the previous installments. Famke Janssen is his ex-wife who is killed off within the first 30 minutes.

Taken is known for eye-popping and somewhat gory action sequences. But Megaton’s obsession with shaky cam effects and frantic editing sucks the enjoyment out of the action.  Gone are the unique ways Mills squeezed himself out of near death experiences — with the exception of a car crash scene that is wildly implausible, even for the Taken franchise.

For the close to the franchise, fans would’ve loved to see an epic battle between the criminals and Bryan Mills.  Instead, Taken 3 only proved the third time is rarely a charm for action films.

Taken 3 is in theaters now.

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Movie Review: ‘Death Metal Angola’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-death-metal-angola/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-death-metal-angola/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 22:38:17 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7844 (Photo: the Vladimir Company, Coalition Films)

(Photo: the Vladar Company, Coalition Films)

Summary: Jeremy Xido’s surprisingly feel-good documentary on the popularity of “death metal” rock music in war-torn Angola.

Review: “Rock can clean my heart,” says one of the young men in Death Metal Angola. Many musicians have said similar words, but coming from a teenager who survived the atrocities of war and found refuge in a sound that most would think is reserved for punk rockers in the suburbs of America, death metal wasn’t just a past time, it was salvation. But Death Metal Angola goes beyond region, the heart of the story is how children thrive with arts and culture, regardless of genre. Music encourages learning, which is another reason why it is so disturbing arts  programs are being cut in schools across America.

Detroit native and director Jeremy Xido follows a community of young people who survived a civil war, which ended in 2002. The mother of the film is Sonia Ferreria, whose love for children and community helped to save many souls. Her narrative of Angola’s journey through colonization and civil unrest is sincere and more powerful than any “expert opinions.” Xido’s uses Ferreria as a vessel, letting her give an insider perspective as she runs an orphanage in the city of Okutiuka. In one scene, she takes in a nine-year-old boy named Pancho. A rare moment the cameras captured, all while young men are rehearsing for their first-ever rock music festival. Pancho finds a home and music.

Xido documents Ferreria and her partner, Wilker Flores, creating Angola’s rock music festival for bands like Before Crush, Dor Fantasma and Black Soul to showcase their undeniable talent — expert guitar players, incredible drummers and, lyrically, their depth and vulnerability is as powerful as any American or European rock band. As one person said, they once heard the sound of bullets, now they are hearing the sounds of music.

But there are several frustrating missed opportunities in Xido’s directorial debut. One, there isn’t a clear explanation on how death metal became popular in an unlikely place (one of the young men said the drums in death metal are similar to African beats, which is the closest to an explanation). Two, there are story lines that disappear, such as a young boy named Yakuza who painted beautiful murals, but after a slight mention, his name is never brought up again. Lastly, there is no perspective of how this music is received by the other locals. Lyrically, the words are deeply political and the sound is is extremely aggressive. “Death metal” by many in America is considered freakish and scary. Do these bands receive any backlash? If not, why? In these moments, Xido left much to be desired, but he redeems himself when the film ends on a joyful note due to the success of their first rock festival.

Most importantly, Death Metal Angola is not another doc that depicts Africans as unruly or uncivilized. Instead, Xido highlighted their gifts, poetry and honesty. This isn’t a film about war in an African country, it is a story of how music saves anyone, anywhere.

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Movie Review: ‘The Babadook’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-babadook/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-babadook/#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 03:24:50 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7823

(Photo: Smoking Gun Productions)

Summary: A character from a children’s book comes alive, terrorizing an emotionally unstable, recently-widowed mother and her son.

Review: Art-house horror is always a risk and Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook goes full throttle for a mix of terror, drama and polish. As a director, Kent surely has a future on the big screen: her eye for photography is sharp and she clearly knows how to build atmosphere. As for the story of The Babadook, no amount of style can redeem the ridiculous plot holes, annoying characters, exhaustive clichés and, worst of all, lack of scares. The Babadook takes itself too seriously and gets lost in its own polish. The film strives for horror in the way of The Shining or Silence of the Lambs, but it’s more like Annabelle with better cinematography, which isn’t a compliment.

Considering the rave reviews, one would think The Babadook is another Exorcist. Don’t be fooled by the hype. Even with solid acting and a gifted director, the Australian flick is identical to any film about a creepy kid with a neurotic parent (2005’s Hide and Seek, 2011’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, the list is endless), you’ve yawned through it all before. There are some promising moments, especially when the “monster,” Babadook, makes an appearance forty minutes into the picture. But, despite the title, the film is less about Babadook and more about a mother and her disturbed son. It’s a cinematic bait and switch.

The terror from the actors feels real, but for a genre film, Kent is too obsessed with the backstory of the characters with the thrills never kicking in. The majority of the film is Amelia (Essie Davis) stumbling around dark hallways, jumping out of bed, manically crying and screaming at her child. The final blow is a shockingly disappointing ending.

Considering some of the awful horror flicks this year, like Annabelle and Ouija, The Babadook isn’t completely a dud. But the film ultimately misses the bullseye in satisfying horror fare.

The Babadook is in select cities now.

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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 2014. 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 lacks passion and soul.

Boyhood’s main accolade 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, story is never mentioned when describing Linklater’s latest. That’s because the film doesn’t have much of a plot. 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 the 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 is 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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