A Brief Review: Men in Black 3

Grade: B-

First Thoughts:

If you’re nostalgic like me, you won’t hate this movie. Wait, is Will Smith getting older?  Nah, ’cause that would mean I was getting older.


Not much to say about this one other than it was a cute movie that tied up the Men in Black franchise in a very clever way (clever to people who understand the rules of sci-fi time travel).  I was surprised at the use of the convention in this movie, even more surprised that I didn’t hate it.   For example, I like the fact that they paid attention to what it would look like for a Black man to get transported back to the 1960s…   I won’t spoil too much, but I will say that other than a few unanswered questions related to their rules in the movie, they made the story and the relationship between Agents J and K work out to a really sweet end.


A Brief Review: The Hunger Games

Grade: B-/C+

First Thoughts:

Eh… I coulda had a V8.


The movie ended up being a story of two star crossed lovers instead of an exciting psychological thriller about a 14 year old girl who outwits an oppressive regime whose sadistic “Hunger Games” are meant to torture a population into submission. The film was taken in the wrong direction, and Collins definitely put this story in the hands of the wrong director in Gary Ross.

Star-crossed Lovers?

I’ll just briefly gesture toward my issues with the movie’s adaption:

  • The movie didn’t emphasize the desperation and the hunger of Katniss or folks in the districts.  Granted, they looked poor, but the book opens up with people dying of starvation.  A brief moment between Katniss and Gale where she’s surprised over real bread doesn’t quite capture the desperation.  And that emphasis on desperation makes Katniss’ love of food so much more profound and makes her more human and fleshy.  That got completely lost in the film, along with the fact that Gale kinda looked like her and would have looked a bit less like a supermodel.
  • Why did Gale look like he ate everyday and took supplements?  He was a bit to ripply even under that baggy shirt.
  • I saw one too many people yawn during the movie; pair that with the “stay awake” stretches and that points to the “action” being a bit on the dull side, but I don’t expect much from the guy who wrote “Big.”  The film was filled with so many anti-climactic moments, that it was not a surprise that few people were captivated by those moments.
  • To those reviewers who saw this as anything other than mediocre either don’t watch that many movies, or were so excited to see the Capitol and the Gamemakers, and Katniss on the screen, that they don’t realize that the film wasn’t very strong.

Ultimately, they messed this one up which is not a huge surprise since they mess up most book to film movies (except for John Grisham and Stephen King books).  They distilled an exciting, mentally stimulating story into a series of “this happened-then this-then that” whose story was derivative–“star crossed lovers from District 12.” Advice to Suzanne Collins, call the directors of John Grisham and Stephen King books-to-movies… not the guy who did Seabiscuit

Why the -/+?

I didn’t hate it; it was entertaining.  Mostly because they picked an amazing cast.  Lenny Kravitz as Cinna… yessss. Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket… hell yesss.  And Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, go ‘head ya’ll.  Mostly amazing choices, except for Gale… who are they trying to kid? That guy never missed a meal.

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Courage Has No Color: A Brief Review of Red Tails

Grade: B-

First Thoughts:

That was nice…


Alright Lucas… so, what happened before all that?

“Courage Has No Color”

George Lucas has produced the first of what appears to be a series of epic films that follow the Tuskegee Airmen. This may very well be the first epic film featuring a nearly all Black (male) cast.

I think it was interesting that Lucas decided to make this film, now: this moment in American history, first Black president, and the current state of racial politics and popular culture.  That there is a dearth of African American men and women from major motion films except as maids or tokens… or Tyler Perry characters… I think the catchphrase of the film, “Courage has no color” is appropriate.  I was appreciative that the depiction of Black men wasn’t this kind of idealized version of Black masculinity.  The major characters were painted as dynamic, flawed, regular.  There was hubris, there was addiction, but there was not cowardice.

Thank you George Lucas.

Why the B(-)?

I thought that the film was decent.  It moved along, had a nice rhythm to it. I enjoyed the action sequences.   The acting was mostly good though I might have cast someone else other than Ne-Yo.  I wanted to be more compelled by the relationships that he set up between the characters, but I left the theater with a lot questions about how the characters got to know each other, that I hope might get answered in the next installment.

Good enough to see in the theater.  Not the best movie I’ve ever seen, though.  Reminded me of Spike Lee‘s Miracle at St. Anna.

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A Very Brief Review: In Time…

Grade: A

First Thoughts:

Wow, that was refreshing and well written.


Justin Timberlake actually did a decent job acting.  And as a lightweight-action hero, he was surprisingly convincing.  A movie that the #Occupiers will love.

A Hollywood Critique of Capitalism?

The most honest and non-subtle critique of capitalism I’ve seen since the 90s, the dystopia (jacked up world in the future) imagined by Andrew Niccol was brilliantly crafted playing on the common.  In this film, the members of the proletariat died at age of 25 unless they found work and earned more time to live.  Time was also the currency, so in order to pay for a cup of coffee, for example, one had to pay with time on their life clock.   The rich could literally live forever and ever.  In this world, “Some have to die in order for some to live forever.”

Karl Marx 1882 (edited)

Image via Wikipedi

An awesome futurescape that reimagines and animates Marx’s conception of “alienation” and Orlando Patterson‘s conception of “social death.”  Rather than money being “the root of all evil,” time as currency, or the means of exchange for goods, became that root.   Niccol replaces “time” for “money” in the Marxian paradigm of critique.  In Marx’s essay On the Jewish Question he says of money (for which I will replace “time”):

Time degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities. Time is the universal self-established value of all things. It has, therefore, robbed the whole world – both the world of men and nature – of its specific value. Time is the estranged essence of man’s work and man’s existence, and this alien essence dominates him, and he worships it.”

Our world is already one in which we have to work for money which allows us to purchase the goods and services we require to live.  We are locked into a system which barely provides for our subsistence and still extracts our mental and physical labor in exchange for a few dollars.  This is a condition which the enslaved and their descendants have known and understood for quite a long time; a system that would without hesitation witness us die at its hands, would quicken our death, does not recognize us as alive in the first place… this is social death.

Without spoiling the plot, the movie ends up being more about redistribution of wealth than about the dissolution of the system all together, which is not very Marxist, but might be described as socialist.  That said, it was a good movie.  I enjoyed it.  I was surprised by it.

 In other words, go see the movie and as you watch it think about the way that our current economic system works in very similar ways on us.

No Thanks… I don’t need The Help

September 12, 2011


Grade: D+


Oscar performances for sure (the plus+), but as maids though (the D)? What the hell man?  Didn’t we already do this once?  Gone with the Wind?  Hattie McDaniels as Mammy?  Can’t we do better?

Why I don’t need The Help

Am I happy that Black women were in a movie that got significant attention? …No.  Should I be?  Do I feel some type of way toward the Black actresses who lent their talents to the film?  No, because they need to eat and they were amazing and they deserve to play in movies where they get to display their talent, but I would happily go the rest of my life without watching an “Oscar worthy” movie produced in Hollywood where Black women play maids.  That these roles among a few others (singers, dancers, and criminals) continue to be the only way that Black women can be taken seriously in Hollywood film is something to be angry about, not thankful.

The point is: Women of color, in fiction and in real life, continue to carry the burden of teaching white people about racism, or in the case of The Help, how mean they were back in the ’50s.  Racism shouldn’t be reduced to mean girls and absent white men (did anyone notice that the white men in the movie always disappeared when the white women were doing something mean?).  Racism was and remains structural, meaning it is violence built into law and practice and thought and action; it is terrorism.  It is lynching.  It is unlawful imprisonment.  It is economic and labor exploitation.  Matter fact, Melissa Perry-Harris says it better than I could ever.

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