Gone Girl

October 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry
Directed by: David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”)
Written by: Gillian Flynn (debut)

When a beautiful young woman disappears mysteriously in this country, leaving behind a too-calm husband who, in the 30 seconds of video the 24-hour cable news networks replay hour after hour, doesn’t appear to be concerned enough, the court of public opinion—and the shrieking harpies on said cable news networks—has the husband convicted of murder before the first commercial break.

“Gone Girl,” the latest film from director David Fincher, based on the smash-hit novel by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote the screenplay), feels ripped from the pages of Us Weekly and the programming of HLN. Laid-back, jock-ish Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home from his bar to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is missing, the house amiss with the signs of a struggle. A diligent detective (Kim Dickens) and her skeptical partner (Patrick Fugit) begin investigating, noticing the pieces of Nick’s story don’t add up, with expensive credit card splurges in his name and the damning testimony of a neighbor who claims Amy told her of Nick’s physical and verbal abuse.

Nick also comes across aloof and cold as the national media spotlight intensifies on him, committing huge PR gaffes like smiling at a press conference about his missing wife and posing for a selfie with an over-eager volunteer, the blood in the water attracting a Nancy Grace-like shark (Missi Pyle) who practically calls for Nick’s execution every night on national TV. But is Nick innocent or guilty? Was Amy the abused wife her diary describes, or the anti-social trust fund shut-in bitter about moving from New York City to Missouri? Where exactly does the truth lie?

While both Affleck and Fincher have referred to “Gone Girl” as a satire in interviews leading up to the film’s release, this description misses the mark. Sure, the depiction of the media in the movie is ridiculous, but nothing comes close to biting satire or even the hoisting-with-their-own-petard model that both “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight” traffic in. Sure, it’s stupid, but all Fincher and Flynn really did was change the names of the anchors. Toothless satire aside, “Gone Girl” is a fantastic face-value thriller, with enough twists and turns to remain completely unpredictable. Affleck and Pike are great in roles that call for both of them to be honest with each other while being dishonest to the world, and Tyler Perry—of all people–turns in a funny, assured performance as a high-profile celebrity lawyer with more nuance than 10 Madeas smashed together.

Maybe Fincher will be watching the reaction audiences at large have to the film, silently judging us all as philistines who fail to notice the scathing criticism he thinks he’s delivering to the already dead horse of the mainstream media’s credibility. Good thing the movie is extremely enjoyable anyway.

Alex Cross

October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Edward Burns
Directed by: Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”)
Written by: Marc Moss (“Along Came a Spider”) and Kerry Williamson (debut)

Confession: I’ve read every single book featuring the character Alex Cross that has been published so far. Created by prolific author James Patterson, the character Alex Cross is a detective/psychiatrist working homicide for the police department in Washington, D.C. His keen intellect and unparalleled ability to get inside a killer’s head makes Cross the best choice to hunt down the most brutal, creative, and intelligent serial killers that turn up in and around D.C. In doing so, he often risks the safety of his family (his children and his frail-yet-sassy grandmother Nana Mama). Novels like “Along Came a Spider,” “Kiss the Girls,” and “Jack and Jill” were tight thrillers featuring villains with unique nursery rhyme-derived hooks. The character was a hit and the two former books were adapted into motion pictures starring Morgan Freeman. Alas, financial success demanded someone to churn out more Cross-based movies. But after at least 15 more books, the character of Alex Cross is tired and threadbare. He is merely going through the motions. Once a year or so, there is Cross ready to stop another grisly weirdo murdering hookers or businessmen. All the while, Nana Mama seems eternally perched at death’s door. Even today, I still find myself reading every new book despite how predictable and boring the series has become.

More than a decade after Morgan Freeman’s cinematic turn as Cross fizzled out, a reboot was in order. Billed as being an adaptation of the 12th book in the series, “Alex Cross” stars Tyler Perry as a more age-appropriate Cross. Set in the crumbling decay once known as Detroit (and featuring copious product placement from General Motors), the film pits Cross and his partner (Edward Burns) against an assassin known only as Picasso (Matthew Fox), a twitchy psychopath who leaves abstract charcoal drawings behind after he kills. When Picasso makes his crimes personal for the detectives, Cross sets aside his own moral code in an attempt to track down the killer.

As an adaptation of a late-period Alex Cross novel, director Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) has at least stayed true to the spirit of the book and kept the film very dull. Perry, best known for his terrible movies wherein he dresses as an old woman and teaches vaguely churchy lessons to awful women, tries his best as Cross, but the humdrum script and murky direction do him no favors. Cross begins the film written as a modern day Sherlock Holmes, all spot-on deductions and poor social skills, only to be forgotten in the second half of the film when he becomes a vengeful badass. It’s this transition, however, that proves to be the best few minutes of the film. As Cross saws off the barrel of his shotgun and marches out the door covered in ammo and firearms to hunt down Picasso, the stern Nana Mama confronts him in order to make him reconsider his actions as a family man. Somehow there’s real tension and heart on display. Best of all, Nana Mama is played by Cicely Tyson and not Tyler Perry in drag.

Antonio Jaramillo – Savages

July 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In director Oliver Stone’s new film “Savages,” actor Antonio Jaramillo plays Jaime, a member of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel led by Elena (Salma Hayek). In the past, Jaramillo, who is of Mexican descent, was seen in TV shows including “Fashion House” and “Meet the Browns.” He spoke to me last week about “Savages” and breaking away from stereotypes.

Was becoming an actor something you always wanted to do?

I never really thought about being an actor. I never really watched TV when I was young. I didn’t know what the art form really was. I did music for a while. It was a spiritual thing that helped me relax and focus. I ended up doing a play and people accepted it very well. I started finding my own place and going out for jobs. I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now.

And now you find yourself in an Oliver Stone movie. Did making the film feel surreal?

At the time I was doing the job, there was no time to step out of myself and really think about it. You just have to dive in and do your part. It wasn’t until I finished the movie that it hit me. I worked with Oliver Stone! It was quite a nice accomplishment and nice to feel like you’re part of it. [Oliver] picked me from so many people who wanted this part, so it kind of validates what you do.

Are you inspired by other Latino actors you worked with in this film like Benecio del Toro, Demián Bichir and Salma Hayek?

I respect them. It’s great when any actor comes from another country to theU.S.and reaches a certain level of success and plants their seed here. I respect anyone who succeeds in this business especially if they do it as a good actor and not just because they have the looks. A great actor has to just rely on his craft.

Do you allow your Latino background to affect the roles you get?

There are a lot of stereotypes out there. There are few roles for Latin actors. The industry sees you in a certain way. But it’s your job as an actor to break away from that and say no to stereotypical roles. I know it’s hard when you want to work, but you have to say no. You have to go after roles you’re not expected to go after. I deal with it. Everybody does, but it’s just part of the business.

How do you make that decision whether or not to take on a stereotypical role? Like you said, some actors just want to work and really don’t let that play a part in their own decision.

First, I look at the people I’m working with. That’s very important to me. Are they going to give me the room to stretch my arms so I can do my thing, or are they going to say, “This is how I want it and that’s it.” You don’t want to be in that situation. It’s like being in a relationship and your partner tells you exactly what to do. Uh, no thank you.

At the same time, you have taken what could be considered stereotypical roles. In Tyler Perry’s TV show “Meet the Browns,” you play a handyman.

“Meet the Browns” was an interesting situation. I thought it would be different and when I got there it was so one-line, stereotypical. I had the hardest time to try and give it a different color. Eventually, I left the show. I was like, “Can I go? This isn’t changing. It’s the same thing.” We just have to move on.

I don’t think I’ve ever interviewed someone who has worked with Tyler Perry that openly admitted what you just said.

I have a different mindset. I didn’t know I would be in this business. I didn’t know I’d be in this country. I didn’t know I would be living this life. For me, everything is a gift. I’m not going to take it for granted and do the manufactured work everyone expects. If they don’t want me, they can go get someone else.

Do you feel Tyler Perry is doing a service to his audience with the work he is creating?

Well, I respect him a lot because he is a very successful man who has worked hard to where he is. As an artist, do I accept all his work all the time? No. But he has his audience. If his audience continues to support him, who am I to say not to do it? I think his work tends to be very stereotypical and hardly ever, ever pushes the envelope or tries to paint his community in a different way. It’s not my style of stuff. I want Alejandro González Iñárritu kind of stuff. That’s the guy I want. I want it to be real and human and true.

You just named a pretty talented director there. So, is that the phone call you’re waiting for?

Yes, please! I’m hoping he’s going to come to my house and knock on my door and pick me up in a limo and take me out for coffee so we can talk. I would love to work with him. He’s just awesome. He has never sacrificed his integrity as an artist. He could be doing so much more stuff like “Pirates of theCaribbean” but I don’t think he would do it. He’s going to do stuff that matters.

Madeas Big Happy Family

April 30, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis
Directed by: Tyler Perry (“For Colored Girls”)
Written by: Tyler Perry (“For Colored Girls”)

Devout followers aside, director/writer Tyler Perry isn’t doing anyone any favors with his latest dysfunctional dramedy.

“Madea’s Big Happy Family” is so obnoxious, annoying, unfunny, and downright hateful, that watching lunatics freaking out on stage during a paternity episode of “Maury Povich” would be better received. At least “Povich” feels scripted.

With “Family,” the screenplay is merely a collection of pathetically weak male characters and overtly aggressive she-devils who lead hypocritical lives and learn absolutely nothing about salvation and forgiveness.

Loretta Devine does her best as a frustrated matriarch attempting to get her grown children together for dinner to reveal her declining health, but Perry’s pity party overstays its welcome to the point where you wish Devine would skip over the repetitious plot points and just play in traffic.

After 11 films in only seven years, Perry has taken full advantage of the lowbrow niche and raked in millions. To pretend he is the voice of Black America — even for entertainment purposes alone — is disconcerting, irresponsible and, honestly, a little scary.

Why Did I Get Married Too?

April 3, 2010 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott
Directed by: Tyler Perry (“Why Did  I Get Married?”)
Written by: Tyler Perry (“Why Did  I Get Married?”)

It’s about time director/writer/actor Tyler Perry sits down and has a heart-to-heart conversation with himself. He needs to ask what his role in this film industry is now that he has taken full advantage of his core audience and delivered to them relatable albeit not very memorable stories. With “Why Did I Get Married Too?” Perry continues to lose steam and rehashes most of the same themes and characters he has been creating for the last eight years. It says something about Perry’s career when the best film his name is attached to is last year’s harrowing drama “Precious.” In that film, Perry took on a producer role and did a masterful job helping sell that movie to mainstream audiences. It’s time he realizes he needs to be the man who goes out and looks for the talent and puts his money behind the talent instead of masquerading as the talent.

I Can Do Bad All By Myself

September 18, 2009 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Adam Rodriguez, Tyler Perry
Directed by: Tyler Perry (“Madea Goes to Jail”)
Written by: Tyler Perry (“Madea Goes to Jail”)

We’ll give filmmaker Tyler Perry credit for creating some empowering female characters in his movies, especially in his newest “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.” Academy Award-nominee Tarjai P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) delivers a good performance. Her work, however, is overshadowed by Perry’s determination to keep all his films immersed in conventional drama and clichés.