Showing posts with label Irma P. Hall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irma P. Hall. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: "Chi-raq" Dares to Be Truly Different

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 (of 2020) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Chi-Raq (2015)
Running time: 127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexual content including dialogue, nudity, language, some violence and drug use
WRITERS:  Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott (based on the play by Aristophanes)
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Matthew Libatique
EDITOR:  Ryan Denmark and Hye Mee Na
COMPOSER:  Terence Blanchard


Starring:  Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack, Jennifer Hudson, David Patrick Kelly, D.B. Sweeney, Dave Chappelle, Steve Harris, Harry Lennix, Irma P. Hall, Thomas J. Byrd, Roger Guenveur Smith, and La La Anthony

Chi-Raq is satirical political drama and musical from director Spike Lee.  Set in Chicago, Chi-Raq uses the classical Greek comedy play, Lysistrata (written by Aristophanes), as the basis for a story about the gang violence that is plagues real-world Chicago.  In Chi-Raq, a woman leads a group of like-minded females to challenge the on-going violence in Chicago's Southside.

Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) dates Demetrius “Chi-Raq” Dupree (Nick Cannon), leader of the Spartans gang (who wear purple).  He is in the middle of an on-going war against the rival gang, the Trojans (who wear orange), lead by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), who orders a hit on Chi-Raq during a Spartan music concert.

After Chi-Raq (presumably) kills a child with a stray bullet during a shootout, Lysistrata finds herself having to examine her part in the ongoing violence in Chicago's Southside.  Lysistrata organizes a group of women who are associated with male gang members and encourages them to withhold sex from their men until they stop the violence.  Lysistrata's movement challenges the nature of race, sex, and violence in the United States of America, and it begins to spread around the world.  However, as more people go without sex, the movement raises tensions in all of Chicago.

Chi-Raq is another bold stroke of idiosyncratic Spike Lee art.  Lee was Kanye West before Kanye West.  Stubborn and independent from the beginning, Lee remains that way.  Chi-Raq is everything it seems:  political satire, social satire, farce, comedy, Negro spiritual, racial drama, soulful musical, and even a cry in the wilderness to Black folks in America.  “Stop killing ourselves!” Lee screams via his art.  If only it were that simple.

Chi-Raq is film art, beautiful, poignant, brash, colorful – all of it embodied by the full-throated, shameless narration of Samuel L. Jackson's refreshing Dolmedes.  In the end, hopefully, Chi-Raq can be more than art.  Can it initiate social change.  Well, the problems that it depicts and tackles are complicated and ingrained in ways that would have us throw up our hands in surrender if we took time to really think about those problems.

I can hope for the best, but in the meantime, I can appreciate a filmmaker who really deserves to be called a “visionary,” Spike Lee.  Chi-Raq is a testament to his imagination.

9 of 10

Friday, September 2, 2016

2016 Black Reel Awards:  1 win: “Outstanding Actress, Motion Picture” (Teyonah Parris); 6 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture” (Spike Lee), “Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture” (Angela Bassett), “Outstanding Director, Motion Picture” (Spike Lee), “Outstanding Ensemble” (Kim Coleman-Casting Director), “Outstanding Score” (Terence Blanchard), and “Outstanding Original or Adapted Screenplay, Motion Picture” (Spike Lee and Kevin Willmott)

2016 Image Awards:  4 nominations: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Teyonah Parris), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Angela Bassett), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jennifer Hudson), and “Outstanding Independent Motion Picture”

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: "Collateral" is Flashy, Gritty, and Edgy (Happy B'day, Michael Mann)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 143 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Collateral (2004)
Running time: 120 minutes (2 hours)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann
WRITER: Stuart Beattie
PRODUCERS: Michael Mann and Julie Richardson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dion Beebe (D.o.P.) and Paul Cameron (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Jim Miller and Paul Rubell
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier Bardem, and Klea Scott

Director Michael Mann is certainly a master of filming deliciously eye candy movies; from his hit 80’s TV series “Miami Vice” to such glossy power ballad films as Last of the Mohicans and Heat, he has delighted us with his visual acumen. His most recent film, Collateral, is, as a visual feast, an absolute delight and, just maybe, a masterpiece, albeit one with a flaw here and there.

A cabby named Max (Jaime Foxx) finds himself the hostage of Vincent (Tom Cruise), an engaging contract hit man, as he uses Max to ferry him around Los Angeles from hit to hit. The screwy duo eventually attracts the attention of Fanning (Mark Ruffalo), a savvy homicide detective. But despite the attention of the police, Max must, on his own, find a way to save himself and the last of five victims, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), a federal prosecutor who rode in Max’s cab before Vincent and befriended Max.

Collateral’s success is definitely the product of Michael Mann’s vision and of his cast, especially Cruise and Foxx. Mann’s film feels like his last L.A. blast off, the aforementioned Heat, but don’t mistake his visual flair for lack of substance. Mann’s films are always thrilling, even the character dramas, and they breath with life and vitality. Every frame suggests motivation and conflict, so Mann’s glossiness isn’t the shallowness of the many filmmakers his 1980’s work influenced.

Cruise is, of course, a delight to watch; he merely takes his usual film persona and turns of the heat to super intensity and makes Vincent a cold, ruthless machine – a machine that simultaneously has disdain for life and how we live it and a fascination with existence and how we understand it. This performance by Foxx is likely another hint that he is a comic who will reinvent himself as dramatic star much the way Robin Williams and Steve Martin did, but with the success of the former. Foxx’s Max is a troubled man, dealing with the failures and disappointments of life with a mixture of weariness and hope, cynicism and optimism, and stoicism and passion.

But Mann, Cruise, and Fox can’t do it alone. Ms. Smith and Mark Ruffalo are excellent supporting performers, and Ruffalo’s Fanning would himself make an excellent lead character in his own film. Stuart Beattie’s script is also good, especially in creating Vincent, part cipher and intriguing mystery man, but an inviting character who leaves us wanting more. The script did seem a little soft on really fleshing out Foxx’s Max, but overall, the script is a tightly-crafted short story that Mann was able to turn into a thrilling, short, dangerous crime tale that is both gritty and glorious. Collateral may be somewhat lacking in substance, but it’s just about the best confection you can have.

8 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Editing” (Jim Miller and Paul Rubell) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jamie Foxx)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Cinematography” (Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron); 5 nominations: “Best Editing” (Jim Miller and Paul Rubell), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jamie Foxx), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Stuart Beattie), “Best Sound” (Elliott Koretz, Lee Orloff, Michael Minkler, and Myron Nettinga) and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Michael Mann)

2005 Black Reel Awards: 1 win “Best Supporting Actor” (Jamie Foxx) and 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actress” (Jada Pinkett Smith)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jamie Foxx)

2005 Image Awards: 3 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Jamie Foxx) and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jada Pinkett Smith)


Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: "Meet the Browns" Movie Needs More Browns

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 54 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns (2008)
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for drug content, language including sexual references, thematic elements, and brief violence
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based upon his play)
PRODUCERS: Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy


Starring: Angela Bassett, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, Lance Gross, Chloe Bailey, Mariana Tolbert, Rick Fox, Sofia Vergara, Irma P. Hall, Frankie Faison, Margaret Avery, Jenifer Lewis, Lamman Rucker, Phillip Edward Van Lear, and Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns is a 2008 film based upon a 2004 play written by Perry (like many of his films). The film was later spun off into a cable television series of the same name.

The film focuses on Brenda Brown (Angela Bassett), a single mother living in inner city Chicago, with her three children: daughters Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert), and her oldest child, Michael (Lance Gross), a talented high school basketball player. Struggling for years to make ends meet and keep her three kids off the street, Brenda loses her job when her company shuts down (on pay day!). Brenda is feeling very down when a letter from Georgia arrives announcing the death of the father she has never met.

Looking for a chance to get away, Brenda takes her family to an unnamed small town in Georgia for the funeral. Nothing could have prepared her, however, to meet the Browns, her long lost relatives. Crass and fun loving, this Southern clan welcomes Brenda and her children to raucous family get-togethers and lavish meals of traditional Southern fare. Brenda also once again encounters Harry Belton (Rick Fox), a basketball recruiter interested in Michael’s future who first visited the family in Chicago, but Brenda is suspicious of Harry’s intentions both towards her and her son. Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Michael is determined to help alleviate the family’s financial problems and begins to consider becoming a drug dealer. Should Brenda stay and fight it out in Chicago or return to her strange, new family in Georgia?

Like Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, Meet the Browns is a drama with some humor. In a way, it also seems to be two movies – one focusing on Brenda and her family’s trials and tribulations in Chicago, and the other (the shorter of the two) focusing on Brenda’s small town relatives, the Browns. The parts of the film that take place in Chicago feature Perry’s usual besieged, single-parent melodrama, but it isn’t as good as what was in Daddy’s Little Girls. Frankly, except for a few sequences, the only part of Brenda-in-Chicago that I enjoyed was the delightful comic performance by Sofia Vergara as Brenda’s coworker and friend, Cheryl.

Meet the Browns is at its best when we are meeting the Browns, especially the wonderful Mr. Brown (David Mann), who is the main character of the spin-off television series. Jenifer Lewis also gives a salty comic turn as Vera Brown, and this film would have been better had Lewis had a bigger role. Former Los Angeles Laker, Rick Fox, gives an average performance, a bit stiff and dry, about what one would expect from former professional athletes taking up acting.

Another problem with this movie is that the lead actress, Angela Bassett, often seems out of place. There are moments when Bassett’s turn as Brenda Brown is pitch-perfect and poignant, but there are indeed moments when Bassett overacts and Brenda comes across as shrill. It is a testament to her skill that those bad moments don’t overwhelm the entire performance, as well as the movie

Audiences that enjoy Tyler Perry’s usual mixture of moralizing, affection, and forgiveness mixed with boisterous comedy and mockery will enjoy Meet the Browns, although as Perry films go, it is not one of his better films.

5 of 10

Monday, July 19, 2010