Showing posts with label Richard T. Jones. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Richard T. Jones. Show all posts

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Review: What's Love Got to Do With It" - The First Time the Oscars Screwed Angela Bassett

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 13 of 2023 (No. 1902) by Leroy Douresseaux

What's Love Got to Do With It (1993)
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – R for domestic violence, strong language, drug use and some sexuality
DIRECTOR:  Brian Gibson
WRITER:  Kate Lanier (based on the book, I, Tina, by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Chapin, Barry Krost, and Kate Lanier
EDITOR:  Stuart Pappé
COMPOSER:  Stanley Clarke
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis, Chi McBride, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Pamela Tyson, Khandi Alexander, Penny Johnson, Richard T. Jones, James Reyne, and RaéVen Kelly

What's Love Got to Do with It is a 1993 biopic and music film directed by Brian Gibson.  It is an adaptation of the 1986 autobiography, I, Tina, by Tina Turner and Kurt Loder and is also based on the life of American music icon and Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Tina Turner.

The film takes its name from Tina's 1984 hit single, “What's Love Got to Do with It,” which was a Billboard magazine “Hot 100” #1 single.  What's Love Got to Do With It the movie is a fictional depiction of Tina's professional and personal life with her former husband, the late Ike Turner (1931-2007), who was a musician, bandleader, record producer, singer-songwriter and Grammy Award winner.  The film follows Tina Turner's life from her upbringing in rural Tennessee (early 1950s), through her rise to music stardom and her abusive marriage to Ike Turner (1960s-70s), and finally, to her career revival as a solo artist (early to mid 1980s).

What's Love Got to Do with It introduces Anna Mae Bullock (Angela Bassett).  In 1958, she moves to St. Louis where she reunites with her elder sister, Alline Bullock (Phyllis Yvonne Stickney), and her mother, Zelma Bullock (Jenifer Lewis). Not long after her arrival, Anna is taken by Alline to a nightclub at East St. Louis where she sees a performance by “Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.”  Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne) is a charismatic bandleader, and Anna, who likes to sing, wishes she could perform with his wild band, the Kings of Rhythm.

When she finally gets a chance to perform onstage with Ike and his band, Anna impresses him with her singing and her exuberant stage presence.  Ike offers to mentor Anna and to produce her music, and he gives her the stage name “Tina Turner.”  In time, Ike and Anna develop a close relationship and eventually marry.  The musical act, “Ike & Tina Turner” (the “Ike & Tina Turner Revue” when performing live) become stars, but Ike has a dark side.  He is addicted to narcotics and is violent and abusive.  And Tina feels the brunt of his physical abuse.  Will Anna/Tina find the courage to break away from him and forge her own career path?

Until recently, I had never watched What's Love Got to Do with It in its entirety.  I decided to watch it in anticipation of Angela Bassett hopefully winning the “Best Supporting Actress” Oscar at the recent 95th Academy Awards (March 12, 2023) for her performance as “Queen Ramonda” in Disney/Marvel Studios' hit film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.  Unfortunately, Bassett did not win, nor did she win the “Best Actress” Oscar for which she was nominated 29 years ago for her performance in What's Love Got to Do with It?

The shame of it is that in the case of What's Love Got to Do with It, it is Bassett's performance, along with Laurence Fishburne's, that carries this film.  Quality wise and in terms of production and execution, What's Love Got to Do with It is a theatrical film that plays like a television movies.  Had What's Love Got to Do with It been a TV movie it would have been a much-talked about “television event,” but the end result would have been an elevated melodrama.

The film's direction, by the late Brian Gibson (1944-2004), emphasizes spousal abuse as style over the substance of plot and character.  The screenplay, written by Kate Lanier (who is also one of the film's producers), suffers from what plagues many biographical films and celebrity biopics.  That is the problem with time.  Rather than focus on a specific and pivotal moment in time, What's Love Got to Do with It, like other biopics, covers multiple decades.  By my estimation, the film covers roughly 1950 to 1983.  The first depiction of Ike abusing Tina is about 55 minutes into the movie, but one of the supporting characters states that this particular incident isn't the first time Ike has hit Tina.  So basically, the film skips over key early moments in Ike and Tina's tumultuous relationship.  [Both Tina and Ike apparently were not happy with the accuracy of this film.]

What's Love Got to Do with It is elevated because of the performances by both Bassett and Fishburne, as well as those of the supporting cast.  Jenifer Lewis proves once again why she is a national film treasure as Anna's mother, Zelma.  The shamefully underrated and underutilized Vanessa Bell Calloway shines in important and key moments of this film.  Laurence Fishburne does more than just make Ike Turner a monster.  He deftly conveys Ike's bitterness and resentment and especially his sense that he has never really gotten what he deserves in terms of financial success, record sales, and industry credit for what he contributed to both the art and business of popular music.

The treasure in What's Love Got to Do with It is, of course, Angela Bassett.  The real-life Tina Turner's voice was dubbed into this movie for the scenes in which Bassett's Turner has to sing.  Still, Bassett offers a richly crafted fictional version of Anna Mae Bullock/Tina Turner.  Her emotions resonate, and her joy and happiness, love and pride, and fear and sorrow come across as genuine.  In this film's quiet, reflective moments, Bassett seems as if she is really thinking Tina's thoughts.  That alone should have earned Bassett an Oscar win back on March 21, 1994 at the 66th Academy Awards.  What should have made Bassett a shoo-in is the physicality of her performance and the way she transformed her body for the role.  It's all superb:  the dancing, posing, and movement on stage; how she mimics the real Tina Turner's facial expressions on stage and when she sings; and the way Bassett carries herself and moves through the trials and tribulations of her life offstage as Ike Turner's wife.

Let's be honest; What's Love Got to Do with It would work better as a TV miniseries.  Let's be real; if Angela Bassett were a white actress, she would have won an Oscar already, probably for What' s Love Got to Do with It.  Not having an Oscar does not change the fact that Bassett has been one of the most versatile and charismatic actors of the large and small screen.  Bassett has also given commanding performances and has been a dominating presence in a number of supporting and small roles in popular films released over the better part of the last four decades.  Although Bassett has not received her Oscar crown, her performance in What's Love Got to Do with It remains her crowning achievement … in a career that should have had more of them since then.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, March 19, 2023

1994 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations:  “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Laurence Fishburne) and “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Angela Bassett)

1994 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” (Angela Bassett)

1995 Image Awards (NAACP): 1 win: “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Angela Bassett); 3 nominations: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Laurence Fishburne), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jenifer Lewis), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Vanessa Bell Calloway)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.



Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Super 8" Not Super, but Wonderfully Evokes Classic Spielberg

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 101 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Super 8 (2011)
Running time: 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and some drug use
PRODUCERS: Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk
EDITORS: Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey
COMPOSER: Michael Giacchino


Starring: Joel Courtney, Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Riley Griffiths, Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Zach Mills, Ron Eldard, Noah Emmerich, David Gallagher, Brett Rice, Richard T. Jones, and Glynn Turman

Super 8 is a 2011 science fiction/mystery/thriller written and directed by J.J. Abrams, perhaps best known as the co-creator of the former ABC television series, Lost. Abrams also co-produced the film with Steven Spielberg. In fact, Super 8 is inspired by Spielberg’s films from the 1970s and 80s, and while Super 8 is fun to watch, it in no way measures up to early Spielberg classics.

The film is set in the summer of 1979 in the fictional small town of Lillian, Ohio. The story focuses on Joseph “Joe” Lamb (Joel Courtney), a 14-year-old boy whose mother was recently killed in a workplace accident. Four months after the accident, Joe and his father, sheriff’s Deputy Jackson “Jack” Lamb (Kyle Chandler), are distant from one another. Joe spends his time helping his friend, budding filmmaker Charles Kaznyk (Riley Griffiths), make a low-budget, zombie movie on Super 8 film, with the help of their other friends, a small circle of boys.

The boys are able to convince an attractive teen girl, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), who also has access to a car, to play a role in the film. The youngsters head out to an abandoned train depot where they witness a massive train accident. Shockingly, the U.S. Air Force quickly arrives to secure the crash site, but Joe’s father, Jack, thinks that there is more to this crash than the Air Force is telling the locals. Soon people and animals begin to disappear and panic spreads. Separately, Joe and Jack begin to uncover the truth behind a closely guarded mystery that is decades old and hides a fantastic secret.

Anyone who is familiar with Steven Spielberg’s early movies knows that Super 8 is a pastiche of those films. While it is entertaining, Super 8 is dishwater to the champagne that is two particular Spielberg classics, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). I found myself entertained by Super 8, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is a classic summer movie, as some have declared. I will say that the one superior thing about it is the score by Oscar-winner Michael Giacchino (Pixar’s Up), which accounts for much of Super 8’s dramatic punch.

For all its plagiarizing of Spielberg, Super 8 has some excellent set pieces, a lot of really good moments, and some good characters, but the characters are where the film goes wrong. They are largely empty and underdeveloped – even under-utilized. There is a potent conflict and wall between Jack Lamb and his son, Joe; in fact, the troubled father-son relationship is a familiar theme in Spielberg films. Here, the father-son rift is just something to tack onto what is essentially just a monster movie. The great moments that are Jack and Alice together are few and far between and largely wasted – for various reasons. Also, for the most part, the characters are shallow, mere window dressing, and are no more than bit players to move us closer to big action scenes and scary moments.

In fact, much of this movie feels empty, yet I found myself endeared to quite a bit of it. It is technically well made, and there is potential in the characters, subplots, and setting for something really great. But the emotions are contrived and stunted (like the father-son reunion in the last act). J.J. Abrams was so busy making a Spielberg movie that he made something that is more a love letter to his idol and than it is a movie. Perhaps, what I like about Super 8 is that it reminds me of the good feelings I had watching Spielberg films when I was a kid.

6 of 10

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Movie Review: "G" is a Black Soap Opera

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 168 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

G (2002)
Opening date: September 16, 2005 (limited)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA - R for language, some sexuality and brief violence
DIRECTOR: Christopher Scott Cherot
WRITERS: Charles E. Drew, Jr. and Christopher Scott Cherot, from a story by Andrew Lauren and Charles E. Drew, Jr.
PRODUCERS: Judd Landon and Andrew Lauren
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Horacio Marquínez
EDITOR: Brad Lauren and Robert Reitano


Starring: Richard T. Jones, Blair Underwood, Chenoa Maxwell, Andre Royo, Andrew Lauren, Laz Alonso, Lalanya Masters, Nicoye Banks, Jillian Lindsey, and Sonja Sohn

Shot in 2001 and traveling the film festival circuit since 2002, the film, G, took as its inspiration, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel, The Great Gatsby. In the film, a rap music mogul builds a hip hop record empire solely to win back the love of his life, whom he met in college.

Tre (Andre Royo), a writer for a New York hip hop magazine called True Flow, is visiting the Hamptons in hopes of landing an interview with the Sean “P. Diddy” Combs-like, Summer G (Richard T. Jones). While in the Hamptons, he stays with his cousin, Sky Hightower (Chenoa Maxwell), and her husband, Chip Hightower (Blair Underwood), a wealthy businessman, who are Summer G’s neighbors.

Sky and Chip’s marriage is in the dumpster because of Chip’s many infidelities. In fact, Chip, whose father owns True Flow magazine, coerces Tre into assisting him in one of his affairs with another woman. Tre and Sky later attend one of Summer’s hip hop house parties, where Tre is shocked to discover that Summer and Sky have a past. Angered by Chip’s earlier intimidation, Tre assists Summer in restarting his old relationship with Sky, something that has dire consequences for everyone around Summer G.

Although The Great Gatsby inspires G, it’s only on a surface level. The film is by no means an adaptation of the novel; G more or less uses Gatsby’s setting and some of its plot points and characters as a springboard. G isn’t really about anything, although it attempts in a small way to discuss how much, if any, heart hip hop has. If anything, G is an African-American soap opera. Part TV movie (think Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) arabesque romance/soap opera telefilms), G is about spouses and lovers cheating on one another and the subsequent about backstabbing.

The acting ranges from quite good to amateurish. Blair Underwood turns in a tight professional performance; his Chip Hightower is a sly, lying, firecracker of violence always on the verge of exploding, so that adds a nice sheen of suspense to the story. Andre Royo is weak as Tre, but the character still works as the one who introduces us to this “colored” part of the Hamptons. Chenoa Maxwell is about of equal skill to Royo, and does more preening and posing than acting. However, two superb supporting actors and their characters bless this film: Nicoye Banks as B. Mo Smoov and Jillian Lindsey as Daizy Duke. Banks’ B. Mo Smoov adds a touch of hip hop credibility, humor, and philosophy to the film, so it’s a shame his character didn’t have a larger part. Ms. Lindsey sparkles as the messy and conniving Daizy, always slinking around like a sneaky cat, trying to get into other people’s business. Once again, she is another character that needed a bigger and more substantial part, in terms of story and character, in G. As Summer G, the title character, Richard T. Jones has an imposing presence, but a combination of a slight script and some shaky decisions in his performance, make Summer G a supporting character rather than a title character.

If there is one thing that does make G stand out, it’s the script. The directing and acting are all a little raw around the edges. The script may not have a plot that rises above the soap opera theatrics or much characterization, but it does have is flashy and witty dialogue. Just listening to the characters speak, even the weak ones, is just the kind of treat we expect when buying a movie ticket – in G, people say the darndest things. G certainly aspires to be cultural and social commentary, and fails at that because the screenplay focuses more on gossipy, romantic entanglements. But the dialogue makes G a highly entertaining soap opera.

6 of 10

Friday, November 04, 2005


Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: "Why Did I Get Married?" Finds Laughs in the Drama of Married Life

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (2007)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references, and language
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based upon his play)
PRODUCERS: Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy
2008 Image Awards winner

DRAMA with elements of comedy and romance

Starring: Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Sharon Leal, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones, Tasha Smith, Michael Jai White, Denise Boutte, Lamman Tucker, Keesha Sharp, and Kaira Whitehead

Why Did I Get Married? is the fourth Tyler Perry film in a little over two-and half years and Perry’s third directorial effort. Perry’s tried and true formula of inspiration, friendship, prayer, and God is evident in every moment of Why Did I Get Married?, and Perry’s continues to improve as a filmmaker.

Eight married college friends reunite for their annual retreat to an exotic locale. This year the retreat is a beautiful Lake Leland home in the snowy mountains of Colorado. Best-selling author and popular psychologist, Patricia (Janet Jackson), and her successful architect husband, Gavin (Malik Yoba), share a tragedy that may tear their marriage apart if the two ever decide to be open about it. Rising attorney Dianne (Sharon Leal) is career driven, but her supportive husband, Terry (Tyler Perry), is fed-up that his marriage is sexless and that the couple has only one child. Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) argue all the time. The final couple is Shelia (Jill Scott), a sweet woman troubled by body-image issues because of she is way overweight. Her weight issues are exacerbated by her emotionally abusive husband, Mike (Richard T. Jones), who has actually brought his barely-secret mistress, Trina (Denise Boutte), on the retreat.

The friends expect fun and relaxation on their retreat, but when the secrets and lies come pouring out, friendships and marriages seem broken beyond repair. Then, Sheriff Troy (Lamman Tucker) comes to the rescue.

Tyler Perry’s “Black gospel theatre” stage plays are loud, raucous, and preachy, and the ones that Perry has adapted to film retain much of their spell-the-message-in-capital-letters charm. Not all of the acting is good Janet Jackson as Patricia and Sharon Leal as Dianne love to act it out loudly and, thus, are a bit too over the top. Still, Why Did I Get Married? works. You’ll find yourself pulling oh-so hard for the downtrodden and mistreated (especially Shelia), and loving it when the villains get their comeuppance (especially Mike). There’s plenty of reason to call up giant belly laughs or even howl with laughter (thanks to the delightful scene-stealing Tasha Smith as Angela).

The message here, as it always is in Perry’s work, is believe in yourself and never believe that God has abandoned you. Well, then, thank God for Tyler Perry – for making fine, entertaining films like Why Did I Get Married? with this simply, but too true message.

8 of 10

Thursday, February 28, 2008

2008 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Janet Jackson); 3 nominations: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jill Scott), “Outstanding Motion Picture,” and “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Tyler Perry)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: Why Did I Get Married Too?

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 of (2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – PG-13 for thematic material including sexuality, language, drug references and some domestic violence
PRODUCERS: Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy

DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring: Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Sharon Neal, Malik Yoba, Richard T. Jones, Tasha Smith, Lamman Rucker, Michael Jai White, Louis Gossett Jr., Cicely Tyson, Richard Whiten, and K Callan

We last saw them in the 2007 film, Why Did I Get Married?, working through marriage and relationship issues at a beautiful house in the snowy mountains of Colorado. Now, Why Did I Get Married Too? reunites those four close couples. They have gathered together in the Bahamas for their annual one-week reunion. They’re eager to reconnect and share news about their lives and relationships, but there are some changes and looming troubles.

Best-selling author and popular psychologist, Patricia (Janet Jackson), and her successful architect husband, Gavin (Malik Yoba), show their friends smiles, but their marriage is deeply troubled. Successful attorney, Dianne (Sharon Leal) and her supportive husband, Terry (Tyler Perry), once had sexless marriage, but while there is now plenty of lovemaking, a secret threatens to destroy their union.

Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) still argue all the time, but now Marcus has a successful new career as a television sports commentator. Angela, who once criticized Marcus for not having a job, is now jealous that Marcus makes more money than she does, and that envy drives her suspicious that he is cheating on her.

Shelia (Jill Scott) replaced her emotionally abusive and philandering husband, Mike (Richard T. Jones), with the former Colorado sheriff, Troy (Lamman Rucker). However, a recent move, a new baby, and Troy’s difficulty finding a job have put a strain on their marriage. Then, Mike also decides to visit the Bahamas.

2007’s Why Did I Get Married? was a scandalous relationship comedy and engaging reunion drama. It had plenty of soap opera theatrics and over-the-top drama with a capitol “D.” Why Did I Get Married Too? is also filled with theatrics and big “D” drama, but this second film is also darker and edgier. These squabbling couples now have even bigger problems, problems that would give marriage counselors pause. In each case, husband and wife are unsatisfied with each other, and instead of talking through their problems, they scream at each other, rant and rave, and storm out the door.

It’s fun to watch… sometimes. Other times, it’s painful to watch – not only because the anger is so raw, but also because sometimes the couples’ problems seemed contrived. This might be Tyler Perry’s best effort at writing emotional character drama and at constructing multi-layered conflict. This may also be his worst screenwriting simply because the quarreling and marital problems come across as greatly exaggerated. Perry packs this movie’s two hours with wall-to-wall marital discord; then, he ties it up with a pat happy ending that simply cannot wash away the grit Why Did I Get Married Too? leaves in the viewer’s mouth.

This is still a Tyler Perry movie, so it is entertaining, and there is also a cameo at the end that adds much needed sweet to the previous two hour’s sour. Still, with all the arguing the characters do here, the question is not Why Did I Get Married Too? but why are any of them still married!

6 of 10

Sunday, April 11, 2010