Showing posts with label TriStar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TriStar. Show all posts

Friday, January 26, 2024

Review: "THE BOOK OF CLARENCE" - Black is Beautiful and So is Enlightenment

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 3 of 2024 (No. 1947) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Book of Clarence (2024)
Running time:  129 minutes (2 hours, 9 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for strong violence, drug use, strong language, some suggestive material, and smoking
PRODUCERS:  Shawn Carter (Jay-Z), James Lassiter, Tendo Nagenda, and Jeymes Samuel
EDITOR:  Tom Eagles
COMPOSER:  Jeymes Samuel


Starring:  LaKeith Stanfield, Omar Sy, Anna Diop, RJ Cyler, David Oyelowo, Michael Ward, Alfre Woodard, Teyana Taylor, Caleb McLaughlin, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Chase Dillon,  Babs Olusanmokun, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, and Nicholas Pinnock

The Book of Clarence is a 2024 comedy-drama and religious film written and directed by Jeymes Samuel.  The film focuses on a wayward man who decides to capitalize on the rise of Jesus by also declaring himself to be “the Messiah.”

The Book of Clarence opens in Lower Jerusalem, the home of the “Gypsies,” in the year 33 A.D, and it introduces a young man named Clarence (LaKeith Stanfield).  He is down-on-his-luck and is drifting in life.  He spends time selling weed with his close friend and sidekick, Elijah (RJ Cyler).  Their latest scheme is a chariot race against Mary Magdalene (Teyana Taylor), which goes disastrously bad.  In turn, that puts Clarence and Elijah deep in debt to a local crime boss, Jedediah the Terrible (Eric Kofi Abrefa), who threatens their lives if he isn't paid in 30 days.

Meanwhile, Clarence's twin brother, Thomas (LaKeith Stanfield), is one of the 12 Apostles that follow Jesus of Nazareth (Nicholas Pinnock).  After failing to make inroads with his brother's associates, Clarence decides to capitalize on Jesus and the rise of messianic figures by declaring himself “the Messiah.”  Clarence does not believe in the existence of God, but he finds success by preaching “knowledge over belief.”  Soon, Clarence has a large number of followers, and they are making him wealthy.  But then, something happens...

The Book of Clarence is not as partisan as Mel Gibson's 2004 masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ, nor is it Black-centric and anti-racist in the way director Jean-Claude La Marre's The Color of the Cross (2006) is.  In The Book of Clarence, Jesus is a Black man, but the narrative isn't really about Jesus being black.  The people of Jerusalem are black, but that just seems to be the way it is supposed to be – nothing special or deliberate.  Also, I don't think the film ever refers to them as Jews or Hebrews (as far as I can remember).

The Book of Clarence's plot and themes, which are soft and muddled in the film's middle act, seem to converge on the notion of enlightenment, not the movement “Enlightenment, but as a state of knowledge and understanding.  Clarence, who pushes knowledge over belief, gets the lesson that knowledge without understand is empty, the equivalent of “faith without good works is dead.”  The Book of Clarence unveils these messages and ideas, not with seriousness, but with sly wit and also with subtle digs at oppression, racism, and imperialism – for good measure.

That aside, the thing that most impresses me about The Book of Clarence is that writer-director Jeymes Samuel presents a film in which Black people are so very beautiful and alluring in all their varying dark and brown shades, all the textures and styles of their hair, and all the shapes, contours, and statures of their bodies.  Yet in spite of its allusions to white oppression, as all the Roman characters are white, The Book of Clarence treats having an all-Black cast play the characters in a story set in the time of Jesus as an utterly normal thing.  It's about time; British, Irish, and American actors have been frontin' in Biblical films as if that is an entirely normal thing.  [Even if Jesus was Caucasian, he wasn't white...]

Jeymes Samuel fills his film with outstanding performances, especially LaKeith Stanfield's powerful, eccentric, turn as Clarence.  It is too late in his career to discover Stanfield as a revelation; we been knew he was good.  He makes Clarence's awkward, bumbling, stumbling journey to enlightenment seem like a real, tangible thing.  I feel Clarence's evolution in my head and in my imagination.

Also, David Oyelowo knocks the film on its ass as the back-handing John the Baptist, much the way Alfre Woodard upends notions of Jesus Christ's mother, Mary, as “Mother Mary” later in the film.  Teyana Taylor throws her beauty at us as Mary Magdalene, and Anna Diop digs out the awkward layers of Varinia, Clarence's love-interest.  And RJ Cyler gives a best supporting actor type performance as Clarence's best friend and partner, Elijah.

The Book of Clarence isn't perfect.  Its plot staggers and lurches at times as it moves towards its explosive final act, which is filled with breath-taking miracles and shocking plot twists.  The film apparently was originally scheduled for a  theatrical release in September 2023, but ultimately made its only 2023 appearance via its world premiere at the 67th London Film Festival.  So as fate... or God would have it, The Book of Clarence is the best film of 2024 – thus far.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, January 26, 2024

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for syndication rights and fees.



Friday, September 16, 2022

Review: "THE WOMAN KING" Delivers a Beat Down for Your Viewing Pleasure

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 53 of 2022 (No. 1865) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Woman King (2022)
Running time:  135 minutes (2 hours, 15 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of strong violence, some disturbing material, thematic content, brief language and partial nudity
DIRECTOR:  Gina Prince-Bythewood
WRITERS: Dana Stevens; from a story by Dana Stevens and Maria Bello
PRODUCER:  Maria Bello, Viola Davis, Cathy Schulman, and Julius Tennon
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Polly Morgan (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Terilyn A. Shropshire
COMPOSER:  Terrence Blanchard


Starring:  Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Shelia Atim, John Boyega, Jordan Bolger, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jimmy Odukoya, Masali Baduza, Jayme Lawson, Adrienne Warren, and Chioma Antoinette Umeala

The Woman King is a 2022 epic war film and historical drama from director Gina Prince-Bythewood.  The film is a fictional account of the all-female military regiment, the Agojie, who protected the West African Kingdom of Dahomey during the length of its existence (from approximately 1600 to 1904).  The Woman King focuses on a woman general who must face the ghosts of her past as she leads her all-female band of warriors in a bid to protect their kingdom.

The Woman King opens in 1823 in West Africa in the Kingdom of Dahomey.  The kingdom has a new monarch, the young King Ghezo (John Boyega), who is ambitious and has plans for a better future for Dahomey,which is currently paying tributes to the Oyo Empire.  His kingdom is protected by the female warriors called the “Agojie,” whose notorious and fearsome reputation has led people to call them the “Dahomey Amazons.”

Agojie leader, General Nanisca (Viola Davis), knows that Dahomey is threatened with destruction from Oyo and its allies.  Her enemy is the fearsome Oyo warrior, Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya), so she must recruit new warriors to replace the ones who have died in battle.  Among her new recruits is Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a stubborn girl who was given away by her father.  Nanisca is running out of time as Dahomey's enemies plot against the kingdom.  Also, the threat of European slave traders means that some of her own warriors could end up in barracoons (cages) before they are carried away as slaves.  Meanwhile, Nanisca must face both a ghost and a demon from her past.

The “Dora Milaje,” the all-female “king's guard” of the Disney/Marvel Studios' film, Black Panther (2018), are based on the Agojie.  Since the Dora Milaje kicked ass in the Marvel film, The Woman King had to depict the Agojie as ass-kickers, and the film does.  The action choreography is quite good – martial arts, historical war epic, and superhero movie good.  The Woman King, in some ways, is similar to films like Braveheart (1995) and Gladiator (2000).  The Woman King manages to be quite the crowd-pleaser by having the female warrior kill their enemies, which includes plenty of white men involved in the slave trade.

I am not surprised that The Woman King reminds me of another Marvel film, last year's Black Widow (2021).  The fight choreography in The Woman King sometimes resembles the techniques used by the character, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.  Also like Black Widow the film, The Woman King delves into how much it costs the Agojie to be warriors.  Via Nanisca, we see how hard these women work and how much they sacrifice.  As Nanisca, Viola Davis gives her best performance since her Oscar-winning turn in Fences (2016), if not her best performance ever.  Davis' muscular performance makes Nanisca gritty and determined and that defines the rest of the Agojie.  It also defines this film because producers Maria Bello and Cathy Schulman had to show grit and determination as they tried to convince studios to finance this film.

The Woman King also has the distinction of being one of those rare films in which every performance is outstanding – from the largest to the smallest roles, in addition to Viola Davis' superb turn.  John Boyega is surprisingly regal as King Ghezo.  As Nawi, Thuso Mbedu nearly steals this entire film, and as her quasi-paramour, Malik, Jordan Bolger is a light-skinned Mandingo … and his acting is good, too.  Lashana Lynch and Sheila Atim fairly leap off the screen as Nanisca's lieutenants, Izogie and Amenza, respectively.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood and her cohorts deliver a film that is an absolute blast.  The mix of historical and alternate history feels uplifting, and it's totally fine for us to cheer and celebrate the battles and who gets killed in them.  Thank you, Maria Bello (who should have been Oscar-nominated for her performance in the film, The Cooler) and Cathy Schulman for getting this started.  Thank you, Viola Davis for leading all these goddesses in one of 2022's best films, The Woman King.

9 of 10
★★★★+ out of 4 stars

Friday, September 16, 2022

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

Amazon Announces "The Last Tycoon" for July 28th

Amazon Original Series The Last Tycoon, Based on the Last Work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Debuts Exclusively on Prime Video on July 28, 2017

All nine episodes of the original dramatic series—starring Matt Bomer, Kelsey Grammer and Lily Collins, and executive produced by Academy Award nominee Billy Ray and Christopher Keyser—will be available globally on Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon announced its new original one hour series The Last Tycoon, starring Golden Globe winner Matt Bomer (White Collar, The Normal Heart), multi-Golden Globe and Emmy winner Kelsey Grammer (Frasier, Boss) and Lily Collins (The Blind Side, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), will premiere on Friday, July 28, 2017, exclusively on Prime Video.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last work, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last year, The Last Tycoon—inspired by the life of legendary film mogul Irving Thalberg—follows Hollywood’s Golden Boy, Monroe Stahr (Bomer), as he battles father figure and boss Pat Brady (Grammer) for the soul of their studio. In a world darkened by the Great Depression and the growing international influence of Hitler’s Germany, The Last Tycoon illuminates the passions, violence, and towering ambition of 1930s Hollywood. Customers can watch the pilot episode online at before the full season’s remaining eight episodes air on July 28. The show will be available on for Prime Video members in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe.

    “It’s thrilling to watch F. Scott Fitzgerald’s extraordinary work brought to life through the eyes of Billy and Chris, and this incredible cast”

A co-production with TriStar Television, The Last Tycoon also stars Rosemarie DeWitt (La La Land) as Rose Brady, Dominique McElligott (House of Cards) as Kathleen Moore, Enzo Cilenti (The Martian) as Aubrey Hackett, Mark O’Brien (Arrival) as Max Miner, and Koen De Bouw (Professor T.) as Tomas Szep. Guest stars include Jennifer Beals (Taken) as Margo Taft, Saul Rubinek (Unforgiven) as Louis B. Mayer, and Eion Bailey (Once Upon a Time) as Clint Frost. Academy Award nominee Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, The Hunger Games) writes and directs multiple episodes and the series is executive produced by Ray, Christopher Keyser (Tyrant, Party of Five), who serve as showrunners, Joshua D. Maurer (Rubicon), Alixandre Witlin (Georgia O’Keeffe), David A. Stern (Rosemary’s Baby) and Scott Hornbacher (Mad Men). Noted Pulitzer-winning Fitzgerald scholar A. Scott Berg serves as consulting producer with Perri Kipperman (Billions) serving as co-executive producer. The series is made possible by an array of behind-the-scenes artists, including Academy Award-winning production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein (Amadeus), Emmy-winning costume designer Janie Bryant (Mad Men), Emmy-nominated Director of Photography Danny Moder (The Normal Heart), and Academy Award-winning composer Mychael Danna (Life of Pi).

“It’s thrilling to watch F. Scott Fitzgerald’s extraordinary work brought to life through the eyes of Billy and Chris, and this incredible cast,” said Joe Lewis, Head of Comedy, Drama and VR, Amazon Studios. “This great team has created a stunning portrayal of 1930s Hollywood. We’re excited to share the series with Prime members this summer.”

Prime members will be able to stream The Last Tycoon exclusively via the Amazon Prime Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Members can also download the series to mobile devices for offline viewing at no additional cost to their membership.

The Last Tycoon was part of Amazon’s pilot season last year, a unique development process that gives all customers an opportunity to stream and review pilots in order to help choose the next Amazon Original Series that are then made available to Prime members. Below are what customers have said about the pilot:

  •     “A beautifully rendered, intelligent portrait of Hollywood in the 1930s, and exploration of the fascinating world of Irving Thalberg. For admirers of all that, and Fitzgerald’s book—not to mention those who think ‘they don’t make them like they used to’–this show is a must-see.” 

  •     “An excellent drama with killer fashion and set design.”

  •     “The overall quality and feel of the show is fantastic. The storyline quickly engages the viewer, pulling them into the world of Brady American Studios and 1930s Hollywood. All of the different elements meld together to bring a show that is a true masterpiece.”

  •     “This has Emmy written all over it. Lots of times. Acting, directing, writing, sets & costumes; this thing has it all and we can believe the question about whether it gets produced isn't really a question at all.”

The entire first season of The Last Tycoon will be available for Prime members to stream and enjoy using the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Amazon Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online at, with other Amazon Original Series online at, at no additional cost to their membership. Eligible customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free trial at For a list of all Amazon Video compatible devices, visit

About Amazon Video
Amazon Video is a premium on-demand entertainment service that offers customers the greatest choice in what to watch and how to watch it. Amazon Video is the only service that provides all of the following:

  •     Prime Video: Thousands of movies and TV shows, including popular licensed content plus critically-acclaimed and award-winning Amazon Original Series and Movies from Amazon Studios like Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, Love & Friendship, and kids series Tumble Leaf, available for unlimited streaming as part of an Amazon Prime membership. Prime Video is also now available to customers in more than 200 countries and territories around the globe at
  •     Amazon Channels: Over 100 video subscriptions to networks like HBO, SHOWTIME, STARZ, PBS KIDS, Acorn TV, and more, available to Amazon Prime members in the US as add-ons to their membership. To view the full list of available channels, visit
  •     Rent or Own: Hundreds of thousands of titles, including new release movies and current TV shows available for on-demand rental or purchase for all Amazon customers.
  •     Instant Access: Customers can instantly watch anytime, anywhere through the Amazon Video app on compatible TVs, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire tablets, or online. For a list of all compatible devices, visit
  •     Premium Features: Top features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and mobile downloads for offline viewing of select content.

In addition to Prime Video, the Prime membership includes unlimited fast free shipping options across all categories available on Amazon, more than two million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Prime Music, secure photo storage with Prime Photos, unlimited reading with Prime Reading, unlimited access to a digital audiobook catalog with Audible Channels for Prime, a rotating selection of free digital games and in-game loot with Twitch Prime, early access to select Lightning Deals, exclusive access and discounts to select items, and more. To sign-up for Prime or to find out more, visit:

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit and follow @AmazonNews.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: "Pompeii" an Enjoyable Historical Spectacle

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pompeii (2014)
Running time:  105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disaster-related action and brief sexual content
DIRECTOR:  Paul W.S. Anderson
WRITER:  Janet Scott Batchler and Lee Batchler, and Michael Robert Johnson
PRODUCERS:  Paul W.S. Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Robert Kulzer, and Don Carmody
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Glen MacPherson (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michele Conroy
COMPOSER:  Clinton Shorter


Starring:  Kit Harrington, Emily Browning, Carrie-Anne Moss, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kiefer Sutherland, Jessica Lucas, Jared Harris, Joe Pingue, Currie Graham, Sasha Roiz, Dalmar Abuzeid, and Dylan Schombing

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania.  Pompeii and the surrounding area (including another town) were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Pompeii is a 2014 historical drama and disaster film from director Paul W.S. Anderson, perhaps best known for his work on the Resident Evil film franchise.  Theatrically released in 3D, this film is a German and Canadian co-production.

Pompeii is set during the last two or three days before Vesuvius destroys the city.  The film focuses on a slave-turned-gladiator who finds himself in Pompeii and fighting to protect a nobleman’s young daughter from a corrupt Roman Senator, while nearby, Mount Vesuvius rumbles ominously.

Pompeii opens in Brittania in 62 AD.  Roman soldiers brutally wipe out a tribe of Celtic horsemen, and a young Celtic boy named Milo (Dylan Schombing) watches as his parents are murdered.  By 79 AD, the boy is a grown man known as “The Celt” (Kit Harrington), who is a Roman slave and talented gladiator.

Milo is taken to Pompeii during the “Festival of the Vinalia” in order to entertain the crowds.  He has an encounter with Cassia (Emily Browning), the daughter of Pompeii's ruler, Marcus Severus (Jared Harris) and his wife, Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss).  Milo and the young woman are drawn to each other.  However, Milo must focus his attention on Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a champion gladiator who wants to use “the Celt” to gain his freedom.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Senator Quintas Attius Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), a close ally of Roman emperor, Titus, changes everyone’s plans.  All that planning might be why Pompeii’s people and visitors are ignoring the noise and rumbles coming from Mount Vesuvius, which towers over the area.

In the history of films set in or during the Roman Empire, Pompeii won’t be memorable.  It’s no Gladiator (2000), nor is it even on the level of a recent favorite of mine, The Eagle (2011).  Pompeii is a sword and sandal film that mixes several genres, including action-adventure, romance, the disaster film, the swashbuckler, and the historical, among others.  Each of those genres offers something enjoyable to watch in Pompeii, but overall this film is not well acted, directed, or written.

It looked to me like some of the film’s actors were struggling not to laugh during scenes when they were supposed to convey anger or pain.  Kit Harrington as Milo the Celt is cute, but he is not much of an actor, at least here.  Emily Browning as Cassia is seemingly quite passionate about this film and gives it her best effort.  Why should you watch this movie?  I don't know.

I found myself enjoying Pompeii.  I have always liked Roman Empire movies, so obviously I was going to give this film a chance.  I am glad that I did, but I won’t lie and pretend that this is an especially good film.

5 of 10

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: "Jumanji" Holds Onto its Charms (Happy B'day, Joe Johnston)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jumanji (1995)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – PG for menacing fantasy action and some mild language
DIRECTOR:  Joe Johnston
WRITERS:  Jonathan Hensleigh, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain; from a screenstory by Chris Van Allsburg, Greg Taylor, and Jim Strain (based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg)
PRODUCERS:  Scott Kroopf and William Teitler
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Thomas Ackerman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert Dalva
COMPOSER:  James Horner

FANTASY/ADVENTURE/FAMILY with elements of action and comedy

Starring:  Robin Williams, Jonathan Hyde, Kirsten Dunst, Bradley Pierce, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Alan Grier, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Hann-Byrd, and Laura Bundy

The subject of this movie review is Jumanji, a 1995 fantasy adventure and family film directed by Joe Johnston.  The film is based on the Caldecott Medal-winning children’s picture book, Jumanji, which was first published in 1981 and was written and drawn by author Chris Van Allsburg.  This was the first of three films based on Van Allsburg’s books (as of this updated review).  Jumanji the movie focus on two children who must help a strange man finish playing a magical board game.

In 1969, Alan Parrish (Adam Hann-Byrd) and his friend Sarah Whittle (Laura Bundy) find an old board game, a jungle adventure called Jumanji, in Alan’s attic.  After rolling the dice, Alan somehow unleashes some kind of magical force and is sucked into the board game.  In 1995, two other children, Judy (Kirsten Dunst) and Peter Shepherd (Bradley Pierce) find the cursed board game and play it, unwittingly releasing the man-child, Alan (Robin Williams).

However, the game Alan began 26 years ago must be finished.  Also, from the bowels of Jumanji’s magical board, comes a stampeding horde of jungle creatures and a fearsome huntsman, Hunter Van Pelt (Jonathan Hyde), who has stalked Alan for decades.  Now, Alan joins the adult Sarah (Bonnie Hunt) in a magical adventure to save the town and end the game.

Even back in 1995, the computer generated images (CGI) for the film Jumanji seemed too obviously fake.  Many of the film’s scenes required animals of various sizes (giraffes, elephants, rambunctious monkeys) to run through, run over, and destroy the streets, homes, and buildings of a small township.  Getting that many live animals to cooperate would have been a logistical nightmare and likely impossible, so CGI animals were used.  The artificial animals all have a bluish tint on their bodies, heightening the sense of unreality.  The glitch was perfect; that the animals look so artificial could be taken to imply that the animals are part of a fantastical and magical nightmare.

Otherwise, the film is a fairly well directed and well-acted comic fantasy/adventure.  Robin Williams is, of course, his usual manic self, but this time it’s the franticness of an almost-action hero, rather than that of some attention-seeking clown.  It’s a fun family picture full of inspired zaniness, with very good performances from the entirety of the supporting cast, especially from the young cast.  I’ve seen it several times.  It’s silly, and the script bounces from one scene to another, but I recommend it as an excellent adventure film for the young and young at heart.

6 of 10

Updated:  Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: "Labyrinth" Gets Better with Age

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 118 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Labyrinth (1986)
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Jim Henson
WRITERS:  Terry Jones; from a story by Dennis Lee and Jim Henson
PRODUCERS:  Eric Rattray
EDITOR:  John Grover
COMPOSER:  Trevor Jones
SONGS:  David Bowie
BAFTA Awards nominee

FANTASY/FAMILY with elements of adventure

Starring:  Jennifer Connelly, David Bowie, Toby Froud, Shari Weiser (Hoggle costume)/Brian Henson (Hoggle voice), Rob Mills (Ludo costume)/Ron Mueck (Ludo voice), David Goelz (voice), David Shaughnessey, Frank Oz (voice), Danny John-Jules, Shelley Thompson, Christopher Malcolm, and Kevin Clash

The subject of this movie review is Labyrinth, a 1986 British-American fantasy film directed by the late Jim Henson.  The film was written by Terry Jones from a story by Henson and Dennis Lee, although various writers contributed without receiving screen credit, including George Lucas (who was also an executive producer of the film), Elaine May, and Laura Philips.  In the film, a teen girl wishes her baby brother away and is then forced to travel through the Goblin King’s Labyrinth in order to save the infant.

Four years after the groundbreaking film, The Dark Crystal, appeared in theatres, Labyrinth was released early in the summer of 1986.  It was the last film directed by famed puppeteer and creator of “The Muppets,” the late Jim Henson’s (1936-1990).  Met with a cool reception at the box office, Labyrinth has gone on to find a large audience on home video, where children who were born long after the film first played in theatres can watch and enjoy it.

Tired of babysitting on yet another weekend night, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), a teenager with an active imagination who loves to envision herself in fantasy worlds, calls on the goblins from her favorite book, Labyrinth, to take her baby stepbrother, Toby (Toby Froud) away.  What she doesn’t know is that goblins do exist in another world, and they hear her plea.  They take Toby, and Sarah finds herself face to face with Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie) in her home.  He tries to dissuade her from following him back to his world, but she realizes that she must rescue her brother.

Following Jareth, she discovers that the Labyrinth itself guards Goblin City, in the middle of which sits Jareth’s castle.  Sarah must navigate the twisted maze of deception, full of strange, kooky, and menacing characters if she is to save Toby before the end of 13 hours or he will become a permanent resident of Goblin City.  To save Toby and outwit Jareth, Sarah befriends some of the goblins to aid her on her quest.  Can Sarah and her friends save Toby in time?

Labyrinth doesn’t have The Dark Crystal’s production values, but the creature costumes, makeup, and effects are very good.  In fact, the Goblins (designed by Brian Froud, the father of Toby Froud) are some of the most vividly imaginative creatures to populate a fantasy film.  The performances are good, not great; David Bowie sings the songs he composed for the film, and the tunes have the feel of most music and songs composed for fantasy films of the 1980’s, which is to say they work well enough for the film, even if they’d sound funky on the radio.

The film seems to meander quite often; the filmmakers obviously have the kind of ideas that would fit an epic film, but not enough of them.  Thus, Labyrinth at times feels like a wandering film; the filmmakers are just biding time until the stage the final confrontation between Sarah and Jareth, but to get a full-length film, they had to stretch the middle.  In fact, Labyrinth, because of the quality of its filmmaking, would today be a TV movie.  Still, this is fun to watch just to see the Jim Henson Company’s fabulous puppetry in action – always a good enough reason to watch any Jim Henson production.

6 of 10

1987 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Roy Field, Brian Froud, George Gibbs, and Tony Dunsterville)

Updated:  Friday, March 21, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


You can buy LABYRINTH on Blu-ray at AMAZON.

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).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: "The Monster Squad" Still a Treat

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 122 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Monster Squad (1987)
Running time: 82 minutes (1 hour, 22 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13
DIRECTOR:  Fred Dekker
WRITERS:  Shane Black and Fred Dekker
PRODUCER:  Jonathan A. Zimbert
EDITOR:  James Mitchell
COMPOSER:  Bruce Broughton


Starring:  Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Tom Noonan, Brent Chalem, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank, Michael Faustino, Mary Ellen Trainor, Duncan Regehr, Leonardo Cimino, Lisa Fuller, Jonathan Gries, Jason Hervey, Carl Thibault, Michael Reid MacKay, Stan Shaw, and Jack Gwillim

The subject of this review is The Monster Squad, a 1987 comic horror film directed by Fred Dekker and written by Shane Black and Dekker.  In the movie, re-imagined versions of classic movie monsters invade a small town in a bid to control the world, but they face a bad of savvy kids determined to stop them.

The 1987 cult-favorite flick, the comic horror film, The Monster Squad, has recently found new life 20 years after being largely overlooked upon its initial theatrical release.  While it remains basically a horror flick for children (appropriate even in these politically correct times), the film is, at time, genuinely scary.  The villains of The Monster Squad are also an homage to the monsters of classic Universal Studios black and white monster movies.

Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Gill Man descend upon a small town in search of a diabolically powerful amulet that could give Dracula (Duncan Regehr) dominion over the world.  The only thing that could stop the amulet’s power is an incantation in a diary belonging to Dracula’s arch-nemesis, Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim).   However, the book has fallen into the hands of 12-year-old Sean Crenshaw (Andre Gower).

Sean and the rest of his young friends idolize classic monster movies, and call themselves The Monster Squad.  With the help of his gang of monster-obsessed misfits, Sean tries to stop Dracula’s nefarious plans.  Can the Monster Squad:  Sean, Patrick (Robby Kiger), Fat Kid/Horace (Brent Chalem), Rudy (Ryan Lambert), Eugene (Michael Faustino), and Sean’s little sister, Phoebe (Ashley Bank), save the day?  With Sean’s dad, policeman Del Crenshaw (Stephen Macht) and Scary German Guy (Michael Cimino) helping, they just might, and it’s worth watching this movie to find out.

Co-writers Shane Black and Fred Dekker, who also directs this film, seem to take the view that one can place children (in this case pre-teens and early teens) in a horror scenario – one as scary as the horror movies they might watch.  Although a juvenile cast means that Black and Dekker wouldn’t make a bloody, slasher film, to make a horror flick, they would still have to present their youthful characters in situations in which they face actual peril or severe bodily harm or even death.  After all, a scary movie for kids is still a scary movie.

The Monster Squad isn’t even a great horror film, or even a very good movie.  For one thing, the narrative occasionally takes great leaps, leaving out crucial scenes.  Perhaps, the producers forced cuts to reduce the film’s runtime, and the loss of scenes occasionally caused lapses in logic within the narrative.  Still, while it may not be a great movie, it’s a memorable B-movie.  The Monster Squad is just fun to watch, warts and all.

6 of 10

Monday, September 03, 2007

Updated:  Saturday, November 23, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: The "Candyman" Can... Still Scare

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 132 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Candyman (1992)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Bernard Rose
WRITER:  Bernard Rose (based upon the story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker)
PRODUCERS:  Steve Golin, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, and Alan Poul
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Anthony B. Richmond, B.S.C.
EDITOR:  Dan Rae
COMPOSER:  Philip Glass

HORROR/THRILLER with elements of fantasy and mystery

Starring:  Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams, and DeJuan Guy

The subject of this movie review is Candyman, a 1992 horror film from director Bernard Rose.  The film is an adaptation of “The Forbidden,” a short story by Clive Barker that first appeared in Barker’s short story collection, Books of Blood Volume 5 (published in the United States as In the Flesh).  Candyman tells the story of a grad student who is skeptical of stories about a local boogeyman until the boogeyman attacks her.

Stand in front of a mirror and say his name five times, and Candyman (Tony Todd) will appear behind you.  When someone calls his name, Candyman usually arrives to gut his caller from groin to gullet, but it’s all a children’s ghost story – an urban legend to scare the simpleminded.  That’s what Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen), a Chicago-based graduate student, believes when she comes across the tale of Candyman while doing research for her thesis on modern folklore.

However, when she hears that Candyman haunts Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green projects, Helen thinks that she has a new angle for the thesis upon which she is working with her partner, Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh (Kasi Lemmons).  Still, Helen can’t really accept that Candyman exists.  Her actions and investigations also lead to an arrest that seems to put the Candyman tales to rest… until the legend himself appears and ignites a series of gruesome and bloody murders for which Helen gets the blame.

Thirteen years before earning the Oscar nomination that would revive her career (for 2004’s Sideways), Virginia Madsen was a scream queen – the heroine in a now-cult favorite horror movie entitled Candyman.  Based upon legendary horror/fantasy writer, Clive Barker’s, tale “The Forbidden,” Candyman took the unusual narrative approach that the final result of the film had to be that the heroine, in this case Helen Lyle, die in order to save the day.  Not only is Helen fighting a monster, but she’s also fighting a story that wants her dead.  Madsen was perfect as the doe-eyed beauty who swoons from one scene to the next, her plump, semi-Rubenesque body awaiting the fearsome savagery of Candyman’s hook.

Writer/director Bernard Rose (who would go on to direct Immortal Beloved, with Gary Oldman) moved the action from the housing projects of Liverpool, the original setting of Barker’s tale, to Chicago’s then-40-year old, decaying housing projects, Cabrini Green.  Rose’s choice was an excellent one, as he was able to make Cabrini an even more darkly mysterious setting for chills and thrills as good as any haunted house.  Rose makes the first half of the film a quietly, chilling suspense thriller, but he transforms the second half of the film into a dreamy and trippy dark horror/fantasy that only stumbles a little as it waltzes to the end.

The film also features a small role by Kasi Lemmons, who would make a name for herself in Hollywood as both a script doctor and as a director with the acclaimed, independent film hit, Eve’s Bayou.  Tony Todd became something of a horror movie/sci-fi cult actor (kinda like Bruce Campbell) appearing in episodes of “Stargate:  SG-1,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine” and also in the Final Destination horror film franchise.  Here, Ms. Madsen, Ms. Lemmons, Todd, and Rose put together a small, mesmerizing horror treat that bears many repeat viewings.

7 of 10

Monday, August 22, 2005

Updated:  Sunday, October 13, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Halle Berry is Good in "The Call"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Call (2013)
Running time:  94 minutes (1 hour, 34 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, disturbing content and some language
DIRECTOR:  Brad Anderson
WRITERS:  Richard D'Ovidio; from a story by Richard D'Ovidio, Nicole D'Ovidio, and Jon Bokenkamp
PRODUCERS:  Bradley Gallo, Jeffrey Graup, Michael A. Helfant, Michael Luisi, and Robert Stein
EDITOR:  Avi Youabian
COMPOSER:  John Debney

THRILLER/CRIME with elements of action

Starring:  Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli, Justina Machado, Jose Zuniga, Roma Maffia, Evie Louise Thompson, Denise Dowse, Ella Rae Peck, Jenna Lamia, and Ross Gallo

The Call is a 2013 thriller and crime film starring Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin.  The film follows a veteran 911 operator who takes an emergency call from a teenaged girl who has just been abducted.

The film focuses on Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) veteran 9-1-1 operator.  One evening, Jordan takes a 911 call from Leah Templeton (Evie Louise Thompson), a frightened teenager, when tragedy strikes.  Six months later, Jordan is now a trainer of new 911 operators, when she is forced to become an operator again after an inexperienced operator takes a 911 call she cannot handle.  Back in a situation she had hoped to avoid, Jordan must help Casey Weldon (Abigail Breslin), a teen girl who has just been abducted.  As Jordan tries to work with Casey, she realizes that a terror from her past has unexpectedly returned.

After watching The Call, which I greatly enjoyed, I realized that Halle Berry is at her best as an actress when the characters she is playing are in a bad place.  When Halle’s characters are being menaced (Gothika) or when they are living life on the edge (Monster’s Ball), Halle has a hit movie or critically acclaimed film.  Well, The Call features Halle played both – a tormented woman seemingly living on the edge of sanity.  Jordan Turner is menaced by the fact that a teen girl has been abducted by a terrible human being, and she is living on the edge as guilt eats away at her professional life.

The Call received what can be described as mixed reviews, but it was a hit.  I am giving it a very good review, and it is a hit with me.  I can see myself watching this again – in its entirety or in parts – whenever it starts appearing on basic cable channels or on local over-the-air television.

Abigail Breslin is quite good as the victim, Casey Weldon, being hysterically frightened or righteously angry, whichever a particular scene requires.  Breslin does not come across as the typical “missing white girl,” pure fluffy innocence and absolute virginal whiteness.

The Call has some holes in the plot.  The characters make some wrongheaded decisions, even when not under duress.  You have to really suspend disbelief because you know real people might have made smarter choices.  The big hole, however, is the villain.  He’s like a crystal meth-addled version of Hannibal Lector, which makes The Call’s last act sometimes seem like a cheesy copy of the last act of Silence of the Lambs.

Still, this is mostly good stuff.  Like Taken, The Call is a compact and mean little thriller that is determined to punch the audience to attention.  Halle Berry needs to do movies like The Call more often.

7 of 10

Sunday, September 01, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Elysium" Makes Worldwide Landing in IMAX Theatres

Sony's Elysium Lands In IMAX® Theatres Worldwide Starting August 9

LOS ANGELES, PRNewswire/ -- IMAX Corporation (NYSE:IMAX; TSX:IMX), along with TriStar Pictures and Media Rights Capital today announced that Elysium, filmmaker Neill Blomkamp's (District 9) futuristic action film starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, will be digitally re-mastered into the immersive IMAX® format and released in IMAX® theatres worldwide beginning August 9.

"Neill Blomkamp is the kind of innovative, creative storyteller that moviegoers seek out, and we are thrilled to bring this highly anticipated film to IMAX audiences worldwide," said Greg Foster, CEO of IMAX Entertainment and Senior Executive Vice President IMAX Corp.

"Elysium is one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer, so we're pleased that audiences will have the chance to see Neill Blomkamp's vision for the future in IMAX's immersive format," said Rory Bruer, president, Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures.

The IMAX release of Elysium will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology.  The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX's customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

For more information about Elysium, please visit Sony's official website at

About Elysium
In the year 2154, two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made space station called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, ruined planet. The people of Earth are desperate to escape the crime and poverty that is now rampant throughout the land. The only man with the chance to bring equality to these worlds is Max (Matt Damon), an ordinary guy in desperate need to get to Elysium. With his life hanging in the balance, he reluctantly takes on a dangerous mission - one that pits him against Elysium's Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hard-line forces - but if he succeeds, he could save not only his own life, but millions of people on Earth as well.  Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp.  The QED International / Alphacore Studios / Kinberg Genre production is produced by Bill Block, Neill Blomkamp, and Simon Kinberg.

About IMAX Corporation
IMAX, an innovator in entertainment technology, combines proprietary software, architecture and equipment to create experiences that take you beyond the edge of your seat to a world you've never imagined. Top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and, as such, IMAX's network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing.  As of March 31, 2013, there were 738 IMAX theatres (606 commercial multiplexes, 19 commercial destinations and 113 institutions) in 53 countries.

IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience®, The IMAX Experience® and IMAX Is Believing® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook (, Twitter ( and YouTube (

This press release contains forward looking statements that are based on IMAX management's assumptions and existing information and involve certain risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from future results expressed or implied by such forward looking statements. These risks and uncertainties are discussed in IMAX's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and most recent Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: New "Evil Dead" Just Another Scary Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 52 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Evil Dead (2013)
Running time:  91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language
DIRECTOR:  Fede Alvarez
WRITERS:  Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (based on the motion picture, The Evil Dead, written by Sam Raimi)
PRODUCERS: Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert, and Bruce Campbell
EDITOR: Bryan Shaw
COMPOSER:  Roque Baños


Starring:  Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore, and Randal Wilson with Bruce Campbell

Evil Dead is a 2013 horror movie.  A loose remake of Sam Raimi’s 1981 movie, The Evil Dead, this is the fourth film in the Evil Dead movie franchise, serving partly as a continuation of the series and partly as a reboot of the franchise.  The new Evil Dead focuses on five friends in a remote cabin where they fight off an evil presence that is determined to possess them all.

Mia Allen (Jane Levy) has a severe drug addiction.  Her best friends, Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), have arranged a getaway to an old remote cabin in the woods that apparently belongs to Mia’s family.  There, they hope that Mia can be forced to get clean or “detox.”  An important member of this intervention is Mia’s estranged brother, David (Shiloh Fernandez), who brings his girlfriend, Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), with him.

The five young people arrive at the cabin to find that someone has previously broken into it.  While searching the cabin, they find the remains of a bizarre ritual and also a strange old book.  This book, which is entitled the “Naturom Demonto” (Book of the Dead), leads them to unwittingly summon up demons hiding in the woods surrounding the cabin.

Evil Dead is just a remake – plain and simple.  It is not an exceptional horror film, except for the fact that there is no CGI used in creating the effects (as the director claims).  The Evil Dead was a comic horror film that was shocking, horrifying, comical, and defiantly original.  Evil Dead, the new thang, replaces the comical aspects and trades for family history – both melodramatic and dysfunctional.  I did find myself wishing that Mia could beat her demons and that her brother could reconcile with her, but as the movie went along, I cared less and less.

Director Fede Alvarez and his co-screenwriter Rodo Sayagues offer bloody violence and gore aplenty.  No matter how much of that they offer, however, this movie comes from the same old horror movie wheelhouse that has been the birth canal for many of the horror flicks going back a decade.  Evil Dead is merely torture porn reconfigured as self-torture porn.  It is sometimes shocking, thrilling, scary, and creepy.  However, I think the only people who will find this movie to be a bold, fresh thing are those who never saw the original, The Evil Dead.

5 of 10

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: "Looper" the Coop-o-Loop of Time Travel Films

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 6 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Looper (2012)
Running time: 119 minutes (1 hour, 59 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content
PRODUCERS: Ram Bergman and James D. Stern
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Steve Yedlin (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Bob Ducsay
COMPOSER: Nathan Johnson


Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Summer Qing, Tracie Thoms, Garret Dillahunt, Frank Brennan, and Nick Gomez

Looper is a 2012 science fiction-thriller from writer-director, Rian Johnson. The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was also the lead in Johnson’s debut feature film, Brick (2005).

Looper opens in the year 2044, in a Kansas cornfield. We watch 25-year-old Joseph “Joe” Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shoot a man who suddenly appears in front of him. In the year 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, it sends the target 30 years into the past, where a hired gun, called a “looper,” awaits to do the killing. When the crime bosses want to end a looper’s contract, they send him back so that his younger self can do the killing. It’s called “closing the loop.”

One day, “Young Joe” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) learns that it is time to close his loop when “Old Joe” (Bruce Willis) suddenly appears in front of him. After Old Joe escapes, Young Joe becomes the target of his boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), leader of a Kansas City mafia company.

When I first saw Rian Johnson’s Brick several years ago, I was impressed. The film was basically a classic detective movie set in a modern, suburban high school with dysfunctional kids and juvenile delinquents playing the roles of the detective, the femme fatale, and the criminals. Looper is more than just a clever time travel story. For one thing, it is probably the most imaginative time travel film since 12 Monkeys (in which Bruce Willis played the lead).

I don’t want to give away any more of Looper’s delightful surprises, shocking twists, and stunning turns. I will say that Looper is not just about the affect of time travel on the characters. It is also about what time, chance, and opportunity mean to the lives of the characters. Thus, Looper is a character drama as much as it is a science fiction film. Of course, there is action; after all, this is a movie in which Bruce Willis plays a major part. His character, “Old Joe,” is so desperate, however, that he is despicable, and that allows Willis to show a range of emotions and to suggest the complicated thought processes going on behind his eyes in ways that Willis rarely gets to do.

Besides Willis, there are good performances all around. Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves himself (once again) as a leading man, and Noah Segan shines (and steals a few scenes) as the anxious-to-prove-himself, Kid Blue. My only complaints about Looper are that it is a bit too long, and it stumbles in places because of that. Still, Looper is thought-provoking and thrilling, and it is something rare, a truly imaginative time travel movie.

8 of 10

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Zoe Saldana Acts "Colombiana" Out of Action Movie Ghetto

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Colombiana (2011)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, intense sequences of action, sexuality and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Olivier Megaton
WRITERS: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
PRODUCERS: Luc Besson and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Romain Lacourbas (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Camille Delamarre
COMPOSERS: Nathaniel Méchaly and Craig Walker

ACTION with elements of drama

Starring: Zoe Saldana, Cliff Curtis, Jordi Mallà, Beto Benites, Lennie James, Michael Vartan, Amandla Stenberg, Callum Blue, Jesse Borrego, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ofelia Medina, and John McConnell

Colombiana is a 2011 action movie from French filmmaker, Luc Besson. An American and French co-production, Colombiana is another of Besson’s films featuring a fight girl or action chick (my terms). These lovely ladies appear in such Besson films as Nikita (1990) and The Fifth Element (1997).

Colombiana opens in Bogota, Colombia in 1992. Nine-year-old Cataleya Restrepo (Amandla Stenberg) sees her parents killed by gunmen working for the drug lord, Don Luis Sandoval (Beto Benites). With the help of the U.S. Embassy, Cataleya escapes to the United States, where she is reunited with her uncle, Emilio Restrepo (Cliff Curtis). The girl insists that he train her to be a killer.

The story moves to 2007 and finds the adult Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) working as a killer-for-hire for Emilio, but Cataleya leads a double life. First, she has a boyfriend, Danny Delanay (Michael Vartan), an artist. Secondly, she is a tag killer, murdering various criminal types and leaving messages on their bodies, messages directed to Don Luis. Meanwhile, her activities have attracted the attention of FBI Special Agent James Ross (Lennie James), who is trying to learn the identity of the tag killer. When Don Luis decides to pay attention to Cataleya’s messages to him, he sends his right hand man, Marco (Jordi Mallà), to send a message back to Cataleya.

Colombiana is a good revenge action flick. I won’t say great because the screenplay leaves Cataleya as a cipher. It’s cool that in the movie, the other characters don’t know much about her, but the audience should get to know her more than we actually do. Still, the action scenes with both young Cataleya and the sexy older Cataleya are stimulating and visceral. Zoe Saldana proves two things: that her beauty and presence make her a movie star and that she has the acting chops to elevate even B-movie material like this. Young Amandla Stenberg as young Cataleya also shows some acting chops and even a bit of “it” factor.

Colombiana isn’t high cinema, but it delivers on what it is. This is titillation cinema that pays off.

6 of 10

2012 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actress” (Zoe Saldana)

2012 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Zoe Saldana)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review: "Faster" is One Angry Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Faster (2010)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, some drug use and language
DIRECTOR: George Tillman Jr.
WRITERS: Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton
PRODUCERS: Tony Gayton, Liz Glotzer, Martin Shafer, and Robert Teitel
EDITOR: Dirk Westervelt


Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Mike Epps, Moon Bloodgood, and Tom Berenger

Released during the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Faster is a hard-boiled revenge thriller starring Dwayne Johnson (formerly The Rock). The title, “Faster,” really doesn’t fit this movie, nor does it indicate just how mean this flick is.

The day he is released from prison, a convicted bank robber, known only as “Driver” (Dwayne Johnson), hits the streets. He is on a mission to take revenge on the men who killed his brother, Gary (Matt Gerald), and got him sent to prison for 10 years. Tracking Driver are two detectives, the professional Cicero (Carla Gugino) and a burnout known as “Cop” (Billy Bog Thornton). Meanwhile, an unknown person, someone on Driver’s hit list, hires a flamboyant and egocentric hit man known as “Killer” (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) to stop Driver.

Faster is one angry movie, but while some of it is quite good, the movie mostly feels undeveloped. Director George Tillman, Jr. helms the film with what seems like a ham-fisted determination to shock the audience with each moment of violence or bloody payback. It works… sometimes. Faster is a blunt instrument that punishes the audience for its bloodlust and love of retribution. What the film lacks are those fine touches that can transform a crime film from mere action movie to hard-boiled classic. These touches include a deeper insight into the hero, a clearer adversary, and a better use of the setting, among other things.

For most of Faster, Dwayne Johnson is a huffing, puffing force of nature, so much so that you might miss the moments in this film when Johnson, without a word of dialogue, conveys so much of Driver’s pain and grief. Hiding behind the depiction of a murderous badass is a quieter portrayal of a man struggling with spiritual issues like redemption and especially forgiveness.

Faster wastes good characters in Carla Gugino’s Cicero and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s evangelist character. Billy Bob Thornton and Oliver Jackson-Cohen actually get some time to develop their characters, although Jackson-Cohen’s Killer seems out of place here.

I’ve said this many times before about many other movies (as have other critics and reviewers): Faster is good, but it could have been much more than the one-note action flick that it is.

6 of 10

Friday, March 04, 2011


Thursday, February 25, 2010

District 9 an Exceptional Science Fiction Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

District 9 (2009)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA/New Zealand; Languages: English, Nyanja, Afrikaans
Running time: 112 minutes
MPAA – R for bloody violence and pervasive language
DIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp
WRITERS: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
PRODUCERS: Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham
EDITOR: Julian Clarke
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Sharlto Copley, Louis Minnaar, Vanessa Haywood, David James, Kenneth Nkosi, Nathalie Boltt, and Elizabeth Mkandawie, and Jason Cope

Last summer, the science fiction movie, District 9, took moviegoers by surprise. The movie first gained attention because it had been shepherded into existence by Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings). Eventually, director Neill Blomkamp’s socio-political parable stood on its own as an exceptional film.

District 9’s story began 20 years ago when an alien ship arrived on earth, coming to a dead stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. Humanity waited for the aliens’ hostile attack, which never came. Even the hope that the visitors would bring giant advances in technology proved to be an empty one. Instead, these aliens, whom humans derisively refer to as the “prawns” were refugees. After two decades, nearly a million prawns live in a makeshift Johannesburg encampment called District 9, as the world’s nations argue over what to do with them.

Now, control over the prawns belongs to Multi-National United (MNU), a private company contracted to relocate the aliens, by force if necessary, to a new settlement, District 10. MNU does not care about the aliens’ welfare, but the company’s weapons division is interested in finding a way to make the prawns’ awesome weaponry work, which no one on earth has thus far managed to do. Hapless MNU field operative, Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley), recently assigned to head the relocation task force, is about to unlock the secrets of the alien technology, a feat that will change his life and the fate of the aliens.

It is a wonder that a science fiction film with story elements that mirror so much of our world’s troubles can be such thrilling popcorn entertainment and social commentary. The social status of the prawns, their plight and predicament, and the way humans act towards them have a number of real world parallels: South Africa’s own system of apartheid; slavery, Jim Crow and segregation in the American South; Gaza; the expulsion of American Indians from their lands, the displacement of Iraqis due to the American invasion of Iraq, etc.

Yet District 9 is amazingly entertaining, probably because the deeper and more pointed meanings and messages are dressed in sci-fi and war simulation violence and action movie tropes. Co-writer and director Neill Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell have done something that is rare – create a science fiction film that speaks directly to the modern condition with relevance and meaning. Instead of wowing audiences with gaudy gadgets and impossible (and impractically designed) machines, vehicles, and space ships, Blomkamp and Tatchell wow us their execution of substantive science fiction that seems real.

At the heart of the film is the performance of Sharlto Copley as everyman, Wikus van der Merwe. Wikus is filled with ignorance, dim-witted preconceptions, and the urge to treat the aliens like children who have to have common sense beaten into them – the way White southerners used think of African-Americans (and some still do). Copley presents Wikus’ rise, fall, and rise again as a journey of both self-discovery and revelation. Wikus is a road map to our better selves, in regards to the way we treat others. That we can have a fun time with such a thoughtful film is due in large part to Copley’s underrated performance. District 9 is a winner.

8 of 10

2010 Academy Awards: 4 nominations: “Best Achievement in Editing” (Julian Clarke), “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, and Matt Aitken), “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell)

2010 BAFTA Awards: 7 nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Screenplay – Adapted, Best Sound, and Best Special Visual Effects

2010 Golden Globe Awards: 1 nomination for best screenplay-motion picture

Thursday, February 25, 2010