Showing posts with label play adaptation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label play adaptation. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11, 2021

#28DaysofBlack Review: Denzel and Viola Tear it Up in "FENCES"

[Over a decade after his death, August Wilson's acclaimed stage play, Fences, finally made it to the big screen, three decades after word came that it was to be adapted into film.  Every time I think that Denzel Washington:  the film's star, director, and one of its producers, can no longer amaze me, he amazes us all.  It turns out that America's greatest male actor is also a really fine director.]

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 of 2021 (No. 1750) by Leroy Douresseaux

Fences (2016)
Running time: 139 minutes (2 hours, 19 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some suggestive references
DIRECTOR:  Denzel Washington
WRITER:  August Wilson (based upon his play, Fences)
PRODUCERS:  Todd Black, Scott Rudin, and Denzel Washington
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Charlotte Bruus Christensen (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Hughes Winborne
COMPOSER:  Marcelo Zarvos
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, and Saniyya Sidney

Fences is a 2016 period drama film directed by Denzel Washington.  It is based on playwright, August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Fences (1985).  Wilson also wrote the film adaptation's screenplay before he died in 2005 at the age of 60.  Fences focuses on a working-class African-American father in the 1950s who tries to come to terms with the events of his troubled life.

Fences opens in 1950s Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and introduces 53-year-old Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington).  Troy lives with his wife, Rose Lee Maxson (Viola Davis), and their son, Cory (Jovan Adepo).  Troy works as a garbage collector alongside his best friend, Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson).  Troy has a younger brother, Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), who sustained a head injury in World War II that left him mentally impaired.  Gabriel received a $3,000 government payout that Troy subsequently used as a down payment on a home for his family.  Troy sometimes wonders if he has done right by Gabriel, who now lives at “Miss Pearl's house.”

Troy also has an adult son from a previous relationship, Lyons Maxson (Russell Hornsby), an apparently talented musician who visits Troy on payday when he wants to borrow money.  Troy's relationship with Lyons is strained, as are his relationships with just about everyone else.  Troy is especially bitter about his professional baseball career.  He played professionally in the Negro Leagues, but never played Major League Baseball, which had a “color barrier” until 1947 that prohibited Black players from joining the majors.  Now, Troy refuses to give permission for Cory to play football because he does not want the teen to fail in sports as he did … he says.  This decision, his general contrarian ways, and his rancor about his life is pushing his family and friends away from him.

Fences is the sixth play in August Wilson's ten-part, “Pittsburgh Cycle,” of plays.  Like all the plays in the cycle, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes.  Back in the late 1980s, actor Eddie Murphy had the film rights to Fences, but his planned film never came about.  Wilson and Murphy clashed over Wilson's insistence that the film adaptation of Fences be directed by an African-American because, more or less, only a black man could understand Troy Maxson's life.  At least, that is how I remember the behind-the-scenes happenings concerning Murphy's planed Fences film.

Watching Denzel Washington play Troy Maxson made me realize how universal Fences action and especially its themes are.  Washington is one of the film's producers as well as being the director, so he could make the film he wanted, and he filmed Fences in the city of Pittsburgh, where it is set.  It seems to me that Washington made Fences in its original setting, but played Troy Maxson and presented his world as a story in which audiences, practically from around the world and most certainly in the United States, could recognize and even identify.

Troy isn't just bitter about not being a Major League Baseball player; he is also always yearning.  Troy knows what he's got, but surpassing that is the desire to have more.  It is as if he is constantly thinking, “I have a good wife, son, home, and job, but …”  I have never seen Fences the play or read its text, so I am assuming that Fences the film is true to its source.  However, I interpret Fences the film as revealing that Troy's biggest obstacle isn't race, but is him always believing that what he has now will no longer make him happy, if it ever did.  He always believes that if he gets this “next thing” he will be happy or, at least, happier than he is at the present.

Washington's performance as Troy Maxson in his film, Fences, is a performance for the ages.  If this isn't his best acting, it is his best since The Hurricane.  And what do you know, Washington was nominated for the “Best Actor” Oscar for his performances in both Fences and The Hurricane, and he lost to actors who gave good but inferior performances to Washington's.

At least, Viola Davis finally won an Oscar – for “Best Supporting Actress” – for her performance in Fences.  She was long overdue, and in Fences, as Rose Maxson, she grounds the story and keeps Washington and Troy Maxson from dominating the entire story.  Some thought that Davis should have been nominated in the lead actress category, but Rose Maxson is a supporting character in this film.  Fences the film needs Viola Davis and Rose Maxson's support.

Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, and Mykelti Williamson give some of the best performances of their careers.  I have no doubt that Henderson would have been nominated in the “Best Supporting Actor” category if he were a white actor...

That's okay.  All these black folks make Fences a major cinematic accomplishment.  They make it an African-American experience writ large, and anyone who can comprehend a movie, regardless of ethnic background, can take into Fences into his or her soul.

10 of 10

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

2017 Academy Awards, USA:  1 winner: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Viola Davis); 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Todd Black, Scott Rudin, and Denzel Washington), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Denzel Washington), and “Best Adapted Screenplay” (August Wilson-Posthumously)

2017 Golden Globes, USA:  1 winner: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Viola Davis) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Denzel Washington)

2017 BAFTA Awards:  1 winner: “Best Supporting Actress” (Viola Davis)

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: "A Madea Christmas" a Funny and Odd Christmas Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 56 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas (2013)
Running time:  100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual references, crude humor and language
DIRECTOR:  Tyler Perry
WRITER:  Tyler Perry (based on the stage play, A Madea Christmas, written by Tyler Perry)
PRODUCERS:  Ozzie Areu, Tyler Perry, and Matt Moore
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Alexander Gruszynski (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Maysie Hoy
COMPOSER:  Christopher Young


Starring:  Tyler Perry, Larry the Cable Guy, Anna Maria Horsford, Tika Sumpter, Eric Lively, JR Lemon, Kathy Najimy, Chad Michael Murray, Alicia Witt, Noah Urrea, and Lucy Whelchel

A Madea Christmas is a 2013 comedy, drama, and Christmas movie from writer-director Tyler Perry.  The film is based on Perry's musical play, A Madea Christmas, which was first performed in 2011.  A Madea Christmas the movie finds Madea in rural Alabama after being coaxed into helping a relative pay her daughter a surprise visit for Christmas.

As A Madea Christmas begins, Mabel “Madea” Simmons (Tyler Perry) is working at Tifton's department store for some extra Christmas cash, thanks to her niece, Eileen Murphy (Anna Maria Horsford), who works at the store.  Eileen is sad that her daughter, Lacey (Tika Sumpter), is living in the small town of Bucktussle, Alabama, and she wants to visit her.  Eileen coaxes Madea into accompanying her for a surprise Christmas visit.

What Eileen does not realize is that her daughter is now Lacey Williams and is married to her college sweetheart, Conner Williams (Eric Lively).  Lacey is not ready to tell her mother that she is married to a White man, but may be forced to when Eileen and Madea arrive.  Also arriving at Lacey and Conner's doorstep are Conner's parents, Kim and Buddy Williams (Kathy Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy).

A Madea Christmas is an odd entry in Tyler Perry's Madea film series.  First, the film deals, in a fluffy way, with racism, and is also set in a town and area that is largely white.  With its mushy sentiment, soft-focused racial harmony, and easy pace,  A Madea Christmas seems like an original holiday movie for either the Lifetime or Hallmark cable networks.

I found this film enjoyable and comfy, and although Madea does dispense her usual unique brand of wisdom, the film is not as preachy as previous Madea films.  A Madea Christmas' dominant theme seems to be that parents should accept that their children will live the lives the children choose and not the ones the parents want.  There is also a subplot about a sensitive and talented boy, Bailey McCoy (Noah Urrea), whose father, Tanner McCoy (Chad Michael Murray), is a racist and a bully (but not really in an especially offensive way).  This subplot encapsulates how A Madea Christmas goes out of its way not to offend or scare white audiences.

I don't think that A Madea Christmas will be a Christmas classic, but it is definitely a different kind of Christmas movie.  I found it to be quiet funny at times, and I plan on seeing it again.

6 of 10

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Razzie Awards:  1 win: “Worst Actress” (Tyler Perry); 4 nominations: “Worst Picture,” “Worst Supporting Actor” (Larry the Cable Guy), “Worst Screen Combo” (Tyler Perry, Larry the Cable Guy, Tyler Perry & EITHER Larry the Cable Guy OR That Worn-Out Wig & Dress), and “Worst Screenplay” (Tyler Perry)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: 1940 "Pride and Prejudice" is Bubbly (Remembering Jane Austen)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 243 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pride and Prejudice (1940) – B&W
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Robert Z. Leonard
WRITERS:  Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin (based upon Helen Jerome’s dramatization of Jane Austen’s novel)
PRODUCER:  Hunt Stromberg
EDITOR:  Robert Kern
COMPOSER:  Herbert Stothart
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Mary Boland, Edna May Oliver, Maureen O’Sullivan, Ann Rutherford, Frieda Inescort, Edmund Gwenn, Karen Morely, Heather Angel, Marsha Hunt, Bruce Lester, Edward Ashley, and Melville Cooper

The subject of this movie review is Pride and Prejudice, a 1940 comedy, drama, and romance from director Robert Z. Leonard (The Great Ziegfeld).  The film is based on Pride and Prejudice, the novel by Jane Austen that was first published in 1813.

However, the screenplay is adapted from Pride and Prejudice: A Sentimental Comedy Written in Three Acts.  This was a stage adaptation of Austen’s novel that was written by Helen Jerome and was played on Broadway in 1935.  Aldous Huxley, the English writer who is best known for his novel, Brave New World (1932), is one of this film’s two screenwriters.  The 1940 film also deviates from the novel, including a change in the time period in which the story takes place.

Status-conscious Mrs. Bennet (Mary Boland) is eager to marry her five daughters, while Mr. Bennet (Edmund Gwenn) would just love a peaceful home.  The Bennets however are middle class and “penniless,” so when two upper class men become interested in her eldest daughters, Elizabeth (Greer Garson) and Jane (Maureen O’Sullivan), a furious class war begins.

The strong-willed Elizabeth or Lizzy runs up against the proud and arrogant Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier), a man with a large fortune.  Jane falls for Charles Bingley (Bruce Lester), whose sister, Caroline (Frieda Inescort), holds the Bennets in disdain.  Although she continuously rebuffs her suitor, Lizzy can’t help but be attracted to the smoldering Darcy, even if she is prejudiced against his prideful ways.

Warner Bros.’s DVD box set of MGM literary adaptation, Motion Picture Masterpieces, offers many delights, and I’ve been waiting a long time for one in particular: Pride and Prejudice, MGM’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s much-loved (and much filmed) novel.  This version is largely unfaithful to Austen’s book (being as the movie is adapted from an adaptation of the original novel), but this is still highly entertaining.  The film is a comic romance and light drama, with Austen’s biting insults turned into witty banter fit for a comedy and romance.  Mannered melodrama also passes as dramatic turmoil and conflict.  Still, this lively movie almost makes one forget literary accuracies.  I found myself thrilling to the amusing twists, childish feuds, and slight class warfare, as I waited for the inevitable happy ending.

Greer Garson plays Lizzy Bennet as a strong and independent woman who can give both severe and playful rebukes.  Initially, Laurence Olivier’s Mr. Darcy comes across as supremely aloof.  That is before he turns the character more benign than petty, and Darcy’s off-putting aloofness becomes delightfully aloof.  Until the 1990’s, Olivier can be considered the supreme cinematic interpreter of an Austen male character.

Surprisingly, MGM, in a bid to keep Pride and Prejudice’s budget modest, reused many of the costumes Walter Plunkett designed for Gone with the Wind, so some of women of Pride and Prejudice look like Southern belles.  However, famed MGM designer Adrian created gowns for the film’s principals, and Gile Steele designed handsome and lavish suits for the men.  Pride and Prejudice won an Oscar for its art direction (for a black and white film), and the movie’s setting and backdrops represent the best of what MGM’s 1930’s-40’s dream factory could do when it came to production values.

So when such gorgeous production values are added to witty repartee, lovable characters, and bubbly comic romance, the viewer usually gets a winner and that is what Pride and Prejudice is – a winner and a personal favorite of mine.

7 of 10

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Updated:  Friday, July 18, 2014

1941 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Art Direction, Black-and-White” (Cedric Gibbons and Paul Groesse)

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

Friday, December 6, 2013

Review: Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead Play to Type in "The Bat" (Happy B'day, Anges Moorehead)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 110 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Bat (1959) – B&W
Running time:  80 minutes (1 hour, 20 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Crane Wilbur
WRITER:  Crane Wilbur – screenplay and screen story (based upon the play by Avery Hopwood and Mary Roberts Reinhart)
PRODUCER:  C.J. Tevlin
EDITOR:  William Austin
COMPOSER:  Louis Forbes

MYSTERY/THRILLER with elements of horror

Starring:  Vincent Price, Agnes Moorehead, Gavin Gordon, John Sutton, Lenita Lane, Elaine Edwards, Darla Hood, John Bryant, Harvey Stephens, Robert B. Williams, Mike Steele, and Riza Royce

The subject of this movie review is The Bat, a 1959 mystery-thriller starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorhead.  The film is based on the 1920 Broadway play, The Bat, by Avery Hopwood and Mary Roberts Reinhart.  The play was adapted as a motion picture three times:  in 1926 as The Bat, in 1930 as The Bat Whispers, and again in 1959 as The Bat (the subject of this review).  The 1959 movie version focuses on a crazed killer, known as “The Bat,” who is on the loose in a mansion full of people.

Best-selling mystery author, Cornelia van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead, best known as “Endora,” the spiteful mother-in-law on the TV series, “Bewitched”), and her staff are summering at The Oaks, a fine estate near the small town of Zenith.  It is at The Oaks where Cornelia finds that she can write her hugely successful murder mysteries.  This summer, however, the locals are falling dead, and a mysterious, possible supernatural, killer known as The Bat is on the loose.

After The Oaks’ owner, John Fleming (Harvey Stephens), who also owns the local bank, dies, suspicions about the whereabouts of one million dollars in missing money from the bank, land squarely on The Oaks.  Soon, a bevy of townsfolk including the local coroner, Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price), Fleming’s nephew, Mark (John Bryant), the local law official, Lt. Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon), and more are hanging around the mansion looking for the loot – with the threat of gruesome death at the hands (and claws) of The Bat hovering over them.

The Bat is one of those “spooky old house thrillers,” and is based upon a novel and play that was apparently very popular in the 1920 and 30’s.  This was the third film version of the story (the first was a silent film), and by 1959, this sub-genre of mystery films must have seemed quaint.  In fact, scary stories – the kind that take place in creaky old house riddled with secret passage ways where lies hidden money that is in turned hunted for by a masked villain – was soon to be (if not by the time of this movie’s release) children’s fare.  This is pretty much the template for most “Scooby-Doo” cartoons and other Hanna-Barbera cartoons like it.  Still, it’s very entertaining, and Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead play to type.  This is a nice treat for the genre it represents.  In fact, The Bat holds the identity of its villain to the very end surprisingly well.

6 of 10

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Updated:  Friday, December 06, 2013

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

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray Still Heat Up "Bus Stop" (Remembering Marilyn Monroe)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bus Stop (1956)
Running time:  96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Joshua Logan
WRITER:  George Axelrod (based on the plays of William Inge)
PRODUCER:  Buddy Adler
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Milton Krasner (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  William Reynolds
COMPOSERS:  Cyril J. Mockridge and Alfred Newman
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O’Connell, Betty Field, Eileen Heckart, Robert Bray, and Hope Lange

The subject of this movie review is Bus Stop, a 1956 romantic comedy and drama from director Joshua Logan.  Bus Stop is based on two plays, People in the Wind and Bus Stop (1955), by American novelist, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and Oscar-winning screenwriter, William Inge.  Bus Stop the movie focuses on a naive but stubborn cowboy (he’s a virgin) and a saloon singer whom the cowboy tries to take against her will back to his ranch in Montana.

An innocent (and infantile) rodeo cowboy named Beauregard “Bo” Decker (Don Murray) temporarily leaves his Montana ranch to attend a rodeo in Phoenix, Arizona.  His surrogate father Virgil (Arthur O’Connell), who travels with him, thinks it time for the sexually inexperienced 21-year old to find a wife.  What Virgil didn’t have in mind was for Bo to fall in love with Cherie (Marilyn Monroe), an abused bar singer with a lot of man mileage on her.  Bo, used to having his way and naively regarding women as if they were nothing more than life stock, stalks and kidnaps Cherie in order to bring her back to the ranch.  It’s at the titular bus stop where Bo finally gets him comeuppance, but does love still bloom?

Many people consider Bus Stop, based upon a well-known stage play of the time, to be the film in which Marilyn Monroe showed that she could act and that she wasn’t just a hot, blond tart.  Although her performance is a bit over the top (wildly over the top in some places to the point of giving a performance that verges on hysteria), she seems to really fit this film.  Don Murray, however, steals Bus Stop, in his first movie role after getting recognition for his stage work.  He earned an Oscar® nomination as a supporting actor for Bus Stop, but he is really the lead, as the film and story revolves around Murray’s Bo and Arthur O’Connell’s Virgil.  The thoroughly handsome Murray is a lightning bolt and a ball of boundless energy.  He really does sell the notion that he is a virginal cowboy who knows nothing about women, and he also makes the father-son relationship with O’Connell feel real.

Bus Stop is an odd and quirky film that is equally parts romance and comedy, more of a comic romance than a romance comedy.  Joshua Logan (Picnic, 1955) does a fine job with what could have been a curious film disaster by keeping the pace fast, never letting us focus on the story’s logical missteps.  He makes the audience laugh with the characters, and he turns up the romance just at the proper moments.

8 of 10

1957 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Don Murray)

1957 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Most Promising Newcomer to Film” (Don Murray-USA)

1957 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical/Comedy” and “Best Motion Picture Actress - Comedy/Musical” (Marilyn Monroe)

Updated:  Monday, August 05, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: "Tyler Perry's Temptation" Talks Lust and Happiness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013)
Running time:  111 minutes (1 hour, 51 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based on his play, The Marriage Counselor)
PRODUCERS:  Ozzie Areu, Paul Hall, and Tyler Perry
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Alexander Gruszynski
EDITOR:  Maysie Hoy
COMPOSER:  Aaron Zigman


Starring:  Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, Robbie Jones, Renee Taylor, Ella Joyce, Brandy Norwood, and Andrea Moore

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a 2013 drama from writer/director Tyler Perry.  The film is based on his 2008 play, The Marriage Counselor (at the time, his tenth play). Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor focuses on an ambitious married woman who is tempted by a handsome billionaire to leave her husband for all the material things a rich man can give her.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is the thirteenth film by Tyler Perry.  It is both the most financially successful film in which Perry did not act and is also his highest-grossing drama at the box office.  Although it is not Perry’s best drama (which I still think For Colored Girls is), Tyler Perry’s Temptation is a powerful film.

The film opens as a marriage counselor works with a young married couple having serious problems.  After the husband stalks off, the marriage counselor tells the young wife, Lisa (Andrea Moore), a story about a young woman named Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).  In her mid-20s, Judith is married to Brice (Lance Gross), whom she has known for almost two decades.  They live in Washington D.C., where Brice works as a pharmacist.  Judith works for Wise Counsel, a matchmaking agency owned by the flamboyant Janice Wise (Vanessa Williams).  Judith is unsatisfied at this job, as she wants to open her own marriage counseling company, but has to wait.

Judith meets Harley Madison (Robbie Jones), a young tech billionaire who started a social networking site called, Class-Meet.  Harley wants to invest in Wise Counsel, and Janice picks Judith to work with Harley in order to help him understand the agency.  Harley turns out to be more interested in Judith, and begins to tempt her with the things his wealth and influence can give her – if she submits to his sexual advances.  This temptation, however, could change Judith’s life forever, in ways she does not expect.

The usual melodrama and soap opera theatrics that we have come to expect of Tyler Perry’s films are in evidence in Tyler Perry’s Temptation.  The religious moralizing is also in play, but this time the emphasis is on religious symbolism and metaphors.  I won’t go into detail, as that would spoil some surprises.  One religious element that is forced comes in the form of Judith’s mother, Reverend Sarah Ogalvee (Ella Joyce).  The reverend seems more comical (hilarious, even) than sanctified or spiritual (which does occur in some scenes).

Tyler Perry’s Temptation works because Perry digs deeply into the pursuit of satisfaction as a theme – from personal, such as individual and marital satisfaction, to professional, such as career goals and material wealth.  Perry is not so stupid and heavy-handed as to say that dissatisfaction leads to temptation in search of satisfaction.  Perry suggests, as least it seems that way to me – that temptation is the easy and simply thing.  Being tempted is fun and feels good.  Acting on that temptation is where the problems come in because getting what you want or thought you wanted does not mean you will be satisfied or happy.

Also, seduction can be magical, but the actual consummation, sexual intercourse, or affair might not be quite what you thought it would be.  In the film, notions of satisfaction and seduction lead to the idea that people change, sometimes often.  So in this movie, change becomes something like a specter, dark and ominous, threatening marriages, friendships, professional relationships, family, etc.

One controversial element in Tyler Perry’s Temptation that got a lot of people talking when the film was in production was Perry’s move to cast reality television star and tabloid celebrity, Kim Kardashian, in the film.  Here, Kardashian isn’t bad, although she isn’t much of an actress.  Her character, Ava, Judith’s co-worker and apparent friend, is not really important to the overall story.  In fact, just about any other professional actress or actor could have played that part.  Yes, Kardashian is stunt casting, but she doesn’t hurt the movie at all.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor proves that Perry is capable of creating dramatic films – even though the ending here seems a bit much.  While I think that this is, at best, an above-average movie, it proves that Perry is getting closer to dealing with weighty material and serious subject matter in an earnest fashion, without melodrama… or at least with less.

6 of 10

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Walt Disney's "Peter Pan" Forever Young, Always Great

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 201 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Walt Disney’s Peter Pan (1953) - animated
Running time: 76 minutes (1 hour, 16 minutes)
DIRECTORS: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, and Hamilton Luske
WRITERS: Milt Banta, Bill Cottrell, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, and Ralph Wright; (based upon the play by J.M. Barrie)
PRODUCER: Walt Disney
EDITOR: Donald Halliday
COMPOSER: Oliver Wallace
SONGS: Sammy Fain and Frank Churchill (music); Sammy Cahn, Ed Penner, Winston Hibler, and Ted Sears (lyrics)
Cannes Film Festival awards nominee


Starring: (voice) Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske, Candy Candido, Tom Conway, Roland Dupree, and Don Barclay

The subject of this movie review is Peter Pan, a 1953 animated film from Walt Disney Productions and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures. Produced by Walt Disney, Peter Pan was the 14th full-length feature animated film from Walt Disney. Walt Disney’s Peter Pan is based on the play, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, written by J. M. Barrie.

Compared to the esteem given other animated films, Walt Disney’s Peter Pan may not match up, and there may be, relatively speaking, not many people who hold think so highly of this movie as do I. It is my favorite animated film of all time, so I have to admit that I am prejudiced about it.

As he had done with other famous children’s stories, Walt Disney turned J.M. Barrie’s stage play into the animated motion picture classic of the same title, Peter Pan. Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll, the first boy to perform the part), the boy who would not grow up, takes Londoner Wendy Moira Angela Darling (Kathryn Beaumont) and her younger brothers, John (Paul Collins) and Michael (Tommy Luske), to his island home Never Never Land (which Barrie called Neverland in his play), that can be reached by flying to “the second star to the right” and then going “straight on till morning.” There, the Darling siblings meet Pan’s tribe, the Lost Boys, meet the fierce Indian tribe, the Redskins, and join Peter Pan in his on-going battle with Captain Hook (Hans Conried) and his band of pirates.

Walt Disney had his filmmakers veer quite a bit from Barrie’s original play. For one thing, the film doesn’t use Barrie’s dialogue, and while the play ended with the Lost Boys returning to London with the Darlings where they would grow up to become men, the film keeps the boys with their leader, Peter Pan, so that they can never stop playing and fighting pirates and Indians. Though the “Disneyfication” does rob the story of its subtext, symbolism, and metaphorical brilliance, it also leaves the story somewhere in the illusive realm of imagination, always reachable by children.

Peter Pan appeals to boys and to the boy still in the adult man. Part of us yearns to be with Peter forever. And heck, Walt Disney’s Peter Pan is simply a great film. The art and illustrations that make up the animation are superb, not the greatest in Disney history, but the character animation on Wendy is high art. I have a soft spot for it; Disney’s Peter Pan rules.

9 of 10

1953 Cannes Film Festival: 1 nomination: “Grand Prize of the Festival” (Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, and Wilfred Jackson)

2003 "Peter Pan" Surprisingly Quite Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 109 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Peter Pan (2003)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
WRITERS: Michael Goldenberg and P.J. Hogan (based upon the play and stories of J.M. Barrie)
PRODUCERS: Lucy Fisher, Patrick McCormick, and Douglas Wick
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Donald m McAlpine (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Garth Craven and Michael Kahn
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard


Starring: Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Harry Newell, Freddie Popplewell, Ludivine Sagnier, Theodore Chester, Rupert Simonian, George MacKay, Harry Eden, Patrick Gooch, Lachlan Gooch, and Carsen Gray

The subject of this movie review is Peter Pan, a 2003 live-action, fantasy drama based on the Peter Pan play and novel written by J. M. Barrie. The film is a multi-national production of three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Wendy Darling (Rachel Hurd-Wood) loves to tell pirate stories to her brothers, John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell), but she doesn’t know that Peter Pan (Jeremy Sumpter), the boy who refuses to grow up, listens at the window every night as Wendy tells her tales. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Darling (Jason Isaacs and Olivia Williams), insist that she grow up and stop telling her tales of pirates and swordfights. Thus, when Peter offers to take her and her brothers away to his home, Neverland, where they can always play and have fun and never grow old, she’s more than happy to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. She gets more than for which she bargained when she and her brothers fall right in the middle of Peter’s ongoing war with the brutal, evil, and vicious pirate, Captain James Hook (Jason Isaacs).

The 2003 film version of Peter Pan is the first English language version in which a male actor played the part of Peter Pan, and that isn’t the only place where the film veers from stage and screens of Pan past. But that doesn’t matter; Peter Pan is a very good fantasy/adventure film. Like the original Pan tales by author J.M. Barrie, this film has a dark undercurrent, though this one is a bit darker in tone, a bit nastier in character conflict, and has a not too slight sexual undertone, as well as being more violent.

From a technical standpoint, the film is gorgeous, from its set decoration and art direction to the costume design and cinematography. I don’t know how well it will appeal to younger viewers, and I don’t think they will understand some of the adult themes, or even be interested, but it’s very good film for the older teen and adult audience that likes fantasy films. What co-writer/director P.J. Hogan (My Best Friend’s Wedding) has managed to do is simultaneously be true (for the most part) to the spirit of the original story and modernize it for a broader audience, both young and old. It’s one glaring weakness is that the script sacrifices the other characters for the sake of a single-minded focus on the triangle of Pan, Hood, and Wendy. Hogan, however, deals with that triangle so well that we can forgive him when his film is such a good time.

7 of 10

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Review: "That Night in Rio" Offers Music and Gaiety" (Remembering Don Ameche)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 83 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

That Night in Rio (1941)
Running time: 91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Irving Cummings
WRITERS: George Seaton & Bess Meredyth and Hal Long, with Samuel Hoffenstein (additional dialogue) and Jessie Ernst (adaptation of original play); (based upon the play The Red Cat by Rudolph Lothar and Hans Adler)
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Ray Rennahan and Leon Shamroy
EDITOR: Walter Thompson
COMPOSERS: Mack Gordon and Harry Warren


Starring: Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Carmen Miranda, S.Z. Sakall, J. Carroll Naish, Curt Bois, Leonid Kinskey, Frank Puglia, Lillian Porter, and Bando da Lua

20th Century Fox opened up its film vaults back in early 2007 and released several of its musicals from the 1930’s and early 1940’s on DVD, including the 1940 musical/comedy/romance, That Night in Rio (released separately and as part of the four-film The Alice Faye Collection boxed set). The movie’s original tagline “Have a rendezvous with music and gaiety,” is truth in advertising.

Actor/club owner, Jimmy Martin (Don Ameche) and aristocratic airline businessman, Baron Manuel Duarte (Don Ameche), are practically identical twins. When the Baron leaves town to fix a risky business deal, his partners hire Martin to stand in for the Baron. Not knowing that Martin has replace her husband, the Baroness Cecilia Duarte (Alice Faye), finds her philandering husband suddenly more attentive to her. The Baroness later learns that an impersonator has playing her husband, so she decides to have a little fun of her own. When the Baron returns and Martin’s wife Carmen (Carmen Miranda) learns of the scheme, the fun gets a lot more complicated.

That Night in Rio is set in an idealized Rio, Brazil of lavish nightclubs and bouncy samba music. Like many musicals, That Night in Rio was filmed in Technicolor, the film color process known for its hyper-realistic saturated colors. In fact, it exemplifies why Hollywood was then called the “Dream Factory.” The sumptuous production values, gorgeous wardrobes, and opulent sets (all in vivid color) must have looked like heaven to early 1940’s America, which was still working its way out of the Great Depression and living with an increasingly ugly war in Europe that would soon engulf this nation.

This movie opens with a bang, as sparkling fireworks effects over a matte painting give way to Carmen Miranda belting out “Chicka Chicka Boom Chick,” which is but one of several fantastic musical numbers in this film. In fact, Miranda, who became an icon for some and a stereotype for others, enlivens this film, with the able assistance of her band, Bando da Lua. Ostensibly an Alice Faye vehicle, That Night in Rio belongs to the suave and very talented Don Ameche, playing the duel roles of Jimmy Martin and Baron Duarte. Although the film’s screenplay eventually becomes twisted in all this identity switching, Ameche (who would win a supporting actor Oscar for Cocoon 45 years later) makes it go down quite smoothly, and he makes what could have been a merely entertaining flick, a very good movie. People who love old time musical comedy may very well want That Night in Rio to never end.

7 of 10

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: "Johnny Belinda" is a Powerful Drama (Remembering Jane Wyman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 236 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Johnny Belinda (1948) – B&W
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Jean Negulesco
WRITERS: Allan Vincent and Irmgard von Cube (based upon the play by Elmer Harris)
PRODUCER: Jerry Wald
EDITOR: David Weisbart
COMPOSER: Max Steiner
Academy Award winner


Starring: Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres, Charles Bickford, Agnes Moorhead, Stephen McNally, Jan Sterling, Dan Seymour, and Alan Napier

The subject of this review is Johnny Belinda, a 1948 American drama that earned a best picture Oscar nomination. The film is based on a play of the same name by Elmer Harris, and the play is based on a real-life incident that occurred in the area of Harris’ summer residence. The film focuses on a deaf young woman and the doctor who befriends and teaches her.

Cape Breton is a small island on the northeast corner of Nova Scotia, and the kindly Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres) is the new doctor in a small fishing village on the island. Dr. Richardson takes a professional interest in Belinda MacDonald (Jane Wyman), a deaf mute, whom most everyone calls “Dummy.” Using his past experience and some medical text, Dr. Richardson teaches Belinda to communicate through sign language and by reading people’s lips.

A whole new world unfolds before Belinda, and she even surprises her doubting father, Black MacDonald (Charles Bickford), who more or less uses his daughter as a common laborer, and her aunt, Aggie MacDonald (Agnes Moorhead). Things turn ugly, however, when the town bully, Laughlin “Locky” McCormick (Stephen McNally), rapes Belinda, and she ends up pregnant – turning the town against her, her family, and her dear friend Dr. Richardson, whom the town mistakenly believes to be the baby daddy.

Jane Wyman earned the “Best Actress” Oscar for her turn in Johnny Belinda as a young deaf woman who finds herself awakening to the world, both its best and worst, when she learns to communicate. It’s actually an amazing performance when considering how quiet and undemonstrative the character is, and Wyman captures it with equally soft grace. Hers, however, isn’t the only good performance. Lew Ayres is steadfast as Dr. Richardson, so convincing that Dr. Richardson seems to be a real person who somehow stepped into the film’s fictional setting. Charles Bickford as Belinda’s father and Agnes Moorhead as her aunt provide a solid counterbalance to the influence of Dr. Richardson in Belinda’s life.

Perhaps because director Jean Negulesco allows this quartet of brawny performances to breath and develop without melodrama, Johnny Belinda is a solid weepy, the kind of tear-jerker that doesn’t jerk tears out of the audience so much as it touches them in a profound way. Negulesco finds room in the script for the rest of the cast who aren’t so much characters as they are the backdrop to this little drama. The denizens of Cape Breton are insular, conservative, and oh-so set in their ways, and it’s a nifty move of directing that allows these people and the way they live to enhance the drama. Negulesco uses these obstacles and adversaries our protagonists face to make Belinda’s ultimate victory even sweeter.

8 of 10

1949 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Jane Wyman); 11 nominations: “Best Picture” (Warner Bros.), “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Lew Ayres), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Charles Bickford), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Agnes Moorehead), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White” (Robert M. Haas and William Wallace), “Best Cinematography, Black-and-White” (Ted D. McCord), “Best Director” (Jean Negulesco), “Best Film Editing” (David Weisbart), “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture” (Max Steiner), “Best Sound, Recording” ((Warner Bros. Sound Dept.), and “Best Writing, Screenplay” (Irma von Cube and Allen Vincent)

1949 Golden Globes, USA: 2 wins: “Best Motion Picture – Drama (shared with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre-1948) and “Best Motion Picture Actress” (Jane Wyman)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: Fine Actors Kick "Coriolanus" Up a Notch

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 51 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Coriolanus (2011)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – R for some bloody violence
DIRECTOR: Ralph Fiennes
WRITER: John Logan (based on the play Coriolanus by William Shakespeare)
PRODUCERS: Ralph Fiennes, John Logan, Gabrielle Tana, Julia Taylor-Stanley, and Colin Vaines
EDITOR: Nicolas Gaster
COMPOSER: Ilan Eshkeri
BAFTA nominee


Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain, John Cani, Paul Jesson, James Nesbitt, Dragan Micanovic, and Harry Fenn

The subject of this movie review is Coriolanus, a 2011 military drama starring Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler. The film is based on William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Coriolanus, which was based on the story of a legendary Roman general. The film is Fiennes’ directorial debut and is the story of a banished Roman hero who joins Rome’s enemy to take his revenge on the city.

Coriolanus is set in “a place calling itself Rome” (but the movie was filmed in Serbia). General Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) leads the forces of Rome to victory against Volsces and the leader of its forces, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler). Martius should be the hero of Rome, beloved by all, but the citizens of Rome are hungry. He may be a great soldier, but Martius despises the people for whom he supposedly fights. Martius is elected as a consul to the Roman Senate, but his inflexible self-belief and extreme views present an opportunity for his enemies. Before long, Martius finds that some of his friends have turned to enemies, but some of his enemies may become his friends.

Throughout my schooling, teachers told me that Shakespeare’s work was timeless, and Coriolanus certainly has contemporary parallels. Caius Martius’ story is a familiar one. He is the proud warrior who saves the state, but who is despised by the citizenry and politicians. The politicians wish to exploit him and have little or no use for him otherwise. Those politicians also loath that he fought when they did not – either because they could not or chose not to.

As a director, Fiennes makes smart choices, including having the accomplished John Logan as his screenwriter. He also surrounds himself with a strong supporting cast; Brian Cox as Menenius and Venessa Redgrave as Volumnia (Martius’ mother) are just plain great. Fiennes’ inexperience as a director, however, shows in some scenes, especially those that make up the first hour of the film. This first half of Coriolanus drifts and the use of Shakespeare’s dialogue seems out of place in the film’s modern Eastern European setting.

The second half of the film is strong and passionate, and that’s where Fiennes’ talents show. He knows great performances and first-rate acting, and he gets that from his cast. Fiennes lets Gerard Butler do what he does best – smolder. Coriolanus is not the best film adaptation of Shakespeare, but the good acting and the subject matter make it one worth watching in these times.

6 of 10

2012 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer” (Ralph Fiennes-director)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Cronenberg Plays it a Little Safe in "A Dangerous Method"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Dangerous Method (2011)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Canada (with Germany, Switzerland, UK)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content and brief language
DIRECTOR: David Cronenberg
WRITER: Christopher Hampton (based upon his play, The Talking Cure, and also on the book, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, by John Kerr)
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Ronald Sanders
COMPOSER: Howard Shore
Golden Globe nominee


Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, and Sarah Gordon

A Dangerous Method is a 2011 Canadian historical drama from director David Cronenberg. This film’s screenplay is by Christopher Hampton and is based on his play, The Talking Cure.

Another source for A Dangerous Method is the book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method: The story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, which was also the basis for Hampton’s play. The film is a fictional account of the real-life turbulent relationships between Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology; Sigmund Freud, the founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis; and Sabina Spielrein, who was a patient of Jung before she later became a physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.

The film opens in the first decade of the 1900s. Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a young woman suffering from hysteria, arrives at the Burghölzli Clinic, the preeminent psychiatric hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. The young Swiss doctor, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), begins to treat Sabina using word association and dream interpretation as part of his approach to psychoanalysis, a radical new science devised by Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen).

Jung and Freud begin to correspond, and Freud adopts Jung as his heir apparent and also as his Aryan (or non-Jewish) ally against the European medical establishment, which is anti-Semitic. Jung finds in Sabina a kindred spirit, and soon they begin a sexual relationship. However, Jung and Freud’s relationship begins to fray, and Jung’s relationship with Sabina becomes more complicated than Jung anticipated.

A Dangerous Method’s movie poster may suggest that the film is about a love triangle. The film is really about Jung’s relationship with two people, with more of the focus on the Jung-Spielrein relationship. As Jung and Spielrein, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley, respectively, give strong performances by conveying the passion between the two people who must often remain restrained and repressed as a matter of societal conventions. Neither actor comes across as delivering the typical too-aloof performance that actors sometimes give when appearing in costume or historical dramas. Knightley plays Sabina as coiled and imprisoned, waiting to explode to the freedom that will allow her to be herself. Fassbender makes Jung fervent with the desire to investigate and explore that cannot be put out by the coolness of discovery. Viggo Mortensen gives the kind of tart and showy performance that can make a supporting actor a scene stealer, and he does indeed steal every scene in which he appears. Honestly, I never imagined Freud to be as Mortensen depicts him – cool and sexy.

Director David Cronenberg is known for the coolness and aloofness evident in even his most daring, unusual, and controversial films. Sometimes, there is a clinical attitude in his movies that restrains the narrative, its ideas and characters. A Dangerous Method would seem to be the perfect film in which Cronenberg would be correctly detached, even distant; however, the relationships explored in this film dare the storyteller to be objective, though I will give Cronenberg and his primary actors credit for giving this film a humorous undercurrent, especially in the first half. A Dangerous Method is a very good film, but, although it is about doctors and science, the emotions, sensations, and passions needed to be given more freedom than they are here. A Dangerous Method is a tad dangerously distant.

7 of 10

2012 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Viggo Mortensen)

Friday, April 27, 2012


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Casablanca: Still the Greatest 70 Years Later

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 143 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Casablanca (1942) – B&W
– wide release in 1943 –
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Michael Curtiz
WRITERS: Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch (based upon a play Every Body Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison)
PRODUCER: Hal B. Wallis
EDITOR: Owen Marks
Academy Award winner

FILM-NOIR/DRAMA/ROMANCE with elements of thriller

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Dooley Wilson, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, Leonid Kinskey, and Corinna Mura

The subject of this movie review is the 1942 American romantic drama film, Casablanca. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the film was apparently considered, at the time of its production, to be just another Hollywood movie.

Casablanca: some consider it to be the best American film ever made; the winner of the Oscar for “Best Picture” at the 1944 Academy Awards certainly has a place in my holy trinity. Directed by Michael Curtiz, who won the directing Oscar for helming this film, Casablanca is a beloved and popular movie, cherished by film fans, movie historians, and film critics throughout America – then and now.

In the story: Casablanca (a city in Morocco, a country in northwest Africa), circa 1941, is easy to enter, but much harder to leave – especially for people trying to escape the Nazi infestation of Europe. Living a life of exile in Casablanca is American Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), who owns and operates Rick’s Café Américain. He’s a cynical man who sticks his neck out for no one, but his ex-lover Isla Lund (Ingrid Bergman) tests that rigid cynicism when she arrives in Casablanca with her husband, both on the run from Nazi persecutors.

Isla’s husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), is on the top of the Nazi’s most wanted list. Victor and Isla came to Casablanca seeking the transit papers/official documents that would get them safe passage to Lisbon, Portugal, from where they could leave for America. From the USA, Victor could continue his work in support of the various European undergrounds fighting the Nazi’s. However, the papers have come into Rick’s possession, and his bitterness at Isla for suddenly and mysteriously leaving him some years ago after a whirlwind Paris love affair. So when Isla offers herself to Rick in exchange for Victor’s safe transport out of the country, the bitter and angry Rick must decide what’s important – his happiness, revenge, or the countless lives that hang in the balance and depend of Victor Laszlo’s safe passage.

What can I say that hasn’t been said. Casablanca was the right movie at the right time. It’s the consummate Hollywood production – superbly acted and directed, and filmed with beautiful production values, including art direction, set decoration, cinematography, and editing. The film’s popularity at the time has much to do with America’s involvement in World War II. The Allies invaded Casablanca in real life on November 8, 1942, and Warner Bros. premiered Casablanca in New York about three and half weeks later. By the time, of the film’s wide release in 1943, the real life city was still in the news, and the film captured the sense that the good guys (represented by Rick, Isla, and Victor) were at war with the bad guys (the Nazi’s, best represented in the film by Major Strasser, played by Conrad Veidt), mirroring American’s situation. The semi-tragic romantic triangle of Rick, Isla, and Victor, the intense drama, the fictional Casablanca’s atmosphere of intrigue and danger all came touched audiences and continues to.

The miracle, considering that Casablanca began filming without a completed script and went through the usual casting difficulties, is not really that the film was popular then (it was, after all, topical), but is instead that the film remains a favorite and outshines most of the great films made after its release nearly 63 years ago.

10 of 10

1944 Academy Awards: 3 wins: “Best Director” (Michael Curtiz), “Best Picture” (Warner Bros.), and “Best Writing, Screenplay” (Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, and Howard Koch); 5 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Humphrey Bogart), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Claude Rains), “Best Cinematography, Black-and-White” (Arthur Edeson), “Best Film Editing” (Owen Marks), “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture” (Max Steiner)

1989 National Film Preservation Board, USA: National Film Registry

Friday, September 9, 2005

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Ides of March movie review

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Ides of March (2011)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
WRITERS: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon (based upon Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North”)
PRODUCERS: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Brian Oliver
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael
EDITOR: Stephen Mirrione
COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/POLITICS with elements of a thriller

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, and Max Minghella

The Ides of March is a 2011 political drama directed by George Clooney. The film is based on the 2008 play, Farragut North, by Beau Willimon, who also co-wrote the screenplay for this film adaptation. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the film’s executive producers, and his production company, Appian Way Productions, is one of this film’s financial backers. The Ides of March is kind of a thriller, but it doesn’t really work as a thriller. The best moments are when the film puts two characters together in a clash or test of wills.

The film focuses on Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), the Junior Campaign Manager for a Democratic presidential candidate, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). Morris’ campaign is competing in the Democratic primary, and the latest battleground is the state of Ohio, where Morris battles the other Democratic presidential candidate, Arkansas Senator Ted Pullman. Both campaigns are also attempting to win the endorsement of U.S. Senator Franklin Thompson (Jeffrey Wright), D-North Carolina.

Meyers is doing well at his job, but he gets involved in two troublesome situations. First, he holds a secret meeting with Pullman’s Campaign Manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti). Then, he becomes embroiled in drama with a Morris campaign intern, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). One entanglement could ruin Meyers, but the other has the potential to destroy the Morris campaign.

The Ides of March feels restrained to me. The entire movie simmers like a dish that needs to boil-over, but doesn’t know how or when to do it. The best moments in the film are when two characters clash. The best confrontations feature Meyers and Senior Campaign Manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) or Meyers and Molly Stearns. There is one major test of wills between Meyers and his boss, Mike Morris (who is Governor of Pennsylvania), and another between Meyers and Sen. Thompson. Both occur in the film’s last act, but these moments made me realize that this movie should have had more scenes featuring Meyers, Morris, and Thompson in some combination. It is as if the best stuff is happening off-camera.

Honestly, I can recommend The Ides of March to people that enjoy watching particular members of this cast act in dramas, especially Gosling and Clooney. I think people who like political dramas will like this, although they should not expect this to be humorous or satirical (at least not in an obvious way). Although it has an electrifying second half, The Ides of March isn’t as good or as visceral as it could be.

7 of 10

2012 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon)

2012 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Beau Willimon, George Clooney, and Grant Heslov) and “Best Supporting Actor” (Philip Seymour Hoffman)

2012 Golden Globes: 4 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (George Clooney), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Ryan Gosling), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, and George Clooney)

2012 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Jeffrey Wright)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: "Chicago" is Bold and Splash (Happy B'day, Rob Marshall)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Chicago (2002)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
WRITER: Bill Condon (based upon the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and the musical by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb)
PRODUCER: Martin Richards
EDITOR: Martin Walsh
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman
2003 Academy Award winner

MUSICAL/CRIME/DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Christine Baranski, Dominic West, and Mya

Adulterous Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) kills her lover after he boldly admits lying to her and stringing her along. Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) kills her song and dance partner sister and her own husband when she catches them knocking boots. Both end up in the same dark and dank prison awaiting trial, clients of William “Billy” Flynn (Richard Gere), a flamboyant lawyer who specializes in representing gals who’ve killed their husbands and lovers. Under the tutelage of Matron “Mama” Morton (Queen Latifah), the girls struggle to escape the gallows for their crimes and strive for fame in scandal laden 1920’s Chicago.

Yes, it’s good, damn good. Director/choreographer Rob Marshall’s Chicago, a film version of the famed musical, is a thoroughly enjoyable and invigorating film spectacle. If this and Moulin Rouge! represent what the return of film musicals will look like, we are in for a treat. Marshall choreographed “Annie” and “Rodger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” for television. In his film, he creates lavish and electrical dance scenes of the musical’s songs and integrates them with the dark and gritty world of 20’s Chicago. The colorful staged renditions of the songs flit back and forth showing us the idealized worlds of the characters, juxtaposed against the brutal frankness of their real world. The dance numbers are stirring and attention grabbing, as visually attractive as anything on MTV.

Screenwriter Bill Condon, who won an Academy Award for writing his film Gods and Monsters, does an excellent job composing a story that can compete with the energy and electricity of the songs. That’s no easy feat. Condon had to structure the story so that we would be as interested in it as we were thrilled by the songs. Chicago’s central story is rife with engaging tension and conflict and with characters we can support along every step of their treacherous journey.

Can Ms. Zellweger, Ms. Zeta-Jones, and Mr. Gere sing and dance? The answer is a resounding “yes!” Seeing them in the staged numbers and in the story scenes is like watching six different performers. I had a hard time believing the actors and singer/dancers were the same people; I know these performers and to see them pull off these performances is a revelation. I didn’t know Gere had it in him. It’s simply stunning and worth every minute of your time to watch.

The supporting performances are quite nice. Queen Latifah’s presence asserts itself strongly on the film; it often seems as if Mama is the puppeteer backstage directing events. Taye Diggs adds a sense of style to the film, and John C. Reilly quietly adds a sense of innocence and moral dignity to a story of people ready to grab fame at any costs.

Chicago, like Moulin Rouge!, is not like your average film. In fact, it’s very different from most quality and “serious” films. Like a good drama, it’s thoughtful; like the best action movies, it’s quite explosive. Chicago is a dream work, a film that is as visually rambunctious as the best music videos, but with the strong story and characters that you can take to heart – a must see movie.

8 of 10

2003 Academy Awards: 6 wins: “Best Picture” (Martin Richards), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Catherine Zeta-Jones), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (John Myhre-art director and Gordon Sim-set decorator), “Best Costume Design” (Colleen Atwood), “Best Film Editing” (Martin Walsh), and “Best Sound” (Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella, and David Lee); 6 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (John C. Reilly), “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Renée Zellweger), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Queen Latifah), “Best Cinematography” (Dion Beebe), “Best Director” (Rob Marshall), “Best Music, Original Song” (John Kander-music and Fred Ebb-lyrics for the song "I Move On"), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Bill Condon)

2003 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and “Best Sound” (Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella, David Lee, and Maurice Schell); 10 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Danny Elfman, John Kander, and Fred Ebb), “Best Cinematography” (Dion Beebe), “Best Costume Design” (Colleen Atwood), “Best Editing” (Martin Walsh), “Best Film” (Martin Richards), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Jordan Samuel and Judi Cooper-Sealy), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Renée Zellweger), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Queen Latifah), “Best Production Design” (John Myhre), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Rob Marshall)

2003 Golden Globes: 3 wins: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Martin Richards), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Richard Gere), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Renée Zellweger); 5 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Rob Marshall), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (John C. Reilly), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Catherine Zeta-Jones), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Queen Latifah), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Bill Condon)

2003 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Queen Latifah)


Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Madea's Big Happy Family" a Big Happy Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 76 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Madea’s Big Happy Family (2011)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 drug content, language and some mature thematic material
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based upon his play)
PRODUCERS: Roger M. Bobb, Reuben Cannon, and Tyler Perry
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy


Starring: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Cassi Davis, Shannon Kane, Isaiah Mustafa, Natalie Desselle Reid, Rodney Perry, Tamela J. Mann, David Mann, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Teyana Taylor, Lauren London, Philip Anthony-Rodriguez, and Maury Povich

Madea’s Big Happy Family is a 2011 comedy/drama and is also the 11th film in the Tyler Perry film franchise. Based upon Perry’s play of the same title, Madea’s Big Happy Family finds super-grandmother Mabel “Madea” Simmons coming to the rescue of her dying niece and her big unhappy family.

Madea’s niece, Shirley (Loretta Devine), is dying of cancer, and she wants to bring her three children: Byron (Bow Wow), Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid), and Kimberley (Shannon Kane) together to tell them the bad news. However, her two daughters are in the midst of awful marital discord with their husbands. Byron is having major baby mama drama from his ex, Sabrina (Teyana Taylor), and his money-hungry girlfriend, Renee (Lauren London), wants him to return to a life of crime.

Betty Ann Murphy, better known as the rambunctious Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), pleads with Madea (Tyler Perry) to help bring Shirley’s children together. Madea decides to do it her way, with tough love and fists (if she has to) and a little laughter along the way. However, Madea has family drama of her own, with her baby daddy, Brown (David Mann), and their daughter, Cora (Tamela J. Mann).

As Madea movies go, Madea’s Big Happy Family is probably the one that most mixes the somberness and the outlandishness found in Tyler Perry’s movie starring or featuring Madea. The conflicts and confusion that surrounds Shirley’s family may seem over-the-top, but I can attest to directly experiencing or being familiar with some of this family’s problems. Besides, the actors give such tight, authentic performances that nothing their characters do really seems hysterical and contrived, which are occasional sins of Mr. Perry the screenwriter. Shad Moss, better known as the rapper, Bow Wow, delivers a surprisingly strong performance, subtle and graceful in some places. That is a trait not found in many rapper-turned-actors.

The craziness that ensues between Madea, Cora, and Brown is indeed funny – some of funniest Madea stuff since Madea’s Family Reunion. Perry deftly uses Madea’s no-nonsense approach to issues of life, death, pain, and general crisis to cloak some truth’s that a lot of people need to hear, especially members of the African-American audience under 40 years old. You would not be wrong to think that Madea’s Big Happy Family is Perry’s most potent message delivery system. If you get tired to the preaching, Madea, Cora, and Brown offer some excellent comic set pieces.

This film’s glaring weakness is the Shirley character. Ostensibly the lynchpin for a testy family reunion, Shirley is merely a prop or conversation piece that keeps the other characters’ roles advancing from one scene to the next. That is disappointing on a number of levels, one of them being that it robs Loretta Devine of a chance to show her range. Still, Madea’s Big Happy Family is a rousing success. The messages of a loving God, hope, love, self-respect, and respect for others go down smoothly in this spoonful of sweet medicine.

7 of 10

Saturday, September 03, 2011


Review: "I Can Do Bad All by Myself" Does All Good for Itself

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux

I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA- PG-13 for mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based upon his play)
PRODUCERS: Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alexander Gruszynski
EDITOR: Maysie Hoy
Image Award winner

DRAMA/MUSIC with elements of comedy and romance

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Adam Rodrigeuz, Brian J. White, Hope Olaide Wilson, Kwesi Boakye, Frederick Siglar, Gladys Knight, Mary J. Blige, Marvin Winans, and Tyler Perry

One could make the argument that every Tyler Perry movie seems to be made from the same stencil or template. There are the good women and the bad men they love (Madea’s Family Reunion). There are also the good men and the troubled women they try to save (Madea Goes to Jail). And there are always those who need to go back to church because they don’t know which way is up (Daddy’s Little Girls). Of course, there is usually room for the unsinkable matriarch Madea, and her brother and housemate, the un-politically correct, Joe. Perry’s new film, I Can Do Bad All by Myself (based upon his play) distills the essence of Perry’s oeuvre into its most perfect form to date.

After the pistol-packing Madea (Tyler Perry) catches three siblings breaking into her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Madea marches 16-year-old Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her two younger brothers, Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and Byron (Frederick Siglar), to the only relative she can find – their Aunt April (Taraji P. Henson), a hard-living, heavy-drinking nightclub singer. April lives off her married boyfriend, Randy (Brian J. White). Already having several children of his own, Randy doesn’t want April’s niece and nephews around, and April certainly doesn’t think her dead crackhead sister’s children are her problem.

Fate, however, brings Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) into April’s life. The handsome Mexican immigrant is looking for work, so the local Pastor Brian (Marvin Winans) asks April to allow Sandino to move into her basement room in exchange for doing handiwork. The hard-luck immigrant challenges April to open her heart, which forces her to make the biggest choice of her life. Will she keep Randy and her old ways or will she choose the new possibilities for life that taking in her niece and nephew offer?

Why do I think that I Can Do Bad All by Myself is the best Tyler Perry movie? I think this film’s strength is based on the performances of its cast. The script isn’t anything particularly special, at least in the context of Perry’s other writing. The motivations for their actions and explanations for what ails the characters in this film are the usual ingredients for a Tyler Perry psychodrama: alcohol, childhood sexual abuse, drug use, and not going to church.

It is a performance like the one given by Taraji P. Henson that allows I Can Do Bad All by Myself to soar as a film about triumph and redemption. Henson is such a natural that whatever character she plays comes across as honest and authentic. In her performance, the audience can buy April, in spite of whatever contrivances Perry fashions for that character’s past. Henson also deftly executes her skills so that she can amplify the comedic moments even in the midst of the intense drama of this film. For instance, there is pathos and merriment in the scene in which Madea first confronts April with her niece and nephews. This scene defines I Can Do Bad All by Myself’s attitude that there is joy even the darkest times in life. Using laughter, Perry and his star give the audience a chance to step back and take a different look at this pivotal moment in the film.

There are other good performances. Brian J. White as the philandering husband and boyfriend, Randy, is exquisite, and Adam Rodriguez alternately simmers and shines as Sandino, the do-the-right-thing handyman. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Hope Olaide Wilson as April’s fierce and stubborn niece, Jennifer, a character that is essentially a younger version of her aunt. It is a testament to young Miss Wilson’s talent that she could present Jennifer as being destined to follow April’s sad path in life without it seeming contrived.

It also doesn’t hurt to have two of the best ever rhythm and blues and soul singers, Gladys Knight and Mary J. Blige, belting out a few songs, giving the kind of vocal performances that will raise the roof and then knock down the walls. It is these performances that make I Can Do Bad All by Myself the standout drama, thus far, in Tyler Perry’s filmography and a movie not to be missed.

8 of 10

Sunday, October 04, 2009

2010 Black Reel Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Actress” (Taraji P. Henson) and “Best Song, Original or Adapted” (Mary J. Blige for the song "I Can Do Bad All By Myself")

2010 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Adam Rodriguez); 2 nominations: “Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture” (Taraji P. Henson) and “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical or Television” (Tyler Perry)


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Strong Quartet Leads Us "Closer" (Happy B'day, Natalie Portman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 46 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Closer (2004)
Running time: 104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – R for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality, and language
DIRECTOR: Mike Nichols
WRITER: Patrick Marber (based upon his play)
PRODUCERS: Cary Brokaw, John Calley, and Mike Nichols
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Goldblatt
EDITOR: John Bloom
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA with elements of romance

Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owens

Mike Nichols directed the extraordinary Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, an adaptation of a stage drama, which earned Nichols an Oscar nom for direction. He won an Emmy in 2004 for directing another acclaimed stage play, Angels in America, this time for television. Nichols again guides a play to the silver screen with Closer, from Patrick Marber’s play.

The film focuses on four casual strangers, their chance meetings, instant attractions, and casual betrayals. Daniel (Jude Laws), a newspaper obituary writer, spies Alice (Natalie Portman), a waif who is also a stripper, in the streets of London. He falls for her. Later, Dan is instantly attracted to and falls in love with Anna (Julia Roberts), an American photographer and divorcee living in London. However, Dan inadvertently connects Anna with Larry (Clive Owens), a dermatologists, who falls deeply in love with Anna. The rest of the film follows this kind of love quadrangle and the emotional fallout from the betrayals these four commit against one another.

Closer is strictly an adult drama, and a damn fine one, at that. The language is frank, sexually explicit, profane, and straight razor sharp, and the characters certainly apply the blade to their relationships and lovers. Nichols, as he usually does, quietly allows the drama of the script to come to the surface and gives his actors the chance to bring some truth to the fiction, and boy, do they. Sometimes, it seems that some things in human sexual and personal relationships shouldn’t be onscreen, and I certainly thought that some of the drama in Closer went too far. Still, that doesn’t seem bad when it’s a skilled filmmaker doing it. Anyway, this is a formal and stylized version of the brutality that can result from deeply intimate relationships that are wrecked on the rocks of betrayal and infidelity, so it’s not too discomforting.

Although I consider the script to be the champion of this film, the cast is quite good in making this so riveting a drama when it could have struck a note as phony. Jude Law, Clive Owen, and Natalie Portman are especially potent. Natalie Portman makes another star turn, as if she hasn’t already done that, and we get to see how beautiful and how super duper fine her body is. What a knockout ass she has! Owen reeks of danger, aggression, wildness, vitality, and virility. Law is smooth and charming, and creates a three-dimensional portrait of self-obsession and romantic neurosis. Julia Roberts is good, but is the least of the four actors. She stands out a few times in the middle of the film, but overall, she seems determined not to stand out or chewy up the scenery. She supposedly likes to do ensemble work because she doesn’t want to always carry a film or stand out in front of everyone. Here, that attitude not to steal the spotlight hurts the film a little and her performance a lot.

9 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Clive Owen) and “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Natalie Portman)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 1 win “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Clive Owen); 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Natalie Portman) and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Patrick Marber)

2005 Golden Globes: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Clive Owen) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Natalie Portman); 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Mike Nichols), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Patrick Marber)