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Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

One Good Cop

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

May 3, 1991

I’d never seen this one before, and from the title I always thought it was a thriller about police corruption. I guess I had only seen the tough guy poster on the DVD and blu-ray, and not the theatrical one that looks like SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE or something.

I think there is some subtle commentary about policing early in the movie, which I will go into, but for the most part it’s not about that. Instead this movie – which was only the fifth release from Disney’s not-for-kids label Hollywood Pictures – really is a fusion of the type of vibe of those two posters. It’s a gritty police/crime thriller about a cop whose partner gets killed, but in addition to going after the people he considers responsible, he and his wife take care of and then try to adopt the dead partner’s three adorable daughters. The amount of screen time and sincerity it puts into the second part is very unusual, so although this is in many ways not my type of movie, I respect its bold mix of genres. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sound of Metal

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

SOUND OF METAL is not what I pictured at all. It’s about this guy Ruben (Riz Ahmed, VENOM) who’s a heavy metal* drummer, and then he loses his hearing. That’s the part I did know. The poster and the trailer and everything all focus on him shirtless on stage banging away on those things, and especially since it was nominated for best picture I had to figure it was about him struggling and overcoming and finding some thrillingly dramatic way to keep playing. I’ve heard of deaf people who play music based on vibrations, so I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s loud music, after all.

*pretty sure there’s a more accurate name for what their group Blackgammon plays, but fuck if I know what it is. Maybe sludge metal?

That’s not what this is at all. In the beginning he’s on tour with his group Blackgammon, which is just him and bleached-eyebrow singer girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke, READY PLAYER ONE). They live in an RV (a little nicer than NOMADLAND) so they’ll just play a show at some small place, try to sell some records and merch, then move along to the next town and find the next place.

The hearing loss seems pretty out of the blue. His ears just start ringing before a show. Then it sounds like he’s underwater. He just kinda pretends it’s nothing and hopes it will pass. Doesn’t even tell Lou. During the show he just goes for it, and Lou is looking at him like something’s wrong, so we wonder how far off he is. Suddenly he loses it, gets up and runs out the fire exit. (read the rest of this shit…)

Judas and the Black Messiah

Monday, March 29th, 2021

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH is one of this year’s best picture nominees (plus best original screenplay, best cinematography, best original song, and its two title characters were confusingly both nominated for best supporting actor). It’s from director Shaka King (NEWLYWEEDS) and it’s about the true story of an informant pressured by the FBI to go undercover in the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, an operation that culminated in police murdering Fred Hampton in his bed with two shots to the back of his head. (And getting away with it, obviously.)

The movie opens with a familiar scenario: an officer interrupting a group of Black men to hassle them. They’re in a bar, at a pool table, he makes them empty their pockets, asks about the car out front, claims it was stolen. They’re outraged but obviously used to this shit, then they notice his badge says FBI so why is he asking about a car, and he’s kind of hiding his face and he looks really young…

As he’s about to drive away using their keys they realize it’s a scam. He’s not an FBI agent, but a clever and/or weird car thief named William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield, THE PURGE: ANARCHY). But after he’s caught with the car a real FBI agent named Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons, BATTLESHIP) comes after him. He obviously doesn’t really give a shit that some kid impersonated a federal officer, but he knows he can threaten jail time to force him to do undercover work. So like Ron Stallworth at the beginning of BLACKKKLANSMAN, but under duress, O’Neal is sent to spy on black militants, specifically Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya, JOHNNY ENGLISH REBORN), the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. (read the rest of this shit…)

Nomadland

Monday, March 22nd, 2021


NOMADLAND is a simple, quiet character and/or lifestyle study. It’s shot all on location, mostly outdoors, and feels largely improvised. It centers on the great Frances McDormand (DARKMAN) as a woman named Fern, who is often alone. But when she’s not, she’s often working exclusively with non-professional actors just being themselves, using their own names. (Two of her co-stars are credited as “Linda May” and “Swankie,” which is also what she calls their characters.)

Adapted from the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by the journalist Jessica Bruder, these are characters and/or real people – mostly of what used to be called “retirement age” – who have either chosen or been forced into a life living in vans or RVs, crossing the country to take on different seasonal jobs. Fern’s husband died, and then the mining town where they lived did too, and for years she’s been “doing the van thing,” as a friend she runs into at a store describes it. Everyone she knows from before seems concerned for her, and offers to let her stay with them. And we will learn over the course of the movie that it’s not just pride that makes her turn down their offers. (read the rest of this shit…)

One Night in Miami…

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI… is a very good straight-to-Amazon-Prime movie in that odd genre of “What if we got to see a bunch of familiar cultural and historical figures spend a night hanging out together?” In other words, it’s based on a play, in this case written by SOUL co-director Kemp Powers, who also wrote the screenplay for first-time-feature director Regina King. Of course we’ve known King as an actress since 227 and BOYZ N THE HOOD, and then she played Huey and Riley and got an Oscar for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK and was a Watchman, but she’s also been directing TV since 2013. Her million dollar quartet here is made up of important Black Americans of the ‘60s who really were friends, but it’s a fictional story about them getting together at a hotel after Cassius Clay (Eli Goree, “PO No. 3,” GODZILLA)’s surprise victory over Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964.

In town for the fight are Clay’s spiritual advisor Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, THE COMMUTER), the singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., RED TAILS) and NFL great Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE), there to do color commentary. After the fight they meet up at Malcolm’s humble hotel room, guarded by two Fruit of Islam, the very serious Kareem X (Lance Reddick, JOHN WICK) and young Brother Jamaal (Christian Magby), who does a really funny double take and star struck grin when he realizes the guy he’s letting into the room is Sam Cooke. (read the rest of this shit…)

Breakin’

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I’ve written about a bunch of these corny 21st century dance movies, and I always seem to be comparing them to the BREAKIN’ movies, but I’ve never actually reviewed the BREAKIN’ movies. That ends now. I’m reviewing the BREAKIN’ movies. The world could use more focus on the BREAKIN’ movies right now.

In a certain way, BREAKIN’ changed the whole world for me. I’m pretty sure it was BREAKIN’ and/or the cultural conversation around BREAKIN’ that first opened my eyes to this movement of music, art and dancing that older, cooler kids in far away New York had been building for several years. If you weren’t alive then I’m not sure you can imagine what a phenomenon it was. I remember a music teacher giving us diagrams of moves, trying to teach us (what she said was) the moonwalk, talking about Michael Jackson being inspired by breakdancers and breakdancers being inspired by James Brown. It was the music part of hip hop culture that would become important to me, and (as I said in my review of the companion movie RAPPIN’), at that time I don’t think I even knew the word “rap.” I called it “breakdancing music.” (And, though I kind of like this soundtrack, I don’t associate it much with the type of rap I soon fell in love with.) (read the rest of this shit…)

StreetDance 2

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

“I’m just thinking. What if people don’t get it? I mean our Street-Latin fusion. Dancing with just us is one thing, but, a street dance battle, I just don’t…”

Recently I reviewed STREETDANCE 3D (2010), an enjoyable street-dancers-team-up-with-a-ballet-class movie that I saw as the U.K.’s answer to STEP UP. It didn’t go on to have as many sequels as STEP UP, but it did have one, in 2012, so it was my duty to check it out.

The sequel also reminds me of the STEP UP movies, and that’s a compliment. It sort of follows the first one in the way that STEP UP 3(D) follows STEP UP 2 THE STREETS: it introduces new male and female leads, but also elevates a younger, charmingly geeky supporting character to a more central role. Or if you prefer action movie comparisons, it’s kinda like NEVER BACK DOWN 2, which promoted Evan Peters’ character Max from nerdy underground fight fan to hotshot promoter. (read the rest of this shit…)

StreetDance 3D

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

It doesn’t seem like many people read my reviews of these 21st century competitive street dancing movies, but I have a fascination with them, so here we are. STREETDANCE 3D is a UK entry in the subgenre and it’s from 2010 – six years after YOU GOT SERVED, four years after STEP UP, two years after STEP UP 2 THE STREETS and a few months before my favorite of all of them, STEP UP 3D. I don’t think it made an impression over here (I definitely never heard of it at the time) but it was the highest grossing UK production of that year, it got a sequel and even a 2019 French remake. For the record, I had to watch it in 2D (a 3D version was included on the rental, but it’s a DVD, so it’s the crappy red and blue Freddyvision). But it didn’t have that same “Man, I have to see this in 3D” energy that STEP UP 3D has. (read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served: Beat the World

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

“You know dancing is our only way out.”

I was under the misimpression that YOU GOT SERVED was a big franchise like STEP UP. Unfortunately it turns out YOU GOT SERVED: TAKE IT TO THE STREETS (2004) is just an hour-long instructional dance video, and YOU GOT SERVED: BEAT THE WORLD (2011) is really an unrelated Canadian dance movie that they rebranded as a YOU GOT SERVED here in the states. (Elsewhere you might find it as BEAT THE WORLD or THIS IS BEAT.) So we don’t get to find out what happens after they shoot the Li’l Kim video.

Think of how many unlikely phenomenons could’ve been cut down with an unrelated part 2! This could have easily been the fate of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, UNDISPUTED and so many others.

The good news is that this one is honestly more fun than YOU GOT SERVED. I knew that would be the case when it opened with a parkour chase across the rooftops. It seems very intense but turns out to be a demonstration. “You know we’re gonna be the first crew to bring free running to hip hop.” Yuson (Tyrone Brown, BEWARE THE GONZO) has recruited Justin (Chase Armitage, DEATH RACE 2), a freerunner from London, to help his crew, Fusion, create a unique routine for the impending Beat the World international dance competition.

(read the rest of this shit…)

You Got Served

Monday, November 16th, 2020

YOU GOT SERVED (2004) is a formula melodrama about a subculture of fiercely competitive dance crews in L.A. At night they have showdowns in what looks like a boxing gym, taking turns doing routines, the victor decided by the crowds who fill the place to the brim and cheer so loud it sounds like a stadium. In the opening scene sometimes they jump and when they land their feet seem to cause the earth to shake, as if they are Titans. But mostly the movie tries to seem down to earth.

It centers on Elgin (Marques Houston, BEBE’S KIDS, HOUSE PARTY 3) and his best friend David (Omar “Omarion” Grandberry, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN). They and their friends are incredible dancers but sadly they talk about it more as a “way out” than an art or a passion or something they were born to do, even though it must be all of those things. In the opening battle the prize is $600, but I counted at least eight people they have to split it between. I’m sure battling is way better than working an 8 hour shift, but I don’t think you could win enough of these to pay the rent. So David and Elgin reluctantly supplement it by doing deliveries for a drug dealer named Emerald (Michael “Bear” Taliferro, HALF PAST DEAD; later directed STEPPIN’: THE MOVIE). (read the rest of this shit…)