A Whole Lot of Woman

Foxy Brown is the first “Blaxploitation” movie that I saw. It was just as shocking and exploitative as I figured it would be. Back in the 70’s, “Blaxploitation” was a genre of film that starred all black casts in over-the-top fashion. They were filled with afros, “jive talk,” and “black power.” There were so many in fact, that they were very low budget with not much plot. Foxy Brown has all this in spades. From what I could gather from the plot, a woman named Foxy Brown seeks revenge after her boyfriend is killed by a drug syndicate. So she disguises herself as a prostitute in order to infiltrate their organization. I’ve noticed that a lot of R rated movies in the 70’s were broader line X. Foxy Brown has many scenes that are likely to offend or upset casual viewers. If anything, Foxy Brown will likely spark up a conversation. Though it is a positive that the movie catapulted Pam Grier into stardom. She simultaneously became a “sex symbol” and an action heroine. If you’re at all interested in “Blaxploitation,” Foxy Brown might be the movie to start with.

Foxy Brown gets her revenge

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The Lady’s Man

Tootsie is perhaps the greatest drag movie ever made. I mean it was nominated for Best Picture. When a struggling actor has a hard time finding work, he decides to pass himself off as a woman in order to get a role. Unfortunately he ends up becoming a female icon on a soap opera. Which only makes things worse when the girl he likes thinks he’s a lesbian and her father becomes attracted to him. It’s a long hilarious misunderstanding. The most impressive thing about the movie is how much Dustin Hoffman looks like a woman. Even with very little makeup. Dustin Hoffman was nominated for Best Actor, but Jessica Lange was the one who won. Playing a convincing woman is hard enough, but playing someone who is supposed to act opposite someone acting like a woman is just as hard. Tootsie can be very funny, as most drag movies are (like Mrs. Doubtfire). Though it does bring up deeper questions about men and women. Specifically about whether a man can be a crusader for women. The title Tootsie actually refers to a name men sometimes use to demean women. If you haven’t seen Tootsie, I strongly recommend checking it out.

Michael Dorsey as Dorothy Michaels

The Bad Beginning of the Reptile Room in the Wide Window

I’ve never read the A series of Unfortunate Events books and I probably never will, but Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is an interesting take on the material. It takes the first three books and makes them into one 1 hour 48 minute movie. They intended for it to be a franchise, but of course that fell through. The story is fairly dark, so the whole movie has a bit of a Tim Burton style. The basic gist is that a trio kids (Violet, who invents, Klaus, who reads, and Sunny, who bites) have to live with different relatives after their parents die in a fire. With the devious actor Count Olaf ready to pounce on their fortune. Casting Jim Carrey as Count Olaf was a stroke of genius. Being a character actor, Jim Carrey plays up all of the roles he plays. The kids playing the Baudelaire children are also good for the most part. The highest honor it received was the Academy Award for Best Makeup. With most of it being used for the many roles Jim Carrey plays. Lemony Snicket is an actual character in the movie. With his presence being left in the shadows and only his narration fills his scenes. I’m not sure what Nickelodeon would have with a franchise, but this movie works well enough on its own. Though it has been brought back in a Netflix original series.

Count Olaf (center) takes care of the Baudelaire orphans

There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky

The Martian, the comedy event of 2015. Not really, but that’s where the debate comes in. The Martian is about an astronaut who gets accidentally stranded on Mars. When I first heard of The Martian I thought this seemed like a pretty interesting idea. Would a person actually manage to survive on the planet Mars? This is why I think Martian colonies are a bad idea. The Martian keeps things entertaining with a great performance by Matt Damon. He’s the one who supplies the movie with most of its “comedy.” His role is suspiciously similar to the one he did one year before in Interstellar. There’s also a huge ensemble of actors who also make the movie great. The main theme of the movie is how humanity comes together when someone is in trouble. All nations unite to bring Mark Watney home. There was a big debate about whether or not The Martian counts as a comedy. It’s about survival, so it can get pretty dramatic. Then again, there are a lot of jokes that keep it light. I guess the question is, is a movie with a lot of jokes a comedy? Whatever you think, The Martian is another well made movie about space exploration.

Mark Watney sits alone on Mars

Scientific Stupidity

Battlefield Earth is easily the worst passion project ever allowed to be put to screen. From long-time Scientologist John Travolta, Battlefield Earth was meant to be the next Star Wars. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah right. Battlefield Earth is so stupid you kill brain cells just by watching it. Battlefield Earth has something to do with a race of aliens called Psychlos who’ve ruled over earth for 1,000 years. This plot wouldn’t work even if it was done well. John Travolta plays the leader of the Psychlos, in a performance that is both hammy and cheesy. I don’t know how they managed to drag Forest Whitaker into it, but his role is clearly an embarrassment. The makeup and overall design of the aliens is just ugly to look at. And for some reason the entire movie is shot in a tilted angle. I kid you not, it looks like they could fall off the screen at any moment. The dialogue is just laughably bad. They also use the word leverage a lot. Which really annoyed me after the 10th time they used it. Battlefield Earth deservedly ended up being a box office disaster. It was also destroyed by critics and sports a 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Even managing to win 9 Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture of the Decade. I’m not going to get into a thing about Scientology, but this movie should never have been made. Battlefield Earth is one of the worst, if not the worst sci-fi movie ever made!

“While you were still learning how to SPELL YOUR NAME, I was being trained to conquer GALAXIES!”

Show Me the Money!

Jerry Maguire is probably the sappiest movie ever nominated for Best Picture. Not that it doesn’t deserve it, but you’ve gotta admit the movie has some pretty cheesy lines. Lines like “Show Me the Money!,” “You complete me,” and “You had me at hello” are all memorable for their cheesiness. In Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise plays a sports agent who gets fired and attempts to maintain the athletes he represents. Renee Zellweger plays a single mother who chooses to follow him in his new business. Jonathan Lipnicki plays her son and steals every scene he’s in. Cuba Gooding Jr. actually managed to win an Oscar for his performance as an eccentric football player. All the performances are great. I’m not much of a sports person, but the movie is also a romance. The romance is a little unconventional, though still pretty sweet. Sure Jerry Maguire may be sappy, but it’s bound to make you smile nevertheless.

Jerry: “You complete me” Dorothy: “You had me at hello”

Leave Enough Room for My Fist

The Running Man is the best movie by author Richard Bachman… just kidding, Richard Bachman is actually a Stephen King pen name. I’m not sure why he ever used a pen name, but that’s not the point. The Running Man is about a game show where people fight to the death in a post-apocalyptic government controlled world. It was The Hunger Games before The Hunger Games. As an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, it’s typically over-the-top and quotable. I didn’t see this one as a kid, but I know I would have enjoyed it. The game show involves being launched into a war zone where the players are attacked by “stalkers.” With crazy names like “Buzzsaw,” “Dynamo,” “Fireball,” and “Captain Freedom.” The Running Man has its fair share corruption that usually comes with a premise like this. The action is good and Arnie is at his 80’s best. So if you’re a fan of deadly game shows or you want to see a different kind of Stephen King movie, The Running Man is the movie for you.

Ben Richards prepares for “The Running Man”

Bloody Ballerina

Black Swan is a good combination of dance drama and psychological horror. Black Swan is a movie that I’d been avoiding for a long time. It took me 7-years to finally watch it. Why did it take me so long? I never saw a Darren Aronofsky movie beforehand, and I knew his movies were difficult to watch. Although, I knew I needed to watch it, because of its Best Picture nomination. Black Swan requires a lot of mental preparation. Prepare for a really weird movie. Never did I think the ballet would be this serious. Black Swan follows Nina Sayers, a meek and timid ballet dancer who still lives with her mother. Her dance company is putting on a performance of Swan Lake. Her dream of being the lead becomes threatened when another dancer named Lily comes and steals the spotlight. A premise like this would have been fine on its own, but the movie really goes the extra mile by showing Nina’s slow decent into insanity. She hallucinates, she sees herself everywhere, and she even imagines herself making out with Lily. It just becomes weirder and more uncomfortable as the movie goes on. Natalie Portman gives an award worthy performance as a character who goes through a very complex character arc. She was… perfect. Black Swan asks the question “how far are you willing to go for perfection?” Just don’t let it drive you to madness.

Nina becomes the Black Swan

It’s Turkey Time

Gigli is easily one of the worst movies ever made. It’s not even bad in a good way. By the end I was begging for the movie to be over. Gigli is simply torture to sit through. As a movie buff, I feel it’s important to see just as many bad movies as good movies. Gigli has always been on the list of “worst movies ever made.” So I knew I needed to see it just to find out why it sucks so much. As soon as I explain the plot your going to know why. Gigli is about a mobster named Larry Gigli (rhymes with really). He is tasked with kidnapping the mentally disabled brother of a federal prosecutor. A lesbian woman named Ricki works with Gigli when the job gets too difficult. Which leads to constant abuse towards the mentally disabled hostage and a forced romance between Ricki and Gigli. Oh my God, where do I start…

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Gigli (left) and Ricki (right) meet the detective

Despite the fact that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were together at the time, they have no chemistry whatsoever. 2003 wasn’t a good year for Ben Affleck. Though I do think that J.Lo’s performance could have worked in a better movie. The depiction of a mentally disabled person is very offensive (see Rain Man if you want to see it done right). The whole idea of a guy trying to get with a lesbian is also bad. It makes no sense that they’d even attempt to do that. She even gives a long speech about why she doesn’t like men (while doing yoga for some reason). They do eventually hook up, but only after she uses his feminine side to pretend he’s a woman. Just about everything the movie does is bound to offend somebody. They even managed to drag Al Pacino and Christopher Walken into it. The reason being that the movie was intended to be a dark crime drama, but they felt it was too dark. So they edited and rewrote it to be a romantic comedy instead. I will admit that one scene in particular did almost make me laugh. Gigli is so very misguided. The dialogue is also horrendously bad. The “turkey time” line in particular being a standout. Gigli is just a really really bad movie.

Gigli (right) seduces Ricki (left)

Cowboy Chameleon

Rango is one of the most bizarre animated movies I’ve seen. I’m not even sure how to explain it, but I’m gonna do it anyway. When I first found out about the movie, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. The fact that it’s a Nickelodeon Movie made me assume it was nothing special. Though I was surprised by the high quality animation that the movie has. Rango looks photorealistic in a cartoony way. While I couldn’t ignore the movie, it wasn’t enough to get me to the theater. My brother was actually the one who went to see the movie. He’s seen the movie at least four times while I’ve only seen it once. Not that I forgot any of the movie. Rango is about a pet chameleon who find himself in a western town populated by animals. Johnny Depp delivers one of his best vocal performances as the titular lizard. He even acted out most of his scenes as a point of reference for the animators. There’s actually a surprising amount of adult content for an animated Nickelodeon Movie. Believe it or not, anti-smoking groups wanted the movie to have an R rating. Forget them, because Rango was beloved by just about everyone. It actually managed to win Best Animated Feature (granted it was a slow year, but still). Rango is a little out there for me, but I’m glad I saw it.

Rango lost in the desert