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Entries in Tyler Perry (2)

Friday
Oct192012

Alex Cross

Tyler Perry has a niche audience that flocks to anything he has his name attached to. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it limits his appeal. His involvement in this week’s new release, Alex Cross, extends only to his onscreen persona—he didn’t write or direct this as he does his other work—so it makes me wonder if Perry is looking to branch out and try something different, something that doesn’t involve dressing up in a dress and wig. If that’s the case, he better look elsewhere. This movie is a train wreck, a disaster that I imagine even die hard Perry fans will hate. From the opening scene where a fleeing bad guy shoots what may be the slowest bullet ever shot to its banal and unbelievable (meaning stretching the limits of credibility) ending, Alex Cross does a grand total of zero things right.

Perry plays the titular character, Dr. Alex Cross, a Detroit detective who has an affinity for calling people “maggot” and who is tasked with tracking down a murderer nicknamed Picasso, played by Matthew Fox, who is running amok in his city. Along with his partner, Tommy, played by Edward Burns, Cross sets out stop him, unaware of the tragedies about to befall him.

I would say Alex Cross is your standard action/thriller, but the word “standard” implies some level of competence. It implies that the film is adequate, if unremarkable, and though it may not push the boundaries on what the genre can do, it serves its purpose well. That isn’t the case here. From lackadaisical direction to some of the most poorly edited sequences in a movie this year, like when Picasso seemingly transports from the top of a high rise building to the sewers without breaking the onscreen timeline, the film is a complete and utter mess. It’s so bad, I felt embarrassed for simply watching it; I can only imagine how the filmmakers must feel.

Director Rob Cohen, the man behind such classics as xXx and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, directs Alex Cross like someone looking to mature, but not knowing how. It’s a darker, sadder film than his previous efforts, or at least it tries to be, but he fails to make his actors bring it to life. It has long been said that a movie is only as good as its villain. If that’s true, Alex Cross is one of the worst movies to grace the screen in many a moon. Picasso is as boring as villains come and Fox, despite having already proven himself as a talented actor in his past works, plays him so over-the-top as to be unintentionally laughable. For the majority of the movie, he does little more than bug his eyes out and move with a twitch. Fox seems to forget that villains are supposed to be menacing, not comical.

It must also be said that the pairing of Perry and Burns is the worst buddy cop pairing since Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in Kevin Smith’s 2010 disaster Cop Out (which Alex Cross is actually funnier than, though it’s not supposed to be). Perry and Burns strike up no chemistry and don’t feel like longtime partners. Their scenes are so bad, particularly when they’re trying to strike up witty repartee (“I’d rather take advice from a ham sandwich,” Perry says at one point), that you can still feel the awkwardness between the two actors, as if these scenes were the first ones shot and they hadn’t yet gotten comfortable with each other. To be fair, it’s not just their scenes. When the movie is littered with lines like “I didn’t get you pregnant by talking,” any attempts at legitimacy fly out the window.

Alex Cross is one of those master sleuths we see so often these days. You know the ones, the ones who can solve a crime in a matter of minutes with simple observation and who are so hard to believe or take seriously. If the whiz kids at NCIS can solve their crimes in 45 minutes, Alex Cross can do it in 20, which, coincidentally, is the maximum amount of time you’ll want to spend with him (if that). Of course, you’ll have figured out the mystery long before the characters onscreen—the film’s visual clues and expository dialogue are anything but subtle—so that inconsequential and uninteresting narrative twist at the end (that perfectly complements the inconsequential and uninteresting movie it resides in) doesn’t shock as much as I’m sure was intended. If you mistakenly decide to subject yourself to Alex Cross, it’s guaranteed to be a difficult movie to sit through; the desire to get up and leave will be a constant inner struggle. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about it and it fails on every level.

Alex Cross receives 0/5

Friday
Nov052010

For Colored Girls

If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that Tyler Perry is marketable. With two successful televisions shows and many profitable movies under his belt, he has a track record of excellence, at least in the monetary sense. The quality of his work can be debated (all but one of his movies are rotten at the popular critic review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes), but not by me. I had yet to see a Tyler Perry movie before stepping in the theater to see For Colored Girls and, frankly, it doesn’t make me want to rush out to see another one.

Based on the play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf,” the film is a collection of mini-stories about what it’s like to be a woman of color dealing with issues of rape, abortion, infidelity and more. Within those stories, there’s Crystal (Kimberly Elise), a woman who battles with her abusive boyfriend (Michael Ealy) and tries to keep her two children safe from his violent, alcohol fueled rampages. Coming into her life is Kelly (Kerry Washington), who works for child services and is making sure Crystal’s kids are living in a safe environment. She has problems of her own and can’t conceive with her boyfriend (Hill Harper) thanks to a damaged uterus brought on by an event she’d rather forget. Also in Crystal’s life is her boss, Jo (Janet Jackson), who takes her frustration from home out on her because she thinks her husband may be gay.

Meanwhile, Juanita (Loretta Devine), working through a non-profit organization, is trying to get a donation from Jo while wondering in the back of her mind if her husband Frank (Richard Lawson) is cheating on her. Elsewhere, Yasmine (Anika Noni Rose) is falling head over heels for a man she barely knows, though he’s about to do something to her that is unforgivable. She teaches a ballet class where one of her students, Nyla (Tessa Thompson), has just discovered she’s pregnant after recently losing her virginity. Nyla’s mother, (Whoopi Goldberg) is an overly religious woman who shuns that type of thing, so she visits her slutty sister, Tangie (Thandie Newton) to borrow some money to pay for a back alley abortionist (Macy Gray) in the hopes of keeping it all quiet.

Did I get them all? It seems like a lot, but I’m sure I’m missing somebody. For Colored Girls suffers from the same main affliction as this year’s abominable Twelve. It has way too many characters and keeping track of them proves difficult. As a critic, I take notes during screenings to ensure I can come home and properly convey how I felt while watching a movie, but for this, I mostly wrote down character names, what they were doing, who they were related to and how their lives intersected with each other. Despite that, I’m still not positive I’ve fully wrapped my head around it all.

For Colored Girls also suffers from over-the-top theatrics that come off as laughable, despite the heavy handed subject matter. I'm well aware that this movie is adapted from a stage play, but watching Whoopi Goldberg forcefully pound on a door while she screams at her trampy daughter to repent for her sins is a bit much.

The exaggerated mannerisms can be distracting, but it’s the dialogue that suffers most. The characters all speak in long winded, metaphor filled soliloquies that feel like they were taken verbatim from the play. While this probably works on the stage, it doesn't translate well to the screen. People simply do not talk like that and any type of message on race, ethnicity and the hardships that accompany girls of color are lost in a sea of daft discourse.

Although For Colored Girls is a truly wretched film, it has its heart in the right place and you’ll feel for the girls as these terrible things begin to happen for them. The post-trauma emotional breakdowns are difficult to watch because they hit hard. The actresses, specifically Anika Noni Rose, who does hers all in one take, really bring out the anger, pain and sadness one would feel after going through such events.

However, those breakdowns all follow one after the other. With no downtime, it becomes emotional overload. That there’s any emotion to pull from a movie so ludicrous is nothing short of a miracle itself and its rapid fire discharge strips it away of whatever tiny morsel of feeling it may have had otherwise.

The best thing For Colored Girls has going for it is its style. It looks good, but even that proves to be a burden on the film. In a late scene, footage of a beautiful opera is intercut with footage of a brutal rape, romanticizing the appalling deed in a way that is rather distasteful. Take into account, however, that the following scene drew unintentional laughter and you should have an indication of everything that is wrong with For Colored Girls.

For Colored Girls receives 1/5