Film Review: Buffalo Girls (2013)

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© Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

Stam and Pet are two eight year old girls living in Thailand. Stam is a cute, normal-looking girl. She has stuffed animals and is a shy little girl. Pet has a shaved head, with a section of long hair in the back, and has a heart condition. This image of normalcy, however, is shattered when director Todd Kellstein shows the two girls fighting in an underground muay thai kickboxing match in Buffalo Girls, a 2013 documentary.

According to the documentary, there are 30,000 child boxers in Thailand. The fighting is real, and it’s for money.

She boxes for money to get an education, Stam says in the film.

Another boxer, age 10, says she boxes to take care of her mom and dad.

pet running after school buffalo girls mauy thai

Pet running after school. © Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

The narrative of the film follows Stam and Pet as they train. Six days a week, the girls workout – running, weight lifting and working the heavy bag – in order to help support their families. The girls are very different in nature. Stam is shy, but smiles a lot. She appears to enjoy the training regimen. Pet has more of a laser focus, rarely smiling.

buffalo girls muay thai kickboxing

Stam (left) taking a right cross from Pet (right) © Copyright 2012 Buffalo Girls Movie

As a child of western culture, I found some of the fighting, and especially the way the girls are treated in the corner, to be shocking. But as the story unfolds, I realized that fighting is a way to get out of poverty. What impressed me was how serious the girls viewed their responsibility to the family. Also a career in kickboxing can mean these girls will be able to avoid the common career of many your Thai women, sex work.

It’s also important to understand that kickboxing is to Thailand what Baseball is to Americans, a culture-defining activity.

This is a good documentary with two likable characters in a difficult situation. There’s no narration in the film, Kellstein simply presents the situation. If I have one complaint about documentaries, it’s that they tend to run too long. Buffalo Girls is 66 minutes in length and moves quickly. My only complaint is the movie has a grainy look, possibly due to the low-lighting of the matches and the equipment used to document the story. The fights are brutal, but there’s no blood in the shots. The movie’s unrated, but I’d give it a PG for fighting.

If your kids complain about taking out the trash or doing homework, I suggest you have them watch Buffalo Girls. Taking out the trash isn’t fun, but it’s better than getting beat up by another kid while fighting in the middle of a brothel.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Have faith in this ‘Creed’

creed poster michael b jordan sylvester stalloneWhen I originally heard about Creed, I thought it represented one trip too many to the well of the Rocky legacy. Rocky Balboa, the sixth film, was a powerful, heartfelt film that book-ended the Rocky series with a quiet, but sweet note.

Do we really need a movie about the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed following in his father’s footsteps?

Yes, dammit, we do!

The film begins with a young Adonis Johnson in juvenile detention. After a fight, he’s locked up in a cell. He is visited by a woman, who Adonis, along with the audience, learn is Mary Ann Creed, the widow of Apollo Creed. Creed, we learn, had an affair, got Adonis’ mother pregnant, and then died in his match with Ivan Drago before Adonis’ birth. Mary Ann takes young Adonis into her home. Adonis grows up, but finds life in a nine-to-five office job to be unsatisfying.

He leaves his cozy home in Los Angeles and moves to Philadelphia. It is there he tracks down Rocky Balboa, asking him to train him. Balboa politely refuses, but Adonis is persistent. Eventually, Rocky, who seems to have given up on life after the death of his wife Adrian and his brother-in-law Paulie, begins training the young man.

Creed is about fighting for what you want in life. Adonis is fighting a life of privilege that his father’s name gives him. He struggles to become a fighter on his own terms, without the Creed name attached. Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fantastic Four) shines in his portrayal of Adonis. He’s likable, even when he acts like a jerk. He’s flawed, yet has a determination to succeed.

Rocky Balboa has his struggles too, with Stallone giving an Oscar-worthy performance as an old fighter ready to give up on life. Stallone knows this character and it shows. There are scenes where the sadness in Rocky’s eyes betray the tough-guy exterior. And the movie focuses much of its time on the developing relationship between Rocky and Adonis. Rocky is not simply shoehorned into the script to make it a Rocky film.

The supporting cast is excellent. Tessa Thomson plays Bianca, Adonis’ downstairs neighbor, who plays her music too loud. She is Adonis’ Adrian, but a much more assertive, confident woman. She too has a fight in her life as she is progressively losing her hearing, which makes being a musician a challenge.

And then there’s Phylicia Rashad. She only has a few scene in the movie as Mary Ann Creed, but it’s great to see her again so many decades after The Cosby Show. She too fights with her feelings over Adonis entering the boxing ring, fearing the loss of another loved one.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) brings a strong visual style with a focus on the characters. Coogler knows there are aspects of the Rocky movies that work, and he brings those to the forefront, adding his own ideas to the mix. The film’s runtime is 133, minutes. It felt much shorter. Coogler knows when to give his characters some breathing room to grow and when to have some action.

Because, honestly, I really enjoyed these characters, in and out of the ring. I cared about Adonis’ struggle. I wanted to see Rocky get out of his funk. I wanted to see Adonis and Bianca grow as a couple. By the fight at the end of the film, I was fully invested in the lives of these people. Creed is excellent, better than it had any right to be.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Dude! It’s time to talk about the summer movie season

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

The Fantastic Four return in 2015 with a gritty, dark reboot. Courtesy Fox

Since I was a kid, summer was about going to the movies. I blame Star Wars, really. I enjoyed movies before Star Wars, but, as an eight-year-old kid sitting in a theater, Star Wars was a religious experience.

Of course the summer movie season has grown since then, with the studios putting all their big-tent movies out during the season, hoping to rake in dump trucks full of money. And while it’s easy to shrug off summer films as ephemera, many of them have remained popular over the years. Yes, the summer movie is typically “the popcorn flick” in the minds of many. But what’s wrong with that? The Wizard of Oz is really a popcorn flick, and a damn great film.

I’m excited for this summer, although last year will be hard to beat. Marvel book-ended our 2014 summer with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, two great films that show just how well-oiled the Might Marvel Movie Machine is. We also got Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Both are good movies based on what seemed like tired franchises.

So here’s a breakdown of some of 2015’s most anticipated summer films. I will generously rant about what’s wrong with humanity as the subject comes up. My expectations are based on the trailer and whatever general knowledge about the film is out there.

Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

avengers age of ultron poster

Who the hell makes titles to movies these days? I miss the old days when Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out and, rather than waste time and brain cells saying and remembering that title, we just said “the one with the whales.”

And I like that they always put “Marvel” at the front. I thought the last Avengers film was a sequel to the Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman film.

When The Avengers came out a few years ago, I expected it to be the peak of the Mighty Marvel Movie Movement. We had gotten a great collection of films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2 (not the best, but still a watchable film), The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. Not only was it a fun film that used the characters and cast well, it whetted my appetite for more Marvel movies.

Again, I feel that maybe this year is the apex for Marvel. But I’m always wrong. It just seems like the property is getting so big, it is bound to crush itself.

What Marvel and Disney have done is unprecedented. They’ve created a cinematic universe. The move took balls and it paid off. They’ve developed a cinematic fabric that keeps getting larger and more complex.


I must say, Disney has become the master’s of building anticipation through teasers and trailers. The trailers to Age of Ultron tell us as little as possible about the film, yet instilling a desire to see the film. I thought Ultron was a terrible villain choice until I saw him move and heard James Spader’s voice.

Age of Ultron is the big movie this summer. My biggest concerns is some of the action scenes look exactly like the action scenes in the first film. There’s also an ever-so-slight feeling that the main cast is getting a little tired of these movies.

The Fast and the Furious 7

furious 7

Or Furious 7.

I’m not sure if the term “guilty pleasure” is a useful term or not. If you like a film, you like it. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Well, if your favorite film is Fifty Shades of Grey, you should feel guilty … and see a priest. Movies are highly subjective. While a general consensus has some value, I enjoy reading reviews to get other people’s perspectives, it all boils down to whether each individual liked it or not.

I really dig the Fast and Furious series. There are some serious missteps since there was never a plan to have a franchise. It was Fast Five that really pulled the series together. That film had everything I want in an action movie (although boobs would have been nice).  And Furious 6 followed that formula. I’ve grown to like these characters. And the films deliver a lot of bang for your buck.


F7 was originally intended to come out last year, but Paul Walker died. I’m still not sure how this will be handled in the film. The biggest challenge is going to be how do the filmmakers produce a film that’s fun and exciting without disrespecting the audience’s feelings about Walker. Tough situation. I hope it’s handled well.

Ant-Man

ant-man poster

When Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it had gone off the deep end. I was familiar with the characters (neerrrd!), but could not image the general public accepting such an eccentric concept.

To its credit, the Massive Marvel Marketing Machine really sold the film to audiences.

Ant-Man is another quirky Marvel concept. The effort to get Ant-Man on the screen has been challenging. Edgar Wright, who made Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, one of my favorite comic book adaptation, was all set to direct. Eventually he left and Peyton Reed (Yes Man, Bring It On, and The Break-Up) got the job.


The teaser left me shrugging my shoulders. I hope it’s good. Really, I never want a movie to be bad. I don’t have time for bad movies. Paul Rudd seems a bit miscast, but Marvel’s been dead-on with its casting in these films.

And for the record, clever poster Marvel.

Fantastic Four

Fantastic_Four_2015_poster

Can we just stop it with the reboots?


I admit the teaser intrigues me. It is certainly a good-looking film. But the concept of  Dr. Doom being a blogger worries me greatly. This is a franchise that Fox has, so, while a Marvel property, has no relationship with the Mega Marvel Movieverse.

I know I'd pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

I know I’d pay $12 to see this brought to live action. Come on Fox, bring it!

Doctor Doom being a blogger shows a lack of confidence in the source material. Have you seen Loki in The Avengers? Marvel and Tom Hiddleston own that shit! It just feels like Fox doesn’t get it.

I used to read Fantastic Four comics. They were fun, colorful, exciting, and, at times, silly. Give it a tone like Guardians of the Galaxy. Or, if you want to be daring Fox, make it a parody of the entire genre. It needs a good ribbing.

Pixels

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Wait! A movie not based on a comic book or long-running franchise. Could it be Hollywood wants to produce something original for our summer entertainment orgy?

To quote Nelson Muntz: “Ha ha.”

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

This is blatant knock-off of an episode of Futurama. Aliens attack, using classic video games as the blueprint for their invasion. If it were clever, I’d be cool with scrumping the concept.

And did I mention, Adam Sandler? I love his older films. They are stupid, and I mean STUPID, but I laughed a lot during Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy. However, the guy hasn’t had an inspired moment in more than a decade. Based on the trailer, he’s just walking through this role. And honestly, if Adam Sandler doesn’t give a shit about his career, why should I?


My feeling is that this movie exists for two reasons: nostalgia and CGI. Wouldn’t it be great if all your favorite old-school video game characters invaded earth? Not really. Hey, with CGI we can make it look like a pixilated Donkey Kong is really attacking mankind. That’s cool, right? Um, we’ve really passed the point of CGI as just a visual gimmick.

Mad Max: Fury Road

mad-max-fury-road tom hardy

Originally I forgot to write anything about Mad Max: Fury Road. That’s a shame, because I’m excited about this one. I am not one to gripe about CGI in films. But it has been overused. While this film has some CGI, the majority of the action is practical. And by practical I mean cars and trucks smashing into each other.

I love the original films, especially The Road Warrior. Beyond Thunderdome is weak, partially because it is a watered-down, kid-friendly version of the first two films. But the first two, I swear stunt men died making those.

That’s insane! Tom Hardy looks like he’s going to do a great job taking over Mel’s role. And it’s great to see George Miller, the original director, returning to Max’s post-apocalyptic world. Visually, it looks creative, not derivative.

And it looks like the film’s earned an R rating, so kick those little kids out of the theater and let me enjoy the mayhem.

Terminator: Genisys

entertaiment weekly terminator genisys

For films, Terminator Genisys is like someone (an asshole by the way) took your grandmother’s amazing apple pie recipe and added kale.


Rather than reboot Terminator, still a bad idea, a bunch of people who didn’t have a goddamn thing to do with the classic films have decided to create a change in the timeline, rewriting the events of the original Terminator film.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin's comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

I was going to use this image to show what I think Paramount is doing to a classic film. But then I realized that might be an insult to Don Martin’s comic genius. Image: Mad Magazine.

It’s copying the formula used in Star Trek (2009). However, the producers of this Terminator film less interested in finding a way to reboot the franchise in a way that allows an original story, and more interested in finding a way to re-hash the first film, while pretending to create something new. Looking at the trailer, I see nothing original or even a little clever.

I thought the remake of Robocop got a few things right. First, it was a remake. It took the basic concepts and tried to make its own story out of it. Second, as a remake, it understood that certain rules from the original have to be translated over to the new version.

Unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator Genisys has no input from James Cameron, the man who created the first two films. Neither situation is a guarantee of quality, but it says something about the artistic vision behind the two films.

I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. And I love the first two Terminator films — and don’t hate the other two. He’s important to the franchise, but that’s only because no one seems to be interested in truly developing an original Terminator film.

The producers recast every character in the film, except Arnold. I would be happier if they just recast the Terminator instead of going with grandpa-terminator. However, the new cast seems a bit off to me. A lot is riding on audiences embracing the new cast.

And that leads me to …

A Little Originality, Please?

I don’t expect every film to be the most original film ever. Many great films have been based on books. Many of the Marvel films are great films with compelling plots, interesting characters, and clever dialogue.

John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) was a remake of a film based on a short story. The film, however, is very much its own entity, full of creative visuals. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

But the current summer movie roster seems to lack any original ideas. If you look at 1982, a big summer movie season, studios released a large variety of films. Yes, many of them were franchise films (there was a Grease 2?). However, there was also E.T., Blade Runner, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

It is sad, at least for me, when Pixels seems like the most original idea out there. It’s not a very original idea, not at all.

It also bothers me that we, the audience, now use Hollywood business terminology for our films. Every film is intended to be a franchise. We don’t think of Avengers as a series of films, but as a product. Fox and Sony keep rebooting the Fantastic Four and Spider-man because they don’t want to lose the property.

Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies … Finale! … I mean FINALLY!

If you were disappointed that the "desolation of Smaug" part of the story never happened in the movie "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

If you were disappointed that the “desolation of Smaug” part of the story never happened in the movie “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” you be glad to know that seemingly unimportant event is dealt with in the first ten minutes of the new film.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is a lot like flirting with Evangeline Lilly, at first it’s going great, she smiles, and then Orlando Bloom walks up and cock-blocks you.

When I originally heard that Peter Jackson was going to direct The Hobbit, I had reservations. His Lord of the Rings films are great, but dark and violent. Jackson took advantage of every opportunity to add some PG-13 gore to those films. I would have preferred Guillmero del Toro’s take, which I would have imagined as being more whimsical and closer in tone to the book.

Then it was announced that The Hobbit would be two movies. That made sense. Even though the book is short, I could see it being split into two films.

But Jackson and New Line were not happy taking our money twice for an adaptation of a short story. The announcement of three Hobbit movies gave me pause. And I wrote a blog about it:

The Hobbit — Peter Jackson’s Cash Grab

I never reviewed the first two Hobbit movies, so here’s a quick look at them.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey starts off slow and spirals into stupidity. Jackson moves the story forward at a snail’s pace, yet manages take no time to truly introduce us to the characters. And everyone in that film is irritating.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

Azog kindly leads moviegoers to the exit after a butt-numbing three hours of watching The Battle of the Five Armies.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has more action, but, again drags on. And just in case you thought this was an adaptation of The Hobbit and not a Lord of the Rings prequel, Legolas arrives! The Smaug’s desolation is no where. Instead the film ends up being a very long teaser for the final installment. Evangeline Lilly arrives too since Jackson has no idea how to develop the dwarfs. The only payoff, Smaug.

The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the last film ended. The desolation of Smaug has begun, and will be over before you know it. While the first two films had a lot of travel, with Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf companions meeting all manner of friends and foes, Five Armies keeps all the action within the confines of the Lonely Mountain. The film feels geographically constricted.

Without Martin Freeman, these films would be beyond saving. He presents Bilbo as a sympathetic character, someone who was very content in his own little village. There are hints that Bilbo now sees himself as part of a bigger world, but not much time is spent developing Bilbo.

As a matter of fact, for a film called The Hobbit, Bilbo is surprisingly absent from most of the film. He has a few scenes involving the Arkenstone*, but spends most of the film on the sidelines.

These films drag. And I liked Chariots of Fire.

Unconvincing special effects mar the film. Instead of trying to create a fantastic reality, team Weta produced a bunch of scenes that look like cut scenes from a video game. At one point Legolas is jumping on stones as they crumble and fall. I haven’t seen such action since the Nintendo Entertainment System.

There just is not enough good for me to recommend the film. Freeman and a few good action scenes do not make the film worth the time or money to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

*I believe the Arkenstone will return in The Avengers: The Infinity Gauntlet films.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Crash: The Collision of Cultures in America

2005 crash poster

Race is a dirty word in America.

We refuse to talk about it.

When we do, it is rarely an open dialogue, and it is almost never honest.

Paul Haggis’ motion picture Crash is a character study that tries to deal with the issue of race in America. Critics praised the film for its “brutally honest” depiction of race issues in America (Williams). In response to this acclaim, journalism professor Robert Jensen and documentary producer Robert Wosnitzer wrote an essay, entitled “Crash,” claiming that the movie minimizes the systemic causes of racism in the country. According to Jensen and Wosnitzer, the film is “white supremacists because it minimizes the reality of white supremacy” (Jensen and Wosnitzer). While the film’s main focus is the effects of racism on a personal level, Crash frequently addresses the systemic nature of racism in this country. Crash is an allegorical tale that uses archetypes to personify the various groups and institutions that promote white privilege in America.

The first words out of detective Graham Waters indicate that the characters of the story do not inhabit a real city. His opening monologue has the air of parable. After an automobile accident, he says “we’re always behind this metal and glass.” Frequently, people carefully guard their speech and attitudes, especially when race is involved. The physical crash in Crash represents the filmmaker’s attempt to remove those “metal and glass” filters and have the characters speak in open, honest, and unfiltered dialogue.

Jensen and Wosnitzer contend that Crash fails because it “directs attention away from a white-supremacist system and undermines white accountability for the maintenance of that system“ (Jensen and Wosnitzer). Throughout the film, various white power symbols are represented by characters in authoritative positions. District attorney Rick Cabot represents the political system that caters to non-whites for votes and public image opportunities. Jean Cabot symbolizes rich white privilege, which views all non-whites as subservient and a threat to its way of life. Television producer Fred typifies the entertainment industry, which continues to promote racial stereotypes for material gain. Officer John Ryan represents not just law enforcement, but the racial attitudes are ingrained in the law enforcement culture. Officer Tom Hansen, who is generally decent, ultimately gives into racial profiling. While the laws of the country are intended to be for all, we have created rules that intentionally judge people based on race. When viewed as an allegorical story, the white characters say a lot about white authority in America.

Many of the black characters of the film represent those who, while affected by racism, refuse to challenge the system. Detective Waters has a career in law enforcement. When confronted with the inherent racism of the system, he gives into what is best for the white authoritarian structure. His mother accuses him of abandoning his brother and his mother. He has been too busy pursuing a career. Rather than continuing the fight for civil rights and equality for all, Waters has become a member of the white authority structure. Cameron Thayer, a television director, is essentially a black man in “whiteface.” The white powers that be have continued to put a carrot in front of him, fame, and he has consistently given into their demands. When an officer sexually assaults his wife, he refuses to do anything about it because a report in the paper would upset his white employers. Lt. Dixon is a black police officer who readily acknowledges racism in the LAPD, yet he doesn’t want his position to be threatened. He has worked too hard to get where he is in the police department. Anthony, who touts various white supremacy conspiracy theories throughout the film, considers himself sort of a black Robin Hood. Since he only steals from white people, he feels he is fighting the system. He starts to realize that he is part of the problem as he sits on a bus. He may talk a lot, but he really isn’t any different than the minorities on the bus. When he steals a van full of Thai people who are being trafficked as slave, he realizes that he is becoming the very thing he has been criticizing throughout the film, an oppressor. Even Dorri, a second generation Iranian-American, has become more American, and therefore white, in order to be a successful doctor. The system of white supremacy, as discussed by Jensen and Wosnitzer, is clearly demonstrated in Crash. The message in Crash is clear, if a black person wants to be successful, they need to obey privileged white people.

Peter Waters spends most of the film as a sidekick for Anthony. However, he represents those who simply do not buy into the system. He and Anthony have very different views of what it means to be a black American. He constantly defies any stereotypes associated with black Americans. He likes country music, hockey, and is interested in Catholic theology, all symbols associated with white culture. Ultimately, he is killed for having an open attitude. The message sent by Crash is that the system will not tolerate the tolerant.

Guns play strongly in the film and represent power. Frequently, when a gun passes from person to person in the film, it represents the passing of power. When a white gun shop owner begrudgingly sells a handgun to an Iranian man, he sells the Iranian man blanks. Frequently, white politicians talk about the United States being a land of opportunity and equality for all. However, the system does not always deal fairly with everyone. Ultimately, just like blanks in a gun, the assertion of constitutional rights by immigrants is rendered impotent by policies like the Patriot Act and racial profiling. Anthony and Peter discuss their fear of being in white neighborhoods. Their fears are relaxed because they carry guns. When Anthony attempts to car jack Cameron’s automobile, they struggle with a gun. Cameron, who has been complacent and unwilling to assert his rights throughout the film is suddenly emboldened when he confronts the police. During the entire altercation, he has a gun in the back of his pants. When Cameron leaves Anthony on a street corner, he gives Anthony back his gun. He gives the power back to Anthony, who must now take responsibility for his future actions. Constitutional rights protect Americans and empower them, regardless of race. White authority views such power as a threat when put in what it considers the wrong hands.

Crash, the film, ends where it begins, with an auto accident. The final message of the movie is that, even if some of the characters changed their attitudes during that day, there will be others to take their place the next day. There will be another John Ryan to harass innocent citizens. There will be another black director so hungry for fame that he will do whatever he is asked by his producers. There will be another young black man stealing cars from white people. The film simply says that everyone is a racist and there’s nothing that can be done to improve the situation. “Crash,” the essay, contends that white America needs to be “forced” to accept the issue of white privilege in America (Jensen and Wosnitzer). Neither offer any practical solutions for the race issue in this country. The United States has made progress, but it has been slow. Laws have been passed to protect the rights of everyone in the country. However, well meaning laws cannot actually change racial attitudes in this country. Forcing opinions on others is a poor solution. People need to be given information and a variety of opinions on this vital issue. There needs to be an open dialogue where everyone, no matter their race, gender, or belief, has the opportunity to share in the discussion. If we can accomplish this, perhaps this country will be able to one day embrace its pluralism and grow stronger as a nation. Perhaps then, race will no longer be considered a dirty word.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Originally written in 2009 for a class assignment.


 

Works Cited

Crash. Dir. Paul Haggis. Perf. Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon. Lionsgate, 2005.

Jensen, Robert and Wosnitzer, Robert. “Crash.” ZNet Daily Commentaries 21 Mar 2006. 18 June 2009 <http://www.zmag.org>.

Williams, Kam. “Movie Review: Crash.” Black News 2005. 24 June 2009 <http://www.blacknews.com>.

Mockingjay starves its audience with a dour, pointless exercise in corporate filmmaking

mockingjayposterThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I is not a bad movie, but it is a dull, uninspired, and downright cynical film. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is now the Debbie Downer of movies about dystopian futures.

The film is cynical, not because of the story, but the filmmakers’ lack of respect for their audience. The new trend of breaking the final chapter of a series into two parts has reached a point in which Mockingjay serves no purpose except as a trailer for Part II.

Almost nothing happens in this film. I enjoyed the first Hunger Games film. Catching Fire, however, was a much more engaging film and set me up to expect something exciting for Mockingjay. Instead, Katniss spends most of the film as a dour puppet of the rebellion against President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Rather than a film about a group trying to end a totalitarian regime, most of the film is spent with Katniss and a group of video journalists running around the various districts.

There’s a single, brief action scene in the film. If you want action, watch the trailer. All of it is there.

Most of the returning cast also seems to be stuck in downer mode. No one is passionate about anything. Katniss occasionally makes a statement – for propaganda videos – about the horrors of Snow’s attacks. But even Lawrence has a tough time making any of it seem legitimate.

haymitch

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) returns briefly to coax a few chuckles from the audience. However, something is amiss when the cantankerous, dry alcoholic is more interested in the story than the rest of the characters.

Thankfully, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) appears in the middle of the film to give it a little energy, but the character doesn’t have much to do after a few witty remarks.

Since the film seems so indifferent to its main character, I’m surprised the filmmakers didn’t do more with the supporting cast. Elizabeth Banks returns as Effie Trinket. Trinket actually goes through some character development, making me wish the film was about her. Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta appears briefly in the movie, but plays an important part. In fact, during the film’s last 20 minutes, he’s the most interesting character. Like Trinket, I was more interested in Peeta’s story than Katniss’.

Mockingjay ends abruptly. It is all set up with no pay off. The film’s contempt for the audience is clear. The filmmakers know everyone will return next year and pay to see the finale.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Image courtesy Sony Pictures.

Image courtesy Sony Pictures.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”  achieves exactly what Sony Pictures seemed to have in mind; make a film that will fill seats, make a profit, and insure an “Amazing Spider-Man 3.” It’s not a bad film, just pedestrian. And it adds as little as possible to the Spider-Man cinematic canon.

The film manages to be a long, painfully long, toy commercial that does not fall into the trap of “Batman and Robin,” a film people still talk about. To Joel Schumacher’s credit, he created a Batman movie that won’t, no cannot, be forgotten. “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” however, is a forgettable film.

amazing spiderman 2 posterI saw it 24 hours ago, and I’m having trouble recalling much of the film. It is ephemera, not cinema. Am I being to harsh on a comic book movie? Not at all. People still talk about “The Avengers” and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight films. Last month’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” featured superheroes and a strong plot.

The action scenes in this installment, or more accurately, Sony’s legally-necessary release, are typical of summer fare, full of impossible CGI shots and ultra-slow motion imagery. But the action scenes do almost nothing for the story. They just happen.

Yes, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has a story, which is almost the exact story of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. I’ve seen these chunks of plot too many times. Peter Parker’s love life is again, challenged by his career as a web slinger, aunt May is worried about Peter and sad, Gwen Stacy wants to do something with her life (it was Mary Jane in Raimi’s) and needs to figure needs Peter to figure out her enigmatic clues or she’s gone, some guy gets in an accident and decides he wants to be a supervillain, and so forth.

Yet the film is competent and, occasionally, enjoyable. The feeling is of a film written by committee, but an occasional emotion comes through. The cast is great, doing the best with what they have been given. Andrew Garfield turns in a strong performance as Peter Parker. Dane DeHaan enters the film as Harry Osborne. DeHaan has some great scenes early in the film, but, like everyone else, must turn into an insane villain before the film’s end.

My favorite scene has Peter and Harry by the waterline talking. For a moment, the film radiated sincerity. Maybe director Marc Webb — I kid you not. That’s his name — should make a Spider-Man film just about Peter’s relationships. The personal moments, along with a few Spider-Man moments, save the film from ruin.

As for the villains in this film, I don’t care. I’ve seen the same origin story many times. They exist to give Spider-Man something to do. Jamie Foxx does fine with a role that gives him little to do.  Paul Giamatti, playing the Rhino, has nothing to do in the movie. He is the film for five minutes.

If only to confuse the entire theater, Sony tacked on a teaser for Twentieth Century Fox’s summer Marvel film “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” This happens about a minute into the end credits. Unlike the Disney Marvel films, this teaser had nothing to do with this Spider-Man film or any future one.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” as its title suggest, is a product. In a few years, Sony will release “The Amazing Spider-Man 3.” Why bother with proper titles when a number will do. Kids seemed to enjoy the movie, but if you are over 12, I suggest you see “Captain America : The Winter Soldier” instead.