Monday, February 25, 2008

Country For Gold Men

Though I could really care less about how Nicole Kidman looks on the red carpet, I annually find myself glued to the tube when the Academy Awards come on. Who minds if it's nearly four hours long? (Wait, don't answer that...) With the writers strike threatening like a thunder cloud, the damn thing almost got washed away. It kinda felt like my duty to halfway laugh at host Jon Stewart's jokes during this 80th edition. While figuring out if Stewart's "Hadolf Tilbert" bit was more funny or tacky, I noticed these 10 other things:

1. Asking Marketa Irglova (above), writer/singer of the Oscar-winning number from Once, to come back on stage because she wasn't given ample time to make her acceptance speech was one of the classiest moves I've ever seen on television.

2. And speaking of time, it's just not fair that some people get 5 seconds (Best Animated Short- Peter & the Wolf) and others get nearly 5 minutes (Best Animated Feature- Ratatouille). Sure, more folks wanna hear what actor Daniel Day-Lewis has to say than the gal who did the set decorations for Swenney Todd. But fair is only fair. The folks behind the scene spend hundreds of hours making sure these flicks look/sound/feel good for us. This is pretty much the only night that their faces are ever seen. Academy, show some love by muzzling Bill Conti's band a bit.

3. Though Day-Lewis (who's absolutely haunting in There Will Be Blood) and No Country For Old Men's Javier Bardem (ditto) were as close to guarantees as to be had on the night, the two men still stood at the podium with modesty and a sense of surprise in their voice. No wonder they received the two highest male acting awards!

4. Did Atonement win anything?! I can't comment much on the picture because I never saw it, but who in the world nominated that movie for the big prizes? None of the entertainment mags said it had a shot. None of my friends or colleagues in journalism had much positive to say about it. None of the unscientific visitor polls thought it deserved to win. Odd, odd, odd.

5. Tilda Swinton won a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as a spinning PR head for a corrupt company in Michael Clayton. She was solid but she was easily the third most memorable person in that movie. George Clooney and Tom Wilkinson deserved wins more.

6. Seeing Owen Wilson on stage was a pleasant surprise.

7. Watching Norbit go home with nothing was not.

8. I'm still amazed Ruby Dee was nominated for her itsy bitsy time in American Gangster.

9. I still can't believe the creepy guy (Paul Dano) from There Will Be Blood wasn't.

10. I'm embarrassed not to have seen any of the movies nominated for Best Documentary Feature. I promise that Spoiler Room will have reviews for Sicko, War/Dance or Taxi to the Dark Side before it's all said and done though.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Released- February 8, 2008
Reviewed- February 8, 2008
Rated- C+

The biggest roadblock in Malcolm D. Lee’s prodigal son comedy is, well, Malcolm D. Lee. What the usually-sharp director (The Best Man, Roll Bounce) begins as a decent laugher about talk show host R.J. Stevens (Martin Lawrence) reluctantly coming home for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration, still trips into the same slapstick-heavy silliness of Norbit. That didn’t have to be the case.

Truthfully, R.J.’s awkward-child-turned-big-time-star story was funny enough. He’s milking this black Dr. Phil thing to perfection. He’s got a smart, loving son and he’s engaged to a reality show stunner (Joy Bryant) that’s higher maintenance than the Biltmore Estate. Martin’s plenty talented to make it all gut-busting and ring halfway believable, too. So, when R.J. packs up the Louis Vuitton bags for his first weekend in Dry Springs in nine years, you’re ready for the trip, too.

Why the unwillingness to go home from RJ’s end? Three words: crazy ass family. If you had an oversized sheriff brother (Michael Clarke Duncan), a mess-startin’ cousin (Mo’Nique) and another hilarious relative who’d steal the thin mints out the Girl Scouts basket (Mike Epps), you’d probably be hesitant to uproot that side of the family tree yourself. But none of them are even R.J.’s biggest problem. That would be another character, the super-competitive Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer), who also happens to be all hugged up at the picnic table with R.J.’s –Actually, in this neck of the woods, Stevens goes by “Roscoe”- longtime crush (Nicole Ari Parker).

With all of this potential hilariousness sitting at the script’s disposal, you’d think Lee would have enough to make for an hour and a half romp in the Georgia clay. But somehow the man who brought the world Undercover Brother cheapens the jokes with a damn skunk attack, sex-crazed dogs and a sophomoric fighting sequence between Mo’ and Martin that we all could’ve done just fine without. Though these are the only instances of letdown in an otherwise-pleasing family comedy, they are moments that simply come at the wrong times. Lee, don’t get us wrong. We’ll still recommend this visit down to the Jenkins’ place, but we do so with the promise that everyone’s on the first plane back to responsible filmmaking in the morning. -DW

Friday, February 1, 2008