Not enough votes yet! Vote for your favorite (and least favorite) reviews below.
Posted on 1/01/11 09:48 PM
Unable to get a bead on the Tomato-meter with this computer I'm using (or is it an "operators' malfunction?"). So in lacking the ability to give you the iconic "8 tomatoes! Abbondanza!", or even the "One tomato? Mama mia!" in picture form so simple that it will burn forever into your memory as that of an up/down-turned thumb, let me be clear on my feelings about the last two movies I'd ventured out, slapped down some bills to see at the local cineplex(es):
.... editor's update: The Tomato-meter is up and running, all it needed was a 9V battery... so there. Now you know. War of the Worlds got a two, and Hustle and Flow got a seven. Read on for the details.
WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005) was a disappointment of a movie-watching experience. Forget any so-called expectations: that this is a Spielberg movie, and he'll loan an element of humanity to countermand the rampant CGI technology; that Tom Cruise is the star, and I was determined to like his performance so I could spite all you who are bitching and whining and even giving ANY air-time (like me, right now) to his rail against modern psychiatry, or psychology, or whatever. You know, whoever you are, you deserve to think of nothing better than what a goddamn Hollywood actor holds by way of an opinion about ANY thing, be it psychology, stem cell research, or soy vs. rice milk. And I got that Cruise is one of them wacky Scientologists. Whereas I would probably not want to spend any personal time conversing with him, I have enjoyed some of his performances: Vanilla Sky was his finest moment, by far. Magnolia, yeah, he was fine as the cocky guy, but lost me at the moment of tear-faced truth. The Color of Money, sure. And he's played many roles that I dismiss as ... Robo-yuppie. Cocktail. Top Gun (yee-hah, go, military!). Collateral, I consider to be a mix of both Robo-yuppie and reaallly affected, well-played psychopath. Eyes Wide Shut, I'm not sure. That whole film was hard for me to digest, will need to see it again at some point. But I'm digressing off the face of Bush's Flat World, here.
I was not convinced, or moved, by Cruise's performance as a single father of two; one boy, a teen, and one girl, a pre-teen. Their mother (played by Miranda Otto) drops them off at blood daddy's house, where a racing engine sits on the kitchen table, and the only vegetable in the fridge is mustard. The place is a dump. And dad is a crane operator (union, I'm presuming, in that his foreman didn't threaten to fire his ass because he wouldn't cover an extra shift... this is 2005, right?). But I didn't believe it, and as Cruise and kids drive and run cross-country in an attempt to get back to mommy and avoid becoming laser-bait for the aliens, I thought "this would have been scripted better if Cruise were just some Joe Schmoe that the kids run into, versus this family conflict thing that is really not working." For this reason, the movie just plodded for me. I didn't feel an iota of human interest. Even Tim Robbins as a crazed loner who the "family" runs into didn't spice things up. Thus, ... ah, never mind. What did work for me was the sound that the aliens make from their 300-foot high tripod walkers. THIS worked. That sound, which is like a thousand multi-tonal semi trucks honking in unison, as it emanated from these giant nightmarish structures... well, it resonated with some childhood nightmare I had that alternately scared and fascinated me. The rest of this film can go scratch, contrivances, lack of logic, and so forth. Two tomatoes.
HUSTLE AND FLOW / is the story of a pimp, yo / street man trades him a Casio / for a stinky bag of weed-o.... Terence Howard (recently seen in Crash as a Hollywood movie exec) plays DJay, a pimp living with his three tricks in a low-rent district of Memphis. He gets hold of a keyboard in an unplanned back-alley transaction, and over the refrains of his "'ho", who taunts him from the car "Yo, Stevie Wonder!...", he realizes a reawakening of a dream; that of being a successful rapper. DJay enlists the aid of an old high school friend named Key (Anthony Anderson), a professional sound engineer who helps the pimp soundproof and gear up an impromptu recording room. There is a great exchange between the two characters, as Key issues a sideways warning to DJay about "those who talk the talk wanting those that walk the walk to do all the walking."
The women who trick for DJay are integral as we watch his creative process unfold, as assisted by Key and musical assistant Shelby (DJ Qualls). Nola (Taryn Manning) is submissive with a hint sullen anger, as she waits patiently with DJay in his car for tricks, and turns the fan off in the studio before the record button goes on. As DJay's focus becomes manically intent on his dream to the point of regarding others, particularly Nola, as mere tools to help him on his way to stardom, Nola plays the ass-kicking voice of conscience to DJay's egotism.
This isn't a pretty movie, and I got from the opening credit sequence, shot in early '70's Blaxploitation, that it wasn't meant to be a pretty movie. DJay is only a little more than minimally likeable, which adds to the felt realism of the story. Isaac Hayes has a neat turn as a bar owner, and Ludacris (Chris Hughes, who also appeared in Crash) plays platinum-selling rapper Skinny Black. He and Terrence Howard have an amazing dialogue sequence towards the end of the film; the two men meet as rappers, artists experiencing widely disparate levels of success, and they talk to one another not as artists, but as players, as pimps, as con men who seek to get what they want while holding their guard up. Seven tomatoes... it would have been eight, except I felt that one sequence in Hustle and Flow demonstrated extreme reality in showing the ugly side of humanity (the ejecting of a woman and her child onto the street) and felt contradictory to another sequence that bordered on fantasy.