Category Archives: Movie review

They Did Survive – A Movie Review

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I love me some animation!


Sloths that rap, an aria-singing frog and capybara’s shaking what their mommas gave them. Birds that have ipods, GPS’s, fanny packs and other trappings of modern society, juxtaposed with life in the jungle. “Survivor Amazon” anyone?


One of the best things about having kids or hanging out with them is going to movies made especially for them. But who am I kidding? Even though the movies are made for their viewing pleasure, there’s a whole lot of stuff thrown in that little Timmy won’t begin to get.


And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I ran into a couple getting popcorn and drinks for the movie. I looked around for their little one and didn’t see him anywhere. The mother unashamedly admitted that she had come (sans child) to see how the story continued. I’m sure though, that she would eventually bring her son – that way she would see all the references she would have missed the first time.


I’m so glad that “Rio 2” came out when it did, so that it could totally eclipse my children’s desire to see the new Muppets movie, because I couldn’t psyche myself up for that one – I just couldn’t. I think the humans in that movie slow it down, but the animals in “Rio 2” ran away with this movie.


Can you get any funnier than realizing what we must look like to them when we do the funky chicken? Can you get any more dramatic than a soliloquy from Hamlet – skull included?


So “Rio 2” didn’t disappoint me. Although I enjoyed the opening number in the original movie better, the music throughout was fantastic. The Latin rhythms mixed in with some rap, operatic music and some good old R&B kept me tapping my feet.


Other things had me laughing out loud. Like a “Flashdance” movie throwback. Yes, you know the scene. But just imagine it being done by a male cockatoo that can’t fly. It was this bird too, who cleaned up at the Carnivale auditions with his rendition of Gloria Gaynors’ 70’s hit, “I will Survive”.


The movie also gave a nod to the upcoming FIFA World Cup that will take place in Brazil this year. However these birds weren’t playing for a title but for food – Brazil nuts to be exact, so their very lives depended on winning this game.


Which spoke to the underlying theme of the movie – survival.


Blu and his family make the trek to the Amazon when they realize that other blue macaws like them may still exist. His wife Jewel finds her entire family, but their existence is threatened by a logging company personified by a lollipop-sucking magnate who lamented that even with hired goons, he still had to do everything himself.


But even after the birds succeed in fighting off the pesky humans, Blu ends up in the fight for his life because some people, or should I say some fowls, can really hold a grudge.


There are lots of messages, some irony and tons of good feeling in this movie. Some call it overloaded – like that’s a bad thing. It just means I’ll have to see it a couple more times to really appreciate all the things they stuffed into this movie.



(Reality) Check Please! – A Movie Review

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Where’s Madea when you need her?

I read somewhere that Tyler Perry does not allow his films to be previewed. But for “The Single Moms Club”, it would have been too late anyway.

What he really should have done, as my sister-in-law said, was to confer with mothers like us and obtain the reality check that this film needed. Because the spirit of the no-nonsense cantankerous female character that Perry sometimes plays, was sorely needed here to knock some sense into a few of the characters.

I don’t want to make this a black/white thing here, and I realize that Perry is trying to broaden his audience, but being a single mother of any persuasion is no excuse. That being said, some of the behaviours that some of the children in this movie were allowed to get away with had me saying, “Child, please!”

Which mother do you know – single or not – who’s going to have her child tell her that she (the mother) is ruining her life? When all she’s trying to do is provide those clothes she’s wearing and the food she’s obviously eating. I know a kid needs love and attention too – but that’s beside the point.

I’ve seen kids slam doors on parents before – but only in the movies – because that thought would not have ever crossed my mind when I was younger. Slam whose door? In whose house? Anyway, Perry uses this to demonstrate the child’s frustration, but I waited in vain to see how Nia Long’s character, May, acted the fool on her son’s behind. A sigh of exasperation is all I got.

And when he leaves the babysitter’s house, (as we later learn because he received a phone call from his father), without telling anybody, then comes back home the next day, walking into the house like he’s the one paying the bills, we’re supposed to believe that his mother’s tears aren’t quickly replaced by her resolve to make sure that he didn’t lose the care of his brain ever again.

I don’t know how Tyler Perry’s character (TK), wasn’t seeing a different side of her as he attempted to peel her off her son as he tried to save the boy’s life. But when we see her waiting for the son while he waits for hours for his father to show up only to be disappointed again, and we realize that she does this every time – it’s no wonder he thinks that he can talk to her any way he likes.

Thankfully, Lytia, the character played by Cocoa Brown is a truer representation of the kind of parent who was your mother and not your friend, but as my viewing partner said, her son still had way too much sass for someone whose mother swore that “standing on his neck” was a sure way to bring a disobedient child in line.

The ‘Hillary’ character played by Amy Smart, was a complete waste of time. She was newly divorced, but it didn’t appear to me that she worked anywhere, so even with three children how is it that she was so unaware about the milestones that were taking place in her older daughter’s life? With the way she was going, she was likely to miss her baby’s first words and steps before she realized that the damsel in distress thing is just not going to work when you have some kids to mind.

Terry Crews’ character provided much needed comic relief, but maybe I’m still seeing “White Chicks” in the rearview mirror. He, along with four other guys in the movie ensure that these single moms all get their guys in the end. Although I can already see that some of them ain’t gonna last.

I like the fact that Tyler Perry attempted to get a diverse crew of women for this movie because we don’t all have to be from the same social groups and walks of life to be friends. But I’m not sure what May really wrote about in her book, because the social situations seemed a bit forced to me. But I’m nitpicking.

We’ve become accustomed to the social commentary in Perry movies, and this one was no exception. From welfare mothers to the drug culture to crime to workaholic mothers to irresponsible parenting to wanting more for your children than you had for yourself – it ran the gamut.

Hillary’s daughter tells her own mother that she doesn’t really know her and decides that it was time that they introduced themselves. And Lytia’s son tells her that she should trust that later in life he will remember what she will probably be telling him for years to come. Which is all that I can hope for my children too.

Some have complained that Perry tends to hit you over the head with his messages, so this time, a little child will lead you to them.

“12 Years a Slave” isn’t ‘Must See’ for me

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup Image credit:

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup
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How does the subject and content of a movie so distress you that you decide that you don’t even want to see it? Even though you know it’s well made. Even though some will probably say it’s just a movie. Even though some may say that you should feel obligated. Even though. But that’s how “12 Years a Slave” is for me.

I’m well aware that it’s based on a true story and that it is one of a few accurate depictions made recently about slavery. I’m aware that it was winning accolades long before it actually won for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and Lupita Nyong’o won the best supporting actress prize.

But to hear some of the people who saw it, I get the distinct impression that it’s something to be endured because of the subject matter. And that after they’ve done so, it’s like an accomplished feat. And they can, as we say locally, “breathe off”.

One person believes that the movie got made because Hollywood could sooner stomach twelve years as opposed to two hundred, but I’m not sure that I can manage two hours myself. I had deliberately avoided asking people who saw the movie about their impressions, so that when I eventually summoned the courage to see it, I would be able to do so without prejudice.

But after my husband went, told me a few highlights and how he felt while viewing it, I’m not even sure whether I’ll manage to see it even when I can cry out loud.

I was reminded of the 2004 Mel Gibson produced movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. Like that movie, which details the arrest, trial, conviction and crucifixion of Christ, the account of slavery is one we’ve heard told a million times before. We know the basic story and we know how it ends. But reading about it is quite different from seeing a realistic depiction of all the particulars.

When I did go to see the above-mentioned movie, it felt like a requirement after years of Sunday school and Easter services. That, and the fact that my mother wanted to see it too. Having previously been told that the whipping scenes were gruesome, I had to gather my courage to go. So I went.

I didn’t bother to purchase any popcorn. Somehow I just knew that munching on the kernels and sipping a soda would seem a bit misplaced given the subject matter. This was borne out by the buckets that were abandoned by the other movie go-ers just minutes into the film.

Similarly, I imagine that a visit to the cinema to see “12 Years a Slave” would mean expecting the worst and actually getting it. It might also mean testing myself to see how many scenes I could actually watch without closing my eyes or having my vision clouded by tears. And wondering, as we say here, how people could treat other people “so…”.

As a black Caribbean person, the story of slavery is the story of my ancestors, and although there may have been some differences in the North American version, (they picked cotton – my ancestors cut cane), the underlying theme of cruelty and dehumanization is the same. And being a member of the visual generation, a movie showing just how the people who came before me “lived” and died, should be “must-see” for me.

But even though I know that children were separated from their mothers in slavery, I don’t want to see the heartache etched on that mother’s face as her children are taken away.

Even though I know that all slaves lived in fear of whippings or death, I don’t want to see how their fate was balanced on the whim of a man who was considered superior simply because of his skin colour.

And even though I know that many women who were slaves were raped repeatedly by those who owned them, I don’t want to see the look of defeat on their faces and imagine what they must have been thinking as they were forced to submit.

If I do see the movie, I won’t consider it an accomplishment on my part. That’s already been done by all the people who brought Solomon Northup’s story to life.

Last Night Was…. A Movie Review

Predictable, improbable and annoying.

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I’ve become accustomed to ticking all that apply in the movies that I watch. Particularly the formulaic ones. And the Kevin Hart remake of “About Last Night”, delivers the expected happy ending without too much effort.

The characters played by Joy Bryant and Paula Patton just got on my nerves. Thankfully, the latter’s time on the screen was brief, but I’ve got to say that I appreciated that they didn’t do the usual, and have the homecoming of the live-in girlfriend of Michael Ealy’s character coincide with the ex-wife’s visit to his apartment in her “drunken” state. Because, of course, she would have gotten the wrong idea.

But that would have led to the inevitable break-up and we weren’t yet at the halfway point of the movie. So we see him confessing even though nothing happened, while she continues to make him feel more uncomfortable about the pace of the relationship.

Joy Bryant’s character, Debbie, meanwhile, is busy making the former bachelor pad more suitable to her tastes -annoying even to this female- including adding a dining table suitable not only for Thanksgiving dinner with friends, but also, I imagine, for the occasional tryst when the bedroom is just too far away. But she later realizes what’s up when she asks whether their relationship is one really long one-night stand.

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I actually began to feel a little claustrophobic myself and was beginning to wonder how long it was going to take for the forseeable future to show up. Kevin Hart’s character overcompensates as he always does – so he’s the loudest one in the room. But both he and Regina Hall’s character (who he initially sees as just a friend with benefits for him), provide much needed comic relief.

Fast forward a few months and we see both couples deciding to move on from each other, but not at the same time. So when the longed-for Thanksgiving dinner with company comes around, Hart’s character brings his new partner causing his old one to show her true colours, and her love.

Predictably, Ealy’s character realizes that he really is ready for a committed relationship – after the girlfriend moves out – since he had been using his failed relationship with his ex-wife as his defense. Hart’s character meanwhile used his mouth as his protection.

I was actually rooting for the more unconventional couple because, with their role playing and experimentation, their relationship would certainly be the more interesting one. After Hart and Hall’s characters realize that they can’t live without each other, they decide to help their friends get together again – but one has to wonder whether it’s worth it if they can’t find their way to each other on their own.

So while the movie had a happy ending, I’m not sure that there would have been a happily ever after.

Looking Forward to the Past – A Movie Review

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“Some people have a problem dealing with the past”, says Judy Dench’s character in the movie “Philomena”, in which she plays the title role, as a retired Irish nurse who decides that the time has come to confront her own.

Based on the book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee”, written by a former BBC journalist Martin Sixsmith, the movie tells the story of a mother who decides to look for the child who was given up for adoption 50 years ago.

But it’s more accurate to say that the child, a product of an unwed teenaged mother and a passing boy, was not so much willingly given up by the convent-bound mother, as he was sold to an American couple who wanted to adopt a child.

The mother’s search for her son was fuelled by several desires on her part. First was to know whether he was still alive and whether he was well. Two of her greatest fears was that he turned out to be homeless or worse yet – obese, due to the eating habits of the people of his adopted homeland.

But I think that what she really wanted was to know the kind of person her son became. Most of us who are able to raise our children, do so with the intention of imparting important values.  We get to show and tell them the right things to do. Our love and guidance all contribute to the people they become. She never had that opportunity, and along with letting him know that she never gave him up, she wanted to know who he turned out to be.

The nuns at the convent that had been her home decided to erase the shameful history of the Roscrea Abbey by burning all the records pertaining to the adoptions that they took part in for years. And the Sister-in-charge, while still alive, refused to consider that maybe the punishment meted out to the girls didn’t quite fit the crime. How do you look in the face of a past 50 year old woman now, and tell her that you still believe she deserved exactly what she got back then?

But what I thought was the main character’s unfathomable penchant for finding excuses for those who did her wrong, was really her strength in finding it in her heart to forgive. And like the reporter who helped her find her son admitted, I probably couldn’t do it either.

In the end, she never did get to meet her son, as he was again taken from her – this time by death. He became a successful lawyer, and she comforted herself with the fact that his opportunities would not have been as great had he not been adopted. But her greatest consolation must have been knowing that in requesting that he be buried in the land of his birth, he had not forgotten her – or his past.

Maternal Instincts – Movie Review

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I’ve said before that the two occasions on which the main players look their best – at weddings and funerals – are the same occasions when the rest of us can look our worst. I guess there’s something about celebrating the beginning of a new life that a marriage is, or the ending of another through death, that causes some of us to act out.

That’s one of the impressions that I was left with after viewing the movie, “August: Osage County”. Secrets are uncovered, plain speech is discovered, and a daughter takes her mother down as she attempts to find the pills that she’s convinced are the cause of her mother’s mean-spiritedness. So no, it’s not the feel-good movie of the year.

The family members gather to attend the funeral of a man who committed suicide, it seems, because his life had become unbearable. Living with a wife who was suffering from mouth cancer but who still insisted on having her smokes, one wonders if her strong mouth and caustic speech was what drove him to take his life, because something else had already driven him to drink.

The three mothers in this film wouldn’t exactly be called nurturing, but that’s probably because each had her own demons to contend with.

The widow, thought that it was the perfect opportunity to tell her daughter that she broke her father’s heart when she moved away from home. But while she pushed the father out front, it was obvious that the daughter never showing up to give support to her, was only one of many hurts.

The widow’s sister-in-law considered her only son a disappointment to her and all concerned, but it was likely that since she’d been dancing with guilt for years concerning his paternity, she never really saw her son – only her mistake.

And the widow’s daughter, who was herself the mother of a teenaged girl, seemed unwilling to take any of the responsibility for the fact that her child was well on her way to disregarding her own mother, and continuing the cycle of blame.

The end of someone’s life causes most of us to reflect on our own lives, and the characters in this movie probably did this in spades – and none of them was happy with what they were seeing.

Unfortunately, when our lives that generally hold so much promise at the beginning, show no such sign of it at the end, we would probably agree with the main protagonist when she says, “Thank God we can’t tell the future – we’d never get out of bed”.

The Best Man Holiday – Movie Review

Someone who saw “The Best Man Holiday” before me remarked that the subject matter was a bit dark for a Christmas movie. Luckily I didn’t hear that comment before I saw it, because it’s true. It was billed as a comedy-drama, but now I know why the cast members wanted to give nothing away.

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With all the lavish decorations and the joy at seeing the reunited cast, it was a while before I realized where this whole thing was going – even though the character who dies at the end of the movie didn’t really look too healthy at the start. She is the one who’s instrumental in getting all the friends together for what we realize will be her last time with them. And some fractured relationships are mended too.

As with many movies, there are improbable moments or things that you and I wouldn’t do, but I guess they’re there to move the plot along. Here are the ones I’m highlighting.

1. Taye Diggs’ character ain’t learned nothing these many years later. How does he manage to get caught with incriminating evidence relating to the friend with whom he has a strained relationship? How does he manage to leave said evidence in the same friend’s car in an open bag ready to spill its contents?

2. Tell me which woman you know is going to let some football player who’s skilled at making touchdowns, put his unwashed arm up her cervix and risk introducing an  infection – for her and her child? And we’re supposed to believe that because he didn’t pass out during the delivery of his own children, he can be talked through the process by a doctor on the phone.

3. How is it that the wife always manages to come upon her husband just as he’s comforting his former girlfriend? And he says it’s not what it looks like – although it very much looks like what it looks like. But maybe that’s just her feeling insecure.

4. Which woman do you know that is not only going to be okay with her husband remarrying after she’s gone, but is so involved that she can say who it shouldn’t be?

5. And tell me. If you’re trying to keep your illness secret, would you be sitting on your living room floor coughing up blood in the washcloth that you’re conveniently carrying around?

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Despite these, however, I enjoyed the movie. It was beautifully filmed and the many women in the cast meant that I had my fill of fashionable clothing. There was a section with a number of gratuitous curse words, which means that I won’t be able to take my mother to see this movie without having a strategically placed coughing fit.

But Terrence Howard’s character has to have the last say, when he proclaims that he’s giving up the bachelor life for marriage. To whom, we’re not sure.

Let’s hope they don’t take too long to make the sequel this time. We aren’t getting any younger.