Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009)

Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Sherri Shepherd

Directed by Lee Daniels

Expectations: Moderate.


Precious tells the story of a 16-year-old girl, pregnant with her second child, and her day-to-day struggles to overcome her abusive mother and her second grade reading and writing levels. The film is an incredibly emotional tale and it is hard to watch at times. Gabourey Sidibe is fantastic as Precious. She really hits the early scenes when Precious is illiterate and then skillfully handles the character’s transformation into a strong woman, focused on her education and her children. For me, this is the stand-out debut performance of 2009 and I hope that she is able to get some more roles that can really showcase her talent and range. Mo’Nique is also fantastic as Precious’s mother. Her Oscar was very well deserved.

From a filmmaking standpoint the film is a bit uneven. There are moments when I felt that director Lee Daniels knew exactly what he wanted to do and he executed it well. For almost every time I thought that though, there would be another time when I felt that he was struggling to figure out exactly how to handle something. I mostly had problems with some of the scene transitions. There were a number of fade-to-black moments after scenes that didn’t make sense and only served to drain the momentum of the film. There’s also a lot of handheld work and on-the-fly snap zooming that really serves no purpose. Handhold it if you want, but we don’t need to see you zoom in, then decide that you need to zoom in more, then to finally zoom back to where we started, all within the space of three seconds.

Continue reading Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (2009) →

Idiocracy (2006)

Idiocracy (2006)
AKA Planet Stupid

Starring Luke Wilson, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, Terry Crews, Anthony Campos, David Herman, Sara Rue, Kevin McAfee, Robert Musgrave, Michael McCafferty, Justin Long, Andrew Wilson, Kevin Klee

Directed by Mike Judge

Expectations: Moderate. I knew close to nothing going in except it was about stupid Americans and Mike Judge made it. What else do you need to know?


So there’s this movie about ridiculous, satirical, future extremes of American consumerism? And I haven’t seen it yet? What? Somehow this slipped under my radar but that has now been rectified. This kind of thing could go so wrong though. It could end up being so ridiculous that it misses the point. It could be great for the first twenty minutes and then devolve into fart jokes. Thankfully, it mostly steers clear of convention and I found myself thoroughly entertained.

An Army librarian (Luke Wilson) is chosen to test a new human freezing procedure. Along for the ride is a prostitute played by Maya Rudolph from SNL. Anyway, the cryo tubes get lost and the test subjects aren’t awakened at the prescribed time. Instead they wake up in the year 2505, where, after 500 years of the stupid people having babies, the American public has degenerated into infantile, entertainment-consuming idiots. Shows such as Ow, My Balls! on the Violence Network top the charts. People can’t even speak correct English anymore.

Continue reading Idiocracy (2006) →

Red Cliff: Part I (2008)

Red Cliff Part I [赤壁] (2008)
AKA The Battle of Red Cliff

Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun, Shidō Nakamura, Lin Chi-ling, Tong Dawei, Hou Yong, You Yong

Directed by John Woo

Expectations: Moderate. I loved John Woo when I was a teenager, but I am more realistic about his strength as a filmmaker these days.


No one films action like John Woo. He is known for it and he does it very well. The action sequences in Red Cliff: Part I are outstanding, specifically the battle at the end of the film. The final battle fills up most of the last hour and it flies by. Without a doubt, one of the best action sequences in recent memory. It’s incredibly inventive and it feels like new ground, which is hard considering the massive legacy of kung fu pictures.

But to lump Red Cliff with standard kung fu films is wrong, because it really is more than that. It’s epic in its scope and its production design. It’s a kung fu film for the post-Lord of the Rings film era. But this is also where it falls a bit short for me. This first part of the film runs 146 minutes. It’s long. It feels long. There are times when certain scenes don’t seem necessary, so I found myself waiting through them, hoping for a better one next time. But a lot of my disappointment stems from my expectations. I came in to this film expecting a John Woo action picture. It delivers on that promise, no doubt, but it just takes a while to get there, so plan accordingly.

Continue reading Red Cliff: Part I (2008) →

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