Thursday, May 21, 2009


Title: "Fighting" (2009)
Genre: Action/ Drama
Rating: PG-13 (for intense fight sequences, a sex scene, and brief strong language)
Length of Time: 105 mins

What is it about?: Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) is a southern boy who has found himself on the cruel streets of New York City, hustling counterfeit merchandise to survive. After being noticed in a fight, soft-talking Harvey Boarden (Terrance Howard) becomes Shawn's manager and coach and introduces him to the underworld of bare-knuckled street-fighting with high-stakes gambling and prize money. Shawn also meets and woos Zulay Valez (Zulay Henao), a single mother working as a club waitress. As their relationship blossoms, so does Shawn's street-fighting credibility.

My Review: 3/5 Stars. Ok... you caught me. I almost gave it 4 stars... not because the movie was better than 3, but because I'm a Channing Tatum fan. I have a tendency to overrate movies with hansomely rugged male eye-candy... like Vin Diesel in "Pitch Black". "Chronicles of Riddick" was worthy of all the praise... "Pitch Black", maybe not as much.


As I was saying--Channing Tatum was impressive in the fight sequences. Don't you just love an actor who digs in to perfect his craft no matter the pain or cost? Well, during one fight, Channing's nose was actually broken and he got up and continued to fight. They reset his nose with spoons and all, but the pain and blood did not stop him from giving the viewers all he had. Outstanding.

Terrance Howard is always a favorite onscreen... no different here.

I don't know what "sex" the MPAA is referring to with its rating. I remember a kissing scene... is that considered sex now? Implying sex must be enough to make it a sex scene. Either way, don't be fooled by the rating. You will see excellent chemistry between Zulay and Channing (he's engaged to Jenna Dewan, his co-star in "Step Up"), but you won't see much more than a lip lock.

The movie plays up some major tension between Channing's character and Brian White's character, Evan Hailey. That just didn't work for me. I really was wondering--what's the big deal? Same with the anger Shawn felt towards Zulay and Harvey... or even why they felt it necessary to keep the stupid secret to begin with. Shawn also had an issue with his dad that was just too sensitive for him to talk about. What? It all was just a bit overblown. Sure, tension is necessary for every movie, but I felt it was contrived and lackluster here. Perhaps its overindulgence was just a setup for the twist in the end.... but even that was predictable.

My Recommendation: Watch it... but don't expect too much. You should enjoy the performances of Terrance Howard, up-and-coming model-turned-actor, Channing Tatum, and Zulay's older relative (Alba Guzman) played by Altagracia Guzman. If you enjoy fight scenes, these should be entertaining for you, especially the last one. If you don't like to watch fight scenes the name of the movie should be warning enough for you to skip it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Title: "Obsessed" (2009)
Genre: Drama/ Thriller
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material including suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content)
Length of Time: 108 mins

What is it about?: Derek Charles (Idris Elba) is a successful asset manager who lives comfortably with his wife Sharon (Beyonce Knowles) and their son. When a sexy office temp, Lisa Sheridan (Ali Larter), sets her sights on Derek and decides she will stop at nothing to have him, things turn fatal.

My Review: 3/5 Stars... rounded up from 2.5 stars. It's not good, but it's not terrible either. It's just ok. The ending is predictable and the story is unoriginal.

This obsessive plot has been done before (and better, I might add) in "Fatal Attraction", "Disclosure", "Wicker Park", and other similar films. "Obsessed" tries to be different by making the "temp" (for temptress) a Caucasian woman who tries to seduce an African-American man. That difference is just blah... it adds nothing of substance.

The second difference is that the man happens to be very strong-willed and devoted to his wife. He rebuffs Lisa's strong, over-the-top advances... and well, that part was just plain unbelievable. It's not that I don't believe fidelity is possible or that African-American men can't say no to a Caucasian woman. It just seems a far stretch here.

And since we have a "strong" African-American wife in this movie, she actually fights the woman who's trying to break up her family. Ok... so that's different too... but also not very believable. No, I'm not saying the wife would not have fought hard for her family. I'm saying Beyonce's portrayal of this woman was unconvincing... laughable even. Her line, "Somebody better do something or I will", made me roll my eyes and think "Yeah, right". I just did not buy that she was the bad ass she was trying to give off (and I like Beyonce). The rivalry between the two women did make for an interesting cat fight at the end... and that will probably be the most enjoyable part of the film for most viewers... but it's just not enough to make it a good one.

Lastly, as with all movies of obsession, there has to be an element of craziness. Ali pulled that off well, but it didn't make sense why she was so obsessed over this particular man. He was just an ordinary dude working in the office she was temping at. Why was this seemingly intelligent woman so crazy over him... especially with absolutely no provocation on his part? Unless he was actually a movie star (like Will Smith) and she was some obsessed fan, it just didn't add up. If she was that crazy, how in the world did she manage to function as long as she had?

This movie just did not deliver, but frankly, I was not surprised. Don't let the box office revenue fool you. When I first saw the preview, I wondered how the writer and director would make this movie different from "Fatal Attraction" but still make it good. So I watched out of curiosity. I have a feeling everyone else did as well. I now know they couldn't make the film as good and I suspect other viewers are discovering the same thing.

My Recommendation: If you have absolutely nothing better to do one lazy weekend afternoon, give this movie a viewing. The key to it is not to get caught up in the hype about it. If you watch with little to no expectations, you may be alright. Since the clips in the trailer are the best parts, you could just watch the trailer a couple of times and skip the movie.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marley & Me

Title: Marley & Me (2008)
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG (for thematic material, some suggestive content and language)
Length of Time: 115 mins

What is it about?: Newlyweds, Jennifer (Jennifer Aniston) and John Grogan (Owen Wilson), embark upon a new life together with dreams, aspirations, and apprehensions about their future. In order to postpone having children, John gets a puppy. Marley grows from a terribly undisciplined pup to a full-grown, equally undisciplined dog. The Grogan family grows also. They encounter up and downs and learn how to tackle their problems together.

During the turmoil, John writes about their experiences with Marley in a newspaper column. Although getting through their problems is not easy, Jennifer and John discover unconditional love, forgivenness, and tenacity from their beloved dog.

My Review: 4/5 Stars. Admittedly, comedy is not my favorite genre. You won't even see one listed on my "Top 10 Favorite Movies" list to the right. BUT I did enjoy this movie. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are masters at comedic timing and it shows here. They are a joy to watch throughout the entire 115 mins.

Then, there's Marley. All the different dogs playing this character are absolutely adorable. Dog-lover or not, it's hard for one to watch and not feel love for Marley. Yes, he gets in to trouble. Yes, he's quite the responsibility. And yes, he's irreplaceable.

"Marley & Me" is narrated by Owen, which makes it a very personable love story between a new family and its dog. As the family finds balance between dreams and family, Marley continues to teach them about unconditional, timeless love. That's a great story, no matter who's teaching the lesson.

I saw myself in this movie, as I often do, not just because the Marley puppy reminded me of my dog, Butchy (from when I was little), or because the older Marley reminded me of my dog, Grizzly (from the not-to-distant past), but because I am a wife and mother with hopes and dreams of my own. Jennifer's characterization of a woman struggling to be fulfilled during each cycle of life ended more positively than Kate Winslet as April in "Revolutionary Road", but it was no less intense and identifiable.

My favorite lines from the movie:
Owen said, "Mend it. Don't end it."
Jennifer said, "I've given up so much of what made me who I am."--I know exactly how she feels!

Some may be excited to see "Grey's Anatomy" star, Eric Dane (Sebastian), as John's best friend. I personally thought his character was dull, immature, and superficial... I guess that was the point.

My Recommendation: I recommend you watch this, preferably with your family. You may want to steal a glance or two in their direction as you watch with a renewed sense of appreciation and love for them. I hope so anyway... then again, I may be asking for too much. Well, at the very least, I suspect you'll get more than you bargained for if you're looking for a few laughs because this is a mult-layered movie with meaning, as well as humor. Don't be fooled by the genre and think you will just laugh throughout. In fact, I recommend keeping a box of tissues nearby... Just saying.