REVIEW: The Call

6 08 2017

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing an Academy Award-winning actress reduced to doing the cinematic equivalent of TV network crime procedurals, you’re in luck. Brad Anderson’s “The Call,” starring Halle Berry, exists. That’s about all you can say for it.

In the film, Berry plays 911 operator Jordan Turner, a woman who botched one call so badly that … she still keeps answering 911 calls. She should have trusted her gut because she ends up on the other line with Abigail Breslin’s Casey Welson in the process of her kidnapping. “The Call” does have its share of intense moments, to be fair, but you can see every plot twist and turn coming from a mile away. If it weren’t for the presence of someone like Halle Berry, so hell-bent on making it seem deadly serious, the film might play like a parody of these low rent thrillers. But alas, it’s the kind of soft lob up the middle that you expect.

When brushing up on the specifics of the film to write this review, I learned from the Wikipedia page that writer Richard D’Avidio originally envisioned it as a television series. This format confusion actually says a lot about the form of the finished film. “The Call” plays like a bloated pilot, something that easily has 42 minutes worth of watchable material but gets padded with filler stretching the length to merit a theatrical release. C+

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REVIEW: X-Men: Days of Future Past

12 06 2014

Thanks to the patience and planning of Marvel that culminated in “The Avengers,” now every franchise is rushing to super-size their output by converging as many properties into one film as humanly possible.  Among these stuffed tentpoles, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is probably about as clever as we can expect them to get.  Bryan Singer’s latest entry in the franchise plays to its greatest strength, the strong ensemble cast, to help power what is otherwise a fairly average film.

In 2011, the series essentially rebooted with a cast of rising stars that included James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult as younger versions of the characters.  Not that the original cast was lacking in talent with Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, and Halle Berry.

Since their timeline never really ended (not that this stops the studios nowadays), what better way to bridge old and new than with a little bit of time travel?  And who better to be the intermediary than Jackman’s Wolverine, the only character popular enough to inspire spin-offs?  It all makes perfect sense.

“Days of Future Past” also manages to incorporate Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique into the proceedings quite a bit more.  That, of course, couldn’t possibly be because she’s the most loved actress in America at the moment.  It just so happens that she’s the key to preventing annihilation of mutants in the bleak future inhabited by the older versions of the characters.  Wolverine must travel back to the ’70s to prevent her from assassinating defense contractor Raymond Trask (Miles Finch himself, Peter Dinklage) and enabling the creation of the mutant-massacring Sentinels.

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REVIEW: New Year’s Eve

2 01 2012

What were you doing this new year’s eve?  I hope you were celebrating with those you love or just celebrating in general.  But if you happened to be at the movie theater, I pray that you were nowhere near the egregious load of crap disguised as a movie called “New Year’s Eve.”  If you were one of those looking to get in the holiday spirit, I surmise you walked out not blissful for the year to come but rather disgusted that movies like this are allowed to exist.

Only see the movie for the following reasons:

1. You for some reason like to watch bad actors doing bad acting.  Yes, Katherine Heigl, you should not have spit in Judd Apatow’s face because he actually gave you a multi-dimensional character.  Now, enjoy being stuck in movies like this and “Life As We Know It” for the rest of your life.  Zac Efron … it’s official, your glory days were in the “High School Musical” era.  And in case you need a reminder, many musicians can’t act – looking at you, Ludacris and Jon Bon Jovi.  Oh, and Lea Michele too, who somehow to forgot how to act between “Spring Awakening” and “New Year’s Eve,” picking up how to be a gratingly obnoxious diva.  (Wait, she got that from “Glee!”  Thanks a lot, Ryan Murphy…)

2. You for some reason like to watch good actors doing bad acting.  Can you count the Oscar wins and nominations on this poster?  13 Oscar nominations and 5 wins.  While we can’t get the Academy to reclaim the statues (and indeed they shouldn’t), we as a public can take away their credibility and prestige.  I just don’t understand why Robert DeNiro can’t seem to stop the out-of-control downward spiral that is his career.  Strangely enough, the most unbearable members of the cast is a horserace between two-time Oscar champion Hilary Swank and three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer.  Any good will for a career comeback after “Hairspray” just went down the drain.

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“Frankie & Alice” Poll Results

17 01 2011

Have you seen “Frankie & Alice?”

Don’t worry, unless you live in Los Angeles or New York, you probably haven’t.  No, it didn’t bomb that badly – it hasn’t even opened for normal moviegoers yet!  You’ll have to wait until February 4 for that honor, and probably even longer depending upon where you live.

The movie’s only real chance is in Best Actress for star Halle Berry, who has basically been pushing the movie by her own money and might.  She did manage to score a Golden Globe nomination, and that means there still could be a chance that she sneaks into the Oscar five.

Here are some of the points I brought up for her chances back before the race officially began:

“As The Los Angeles Times put it, “for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories in the February ceremony.”  Who better than to prove that statement made in September wrong than Halle Berry, the first African-American actress to win Best Actress.  But ever since that tearful speech, things haven’t been going to well for Berry as she fell into the “Best Actress Curse” rut that has consumed so many worthy actresses.

Since 2001, Berry has been a Bond girl in “Die Another Day,” the movie so dreadful it caused the series to reboot, the notorious feline in “Catwoman,” which won her a not-so-coveted Razzie, and the star of two other movies scoring in the 10% fresh range on Rotten Tomatoes.  Her only movie to be certified fresh since “Monster’s Ball” won her the trophy was “X-Men 2.”  Clearly Berry has strayed far away from Oscar territory (and her 2007 attempt, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” got her nowhere) … like the prodigal son, they could be willing to welcome her back with open arms.”

But now, she’s a longshot at best, and Berry hasn’t posed enough of a threat to have an Oscar season storyline to boost her chances.  When I polled the readership, the two voters were split on whether she would once again be nominated for an Oscar.  While I don’t write off a nomination entirely, something tells me that the Globes are where this train stops.





Oscar Moment: “Frankie & Alice”

23 11 2010

How important is it for the diversity of Hollywood actors to be represented at the Oscars?  That’s a question many voters will be facing this year when they fill out their ballots.  Many pundits have put all the hopes of breaking up what appears to be 20 white acting nominees on the backs of 2001’s winner for Best Actress, Halle Berry.

Her latest movie, “Frankie & Alice,” made a last-second entry into the Oscar race not too much unlike “Crazy Heart” did last year.  But unlike Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning vehicle, Berry’s contention in Best Actress has hardly shaken anything up.  Of the 15 awards season analysts labeled the “Gurus o’ Gold,” not a single one of them included Berry in their five picks for Best Actress.  Ouch.

Perhaps it’s just the circumstances that make Berry feel like such a great contender.  As The Los Angeles Times put it, “for the first time since the 73rd Oscars 10 years ago, there will be no black nominees in any of the acting categories in the February ceremony.”  Who better than to prove that statement made in September wrong than Halle Berry, the first African-American actress to win Best Actress.  But ever since that tearful speech, things haven’t been going to well for Berry as she fell into the “Best Actress Curse” rut that has consumed so many worthy actresses.

Since 2001, Berry has been a Bond girl in “Die Another Day,” the movie so dreadful it caused the series to reboot, the notorious feline in “Catwoman,” which won her a not-so-coveted Razzie, and the star of two other movies scoring in the 10% fresh range on Rotten Tomatoes.  Her only movie to be certified fresh since “Monster’s Ball” won her the trophy was “X-Men 2.”  Clearly Berry has strayed far away from Oscar territory (and her 2007 attempt, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” got her nowhere).

This could work in two ways.  First, like the prodigal son, they could be willing to welcome her back with open arms.  Or, the alternative is that they could shun her for disgracing her title as “Academy Award Winner Halle Berry.”  The movies she has been taking don’t exactly merit the descriptor.

A woman in the 1970s with multiple personality syndrome is more traditional bait for the Oscars, and people losing their minds traditionally go over well with the Academy (see: Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married,” Julie Christie in “Away from Her,” and Judi Dench in “Iris”).  But until she gets some big critical support, I don’t see this campaign going anywhere.

She does have one admirer, though.  Here’s pundit Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly last week on Berry in “Frankie & Alice:”

“The former Best Actress winner for ‘Monster’s Ball’ gives another strong, gutsy performance as a stripper with multiple-personality disorder (her other two personas are a racist white woman and, most arrestingly, a small child). Whether or not the film will be well-received enough for Berry to be able to challenge … Annette Bening and … Natalie Portman remains to be seen. But I’d certainly put her on the list of eight women … that have the best shot at filling out the five Best Actress slots this year.”

Perhaps there is hope.

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Actress (Berry)





F.I.L.M. of the Week (May 21, 2010)

21 05 2010

I thought I would give a one-week reprieve from the heavier movies. Now, the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” takes a step towards the wrenching with “Monster’s Ball,” a movie with the power to conjure up all sorts of emotions. You might remember the movie because of Halle Berry’s emotional Oscar speech after becoming the first African-American to win Best Actress. But as soon as you watch the movie, you will remember the movie because of her performance, which is the film’s heart and soul.

Berry inhabits the character of Leticia Musgrove, a woman who is stuck in circumstances she can’t stand. Her husband (Sean Combs or whatever shortening of his name he goes by now) is set to receive the death penalty. Her son (Coronji Calhoun in a mesmerizing and powerful debut performance) is morbidly obese, and she can’t get him to lay off the candy bars. Her car is busted, her house is about to be foreclosed, her job situation is hectic. Most of all, her soul is weak under all these burdens.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Hank, a correctional officer at the prison where Leticia’s husband is executed. He is a cold-hearted racist and doesn’t hesitate showing it. He can’t stand his son (Heath Ledger) who is trying to follow his own moral compass. He is bitter for being straddled with the care of his ailing father (Peter Boyle), an even more extreme racist than himself.

Don’t Leticia and Hank sound like an unlikely pair?  Moreover, doesn’t Hank’s shoulder seem like the least likely place for Leticia to cry into?  Yet as events unfold, the two connect in surprising ways, shocking the traditional Southern community around them.

Halle Berry is absolutely astonishing, hitting every emotional high and low with pin-point precision.  There’s no doubt that she deserved the Oscar.  I haven’t seen “Things We Lost in the Fire,” her only non-comic book or action movie since her win, but I’m a little upset that she has squandered such incredible talent on such unworthy material.  She needs to get back to roles like these, ones that accurately showcase just how talented she is.  Maybe Mo’Nique and “Monster’s Ball” producer Lee Daniels will give her a role in the Hattie McDaniel movie – here’s hoping!





Random Factoid #222

7 03 2010

It’s today!  Here’s hoping for some upsets … I don’t like predictable shows.

My little fun factoid for the day is that whenever I was 9 years old, I recorded the Oscar broadcast on VHS (what’s that, ask the young ones out there?  Go ask your search engine!) and watched it repeatedly.  I was smitten with such presenters as Halle Berry and Reese Witherspoon that I even went to such lengths as transcribing their introductions WORD BY WORD, painstakingly rewinding and fast forwarding.

Yeah, it was bad back then.  It still is.