Bougie Movie Review

Three things to love about A Long Walk to Freedom

BougieMom, BougieSis and I headed out the day after Christmas to see A Long Walk to Freedom, the highly touted bio-pic on Nelson Mandela. Five stars, all the way around. Visually rich, evoking both poignancy and pride, the film provides a fresh and in depth measure of a man who altered the course of history. It was brilliantly cast and lovingly filmed. Here are three things I loved about it:

1. All the Idris. There's a pivotal scene where he got out of a car asking, "Somebody want me?" and I held myself back from raising my hand in a fervent affirmative. Moving on... Beyond the fine (and there's just so much fine) and perhaps more important than the fine is all the brilliance. Though I would not have believed it to be true, there came a time in the movie where all I saw was Mandela. Not Idris as Mandela but Mandela. He morphed in the man. I've seen Idris in a lot of film and television, this is his triumph. Oscar needs to come a-calling.

2. Winnie's struggles. I've been oft-irritated by the media's need to footnote Winnie Mandela as Nelson's ex-wife and whittle her role in his life down to a footnote. In this film we are able to see that Winnie was as much terrorized and imprisoned for 27 years as he was. In different ways but persecuted just the same. It's patently unfair and illogical not to relegate her into less than what she is. A strong woman, flawed but gifted and incredibly resilient and intelligent.

3. Mandela's humanity. Too many times when a man does heroic deeds, he is whitewashed as perfect. As though he is just the hero and not the sum of everything else that makes him uniquely him. However, this film allows you to see that Madiba was but a man with imperfections, vanity and ego. He did extraordinary things and made immeasurable change in the world. This movie allows you to celebrate the accomplishments while keeping it real. He was kind of a player. He wasn't above violence. There was some vanity there. None of that detracts from his legacy, just gives you additional flavor. I liked seeing it.

The movie moves smartly through Mandela's life rarely getting weighed down in one segment. If you feel like parts were skipped, imagine how long the movie would have had to run to get it all in there. There are, as you can imagine, moments that hit you in the gut and take your breath away at the unfairness of it all. There are lightbulb moments where you clearly understand the motivation and there are things that make you go hmmm. Less than a decade free and the South Africans elected a black president almost fifteen years before the US? Don't get me started...

Go see the movie. It's amazing. Enjoy. Who has seen it already? What did you think?

Five Reasons To See #BestManHoliday: A Bougie Movie Review

First, no spoilers. Feel free to read without fear of learning all the twists and turns (and there are plenty) in @TheBestManMovie.

My first thing was getting past the tagline: Times change. Friendship doesn't. That is patently untrue so start off by suspending your disbelief. Hey, this is a movie and movies need a premise. Friendships are tricky but they are a universal theme so we'll go with it. 

And now... a disclaimer: I will admit that I was not a huge fan of The Best Man. The characters didn't feel fully fleshed out, there was a lot (too much) going on and there were some characters you were supposed to like but didn't so much. Not only a hot mess movie but a wedding movie as well - reunion of old friends, bachelor/bachelorette party drama, drinking, confessions, fights, will they/won't they, they do, electric slide, garter toss, everybody's happy and we're out. Put that aside, this movie grows up. I appreciated it and found there are lots of reasons for everyone (both guys and gals) to go see this movie. I'm serious. Let's start with a trailer:

Okay then, here we go:

1) It's for the grown & sexy set. While there are universal themes that people of all ages will easily relate to, this movie is geared for people who have real-life-sometimes-shit-happens-and-you-got-to-deal-with-it experiences. I loved that about this movie. There are "we got kids" struggles, "we've been together and now what" struggles, the "I'm a professional woman and can I actually have it all" struggles as well as "what do do when your perfect life ain't perfect" struggles and "have I fully lived up to my potential or are my best days behind me" struggles. Here. For. It. All of it.

2) It's not really a chick flick. Oh there's enough hearts and flowers to spill into that territory but this movie deals with some real stuff. Yes, they feel compelled to bowtie up things up but that's just smart movie making. There's stuff that will make you think, laugh, cry, wince, drool and even "whelp!" Over-the-top but real. At one moment, half the audience stood up and applauded while the rest of us held our breath because we sensed what came next. That's smart theater.

3) It's well written, it's not just over-the-top dramatical, we need a laugh here, we need some skin there formulaic. It flows and makes sense (it's probably about twenty minutes too long but we forgive that part when they set up the ending). The characters become very much like prettier versions of people in your life that you've seen in similar situations. It feels like we've been invited into the plot and can hang out and make ourselves at home while everything unfolds.

4) Eye Candy. Eye Candy for the fellas, for the ladies, for the exotic, for the light and the dark. And it's all on display. Wonderfully wardrobed from evening wear to next to nothing, all of the pretty is on display.

5) It's better than the first one. Did I say that already? So much better, I need to check and see if the same person wrote them both. This one had some depth. Even the fellas at the screening were nodding like, "Okay." Something for everyone, I'm telling you. Except the kids, do not take kids to see this movie. Grown. And. Sexy.

If I may point out a few things:

  • Harper (Taye Digg's character) is supposed to be the main character but you find yourself not caring so much about his angsty angst especially when he just does stupid stuff.
  • Morris Chestnut has been fine for years. Years I say. God Bless that brother. His character is supposed to be a forgiving and forgetting Christian but "Lance" can't seem to do either. I would care more but damn he fine.
  • Terrence Howard always plays that dude. But he truly plays it to perfection. He and Melissa DeSousa are twisted sides of the same ratchet coin.
  • The soundtrack is smartly done. The duet of Marsha Ambrosius & Anthony Hamilton doing a gospel version of "As"... so much awesome.
  • Eddie Ciprian is underutilized. And yummy. But there's a scene between him and Nia Long that is so damn real, my girlfriends and I were like "Wooooo." (He also makes an awesome Olivia Pope reference)
  • Fellas, the ladies look good. And there's plenty of the sexy and silly for your viewing pleasure.
  • If you have any love for New Edition, the scene with the gents lip-syching "Can You Stand The Rain" is priceless. Say it with me now, priceless.

Look here, just go see it. It was really awesome. I expected it to be okay. It blew past that and kept going. I'm giving it 4 suede pumps out of 5.

Come back and let me know what you think. 

Sneak Peek: White House Down

The summer blockbusters started early and will continue well into August. In my eagerness to get it started, I dragged Beau Nouveau to Olympus Has Fallen and it almost killed the relationship dead. No Bueno. I like a good disaster movie. Olympus Has Fallen was not it. Even with the stellar cast. But I'm going to try one mo'gin. Friday, White House Down is coming out. It's eerily similar in that terrorists decide to tear up DC, grab the President and make a mockery of our defense systems. But I have high hopes for this one. Why?
  1. Channing Tatum shirtless or sleeveless - yep, I'm visual like that
  2. Jamie Foxx being funny. I know he has dramatic range but I like him best when he's being smart-alecky and witty. Also, since Django - he's looking awfully comfortable with a gun in his hand, isn't he? 
  3. Produced by Independence Day and Day After Tomorrow folks - they know how to really destroy a city and make it look desolate. Color me shallow, I like it when things go boom in a spectacular manner on the big screen.
  4. It's a cute premise, they aren't trying too hard. Here's the official synopsis: In Columbia Pictures’ White House Down, Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job with the Secret Service of protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).  Not wanting to let down his little girl with the news, he takes her on a tour of the White House, when the complex is overtaken by a heavily armed paramilitary group.  Now, with the nation’s government falling into chaos and time running out, it's up to Cale to save the president, his daughter, and the country. 
  5. Black president kicks ass? I'm here for it.
Let's check out the trailer:

Who's going to see it? I'm going to take a look on Saturday. If you go, report back and let me know what you think.

Five Reasons to go see #ManofSteel

I'll admit to being slightly prejudiced. I've have always loved Supey (my personal nickname for the Kryptonian Hero). I have seen just about every movie and cartoon adaption put out for major release. Some have been great, some not so good. But I love the overall story and concept of Superman so I'm always going to think favorably of an adaptation.

Man of Steel is almost two and a half hours long so it's a commitment but it's well worth it. No spoilers but here are five reasons why you should invest your time and money in the DC Comics-based classic.

1. Henry Cavill is glorious. Not just to look at (I do love the brown-haired, blue eyed guys with six packs... moving on) but also in his craft. It's one thing to play a lovable Kal-el/Clark Kent - it's another to give the character layers and facets. Henry Cavill does both. He makes the character both introspective and likeable. He's a damn fine American but a tortured Kryptonian with no home planet as well. I could explain more but take it from me. Mr. Cavill is more than eye-candy in an awesome suit.

2. The Two Dads. Jor-El kicks ass. Up until now, Marlon Brando had that whole omniscient kindly father of the hero won hands down. But Russell Crowe as the doomed but forward-thinking dad is not only cerebral but takes to fisticuffs as well. He manages to come across as both regal and real at the same time. They wisely devised ways to have him appear throughout the film and each scene with his presence was a treat. Kevin Costner as Jon Kent... well, Kevin's always good in the corn fields, isn't he? There's one particular moment with a tornado that was pure awesomeness.

3. The ladies. I'm not a huge Amy Adams fan. She tends to play variations of the same role over and over again. But she brought a little something something to Lois Lane. Edgy without being over-the-top driven. Attracted to the hero but not smitten. Lois had life outside of clinging to the cape of it all. Diane Lane as Clark's Kansas mom was a treat. She played sweet but sturdy Midwesterner Martha extremely well. Hat tip to Antje Traue who plays one of the villains. She threw herself  (literally) into the role with delicious unbridled malice. There was an oddly fascinating chemistry between her and Christopher Meloni that was fun to watch.

4. The supporting cast was the best I've seen in a while. It was like watching an All-Star game where even the folks coming off the bench could score 40 in a night. The afore-mentioned Meloni, Laurence Fishburn, Michael Shannon, Henry Lennix, Richard Schiff - you almost want to call them underutilized but having that kind of talent level even in smaller roles added to the over slick production and direction of the film.

5. The script was Oscar worthy. No, I'm not joking. To take a story that's been told over and over again and make it into something fresh and different is an award-level skill. This is the film where you get to understand what makes Supey tick and it's not just because he was plunked down on a planet where he rocks. Even the villain's motivations are explained in detail so you don't feel like the battle to save mankind is an afterthought. 

If I could change one thing it would be the prolonged battle sequences, particularly the last two. Too long and too much of the same crash-bang-boom. One other thing of note, as in The Matrix where you started getting the feeling that Neo was a Jesus allegory? Yep, there's a lot of favored son descending from the heavens to save mankind from themselves imagery here as well. I liked it but I'm sure others will be irked by some of the Judeo-Christian references. Note the halo in the poster? Yeah well, okay then. :)

Costumes were amazing, I saw it in 3D with Dolby so that was fairly epic. There were a few flashbacks that weren't as fluid as I would have liked. But all in all, it was a movie that I would go back and watch again and then again just in case I missed something. I was left wondering how in the world they would sequel that without ruining that feeling of closure they achieved but no doubt someone will find a way. I gave the move 4.5 stars out of five. Have  you seen it? Are  you going to? Do share (no spoilers, please)!!!

What about Love Jones 2?

Harper and the gang are coming back
It's been announced that filming for Best Man 2 is underway with the return of all the original cast members. To this I say - well okay. Not sure I was that invested in these characters that I necessarily am clamoring to see what happened to them. But in the dearth of feel good well cast rom-coms, I'll take it. I liked The Best Man, didn't love it, but it was a nice romantic comedy that didn't make me want to gnaw off my own arm and throw it at the screen (Why did I get married (1&2), Think like a Man, I could name more but we don't have all day here).

But this got me to thinking, what other African American rom-coms from "my era" would I love to see a sequel made? First thing that popped into my mind was Love Jones. Who doesn't want to see where Darius Lovehall is today? What's up with Nina? What happened to the hater in the group played by Bill Bellamy? These are questions I'd love to know the answers to. Even though Boyz in the Hood wasn't a rom-com, I'd be interested to see where those characters are twenty years later. 

What about you?

Will you go see Best Man 2? If you could green light a sequel to one of your favorites, what would it be? Do share and feel free to tell us why in the comments. Happy Monday!

Bougie Movie Review - Sparkle

I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.
Simply put, I found the remake of the 1976 film Sparkle to be good but not great nor an any way outstanding. Let me be honest and admit that I found the original to be just okay as well so my expectations were not soaring. For those unaware, Sparkle is about three sisters living with their strict mother in 1968 Detroit. Sparkle is the writer, Sister (the eldest) is the bombshell and Dee is along for the ride while waiting for her acceptance to medical school to kick in. For those of you who were strongly attached to the plot in the original, some surprises await you in the rebooted version.

Sparkle at its core is a good musical with entertainment value. Here's what truly resonated-

1. Whitney. She held her own and made a part that wasn't fully sketched out into a full-bodied character. Unfortunately, we were only given peeks at her backstory so we never completely understood her attitude. There was a spooky moment when as Emma, the mother of the three singing sisters, Whitney glared them all down and uttered, "Was my life not cautionary tale enough for you?" The entire audience held our collective breath for a minute. It was just a little too real. And watching Ms. Houston sing "His Eye is On The Sparrow" was tough. Say what you will about her voice in the last decade but she still knew how to deliver a song. 

2. The dudes - Derek Luke, Mike Epps, and Omari Hardwick play second fiddle to the sisters and it shows. We don't know a lot about them or what makes them tick so we just kind of take them at face value and keep it pushing.

3. Jordin Sparks - I have to admit not to paying a lot of attention to Ms. Sparks before this. I knew she was an American Idol winner and I liked her No Air song with the Bow-Tied Boy Wonder but I kind of wrote her off as a pop sort-of star who was kind of cute. Well, she showed me something. She's far more talented as a singer than I realized and there's something about her that's just likable.

4. Carmen Ejogo - In my opinion, this actress who played Sister stole the film. She's a gorgeous vibrating force on film and any time she entered a scene, your eyes stayed on her. Besides being physically blessed, I thought she added some depth to what could've been a shallow character.

Long story short, I didn't find it to be an instant classic. It was just nice. The music was well done (particularly the use of the great Nina Simone's Feeling Good) and the plot was as expected. But for a movie set in 1968 Detroit, I didn't get the feeling (with the exception of the makeup and clothing) that we were really immersed in that time and place. Especially with as much turmoil as 1968 brought to bear? I expected to feel more of that setting. At any rate, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

Thoughts, comments, questions? No spoilers in the comments, please!

#SafeHouse is pure action - A Bougie Movie Review

If you like nonstop action with a moral to the story? This is your movie. 

Denzel plays the sympathetic villain, Tobin Frost, with full gusto. He's an anti-hero. Complicated and weary before trying to do the right thing (sort of). You are in turn horrified, fascinated, bewildered and in awe of Tobin as you struggle to figure out what he is doing and why. You find yourself looking for reasons to like the diabolical and driven Frost even when he's doing something hateful. I'm sure this is supposed to be a vehicle for Ryan Reynolds but really, it's Denzel's movie that insert young likeable white guy here appears in. 

Chase scenes, explosions, and gun battles flow seamlessly in this well-penned tale with the breathtakingly beautiful back drop of South Africa thrown in for good measure. (Capetown has moved up my list of Places to See) There is not a moment to catch your breath with this fast paced plot. In fact there were times when I was holding my breath. The minute you relax, the action ramps back up. You literally spend the entire movie wondering "how are they going to get out of this"? 

If you are squeamish about blood and high body count - this is not your movie. It's not a family film. Someone brought their baby to the theater and after the 120th gunshot, that baby was like, "This is some shiggity, yo! Where the dancing penguins at?" Okay actually, the baby started wailing and was so inconsolable they had to take him out of there. I just translated for you.  Who brings a baby to a shoot-em-up movie? Moving on...

Mr. Reynolds still needs to work on bringing some depth and dimension to his acting. But of course, next to Denzel - he just had to hold his own. The screenwriters played off this "old pro vs new kid" vibe with a few scenes where the youngster was clearly out of depth both in and on the film. Sam Shepard plays a grizzled CIA director quite aptly. A very well done plot twist has you wondering who knows what and who are the real villains?

There were also a few "suspension of disbelief" moments for the purists out there. Yeah, I'm not sure who really stops to call their boo in the middle of gun battle central. Also there's a moment when someone is critically wounded without a car miles from Capetown and somehow ends up somewhere unlikely where he is magically not only unscathed but no worse for wear. Really? A-ight den.

All in all I give this movie 4 out 5 stars. The ending was kinda meh but after all the fireworks, you still felt somewhat vindicated. Action junkies & Denzel fans - hie thee to this one! (btw - if this how they get down at CIA safe houses? I do. not. want.)

Bougie Movie Review - Red Tails

Red Tails is a good movie, not a great one. If you are expecting a sweeping historical epic that takes you on a heart-racing journey, this isn't that. If you are expecting a pivotal snapshot of an important moment in Black History a la Malcolm X, this ain't that. Red Tails is an aptly-written, beautifully filmed enjoyable two hour movie. Period.

For those who don't know, Red Tails is about the Tuskegee Airman training program. The film was written by Aaron McGruder (The Boondocks) and John Ridley (U Turn, Three Kings, Undercover Brother). Anthony Hemingway (Ali, Changing Lanes, The Wire) directed the film. George Lucas executive produced this movie and felt so strongly about it, he wrote a personal check for upwards of $50 million when he couldn't get a studio to back the project.

I will admit, I felt compelled to support the movie after bitching about the TPization of the film industry and lamenting about "where have all the black films gone?" time after time. I have no desire to see Madea Flies Jets or Why Did I Get Married 6. So BougieMom and I hit the Studio Movie Grill for Friday's matinee.

The movie started off slow but picked up. Transitions between scenes weren't clear and you weren't 100% sure how much time passed from one movie moment to the next. You got the feeling that there was some stuff on the cutting room floor that might have filled in a blank or two. The dialogue had its moments, the cinematography and special effects were awesome, and you did find yourself engaged with the characters on the screen. No shocks, a few thrills, a few heart string pulls and a chuckle or two sums it up. If the story has a fatal flaw, it's predictability. Ya kinda knew what was gong to be said and done before it happened.

About the acting... I'm not a Terrence Howard fan. But this role was his least irksome in a while. I have a few issues with Cuba Gooding Jr but say what you will about dude (Snow Dogs, really son?) - his niche is playing that All-American character who delivers a catchy line and moves the story forward. Nate Parker played troubled squad leader Easy without much depth though David Oyelowo played hotshot pilot Lightning convincingly. To me, the surprise of the cast was Ne-Yo, playing a character named Smokie. He was surprisingly adept with comedic timing that stole many a scene. Andre Royo (Bubs from The Wire) was completely underutilized in his role as airplane mechanic.

The movie ended somewhat abruptly but still left you with the warm fuzzy wrapped up in a pretty bow. Overall, I give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5. It won't knock your socks off but doesn't leave you angry that you wasted your time and money. Not an instant classic but worth a look. Just one bougie chick's opinion.

In short, I liked it. Didn't love it, but liked it. BougieMom loved it (love, love, loved it) as did the others of her generation in the theater. The matinee was sparsely attended but when we walked out, the line was out the door and the ticket takers were already announcing that the next three shows of the night were sold out. Good for them.

Will you see (have you seen) it, BougieLand? Why or why not or what did you think? (no spoilers, please!)