Review


One Name, Two Fates

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is a memoir with a twist. Wes Moore is a young black man who rose from the drug, crime and poverty-stricken streets of Baltimore to attain prestigious academic honors. The twist is that Wes Moore is also a man who killed a Baltimore policeman while robbing a jewelry store. These two men grew up in the same neighborhood, both faced the same life obstacles, but they ended up on very different paths. One a Rhodes Scholar, interning for Condoleezza Rice, the other was behind bars for the rest of his life. It is the name of the latter individual that drove the author to reach out to him, to attempt to understand how they ended up in very different places.

Set in Baltimore we are given two boys with similar backgrounds and choices. The two Wes’ lived in the same neighborhood, both were raised by single mothers and both had early age brushes with law enforcement. The author believes that he is showing us a paralleling of lives by saying that what happened to the Other Wes Moore could have happened to him, this is not the case but it is interesting. “The Other Wes Moore” is a beautifully written narrative study on the effects of class and that alone makes it unique. Two black youths, who live in the same neighborhood, but in different classes.

The twist is more like a literary hook so-to-speak. Wes Moore’s mother was raised by college educated parents and she would have been a college graduate had it not been for forces beyond her control; his father was no slouch either although he dies early on. When Wes get too rambunctious she had the means to put him into military school. The Other Wes’ life was plagued with poverty and violence inside and outside his home, one day his father just takes off.  As a result of this familial disengagement he ends up having children by multiple women and selling drugs. Here, there is much to be said about “active parenting”.

The story is good, but I was quite disturbed and sadden that two hospitals allowed Race to place a major role in the deaths of two of the story’s characters.  Included in the book is a short ‘call to action’ by Tavis Smiley which will also, like the book, miss its intend mark. “The Other Wes Moore” will not reach the people who need to read it the most. This book is not filled with glorified violent acts, broad shouldered men, barely dressed married-single women, crime lords or thugs trying to get their paper. This book is not a copy of another book with changed names and places. No, it does not remain in the ghetto universe.

Throughout the book the Wes’ dialogue and we are exposed to the realest grit that life has to offer. We see the effects of not having positive mentors urban communities. We see the possibilities. We see the hope, but we also see the hopelessness. As the book ends we are left with these questions:  It is The Other Wes Moore’s fault that he was born into a lower class family? Was it his fault that he became a street urchin? Was it his mothers? His fathers? Or is it just easier to blame them instead the struggle in our society between, The haves and The have nots, The wants and The want mores?

Often these type of narratives make race or racism the deciding factor, “the man was holding me down” or “the opportunities were not there”, this is not so with Wes Moore’s book. These two children lived in the same neighborhood, shared the same obstacles and were divided only by Class. Class and it’s socioeconomic effects are subjects that very few want to discuss. Classism exist in every community, including the black ones. Wes Moore really didn’t need the hook, but I completely understand. And, he never really answers the question, How did this happen? In truth, he doesn’t need to because he knows that the answer is his upbringing. The book does not come across as arrogant, nor pretentious and I hope that this book will open discussions on the class warfare that is prevalent in our society. “The Other Wes Moore”  is less of a textbook for school and more of a textbook for life, so I am including a link to the author’s website, where there are resources for those that want to make a difference in their community, Wes Moore.

Wes Moore forces us to look at an overlooked, much maligned, under represented segment of our population, our children. They are ten percent of our population, but one hundred percent of our future. While adults spend countless hours with electronic doohickeys and bicker over race, politics and other created nonsense a child somewhere needs help with their homework, and another one needs to be told to put down the video game and pick up a book. What “The Other Wes Moore” points out more than anything else is that a child’s life course could be altered by acts as simple as that.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates  is an amazing book and I can’t stress it enough. The way this book is written is worth the read alone. The author’s style is simply beautiful. “The Other Wes Moore” makes you smile, and does much to restore some of the promise that modern literature has lost.

4.5 out of 5

Iron Man 2 is Jon Favreau’s much anticipated follow-up to his 2008 blockbuster. Iron Man 2 recast Robert Downey Jr as the billionaire inventor/superhero. Also reprising her role is Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts. Mickey Rourke stars as villain Ivan Vanko complete with  uber Russian accent and electrified whips. James Rhodes played by Don Cheadle is the military liaison to Mr. Stark, but Cheadle is not very convincing and he comes awkward in the role. Director Favreau should have let Terrence Howard reprise this role, he  was much more believable as Stark’s uncomfortable best friend.  Surprisingly this movie is not about Ivan, or even explosions. This film is less about Iron Man and more about the appeal of Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey is a great actor, so the guess had to be that if Downey was in it the movie the story came second, you could just piece together a story, throw in pieces of conflict, flirt with an obvious love story that never really develops and voila you have a blockbuster. The box office tally will no doubt tell if the guess was right. No one will cringe at the needless use of comedy, no one will bat an eye that the so-called super villain had about 5 minutes of super villain screen time. I don’t think that anyone will mind that Ivan built his own arc reactor and power suit in his basement, but yet the government is still trying to have Tony Stark hand over his Iron Man suit.

Note to self:  Build Arc reactor in basement, then mow lawn.

In this sequel Anthony “Tony”  Stark just doesn’t give a shit, really. He is a big-time playboy, a trillionaire and a superhero what is there to be worried about, oh yeah his pesky heart. Tony Stark is an over-the-top arrogant, smug, unapologetic ass all the way up until we find out that wearing the Iron Man suit is killing him. Yeap he’s dying and rather quickly to add to the drama.

This movie is based on a comic book and all of the comic book geeks will be glad that their adolescent fantasies are now on the big screen, a feeling which I too experienced when I first saw the Silver Centurion armor. Although the Black Widow story line is spot on, Iron Man 2 as a movie is barely in the Marvel Universe, it is almost pure soap opera, which is probably why they kept referencing other Marvel’s other characters and films.

It’s not that the movie needed more action, it just needed a better story. The middle sags as Hamlet broads, but there just isn’t enough story to go around, well at least not enough to get the ensemble cast enough time to shine, especially Scarlett Johannson. I was sufficiently wondering where the movie was headed by the time Ivan Vanko a.k.a “Whiplash” shows up walking around slicing and dicing cars on the Monaco raceway. But even while he was doing that I was wondering where was the officer who tasered that 17-year old kid at the Philadelphia Phillies game.

Everything about Iron Man 2 from the music to the fight scenes to the actors are solid and unimpressive, except for Robert Downey Jr who saves or should I say makes this film, much in the same way Johnny Depp does the films he stars in. Director Jon Favreau plays footloose and fancy free with the dialogue as he goes with a more heart less suit theme. I am not kidding when I say that Iron Man gets maybe 20 minutes of screen time. These actors don’t compliment each other well. The moralizing from the first movie sadly has been removed in exchange for a larger cast and little direction. Iron Man, as marvel superhero’s go, is already on the lower rungs and this movie, while not terrible, does nothing to bolster that position.

Iron Man 2 gets a7.5 out of 10 and that’s my FilmWord.

‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’, is the sequel to Tyler Perry’s 2007 movie “Why Did I Get Married”. As many of my readers my know I try not to review Tyler Perry’s films because I have previously been compared to him, in some regard, and most of my reviews, while honest  have not been flattering.  The formula here is the same, couples bickering, exploiting emotions, and all of the marriage challenged have moral, ethical and relationship issues that usually get resolved by the time the movie is over and always with one character who is so horribly flawed that they are beyond redemption.

Honestly, Why Did I Get Married (2007) is when I thought that Tyler Perry had finally shown growth as a director, so I wanted to see this movie. The sequel’s story, though predictable, moves better than most of his films and the subject matter is still shallow. His films have marginally gotten better, but here we are almost 10 movies in and still Tyler Perry refuses to enlist real help with his film making.

This film picks up three years after the first movie, the four couples have moved on with their lives and are now taking their annual vacation. The location this time? The beautiful Bahamas. The couples all seen to be doing fine. Therapist Patricia (Janet Jackson) and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) have the perfect marriage and are moving on after the tragic death of their baby boy Noah. The workaholic Dianne (Sharon Leal) and her husband Terry (Tyler Perry) now have a little boy after Dianne had surgery to reverse the tubal ligation. Troy (Lamman Rucker) and Sheila (Jill Scott) are newlyweds and have moved from Colorado to Atlanta and have a little boy. Troy’s inability to land a job has put stress on the couple a matter which is complicated when Sheila’s ex-husband Mike (Richard T Jones) crashes their vacation. The ever mouthy Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) are dealing with infidelity issues.

‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’ shows each of these couples attempting to portray that they have happy marriages, but before the vacation is over as we find out that real trouble is brewing. When the couples return home is where the couples face their problems head on.  Janet Jackson gives a nod to Tiger Woods in some very dramatic scenes. This film is where Janet turns in what I think is her best performance as an actress, sadly their isn’t much to see here. Now before you start thinking “he’s hating”, let me finish.

To say that this movie is cliché  and over the top are understatements, but what did you expect?  Sometimes the dialogue falls flat and the characters feel like they are on a stage instead of a beautiful island. There are several moments in this movie that will tug at your heart strings and tickle your funny bone. This is a film about relationships, love lost and found. Mr. Perry has continually assaulted my film experience since his arrival, and this movie is not totally good news for those waiting for the recently announced film “For Colored Girls”.  I said all of that to say that there is something about seeing the screen full of black actors and actresses that is refreshing… liberating even. There is something special about black people not being afraid of being black. This fact is something my fellow film critics will never get. Yes the Tyler Perry brand is formulaic and there are many things that can be said about his directing, writing  and acting. However, there is one word I have never heard someone say in regard to Tyler Perry, and that word is “Fearless”. And fearless is exactly what Tyler Perry is.  That is what ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’ fully shows.  Fearless is what Mo’Nique showed by acting in Precious. Fearless is what Lee Daniels showed for directing that movie. They are all unafraid. So in that regard Tyler Perry thank you.

This movie gets a 7 out of 10 and that’s my Film Word.

This film is in theaters.

The original Clash of the Titans (1981) was as cheesy as cheesy gets, but it was still somehow endearing. I still recall the specific charm of the movie, which enchanted my imagination as a youth.

Directed by Louis Leterrier, Clash of the Titans (2010)… wait. Before I start I have to say that the mobs of people who mindlessly saw Avatar and bolstered the 3-D market, which will no doubt adversely affect ticket prices, have causes at least two movies this year to get the 3-D treatment post production and frankly it is Not Good. I know that I may get take a lot of flak for saying this but it is the ‘early-adopters’ that drive the prices up for everyone else. 3-D technology has been around for 20-years and even now it is imperfect, distracting and clumsy so much so the public has really got to be brain dead to fork over $4 or more extra to see any movie this way. 3-D is as unnecessary as Lady Gaga’s outfits. (subliminal message to Ipad buyers).  The extra cost alone should be enough to make anyone balk at these types of movies, on top of that “Clash” is not a good movie, sorry. I left disappointed and wondering why didn’t they just leave it alone?

The movie is set in ancient Greece this adventure follows the tale of the half-god, half mortal Perseus (Sam Worthington). Apparently humans are tired of being the chess pieces of the gods and Perseus must lead the humans in the battle versus the gods Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. The clock is ticking as  tries to save the princess from being sacrificed to the Kraken a gigantic sea monster. Zeus played by (Liam Neeson) is the only part of this movie that isn’t dull. (Note to self remember to change the movie term “special effects” to just “effects”, they haven’t been special in quite awhile a fact that this movie really hits home)  You know how your mind wanders when you see a bad movie, well I sat watching this movie wondering if demigods are still gods and I also wondered why Hollywood continues to stick political commentaries in movies like this… explosion, fight, look at that, he’s hot, politics, did you see that, she hot, fire, death, fight… we’ll only get the politics on DVD. Boring and tired this is one movie that should have stayed on Mount Olympus, another classic thoroughly butchered.

This film gets a 4.5 out of 10 and that’s my Film Word.

This movie is in theaters now

transformers2

Transformers :Revenge of the Fallen

I am not going to really review this movie. Why because no matter what it will make money and opinions of it will vary greatly. But I will say this it has spectacular explosions, a senseless story and that’s about it…frankly it is not worth my $11. That being said I agree that Transformers 2 is rife with many disturbing images and themes. Blogs are screaming racist, racism and the like. So what if Skids and Mudflap speak in slang and admit that they can’t read….but when did illiteracy become a Black stereotype? Michael Bay knows what he is doing so it is o.k. for an ice cream truck to randomly drop the B-word. Robots with gold teeth, buck teeth and bad grammar honestly I have been insulted far better in movies not as bad, maybe it’s me but robots are not made to be that flawed. This brings up the question I have been asking for the last 7 years… Can anyone make a good novie anymore?

This Michael Bay film makes fun of Blacks, Asians, Latinos, our over sexualized culture, and it offends our delicate sensibilities. Michael Bays seems to believe that these types of stereotypes and inappropriate language somehow make the movie more accessible to children. I don’t know where he got that idea, mostly likely he got that answer out of our wallets. I can’t believe that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are the same writers of the brilliant Star Trek movie, which again only points back to Michael Bay. Maybe Mr. Limbaugh’s writers wrote some of those parts because they not only dehumanize of African-Americans but just about all other groups as well. Or does the robot animation make it o.k. to say things like “…we don’t really do much readin’!” I mean really who wrote that line? Black people we have enough progressive minstrel shows…right Spike? These stereotypes and more are really present in this film. And no the movie is not criticized because we lack of imagination, or that we are not a child a heart, there is no way to spin this Paramount…This is way worse than Jar Jar Binks did.

Right now many people are also yelling about the sexual themes and tone of this movie, the racial component is perhaps the overcompensation effect of having a Black President. But it is not an over reaction these films and more need to be taken to task. The directors need to do better and we as a people need to be better than this in a so-called “Post-Racial America”. This is not the first Michael Bay film with racial stereotypes so why are people upset now? The first Transformers Movie (which is a better movie by the way) has autobot Jazz, a break dancing, slang talking robot, who also happened to be the first robot killed. That robot also use the B word in it’s first lines as well. I was surprised he was eating chicken(maybe that was edited out)… still the audience would have laughed. You see it isn’t the stereotypes it is the fact that this film was made without intellect. If the movie itself were better everyone overlook the abundant flaws and would be talking about how good the acting was, or how well done the story was, or how surprised they were about this or that. It is the complete lack of those things as the only reason we are even having these discussions.

So let’s recap:

Violence, Inappropriate sexism, stereotypes, but the most disturbing thing of all is the more innocuous of all…. Bad Acting. I mean Shia Labouf is a star, but no one really knows why, can he please show some acting range. And Megan Fox is cute, you only call her hot because the media says so. Her acting is so sub par in this film I think Angelia Jolie is laughing her ass off saying “replace me….never.” Who listens to critics? They are hardly right, well they have this one right. Well it is the summer and we all need something to do, why go to the park when we could pay to be offended?

If you really want to see this movie great but don’t take anyone younger than 14, seriously. Because if you listen closely you’ll here the guys behind you enumerating all of the things they would like to do to Megan Fox. Note to Megan: Is this how you want to really be viewed? These questions and more will only be answered by the weekend box office tally.

Optimus Prime is the early favorite for Best Actor.

Jay Z could do a Death to Autobots track as a bonus.

Star Trek

It has been 40 plus years since the original Star Trek aired and some would say that the series has grown old maybe even stale. But the series has sparked so much imagination over the years that someone inevitably comes along and tries to perform CPR on it. Star Trek’s days of being socially conscientious are over, as well as its days of innovation. That being said I decided to go to see a movie it took me two weeks to get up the nerve after being utterly disappointed by Wolverine. So I decided to pull the usually empty lever of the Studio Film slot machine once again. The obvious choice would be for me to see Angels & Demons, but the buzz on Star Trek compelled me spend two hours with them.

I have to say that this so-called prequel is in a word “Brilliant”. Many reviewers throw around terms like “Superb”, “Excellent”, “Visually Stunning” much too loosely. However, for J.J. Abrams’ vision of Star Trek those terms actually do apply. Most people will think that this film is a testosterone filled  heartless movies, but they couldn’t be more wrong. This film has something in it for everyone, and I mean everyone. Yes, there will be those who have issues with completely minor errors like, time travel, or the inherent danger of indiscriminate singularity creation, but I digress.

This film begins with James T. Kirk’s birth in deep space with his father sacrificing his own life so that his son and others could live. Kirk is later seen as a rebellious Iowan youth (think Rebel Without A Cause). Then we are treated to see how a young Half-Vulcan, Half-Human Spock’s is developing on the planet Vulcan. The young Spock is having trouble wrestling with those pesky emotions (Vulcan’s suppress them) while the other Vulcans believe that having a human mother is some type of handicap. Director J.J. Abrams plays Kirk’s father and Spock’s mother off of one another the entire movie and rightly so. Spock (Zachary Quinto) rebels at the high council when a crack is made about his mother and he decided to join the less prestigious Starfleet. Next we see an older Kirk (Chris Pine) as he continues to pursue women and a life built on destruction, but during a bar room brawl he catches the eye of Capt. Pike, who was an admirer of his father, who convinces him to join Starfleet. And from there we are introduced in order to the central characters of Star Trek: Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), Hikaru Sulu (John Choo), Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Yuri Chekov (Anton Yelchin). Choosing lesser-known actors allows the director to focus less on glamor shots and more on the acting. It takes a lot of guts to pull off that kind of trade-off clearly this movie was made with purpose. The casting on this film is topnotch except for Spock’s Mother (Winona Ryder), but she only has five lines. But casting Eric Bana as (Nero the Romulan Commander) was genius.

The script by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci from plot to sub plot is impeccable. All of the cliches and themes are there, but they are beside the point because this script does more than offer a great tale… it offers insight and back story to the characters themselves. They took a risk switching out the well-known and traditional enemy the Klingons for the lesser known Romulans, but it was a magnificent choice that opened up many more possibilities for the future of the franchise. There are some surprises, an unusual love interest (and I don’t mean between Kirk and Spock), and a slightly more emotional Spock.

Quite simply J.J. Abrams has accomplished what George Lucas could not by trying to reignite the Star Wars series. Frankly this movie puts the last ten-years of retread, rehashed, comic-book, sci-fi movies to shame. How: Story Development, Character Development, New Worlds, Surprise Guest Stars, Amazing Effects, and a Love Story. This movie has it all, yet it moves along so well you’ll think that it was 3- hours long instead of a run time of 127 minutes. Interestingly enough if you are a Trek fan that watched the movie and really paid attention you will realize that this is not the Star Trek you grew up with. What the writers have slyly done is created an Alternative Universe Star Trek, which couldn’t be done if the canon was discarded or the script was sub par. If you didn’t notice that then you really need to see it again and this one of those rare movies that is worth seeing again. Superstar actors be damned this is the kind of movie Hollywood should be making! J.J. Abrams should get very serious consideration for an Oscar and credit the writers. Whatever the case, the history of Star Trek has been forever changed.

10/9.5