Friday, May 14, 2010

Not Quite Wright

Just Wright, the new movie produced and starring Queen Latifa, plays like a not-so-special episode of Livin' Single, her sitcom that ran on FOX from 1993-1998. Latifa plays Leslie Wright, a 30ish, "big bone-ed," good ol' girl who is looking for love but continually finds herself in the "friend zone." Yet, full of pluck (if not much luck) Leslie sallies forth bright-eyed and bushy tailed, always leading with her big heart.

Leslie is a variation on Georgia Byrd the character Latifa played in Last Holiday but with much smaller dreams. Leslie is content with her job as a physical therapist, her old-and-busted mustard-colored Mustang and the big old house she is rehabing with the help of her father (Grey's Anatomy's James Pickens, Jr.). A chance meeting with Scott McKnight (Common), all-star point guard of the New Jersey Nets changes everything.

The casting, with the probable exception of Common (he is just tall enough to be almost believable as an NBA star) , is spot on - Pickens as Leslie's father, Pam (Coffy) Grier as her mother, Phylicia (The Cosby Show) Rashad as Common's mother and Paula (Precious) Patton as Leslie's gold-digging friend - but, with the exception of Common and Patton, this great cast is given precious little to do.

The core of the movie, the aftermath of McKnight suffering a possibly career-ending knee injury during the NBA All-Star game (improbably played at the Izod Center in New Jersey), should be his grueling rehabilitation under physical therapist Leslie's stern but capable hands, but is, instead, soft and shapeless, giving us none of the blood, sweat and tears this intense enterprise should engender.

Director Sanaa Hamri ((Something New) exhibits zero flair for framing NBA action. One wonders if she has actually seen a pro basketball game. The climatic basketball game in Teen Wolf has more dramatic tension than the game seven we-need-a-three-pointer-to-win snoozer that ushers in Wright's final act. And speaking of said game seven, we are given no sense of how this team (the Nets - Really?) has advanced to the NBA Eastern Conference finals without the "Great Scott," their biggest star, and we are given no insight into how McKnight feels about his team being so successful without him.

While most of the rom-com conventions are here, Just Wright remains sluggish in execution and lacking in drama. You sit there and you long for Hamri to set-off a Tyler Perry-esque emotional firecracker. Anything to ignite this languid enterprise.

Just Wright is anything but.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Scarjo, redux (2010)

There may be hope for the Scarjo Hotness Meter after all. After Scarlett Johansson tumbled from 2 to 34 in last year's Maxim Hot 100 (losing considerable "hotness" by marrying Ryan Reynolds) we feared for the worse but ("hail, glory!") she has rebounded to number 14 and made the SHM respectable again.

Using the recalibrated SHM, where Scarjo is par for the course, the ubiquitous Zoe Saldana is a -11. Rihanna is a -8. Eva Mendez is a -3. Selita Ebanks is a +2.

Dania Ramirez +16
Jessica Alba +20
Gabrielle Union +43

And, for the third year in a row, Halle Berry and Rosario Dawson remain so hot they are OFF the Scarjo Hotness Meter.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Imma Be

Emma has been replaced by Isabella as the most popular girl's name.

I love Isabella as a girl's name. Isabella Rossellini is one of my
favorite names to roll around in my mouth. But Isabella should
not be a popular (or common) name. What are these parents

Emma is such a good and plain name. Anybody can carry that
name around. There are very few women who have the beauty
and sweet, ineffable "lightness" of feminine being to carry a name
like Isabella (which means "My God is a Vow," incidentally).

When my children were young, I sent them to a private
Montessori school where there was this precious Chinese girl
named Isabella. I thought Isabella was the oddest name for an
Asian girl but little Isabella embodied that name in every
sense of the name.

This will not be true of every poor Isabella burdened with this
currently hot name.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

She Creature

I stumbled across this movie on thrillerMAX this afternoon:
Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature (2001). I am surprised
I haven't seen this before as it stars Carla Gugino, a personal fave,
and is directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (who also directed my
favorite C. Gugino movie:
Judas Kiss).

She Creature showcases Gugino in various stages of Victorian dress and undress in addition to featuring a red-haired, nekkid-from-the-waist-up (who later grows legs and becomes completely naked) mermaid played by Rya Kihlstedt. What happens after that ain't so pretty.

Gugino has apparently become Gutierrez' muse. She also stars in his movies Women in Trouble (2009), where she plays a character named Elektra Luxx, and Elektra Luxx (2010), where she plays a character named Electra Luxx. Ms. Kihlstedt is also a frequent Gutierrez player. She is in both Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx.

Gutierrez also directed a movie called Rise (2007) starring Lucy Liu as a female reporter who wakes up in a morgue to find herself a member of the undead. She vows revenge against the sect that put her there and hunts them down. This movie also features Ms. Gugino.

I have already added Women in Trouble and Rise to my Netflix queue. Elektra Luxx is on my "saved" list.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Iron Marvel

If Iron Man 2 is the first tent pole of the summer of 2010, Hollywood should sigh a huge sigh of relief.

Iron Man 2 may be the best movie sequel since James Cameron's Aliens. I would invoke The Godfather 2 - possibly the greatest movie sequel ever - but, like Aliens, Iron Man 2 is still fun, retaining all the chills, spills and thrills of the original while spiffing up the whole enterprise with some honest-to-goodness grown-up angst, and taking it up a notch.

There is so much that could have gone wrong with this sequel. Rushed into production after 1's surprising and unexpected success in 2008, Iron Man 2 is in theaters a scant two years later. To put this in perspective, The Dark Knight, the one billion dollar gorilla of the summer of 2008, won't be back in theaters until 2012. Usually, rushing an unscripted sequel to the box office this soon leads to Batman and Robin size debacles.

But such is not the case. Iron Man 2 snaps, crackles and pops with the ebullient insouciance that made 1 such an unexpected delight. Everything is better in 2. Mickey Rourke's Ivan Vanko is better than Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stone, Don Cheadle is a significant upgrade in the James "Rhodey" Rhodes role, Sam Rockwell is his usual cock-squirrelly best as Justin Hammer (Solieri to Stark's Mozart) and there may not be a better melding of actor to character than Robert Downey, Jr. essaying his role as industrialist/bon vivant Tony Stark.

Unfortunately, while Scarlett Johansson scores as super-efficient Natalie Rushman/Romanoff, she is less effective in her Black Widow catsuit. Favreau and his team employ some funky special effects to augment her limited martial art skills and it is more disorienting than impressive. Yet, even this scene is saved by the visual and verbal quips frequently provided by writer Justin Theroux (Tropic Thunder).

It is action that sells this type of enterprise and the "two men enter one man leaves" ethos of the first Whiplash/Iron Man "cage match" and the War Machine/Iron Man clash-of-the-titans are visceral and brutal. The only thing better than the mano-a-mano is ol' Shellhead standing back-to-back with Rhodey as Danko and an army of war machines advance on them.