When I hear the words “I want you to meet my family” a sense of dread begins to creep up on me. I know it goes with the territory when you are in a relationship and things are going good, but meeting family and friends is like taking an exam. You get graded on several categories from appearance to job history to personality. I find it stressful and depending on who is doing the testing determines the intensity of the questioning. I have found the easiest group to meet are the brothers. They are the most laid back and usually only care about finding out what common interests we share. However, watch out for the oldest brother; he tends to be more protective. The toughest group is a toss up between the sisters and the best friend(s). These two sects have no qualms grilling for detailed information as they literally stare you down. More than likely the best friend will reveal an embarrassing tidbit about the person you love. Be careful, because they are only telling you so they can judge your reaction. If you react in a positive way when hearing about an embarrassing incident involving someone they dated, the best friend will consider you in a negative light. From my years going through this interviewing process, there was nothing I found new or funny in this comedy. Craig Robinson (The Pineapple Express, The Office-TV) played Wade Walker, who wanted to meet his girlfriend Grace Peeples’, played by Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Ray), family. For some reason Grace had been hesitant to introduce him, so Wade decided to surprise her by showing up at her parents’ front door. I was embarrassed for S. Epatha Merkerson (Lackawanna Blues, Law & Order-TV) playing the mother Daphne and David Alan Grier (Jumanji, In Living Color-TV) playing the father Virgil. There was no originality in this film except for Craig’s dancing. I did not mind him in his role, but I was surprised Kerry agreed to do this movie. It just seemed too low brow for her to waste her time and talent. Either, I have been introduced to too many family members and friends in my dating experiences or this film had stale and unfunny humor in it. Which one do you suppose is the correct answer?
1 2/3 stars
In one of my creative writing classes in college, we had to read “For Colored Girls Who Had Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange, which this movie was based on. The professor led us in a discussion about minorities and discrimination. The purpose was to teach us to make our story characters believable by tapping into our emotions of feeling different or discriminated. We went around the room taking turns talking about a time when we felt discriminated against or like an outsider. It was a powerful lesson for each of us that day. Director and writer Tyler Perry (Madea franchise, The Family That Preys) assembled a stellar cast for this dramatic film. Kerry Washington (Ray, Django Unchained) as Kelly/Blue, Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, Company) as Yasmine/Yellow, Whoopi Goldberg (Clara’s Heart, Ghost) as Alice/White and Loretta Devine (I Am Sam, Death at a Funeral) as Juanita/Green were some of the standouts in the cast. I understood what Tyler was trying to create with this movie. With multiple stories that intersected, they each conveyed aspects on issues females face everyday in the world. I venture to say several of the issues would be universal to almost anyone. The problem I had with the movie was Tyler’s over dramatic flair written into the screenplay. No disrespect to soap operas, but this film played more like a series of episodes than a complete story line. In what was supposed to have been a powerful character in business executive Jo/Red, instead turned out flat due to the casting of Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice, Good Times-TV) in the role. She was not able to convey the complex emotions of the character. With her small role as Gilda, Phylicia Rashad (Just Wright, The Cosby Show-TV) was able to convey more feelings than Janet. There were several scenes that worked well enough to keep me interested despite the melodrama. Reading the book was just more powerful of an experience for me than watching this film.
2 stars — DVD
Before I was born my mother was pregnant with a baby girl. I found out when I asked her why my two brothers were so much older than me. She told me about the miscarriage she had before me. I spent my youth imagining what life would have been like if I had a sister. There was a small part of me that always wondered if I would have even been conceived if that baby girl had been born. My mother would tell me numerous times that I was the only one planned. She talked about the nervousness she had all through her pregnancy with me up until I was delivered. Except for that one time, my mother never talked about that lost baby girl. There is such a special bond between a mother and her child; I cannot imagine how the loss changed my mother’s life. The relationship between a mother and child was explored in this stirring drama. Annette Bening (Ruby Sparks, Being Julia) played Karen, a single woman who had given up her baby for adoption over 30 years earlier. Naomi Watts (The Impossible, Eastern Promises) played Elizabeth, the grown up version of that baby. Kerry Washington (Django Unchained, Ray) was a married woman who could not conceive a baby. Each woman’s life was drastically altered by their circumstances. Not only was the acting outstanding from these three women, but everyone else was just as good. There was Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained, The Avengers) as grieving lawyer Paul and Jimmy Smits (The Jane Austen Book Club, Star Wars franchise) as Karen’s co-worker Paco. Each of the three stories was carefully crafted and directed, allowing for a continuous flow of feelings to permeate each scene. This movie provided a touching study on the effects a child can have on one’s life. If I had a sister, I wonder what she would have thought about this wonderful film.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
You are getting something more with your purchase of a ticket for this movie. You are receiving passage to a director who lovingly pays tribute to his elders with this film. Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill franchise) looks at past filmmakers’ achievements and updates them for a current audience. And in this case he also channels a little bit of Mel Brooks into a couple of scenes in this film. I am not a fan of blood and guts violence, so when I view a Tarantino movie I know there will be a heightened intensity to any kind of confrontation. But Quentin adds a stylized touch to such violence; case in point, the viewer sees a red mist of blood sprayed onto a patch of cotton plants instead of the intended victim. Then there is Quentin’s choice of music for the various scenes; it clearly conveys the actors’ feelings on an audible emotional level. The story starts out simple: a bounty hunter becomes a mentor to a recently freed slave, needing his assistance in tracking down the wanted Brittle brothers. As you may know with any story written by Quentin, there are multiple story lines added. The acting was outstanding throughout this wild film. Jamie Foxx (Law Abiding Citizen, Ray) played slave turned bounty hunter Django. His performance was a simmering, restricted anger on the verge of boiling over. His mentor was the precise, German transplant Dr. King Schultz (you have to love the irony of his name) played brilliantly by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, Water for Elephants). One of my favorite actors, Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, The Departed) was cast as the maniacal southern plantation owner Calvin Candie. Adding his own special touch to the cast and story was Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown, Unbreakable) as Calvin’s servant Stephen. The great use of dialog, the captivating photography and the imaginative camera angles all helped to make this movie a wonderful homage to what was referred to as the spaghetti western movies. Clocking in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film could have used stronger editing. Be prepared to laugh, wince, cringe, stare with disbelief, have your ears assaulted by vulgar negative words, witness ripped or bullet ridden bloody flesh as you enter the unbelievable world of Quentin Tarantino.
3 1/2 stars
With my family’s predisposition for hearing loss, I am grateful I still have my hearing. In fact, I am lucky that I still have use of all my senses; it is something I do not take for granted. Whether I am in the house or driving my car, I always have music playing. The idea that composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote a symphony while he was deaf truly amazes me. Have you noticed when a person has lost one of their senses, the other ones become heightened? Look at Stevie Wonder or Jose Feliciano; they were great musicians who did not have the ability to see. Do you think the lack of sight fine tuned their other senses and pushed their musical capabilities higher? I think it did. One of the most influential figures in the music world has to be Ray Charles. He was without sight by the age of seven, but that did not hold back his musical genius. He was the first person to blend rhythm and blues with gospel music, creating a whole new sound that captivated millions of people. I love the quote in this movie from Ray’s mother Aretha Robinson, played by Sharon Warren (Glory Road). She said to a young Ray, “Never let nobody or nothing turn you into no cripple.” It was a great line. C.J. Sanders (First Sunday, Beautiful Loser) was excellent as the younger Ray in this biopic. As an adult Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls, Law Abiding Citizen) was stupendous in the role. Having the opportunity to sit down with Ray Charles, Jamie did a flawless impersonation; even wearing prostheses on his eyes, to create a true sense of blindness as he acted. Kerry Washington (Lakeview Terrace, The Last King of Scotland) did a beautiful job playing Ray’s wife Della Bea Robinson. The story traced the life and career of this musical genius who was not a perfect man, by any means. It was an honor for me to watch and listen to this wonderful movie.
3 1/4 stars — DVD