I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fireproof (2008)

Caleb (Kirk Cameron), a fire department captain, and his wife Catherine, (Erin Bethea) have been married seven years. There is trouble in paradise, as all they seem to do is snipe at each other. After a particularly heated argument, Catherine announces that she wants out. Caleb complains about her to his co-workers at the firehouse, and to his dad (Harris Malcolm). Caleb's dad suggests that before taking the divorce route, his son should do a "Love Dare" exercise for 40 days. Caleb's dad says this is important if he want to save the marriage.

Caleb follows the exercises, but Catherine doesn't buy his attempts at being nice. Dr. Gavin Keller (Perry Revell) has taken a liking to Catherine, and she's responding. Caleb keeps threatening to give up, but his dad and a Christian buddy at the firehouse exhort him to keep trying.

This film was made by a church, and the Christian message is heavy. I'm not saying the message -- marriages are worth saving and should be saved -- is wrong. But the way it is packaged is so preachy that I found myself tuning out a lot while watching. The script is poorly written. There are three characters -- the dad, one of Caleb's buddies at the firehouse, and a nurse at the hospital where Catherine works -- who spend their time preaching whenever they are on screen. I understand having one character serve that purpose, but three?

The acting was not great, even out of Kirk Cameron who has experience in that. I didn't have much sympathy for the spoiled brat husband or his wimp of a wife. The guy who served as comic relief (Stephen Dervan) was not funny, but annoying. There was a character who was an atheist, but I thought he was just saying stuff to get a rise out of the other characters. A deleted scene (on the DVD extras) explained his stance on God better; it probably should have been included in the final film.

Production values were better than I've seen in a lot of Christian movies, but they could have been a lot better. I understand that the church that made this film has done a few others. I'm probably not going to rush to see those.

Kirk Cameron was a cast member on TV's "Growing Pains" (1985-1992). Some of the other cast members are members of the church that made the film.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Not Easily Broken (2009)

Dave (Morris Chestnut) and Clarice (Taraji P. Henson) are shown getting married in the beginning of the film. They are all smiles as Bishop Wilkes (Albert Hall) tells them that marriage consists of three strands: the husband, the wife, and God. These strands should not be broken. After they are pronounced man and wife, Dave notices that Mary (Jenifer Lewis), Clarice's mom, is giving him the evil eye.

Fast forward to present day. Clarice is a busy real estate agent who makes more money than Dave, who runs his own construction/maintenance business. The couple's together time appears to be limited due to Clarice's career. Also, Dave spends a lot of his free time coaching a kids' baseball team with the help of his buddies Brock (Eddie Cibrian) and Tree (Kevin Hart). Her career is also a factor is why they don't have children; Clarice feels a baby would get in the way. Dave shows up late the night Clarice is going to be presented with a salesperson of the year award. They argue while driving to the gala. Another car runs a red light and smashes into them.

Clarice is understandably bitter and upset over her leg being mangled in the crash. Dave tries to do all he can to comfort her, but Clarice pushes him off. The tension between the couple is heightened when Mary decides to move in to take care of Clarice. We learn that Mary has always given Dave a hard way to go. A physical therapist named Julie (Maeve Quinlan) is hired to assist Clarice in her recovery. Dave takes a liking to her son Bryson (Cannon Jay), and invites him to join the kids' baseball team. Clarice recovers physically, but the emotional tension between her and Dave keep rising to a breaking point.

This film is based on a book by T.D. Jakes, a prominent pastor, and directed by Bill Duke. It presents a good message about working hard to keep marriages together, which I appreciated. But I was a little put off by some of Dave's voiceovers, which suggested that women should stay in traditional roles of homemakers and mothers. Tree's character serves as comic relief (he doesn't get his wife is going through mood changes because she's pregnant). Brock represents the opposite of Dave, a guy who's lack of fidelity has cost him a marriage. I especially liked the Mary character, a woman who's bitterness over her own failed marriage will not allow her to see the good in her daughter's marriage.

Taraji P. Henson was nominated for an Oscar for her work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Morris Chestnut was in the best of the inner-city gang movies of the 1990's, Boyz In The Hood (1991). Jenifer Lewis was in Meet The Browns (2008) and Madea's Family Reunion (2006). Kevin Hart is a stand-up comedian who has appeared from time to time on "Chelsea Lately" (2007-present). Director Bill Duke is also an actor (Menace II Society, 1993). Nicey Nash, who appears as a co-worker/friend of Clarice, hosts the reality show, "Clean House" (2004-2008), and was a cast member on "Reno 911!" (2003-2009).

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Little Rascals and Our Gang

When I was a little girl, the The Little Rascals and Our Gang shorts were a staple on local Chicago television. The other day, one of the two classic TV stations in town ran a marathon of those shorts, which I hadn't seen in awhile.

The escapades of the kids in those shorts pointed out to me that a lot of basic things about kids in general do not change. In one short, Spanky (George McFarland), who looked like he was no older than three years old at the time, kept disturbing his parents while they tried to sleep. His dad had just received a promotion at work, and wanted a good night's rest. Spanky was scared of a moth on the window, and cats meowing outside, among other things.

In another tale, Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) was showing off to his girlfriend Darla Hood about a wrestling match he was going to be in. He had fixed the outcome in advance, asking bookworm Waldo (Darwood Kaye) to be his opponent. At the last minute, Butch (Tommy Bond), who was also trying to woo Darla, forced Waldo to step aside so he could take on Alfalfa. Alfalfa won the match, but Darla had switched her affections to Waldo, whom she declared to be more refined. "I'm never talking to another girl again!" Alfalfa grumbled. Darla was quite the little vixen.

Racial stereotypes in those shorts abounded, but Buckwheat (Willie Mae Taylor and Carlena Beard), Cotton (Bobby Beard), Stymie (Matthew J. Beard, Jr.), Sunshine Sammy (Ernie Morrison) and Farina (Allen Hoskins) -- the African-American kids -- seemed to have experienced no problems hanging around with the mostly white kids. There were also some Asian kids in the mix, as well. The kids just accepted each other for who they were. When the shorts were packaged for television syndication in 1955, some were either heavily edited, or not shown at all due to racial stereotypes.

The Our Gang shorts began in 1922, and the very last short was issued in 1944. The Little Rascals titles refer to the shorts made between 1929 and 1938, but they were all under the Our Gang banner.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Star Trek (2009)

The movie opens with the U.S.S. Kelvin, which is run by Capt. George Kirk (Chris Helmsworth), being attacked by Captain Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan which a serious chip on his shoulder. Most of the crew is able to abandon ship, including George's wife (Jennifer Morrison), who gives birth to their son James during the melee. George goes down with the ship.

Years later, we meet young James Kirk (Chris Pine) again, who's become a regular hellraiser. Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) convinces the young man to join Starfleet. Kirk is a smart fellow, but he's accused of cheating on a test that was designed by Spock (Zachary Quinto). Kirk is denied a chance to get into active Starfleet duty. His new found buddy, Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), uses deception to get him inside the U.S.S. Enterprise. Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Mr. Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yalchin) and Spock are also crew members on the ship. They run into Captain Nero again, whose revenge plans involve Spock.

The plot incorporates a lot of the mythology from the original TV show, which ran on NBC from 1966 to 1969, including: Kirk's being accused of cheating while at Starfleet Academy, Captain Pike's tenure as the Enterprise's first captain, Spock being treated as less-than by other Vulcans because his mother was a human, etc. It was like watching a very good episode of the old TV show. Pine's take on James Kirk shows the captain as an arrogant son-of-a-gun. But when I thought back to the original series, and yeah, the older Kirk did come off like that. Karl Urban plays "Bones" McCoy as the irritable personality that was on the original show, and gives a reason as to why the doctor might have been that way.

Zachary Quinto is currently a cast member on another NBC sci-fi show, "Heroes" (2006-present). Bruce Greenwood was in Thirteen Days (2000). Simon Pegg, who appears as Scotty, was in Shawn of The Dead (2004). Zoe Saldana was in Drumline (2002).