Weekly Update: This week Hawk Ripjaw and I began “Shituary”, in which we watch themed bad movies each week. Week 1’s topic was Tyler Perry’s “Madea” films…. yeah, those…
Fortunately, I managed to watch a few interesting movies too.
Curious what else I’ve seen this year? -Click here to read the full list of movies viewed year to date-
1. A Madea Christmas (2013)
I should note that I’m writing this after a week of watching Madea films, and this ended up being the best of the bunch (that’s not a compliment). The plot of the movie is your typical “save the school” sort, with a subplot involving a daughter too afraid to tell her mother she married interracially. This is a classic holiday movie formula that might have worked if Tyler Perry understood anything about pacing or editing. But instead the movie feels like two hopelessly underwritten stories sewn together.
2. Madea Goes to Jail (2009)
The vast majority of this movie focuses on a plot involving a two prosecutors who are dating. When one finds an old school friend who is down on her luck and working as a prostitute, he decides to help her get back on her feet. His prosecutor girlfriend becomes jealous and falsifies an arrest record to get the girl sent to prison for a long time. This soap-opera melodrama clashes horrifically with the goofy Madea hijinks. Madea doesn’t even go to jail until 72 minutes into the movie. Even Ernest made it there faster.
3. Madea’s Big Happy Family (2011)
This movie… is a desperate slog to sit through. Behold as Tyler Perry presents filmgoers with the most heinous female characters in film history. Over the course of this thankless viewing experience you get to watch as the melodrama unfolds with a daughter who treats her mother like dirt, a girlfriend who does nothing but nag her boyfriend, and that same boyfriend has a baby-momma who is depicted as the most obnoxious, money-grubbing bitch in the history of film. If this movie wasn’t so long and poorly edited and written… But that seems too much to ask from one of America’s biggest hack filmmakers.
4. Madea’s Witness Protection (2012)
This film could be considered Tyler Perry’s attempt at a larger commercial crossover, at least on paper. In practice it’s the same old, desperately boring Madea schtick with a handful of melodramatic subplots meant to make you think you’re watching a film, when what you’re really watching is the time to find out how much longer you have to make it to say you finished watching it. Eugene Levy tries his best to inject a solid comedic performance into this colossal waste of resources.
5. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
In desperate need of something worth watching I went to the theater to see this Oscar-hopeful. Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck, who through a serious of flashbacks is revealed to have once had a family of his own, until tragic circumstances left him living on a sad, monk-like existence in suburban Boston, working for minimum wage and free rent as a handyman for an apartment complex. The word then comes that his brother has died, and he has to come home to see to the arrangements and take care of his brother’s teenage son. This movie is deeply tragic, but wonderfully paced and beautifully shot and acted, an easy favorite in the Oscar race.
6. Riphagen (2016)
Dries Riphagen was a Dutch gangster who worked both sides during WWII. On one hand, he gained the confidence of Jewish people so much they gave him their valuables for safekeeping, on the other he worked as a Jew-hunter for the NAZIs. He did this and other blackmail schemes for his own financial betterment, and at the cost of countless lives. I was a bit disappointed with the disjointed nature of this movie, until I read that the film was actually an edited-down version of a miniseries made for Dutch television. With that in mind, I plan on looking up the miniseries, as I was impressed with the performances, the art design, and the film’s compelling real-life story.
7. Hidden Figures (2016)
This film about a group of African American human “computers” working for NASA in the early years of the space program is a fascinating look at the less reported side of the space race. The film focuses on three women, one who aspires to be the first black supervisor, another who wants to be an engineer, and one who is vital to the space program as a gifted mathematician. The film is a solidly acted drama that doesn’t seem to take too many real chances, but will undoubtedly be valuable inspiration for generations of aspiring female and African American scientists.
8. Lion (2016)
In the 1980s young Indian boy Saroo became separated from his family, through a series of misadventures finding himself so far away that nobody even spoke the same language as him, and his own vague descriptions of his home were not enough for people to find his family. As a result he is treated as an orphan and eventually adopted by Australian parents. Years later, now a 20-something adult, he begins to seek the mother and brother he long since lost. Dev Patel plays Saroo as an adult and Sunny Pawar plays the young Saroo, both of whom provide the film with a great deal of depth and dramatic muscle. This is an emotional powerhouse of a movie, and guaranteed to bring tears.
9. Jackie (2016)
Set in the time shortly after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jackie tells the story of his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Natalie Portman). Her poise and strength in the days following her husband’s death made her noteworthy as an icon unto herself, rather than just being seen as a wife of a great man. Portman perfectly embodies Jackie Kennedy’s character, to the point where she disappears completely into the role. Unfortunately, the film’s overall impact seems lacking the spark needed to push the emotional heights it seems to aspire to.
10. Madea’s Family Reunion (2006)
Yet another boring exercise in melodramatic storytelling futility. Madea’s family reunion plays like a soap opera that has long since outlived its relevance. Even though this was technically the first “Madea” centric film, it is already feeling the wear of a long overstayed welcome. Let’s not forget the film’s message of “If your mother sold you into sexual slavery, you should forgive her and everything will be better”. Fuck you, Tyler Perry.
11. The Help (2011)
A film I’ve long needed to watch, but for one reason or another never got around to seeing. The Help tells the story of a group of maids in Mississippi during the 1960s who tell the stories of their daily life working for pitiful wages cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children of the upper class white women of their community. The movie didn’t need to have a lead white character (played by Emma Stone), as it somewhat cheapens the empowerment message of the film, but it features numerous solid performances from working black actresses who have long deserved more notoriety.