Little Orphan Annie is iconic. What started off as a 1930’s comic strip grew even further acclaim when it was turned into a Broadway musical and then a musical motion picture. Songs like “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” are engrained in our heads even if you aren’t familiar with the story, so it only seems right to make an updated version, right?
Academy Award nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis (Beast of the Southern Wild) stars as the new Annie, an African American foster child who dreams of finding her birth parents. Jamie Foxx portrays a refurbished “Daddy” Warbucks, named Will Stacks, a rich Mayoral candidate who adopts Annie to woo voters. Cameron Diaz plays the role of Annie’s grumpy Foster mother while Rose Byrne plays Stacks’ secretary and love interest.
On paper, this should all be great. But it isn’t, it just flat out isn’t. Aside from being poorly acted (Cameron Diaz’ hammy performance made me want to gag) it is tremendously corny. Uses of social media are repeatedly shoved in our faces and middle aged characters use phrases like “I love it when you throw shade”, because apparently we just have to be reminded over and over again that this movie is in present day. Then there’s the music. All of the dance numbers and songs all seem unrehearsed and most of the people performing them look uncomfortable (especially Rose Byrne who should never be allowed to do a musical again). Then there are moments where the plot just falls apart, like antagonists in the film inexplicably dropping their cover halfway through carrying out their plan.
Sure, Wallis is absolutely adorable, but that gets old in about half an hour. If you’re going to remake something, it should be as good or better than the original, otherwise it just comes off as a soulless cash grab (see Total Recall). Maybe I’m being too harsh, because I wanted this to be like what The Wiz was to The Wizard of Oz. I’m sure children will love it (albeit children love pretty much anything geared toward them) and there are tons of adults who will find it cute. But forgive me for expecting a movie about a black Annie in Harlem, starring Oscar nominees, and produced by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith to come off as something more than just a two-hour episode of Gullah Gullah Island.
FINAL GRADE: D-
New movies are coming out left and right. I’m just trying to keep up. Here are a few quick reviews from some recent July flicks I’ve seen…
By now you should know all about Melissa McCarthy’s antics. And, by now, you should know whether or not you’re a fan. I, personally, have found her hilarious just about every time she is on a screen, whether it be movie (Bridesmaids, The Heat) or television. She is both quirky and lovable and even when her characters are abrasive, you can’t help but admire their gusto. But some scripts are even too dull for Melissa McCarthy to save (see IdentityThief). In the case of Tammy, there just isn’t enough here to make this film about a down on her luck woman going road tripping with her grandma (Susan Sarandon) worth sitting through. Did I laugh? Sure, a few times. Will you laugh if you like Melissa McCarthy? Probably. But the majority of the best chuckles can be found in the trailer, so there’s no point in sitting through a boring plot when that’s the case. FINAL GRADE: C-
As the title suggests, Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal star as a married couple who make a sex tape in order to recapture their once intimate relationship. After the video is mistakenly uploaded to iPads belonging to their friends and family, the couple go on a quest to cover up their blunder as well as find a mysterious texter who has already seen the tape. Jack Black has a fairly comedic cameo and Cameron Diaz still has a very nice body in her 40’s. That’s probably the only positive things I can say about this forgettable raunchy comedy wannabe (and even the latter complement is negated by Jason Segal nudity). I found myself checking the time and waiting for this one to be over, several times. There is barely any chemistry between the two leads and the force fed heartfelt moments fall flat. Even if you found moments in the trailer funny, I doubt there is much more that you’ll crack a smile at. FINAL GRADE: D
The Purge: Anarchy
While the first Purge had its share of twists and turn, it left a lot to be desired. With such a broad premise; annual government sanctioned murder used to cleanse our sinful country in the near future, it doesn’t make much sense to have all of the action confined to one family in one house. Anarchy luckily takes the audience further into this world, giving more characters and perspectives about this twisted society than the first film ever dreamed of. If you’re going to have a movie about legal mass murder then take us where the action is. The film follows a mother (Carmen Ejogo of Sparkle), her overly inquisitive daughter, a stranded couple going through separation, and a gun toting rogue out to avenge his child (Frank Grillo of Captain America: Winter Soldier) as they try and navigate their way through murderers, rapists, sick rich people, and even the treacherous government themselves. While the film does go through flashes of dryness and, like the first film, some characters are boring, overall the film is a solid upgrade from its predecessor and does a much better job hammering home the underlying political allegory. FINAL GRADE: B
Have you ever watched a trailer for a movie with an ensemble cast and thought, “Oh… this’ll be a great movie”, even if you don’t know or understand the plot from said two minute snippet? That’s what I did when I saw the preview for The Counselor. On paper, what’s not to like? Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, 12 Years a Slave), Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men), Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt… the list of acting talent goes on and on. Rosie Perez and John Leguizamo even make brief appearances. It accounts for arguably the best cast in any movie this month. Throw in Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, American Gangster) as director and the expectation is set for what should be a great film… right?
Almost. Somewhere along the road, something was missed. And it took several minutes after the movie’s conclusion for me to pinpoint the problem. It isn’t the grim finale. There have been several movies with such an ending that are great films (The Korean film Oldboy comes to mind). It certainly isn’t the actors themselves. Fassbender is solid as the lead character, a lawyer who gets mixed up in drug trafficking to give his beloved wife the sweet life. Brad Pitt is his usual charismatic self as a Cowboy hat wearing, middle man. And perhaps the most captivating is Cameron Diaz, who is as sexy and sinister as I’ve ever seen her.
The problem is the story itself… which is an issue that would make any moviegoer scratch their head, because it’s perhaps the most important element of any film. No matter how many talented actors you jam into a movie, if there isn’t an interesting enough plot to drive the film, then it will almost always fall flat. I found myself unsure of the plot and direction of the film nearly forty-five minutes in. That’s more than enough time to lose interest, especially in a film that trades action sequences for complex conversation.
There are some interesting anecdotes here and there, but several of the film’s themes seem a bit backwards and misguided. Many of the characters share “interesting” views on the opposite sex and I’m still not sure if the director was trying to make social commentary or create plot points with these and other exchanges. It all just seems to amount to a boring, un-relatable, lecture without a valid point. And no amount of casting can save that.
FINAL GRADE: C