Movie. Watch. – An African Detective, and Aliens in LA

In Film on April 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I came up with this new idea that I’ll probably scrap after a few weeks but here it goes. I’m an avid movie buff and I often watch close to ten movies a week. And, some of them turn out to be really, really good but, totally, un-mentioned and rarely discussed. So – twice a month I’ll do a Movie. Watch. post.

Truth be told, I think cinema has grown tired, uninspired and boring (the best filmmaking you’ll see today are on television). The few things that are exciting are usually treated (by critics) like a slab of meat in a room full of hungry coyote’s (take Inception last summer). I tend to stay away as it gives me nothing worthwhile to discuss. Although I’ve been watching a few good flicks I still feel that way. So, as a compromise, I’ll keep my opinions brief. Who knows maybe I’ll get into it but in the meantime, brief is good.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency

It’s a television series about a plus-sized African female detective in Botswana, Africa – played by an R & B diva. It should be terrible, but it is positively charming. The HBO series is based on a book by Alexander McCall Smith and produced by the Weinstein Brothers, and the late Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, who directed the pilot.

The series is completely original. It is smart, colorful, funny and well acted by Jill Scott, as the detective Mma Precious Ramotswe, and her secretary, Mma Grace Makutsi, played by Aniki Nani Rose. Stories about Africa are often about the contrast between the beauty of Africa and the gross tragedy of international headlines. It is easy to forget that Africa is a huge continent filled with many different stories.

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is a show about people and their stories. Through each case, Precious shows a different part of Botswana – from the comical to the mundane to the misfortunate. It doesn’t pretend that Africa is without tragedy. It just doesn’t dwell on it. Unlike your typical Hollywood films about Africa, Ladies Detective Agency places the importance of the beauty and life of this little know African country above all else.

Battle: Los Angeles

I don’t trust movie reviews anymore, especially when it comes to action films. It seems that movie critics are disconnected with the desires of the movie-going audience. Battle: Los Angeles was thrashed by the critics. I was prepared for the worst, but found myself on the edge of my seat for most of the movie.

The special effects are fantastic. The action scenes are tense and well directed. Battle: Los Angeles has a good cast of young actors anchored by Aaron Eckert as the grizzled vet. Eckert doesn’t do many action movies, and his career is probably better for it. Eckhert exudes this “everyman” quality about him, however, and it works perfectly in this film.

What I’ve always hated about action films are the spectacular scenes for no good reason. There are a ton of former music and commercial directors that can shoot a good action scene, but after the first splash it becomes mundane because there is no sense that the characters are driving the action. What you get, typically, is a movie that is driven by the next obstruction to blow up. When you see an action duo approaching a freeway, for example, you know there’s about to be a chase scene. The action in Battle: Los Angeles happens as a result of the decisions its characters make. It isn’t necessarily original, but it kept me engaged.

Battle: Los Angeles is an alien invasion movie that doesn’t get caught up in the alien invasion. It is a story about a platoon that has to get from point A to B, then from point B to C and so on. Between every point there is always a clearly communicated reason why they have to get to the next one. Before each point is a new obstacle. What is fun about the movie is the thrill of seeing how the characters deal with each obstacle between each point. It is what we want in an action movie: good action, believable characters, and a few surprises. For me, the best surprise of all was a multi-cultural cast that isn’t in the movie to fill an affirmative action quota, or to be used as cannon fodder.


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