FSR's Weekly Report Card

THE SOLOIST

Studio: DreamWorks

Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener, Tom Hollander and LisaGay Hamilton

Directed by: Joe Wright

What it’s about: Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx) is a musical prodigy from Cleveland who attended the Julliard School. However, his schizophrenic condition caused him to drop out and eventually end up homeless in Los Angeles. When journalist Scott Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) discovers him on the street, he uses his column in the L.A. Times to bring national attention to the man’s plight, hoping to better his life.

What I liked: Robert Downey Jr. has had a banner year, starting with Iron Man last summer and continuing with Tropic Thunder, which earned him an Oscar nomination. He continues his string of excellent performances with his role in The Soloist. Likewise, Jamie Foxx also has proved to be a fine actor and shows his chops again with this movie.

Directed by Joe Wright, who gave us Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, this movie looks fantastic and very well made.

Additionally, I found interesting to have a second film in as many weeks paying lip service to the utter disintegration of print journalism, which is getting overtaken by us rodents here on the Internet. Hoo-hah!

What I didn’t: As well made as this film is, I found it tedious and boring. By the fourth or fifth Oscar clip, I was done with the adoration of the actors. Rather than having a coherent story, The Soloist delves into character study, the triumph of the human spirit and the redemptive power of music. This is great for someone like my mother-in-law, and the music connection is a winner for someone like my organist at my church, but for a cynical sonofabitch like myself, I couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough.

Who is gonna like this movie: Music enthusiasts and fans of Joe Wright.

Grade: C-

EARTH

Studio: DisneyNature

Rated: G.

Starring: James Earl Jones, polar bears, elephants, humpback whales and a bunch of other critters on our planet

Directed by: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield

What it’s about: A re-edit of the BBC documentary series Planet Earth, this inaugural release of DisneyNature Films takes the audience through a year in the life of three families on our big blue island. A polar bear family, an elephant family and a humpback whale family must struggle to survive in our ever-changing and often dangerous home.

What I liked: I don’t care if the footage from this movie has been available before, it’s worth seeing on the big screen. Opening on Earth Day early this week, Earth is a brilliantly shot nature film, reminding me of other fine movies like March of the Penguins and Arctic Tale.

While it is rated G, the film does have its fair share of reality. So, you can bring the family – even the kids – and let them learn a bit about their world. It’s not too preachy. (Well, it is a bit preachy, but what do you expect from a film called Earth that opens on Earth Day.) Ultimately, though, this movie has some gorgeous shots of time-lapse photography and beautiful imagery from around the world… and you just might get an education seeing it.

What I didn’t: Even with the family-friendly G rating, you’ll want to be cautious with the littlest viewers. With a cheetah that kills a baby antelope and a few other pretty harsh deaths in the animal kingdom, it might be a bit disturbing. Fortunately, even with the harsh realities of life in the wild, the movie does have the good sense to cut away before things get too ugly or bloody.

Who is gonna like this movie: Nature lovers and families.

Grade: B+

OBSESSED

Studio: Screen Gems

Rated: PG-13 for sexual material including some suggestive dialogue, some violence and thematic content.

Starring: Idris Elba, Ali Larter, Beyoncé Knowles, Bruce McGill and Jerry O’Connell

Directed by: Steve Shill

What it’s about: Beyoncé puts on her producer’s hat (as well as her actor hat and soundtrack artist) to help roll out Obsessed. A modern-day Fatal Attraction, Obsessed tells the story of a beautiful yet unbalanced temp named Lisa (Ali Larter) who targets Derek Charles (Idris Elba), a man high up in the financial world. When Lisa gets too close, Derek’s wife (Beyoncé) steps up to protect her family.

What I liked: Any movie with Beyoncé and Ali Larter in it can’t be all that bad. I just wish the movie would have been more than PG-13, or I wouldn’t have to settle for a single shot of Larter in her underwear.

Sure, there are some nice suspense moments, but read on to discover why this film was held from any sort of press screenings…

What I didn’t: Obsessed tries to be intelligent, but it’s like Larry the Cable Guy at a country club. The film’s plot is a mess with its characters acting completely stupid throughout. First, you have the character of Derek who never actually sleeps with her. At least Michael Douglas got on the Glenn Close horse before being subjected to the worst cinematic stalking case of the 1980s.

The writing is simplistic and weak, presenting characters that I never care about. Even the supporting characters do the dumbest things, like a babysitter letting Lisa in to see the kid without verifying with the parents, or the stereotypical gay assistant dishing out personal information to Lisa even though she’s being investigated by the police.

As the wife, Beyoncé’s character is just too untrusting of Derek, too judgmental of his assistant (with the backstory that she used to be Derek’s assistant and now insists that he never have a female assistant ever again) and too unforgiving (for kicking him out of the house for three months when it is discovered that Lisa has been stalking him) to be sympathetic. This plays to possible past infidelity problems with Derek, even though he’s painted as innocent.

And, when all is said and done, Derek is emasculated by both his wife and his stalker, with Beyoncé putting on her best Ripley from Aliens face to take care of bid-ness.

Who is gonna like this movie: Sadly, a lot of people.

Grade: D+


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