Tyler Perry's most famous character Madea is actually the least obnoxious part of his latest movie Madea's Witness Protection. Given that Madea is Perry in drag as an overweight gray-haired woman who delights in threatening people with violence this is pretty amazing.
The Madea movies aren't supposed to be nuanced character portraits they're Teachable Moments. In this case it's about shady businesses and Ponzi schemes — Bernie Madoff is even referred to by name. Although there's no doubt we're all feeling the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis and will be for some time to come Madoff isn't exactly breaking news any more. Perry also wants to have his cake and eat it too showing the greed and corruption of big companies while also offering at least one of the people at fault both the benefit of the doubt and a shot at redemption. None of it adds up and half of the movie is taken up by a tiresome group of snobs who deserve their comeuppance at the hands of Madea.
The Needlemans are a rich white family whose patriarch is inadvertently involved in a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme. The mob is somehow involved — don't ask — so the Atlanta ADA Brian (also Perry) puts them up at the safest place he knows: his Aunt Madea's house. George played by Eugene Levy's eyebrows is such a schmuck that he had no idea he was being set up to take the fall or that the company he worked for was stealing millions of dollars from charities. Denise Richards plays his typically brittle and much younger housewife Kate whose main interests seem to be yoga ("yoda" in Madea-speak) and carbs. They both let George's daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell) walk all over them and George and Kate's son Howie (Devan Leos) is the subject of many "fat loser"-type jokes. George's mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) is either senile or pretending to be or is just pilled out from all the Valium they give her; she's also a horny old broad that keeps making googly eyes at Joe (Madea's brother Brian's father and of course Tyler Perry in old man drag). Cindy is so awful that it's a relief when Madea lets loose on her even though it's a truly cruel prank that sets the girl straight. They are all totally boring and incredibly annoying so much so that any time Madea or even Joe appears it's a relief.
The other half of the Teachable Moments equation is Jake played by Romeo Miller. Jake was living a life of crime until he got straightened out and then his dad a sickly preacher played by John Amos trusted him with all the money to pay off the church mortgage. Unfortunately he invested it in a company in New York that's no longer answering their phones. Jake tries to hold up Madea for cash after she leaves the grocery store. She gives him a sound talking-to the gist of which is he should get a job and stop trying to rob old ladies who have worked hard all their life. (True!) However he's just trying to raise the money he lost investing in a company in New York the money his sick father gave him to pay off the church mortgage that's now lost. In case you can't follow the dots that would be the company George worked for that lost all the money for his dad's church leading him to a life of robbing little old ladies for pocket change. Besides the tragic waste of Amos Marla Gibbs plays a nosy neighbor for about half a minute.
Perry's writing shows a disturbing amount of cynicism if not downright meanness for a family movie. When Kate and Madea have a heart-to-heart about Cindy Kate confesses that Cindy thinks her dad cheated on her mom with Kate. Kate says "What kind of person do you think I am?" And Madea purrs sotto voice "A woman." There are also plenty of jokes about Madea's previous life as among other things a stripper especially in conjunction with her weight. (She had to use a telephone pole when she danced. Get it? 'Cause she's fat! Hah!) It's unfortunate that the spoof reel that plays after the credits is more entertaining than the movie itself -- even if those jokes include Charlie Sheen grabbing Madea's boobs Madea/Perry pranking room service about the bidet and Eugene Levy making prison rape jokes.
I was one of the few people who were impressed by Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls a well-intentioned attempt to bring the feminist experimental play by Ntozake Shange to life. That didn't compel me to seek out any of his other movies though so Madea's Witness Protection was my first foray into the franchise that's made him a very very rich and powerful man. The weirdness of Perry's vision is well-documented and he has fans across the board. Unfortunately I'm just one of them.
S11E4: Why do you have to make me look bad, American Idol? I was just writing the series’ praises, saying how it had ditched its gimmicky ways, eschewing the usual ridiculous spectacles for a few less-than talented but not obnoxious contestants. Enter the Aspen auditions, wherein all those praises are put to shame, but we’ll get to the main offender in a bit.
We begin in the snowy Colorado town with Ryan’s apparent goal to see how many references to the altitude he can possibly make in an hour. And to go along with that, all of our terrible contestants are paired with such high-minded overlapping images as thunderous avalanches when they fail to hit that high note, or a mooing cow when they’re just plain awful. Classy, Idol. Still, the judges managed to hand out 31 tickets by the end of the trip – even if there wasn’t a single contestant that really left an impression on me. Are we just getting restless while waiting for Hollywood Week or were the contestants really average this week?
“You may kiss the judge.” –Randy
This young music teacher may have had the chops, but she was still pretty grating. Everyone’s got to have their “thing” so she tells Ryan about her “list” (the celebs you can kiss and it’s not cheating list) and says that Ryan is on her boyfriend’s list. She asks for a kiss for her BF, but Ryan leaves her hanging and says there will be hugs on the other end. OUCH. Then she tells Steven about her list and he says she’d better be able to sing “good.” Double OUCH. It turns out she can actually sing; she does “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar; she’s a solid rocker chick, but nothing spectacular. She avoids the high notes, but they still give her a ticket – and Steven finally gives her that kiss. And no, it wasn't innappropriate or creepy - pipe down, overzealous naysayers.
“I’ve been singing since I was a young buck.” -Curtis Grey
If there’s one thing celebs hate, it’s people seeing them when they’ve still got sleep in their eyes and their hair is still standing on end. So if Curtis Grey ever gets famous as a result of his time on Idol, he’s going to have to demand that his intro footage is destroyed. We start out by meeting him via flip cam as he wakes up at the crack of dawn looking and sounding like a gremlin. And as the series moves on, he’ll be recognizable to at least those of us dedicated enough to watch every episode of Idol, because he sings with character, and an almost Boyz II Men flair. He’s going to Hollywood, obviously.
And now for the rapid fire Hollywood-bound contestants that I feel compelled to mention since one was pretty great, one was a maniac, and one was the second coming of Scotty McCreery.
Richie Law Age 19 This young guy garners smiles and emphatic “yeses” and “yeahs” from the judges, and truthfully he’s a good singer. It’s just too bad he auditioned the year after Scotty McCreery, because he sounds just like last year's champion and Idol ain’t big enough for the two of them. Devan Jones Age 26 This guy has an almost Seal-like quality, very natural, no need for little flourishes or embellishments. He’s just got a pure, great voice. Mathenee Treco Age 25 This guy is obviously a dance instructor, judging by the physical performance he pairs with his singing. His rendition of “Hey Jude” is a little over-the-top, but to be fair, he’s into it and he’s not shy about it. Plus he’s got the voice to back it up. So he can pull it off.
“Why hello, dog.” –Randy Tealana Hedgespeth Age 19 And now we get our first “sob story.” It’s a tale of one twin’s fear of being inferior to her sister, citing times when she was younger and her friends would tell her how talented her sister was. “It sucks,” she so eloquently explains. And that’s why she’s on Idol - to outshine her sister. She tries to start out with a joke, telling Randy he can call her “dawg,” but he apparently doesn’t get it because he blatantly calls her “dog” like he’s really unaware of his own catch phrases. While Tealana tries to sing (and fails) Steven and JLo giggle like sugar-high school girls, eventually trying to make up for being mean girls by telling her how cute she is while simultaneously telling her she didn’t make it. Sure, it’s mean that Idol pushed her through just to humiliate her, but her entire family is there, couldn’t they have like encouraged her to do anything else? That’s pretty cruel too. “You’re right out of my era, and I’m honored to be here listening to your voice.” –Steven Haley Smith Age 18 And now we have not a sob story, but a simple story of being someone who works hard and can actually sing. You’d think we’d see more of that, but well-rounded doesn’t always sell. Haley has three jobs, one of which is making sausage even though she’s a vegetarian, but when she sings, we’re not worrying about how she possibly fits all those shifts into her schedule. Everything, from her almost-stoned way of speaking to her 70s get-up and singing style screams flower child. She does “Tell Me Something Good” and puts a singer-songwriter spin on it, showcasing her smoky, character-filled voice. The judges love it and she gets a golden ticket. She’s almost refreshingly real, but say goodbye to this notion now, because Haley is the last sign of reality we’ll see this episode. ”Have you eaten those prairie oysters?” –Steven Alanna Snare Age 22 This girl may have come up with the lamest “it” factor in recent Idol memory: she’s a bartender at bar that’s famous for Rocky Mountain Oysters, a.k.a. bull testicles. And miraculously, they manage to talk about this the ENTIRE time. That is, until the girl butchers “Jolene” and they overlay her auditions with never-ending cow sounds. You could have at least used an actual bull, guys. She obviously doesn’t get a ticket. ”I love that song too, but somebody’s really gotta sing it.” –Jennifer Shelby Twenten Age 17 And here’s the obligatory dose of adorable. Shelby and her cute little Minnesotan accent explain that American Idol has helped her deal with her bi-polar disorder. I worry a bit that potentially being famous could ignite the side effects of her condition, but then again, it’s her dream. And when she sings, you know she deserves a shot. She’s got a strong country voice, and a good range. Her version of “Temporary Home” showcases her sweet, slight rasp. The judges love her and she goes through to Hollywood. ”You’re a lover.” –Jennifer Jairon Jackson Age 19 Alright, so this guy’s original song wasn’t some cheesy pandering jingle like these things usually are, but did Randy and Jennifer have to praise it so highly? He’s a descent singer who sounds like the definition of a generic post-2010 R&B singer and his song didn’t completely blow, but it’s just a typical tune. He makes it through, but I’m guessing his success will be short-lived. “People call me Lady Gaga sometimes when I’m walking down the street.” –Angie Zeiderman Angie Zeiderman Age 25 While this girl is no Lady Gaga – and claiming that in any capacity is just asking for viewers to hate her – she is likable in her own unique way. The judges love her eccentric look, with her purple hair and cute flower dress. She starts off with an aerobic performance of “If You Got It, Flaunt It” from Gypsy. While they should be voting, this starts an argument between Randy and Jennifer because he hates Broadway style singing and complains that it employs “that vibrato that I hate.” JLo says he has to admit Angie’s talented and asks her to sing another song. When singing normally, she has a sweet tone, and she’s fun, albeit a little delusional. This completely changes Randy’s mind and they all send her through. “No one talks to me because I’m frightening and I look homeless.” –Magic Cyclops Magic Cyclops Age Unknown because this guy is a nutjob Finally, Idol gives me – and apparently Randy – reason to lose my mind. After three episodes of good behavior, the series dips back into its tired gimmick well to present this joke of a character from Iowa with a mind-blowingly terrible fake British accent. He wears long 70s locks, an American flag t-shirt, sunglasses and headscarf that says “Magic” in cartoon letters while boasting about his lack of hygiene and his air guitar collection. Seriously, why do we let these staged performances go on? He should have been an aside between legitimate auditions. He gets actual audition time and gives the judges a choice: Neil Diamond or “James Buffet” (buff-ay) and he means Jimmy Buffet (Buff-ett), but Randy doesn’t get it. (Probably because he doesn’t care.) We won’t waste time talking about how he sang – if you really want more, use your googling skills and find his Twitter and website. I’m not doing it for you out of self-respect, though I do know both of those things exist because I've shamefully seen both of them. To end the episode, Randy is enraged by this nonsense and storms off to the bathroom, asking “what is this s**t?” Yeah, we’re tired of it too. Let’s hope that’s the last we have to see of this drivel. Who was your favorite contestant from Aspen? Or did you think they weren’t all that memorable too? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler
The Simple Life star has linked to the official website of little Devan, four, who is facing a race against time to find a donor so that he can undergo a potentially life-saving operation.
And Hilton has reached out to her online followers to help him.
In a heartfelt post, she writes, "Hey guys, 4 yr-old Devan has leukaemia. Looking for bone marrow donors www.matchdevan.com. Please help."
Set in a world inhabited only by motor vehicles Cars is sort of a cross between Michael J. Fox's Doc Hollywood and NASCAR. The main hero is a hotshot rookie race car named Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson)--an obvious homage to the late fast-driving Steve McQueen--whose one goal in life is to win the Piston Cup and bask in fame and glory. Yet on his cross-country trip to the Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros (real-life legendary racer Richard Petty voices the reigning champion The King) Lightning finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy--and forgotten--Route 66 town of Radiator Springs. There he meets its colorful denizens--including Sally (Bonnie Hunt) a snazzy 2002 Porsche who owns the local “rest” stop; Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) the town’s rusty but trusty tow truck; and Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) a 1951 Hudson Hornet who rules the town with a steady hand er wheel. Together they all help the cocksure Lightning realize that there are more important things than trophies fame and sponsorship. If Pixar calls you come running so it isn’t at all surprising how impressive the Cars vocal line-up is starting with legendary screen icon Newman as the Doc. Come on being the race car driving nut that he is you think the 81-year-old actor would say no to voicing a 1951 Hudson Hornet who has his own mysterious past in the racing world? Hell no. The rest of the cast also seem to have a good time channeling their inner car from Wilson’s snarky speedster to Hunt’s cute and sexy Porsche a big-city lawyer who decides to get out of the fast lane. Supporting voices include Cheech Marin and Tony Shalhoub as Radiator Springs’ low-riding body shop and Italian Fiat tire shop owners respectively. Even George Carlin gets into the act as a groovy ‘60s VW wagon who sells “organic” fuel. Good stuff. Of course what Pixar flick would be complete without its comic relief? Although he’s no Ellen DeGeneres as a short-term memory impaired fish Larry the Cable Guy fills in nicely as the dim but sweet Mater the ultimate hick tow truck. Having been out of the directing loop since his 1999 sequel Toy Story 2 Cars marks Pixar’s golden boy John Lasseter return--and this is his big love letter to the splendor that is the automobile. Of course his demand for perfection took its toll. The animators had to come up with a new technique called “ray tracing ” which allows the car stars--that are metallic and heavily contoured--to credibly reflect their environments. Even with a sophisticated network of 3 000 computers and state-of-the-art lightning-fast processors that operate up to four times faster than they did on The Incredibles the average time to render a single frame of film was 17 hours. Still all that time spent pays off. Cars is a real visual treat with another firm grasp in storytelling. Sure it’s a bit of a vanity project and may shoot way over the kiddies’ heads making them squirm a little during the “slow” parts. But as one of the recently appointed top guns at Disney Lasseter can do just about anything he wants these days--and we are going to love it dammit.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.