Tyler Perry

Gone Girl

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2014

20th Century Fox

Directed by David Fincher

Produced by Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon and Cean Chaffin

Screenplay by Gillian Flynn based on her novel “Gone Girl”

One of my favorite sayings is that all too often, Christians and married people are not the best advertisers of their own product. I have no idea if the married couple Nick and Amy Dunn in GONE GIRL are Christians but their marriage as depicted in this movie would certainly make anybody think twice before jumping the broom.

On their fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunn (Ben Affleck) returns to his home to discover that his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) is…well, gone. Disappeared. Vanished. There is some evidence that she may have been kidnapped. Nick quite naturally calls the police and an investigation is launched. The lead investigator, Detective Rhonda Boney is sympathetic to Nick but still finds it very odd that he doesn’t know what his wife does during the day while he’s working at the bar he owns with his twin sister Margo(Carrie Coon) or his wife’s blood type.

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Due to the fact that Amy is something of a celebrity thanks to her parents having written a highly successful series of children’s books whose main character is an idealized version of their daughter, her disappearance becomes national news. And that’s when things really start going wrong for Nick. The intense media scrutiny misinterprets his seemingly unemotional responses as being suspicious behavior. Details about financial troubles comes to light. Nick outright lies about some important aspects of their marriage and that brings him under the microscope of Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) a Nancy Grace clone who begins ranting and raving on her show about Nick’s “obvious” sociopathic behavior and accuses him of killing his wife. And soon Nick finds himself arrested for Amy’s murder. His only allies: his faithful, loving sister and Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) a high-powered defense attorney whose specialty is defending accused wife killers.

Now, I can’t in all good conscience continue to describe the plot because halfway through, GONE GIRL becomes another movie entirely and it’s important that you discover the how and why of that for yourself. But all the way through it’s an interesting movie depicting a marriage that was doomed from the very start because both parties went into it thinking of it as a fantasy they could keep fueled by sex and cutesy-poo games. Once financial and family obligations begin mounting up they soon discover what marriage is really about. And neither one of them is ready for it.

While I’ve always felt that Ben Affleck is a better director than actor, I always enjoy seeing him on screen and watching him work. He has to walk a fine line here in that he has to make us interested and care about Nick even when we’re watching the growing mountain of evidence that indicates that yeah, maybe he did kill Amy. It’s not an easy job to do but Affleck pulls it off, I though. I can’t really say much about Rosamund Pike’s performance other than to say it has to be seen to be believed and I do not exaggerate when I say that. Those of you who have seen GONE GIRL know what I’m talking about.

The acting honors in this one has to be shared between Carrie Coon and Tyler Perry. First off, it helped me believe that they were brother and sister as Affleck and Coon do indeed look like they could be brother and sister. Maybe it’s just me but I hate movies where we’re told two actors who look nowhere near alike are supposed to be related. Carrie hits just the right notes in playing a strong, yet despairing sister who desperately wants to support her brother even though he may be a murderer. And Tyler Perry is simply fun to watch playing a Johnnie Cochran style lawyer who is the best at what he does. Perry catches so much heat for other aspects of his career that people forget he can act when he’s challenged to do so and steps up to the plate admirably here.

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For a movie that deals with such emotional issues, David Fincher directs GONE GIRL in a very clinical, emotionally detached manner. As a contrast to such grimy characters and their story, this is an extremely clean and beautiful looking movie. It could have done with a little dirtying up. And clocking in at 2hours and 45minutes its way too long. Hollywood has told similar stories just as good in only 90 minutes.

So should you see GONE GIRL? If you’re a fan of the work of David Fincher, I’d say yes even though I don’t think this is his best movie. It certainly doesn’t begin to come close to generating the suspense and tension of “Seven” “The Game” or “Zodiac” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network” are certainly more fun to watch. But the acting is superb, the story interesting and if you don’t mind immersing yourself for 2hrs and change in the darkest, most twisted screen marriage since “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” then by all means, go see and enjoy.

Rated R

149 Minutes

Better In The Dark #141.5: Tyler Perry And That Damn Fat Suit

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In this bite-sized Point Five Episode, Tom and Derrick discuss the films of Tyler Perry and his position in the entertainment industry and the black community. Is Perry pandering to his audience? Is his recent turn as Alex Cross a big to disassociate himself from his fans, or an attempt to expand his horizons? And does he have an obligation to present his fanbase with better quality product? You know that fat suit is getting hot, so get to clicking!

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Alex Cross

2012

James Patterson Entertainment/Summit Entertainment

Directed by Rob Cohen

Produced by James Patterson and Leopoldo Gout

Screenplay by Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson

Based on the novel “Cross” by James Patterson

Depending on who you talk to, get ready to either get kissed on the lips or kicked in the ass when you bring up the subject of Tyler Perry. Seriously. I’m not joking. He’s a topic of conversation that has no in between. Most people I know either love his work or detest it. His career began with stage productions he wrote and directed, mostly focusing on dysfunctional families in stories that were just as much tragedies as they were comedies. Touring the country with these productions on the Urban Theater Circuit, also known as “The Chitlin’ Circuit” developed Tyler Perry’s enormous success with black audiences that are devoted to him.

And when he put on a dress and starred in movies as his signature character, Mabel ‘Madea’ Simmons he really struck pay dirt. The profane, loud-talking, pistol-packing massive elderly woman who can still open a can of Whoopass at the drop of a cigarette has been a source of much controversy. Spike Lee has said that Tyler Perry’s Madea movies are nothing but modern-day minstrel shows while Perry counters that they are simply entertainment and not to be taken seriously. Professional movie critics gave Perry’s movies such a smacking around that he stopped screening them for the press, saying that he made his movies for his audience and not for critics.

Whatever you want to say about him, there’s no doubt that he’s a powerhouse in both film and on television as he produces three sitcoms for TBS and has entered into an agreement with Oprah Winfrey to produce content for her OWN network. And his films have grossed a half billion dollars worldwide. So why then would he now decide to jump into a completely different genre, one he’s never so much as shown an interest in and take on the role of homicide detective/psychologist ALEX CROSS in an action/crime thriller?

Maybe he’s bored with what he’s been doing. I know I saw an interview with him once where he said that he wanted to do a movie where he kills Madea off so he doesn’t have to get into that dress one more time. I dunno. I applaud him for stepping waaaaayyyy out of his comfort zone to attack this role with such gusto. I don’t believe that he’s going to be treated fairly and that’s a shame because even though I wasn’t jumping up and down in my seat with excitement I also didn’t feel that my time was wasted watching him play action hero.

Detroit homicide detective Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is summoned in the middle of the night by his superior Captain Brookwell (John C. McGinley) to report with his team to a murder scene. Cross gathers up his partner Tommy Kane (Edward Burns) who is having a hot and heavy relationship with his teammate Monica Ashe (Rachel Nichols) and the two of them report to a mansion that is full of dead bodies, one of them gruesomely tortured. Due to a bizarre drawing left at the scene, Tommy nicknames the killer Picasso and it sticks.

Picasso (Matthew Fox) is one of those serial killers that movies loves. He’s hyper-intelligent and apparently psychic since he can extrapolate any and every move the police are going to do days before they themselves even think of it. He’s in Detroit to murder a number of businessmen and he goes about it in the way that only assassins in movies can do seemingly by magic; tapping into and bypassing security systems with ridiculous ease and slipping by squads of armed men as if invisible. And naturally he kills everything he aims at with one shot while dodging blizzards of automatic fire thrown his way.

It’s during the pursuit of Picasso that Alex Cross and his team are soon turned from hunters to the hunted as Picasso seeks to revenge himself on them for their interference in one of his carefully planned assassinations and it’s here that the movie kicks it up a notch. The intellectually composed Alex Cross gives into his dark side and forsakes all in the quest for vengeance. But as his beloved Nana Mama (Cicely Tyson) asks him “If you do this, how will you face your children?”

Okay, let’s get to where the rubber meets the road: you want to know if Tyler Perry nailed it to the wall or did he stink like a houseguest that don’t know when to leave. I’ll give you the opinion of my wife Patricia to answer that. Patricia is the Alex Cross expert in our house having read most of the books or listened to them on audio. She felt that Perry wasn’t sexy enough to be Alex Cross but she freely admits there there is no man alive as sexy as the Alex Cross in her imagination. She did like to see a movie where a black man was presented as a family man enjoying a healthy relationship with his wife, children and colleagues as well as being a respected professional and not the sidekick to the hero. The movie didn’t live up to her expectations but if there’s a sequel made, she’s all for it.

ALEX CROSS is pretty much an origin story to explain his background to those who have never read one of James Patterson’s novels and as such, it works. Tyler Perry does a honest job as action hero and he certainly has the physicality for such a role but he just couldn’t convince me this Alex Cross on the screen has the same formidable intellectual power and laser-beam psychological insight the Alex Cross of the books I have read has. He takes what he’s doing seriously and he respects the character and I do think that in many ways he did capture the spirit of the character.

Fortunately he’s backed up by some truly solid supporting players. Cicely Tyson, John C. McGinley, Jean Reno, Giancarlo Esposito and Edward Burns do their jobs admirably and are generous in stepping aside and giving Tyler Perry his moments to do his thing when the script calls for it. There are no outstanding performances from any of them but I do so enjoy seeing professional work from actors where they do what they do and make it look easy. Matthew Fox is plainly having a ball playing the brilliantly deranged Picasso and I really hope he gets a chance to play another villain as he really didn’t have a chance to build a satisfying character in this one.

So should you see ALEX CROSS? There are some of you reading this who wouldn’t go see a Tyler Perry movie if you were paid to do so. And there are some of you reading this who probably already have seen it and will probably see it again. For those of you who are undecided, I’ll have to leave it up to your conscience. I myself didn’t feel that ALEX CROSS wasted my time but neither was it a superior movie in this genre. It’s way better and far more faithful to the character than the two Alex Cross movies made in the 1990’s starring Morgan Freeman but not as good as I feel it could have been. The fight sequences were a letdown for me as Rob Cohen succumbed to using that fargin’ shaky-cam again and as a result the fight scenes are a blur of arms and legs where it’s difficult to tell who’s hitting who.

Bottom line: it’s an interesting acting experiment for Tyler Perry. If you don’t want to spend your money on a DVD or Blu-ray for an experiment but are still curious, wait for it to show up on Netflix.

101 minutes

PG-13