Movie Review: Speed-Dating (2010)

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Speed-Dating CoverWritten and directed by Joseph A. Elmore Jr., the romantic-comedy Speed-Dating centers around three friends – Too Cool (Wesley Jonathan), Dog (Chico Benymon), and  Beaver (Leonard Robinson) – who concoct a speed-dating event to meet as many women as possible. In truth, this speed-dating event is more of a ploy, because its main objective is to sweet talk each woman and get her into bed for sex.  The premise sounds interesting; unfortunately, Speed-Dating hits many speed bumps throughout with overacting, weak storyline, boredom, and dry comedy, leading to the inevitable – a crash.

The three friends/roommates are described as follows:  Too Cool, a millionaire playboy who’s just not that into you; Dog, a freeloading friend who favors “the R-Kelly tapes”; Beaver, a culinary enthusiast who is suspected to be a “man-tickler?”  Both Too Cool and Dog suspect Beaver’s homosexuality and pester him in various scenes, but he strongly denies being gay (but questions himself).  His sexuality is tested in two scenes: the gay club and the house party.

(Note: Spoilers will be revealed, mainly the speed-dating happenings with the various women they meet.)

The movie begins with the three roommates on a track field in sprinting position.  As they sprint, the scene cuts to a speeding car and shows each character engaging in two activities: posting flyers and talking to women.  The following scene focuses on Too Cool who is accompanied in his bedroom by a fake-accent-speaking white woman in lingerie named Frenchita (Mary Alexander Stiefvater).  She claims to be his girlfriend, but Too Cool denies any relationship and claims she is only a sex partner and forcefully removes her from his house. While he argues with her regarding their relationship, Dog and Beaver are playing Halo on the Xbox 360 while simultaneously talking about their failing-club venture.  The game suddenly stops because Dog accuses Beaver of cheating and calls him gay, which precipitates a silly play-fighting scene that supports Dog’s suspension of Beaver’s sexuality via his mannerisms.

Too Cool finally gets Frenchita outside and tells her to never come back again.  She responds with anger by minimizing his manhood and stating she will be back to “watch [his] heart break into a million little pieces.”

This entire opening presents the tone that the movie will carry throughout, and it’s not a pleasant one.  The segments and spoken lines that are supposed to garner laughs fail badly, for they are overdramatized; the Disney-sounding instrumental, supporting the fight scene and Too Cool’s attempt at rebuffing his little manhood, also does not help and sounds cheesy.

In the following segment, the story introduces Inspector Green (Chris Elliot) who is literally blue in the face; he looks sluggish, odoriferous, walks in a clumsy manner, and looks like an otherworldly creature.  Not only is this character a paradox, but he is not funny; his acting is also horrendously bad.

In no time, week one of the speed-dating scam arrives and the three friends admire the dozens of women with drooling smiles – and converse about their prior scams to sleep with women.  Dog makes quick progress by talking nasty to one girl and gets a kiss.  Beaver appears unsuccessful and looks bored with the ladies and is seen standing near the bar.  Too Cool meets a beautiful woman named Kelly (Tanisha Lynn) in a tight-fitting Lycra dress and starts to break her down through sweet talk and his charms. Kelly has a gold-digging mentality but appears very strong, not to mention a woman who would reject a one-night stand.  Unfortunately for the curvaceous beauty, her strong personality is overpowered by Too Cool’s charms as she is seen leaving his bedroom and taking the Walk of Shame.

Unlike the first week of the speed-dating scam which garners dry comedy, week two presents a bundle of laughs through Kiki (Camille Mana) while meeting Too Cool.  Her entire scene garners laughter from start to end; her forgetfulness at the bar and the sex scene present the first real sense of true humor and does not seem forced.  Her lines are funny and flow naturally and her character does an amazing job.

The real comedy continues when Beaver meets an attractive Latina named Geraldine (Natalia Guslistaya) who speaks violently blunt regarding what she wants in a man and how she will manhandle him if he decides to cheat on her. Not only does she have a scary sharp-tongue, but she also displays an overpowering personality.  Surprisingly, he takes her to his home but, unsurprisingly, he can not handle her rough foreplay.  Thus, she tries to stimulate him with a slap to the face and forceful kisses and tells him “shut up” as he tries to slow her down by speaking.  She then throws him on the bed and jumps on him.  However, her attempts to stimulate him are unsuccessful as he cries, whines, and questions her the entire time.

Dog gets himself in a precarious situation when he introduces himself to Sage (Karen Yelverton), a woman with a gruff laugh and a deep voice; her voice gives it away and one thing comes in to mind:  her appearance is misleading. Dog ignores the clear signs of her true identity and continues chatting her up, because his ultimate goal is sex.  The ensuing scene shows both he and Sage tousling on a bed with joy.  Like the Latina, she is rough in the bedroom, but it’s a different kind of roughness that reduces Dog’s joy into a loud and funny scream when realizing they both share the same external organ.

As Dog and Beaver fail to score with the women they meet through their speed-dating scheme, the ultimate player Too Cool finds himself sexually pleasured constantly.  His latest victim presents herself as an easygoing woman, but she is not the usual.  However, her condition does not deter him from getting into her panty.

As the speed-dating game comes to an end, co-stars Danielle (Mekita Faiye) and Elizabeth (Vanessa Simmons) are introduced and remain constant until the film ends.   Danielle settles with Dog and Too Cool settles with Elizabeth throughout the film.  When Dog first meets Elizabeth, her beauty fittingly leaves him tongue-tied with his mouth wide open.  She doesn’t believe he can be faithful and knows his true motives, so she questions him: “You wanna sleep with me?”  Dog answers “yes,” but tells Elizabeth that she is not the type of woman that he would mistreat.  With a smile, she asks him a final question:  “Would you give up sex for God?”  An answer is not given, because the camera pans to Beaver, but his answer becomes clear later in the film when he visits her church, listening to a silly pastor’s self-glorifying sermon, which is an attempt at comedy that fails miserably.

Speaking of Beaver, he meets the hyper-lively Emily (Gavin Turek) who is enthralled by compliments, prompting her to deliver a hilarious scene filled with strange noises as she squeaks with happiness.  She completely leaves him dumbstruck and confused.  This memorable scene represents one of the best moments in the movie.

Meanwhile, Too Cool whose eyes are fixated on Danielle the entire night finally meets her.  She knows his womanizing ways and intentions to get her into bed through the gossip of other women.  Despite knowing this, she, like the prior women, stupidly falls victim to his scheme.  While standing outside of his house, she has ample time to make a decisive decision as her conscious tells her it’s a “bad idea” and not the right thing to do, but her hormones force her to give up her body to him.  After having sex, Too Cool becomes a change man when he sees stars (simultaneously shown with the support of a holy music)?

This scene becomes more ridiculous when it is revealed toward the end that her meeting with Too Cool at the final speed-dating event was not by chance but actually via a ploy, devised by her friend Frenchita.  What type of woman would sleep with her friend’s ex-boyfriend, knowing that she was only a device used to break the heart of an ex-lover?

For some odd reason, Too Cool is infatuated with Danielle but does not want to accept his feelings, so he tries to erase her from his memory by going to a club in search of women. He brings home a striking Asian woman named Jasmine (Natasha Yi), but he cannot muster his libido to have sex with her. He then meets the gorgeous Christine (Esther Baxter) who plays the role of a dominatrix; nothing happens due to the interference of a man who rushes into the bedroom holding a shotgun, causing Too Cool (in a diaper) to make his escape through a window.  With the exception of eye-catching Christine, this entire scene is stupid and unfunny.

The strangeness continues as Too Cool claims he hates Danielle for ruining his sex life; however, he makes her “the one” and their relationship blossoms as they spend more time together.  They go out sprinting on track field; she invites him to her home and shows him her artwork; he literally falls for her; they cuddle and kiss under the bed sheets, and have a great time.  Out of nowhere, he plans a trip to Hawaii for them both.  Frenchita overhears his conversation and renders a “what?” outburst.  During this trip, the audience witnesses the first sign of a subdued playboy as he shares his upbringing with Danielle.  This segment reveals that his wealth comes from his Aunt B’s former occupation as a game designer.  Moreover, it reveals his biological mother named Gayle (Holly Robinson Peete) who gave him up as a kid.  He yearns to see her and does so, only to learn that she is married and has two kids.

The scene with Gayle leaves a major void in the story, because it goes nowhere.  Being in the movie for about four minutes at most, the Gayle character is pointless and fails to display any connection to her son.  For example, when Too Cool enters her home, she looks shocked, frozen, afraid to speak, sad, and breaks down in tears when he leaves.  She acts as if she does not recognize him, but why?  Why isn’t her back-story presented, allowing the viewers to see and understand the reasoning behind her decision to give up her son? Only the director knows.

After giving him up and not seeing him for years, she does not even approach him.  Approaching him with a hug or some kind of affection would have been fitting, but the character shows no physical interaction.  Her presence shows nothing but aloofness.  She does, however, mail him a letter stating that she told her family the truth and explains her sorrow for giving him up.  Still, it does not make up for her story, because it’s empty and unknown, rendering her character senseless.

While Too Cool moves on with his life, he and Danielle celebrate their love for one another via dinner at a restaurant, which is first interrupted by Danielle’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Chingy) and later by Too Cool’s ex-girlfriend Frenchita and her friend Samantha.  Frenchita reveals to him that Danielle is her friend and the entire meeting at the club was a setup to punish him.  In essence, she uses Danielle to get back at Too Cool as she promised she would do in the opening of the film:  “I’m gonna watch your heart break into a million little pieces” when [you] fall in love.  Her promise materializes as Too Cool looks at Danielle with pure sadness.

Does the director expect viewers to feel sorry for Too Cool after manipulating and using women only as his sex object majority of the film?  If that is what he intended when writing the script, it does not work because it is not believable.  His character as a playboy does not deserve sympathy for his sorrow from a deception by one woman, considering the fact that he has deceived many women.  Had the director made the story of his mother the focal point of his sadness (by giving her an actual story), it would have been more interesting and believable, unlike his sadness via Danielle.

Nonetheless, he leaves Danielle but his heart leads him back to her at the end.

Speed-Dating has an interesting premise and could have worked; however, it falls flat because some of the plots were not strong enough, convoluted, and unnecessary to the overall story.  The scenes involving Inspector Green, the dancing routine by the cooks, the conversation that wheelchair-bound Don has with Too Cool in the club, the gay-dancing routine with Beaver, the foul-speaking and blasphemous pastor in the church are a few examples of worthless scenes that add nothing to the story.

These scenes are obviously in the movie to make people laugh, but the overall comedy is simply dry, weak, and presents many unfunny scenes, thanks to the horrendously fatuous one-liners and dialogues.  However, to claim that this film did not have several funny scenes would be untrue, for there are some scenes that showcase humor remarkably (mainly the speed-dating events via the women).  Not only are the jokes and useless scenes problematic, but the acting is as well; at best, it is mediocre and downright awful by some.

All in all, there are many excellent romantic comedies released independently by Black directors; two notables are All About You and Hav Plenty.  Unfortunately, Joseph A. Elmore Jr.’s Speed-Dating does not represent one of them.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this movie receives a woeful 2.
**
December 25, 2011

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Movie Review: Blood and Bone (2009)

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Directed by Ben Ramsey, Blood and Bone is a direct-to-DVD martial arts movie, released on September 15, 2009 via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.  The movie stars Michael Jai White, Julian Sands, Eamonn Walker, Dante Basco, Nona Gaye, and Michelle Belegrin.

Leading character Michael Jai White, assuming the role as Isaiah Bone, delivers a stand-alone and explosive performance like none other.  The tagline of the movie, In A World Without Rules, He Makes His Own, and subtitle, Destroy Your Enemy, say it all and could not be more fitting.

When Bone is released from prison, he rents a small room in a moderate house from Angela (Nona Gaye), a foster mother, and prepares his mission.  He later goes to an underground fight scene and watches from afar.  He makes his way into the car of Pinball (Dante Basco), a fight organizer, and convinces him to put him in a fight with any fighter to prove himself.  The fight is quickly organized and he wins.  Thereafter, Pinball not only becomes his friend but his unofficial manager.

Although Bone wins money through his fights, these fights are not driven primarily by money but rather a “take care of my wife and kid” promise – a promise that he realizes will only be fulfilled if he gets into the underworld of street fighting and befriends and shake hands with the enemy.  Thus, that is exactly what he does.

Blood and Bone is no doubt one of the best martial arts films in years.  It is not the typical fight movie, where the main character goes to various scenes to fight the best fighters and crowned the champion after he defeats the most-feared/best fighter at the end.  Blood and Bone is much more; it has a story line (that is well written), a purpose (that is driven by reunion), and a promise (that Bone fulfils at the end).

When he completes his mission, he leaves.  Instead of taking a ride from Pinball, he walks down the street and into the sunlight with his backpack on his back like a lone warrior.  This scene resembles the final scene of Street Fighter 2: The Animated Movie, where Ryu takes the same route (until evil Bison comes driving down the road in a semi truck with a wicked smile on his face).  This film ends perfectly and has room for a sequel.

In fact, Blood and Bone typifies a perfect film for White, because he is a professional martial artist who holds seven black belts in various disciplines; again, 7 black belts.  More important, what he shows in this film is something that should not be missed by anyone with an eye.

White lights up the screen with his awe-inspiring fighting style from start to finish.  The first scene (i.e., prison bathroom) of the movie depicts that when he takes out five-plus antagonists in quick fashion, leaving them bloodied, mangled, shocked and confused.  As the storyline progresses, White continues his damage in every fight scene.  Not only does he destroy his contenders, but he obliterates them and leaves spectators dumbstruck and looking at one another with the “who-what-when-where-how” questions:  who is this guy; what is he made of; when did he learn these killer moves; where did he come from; and how in the world did he do that with his hands and feet?  In no way is this an exaggeration; viewers who watch this film will perhaps have the same sentiments and ask the same questions and more.

Besides his prowess in martial arts, White’s acting should not be overlooked, for he delivers his role flawlessly.  He is nefarious when he has to be, kind when he has to be, passionate when he has to be, and cool and subdued when his role calls for it.  He excels in every facet and brings character Bone to life.

Some may assume that White is a newcomer, but he is not; rather, he is a veteran in the movie industry and his filmography speaks for itself with more than 30 appearances (e.g., Spawn, 1997; Universal Soldier: The Return, 1999; Trois 2: Pandora’s Box, 2002; Undisputed 2:  Last Man Standing, 2006; Why Did I Get Married, 2007).  He may not be as famous as Denzel Washington or Will Smith, but he represents a great actor.  When he       is featured in a film (or TV series), he does a noble job and delivers; his lastest role is no different.

In closing, Blood and Bone typifies the ultimate example of how a martial arts film should be made, with a passionate storyline and purpose, and not just a fight-only movie that ignores plot and reason.  This movie is bursting with action and entertainment, not to mention, it is the real deal.  Director Ben Ramsey, writer Michael Andrews, and every soul that participated in completing this film did an amazing job by rendering an A+ film.

However, there is one major flaw with this movie; it has nothing to do with the movie itself but rather the movie’s distribution and handling.  Surprisingly, this movie is a straight-to-DVD release and was not shown in theaters.  With so many terrible movies being channeled through movie theaters, it is a shame that this movie, which is directed by a Black man and stars a Black man, did not have that chance.  Movie studios need to get their act together, because this film should not have been allocated straight to DVD.  If studios can waste time and money releasing trash for public view in theaters, there is no doubt that a studio could have given Blood and Bone a proper big-screen presentation. Hollywood needs to wake up.

(This film also features MMA fighters Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, Bob Sapp, and the beautiful Gina Carano; the striking new face of “All My Children,” Shannon Kane, makes a brief appearance.)
***
September 7, 2009