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Soloist Fights Earth: Or, Ray Charles and Iron Man + BFF versus Disney

Okay, so the title of this blog makes about as much sense as mocha-flavored tea served in a beer stein, but I couldn’t help but point out some of the odd connections between these movies.  In The Soloist (Metacritic – 60%; Rotten Tomatoes – 54%) the man who played Ray Charles in Ray (Jamie Foxx) stars as a mentally unstable musical prodigy along with Robert Downey Jr. who played Iron Man along with Terrance Howard (who played Tony Stark’s friend – Rodney Rhodes) and even though Howard won’t be back for Iron Man 2 (he was replaced with Don Cheadle) he is in Fighting (M – 60% RT – 26%) and (oddly enough) he was in Ray.  All that rambling and I didn’t even get to how Terrance Howard stars in the Broadway production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones, who is the narrator for the American version of Earth (M – 71%  RT – 85%), which also comes out this week.  As you can see, it’s all a little confusing.  So, in the interest of simplifying this process, I’ll occlude postulating verbosely about insignificant trivialities.
the-soloist-movie-poster-1
“I don’t know if Beethoven and a sympathetic newspaper reporter can redeem a messy American city, but this movie makes a plausible case for so fervent a dream.” The New Yorker  David Denby

That sounds a little like a superhero comic plot.  Can a time-traveling historical figure and a mild mannered reporter saved an American city in peril!?!  Then again, perhaps I’m still caught up those odd connections.  Next.

“Has moments of power and imagination, but the overworked style and heavy socially conscious bent exude an off-putting sense of self-importance, making for a picture that’s more of a chore than a pleasure to sit through.” Variety Todd McCarthy

Hmm.  Perhaps that’s not so bad if it’s the ‘whistle while you work’ type chore.

“The Soloist has all the elements of an uplifting drama, except for the uplift.” Chicago Sun-Times  Roger Ebert

So, it’s just drama?

“American Idol meets Brother From Another Planet and Beethoven for dummies. What’s missing is any recognition of the impact of poverty and racism on homelessness and mental illness, or why any of it exists in supposedly the most prosperous nation on earth.” Prairie Miller NewsBlaze

So, it’s drama without social consciousness?

Innappropriate high five?

Innappropriate high five?

“This film version takes a somewhat romanticized view of both journalism and skid row yet is nevertheless a compassionate and compelling look at mental illness.” Kirk Honeycutt Hollywood Reporter

So, it’s back to being just drama.  How about the low down on what we could expect?

“The movie, for all its flaws, reminds us that everyone is worth catching, but it’s the actors who best embody that message. They go the full human being.” Ty Burr Boston Globe

As opposed to those actors who only go for half human?  And speaking of non-human film participants, Disney’s newest division Disneynature, features three animal families and their travels around this big blue ball of ours: Earth.
earth_movie_poster_disneynature
“Earth is 85 minutes of graceful animals, scary animals, funny animals, and excruciatingly cute baby animals. A better family-friendly nature film can’t be found.” Frederica Mathewes-Green Christianity Today

Except those scary animals.  Doesn’t Disney want to avoid provoking negative sociological responses (ie. terror)?

“This is nature defanged and declawed for kiddie consumption, so the emphasis is on awwww-filled moments.” The New York Times  Jeannette Catsoulis

Awwwwwww

Awwwwwww

“It just feels like cheating. This is the exact footage used in the “Planet Earth” series. I even miss the full Disney treatment. No cute names given to the animals? How will you sell more stuffed animals?” Jeff Bayer The Scorecard Review

Indeed.  Like this one:

He could only be cuter if he was holding cavity -inducing sugar water

He could only be cuter if he was holding cavity-inducing sugar water

“The ascribing of emotions to these critters can get a little Lion King-ripe at times. But the filmmakers have filled in around their “family” narratives with footage that is breathtaking enough on a towering screen — and you should find the biggest one possible — that it is hard to object too strenuously.” NPR  Bob Mondello

Pretty pictures = no objections.  Did I get that right?

“It requires only four words to describe Earth: glorious photography, annoying narration.” ReelViews James Berardinelli

Hold up a sec.  James Earl Jones does the narration.  Even if he had a cold and was pausing every few minutes to hock up some lung butter, I have trouble imagining it not still being pretty good.  All right, let’s wrap up our discussion of Disney commercializing Earth Day by releasing a movie called Earth with the opinions of a cynic and a true believer.  Cynic, you’re up first.

“If nature’s what you crave, you’ll have more fun sitting on your porch and watching mosquitoes impact with a bug zapper.” Joshua Tyler CinemaBlend.com

“Earth, you had me at baby polar bears.” New York Post Kyle Smith

And that’s the enjoyability spectrum for Earth: bug zapping entertainment to cute man-eating animals.  Last up, a movie about underground boxing, appropriately called: Fighting.
fighting_poster
“For all the utter phoniness of Fighting — the cockeyed, faux-verite shooting, the lurches in storytelling, the lack of character development, a contrived crisis between Shawn and his would-be girlfriend Zulay and Tatum’s dopey-charming thing–Fighting’s not so bad.” Variety  John Anderson

I can’t help myself – I’m endlessly entertained by reviews that only point out negatives, but end with assurances that it isn’t as bad as you’d think.  It’s like telling someone that hot dogs are made with mechanically recovered meat or meat slurry (according to Wikipedia), but with a little mustard they’re okay.  Yum?

“As innocuous as its title, this modest indie about underground street fighting boasts a gritty tongue-in-cheek attitude but (sorry) packs little punch.” Joe Lozito Big Picture Big Sound

You don’t need to apologize to us, except for beginning your review with a linguistic contradiction.  Innocuous means harmless, so the movie is as harmless as fighting?

I prefer my street-fighting violence mixed with ironic consumerism

I prefer my street-fighting violence mixed with ironic consumerism

“The rest of the narrative is a smear of gangster clichés, head-slapping collisions of coincidence, and shirtless Tatum scowling. One has to wonder how a homeless street fighter has the time and tools to shave his entire upper body on a daily basis.” Brian Orndorf BrianOrndorf.com

Really?  One has to wonder about daily chest shaving?  Maybe we’ll find out in the sequel.  Okay, this roundup has gone on long enough.  Let’s end with one more volley from a naysayer and a yaysayer.

“The movie never works up a pulpy head of steam. It’s like an exploitation movie that thinks it’s an art movie, only there’s no art to be found.” Village Voice  Scott Foundas

Would a ‘pulpy head of steam’ be a feature of an exploitation movie or an art movie?  For the sake of clarity, how about a review that uses boxing imagery?

“May not score a knockout, but it sure wins on points.” Frank Swietek One Guy’s Opinions

Assuming that underground street fighting bothers with points, it sounds like a TKO at best.  Enjoy your weekend all.

PDJ has NBPITF (Never Been Punched In The Face)

PDJ has NBPITF (Never Been Punched In The Face)

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3 Responses

  1. Hi, here’s that website I was telling you about:

    http://www.jamesearljoneslungbutterforsale.com

  2. Is “go the full human” a play on “go full retard” from Tropic Thunder?

  3. I hope that full human is an inside joke. It makes more sense than the alternative. Also, when I made the lung butter joke, I had no idea other people used that term; let alone celebrity fanatics who try to sell it.

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