I went to see American Gangster over the weekend. Before I get into that, though, I should probably explain that I don't go to movies in the theater very much. I used to depend on HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz for my movie fix, but lately NetFlix has been my go-to source for movie enjoyment. The cable channels have gone to the movie vault and come up with mostly Grade D garbage as far as I'm concerned. NetFlix is never a disappointment.
So, like I was saying, I don't go to see movies in theaters very often EXCEPT during November, December, and January. That's when the Oscar contenders are all over the place. Beans and I consider Oscar Night (as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award night too) sacred days. Okay, maybe not as sacred as Christmas or any of the other religious holidays, but we think The Oscar Awards night should at least rank right up there with when Christopher Columbus discovered America. I mean, c'mon people. Some folks get a paid holiday for Chris' discovery day, and just how many excellent movie sagas has he contributed to society when measured against someone like Martin Scorcese? Exactly.... NONE! So it seems to me we should get the day after the Oscars off from work because those shows do tend to run into late hours and it's hard to get up for work after you've burned the midnight oil and waited 4+ hours the night before to see what movie won Best Picture Of The Year.
Because we're in November now and some of the Oscar contenders are starting to open around the country, I've gone to the movies over the past few weekends. I've seen The Kingdom, Rendition, and American Gangster. As I see it, the Oscars are going to have some serious work to do when it comes to the nominating this year because I haven't seen all that much to get excited about. True, this is only November and the big guns are coming in December, but still, the quality of movie should be improving right about now. It isn't. And frankly, after seeing the trailers to upcoming movies, I'm not very hopeful about the future either. I mean, puhleeeze. Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson? Gotta wonder who was drinking what when that casting decision was made. Oh wait. Didn't Tom Hanks buy the rights to the book so he could put himself in the lead roll? Gack. This is a good reason why actors should never be making casting decisions. I've read Charlie Wilson's War and while Philip Seymour Hoffman might be a passable Gus, no way is Tom Hanks credible as Charlie. And Julia Roberts as Joanne Herring? Pass the Pepto Bismol please.
But I digress. This was supposed to be about two movies, one of which is American Gangster. AG is the story of Frank Lucas who managed the drug trade in Harlem during the Vietnam War Era and made tons of money doing it. Russell Crowe plays Richie Roberts, the cop who eventually brings Lucas to justice. Ridley Scott directed. The critics have viewed this movie as a winner. I say don't waste your money. I understand that BET network aired a documentary about Frank Lucas on Halloween night. I haven't seen the documentary, but I'd bet the farm it had to be better than the movie is.
And it's not as though Frank Lucas didn't have a life worth putting up on the big screen. He was, in the drug trade, a force to be reckoned with. He sold his product in a purer form and at less cost than his competition, and he made over 250 million bucks doing it. Now THAT'S an entrepreneur. Not that it's a good idea to chose Frank Lucas as a role model or anything, but the guy did know how to get, make and sell drugs.
Denzel Washington played Frank Lucas. He played him just like he played Malcom X, the cop in Training Day, and Ben Marco from The Manchurian Candidate. For most of the movie he could have phoned in his performance, but then here and there he came to life for a few seconds to show the hint of a person behind the staid and dignified mask. This is called B O R I N G.
Russell Crowe seems to have caught the stoic character with a straight face virus because that's how he played Richie Roberts. Apparently Roberts was a bit of a hound dog, but at no time did Crowe come across as anything but a slightly dimwitted beat cop.
Then there's Ridley Scott. Someone is going to have to 'splain to me what the big deal is about this guy. So he made Black Hawk Down. That film was a mess and needed a tour guide to keep everyone straight. Another occasion where an excellent book was made into a movie that suffered from not nearly enough time to tell the story and get people to sit still for the time it took to get it all right.
Bottom Line? Wait for American Gangster on DVD unless you are a hardcore Russell Crowe/Denzell Washington fan. And even then, don't expect to be impressed by what you see.
The other movie I saw this weekend was from NetFlix, and it's a documentary. No End In Sight is a detailed history of what happened from the time of the Iraq invasion until now. It's my view that this film makes no judgement calls. It just tells you what happened step by step by having people who were right in the middle of each stage of the war tell it to you. Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, and George W Bush declined to be interviewed for this documentary. The only one I would have liked to have seen answer a few questions is Donald Rumsfeld. His statements throughout the Iraqi war, for as long as he was running it, were hopelessly stupid when matched to footage of what was really going on at the time in Iraq as well as what those people who had to work under him dealt with as a result of his orders and his pronouncements.
For anyone interested in seeing facts about the Iraq war, No End In Sight, and the documentary Control Room are very enlightening films. And this applies whether you are for or against the Iraqi war.
Next weekend's movie is Lions For Lambs. This one is Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and Robert Redford. Sounds like it can't miss the mark with those people in it. I'm not counting on it though. Just have to wait and see.