Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Movie Review: Alex Cross (PG13 - 101 minutes)

Alex Cross is a character created by author James Patterson in 1993's Along Came A Spider.  He's an African-American psychologist and police detective.  He's made it to the big screen at least twice before in Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls, portrayed both times by Morgan Freeman.
These movies were entertaining crime drama/thrillers.  The current re-incarnation or re-boot of Alex Cross attempts to be an entertaining crime drama/thriller.
Going in expecting this movie to be terrible (hey, that's what I heard), I was surprised in that it wasn't as terrible as I thought it was going to be, but it still wasn't great.  It doesn't help that the product placement is so heavy handed that at times the movie feels like an hour and a half long Cadillac commercial - look at this long, loving shot of the killer's sharp Cadillac CTS-V performance sedan as he pulls up and parks!  Also - the movie is shot on location in Detroit, which gets mentioned over and over again. 
Tyler Perry steps into the shoes of Alex Cross in this version and does a capable job playing the doctor/detective.  This marks the first time since he started making movies that he is in a major starring role (that cameo in Star Trek didn't count) in a movie he didn't write/produce/direct/edit/market/own/shoot in Atlanta/etc.   Can you imagine - Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry in a Tyler Perry movie, Alex Cross; directed by Tyler Perry.  I'm teasing, his movies are not quite like that, but they do get close!  Cross and his elite cop squad are homicide detectives in Detroit (check out the Cadillacs they drive!), they encounter a murder that leads to a conspiracy involving a wealthy businesman (he arrives in a Cadillac!) and a hired hit man/pyschopath (look at his beautiful Cadillac!).  As they drive their Cadillacs from placing to place attempting to guess at the killers next move, Cross's family gets caught in the crossfire (maybe his wife should have left town in a Cadillac!), and he is forced to question his moral and psychological limits.
Harvard grad Director Rob Cohen is best known for the fast and the Furious (he has a really long relationship with GM and using their vehicles - so the Cadillac/Detroit thing does make sense), Dragon Heart, Daylight, XXX, Stealth, The Mummy 3 and is currently prepping another Vin Diesel XXX movie.  He does a decent job with this movie, yes the Cadillacs could have been a little more subtle (hell, Heineken paid for almost all of Skyfall and we really only noticed it once in the movie), but on the whole, it's shot well - with a few notable exceptions.  When Cross and his team are discussing the original murder, and Cross develops his profile of the killer, he inexplicibly turns toward the camera and away from Ed Burns while he slowly describes what the killer in thinking and how he operates.  The music comes up in a odd swell, that should have just increased the tension of the movie, but really made me wonder if Perry had forgotten there were other actors in the scene.  An odd directing choice to be sure, not overwhelmingly weird.  Except that it happens again, during an intense phone conversation between our villian and our hero, Matthew Fox finishes a sentence by turning directly into the camera.  Odd, because he's alone on a roof at the time.  Then he drives off in his Cadillac. 

One other directing choice that I disagreed with is during the hand to hand combat sequence at the end - the camera switches to very jumpy hand held, with strange slow motion pieces thrown in.  These do not enhance the action in any way - and the effect had not been used at all up to that point, which really made it feel out of place.
The cast of this movie does a good job:
  • Tyler Perry again proves he certainly can do things that are not necessarily his own pieces.  He is a good actor and will really only get better over time.  To be honest, I wouldn't mind him doing another Alex Cross movie, I think that this could develop into a strong franchise.
  • Edward Burns plays his partner and best friend, Tommy Kane (who in the books is named John Sampson - at least, they seem to be the same character).  Burns is always entertaining (if you haven't seen Confidence - rent it now) and plays the supporting role here with ease.  The friendship between the two of them is relaxed and believable.
  • Rachel Nichols plays Monica Ashe, the third member of their detective unit.  I had previously seen her in Alias (that weird last season) and GI Joe.  She's capable in this, but doesn't have a lot to do.
  • Giancarlo Esposito, who of late has been amazing on Breaking Bad and Revolution, plays a local Detroit hood who runs a car dealership (there's lots of Cadillacs and other GM cars in the dealership shots - plus Cadillac wall decor).  He is the 'bad man' Cross turns to for help when beginning to question how far he will go to solve this case.  Aside from having one of the most fun names to say (go ahead and say Giancarlo Esposito out loud a few times... then Benedict Cumberbatch, then Chiwetel Ejiofor - what I wouldn't give for them all to be in a movie together) he's a great actor and fun in the little scene he has in this movie.
  • Jean Reno plays the french businessman who has an amazing plan to re-vitalize Detroit.  He may or may not be the killer's next target, so Cross and team have to figure out how to protect him while he goes from meeting to meeting in his Cadillac.  He's good (see the Professional if you haven't - but don't bother with the Godzilla remake) but doesn't quite seem to fit in this movie, but maybe that's the point.
  • John C. McGinley plays the police chief, which seems to involve a lot of barking orders and standing with hands agressively placed on hips - you know, like every movie police chief ever.  He was great in Office Space and on Scrubs and is fine in this, but again - not a ton to do.
  • Carmen Ejogo plays Cross's wife - spoiler alert - she doesn't make it.  But that's necessary to give Cross the push towards stepping out of bounds to catch the killer.
  • Cicely Tyson, who has been in many Tyler Perry movies, plays Nana Momma - Cross's grandmother, a character from the books.  She's playing a character you've seen her play before, but that's fine, because she's good at it.
  • That brings me to Matthew Fox as Picasso - the psychotic, hitman for hire.  Fox lost a ton of weight for this role and really, really - I mean really - commits to it.  I'm not sure that level of committment was necessary.  He stands out in the movie, but not necessarily in a good way.  He's crazy, but the performance is so over the top, that you're more annoyed by him than you are scared of him.  He certainly succeeded in creating a memorable character, though.  And again, he drives a really nice Cadillac (seriously, at one point he turns on the radio in the car and it's playing a song with a lyric about Cadillacs - I couldn't make that up if I wanted to).
All in all, certainly not terrible, but certainly not great.  Entertaining enough if you really like Cadillacs, Detroit, creepy-thin Matthew Fox or crime-drama TV shows.
 5 out of 10:  Lost points for the non-stop Cadillac references. I get it - you're in Detroit and Cadillac gave you money for the movie - enough!  Gained points for the PG13 rating.  I so appreciated it with this movie...in an R movie, the killing, maiming, and murder would have all been amped up to a level I have no interest in seeing.  Lost points for Matthew Fox being just too much.

Bonus Video 1:  Giancarlo Esposito has been in many Spike Lee movies - in fact, he was Buggin' Out in Do The Right Thing:
Bonus Video 2: In Case you are unfamiliar with the rest of Tyler Perry's work - here is a very funny example!
Bonus Video 3:  Kenan Thompson as Tyler Perry on SNL: "I own Atlanta!" Hilarious.
Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews and behind the scenes footage!

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