In V, Ali Davis (Taraji P. Henson) is a sports agent who gets passed up for partnership in the agency and is told that she does not connect well with men. The next day, at her friend’s bachelorette party, she talks to a “psychic,” Sister (Erykah Badu), who gives her drugged tea and, unintentionally, the ability to hear men’s thoughts. While Ali and her assistant, Brandon (Josh Brener) try to figure out how to cope with this “gift,” Ali also sets her sights on signing basketball hotshot Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), which also means dealing with his eccentric father, Joe “Dollar” Barry (Tracy Morgan). Meanwhile, she is also bumbling through a relationship with a single father named Will (Aldis Hodge).
What Men Want is pretty dumb, but it does have some good laughs and I think it made some interesting narrative choices with the story that it recycled from the Mel Gibson “classic.” First, the stakes of the story are given some good roots in the relationship between Ali and Will. Although the story of Ali seeking her partnership is, and should be, more compelling, the example Will provides as a grounded, emotionally complex father figure and romantic interest counterbalances a lot of the macho, stereotypical portrayals of men via Ali’s coworkers. Building on Will’s character, he connects with Ali’s own single father and makes the argument that what she hears the men around her think does not reflect what they are really feeling.
In most ways, however, What Men Want is basically junk food. Although the performances are strong, if silly, the overall production is contrived and built on stereotypes. It is fun to watch Ali blunder and succeed, so I do not discourage people to see this movie if they want to, but I also cannot call it a good movie. I rate it 2/5 stars.
What Men Want was written by Tina Gordon Chism and Peter Huyck and directed by Adam Shankman. It runs 1 hour 57 minutes and is rated R for language and sexual content throughout, and some drug material.
Available for rental on iTunes is the incredible documentary The IF Project. The film follows Seattle police officer Kim Bogucki and a small group of female prison inmates as they explore the poignant question: “If there was something someone could have said or done that would have changed the path that led you here, what would it have been?” The IF Project grew out of a powerful interaction Bogucki had with an inmate and into a writing project through which she tries to help women make successful transitions back to their lives after prison, and use their experiences to keep others from making similar mistakes.
The IF Project is a moving, compelling portrait of female inmates and the complicated paths that led them to prison. It also features some rocky journeys of re-entry into society, told with compassion and a keen documentarian instinct. This film is a tearjerker but also makes some thoughtful arguments about criminal justice. I cannot recommend it enough.
The IF Project was directed by Kathlyn Horan and runs 1 hour 30 minutes.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Two Killings of Sam Cooke, streaming on Netflix. The biopic follows the meteoric rise of soul singer Sam Cooke, his entrepreneurship in the music industry, and his passion for Civil Rights, leading up to his tragic death. Featuring interviews with musical artists including Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, and Dionne Warwick, the film takes a hard look at racial politics, the music industry, and Cooke’s legacy.
As a big fan of Sam Cooke’s, I found the film incredibly moving. It is a fascinating, poignant story told in a respectful, but also a quick manner. At a short 84 minutes, this movie is a good way to get more perspective on some timeless music without a huge time investment.
The Two Killings of Sam Cooke was directed by Kelly Duane. It runs 1 hour 14 minutes and is rated TV-MA.