Directed By: Shaka King
Written By: Shaka King & Will Berson
Story By: Shaka King, Will Berson, Kenneth Lucas & Keith Lucas
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
Editor: Kristin Sprague

Cast: LaKeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Jesse Plemons, Dominique Fishback, Ashton Sanders, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Thorne, Robert Longstreet, Jermaine Fowler 

Fred Hampton, a young, charismatic activist, becomes Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party – putting him directly in the crosshairs of the government, the FBI, and the Chicago Police. But to destroy the revolution, the authorities are going to need a man on the inside.

This movie is so much more than one might think. It is a historical account of the cos piracy behind the assassination of Fred Hampton who was 21 at the time, but instead of just recreating and renacting moments that lead to his downfall.

The film offers a character piece of sorts not only of Fred Hampton but also of the man who worked as a confidential informant to get intel about him and the black panthers.

The film shows Hampton to be a hero and revolutionary but also a human being. Trying to fight for his people and civil rights. While it seemed at every turn the government was eagerly planning and arranging his downfall. Where it seems that after he is released from jail the weight of everything really starts to hit him and he seems to know that his time might be coming to an end, but still so more concerned for Those around him and the people he is trying to save. All do this and he was only 21 years old. If he achieved all of this at such a young age imagine what he could have accomplished had he lived. 

That is sort of the tragedy imagine what could have been accomplished if there wasn’t a conspiracy against minorities whenever they try to stand up for themselves.

The film doesn’t shy away, As it never does with showing how demeaning black people were treated and unjust and antagonized that they are. It shows that he even inspired street gangs to come together to form a community to help their own communities.

The film does show some of the behind-the-scenes of the F.B.I and their tactics to take him down. It even Shows the point of view of an idealistic agent who actually believes that the black Panther party is more of a terrorist group and he believes in civil rights for all and becomes dismayed by what he see’s continuously as unjust but keeps following orders with no kind of resistance until he has an awakening that jailing Hampton is not enough and what his superiors want. As jail just empowers freedom fighters. The end goal is death and while he likes to think he and the agency are better than that. He is questioned how would he feel if his daughter brought a black man home and he then comes face to face with his own prejudice and realizes he is just as bad and will tow the company line.

The difference between this movie and some others is that in other films he would gain his soul back and ask us to be sympathetic towards him. This film doesn’t do that it allows to show that he has a choice between right and wrong which he knows and he chooses the wrong knowing it is bad and against what he supposedly stands for. Making him worse than those he and his co-workers choose to take down. 

This film is beautifully and masterfully directed and you feel every moment and every scene. Every performance even smaller ones make you take notice and care.

Daniel Kaliuya is mesmerizing in the role of Fred Hampton which he inhabits with strength and swagger commanding your attention in every scene he is in and making you feel sympathy when he is faced with challenges beyond his control. 

He has played leads before and is usually memorable in films, but this is the first time it feels like has gone above and beyond.

Lakeith Stansfeld continues to impress he is more the lead here as William O’Neil who is a hustler and minor criminal who gets roped into this to avoid jail time at first and then realizes he can’t walk away. Especially as his loyalties get stronger more towards Hampton and the cause. A kind of Donnie Brasco situation only here the panthers aren’t the criminals and are trying to better things. We can see the despair it places on him and in the end the pittance he is given for sacrificing someone who actually became a friend 

Stansfeld shows all the emotions and complexities of his character and the inner destruction his actions cause. He shows off his cunningness and skills of thinking on his feet and ultimately the defeat of his soul. Even in the alter scenes his paranoia.

This is refreshing as get to see him play a solid character and not the quirky roles that he has gotten pigeonholed with in the past. Showing he has leading man chops and quite a wide range.

Though these two are at the center of the story and film. The film does allow for side stories and characters. Like two best friends who join and meet unfortunate violent ends away from one another. One is purposely assassinated the other goes full-on vigilante after his death.

This is a film that is powerful and humanizes names and people you might have heard about in history books and while they are legends abd martyrs this film allows them to be recognized and humanized. 

Ultimately this film is a tragedy. It hits all the more as it is based on truth. So that by the end you are devastated, but you marvel at what you have just watched and sat through

Grade: A


Directed by: George C. Wolfe
Written By: Rueben Santiago-Hudson
Based On the play Written By: August Wilson
Cinematography: Tobias A. Schliessler
Editor: Andrew Mondahein

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Jonny Clyde, Jeremy Shamos, Taylour Paige, Dusan Brown

During a recording session, tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player, and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable “Mother of the Blues”.

This film contains a smaller story than expected. One was aware it was a play before but wasn’t expecting it to still feel as stage bound.

As the film tries to open up the story and show more locations but there are very few attempts to leave more it error locations. Which consist of two locations. The liner room where they practice and the recording g studio. So that the film keeps reminding you of its theatrical origins 

Chadwick Boseman steals all of his scenes and is more at the forefront of the movie. Though at first, it seems like he will be more of a high-energy supporting player. 

Though Viola Davis is the title character. Where she makes a powerful entrance and a strong exit. She also feels liek a supporting player. Even though the film revolves around her character. As after all, it’s her recording session and the others are her band. Who she feels are more the hired help. Who should be happy to be working for her.

Through her character though high strung. We find out why she is that way. As it is all about respect and wanting to be treated with it most overall. She has a short temper when what she says isn’t followed and forces a hard situation and a flirtatious girlfriend.

One has to give extra credit to Viola Davis for gaining most of the appropriate weight to play the character and give her the exact look which is unflattering g with gold teeth and heavy running make-up, she might not be the actual star of the movie but she gives off star presence and in believability.

Though by the end she is just a supporting character and her presence really has little effect on the actual story or drama that ends up happening In the film. By the end, she hasn’t changed. Only the situation has changed and in a more tragic way that really has nothing to do with her. Not much changes for her, but more for the secondary characters

The film ends up becoming a tragedy in a way you can see coming hit not necessarily the circumstance or the collateral damage. 

Though shocking in the end. Still wish it had been longer and a little bit stronger. It’s a tragedy you thought was going to be one kid. If one and is read ends up somewhere totally different. 

As the film had Great cinematography and details as far as art direction.

It really makes you feel like you are In The period and of course, immediately makes you aware of the limitations for its African American characters and the rampant racism.

Grade: B


Directed By: Steve McQueen 
Written By: Steve McQueen & Alastair Siddons 
Cinematography: Shabier Kirchner 
Editor: Chris Dickens & Steve McQueen

Cast: Sheyi Cole, Khali Best, Fumilayo Brown-Olatej, Riley Burgin, Ross Cahill, Zakiyyah Deen, Robbie Gee, Jonathan Jules, Ashley McGuire 

Alex Wheatle follows the true story of award-winning writer, Alex Wheatle, from a young boy through his early adult years. Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing

Though short on running time at barely over an hour. As this is part of a television series, but feel more like films. Each film is part of an anthology. The film makes its point about identity. How you fail to grow without one because you have no idea who you are or where you come from. You have no ground to stand on to grow from really.

As the main character we are introduced to as a child in the ul foster care system constantly abused and neglected by Caucasian’s who are supposed to be looking out for him but seem to resent him. He doesn’t know his past or even too much culture as he is alienated and then eventually dumped into an apartment in a low-income neighborhood

Though at least mroe amongst people like him. West Indian and African immigrants who take him in and he learns culture, survival and the streets form them. As they help to also nurture his love of music. 

We see as he matures in the streets a sort of coming of age story of himself and we see how he strives especially not knowing his past. He finds it hard to carve out a future and even figure himself out. As he is usually made fun of and talked down to by those around him because he isn’t quite as grounded as they are.

He tells his story in jail to his cellmate after being arrested for his participation in the Braxton rots and strangely enough, his cellmate is the one who sets him straight. Explain g to him to learn his own history and unlearn the bad thing she has been taught.

He also gives him some life lessons to learn on his own. As this story is based o a true story and person. You can easily figure out the ending.

While this isn’t as electrifying as the other films in The small axe series of films and quite shorter it is easy to see why it was made and this story told it not only helps lead into the final film of the set. It also tells a tale of rehabilitation, self-rehabilitation. 

It also feels like the first act of a much bigger story. Where you wish the film expanded into mroe of a life story. As it is fine the way it is but it also feels like a chapter or chapters of a life that we know by the end will be much more fulfilling and deserves mroe then just an update and pre-credits scene explaining. What Happened to the character 

Grade: B-


Directed By: Damien Dante Wayans
Written By: Damien Dante Wayans, Craig Wayans, Kennan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans
Cinematography By: Mark Irwin
Editor: Scott Hill

Cast: Damon Wayans Jr. Shoshana Bush, Amy Sedaris, Lochlyn Munro, Essence Atkins, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Chris Elliott, Keenan Ivory Wayans, David Alan Grier, Kim Wayans, Tichina Arnold, George Gore II, Craig Wayans

Street dancer Thomas Uncles is from the wrong side of the tracks, but his bond with the beautiful Megan White might help the duo realize their dreams as they enter in the mother of all dance battles.

While rarely funny at sending up its targets the film is not witty the jokes are lazy and not very well thought out with its low budget the film just looks cheap Even though it’s not directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. It is written and directed by the next generation of the Wayans family and while the previous generation had at least some success with a few good and hilarious films. The next generation is not starting off well. Half of the jokes are stand-alone and seems to be more about spoofing pop culture than staying on course and spoofing all of these teenage dance movies like, SAVE THE LAST DANCE which it seems to be mostly inspired by. And films like STOMP THE YARD, STEP UP, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and HAIRSPRAY.

The film really never stays on the theme which makes the movie seem like a wide collection of skits rather than having a natural plot. This seems to be a common problem in a lot of the modern-day spoof films which seem to only be made to be year-end revues of all things pop culture instead of the subject or film(s) they are supposed to be spoofing.

Which I guess is because these films strive not to be one joke films so they need to pad the films with unnecessary jokes that have nothing to do with anything else in the film. I realize these films are not made to be cinematic classics but at the least, it should be memorable for being entertaining and good. The film just feels lazy.

The main story is the two leads falling in love and him not only teaching her how to dance but find her passion for it again and gain her self confidence. One of the problems is that the leads look too old to play believable teenagers. Yet none of the performers seem engaging enough to really pay attention to nor do they create characters who are the least bit interesting nor do they have any charisma or personality to engage you to watch them.

Since is not rated R The material feels watered down ad keeps the jokes from going profane and over the top. This is where the Wayans usually excel but here trying to market to a teen audience. So it leaves them kind of shackle.
The film involves separate characters who have nothing to do with each other until near the end when they come together to be a dance crew though they don’t actually do any dancing, they are just there no scenes of them bonding to come together as a team, it just happens.

In fact, one character is introduced and is never used later so there is no reason for the film to spend any real time developing the character who is not even used in running gags he is only around for two scenes. He is not needed at all.

Skip It


CB4 (1993)

Directed By: Tamra Davis 
Written By: Chris Rock, Nelson George & Robert LoCash 
Story By: Chris Rock & Nelson George 
Cinematography By: Karl Walter Lindenlaub 
Editor: Earl Watson 

Cast: Chris Rock, Deezer D, Khandi Alexander, Allen Payne, Rachel True, Phil Hartman, Charlie Murphy, Stoney Jackson, Richard Gant, Art Evans, Lawanda Page, Theresa Randle, Willard E. Pugh, Chris Elliot, J.D. Daniels, Shar Jackson, Vanessa Lee Chester, Shirley Hemphill, Lance Crouther 

A “rapumentary”, covering the rise to fame of MC Gusto, Stab Master Arson, and Dead Mike: members of the rap group “CB4”. We soon learn that these three are not what they seem and don’t apear to know as much about rap music as they claim… but a lack of musical ability in an artist never hurts sales, does it? You’ve just got to play the part of a rap star

The film is Rough around the edges, dated by now but still manages to be funny.

The movie is inspired and funny. The film is especially good at making fun of it’s main target the Gangsta rap scene and it’s excess. while it was still going strong. This is more a mainstream and Low budget studio film but not a self aware mockumentary that lends itself to spoof like the movie FEAR OF A BLACK HAT. The funnier and better made of the two films. Though then again I was older by the time I saw the later film and more into hip hop and rap, knowing it’s history by that time.

This is where my love of Chris Rock and his comedy began. I had seen him in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. And remembered him in small roles in movies like BOOMERANG, BEVERLY HILLS COP 2 and NEW JACK CITY. But this film felt like it spoke to my generation. Even as I was too young to Watch it. I still saw it in the theater twice and it’s a movie I still watch and return to many times over the years. While not the best made, it still feels fun.

Though there were movies more aimed at me and my age group at the time in particular for urban audiences were the KID n’ Play series of movies like CLASS ACT and the HOUSE PARTY movies which were also rated R and while racy. These films also felt inclusive and rebellious. This is also a film that feels compromised to a degree. As it has a coherent storyline, but gets distracted many times and leaves a lot of plot threads dangling. Which it seems like the credits hint at with cut scenes playing during.

Over the years Chris Rock had been a comedian that I can constantly respond to and identify with. He has the subject of a character who has The whole more suburban upbringing but wanting to feel more down and street as that is what sells and selling yourself out as well as your culture. Just as the contrast between his long term girlfriend versus the groupie who is always around Teaching the characters to be themselves over all the gimmicks get have tried over the years to be popular or get noticed.

The film also gives the late Charlie Murphy an iconic role as the villain Gusto. He is menacing and also hilarious and one of the first performances I truly remember him in. The film even has Chris Rock’s his old SNL co-star The late Phil Hartman in a supporting role. Even though race is involved the movie keeps it’s focus on African-American characters and culture.

While never the best skit writer this is the beginning of Chris rock’s comedic voice more on issues and subjects. It’s still not as sharp as it is now. As at times scenes seem to be more parody or episodic skit like ideas interwoven into the story. It allows the cast to be funny and do some of the lifting.

Behind the scenes Nelson George a writer who I am a big fan of who I had not discovered yet. Whose writing is more about being a music and culture critic. As well as now being an accomplished writer and screenwriter these days. He is one of the producers and Co-writer of the screenplay.

The film aspires to be a little more than it is. It starts off by being a comedy though that takes us to the middle of the film. After that the movie loses it’s focus until the third act where it figures it needs to ends soon and forces more plot elements introduced earlier into the main fold.

As the film does show the motivation for the characters but then as they are achieving their dream they are pulled into controversy by a politician looking for publicity. While also being on the run from the actual Gangster they are emulating. The problem is that the film leaves many loose ends and only seems to solve a few of the problems.

Most will come to the film for comedy and maybe even a nostalgic look back. I will admit that I am an unbiased fan of this and most Chris Rock movies. I support them eve. As some have been disappointing and more focused on remaking stuff and riffing off of it instead of being original. Here at least he seems off to a good start. This was before he made a comeback with his stand-up special BRING THE PAIN. Though this was after he had left SNL. This seemed like a culmination of his stand-up and comedic voice. That showed thematic ideas behind his comedy then.

The film feels too short but that might be due to cuts and. It too much else to add on as that might have introduced other things that would need to be spread around throughout the film. I wish the movie was longer more of an epic. So that it had time to tie up a bunch of loose threads that are left dangling and tackle some other subjects. 

Rachel True cast in another girlfriend role in a budding comedians first lead role in a film they co-wrote (HALF BAKED) and here and even now still looks the same age.

This film lead to a crush and being a fan of actress Khandi Alexander as she looks so drool worthyingly hot in the film. As the ultimate groupie and early model for the mm and finding financial gain from it.

If you remember these days and drone this movie is a test and a great way to look back. If not this movie might not be as strong for you. I can admit I owned the soundtrack to this movie though some parody and at the end a throwback classic to hip hop. There are some songs that are remakes of classic hip hop songs throughout, but most of the music is original. Like the music the movie is very misogynistic. No real strong female voice and when there is quickly becomes more humor and a thorn in the side would expect a little better treatment considering the director is female Tamra Davis.

One of the reasons the film still resonates for me is that I was growing up during that time so it was part of my generations pop culture and at the heart of it. It was one of the first films that felt like it was directed towards me and my generation other the. Being able to identify with it and the lead character.

Learning to be yourself and find your own voice even after being a personality or copying someone else brought you fame. Which is strange because then at the end we find the characters supposedly really rapping but obviously not the actors and they are rapping a classic hip hop song that isn’t theirs. This is also implicated early In the film where they lip synch to rap. Think WAYNE’S WORLD with bohemian rhapsody only here the tape deck is messed up in his car so it goes fast one second and slow the next even as they all dress up in the car like RUN DMC, as that is who the tape they are listening to is by, but also when we see their many attempts to rap and get discovered they usually fail because they are trying gimmicks and not really being themselves or truthful at all. It doesn’t help that we never really see them write or focus on the writing and rapping part ever. The only time it seems like they actually might have talent individually is in the montage of scenes when they break up and the individual singles released.

I realize this is more a silly comedy, but the message is presented. So that it is more in the background. It is just not really focused upon The film is a movie of it’s time. As it came out and partially satirized gangsta rap while it was still around and starting to come upon the end or a new generation of it. While it was dwindling. That was hip but bold and not too late where it would have been more obvious.

This is a kind of classic. One of those films most of my generation remember for better and worse and probably pass it on to another generation. If only as some kind of time capsule.

Grade: B-


Written & Directed By: Stella Meghie 
Cinematography: Mark Schwartzbard 
Editor: Shannon Baker Davis 

Cast: Issa Rae, LaKeith Stanfield, Chante Adams, Y’Lan Noel, Kelvin Harrison jr., Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Rob Morgan, Courtney B. Vance, Chelsea Peretti 

A series of intertwining love stories set in the past and in the present.

The reason I really wanted this film to work. Is that it is rare that you see black romance onscreen. There are films that have it but they only Come around once a decade. As usually on film they just fall in love and get married as part of a bigger story or they are already married and friends to other people in the movie. A supporting character usually having a wife or girlfriend. Or they are the arguing couple or their relationship is more comedic throughout. Never quite deep and never truly showing love and definitely not romance.

 As it makes or seem like the characters are more materialistic, a sexual, sexual only or shallow. It rarely celebrates the beauty of black characters making it seem like they are only as worthy as their looks or body parts.

This leads to a lack of representation again and leaves black people with very few examples of on-screen love. Which might be why at times and at large it seems to be a rarity onscreen and off at times also.

This film at least tries to work against the negative stereotypes and represent and present a love story that doesn’t rely on race heavily but is a black film Romance. With beautiful artistic characters.

So while this film is a romantic drama. what doesn’t precisely work is that it has two love stories that parallel one another and are supposed to complement each other as well as tell their own and nurture one another. The problem is that the one from the past is so much deeper and more felt throughout. 

While the modern romance is similar it doesn’t feel as deep. As it happens faster and doesn’t have any challenges until towards  the end. Leaving it more bland and quite frankly a bit dull. 

There are no hardships for the romance really because as soon as they see one another we know this is meant to be. While the flashbacks to older characters which is the reason they met and came together in the first place. Has so much drama and meaning. It makes the modern one feel a bit empty.

Though at least we get to see the thrill of the chase at the beginning of their courtship. Trying to impress or. Another and be witty. It also lets us see their passion for one another and the reasons they and their romance grows 

The film might have been stronger if rather than treating it as a puzzle and parallel if the older story was told first and then see how it affects the modern in bits. Though it seems it is there to show parallels as well as keep the story motivated as a kind of mystery.

Either way the film definitely has a cultured vibe and mood throughout with a great jazz soundtrack. It’s nice to see a film of black professionals who are upwardly mobile and successful more upper-middle class. 

One only wishes the modern-day Romance was stronger.

If i had to describe this movie with one word soulful.

Grade: C+


Directed By: Lee Daniels 
Written By: Lee Daniels & Pete Dexter 
Based On The Book By: Pete Dexter 
Cinematography By: Roberto Schaefer 
 Editor: Joe Klotz 

 Cast: Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, John Cusack, Scott Glenn, Ned Bellamy

Eldest son Ward Jansen is a star reporter for a Miami newspaper and has returned home with close friend Yardley to investigate a racial murder case. Younger brother Jack Jansen has returned home after a failed stint at university as a star swimmer. To help give his life some direction, Ward gives Jack a job on their investigation as their driver. But into the mix comes the fiancée of the imprisoned convict who stirs up confusing feelings of love and lust for the young Jack. Meanwhile, Ward and Yardley’s investigation stirs up
deep-rooted issues of race and acceptance which could cause serious consequences for everyone involved.

This film that deemed to start out as a thriller, Quickly seems to spiral into a no man’s land that resembles more of a misguided Grind-house film more than anything else. The sad part is what seems at first to become earnest filmmaking quickly delves into some kind of camp classic

As the film continues the outline is about proving a man might be innocent. It mostly focuses not only on the politics, but the coming of age tale of Zac Efron’s character. It also concerns itself with building and defining the characters.

Now I am not the biggest fan of Lee Daniels as a Director yet, but watching this film. Just like in PRECIOUS. It feels like he puts in too many surrealistic seeming camera tricks and angles that become distracting and unneeded when the film could have just told the story.

It feels like a person just out of film school. Who feels the need to how off or insert things that aren’t really needed in a way to impress. Like a college student writing a paper with too many big words misused trying to impress. I see it as him trying and learning new things behind the camera thinking the audience will be amazed as much as he is using them. The other problem is it plays like a drama then wants to be a thriller, but only at certain times and wanting to represent race relations of that period.

In fact the film begins with Macy Gray playing a maid who is being questioned about a book dedicated to her. now it feels like an interrogation that is really used to give her character a reason to voice over the film. Other then that the opening scene amounts to nothing later in the film. No real reason to be there. There are a bunch of scenes like that throughout the film. Some are what help to bring out the ridiculousness of the film. This film could have been a sort of hard-boiled thriller and mystery if it didn’t seem to get distracted by becoming a Coming of Age film that has the look of a WONDER YEARS episode while parading Zac Efron around in his underwear. I am sure what might have worked on the page here comes off more silly and misguided. The film often times seems confusing or confused itself.

Pedro Almodóvar was several times approached to helm this project and seriously considered to make it his first English-speaking feature. He finally declined but, allegedly, he participated in early versions of the script. He might have been the one to balabce the camp with the drama and thriller elements without making it laughable.

Just as it could have been more believable if John Cusack’s character wasn’t as physically repulsive as he morally.

Alex Pettyfer was first choice for the role of Jack.

Tobey Maguire was cast as Ward but dropped out because of scheduling conflicts. Luckily for him.

Nicole Kidman replaced Sofía Vergara. Which might have pushed it into a more straight to DVD title though the lust factor would have been more understandable. Though explaining her characters origin and why a so called racist would correspond with her would take more then a bit of explaining.

It plays like camp, but tries to be taken seriously which makes it even worse. Though Nicole Kidman seems to be the only one who realizes or is comfortable with having fun and sending it all up, While trying to create a realistic character.

scenes like

Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron to combat his jellyfish stings.

Nicole Kidman masturbating in a jailhouse visit to John Cusack who also masturbates and we see the aftermath of

The film just feels dirty and unnecessary as it’s based on a hard-boiled mystery novel that seems to forget it’s premise. The film feels all over the place, for all of this ridiculousness and shocking scenes that come once on awhile between it is really dull, though gives Zac Efron no real reason to run around constantly only in underwear.

The film gives John Cusack a chance to embarass himself by looking really bad and dirty. Inhabiting a bad caricature of a character.

Matthew McConaughey’s character has an interesting arc that is shockingly Introduced then slightly dropped or pushed out of favor.

The key defining point of this tawdry tale is Nicole Kidman and her character. She gives the role her all and is impressive as a trashy femme-fatale. Overly made up with make up that looks like it was applied by herself an it is messy. She is a scary, but also a scene stealer. She deserves a oscar nomination for her determination and grounding as she stays true to the character throughout and somehow finds a way to fit in.While actually creating a character to care about

The film you think would be ripe for camp, bit it is so underplayed and then serious there isn’t room to enjoy it on a camp level.

In the third act the film revs up to be a thinker then just runs out of steam and ends with no great drama. Leaving us with a whimper.

While I can’t really recommend the film. I will say it is a film to see. To see something hopefully one of a kind. Some might find entertainment from it. Which is why I can’t completely fail it. I believe it shows lee Daniels a former film producer is still leading as a director At least he is trying unlike some directors

 Grade: D

TOP FIVE (2014)

Written & Directed By: Chris Rock 
Cinematography By: Manuel Alberto Claro 
Editor: Annie McGabe 

Cast: Chris Rock, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, J.B. Smoove, Rosario Dawson, Anders Holm, Leslie Jones, Kevin Hart, Michael Che, Jay Pharoah, Ben Vereen, Cedric The Entertainer, Karlie Redd, Sherri Shepherd, Tracy Morgan, Hayley Marie Norman, Brian Regan, Tichina Arnold, Luis Guzman, Sherrod Small

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.

This more than makes up for those GROWN-UP movies. Coincidently Chris Rock wrote the screenplay in his trailer during the filming of Grown Ups 2

Financed and produced independently.

Chris Rock doesn’t choose like other filmmakers to romanticize or sugarcoat New York as a wonderland of fantasy and fairy tales. He wants to represent New York as it truly is beautiful, yet with an attitude but a certain charm you cannot resist. It has an ugly side, but usually like it so much and in love with it we take the good with the bad and barely notice anymore the rougher aspects of the city. Sure the visuals could be more vivid, but as it is said comedy isn’t pretty plus it keeps your head in the game that this is somewhat gritty and real.

We all see and experience things differently. This is his truth so can’t argue with his vision. We can only be happy he doesn’t compromise in any way. Which is said of more artistically inclined or visual directors? Though should be said of more directors who are open and have something to say that isn’t cookie cutter.

While some aspects of the film could have been more subtle, Their meaning was in the right place. Nonetheless, the film leaves plenty of laugh out loud comedy.

You can see the film’s cinematic influences here and there. There is a little SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS by the end. A dash of BEFORE SUNRISE in the structure. Some Woody Allen references and some things leftover from his co-Starring role In Julie Delpy’s 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK.

The film feels cathartic for him, Going around the city, not necessarily discovering it. As it is both their hometown, but more or less touring familiar places.

Throughout the film, each major and some minor cast members get a scene here and there to shine dramatically or comedically, sometimes both.

The film has some commentary on race and especially stardom. Not exactly the exposure you might expect, but at least exposure to it. Shocking especially how outspoken he has been recently about it in interviews.

Rock’s Films before always managed to shine the spotlight on race though felt more like a gimmick and silly, rather than the satire and sharp voice you were hoping for.

I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE was funny, realistic, and a step forward, but lacked the edge and felt more like a bit of an acting exercise with some domestic comedy and drama. Though the film didn’t exactly cover any new ground or present it in a different way.

As he spends the day with the reporter getting to know her. He is revealed to us as they are to one another usually in flashbacks to the stories they tell and the answers that are given as visuals to accompany them.

Rosario Dawson really gets a chance to flex her acting muscles here. She is finally not just the girlfriend or love interest with no personality or real presence. Here she is charming, complex, and real not necessarily an ingénue. Here she has depth and getting the chance to be comedic herself. Not by accident either.

There are certain Flashbacks in this film that are downright scandalous. That involves Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock. Those are nasty, revealing, and push the limits of what can be shown on screen in an r-rated comedy. Though they are the spirit of Chris Rock, this film and his comedy. They are just as dangerous he is. It reminds the audience why he is a crucial voice in comedy.

Also, these flashbacks work as it breaks up the dialogue and story in a meaningful way. So that the asides and stories are more revealing in character and also provide a source of comedy also. The vignettes sometimes with just the reaction are hilarious but always manages to come back to harsh realities.

The strip club scenes best the end of the film are filled with hilarious cameos that remind us of how funny the people in them can be and are also fun seeing them all out of their element and still can be funny. As they are obviously doing it as a favor to Chris rock

though I have usually really enjoyed Chris rock’s films before. I LOVED this film and was quite surprised when others around me saw this film before me remark on how shocked they were that it was so good. (Some of whom I have watched his films with and they enjoyed them. at least that is what they told me. Only a few I knew didn’t like his earlier work in films) I believe the reason this film worked so well for the audience is that not only is it personal. It also shows growth.

He opens up and lets others stand in the spotlight on the sidelines. Even though the major hurdles are on his shoulders. This is why you can excuse when some scenes come off as falsies a bit as does his acting once in awhile. As the saying goes in any sport. Sure you have the star athlete but you also want to have as much talent around them to learn and also to help. Teach and have each other strive and inspire one another.

As a Chris Rock fan, this film means a lot as it is a thank you to a degree to the fans and a treat as he shows he still has it and is finally comfortable being himself. Speaking his thoughts and not worrying so much about how people will take things, nor does he care about maintaining a certain image. It is almost also a fuck you to doubters as he shows he is just not one thing. As this might be one of the last times he might be able to make a film so why not with something you can be proud of and be able to say what you want to without having to worry about censoring it because of studio notes or worrying about what is or isn’t marketable.

He manages to bring an old school feel to the film while making it feel constantly vital. Especially as in some scenes the background score is classic hip-hop beats slowed down that it almost sounds classical as they are laid bare. I hope he stays on his current path.

Dave Chappelle was offered a role but turned it down. Which makes sense as he has a lot of comedians and comedian friends throughout play roles.

In the movie, Chris Rock can be seen wearing a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt. Rock is a well-known fan and friend of the band. He even directed the band’s 2006 music video for their song ‘Hump de Bump.’

Chris Rock has always been a comedian. who seemed to strive for more or to be seen as more. He seems to be striving to be more of an artist. I have watched his career rise as I was always familiar with him and looked up to him. So he has been around on my radar for a while.

Though I have had a few chances to meet him. At most of my retail jobs. I never had the courage nor really the chance to tell him how much of a fan I was. His comedy and career have always been a bond with me and my family as I have seen his live yours regularly as well as usually going to see his films in the theater.

This film had a positive effect on me. Making me profoundly happy. I am happy that he is getting the respect and appreciation he deserves.

I believe even non-fans or occasional ones will enjoy and respect the film.

Though the meaning is there. The film has it’s targeting and lands some solid hits. Though not as many jabs were thrown. Can be rude and lewd out of nowhere but that is part of the charm as it is smart about it.

Grade: B+

PRIDE (2007)

Directed By: Sunu Gonera 
Written By: Kevin Michael Smith, Michael Gozzard, J Mills Goodloe & Norman Vance Jr. 
Story By: Kevin Michael Smith & Michael Gozzard 
Cinematography By: Matthew F. Leonetti 
Editor: Billy Fox 

Cast: Terrence Howard, Bernie Mac, Tom Arnold, Kimberly Elise, Evan Ross, Nate Parker, Scott Eastwood, Gary Sturgis, Brandon Fobbs, Alphonso McAuley 

The determined Jim Ellis starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation.

There must be a cliche that says if you are making an African American period piece that the Afro wigs that are used must be ridiculously, horribly fake that almost distracted me from this film as a whole. While not as terrible as the wigs in the movie THE WOOD. These were pretty bad. This film suffers from more than that, while I did enjoy this film. Call me biased but intend to like heartwarming films especially African American ones because it is rare that we see them.

I also have a weakness for sports story of triumph. With this film like most sports films is predictable and when it’s not predictable it’s cliche ridden. They Coach goes up against his word, but for a good reason. The saintly character had a dark and sordid past. The racist whites who will come around at the end to give respect to the people they were calling animals only minutes earlier.

This film even has Tom Arnold doing a dramatic performance though it doesn’t offer too much dramatic depth. As he is more a villain as one of the racist white coaches.

Bernie mac does a good job, though anytime it calls for him to be emotional. You feel like cracking up. It’s not because he is bad. He actually is good but that is the reaction it seems to garner.

Terrence Howard while a good actor is not usually one of my favorites. He has this quality sometimes that seems to suggest he feels he is too good to be in whatever role he is playing, plus his eyes while pretty always look like they are on the verge of watering or crying.

The film also takes on a romantic subplot, out of nowhere that not only has no steam behind it but also no chemistry.

The film also adds in the fact that education is key to the future. The looming criminal or gangster of the neighborhoods influence. The sole female member joining the team because it also gives voice to women’s rights to this story of success and struggle. Because we all are equal after all.

We don’t know all of the facts behind this true story. So I can’t say which aspects are true or embellished.

The film tries to be earnest and tell it’s story, that while actions happen the film is teaching the characters and viewers life lessons. not sensationalizing it. So for that I must give it the proper respect and it didn’t waste my time or sicken me. It was the acting, directing, editing, staging, cinematography, writing and production values. The script could use some work to be maybe more subtle rather than cookie cutter.

Still give the film it’s props, but I can’t really say there was anything really that special about the film. More a heroic tale that allows for a chance to show black excellence.



Directed By: James McTeigue 
Written By: Ryan Engle 
Cinematography By: Toby Oliver 
Editor: Joseph Jett Sally 

Cast: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral, Christa Miller, Jason George 

A woman fights to protect her family during a home invasion.

This movie plays like the second half of PANIC ROOM. Where instead of trying to protect her family while criminals are trying to break in. She is trying to break in to save her family.

The film is a thriller but isn’t as action oriented as it appears. As going in was kind of hoping this to be Gabrielle Union’s PASSENGER 57 type action film.

Unfortunately with this film everything is so basic that one wishes it at least had a stylistic director to set it apart or make it seem special in some way. Though this film is still Better than Halle Berry’s thriller KIDNAP.

Still it feels like a lifetime movie only with a minor edge to it and more violent. Even though throughout there is barely any blood in it. It’s low budget but works well within it.

This film has many roll your eyes moments of ridiculous actions and rationale. One truly unbelievable moment after another that feels unexplained which is like most of this movies details vague.

Though will say the movie makes Gabrielle Union a believable hero. While looking great and going up against stereotypical garden variety villains. (The leader, the vicious one, he one who is on the fence as far as morals go and the technical person.) As she shows a mother’s devotion and what happens if they threaten them.

Now while the film is swimming in cliches that are predictable. Which are forgivable as I don’t want to pick on the film for it’s simpleness, but you know what kind of film you are going to get from the trailer and while the film isn’t trying that hard it provides a certain level of entertainment. It’s a thriller really the whole family can watch and enjoy.

One of the few of only black female action heroines even if it is a thriller. A nice start, wished it could have been Angela Bassett. As she was robbed of an action career in the 90’s as she is in shape and can act too.

One stereotypical character makes you wonder if actor Clifton Collins jr. Was too old for the role or maybe turned it down or wasn’t available. As it seems his usual type of role.

There is a third act mini twist that isn’t believable but I will say offers a surprise. That the film doesn’t earn. Shocked it was Directed By James McTeigue as usually his films are much more visual and atmospheric as well as visceral.

This film also seems to include the cliche in African American themed thriller where the Caucasian female friend is of course one of those most viciously slaughtered. In What seems like a glorified bit role usually as these films need a Caucasian victim other then the villains eventually and is a sharp turn on when in action films and thrillers the black character usually very few in the film if any. Is the first one killed or gave up their life to save others.

This film takes place in one location a sprawling estate. As the film introduces plot elements to move story along quicker the. Forgets about those elements time to time.

This is a female empowerment film as most of the villains keep bringing up their thoughts that women are weak, meek, stupid and emotional. Not that the characters seem like they would respect women otherwise.  

Grade: C-