I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This Christmas (2007)

The Whitfield family comes together for the holiday, but there are so many secrets being hid. MaDear (Loretta Devine) covers up that she's been living with Joe Black (Delroy Lindo), a deacon at the church she attends. Quentin (Idris Elba), a musician, had to scram from Chicago because he owes big money to a bookie. Claude (Christopher Short) has secretly wed. Lisa's (Regina King) husband Malcom (Laz Moore) has put her up to suggesting to the family that they sell MaDear's cleaning business for reasons of which Lisa is not fully aware. The youngest Whitfield son, Baby (Chris Brown) is hiding a dream of his from everybody. Meanwhile, career woman Kelli hides her heart from an admirer, Gerald (Mekhi Phifer).

Unlike a lot of holiday-themed film, this movie is not overly sappy and sentimental. There are plot devices that you see coming from a mile away, but you forgive them because the characters are likeable. I especially liked Lindo's character, a stand-up guy. Chris Brown, who is known as a singer, does well in his role.

Ms. Devine was one of the original Dreamgirls in the Broadway musical of the same name. Idris Elba is originally from the U.K.; he played a bad guy in American Gangster (2007). Mekhi Phifer appeared in the remake of Shaft (2000) and he was in Soul Food (1997). Regina King played Cuba Gooding Jr.'s wife in Jerry Maguire (1996), and as a kid, she was a regular on the TV sitcom "227" (1985-1990).

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Friday, November 02, 2007

American Gangster (2007)

Here's a story of a very, very bad man: Frank Lucas, a real-life crime lord who had a huge heroin business in the late 60's to the mid-1970's. Lucas was a driver of legendary Harlem gangster Bumpy Robinson, and his protege. When Robinson (Clarence Williams III) sucumbs to a heart attack, Lucas (Denzel Washington) takes over his territory. With the help of a cousin (Roger Guevner Smith) who is in the military, Lucas transports heroin to the USA in the coffins of dead Vietnam soldiers. Unlike the Mafia, he sells the stuff uncut and for a lower price than they do.

Ritchie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is a cop whom, along with his partner, have been made persona non grata, because they found some drug money that was taken by other cops. They were honest and turned it in. Roberts other problems include his going through a divorce and fighting his wife (Carla Gugino) for custody of their son. He's also going to school at night for his law degree. Roberts is given a job as the head of a drug unit after his fallout over the drug money, and is able to pick his own guys to help out. Their dogged research to bring the big men down eventually lead to Lucas.

New York and New Jersey are shown in grimy glory, a perfect backdrop to the darkness and violence that permeates this story. Lucas is a smart guy for a long time, and keeping a low profile as he becomes richer. But he's dangerous when he shows his might, such as killing a rival in broad daylight then calmly returning to a restaurant to finish his meal. "Where did I leave off?" he tells his stunned relatives who work for him, as he sits down. Roberts has his flaws, too, but he holds on to his honesty and integrity while surrounded by a sea of cops who are on the take.

It's not The Godfather (1972), but the performances are good, including that of Josh Brolin, playing a particularly odious policeman. Clarence Williams III, who appears as Bumpy in early scenes, was one of the youthful cops on the TV series "The Mod Squad". Rappers T.I. and Common appear as a couple of Lucas' relatives. Acting diva Ruby Dee (A Raisin In The Sun)plays Lucas's mom. Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire) portrays Nicky Barnes, a rival of Lucas. Former MTV VJ Fab 5 Freddie ("Yo! MTV Raps") has a small role.

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