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Second Sight (2016)
Could have been so much better
Tatyana Ali has come a long way since playing the little sister type in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." I've seen her in film projects that demonstrate that she is growing as an actress. Unfortunately, the script for "Second Sight," a starring vehicle for Ali, just doesn't measure up. Ali plays Clara, a teacher who has visions about a kidnapped child who attends her school. Similar to most movies in this genre, Clara has trouble getting anyone to believe her visions are actually legit. There are a few twists but overall the film fell flat about halfway through because it gives away too much too soon. This TV One original movie will probably be shown on Lifetime somewhere down the road but frankly, it's not even as good as a Lifetime movie. Ms. Ali deserves a better vehicle to show what she can do as an actress.
Well done movie
I found this movie to be very entertaining, with characters whose stories I found absorbing. Although certainly not an original story, the cast and director did a fine job moving it forward. The performances were solid--especially Ella Joyce as the main character's religious, moralistic mother. It's a combination soap opera and morality play: Happily married wife strays from loving husband with disastrous results. Several times in the film my wife and I shook our heads and said, "No she didn't!" There were more than a few surprises and twists to keep the viewer guessing.. It's one of those films that provoke discussion afterward. I confess I'm not a big Tyler Perry fan (hate his Medea movies) but this one is a winner.
Well-intentioned but ultimately falls flat
I wanted to like "Precious..." but I didn't. There aren't that many movies about the dysfunctional life of a teenage African American girl living in poverty, so I was ready to like the movie. However, I didn't like the movie primarily because I never took to the main character. She just wasn't that likable. Sure, the movie had realism; there are probably thousands of young black girls like Precious all across the country. But what is real isn't necessarily enjoyable cinema. I wouldn't want to watch a movie about a real open heart surgery either. The actress portraying Precious was very good but the script was too depressing. I found myself staring at my watch after the first hour wondering how much longer the movie would run. Not a good sign.
Scar City (1998)
Fun, enjoyable action-packed movie!
Given the middle of the road IMDb ratings I didn't expect much from this movie, but after viewing the trailer decided to give it a shot. Was I pleasantly surprised! The story about a cop with issues who joins the corrupt, homicidal, vigilante police unit, then sees the light and fights them is certainly not new, but this movie delivered on what it purports to be--an enjoyable, fast-paced action film.
The three main actors were somewhat deadpan in their delivery, but that made their characters seem all the more...well, scarred. The movie contained all the ingredients for an engaging film: It had action, characters you care about, and even some romance. Hey, it's not "Ben-Hur" but it's a terrific little B film that worth checking out.
The Snow Walker (2003)
A marvelous film
In 1953, Charlie is a pilot of a single engine plane who, against his better judgment, is talked--well, bribed--into accepting a sick Anuit woman named Kanaalaq as a passenger because she needs medical treatment. He flies in a direction not plotted on his flight plan and lives to regret it when the plane crashes. Charlie discovers that although he is an experienced war and civilian pilot, he doesn't have adequate knowledge about how to deal with the harshness of the Canadian Artic. However, his sick passenger does.
"The Snow Walker" is one of those movies that slowly sucked me in due to its perfect blend of plot and characterization. Both Barry Pepper as Charlie and Annabella Piugattuk as Kanaalaq are brilliant. Charles Martin Smith's (remember him in "Never Cry Wolf"?) direction is equally compelling. I highly recommend this little known gem and look forward to seeing more from all the people involved in the future.
Movies Are NOT Good Soapboxes
"Justice" is a "message" film that's heavy on the message, light on the script and direction. Simply put, it just doesn't work. The concept is sound: African American public defender fed up with the system starts his own firm to take on the system. His plan: shut the system down by not taking any plea bargains. The concept is sound but the script is too simplistic and in your face. Roger Guenveur Smith, in the lead role, actually does a competent job with what he's been given--which isn't much. But his character is too self-righteous for the viewer to care about what happens to him or his clients. Although we get to see him interacting at home with his wife, Smith and Monica Calhoun don't really have much chemistry together.
The film contains a lot of preaching about how the system incarcerates black men but no mention that many of these men are guilty; in fact, they're repeat offenders who deserve to be incarcerated. My verdict: "Justice" is guilty of being boring in the first degree.
I sat down and watched this movie at first not expecting much. I've seen a few Philippine films before and considered them about on par with American TV movies due to their low budget. "Sigaw" shows the viewer that an impressive movie can be made when a quality script, quality director and quality actors get together.
"Sigaw" is the story of about a young man who moves into an apartment building and can't find peace because of the constant noise create by the domestic problems of his neighbors down the hall. The neighbor wife and daughter are being routinely terrorized and victimized by her jealous husband. The husband and wife engage in the same argument word for word every evening--literally! The new tenant begins to hear strange noises and see strange sights in the dark hallway and eventually in his apartment. He tells his girlfriend, who at first doesn't believe him and insists that he just move out, but she later discovers, much to her dismay, that there's something very strange going on at her boyfriend's place and that they both have been swept into a terrifying situation in which there is no apparent escape.
Sigaw reminded me of two other Asian scary gems--"Ringu" (later remade as "The Ring") and "The Eye." It's an excellent film that shouldn't be missed. One note: It is a foreign film, so there are subtitles, but much of the movie best scenes are, in fact unspoken.
I highly recommend it.
This one was so bad, it hurt!
I can't believe that Isaiah Washington and Ice-T were in this mess! The plot (and I use that term very loosely) centers around an army of rats that terrorize an urban apartment complex--at least I think that's what it was about. The script made no sense at all, I couldn't have cared less about the characters and the camera-work consisted of repeatedly showing shadow images of rats standing on their hind legs or running. Running is what I should have done. As an African American male, I often read pleas from my brothers and sisters to "support African American films." I try to help out, but enough is enough. No one should watch garbage like this for any reason whatsoever. Please, brothers and sisters, don't produce any more direct to video rat turds like this. Please!
American Gun (2002)
Coburn bows out with style
I tried to watch "American Gun" while reading the paper on a Sunday afternoon but soon found myself reading less and watching more. It's a fascinating story about Martin Tillman (played by James Coburn in his last film), an elderly man dealing with the shooting death of his daughter by embarking on a journey to trace the history of the gun used to kill her.
Every performance is solid: Virginia Madsen, playing the daughter, Barbara Bain (remember her in the "Mission Impossible" TV show?) as Tillman's wife, Alexandra Holden as their wayward granddaughter...but it's Coburn's movie, to be sure, and he quietly dominates the film even during moments in which he is silent.
"American Gun" isn't a preachy movie about gun ownership in America at all. It's an intelligent film about the odyssey of a man reflecting on--actually haunted by--his own past as he travels across the country in his obsession to know the history of the gun for reasons that are not completely revealed until the very end of the film--in a surprise twist I'm sure nobody saw coming.
Sit down and watch "American Gun" from start to finish. And forget about trying to read the paper, knit, wash the dishes or whatever while it's on. Just be engrossed by talented film-making featuring a talented cast and director anchored by well-written script.
A very entertaining film
I had never heard of "Solomon Northup's Odyssey" so I didn't expect much, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this film was. The story is about the title character, a free black man struggling to make a living in the state of New York during the late 1840's. He's kidnapped by two white men who sell him into slavery. Almost all of the movie focuses on his life as a slave and his strong determination never to accept that he's owned by another.
The performances are generally good all around. Avery Brooks, admittedly not one of my favorite actors due to his tendency to overact, occasionally does so, but not enough to spoil the film (but enough to just slightly lower how many stars I gave it overall). Another wise approach to the film is that the white characters are not all portrayed as stereotypical foaming at the mouth racists; some are good, some are bad, some are both.
You'll find yourself totally engrossed in the life of Solomon Northup, feeling his pain as he tries to maintain his dignity as a free man forced into slavery.
The first "Charlie's Angels" movie was a bit of brainless fun, but "Full Throttle" went nowhere fast. The plot, such as it was, had something to do with the women trying to recover two rings containing the names of people in the Witness Protection Program. The film contained lots of action and lots of wardrobe changes for the leads but who cares? And Bernie Mac, who is usually funny, just stank up every scene he was in. (Nothing wrong with having an African American "Bosley," but give him some decent material.) The action scenes were so preposterous that they made me roll my eyes. Yes, the three leads and Demi Moore all looked great, but even that wasn't enough to save this junk. Avoid at all cost!
Ride or Die (2003)
As an African American male, I wanted to like the movie "Ride or Die" because it featured a black male lead character and a mostly black cast. But the movie was so bad...
I'ts about a James Bond-like private investigator trying to solve the murder of a childhood friend (I guess). Vivica A. Fox, who was one of the producers, brought a little charm to the vehicle playing a black female "Q," but the more I watched, the more I felt sorry for her being in such a turkey. Duane Martin, who wrote the script and starred in the picture, has about as much screen presence as a burnt out light bulb.
Don't waste your time on this bugger. Perhaps it has some potential at one of those late night "Real Bad Movie" college parties; you know, like those 1950's horror movies.
Lackawanna Blues (2005)
A good film that could have been better
"Lackawanna Blues" takes place in the 1950's and tells the story of a young "black" (well, actually, black and Latino) boy whose parents are unable to take care of him, so he is reared by the neighborhood "Mama" who owns a boarding house full of eccentric people. The movie works when the story focuses on the two main characters--the boy and his adoptive mother. Unfortunately so many characters weave in and out of the movie that I found them downright distracting. But the biggest problem with the film was the MTV-style direction by George C. Wolfe. Okay, I know I'm not watching a PBS Masterpiece Theatre production, but does the camera have to keep moving and jumping around so much? This constant shifting actually distances the viewer from the performers on screen. The performances of S. Epatha Merkerson as the adoptive mother and Marcus Carl Franklin as the young boy are generally very good, but "Lackawanna Blues" was good material that should have been allowed to breath.