Reviews written by registered user
UrbanFilmCritic

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38 reviews in total 
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14 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Wow!, 16 January 2008

The Blair Witch styled first person shooting was clever for about 5 minutes then it started giving me a headache. I had to close my eyes to regain my equilibrium. I just don't have the stomach for that shot. That's why I hate watching people's home movies. However, I regret that I was not physically able to fully enjoy the experience, because the movie was really good. It was definitely an original take on a classic sci-fi tale of alien invasion. The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat. And the ending was not entirely predictable as it often is with this type of movie. And the graphics were spectacular.

And best of all, it is a discussion movie. I love a movie that my friends and I can discuss after we see it. It feels like I'm getting more for my money.

527 out of 719 people found the following review useful:
One of the best movies EVER, 19 October 2006

What makes this movie so incredible is that while it is indeed a movie about magicians (or illusionists) it is also a complex character study about how self destructive obsessions are with a sideline love story and a sci-fi twist. A unique plot with an amazing cast--any of whom could believably garner an Oscar nomination. Christian Bale was amazing in one of his rare cockney performances. We already know from Kate and Leopold how well Hugh Jackman plays a distinguished English gent. He's absolutely priceless. Is there any point in discussing Sir Michael Caine? He brings polish to the movie.

This is the kind of flick that you can discuss for weeks after. The plot is so detailed and complete and open to interpretation. My friend and I have been discussing various nuances of this film for the past 3 weeks. It definitely stays with you.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Warm and touching, 8 September 2006

A career in corrections is often a thankless job. Dealing with the worst of society's offspring, its no wonder that 75% of juvenile delinquents end up as repeat offenders back in the system. A sobering statistic that inspired juvenile corrections officer Sean Porter to become proactive. His plan was to give focus and dignity to a completely forgotten demographic.

Gridiron Gang is based on the true story of Porter's first football team. He wasn't coaching trained athletes, and his players' parents weren't on the sidelines. There were no scholarships at stake or academic probations to worry about. He was coaching gangbangers and murderers in a low security juvenile facility with nothing to lose and everything to gain.

If Remember the Titans and The Longest Yard had a baby—it would be Gridiron Gang. The film had the warmth and heart of Titans with the basic premise of the Longest Yard. We all love an underdog story and what's buried deeper than a group of antisocial teenagers playing football for the first time in their lives.

Of course films like this have their share of corny scenes—the Rock attempted tears (unsuccessfully) in two of them. But the film will make you cheer and might make you cry.

Standout performance by newcomer Jade Yorker. He's a face to watch…he's got something.

Crossover (2006)
91 out of 111 people found the following review useful:
Crapover, 31 August 2006

For all who have cried for quality urban film-making free from gangsta, thuggin, and drug related themes…keep looking.

Detroit is a city rich in culture, history, ethnicity and empowerment but in recent years has developed an unfortunate reputation that upsets many natives. Those with a voice, the politicians, the rappers, even the filmmakers try desperately to reverse that negative image much to their credit. Writer and Director Preston Whitmore II, a loyal patriot indeed, attempts an urban tale about street ball, dreams fulfilled, and dreams deferred. It seemed like every few minutes there was a needless montage of city landmarks that were not part of the storyline. A gimmick that seemed patronizing at best, insulting at worst. I too love my city and I understand patriotic sympathies. However, they simply have no place on the celluloid. If a filmmaker wants to show the good of the city make a good movie! But that was just part of my problem with Crossover. It wasn't dramatic enough to be taken seriously and not funny enough to be a comedy. The funniest thing in the movie was the main character Tech (Mackie) spending half the movie studying for his GED. The plot was mediocre and the acting simply ghastly. Wayne Brady (who said he could be a leading man?) has to prove he's black to all his critics and quite unconvincingly portrays Vaughn, part businessman, part thug who has more than a legitimate interest in street ball. The cookie monster is a scarier underworld figure. Wesley Jonathan who was absolutely priceless in Rollbounce was less than thrilling-- almost boring. And Eva Pigford's play acting of the femme fatal just ruined a character that might have been interesting.

Crossover (or Crapover as I was calling it by the end) was a film that probably looked good on paper but lost its focus somewhere between the pitch and the production. I often advise urban screenwriters to beware of this potential peril. It's a death sentence to the film, but more importantly it is another unwanted blemish on the genre of film that is blemished enough.

Idlewild (2006)
29 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Outkast does it again, 24 August 2006

What could Outkast do next to top the success of their double cd speakerboxx/love below? The Impresarios of Rap present Idlewild—a hip hop love story set against the daily grind of running a juke joint during Prohibition in the town of Idlewild, GA. All the players were there, the piano player, the singer, and of course, the bootlegger. Whether it's a murder mystery, a gangsta tale, or a love story can be debated after you see it…just go see it.

Idlewild, a film by Bryan Barber starred Antoine Patton and Andre Benjamin. However, the music was done by Big Boi and Andre 3000. Outkast fans will get the difference. The rest will have to see to believe. Let us not forget, where there is a Big Boi and an Andre there will be a fair amount of quirky, a little bit of weird, a lot of imagination, and some stepping outside of the "speakerboxx".

The film had the musical stage appeal of Chicago with the black gangsta love of movies like Harlem Nights and Hoodlum. But unlike those Yankee tales, this story took place in the south before it became dirty or is it derty???? (where's my ebonics dictionary?) It speaks to a time and place accurately and without insult. It was clever and funny but also a little predictable. Which was ideal because the storyline is actually just scenery for all the incredible musical numbers and didn't need to be complicated. The characters had that two-dimensional feel reminiscent of the melodramas so popular in the 1930's. Idlewild rose to the challenge and very successfully captured the times, which is often a difficult task in a period piece.

Saying Outkast has an innovative approach to music is like saying that guy Picasso is alright with a paintbrush. The original score by Outkast blended the sound of the 30's, the jazz, the blues and the swing with rap and soulful rhythm and blues. It was kind of like a family reunion for home-grown syncopation. It was ingenious as well as inspired. The choreography only complimented the musical numbers giving the audience a complete juke joint experience.

The film also offered notable cameo appearances by Cicily Tyson, Ving Rhames, Bruce Bruce, Patty Labelle and the tease of Tony award winning Ben Vereen who doesn't dance. Also noteworthy is Macy Gray's performance as the falling diva Taffy.

If Rappers must make movies, they should all be so good.

Premium (2006)
14 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Excellent, 30 June 2006

Read my past reviews, and you know how rare it is that I sing the praises of any film made after 1985.

Premium is one of the best independent films I have ever seen. I realized after the screening at the Urbanworld Film Festival just how much garbage I've watched lately. I hope Mr. Chatmon is able to get a theatrical release so that everyone can have an opportunity to see the movie, but if it does go straight to DVD, it will be a rare gem in the secondary market.

I don't want to over-inflate the movie. It wasn't a complex story with a lot of special effects or over the top dramatizations. It was a very simple story that was divinely executed. Everyone did what they were supposed to do. The film maker had enough respect for his audience not be the director, the writer, the star, the key grip and the caterer. He selected his role, he focused on that and hired people to do the rest.

It's a character study and a date movie. And its good. I've been a champion of the urban independent film maker for a while. This movie reminded me why...UFC

22 out of 46 people found the following review useful:
Rappin is the new Black American dream?, 8 November 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Film Synopsis: The story of Marcus Grier (Jackson), an orphaned street kid who gains rank in the drug trade but after a tragic shooting decides to leave the violence behind and become a rap artist. The film is based on Jackson's autobiography From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon A Time in Southside Queens. I had an opportunity to talk with 50 just days before the film was released. By his own words this movie is 70% accurate and 30% Hollywood.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Charles Drew, Thurgood Marshall, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, George Washington Carver…all the great ones, right? Out of all the celebrated accomplishments of African Americans in the fields of medicine, science and the arts, when were we reduced to watching biopics about drug dealers who became rappers? When did that become the African American dream? And yet twice in 2005 some producer told the story of a wannabe rapper with all the intensity of Schindler's list and The English Patient put together. Just because the music is serious, doesn't mean I'll take it seriously.

Most of us justify our love of gangsta rap and their tales from the darkside of the streets with the cliché line: "It's not real. It's all a hype." Of course some guy in a tall T and Timbs will emphatically support the rapper saying, "Naw that's not true, he had a beef wit… at the Hit Factory in 03. His manager got shot!" And then you go see a movie like Get Rich or Die Trying. A movie that is the exact embodiment of every gangsta rap song ever produced. Intro, verse, hook, verse, bridge, hook, out- remixed with a little 50-lore made this flick real predictable. Bad dialog, bad clothes and bad hair. What's worse, the actors that could have brought the pain like Terrance Howard, Mykelti Williamson and Viola Davis were not given enough screen time to make a difference in the quality of the film. And as with most mediocre screenplays the ending fell to pieces. As for Jackson's performance, he couldn't quite hold his own with the more seasoned actors in the cast. But in all fairness for a drug dealer who became a rapper who became an actor…he wasn't that bad.

This movie raises a social problem. If it is all just hype then we put it under the Scarface category of gangster fiction and go to sleep still feeling like good people. However, if the premise of the story is indeed based in truth, then we have to ask ourselves where do we draw the line on entertainment? When does it stop being fun and start being wrong? I know my social conscience was not offended when it was just a song. Maybe rappers need to keep their stories on wax…50 believes his story is worth telling if for no other reason, it's a blueprint of what not to do. He wasted years dealing that he could have been rapping. I think that part of the message is lost in the film. He makes it look simple, worthwhile and cool. His tragic shooting has more value as street credit than as a hard life lesson. Mr. Jackson is very confident that his story will either inspire or make envy. In this writer's opinion, repulsion is also a possibility. However, it takes courage to tell such a shameful story and something has to be said for that.

101 out of 132 people found the following review useful:
Nick Cage at his best, 28 October 2005

The cusp of the dreaded mid-life crisis. The realization that life sucks either because you've removed the rose colored glasses or because you've been hit by one of life's ice balls. While at the point where you still believe in happy endings and hold on to the possibility that if one good thing happens everything else will fall into place.

So the story begins...Dave Spritz is a Chicago weatherman. As the events of his life get worse he begins to put all his faith in a dream job in New York as a national weatherman. He believes this job will magically restore his failing marriage, his relationship with this kids and garner him the respect from his father (Michael Caine)he so desires.

The ability to find humor in life's tragedies is an accomplishment that director, writer and cast can all be proud of. The comedy in this movie came just often enough to hold back the tears. It was a real life character study and of course Nicholas Cage and Michael Caine were absolutely superb.

What makes the movie so wonderful is that it is based on premises we all know but often forget. 1)Money doesn't buy happiness. 2)The little things mean a lot. 3)To quote the film, "The hard thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing."

G (2002)
10 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Nothing can touch Fitzgerald, 28 October 2005

Like this review, G could never capture the eloquence of F. Scott Fitzgerald. What made this movie good was the skeleton provided by Fitzgerald, what made this movie bad was the adaptation. This film had its share of corn. What the first half of the century called "melodrama" we call corny. So that is due to no fault of the producer or the screenwriter. At the same time, the timelessness of the story is what will capture the attention of the audience. On some level we all love a little melodrama. Those who have read the novel will enjoy finding the urban parallels. I was even motivated to read the book again after the screening.

The enigmatic Gatsby found a counterpart in Summer G without as much mystery. Richard T. Jones is very good at playing the strong silent type. Chenoa Maxwell's Sky Hightower captured the desperate innocence of the classic's Daisy. And Blair Underwood's Chip Hightower was a Tom like no other. There was a little unnecessary comic relief and a few extra characters all building to a crescendo and an almost operatic ending.

It's difficult to adapt classic novels. This is not the first attempt for The Great Gatsby. Robert Redford and Mia Farrow attempted in 1974. I found that version very boring. So in comparison G was much better but the corn factor was a little extra. All in all much more good than bad.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
All questions answered!, 18 May 2005
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In a year that seems to be dedicated to the washed out remake, George Lucas delivers the final installment to the Star Wars prequel, Return of The Sith. "What is a Sith?", you ask. I'm still not sure. But like jedi ,wookie, and lightsaber , it will soon become an American colloquialism. Please note: if someone refers to you as a Sith...it's a bad thing.

The disappointment of the Matrix Reloaded sent me into the theater leery of the dreaded ANTICLIMAX. I'm happy to report my faith in the sci-fi trilogy has been restored. George Lucas has done it again!

What I liked most about Episode 3 was that it answered every lingering question from Star Wars to The Return of the Jedi. How did Darth Vader get the name? Why did he join the darkside? How did Leia end up a princess while Luke was raised on that desert planet? Why didn't C3PO just tell Luke who his father was? Why did Yoda live in the swamp? Was Sam Jackson's Mace Windu any relation to Billy Dee Williams' Lando Calrissian? And most importantly, Why did Leia wear her hair like that? Even the fight scenes contributed to the complete story. Obi-Wan and little Yoda show why they were qualified to train Luke. The fight scenes were absolutely awesome.

Unlike Return of the Jedi and most finales of this sort, this movie does not have a happy ending. That is a large part of what made it such an incredible film. Although you know how it has to end, you don't want it and that builds a lot of excitement.

This is a film everyone can enjoy. Fans of the epic will love this finale, obviously. However, even if you are not familiar with the story there is enough action and adventure to keep you interested.


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