Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
I saw this sitcom the other day on a local TV affiliate, and it's easy
to understand why it only lasted three seasons.
This black family TV sitcom, starring Terry Crews and Essence Atkins as middle-class parents of two preteen children, just simply isn't funny at all. Although I liked Crews in his previous role as dad to the teen-aged Chris Rock in "Everybody Hates Chris" and think that Essence Atkins is a stunning black actress, the straight characters they portray as parents in this show are rather listless, and the two children are just as vapid and bland. With its tedious story lines, insipid characters, and overall lack of humor, you'll most likely find yourself reaching for your remote after about 10 minutes of viewing (if that long).
Just flat out dull.
Who murdered Sgt. Waters? This is the mystery posed at the outset of "A
Soldier's Story," as we see Watersspeaking incoherently and obviously
intoxicatedbeing shot to death on a country road. The setting is
Tynin, Louisiana, and the year is 1944, near the end of WWII. Tynin,
like the rest of the Deep South, is a town plagued by racial
segregation and Klan terrorism. That said, everyone on the Tynin army
base, both black and white, has no doubt that the black sergeant's
killing was at the hands of white racists, some are even certain that
it was the work of the KKK.
Enter Capt. Davenport, a Negro army officer/lawyer assigned by Washington to investigate Waters' killing. No stranger to racial hostility himself, he perceives himself as a crusader, out to see that justiceultimately racial justice--is served for the murder. However, he has the unfortunate experience of learning that internal black racism can be just as hostile and damaging as the external racism historically afflicted by white society.
Howard Rollins plays Capt. Davenport, the no nonsense, stoic black army officer investigating Waters' murder, and Dennis Lipscomb plays Captain Taylor, the late Waters' white commanding officer, who, like Davenport, desperately wants Waters' killers prosecuted. However, Taylor earnestly tries to persuade Davenport to relinquish the investigation, believing that as a black man, there's no way that Davenport can possibly "get at the truth" behind the killing.
But it is Adolph Caesar who commands most of your attention throughout this movie in the role of the sadistic Sgt. Vernon Waters. The mystery of Sgt. Waters' murder is the focal point of "A Soldier's Story," and, fittingly, Caesar is "the man" of this movie. Through a series of film flashbacks of Waters, via Davenport's interviews with black soldiers of Waters' platoon and Captain Taylor, we learn that Waters was an intensely embittered, disillusioned black master sergeant who believed that Southern blacks, perpetuating stereotypes of minstrelsy and ignorance, impede the black race from attaining acceptance and respect from white society. That said, he embarks on his own personal crusade to rid the black race of such dregs so that the race can prosper and progress.
With his raspy, deep voice, Caesar spent most of his career doing narrations for Hollywood productions. (While hearing him deliver his lines in this movie, and if you're over 45, you can't help but to reminisce about the classic tag line he delivered in TV commercials for the United Negro College Fund way back in the day"A mind is a terrible thing to waste.") But it is in this role as Sgt. Waters in "A Soldier's Story" that Caesar displays his powerful talent as a dramatic actor, in a role that would eventually become his signature. It is with his penetrating voice that he effectively embodies the hatred and bitterness that personifies the Waters' character. Although small in stature, his screen presence is commanding, and at times even chilling, particularly when he vents his animosity and sadism toward the Southern Negroes of his platoon, whom he deprecatingly refers to as "geeches." It is a hatred so intense that as Pvt. Wilke (Water's subordinate) explains to Davenport, "You could just feel it." Caesar would go on to win a well-deserved Academy Award nomination for "Best Supporting Actor" for his portrayal of Sgt. Waters in "A Soldier's Story," a performance that would make him a star overnight. Unfortunately, he would suffer an untimely death two years after the movie was released, just as he was coming into his own as a Hollywood celebrity.
In what was only his second appearance in a Hollywood movie, Denzel Washington delivers a solid performance as "Pvt. Peterson," the outspoken and assertive soldier from Alabama, totally unafraid to challenge Waters' bigotry toward the Southern black soldiers. In stark contrast to Peterson, veteran actor Art Evans plays Pvt. Wilkie, Waters' docile and acquiescent flunky, who, in an effort to regain his rank of sergeant, a rank Waters had stripped, is more than willing to facilitate the sergeant's dastardly deeds.
In one of the movie's most memorable performances, Larry Riley plays "C.J. Memphis," a Mississippi farmhand turned soldier who becomes the most unfortunate and tragic victim of Water's malevolence. Although engaging and exceptionally talented, both musically and athletically, Memphis is obviously the most illiterate and "uncultured" soldier of Waters' platoon, and a rube too naïve to realize that of all of the Southern soldiers, he's the "geeche" that Waters despises most.
In addition to the movie's intriguing drama and suspense, "A Soldier's Story" features prime musical entertainment. Iconic R&B vocalist Patti LaBelle plays "Big Mary," owner of a bar where the black soldiers from the army base frequent. Her mesmerizing blues/gospel singing, coupled with Riley's own fine Mississippi Delta blues singing and guitar playing, makes for some of the movie's most entertaining moments.
Charles Fuller, the playwright of "A Soldier's Story" and screenwriter for this movie, did quite a fine job of transitioning his Pulitzer-Prize winning play to the big screen, and the added dimensions of cinema greatly enhances his story. However, even though the story is intended to be a "whodunit," you'll most likely gather who murdered Waters before it is revealed at the end of the movie.
Nevertheless, "A Soldier's Story" is a truly compelling tale, and the magnificent performances delivered by the cast alone, a cast that would be perceived by many today as "all-star," will have you wanting to watch this movie over and over again.
As another piece of fine programming recently featured on the newly
created "Bounce Channel," a TV network devoted to the exclusive
showcasing of African-American programs, many of which, unfortunately,
are B-films, former black Playboy model Jeannie Bell stars in this
movie as a kung fu gal who--in Pam Grier, super girl fashion--is out
for vengeance against the bad guys in Asia who killed her brother.
All of the typical elements of sub par B-movie/Blaxpliotation filming are at work here--wooden acting performances, cheap dialogue, vague movie direction, and a confusing story line, all topped off by some of the cheesiest and most bogus kung fu "fight" sequences ever filmed for the big screen.
Perhaps the only good thing about this movie is that it makes for ideal fodder for the guy and his two robotic buddies over at "Mystery Science Theater 3000" to tear up.
Truly one of the most ridiculous and forgettable movies of the 70s'
Blaxploitation film genre, and an utterly embarrassing effort on the
part of Motown music mogul Berry Gordy to branch out into Hollywood
movie directing. A love story so corny that when watching this today on
TV, you can't help but to envision three small black silhouette figures
at the bottom of your TV screen making wisecracks after each line of
the dialogue has been spoken. In "Mahogany," a young woman has
aspirations of becoming a successful fashion designer only to learn a
life lesson from her wannbe politician boyfriend that success is
meaningless without true romantic love (yeah, right).
Motown singing legend (and Gordy's onetime lover) Diana Ross stars in the title role as Tracy Chambers, a black woman from the slums of Chicago who's starving for success in the fashion design industry. After suffering repeated rejections of her fashion sketches in her hometown of Chicago, she finally gets her big break when a white fashion photographer extends an invitation to her to work with him as a model in Italy. Torn between her relationship with her boyfriend, along with his political ideals, and the golden opportunity of making a significant step in achieving her dream of becoming a successful fashion designer, she opts for the latter and abruptly departs for Rome.
Although a pop singing icon, as the movie's hit theme song ("Do You Know Where You're Going To?") will attest, Ross' acting abilities in this movie however leave a great deal to be desired. Although few would argue that the ostentation of the European fashion industry, the setting for most of this movie, is fitting for her real-life persona as that of the narcissistic Motown diva.
Anthony Perkins appears as a prominent but emotionally imbalanced fashion photographer named Sean who under the guise of being Tracy's mentor, and similar to another Italian benefactor that she encounters later in the movie, has lecherous ulterior motives up his sleeve. Obviously typecast in this role, stemming from his legendary performance as the deranged Norman Bates from Hitchcock's classic horror movie "Psycho" a decade-and-a-half before, he plays the movie's psychotic villain. His unrequited attraction for Tracy results in some very unpleasant and devastating consequences, making her start to realize that success in the European fashion industry ain't exactly all that it's cracked up to be.
Billy Dee Williams plays Brian, Tracy's altruistic boyfriend, who, with his own aspirations, has ambitions of becoming the alderman of the Chicago ward where Tracy herself resides. As the consummate movie matinée idol, and in somewhat of a reprise from the previous movie in which he co-starred with Ross, "Lady Sings the Blues," he does suffice in "Mahogany" as the handsome leading man. However, in scenes where he's embroiled in altercations with construction workers while conducting political campaigns in the streets of Chicago--and besting the roughnecks in street fights--are a tad "Hollywoodish" to say the least and far more humorously cheesy than action-packed.
But above all else, what makes the movie such an unadulterated piece of camp (or crap) is the ludicrous, naive theme it perpetuates"Success is nothing without someone you love to share it with." In what was presumably meant to be the climax of this movie, and to the background of heavy sentimental orchestral music, Brain emphatically delivers this line to Tracy amid a heated lovers' quarrel. In the original version of the movie, and in Gordy's infinite wisdom as the movie's director, the asinine line was even captioned on the screen at the very end of the film, and also used as a tag line to promote it when it was first released back in the mid-70s. (However, modern-day TV editors have wisely omitted it from the screen at the film's end, presumably because of its inanity.)
Recently, this movie has been re-aired regularly on the newly established "Bounce" channel, a TV network that exclusively showcases black programs. (Unfortunately, many of the movies, like "Mahogany," are of B-grade.) However, time has done this movie a great deal of harm. Actually, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" would be a more fittingly venue for "Mahogany," as you could bet the house that the three fellas over there would have undoubtedly had a field day with such absurd cornball.
Without a doubt, one of the worst movies, let alone sequels, that you
will ever see, even by Blaxploitation film standards. This 1973 sequel
to the blockbuster '72 hit movie is a huge disappointment that doesn't
even remotelyin terms of both quality and appeal--replicate the
preceding action-packed, street savvy tale about a highly charismatic
but disillusioned black Harlem cocaine dealer, Priest.
In this, the second chapter of the Super Fly saga, Priest relocates overseas to Europe where he is now retired from hustling and lives in Rome with his girlfriend, Georgia. Although now financially secure, having successfully "run down the fantastic number" in a major drug deal while in New York City, he finds that retired live in Europe isn't all that it's cracked up to be. He suffers from incessant boredom, with gambling in nightly poker games with Italian businessman as his lone source of interest. However, it is at the end of one of these card games that he meets an African dignitary looking for someone to oversee a gun smuggling operation, which a military unit in his country has recently botched.
Apparently struck by Priest's charismatic appearance (if nothing else), the African official, Dr. Lamine Sonko, tries to encourage him to take the arms smuggling assignment. Initially, Priest is reluctant to do so, and Sonko prevails upon him that as a black man he has a moral duty to aide his African brothers in their time of need. With Sonko's sermon about international black unity riding his conscience, coupled with his disillusionment with retired living, Priest eventually accepts the job, much to the dismay of his significant other, Georgia, and subsequently boards a plane to Sonko's African country to embark on the arms smuggling mission.
Ron O'Neal, who stars in the lead role, directed and co-wrote the story line for "Super Fly TNT," and therein would most likely explain why this movie is such a cinematic atrocity. Although O'Neal's performance in the original Super Fly movie was the stuff of legend, and he was one of the better actors of the 70s' Blaxploitation movie era, his direction of this movie, however, is overtly and highly inept. Much of the movie is confusing and vague, with scenes so pointless and tediously elongated that the only positive aspect of it is that the movie viewer can easily empathize with Priest's ongoing dilemma of being ceaselessly bored.
Interesting enough, Alex Haley wrote the screenplay for "Super Fly TNT." (Haley of course would go on to become a household name as author of the classic, best-selling novel "Roots," several years after the release of this movie.) However, the screenplay he wrote for this movie, much like O'Neal's incompetent movie direction, is listless, providing few, if any, moments of intense drama and intrigue.
Sheila Frazier reprises her role from the original movie as Priest's loyal, understanding girlfriend. Although a stunningly attractive woman, her acting skills are poor, so much so that her highly unprofessional performance in this movie alone instantly relegates it to B-film status.
As a considerably more polished acting professional, veteran actor Roscoe Lee Browne delivers the movie's best performance as the eloquent, outspoken Dr. Lamine Sonko, the African official who hires Priest to man his country's gun smuggling operation. Yet, through no fault of Browne's of course, you can't help but wonder why in the world would a high-ranking African dignitary want to tap Priest, a man he barely knew anything about, for such a complicated, crucial paramilitary assignment.
A relatively young Robert Guillaume makes his movie debut in "TNT" as Jordan, a black American writer who befriends Priest in Rome. However, his character in "TNT" is totally insignificant to the movie's plot, making him the film's most dispensable character. Yet he does provide one of the very rare moments of interest in the movie by showcasing his operatic singing ability in a scene at an Italian restaurant, an impressive talent that many, myself included, never knew Guillaune possessed.
In stark contrast to Curtis Mayfield's brilliant musical score from the original movie, which became an instant R&B classic, the musical soundtrack for "TNT," performed by the Ghanaian musical group Osibisa, is rather disgusting. Unlike Mayfield's excellent musical score from the original "Super Fly" movie, the African-Caribbean-styled soundtrack for "TNT" is highly inappropriate for the streetwise Priest character and far out of context with his "cool" persona.
The combination of the aforementioned elements--fatuous movie direction, vapid screenplay, and a lame musical soundtrackmakes for one of the most dreadful movie viewing experiences that you will ever have, with a story ending, much like most of the movie itself, so perplexing and vague that it will leave you hangin' and asking yourself "WTF?" as you watch the credits roll on the screen.
Aptly titled "TNT," O'Neal, Haley, and Sig Shore (movie producer) collaborate in creating a complete bomb of a movie, a cinematic disaster that will truly indeed blow you away.
"When you need help, you call the police. But when the police needs
help, they call S.W.A.T." I vividly remember this tag used to advertise
this then-new TV crime drama, which debut in 1974 when I was 13.
Having watched a number of detective and conventional police crime dramas on television, S.W.A.T. was indeed a different type a crime-drama TV series about the quasi-military arm of the Los Angeles police department, assigned to respond to extreme/emergency situations. The show became an instant hit, with its theme song even becoming one as well on many radio stations during the mid-seventies.
A strong cast lead by Steve Forrest, who plays the stern, level-headed Lt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson--and featuring Rod Perry as "Deacon" Kay, his loyal right-hand man, Marc Shera as Officer Dominic Luca, the free-spirited Italian, James Coleman as Officer T.J. MaCabe, the expert marksman, and Robert Urich, as the no-nonsense young Officer Jim Street--provides solid and intriguing drama that would hold the TV viewers' attention in almost every episode.
However, I recently viewed the series again in re-runs on TVLand, and as a middle-aged man now instead of a young teenager, I've become a bit more critical. When watching the series now, it seems quite unrealistic how in certain episodes a S.W.A.T. team member had personal connections to an individual who was involved in a particular case that the S.W.A.T. team responded to.
In one episode, T.J. reunites with his former high-school basketball teammate and introduces him to the other members of the S.W.A.T. team. Later that evening, T.J.'s buddy, who's now a pro basketball player, plays a basketball game at the local arena and thugs kidnap his team. They hold the players hostage in the locker room, and you can guess--by the strangest coincidence--what particular law enforcement unit comes to the rescue.
In another episode, a college professor of a university is also held hostage by extremists with the S.W.A.T. team responding to the emergency. Interestingly enough, the professor just happens to be Street's instructor of a course that he's is currently taking in night school at the university.
Yet in spite of these "Hollywoodish" moments, the show still holds up fairly well after 35 years. It can still captivate TV audiences with its action-packed, dramatic moments and provides sufficient entertainment to merit viewing.
Several weeks ago, there was a special presentation of this documentary
at an event to honor the memory of Smokin' Joe Frazier. Legendary
boxing promoter Bob Arum spoke at the function, and although Arum
prefaced his remarks by paying homage to the late Joe Frazier, he
harshly criticized this documentary, bluntly calling it "disgusting"
and an "unfair attack" on Muhammad Ali. However, Arum hit the nail on
the head regarding this film, which, as another reviewer on the Web
site accurately characterizes, is just "a piece of revisionist
There are a slew of inaccuracies, myths, and half-truths presented in this documentary, so much so that if I were to address them all, this review would be the length of a book. However, I would like to dispel several of the most significant myths that this biased documentary perpetuates:
Documentary Myth: During Ali's exile, Joe Frazier nobly helped Ali out by giving him money and diligently lobbying to help Ali get his license reinstated.
Facts: Yes, during Ali's exile from boxing, Frazier would, on occasion, lend money to Ali and even went to great lengths to help Ali get his license back. But he didn't do so for magnanimous reasons, like it's portrayed in this documentary. Joe wanted a mega million dollar fight and knew that a bout with Ali would result in a huge fight payday, given Ali's high name recognition and stature. He facilitated Ali's return to boxing because he perceived Ali as his ticket to Ft. Knox, which is what Ali became. But Joe's "noble" gestures in helping Ali were for his own personal gain, not Ali's welfare.
Documentary Myth: By calling Joe "ugly" or " gorilla," Ali was making racial epithets.
Facts: True, Ali did call Frazier "ugly," but he also called Sonny Liston, Leon Spinks, and Larry Holmes "ugly" during pre-fight stages of his bouts with them as well. (He probably called Liston ugly more times than Frazier. Just view some old footage of everything leading up to the first Liston bout.) In addition to proclaiming to be "The Greatest," Ali would often boast to the press, in a jovial manner, that he was "pretty" and most fighters were "ugly."
It has to be understood that in addition to being a master boxer, Ali was also a master showman and fight promoter. The name calling wasn't meant to serve as personal attacks, and Ali's boasting of his boxing ability and his appearance wasn't conceit, contrary to popular myth. He just used narcissism to promote bouts, a marketing ploy he learned from watching pro wrestlers.
And yes, Ali did call Frazier "The Gorilla" before their third fight. But here again, it was a situation in which Frazier was not singled out because Ali had always created monikers for his opponents as a gimmick to promote fights. He called Frazier "The Gorilla" before their third fight, but he also coined Sonny Liston "The Big Ugly Bear," Floyd Patterson "The Rabbit," George Chuvalo "The Washerwoman," George Foreman "The Mummy," and Ernie Shavers "The Acorn" (a reference to Shaver's bald head).
Given this pattern, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Ali was creating monikers as a promotional gimmick, not as racial taunts. He applied it to many fighters, not just Frazier; it was just that Frazier was the only Ali opponent who spent his entire life whining about it.
Documentary Myth: The Nation of Islam, of which Ali was a member, and the Klu Klux Klan wanted to form a pact and Muhammad Ali spoke at a Klu Klux Klan Rally.
Facts: There's minimal evidence to support this documentary's claim that the KKK and the NOI wanted to collaborate. As for Ali speaking at a Klan rally, there's also no credible evidence to substantiate this assertion, and it most likely never happened. Being that Ali at the time was nothing more than arguably the world's most famous human being, surely news of Ali speaking at such an event would have inevitably leaked to the press. Add to that, the irony of an Afrocentric Muhammad Ali speaking at a rally of white supremacists would have made for such a sensational and controversial news story that virtually every news medium in the world would have reported it, and most likely it would have been a lead story. The long and short of it all is that the media would have had a field day with something like this. Yet there is no film or photographic record of this, nor is there any news report on record of this at all.
The documentary shows a film clip of Ali in an interview supposedly admitting to speaking at a KKK rally. However, the film footage has obviously been edited. Ali was most likely making these remarks as part of a gag. He was always one to clown and joke around, even while being interviewed.
I could go on and on about the myths, biased assertions, and falsehoods perpetuated in this documentary, such as implausible testimonies, a fabricated analysis of the Ali-Frazier fight trilogy, manipulated film footage, and Larry Holmes lying through his teeth by saying that Ali was "overrated" as a fighter even though, ironically, Holmes had always publicly proclaimed that Ali was his idol. But, unfortunately, IMDb imposes a 1,000-word limit for its reviews.
But the bottom line is that the "Thriller in Manila" documentary is, as Bob Arum states, "chock full of inaccuracies and is designed to demean Muhammad Ali" And as he also states, you can watch this documentary if you want, "but don't believe a word that's being said."
I never knew this 50s' TV series existed until I saw it for the first
time on the "Antenna TV" channel several weeks ago. Well, all I can say
is that over the years, I hadn't missed much.
In my opinion, the only interesting aspect of this show is seeing Mickey Dolenz in the title role playing an orphan working in a circus as an animal trainer. (Dolenz of course would go on to achieve much greater fame as an adult as the drummer for the 60s' rock group the Monkees.) Aside from seeing Dolenz as a small child, this series doesn't offer much else. As with most TV sitcoms from the 50s, time has done a great deal of harm to "Circus Boy." Many of the story lines of various episodes are overly sentimental and, by today's standards, ludicrously naive. It's really no wonder that this short-lived series only lasted two seasons.
"Antenna TV" should up its game by providing better quality programming.
From the outset, I want to say that I have never been a fan of movie
remakes. Hollywood remakes, similar to sequels, are just vain attempts
by movie producers to replicate the success of previous movie
blockbusters. However, on the second time around, the replication
rarely works. And, unfortunately, the 2004 version of "Walking Tall" is
In the 2004 remake, famed wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson plays the "Walking Tall" lead character, Chris Vaughn. However, unlike Joe Don Baker, who played Buford Pusser in the original '70s' movie, Chris Vaughn is a biracial bachelor, with a family consisting of his two parents (black father and a white mother), a sister, and a kid nephew.
With his brawn body definition and commanding presence, "The Rock" effectively personifies the appearance of the movie's lead character as a one-man militia out to take on the mob. However, and as many would expect, Johnson's lack of professional acting experience and skills significantly hinders his capability in efficiently delivering the lead role in this movie, making his performance, at best, somewhat mundane. And, unfortunately, Kevin Bray's quirky direction of the movie does very little to compensate.
However, the story line and theme of the second movie doesn't deviate significantly from the original '70s' cult classic, telling the based-on-real-life tale of a principled, morally upstanding man returning to his hometown and waging a battle against the corruption and crime that currently plagues it. And the 2004 version also showcases all of the most notable elements of the original--the violent, near-fatal knife slashing; the subsequent display of body scars in court; knockdown, drag-out casino brawls; gun battles; and, of course, the signature trademark weapon of revenge and authority: a wooden club.
Yet what makes this remake so disappointing is that the emotional impact that made the original movie so popular during the 1970s is entirely absent from the 2004 movie. While the original movie effectively used disturbingly violent scenes and on-screen tragedy to incite the viewer to sympathize with the plight of Bufford Pussner, the remake--even with its own display of incessant violence--doesn't seem to generate the same effective emotional empathy with the Chris Vaughn character. And the remake, particularly with its lame and somewhat abrupt ending, also lacks the substance and the climatic grip that made the original version of "Walking Tall" so powerful and poignant.
As with most Hollywood remakes, you're probably better off to watch the original movie and simply pass on the imitation. The 2004 version of "Walking Tall" will most likely disappoint, especially if you have previously viewed the original 1973 movie.
Aptly titled, this movie is just a replication of the 1982 box-office
smash movie that marked Eddie Murphy's Hollywood debut (However, Eddie
is about 20 pounds heavier and has star billing over Nolte this time
Yet the same elements that made the original movie so appealing--Reggie Hammond singing "Roxanne" in a jail cell, bar room brawls with redn*cks, fist fights between Hammond and Cates, Reggie literally coming in between Cates and the bad guy in a shootout, and of course, Reggie's relentless endeavor to steal Cates' cigarette lighter--just doesn't pack the same punch the second time around in this movie. And many of the scenes in this sequel are rather tedious and at times predictable.
I guess it's like the old saying, "You just can't reheat a soufflé."