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Fair quality story of truth and fiction
The intent of this film is underscored until the final minutes when it strictly lays out its purpose. You can see from the trailer KNOWING is about the end of the world, but it doesn't quite let you in on the thought-provoking illustration it brings from the Book of Revelations. Expect to see something partly in the style of The Reaping (2007), but with deeper emotions and a much more authentic goal. KNOWING creates several dramatic disasters that in no way feel exaggerated, hokey or unbelievable. They are awe-inspiring and make us look closer at the signs that tell us not much time is left on this earth.
As a true to life drama and with a better cast, I believe KNOWING would've worked more effectively. What comes out 3/20 somewhat muddies its spiritual intent by serving up most of the film as a science-fiction tale of numbers and spooky extra-terrestrials. And its closing interpretation of how exactly Revelations will be fulfilled is both truth and fiction.
Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
Inspiring and necessary
I went to an advance screening and found "Akeelah" to be so much more than I expected. I sat in the theater dabbing tears from eyes throughout the showing. The emotional weight, story-telling approach and female perspective in "Akeelah" is much like that of POETIC JUSTICE (also set in South Central, LA).
"Akeelah" has GREAT cast performances. As a mentor to Akeelah, Laurence Fishburne continuously reminded me of his nurturing position in BOYZ N THE HOOD - I thought of FINDING FORRESTER and THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE as well. Fishburne looks spectacular with Angela Bassett who knows all the right expressions and vocal tones to have the powerful realism she does in her role as a fearful parent in South Central. Keke Palmer, she is definitely on the rise... pretty girl too. Several strong subplots come about in the first half of "Akeelah." They deal with the painful past of Dr. Larabee (Fishburne), lack of time and attention from Akeelah's overworked mother (Bassett), a teetering relationship between Akeelah and her best friend Georgia (Sahara Garey), and the problems of one of Akeelah's brothers who spends his time out late on the streets of South Central.
Apart from the dramatic mood of "Akeelah," there's an excellent amount of comedy. Many of the jokes are in the things that aren't said but seen (watch the father of Akeelah's major opponent). The most hilarious part of the film, IMO, involves the loyalty of Akeelah's friend Javier (J.R. Villarreal) - you'll know the scene when you see it.
From a more objective standpoint, I felt that many of the scene cuts/transitions in "Akeelah" weren't too clean. I forget all about it though when I reflect on the emotional montages that center around Akeelah, her family and the people of her community. If you remember the standout poem ("our deepest fear...") recited in COACH CARTER, you might feel that "Akeelah" twice makes trite use of it. However, different lines of the poem are read this time around. The pacing of "Akeelah" is good, especially when it comes to how Akeelah learns and advances in the National Spelling Bee. "Akeelah" makes the competition look and feel suspenseful at times, but more importantly, it focuses on the rewards found by those who believe in themselves. Kids in the theater I went to were spelling aloud from the very first scene.
The ending -- I won't spoil it -- combines the pieces of humor, triumph and sadness in "Akeelah" in one of the most beautiful finishes I've ever seen, felt and heard from a movie. You MUST go see AKEELAH AND THE BEE!! You'll leave the theater highly inspired by the best word given in the film ("L-O-V-E").