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American Gangster (2007)

 The man I worked for had one of the biggest companies in New York City. He didn’t own his own company. White man owned it, so they owned him. Nobody owns me, though.

— Frank Lucas

I have previously watched American Gangster when an aunt loaned me the DVD of the movie. I watched a third of the movie when I stopped, because it was too long for me to pay any attention to it. I knew that the movie was nominated for two Oscars including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Ruby Dee for her five-minute role and for Best Art Direction. Watching the movie against almost made root for the bad guy… almost.

Harlem 1968. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) mourns the death of Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III) who was a surrogate father to him. Bumpy was Frank’s teacher for dealing with the gangster life, especially for a black man in those times. Frank wants to take over in Bumpy’s place, but do things a little better. He wants to get the best product, which was cocaine to give to the people of Harlem. He wants to show his dominance with the other gangsters of the neighborhood like Tango (Idris Elba) who treats Frank like a servant and Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who is all talk and no bit.

At the same time, an undercover cop, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) tries to be on the straight and narrow in a sea of corruption in the police department. Richie’s partner, Javier Rivera (John Ortiz) discovered a car that had almost a million dollars in it. John wants to keep some of the money, but Richie wants to do the right thing and turn them all in. he Richie is not the most popular cop in the precinct. He is going to night school to get his law degree and having to pay child support to his ex-wife, Laurie (Carla Cugino).

There is a crooked cop, Detective Trupo (Josh Brolin) who confiscated drugs from busts, water them down and sell them back to the bad guys for a profit. He wants to get some hush-hush money from Frank, but Frank doesn’t want to be another police lackey.

Opium and heroin are on the rise during this time and about goes to Bangkok to get the purest heroin that he could find. He finds it and sells it on the street as “Blue Magic” for dirt cheap. With the money from selling the 100 kilos of heroin, he buys a home for his Mama (Ruby Dee) and the rest of his family. Frank decides to expand his business and include his brothers in the process.

Meanwhile, Richie is hand selected to lead a special group of DEA agents to help bring down the drug trafficking ring. their first target is Frank Lucas.

The movie came with the theatrical version and the unrated version. I wanted to see the theatrical version, because it was short. The movie is 2:45 at least. That is a lot of movie about a bad guy selling drugs to his own people. The unrated version would make it three hours. No thanks. I was able to take the movie. there were some good moments in the movie that was bogged down by filler scene that I could do without.

Judgment: It’s interesting to see a movie about a black gangster, but I wish that it was a tighter story.

Rating: 7/10

Talk to Me (2007)

 I’ll tell it to the hot, I’ll tell it to the cold. I’ll tell it to the young, I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’. This is Petey Greene’s Washington.

— Petey Greene

I did not mean for this to be a Kasi Lemmon’s double feature, but I was taken aback when I saw her name as the director of Talk to Me. I vaguely remember the movie when it was in theaters in 2007. It seemed like a nice enough movie, but I never got the nerve to watch until now. I’m glad I did.

An uptight radio program director, Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) visits his brother, Milo (Mike Epps) in prison. He comes out of obligation. They overhear an abrasive voice coming over the loudspeaker. It belongs to do Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. (Don Cheadle) who is broadcasting his show out of Warden Smithers (Peter MacNeill) office. Milo has been writing Dewey about Petey.

The station that Dewey works for, WOL is sagging listenership and is looking for a new deejay to replace Sunny Jim Kelsey (Vondie Curtis-Hall) in the morning shift. Dewey doesn’t like Petey’s delivery and tries to leave the prison. Dewey is cornered by Petey’s main squeeze, Vernell (Taraji P. Henson) to give him a chance when he gets out of the joint.

Dewey blindly agree to it. When Petey is released from prison and come barging through the doors asking for the job, Dewey acts stupid about it. After not getting the position, Petey decides to protest the station doors until he could get the position. Dewey asks the station owner, Mr. Sonderling (Martin Sheen) to give him an opportunity.

After a shaky start, Petey becomes a prominent voice of the black community during the civil rights movement in the late 60s. No other station was talking about black issues at the time. People needed to hear the stories that are happening in their community.

I was laughing my ass off with this movie. Don Cheadle has a delivery that make you believe that he is this character. I enjoyed the way that Petey told it like it is. He didn’t give a damn about who he offended. Some things needed to be said. I loved that. Chiwetel Ejiofor was great as Dewey. He even won the Indie Spirit Award for his performance. It was well-deserved.

Judgment: I love watching a story about a person that I never heard of and I would like to get the chance to know more.

Rating: 8/10

Children of Men (2006)

I can’t really remember when I last had any hope, and I certainly can’t remember when anyone else did either. Because really, since women stopped being able to have babies, what’s left to hope for?

— Theodore Faron

I have meant to watch Alfonso Cuarón’s adaptation of P.D. James’s novel, Children of Men. I have heard nothing but good things about this movie. It is now the 189th Film on the IMDb Top 250 Films list. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay. I wondered at the end of the movie, why the hell didn’t I see this movie sooner?

The movie’s setting takes place in the dystopian world of 2027 London where the world’s population is descending into chaos after the world became infertile. The reason for the phenomenon has not been known until certain events could shed light on the plight of humanity’s survival. There is a countrywide crackdown on illegal immigrants that are brought to refugee camps.

The main person that we fellow is a former activist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen) who is working soul-sucking 9-to-5 job where he was almost killed in a bomb blast getting coffee. The world is in mourning over the death of the youngest person in world who was a little over 18. He skips out on work to visit another former activist friend of his, Jasper (Michael Caine) is a hermit living in the middle of woods growing marijuana in his house.

Jasper tells Theo about “The Human Project” which is a secret government project that could help cure the infertility in women. Theo doesn’t believe a place existed. When Theo world is rocked when he is abducted by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Patric (Charlie Hunnam) and Ian (Paul Sharma) who are members of the Fishes, which is an underground guerrilla group that is fighting for the rights of the immigrants.

The leader of the group is actually Theo’s ex, Julian (Julianne Moore) who wants Theo to do a big favor for her. She wants Theo to get transit papers for a “fugee girl” that is trying to get out of the chaos of London. Theo is resistant to do it when Julian offers him $5,000 pounds, he reconsiders it. He goes to his cousin, Nigel (Danny Huston) to ask for the papers. All Theo could get is joint transit papers, which means that he has to go with the girl.

Julian brings Theo to the place where the girl, Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is hidden away at with her guardian, Miriam (Pam Ferris). The group, including Luke ride out to a checkpoint to get her on a boat away from the place when the car is attacked by rioters and Julian is shot. Things go from bad to worse when Theo realizes that Kee is pregnant. Now, he knows that stakes and lengths that people would go to get close to Kee and her unborn child.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this movie because the beginning of movie was fine, but nothing exciting was happening. Then when the revelation of Kee’s pregnancy happened, I was hooked right in. It was a tense=filled ride for that time forward. I wanted characters to be all right. I was afraid when danger would come knocking on their door. I have never been so moved by an ending like I did this one.

The movie felt a lot like The Road is some respects, but this movie had hope and heart it in it. The allegories of the concentration camps, Abu Ghraib, September 11th, the war in Iraq were not lost on me. It reminded me of another movie, Blindness that I didn’t care for that much. This world felt like modern times that it eerily gave us a glimpse into a possible future. After you read this review, go and buy this movie. Watch it, experience it. You will not regret it.

Judgment: I didn’t know how could I recommend this movie highly enough?

Rating: ****1/2

Inside Man (2006)

My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I’ve told you my name: that’s the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there’s a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison…

— Dalton Russell

Considered Spike Lee’s most critically and commercially successful movie of his career, Inside Man is not your average bank heist movie. I own this movie on DVD for a while, but I never cracked it open and watched it. I have given it to former co-workers to watch, but I never did because it came out of a subscription I had with Columbia House a couple of years ago. Watching it now, I don’t know why I waited this long.

At first, you think that this would be a typical bank robbery, but it’s not. A masterful criminal, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his crew holds up a Manhattan Trust Bank disguising themselves as painters armed with AK-47s and smoke bombs.

Det. Fraizer, (Denzel Washington), a hostage negotiator that is in some hot water over a drug dealer, check cashing and $100 thousand missing dollars is assigned to the case with his partner, Det. Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor). They rendezvous with Capt. Darius (Willem Dafoe) to let the duo know about what is going on.

The robbers usher to the hostages to the bank vault level to confiscate their keys, cell phones and clothes. The hostages are asked to change into the identical painter coveralls the robbers have on. These are not your ordinary robbers.

With all the news coverage about the robbery spreads to the news, the chairman of the bank, Mr. Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) calls a “fixer” Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to protect special items in his safety deposit box.

They all come together to try to diffuse the situation. There are more layers to the movie when Dalton strings Frazier along like a puppet. He always stays one step ahead of him. It’s a cat and mouse game.

Nothing is what it seems to be when the purpose of the robbers is not about money, but it’s about a person getting their due justice. It’s a morality play that is reminiscent of the legend of Robin Hood.

The performances were solid across the board. The dialogue is quick and biting. The action keeps you on your toes with twists and turns.

The only gripe I have about the film is that the film wrapped up to nice and neat with any loose ends are solved. Nothing is left to the imagination of the audience to think about when the end credits begin.

Judgment: A solid psychological thriller that keeps you on your toes.

Rating: ****

Serenity (2005)

Half of writing history is hiding the truth.

— Capt. Malcolm Reynolds

I have to admit. I wasn’t an avid watcher of the television series that this movie was based on, Firefly. I watched snippets of a couple of episodes here and there. Now, I could watch in on Hulu. Yay! Joss Whedon writes very good sci-fi, campy shows like Dollhouse, Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It sucks that this series was canceled, because I loved the film version, Serenity.

Whedon wrote and directed this movie which in a good sign. He knows the material. He knows the chracters. He knows the mythology and will not fuck it up. If it was in the hands of somebody else, it would suck balls.

Whedon reunited the principal cast together. Nathan Fillion played the captain of the spaceship, Serenity. Along with his crew; Zoe (Gina Torres), Jayne (Adam Baldwin), Wash (Alan Tudyk), Kaylee (Jewel Staite), Dr. Simon (Sean Maher) and Simon’s “reader sister, River (Summer Flau). There is also Malcolm’s love interest, Inara (Morena Baccarin) and the wise protector, Shepard Book (Ron Glass).

This big screen adaption deals with the Alliance trying to destroy anybody who resisted them in the war from the series. They send a top-notch assassin, The Operative, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor to eliminate anybody that stands in their objective to capture River that knows some secrets that would destroy the Alliance.

I love the dialogue. Only Joss Whedon can pull this off with these actors. Quick one-liners. Classic.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character is so cool and precise about his lethal blows, his sword. Awesome

River kicks major Raver ass in this film. I have never been so drawn to a character that is dripping in Raver blood. Summer is an awful actress, but she can kick some serious ass. Her being a mute most of the time was a good thing.

Judgment: If you were a fan of the show or a fan of Joss Whedon, I would recommend this movie.

Rating: ****

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