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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

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Just Wright (2010)

In this game every shot counts.

I have decided to start this “SIL Festival” because my sister-in-law has been busting my chops for not reviewing black movies. It’s not like I don’t enjoy black movies. My reasoning for not reviewing them as much is because they are not that many black movies to choose from. These movies are representing me and my culture. I don’t want to support a movie that is trash just because black people are in it. I want to see quality movies that are not Pootie Tang, Soul Plane or Car Wash. I saw that Just Wright was on cable over the weekend. Perfect timing.

Queen Latifah plays Leslie Wright, a physical therapist living in a fixer-upper house with her god-sister, Morgan (Paula Patton) who is determined to marry a NBA player and be a basketball wife. Leslie’s father, Lloyd (James Pickens, Jr.) tries to be the handyman of the house with disastrous results. Leslie’s mother, Janice (Pam Grier) constantly nags Leslie about finding a husband.

Leslie is a huge New Jersey Nets fan. She is following the winning streak of star player, Scott McKnight (Common), but Morgan is looking to score a baller husband. A chance meeting at a gas station changes the course of everyone’s life when Leslie is invited by Scott to his house for his birthday party.

Leslie thinks that she is vibing Scott when fate steps in the form of Morgan trying to scoop up Scott for her own. It seems to works. Scott falls for Morgan and they have a whirlwind courtship that lands them getting engaged.

Everything was going great with Scott being selected for the All Star Game, having a beautiful fiancéand possibly re-signing with the Nets for a tenth year when he injures his left knee. His whole life turns upside down when he loses his fiancé, career and self-respect. It wasn’t until a determined Leslie gives him the chance to build himself back up their relationship changes.

I was surprised that Scott was not portrayed as the typical NBA player with a huge ego to go with his huge contract. Scott was a humble, low-key, down to earth kind of gentleman that was not followed by an entourage full of agents, bodyguards, groupies and wannabe ballers. Common as Scott is a breath of fresh air and he is not bad look at either. I did enjoy the chemistry between Queen Latifah and Common.

Judgment: I felt that the movie was a little too sickly sweet and some parts for me.

Rating: 7/10

Wanted (2008)

Kill one, maybe save a thousand.

— Fox

Wanted was nominated for two Academy awards last Sunday for Best Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. It lost both in both categories. I was surprised that it was nominated at all.

I’m not saying that it was an atrocious movie. It was an action packed movie, but it was light on the plot.

The movie is about a wimpy account manager, Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) that is unhappy with the mundane life is recruited into “The Fraternity”, a secret society of great assassins. The leader of the group, Sloan (Morgan Freeman) introduces him to a world that he has never known. He leaves his old life behind to be a bad ass killer like his father that he has never known.

He is introduced to his handler, Fox (Angelina Jolie), who teaches Wesley the ropes about “The Fraternity”. He also meets The Exterminator (Konstantin Khabenskiy) that kicks his ass to try to toughen him up. Then, he is “healed” by The Repairman (Marc Warren) in some white goo. Lastly, Gunsmith (Common) teaches Wesley about having a clear shot of the target.

I thought that this movie was kick ass, but the plot is so stupid. I will be giving away some plot points. Be forewarned.

I have a couple of questions to ask. Wesley believes that Mr. X (David O’Hara) that was killed in the beginning of the film was his father and then it turns out that the “villain”, Cross (Thomas Kretschmann) is his real father. Thomas was born in ’62 and McAvoy was born in ’79. Think about it.

The assassins get their orders from a magical loom with binary codes. Say what?

There is the lazy screenwriting technique of having the main character do a voice-over. Why? I was surprised that Morgan Freeman didn’t do it. he is an expert at it.

This movie wass based loosely on the graphic novel by Mark Millar. The original concept of the graphic novel was not about a team of assassins. It was about a bunch of super-villains that had taken over society in 1986. A wild departure. This is the typical Hollywood watering down fringe material into a mediocre plot line.

Judgment: The movie was nothing, but a bunch of curved bullets, preposterous plot twists and a magical loom. It’s eye candy, not brain candy.

Rating: **1/2

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