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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

The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

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I’ve got a train to catch.

— Leon Kauffman

I never heard of The Midnight Meat Train until I heard it mentioned on different podcasts over the past couple of months. Being that this is the beginning of my “Creep-A-Thon”, I decided to check this movie out. It is an intriguing movie until the very end.

Leon (Bradley Cooper) is struggling photographer that listens to police calls. He tries to take pictures of the crime scenes before it’s cleaned up. On the encouragement of his long-time girlfriend, Maya (Leslie Bibb) suggests that he shows his work to a local art dealer, Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields).

A mutual friend, Jurgis (Roger Bart) has the two meet at her gallery. Susan likes his work but she wants real visceral pictures from him. Leon sets out to get a “once in a lifetime” shot.

Restless one night, he walks the streets of New York and sees a trio of troublemakers. He follows them into the subway where they are about to violate a model, Erika Sakaki (Nora). He takes pictures of the incident before it escalades.

The next day, Leon reads in the newspapers that the same model disappears. Leon looks back on his pictures and pieces together that quiet man simply named Mahogany (Vinnie Jones) is somehow responsible for the disappearance.

Leon follows Mahogany to work as a butcher in a local slaughterhouse and catching him on the same train in the early morning, killing people in the train cars. Leon increasingly becomes obsessed with this methodical killer. Why is he killing this people? Where is he putting the bodies? It becomes a cat and mouse game when Mahogany starts following Leon.

I thought it was going to another bloodbath movie, but the psychological aspects of the film when Leon’s descending into madness was gripping my attention. There were some interesting themes of this adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story. It was a psychological study of obsessive human behavior hidden behind buckets of blood.

I enjoyed this film when the final reveal happens. I was confused. I had no idea what I just saw or heard. Maybe it went over my head. I rewound it. Still didn’t get it. I was rooting for this different take on the slasher movie. In the end, I was disappointed.

Judgment: Two-thirds of a solid movie until the suck ass ending ruined it.

Rating: **1/2

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)

Gentleman, start your engines! It’s going to be a bumpy fuckin’ ride!

— Neil Patrick Harris

The latter part of my double feature in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. The movie takes place the next day after the events of the last movie. Spoilers ahead. Beware.

Harold and Maria are together but she had to go to Amsterdam for work. It is perfect for Harold and Kumar because marijuana is legal there.

On the way to the airport, the duo meets Kumar’s ex-girlfriend, Vanessa (Danneel Harris) with her new fiancee, Colton Graham (Eric Winter).

Kumar is determined to win her back. On the airplane, Kumar smuggles some weed on the plane and pulls out a makeshift bong that looks like a bomb.

The duo is arrested and thrown in Guantanamo Bay.

I understand that the movie is trying to point of humorous finger at the attitude American has in a post-9/11 world, but it is so offensive to minorities, Southern people, gays, and women.

The movie is awful. The only saving grace was Neil Patrick Harris and his rainbow unicorn when he was tripping on mushrooms. NPH FTW!

Why was this movie made? How could Cho and Penn agree to be in this movie?

Judgment: Avoid this movie like the bubonic plague.

Rating: *1/2

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