Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Movie Reviews

By Dwight Brown
NNPA Newswire Film Critic

James Baldwin, the intellectual, civil rights activist and renowned author, left behind some biting and enlightening words about racism and the status of the Black community that are just as relevant today in this age of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. He moved to Paris around 1950, eventually taking up residence in the south of France. At some point in his self-imposed exile, he came to the conclusion that he had to turn his attention back to his home country. “I could no longer sit around Paris discussing America. I had to come and pay my dues,” said Baldwin.

In 1979, Baldwin started working on his book, “Remember This House.” The manuscript focused on the lives, views and assassinations of his three friends and colleagues: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, at the time of his death he had only completed 30 pages.

Director Raoul Peck (“Lumumba”) took those few, initial pieces of Baldwin’s non-fiction tome and developed them into a searing documentary that examines the struggles of the 1950s and 1960s in a way that makes his thoughts on race incredibly poignant given today’s sociopolitical landscape in the United States.

Peck assembles archival footage, photographs and contentious TV clips (particularly the fledgling “The Dick Cavett Show” where discussions of the state of the “Negro” got heated). He adds in modern day camera feeds of demonstrators angry over police shootings. The results are a blistering indictment of race relations both old and new.

Voiceovers by Samuel L. Jackson verbalize passages from Baldwin notes. You hear the author chide oppressors, confront Hollywood and challenge the American government. His words recount the intimate relationships and mutual respect he had with the iconic civil rights legends Medgar, Malcolm and Martin, effectively humanizing these political/social deities. He candidly explores their differences and similarities. He reveals the absolute despair he felt each time he heard that one of them had been killed. His ruminations glow with a truth that is timeless.

Raoul Peck and editor Alexandra Strauss have masterfully fulfilled the arduous and artful task of pulling all the pieces of Baldwin’s contemplations together and forming a fiery narrative that makes audiences recalibrate their feelings about race in America. The musical score by Aleksey Aygi adds a piqued sense of urgency and gravitas.

Medgar Evers was killed on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968. James Baldwin died of stomach cancer on December 1, 1987. Together, collectively, they left behind a tremendous sociopolitical legacy that finds its due respect in this very powerful and enlightening documentary.

In 93 thought-provoking minutes, I Am Not Your Negro poignantly connects the past to the present with no apologies.

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival. Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown here and at DwightBrownInk.com.


By Dwight Brown
(NNPA Newswire Film Critic)

In just his second feature film, writer/director Barry Jenkins tells a compelling story about sexual repression and ambiguity through the eyes of a vulnerable and confused little boy, who grows up to question his sexual identity as a teen and then finds a thin measure of serenity as a young man.

Based on Tarell McCraney’s theater piece, “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” the film is set in Miami’s Liberty City, a thriving middle class African American community in the 40s and 50s that became a lower income neighborhood after the 60s. The story unfolds in three chapters, three stages in life when emotional and psychological development are crucial for anybody, especially inner city males.

Little (Alex Hibbert) is a scrawny kid, growing up in a neighborhood where crime is rampant and much of it is attached to drugs. He has no dad. His mom Paula (Naomie Harris, “Skyfall,” “28 Days Later”) is a nurse who struggles with crack addiction. On a day when he’s being chased by bullies, the extremely withdrawn youngster meets Juan (Mahershala Ali, “Free State of Jones,” “House of Cards”), a local drug dealer. The two hit it off. Juan becomes a surrogate dad, bringing Little home to meet his girlfriend Teresa (singer Janelle Monáe). The couple and Little’s best friend Kevin (Jaden Piner) are the only stabilizing forces in his life.

The boy, as a teen is called Chiron (Ashton Sanders). His best friend is still Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). They’ve come to a fork in the road, taking two opposite directions, so they think. Chiron is a confused gay adolescent. Kevin is a seemingly very straight kid with a long list of ad hoc sexual conquests. When Chiron is harassed by homophobic schoolmates, in the most public and embarrassing ways, he reaches a breaking point.

As the adolescent Chiron becomes a twenty-something young man, he is known by the name Black (Trevante Rhodes). He’s adapted. He’s the alpha dog drug lord in his neighborhood. He has a calm manner. A bit more assured, yet still very internal. He’s learned from Juan that the he can survive, be tough, and yet still be humane. His relationship with his mom is estranged. Kevin is off somewhere else. On the outside Black looks like a cool reserved brother, but on the inside something is not fulfilled.

Filmmaker Barry Jenkins is an artist. That’s evident in the visually arresting way he shot the film with the aid of cinematographer (James Laxton). First, opening scenes depict dealers on the street being interrogated by their boss. The camera swirls around them like a bee preparing to sting. Second, Juan takes Little to the beach to teach him to swim. The vision of the burly man holding a very skinny boy in his arms as he floats him on top of the water is reminiscent of paintings of Jesus being immersed in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Third, a dalliance Chiron has at a beach is more memorable because it isn’t graphic. The camera just focuses on a hand making circles in the sand. It’s a poetic moment.

Creating the extremely fragile protagonist is a stroke of genius. Making him severely withdrawn in the first act is a great character device. Keeping his emotions so internal throughout most of the second act is not the best decision, but during this sequence of events there is a memorable and shocking outburst that sets the teen on a different course.

Unfortunately for the rest of the film, that cathartic scene appears to be the only real climax. Nothing that follows is as purging and emotionally fulfilling. By the third act, the pacing drags a bit, the lead character is still intimidated by his feelings and his personality seems monotonous.

The final act needed a more dynamic character arc for the brooding inhibited man known as Black. Watching him stammer through the final scenes, when he should have had a major transformation, is frustrating. On the other hand, every time the effervescent Kevin enters a scene the screen lights up with an energy and vitality that evades the main character.

“Moonlight” has become a popular movie on the film festival circuit. It’s uncanny blend of strong visuals, social issues, sexuality themes and urban life is a potent mix that endears itself to smart filmgoers.

“Moonlight” is a very thoughtful and artistic filmmaking.

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival. Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown here and at DwightBrownInk.com.


By Dwight Brown
NNPA Newswire Film Critic

For a long time it was a forbidden love. Through slavery, the reconstruction era, on into the 20th century, particularly in the South, interracial romantic relations were looked down on and marriages were illegal. Anti-miscegenation laws were on the books in 16 states below the Mason-Dixon line. Marry someone not of your race and face jail time. Though several legal cases challenged those laws, none turned the tide until Loving v. Virginia in 1967.

The small town of Central Point, Virginia, 52 miles northeast of Richmond, was a bit of a utopia in the 1950s. Unlike other parts of the South, Black and White folks worked and lived together. Interracial friendships were normal. Loving relationships less so, but not unheard of. Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga, “World War Z”), an African-American with some Rappahannock Native American blood, and Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton, “Black Mass,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), a White construction worker and brick mason were sweethearts. Folks knew it. Nobody said much. In 1958, she was just 18 and he was 25 when the two discovered she was pregnant. Knowing that Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 banned interracial marriage, the two got hitched in Washington D.C.

Upon their return to Central Point, someone told the police that the two were cohabitating and married. One night cops raided their home and arrested them both, citing their non-compliance with Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code (which says it is illegal to marry out of state and return to Virginia) and Section 20-59 (which makes miscegenation a felony offense).

Mildred and Richard were jailed. He was bailed out and not allowed to bail her out. She spent five days behind bars. A subsequent trial did not go well, and the opinion of Judge Leon M. Bazile was harsh: ” …The fact that he [God] separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” The Lovings, on the advice of their lawyer, pled guilty and were sentenced to a one-year prison term, which was suspended for 25 years as long as they left Virginia. They did, moving in with her relatives in D.C. But the fight for justice wasn’t over. It was Mildred, the quieter of the two, who set the wheels in motion to return to Virginia and bring their case to a higher authority.

The sensitive script by filmmaker Jeff Nichols (“Mud”) and his restrained direction set a tone that makes what’s on view seem so normal you’d think it could have happened to people down the street. His recreation of Central Point and its citizenry could almost play out today. Regular people, living and working together, defying stereotypes about racial polarization and making things work.

For viewers looking for over-the-top racism, burning crosses, extreme violence, etc., be forewarned, that is not Nichols’ approach. In his own way, he will bring you to the forefront of racial prejudice, set up protagonists worthy of your empathy, develop antagonists who try to bring them down and dig head first into an intrinsic, systematic bigotry that festered in the South for years and years. In his vision, that horror is no match for a romance that is stronger than an evil.

Casting Ruth Negga was brilliant. If you go on YouTube and search for live footage of Mildred Loving, you’ll see that Negga captures her low-key simple essence and elegance superbly. Joel Edgerton also gives a reserved interpretation of a man set on pleasing his wife and children more than becoming a hero for interracial couples everywhere. Sharon Blackwood as Richard’s ambivalent mother, Christopher Mann as Mildred’s supportive dad, Terri Abney as her sister and the rest of the supporting cast of friends, family, lawyers, etc. (Will Dalton, Alano Miller, Winter-Lee Holland, Nick Kroll, Bill Camp) form a solid ensemble cast that conveys the time, place and people perfectly. The writing, direction, performances and production elements are filled with a grace that leaves a lasting impression. It’s as if the battle this unassuming couple waged must have been blessed from the start.

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival.

By Dwight Brown
NNPA Wire Service Film Critic

Finally, a filmmaker unearths one of the biggest secrets in American history: slave revolts. It’s a lesson rarely mentioned in history books, though it’s common knowledge to anyone who has taken a Black History course. Kudos to actor-turned-director Nate Parker for shepherding this ambitious project from the kernel of an idea to the completion of an inspiring and evocative film that is nothing less than a masterpiece. There are many facets of this movie that are groundbreaking, historic, monumental and unique.

In the evolution of the American film industry few films have ventured into the subject of slavery. Some have misleadingly romanticized the era (Gone With the Wind). Some have made fun of it and belittled its tragic consequences (Django Unchained). Some have eloquently captured the suffering (12 Years a Slave). Some have revealed rebellions from a White man’s perspective (Free State of Jones). None have captured the spirit and emotion of the time, the courage and bravery of resistance and the calculated planning and execution of a rebellion from the viewpoint of African-American culture. Until now.

Southampton County, Va., is filled with cotton plantations. A young slave boy named Nat (Tony Espinosa) and his family work on a farm run by the Turner family. Nat is thought to be a chosen child by friends and family: “This boy has the holy markings of our ancestors.” He is friendly with the slave owner’s son Samuel (Griffin Freeman). That boy’s mom Elizabeth (Penelope Ann Miller) notices that Nat has a knack for words and she helps him learn how to read, using the Bible as a learning tool.

Years later, Nat (Nate Parker) is a young Reverend. His stature among the slaves is high. The Turner family seems to not be too apprehensive about their slave who seems to be intelligent and a leader. Samuel (Armie Hammer), now a young man too, is in charge of a farm that is failing to make money. As talk of rebellious slaves sweeps through the county, Samuel gets Nat to become a traveling pastor who “tames” the nerves of slaves on other plantations, for a fee that is paid to the Turner Family.

Throughout the film, the script by Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin establishes and maintains a spiritual destiny that never wanes. There are moments that the Nat Turner they have created has Christ-like, martyr-like attributes. How much of this is based on fact or is manufactured to produce a character that audiences will root for is up for debate. One thing for sure is that the real Nat Turner was a courageous man who gave his life for freedom, and the one on-screen takes over that mantle very well.

For a first-time filmmaker, Parker makes no huge gaffes. He finds and keeps a tone, pulls Oscar-worthy performances from his cast and sets everything in motion in a thoroughly engaging manner that is sustained for 118 minutes. With the skill of directors with ten times his experience, he blends drama, psychodrama, romance, spirituality and action into a relentless, uncompromising classic.

It is a miracle that Parker can write the script, produce the movie, direct the proceedings and still turn in what has to be one of the most difficult and emotionally complex performances of the year. His character evolves from jovial, young man, to preacher with guilt, to loving protective husband and father, to angry rebel seamlessly. Every feeling he exhibits seems authentic.

A rebellion and a subsequent massacre happened in the backwoods of Southampton County, Va. on August 21, 1831. Those events foreshadowed the Civil War. And now millions have the chance to learn a part of Black history that few know. It is so fitting that the brilliant Nate Parker has called his great opus “The Birth of a Nation.” If there is justice in this world and the afterlife, D.W. Griffith, the racist director of the 1915 propaganda film of the same title, is turning over in his grave. This is a story that had to be told. And must be retold again and again.

Dwight Brown is a film critic and travel writer. As a film critic, he regularly attends international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the American Black Film Festival. Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown here and at DwightBrownInk.com

by Kam Williams

Faithful Remake of Oscar-Winning Classic Revisits Biblical Themes and Breakneck Chariot Race. It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake the Hollywood epic that won the most Academy Awards in history. But that’s just what we have in Ben-Hur, a fairly-faithful version of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston. The films are based on Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel published in 1880 which quickly surpassed Uncle Tom’s Cabin as the best-selling American novel to date. The book’s author, Lew Wallace, was a Civil War General who had led Union soldiers at the battle of Shiloh.

His inspirational tale of redemption’s success was credited to the fact that its timely themes of family, freedom and patriotism helped unify a citizenry torn asunder by years of war and then Reconstruction. Its compassionate tone particularly appealed to Southerners, because of its sympathetic treatment of slave owners, encouraging resolution via reconciliation rather than revenge.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter), this incarnation of Ben-Hur stars Jack Huston as the title character, although the supposed star is easily overshadowed by the film’s narrator, Morgan Freeman, who enjoys a very expanded role as Ilderiim, a wealthy Nubian sheik.

The story is set in Jerusalem in the time of Christ (Rodrigo Santoro). As the the film unfolds, we find Prince Judah Ben-Hur living in the lap of luxury with his mother (Ayelet Zurer), sister Tirzah (Sofia Black D’Elia) and adopted brother Messala Severus (Toby Kebbell), an orphan taken in as a child by the altruistic noble clan. Judah also has a love interest, Esther ( Nazanin Boniadi), though her lowly slave status makes their marriage unlikely.

The plot thickens when the fully-grown Messala, by then a Roman soldier, unfairly fingers the Ben-Hur family for an act of treason perpetrated by Gestas (Moises Arias), one of the thieves crucified on Calvary alongside Jesus. Next thing you know, the family is separated and sold into slavery, and Judah ends up in chains, rowing in the galley of a warship. Eventually, he gains his freedom, and starts searching for Esther, his sister and mother. Along the way, he finds religion and is afforded an opportunity to even the score with Massala in a chariot race at the Circus Maximus. In this regard, he’s lucky to have wily old Ilderim in his corner, the best darn horse whisperer/charioteer trainer this side of the Tiber. Distracting CGI mob scenes and heavy-handed sermonizing aside, Ben-Hur 2016 is nevertheless a very entertaining variation on the original that’s well-worth the investment.

Excellent
Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing images
Running time: 124 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic

The big debate shouldn’t be if this is the best Star Trek film ever. The more interesting conversation is about whether Star Trek Beyond is a better sci-fi space adventure film than 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. On most levels, the answer is yes. Visually, the film is eye candy, scene-to-scene. The pleasing colors (Salim Alrazouk, art director), amazingly crystal-clear and perfectly lit cinematography (Stephen F. Windon, Fast & Furious 6) and wondrous sets (Thomas E. Sanders, product designer, Lin MacDonald set decorator) give the footage a fresh new look.

The costumes (Sanja Milkovic Hays) have a hip futuristic style. The music (Michael Giacchino, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) takes explosive scenes to higher levels with choirs and orchestras blaring. Essentially the tech credits are exemplary on every level and overshadow those from the last Star Wars episode. At the hands of scribes Simon Pegg (an actor/writer who also plays Scotty in the film) and Doug Jung, the storyline bursts with danger, humor and strong relationships. It’s easy enough to comprehend without an advanced degree in astrophysics, yet complex enough to hold your attention for 120 minutes.

Much of the far-reaching themes of this long-lasting, space age phenomenon, which started on TV 50 years ago, are still relevant in a multicultural, borderless world that grows more interdependent and intertwined every day. That yearning to achieve great things as a team, for the good of everyone, is a constant. Spock, “Find hope in the impossible.” The new addition of the Jaylah character introduces a younger fighter to the mix. Let it be known, “Star Trek Beyond” bolts out of the gate at warp speed. Read more movie reviews at DwightBrownInk.com.

By Kam Williams

It’s Birds Vs. Pigs in Animated Adaptation of Popular Video Game App. With over three billion downloads and counting, Angry Birds is the most popular app of all time. Nevertheless, one need not be familiar with the video game to enjoy this delightful animated adventure.

The kid-oriented cartoon was co-directed by Fergal Reilly and Clay Kaytis who make an auspicious debut with this silly comedy featuring enough sophisticated asides to keep adults thoroughly entertained, too. The frenetically-paced production arrives laced with witty one-liners (likes “Something isn’t Kosher about these pigs.”) as well as a cornucopia of cute sight gags (such as a billboard for “Calvin Swine” underwear).

The story is set on idyllic Bird Island, a tropical paradise inhabited by a variety of very happy flightless birds. As the film unfolds, we’re introduced to four exceptions to the rule who actually have trouble controlling their tempers. We find protagonist Red (Jason Sudeikis), along with Chuck (Josh Gad), Bomb (Danny McBride) and Terence (Sean Penn), attending an anger management class being taught by Matilda (Maya Rudolph), a former angry bird-turned therapist.

The plot thickens upon the arrival of a big boat containing a couple of green pigs (Bill Hader and Tony Hale) claiming to be alone and explorers coming in peace. Truth be told, the pair have a hidden agenda about to be executed by an army of other pigs about to be unleashed. After suckering the masses of gentle, gullible birds into letting down their guard, the diabolical invaders proceed to steal every hatched egg on the island before setting sail for home. Once, it’s clear they’ve all been duped, the irritable quartet, led by Red, springs into action.

Because they can’t fly, they soon realize their best chance of retrieving the eggs rests in enlisting the assistance of Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage), the only bird on the island who can. Trouble is, he’s lazy and hasn’t flown in ages. of course, Red and company do eventually coax him out of retirement to join forces and help save the day. A kooky, kitchen sink comedy with lots of laughs for kids of all ages!

Very Good
Rated PG for action and rude humor
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures

To see a trailer for The Angry Birds Movie, visit: http://www.angrybirds-movie.com/en/#trailer
Or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVQJ32gIq4E


By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic

Start the great debate right now. Is The Jungle Book the best kid’s action film ever made? Possibly. Expect to hear both sides of that argument waged by millions over lattes at Starbucks after they exit theaters. Performances. Direction. Script. Production Elements. Special effects. They all blend together seamlessly into a visual wonder and an emotionally satisfying drama.
British author Rudyard Kipling, who was born in Bombay, wrote the original children’s book back in 1894 and set it in India. The essential storyline involves a kid raised in the jungle by animals who could converse with him. In 1967, Disney adapted Kipling’s tale into an animated feature film directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (101 Dalmatians), adding songs, like the popular “The Bare Necessities.” Nearly five decades later, with a dazzling array of special effects technology at hand, director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) assembles a top notch tech crew, a brilliant cast and uses the imaginative plotting and dialogue from a screenplay by Justin Marks to craft the ultimate kids’ fantasy adventure film.

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a man-cub raised by wolves. His protective mom is Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave) and his father Akela (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) is the leader of the pack. Mowgli was brought to the wolves years ago, as a foundling, by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi), who remains his mentor. When the animals in the jungle gather at a popular lake, seeking water, they encounter a nearly dry sand bed, the result of a severe drought. During these times, the code of the Peace Rock rules: Animals who gather here, must act peacefully. It is the first time Mowgli is exposed to other creatures and he is keenly aware that he is different.

By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic

“On the track, there is no Black and White, just fast and slow. For those 10 seconds you are free,” says Jesse Owens (Stephan James) in this very moving and inspiring bio/sports movie that captures the essence of this legendary athlete’s life, challenges and achievements. Race is a history lesson, personal profile and a crowd pleaser.

Before you see this movie, you might wonder why they didn’t just call it “Jesse,” or “Jesse Owens.” Ten minutes into the footage, you completely understand why. Owens feat of winning four Olympic Gold Medals did not happen in a bubble. He endured the indignities of racism and segregation in the U.S., and saw prejudice firsthand in Berlin in the 1930s. To the credit of this movie’s perceptive team, they didn’t shy away from the inequalities and degradation of the period as they retold his story.

Producer Luc Dayan, who developed and produced an award-winning short film tribute to Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, nurtured this project and was joined by producer Jean-Charles Lévy, director Stephen Hopkins (Predator 2, Lost in Space) and screenwriters Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse (Halle Berry’s Frankie & Alice). Their production has a surprising sensitivity and honest response to racism that carries through for two hours and 14 minutes.
James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens, who was born in Oakville, Alabama, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio demonstrating a passion for running in Junior high. Owens made headlines when he tied the world record for the 100-yard dash, running it in 9.4 seconds, while he was in high school. He had his choice of colleges, but because his coach recommended head track coach Lawrence “Larry” Snyder (SNL’s Jason Sudeikis) at Ohio State University, he went to Ohio State.

On May 25, 1935, Owens participated in the Big Ten meet at Ferry Field in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he set three world records (long jump, 220-yard dash and 220-yard hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash), in just 45 minutes. It was an incredible achievement, one that set him up for the Olympic Trials and put him on the road to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

Behind the scenes, as Nazism spreads in Germany, Jews were being persecuted and killed and Hitler’s propaganda machines lauded the Aryan race, and called all others inferior, particularly Blacks. Some Olympic officials, like Jeremiah Mahoney (William Hurt), called for a boycott. Others, like Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), insisted that athletes go and show the world that an integrated American team could beat the Germans.

The rest is history. Owens won four gold medals and shamed Adolph Hitler in front of the world. Documentary director Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten), who was hired by Hitler’s crew to capture the Germans in all their glory, recorded all of Owens triumphs, which proved Hitler’s theories on race to be absolute bunk.

Everything moves along smoothly in this film, which has a similar feel to the Jackie Robinson bio 42. The cinematography (Peter Levy, Predator 2), production design (David Brisbin, “Dead Presidents”), editing (John Smith), art direction (Jean-Pierre Paquet, “300”), the musical score (Rachel Portman, “Chocolat”) and music overall (George Acogny) are perfectly in sync. Race looks and feels like a big budget feature film, even if it is not. The scenes of Olympic Stadium in Charloteenburg, Berlin Germany are particularly vivid.

Stephan James, who played civil rights leader John Lewis in Selma, brings a duality to his measured interpretation of Jesse Owens: He’s confident, without being self-centered; vulnerable without being weak. It’s an attractive quality for a protagonist, one that makes you like Owens even more. Jason Sudeikis is also successful at building the Snyder character who is a know-it-all at first, then willing to learn from his student. For a comedian attempting a dramatic role, he’s okay. The two actors feed off each other, making the transition, from “coach teaching student” to “student teaching coach” life lessons, believable.

Owens to Snyder: “You stick with me and I’ll make a great coach out of you.” Irons and Hurt make the officials look stiff and calculating. Shanice Banton as Owens sweetheart/wife displays a sweetness that’s infectious.

Though the direction, script and acting are steady, they are out-shined by two elements: The first is the spirit of Jesse Owens, which makes watching him win races against tremendous odds a joy, even though you already know he will lead the pack. Secondly, the attention to social issues and civil rights problems, which were prevalent back in the day and remain so today, is admirable.
Race deserves a lot of credit for not whitewashing history.
Read more movie reviews by Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

By Kam Williams

Just when we were ready to give up on Spike Lee, wouldn’t you know he’d reassert his relevance with a decent inner-city drama decrying the gang violence in Chicago? Ironically, this timely tale is based on Lysistrata, an ancient play staged by Aristophanes way back in 411 BC. Set in Athens during the Peloponnesian War, that farcical adventure revolved around a headstrong female who brought an end to the hostilities by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sexual favors from their mates until peace was declared. 

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