REVIEW: Selma

7 01 2015

Selma” is not a Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic.

Or, I should say, “Selma” is not just a Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic.  It is so much more than just the story of one man.

Director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb create their “Lincoln,” a film concerning the premier orator of his era set in the twentieth century’s ’65.  This man, standing with little more than ideology and conscience, must work against a political establishment stacked against them.  What is right, in the minds of these officials, must take a backseat to what the voting public is ready to accept.

But DuVernay, thankfully, disposes of Spielberg’s hagiography of Honest Abe that reeked of cinematic mothballs.  She opts for a portrayal of Dr. King that focuses on who he was and what that allowed him to accomplish.  In a way, not receiving the rights to use King’s actual speeches makes “Selma” a stronger movie.  Whether organically or out of necessity, he becomes so much more than a collection of recognizable catchphrases that trigger memories of a high school civics class.

“Selma” certainly does not shy away from some character details that the history books often elide, such as his vehement opposition to the Vietnam War and his marital infidelities.  Dr. King, as portrayed by David Oyelowo, does not always don his shining armor, either.  The film’s most powerful display of racially motivated violence takes place when hundreds of protesters attempt to cross Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, only to be brutally attacked by a cabal of police and townsmen alike.  King is not there with them.  He is at home, trying to smooth over a marital rough patch with his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo).

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REVIEW: Just Wright

8 12 2010

Guys, don’t let the basketball fool you.  “Just Wright” is as much of a sports movie as “Forrest Gump” is.  If you take a gander at the poster, look at Common’s right hand (the one on top of Queen Latifah’s hand) for a better of indicator of what the movie is really like.  Substitute it for a microphone and Katherine Heigl/Gerard Butler and you’re right back in “The Ugly Truth.”

Now here comes the part of the review when I throw out words like cliched, formulaic, and predictable to warn you that if you’ve seen a romantic comedy in the past decade, you’ve seen “Just Wright.”  The only counter to all these negative adjectives is, of course, if the charms of the leading man and lady can overcome the familiarity.

While I could just heap on the insults on “Just Wright,” I just don’t have the heart to bash Queen Latifah.  She’s just seems so warm and friendly that it would feel like a low-blow to really go after her and tear her up.  We all know she can do better, and for the most part, she selects roles pretty well.  This is just a misstep.  As the physical therapist who can’t help but fall for the basketball player she’s rehabilitating, the story is just so uninspired that it can’t get you to care enough to be involved.

It’s not her fault that this movie wound up as bad as it did.  Common is a pretty pathetic actor, and Paula Patton just can’t do much with her confused character.  Queen Latifah is actually a nice presence in the movie, endowing it with some of her charisma and personality that’s hard to resist.  She’s like a juicy burger enveloped by a moldy bun, which wouldn’t taste quite as unpleasant if we hadn’t been fed nothing but burgers by the romantic comedy restaurant.  C-