#4 Rapper Actors

February 29, 2008

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If OSCAR’s® were given to actors in a special category “Raptors” then these would be a few of the runners and riders that Film Critics would have to consider…

Mos Def
Real Name: Dante Terrell Smith
Rap Sheet: The Hard Way, Where’s Marlowe?, Island of the Dead,
Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, Showtime, Civil Brand, Brown Sugar, The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Be Kind Rewind.
Best Role: His intense portrayal of Sgt Lucas in The Woodsman.
Worst Role: Big Blak Afrika in Bamboozled he mos’ definitely didn’t read the script before taking this one.
Can he act: Yes, skilfully delivers varied and at times challenging roles.
Skill Rating:
****
Queen Latifah
Real Name: Dana Elaine Owens
Rap Sheet: Jungle Fever, House Party 2, Juice, My Life, Set It Off , Hoodlum, Sphere, Living Out Loud , The Bone Collector , The Country Bears , Brown Sugar , Chicago, Bringing Down the House, Scary Movie 3 Barbershop 2: Back in Business , The Cookout, Taxi, Beauty Shop and Last Holiday.
Best Role: Playing a gangster lesbian in Set it off was an early turning point in her career in which she delivered some extreme violence to the role.
Worst Role: As ex con Charlene opposite Steve Martin in Bringing Down the House. A truly embarrassing caricature, that was instantly forgettable.
Can she act: Yes, but needs more varied roles in her portfolio, as she tends to opt for sass mouthed fast talking characters.
Skill Rating:
***

Will Smith
Real Name: Willard Christopher Smith Jr.
Rap Sheet: Where The Day Takes You, Made in America, Six Degrees of Separation, Bad Boys, Independence Day, Men in Black, Enemy of the State, Wild Wild West, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Ali, Men in Black II, Bad Boys I and II, I, Robot, Shark Tale, Hitch and I am Legend.
Best Role: Capturing the mannerisms and voice of the greatest of all time in Ali.
Worst Role: Re-hashing his annoying Fresh Prince of Bel air role in the tedious Made in America.
Can he act: Uses his sex appeal rather than acting skills to win his audience over, however, when the roles require it you can be sure of an engaging couple of hours entertainment.
Skill Rating:
****
Tupac Shakur
Real Name: Tupac Amaru Shakur
Rap sheet: Juice, Above the Rim, Gang Related, Gridlocked, Poetic Justice and Bullet
Best Role: Juice marked his acting debut and set the bar for his screen career.
Worst role: Difficult to call this one as all his characters were interesting and varied and 100% of the time he delivered fine acting performances.
Can he act: Absolutely, one the finest rappers actors of all time.
Skill Rating:
****

Snoop Dogg
Real Name: Calvin Cordozar Broadus
Rap Sheet: Soul Plane, Training Day, Bones, Hot Boyz, Baby Boy, Starsky and Hutch, The Wash and Racing Stripes
Best Role: As the crippled crack hustler in the excellent Training Day.
Worst role: In Bones he stars as a ghost who returns from the grave to seek revenge on his killers.
Can he act: Shows potential but needs to work on a more varied portfolio.
Skill Rating:
**

DMX
Real Name: Earl Simmons
Rap Sheet: Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave, Never Die Alone and Belly
Best Role: In Never Die Alone playing the Bible-thumping criminal named King David.
Worst Role: As the morally suspect Latrell Walker in Cradle 2 the Grave. He plays alongside Steven Seagal as someone who has some difficulty convincing us which side of the law he is on.
Can he act: No, tends to play himself in nearly every movie.
Skill Rating:
*

LL Cool J
Real Name: James Todd Smith
Rap Sheet: Halloween H20, Rug rats Go Wild! (voice only), Wild Cats Toys Any Given Sunday, S.W.A.T., Rollerball, Deep Blue Sea, Charlie’s Angels, In too Deep, Last Holiday and Kingdom Come
Best Role: Playing the memorable cook in Deep Blue Sea.
Worst Role: As sweaty Ray Bud Slocumb in Kingdom Come
Can he act: Yes, but like Will Smith uses his body to distract audiences from shallow roles.
Skill Rating :
***
Ice Cube
Real Name: O’Shea Jackson although he has legally changed his name to Ice Cube
Rap Sheet: Three Kings, Boyz in the Hood, Player’s Club, Friday, Next Friday, The Glass Shield, Ghosts of Mars, Torque, Anaconda, Are We There Yet? and XXX2
Best Role: Craig Jones in Friday who’s dope smoking and boozing on his front stoop is far more interesting than the do-gooder roles he is known for.
Worst Role: XXX2 should have been a hit but Cube would have benefited from a better script.
Can he act: Absolutely. His comedy stints will ensure he is not eternally typecast.
Skill Rating:
*

#3 Getting Techincal

February 28, 2008

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Film Critics love to use high felutin language that they try to pass of as technical expertise. Film Critics will throw into any given review the difference between a pan and a dolly shot, a fill and key light, direct and reflected sound, the signified and the signifier, diegetic and non-diegetic music, and how both a tracking shot and depth of field can be ideological.

Film Critics love to re-inforce in your mind that you don’t know shit about films…and they know shitloads. I’m sure you remember the scene in the recent film starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Oil prospector Daniel Plainview in which he utters the lines “…if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see? Watch it. And my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake, I drink your milkshake. I drink it up!” ” Now, seems like a great line with no room for technical analysis huh? Wrong! Film Critics will tell you that this is essentially a high level narration of Daniel Plainview’s desire to suck America’s oil supply dry…Oh, really? Allow me to retort…bullshit!

#2 Set Visits

February 28, 2008

Nothing expands the ego of a Film Critic more than an invitation to mix and mingle with the cast of forthcoming movies…

#1 Top 10 Lists

February 26, 2008

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Film Critics love lists. Greatest this…best ever that. For example…

10 Black Films To See Before You Die

1. Gladiator
Just like Tiger Woods we are claiming this as one of our own. We have the title and the deeds and we’ve changed the locks and for good reason other than its co-star Djimon Hounsou. Following the exploits of a Spanish General Maximus Decimus Meridias, who after his family is slain, exacts revenge in spectacular fashion.

Many historians have recorded that the Moors who conquered Spain left them more than just their cultural, socio-economic and political institutions. Spain has the lasting legacy of the lesser-discussed Moors dominant bloodline coursing through its veins. Now the line uttered by Maximus “Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity” has a new and quite profound meaning.

2. Do The Right Thing
The opening line “Wake Up” set the tone for Spike Lees racial incendiary device that forced America to smell the Kenko. Inspired by real life events Lee’s brash depiction of tempers flaring in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn amongst its melting pot of Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, Koreans and Italians was a career defining moment for him.

Featuring an all star cast including it’s Director the movie was received to critical acclaim on its release in 1989. Incisive and a stand out piece of black cinema, which also used comedy lines like “You wanna boycott someone? You ought to start with the goddamn barber that fucked up your head” ensured on all levels its message was received loud and clear.

3. The Matrix
This movie has single-handedly raised the special effects bar to incredible heights with Bullet Time being mimicked in no less than 20 films since its release. The link here to this being a Black movie is not a tenuous one. The story of a man who realises the world he lives in is computer generated, then subsequently leading a rebellion against the machines that created it is the subject of a high profile copyright infringement court case involving the African American author Sophia Stewart and the films directors the Wachowski Brothers.

The Matrix as well as the entire Terminator series are allegedly based on a 35 page screen play treatment Stewart wrote in 1983 called The Third Eye which was based on The Book of Revelations. Keanu Reeves’ character from the film couldn’t have summed this up any better when he says “Whoa…”

4. Star Wars
Clad in what has to be cinemas most instantly recognisable black suit, Darth Vader voiced with menacing intensity by veteran actor James Earl Jones, and the words uttered by Vader “You underestimate the power of the Dark Side!” clearly establish this movie as another seemingly cheeky addition to our top ten. The story, which you’ll know unless, you’ve been residing in a cave in Tora Bora, is of a maverick band of freedom fighters who attempt to thwart an imperialist plot to rule the galaxy with an iron fist. In addition we’re claiming this one too as the sub plot of enslavement, colonialism and the erosion of culture, geographical displacement and oppression have clear links with the black experience.

5. Shaft
“Don’t let your mouth get your ass in trouble” Shaft utters these immortal lines which essentially explains the plot as Shaft is enlisted to help a wise talking mob boss retrieve his kidnapped daughter. Shaft, the epitome of cool, suave and badass sophistication is personified in Gordon Park’s directorial masterpiece. Richard Rowntree, cast as the private dick, a double entendre surely given the mans on screen sexual prowess and a penchant for the white chicks, enjoyed several follow ups in what is regarded as one of the most successful blaxploitation franchises of all time.

6. Pulp Fiction
Samuel L Jackson could be reading a pizza menu and we’d be hooked. His memorable reworking of Ezekiel 25 verse 17, which starts “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men” is one of the most chilling sermons in cinema history. The film about two hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife and two diner robbers is a complex snapshot of the lives of each protagonist and how they segue into one another. Whilst it rekindled John Travolta’s career, the movie belongs to Jackson scooping an Oscar for his selfish showboating in every scene he appears in delivering lines about food consumption and infidelity with mesmerising intensity.

7. Scarface
Again this is added to our list for good reason…mang! In the movie which chronicles the rise and fall of Tony Montana from lowly dishwasher to drug king pin Montanta utters the immortal lines “I’m a political refuge from Cuba” Cuba, a Spanish possession (remember the link with the Moors) for 388 years is located in the northern Caribbean.

Snippets of dialogue “Who do I trust me that’s who” have appeared on many of the successful rap tracks over the last 20 years. A phenomenal movie, raw and unashamed in its approach to violence and language it has shaped a generation of rappers lyrical content, production and their endevours to realise the American dream. Another guilt free addition to our list.

8. Beverly Hills Cop
Eddie Murphy with his hiccup laugh, cheeky grin and profanity laced dialogue, such as, “Me, foul mouthed? Man…Fuck you!” has catapulted this franchise into stratospheric heights. Following the exploits of Axel Foley, a Detroit Cop who travels to Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of his best friend. Much of the dialogue was improvised. Hours of filming were wasted as re-shoot followed re-shoot as the cast and crew members were in constant fits of laughter as the jokes piled in from Murphy’s comedic treasure chest making this his biggest hit and the highest grossing comedy of all time. However, considering Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, James Caan and Mickey Rourke were all considered for the role this could have been a different story all together.

9. Boyz n the Hood
John Singletons debut masterpiece with its multi perspective observation of life in South Central Los Angeles was a defining entry on the landscape of cinema. A masterstroke of casting as it featured credible performances from ex NWA member Ice Cube, Laurence Fishburn, Angela Bassett and Cuba Gooding Junior. Made on a budget of $6.5m it was the year’s most successful movie on its release in 1991 and John Singleton with his Oscar nomination for best Director was the youngest Director ever to be nominated for this category.

10. The Shawshank Redemption
Set in the 1940’s, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman as a grizzled but wise character (again? talk about type cast) who guides and protects Tim Robbins as the incarcerated but clever City Banker. Featuring a jaw dropping finale and an Oscar winning performance from Freeman who proudly picked up the golden statuette for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In addition he scooped a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild accolade an incredible feat and a career defining moment for the veteren actor. We respectfully claim this for our list without fear or favour.