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Trouble Man (1972)
Trouble Man should have had a sequel
29 June 2006
1972 is the premiere year of some of the best so-called "BLAXPLOITATION" films. Underrated stage, film and television actor Robert Hooks plays the character of "T". "T" is a super cool Brother that bends the rules while getting the job done for his unsavory, criminal clients who can't go to the police when trouble arises in there criminal underworlds.

"T" is asked by the salt and pepper criminals, Chalky and Pete to solve a series of dice game holdups only for "T" to realize that he is part of criminal underworld takeover between up and coming hoodlums and an established Black Los Angeles gangster that goes the name of "MR.BIG". By the end of this film "T" will have to fight his way out of a web of murder, thievery and deceit. "TROUBLE MAN" warranted a sequel but one was never made. This film also includes an excellent score by "MARVIN GAYE". I put this movie right up there with "SHAFT", "SUPERFLY", "BLACK CAESAR" and "THE MACK". Great performances also by Paula Kelly, Paul Winfied, Ralph Waite and Julius Harris. I rate this film **** stars/excellent. It's on video. GET IT!
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Good Movie, not quite an accurate portrayal of Atlanta political establishment
10 May 2005
The Atlanta Child Murders, a 1985 CBS mini series of the week is a good movie, but not an accurate portrayal of the political establishment of this still growing city. Former Mayor Andrew Young tried to ban this movie from airing the city of Atlanta and the surrounding counties. I am a resident of Decatur, GA 10 miles outside of Atlanta. I was a seven year old boy when the first of 27 bodies of young Black teenage boys and two Black girls were found in 1979.

As of this writing Dekalb County Police Chief Graham just five days ago announced that he has reopened the cases of five murders of Black teenage boys that was on the original list of the murdered children. Chief Graham believes Wayne Williams could not have committed these murders. The Atlanta Child Murders screenplay was written by Abby Mann. Mann was a strong supporter along with writer James Baldwin and Civil Rights attorney William Kunstler of Wayne Williams innocence.

The Atlanta Child Murders film captures masterfully the fear and outrage that gripped the city (Atlanta) that eventually hosted the 1996 Olympics Summer Games. Mann attempted not to offend the politicians such as Former Governor Busby and Former Mayor Maynard Jackson whom were both in office at the time of the child murders and whom had the most to lose politically if these murders was not quickly solved. In my opinion Wayne Williams did not commit all of these murders. He would have had to been Superman to get around the city to commit all of these murders in the time frame the authorities was finding bodies. Wayne Williams was only convicted of killing two men who was considered the last victims of the list.

I give this movie ***stars. Good, but not excellent. This movie is not on DVD.
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James Cagney, one great actor
7 April 2005
James Cagney: That Yankee Doodle Dandy, a 1981 PBS documentary explores the career of one of Hollywood's most influential actors of the 1930,s, 1940,s and 1950's. This documentary accompanied the release of James Cagney's last film "RAGTIME" (1981) which ironically he came out of 20yrs of retirement to appear in. James Cagney: That Yankee Doodle Dandy is not a great documentary on Cagney, but it definitely sparks interest in the subject.

This film is told through narration from actor Treat Williams, top dance demonstrations from actor/dancer Bill O'Connor, film clips and an interview with the late, great James Cagney himself. I recommend this documentary as good reference material, but I wait for the day that a well researched documentary will be done on such a talented, charismatic and one of kind actor.

I gave this film *** good/could have been better. I saw it on video in the 1990's. Can't say it is still available.
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Half Nelson (1985)
Half Nelson, one silly and fun show to watch
30 July 2004
Half Nelson, a 1985 NBC mid season replacement starred Joe Pesci of Raging Bull and Goodfellas fame. Half Nelson is probably one of the funniest and silliest private eye shows to ever hit prime time television. I put Half Nelson right up there with Police Squad Files, a 1982 ABC television series which became the Leslie Nielson Naked Gun comedies of the 1990's and the forgotten t.v. show Cop Rock.

Joe Pesci should have taken a page of Leslie Nielson book and turned Half Nelson into a successful movie franchise. The elements was all there: outrageous dialogue, outrageous car chases, over sized guns with long barrels, and outrageous, but funny as hack story lines. Half Nelson also starred Fred Williamson of Black Caesar and Three The Hard Way fame. I have not seen this show since it originally aired.

I give this show *** stars-good. It is not my knowledge on DVD or have been released on DVD.
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City in Fear (1980 TV Movie)
David Janssen gives a superb final screen performance
11 March 2004
City in Fear, a 1980 ABC made for television movie,which is loosely based on the Son of Sam murders, is television at it's best. Anyone who gets the chance to view this movie will be in for a treat. The viewer can't lose with veteran actors like Robert Vaughn, Susan Sullivan, Mickey Rourke, Perry King and the forever amazing, but often underrated actor, David Janssen.

David Janssen would have been an Oscar nominee in films had he lived. The character of Vince Perrino played by Janssen is that of a frustrated, cynical alcoholic columnist, who is a man of many excesses one of them being alcohol. Janssen is hired by a wealthy Robert Vaughn, who recalls Janssen as a legendary columnist, who he (Vaugh)hopes can revamp a Los Angeles newspaper that has just been brought by Vaughn, when a series of murders of young women begins, that will by the end of the movie create a reign of terror in the city.

Watching this movie is almost like gradually seeing the curtains close in on the career of one of the finest actors in film and television. David Janssen died of a heart attack on February 13, 1980, he was 48 years old. City in Fear was a three (3) hour movie of the week. City in Fear aired on ABC a month after his death.

City in Fear is like two movies in one for it gives the viewer deep insight how newspapers and television news (Media) will go to extreme lengths to sell papers in a time of a national crisis like Son of Sam. It closely follows the killer's moves, played brilliantly for that time in television by Mickey Rourke whose victims are young women. Rourke would go on to make successful films such as 91/2 Weeks, Angel Heart and Barfly in the 1980's. David Janssen performance is in a class all by it's self, no one in this film can touch him. In my opinion David Janssen should have been awarded an Emmy posthumously for City in Fear. This movie was on video in the 1990's, additional copies may can still be found. City in Fear is not on DVD. Check this movie out, you will not be disappointed. R.I.P. David JANSSEN.
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Frontline: The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson (1996)
Season 14, Episode 9
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, great, flawed, and a legend in his own time
10 March 2004
The Pilgrimage Of Jesse Jackson, a 1996 PBS documentary accompanied a book written by Southern writer Marshall Frady. Frady serves as the narrator in this film. The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson digs deep into the events that have shaped the life of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. The viewer will see how Jesse became the son of a teenage, South Carolina beauty queen, whose hopes of becoming an opera singer was extinguished after she became pregnant by South Carolina businessman Norah Robinson.

Jesse was known as Norah's illegitimate child, who was raised by a decent janitor that his mother actually married and adopted the last name Jackson. The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson proves to great effect that Jackson had to prove himself and to others that he was more, much more than the abandoned child of Norah Robinson. This excellent documentary follows Jesse Jackson from his childhood in Greenville, South Carolina to his unsuccessful fight and march in Atlanta against the Republican Party's Contract For America.

The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson presents his character flaws like his obsession with the media, Jackson's argument with Martin Luther King days before his assassination because of insubordination, him lying about getting blood on King's shirt after King was shot, abandoning protests and movements when the glare of the spotlight (media) put its attention else where in the world, the alleged statement about Jews while running for President in 1984 and Jackson's near victory within a few hundred, thousand votes for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 1988. The Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson provides a well balanced portrait of a man who has done great things, but also have made his mistakes as we all do.

I give this film **** star/excellent. Sorry the documentary is not on video, but request PBS to show it.
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Hypnotize Mind's DJ Paul, Juicy J and Project Pat film debut
5 March 2004
Choices, a 2001 straight to video release stars Memphis, Tennessee rap legends DJ Paul and Juicy J. It also stars Project Pat, a charismatic actor in his own right, Playa Pancho, and La Chat. I thought before I saw the video that it would be a routine movie about guns, drugs, and killing. I was wrong, Choices is a movie about one mans struggle to overcome a criminal past, poverty, the temptations of his neighborhood friends and the allure of quick money.

The music, an array of hard hitting, haunting songs from the Hypnotize Minds Record catalog gives this film a definite, realistic street edge and exaggerated insight to how dem boyz live in Memphis. The song "Choice Of Colors" by soul legend Curtis Mayfield is used to great effect at the beginning of this film, for it gives the film somewhat of a 1970's retro feel. The main character played by Player Pancho goes through so much in this film, that it is easy for the viewer to identify with him and his struggles.

This film has a surprising ending that demonstrates yes we do have choices, but do we really have a choice in how we end up in life, because of the choices of other people. I give this film **** stars/excellent Music:***1/2 tight. It is on dvd, Check it out.
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Montgomery Clift, troubled and haunted film star of the 1950's that begot Brando, Dean, and Shakur.
6 January 2004
I first saw the documentary Montgomery Clift in 1989. This film was part of a series of well produced documentaries on Hollywood rebel actors, released on video. Films on Marlon Brando and James Dean was also apart of the series titled as The Rebels: Montgomery Clift, The Rebels: Marlon Brando and The Rebels: James Dean. These films was produced and directed by Claudio Masenza.

The Rebels: Montgomery Clift is by far one of the most haunting documentaries I have ever seen on a public figure. This film examines in great detail Montgomery Clift lifelong bisexuality, his 1956 car accident that badly disfigured his face, his extensive drug use, his domineering mother, his relationships with Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, and his feud with director John Huston, that destroyed his film career. The viewer will probably be left with a sympathetic, weird feeling of being happy that Montgomery Clift doesn't have to suffer anymore. Clift existed in a time where people had to hide their sexual attractions, unless conventional. It seemed that the film was saying that by Clift hiding his bisexuality in 1940's and 50's Hollywood, a town that built up macho images of men actors lead to his decline in his film career, which lead to more destructive behavior in later years.

This film is a must for people interested in studying method acting and its innovators, that in essence was the beginning of modern day cinema, that would reach it's peak in the 1960's and 70's. Marlon Brando, James Dean, Rod Steiger, John Cassavetes, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Martin Sheen, Robert De Niro, and Tupac Shakur would have never have had a chance with their styles of acting and what each of these actors eventually conveyed to an audience, if one man had of decided to remain a gifted, unique stage actor on university campuses and on Broadway, instead of going to California to do pictures,which at the time in the 1930's and 40's, a not so celebrated luxury amongst stage actors and actresses. That man is Montgomery Clift. Clift was the beginning of method acting, that is used to great effect in films like Red River (1948), The Search (1950), From Here To Eternity (1953) and Indiscretions of an American Wife (1954). Actor John Garfield (1913-1952) is considered by many historians to be the first rebel actor in cinema.

I give this film **** stars/ excellent. It was on video in the late 80's. I haven't seen it on any video rental racks lately. Check it out if you can.
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Hollywood Backstage (1964–1968)
The Entertainment Tonight of the 1960's
31 December 2003
I first saw Hollywood Backstage in the mid 1990's on American Movie Classics channel, before they sadly changed their format. Hollywood Backstage was a syndicated television series that followed the comings and goings of Hollywood's brightest stars such Katherine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Natalie Wood, Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Groucho Marx,as well as movie executives like Jack Warner, Warner Brothers Pictures to name a few.

Hollywood Backstage was the Entertainment Tonight of the 1960's. The series happened to film the real life heroics of Steve McQueen putting out a fire that had erupted at 20th Century Fox studios during the premiere of his film Nevada Smith(1966). Hollywood Backstage probably would have lasted longer, I don't think the public was ready to see the excitement of movie premieres, celebrity golf tournaments, award ceremonies, celebrity car races, and celebrity charities during the turbulent 60's.

Hollywood Backstage makes an excellent period piece now, for it showed the innocence of a town (Hollywood) whose innocence vanished in the 1970's. I rate this television series **** stars/excellent. Someone should write American Movie Classics and ask them to run the show again.
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The Michael Jackson magic and craze of the 1970's and 80's
25 November 2003
Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues, a 1988 Showtime on Motown cable special that also included a documentary on Marvin Gaye, is one of the few documentaries on the subject of Michael Jackson that is totally focused on his extraordinary music career. James Earl Jones provides the narration, that is used to great effect, especially to make points on his career milestones. I consider this a fun documentary to watch about Jackson, before he became known as wacko,jacko to the press.

The viewer will see a montage of footage of Michael performing as a member of the Jackson 5ive, performing their hit songs of the day, when he went solo with the Off The Wall album, and the monster that his album Thriller became around the world. The documentaries also shows how success put Michael Jackson in the company of some of Hollywood's most celebrated movie stars of the 30's, 40's, and 50's. Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues features people like Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly, and Sophie Loren.

Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues is a great documentary that will remind the viewer of what a brilliant, great entertainer Michael Jackson was considered by many people the world over in 1988, long before the scandals started to rock the foundation of Michael Jackson's carefully, constructed, innocent image. I give this film **** stars excellent. The music will make one go searching for his music both when he was with the Jackson 5ive and when he went solo. I saw this on the Showtime cable network and on video. I can't say it is easy to find this title on video today. Check it out if possible.
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Pipe Dreams (1976)
Gladys Knight's film debut
18 November 2003
Pipe Dreams, a 1976 motion picture stars R&B, soul singer Gladys Knight. Knight plays an Atlanta, Ga transplant who is offered a job on an Alaska pipeline. The movie also stars Barry Hankerson, Knights real life husband at the time as her promiscuous husband in this film, Wayne Tippet, a young Sally Kirkland, and Altovise Davis, wife of the late Sammy Davis Jr.

Pipe Dreams suffers from a script that lacks direction and a director not knowing where to take this film. Pipe Dreams should have just focused on the love/hate relationship between Gladys Knight and Barry Hankerson with added drama by Wayne Tippet who plays the pipeline company magnet Mickey Thompson, who is very controlling and manipulating of a female prostitute who ultimately takes her own life in this film, after hash words from Wayne Tippet.

The acting by Gladys Knight is surprisingly good, that is more than I can say about some of the musicians who have unfortunately caught the acting bug today.

I give this movie ** fair. It you are a Gladys Knight admirer you will like this film. Four years ago I saw this movie on video. I can't say if it is on video today.
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Brad Davis, a gifted method actor gone too soon
24 October 2003
Vengeance: The Tony Cimo Story, a 1986 CBS fact based movie deals with one man's crusade to seek justice for his murdered parents in a small South Carolina town. This movie would have been a routine, melodramatic crime drama had it not been for four actors. William Conrad, Brad Dourf, the up and coming Michael Beach, and the late versatile thespian Brad Davis. The performers are one of the best joys one would get out of watching this movie.

Michael Beach, who would go on to heat up the screen in films like One False Move, Soul Food, and Waiting to Exhale is the killer in this film of Davis parents. Beach plays a recent New York transplant, who is a trouble maker, that eventual kills the elderly couple. Rudolph Tyner played by Beach commits this vile act while committing a robbery in the couple's rural, owned convenient store. He is later arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death. The story does not end here.

Brad Davis is the grieving son of the elderly couple murdered, just when it seems like his parents murder will be dealt with through the legal system, many surprises unfold that will not bring about the speedy and fair conclusion of a murder case where the evidence is overwhelmingly against Beach. Brad Davis is the glue that keeps the sole together in this movie. Davis talent is reminiscent of John Garfield, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Rod Steiger, and Tupac Shakur, just heavy weight method acting.

This is a good movie, the producers got a certain moral point across. Justice is not simply had and sometimes people will seek their on form of justice in desperate situations. I give this movie ***1/2, superior. Brad Davis performance is **** excellent. Check it out, it can be seen on late night television.
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Johnnie Mae Gibson: FBI (1986 TV Movie)
Lynn Whitfield before her dynamic performance as Josephine Baker
23 October 2003
Johnnie Mae Gibson: F.B.I., is a 1986 CBS television fact based movie that starred accomplished, diversified film, stage and television actress Lynn Whitfield. Whitfield plays the title role of Johnnie Mae Gibson, who become the first African American female F.B.I. agent. In this film we see her trials, tribulations, and eventual triumphs. This movie was my introduction into the extraordinary talents of Ms. Whitfield, who later starred in such classics as Josephine Baker and Eve's Bayou.

Johnnie Mae Gibson: F.B.I. also starred Howard Rollins Jr., William Allen Young. They both had appeared in the blockbuster movie A Soldier's Story a couple years before. This movie also starred Richard Lawson who would later appear in Dynasty and All My Children. When t.v. movies of the week dominated television in the 70's and 80's, networks like CBS would seek out character film actors and cast them in routine movies of the week.

I feel this was a balancing process by the networks, accomplished actors + routine stories= good melodramas. I give this movie ***1/2, above average. It is on video. Watch it.
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The George McKenna Story (1986 TV Movie)
Denzil Washington last t.v. movie before "Cry Freedom" Oscar nominated performance
21 October 2003
The George McKenna Story, is a 1986 CBS fact based made for t.v. movie, that starred Denzil Washington as the title role of George McKenna. Washington plays a school principal in a tough inner city Los Angeles high school out to rid it of drugs, gangs, low moral of teachers, and restore educational values. Nothing is new in this film that has not been seen before in films like The Blackboard Jungle(1955), and later in films like The Principal (1987), Lean On Me (1988), and Dangerous Minds (1994).

This movie was Denzil Washington's last television movie before he scored big a year later with the film "Cry Freedom". The George McKenna story also starred fine stage and screen actress Lynn Whitfield, who also was in another satisfying CBS fact based movie, Johnnie Mae Gibson, F.B.I. Though the movie is clichéd at times, the producers was intelligent to cast superior actors. The George McKenna Story, without Denzil Washington would have been a typical after school special with melodramatic violence. I gave this movie *** good, but nothing exceptionally special here. Check it out, it is on video.
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The Insiders (1985–1986)
A Miami Vice rip-off
17 October 2003
The Insiders,a ABC television series that run for one season (1985-1986) starred accomplished actors Stoney Jackson and Nicholas Campbell. The Insiders was billed as an alternative comedic cop show to the more serious and violent Miami Vice, that had broke television nielson ratings the season before (1984-1985). This show unfortunately never offered the viewers nothing new that had not already been seen before on television crime dramas. The jokes by Stoney Jackson wasn't funny at all and Nicholas Campbell was no Don Johnson.

The Insiders might have worked had the shows producers knew from the jump what it wanted the show to be. The movie 48hrs movie had set off a chain reaction of Black and White men buddy situations on both film and television. The Insiders, had it been a 30 minute situation comedy with real locales as was used on the series, it might have lasted longer than it did on television. The viewer is left with a weak imitation of Miami Vice and any buddy cop film ever made.

I give this show a 5 out of 10, only because the two leading actors can really act.
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Malcolm X (1972)
Excellent portrait of a great, but complex man
17 October 2003
Malcolm X, a 1972 documentary, is like the man himself great, extraordinary, tragic, and in the end triumphant. This documentary is excellent reference material for anyone who has read his autobiography or has seen Spike Lee's 1992 film of the same name. I often compare this documentary to another gem Martin Luther King: From Montgomery To Memphis (1970).The producers of Malcolm X allows the man through a montage of footage of his speeches, voice overs, and occasional narration by James Earl Jones and an appearance by Louis Farrakhan formerly known as Louis X to speak for himself. The producers of this film knew not to include people whom would give many opinions of Malcolm X, therefore compromising an understandable portrait of the man. This style of documenting ones life is rarely seen today, but needs to return. The viewer is left with a sympathetic, but proud feeling of having had such an intelligent, brilliant, but often flawed man on earth, even just for a little while. I rate this movie **** excellent. Check it out, it is on video.
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Matt Waters (1996)
Matt Waters wasn't given a chance to grow an audience
16 October 2003
Matt Waters, a 1996 CBS mid season replacement starred daytime television host Montell Williams. Williams plays a just retired naval officer, whose brother is tragically murdered in the same New Jersey neighborhood in which Williams character grew up. Williams character Matt Waters, decides to dedicate his life to helping troubled youth in a local New Jersey high school.

He steers his class full of roughnecks towards discipline, honesty, courage, and excellence through the use of naval biology. Matt Waters could be a little preachy at times, but was a potential hit had CBS given the show a chance. Montell Williams gives a surprisingly, convincing performance as a determined high school teacher. Maybe had this show premiered on FOX, it would have had a longer run.

Montell Williams should do more dramatic television. He is that good. Matt Waters should be shown in High Schools around the country. I hope the show is released on DVD someday.
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The Cool World is a shocking portrait of street life in 1960's America.
16 October 2003
"The Cool World", a 1963 independent film directed by Shirley Clarke is probably the most shocking, interesting, and realistic film I have ever seen. The films follows the character of Duke played by Rony Clanton. This film shows how it really was to be an African American teen growing up in urban America (Harlem, N.Y.) in the 1960's. The gun serves as a character in the film itself, for it demonstrates manhood for the character of Duke.

By no means is this film a glorification of street life that is so common today in American pop culture. The viewer will see in this film how ugly crime is especially these characters who are driven to commit crimes because of the desperate, depressed situations of the ghetto. The character of Duke searches throughout this movie for a gun to own as almost a way to arm himself against the failures that surround him daily such as rat infested tenements, garbage filled streets, drugs, pimps, prostitutes, gangs, and over zealous cops.

If John Cassevetes is considered the new phase of film making that occurred in the late 1950's with his superb film "Shadows" then Shirley Clarke is his female counterpart. Shirley Clarke masterfully merges documentary footage and Jazz music to the actual film that creates somewhat of a frightening, haunting, realistic portrait of urban America that I feel has not been seen very much in cinema since "The Cool World". It is interesting to note that actors Clarence Williams III, Antonio Fargas, Gloria Foster, and Peter De Anda who appeared in this film went on to make great strides of achievement in both film and television in the 1970's.

"The Cool World" is shown in many film festivals across the country. Unfortunately it is not on video, but someday I hope it will be for the world to see. I rate this movie **** excellent.
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