Roots begins with Kunta Kinte, emerging from childhood and undergoing warrior training in his tribal homeland. The slavers arrive soon enough, and after a harrowing three-month ride back across the Atlantic, Kunta is sold, becomes Toby under his new master, attempts repeated escapes, and eventually accepts his fate as he settles down with a wife and child. The Revolutionary War comes and goes, and Toby's daughter Kizzy is sold, becoming the mother of her new master's son, known as Chicken George. Chicken George in turn is sent to England to pay off a gambling debt. When he returns home after 14 years, he is a free man. The Civil War arrives, and the rest of the slaves are freed. Soon enough the family faces the perils of vehement racism and the KKK, and Chicken George finally leads his family to safety in a new settlement.
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Alan Parker's greatest achievement is probably this harrowing -- and infamous -- account of an American who foolishly tries to smuggle back drugs from his visit to Turkey. He's quickly made an example of and tossed into a revolting prison cell. After his 3 1/2-year sentence is nearly up, it's extended for 20 years. You can imagine how he feels, and are faced with the horrors of seeing it all on the screen. Based on Billy Hayes' book and a script from Oliver Stone, Midnight Express has earned a (rightful) reputation as one of the most distrubing films about third-world prisons... or any other prison, for that matter. All modern-day jail flicks owe it a debt.
American Thighs was released on this day in 1994.