Dwight Williams

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Something New Review


Grim
More than 30 years ago, close-minded sitcom character George Jefferson dogged neighbors Helen and Tom Willis for partaking in an interracial relationship. The pint-sized loudmouth dubbed the duo a "zebra," and audiences howled with laughter because the notion of a mixed-race couple was relatively unfamiliar. By the time the television show went off the air in 1985, the joke had run its course.

So why is scripter Kriss Turner, a veteran of generic sitcom writing, attempting to blow the dust off the concept for newfound laughs? Turner's treatment for Sanaa Hamri's Something New pits races against each other to tell the often-turbulent courtship of Kenya (Sanaa Lathan), a black accountant, and Brian (Simon Baker), her white landscape architect. Color colors everything for this duo as they try to make a relationship work, and New overplays the racial chip on its shoulder to the detriment of the romantic date movie that's buried at its core.

Continue reading: Something New Review

Hustle and Flow Review


Good
As is duly noted in the chorus of the catchiest of the songs used in Hustle & Flow: It's hard out here for a pimp. Especially when said pimp only has three girls working for him (one pregnant, all with pretty lousy attitudes), his car has no air conditioning, and he's sliding into a mid-life crisis. In Craig Brewer's hot and sticky Memphis homebrew of a film, the pimp is far from what we're used to seeing. He's not a character of impossible swagger or campy ridicule (no fur coats, it's too damn hot). He's just DJay, a guy stuck in his way of life because he came from nothing but has a gift for bullshit that lends itself to the profession. As personified by Terrence Howard, this pimp becomes far more than the sum of the job's cliches, even if the film itself doesn't always know how to be quite as original as its star.

Until recently, Howard has been one of American film's mostly unnoticed gems. A journeyman actor since the early '90s, he came into his own in Malcolm Lee's romantic comedy The Best Man, in which he served as the sleepy-eyed provocateur, wisely watching all the fools who surrounded him, goading them into fury by slyly undercutting their fantasies with his keenly observed truths. It was one of that year's great performances, but being mired in such a conventional work (not to mention being in a black film aimed at black audiences, and thus mostly invisible to the critical establishment), he never received his due. He's worked steadily since then, coming into his own with this year's Crash - turning in an open wound of a performance that stood out even in that film's excellent ensemble. In Hustle & Flow, he's found a role that puts him in the spotlight, and he grabs the role tight with both hands, though never so showily as to make you notice how hard he's really working.

Continue reading: Hustle and Flow Review

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