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2005: ELEMENTAL MAGAZINE – Films Special

June 23, 2008

December 2005 — The entertainment industry has never been short on
critics. There is always someone waiting to give their opinion. But
what has always been refreshing in the world of movie critics is when
two team up. The point/counterpoint discussion can actually make for
interesting entertainment in its own right. In the 70’s and 80’s we had
Siskel and Ebert, who really pioneered the whole dynamic duo of
critics. Then in the 90’s we had guys like Bart and Guber who brought
an industry background to the discussions. Well, Elemental is never one
to pass on a good idea. We have decided to team up Toronto Raptors
guard Jalen Rose and Elemental?s own Adam Wright to see if these guys
can deconstruct some films for us.

First up, we have "Friday," starring Ice Cube, a classic in the urban genre and the springboard for Ice Cube’s movie career.
[FRIDAY: Directed by F. Gary Gray]
Jalen: I’m a big Ice Cube fan from back in the day.
Adam: Before making movies Cube made his name with a mic in his hand as
part of the vanguard gangsta rap group NWA. Making the transition from
rap to the screen is not easy, and it’s a testament to Ice Cube’s
talent that he pulled it off.
J: Ice Cube is one of the most versatile dudes in the entertainment industry.
A: "Friday" is really a simple story that just about anyone who has
been young, living with their parents, and bored can relate to. Anyone
who has ever been a teenager can identify with at least some part of
the story in the film. Young and old laugh their ass off watching it.
J: "Friday" is a hood classic. Who doesn’t own a copy of "Friday?"
"Friday" is a movie everyone can love, even my moms love this movie.
A: The characters in the story are people in every neighborhood; the
writer drew from very stereotypical roles. Who hasn’t run from a D-Bo
or known a Mrs. Parker, we all remember a Mrs. Parker. Don’t forget
your loser weed-smoking, no job having best friend. "Friday" is a day
in the life of many, many people. It is funny in the sheer fact that
like Publishing Clearing House, "It Could Happen To You."
J: Who can’t love Mrs. Parker? "Heeey Mrs. Parker!" And John
Witherspoon on the toilet and getting bit in the ass by the dog. Don’t
forget, this was the jumpoff for Chris Tucker. Big Red, D-Bo, Mrs.
Parker are all hood heroes. Its like you know all of them. Every hood
has someone that fits the description of these characters?
A: "Friday" has one other great thing going for it: It has stood the
test of time. The movie came out over 10 years ago and you can still
pull it out and not stop laughing. Truly timeless. Even though Cube has
gone on to make much bigger movies it was just a day of the week that
made him an actor.
J: How many people can transform themselves from the guy you loved to hate – to doing a movie such as "Are We There Yet?"

[TRAINING DAY: Directed by Antoine Fuqua]
Next we have another one-day drama, "Training Day."
J: "Training Day" is another classic.
A: This story was great in how it flipped the script on the typecasts
that both of the lead actors had. Denzel was always seen as a good guy,
got all the ladies, did the right thing. "Training Day" changed all
that. He plays a bad cop that is in way over his head. He is supposed
to be training a new cop, but he is really just spending the day trying
to survive. Ethan Hawke also breaks out of his mold. Usually playing
the slack and sarcastic young punk, the role he had to assume in this
story forces him to play a serious cop trying to make a difference. It
was a refreshing look at both actors and each did his job well.
J: I think this was the first time I saw Denzel play a bad guy. He was
so good that you find yourself rooting for the bad guy. Denzel
Washington is one of the best actors ever. He is my big homie for real.

A: It says a lot about a story line when you can make one day be a
whole movie. They did it with "Friday", "The Breakfast Club" and went
overboard with the show "24," but the scenarios that play out have to
be solid in order to carry the audience through a whole day. I doubt
anyone would watch a movie based on the day of Adam. Jalen maybe, but
not Adam.
J: You get so caught up in the movie that you don’t even realize the movie takes place in the span of one day.
A: The sets for movies can be insanely elaborate in order to convey the
feeling of a time and a place or they can be basic and have the actors
set the tone and hold it. In "Training Day" much of the story takes
place in a Monte Carlo. I’ve driven a Monte Carlo – not an extensive
set. But you get the sense while watching this that you are in the car
with these guys, having a lot of the same emotions.
J: Denzel makes you feel as if you are riding in the passenger seat
with him and keeps everyone on pins and needles throughout the movie.
A: After watching this film I had a new respect for both actors, Denzel
and Ethan. Both proved that they are more than the parts Hollywood
shoved down their throats for years. Its like watching Brittany Murphy
play a ho in "8 Mile" or Johnny Depp as a drug dealer in "Blow" or even
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter. Any time you can forget who an
actor is or has been and you start to believe that they are only the
character on the screen you are seeing a true actor. Seeing guys like
Vince Vaughn play Vince Vaughn in another movie is not what I consider
acting. "Trainging Day" is worth watching just to see two guys jump the
fence for a minute. Plus, Dre has a cameo.

[CRASH: Directed by Paul Haggis]
We end our reviews with the movie "Crash." An ensemble cast of Matt
Dillon, Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Thandie Newton,
Ryan Phillipe, Larenz Tate, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner,
Terrence Dashon Howard, and Ludacris all live different lives in Los
Angeles and eventually all intersect. The other key element of this
film is the honest way in which it displays that, yes, there is still
racism in America.
J: "Crash" was one of my favorite movies of the year.
A: Yeah, it was a picture that gets you thinking, that’s always worth the price of admission.
J: The racial element in "Crash" gets you to charged up, but that’s the
beauty of the movie because there are elements that anyone can find
themselves in.
A: It really does take us down the road of life. Without pulling any
punches the film shows us not just the typical movie racism of
white-on-black but also black-on-Latino, Latino-on-Asian, and
white-on-Middle Eastern. Many people seeing this movie will have to
face the fact that racism wears many faces.
J: It’s crazy how four or five scenarios happened at once and they all came together at the end as one.
A: I always love when movies do this; "Pulp Fiction" and "Magnolia"
come to mind. Getting to see all the strings that tie a story together
is like looking behind the curtain. It just makes a story have depth.
A: The scenes in this movie are real life situations. Things like this happen day in and day out.
J: A couple of great examples are when the cop pulled over the black
couple, or when the Mexican worker was changing the locks on the door
and the guy was scared for him to have a key. The best one of them all
was the Arab family who owned the store – and his daughter ended up
saving him from murdering the Mexican locksmith. I loved how the movie
points out how quick we are to stereotype a person or situation,
whether it is true or false.
A: Telling several stories is rough but working in a hot topic like
racism makes the filmmaker’s job even tougher. "Crash" does what it
sets out to do: make the viewer look at the causes of racism as well as
look at the effects.
J: If they ever make a sequel I suggest they add me to the cast for a hotter element.

Make sure to catch Jalen on the court this NBA season, or check his website, www.jalenrose.com