Archive for "Denzel Washington"

Movie Review: “Flight”

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 11:00 am.

Summary: Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), an alcohol and drug-abusing pilot, lands a defective plane, saving many “souls.” However, his skills are questioned when it is revealed he was under the influence.

Review: Denzel Washington returns to theaters today in the thrilling drama Flight. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by John Gatins, this exploration of morals and flaws is fascinating to watch and the Oscar winner is effortlessly memorable. The movie as a whole is more misses than hits, but the thespian perfection of Washington steers the film away from a cinematic crash-landing.

Cinematically, the best moment is a terrifying plane crash scene that is sure to haunt frequent travelers — what Psycho did for motel showers is what Flight will do for the “friendly” skies.  But Flight stumbles here and there with questionable plot twists (a dramatic congressional hearing, Whip’s Lifetime-ish struggle with alcoholism and a hard to explain union conflict).  The film’s most troublesome turbulence is the disposable character of Washington’s love interest, Nicole Maggen (Kelly Reilly) — a drug addict who forms a bond with Whip via their substance abuse issues. The performance from Reilly was as good as it could be.  Nonetheless, her character was one-dimensional and only served a purpose for the main character to have a love interest.  Thankfully, other characters added to Whip’s appeal — John Goodman as a hippie drug dealer, a heartfelt performance from Tamara Tunie (even though she only had a handful of lines) as a  surviving flight attendant and the always dynamic Melissa Leo as a committee chairwoman who is out to take down Whip.

But Flight is all about Denzel. The Mount Vernon native can still make the ladies gasp and swoon, even as Whip — overweight, sloppy, crass and mean.  Yet Mr. Washington still manages to be likable with an unlikable character. Denzel possesses old school Hollywood charm, no matter how destructive his character’s are, you can’t help but like the man.

There aren’t many duds on Mr. Washington’s impressive resume and Denzel as Whip Whitaker is another powerful character he can put in his catalogue of flawed heroes. Whip snorts cocaine and downs vodka for breakfast, but when it comes to saving the day, he is Captain America — literally. The emotional tug and pull of the film ask the question: Do his flaws negate his miracle?

Flight is in theaters today.

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This Day in Film: “Mo’ Better Blues”

Published by Marcus Reeves on Friday, August 3, 2012 at 10:30 am.

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

On this date, 22 years ago, Spike Lee released his fourth feature film, Mo’ Better Blues. The sultry, jazz-centered story was a drastic turn for the confrontational director who, just the year before, unleashed the racially-explosive film Do the Right Thing, which some critics predicted would start riots in the hot summer of 1989.

For Mo’ Better Blues, Lee used his penchant for creating cinematic tension to tell the tale of star jazz musician Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington) who, along with leading a star-studded band, juggles two girlfriends (played by Cynda Williams and Spike’s sister Joie Lee).  Moreover, within his band, he must temper the ambitions of his hotheaded virtuoso sax player Shadow Henderson, played by Wesley Snipes. The cast also included Dick Anthony Williams, John Turturro, Robin Harris and Samuel L. Jackson.

While the film wasn’t as big a hit as Lee’s first three projects, Mo’ Better can be credited for turning both Denzel and Wesley into Hollywood leading men and sex symbols.  Who could forget Shadow’s steamy balcony scene?

Yes, Mo’ Better Blues marked Lee departure from focusing on the provocative issue on race. But, in true Spike fashion, the film did manage to rub one group — Jews — the wrong way. Several Jewish organizations, including the Anti Defamation League, complained about the director’s depiction of two Jewish jazz club owners, saying they were stereotypical.

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In Theaters: Denzel Washington in Safe House

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, February 10, 2012 at 10:00 am.

(Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures)

This weekend Denzel Washington is back!  He returns to the big screen in Safe House. In the Daniel Espinosa-directed thriller, Washington stars as Tobin Frost, a rogue CIA agent who is held in a safe house by good guy Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds).

The problem? When the safe house is attacked, Weston and Frost finds themselves on the run.  Check out the trailer below to see if it’s a cinematic thrill ride you’d like to take.

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This Day in Film: ‘Mo’ Better Blues’

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:24 am.

(Photo: Universal Studios)

Fans of Spike Lee know that the acclaimed director has long idealized jazz. His father, jazz musician Bill Lee, has composed a number of his son’s films. So it wasn’t surprising to see Spike create a film centered within that world. Unfortunately, the ambitious Mo’ Better Blues wasn’t as well received as the works preceding it.

The 1990 drama follows the life of Brooklyn jazz trumpeter Bleek Gilliam (played by Denzel Washington), who is conflicted in his personal relationships as much as he is in his professional ones. Bleek is torn between two women – the sultry songstress Clarke Bentancourt; and the less glamorous, but more stable Indigo Downes.

Meanwhile, Bleek’s professional troubles stem from his band needing better leadership in order to make it big.

Critics like the New York Times’ Caryn James lauded the visual aesthetics of the film though quipped, “But if the best you can say about a film is that it looks good, there’s serious trouble underneath. Like Bleek himself, Mo’ Better Blues is all smooth, handsome surface and no inner life.”

Peter Tavares, longtime film critic for Rolling Stone, had similar complaints, writing, “Spike Lee has helped right that wrong by making a film about and primarily for Blacks. Unfortunately, he has merely reshuffled the Hollywood clichés instead of rethinking them.”

And like any Spike Lee film, it was not released without controversy. The director was blasted by the Anti Defamation League for the Mo’ Better Blues’ depictions of the Jewish nightclub owners in the film. The organization claimed Lee was dredging up old anti-Semitic stereotypes and alleged he “has employed the same kind of tactics that he supposedly deplores.”

Spike Lee shot back at those claims in a New York Times editorial entitled “I Am Not An Anti-Semite,” dubbing the criticism “unrealistic and unfair.”

Mo’ Better Blues was released 21 years ago today.

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Top Oscar Snubs: Denzel, Spike, Halle, and More

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, February 25, 2011 at 4:21 pm.

Last year’s Academy Awards was something to look forward to. However, 2011 is just another predictable awards show that is flavorless for a variety of reasons. From the New York Times to right here at, there have been rants on the lack of diversity at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. Out of the 24 categories, not one African-American was nominated.

This year it is less about Black folks being overlooked and more about Black dramatic films not getting the green light in Hollywood. That said, below are some of the most disastrous Oscar snubs.

10. Denzel Washington in Philadelphia (1993)

Although Denzel Washington had already won a best supporting actor Oscar for Glory, the fact that he didn’t get a best supporting act nod for his portrayal of a homophobic lawyer in Philadelphia was unexplainable. The film received five Oscar nominations (won two), but none for Washington.

9. Halle Berry in Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)

Halle already won her Oscar in 2002 for Monster’s Ball, but 2007’s Things We Lost in the Fire was arguably the strongest performance of her career. She and her co-star Benicio Del Toro were completely ignored during the 2008 Academy Awards. Although the film was a box office failure, it was a critical success, which is usually the formula for most Oscar-winning movies.

8. Samuel L. Jackson in Jungle Fever (1991)

In the late ’80s to early ’90s, the unspoken rule in Hollywood was, if you were in a Spike Lee movie, no matter how brilliant you were, it was rare you would be recognized by the Academy Awards. Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as Wesley Snipes’ crackhead brother was unforgettable, but he was snubbed. The hardest-working man in Hollywood has only received one Oscar nomination, for Pulp Fiction in 1995.

7. Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night (1967)

I guess after giving Sidney Poitier an Academy Award in 1964 (the first Black person to win for a leading role) for Lilies of the Field, they passed on even nominating him for In the Heat of the Night in 1967. His performance went down in history when he hollered ‘They call me Mr. Tibbs!” and smacked a racist white sheriff.

6. Angela Bassett in Malcolm X (1992)

Angela Bassett’s portrayal of the late Dr. Betty Shabazz was impassioned and poignant. Even though Denzel Washington received a best actor nod and there was a Best Costume Design nod, the passing of Bassett was the Academy Awards’ biggest error. Right next to ignoring Spike Lee for best director.

5. “Hopeless” by Dionne Farris for Love Jones (1997)

It’s not only actors and directors who get ignored for the Oscars—musicians do too. Dionne Farris‘ “Hopeless” was a big R&B hit and definitely deserved a nod for best original song from a movie, which was, of course, 1997’s Love Jones. Even though there was a buzz that the song was a contender, it got nothing.

4. City of God (2002)

The graphic film about the violent favelas in Brazil received three Oscar nods, but what left many people amazed was that it was ignored for Best Foreign Film. Roger Ebert, one of the most respected film critics in the world, said he was “mad” at the snub.

3. Set It Off (1996)

If Set It Off starred Demi Moore, Gena Davis, Hilary Swank, and Nicole Kidman, the movie would’ve received Oscar nominations across the board—think Thelma & Lousie. Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, and Kimberly Elise all gave incredibly strong performances with a well-written script and good direction by F. Gary Gray. It was no shocker this movie wasn’t received well by the big wigs at the Academy.

2. Do the Right Thing (1989)

It was a national controversy when the Oscars blatantly ignored Spike Lee’s mega successful Do the Right Thing for Best Director and Best Film. The film received two nominations, one for Italian-American Danny Aiello in the Best Supporting Actor category and a nod for Best Screenplay. The legendary Kim Basinger, who was the Angelina Jolie of her time, famously said, “The best film of the year is not even nominated, and it’s Do the Right Thing.”

1. Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Ignoring Eve’s Bayou, which Roger Ebert said was the best film of 1997, was probably the biggest mistake the Oscars ever made when it comes to African-American film. The movie was flawless, with Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitefield, and Debbie Morgan. Ebert famously said, “If it is not nominated for Academy awards, then the Academy is not paying attention.” Well, they surely didn’t.


FYI – Oscar snubs are not just a Black thing. Latino actors have been unacknowledged for years (not one nomination for John Leguizamo!), and poor Leonardo Dicaprio, Annette Benning (who will more than likely lose this Sunday to Natalie Portman for Black Swan), and Glenn Close have all suffered legendary Oscar snubs and losses.

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Top-Grossing Films of 2010

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 8:25 am.

Check out the list of the top films of 2010 according to domestic grosses from

Domestic Total Gross: $176,591,618

Domestic Total Gross: $217,581,231

Domestic Total Gross: $238,395,990

Domestic Total Gross: $250,588,005

Domestic Total Gross: $274,392,000

Domestic Total Gross: $292,517,082

Domestic Total Gross: $300,531,751

Domestic Total Gross: $312,128,345

Domestic Total Gross: $334,191,110

Domestic Total Gross: $415,004,880

Other notable mentions: Book of Eli ranked at #27 with $94.8 million, Unstoppable at # 36 with $78 million, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? at #50 with $60 million and Takers at #54 with $57.7 million.

The Smiths and Taraji P. Henson did it big with The Karate Kid and clearly Denzel Washington is still one of America’s most loved stars with two of his films in the top 40.

Happy New Year!


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Movie Review: ‘Unstoppable’

Published by Clay Cane on Thursday, November 11, 2010 at 9:36 am.

Summary: Based on a true story, a runaway train is on the loose at full speed with no conductor on board due to an incompetent engineer.  The train goes from a “coaster” to Speed meets Maximum Overdrive drama.  On board are tons of toxic materials and this locomotive is on a war path — a train full of children, manic horses and an entire Pennsylvania town are all in danger!

If train number 777 derails in the wrong area, it would be like a missile with toxic chemicals exploding — and there is a sharp corner ahead that will throw the locomotive off the tracks. Someone must save the day!  Who will it be? Well, there is Denzel Washington’s character, railroad veteran Frank Barnes, and a conductor played by Chris Pine.

Review: One can’t help but give Unstoppable the side-eye, considering Denzel Washington just did 2009’s Taking of Pelham 123 with a similar plot and same director, Tony Scott.  Once upon a time Denzel was on a roll with the cop characters, now his most recent passion seems to be the blue collar man. Similar to Pelham, this is all about the average American, wronged by corporations and they show their patriotism on this one apple pie day. With its safe and non-threatening political commentary, it’s the type of film that Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama could agree on.  I could hear Palin now in 2012, “I will be unstoppable like the real Americans in Unstoppable!” But, I digress…

For a movie about a speeding train, Unstoppable moves slow at times, but just like Pelham, when the speed picks up, it results in a fun ride for moviegoers.  Unlike Pelham, there is a  danger missing without a villain.  John Travolta made the 2009 film as an arrogant terrorist.  Here, we just have a train that won’t stop.

It’s a little surprising that Denzel Washington, Chris Pine (who is a mega-star after Star Trek) and the always likable Rosario Dawson, as a train traffic manager, would be in such a mediocre film. There isn’t anything memorable or blockbuster about Unstoppable, which I am sure was obvious in the script that has a storyline we have seen a billion times.  That said, the cast makes the film work right to the last frame.  With good acting and a strong build of conflict, you are rooting for the characters.

Overall, Unstoppable is here just to entertain.  It’s a great date movie or family film.  Sure, within the first five minutes you know the beginning, middle and end, but you still a get fun ride in a quick 95 minutes.  Now, if you want a dramatic train ride, I can recommend some subway lines on New York’s MTA that will give you the thrill of a lifetime!

Unstoppable is in theaters tomorrow.

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Top Five Black Holiday Movies

Published by Clay Cane on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 11:15 am.

Now that Halloween is gone, holiday movies are already on heavy rotation.  It’s easy to remember holiday classics like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Carol.  However, if you want to check out holiday movies with a lil’ color, this list is for you.

5. Last Holiday (2006)

There have been a string of Black holiday films (Perfect Holiday, This Christmas) in the past five years, but one could argue the success of Queen Latifah’s Last Holiday rejuvenated the trend.  The film is a remake from 1955 with Latifah playing a woman who finds out she only has weeks to live.  She spends her last holiday doing all the things she never had a chance to do.  Latifah’s presence carries the film and her co-star, LL Cool J, adds some flavor.

4.  A Diva’s Christmas Carol (2000)

A fun, light-hearted film — and any excuse to see Vanessa Williams on camera is a plus.  Before Williams was a diva on Desperate Wives she played Ebony Scrooge (Ebenezer Scrooge – get it?) in the 2000 VH1 production, A Diva’s Christmas Carol, a modern and divalicious remake of Charles DickensA Christmas CarolA Diva’s Christmas Carol is an amusing watch and includes appearances from Brian McKnight and Chilli of TLC.

3.  Holiday Heart (2000)

Ving Rhames in drag is more like a horror flick during Halloween; however,  for better or worse, Holiday Heart is a classic.  Rhames is a drag queen named Holiday who is a staunch Christian.  Wanda (Alfre Woodard) is trying to care for her daughter while battling drugs.  Rhames becomes a parental figure with the story’s climax hitting on Christmas Eve.

2. The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

The Preacher’s Wife would be Whitney Houston’s last big screen film appearance and probably her best acting to date.  The Preacher’s Wife starred Oscar winner Denzel Washington and was a story about a preacher who prays for help with his struggling church.  His prayers are answered with the help of an angel (Denzel Washington) who falls for the preacher’s wife — Whitney Houston’s character.  A great holiday film for the entire family.  Plus, Nippy belts out her hit “I Believe in You and Me.”

1.  The Kid Who Loved Christmas (1990)

A made-for-television movie that was produced by Eddie Murphy Productions and starred Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams, Della Resse, and marks Sammy Davis Jr.’s last film appearance.  The Kid Who Loved Christmas is a touching story about a child whose only wish is to be with his father for Christmas.  While not well known, one would think with all its star power that the movie would at some point make it to DVD.

Happy Holidays!

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Denzel Washington’s ‘Unstoppable’

Published by Clay Cane on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 11:29 am.

Denzel Washington’s action-drama is finally in theaters Friday, November 12th. The flick is packed with a powerhouse cast that includes Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson.  It is also directed by Tony Scott, who was behind Denzel’s Déjà Vu and last year’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. According to Wikipedia:

A railroad company frantically works to prevent an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train carrying combustible liquids and poisonous gas from wiping out a city. A veteran locomotive engineer (Denzel Washington) and a young train conductor (Chris Pine) chase the runaway train in a different locomotive in order to bring the runaway under control before it is too late.

This looks like another box office hit for Washington, whose last film was Book of Eli. Check out the trailer!

Unstoppable Trailer
Uploaded by teasertrailer. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

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‘Fences’ and ‘Fela!’ Win Big At Tony Awards

Published by Clay Cane on Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:00 am.

fela_broadwayIn case you aren’t familiar with the Tonys, it’s an annual awards show that honors excellence in theater. While there are diversity issues with the Academy Awards, the Tonys has always been leagues ahead. Winners for Tonys include James Earl Jones, Diahann Carroll, Jennifer Holliday, Heather Headley, Phylicia Rashad, Savion Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne and countless others.

Last night was no different. Viola Davis won her second Tony for best actress in a play for Fences. In addition, Fences picked up two more wins, best revival of a play and Denzel Washington for best actor in a play, which was his first nomination.  In a teary-eyed speech Davis said, “I don’t believe in luck or happenstance. I absolutely believe in the presence of God in my life.”

The critically acclaimed Fela!, which is produced by Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, won for best choreography — given to the legendary Bill T. Jones. Fela! also won for best costume and sound design.

Some celebs in attendance were Beyonce, Jay-Z, Paula Abdul and Will and Jada.

Congrats to all of the winners!

Click here for a fashion rundown of the Tony Awards!
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