Troubled Teen Transforms Behind Bars In True Tale Of Redemption
James Burns (Spencer Lofranco) ended up behind bars in spite of his frustrated mother’s (Mary-Louise Parker) best efforts to keep him on the straight and narrow path. When he was 14, she took him down to the police station for a good talking to after she found a pistol in his possession.
But that early intervention failed to scare the cocky juvenile straight, and he would join a street gang setting up shop in his suburbanDenverneighborhood. Eventually, the law caught up with James and, tried as an adult, he was convicted of vandalism, robbery and assault before being shipped off to a maximum security penitentiary where he immediately found his manhood being challenged at every turn.
He soon landed in trouble with a security guard (James Woods) for coming to the assistance of another newcomer (Ben Rosenfield) being picked on by a hardened con (Taboo) looking for trouble. And he was warned that continued fighting was likely to jeopardize his chances of getting off early for good behavior to be reunited with the girl of his dreams (Taissa Farmiga).
James finally finds inspiration in an unlikely friendship forged with a fellow inmate (Ving Rhames) doing life for murder. Wise old Conrad takes the kid under his wing, convincing him to find another outlet for the aggressive urge to retaliate. “Keep writing,” he suggests upon learning of James’ love of poetry. “It doesn’t even matter if it’s good or not.”
That is the pivotal plot development in Jamesy Boy, a fact-based tale of redemption marking the noteworthy directorial and scriptwriting debut of Trevor White. While the overcoming-the-odds biopic might not break any new ground in terms of the genre, it makes up in earnestness what it might lack in originality, thanks to a talented cast which includes veterans Ving Rhames, Mary-Louise Parker and James Woods as well as fresh faces Spencer Lofranco, Taissa Farmiga (Vera’s sister) and hip-hop star Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas.
The picture’s postscript informs the audience that the real-life James Burns, now 25, lives inNew York Citywhere he studied poetry in college. A modern morality play about a young felon who, after paying his debt to society, left the slammer rehabilitated with more of a fondness for rhyme than robbery.
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 109 minutes
Rated PG for mild epithets, sexual references and mature themes
Fired And Dumped Dude Finds Soul Mate On Rebound In Faith-Based Romantic Romp
Robert’s (Darrin Dewitt Henson) whole world collapses the day he’s fired from the business founded by his late father only to come home to an unsympathetic girlfriend (Erica Hubbard) who has decided to dump him because he can’t afford to take care of her. To add insult to injury, Mita drops the bomb that she’s been cheating on him with Nate (Josh Ventura), the guy who just terminated him.
But the jilted housepainter isn’t down in the dumps for long, since he soon crosses paths with Morgan (Gabrielle Dennis), a gorgeous attorney he falls head-over-heels for at first sight. The available divorcee happens to be moving into a drab office that’s crying out for a makeover, a condition which conveniently dovetails with housepainter Robert’s need for a job.
He closes the deal by offering the “pretty woman discount,” so it looks like clear sailing at first blush. Not so fast, Kimosabe, since the tired-and-true modus operandi of the stock romantic comedy is to keep the leading man and woman apart until the very end when they disappear into the sunset together.
Such is the case with Black Coffee, a pleasant, if predictable affair written and directed by Mark Harris (Black Butterfly). For, every time Robert and Morgan appear ready to take the relationship to a deeper level, a monkey wrench is thrown into the works, like the return of her ex-husband (Lamman Rucker) who wants to reconcile.
Too bad much of the dialogue strains credulity here, such as Morgan’s cruel cross-examination of Robert when she asks whether he can read, why black people always have to talk while they’re working, and whether he’s a man of God. Of course, the perfect gentleman passes the test with flying colors, but isn’t there a less antagonistic method for a sister to find her soul mate?
A pat, if unconvincing, romantic romp determined to march inexorably to an implausible, happily ever after finale, whether you like it or not.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 85 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening January 17, 2014
Devil’s Due (R for profanity and graphic images) Demon seed horror flick about a newlywed (Allison Miller) who starts experiencing bizarre symptoms soon after learning she’d unexpectedly become pregnant on her honeymoon. With Zach Gilford, Sam Anderson and Steffie Grote.
The Nut Job (PG for action and rude humor) Animated adventure revolving around a mischievous squirrel (Will Arnett) who hatches a plan to rob a nut store after being banished from the park by a mean raccoon (Liam Neeson). Voice cast includes Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, Katherine Heigl and Jeff Dunham.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (PG-13 for intense violence and brief profanity) Chris Pine stars as the title character previously played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin and Ben Affleck, in this reboot of the franchise inspired by the Tom Clancy series of espionage thrillers. This installment finds the intrepid CIA analyst on assignment inMoscow to foil a terrorist attempt to cripple theU.S. economy. Cast includes Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh.
Ride Along (PG-13 for violence, sexuality and brief profanity) Buddy comedy, set in Atlanta, about a trash-talking groom-to-be (Kevin Hart) who goes on patrol for a day with his fiancée’s (Tika Sumpter) police officer brother (Ice Cube) in order to prove himself worthy. With John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, David Banner and SNL’s Jay Pharoah.
Big Bad Wolves (Unrated) Israeli crime thriller about a suspected serial killer (Rotem Keinan) who finds himself being trailed by the revenge-minded father (Tzahi Grad) of his last victim and by a rogue cop (Lior Ashkenazi) willing to take the law into his own hands. Support cast includes Menashe Noy, Dvir Benedek and Kais Nashif. (In Hebrew with subtitles)
Freezer (R for profanity and graphic violence) Claustrophobic thriller about a man (Dylan McDermott) who is locked in a freezer with a stranger (Peter Facinelli) by Russian mobsters demanding the return of $8 million. With Yuliya Snigir, Andrey Ivchenko and Pascal Petardi.
G.B.F. (R for sexual references) Mean girls teensploit about three high school coeds’ (Xosha Roquemore, Andrea Bowen and Sasha Pieterse) cutthroat competition to land a recently-outed, high school classmate (Michael J. Willett) as their gay best friend. Featuring Rebecca Gayheart, Natasha Lyonne, Megan Mullally and Evanna Lynch.
Gloria (Unrated) Paulina Garcia plays the title character in this romantic dramedy, set inSantiago, about a lonely, 58-year-old divorcee who rushes headlong into a relationship with a naval officer (Sergio Hernandez) she meets at a singles’ bar. With Diego Fontecilla, Fabiola Zamora and Coca Guazzini. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Life Of A King (PG-13 for drug use, violent images and mature themes) Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars in this biopic as Eugene Brown, a paroled ex-con who founded a chess club for at-risk kids inWashington, DC. Cast includes LisaGay Hamilton, Dennis Haysbert and Thurston Hill.
Like Father, Like Son (Unrated) Switched at birth drama about the life-altering decision faced by a couple (Masaharu Fukuyama and Keita Ninomiya) after being informed that they had taken the wrong baby home from the hospital a half-dozen years earlier. With Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki and Riri Furanki. (In Japanese with subtitles)
Reasonable Doubt (R for profanity and violence) Mistaken identity thriller about an ambitious district attorney (Dominic Cooper) who comes to regret allowing an innocent man (Samuel L. Jackson) take the rap for his fatal hit-and-run accident. Cast includes Gloria Reuben, Erin Karpluk and Ryan Robbins.
Summer In February (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Edwardian England at the dawn of the 20th century, revisiting the scandalous antics of a group of Bohemians residing at an artists’ colony inCornwall. Co-starring Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning and Dan Stevens.