I know I haven't done this in about 2 weeks, as some of you have reminded me. I hear ya lound and clear! These things just take time to put together, so I might miss a week or two, or more, from time to time.
Recapping the feature's inspiration… as Netflix now has about twice as many streaming subscribers than DVD subscribers, according to a company financial statement during the first half of this year, it means more of you continue to sign up for Netflix streaming accounts, specifically.
And a common complaint I hear is that, available streaming titles aren't as robust of DVD titles – especially when it comes to recent releases.
Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about that; But what I can do is alert you to films (old and new) that are streaming on Netflix, that you may not already realize are available in that format, and may be interested in checking out. I've been doing this weekly – picking 5 films at a time – for about a month and a half now; many, if not all of the films I mention, are titles that we've covered on S&A, so you may recognize.
Without further ado, here are this week's 5:
1 – Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (photo above) the 2005 feature documentary from the master of documentary filmmaking Ken Burns (the film is actually 3 1/2 hours long, so prepare yourself before watching).
It centers on Jack Johnson – the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World, whose dominance over his white opponents spurred furious debates and race riots in the early 20th century. The provocative PBS documentary shows the gritty details of Johnson's life through archival footage, still photographs, and the commentary of boxing experts such asStanley Crouch, Bert Sugar, the late George Plimpton, Jack Newfield, Randy Roberts, Gerald Early and James Earl Jones, who actually portrayed Johnson in the Broadway play and film based on Johnson's life, The Great White Hope.
Johnson in many ways is an embodiment of the African American struggle to be truly free in this country – economically, socially and politically. He absolutely refused to play by the rules set by the white establishment, or even those of the black community. In that sense, he fought for freedom not just as a black man, but as an individual.
It's a great doc, as you expect; incredible true story at the hands of a veteran filmmaker = win!
2 – The first of 2 Jada Pinkett Smith films on this week's list; in this one she's in front of the screen, in a starring role. In light of this being Halloween week, I thought I'd throw in at least one horror flick – Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight, which was directed by Ernest Dickerson; a name that should make you sit up and pay attention.
The 1995 comedy horror film starred Billy Zane, William Sadler, and the aforementioned Jada Pinkett Smith. Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Dick Miller, and Thomas Haden Church co-star. Do I really need to break this one down? It's called Tales From The Crypt! In short, the final battle for the universe is fought in a small inn, in the middle of nowhere. What's worth mentioning about this one is that (SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!!), while Sanaa Lathan gets a lot of love for kicking arse in the sci-fi thriller AVP: Alien vs. Predator, which was released 9 years later, Jada Pinkett Smith was actually one of the first modern-day black actors to be a hero in a horror movie, AND survive until the end of the film. Did I mention it was directed by the legendary cinematographer who worked with Spike Lee and others?
Again, it's not the greatest horror, but it's pop-corn fun, especially for Halloween week.
Here's a scene from the movie:
3 – Another one fit for Halloween week; although this one is much more gruesome and hardcore than the one immediately above. A French zombie flick, titled La Horde, released via IFC’s genre label, IFC Midnight. It stars Eriq Ebouaney… a name you might recognize, as he starred in Raoul Peck’s wonderful 2000 film Lumumba, as the title character. In, La Horde (The Horde), co-directed by Frenchmen Yannick Dahan & Benjamin Rocherhe, Ebouaney leads a pack of crooked cops and malevolent gangsters in a life/death battle against a horde of the walking dead – aka zombies. Stuck on the top floor of a deserted high-rise block, in this gruesome, claustrophobic tale of retribution and escape, two opposing groups (the crooked cops and the gangsters) find that they are not alone in the lair of bloodthirsty corridors of death. Joining forces to survive, they must reach ground level together or perish!
Did I mention it's gruesome?
Here's its US release trailer, which is dubbed in English – something I'm not a fan of.
4 – Jada Pinkett Smith's feature film directorial debut, titled The Human Contract, which starred Jason Clarke, Paz Vega, Idris Elba, Ted Danson, and Jada herself. She also wrote the screenplay about a successful corporate type harboring a deep, dark secret, who befriends a free-spirited stranger who encourages him to ditch his stuffy lifestyle and live life in reckless abandon." The film never made it to theatres, but screened at a few of film festivals, and then was released on DVD in 2009. I've seen it; nothing especially great, but I think it's worth it if only to see how well Jada handled her writing and directing duties – her first attempt. She's done some other directing since then, and I think we'll see more from her in that regard.
Idris and Jada are supporting characters in this, by the way. I would've loved to instead see them as the leads, with Jason Clarke and Paz Vega in the supporting roles.
Here's a refresher…
5 – And last but not least, another documentary. Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's feature-length documentary, On the Shoulders of Giants, honors a group of sports pioneers who have been all but forgotten; it's the story of the Harlem Rens (aka the New York Renaissance) – the first African-American-owned all-black basketball team that dominated the game from 1922-1948, routinely winning games against white national championship teams, while fighting the rampant racism that existed at the time; black basketball players and teams were not allowed to play in the same leagues as whites.
It should go without saying that their story is an incredible one, and certainly worth knowing.
The film combines archival footage, reenactments, and Interviews with celebrities and sports legends, all edutainingly combined to tell the story of the greatest basketball team you probably have never heard of.
Watch the teaser trailer below:
That's it for this week! See ya next week… hopefully.