When pondering what to call your movie, deep consideration should be given by the writer/director/producer to avoid ridicule by critics and the public. It's sort of like naming a child. You want something catchy and memorable but not something that encourages mocking.
Just Wright is such a title and movie. If the film is no good, it is all too easy to substitute a single word in the title so the film becomes Just Wrong or worse. Well, does that happen to Just Wright or will it get to keep its original name? Read on.
Queen Latifah plays Leslie Wright, a physical therapist who is perpetually single no matter how great her attitude is about life. Leslie has much going for her -- good job, she's confident, has a lot of sass, owns a home, is funny, honest and knows a lot about her favorite sports team, the New Jersey Nets. Yet, she can't find a man and is a self-admitted "perfect homegirl" to all the guys she meets.
Leslie shares her house with her god-sister Morgan (Paula Patton). Morgan is the complete opposite of Leslie: beautiful and jobless. Morgan's main goal in life is to bag an NBA player to become her husband and sugardaddy to her superficial lifestyle. That's right, she's a golddigger.
Well, as luck would have it, Morgan will soon get her chance when both she and Leslie meet Scott McKnight (Common), the superstar point guard for the Nets. When McKnight blows out his knee, one woman runs while the other stands by his side attempting to work his knee back into playing shape. As often happens in today's romantic comedies, he will have to make a choice between the two women. Who on earth will Mr. McKnight choose?
Just Wright's strongest attribute is the chemistry between the two leads, both one-time rappers, Latifah and Common. Their relationship has a directness to it that is nice but is completely asexual. They appear more brother/sister than future lovers.
Latifah is so doggedly charming that it's hard to not root for her and Common's acting style is either smiling or scowling with no middle ground. Weirdly, and surprisingly, they make a good pair.
Just Wright at times feels like a promotional tool for the NBA. Director Sanaa Hamri pulls out all the stops when filming the basketball scenes.
We get slow-motion, announcers doing fake play-by-play, ESPN personalities popping up to lend credibility and all of it to a thumping beat. It's easy to see why Morgan would want to get lost in this lifestyle of money, money, money as living in the NBA universe looks hard to resist.
Just Wright is not a good movie, but Queen Latifah saves it from being a total disaster. The story is flimsy and predictable. Take away the stubborn charm of Latifah, and it would enter the world of the awful. So how about that issue with the name of the film? Thanks to Latifah, Just Wright's more accurate title would have been Just Average.
Better than Fiction
If there ever was a minority that deserves a documentary regarding how they've been portrayed in movies, it's Native Americans. With thousands of films utilizing Natives in one way or another, no other minority has played such a major role in film history and been as misrepresented on the screen. No one.
Reel Injun is an informative, entertaining and slightly flawed documentary that attempts to shed light on a subject that is long overdue.
Beginning in the frozen tundra of northern Canada, Reel Injun journeys through America, while uncovering the history of the portrayal of Indians on the screen. Thanks to the western genre, the lore of Hollywood has spun a vivid stereotype that every tribe, no matter where they are from, are exactly the same: stoic, warriors, from the plains, noble, savage and dangerous.
Accuracy has never been at the forefront of people producing the westerns of the past. What do actors such as Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Elvis Presley, Chuck Connors and Burt Reynolds have in common? They've all played Native people in a western.
Everything from language, clothing, identity and social customs have been completely fabricated by the movies to create one large stereotype of fiction. Virtually everything you think you know about any Indian tribe depicted in film is wrong.
Reel Injun is co-directed by Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved By the Bell! Seriously. I'm not kidding.), Catherine Bainbridge and Jeremiah Hayes. The film's structure utilizes a variety of interviews -- Chris Eyre, John Trudell, Adam Beach, Russell Means, Clint Eastwood and Oklahoma's Wes Studi -- in combination with seemingly hundreds of clips that give examples of all the ways Hollywood has screwed it up. Some of the clips are humorous, some are more poignant; all are entertaining and serve the main concept of the documentary.
The film would have been better had it not attempted to tell the entire story of Natives from semi-obscure silents to recent releases. It's just too much ground to cover in less than 90 minutes, while still telling the story with enough depth to give the topic the attention it deserves. It felt as if some aspects of the story were being skipped over when more focus on specific elements of a stereotype could have been further explored.
Reel Injun is an important movie for film lovers as it exposes something about the most iconic of American genres, the western. I love the western, but the made-up version of these tribes has existed long enough. It's time for some good old-fashioned truth-telling. Reel Injun is a crucial documentary for Oklahomans to watch. Let's face it, given our shared history, if there's one state that should know about Native people in cinema, it's Oklahoma.
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