Monday, September 7, 2009

3 Urban Film Classics (DVD REVIEW)

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Friday, Menace II Society and Set It Off Released in Deluxe DVD & Blu Ray Editions

Diehard movie fans fond of urban-oriented fare are apt to enjoy the deluxe DVD & Blu-ray editions of these three inner-city adventures. Friday (1995), the first installment in the slacker trilogy starring Ice Cube, marked the directorial debut of F. Gary Gray and featured some promising young thespians like Chris Tucker, Meagan Good and Nia Long before they became household names. The cast also includes the recently-deceased Berrnie Mac Faizon Love, John Witherspoon, Regina King, Paula Jai Parker, Tony Cox, Tommy “Tiny” Lister and the late LaWanda Page, best remembered as Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son. The day-in-the-life comedy revolves around the madcap antics of a couple of stoners (Cube and Tucker) on the run from the drug dealer (Love) they’ve just ripped-off.
By contrast, Menace II Society (1993), is a gritty drama chronicling the effort of a recent high school graduate (Tyrin Turner) to escape the violent projects in the Watts section of Los Angeles. This was the first feature-length film from the Hughes Brothers, and received considerable critical acclaim for its convincing depiction of depravity in the ‘hood. Check out the flick’s supporting cast which was topped by Samuel L. Jackson, Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bill Duke and Charles S. Dutton.
Set it Off (1996), F. Gary Gray’s sophomore offering, is a relatively thought-provoking crime caper about a quartet of broke black women (Queen Latifah, Kimberly Elise, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Vivica A. Fox) who rationalize robbing banks in reaction to the harsh reality of trying to survive in the ghetto. Here, Blair Underwood, Dr. Dre and Anna Maria Horsford appear in support roles.
A trio of cult classics for folks inclined to keep it real via cinema verite.

Friday (Details):
Rated R for drug use, pervasive profanity and a brutal fight.
Running time: 97 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Video
Extras: Introduction by Ice Cube, additional scenes, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre music videos, Q&As with director F. Gary Gray and producer Patricia Charbonnet, and a new featurette entitled “Friday: Straight Up.”.

Menace II Society (DVD Details):
Rated R for drug use, pervasive profanity and graphic, bloody violence.
Running time: 97 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Video
Extras: Commentary by the Hughes brothers, cast members, the scriptwriter and a producer, interview with the directors, a theatrical trailer and a new “Making of” featurette.

Set It Off (DVD Details):
Rated R for drug use, sexuality, pervasive profanity and graphic violence.
Running time: 123 minutes
Studio: New Line Home Video
Extras: A Ray J music video, the theatrical trailer and new Making of” featurette.

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