another summer (get down)
Sound of the funky drummer
Music hittin' your heart 'cuz you know I got soul...
Ahem...sorry. Let me take you inside the stream of thoughts that led me to starting off this post with the opening bars of the Public Enemy classic "Fight the Power." If you're here you're probably a movie buff. If this song is unfamiliar to you then you obviously haven't seen Do the Right Thing. Please do so, now.
Anyhoo, our host for Thursday Movie Picks, the wonderful and talented Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves, chose movies with a female ensemble as the topic for this week's edition. Me being me, the first movies that popped into my head were slasher flicks. Since I didn't want to use this particular topic to celebrate movies where young women were slaughtered en masse, I decided against using those. I started combing the shelves of my DVD collection and came across a movie fitting the criteria. The biggest star in this movie is Queen Latifah. In the background, Mrs. Dell was watching highlights from last night's Hip Hop Honors. It was subtitled "Ladies First" since it was solely devoted to some of rap's legendary women. Yup, you guessed it, Latifah was among the honorees. I said to myself, 'you know what, let's keep the Queen La train rolling' and decided to honor her, myself. That led to me reflecting on the first time I ever heard of her. It was on a song called "Dance For Me" from her debut album All Hail the Queen. The biggest hit from that album was a song called, all together now, "Ladies First." The year was 1989.
I could go on forever about why I truly believe she is one of the most important women of my lifetime, but you're here about movies. Let's get to them.
Alicia Silverstone, Alfre Woodard, Andie MacDowell, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Mena Suvari, Della Reese, Sherri Shepherd, Golden Brooks, and more
In this spin-off from the Barbershp franchise, Latifah plays Gena, a talented beautician opening up her own shop for the first time. Though Latifah is the headliner, she is helped mightily by a wonderful cast made up of a wonderful mix of seasoned vets and unknowns. Some of them are fellow stylists, others are customers, and all congregate in the beauty shop and take part in all the girl talk. There is also a pair of fun turns by guys in this one. Djimon Hounsou plays our heroine's love interest and Kevin Bacon steals every one of his scenes as her former boss and current rival.
Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes
So three is kind of small for an ensemble. So what. Just roll with it. Latifah is actually not the protagonist this time around. That role belongs to Keaton as Bridget, a well-off housewife who finds herself having to work after her husband is laid off. The job she lands is at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Immediately, she hatches a plan to steal from her employer. However, she can't do it on her own. This is where Latifah, who plays Nina, and Holmes, who plays Jackie, come in. They help her polish and carry out this plan. This isn't the greatest heist movie ever made, but it's a fun little flick that's better than people give it credit for.
The Secret Life of Bees
Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okenedo, Hilarie Burton
Again, Latifah is not really the main character. Young Dakota Fanning handles that role. She plays Lily, a fourteen year old who runs away from home to escape her abusive father. She has her friend/caregiver Rosaleen (Hudson) in tow. Eventually, they're taken in by the Boatwright sisters, June (Keys), May (Okenedo), and the matriarchal August (Latifah). This is another solid effort, if one given to over-sentimentality. Latifah gives an excellent performance showcasing her immense gravitas.
Set it Off
Kimberly Elise, Vivica A. Fox, Jada Pinkett SmithLatifah plays Cleo, one quarter of a group of friends who have decided to embark on a bank robbing spree after they have fallen on hard times. She gives a brilliant performance and stands out in a film in which all of our stars deliver excellent work. Yes, I've chosen this one before. That's why it's a bonus pick and not the first thing listed. I just couldn't resist it in light of the path I'm traveling this week. It's directed by F. Gary Gray who would go on to direct The Negotiator, The Italian Job, and Straight Outta Compton. It's also the best film of this week's bunch.
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