THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS
THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS (Not yet rated, PG-13):
Darrin Fox (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is
fired from his high-power job at a Manhattan advertising agency when his boss
(Steve Warren) finds out he lied about going to Yale. Just then, Darrin learns
that his Great-aunt Sally (Ann Nesby) has died in his hometown of Monte Carlo,
Her will stipulates that if Darrin will lead the local Baptist church
choir to victory at the Gospel Explosion competition, he will inherit stocks
worth $150,000. He accepts the challenge, secretly promises to pay some people
to be in the choir and lies about being a record producer. Darrin continues
his lies, persuading Lilly (Beyoncé Knowles), a single mom, to be the lead
The truth comes out about Darrin at the same time the ad agency calls to hire
him back. He knows he has disappointed many people, so he
leaves to take the lead on a huge account marketing malt
liquor to black people.
Darrin realizes immediately that advertising and lies seem to be
compatible. But through his lies he has lost the most genuine things in his
life: his church, the gospel choir and the woman he loves.
Thus, Darrin returns just in time for the Gospel Explosion. When
he and Lilly talk about the temptations they are faced with, she says, "Fighting
temptations makes you strong."
Regarding three convicts in the choir who have helped from the beginning,
one lady says uncharitably, "We don't need those convicts here now because we
have God on our side." Lilly answers, "We're at a gospel competition; God's
on everyone's side." Amen.
The writing is contemporary and humorous (e.g., the American
Idol-like auditions), and the film is very well cast. Six songs are performed
in their entirety by artists Knowles, Destiny's Child, Rev. Shirley Caesar,
T-Bone, Lil' Zane and Faith Evans. The energy and the rousing blend of gospel,
R&B, rap and hip-hop build to an inspiring finale.
I went to see Temptations with a focus-group audience. It
was like being at a concert. People talked back to the characters, laughed,
clapped and sang along. Offers the opportunity to talk about such media-literacy
principles as the target marketing of minorities, as well as the values of family
and community, truth, commitments and diversity.
SEABISCUIT (A-3, PG-13): In the 1930s when radio was king, horseracing was the sport of
blue-collar and no-collar kings. From deep in Depression-era America, the lives
of three men and a horse came together to carry the hopes of the hopeless to
victory and a new day.
Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is a wealthy California ranch owner
who started his career in bicycles, made his fortune with cars and now races
horses for sport. Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) is an aging, itinerant horse trainer
who has a mystical way with the animals, and Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is
a jockey trying to make it big.
Seabiscuit, bred to be a winner, is intelligent, small, lazy and
eats too much. His first trainer forces him to race and Seabiscuit just won't
cooperate. But he's got spunk and heart, which Howard, Smith and Pollard recognize.
In those days, millions of Americans sat by their radios to
listen to Seabiscuit's misadventures and exploits. Smith and Pollard race him
to victory against all odds and obstacles.
This excellent film, directed by Gary Ross, is an Oscar contender.
It is based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillenbrand. (To tell the truth,
I don't know which I liked more.) Some sports violence; uplifting story of
the little horse that could.
THE MAGDALENE SISTERS
THE MAGDALENE SISTERS (O, R): As film critic Roger
Ebert once said: "Some films ought never to be made." And
maybe The Magdalene Sisters is one of them. This
fictional drama, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice
Film Festival, was inspired by Ireland's Magdalene Asylums.
The film focuses on young women in 1960s Ireland who had children
out of wedlock, were sexually active (or suspected of being so) or raped. To
make up for their sins, the girls were sent, often by their parents, to work
in laundries operated by nuns.
It is a grim and dark tale about all forms of abuse heaped on these
poor girls, much of it historically documented. The film engages and repels
at the same time. There is not one sympathetic nun. (Two of the nuns are just
I suspect that it will interest few viewers, but I don't think it
can be categorized as anti-Catholic because there's too much history here as
a basis. Hope is evident in the irrepressible courage of the women who escape
and take charge of their own lives. Some nudity and physical violence.
Themes worth talking about include reconciliation, the things people do in
the name of religion, what happens when the Church and State collude, one's
image of God and the human person and, above all, the abuse of power.
MOVING HEAVEN AND EARTH
MOVING HEAVEN AND EARTH (Hallmark Channel, October
5): This fascinating documentary episode of The World
of Faith & Values is about the Abayudaya,
an African tribe that has been practicing Judaism for generations
Due to their efforts to be accepted as part of "worldwide normative
Judaism," the 400 descendents of the original Jewish converts who live in a
poor village ask for conversion and official recognition. This documentary traces
their history, their persecution under Idi Amin in the 1970s and their efforts
to be accepted as Jews today. This informative interreligious production by
Faith and Values Media asks the question: Who is a Jew?
COLD CASE (CBS, Sundays): Kathryn Morris (Minority
Report) is Detective Lilly Rush of the Philadelphia
Police Department. She handles herself with smart dignity
in a man's world and seems destined to be the one to unravel
old, unsolved murders (cold cases).
The mature themes are taken from today's news. I liked the rare
showcasing of a female, feminine lead (finally) who believes that "people shouldn't
be forgotten. People matter. They should get justice." Another potential winner
from CSI Executive Producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
TWO AND A HALF MEN
TWO AND A HALF
MEN (CBS, Mondays) is a white, male-centered sitcom about a rich Malibu
bachelor, Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen), his neurotic brother, Alan (Jon Cryer),
and Alan's 10-year-old son, Jake (Angus T. Jones). And don't forget the men's
controlling mother (Holland Taylor).
Alan and Jake move in with Charlie when Alan's marriage falls apart.
Will this series make us care about the guys and their communal-living experiment?
Will they go beyond selfishness to generosity?
NAVY NCIS (CBS, Tuesdays): The U.S. Navy scored
a major coup with the hit drama JAG. The Navy, as
well as U.S. foreign policy, is destined to do so again
with NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service).
This CSI/JAG/FBI combo will be introduced officially
in the first two episodes of JAG this season. NCIS
stars Mark Harmon (Chicago Hope), Michael Weatherly
(Dark Angel) and David McCallum (The Man From
I found it very watchable. It will be interesting to explore
the political subtext of the series as it unfolds. While
media entertain and inform us, they rarely question the
THE BROTHERHOOD OF POLAND,
THE BROTHERHOOD OF POLAND, NH (CBS, Wednesdays): This new David E. Kelley drama (The
Practice, Ally McBeal, Chicago Hope) centers around three New Hampshire
brothers: Hank Shaw, the quick-fisted police chief (Randy Quaid); Garrett (John
Carroll Lynch), the mayor with a secret; and the unemployed, low-self-esteem
Waylon (Chris Penn). The way their characters identify with the town parallels
their relationships with their wives and families. Family and community seem
to be the focus of Brotherhood, both in need of some optimism and hope.