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'First Sunday' shows thugs have hearts, too

'First Sunday' shows thugs have hearts, too
Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan in "First Sunday"
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

In this week's DVD column, Indiana Jones returns to home video and Ice Cube produces another successful "dramady."

Indiana Jones: the Adventure Collection
Just in time to help publicize the new Indiana Jones movie, Paramount has released the first three films in a boxed set. The films had been released in a previous boxed set, which is still available and the difference is in the extras they are all new for the new edition.
As for the films themselves, they are a mixed bag, although all hold up very well. I vividly remember my friend Dave Mackey and I catching a peek of the first film at a sneak preview and both of us were bowled over. I'm happy to say I'm still bowled over 20-plus years after the fact.
Director Stephen Spielberg explains in his introduction to the film in the new DVD edition that "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was a test for him to prove he could make a commercial film at or under budget. He deliberately wanted to make a film that was inspired by the Republic serials of the 1930s and '40s and he wanted the production to be fast and relatively inexpensive.
The result was a fast-moving adventure film with a truly different kind of hero that might have seemed vaguely nostalgic to some in the audience, but not to most of them.
In this era of computer-generated images, the three Jones films, which relied on old-fashioned stunt works and physical props, don't seem dated at all. Instead, there is a bracing quality to the "real" action.
My favorite still remains the first. I love the chemistry in the film between Harrison Ford and Western Massachusetts' own Karen Allen and I think the casting of the villains was inspired.
The second film is essentially a horror movie and once you embrace the notion, I think it works very well. "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is a historic film as its rating of PG caused such an uproar among parents that the Motion Picture Producers Association amended the rating system to include PG-13.
The third film, "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," was my least favorite film when I saw it during its theatrical release. Upon another viewing, though, I really liked the film's humor which is more prominent than in the previous two films and I liked Sean Connery's performance as the elder Jones.
The extras are quite informative and I especially liked a discussion taped in 2003 between the three female leads of the film as well as a discussion on how the filmmakers worked with thousands of bugs, rats and snakes during the course of the three films.
This set is a must-have for your movie library, if you don't already have the films.

First Sunday
Ice Cube has carved out an interesting genre for himself: films depicting urban life that have humor but more importantly a strong dramatic core. I really liked "Barber Shop," which was sold as a flat-out comedy, but was really an engaging drama.
"First Sunday" is from the same cloth. Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan star as two young men raised in the foster care system who have drifted in and out of trouble with the law. When Durell (Ice Cube) learns the mother of his beloved son might be forced to move out of the state because the landlord of her hair salon has demanded a year's worth of rent up front, Durell is confronted with how he can obtain the money for her. After stumbling into a local church with his friend Lee John (Tracy Morgan), Durell decides to rob the church.
What transpires is an involving story about true faith and hypocrisy.
Director and writer David Talbert keeps the action, both comic and dramatic, moving well and the performances are on the mark. Katt Williams almost steals the show as a wisecracking chorus director.
The DVD features the usual extras of a gag reel and deleted scenes.
Well-worth watching, "First Sunday" is a comedy with heart.
For more information, log onto www.sonypictures.com.