Movie Reviews

bellview--i love movies

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

Movie Awards
2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
2006 Roundup
2007 Roundup
2008 Roundup
2009 Roundup



Directed by Chris Robinson.
Written by Tina Gordon Chism.  Based on a story by Antwone Fisher.  Yep, THAT Antwone Fisher.
Starring T.I., Lauren London, Jackie Long and Mykelti Williamson.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  4/22/06


I really can't explain why, but I REALLY wanted to see "ATL" when it first came out two weeks ago, but kept trying to catch it after work on days when I was swamped in the office.  Then one day I left work a little early to catch it, only to realize that the online schedule I checked was wrong...and the flick had already started when I got there.

So, I left work early last Thursday to see it, and for the first time in a long time, I saw a movie about nothing that was pretty cool and...well, enjoyable.  "ATL" covers roughly six weeks in the life of four friends in Atlanta that are about to finish their senior year in high school:  the kingpin, Rashad (rapper T.I.); the brains, Esquire (Jackie Long); the chump, 21-years-old-and-still-in-high-school Teddy (Jason Weaver) and the comic relief, Brooklyn (Albert Daniels).  The foursome also hang out every so often with Rashad's brother Ant (Evan Ross), but Ant's on a different career path even though he's still in his high school infancy--he knows a guy that knows a drug dealer (Outkast rapper Big Boi, aka Antwan Andre Patton), and he's set to make cash in the now.  All the while, the guys hang out at the local Waffle House, have fun with the ladies, call each other up to talk shit and go to the Cascade Roller Skating Rink on Sunday nights with everybody else in their neighborhood.

Like I said, "ATL" isn't about anything, but that is what makes the movie so much fun, at least for me...much like the South that I know of from a distance, the film's slow, deliberately normal day-in-the-life approach works beautifully for anyone that needed a minute to think back to what they loved most about high school--your crew!  Sure, this crew is having more fun than I ever did back in high school (still have no idea where the parties were), but the same elements are there, most notably the chemistry between the four leads.  Even when the film involves a love interest for Rashad, New New (Lauren London), it doesn't lose much steam because we still get plenty of sequences where Rashad is hangin' with his crew all around town, if he isn't driving them from one place to another as the team's chauffeur.

Since I saw this in an empty theater (incredible, given the film just opened recently), it's hard to get a gauge for the things that will make "the people" laugh, because I was howling the whole time, thanks to characters like Brooklyn, The Twins, and Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson).  And, even though I didn't see "Roll Bounce", the roller skating sequences here are infectious, maybe because I did a lot of roller skating as a kid (note: I didn't do it well, but I did it), maybe because I love hip-hop, maybe because I can't get enough of the Big Booty Cam that is quickly becoming a requirement for all urban-themed films.

I didn't enjoy a plot string involving New New's real past; I also thought the ending featuring the end result of Ant's foray into dealing was weak and unnecessary.  The handling of white people in "ATL"--will every white character we meet be stereotypically evil?--is uneven and I was almost waiting to see how many different ways white folks would mistreat the film's main crew; there were only a few instances, but "ATL" doesn't even feature the token white nice guy ("Don't worry, guys, I understand where y'all are comin' from")...the film almost would have been better off leaving white folks out of the story altogether.

Otherwise, I really liked "ATL", and I'd watch it again just to get the first hour's vibe in my system before a stress-filled day.  The soundtrack was hot, but the flow was chill and that's the meat of what I really got into here.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


Comments?  Drop me a line at


Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

Home | Movie Reviews | Video Roundups | Essays | Game Reviews | Subscribe | Mailbag | About | Search

The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09