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Directed by Jerry LaMothe.
Written by Jerry LaMothe.
Starring Sean Blakemore, Zoe Saldana, Michael B. Jordan, and Jeffrey Wright.
Release Year:  ???
Review Date:  4/29/07


The last of three flicks I got to watch at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival was the biggest one yet in terms of budget, name cast, scope and--most importantly--local support, as more than 500 people came out to see director Jerry LaMothe's "Blackout" for its world premiere on the big screen.  The film's premise is quite simple: we get to follow the lives of about a dozen people on the day back in August 2003 when the power went out in New York City (although power was lost in many other areas, this film just covers life in one Brooklyn block on the day of the power outage).  Some folks are sent home from work & school early; others try to weather the storm by closing their storefronts before looters rob many locals; still others just try to find a way to stay cool on what was an epic hot day in the city, since AC is a no-fly zone.  And, of course, all of the stress and strife of the situation leads some folks to just go plain crazy!!

Shot in the neighborhood where writer/director Jerry LaMothe lived at the time of the blackout, "Blackout" borrows heavily from many other films--namely, anything neighborhood-y by Spike Lee, with a touch of "Barbershop" and...well, not to sound overly broad, but any film by any black person that was shot in a neighborhood, well, ever.  As inspired as some of the drama is here, the mix of actors used in this film ultimately hurts it; having an Actor like Jeffrey Wright attached to this (he's also a producer of the film), mixed with some of the actors being nothing short of atrocious (including the director, who has a part in this, too) makes for a very uneven product.  You can see some of the film's dramatic elements coming from miles and miles away--do you wanna guess at what happens to the kid who is set to go to college and occasionally helps old women with their groceries while holding down a part-time job?  how about the woman who absolutely loves the guy who's cheating on her?--but even seeing those things coming shouldn't necessarily make these scenes moot; their execution even knowing what's coming still makes the film poor.  Now, there are some great laughs in "Blackout" and the recollection of what happened that day in New York are bits worth talking about...but, ultimately, the film was just so-so to me.

That didn't stop the crowd from hootin' and hollerin' the whole way through, though; the home team crowd of cast, crew, locals and marketing/production staff made this one quite an audience spectacle, as no less than ten cast members were given the local love the first time each person showed up on screen.  Even the director was shown the red carpet treatment upon his introduction of the film last night; whether or not you loved the film, it was a great moment for the director, showing up to introduce his first major film to the world.  "Blackout", like the other films I saw this weekend, does not have a distributor yet, but with stars like Zoe Saldana, Wright, and Michael B. Jordan (he was featured throughout the first season of "The Wire" before doing multiple seasons of "All My Children"), there's no doubt the film will be picked up sooner than later...too bad it wasn't better!

Rating:  Matinee


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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.)

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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