The John Singleton 4-Movie Collection DVD Boxset
Higher Learning This drama examines the personal, political, and racial dilemmas facing a group of college freshmen as they begin their first semester at Columbus University. Malik (Omar Epps) is an African-American student attending on a track scholarship; academics are not his strong suit, and he goes in thinking that his athletic abilities will earn him a free ride through college. Fudge (Ice Cube), a "professional student" who has been at Columbus for six years so far, becomes friendly with Malik and challenges his views about race and politics in America, while Professor Phipps (Laurence Fishburne), a black man who teaches political science, firmly tells Malik that he will not be graded on a different standard either because of his race or his ability to run quickly. With Deja (Tyra Banks), Malik finds a girlfriend, a tutor, and a training partner all rolled into one. Meanwhile, Kristen (Kristy Swanson), a somewhat naive young woman from California, meets a boy named Billy (Jay R. Ferguson) after both have had too much to drink at a beer blast; Kristen soon becomes a victim of date rape and becomes involved with a campus feminist group to deal with the painful experience. While working with the women's group, Kristen gets to know Taryn (Jennifer Connelly), a strong but understanding woman who is also a lesbian, and she finds herself becoming attracted to her. And Remy (Michael Rappaport) is a confused young man from the Midwest who feels lost in the multi-cultural atmosphere of Columbus. He is approached by Scott (Cole Hauser), a member of a group of racist skinheads, who believe that Remy is a perfect candidate to help carry out his group's violent goals. Keep an eye peeled for Gwyneth Paltrow, who has a bit part as a student; rap stars Busta Rhymes, D-Knowledge and Mista Grimm also appear in supporting roles.
Baby Boy Ten years later, writer and director John Singleton returns to the South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods of his debut film Boyz 'N the Hood (1991). Tyrese Gibson stars as Jody, a jobless 20-year-old African-American man who has fathered two children by two different women, Yvette (Taraji P. Henson) and Peanut (Tamara LaSeon Bass), although he still lives with his 36-year-old mother Juanita (Adrienne-Joi Johnson). As Jody grapples with the increasing pressures of adult responsibility, he also contends with his troubled best friend Sweetpea (Omar Gooding) and new adversary Rodney (Snoop Doggy Dogg). Then there's his mother's live-in boyfriend Marvin (Ving Rhames), a reformed gangsta who agrees with Juanita that her son should grow up, move out, and move on.
Boyz 'N the Hood Director John Singleton's debut chronicles the trials and tribulations of three young African-American males growing up in South Central Los Angeles. When young Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), a bright underachiever, begins to show signs of trouble, his struggling professional mother (Angela Basset) sends him to live with his father (Lawrence Fishburne), a hard-nosed, no-nonsense disciplinarian. There he befriends Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a burgeoning football star, and Doughboy (Ice Cube, in a standout performance), a would-be gang banger. Over the years, each chooses his own path: Tre seems bound for college; Ricky is a blue-chip running back with his pick of schools; Doughboy is a dope dealer and bona fide gangster who drifts in and out of the county juvenile facility. All is well until, without warning, a rival gang chases down Tre and Ricky with tragic results. Doughboy immediately prepares for revenge, forcing Tre to decide whether to jeopardize his future and, perhaps, his life for the price of revenge and self-respect. Sometimes riveting, Boyz'N the Hood is not without its problems. The film tries to cram every single issue facing the black community into an hour and a half of screen time, making the film seem at times forced. The symbolism seems forced as well, and the film is often unbearably heavy-handed. Also, the characterization often relies on cardboard cut-outs; every white character in the film is a one-dimensional bigot, and the black police officer with whom Tre and his father deal is even worse than his Caucasian counterparts. Still, the unevenness of the film is redeemed by some moments of true brilliance.
Poetic Justice R&B star Janet Jackson made an impressive film debut in Poetic Justice as Justice, a hairdresser at a small salon in South Central Los Angeles. Justice uses her poetry to deal with her grief after her boyfriend is killed in a shooting incident at a drive-in. Hired to work at a hair stylists' event in Oakland, Justice is stranded when her car breaks down, until she remembers that her friend Ieasha (Regina King) was going to hop a ride down to Oakland with her boyfriend Chicago (Joe Torry), a postal worker who is heading there with a truck full of mail. Justice tags along to discover that Chicago's driving partner is Lucky (Tupac Shakur), the postman who delivers mail to her shop and keeps asking her out. Ieasha and Chicago have to deal with their own rocky relationship while Justice has to decide if she's ready for a new love -- and if Lucky is the man she's waiting for. Along with strong work from Jackson, Poetic Justice features a surprising turn from Shakur, whose nuanced performance as Lucky is in strong contrast to his "Thug Life" public persona. Justice's poems were written by Maya Angelou, who also appears in a small role.
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