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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Biopic > Biography > Entertainment > Racism > Fashion > France > One Man Show > Law > Justice > WWII > C > The Josephine Baker Story (1991)/Thurgood (2011)/The Tuskegee Airmen (2005/HBO Blu-rays)

The Josephine Baker Story (1991)/Thurgood (2011)/The Tuskegee Airmen (2005/HBO Blu-rays)

 

Picture: B-/B/B-†††† Sound: B-†††† Extras: B-/D/C†††† Telefilms: B-/B/B

 

 

On the verge of Black History Month, HBO has issued three key titles on Blu-ray and they are all solid works everyone should see.Those who already have will want to catch them again.

 

 

Brian Gibson followed up his Tina Turner film Whatís Love Got To Do With It? with The Josephine Baker Story (1991), a decent, enduring portrait of the singer featuring a wide-ranging, rich performance by the underrated Lynn Whitfield in the title role.Baker was a popular African American performer at a time when racism was insanely high and the Civil Rights Movement had not arrived, so when she moved to France, she was extremely successful and her home country missed out.

 

She also become political, became a target as a result and this shows the highs of her life and career, as well as some ugly moments that nearly ruined her life.This is a work with some edge, but not as raw as I would have liked, though Whitfield was the bets possible choice at the time to play Baker.I liked the supporting cast (Craig T. Nelson as Walter Winchell is interesting, plus we get a good Louis Gossett, Jr. performance, Ruben Blades in fine form and not a bad performance in the telefilm) and the recreation of past places and locales have a nice look to them.It holds up well and should be rediscovered because not enough people know who Baker is.A feature length audio commentary by Whitfield, Writer Ron Hutchinson and Associate Producer Alan Taylor is the only extra, but it is a good one.

 

 

The Far Right in the U.S. has done their best to push the political climate their way, but it was not that long ago the country was in a better direction and Lawrence Fishburne is excellent playing a man who helped make that possible.Michael Stevensí Thurgood (2011) is a terrific stage play in which the elder Justice Thurgood Marshall reflects on his life and times in a character study that also becomes a priceless reminder of how important his work and groundbreaking work in the field of law was to making America a great country against all odds.

 

It is not easy doing a one-man play of any kind, but Fishburne is totally convincing and more than up to the task.I had not seen this before and was surprised this had not received more press, despite winning awards and doing well for the network, but obviously certain political interests are still trying to erase this part of our past.Glad the makers of this production would not stand for that.There are no extras.

 

 

Finally we have the wildly successful Robert Markowitz hit The Tuskegee Airmen (2005) also with Fishburne that tells a little-known chapter of African American fighter pilots who helped win WWII.As joined by Courtney B. Vance, Allen Payne, a Malcolm-Jamal Warner in rare form, Andre Braugher, Chris McDonald and Cuba Gooding, Jr. when he still gave good acting performances, so much works here and it is a triumph of the truth and a great American tale of triumph and heroism long-overdue to be told.John Lithgow is among the rest of the fine cast.The only extra is the built-in booklet that comes with the DigiPak packaging, but it has nice stills, text and is on quality slick paper.

 

 

The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers all have issues, but the telefilms Baker and Tuskegee seem to come from older HD masters and some superimposed credits on the film look like analog-finished work for then low-def only HBO.Some cleaning-up and upgrading would be nice, yet these are semi-basic editions.Thurgood is a new HD taping and though it has some detail limits, the camera does not move much and it looks better overall.All three also come with DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and were originally stereo recordings, but the older telefilms show their sonic age, though I wonder if going back to archival audio might help a bit, while Thurgood is the newest recording, but it is obviously dialogue-driven with Fishburne being most of the audio.The audience is background sound when we hear them at all and music tends to fill the surrounds when it surfaces.Still, DVD versions would not be as good.

 

 

-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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