Carmen Jones (1954)

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Original plot
Bizet’s opera gets churned through the society of the early 1950s.

Big thoughts
Mr. Freeze back in the director’s chair again! Also, it took me until the last third of this movie to realize every single person in this movie is black (sometimes it’s fun to be a little clueless). Also, we’re watching this movie on recommendation from the RZA. Also, they hired a stunt voice for Harry Belafonte – what’s that all about? Also, during Pearl Bailey’s “Beat Out That Rhythm on the Drum” (the best part of the movie by far), there seems to be a bunch of dudes twerking (see below).

Obligatory bus anecdote
I watch my movies on the bus on an old, cracked Samsung Galaxy S3. I’ve seen people whip out Kindles, iPads, what have you. But this one time a dude pulled out a full-on MacBook Pro and started working. That TPS report must have been due posthaste.

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The Random Remake
Joe (Donald Glover) is a low-ranked soldier in Afghanistan who is considering signing up to host USO shows and do his spoken-word-rap act that has been popular with his detachment and gotten the attention of show organizers. While checking out a show he watches the flamboyant act of pop star Carmen Jones (Janelle Monae), who does a doo-wop/hip-hop rendition of Habanera. Joe is impressed and joins the show, initially refusing to give in to Carmen’s obvious charms.

A few shows later, however, Joe is smitten and follows Carmen as she heads back stateside for a military recruitment tour of basketball arenas. As they rehearse in Chicago, Joe gets jealous of the immense attention Carmen gets from the high-ranking recruiters. After “defending her honor” (in which Carmen was engaging in innocent flirting) by fighting a ranking officer, Joe is threatened with court martial. He flees, and begs Carmen to come with him but she decides to accept the overtures from lothario professional athlete Henry Miller (Joakim Noah), a featured celebrity on the tour.

Joe is enraged by the betrayal and falls into full madness. He stalks the rehearsals and sneaks into the United Center on the night of the tour’s debut. He seethes watching Carmen perform and then introduce star Henry. As Carmen and Henry leave the stage Joe lunges at them with a gun. He aims for Henry in a jealous rage but is tackled by a bystander as he shoots, missing Henry and fatally hitting Carmen. His mind enters a psychotic world of tragic opera as he sings the lament to Carmen and his own slip into insanity.

The pitch
Carmen Jones: If she loves you, you’d best beware.

Next up: Flamingo Road (1949)

This Gun for Hire (1942)

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Original plot
A killer with a kindness for cats gets double-crossed and ensnarls a cop’s girlfriend to gets his revenge and a confession.

Big thoughts
I’m glad I decided to follow Veronica Lake (after so much Joan Crawford); this movie kills.

Obligatory bus anecdote
Bus driver the other day went nutso. Some woman parked in a bus stop cuz she got into an accident and he straight-up got out of the bus and started berating her. She berated him right back, which was funny cuz the dude looks like Santa Claus.

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The Random Remake
Philip Raven (Matt Damon) is a former Blackwater-type mercenary used for special ops in Afghanistan, Iraq, what have you. He suffered a major arm injury from an IED, but he holds his own as a hired gun. He’s now under the employ of Willard Gates (Cedric the Entertainer), a cowardly energy company executive who, much to his chagrin, must travel to the world’s most treacherous places to do his business for his old, infirmed boss, Alvin Brewster (Bruce Dern). It’s on one of these excursions when they are ambushed and Gates shot, Raven left for dead. In recuperating and looking into what happened, Raven learns he’s being pursued by the local militia. In trying to work his way out of the country, he kidnaps a woman Gates met with early in their trip, Nesreen (Genevieve Nnaji). She helps him escape to America via fake identities – but only because she’s a criminal-turned-secret CIA informant, and she’s been tracking Gates. Gates is dead, but she’s willing to hand over Raven to the feds to fulfill her commitment, and she plans to alert the feds soon after they land.

Back in the states, Raven learns immediately at the airport via a breaking news report that he’s a wanted man: the trip he was providing security for involved bribing warlords in East Africa and furthering atrocities against the citizenry. And not only is Raven implicated, but Nesreen also. Raven takes charge and they strategize their way out of the airport, just as customs officers start turning over men’s arms looking for Raven in disguise. Raven is focused on only one goal: finding Brewster and the answers to the botched trip, but Nesreen wants to get on the good side of the law and leaves clues for her CIA handlers to find them. The two sneak their way into the energy company headquarters, with the CIA agents following behind them.

Storming their way into Brewster’s office, they find him conferring with Gates. Turns out they knew the CIA was getting close, and that Nesreen was an informant. They pinned the bribes they had been making to secure energy contracts on the two to obfuscate their own doings, putting a Kevlar vest on Gates and secreting him out of the country. They dealt with a local warlord to take out Raven. They had hoped Raven would be murdered and Nesreen left to the militia after the CIA abandoned her. The agents are hearing all this courtesy a cell phone Nesreen has been concealing. Raven wants his revenge and he points his gun at Gates, telling Brewster he’s next. Nesreen tries to calm him, and as it looks like it’s working Brewster shoots both Raven and Gates as the agents now bust in. Gates is dead. Raven turns, on the floor bleeding, to shoot Brewster but he passes out instead. He wakes in a hospital bed, the agents there. He asks for Nesreen, and they tell him she’s on her way back to Africa – deported but cleared of charges. As she’s about to board a plane, flanked by agents, Raven appears and tells her he’s coming with her. He has unfinished business in her country.

The pitch
Gun For Hire: No mercy from this mercenary

Next up: Carmen Jones (1954)