Tag Archives: Queen Latifah

We’re Gonna Need a Montage


by George Wolf

Adam Sandler’s passion for basketball is fairly well known, so the fact that Hustle is a love letter to the NBA shouldn’t be a huge surprise. And, this being a sports movie, you can expect some familiar benchmarks the film wisely doesn’t shy away from.

But this film about the heart and commitment that’s required in the Association boasts plenty of both from nearly everyone involved, landing Netflix an enjoyable winner.

Sandler plays Stanley Sugerman, a road-weary scout for the Philadelphia 76ers whose devotion to team owner Rex Merrick (Robert Duvall) is finally rewarded with a job on the bench as Assistant Coach.

But with clear shades of the Buss family drama in L.A., Rex’s son Vince (Ben Foster) wrestles control of the team from his sister (Heidi Gardner), and Stan is back living out of a suitcase while he scours the globe for a susperstar.

Writers Will Fetters and Taylor Materne set some nice stakes early, as Vince dangles a return to coaching in front of Stan. The quicker he finds the team a game-changing phenom, the sooner he can be home closer to his wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Jordan Hull).

On a gritty playground in Spain, Stan thinks he’s found his unicorn in the 6’9” Bo Cruz (NBA vet Juancho Hernangomez). The talk of big money lures Bo to Philly, but the path to a payday hits some roadblocks, and Bo’s longing for this mom and daughter back home creates some effective character-driven parallels with Stan.

Sandler and Hernangomez share a sweet, funny chemistry, and a constant stream of past and present NBA stars adds plenty of authenticity. Even better is director Jeremiah Zagar’s (We the Animals) skill in framing on-court action with speed, sweat and a tense, in-the-moment feel that gives the standard sports themes some needed vitality.

Hustle is a story of father figures, redemption, perseverance, and leaving your mark. No one’s claiming to re-invent anything here, and the winking nod to an iconic Rocky moment cements a self-awareness that only adds to the film’s charm.

It’s also another example of Sandler’s versatility, and the good that comes from surrounding himself with unique voices. When Sandler cares, he shines.

And he clearly cares about basketball.

Girl Tripping

Girls Trip

by Hope Madden

Here’s my guess: The first time you saw the trailer for Girls Trip you thought, didn’t I just see this movie? Isn’t Rough Night this same movie, only whiter?


Well…Girls Trip is a bit raunchier, a bit schmaltzier, with characters a bit more broadly drawn.

You will laugh, though.

Regina Hall stars as Ryan Pierce, an Oprah-style life coach whose perfect marriage is a beacon of “having it all” to her throngs of fans and book buyers. Invited to keynote at Essence Magazine’s New Orleans conference, she sees a chance to reconnect with her three college besties – the Flossy Posse.

Uptight single mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), trashy Dina (Tiffany Haddish) and true friend in a bad spot, Sasha (Queen Latifah) join Ryan for their first wild weekend together in years. Give this mostly veteran cast credit – they take underwritten characters and make them feel like flesh and bone.

Girls Trip bears the glossy look and feel of a Malcolm D. Lee film – enough camaraderie to keep you interested, enough syrup to make you want to brush your teeth. But Lee takes some chances and allows his cast some leeway with this film, and it pays off.

Despite its already tired premise, Lee’s movie takes some of its antics in extreme directions to draw shocked laughter and genuine entertainment.

I don’t mean polite chuckle funny, either. It’s “is that an old man dick?” funny.

Not a single plot point will surprise, and the film is too damn long. Way too long – 30 minutes too long at least. But, between the natural chemistry among the quartet of leads and wild scene stealing from the comically gifted Haddish, Girls Trip offers some fun.

It’s too bad the lessons learned have to be delivered with a sledge hammer blow, but if you’ve ever said, “This place smells like Hennessy and bootie sweat. We’ve found our tribe,” then Girls Trip may be your film.