Reiterating a suggestion I previously made… if you’re a filmmaker/producer/distributor reading this, and your film is streaming on Netflix, please let me know. Netflix unfortunately doesn’t have what I feel should be a more efficient search/sort method, and it can be quite a chore trying to find something worth watching. So, help me out if you can.

The same goes for non-filmmakers. If you stumble across any titles that you think should be featured in this series, let me know!

Without further ado, here is this week’s list of 5:

1 – Years before much of America became very familiar with his name, thanks to his Oscar-nominated performance in a little film called 12 Years A Slave (it won the Best Picture Oscar this year), Chiwetel Ejiofor’s first leading film role came in 2002’s drama/thriller Dirty Pretty Things, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for best actor.

The Stephen Frears-directed British production was picked up for US release by Miramax, and was released in the summer of 2003, earning a total of just over $8 million at the box office. With numbers like that, I can only assume that many still haven’t seen the film – although it’s been available on DVD and Blu-ray for a few years, so maybe you rented it, or even bought it, and have seen it. 
If not, you’re in luck! That is, if you have a Netflix streaming account, because it’s now available on that platform as of this week! 
Dirty Pretty Things co-stars Audrey Tautou (a couple of years after she stole hearts with her performance in the whimsical Amelie), in a harrowing tale of struggle and survival for two immigrants who learn that everything is indeed for sale in London’s underworld. Part of an invisible working class, Ejiofor plays one half of the pair, Nigerian exile Okwe, and Tatou is Turkish chambermaid Senay. Together they toil at a West London hotel that is full of illegal activity, including a shocking discovery Okwe makes one night, which creates an ethical dilemma for him, which drives this well-crafted, engrossing and even terrifying story of immigrant struggle in London. 
The film was honored with numerous European film awards and nominations, as well as an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay (2004). It’s a must see from Ejiofor’s early career.
It also features an early performance by Sophie Okonedo.
Here’s a trailer, which emphasizes Tatou, because, in part, she was really the highest profile name (at the time) in the film:


2 – Carl Franklin’s adaptation of Walter Mosley’s Devil in A Blue Dress

Do I really need to say anymore? 
Ok, just a few words, given that, despite receiving really strong reviews as one of the most stylish and intelligent detective films made in years at the time, Franklin’s 1995 adaptation of Walter Mosley’s novel never found a mass audience, sadly. It grossed a pittance – $16,140,822 – for a movie starring Denzel Washington (whose star had already blossomed at the time). This was a couple of years after his Oscar-nominated performance in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, and dueling underwater, on a US nuclear missile sub, with Gene Hackman in Crimson Tide
And that’s unfortunate because Carl Franklin’s film is maybe the best work of his career, with its rich, shadowy depiction of life in post-World War II black America (set in LA), to the strong performances given by star Denzel Washington, as well as Don Cheadle’s all-too memorable, and oh-so dangerous Mouse Alexander, as Easy’s best friend, and more. 
Washington plays Easy Rawlins, an aircraft factory worker who is laid off only to find his true calling: as a private eye, albeit an unlicensed one. Hired to find a missing woman, he becomes entangled in a complex but satisfying case involving sex, corruption, racism, and of course money. 
Tom Sizemore plays a seedy character who tasks Easy with the job of finding the missing Daphne Monet (played by Jennifer Beals), the mistress of a powerful mayoral candidate. 
From a complex, racially-charged web of intrigue, to double-crossings, blackmail, and mysterious deaths, the film has it all!
Tak Fujimoto’s sun-soaked cinematography and a soundtrack reflecting the music of the times, wonderfully compliment.
And while the film wasn’t widely-seen while in theaters in 1995, many would eventually find it on DVD, as it’s become something of a classic. There never was a sequel, although this was a project that had “franchise” written all over it. Maybe if it had been a bigger theatrical hit… maybe not.
2 years ago, there was talk of an Easy Rawlins reboot, but as a TV series for the small screen, but nothing ever materialized.
So if you’re one of those who hasn’t seen it yet, and you have a Netflix streaming account, it’s now available on that platform, as of this week.


3 – Blood And Bone. – I remember when I first decided to check this out years ago; I went into it not expecting very much at all. But I watched it, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s actually not bad at all. Maybe even a little under-rated. 

It’s a genre film; action-packed (just look at the title) B-movie, and doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. But it’s well-made.

Its star, Black Dynamite himself, Michael Jai White, the muscle-bound, martial arts pro (and the rest of the starring cast), helps elevate the material.

Mr White kicks ass, and more ass, and more ass, and never smiles, nor blinks! He’s the ultimate bad-ass, and fun to watch!

Of course, there is a story there; in short, an ex-convict named Isaiah Bone (played by White) falls into a mob-controlled street fighting ring in the back alleys of Los Angeles, in order to keep a promise to a dead friend.

It co-stars Nona Gaye (looking, sounding and acting uncannily like a younger Angela Bassett) as the supposed love interest, but not really; Brit Eamonn Walker as a sword-wielding villainous kingpin, and a cadre of other players. 

It’s predictable and cliche-filled, but, entertaining. Like I said, it knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to be anything more, or less. It’s one setup after another, with each usually ending with a fight sequence, involving Jai White, leading up to the inevitable final showdown that you can see coming a mile away. But, oddly enough, you still anticipate it.

This was director Ben Ramsey’s 2nd feature film; he’s African American, by the way; He previously directed Love And A bullet, which starred Treach from rap group Naughty By Nature. He also executive produced Dennis Dortch’s A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy.

And one final note, before Steven Soderbergh put her in Haywire, Gina Carano did some acting, and fighting in Blood And Bone.

null4 – Before you see his latest film, Blackbird (his 5th feature, starring newcomer Julian Walker, Isaiah Washington and Mo’Nique), which premiered the Pan African Film Festival in LA last month, check out the third feature film from Patrik-Ian Polk, director of indie films Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom and Punks (a film described as a male Waiting To Exhale that garnered a 2002 Independent Spirit Award nomination), and creator of the Noah’s Arc series for the Logo network.

The Skinny tells the story of a group of four young, black, gay men who arrange to meet up in New York City one year after their graduation from Brown University. Their plans for a weekend of fun start off well, relaxed in each other’s company, as only old friends can be. But, as you might expect, old tensions quickly resurface.

The project also features original music written and performed by Polk.

With The Skinny, which was released theatrically in 2012, Polk strives to address issues facing the LGBT community, including date-rape, infidelity, and HIV/AIDS awareness. For the film’s release, he also partnered with the Black AIDS Institute to promote the importance of health in the LGBT community. The Institute sponsored appearances, receptions and panel discussions in cities where the film screened.

It later premiered on the Logo Network.


5 – The Iran Job, a feature-length documentary highlighting the peaks and valleys experienced by Kevin Sheppard, a pro American basketball player, who accepts a contract to play in Iran. 

What begins as a typical job-for-hire, ends in an emotional roller coaster as Kevin forms an unlikely alliance with three Iranian women against the backdrop of revolutionary upheaval in Tehran. Thanks to these women, his apartment turns into an oasis of free speech, where they discuss everything from politics to religion to gender roles. Kevin’s season in Iran culminates in something much bigger than basketball: the uprising and subsequent suppression of Iran’s reformist Green Movement – a powerful prelude to the still unfolding Arab Spring.

It took the filmmaker behind this informative and entertaining project, Till Schauder, some 4 years to complete it, as he basically moved with Sheppard to Iran, and followed him around on a daily basis, for the entire basketball season. The end result provides American audiences with a side of Iran rarely shown in American media (everyday working people in Iran, who are just as passionate about their basketball, as even the most rabid NBA fans). In that sense, it’s a movie that’s more political than it is a sports documentary.

After finally being acquired by Film Movement, it screened theatrically in the USA, although in a very limited release, and was part of the National Black Programming Consortium’s season 5 of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange last year.

The film received national press attention, even including some Oscar buzz, although it didn’t make the nominations short list.

Check out the trailer below: