Koch on Film

BY Ed Koch

“Just Wright” (+)

This film is an updated version of two fairy tales:  “Cinderella” and “The Ugly Duckling.”  Queen Latifah exhibits the persona of both characters in her role as the single, 35-year-old Leslie Wright.  The charming, handsome prince in the movie is Scott McKnight (played by the rapper known as Common).  Pam Grier and James Pickens, Jr. portray Leslie’s devoted parents.  All are excellent in their roles.

I have always enjoyed watching Queen Latifah on the screen.  She has a beautiful face, an extraordinary smile, and she carries herself naturally and unaffectedly across the screen.  I don’t know the derivation of the “Queen” in her stage name, but she certainly deserves the title.

Leslie, an excellent physical therapist, has given up on meeting Mr. Right.  Her godsister, Morgan (Paula Patton), is slim, gorgeous, and knowledgeable about men.  Scott first meets, and is charmed by, Leslie; but is even more captivated by Morgan when she makes her move. Unexpected incidents enter their lives, including Scott suffering a knee injury while playing basketball and Leslie becoming his physical therapist.  The plot is nothing to write home about, but the film provides a feel-good evening of entertainment.

I saw this movie at the AMC Loews 34th Street 14 (at 8th Avenue), and the audience was almost 90 percent African American.  When I sat down, a young woman to my left said, “Are you Mr. Koch?”  When I told her I was, she asked why I was seeing the film and if I liked Queen Latifah.  I told her I did and that I would send her a copy of my review by e-mail.  The audience loved the film, applauding loudly when it ended.  I believe you will enjoy it as well.

“Cinderella” and “The Ugly Duckling” are moral tales that will be told again and again.  Their lessons span the centuries:  good overcomes evil, and that is a happy ending. 

Henry Stern said: “This is a formulaic romantic comedy which will make everybody who watches it feel good.  The novelty is its largely African American cast in a crossover movie intended to appeal to white audiences as well.  The background is professional basketball, with both ladies seeking to land a LeBron James.  One is full figured and kindhearted.  The other is slim and beautiful, greedy and manipulative.  Which one gets the star?  You figure it out.”

Rated PG; 1 hour, 51 minutes. Currently playing at, among other places, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway). For screening times, call 800-326-3264, x628. 

“City Island” (-)

This was a mawkish soap opera, with over the top performances. 

The Italian family featured in the film lives on City Island, a narrow strip that is part of the Bronx and the site of several seafood restaurants.  Vince (Any Garcia) plays a loutish but sensitive prison guard who, unbeknownst to his family, is taking acting classes in the evening.  He sees himself as a second coming of Marlon Brando, voice and all — conjuring up Brando’s portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” 

Other characters include a convict, Tony (Steven Strait), who is allowed to leave prison if he has a sponsor.  Vince becomes his patron.  At acting school, Vince enjoys the social company of another student, Molly (Emily Mortimer) — but no intimate relationship is involved.  Vince’s wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), believes he is having an affair and seeks to betray her husband by taking up with Tony.  Vince’s teenage son, Vinnie (Ezra Miller), is attracted to overweight women, and his daughter, Vivian (Dominik Garcio-Lorido), has secrets of her own.  She’s a stripper. 

Unrated; 110 minutes. At the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston St., at Mercer St.). For screening times, call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.