'Black Nativity' [Blu-ray]
(Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, et al / Blu ray+DVD / PG / 2014 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Struggling to pay the bills, single mom Naima (Jennifer Hudson) sends her teenage son Langston (Jacob Latimore) to live with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) in New York City. At first Langston resents their strict household, but with the help of new friends - and a little divine intervention - he embarks on an inspirational journey of self-discovery that brings the whole family together.
Blu ray Verdict: There's an all-star cast here in this spiritual and uneven film, that often breaks into fantasy and song, but came across to me like a Hallmark TV movie. Also, the script is too clichéd and contrived for my tastes, and the characters appear too undeveloped.
The actor and singer Jacob Latimore stars here as 15-year-old Langston (named after the acclaimed poet and writer Langston Hughes), who's a street-wise teen growing up in Baltimore. His single parent mother Naima (Jennifer Hudson) is facing foreclosure on their home, so she sends Langston, by bus, to stay with his grandparents in Harlem, N.Y., despite the fact that Naima and her parents have been estranged for many years.
Her father the Reverand Cornell Cobbs (Forest Whitaker) is a noted religious figure in the Harlem community. His wife Aretha (Angela Bassett) is a loving Christian woman who welcomes Langston into their house. However, Langston is is quite resentful at being sent off by his mother. He must battle his impulsive "demons" which are driving him to get the $5,000 his mother needs to stop the foreclosure and Langston feels he needs to use any means necessary legal or otherwise. It will all eventually culminate in a rather poignant but somewhat preachy ending.
All in all this film, written and directed by Kasi Lemmons (whose second film 'Eve's Bayou' I liked a lot), and based on Langston Hughes' play, is not awful but it just came across to me as just too uneven, clichéd, and formulaic - despite its' stellar cast, enjoyable music, and good intentions, of course! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
•Deleted Scenes (1080p; 13:51)
•Promotional Featurettes include:
•First Look (1080p; 4:41)
•The Music Behind the Film: He Loves Me Still (1080p; 1:59)
•The Music Behind the Film: Raphael Saadiq (1080p; 2:50)
•The Cast of 'Black Nativity' (1080p; 3:51)
•Introducing Jacob Latimore (1080p; 2:54)
•An Inspiring Playwright: Langston Hughes (1080p; 1:59)
•Inside Production in Harlem (1080p; 3:54)
•Be Grateful (1080p; 1:52)
•Feel Good (1080p; 1:08)
•Photoshoot B-Roll (1080p; 1:48)
•Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:33)