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Durell (Ice Cube) and LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan) are best friends and bumbling petty criminals. When told they have one week to pay a $17,000 debt or Durell will lose his son, they come up with a desperate scheme to rob their neighborhood church. Instead, they end up spending the night in the presence of the Lord and are forced to deal with much more than they bargained for.
For more about First Sunday and the First Sunday Blu-ray release, see First Sunday Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 3, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ice Cube, Katt Williams, Tracy Morgan, Loretta Devine, Michael Beach, Keith David
Director: David E. Talbert
» See full cast & crew
First Sunday Blu-ray Review
'First Sunday' isn't quite the revival of the comedy genre that it could have been.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 3, 2008
Will a man rob God? -- Malachi 3:8
There is no denying that Ice Cube has been part of some decent-to-good projects: Boyz n the Hood, Trespass, Barbershop and Three Kings come to mind. Unfortunately, his 2008 comedy First Sunday fails to measure up to either the legacies of those films or of Cube himself. Thankfully, First Sunday is a "comedy" (it must have been so funny that I forgot to laugh) that doesn't rely on the crude toilet and hormonal humor we've been seeing as the standard bearer of the genre since American Pie. There is no denying that this movie's effort is a noble one, the idea fresh, the material ripe for the picking, and the cast unquestionably solid. Nevertheless, there must have been a disconnect somewhere down the line, because what could have been an above-average comedy is instead a tepid, insipid, and at times downright insulting film.
Durell (Cube) is a man with more than his share of worldly problems. He and his buddy LeeJohn (Tracy Morgan, Little Man) are convicted criminals who cannot find work. Enter a Jamaican gang with some spiffy wheelchairs to sell. Durell and LeeJohn, desperate for cash, agree to deliver the chairs and collect payment in 24 hours. Surprise, surprise, they're caught after a high-speed pursuit (the entire sequence seemingly straight out of the latest Grand Theft Auto game) and sentenced to 5,000 hours of community service. As if the sentence and still owing money to the Jamaicans isn't bad enough, Durell's ex-wife is threatening to move with his son to Atlanta, unless he can come up with about $17,000 to pay off her debts and keep her in the city. When the deadline for their move is pushed up, Durell and LeeJohn, in a fit of desperation, decide to rob a local church of the thousands of dollars it keeps on-hand. When the duo breaks in, however, they find the money is already gone! Durell and LeeJohn take as hostages the church's pastor (Chi McBride, The Brother's Solomon), secretary, deacon, and choir director, amongst others. They must then decide whether to complete their nefarious scheme or to open their hearts and accept a little divine intervention.
It's always difficult to figure out just what you're going to get with a movie like First Sunday. At least with a box of chocolates you know you're getting chocolate in one form or another, but First Sunday comes off as a comedy that forgot the jokes, a melodrama that forgot the emotion, and a heist movie that forgot the tension and excitement. All the elements are here, but they seem to be hiding in a corner, afraid to come out, for what reason I cannot say. I expected more in the laugh department; I found myself laughing out loud only once during a genuinely funny scene involving a blind and deaf church janitor meandering through a "tense" hostage situation. Otherwise, the film failed to cause me to emote even the slightest chuckle or crack the faintest smile. Your s-mileage may vary, but I saw absolutely nothing even remotely humorous. Unfortunately, some of the more "touching" scenes just don't work, but its not for a lack of effort. The scenes are so genereric and trite, that when Durell's son says he wants to be like his father, or LeeJohn shows a boy at the church how to tuck his shirt in, or when the church secretary sings happy birthday to LeeJohn, we simply fail to care. Yes, the scenes do serve a purpose, either establishing plot devices or serving to influence a character's actions, but they come off as far too sappy to be believable. Each scene is even replete with the appropraitely melancholy music meant to tug at our heart strings, and the scenes seem to rely on the mood the music tries so hard to set rather than genuine emotion from well-developed charaters to carry the scene and, in the end, that's why I felt each of them fell flat. The movie isn't meant to be high drama, but the courtroom scenes ignore even the most basic of established judicial procedure, making a mockery of the system and a cringe-inducing climax. Any momentum the story built up completely fell apart in the final 20 minutes as the movie gets long in the tooth, tedious, and dull.
The one thing First Sunday got right was the casting. Cube, McBride, and Keith David (Delta Farce) as a tough yet understanding judge definitely fit the bill, but their performances can only carry the film so far before any semblance of respectability and charisma they bring to their roles is lost under an avalanche of bad writing, generic direction, fake sentimentality, or ridiculous plot contrivances. I'm not sure what it is with rappers who get into acting, but both Cube and Mark Whalberg (The Perfect Storm) are definitely as good at what they do as any classically trained actor out there, as long as casting directors make sure they play parts they can handle. Cube definitely holds his own here, and his emotions seem more genuine than his fellow cast members. I have no doubt that the movie could have been moderately improved with a bit of re-writing. As it is, Cube is the only thing that makes this movie tolerable, and for that alone he's to be commended.
First Sunday Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p high definition and in its original 1.85:1 high definition transfer, First Sunday is another mostly good looking Blu-ray disc from Sony that teeters on excellence. The movie is impeccably theatrical in appearance, absolutely recreating the look of a high quality cinematic presentation. Fantastic detail is evident throughout, the samllest nuaces are crystal clear, from the surface of the pavement, to the pores and facial hair on characters. Colors are wonderfully acurate, vibrant, and pleasing. One of the characters has multi-colred hair, black to dark red, the definition of each is excellent, every strand seemingly visible regardless of the color, the blend and flow perfect. Also, take a look at the varried outfits worn by the patrons of the church. Wow. Black levels are nearly perfect save for a few scenes that appear somehat too bright and unnatural. This disc is not quite up to the level of excellent blacks as seen in Saawariya, for example, but this disc is nearly as good. Perhaps my biggest gripe with the disc is that many, if not most, scenes look somewhat softer than expected. There is a definite lack of ultimate sharpness to the movie, but it neither minimizes nor distracts from the other excellent qualities evident throughout. Overall, this is a perfectly fine and respectable transfer.
First Sunday Blu-ray, Audio Quality
First Sunday makes its most impressive donation to Blu-ray with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix that steals the show. If you love Hip-Hop music, this disc is simply a must-buy. The bass-heavy beats are miraculously meticulous, the sound system working overtime, the subwoofer left sweating and gasping for air. Likewise, all of the gospel music is so real, so impactful, and so spiritually sound and immacualtely reproduced that it makes you feel like you're inside the church, the only thing missing being the movie's audience standing up and singing along. This mix is boisterous to say the least, a fine sounding, theatrical, high quality, impeccable mix. Dialogue reproduction is excellent with no flaws to speak of. When the pastor preaches from the pulpit, the dialogue approriately echoes and reverberates in the church and through your listening area by proxy, making for an absolutely amazing, lifelike, almost so-good-its-sinful presentation. Definition, clarity, and imaging are first-rate, and the entirety of the soundstage is almost always put to good and necessary use. I had no idea this movie could sound so good, and praise be for lossless audio. When even a movie like First Sunday can sound this good, just imagine what's in store for us down the road. Needless to say, I was highly impressed here, and while this track isn't quite as good as, say, I Am Legend, it's simply miraculous nevertheless.
First Sunday Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
First Sunday makes its way onto Blu-ray high definition with a good deal of supplemental material sure to keep fans busy for an evening. First up is a commentary with writer/producer/director David E. Talbert. After a brief introduction, Talbert dives right into the track as he not only discusses what's happening on-screen, but why. He discusses the music heard throughout the film, from the east-coast flair of the opening title music to the music heard during the church service, written by famed Gospel lyricist Kurt Carr. This is a solid track, never too dull despite a few moments of dead air, and Talbert proves to be very passionate about his work. Next up are fourteen deleted scenes (480p, 34:47) with optional director's commentary. A somewhat dry and dull gag reel (480p, 4:25) is next, followed by two outtakes (480p, 5:10). Next is David E. Talbert's Camera Wrap Speech (480p, 3:09), a short feature that shows Talbert presenting his actors with a parting gift and giving thanks to his fine actors whom he compares to the likes of Sidney Poitier and Richard Pryor. Hood Robbin' With the 'First Sunday' Cast and Crew (480p, 16:08) looks at the film from the initial inspiration through shooting and finally to the ultimate meaning behind the film, replete with your typical interviews intercut with film footage. The Almighty Version Enhanced Fact Track is another of the pop-up trivia tracks that are growing in popularity, supplemental material that provides viewers with some tidbits about various aspects of the film over the movie itself. Finally, 1080p trailers for This Christmas, Stomp the Yard, Hitch, Little Man, and a Blu-ray promotional montage conclude the supplemental materials.
First Sunday Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
First Sunday left me feeling somewhat let down. I wasn't expecting the next brilliant comedy, but I did expect to laugh much more than I did, and the movie seemed more a mishmash of ideas, genres, moods, and themes, ultimately failing to really settle into any one of them so as to make a point or at least make for a coherent story. I did enjoy the performances by several of the actors, and after listening to director David Talbert's commentary, I find myself eager to see what he does next, because even though I was disappointed by this film, his passion for it and the process of filmmaking leads me to believe he won't settle for anything more than an enormous step-up in quality in his next film. As a Blu-ray disc, First Sunday is first-rate. Sporting excellent video quality and a top-tier sound mix, not to mention a good helping of extra material, this disc is certainly good enough, and fans of the movie should have no reservations about adding it to their collections.
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First Sunday Blu-ray, News and Updates
• First Sunday Announced for Blu-ray - February 29, 2008
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan comedy 'First Sunday' to Blu-ray on May 6th, day-and-date with the DVD release. No specs have been announced at this time, but expect 1080p AVC video accompanied by ...
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