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'Soul Train' Comes Home: Episode 7 Recap

Things feel like they’re moving more quickly on American Soul as the Soul Train nears its destination for the season.

The Soul Train Gang are at the tail end of a successful bus tour, with Brooks as a chaperone in Tessa’s absence. (Are Brooks and Tessa the only two people who work at Soul Train - well, now just Brooks? There’s not another black woman - black person - in the company?) Having Brooks with the kids in a random southern town is the one time we’ve felt he could be useful - but nope. He does nothing to even attempt diffusing the racial tension sparked by Fresh hitting on a young white woman (is he crazy?) and Kendall using the bathroom against the gas station owner’s warning (we already know Kendall has a habit of feeling himself at inopportune times). The bus pulls off as local men gather to have a little chat with Fresh, leaving the Clarke siblings to fend for themselves.

Simone and Kendall happen upon Nick, a peace and love-spreading musician, who not only offers them a ride as far as he’s going but suggests they pick up a gig so the two can earn bus fare to get to Chicago.

The unlikely music trio pop into a honky-tonk bar — complete with ten-gallon hats on the patrons, jump in with the house band — and win the crowd over with Motown and Donny Hathaway classics. Yay, racism is solved through good music! Post-gig, Nick leans in to tell Simone that she could be a star. Professor Haygood will probably get a call to set up a meeting with his producer-friend in the next episode.

Don heads to Chicago to spend the holidays with his family and meet the Soul Train Gang for the end-of-tour promo and taping. Don hasn’t seen his wife since the first episode of Soul Train, so the number one item on his agenda is giving Delores some much-needed lovin’. He also surprises her with the newest thing in communication technology: an answering machine. Now he can leave lovey-dovey messages when she’s not home. Next, he checks in with the owner of Soul Train’s local Chicago station, WGN. Soul Train continued as a local daily show in Chicago while the weekly version launched nationally from L.A. Now that the national show’s a hit, WGN threatens to sue Don for 25% of the profits, and he doesn’t know if he can fight them. Delores gives him a pep-talk (while doing a terrible job corn-rowing his hair), reminding him that he is Soul Train – the brand doesn’t exist without Don Cornelius. Now owning his leverage, Don spreads the word to advertisers that he’s going to walk away from the local Chicago Soul Train broadcast, prompting them, in turn, to pull their money. Check-mate, for now.

Dick Clark is still coming for Soul Train, so Don needs to hold on to that self-assurance and confidence - especially since Delores ain’t gonna be up to giving another pep-talk anytime soon. As Don is packing to head back to L.A., his wife confronts him with the latest issue of Right On! Magazine and a featurette about his relationship with Ilsa. In response, Don leaves, even as Delores warns him, “If you walk about that door you are choosing Soul Train over this family!”

Back in L.A., JT has an unexpected visit from detective Patrick Lorraine. JT thought the robbery was behind him, but his car places him at the crime scene. He ain’t no snitch, though! He’s willing to take a charge on the chin, which is stupid. Reggie’s displayed his lack of loyalty, and JT didn’t even get his rent money from the robbery! Patrick knows JT isn’t the person responsible and brings a surprise guest into the interrogation room – JT’s father (Sean Baker). After a scared-straight conversation, JT still isn’t willing to give Reggie up, but the police brass wants to let the whole thing go. It wouldn’t look good if the public learned an innocent man — the man Reggie set up to take the fall — died in police custody. They give Patrick a promotion and a pat on the head to play along, and Patrick lets JT go, but not before painting a bullseye on his back by thanking him in front of Reggie. Damn, Patrick. We thought you were down!

As the Soul Train Gang closes out the tour, Simone and Flo each have moments of self-awareness. Flo realizes individual people are more important than the exposure from the show, which has always been her focus. She unknowingly saves the day – and possibly a life – by showing some love and attention to a jilted fan just as he’s about to pull a gun on his ex. She then admits to Kendall that she likes him, which may lead to even more annoying antics from Kendall in the future, but for now, we’ll be happy for him; He needed a win. Simone embraces her star-power, basking in the adoration of her Chicago fans to the point where even Flo tells her to calm down. Kendall, meanwhile, warns his sister to stop lying about her gigs and her age, because “You don’t want to become that person.” Oh, that’s already in progress, Kendall.

What the episode got right: Racial tension in the immediate post-Jim Crow South. Also, the Reverend Al Green’s magnificent look in the old show clip Don and Phil were watching at WGN.

What we could have done without: Another awkward father/son moment between Don and Tony. We get it; Don was a largely absent and emotionally distant father. But sometimes it feels like Tony Cornelius – the executive producer of American Soul – is using the show to work out some issues with his dad, and we’re not sure what the takeaway from these moments is supposed to be.

What we don’t believe: The entire honky-tonk bar scene. Kendall and Simone just left a gas station where black people couldn’t use the bathroom, but two black kids could walk right in the front door of a country bar and hop on stage with the house band? And the house band knew “This Christmas”? Come on, now. The black staff jamming in the back of the house was on point, though. They were so happy to finally hear something they liked!

What we have questions about: The Soul Train tour’s routing. Nick has Nevada license plates and mentions getting robbed in Wichita, Kansas. It would make sense for the Soul Train Gang to be in the Midwest, having originally started in L.A. and heading to Chicago for the last stop. But Nick and the Clarkes play a gig in McClean, which is in Virginia. What kinda roundabout…?

We hope this quicker pace continues for the last few episodes of American Soul. There’s still a lot of ground to cover! We don’t know if any new celebrity guests are on the horizon, but Mama Clarke (Kelly Price) is getting her groove on next episode. We’ll be on time for that!

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Trailer: 20 Years After His Death, Houston Legend DJ Screw's Life Coming To A Network Near You

There are many stories that define the emergence of styles within the world of hip-hop, yet one of the most influential tales will be told for all to be inspired by, and that story is the life of Houston's legendary Robert Earl Davis, Jr. aka DJ Screw. Known now as the innovator of the "chopped and screwed" style birthed in the 90s of slowing down the speed of hip-hop jams to that of a crawl, where the lyrics drawl out and the beats stretch and your head has no choice but to bob.

The new episodic series, titled All Screwed Up, is directed by producer/filmmaker Isaac "Chill" Yowman and is based on the life of DJ Screw and the happenings of his Screwed Up Click label. The trailer shows the many dramatic points in the young Screw's journey to recognition. From crosstown rivals to police harassment, to building a music empire around talented gangstas, the situations he pushed through created the sound that proved to live on beyond his life.

2020 makes 20 years since Screw passed on from what was labeled a codeine overdose in his studio. There are still street stories about what happened to Screw and all the possibilities, but what is for sure is this man's contributions to hip-hop culture can't be denied. His handprint is all over the slowed down and chopped up productions that permeate all of today's top-charting artists from Drake, to Kendrick, to Future to Travis Scott to name a few.

Watch the trailer above and be on the lookout for the network that will carry this sure-fire hit of a series. In the meantime, check out one of Screw's original tapes with his Screwed Up Click below.

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‘Bad Boys 4’ Is Reportedly In The Works

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are reportedly returning for another installment of the Bad Boys franchise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bad Boy’s 4 is already in the works.

Bad Boys for Life script writer Chris Bremner will return for Bad Boy’s 4, the outlet reported on Friday (Jan. 17). No word yet on when the film will be released, but fans can expect a much shorter wait than the 17-year gap between Bad Boy’s 2 and Bad Boys for Life. The film was delayed due to script issues.

“I just didn’t want to wreck the franchise,” Smith told Elliott Wilson during a CRWN interview last month. Lawrence echoed his words in an interview with GQ magazine.

“The script wasn’t right. And Will, to his credit, refused to do the movie until the script was right. It wouldn’t have been a good movie. We dint’ want that. We wanted to do a sequel where people would go, ‘Oh man, that’s what I’m talking about. It just get better.’”

Bad Boy’s for Life opened on Friday and is expected to bring in more than $67 million in its debut weekend.

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Review: 'Bad Boys For Life' Proves To Be A Promising Crowd-Pleasing Throwback

“We ride together, we die together” never really made that much sense as a slogan, did it? Regardless, the line that epitomized the appeal of Bad Boys, the uber-violent action buddy cop franchise that turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into movie stars back in the mid-90s. Smith and Lawrence– now fiftysomethings– are back for a third go-round with surprising and enjoyable new tricks.

In 2003, the eight years between Bad Boys seemed like an eternity. But there’s been seventeen years between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys For Life—the former hit theaters before an iPhone ever existed, just as the so-called War On Terror was hitting full swing and a wide-eyed Beyonce embarked on a nascent solo career. If the buddy cop genre was on life support in the early 2000s, the formula is almost completely post-mortem in 2020; most buddy cop flicks in more recent times have been subversive spoofs (like 2010s The Other Guys) or unfunny one-offs (like the forgettable CHiPs).

This time around, Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) face the realities of middle age. Burnett is happy to waltz into retirement and into “Papa” territory, exhausted from chasing kingpins. Lowry, on the other hand, is ever more of an adrenaline junkie than in the past; addicted to the thrill and holding on to a “bulletproof” playboy image that’s getting sadder and sadder—particularly when he’s forced to admit he wrecked a promising relationship with fellow officer Rita (Paola Nunez) and every time he peppers his bravado with Millennial-speak like “Turn up” and “One Hunnid.”

Lowry’s disappointment in Burnett’s desire to leave the force turns into something harsher after a shooting forces Mike to take stock and Marcus distances himself from his old partner. Of course, this is all just a set up for the duo to reconnect in the face of tragedy—along with a gaggle of new recruits led by Rita; including a computer geek who may or may not be a killing machine, a young tough guy who hates Lowry for apparently no reason, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Bad Boys For Life has more heart than the lunkheaded Bad Boys II, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Ballah don’t forego the departed Michael Bay’s formula for punchlines and hyperkinetic violence; there’s an opening knife sequence that’s almost gratuitously graphic, and an action set-piece on a bridge that may be the most ambitious in the series. There’s only a passing mention of Burnett’s sister (played by Gabrielle Union in the previous film) and an obligatory callback to II’s funniest moment involving his daughter, but a lot of the movie’s emotional core sits with Smith’s Mike Lowry. Smith plays his first action star with an almost meta-level of intensity.

He’s the sum of all Will Smith’s Will Smithiness in one character and gets to play with the idea of Lowry’s machismo persona. Together with the recognition that Lawrence isn’t really an action star (the film smartly turns his affinity for sitting and watching as Smith jumps headfirst into heroics into a running gag), it’s a good turn for the characters and helps elevate the second half of the movie after a somewhat rote first half.

As the film’s “big bad,” Telenovela action star Kate del Castillo isn’t given a whole lot to do, nor is Jacob Scipio as Armas, as her son and steely hitman, who is on the hunt for Lowry. Reliably familiar support from Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife and Joe Pantoliano as the perpetually-flustered police captain Conrad Howard reminds everyone that this is a Bad Boys flick, and the actors clearly relish jumping back into their long-standing roles.

But these films always work best when Smith and Lawrence get to quip lines back-and-forth while dodging bullets, and the easy partnership between the two remains intact, even when the film lags under its own clichés or the sentiment borders on silly. There’s a twist that feels especially contrived and so many self-referential moments where Marcus and Mike seem to almost know that they’re in a movie about Marcus and Mike (who say “Bad boys for life” as a wedding toast, really?), but there’s a breeziness to the proceedings that feels more in line with the easy fun of the 1995 original—as opposed to the frenetically hyperactive feel of its sequel.

Anyone who is excited to see Bad Boys For Life wants to go into it for what these movies have always managed to give their fans; just enough comedy sprinkled with just enough to story to justify eye-popping action sequences and RoboCop-levels of bloodshed. The buddy cop genre was always predictable, but the best of it—classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and, yes, the first Bad Boys film—has always been a fun night at the movies.

In that regard, Bad Boys For Life doesn’t disappoint. It’s coasting on the easygoing partnership of Smith and Lawrence, as it always has. 25 years ago, they were two of the biggest stars on television, making a somewhat unlikely leap to action stardom in a movie initially written for then-Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz that was being directed by a guy most people had never heard of. We may be a vastly different audience today than we were in the 1990s or 2000s, but there’s some fun in watching how different Mike and Marcus are too.

Franchises like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon seem like big blockbuster brands of yesteryear, as a whole generation of moviegoers have grown up with vast comic book spectacles or rapid-chase car flicks overpopulated with musclebound tough guys. As such, Bad Boys For Life stands as a sort of throwback in popcorn entertainment; that reliable action-comedy that coasts on the chemistry and charisma of its leads—more so than otherworldly special effects or universe-building.

The constant mentions of “One last time” statements remind the audience that this could be the final go-round for Mike and Marcus. Big box office returns can reroute retirements, but if this is indeed the grand finale for Bad Boys, there are worse ways to go out. In a world where Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour 3 exist (with talk of another in the Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan series coming down the pike), Bad Boys For Life should be praised for what it does manage to do so well. It’s fun, violent escapism that doesn’t ask too much of anyone. And sometimes that’s really all we need these movies to be.

Bad Boys For Life opens in theaters Friday, January 17.

Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Jacob Scipio, Alexander Ludwig, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled.

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