Above the Rim
It’s close to impossible to keep score of how many dunks happen in Above the Rim, a film that takes its title quite seriously. The sort of streetball its high school hotshot protagonist Kyle (Duane Martin) incorporates is in opposition to the style college scouts and his head coach want him to play.
An adored ball hog, Kyle gets in too deep with a Harlem drug dealer (a wicked Tupac Shakur), whose older brother (Leon), a former high school star turned security guard, starts dating Kyle’s mother. The performances, including tiny roles for Bernie Mac and Marlon Wayans, provides some weight to an unpredictable playground tournament finale that is frightening and wonderful at the same time.
Besides creating an earworm hit song, Space Jam offers the perfect star vehicle for Michael Jordan, whose mythos enriched this classic entertainment venture. Combining animation with some of the game’s greatest stars, the film teams Jordan up with the Looney Tunes to play a basketball game against supercharged aliens that have taken his NBA peers’ skills, hostage. The “monsters” quickly learn they should never test a team with the greatest of all-time, particularly when he has help from Bill Murray, who continues his demon defeating on the court.
Cornbread, Earl, and Me
A heavy rainstorm offers the backdrop for a wrong murder, turning an otherwise sunny basketball inspirational story into a disheartening courtroom procedure. Nathanial “Cornbread” Hamilton, embodied by NBA star Jamaal Wilkes, plays big brother to neighbors Wilfred (Lawrence Fishburne) and Earl (Tierre Turner), but days before going to college he’s tragically killed by police, who mistake him for a criminal. Over 40 years later, the film remains sorrowfully pertinent to today and a young Fishburne’s moving testimony in the last scene is a stirring reminder of what kind of actor he’d become.