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Thurgood [Blu-ray]

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Thurgood (BD)

Thurgood is the dazzling fusion of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and actor Laurence Fishburne, who demonstrates the kind of charisma he hasn't shown since playing Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It? This filming of Fishburne's one-man Broadway show is half charming character portrait, half wry but galvanizing history lesson. Growing up in the era of racist Jim Crow laws, Marshall had initial ambitions to be a dentist, but constant exposure to injustice led him to the law. He arrived at Howard University as a new dean set out to transform the academy into a top law school. Marshall rose to the challenges he was given and became a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), turning the "separate but equal" doctrine against the institutions that used it as an excuse to deny black applicants. He repeatedly risked his life fighting for voting rights and individual justice in the South, nearly being lynched at one point. He lost a challenge to segregation at the state level, but pursued it to the Supreme Court, experiencing his greatest moment of truth arguing before the justices--twice. The stage production makes use of lighting effects, sound effects, and projections, but these are mere window-dressing; this powerful story is driven by Fishburne, whose resonant voice, subtle sideways looks, deep humor, and sheer intelligence ably convey the mind of one of the great American jurists. --Bret Fetzer

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 39 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Justice Served In This Engaging One Man Theatrical Presentation March 1 2011
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: DVD
In staging a one man theatrical presentation, two things are certain--you've got to have a subject that is compelling enough to maintain interest and you've got to have a dynamic actor that holds an audience. In HBO's filmed adaptation of the stage show "Thurgood," we've got both! Timed for airing with Black History Month, this dramatic monologue (filmed before a live audience) brings the best of theater right into your living room. Thurgood Marshall is certainly a fascinating subject--from his early Civil Rights battles to his historical positioning in school segregation to his ascendancy to the Supreme Court, Marshall defied conventional expectations to become one of the most influential legal minds of several generations. Laurence Fishburne (another terrific actor lately relegated to the rather uninspired world of procedural TV crime drama) has a field day bringing the charismatic Marshall to life. It is certainly his most inspired and lively work in years. So the winning combination of Marshall and Fishburne make "Thurgood" a can't miss proposition--especially to lovers of theater!

Those completely new to the concept of a one man show should be aware that this is a piece that is reliant on words and performance. Aside from a couple of props and a creatively used backdrop that sets any particular scene, there is nothing here to watch except for Fishburne. So if you require extravagant production values or excessive visual stimulation, attending or watching a one man show may seem akin to watching grass grow. But if you appreciate engaging and intelligent wordplay and enjoy relevant history or even down home storytelling, it's hard not to be caught up in this delightful presentation. Marshall's life is played through its episodic high points (courtesy of a screenplay by George Stevens Jr.). Some of the film's essential moments include the historic battle of Brown versus The Board of Education, descriptions of the division between state law and constitutional provisions, and the cantankerous Supreme Court years in which judicial appointments evolve with political changes.

"Thurgood" is, ultimately, quite successful in detailing Marshall's career highlights. Personally, however, it is (by necessity and structure) a bit more superficial. References to his home life and his wives are played for pathos and/or humor as the situation dictates, but we never really see that side of Marshall. There are also plenty of comic asides that reference Marshall's wilder side--from drinking to an appreciation of women--that serve as levity points without being explored except as punchlines. But the intent of the piece was not to be a full scale biographical treatment of an entire life--it is an evening with the fictional Marshall as he regales you with his stories interpreted through his voice. As such, it is both informational and entertaining. And really, that's all one could hope for...and all that is needed! KGHarris, 3/11.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
"I'm going to live to be 100, and die from being shot by a jealous husband!" March 7 2011
By E. (Harry) Hernandez - Published on
Format: DVD
THURGOOD (2011) is one of those incredible HBO films that makes me believe in synchronicity.

I have always complained that a severe problem with American actors is they have never confronted their audience - unlike the British, who spend years performing in the streets, at Shakespeare's old haunts and tiny old theaters. The British practically lay (or jump into) the audience's lap. Americans have no idea what an "audience" is.

In THURGOOD, Lawrence Fishburne, about whom I know little other than he's an actor I love, portrays USSC Justice Thurgood Marshall, a man who was a hero to both me and my father. Hoofing about onstage at the John F. Kennedy Center, before a live audience no more than a few feet from him, Fishburne shoulders this awesome one-man-play film with such cool, studied professionalism, I felt like it was actually Marshall.

But I know all along it is Fishburne and his amazing talent. He begins old, hobbled as I recall Marshall when he announced his retirement. Then Fishburne does the amazing: he ages backward twice, with nothing more (nothing less!) than his skill. Once he ages backward to middle age, then again to about his 30s. At the end, in the space of about ten minutes, he ages back to 'old age'. And he nails Marshall spot-on, voice, gestures, jokes and foul language that were hallmarks I recall very well.

This play mainly covers the story of Marshall's rise to fame in the law, describing his major lifetime accomplishments. It is sadly thin on his Supreme Court years because he did have a habit of simply concurring with Justice Stevens and nothing more. The play is happily thin on gimmickry, but I did not like the music competing with Fishburne's lines.

I loved the way certain photographs were flashed on the giant screen behind Fishburne, but that wasn't overdone, either. It flavored and bolstered the performance. I cannot believe the discipline, the memory and the sheer nerve it takes to do something this powerful and unique. This is not Leonard Nimoy playing Vincent Van Gogh's brother in "Theo". It isn't John Gielgud in his one-man stage film SWAN SONG, but it's darned close.

It is transcends an imaginary night with Thurgood Marshall; it isn't imaginary but it is 100% Fishburne. This is not the sort of thing I like at all. Some of my friends almost killed me for refusing to attend Hal Holbrook's portrayal of Mark Twain back when they brought the show here. I STILL would not go to a thing like that.

Here I am sorry as hell that I missed being at JFK Center to see Lawrence Fishburne - and when you see this, you will be sorry you weren't there either. Marshall once said he'd "live to be 110, then die ... shot by a jealous husband." Fishburne delivers the line flawlessly, and we wish the longevity had been true for Marshall. Certainly for Fishburne, and no doubt for this film.

Get this DVD and always have the next best thing. Remember also that you will be seeing something unique in modern cinema, something I hope we'll see productions companies do a LOT more often.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Thurgood: Best one man, one act play ever Feb. 10 2012
By ProfStan - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Thurgood was the ultimate in a one man stage show. The super-simplistic stage set of a table, chairs, cane, and ultimately a judge's robe adds to the "tour de force" of this fantastic performance by Fishburne as Thurgood Marshall telling the story of his amazing life. With only a few background slides flashed on a textured wall of the American flag behind him, the performance is spellbinding from beginning to end.

Howard University auditorium is the location HBO chose to film it and it proved the perfect locale. Fishburne even incorporates a couple of late arrivers to the show into the performance for good effect.

History, humor, humanity and drama blend here in a way you have never seen before and may never seen again. I intend to buy copies to donate to several local schools.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Thurgood Feb. 27 2011
By Redell V. Napper - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw part of this stage drama on HBO a must it have for my collection. It was great to hear and see a superb depiction of a great legal adovocate for equal justice and civil rights. Mr Fishburne protrayed Justice Marshall is manner that gave life to the legal reasonings of great minds to utilize the essence of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to obtain the basic freedoms and access upon which our Nation was founded for Black Americans. Definately looking forward to purchasing a copy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Feb. 17 2014
By Utahwoody - Published on
Format: DVD
Someone said it was boring! I can't believe we saw the same performance. This was poignant, funny, fascinating and extremely educational. Laurence Fishburne was at his best in portraying this great man.

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