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Front Row at the Movies

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John David Washington in a scene from "BlacKkKlansman."

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Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, August 10, 2018

“BlacKkKlansman”

Yes, it really happened: In 1979 a black police officer infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. No, we’re not talking about an episode of CNN’s “United Shades of America” starring W. Kamau Bell. This was a real-life undercover sting by Ron Stallworth, a member of the Intelligence Team at the Colorado Springs Police Department.

The sting exposed several members of the military as Klan members, including two NORAD officers who controlled nuclear weapons.

How did a black man pass as a Klansman? He had a white stand-in for face-to-face meetings. But on the phone or under a hooded robe he masqueraded as a racist white man that “hated blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Asians.”

Stallworth ultimately became the leader of the KKK’s local chapter and gained the trust of Grand Wizard David Duke.

Honest.

It’s not so surprising that Spike Lee, the acclaimed director of “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” decided to co-produce and direct a film based on Stallworth’s tell-all book.

The film — “BlacKkKlansman” — is billed as a biography, a comedy and a crime drama. Take your choice, but the Klan is usually considered a serious subject.

John David Washington (son of Denzel Washington) stars as the undercover cop.

Topher Grace (Venom in “Spider-Man 3” and TV’s “That ‘70s Show) takes on the role of David Duke, then-head of the KKK.

Others in the film include Adam Driver (of “Star Wars” fame) and Alec Baldwin (the ubiquitous actor seen in everything from the new “Mission Impossible” to TV’s “Saturday Night Live”).

The film project was brought to Lee by Jordan Peele, director of “Get Out.”

As Lee recalls it: “When he explained it to me, my next words were, ‘Is it true?’ People say, ‘Didn’t Dave Chappelle have a skit like that?’ I could see why Jordan and his team thought this was something that would work for me.”

•••

“The Meg”

How do you top a 25-foot great white shark like the one that practically ate Quint’s boat in “Jaws”?

The Guinness Book of World Records lists the largest shark ever as measuring 37 feet, but some experts contest that length.

So if you’re a Chinese-American movie team trying to outdo Steven Spielberg’s classic don’t-go-back-in-the-water masterpiece, you’d have to come up with a 70-foot-long prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon that’s discovered off the coast of China in the unexplored recesses of the Mariana Trench. Or Meg, for short.

In fact, that’s the title of this new science-fiction horror film — “The Meg.”

When the gigantic predator attacks a deep-sea research submersible, one-time navy diver Jonas Taylor (action star Jason Statham) sets out to rescue the sub’s stranded team.

The human chum includes Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Bingbing Li, Page Kennedy and Cliff Curtis.

Having encountered this monster once before, our hero must set aside his fears and undertake what is surely a suicide mission. You see, Taylor’s ex-wife is among the threatened submersible crew.

As one character observes: “He looks heroic … but he’s kinda got a negative attitude.”

Fun fact: The Carcharodon Megalodon (translation: “Big Tooth”) was the largest marine predator that ever existed. Its fossilized teeth are more than 7 inches long. Going extinct some 2.6 million years ago, the Meg is considered the largest fish to have ever lived — approximately three times the size of a great white.

Forget getting a bigger boat. Director Jon Turtelbaum (“National Treasure,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) decided to get a bigger fish.

Did it work?

Not entirely. Entertaining it is, but “Jaws” it is not.

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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