Like most movie fans, I was first introduced to John Singleton by way of the powerhouse street drama BOYZ N THE HOOD. Keep in mind that this was before three dozen other "hood" movies hit the screens, so BOYZ really did feel like a wake-up call. Starring Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, and Cuba Gooding as a trio of childhood pals who grow up in decidedly different directions, BOYZ N THE HOOD has been accused of being simplistic and sermonizing, but I think the messages are delivered in fine form. There's a good reason this flick made such a big splash and inspired so many copycats. (True some of those copycats turned out to be fine movies, but you get the point.)
Following the success of BOYZ, Singleton moved on to an endearingly different part of the "young, black" experience. Featuring the unlikely pairing of Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, POETIC justice told the story of a typically aggressive gang-banger type who finds himself enamored with a "good girl" during a long, eventful, and frequently fairly funny cross-country road trip. Generally considered one of Singleton's "lesser" films, I've always had kind of a soft spot for JUSTICE. The two leads are raw but completely intriguing, and it offers a slice of the urban story that we generally don't get to see. Plus it's got a pair of bickering sidekicks (Guy Torry & Regina King) that add a lot of spice to the stew.
From BOYZ in 1991 and JUSTICE in '95, John Singleton would go on to direct HIGHER LEARNING (1995), ROSEWOOD (1997), and SHAFT (2000) before returning to his inner-city roots with BABY BOY in 2001. This one's a surprisingly insightful (if a bit overlong) drama about the ways in which the modern-day black man has been "infantilized" by the various women in his life.
Some believe BABY BOY was a slap in the face to black women, while others saw it as Singleton's "one too many" trip to the same well, but there's still some fairly fascinating material to be found here. Ving Rhames contributes his typically excellent skills, plus it's always funny to see Snoop Doog try to act. Recommended mainly to the more devoted Singleton fans, BABY BOY is pretty strong evidence of a filmmaker who still has plenty to say.
POETIC JUSTICE comes with one of John Singleton's very solid audio commentaries, a handful of bios/filmographies, and some trailers for BOYZ N THE HOOD, POETIC JUSTICE, and HIGHER LEARNING.
BABY BOY comes with a whole bunch of extra goodies: another info-jammed audio commentary with John Singleton, a 14-minute Cinemax Making-Of Special, several Storyboard Comparisons, 14 deleted & alternate scenes, a collection of outtakes & bloopers, an excised sequence called The Kiki & Boo Show, two music videos, 7 TV spots, some filmographies, and a handful of trailers for BABY BOY, BOYZ N THE HOOD, HIGHER LEARNING, and POETIC JUSTICE.