Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o Continue To Kill It

Photo Credits: Cineralia/ThandieKay.com

Both director Steve McQueen and Lupita Nyong’o were working hard at their respective artistic crafts before 12 Years A Slave, but now they have the mainstream clout and power to create and be a part of passion projects. Earlier this week, it was announced that McQueen’s next film will be about none other than Paul Robeson!

Paul Robeson was a true renaissance man who slayed at everything he set his mind to achieve. An actor, opera singer, activist, All-American football player, and scholar of law at Columbia Law School, Robeson was involved in both the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights movements. He was also investigated during the McCarthy era, accused of being a communist. He retired and passed away in my hometown of Philadelphia.

The first and only film that I ever saw Robeson star in was Oscar Micheaux’s black and white film, “Body and Soul“. This movie debuted Robeson in his first starring role on screen, at the age of 27. If you have never seen “Body and Soul” and ever get the chance to, I suggest that you take the opportunity!. It introduced me to the genius of both Micheaux and Robeson’s work in film and as an artist and film buff, it continues to inform my way of thinking about the art of directing, the business of church, and African-American identity.

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A Paul Robeson biopic helmed by Steve McQueen will be nothing short of extraordinary, especially as THE Harry Belafonte will have a part in making this film happen. What that part will entail of is unknown for the time being.

 

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McQueen has also been tapped to direct a heist thriller movie based from a 1980s British TV miniseries titled “Widows“, which you can watch on YouTube (from what I’ve seen so far, this may be another new British television obsession for me!)

Let’s not forget that McQueen is also working on his first television show to hit the States, “Codes of Conduct“, about a young Black man entering high society in New York. I. Can’t. Wait.

As for Ms. Nyong’o, she has the next Star Wars movie on her plate, as well as being the new face of Lancome Cosmetics.

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However, did you know that she has just scored another new film role in Mira Nair’s upcoming movie adaptation, “Queen of Katwe“? The film will be based on the real life of Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi. I am certain that Nyong’o will shine in her portrayal of Mutesi and maybe it could gain her another Oscar nomination….or award!

 

McQueen and Nyong’o….keep working, informing, and inspiring. I salute you!

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The Week That Was…

Last week ushered in a SLEW of entertainment stories and events, some of which I attended, hence my complete lack of being consistent on this here blog. But it’s all been for a good cause- to share what’s new and next in THE BIZ.

First, let’s take a moment to congratulate Leslie Jones over at the Saturday Night Live homestead for being selected as a cast member on the show! Now there are two Black female comedians slaying on the show and the world became a little bit more brighter. The moment I saw Leslie onscreen for the first time during “Weekend Update” and I thought that she should not only be a writer, but also an actor on the show! Prayer answered.

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Then the New York TV Festival came into town. It felt like it was just here!  But now it’s October, soon to be Thanksgiving, soon to be Christmas, soon to be 2015. WTH. Alas I had plans to go to the MTV Panel, complete with red carpet action (!!!!) and take pictures of the event and write about what I’ve learned. But there was a greater plan in store for me. Yup, yours truly was invited to an Atlantic Records album listening party + meet and greet (hosted by Angela Yee!!!) for this talented lady:

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I was whisked back to a time when Aaliyah and Mya ruled the airwaves as snippets of tracks from her upcoming album titled “Nightmares & Lullabies- Part I” played on. It was an even bigger treat to meet Victoria and talk with her about an idea I have for a show that I am hoping to produce on YouTube. She is a gem, a breath of fresh air, and judging from her track record of working with other artists such as B.o.B, Ariana Grande, & T.I., this girl is goin’ places. Watch her space!

Add to the fact that I officially have a new agent (Yes, Spoken Reasons is right- faith, hard work, and consistency PAYS OFF!), gained a film callback, was offered a new deal to be a contributing writer to a magazine whose family I REALLY wanted to be a part of for months, have a new shoot to look forward to in two weeks, and finally, finally FINALLY saw “Dear White People” (more about this wondrous movie in a whole new post), last week was an A+.

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What else? Oh, YES! If you haven’t watched the TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “Big Driver” on Lifetime, you need to hop on it any way you can. Maria Bello gives a bravura performance. I won’t say any more than that!

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Also, I was able to catch Foster the People at a gig in Washington Heights this past weekend (pictures to come on my Insta account). They didn’t play “Pumped Up Kicks”, even though that was the song that EVERYONE wanted to hear that night. The reason? Because of the recent school shooting in Washington. That was very classy of them, of which I can’t say the same for a good amount of the audience, some of whom started chanting “USA!” or how much they loved their guns during an imposed moment of silence by the band’s lead singer.

Yes, this was life last week. What pray tell will become of this week? Let’s find out.

 

Maybe I Should Just Go Ahead And Write That John Mayer FanFic Then….

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So, a very enterprising young woman named Anna Todd writes a fan fiction story about One Directioner Harry Styles and it eventually is optioned by PARAMOUNT STUDIOS to become a movie. Oh but wait! The story will become a book first, thanks to Simon & Schuster, and we can all pick up a copy next Tuesday when it hits stores.

From “Fifty Shades of Grey” to this, I am even more inspired. I used to write “Degrassi: The Next Generation” spec scripts & “Smallville” fan fiction. I got this. Time for me to make a move! #thatwriterlife #fanficgotmelike

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BREAKING NEWS: Actor Ezra Miller to Play The Flash On The Big Screen

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I LOVE me some Ezra Miller. As a part of “Young Hollywood” today, he keeps his business private and let’s his work do the talking. From the moment I saw him in “We Need To Talk About Kevin”, I knew this young man was destined for an enviable film career. After watching “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” for the 100th time recently, I started to wonder what Ezra was up to lately. Well, besides starring in this Sophie Barthes’ film production of “Madame Bovary” alongside another young thespian whose work I love, Mia Wasikowska, the Amy Schumer/Judd Apatow collabo, “Trainwreck“, and the (personally) highly anticipated “The Stanford Prison Experiment“, Miller has signed up to portray Barry Miller/The Flash for a 2018 release in a stand-alone movie. The chances of the actor making an appearance as the superhero character in other upcoming movies such as “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League” are highly likely as well.

So far, we also know that Greg Berlanti is attached to this project, whose name is also credited with the small screen version of “The Flash” starring Grant Gustin (who will forever remember as the deliciously evil “Campbell Price” from 90210). The television version is wonderful thus far, gaining great reviews, likely to be picked up for a second season, and was recently named as the most watched CW premiere EVER. EVER!

So, even though Ezra Miller would not have been the first actor to initially come to mind as a casting choice for this role, I am very excited to see the acting choices that he has decided to make as The Flash in the film adaptation. If the CW version is still going strong in 2018, I hope that Gustin and Miller team up for those Comic Con panels!

 

Don’t Worry About Lupita. She’s Got This.

Ever since Lupita won an Oscar, many people have been saying/writing, “What is she going to do next?/What can she do next?/She better learn how to produce her own projects!”. Well, while you were worried about Lupita, Lupita was on her grind, silently plotting her next moves behind the scenes. Homegirl is not only starring in the next Star Wars movie, but she is also producing/starring in the film adaptation of Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, “Americanah”. Co-producing along side Brad Pitt’s Plan B production company, While it may look like Lupita’s career is on the fast-track, don’t forget that she took the time to train at the Yale School of Drama, went through the ABC Diversity Casting Program, acted in other productions before “12 Years A Slave”, and produced, directed, wrote, and edited a documentary titled “In My Genes.” Lupita knows what she is doing.

This is another star vehicle for Lupita that I just can’t wait to see.

Why You Should Run To See “The Fault In Our Stars” This Weekend

Last month I was able to catch a super sneak preview of “The Fault In Our Stars” with a friend. In the theater we were surrounded by middle and high school kids and the excitement in the air was so thick and encouraging. I’m so used to seeing movies with adults who either have their critic hats on or are updating their Twitter feeds well into the million and one previews playing. But watching a movie with a 99% audience of kids under the age of 18? This was a new experience for me in the best way because their enthusiasm for John Green’s book and adapted movie put the biggest smile on my face as I looked around before the movie began.

From the beginning shots of the film, I knew that we were all going to be in for a treat. One of the hosts for the film, involved with its local marketing and publicity in Philly, said that it was “perfect”. When you hear bon mots like “perfect” and “magical” to describe any form of entertainment, one can either get extremely excited or very cynical. But my gut was telling me that she may be right. After all, my girl crush for Shailene Woodley knows no bounds and Ansel Elgort has been wonderful in the two films that I’ve seen him in thus far (“Carrie”, “Divergent”) . I hadn’t read Green’s book at that point, but I just had the feeling that this was going to be one of my favorite movies of the year. By the way, it sure is. 

 

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What makes TFIOS so special is how endearing the story is without being mawkish and how natural all of the stars in the movie are. All of the actors left a piece of themselves in the respective characters that they portrayed without fear and many, MANY tablespoons of courage. I can’t see any other actor with the talent, range, and street cred playing Hazel, Augustus, and Isaac. Shai, Ansel, and Nat possess and brought vitality, humor, gravitas, and intelligence to their roles. The adults of this movie were also superb. Most of the teen movies that I still love and have shaped my affinity for pop culture and film (“Jawbreaker”, “Heathers”, “10 Things I Hate About You”, etc.) showed either barely visible parents, parents who were in the movie long enough to help push it forward and provide the funny, or parents who “just don’t understand”. I loved watching Laura Dern and Sam Trammell in TFIOS; I felt their heartbreak and empathized with their pain of being parents with a child that has a terminal illness. Seeing them, as well as the other adults in the movie, like Willem Dafoe and the refreshing Mike Birbiglia, was nice because in real life parents make mistakes and can be nasty or kind or just as worried about life as a teenager would be.

If you have not read the book, don’t fret. I read “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” before seeing the film and I felt as though I cheated in a way. I was introduced to the characters and the plot and there were times in the theater that I kept anticipating  how different this scene or that scene would be compared to the book. The same thing happened when I went to watch “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent”. In the case of “The Fault In Our Stars”, I was pleasantly awake to the possibilities of every scene and didn’t anticipate just how much I would cry. Oh, this movie will make you cry. How much or less is entirely up to you and your disposition, but at least a tear or two will find its way out of your tear ducts.

If there’s one thing this movie confirmed with such grace and believabilty, it’s that life doesn’t have to be perfect. Trying to be perfect will drive you mad because a life lived in the pursuit of loving others is a wonderful life indeed. After you see this film, you’re going to walk out of the movies with puffy, red eyes and you’ll want to find the love of your life, if you haven’t already. Hopefully if you have found that special someone, you already know that being loved by them and by the ones that love you back is enough. What Hazel and Augustus teach each other about love and life in their young, epic romance is so touching and reminded me that even when life is at its worse that doesn’t mean that you have to be. Love still exists in the darkest of moments.

Go see this little film that could and will. You can listen to the hype and grand reviews (they are everywhere and it’s a bit hard to get away from unless you are an active non-user of any form of technology), but take the time to see “The Fault In Our Stars” for yourself to see what is being called “the greatest love story of our generation.” Sans vampire, zombies, and a dystopic backdrop, it’s a wonder of a movie filled with heart and pain.

 

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“Divergent” Is About Lot of Things, Especially Crossfit

(WARNING: IF YOU HAVE YET TO SEE THE MOVIE BUT YOU’VE READ THE BOOK, DO NOT GO ANY FURTHER IN READING THIS. THIS IS YOUR SPOILER ALERT WARNING!) 

 

I’m a tad behind on my “Divergent” review, but that’s only because I found myself in a few privileged predicaments, as I like to call them. Nonetheless, I’m so glad that I was able to contribute my dollars to the opening weekend of the movie because it was well worth watching to see Four and Tris rendered on the big screen. Even before the movie premiered, “Insurgent” and “Allegiant” were given the greenlight to be produced as films also and with good reason- this trilogy has a HUGE fanbase. I’m not sure if it’s on the level as “The Hunger Games”, but this will be the only time I will compare the two anyway. Divergent resonates with audiences today, especially young adult and adult readers, because it’s an interesting look into human personality, psychology, the idea of ‘groupthink’ and the choices that we make as humans when given the opportunity to show our true selves. What would you do if you were asked to choose what side of yourself you identify with most, knowing that you would have to live with others you have known since birth, or taking advantage of moving in with strangers whose principles you’ve felt more of a kinship with from afar ? Are you Amity(peaceful)? Candor(honest)? Erudite(intelligent)? Abnegation (selfless)? Dauntless(brave)? Factionless? Or Divergent, a blend of several ideologies?

Veronica Roth’s book made me think of those quizzes I used to ponder over in teen magazines. The ones that are based on your personality, due to how you would answer the questions compiled just for you and every other teenage girl in the universe. I always had a hard time picking just one or two answers, because I easily saw myself as an A and B, or A and C, etc. I could be both kind and smart, the girl who planned ahead and the girl who likes to be spontaneous. I’m both Carrie and Charlotte, with a dash of Samantha and a sprinkle of Miranda. Do I really have to be just one type of person? If I were a part of Roth’s post-apocalyptic world, I would be Divergent, hands down, because I know who I am. But what if I were born into a family dedicated to serving honesty or intelligence? Would I be so certain that I could be both or would I stay in the same lone faction until the day I died? It’s harder to tell knowing that information.

Having read the book before seeing the film, I went to the movie theater with some expectations. I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to be 100% sold on Shailene Woodley playing Tris (I was… 200%). I wanted to see if Eric would be appear just as terrifying on brought to visual life as much as he was through Roth’s imagination and my own (he sure was!). I wanted to revel in Peter and his motley gang hell-bent on making Tris suffer (more on this later…). Overall, I was very pleased and cannot wait for “Insurgent” to be released. But here are some key differences between the book and the movie that I wish could have been rectified:

 

THINGS THAT MADE ME GO HMMM:

– Christina, Eric, and the chasm: In the book, this scene feels excruciatingly long. Also, from what I recall, there is water and lots of it. I didn’t feel like Christina’s life was really in danger in this part of the movie. In the book? I was holding my breath.

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-Peter’s gang:  For the sake of the film’s length, I knew, like with many book-to-movie adaptations, that some characters and events would be sacrificed. I just wish that Drew and Molly’s weren’t. Just like Peter in Roth’s novel, Drew and Molly were abhorrent characters. In the movie, Drew was not present and Molly was, but aside from having to fight Tris, Molly ends up thinking that Tris is cool after she stands up to Eric during the now famous knife throwing incident. I wanted to see Peter, Drew, and Molly go all out and make Tris cry for at least one moment.

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-The physical struggle of Marcus and Andrew as they head to the Dauntless compound: I wanted to see these two huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with Tris on the way to Dauntless headquarters, as it’s imagined in the novel, but there is no way that Tony Goldwyn is unfit and Ray Stevenson looks buff, so there went that idea.

 

 

THINGS I TRULY LOVED ABOUT THE MOVIE:

-Tori: Tori, played by Maggie Q, is dope. Maggie Q is dope. The casting for this character is sublime.

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-Casting: In fact, the casting for “Divergent” is A+. I know of some folks out there who were not too keen on Miles Teller as Peter, but I honestly don’t know who else could have played this character better. I thought that Peter would have been meaner in the movie, because he is an absolute terror in the book, but Miles injected his own take of Peter, which fit in perfectly with his surroundings and the imaginary circumstances made real. Anything more might have been on the hokey side.  I’ve also read about how some people were upset about Shailene being cast as Tris, due to physical reasons, but seriously, she kills it in this part. She bring the right amount of strength and gravity to Tris and carries the whole film through and then some. It is amazing to watch. Plus she has major chemistry with Theo James (Four).

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-Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd as Tris and Caleb’s parents: This is another nod to casting. They exuded selflessness to a T, just as they were supposed to. Plus, they both have a warmth to them that was lovely to see, especially when interacting with their children. When they had the chance to hug Caleb and Tris, it was moving and touching and made me smile.

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-Seeing the “fearscapes” realized: They weren’t cheesy and added another element to how I envisioned Tris and Four’s nightmares since reading about them.

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-Diversity: This is one of the most diverse casts (including the extras!) in a young adult movie I’ve ever seen thus far. I was very impressed.

-Kate Winslet as Jeanine: Call it “against type” casting, but I loved seeing Kate Winslet as a Big Bad. She was calculating, smart, and a villain whose ideas made sense. A scary thought for a scary character.

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-The tattoos: !!!!!!

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The questions that “Divergent” raises are very important and relevant. They are questions that young adults begin to think about as they try to navigate between school, parents, friends, teachers, and enemies. Then there’s the idea of the factionless, the castoffs of society who were either once  who do the jobs that no one else would do, not just because they don’t want to, but because being factionless means to not belong, just the same as being divergent. Would you rather belong with people who are just like you, or be different, risking your life or your pride in the meantime? Like Four, I would want to have the qualities of all five factions- to be kind, selfless, intelligent, honest, peaceful, and brave. Wouldn’t we all?

“Divergent” dives into these themes and more head first and if they don’t make sense to you, I urge you to read Veronica Roth’s book. Unlike other book to movie adaptations I’ve seen, this one left me wanting more. Bring on “Insurgent”!

 

p.s. Watching “Divergent” made CrossFit appear less intimidating. My fear of heights and roaming around in the phobias that reside in my psyche is a much, much worse proposition.