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Monday, April 30, 2012

5 Reasons Why The Rock Is The Biggest, Baddest Action Star Around

While Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson and Jason Statham continue to duke it out at the box office, one broken nose at a time, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsonhas been quietly gearing up to take them all on to become the biggest action star around.

The newly minted winner of this year’s CinemaCon Action Star of the Year Award has already lined up five projects, including the sequel to last year’s megahit, Fast Five. This year he’s poised to cement his status on the A-list of action stars when he blazes into theaters once again on June 29th for GI Joe: Retaliation. Here are five reasons why The Rock rocks:

1. His big guns. No, not the semiautomatic kind (although those photos of him clutching a giant weapon in GI Joe: Retaliation are dope as all get out). We’re talking about his bulging arms that make him look like he could lift an airplane off the ground with his bare hands. No wonder studios are clamoring to get him in their movies.

2. He makes every action movie better. Do you have a fledgling action franchise on your hands? Call 1-800-THE-ROCK and he’ll make it all better. Remember what he did for Fast Five? Many of us weren’t even checking for that movie until The Rock’s name became attached to it. Then it started to look a lot more appealing. All of a sudden we rushed to the theaters and made that bad boy more than half a billion dollars worldwide.

3. He’s got charisma for days. Sure, he may not be the next Denzel Washington. But The Rock has that certain je ne sais quoi. You know what we’re talking about—that charm that slithers its way through even less memorable lines and makes ladies’ hearts go pitter patter. Do you smell what I’m cooking with this?

4. He’s a guy’s guy. Not only are the ladies sprung on him, but you’d be hard pressed to find a dude that doesn’t want to be this 260-pound man of steel. He’s handsome, funny, charming and once tweeted that he was able to “bench press three adult buffaloes.” You hear that sound? That’s the sound of a bunch of dudes running to the gym.

5. He can hold his own in a fight. Remember that fight between him and Vin Diesel in Fast Five? He made Vin Diesel look like Vin Wimpy for a second there in that now legendary brawl scene. He’s taken on secret agents, an evil sorcerer and even an entire corrupt neighborhood without hardly a scratch on him. Attention Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise and Will Smith: watch out. There’s a new player in town and he’s taking no prisoners.

Check out the newest trailer for GI Joe: Retaliation:

This post was first published by The Urban Daily.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cinema In Noir: Interracial Friendships Versus Token Characters and the State of Action Films

This Sunday the gals and I reflect on friendships in film. Not just any friendship, that camaraderie or sisterhood where one character is one race and another (or several) is another. As we see more and more relationships between pals on film where the character of color is there to guide the protagonist or provide a few lines in a movie then disappear (in other words, be a token) rather than serve as an equal, which movie represents a more realistic portrayal of multiracial friendships?

We also talk about the climate of action films today. As we begin to see a barrage of popcorn flicks headed our way, what makes some good and others terrible? And how has the genre evolved from the Sylvester Stallone days?

We get to the bottom of all of this, plus share the latest film news (has the remake of Uptown Saturday Night finally gotten together?) on today's Cinema In Noir.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

The First Trailer for "This is 40" Makes the Movie Look Totally Unnecessary

What a difference a few years make.

Well, not really. At least, according to the trailer for the new Judd Apatow creation, This Is 40. The film follows the hilarious parents from the 2007 romantic comedy Knocked Up, Pete and Debbie (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann), several years after.

As you may recall, these two didn't exactly have a fairy tale romance, but their unceremonious charm was wickedly entertaining to watch unfold. But in the new movie, the two are battling semi-middle age and how they'll move forward with parenting and their own lives.

And, that's about it. At least, from what I can tell from the trailer. It seems like the relationship has lost its audience appeal. Here's hoping the next clips are more LOL funny. This Is 40 hits theaters in time for the the family film rush on December 21st.

The Big Screen Version of BATTLESHIP Tries to Lure Audiences to Sea with Splashy New Photos

Before Battleship, the innocent board game-turned-popcorn flick, hits theaters in a few weeks, Universal Pictures has released a healthy stack of images from the movie to whet your appetites (speaking exclusively to those who are interested in this kind of fare).

If you're just hearing about the movie, here's a recap of the premise (taken from the press release):
Peter Berg (Hancock, The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights) directs and produces Battleship, an epic scale action-adventure that unfolds across the seas, in the skies and over land as our planet fights for survival against a superior force.
This will mark singer Rihanna's big screen debut as Petty Officer 2nd Class Cora Raikes, but something tells me this is only a bit part, and they're using her image to drive audiences. The novice will join veteran actor Liam Neeson, who'll play Admiral Shane, the head honcho to Lieutenant Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and Stone (Alexander Skarsgård).

Universal is keeping plot details under wraps, but expect a lot of explosions, gunfire, dramatic conflict and utter mayhem (along with an inevitable romantic subplot). Battleship, which also stars Brooklyn Decker and Tadanobu Asano (as Captain Yugi Nagata), sails into theaters May 18th.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Twi-Hards Beware: Extremely Hot Photos Ahead

File this post under "Things I Only Do For My Readers That I have Absolutely No Interest In Myself."

As you might have gathered, I'm not really what you would call a Twi-hard. But this batch of images from the upcoming final installment in the wildly popular vampire versus werewolf franchise, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2burned a hole in my inbox this morning, and I just knew I had to share them with you.

Picking up right where the last movie ended, the new film picks up after the birth of Bella and Edward's daughter Renesmee and--according to IMDB--the Cullen family "gather other vampire clans in order to protect the child from a false allegation that puts the family in front of the Volturi."

The new photos look appropriately foreboding, with Jacob (Taylor Lautner) looking extra scary in his solo shot and the Cullen crew (Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson) appearing to be suffering from red eye (ha ha). I'm sure director Bill Condon will leave you die-hard fans at the edge of your seats as he finally concludes this epic saga.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2, which invades theaters November 16th:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Mother and Child" and Female Diversity in Film

While many continue to castigate the HBO series, Girls, for its lack of female diversity (with good reason), I’d like to look back at a 2009 film that gave voices to an assortment of female characters, a gem that eloquently showed both the beauty and plight of motherhood in extraordinary fashion.

In writer/director Rodrigo García’s Mother and Child, something as complex and precious as motherhood is broken up into a kaleidoscope of elegant vignettes capturing the lives of several mothers—hopeful, expecting and recovering mothers.

Annette Bening stars as Karen, a woman who remains deeply affected by the baby she gave up for adoption as a pregnant teen. At 50 years old, childless, and significant other-less, Karen begins to feel the emptiness of the child she once carried. As she continues to take care of her dying mother, Nora (Eileen Ryan), who encouraged her decision to give her child to another, she feels her first pangs of regret exacerbated by years of resentment.

Bening bestows the ornery characteristics we’ve all come to know and love from past performances in her vast oeuvre. But this particular role stands out in the natural way she sheds Karen’s bitter exterior, and finds the strength to move past the loss that’s been eating away at her. Her impressively nuanced portrayal by the end of the film brings the audiences to their knees even after pushing them away for the better course of the movie.

Part of that recovery to self is attributed to Jimmy Smits’ character Paco, Karen’s reluctant love interest, who sees more in Bening than she sees in herself. While Smits is very subtle in this role, the gentleness he brings to Paco is one that few critics remarked on but was pivotal to the emotional compass of Karen’s character (but does not define it).

Kerry Washington plays Lucy, a married woman who’s unable to conceive a child of her own with her husband Joseph (David Ramsay). Desperate for motherhood, she dreams of being able to rock her very own baby to sleep at night. She thinks she’s finally found the child she’s always wanted from a young mother who’s putting her child up for adoption but, in a drastic change of events, her dream is snatched away from her. And it’s the single most devastating moment in the film, marked by a performance by Washington that’s so raw and heart wrenching that it would move even the most jaded viewer.

To me, this is Washington’s best performance to date, and it—as well as this film—goes entirely unnoticed, which is a crying shame. Her portrayal is crushing, real, and simply mesmerizing to watch unfold. The only comparable performance I can think of is that of Jennifer Garner in Juno, another performance that fell right through the critical cracks.

The talent Washington brings to this role isn’t the only thing that’s wonderful about it. It’s the fact that her character is so relatable to watch. I’m not sure is García intentionally sought an African-American woman for this role, but Lucy’s story—like all the characters—is drawn in a way that every woman could appreciate. Also, García doesn’t shy away from highlighting black love onscreen. While mainstream Hollywood nowadays often ignores black love in films by neglecting it altogether by creating somewhat asexual black characters or only showing an interracial romantic angle (i.e. Will Smith and Eva Mendes in Hitch, or Zoe Saldana and Michael Vartan in Colombiana), Mother and Child refuses to hide behind the Tinseltown taboo with Lucy’s character.

As a matter of fact, Lucy and Joseph are really the only married couple in the movie who are shown having sex. Though Lucy and Joseph don’t exactly have a happy fairy tale ending, at least we get to see a black couple getting busy. So yes, Hollywood, two black people do have sex. Passionate, unapologetic sex in a committed relationship, and it’s about time we see that again.

But let’s get back to some of the other characters. The eternally underrated Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson) plays Ray, a pregnant teen who decides, mostly with her mother’s influence, to give her child up for adoption. While she awaits the birth of her baby, she mulls over the decisions she’s made and will make, decisions that will have a major impact on her life. She genuinely seems to be a good kid, but, like Karen, she seems to be conceding to the outcome of her actions, without really thinking about them. It’s a very subtle performance by a young talent who’s known for playing young women struggling with their own sense of identity, which works well for this role. In her performance here, you see the charm of her youth and the complexity of her womanhood.

This brings us to Naomi Watts’ Elizabeth, whose role we don’t fully learn until nearly the end of the movie. She touchingly steers the film full circle. But Elizabeth is a woman who’s suffering from bouts of desolation as an emotionless attorney at a law firm. She gets involved with Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Paul, a fellow attorney, and what happens next can only be described as a full realization of her own character, which leads her to make a decision that will not only change her life, but also Paul’s . This is the perfect role for Watts, whose quiet ferocity works well here simply because she tries to remain in such tight control of her life that when it begins to blossom, we finally get to see her heart.

I’d be remised if I didn’t mention the ever talented Jackson. Yes, the guy who has been in a plethora of movies—both great and terrible—can file this particular performance under great. The sensitivity and compassion he brings to Paul perfectly complements Elizabeth’s emotional impotence. Jackson aptly tucks away his signature swagger and wild fury found in many of his roles to reveal a softer side for Paul. He reminds is of why we fell in love with his talent in the first place. You can see the love in his eyes each time Elizabeth enters the scene, and it floors you each time.

Alluring, delicate and simply exquisite to watch, Mother and Child tackles the inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking aspects of motherhood with a range of characters in which every woman, whether or not she’s a parent, can see themselves. Perfectly intertwined stories yield a gorgeous singular concept of love and maternal grace that steals your heart.

(This post was first published by Bitch Flicks)

Enter to Win a Blu-Ray Copy of "New Year's Eve!"

I know we've got quite some time until the next New Year's is upon us. But, in honor of the ensemble comedy New Year's Eve coming to home video, we're giving away a blu-ray copy of the movie--which stars Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Biel, among others--right here on the website.

All you have to do is offer a few memorable comments below in the comment box (or email me directly). Or, you can do the following:

  • Take The Quiz! Are you on your way to making the most out of 2012? Take this quiz and find out if you are a Resolution Renegade!
  • Personal New Years Eve Tips! We want you to make your resolutions come true, so to help you achieve your goal we will get you some awesome tips to jump-start your resolution this year!
  • Get Social! Spread the word about the New Years Eve. Tweet to your followers with the #ResolutionReset hashtag!

The deadline to participate is May 14th, so act now!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Relationship Expert Yvonne Chase Takes Aim at Steve Harvey's 90-Day Rule and View on Single Mothers Dating in THINK LIKE A MAN

Relationship expert Yvonne Chase, who appeared on Cinema In Noir this past weekend, was ever so kind to contribute a recap post here (cross-linked from her website), which further details her thoughts on the dating rulebook in the film Think Like a Man. Read her take on it below:

Friday night I went to see Think Like a Man with a white male friend because I wanted to hear what a non-black male would say about it. He had never heard of Steve Harvey or Kevin Hart and the only person he recognized was Wendy Williams.
When I went to the red carpet Hollywood premiere back in February, the theater was packed with the entire cast and tons of black people. On Friday night, the theatre was more than half empty, which was very surprising, and the crowd didn’t erupt in laughter like we did at the premiere.
At the end of the movie, my friend and I had a discussion about it. He said if I didn’t suggest it, it’s not a movie he would’ve ever paid to see. He found Kevin [Hart] quite overbearing, thought Michael Ealy’s character Dominic was the most sensible of all the guys, and Meagan Good’s Mya was the most solid out of the ladies.
Here's my take on the film:
What did I think of Think Like a Man? Honestly, I thought I was watching a Kevin Hart comedy special. That guy is funny! I had no idea how funny he was until this movie. For me, there needed to be a bit more balance between comic relief and story. I also felt like I rolled over at 2am from a sleepless night, grabbed the remote and was hit over the head with an infomercial for the book. In addition, I didn’t like the fact that among all the guys, the one that had it all together was a white guy. Gary Owens’ character Bennett was a devoted husband who took pride in spending time with his wife and taking his kids to violin recitals. Why couldn’t he be black? My friend wondered the same, and like me he also wondered why Hart’s character had to be married to a loud mouth overbearing black woman. He said it further promotes the stereotypes he hears too often from his black male friends. Also, is this the last black movie to be made ever? Every working black actor was cast in this movie except Loretta Divine.

What are the rules of love? The number one rule is honesty. If you want a relationship, say it. If you want to be married, say it. If you’re a man whore moving from bed to bed not looking for anything serious, say it. If you’re a loose booty lady looking for a free meal and a hook up, say it. Communicate clearly what you want leaving no shades of gray and be prepared to deal with the consequences. Everyone wins when we follow the Golden Rule while dating: date others the way you want others to date you.
What do I think about the 90-day Rule? I think we need to lose the 90-day rule. According to [Harvey], a man should wait at least 90 days before you engage him sexually. 90 days gives you time to see if he’s the real deal or a player. We’ve reduced sex to a physical activity and we’ve forgotten that it’s so much more than that. If we abide by this completely flawed 90-day rule, how many men will we have slept with by the time we say, “I Do,” if we ever say it? When a man knows a woman is operating by the 90-day rule, his sole purpose is to divide and conquer…pun intended. If you are going to abide by this rule, I say keep this information to yourself otherwise your cookie is his on day 91.

What are my thoughts on Taraji P. Henson’s character, Lauren? Women need to understand how men choose. I’ve been saying this for years to the point that I feel like a scratched record…while a man appreciates the Lauren in you and all of your accomplishments, men don’t choose based on that criteria. That’s how women choose. Women look at cash, cars and career. Men are attracted to the physical then stick around based on the internal; a beautiful mind, heart and soul.
Do I agree with Steve Harvey's advice to single mothers dating? No. In the movie, Harvey says a single mother should introduce her child to her date sooner than later. He says, if you date a man for six months and your kid doesn’t like him, you’ve wasted six months. Most single mothers date with their child in mind. Most single mothers know if their child will like or dislike someone. I say don’t introduce your kid to anyone other than the one you’re courting to marry and make the introduction when you feel it’s right. Protect your children at all costs.
Here’s something else I’d like to point out. It doesn’t have to be either or. We saw him in Something New with Sanaa Lathan and Blair Underwood and we see him again in this movie with Henson and Morris Chestnut—the stiff, uptight, educated, well-spoken, well dressed, professional man with nothing else to talk about besides his next promotion or project. There are educated men out there with great personalities, a sense of humor, fun spirit and engaging conversation. Those attributes are not reserved for the blue collar Dominics of the world that haven’t quite got it all together.
There is no room for mind games and manipulation when hearts are involved. In every game, there’s a winner and a loser. Remember that the next time you show up to a relationship playing games.
Something to think about…
What say you…did you see the movie? What did you think? Are you a 90-day rule woman? Are you a lady who thinks like a man? How is that working for you? How does a man think? Chime in…

Monday, April 23, 2012

Director Steven Soderbergh Tries to Trick Us Into Seeing a Bad Movie Starring a Half-Naked Channing Tatum

It's taken me a while to post this trailer for Magic Mike because I simply can't make heads or tails of it.

It's not that the premise is hard to understand--a drama a rookie dancer (Alex Pettyfer) is taken under the tutelage of a more experienced stripper (Channing Tatum), who teaches him the ins and outs of the xxx party life. It's just that that's it. That premise is supposed to lure us all to the box office. Seriously?

It's not even a comedy, like The Full Monty? They're going to try to make this into something substantial? That's where you lose me.

Sure, watching Tatum relive his pre-movie star career ("career" used lightly here) by dropping his pants in a five-minute SNL skit is thrilling and all, but a two-hour movie? I don't think so, dude. And you can't be the only big name attached to this (besides the director, who I'll get to in a bit). After the surprise success of 21 Jump Street, I'm sure Hollywood is riding the coattails of Tatum's superstar status, but this project might not be the follow-up success they're banking on.

And Steven Soderbergh? Dude, you directed the critically-acclaimed Traffic. I'm embarrassed for you. This filmmaker came out of semi-retirement (you know, that term Hollywood heavyweights like to throw around to get us talking about them again) to make this movie? You don't come out of retirement to make bad movies; you get back in the game because there's a movie so good that you're enticed to get back in it again. This doesn't look like one of those cases.

Oh, it would be remiss of me if I don't mention that Matthew McConaughey, Tatum's shirtless predecessor, also makes an appearance in the movie, as someone named "Dallas." So, yeah, there's that.

Many ladies--and some of you men--may probably be the first in line to see Tatum strip down to his skivvies (or less, hopefully?). But will it be money well spent? I guess we'll find out on June 29th when Magic Mike drops into theaters.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steve Harvey's 90-Day Rule and Lena Dunham's "Voice of a Generation" On Today's Cinema In Noir

Happy Sunday, film freaks!

Today on Cinema In Noir, relationship expert Yvonne Chase calls in to discuss her take on Think Like a Man, which is poised to take the number one spot at the box office this weekend. Should we follow Steve Harvey's "90-day rule?"

We also chat about Jaden's potentially hot new role as a teen assassin in the Boy Nobody trilogy. Do you see lil Jaden has a cold-blooded killer? We share our take on that.

Stefan Dezil also calls in later in the show to talk up his black superhero web show, "Static Shock," which, if you haven't seen it, is screaming for a small screen debut.

Lastly we discuss "Girls." Yes, that new HBO show everyone's talking about that's said to be "the voice of a generation." Or is it the voice of no generation? And does it have a voice? Find out on today's show:

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

5 Relationship Tips From The Movies

There’s no doubt that couples and singles alike this weekend will have a pen and pad ready when they head to the theater to learn the answers to their dating dilemmas in Think Like a Man. But before Steve Harvey and the sultry cast dispel some of the biggest relationship myths, we look back on five films that offered tried and tested advice on romance.

5) Cheaters Never Win (Jungle Fever): You shouldn’t need to read this to know that it’s not wise to creep out on your girl. But you definitely don’t want to be parading your vanilla side piece around your neighborhood, like your clothes can’t be thrown out onto the sidewalk by your PO’ed wife. Yes, that same wife who’ll ill on you from her window while you’re picking your drawers off the street in front of the whole neighborhood. Don’t let it happen to you, kids.

4) Don’t hate the player; hate the game (Boomerang): Seriously, though. You can’t hate on Marcus for playing the field. After all, he was single. Many women can learn from his style. Ladies should never put all their eggs in one basket (read: get sprung on that one dude who took you out that one time). Play the game.

3)Learn when to back off (Why Do Fools Fall In Love?): Whoever said it was cute to throw elbows with other women for one man lied. Once you learn your man is several other women’s man, it’s time to run in the opposite direction. It is never worth dragging your own reputation through the mud by wildin’ out on other women who aren’t worth your time and energy.

2)Maintain a healthy sex life, even as a parent (Claudine): Who said your sex life has to dwindle after kids? Certainly not Claudine. The Harlem mom of six might have had her hands full at home keeping her kids in check, but that did not stop her from finding love in a hopeless place. Adult sleepovers at her beau’s apartment kept things steamy between the two and surely put an extra pep in her step.

1) You’re hotter when you can bust a rhyme (Love Jones): Ok, that’s not always guaranteed, but it helps. If you can spit soulful rhymes over a buttery smooth beat, you’re kinda winning. Be creative, be artistic. Dinner and a movie can get redundant. Try an open mic date and be a hipster for the night. You may get lucky.

(This post was originally published by The Urban Daily)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Madea's Out of the Big House and Now She's Threatening Another Movie

It's getting more and more difficult to come up with snarky ways to describe Tyler Perry movies.

The writer/director/actor/mogul/soon-to-be-shoemaker (?) has just released his first trailer for the eagerly awaited new Madea flick, Madea's Witness Protection. Oh, sorry, that's actually Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection. Goodness knows if we didn't attribute the director in the title of the movie, we might not know which filmmaker is once again dressed in black grandma drag for laughs chuckles.

This time Perry assembles a a diverse cast of actors (and I use that term loosely) for the movie. Folks like Eugene Levy (who's currently riding high from American Reunion), Denise Richards, Tom Arnold and Romeo join talented stars like John Amos, Marla Gibbs (where have the two of them been???) and Doris Roberts for a story that plainly follows a banker and his family's drastic move from their posh Connecticut neighborhood to next door to Madea and her wild posse down south.

The teaser trailer looks very Perry-like, which I'm sure is appealing to many. I'm just waiting for Madea's Big Happy Funeral. What do you think? Will you see Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection when it comes to theaters June 29th?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cinema in Noir: "Think Like a Man" Is for Everyone and "Prometheus" Should be Rated R

Yeah, we said it. And we'd say it again! On today's Cinema in Noir, the ladies and I discussed actor Michael Ealy's comments in a recent interview about whether or not his new movie, Think Like a Man (in theaters Friday), is for everyone. In other words, will people who aren't black watch this movie along with the black crowd?

As we have chatted about--ad nauseum--on previous Cinema in Noir episodes, we don't think "black films" are exclusive as some may be led to believe. But we do have to raise eyebrows at the recent press surrounding the movie really seem extra hard to try to lure the ever-reluctant non-black crowd to see the movie....

And in other news, we talk about the recent ratings controversy with Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises. Although a PG-13 rating may bring a wider crowd to the theater, how does that effect the quality of the storytelling for each film? (By the way, I haven't been able to get into a R rated movie without the ubiquitous family of four, with two strollers, sitting behind I could only wish the stigma with R rated movies was that cut and dry).

Lastly we go over the latest news out of Hollywood, possible new projects for Adepero Oduye and Kevin Hart, and share our thoughts on Think Like a Man and T.D. Jakes' Woman Thou Art Loosed on the Seventh Day.

Check out a recap of the show here:

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Friday, April 13, 2012

"The Five-Year Engagement" Releases First Pre-Wedding Photos

As mentioned previously on the site, the romantic comedy Five-Year Engagement hopes to slay audiences as the opening film at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. The upcoming movie, co-penned by Jason Segel, stars the Muppets actor as Tom, a starry eyed lover who pops the question to his main squeeze, Violet (Emily Blunt), only to learn that the tough part of their engagement is just beginning. The Universal Pictures' press release sums it up like this:

Beginning where most romantic comedies end, the new film from director NICHOLAS STOLLER (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek), producer JUDD APATOW (Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Bridesmaids) and RODNEY ROTHMAN (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) looks at what happens when an engaged couple, JASON SEGEL (The Muppets, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and EMILY BLUNT (The Devil Wears Prada, The Adjustment Bureau), keeps getting tripped up on the long walk down the aisle.

I can't imagine how this isn't your typical romantic comedy, except for the fact that Apatow is behind it. His films tend to be punchier than most soft core romcoms, which always makes for more interesting viewing. The trailer didn't do anything for me, but I know the Segel train is hot right and folks are eager to jump on it. And the fact that Tribeca jumped on it leads me to believe it's a lot smarter than it looks. If anything, Mindy Kaling and Kevin Hart (who play Violet's fellow grad students) should bring some hearty laughs.

The Five-Year Engagement, which also stars Rhys Ifans and Alison Brie, hits theaters April 27th. Check out the newly released images from the film below. What do you think? Will you be watching?

Who Says There Are No Female Villains in Action Movies?

I really try to ignore wildly condescending comments on my posts right after reading them. But a recent disgruntled commenter on one of my Urban Daily pieces about Bad Boys 3 got my blood boiling extra hot.

When I suggested a female villain for the third installment of a franchise (that isn't even confirmed yet), this particular reader (he outed himself as a dude) began his Internet tirade against the notion, stating this: "WHO WROTE THIS, SOME BROAD?? YES it's a broad. Look, sweetie, this is action comedy not a chick flick!!"

Really? 1) When's the last time you saw a female villain in a "chick flick?" (they're almost always mean, burly men). And, 2) you clearly don't know your action movies if you are making such a blind comment.

Let me school this dude (and maybe you, too) by reminding him of just a few of the baddest, illest "broads" who've been kicking ass and taking names in action films for years:

Catwoman/Selena Kyle in Batman Returns (Michelle Pfeiffer): Yes, the leather-clad, milk-guzzling diva had the caped crusader under her spell and drop kicked ole boy before he even knew who hit him. Easily the most mesmerizing characters brought to the film franchise.

O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill (Lucy Liu): She really needs no introduction, but I'm gonna give you one anyway. Ishii, the former child assassin-turned-boss had her all-male cabinet terrified when she scurried across a boardroom table to a insubordinate colleague and sliced his head clear off his shoulders. Then continued with her regularly scheduled meeting.

Sabine Moreau in Mission Impossible--Ghost Protocol (Léa Seydoux): Smooth as silk, quick as a wink, this French assassin can throw elbows with just about anyone--man or woman--then get back up in her four inch heels and trench coat to take on her next target. Without breaking a sweat. She's my shero.

Miho in Sin City (Devon Aoki): She's a woman of few words, but they're all the right ones. She doesn't negotiate a beat down or talk you through it, this little hooker/assassin just stands yay high on the roof of a building and cuts you clean open by throwing twin swords at you. Stand back; she means business.

T-X in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Kristanna Loken): This one makes me laugh just thinking about her. It's simply because of that one scene, you know the one. It's the clip of her going metal a metal with the rough and tough Terminator, getting some great punches in. She has a moment, stops to check herself out in the mirror fixing herself up a bit, then resumes to throw down. I. Love. This.

Need I go on? I don't want to have revisit this topic, but, in the great words O-Ren Ishii, I'll leave you with this: "If any of you sons of bitches got anything else to say, now's the f*&king time!"

"The Lady" vs. "The Iron Lady:" Who Gets the Vote?

While a few good men duke it out to take control at the White House later this year, let's take a look at two films that followed the life of female politicians. On our right we have The Iron Lady (previously reviewed here), the Oscar-winning biopic on U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (played by Meryl Streep), and on our left is The Lady, a film on the life of Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi (played by Michelle Yeoh, of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame).

Both films offer an account of women both lauded and defamed in their own countries, and who defied gender stereotypes to become relatively successful leaders. But only one did it successfully--The Lady.

Here's a brief press release synopsis of The Lady, to give you a better idea of the movie:

Long ago in a land far away, a young girl’s father, a national champion of political freedom, was brutally assassinated by an evil military junta. Though her mother was unable to flee, those loyal to her father spirited the young girl out of her homeland to a new life across the sea. Many years later, upon hearing her mother was gravely ill, the young girl, now a grown woman, married and a mother herself, bravely decides to return to her native country---a country still in the grip of restrictive military rule. How will the despots react to her return? How will the people, who, because of her martyred father, see her as a link to their hope and struggle for liberty, react to her return? How will she balance her love of country and family?

And here are a few reasons why the Aung San Suu Kyi film rocks, and why The Iron Lady still doesn't:

Beautiful direction. After the disastrous Mamma Mia!, it's a wonder why director Phyllida Lloyd was allowed back behind a camera again. Her style in The Iron Lady was heavy-handed, deliberate and all over the place. It looked more like an amateur effort. Luc Besson (The Professional), on the other hand, directed The Lady with gentle yet poignant strokes that never seemed forced.

Acting that captivates you. We all know Streep can act circles around most everyone in the business, man or woman. But, in the battle of 2011 portrayals of renown officeholders, Yeoh has Streep beat, hands down. Streep seems more like she's imitating Thatcher and doesn't come off as fluid in her performance. Meanwhile, Yeoh embodies Suu Kyi. She immerses herself in her life and you truly feel like she's sympathetic towards her struggle, 15-year house arrest, her every decision--something that is needed to convincingly play a real person.

A touching depiction. Aside from the shoddy direction of The Iron Lady, the movie leisurely told Thatcher's story from the point of view of a distant third person, which gave it an apathetic tone. Screenwriter Abi Morgan's (Shame) script came off cold and uninspired, only to be saved by its more affected performances. The Lady offers a heartbreaking chronicle of Suu Kyi's political career amid strife, while also weaving in her relationship with her husband and kids, which humanized her. Screenwriter Rebecca Frayn's full feature debut is alluring, fascinating to watch and, most importantly, makes you care about Suu Kyi.

Girl power done right. In a position dominated by men, it's no argument that the real-life heroines, Thatcher and Suu Kyi, proudly overcame gender barriers to reach the levels of success they did, at whatever the cost. But The Iron Lady presented more of a feminism 101 class, an introduction to the inequalities between men and women, and a look at one women who prevailed above it. Lloyd's sweeping displays of how Thatcher was not taken seriously and was treated differently because she was a woman was not a sensitive look at the the issue. The Lady spoke more about Suu Kyi's feminism, without hitting us over the head with it. After all, feminism isn't always about preaching your views to a male audience, but also about leading an extraordinary life as a woman--despite the odds--that inspires other women, the way The Lady presented. In other words, you feel inspired by her story, even if the story wasn't intentionally trying to inspire you.

The Lady opens in theaters today.
The Iron Lady is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis Face Off in "Looper"

This looks SO rad.

Check it: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, you know, that dude who's everywhere these days, including the little known indie, Inception? Well, it looks like he got himself suitably beefed up to face off against Bruce Willis in the roided-up action flick, Looper.

But listen to this: Not only is JGL teaming with mega star Willis, in the genre he himself built brick by brick, JGL is playing Willis as a young lad and, yes, challenging him to a duel! I'll explain.

JGL is a Looper, a vintage mobster whose targets get sent from the present to be annihilated by him. When he learns his latest target is himself (played by Willis), he winds up in a bit of a predicament. But, no worries, an order is an order...Talk about being committed to your job.

Anyway, yes please and with a cherry on top! I'm all over this, especially since director Rian Johnson is behind it. Even though Johnson's major credit is the badass "Fly" episode of Breaking Bad (and if you're not watching Breaking Bad, what are you waiting for?), it's enough for me to start foaming at the mouth to see this.

Watch the hip new trailer below. Looper, which also stars Emily Blunt (who looks handy with a gun here), rushes to theaters September 28th.

Five African-American Childen's Books That Deserve Movies

Another day, another colorless children’s book makes its way to the big screen. This time it’s Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. While watching books like Curious George and Dr. Seuss’ entire collection of stories spring to life on the big screen is all well and good, who are the characters little Keisha and Reggie can relate to?

Here are five black books that need to get their time on the silver screen.

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold: A book that’s quickly become one of the most sought after titles in stores, Tar Beach takes readers on eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot’s woundrous journey as she spreads her wings and flies up in the air across her Harlem neighborhood and beyond. The captivating illustrations, along with Cassie’s soaring tale, inspire girls and boys to think big and imagine all their possibilities.

Precious and the Boo Hag by Patricia C. McKissack and Onawumi Jean Moss (illustrated by Krysten Brooker): Wickedly entertaining for both children and families, this delightfully frightful read follows Precious home alone sick, with strict orders from her mama to not let anyone in the house. But Precious—and unsuspecting readers—gets a big surprise when none other than the big, bad, lightning-haired Pruella the Boo Hag comes knocking on the door in various disguises. Kids would have fun watching the events unfold, and getting the thrill of their lives.

Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah (illustrated by Frank Morrison): Kinda like the animated Love and Basketball, without the Love, this 2006 too-cool-for-school children’s book has become a modern classic for girls who have game on the playground. The first lady of hip-hop, Queen Latifah, pens a spirited message of self-love to girls and boys that can easily translate to the big screen.

The Barber’s Cutting Edge by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert: We far too rarely get to see little black boys and their fathers on the big screen bonding in a loving way. But this simple yet profound celebration of relationships between fathers and sons, set in the familial black hangout spot of a barbershop, highlights the story of young Rashaad and his barber mentor, Mr. Bigelow. Watching the fellas help the boys with their homework, give pep talks and play dominoes would certainly bring a smile to any dad as he sits proudly next to his son at the theater.

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers (Illustrated by Christopher Myers): Earlier this year we saw the evocative adult animated Cuban musical Chico & Rita get the big screen treatment, which made us yearn for the day when Myers’ vibrant 2008 children’s book gets the Hollywood hookup. Written for both jazz enthusiasts and budding prodigies, this musical tribute—complete with soulful poems—infuses the love of jazz into the hearts of readers young and old.

(This post was originally written for The Urban Daily)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Who Should Play Pam Grier in a Biopic?

That's the question we posed on tonight's special edition of Cinema In Noir.

Yesterday Deadline reported that the iconic actress Pam Grier of Jackie Brown, Coffy and Foxy Brown fame, who helped usher in the 70s blaxploitation films, is getting the big screen treatment. Eunetta T. Boone (mostly known from TV projects such as My Wife and Kids and Living Single) will adapt Grier's wildly popular 2010 autobiography "Foxy: My Life in Three Acts," which follows the transgression  of her life and career, then and now. The book also reveals her scandalous relationships with Hollywood heavyweights Richard Pryor, Freddie Prinze, Sr. and John Lennon, to name a few, and touches upon her ongoing fight with cancer.

I haven't read the book in its entirety, but it is certainly a page-turner. I just hope the movie does her story justice, and chronicles her role as a feminist and equal rights opportunist, which was especially profound during the highest point of her career.

In any case, the ladies and I gave our choices for who could step into Grier's shoes on the silver screen (Meagan Good, maybe?), and those we could see play her male cohorts.

Listen to the audio of today's show below. Who do you think should play Pam Grier?

Listen to internet radio with KimberlyRenee on Blog Talk Radio

Five Ways "Bad Boys 3" Can Be a Good Movie

It’s hard to believe it’s been 17 years since Will Smith and Martin Lawrence first strapped on their bullet proof vests in the sizzling Miami cop film, Bad Boys. Nine years after its less-than-perfect, but oh-so-enjoyable sequel, the word on the street is there may be a third movie in the works. But before you start rolling your eyes, this could be good, if the filmmakers peep these five simple tips:

Create better female characters. Women in action films often lack a lot of depth, and usually become the sickening damsels in distress sucking up way too much screen time, kinda like Gabrielle Union’s character did in the second movie. Why not make the woman a badass villain with a megawatt smile who can give Mike (Smith) and Marcus (Lawrence) a real fight for their lives?

It’s time for Mike to settle down. As much as it’s passé for male characters in film to be perpetual bachelors, the whole bit about Mike having more girls than he knows what to do with is SO played out. At least give him a steady girlfriend. After all, he’s been single for almost two decades. When’s he gonna get a girl? It’s just not cool when you’re waving a pimp cane at age 60, unless you’re Ron Isley (and we don’t even want him doing it).

Stick to what works. Dear director Michael Bay, don’t get too wild with the new plot by adding spectacularly obscene characters or impossible scenarios (like Mike racing a speeding bullet across the ocean, while balancing on a surfboard). Keep with what’s been successful in the past—a fun buddy cop film that doesn’t try to be anything more than that.

Add some fresh blood. As good as the chemistry is between Lawrence and Smith, it may be time to add a few new faces to the cast that will break up the predictable banter between the two leads. The Rock was able to revitalize the Fast and the Furious franchise, so just think what a newcomer who can throw jabs back at Marcus and Mike can do for a new installment.

Make sure the soundtrack is tight. Even the worst action movies have killer tunes. If the movie suffers from dead plot moments, the audience can easily forget about them if one of their jams starts playing right in the middle of a weak scene. Remember what Diddy did for the second film’s soundtrack? Folks were sitting in the theater trying to shake their tailfeathers. This works.

(This post was originally written for The Urban Daily). 

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