MMT Recommends: #FirstTimeISawMe Netflix campaign

I’m a little late to the party, but was so moved with this #FirstTimeISawMe campaign by Netflix that I feel inspired to share my thoughts. When I think back on representation in television and when I first saw images of myself, I was amazed at my reflections. Although I saw persons of color represented during the 70’s and 80’s, most remarkably for me were shows like “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons” and “The Cosby Show,” it wasn’t until the 90’s that I felt like I saw actual representatives of people I knew on TV.

I fell in love with the Charles Dutton led “ROC,” and I scheduled evening classes (i.e. I skipped out on the last hour of class every Thursday night!) around Fox’s old Thursday night lineup of “Martin” and “New York Undercover,” because it included “Living Single” – a series that featured four African-American women navigating life and friendship, to which I could certainly relate.

And after the template was laid in “Living Single” came one of my all-time favorite sitcoms “Girlfriends.” Ooh and the oh, so missed Showtime drama “Soul Food.” Those shows displayed reflections of, not only myself, but people around me. I could empathize with their struggles, because I knew, or knew of, them.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay shares a similar thought about identifying with characters later in life here:

 

MMT Fam, do you remember the first time you saw yourself on-screen? Do you identify with any character on TV today?

We all know that seeing people who look like you and deal with similar life experiences is powerful, because you inevitably believe you can achieve anything once you’ve seen someone else do it first. Just listen to what MMT fave Marlon Wayans has to say about watching his older siblings:

 

So, shout out to Netflix for all of the shows added to its platform where people are seeing representations of themselves and beautiful representations of others as well. Personally, I’m loving shows like “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil” and enjoy adding movies and shows, where I’ve enjoyed seeing representation, in my queue – like “Mississippi Damned,” “Being Mary Jane,” and “Greenleaf.” Maybe Netflix will work on adding Soul Food the series, Girlfriends and Living Single? Just asking for a friend…lies, you know it’s for me!

And MMT Fam you can check out some of the past reviews of our Netflix Picks, and get some good recommendations for those queues by clicking here.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

 

 

 

MMT November 2016 Netflix Picks

Happy last day of November MMT Fam! This year has “flown” by, and it seemed especially challenging for me these last couple of months with being caretaker for both a sick parent and pet – the latter of whom passed last week, and I am still a bit heartbroken. But, I was able to take time to watch two films over the Thanksgiving holiday that I very much wanted to see since their addition to Netflix – 13TH and ZOOTOPIA.

I cannot emphasize properly how remarkable Ava DuVernay’s 13TH is in detailing the impact of the American criminal system on African-Americans from post-slavery to modern times – based on a loophole in the 13th amendment that specifies slavery is allowed as use for punishment of a crime. I was in awe of the documentary, the images and stories displayed, and the mixture of scholars, educators, historians, activists, and politicians who expounded on policies and cases past and present.

It is a heavy documentary, but oh so necessary, and offers a precise and well supported view of the duality of convictions/mass incarceration for persons of color vs. persons of non-color – especially for those who have difficulty, or simply refuse to believe there is a difference in treatment for the African-American population.

To further drive the last point home, and how it’s shaped cultural attitudes, towards the end of film DuVernay focuses on many who were killed at the hands of law enforcement (or those who self-identified as authority, i.e. George Zimmerman’s self-inflated neighborhood watch role) – with video and/or audio clips – also adding the case of Kalief Browder, the 22 year-old who committed suicide in 2015 after being falsely charged and arrested at age 16 and spending three years without conviction at Rikers Island.

And for anyone who wishes to show the documentary in public, and is seeking clearance, Ms. DuVernay tweeted yesterday that Netflix has given its first ever, general waiver:

My second pick from this month is the Disney CGI animated hit ZOOTOPIA. A funny, and socially relevant on a pre-school, school age level, film featuring Officer Judy Hopps, who becomes the first bunny on the force and is forced to solve a mystery/conspiracy, with sly fox Nick Wilde, before entire species are forever banned from Zootopia.

Witty, socially savvy, and just plain fun, “Zootopia” is a great watch for the entire family, and is packed with positive messages of acceptance, perseverance, and community.

Okay MMT Fam, those are my two picks from November. Let me know if you watch, especially 13TH, and leave a comment or two sharing your thoughts!

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

 

 

 

MMT Recommends: ATLANTA AND QUEEN SUGAR

MMT Fam, there are two new shows premiering on Tuesday, September 6 that have been on my radar for a minute, and I can’t wait to view them both. The only downside is they are airing at the same time – so it’s a toss-up as to which watch in real-time and which to view later!

The first series ATLANTA, is filmed on location and stars the multi-talented Donald Glover (Community, Magic Mike XXL) – who not only created the show, but serves as executive producer, writer, director and executive music producer.

“Atlanta” follows two cousins trying to better their, and their families, lives by navigating the Atlanta music scene. The show also stars Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz and airs tomorrow night at 10 pm EST on FX.

The next show, co-created by Oprah Winfrey and co-created/written by show runner, and MMT fave, Ava DuVernay, QUEEN SUGAR has already garnered high praise from critics, advanced viewers and festival goers alike. With a two-night première September 6 and 7 at 10 pm EST on OWN, season one of the series is an all female directed, 13-episode adaptation based on the novel by Natalie Baszile.

Set in the fictional town of Saint Josephine, Louisiana, “Queen Sugar” chronicles the journey of the estranged Bordelon siblings: Nova (Rutina Wesley, True Blood, How She Move), a journalist and activist; Charley (Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Unforgettable), the wife and manager of a professional basketball star; and Ralph Angel (Kofi Siriboe, Awkward), a formerly incarcerated young father seeking redemption.

In Ava’s own words, the show is, “something that allows us to see ourselves and see the ways that we interact with our own families.”  “So, this family can be stripped of its location, of its race, of its class, and still our hope is that you’re able to see a bit of yourself in it.”

“Queen Sugar” has a solid cast that also includes Dondre Whitfield (Middle of Nowhere) and, one of my favorite actors of all-time, Mr. Glynn Turman (The Obama Effect, Cooley High). Its September 6 première will air as a “commercial-free” director’s cut, so that helps determine the coin toss for me – I’ll personally stream “Atlanta” on Sept 7.

Stop back and share your thoughts if you watch either, or both, shows!

Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick Review of ‘ANT-MAN’ (guest reviewer Darryl King)

ANT-MAN (photo: Marvel)

Happy Thursday MMT Family! Once again, we have the pleasure of gaining insight from friend to MusicMoviesThoughts and Marvel expert Darryl King!  Darryl went to last Monday’s Philly screening of Marvel’s ANT-MAN, which opens tomorrow July 17, and was kind enough to break down the film for us – yes, even those of us who didn’t regularly follow the comics! So according to Darryl, here’s what you need to know about the latest movie in the Marvel franchise,

ANT-MAN… Marvel’s little Big Man!
(No spoiler review)

After much consternation, finally the movie Ant-Man arrives in theatres with much trepidation and anticipation as Marvel closes the book upon its Phase 2 slate of films. Starting with Iron Man 3 and ending with this movie, one could argue that the best of this phase was in the middle (Thor 2, Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy & Avengers 2) but Ant-Man holds its own as the final chapter to one phase and serves well as a bridge to another. Ant-Man as a film is very enjoyable, funny, and much like Jurassic World – the movie provides such a good time at the theatre that you may overlook its flaws. Ant-Man debuts into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) having to carry and address 4 major issues that the movie does overcome:

1) Why Ant-Man?
2) Why Scott Lang over Hank Pym?
3) Why Paul Rudd?
4) The Edgar Wright factor

Ant-Man makes sense for the MCU because he is perhaps the first superhero that appeals to the common man. If you were to poll Marvel fans about what superhero they want to see on the silver screen, Ant-Man would not have been at the top of the list. Examining the superhero landscape, we find it littered with super aliens from outer-space, mutants, or people transformed and given powers by outrageous circumstances. But the Scott Lang rendition of Ant-Man is just a regular guy – a thief who steals a suit. None of us may not get bitten by a radioactive spider, survive gamma rays, or have billions of dollars to play with to make super toys, but we all can put on a suit that turns us from ordinary to super… no special requirements needed. And at the core of this movie, that’s what it is about… a regular guy who loves his daughter, divorced from his wife but is willing to do anything to love and provide for his girl. Scott Lang is a master thief and it’s this gift, and his love for his daughter, that the original Ant-man/Hank Pym preys upon to recruit Scott to help him stop the evil that is about to be unleashed upon society.

Marvel decides that the Scott Lang origins over the original Ant-Man Hank Pym story probably make sense primarily because of the problems of the MCU. If you were to dissect this movie intently, you would recognize that it really is a carbon copy on the original Iron Man. Both of these movies tell an origin story of a guy who has his life changed over a suit of power. The arc of the film shows how he learns to use said power and then defeats the villain – who just so happens to work at the same company. Now if they had focused on the Hank Pym/Ant Man, this movie would have been exactly the same story as Iron Man 1, because Pym and Tony Stark are very similar in character and back story. Saving the overall story of Hank Pym also makes sense because the hole in the Marvel movie timeline falls between when Captain America freezes in the water and the creation of the Iron Man suit. And while the story of Peggy Carter is interest, it is not enough. Marvel’s superheros that fill that time period currently aren’t owned by Marvel (Fantastic Four, X-men, Sub Mariner) so it stands to reason that Marvel needs stories that can pull it together and the Hank Pym/Ant Man story will be used as a bridge in the timeline without making an origin story or period piece. Scott Lang provides this movie the added twist of the mentor-mentee relationship and since he is a thief, this creates a “heist movie” dynamic that was so wonderfully done in films like Ocean’s 11 or The Italian Job.

That is why the Paul Rudd choice makes sense. To be able to make a superhero movie wrapped around a heist movie requires a delicate vice, and the director Peyton Reed uses humor. The strength of Paul Rudd’s movie career can be summed up as the “thinking man’s” type comedies. No slapstick, vaudevillian, graphic or physical comedy works for superheroes, Marvel has made a living with well-timed dialogue, and it is Paul Rudd’s comedic genius that makes Ant-Man work. This by far is the funniest of the Marvel movies with Michael Pena stealing much of the movie with his well placed role. Rudd sets up the funny moments and pacing of the movie like Jerry Seinfeld in his prime – which helps the audience to overlook another one-dimensional bad guy (Marvel’s Achilles heel), some very convenient plot points, a very favorable ending and some forced tie-ins to the MCU and the next phase of films that this movie really didn’t need.

That’s probably why Edgar Wright left – just like Joss Whedon did after directing Avengers 2 and Ava DuVernay turned down the Black Panther movie. Edgar Wright refused to bow to the overall forced MCU universe themes that the company makes their directors adhere to. For Edgar Wright, Ant-Man was a passion project (working on this film even before there was a MCU Universe). And if the story had been told correctly, Hank Pym and not Tony Stark would have created Ultron and thus a more natural tie in for the Ant-Man character to the other superheroes in the MCU. But with Robert Downey Jr. playing Stark/Iron man so well and iconic, his portrayal basically shrunk (pun intended) the need for a Hank Pym. So then Wright’s focus became the second man who wore the outfit, with a different back story that would lead to so many original ideas yet not seen in the MCU – but the forced ideas and tie-in to the MCU is what we can assume is the reason why a person walks away from a pet project that they loved.

And now that we have gone from Phase 1, which introduced the MCU Universe, and through Phase 2, which centered around the expanding of the universe, the character of Ant-Man successfully passes the baton to a new phase – and perhaps the most important that will define Marvel movies and will decide if we as fans will continue to support them. Overall ANT-MAN is a good movie; as it is not as much a superhero movie as it is a heist/growing into your destiny film. The battles in the film are more mental than physical. The movie is good enough that I just might take some Pym particles, shrink down to size and sneak back in the movies to watch it again!

PS – When you do see it, don’t leave right away – as there are two post-credit scenes that play heavily into Phase 3.

Well MMT Fam, I told y’all Darryl was going to have you properly prepared!  He also wanted to make sure you knew this, “People need to see it in 3D. The effects of Ant-Man going small and enlarging only comes across in 3D, and it is one of the better 3D movies that has been made.”

Alright family, do you feel ready to see the film? You can get additional info at the official ANT-MAN website here, and watch the below trailer. Stop back after you’ve seen the movie and share a comment or two – let Darryl know your thoughts!  By the way, did you notice how he gave all that info without any spoilers? Fabulous!

Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick Review of SELMA

Selma (photo: Paramount)

Merry Christmas MMT Family!  I am so excited to this share this review for SELMA, which opens Christmas Day limited release in NY, LA, ATL and D.C. – and nationwide on January 9. I am not exaggerating when I say I believe this film to be the best film of 2014.

For me it is cinematic perfection from start to finish – the story well-written, the acting superb, a wonderful all-star cast, and the film itself visually stunning. The latter adjective courtesy of cinematographer Bradford Young, who also worked with “Selma” director Ava DuVernay on her highly acclaimed film “Middle of Nowhere.” Both DuVernay and Young’s names are in the running as early award season favorites – DuVernay being the first female African-American director to receive the Golden Globe Best Director nomination, with “Selma” receiving three additional Globe nods, and two films Young worked this year “Selma” and “A Most Violent Year” getting AFI Best Film listed and named National Board Review’s Best Picture respectively.

For those not familiar, Selma is the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the historic marches to secure voting rights for African-Americans – a dangerous and terrifying campaign that culminated with the epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and led to President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. DuVernay also serves as an uncredited writer, and executive producer along with Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey also appears in the film as civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper.

Two of the many things I enjoyed very much about Selma were the film’s depiction of the female involvement in the civil rights movement and the nuances displayed in King’s personal relationships. DuVernay does not shy away from the documented extra-marital affairs that plagued King’s marriage to wife Coretta, and chooses instead to show Dr. King in his first big-screen depiction exactly as he was – both a flawed and selfless human being who achieved and sacrificed greatly for the sake of the masses. To read more about DuVernay’s choice to depict King in a nuanced fashion, and what some of the King family members thought about the film, check out my Celebrity Examiner article here.

And with the aforementioned Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Lorraine Toussaint,Tessa Thompson, and a great cameo with actress/comedienne Niecy Nash, the female power in this film was outstanding.

My favorite cameo in film was the vocal powerhouse Ledisi, who depicts gospel great Mahalia Jackson. DuVernay was involved in selecting the entire cast and described to MMT how she came to offer Ledisi the role, “I’m just a huge Ledisi fan! I saw her at a party in LA and asked if she ever acted. She hadn’t, but stated she would be interested. I told her I might have (a role), and about a month later we called her.”

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t take time mention David Oyelowo (pronounced o-yellow-o) in the lead as Dr. King. To say he is mesmerizing would most certainly be an understatement. While she discussed her taking on the challenge of re-writing some of King’s speeches for the script, I shared with DuVernay how powerful I believed the speech in a eulogy scene was – with Oyelowo delivering words that paralleled the calls to action with current civil rights/police protests. Ava quickly responded, “David Oyelowo is 90% why the speeches worked. He is incredible, and people must learn his name – it’s just yellow with two O’s!”

If you live in or near NY, LA, ATL, D.C., I urge you to support this film over the Christmas holiday this weekend. For everyone else, the film will open January 9 – 10 days before the national observed King holiday. Selma’s 2015 release also occurs in the same 50th anniversary year of the 1965 Voting Rights Act – serving as a timely reminder of how far we have and have not come collectively as a nation within the past half of a century.

You can watch the trailer for SELMA below, and checkout the official website here for additional info and ticket sales.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening passes for SELMA and Q & A with director Ava DuVernay Tuesday, 12/16 (Phila, PA)

Selma

Here’s another Friday giveaway MMT family, but you better be quick (it’s a code) and be prepared – this is going to be a popular one! We’re giving away passes for the hot ticket next week – the advanced screening for the highly anticipated film SELMA, featuring a Q & A after the screening with the film’s history-making, Golden Globe nominated director Ava DuVernay!

Click here to get to Gofobo.com and click on the “Get My Passes” link. If requested, use code MMTSelma. Passes, like theater seating, are first-come, first-served and are not guaranteed. I strongly recommend anyone attending to show up as early as possible – as I’m certain this will be a crowded screening.

That’s it for this evening family.  Good luck!

Until next thought, Thomasena

Happy 2nd Anniversary MusicMoviesThoughts!

Happy Anniversary image

Guess what MMT family?  The site is two years old today!  I am so elated, for several reasons. First, I am still coming down off my birthday celebration high from last week (and yes, I saw that staff takeover post!).  Next, I remember typing out my wish list last year this time, which included increased celebrity interviews and giveaways.  Since that time, I’ve been able to do awesome movie screening giveaways, including passes to this summer’s hottest movie “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” And speaking of The Butler, I’ve not only interviewed director Lee Daniels, and co-stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Yaya Alafia, but a host of directors, producers, actors and singers; including history maker Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere), Academy award hopeful director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), and my favorite solo interview to date, the legendary actor/director Charles Dutton (The Obama Effect).

We’ve also given away great DVD’s and movie soundtracks to many of the 1,055 plus followers the site has amassed, and we’ve created a new Facebook page to interact with our fan base.  I am on cloud nine thinking about what has happened, and can’t write out this year’s wish list fast enough!

I want to take time again this year to thank several persons who have invested time and support of the site.  I am very thankful to Allied-THA for their continued support in partnering with the MMT site for movie screenings.  I also want to thank our new photography partner, the talented Monica Lyons, and her company Sista Pics (check out the Lee Daniels’ The Butler Philly premiere, Yaya Alafia and Yusuf Muhammad posts for examples of her greatness!).  I want to also extend a thank you to Michael Tozzi and ijazzglobal.com, LaVern Cameron, Rel Dowdell, Nakia Stokes, Mike D. and the Reelblack family, LeAnne Lindsay, and Pat Garcia for the support they’ve extended. Heads up MMT family, you will want to remember the name LaVern Cameron because her book, Ascent From Obscurity, is soon to be released and it is a powerful read.  You might also recognize the name of the editor (hint, hint) but more on that later!

Lastly, I want to say thank you to each subscriber of MMT, the Facebook page, and those who follow the blog via Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.  Because I value your opinion, I am asking each of you to take a brief minute and share your feedback, thoughts, etc. about this site on the attached contact form.  I am really interested and look forward to receiving your input to help with the wish list for this year. 🙂

Thanks again family!  Until next thought, Thomasena

MusicMovieThoughts Quick Picks 6/29/13

Twenty Feet From Stardom

Hey Music Movie family!  I’ll admit it’s been a bit since the last post, so I have a few recommendations for you this time around!  I want to start by first saying congrats to all the contest winners from this month’s giveaways.  I received great feedback from those who attended both the Fruitvale and Twenty Feet From Stardom screenings.  My personal movie pick for this weekend is “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” which I shared the synopsis and trailer for here (“Fruitvale” opens later in July and I will definitely share more about it in the near future).

In brief, Twenty Feet chronicles the stories of several background singers, some well-known, and a few not as known to the masses.  The doc gets the audience up close and personal with amazing vocalists like Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, and Merry Clayton, among others, as they share their successes and defeats in the shadows of some of the top artists of their times.  To check release dates and theaters that will show “Twenty Feet From Stardom” in your area click here.   The film was released Friday, 6/28 at the Ritz Bourse here in the Philadelphia area.

I also have a few television picks for next week, and it so happens that each of them premieres on Tuesday, July 2.  The first is the documentary VENUS VS. directed by the superbly talented Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere, I Will Follow).  “VENUS VS.”  highlights Venus Williams’ two-year battle advocating for pay equality for women in professional tennis.  The film will air next Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN (check local listings).

Next up is one of my guilty pleasures, and what I am sure will be a new guilty pleasure on the same channel!  I am talking about the mid-season return of The Game Tuesday, July 2 at 10 p.m. EST on BET, followed by the première of Being Mary Jane starring Gabrielle Union at 10:30 p.m.  I know some of my Game die-hards have given up after last season, but I kind of like the Blue and Kiera storyline, and would like to see where it leads.  I also want to see Pookie go off when he finds out what Tasha has been up to behind his back!

With this next pick I’m definitely behind, but I really enjoyed Man of Steel.  It is probably the action film I had the most fun viewing thus far this summer.  This version delved into the psyche of young Clark Kent, and really had you vested in his journey to find out who he truly was as an adult.  The one con with the film, for me, was some of the CGI and the destruction scenes.  They were a bit much, and I could have done with a few less buildings being demolished, a few less windows being shattered, and hypothetically a few less persons dying!  On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 8.5.

I did also see and partly enjoyed World War Z, but I must admit I felt it was a mash-up of I Am Legend and Contagion.  If you’re a Brad Pitt and/or a zombie fan (or gamer) you’ll probably get your money’s worth, otherwise I would recommend checking out one of the former picks first.  Biggest con: there was a moment where I questioned the political correctness of one of the geographic choices and religious characterizations in the film.  But since I don’t do spoilers, I’ll just say pay attention to the Jerusalem wall scene and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below! That way if anyone dares to read the comments, it will be at their own risk. 🙂

Alright family, I believe that’s it…ooh wait!  I also saw White House Down and can sum that up in six words: Die Hard With A White House!  Was I at all entertained?  Of course, Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, Ray) and Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, The Vow) are in it; but I’m sorry our armed service and secret service branches are not nearly as dumb as this movie made them out to be, and I couldn’t suspend disbelief that much!

Okay, now that’s really it. 🙂  Until next thought family, Thomasena

The Importance of Now

Hey there Music Movie family!  How has 2013 been treating you so far?  Did anyone watch the Grammys or BET Honors earlier this month?  How about the Oscars last Sunday night?  I managed to catch all three, and a few of the other award shows, although this month has been extremely hectic for me.  In addition to travelling out-of-town to finish up a book edit,  I loss a very dear friend, and learned of the deaths of two others, earlier this month.  Coping with the deaths of loved ones is something we all must face at some point and, while it seems quite tragic when they leave at a young age or without warning, is a reminder of the precious importance of now.  What are those things in life you are passionate about but keep putting on the back burner?  What is that one thing you want to do but haven’t yet stepped out on faith to attain?

blackfilmavatar-300x300Local filmmaker, Reelblack founder, and friend Mike D. (Philly Boy and Ladies and Gentleman, Jordan Rock)  recently stepped out on faith and started an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds towards completion of a feature-length documentary on the state of African-American film called Black Film Now.   Let me further clarify – Black Film Now will be the FIRST full length documentary on this subject, and will include rare interview footage including chats with Spike Lee, Kimberly Elise, Kevin Hart,  Kerry Washington, Lee Daniels, Ava Duvernay, and Haile Gerima just to name a few.  I’m excited for Mike and the making of this film and I encourage everyone reading to share and support this campaign.  You can watch the video below and go to http://www.indiegogo.com/blackfilmnow  to donate.  Every amount counts, and for just $10 your name will be added to the end credits as a thank you for your support.   How cool is that?  There are 13 days left in the Indiegogo campaign, but after that you can check my blog roll (to the right) and click on the Reelblack link to get info on how to support.

Although it’s hard to understand the losses, I’m grateful for the reminder that I must appreciate now more.  Thank you Mike D. for being a current example of the power of now, and for the passion you exude to bring good Black film to the masses.  To Bridgette and her family, and to the memory of Karen and my dear friend Shelice, I simply say God is still in control.

Until next thought family, Thomasena