MMT Quick Review ‘MARSHALL’ by contributor Darryl King

“Marshall” is the tale of two stories – it’s first an origin story about a historical legend who chose to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.  The film focuses on a specific time in the life of Thurgood Marshall, perhaps as a character study to further understand the man.

But secondly, it’s about the friendship of two men who came from opposite sides of the tracks and are thrown together by circumstance, forged together through trials and bonded together by accomplishment.

“Marshall” is a film that adroitly merges both narratives as the backdrop about the early life of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, while centering on one of his early cases about a well-to-do white female socialite who accuses her black chauffeur of rape. As a lawyer in the NAACP, Marshall became the to go to lawyer for high-profile cases, aiding in growing the membership and impact of this organization.

But if you are searching for a history lesson about Thurgood Marshall, or an exposé’ on racism and/or the prejudices of those times, this is not that movie. While the movie does highlight some historical evidence of the times, and the particulars of his life, that is not the focus of “Marshall.”

And controversy aside, whether a dark-skinned actor can portray the light-skinned civil rights lawyer whose skin color was an important barrier for him has merit, But the film tells a different narrative, and changes the angle from ‘color’ to ‘cocky’.

“Marshall” is a slow-paced, intelligent, and emotionally impactful film with traces of levity that plays into the strengths of our main actors, Chadwick Boseman and Josh Gad. Masquerading as a buddy movie, “Marshall” often resembles films like those starring Richard Pryor & Gene Wilder. But does this film work?

Yes, it does mainly because of the talents of its director, Reginald Hudlin.  While other black directors have come into prominence in recent years, often forgotten are the exploits of the director of films like ‘Boomerang” and “House Party.”

If you enjoyed “Boomerang,” then you’re probably going to be pleased with “Marshall” – as Hudlin weaves a good-hearted narrative and establishes a world so sweet it practically renders this historical story fictional.

While that doesn’t offer “justice” to the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, that doesn’t hinder “Marshall” from being a good film. The film provides some historical antidotes as bookends and, other than a tantalizing scene in the midst of the film that brought a genuine smile to my heart, strays away mostly from the facts of the times.

Chadwick Boseman continues his stellar run of wonderful performances. His ability to draw the audience in with his delivery is what makes him special, allowing us to get lost in the narrative. He portrays Thurgood Marshall as a confident (cocky) and assured (arrogant) black man who is extremely competent.

Josh Gad (Samuel Friedman) usually plays funny characters, but in this he is easy-going, powerfully innocent and brings a balance to the brashness of Boseman’s character. The role of the wealthy white woman, I believe, needed a known actress to play the female antagonist, and Kate Hudson (Eleanor Strubing) instantly makes the viewer believe she is a woman who could be two different sides of the same coin.

In the end, “Marshall” is a feel-good movie with just enough traces of history to paint a portrait of the man who would later change lives in America. If this film inspires someone to delve deeper into the life of Thurgood Marshall, and his impact beyond his landmark cases, then this film has done its job.

And lastly to Chadwick Boseman, can you save some biopic roles for other black actors in Hollywood? We’ll grant you at least one more, Black Panther, because everyone knows that Wakanda and the Black Panther are real!

Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Checkout his reviews of The Dark TowerSpider-man: Homecoming, and Baby Driver right here on MMT.

 

MMT March 2017 Netflix Picks

Happy Friday MMT Fam! So, here are my Netflix picks from the month of March, albeit the first is a repeat since you must be prepared for the April 7 release of season 2 of THE GET DOWN.

In my prior review, I described the series as “an unconventional, hip-hop fantasy/musical/drama inspired by the pioneering days of DJing and rapping.” I’ve read varied opinions of the show, expressing sentiments from love to darn near hate, but I believe a lot of people feeling the latter were not prepared, or not willing, to suspend disbelief and enjoy the fantasy parts – or they are just hardcore hip hop fans that don’t want their memories, and the culture’s history, “disturbed.” However, I still believe this series, and the story, is good TV. So, if you enjoyed the first season re-watch – and if you haven’t yet tuned in, take my recommendation and catch up so you can be ready for season 2!

My next Netflix pick is a film that was released last year and lovingly reviewed by Mr. Darryl King for this site, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. I viewed it again this month, and enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than when I watched it on the big screen – mostly because I was able to rewind some of my favorite actions scenes. 🙂

In Civil War, we find the Avengers against, well the Avengers – as the group splits on the decision to fight to maintain their independence or concede to monitoring and government control. It’s in this film that fans get their first introduction to Chawick Boseman’s Black Panther before the movie’s February 2018 release, as well as that of the new “Spiderman” Tom Holland before the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming (opening in theaters on 7/7/17).

My last pick is a bit of a somber one, but definitely gives good food for thought. BURNING SANDS is a fictional story that highlights the still current and controversial topic of hazing on college campuses. The film follows the journey of protagonist Zurich, a student pledging a fictional fraternity, and his final week on line which culminates in a very tragic “hell night.”

Prior to watching the movie, I’d read about some of the backlash to Gerald McMurray’s directorial début, but here‘s a fair article, written by a member of Delta Sigma Theta, and interview with McMurray that may shed light on why he felt this story was important to tell. I really want to know your thoughts about this one if you’ve seen it already, or after you’ve viewed the film, in the comments.

I walked away with the belief the film didn’t “only” portray the negative side of Greek life, as some have mentioned, as there were scenes that displayed or noted positives such as charity and lifelong fellowship. But, it did paint a powerful portrait of the need to hold those accountable that engage in injurious – and sometimes fatal – actions towards others. Unfortunately, this is still a hotly debated and taboo subject on many campuses, not solely HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) – the latter being where the movie is set.

Okay, that’s it for March family. You know the drill, leave a comment or two and let me know what you think about this month’s picks!

Until next thought, Thomasena

 

 

 

A MMT Review of ‘Get On Up’ and interview with Deanna Brown-Thomas

Get On Up (Universal Pictures)

I must admit, I am very excited to see the James Brown biopic Get On Up finally arrive on the big screen, in theaters nationwide today August 1. It was one of those projects that over the years you’d hear about, but then something would happen to halt progress. Unfortunately in the case of this film, it was the passing of the legendary protagonist himself. So when I read that rock legend Mick Jagger had hopped on board as a producer, and that the green light was bright, it was as we used to say when I was younger “a bet!” And then I read that actor and star of “42” Chadwick Boseman was cast as the “Godfather of Soul,” and I was all like – really? But my curiosity and partial doubt was soon removed with the release of the trailer earlier this year; which depicted Boseman fluidly, vividly, and amazingly twirling, stepping and splitting into the legendary moves pioneered by the “hardest working man in show business.” I was convinced that “Get On Up,” if accurately summated and synonymous with the trailer, would be a great film befitting of Mr. Brown’s stature.

It’s well noted how much Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger was influenced by Brown, and producer Brian Grazer also professes that he was highly influenced by him (see video here). I believe this Tate Taylor directed vehicle will do well based off of the merits of Brown himself, but definitely also because of the buzz-worthy performance of lead Chadwick Boseman. I was one of the people crying foul last year when he wasn’t mentioned anywhere for his “42” performance, but I will be “fit to be tied” if he isn’t in the award season acknowledgments this year. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say how amazing of a performance was given by Nelsan Ellis, who portrays fellow musician and lifelong friend of Brown’s Bobby Byrd.

At its core, “Get On Up” is a celebration of the life of James Brown, arguably one the greatest entertainers to walk the planet, as well as one of the most complicated. The film, with a screenplay written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, does not shy away from the difficult moments; and as a matter of fact opens with one of the most challenging – Mr. Brown’s drug use and the 1988 incident that led to a three-year stint in prison. The film gives a fair look at some of the ups and downs of his life, from his childhood struggle with poverty and abandonment by his parents, to his meteoric rise to fame and the struggles, many self-imposed, that came along or were exacerbated by it. More importantly, it presented a realistic look at the man whose talent sparked use of many legendary monikers including “Mr. Dynamite,” and “Soul Brother No. 1.” I was most impressed by the film’s display of James Brown as a man who was aware and assured of the spiritual call on his life, and the film’s balance of reflecting him as humanly flawed.

Deanna Brown-ThomasBack in June, I had the pleasure of talking to James Brown’s daughter Deanna Brown-Thomas, and we discussed everything from her father’s music to his philanthropic legacy (see my June examiner.com article here for more on the latter). When discussing his spirituality and my telling her I’d read he had a bible opened in every room of the house she stated, “Every last one of them was opened to Psalm 37.” She related to me the story, as mentioned in the film, about how her father had stopped breathing after birth and a mid-wife was able to resuscitate him – an act that James Brown believed was proof of a greater call on his life, as reflected in the film’s Vietnam War helicopter scene.

When asked if she was active on the set during filming, Mrs. Brown-Thomas advised that the film was completed during the holiday season, which is when the James Brown Family Children Foundation, of which serves as President, is busy with its holiday toy and turkey giveaway tradition, also depicted in the film. But she shared that her, “son, cousin and Keith (Jenkins, a maestro at the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils or JAMP) was on the set, so I had ears and eyes. I was also a consultant on the film, along with my mother and sister.” When I asked her feelings on having her parents portrayed on the big screen, her father by South Carolina native Chadwick Boseman and mom by Philly native Jill Scott, she shared, “Jill Scott asked my son a lot of questions on the set and my son questioned my mother so he could be prepared. The director and Chadwick spoke to mom, and it’s really something because it’s both my parents. I know it’s the James Brown story, but my mother was there during the time he was at his peak. It hits at home because it involves all of my family – me, my brothers, sisters and everyone.” Get On Up (Universal Pictures)

After rambling through everything that James Brown meant to me as a child through adulthood, and how much he’d influenced my musical tastes, I inquired what Deanna Brown-Thomas most wanted the younger generation to know about James Brown, the man. After pausing for a moment, she eloquently shared, “To me first he was daddy. But when I got into radio and the entertainment business, I realized who he was to the world. And throughout the years, even after his death, after travelling the world and speaking to so many people, and knowing the struggles and everything he went through, young folks need to understand this – there is no excuse. My father was not educated, he was very poor, he had to stop education at the 7th grade and he had to make it work with what God gave him, his raw talent. There was no music education, and no JAMP, for him to go. He wasn’t afforded that. So when you see that and you think of all the resources that younger kids have now, there’s no excuse.” Quick to add that she can’t speak to all that is required because of the privileges afforded her, she jokingly adds that her husband can better relate because he grew up in “the hood,” she highlights that her point is young people can take nothing and no opportunity for granted.

Throughout our conversation, Mrs. Brown-Thomas relayed stories and I offered examples of how much her father’s music impacted people across various cultures, races and generations. She joked about the JAMP maestro Keith Jenkins, who blew away her father when he, as a young white, curly red-haired kid, played a medley of the legend’s songs to him and knocked it out of the park. I offered that one of my favorite James Brown moments was a video of him singing “Say it Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” in front of a pre-dominantly white studio audience in the late 60’s, and one of the people who appeared most engaged, dancing and singing word for word, was an Asian woman – doing it! She noted that the influence her father had worldwide was recently displayed when the JAMP CD, released on CD Baby earlier this year, received its first online purchase order from Japan.

It could be argued that what exemplifies James Brown’s biggest musical impact is the influence he’s had on other artists and genres of music, especially hip-hop. He is the world’s most sampled recording artist, and his song “Funky Drummer” is the most sampled individual piece of music in history. He without a doubt spoke a musical language, be it about life’s highs or lows, to which anyone could relate. And he obtained a massive amount of honors and broke down a lot of barriers while doing so.

“I always said, if people wanted to know who James Brown is, all they have to do is listen to my music” – James Brown.

I couldn’t have ended this post any better than with Mr. Brown’s own words.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

 

 

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening passes for ‘Get On Up’ Wednesday, July 23 (Philly, PA)

Get On Up (Universal Pictures)

Hey there MMT Family!!!!!  I am so excited to post this particular giveaway!  Not only have I been waiting for the James Brown biopic Get On Up for what seems like an eternity, but I had the pleasure of interviewing the late singer’s daughter Deanna Brown-Thomas and cannot wait to share the full version of it with you in a couple of weeks – on August 1, the movie’s release date, to be exact! Until then, click here to get to my examiner.com article from last month.

Want to put your name in the hat for passes?  Send an email to thinkmusicmovies@gmail.com with the subject line “Get On Up” and your full name in the body of the email.  You must be a follower of the MMT website in order to win. All winners will be chosen and notified by Tuesday, July 22.

You can watch the below trailer for “Get on Up” and get additional info about the movie at the official website here.

Good Luck family!!!  Until next thought, Thomasena

 

The Beauty of 42: A Quick Review

42 movie (2)

Hey there Music Movie family!  So, I’ve already hinted at how much I loved the movie 42, which opened Friday in theaters nationwide.   I was excited to screen it again last week for the second time with the giveaway winners, and I enjoyed it as much the second if not more than the first time.  42 chronicles the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson’s journey of being the first African-American player in Major League Baseball, and the adversities and triumphs he faced while doing so.

Now the movie is not a complete depiction of the challenges faced by Mr. Robinson, nor could it possibly capture some of the more abhorrent behaviors of some and keep a family friendly PG-13 rating.  But by far, it is one of the most honest and fair-minded depictions of the impact Mr. Robinson’s entry to the majors had on our society as a whole.

Okay, so it is going to be very hard to tell you what I absolutely loved about this film, without giving spoilers, but I will try my best!  Let’s start with the powerful performance of newcomer and lead, Chadwick Boseman (The Kill Hole, Lincoln Heights).   His portrayal of Robinson was quiet thunder; and he made my older friend Ms. Bowmer (who is Madea tough 😉 ) cry during one emotional scene when Jackie reacts to a racist response from a player on an opposing team (okay I did that without telling you what happened, yay me!).  And as I sit here at 12 am watching The Fugitive for the 2,575th time while typing this, I’d be remiss not to mention the great portrayal of Branch Rickey by veteran actor Harrison Ford (The Fugitive, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

But can I say I adore Nicole Beharie?  Beharie (American Violet, The Last Fall) was cast as Jackie’s wife Rachel, and her and Chadwick’s chemistry was fierce!  I love how the film depicted their relationship; and it also highlighted how important her support and character were to her husband’s journey.  And Nicole always brings a subtle radiance and strength to the characters she portrays, so what a perfect choice she was.  As a matter of fact, the Robinsons’ relationship is an area I would not have minded the 128 minute running time being expanded to include more of or elaborate.

Lastly, I loved how the movie displayed several characters struggles and their eventual growth to accept and respect Mr. Robinson.  There is a great scene between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, portrayed by Lucas Black (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Promised Land), where Pee Wee discusses his prejudices and how Jackie challenged his views.  I won’t spoil it by describing the scene in full, but when you see it you’ll know what I mean. 😉

In short, 42 is a testament to the character, talent and strength of an extraordinary man.  Jackie Robinson’s legacy continues on, as this Monday, April 15 will again commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, where all Major League Baseball players honor the day Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers by donning the number 42 on their uniforms.  The number 42 is the only number retired in Major League Baseball.

You can get additional information about the film and learn more about Jackie Robinson at www.42movie.warnerbros.com.  If you are a ministry leader or belong to a community organization, there is also a great website with resources available related to the film at www.42FAITH.com.

And if I may, I’d like to leave you with this quote: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives” – Jackie Robinson.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

Giveaway: Win passes to screen 42 on Monday, April 8th (Philadelphia, PA)

42 courtesy of Warner Brothers

It’s time for another giveaway family!  MusicMovieThoughts has partnered with Allied-THA to give away passes to the highly anticipated Jackie Robinson biopic 42. The Warner Brothers film stars newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson, veteran actor Harrison Ford as Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, and Nicole Beharie as Jackie’s wife Rachel. I’ve had the pleasure of screening this one, and I’m going to see it again!  That’s all I can say for now, so you’ll have to wait until the movie opens (April 12th) for the review. 🙂

But you may not have to wait until opening weekend to see the film! For your chance to win an admit two pass for Monday April 8th, please send an email with your full name, email address, and the subject line: 42 movie to thinkmusicmovies@aol.com.  Winners will be selected and notified by Friday, April 5th.

You can read the synopsis and view the official trailer below.  To find out more about the film go to www.42movie.warnerbros.com.

Until next thought, Thomasena

42 synopsis:

Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. “42” tells the story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.

In 1946, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team, breaking Major League Baseball’s infamous color line. But the deal also put both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and even other players. Facing unabashed racism from every side, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint by not reacting in kind, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey’s hopes. Instead, Number 42 let his talent on the field do the talking—ultimately winning over fans and his teammates, silencing his critics, and paving the way for others to follow.

In 1997, Major League Baseball retired the number 42 for all teams, making it the first number in sports to be universally retired. The only exception is April 15th—Jackie Robinson Day—commemorating the date of his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger. On that day alone, players from every team proudly wear Number 42 to honor the man who altered the course of history.