MMT December 2015 Netflix Picks

Merry Christmas Eve MMT Fam! I decided to curate this month’s picks with the holidays and winter break in mind, so I have chosen selections that would be safe viewing for the family.

My first pick this month is a good choice for the little ones (under 13) and one of my 2015 faves, the animated film HOME – featuring the voices of Rihanna, Jim Parsons, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez. You can read the quick review I posted back in March here, but I’d also like to share a few additional reasons why I loved this movie so much:

  • The diversity – this film is filled with beautiful human characters of various colors and traits. And the main character, Tip (Rihanna), being a girl of color with a natural hairstyle was EVERYTHING!
  • The lessons – the Jim Parson-voiced character, Oh, has to be one of the most unaccepted, unpopular characters in child film history! But, HOME follows Oh, along with Tip, as he learns valuable lessons on acceptance, trust, and love – and as his alien kind, the Boov, learn a lesson or two regarding truth and acceptance.
  • The music – the movie includes a fun soundtrack and really cute character dance scenes.

HOME is rated PG for mild action and some rude humor; however I took MMT’s youngest contributor, and my littlest bestie, Jayla – who was two and soon turning three – to the advanced screening. She was engaged during the film, and there weren’t any parts that I felt were inappropriate for her viewing. And if I’m not mistaken, that rude humor involves a couple potty jokes (apparently Boov’s have number one, two, and three’s, LOL) – so there is nothing too raunchy that would make me not recommend this film for the little ones.

My next picks both are composed of amazing casts and are great stories for pre-teens and up. Down in the Delta was directed by the late, great Maya Angelou and boasts an all-star cast – including Alfre Woodard, Mary Alice, Loretta Devine, and the late actors Esther Rolle and Al Freeman, Jr.

“Down in the Delta” tells the story of a struggling mother (Woodard) who takes her children to her family’s hometown in the Mississippi Delta and learns some key lessons on her heritage and building a future. The film is rated PG-13 for some drug related material; however it is an uplifting family story, rich with lessons on family bonds and cultural appreciation.

Life of a King is a movie I reviewed back in January of last year.  The film stars Cuba Gooding Jr., with a supporting cast that includes Dennis Haysbert (Dear White People, LUV) , LisaGay Hamilton (Grey’s Anatomy, Law & Order: SVU), Richard T. Jones (Concussion, Why Did I Get Married Too). Based on a true story, “Life of King” highlights Eugene Brown (Gooding Jr.), an ex-felon who created a chess club to teach inner city teenagers to “envision the end game” and prepare themselves to meet future goals. This movie is also rated PG-13 for some drug related material and brief violence – both involving teenagers.

Oh, and I’ll throw in one more for good measure! I watched a very cute movie with my 8-year-old nephew and 6-year-old niece called The Mistle-tones! – starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tori Spelling. The film tells the story of a young singer (Mowry-Hardrict) who starts her own group after being rejected for a spot in a legendary Christmas group founded by her late mother. Filled with good comedic moments and fun music, my niece and nephew absolutely loved watching this film. It’s rated TV-PG, and is really safe viewing for the entire family.

Alright MMT Family, let me know if you watch any of these recommendations – and leave your thoughts in the comments! And have a safe and blessed holiday! 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena


MMT Quick Review of ‘Life of a King’

Life of a King

Happy MLK Day family!  Wanted to share a quick review of a movie I had the pleasure of viewing locally yesterday called Life of a King.  I do not know how many areas it is playing this week, you can click here to check yours, but it certainly warrants a view if you can catch it in the theaters. Based on a true story,  the film highlights Eugene Brown, portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Red Tails), who created an inner city chess club to inspire and prepare disenfranchised youth towards future goals.

It is a heartwarming film, to say the least, propelled by great performances from Dennis Haysbert (Dear White People, LUV) , LisaGay Hamilton (Grey’s Anatomy, Law & Order: SVU), Richard T. Jones (Why Did I Get Married, Hawaii Five-O) and newcomer Malcolm M. Mays.  And it goes without saying, but Cuba certainly is dynamic in the lead role.  There were some predictable elements in the movie, for instance I knew one character was headed for a tragic ending, however it didn’t subtract from the amazing true-life story being highlighted.  I was engrossed in Mr. Brown’s passion to help kids in poor communities “envision the end game” and take accountability for their lives.  The film is a true tale of inspiration fit for a King Day weekend opening.

“Life of a King” is being sold on Blu-Ray, and will be released on DVD on February 11, but I strongly suggest you see it in theaters if possible and take a teen or two with you! 🙂  The movie is PG-13 and has a 101 minute running time.

Please share a comment or two when you see the film and let me know your thoughts!  Check out the film synopsis and trailer below, and you can learn more about the Big Chair Chess Club and Eugene Brown here.

Until next thought family,  Thomasena

“Life of a King” synopsis

The unlikely true story of Eugene Brown and his one-man mission to give inner-city kids of Washington D.C. something he never had: a future. He discovered a multitude of life lessons through the game of chess during his 18-year incarceration for bank robbery. After his release and reëntry into the workforce, Eugene developed and founded the Big Chair Chess Club to get kids off the streets and working towards lives they never believed they were capable of due to circumstances. From his daring introductory chess lessons to group of unruly high school students in detention to developing the Club and the teens’ first local chess competitions, this movie reveals his difficult, inspirational journey and how he changed the lives of a group of teens with no endgame.


Lee Daniels’ The Butler: a quick review and discussion with Lee Daniels and Cuba Gooding Jr.


Back in July I had the distinct privilege of sitting at a round-table interview with Academy Award nominated director Lee Daniels (Precious, Monster’s Ball) and Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire, Red Tails), who were in town to promote the upcoming movie Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  This “inspired by a true story” film has been widely received and garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.  I’ve personally received several emails, from last night’s screening giveaway winners, and each one of them was filled with emotionally charged statements that sang praises for this film.

As I was preparing to screen the movie a few weeks ago, I was still coping with the recent Zimmerman verdict, and the racially charged reactions that ensued, and appreciating the timeliness of a movie like Fruitvale Station being released.  And my spirit was still in “fighting mad” mode. How appropriate it was for me then to view the story of Cecil Gaines; who in the Daniels’ film is portrayed by Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland).  Cecil Gaines is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House under seven presidential administrations as a butler.  His position, and its corresponding demeanor, puts him at odds with his eldest son, portrayed in the movie by actor David Oyelowo (Red Tails, Middle of Nowhere); and his commitment to his job/role helps to introduce conflict into the Gaines family dynamic in more ways than one.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler serves as a pertinent reminder of those whose contributions to the struggle aren’t as frequently discussed or highly regarded.  The film is powerful in its display of the quiet resiliency of the main character, and in Daniels’ remarkable ability to help the audience connect to each character’s truth.  I can’t readily name one film, of recent memory, that took me through various emotions while viewing, and this film accomplished that feat with ease.  There were several persons who left the press screening I attended with tear-filled eyes; some joyful, some with pride.  It is definitely that kind of film.

(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia
(l to r, standing) Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, (l to r, seated) Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia. Photo courtesy: Le Anne Lindsay (Tinsel & Tine)

What a pleasure it was then to sit with both director (Daniels) and one of the stars of the film (Gooding Jr.),  who were also joined by talented co-star Yaya Alafia (see her full interview in August 13 post), at the posh Rittenhouse Hotel to ask a couple of signature questions.  When you’re part of a round-table time is of the essence, we were only given approximately 15 minutes combined, hence the couple of questions! So listen to the audio below (warning some profanity), and take note of Lee Daniels’ response to my sharing my favorite Lee Daniels’ film!  Shout out to my co-panel Le Anne Lindsay of Tinsel & Tine, and Alex Gibson of the Philadelphia Film Society, and to Brian Chacon for helping with the audio edit.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens this Friday, August 16 nationwide.  The film is rated PG-13 and I highly recommend it for ages teen and above (and maybe those tweens who can process mature language and violence).  Stop back and share your thoughts after you see it.

Until next thought family,  Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: win passes to screen Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Philly, PA)

Lee Daniels' The Butler (courtesy of The Weinstein Company)
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (courtesy of The Weinstein Company)

MMT Family, you knew I was going to hook you up with this one right?  Allied-THA has granted passes to screen The Weinstein Company’s “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” here in Philly, PA next Tuesday night (August 13).  I know you’ve seen the trailer and read the synopsis if you follow this site, and trust me you do not want to miss this film!  With a magnificent ensemble cast, the movie stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Cuba Gooding Jr. and the list goes on.

To put your name in the hat, send an email to with the subject line ‘The Butler’ and your full name in the body.  All winners will be notified by this Saturday.  Want to increase you chances of winning?  Then make sure you are signed up to follow this site (see sign up on the right) or have liked our sister Facebook page here.

I’ve added the trailer again below, just because I think it’s great, and for your convenience. 🙂  Okay family, good luck!

Until next thought, Thomasena

Philadelphia welcomes home native son for premiere of ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’

photo by: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography
Cuba Gooding Jr., Yaya Alafia, and Lee Daniels at Philadelphia red carpet premiere of Lee Daniels’ The Butler
photo by: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography

Hey Music Movie family!  What a treat I have in store for you in a couple of weeks, when I’ll share interviews with Lee Daniels, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Yaya DaCosta Alafia, who were all in town last Monday for the movie tour and première screening of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”  But until then, allow me to share with you a link where you can see great pics of the aforementioned, and get a “bit of news” from the red carpet.   A huge thank you and welcome is extended to MMT’s new photography partner, the beautiful Monica Lyons of Sista Pics Photography.

You can check out that article by clicking here, and you can see more of Monica Lyons’ photos at this link.  You can also read a synopsis of “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and watch the official trailer below.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

Lee Daniels’ The Butler synopsis

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of 20th century America, Academy Award® nominated director Lee Daniels’ (PRECIOUS) historical epic LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER tells the story of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who serves during seven presidential administrations between 1957 and 1986. Inspired by Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election” about the real life of former butler Eugene Allen, the film begins in 1924 with a young Cecil living in the fiercely segregated South and facing the tyranny of the region’s prejudices. After years spent working in a hotel, Cecil is discovered by a White House employee, which leads to landing the opportunity of a lifetime: a job as a server at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There, Cecil becomes a firsthand witness to history and the inner workings of the Oval Office as the civil rights movement unfolds. At the same time, he and his volatile but loving wife (Oprah Winfrey) must grapple with the rebellious spirit of their son Louis (David Oyelowo) whose tenacious hunger for activism and equal rights often puts him in dangerous situations – and at perpetual odds with his father. While Cecil remains fiercely committed to his duties at the White House and to providing for his family, his determination leads to increasing tensions between him and his anti-establishment son. Through the eyes and emotions of the Gaines family, Daniels’ film follows the changing tides of American politics and race relations; from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to the Freedom Riders and Black Panther movements, to the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, Cecil experiences the effects of these events as both an insider and a family man. With an incredible supporting cast that includes John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams, LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER is a story about one man’s resilience, the growth of a nation, and the power of family.