GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of A UNITED KINGDOM on Monday, February 13 (Philly, PA)

A UNITED KINGDOM

Happy Thursday MMT Fam! We’re giving away passes today to the Fox Searchlight film A UNITED KINGDOM, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, screening in Philly next Monday, February 13 in Center City.

The movie tells the true story of King Seretse Khama of Botswana (David Oyelowo) and Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London, which caused an international uproar when they decided to marry in the late 1940’s just as apartheid was being introduced into South Africa. It was a decision that altered the course of African history.

To try your luck at a pass, click here to get to Fox Searchlight landing and follow the “Get My Pass” prompt. Passes, like theater seating, are not guaranteed and are on a first-come, first-served basis. These passes are open to both subscribers and non-subscribers, but if you’re in the latter group, “What are you waiting for?!” Sign up (and make sure you click on the link in the confirmation email that will be sent) and follow us also on Facebook here.

You can watch the trailer below, and get additional information at the official website here. A UNITED KINGDOM opens in select theaters February 10 and everywhere February 17.

 

 

MMT Quick Review: “Queen of Katwe” by guest contributor Carolee Houser Dunn

Queen of Katwe

I had the privilege of attending an advanced screening and post live simulcast q & a of QUEEN OF KATWE thanks to MMT. The film tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a young lady from Katwe, Uganda who, along with other children known as the Pioneers, is taught by Coach Robert Katende how to play chess.

They soon discover Phiona is not only good at the game, but a prodigy. The moment she realizes that life is more than where she lives truly stands out. Chess being a game of strategy and thinking ahead for the best solution is also used as a metaphor for life as a whole. A signature line from the film notes, “Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you need to be.”

This is not only a must see film, but one of the most brilliant I have seen this year. Kudos to Disney for stepping up to make this incredible movie the way it should be made. By choosing this story (based on Tim Crothers ESPN article and book); basing it on Phiona’s perspective; choosing a female director of color in Mira Nair; filming on location in Katwe; and using mostly locals as cast and crew, Disney’s choices are admirable, and “outside the box” of Hollywood’s norm. Films being made like this will continue to create the necessary change towards diversity.

Mira Nair’s vision was best expressed during the q & a when she said, “The beautiful imagery of art imitating life, but it is life. This is true, this is happening now.” She also noted that,” You could see the respect the actors showed the real people they were portraying.”

The majority of Mira’s crew is from Maisha Film Lab (emerging East African filmmakers) associated with the Maisha Foundation she created in 2004 – after working in the region on another film, “Mississippi Masala.”

The casting for the film was on point. David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Coach Robert Katende showed his true range as an actor, as he took you on the journey with him, all aspects of it. Lupita Nyong’o portrayed Nakku Harriet, Phiona’s mother with depth and just made you hurt and feel joy with her.

Also during the q & a, newcomer Madina Nalwanga (of Katwe) shared that (while filming) she felt like it was her story and it showed. The other children, and many extras, were also from Katwe and a similar neighboring town.

The real Robert Katende taught each of the child actors how to play chess. All of the original Pioneers had another role in the film. All of these things bring an authenticity to what’s displayed on-screen.

Since it was filmed on location, you also get to see the not-so glamorous side of life – in addition to the vibrant culture and landscape.  And the music chosen also added to scenes. My favorite selection is “Back to Life” by Alicia Keys, which is a true reflection of the film.

“Queen of Katwe” will inspire you and leave you wondering what else you can accomplish in your own life. The range of emotions in the film, and the journey you take while watching, will truly fulfill you.

QUEEN OF KATWE opened in select theaters on Friday, and opens nationwide Friday, September 30th.

caroleeCarolee Houser Dunn is a Philly tastemaker, jewelry designer, and faithful friend and subscriber to the MMT. You can check out her previous review for POMPEII right here on MusicMoviesThoughts!

GIVEAWAY: special screening of QUEEN OF KATWE and live Q&A with director/cast on Monday, September 19 (Philly, PA)

Queen of Katwe

Happy Thursday MMT Fam! MMT is excited to giveaway passes to the Philly special screening of QUEEN OF KATWE – taking place next Monday, September 19 in Center City. The screening will be followed by a live-streamed Q&A with stars Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and director Mira Nair.

To try your luck at an admit-two pass, you must be subscribed to this website and send an email to contests@musicmoviesthoughts.com with the subject line “Queen” and your full name in the body. 25 winners will be selected and notified on Sunday, September 18.

You can read the synopsis and watch the trailer below, and get updates on the film on Facebook here. QUEEN OF KATWE opens in select theaters September 23rd (Expands wide on September 30th).

Good luck!

 QUEEN OF KATWE synopsis

“Queen of Katwe” is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (“The Hoax”) based on the book by Tim Crothers, “Queen of Katwe” is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (“The Darjeeling Limited”) and John Carls (“Where the Wild Things Are”) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

Follow QUEEN OF KATWE on social media at Facebook or Twitter!

MMT Quick Review: BLACK MASS AND CAPTIVE

black mass

Hey MMT Fam!  I’m a little behind but wanted to give my quick opinions on two films I saw that both opened last Friday, BLACK MASS starring Johnny Depp and CAPTIVE starring David Oyelowo and Kate Mara. Both films are based on true stories, however I believe one was a bit more captivating (no pun intended) on the big screen.

“Black Mass” is based on a novel of the same title, written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill,  and chronicles the “unholy alliance” between FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton who to me was almost unrecognizable considering I’d just watched him in THE GIFT) and infamous mob boss John “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp), who led the notorious Winter Hill Gang in 1970-90’s Boston.

For me the film was reminiscent of the fictional Boston-set film “Mystic River” as far as feel and direction – albeit it is a way more violent affair. And I certainly agree with most critics that Johnny Depp gives a laudable performance – but the film was filled with great performances including the aforementioned Edgerton and Jesse Plemons, who portrays Bulger’s right-hand man Kevin Weeks. Again, this is a gangster movie and it doesn’t shy away from murder/mayhem, so it isn’t one for the squeamish.

Comparatively, “Captive” starring David Oyelowo – who gives an outstanding performance as convicted serial killer/rapist Brian Nichols – gets most of the violence (slight spoiler, but it’s a true story so…) out of the way early on before delving into what really is the basis for the movie – the kidnapping of recovering meth addict Ashley Smith (an amazing Kate Mara), her survival tactics which included her reading The Purpose Driven Life (author Rick Warren) to Nichols, and the redemptive outcome of the 7-hour hostage situation. The movie is also based on a novel – Unlikely Angel – written by Smith, and is produced by Oyelowo.

It’s awkward to critique a film like “Captive,” considering the basis of the story, but I did feel like it was more Lifetime than big-screen worthy. The first half of the story was riveting and then I found myself not as invested towards the latter half.

I will say that both CAPTIVE and BLACK MASS are careful to portray – without glorification – the monstrous actions of the main characters (Bulger, Nichols respectively). So what’s the take away? I’d recommend both, but if you had money for one ticket I’d say spend it on “Black Mass” and rent or catch “Captive” on-demand.

Let me know what you think when you see the films – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick Review of WAR ROOM

War Room (photo: Affirm Films)

Happy Labor Day MMT family!  This weekend, I finally made it out to see the now #1 movie in America – WAR ROOM – and I very much enjoyed it. It was on my schedule to see a week after its release, because there wasn’t a screening and it opened on my birthday weekend. However, I couldn’t help but note some of the reviews of the movie by others prior to seeing – and I must address one thing up front before I discuss my take on the film.

It always amazes me how many people go to see a faith-based movie, more importantly a Christ-centered one, and subsequently in their reviews of the film decide that it was too Christ-centered, heavy-handed, preachy – or you can add any other synonym that fits, since I know I’m not the only one who has heard or read them within the past week. What those persons need to first understand is for professing Christians like the Kendrick Brothers – who wrote, produced and directed the film – the immediate goal will always be to highlight Jesus. The preeminent tenets of the Christian faith are Jesus, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. There is no downplaying it or substitutions to be made – so if you are choosing to see a film like WAR ROOM, you should accept that these tenets will be discussed, there certainly will be characters who either need to establish or need to re-build a relationship with Jesus, and yes (gasp) there will be prayers/praying and probably a lot of it. If that’s too much for you going in, then WAR ROOM is definitely not your cup of tea. But if you aren’t a Christian, and you can accept what the movie is up front, you are in for a good story – and prayerfully a great experience.

Now with that out-of-the-way, I’ll share a few of my thoughts (sans spoilers) about the film – but let me first give a synopsis. The movie tells the story of a couple in a failing marriage and the ramifications of both their negative actions upon their family. Wife Elizabeth, played by newcomer Priscilla Shirer, is a real estate agent who meets an elderly client named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie) – who challenges Elizabeth to try a different “battle plan,” i.e. prayer, than what she’s accustomed to save her marriage.

I was very surprised to learn that WAR ROOM was the first feature film for lead actress Shirer – who was very convincing as the distraught wife and has a natural comedic sense that garnered several laughs throughout the film. All of the cast worked well for their respective characters, but it was certainly Shirer who most stood out to me. And Abercrombie played the prayer warrior grandmother role to the hilt and garnered a few laughs herself throughout the film – just wait for the robbery scene (I know slight spoiler so I’ll leave it there!).

It is really hard to address much of this story without giving spoilers, so I will summarize it up by stating that it does a great job displaying the effects of positive relationship building, open communication,and most importantly the power of prayer. The “pay it forward” mantra is also displayed – as Miss Clara urges Elizabeth to find another person in which she should invest, support and teach.

What I also enjoyed about my viewing experience of WAR ROOM actually happened before the movie started. I am proud to say that there are at least five faith-based, and I use that term inclusively, movies coming out between now and early next year. I was able to watch the trailers (click links to view) for CAPTIVE featuring David Oyelowo (Selma), The 33 about the Chilean miner rescues featuring Antonio Banderas, HE NAMED ME MALALA the true story of global youth advocate/Nobel Peace prize recipient/Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai, RISEN which depicts events surrounding Christ’s missing body after his crucifixion, and 90 MINUTES IN HEAVEN featuring Hayden Christensen. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing every single one of those!

I really would love to hear your thoughts on this one family, so if you’ve seen the film share a comment or two! And for those who are a part of a ministry, church group or the like, the film has a wonderful website where you can download free resources and/or purchase movie companion materials. You can also get additional information about WAR ROOM at the official website here.

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

A chat with ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ co-star Yaya Alafia

Yaya Alafia at "Lee Daniels' The Butler" Philadelphia Red Carpet Premiere (photo: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography)
Yaya Alafia at “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” Philadelphia red carpet premiere (photo: Monica Lyons at Sista Pics Photography)

Back in July, I had the pleasure of sitting down for a chat with Yaya Alafia, formerly DaCosta, whom faithful reality television viewers may remember as first runner-up from season 3 of America’s Next Top Model (2003).  Since then, the talented actress has been seen in various films and projects, from 2006’s Take the Lead to this year’s breakout independent hit Neil Drumming’s Big Words with actor Dorian Missick. Ms. Alafia was in Philadelphia to promote the film Lee Daniels’ The Butler, in which she portrays Carol, a Fisk University student, turned Freedom Rider, turned Black Panther during the tumultuous Civil Rights movement.  We discussed everything from her preparation for her role in the film, to her musical preferences.  Coincidentally, I’d viewed “Big Words” the day before I screened the Daniels’ film, so there was an unexpected (on my part) question that I needed to ask first:

MMT: One of the things that surprised me watching “Big Words” was that you sing!  Is that something you enjoy showcasing or will we see that again on the screen?

YA: It’s not something that I have focused on until this point, so we’ll see.

MMT: Have you trained at all or are you just naturally gifted in that way?

YA:  I am not naturally gifted in that way, it just sounded really good in the movie! (laughs)

MMT: Your character in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” goes from peaceful, protesting Freedom Rider to a more militant character.  Was there a different level of preparation for each?

YA:  I was just with Carol the whole time.  I’ve had experiences where there was that transition, from a more innocent to a more fierce outrage.  And I make choices everyday, (meaning) there is a situation, there’s something that needs to be checked but how do I do it.  And so the earlier Carol was more naïve, maybe more graceful, and the latter was “I’ve had enough” and she was justified. All I had to do was tap into that outrage and there are a lot of opportunities everyday, both in the news and the world, for a person of color (to use).

MMT: This movie has such a large ensemble cast, was it intimidating to share screen time with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo?

YA: I wouldn’t say intimidating, I would say exciting and inspiring!  I’ve been super blessed from the beginning of my professional career. My first job was with Alfre Woodard and Antonio Banderas (Take the Lead), and then I was on a TV show with Vanessa Williams…

MMT: Which I loved you in Ugly Betty, have to mention that!

YA: Thank you (smiles).  And I’m not going down this list to brag, but to (acknowledge) I’ve been nurtured, in my young career, in the company of all these amazing people.  I did theater with Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Leslie Uggams, so just feeling welcomed and having these stars tell me special things that boost your confidence as a young actor.  At the beginning of my career, I didn’t even call myself an actor.  I was a young person who finished college and was trying lots of different jobs, but acting was always my passion.  To be encouraged to own it and, as one of these (actors) said, “take your seat at our table”  was wonderful.  So when I was cast, I was like this is huge.  Even though I’m not in scenes with Clarence Williams III or Robin Williams, to be in the same film is amazing.  It’s humbling, but it was very inspiring.

MMT: Okay, I’m going to switch gears a bit.  I always ask something for my music fans, so if you could portray any artist/musician, past or present, who would it be and why?

YA: I don’t know if this is the ultimate answer but the first person that comes to mind because of the timing, and the fact that everybody keeps saying I should because of what I look like, is Whitney Houston.   We thought about that before she passed; but after people were anxious wanting to honor her legacy and make a film.  I don’t know if anyone’s doing it, but that’s definitely something other people have told me, and it’s now in my head like “yeah, I could do that.”

The beautiful Ms. Alafia also mentioned that she has a love for older music, including standards, and admires singers from the likes of Sarah Vaughn to Chaka Khan.  Like her versatility in song, she has been multifaceted in the projects she’s carefully chosen.  It is the mark of a woman who stands completely confident in and is aware of her gift, and its social impact.  As a fan, I look forward to continuing to watch her light shine.

“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” opens nationwide this Friday, August 16.  Yaya Alafia can also be seen in “Big Words,” currently in limited release (go to official movie website here or AFFRM.com) and in the upcoming film by director Andrew Dosunmu “Mother of George,” which is set to open on September 13.

Check back Wednesday for my interview with director Lee Daniels and star Cuba Gooding Jr. 🙂

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 thinkmusicmovies@aol.com 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