MMT Quick Review: SING (with junior contributor Jayla)

SING

The Voice meets dramedy meets CG animation is a great and brief way to describe SING – the latest feature from Illumination Entertainment (The Secret Life of Pets, Minions, Despicable Me). Illumination has already proven that they can churn out hits, and “Sing” has all the makings of one – including great songs, clever characters, and animation that pops and engages – but how does it fair?

“Sing” tells the story of koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), who’s in dire straits but is the proud owner (for the time being) of a famed theater. Desperate to raise funds and save the theater, Moon comes up with an elaborate singing competition idea. Enter a cute cast of animal characters played by several Hollywood heavyweights, including Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, and newer A-listers like Taron Egerton and Leslie Jones and the story becomes one comedic and emotional rollercoaster.

And it’s the latter descriptors that give me pause – as there are some heavy themes in “Sing” and I question if it’s as appropriate for the littlest of folk. The characters not only deal with financial crises, but there are family woes, criminal relatives – not to mention a hustler contestant – and relationship issues that are displayed – and that’s fine for older kids and adults, but our littlest contributor, Miss Jayla the 4-year-old, zoned out about midway through the film. I believe some of the concepts were a bit too weighty and she was anticipating a quicker resolution.

Unfortunately, she checked out before the big finale – which is very well-done and as uplifting as the audience needed it to be, especially after experiencing a disaster scene…but no spoilers so I’ll leave it there! And, unlike when she really enjoys a film, Jayla has not requested or watched YouTube clips for SING. I guess me and her mother had a better time with this one at the theater (there is a nod to Beyonce’s “Becky with the good hair” lyric that almost took me out!).

I also really enjoyed the performances – to me the standouts were Tori Kelly’s cover of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” by Stevie Wonder, and Taron Egerton’s cover of the Elton John hit “I’m Still Standing.” And Jennifer Hudson as retired opera star Nana Noodleman – and Ariana Grande and Wonder singing during the end credits – gives the film a star power bonus.

Speaking of Stevie Wonder, the soundtrack song he wrote “Faith,” was recently nominated for a Golden Globe! (Check out the video below)

One thing that I didn’t enjoy or find funny was a singing group, composed of foxes I believe, that appeared to be some type of comic relief during the audition/rehearsal scenes. Problem is, the characters were Asian, speaking a language clearly not understood by, and in turn they didn’t understand, Buster Moon – leading to a very disappointing joke. It’s 2016 Hollywood, why aren’t we pass this? Do better.

So what’s the take away? SING has some extremely funny moments, a couple of disappointing ones, and is filled with great songs and performances. It’s an animated film opening during the holidays, so I’m sure it will do quite well. I wouldn’t recommend for the under 6 yrs crowd, but certainly 7+ yrs possess the patience and inquisitiveness to follow the story well.

Stop back and share a comment or two when you see it, and the giveaway winners from last night’s screening should really feel free to chime in!

Until next thought, Thomasena

SING opens in theaters nationwide on December 21.

Jayla (pic 3)Jayla is MMT’s kid contributor, and Thomasena’s self-described “littlest Gemini bestie.” Her favorite colors are purple and pink, and she enjoys Minnie Mouse and Snoopy.

 

NEXT THOUGHT ON TV: ‘Hairspray Live!’ adds Broadway stars Ephraim Sykes and Shahadi Wright Joseph

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Hey MMT Fam! Remember several months ago when we gave you the heads up about the upcoming HAIRSPRAY LIVE! production coming in December? Well, they’ve just rounded out the cast with two of Broadway’s hottest talents – Ephraim Sykes (HAMILTON) and Shahadi Wright Joseph (SCHOOL OF ROCK) – who were cast as Seaweed J. Stubbs and Little Inez, respectively.

Seaweed J. Stubbs is a hip and kind-hearted dancer who befriends Tracy in detention and teaches her some new moves. He is also the son of Motormouth Maybelle (Jennifer Hudson) who falls in love with Tracy’s best friend, Penny (Ariana Grande).

Little Inez is Seaweed’s younger sister, who tries to audition for “The Corny Collins Show” but is at first turned away because she is African-American.

Sykes and Joseph join an already stellar lineup that includes the aforementioned powerhouses as well as Harvey Fierstein, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, exciting newcomer Maddie Baillio, and special guest stars Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin, and Rosie O’Donnell.

You can follow “Hairspray Live” on social media and get additional updates on the December television event at:

https://www.facebook.com/HairsprayLive

https://www.instagram.com/nbchairspraylive/

https://twitter.com/HairsprayLive

#HairsprayLive

 

 

Next Thought on TV: ‘HAIRSPRAY LIVE!’

Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG and Grammy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson and multiple Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein will headline the cast of NBC’s “Hairspray Live!,” the network’s next live Broadway musical holiday event following the phenomenal success of “The Wiz Live!”

Also joining the creative team will be acclaimed television director Alex Rudzinski, who received extraordinary reviews for his television direction of “Grease Live!” Rudzinski was also the TV director for “Dancing With the Stars” from 2005-14.

“We are beyond thrilled with this incredibly talented duo of stars for ‘Hairspray Live!,’” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman, NBC Entertainment. “Harvey Fierstein created the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway in an indelible Tony-winning performance that demanded to be memorialized on film, and we’re happy he wanted to step into her shoes one last, unforgettable time. We’re also so grateful that the incomparable Jennifer Hudson will play Motormouth Maybelle and we know her rendition of ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’ will literally stop the show.”

Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, “Hairspray Live!” takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Teenager Tracy Turnblad’s dream is to dance on “The Corny Collins Show,” a local TV program. When, against all odds, Tracy wins a role on the show, she becomes a celebrity overnight and meets a colorful array of characters, including the resident dreamboat, Link; the ambitious mean girl, Amber; an African-American boy she meets in detention, Seaweed; and his mother, Motormouth Maybelle, the owner of a local record store. Tracy’s mother is the indomitable Edna Turnblad, and she eventually encourages Tracy on her campaign to integrate the all-white “Corny Collins Show.”

Harvey Fierstein, who is also writing the teleplay, will play Edna Turnblad, a role he created and won a Tony Award for in the stage version of “Hairspray.” The quintessential Edna, Fierstein portrayed the character for the show’s first two years of its seven-year run at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway.

As an actor, he is a member of an elite group who have won Tonys as Best Actor in a Musical (“Hairspray”) and Best Actor in a Play (for his own “Torch Song Trilogy”). As a writer, Fierstein won Tonys for “La Cage Aux Folles” and “Torch Song Trilogy,” and received three more Tony nominations for writing “Kinky Boots,” ”Newsies” and ”Casa Valentina.” His adaptation of “Funny Girl” is currently running, along with “Kinky Boots,” in London.

Hudson, who will play Motormouth Maybelle, is currently completing a triumphant run in the acclaimed revival of “The Color Purple” — performing the role of Shug Avery in her Broadway debut. She won an Oscar and Golden Globe in 2007 for her iconic performance as Effie White in the hit film “Dreamgirls.” Her sensational rendition of the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was greeted with instant acclaim by film critics and moviegoers alike and made Hudson the person to beat as best supporting actress for the Academy Awards.

Hudson’s incredible vocal talents were first recognized with her appearance on the third season of “American Idol” in 2004, where she impressed both the show’s judges and a national TV audience. Soon after, she released her first album, “Jennifer Hudson,” which debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 Chart and sold more than 500,000 copies in the U.S. through the first six weeks. The album was nominated for four Grammys and won for best R&B album.

Hudson continued on the bigscreen following “Dreamgirls” and has since co-starred in such films as “Sex and the City,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and Spike Lee’s latest film, “Chi-Raq.” Her TV credits include NBC’s “Smash,” Fox’s “Empire” and HBO’s newest telepic, “Confirmation.”

“Hairspray Live!” reunites Hudson with executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who worked with her previously on NBC’s “Smash” and the 85th and 87th Oscar telecasts, which they also produced.

Television director Alex Rudzinski will join stage director Kenny Leon (“The Wiz Live!”). Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the upcoming “A Few Good Men Live!”) serve as executive producers of “Hairspray Live!” Harvey Fierstein will provide a new teleplay and Jerry Mitchell (“Kinky Boots,” “On Your Feet”) will serve as choreographer for the live production with music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).

“Hairspray Live!” will air Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and will originate from Los Angeles.

A Quick Review of Black Nativity

Black Nativity (courtesy of Fox Searchlight)

Happy Thanksgiving MMT Family!  Also wishing a happy holiday to those celebrating Hanukkah!  I am very thankful always for family, friends and faith, and for the exciting interviews and movie screenings I’ve been able to experience this past year.  I was able to screen the holiday film Black Nativity last week, and although it was a bit clichéd I did enjoy the movie.

The Kasi Lemmon’s directed/written (screenplay) Black Nativity is a contemporary adaptation of an original play written by the great poet/writer/activist Langston Hughes. The story follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a stubborn teen from Baltimore who has been raised by a single mother (Jennifer Hudson), as he travels to New York City and spends Christmas with his estranged grandparents (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett).  Themes of revelation, healing and forgiveness abound, and although several moments are predictable, these themes keep the audience invested through the ending.

With both Whitaker and Bassett on board, you know the film has some performance power; although I must tell you this film was in one of my faves, Jennifer Hudson’s, lane.  She stole the show with her musical numbers.  And there were some great moments with actor/singer Tyrese Gibson, singer Luke James, rapper Nasir Jones (NAS) and the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” herself Mary J. Blige.

With a PG rating and 93 minute running time, Black Nativity is a great pick for the family Thanksgiving outing.  You can get more info about the film and get ticket/showtime info here.

Alright family, I know this was a super short one but I gotta go check on my macaroni and cheese! 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: win passes to screen ‘Black Nativity’ (Philly, PA)

Black Nativity (courtesy of Fox Searchlight)

MMT Family, do I have another giveaway for you!  We’ve partnered with Allied-THA for your chance to screen Fox Searchlight’s Black Nativity , which has an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson. The movie opens Thanksgiving Day nationwide, and I haven’t seen yet but am hearing it is a great one for family viewing.

The screening will take place next Wednesday, November 20 in Philadelphia.  To put your name in the hat to screen “Black Nativity” you should:

  1. make sure you’ve signed up/subscribed to follow this site or the sister Facebook page.  If you’re a new subscriber to this site, make sure you check for the confirmation email and click the link inside to verify (this is our way to ensure you’re not a robot/spammer) AND
  2. send an email with the subject line “Black Nativity” to thinkmusicmovies@aol.com and your full name in the body.                    

Winners will be notified by Monday, November 18.  You can read a synopsis of Black Nativity below and check out the trailer at the official website here.

Alright family, good luck!  Until next thought, Thomasena

Black Nativity synopsis

In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play, the holiday musical drama BLACK NATIVITY follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs’ rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family.