MMT Quick Review of ALMOST CHRISTMAS

Almost Christmas

For some of us, the holidays are a great time to not only gather with the loved ones, but to delight in the festive themed entertainment that the season has to offer – be it via songs/carols, television shows or films. And the new Will Packer (Ride Along, This Christmas) produced, David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) written/directed ALMOST CHRISTMAS is a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the latter medium.

“Almost Christmas” tells the story of a widower named Walter Meyer (Danny Glover) who brings his four children – Rachel, Cheryl, Christian, and Evan – together at the family home for the first Christmas holiday since his wife’s passing. Knowing that there is some tension when the crew gathers, especially amongst Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and Cheryl (Kimberly Elise), Walter has hope that he can re-create the Christmas magic – via his late wife’s coveted recipes and a little help from his quick-witted sister-in law May (Monique) – that has previously filled his home.  What the patriarch doesn’t factor in are the discord and hidden secrets that almost destroy the chances everyone has of getting along during the five-day holiday break.

With an all-star cast that includes the aforementioned, as well as Romany Malco (Christian), JB Smoove (Cheryl’s husband Lonnie), Jessie T. Usher (Evan) and Omar Epps (as Rachel’s admirer Malachi), their chemistry worked well on-screen and gave off authentic, and comical, family dynamic. I do believe, however, that Nicole Ari Parker was really underused as Christian’s wife Sonya.

And the young people who portrayed the grandchildren – Nadej Bailey, Alkoya Brunson, and Marley Taylor – are adorbs and little comedic acting gems in the making. Also cool were the cameos from the legendary Gladys Knight and songbird Keri Hilson, who did a fine job as the unwitting, vixen Jasmine – a character that brings much drama, to say the least, to the Meyer’s home.

Although the film is a bit formulaic – the requisite fighting siblings, especially the rivaling sisters, the tragic undertone, the unrequited (maybe) love story – it is extremely entertaining, credited in part to Monique’s outrageous and spot-on humor. Yeah, she was given a script, but Mr. Talbert must’ve added, “Make it do what ‘YOU’ do!”

One thing I dislike doesn’t have as much to do with the movie, as it does the traditional Hollywood trope to cast curvy/heavier women as older characters. I would have very much enjoyed the hilarious and engaging Monique as one of Glover’s daughters – a la Kimberly Elise or Gabrielle Union – rather than his sister-in-law, whose character I estimated to be at least seven years younger than his. And who can forget the time the plus size beauty was cast as Countess Vaughn’s mother in “The Parkers,” when in reality she is only eleven years older than Vaughn.

Even with the predictability, a descriptor I also used in my review of Talbert’s “Baggage Claim,” the movie is engaging and fun – with vibes reminiscent of Soul Food, This Christmas and Best Man Holiday. Unlike “Baggage Claim,” which I believed was funny but mostly forgettable, I am looking forward to watching this film again, and adding it to my holiday film collection.

With a 1:52 minute running time, and a PG-13 rating, the movie is a solid comedic pick for the pre-teen and up audience at your next family gathering. ALMOST CHRISTMAS is out in theaters nationwide today, November 11.

Until next thought, Thomasena

GIVEAWAY: advanced screening of ALMOST CHRISTMAS on Thursday, November 3 (Philly, PA)

ALMOST CHRISTMAS

Happy Tuesday MMT Fam! We’ve acquired 20 admit-two passes to the Philly première screening of ALMOST CHRISTMAS this Thursday, November 3. And in the spirit of Christmas giving, we’re requesting all winners bring a canned good item to donate to Philabundance – whose mission is to end and help those who are battling hunger in our region.

So, are you ready to be a blessing AND win one of those admit-two passes? You must be subscribed to this website and send an email to contests@musicmoviesthoughts.com with the subject line “Philabundance” and your full name in the body. Twenty subscribers will be picked at random and notified via email on Wednesday evening.

You can watch the trailer and read the synopsis below, and get additional info about the film at the official website here. ALMOST CHRISTMAS opens nationwide on November 11.

Good Luck!

ALMOST CHRISTMAS synopsis

A new comedy from writer/director David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim) and producer Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like a Man series, This Christmas), Almost Christmas tells the festive story of a beloved patriarch who asks his family for one gift this holiday season: to get along. If they can honor that wish and spend five days under the same roof without killing one another, it will be a Christmas miracle.

The all-star cast of Almost Christmas is led by Kimberly Elise, Danny Glover, John Michael Higgins, Romany Malco, Mo’Nique, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Omar Epps, Nicole Ari Parker, Jessie T. Usher and DC Young Fly.

 

MMT Quick Review: DOPE

dope

Happy Friday MMT Family!  I am so excited to finally write about Open Road films’ DOPE – which so far is my absolute favorite film of 2015! If you’ve heard anything about it, I highly doubt that it was bad as writer/director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood, Brown Sugar) has truly changed the game on the “high school dramedy” – with a proper dose of social commentary thrown in for good measure. The film – produced by actor/director Forest Whitaker – was also a breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

DOPE follows the journey of high school senior Malcom (Shameik Moore) and his fellow misfit friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) – from their unknowing entry into a drug scenario (slight spoiler) through their clever attempt to beat the odds and the drug dealers at their own game. Famuyiwa focuses once more on his beloved Inglewood, as with his critically acclaimed feature The Wood, which works brilliantly with the commentary on race, stereotypes and identity in the film.

I really enjoyed the star cameos – which included Kimberly Elise (For Colored Girls, John Q) and Roger Guenveur Smith (Cover, American Gangster). As well as rapper A$AP Rocky in a very comical screen début, and a performance by the extremely talented Zoe Kravitz (Insurgent, Yelling to the Sky) who really has shined in several films in recent years – and come into her own nicely (her band Lolawolf included) outside of her famous parents’ (Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz) notoriety. It was also great to see actor D’aundre Bonds (Gangster Squad, The Wood) – who had a couple of pretty funny moments as a high school security guard.

Add to that the 90’s hip-hop score curated by executive producer Pharrell Williams – who also created four original songs for the film – and DOPE conjures up feel-good nostalgic memories interspersed with laughs that are plentiful for the taking.

And you know we don’t do too much spoiling on this site, but just know that social media and technology is ingeniously highlighted in DOPE, including the online currency site Bitcoin, so it is fitting that this is the first film to accept Bitcoin payment for ticket purchases.

Alright MMT Fam, if I keep writing I will start giving spoilers – I enjoyed the film that much!  I need to come up with a rating system for the MMT site!  Any suggestions for symbols? Let me know in the comments when you share your thoughts on the film!

Until next thought family, Thomasena

PS – the trailer below is uncensored, so be careful (NSFW) 🙂

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