Lenny Kravitz chats about his influences, relationships and ‘Strut’ at 92Y

Lenny Kravitz 'Strut' (photo: lennykravitz.com)

Happy Tuesday MMT Family! Now those of you who follow me on this site know that one of my favorite artists is none other than the singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, rock & fashion icon that is Lenny Kravitz.  And I received the opportunity of a lifetime last week – covering a Lenny Kravitz Q & A with Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis on Friday evening at 92Y.  You can check out my full examiner.com article here, but Mr. Kravitz was so candid that there were many great tidbits that I didn’t get a chance to report.  So for my MMT Fam, I’ve decided to share more of that talk with you here!

On the first music that wowed or created a magic moment for him:

“The first thing I can remember singing was Tchaikovsky to my grandmother, which she thought was really strange. After that it was the Jackson 5.  I heard ‘Stop The Love You Save’ and I lost my mind!”

When asked what he missed most about his mother (late actress Roxie Roker):

“Everything.  I don’t care how old you get, you never get used to (losing a parent).  The beautiful thing is you can’t kill spirit.  I’m always feeling her, paying tribute to her. My mother’s pictures are all over my house because I wanted to be able to spoil her, and do things for her that I’m now doing. So I walk by her pictures, and it makes me feel like I’m sharing with her.  Living in Paris, in this beautiful home that was her dream.  She wanted to retire, move to France, have this library and read all the books she ever wanted, and learn French – so I’m doing it for us.”

When asked to discuss his uncle, his namesake, being honored with the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously:

“His name was Leonard Kravitz and he died in Korea.  He saved his entire platoon and should have gotten the Congressional Medal of Honor but he didn’t because he was a Jew.  He had a childhood friend that spent his life making sure that my uncle received it.  He wrote for years and years.  Then we got notice from (President) Obama. It was beautiful to see that finally happen.”

When asked his greatest accomplishment:

“My daughter Zoe.”

If fathering came naturally to him:

“Yeah, I was 23 man – it was crazy.  My record deal, my first record coming out, marriage and my first child all at once.  It was full on and it was, is, wonderful.  She is the thing that keeps me grounded.”

On his favorite song by one of his influences, Stevie Wonder:

“The first album that I heard where I began to not just hear the song as one sound but breakdown the instruments was ‘Innervisions.’ One of my favorite songs is ‘Jesus Children of America.’ It’s so funky.  I feel like Stevie was in the palm of God’s hand when he made that record.”

Kravitz also noted that Stevie Wonder is one of his favorite drummers (for those who didn’t know Wonder is a multi-instrumentalist too) and he modeled his drumming style after both Stevie Wonder and Ringo Starr, another of his faves, on his first record.

And for those, like myself, that were wondering – there are plans for the upcoming tour to arrive stateside…yay! But we will have to wait…boo, LOL! The tour opens in Russia in October and will continue abroad through December 2014, with dates to be added. Kravitz shared that the set list was mostly complete and the musicians will include a nine-piece band, three-piece horn section, and three background vocalists. And let me mention that he has reunited with the fantabulous drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, wife of legend Carlos Santana, for this tour.

Lenny Kravitz’s new album Strut was released today, and can be purchased on his website at lennykravitz.com.  You can also get additional tour updates and info on the site as well.

Oh, and family you know I didn’t leave the event last Friday empty-handed right…

Lenny & Thomasena at 92Y

Until next thought family!  Thomasena

A Quick Review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

What’s new MMT family?  I was so excited to screen the Lionsgate film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire earlier this week, and oh was it worth it!  Now let me first say that I have read NONE of the books, and because I enjoyed the first film so much I decided to wait so my expectations of what the films present wouldn’t change.  But let me tell you, I haven’t talked to one Hunger Games book series reader yet that hasn’t enjoyed the films; which I take as additional confirmation that this series is in fact GREAT!

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, The Hunger Games (based on a series of novels by Suzanne Collins) tells the story of young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old who volunteers in her baby sister’s stead to fight in a battle-to-the-death televised tournament imposed by a sadistic post-apocalyptic monarchy.  In this future society, what was formerly North America no longer exists and is split into twelve districts collectively known as Panem.  From each district, a teenage male and female “Tribute” are selected and forced to participate in the cruel tournament.

Unfortunately for those who haven’t seen the first film, the next sentence is an unavoidable spoiler! In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the story begins with Katniss’s return home and her and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) preparation for the “Victor’s Tour.”  What develops is Katniss’ awareness of the simmering rebellion that is brewing, and President Snow’s (a remarkable Donald Sutherland) impatience and sinister plot to halt said rebellion: the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) which involves past Tribute participation including Katniss, with the expectation that both she and the hope fueling the rebellion will be eliminated.

In my opinion, this film surpasses the first as far as story development, and really sets up the next in the series The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, which has an anticipated release date of  November 21, 2014.   And if you haven’t seen the first film, this one allows you to follow along quite well.  I did note however that this story is a bit darker than the first, but is not overly graphic with violence and has an appropriate PG-13 rating.  This is not the movie for those younger kiddies over the Thanksgiving Holiday; it is definitely young adult and adult fare.

Oh, and the CGI and costumes are MAGNIFICENT!  The fire motif for Katniss and Peeta this time around with Cinna’s (Lenny Kravitz) designs are, um well for lack of a better term, HOT!  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire also includes some great performances by Kravitz (Precious, Lee Daniels’ The Butler), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Moneyball), Jeffrey Wright (Broken City, Cadillac Records), Woody Harrelson (No Country For Old Men, Game Change), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Lovely Bones) and Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect, W.). The only negative I left the theater with is one that my screening partner remarked on, which is we have to wait an entire year for the sequel!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is out in theaters today, November 22.  You can check out the TV spot featuring the song “We Remain” by Christina Aguilera below and get additional info at the official website.

Alright that’s it for me family!  Until next thought, Thomasena

A Quick Review of After Earth

photo: Sony Pictures  www.afterearth.com
photo: Sony Pictures

Hey there MMT family!  How many of you have already checked out the new Will & Jaden Smith joint, After Earth?   I would really love to hear your feedback, as I’m a little on the fence about this one.  For those who haven’t seen the trailer, Jaden Smith stars as Kitai Raige, who crash lands on Earth with his hero, warrior father Cypher (Will Smith) 1,000 years after the planet is declared “uninhabitable” for humans and all creatures remaining on the planet have evolved to “kill” humans. Based off a story written by Will Smith, who designed the story to be a trilogy and subsequent vehicle for son Jaden, the screenplay was co-written by the film’s director M. Knight Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village, Signs).

Okay, so those are a few basics now let’s get to my thoughts.  First, I’m extremely proud of Will Smith and his whole Overbrook Entertainment production team, including Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, brother- in- law Caleeb Pinkett, and business partner James Lassiter.  The trailers and anticipation built for this movie was on point and I had very high expectations; not only because of the former but also due to the elder Smith’s reputation as a box-office phenom.  My love for I Am Legend and Hancock also added to the suspense.  Although I do believe Will created a great story, I wasn’t as enamored with the screen version.  I felt the story lulled at times, even with a short 100 minute run-time.  Yet, I did find myself rooting for young Jaden, excuse me Kitai, on his mission to signal for help after his father is injured in the crash landing (FYI: that’s not a spoiler, it’s on the official website!).

I believe part of the let down for me was the fact that Jaden carried a lot of the movie versus his father, who took a back seat but is still very much a pivotal part of the film.  I believe Jaden has already proven his ability as an actor, the Karate Kid remake was phenomenal, but this was a huge sci-fi/action undertaking and his overall performance was moderate.   In contrast, I did appreciate the father/son struggle within the film and the natural chemistry between both Smith men complimented that element of the story nicely.

What I loved?  The CGI was really cool, Sophie Okonedo (The Secret Life of Bees, Hotel Rwanda) is always a dramatic force and Will Smith didn’t disappoint with what was required.  Well maybe he did with that horrible accent!  I hated the accents in this movie!  Some folk had them, some folk didn’t… I don’t know, apparently we left Earth and 1/2 of us adopted really bad accents in space, LOL!  Also, Zoe Kravitz (yes, baby girl of that super sexy..eh-hem…of Lenny!) had a good cameo as Kitai’s sister Senshi.

If I’m completely honest, I will note that Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was mostly assessed as the least favorable episode of the franchise, but that didn’t deter me from giving it and the others a chance.  I think I’ll give this After Earth series the same courtesy, considering it was really cool watching two African-American heroes on the screen in a sci-fi fantasy flick.  I’m hoping it does well enough that those sequels come to fruition.  I really would enjoy seeing what next becomes of the young Kitai Raige character, and how Jaden develops him.

Alright family, those are my thoughts.   After Earth was released nationwide in theaters today May 31st.  Please stop back and leave a thought or two about the film when you check it out!

Until next thought, Thomasena