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.

 

MMT Review: VENGEANCE and Q & A with author Zane

Vengeance

If you’ve subscribed to my Examiner feed or to the MMT Facebook page, then you already know how excited I was to interview New York Times bestselling author Zane last Monday. Her latest book, VENGEANCE, was released on the following day, and she took time out of her busy schedule to fit in a phone call with yours truly.

Vengeance is a suspenseful and erotic novel, set in the same world as the two books that came before it – Addicted and Nervous, which both feature psychiatrist Dr. Marcella Spencer.  Following a protagonist named Wicket a.k.a Ladonna Sterling, a beautiful but emotionally damaged (diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder) pop star hell-bent on vengeance against the people responsible for her traumatic past, the book chronicles a journey of self-discovery, truth, healing and forgiveness – while highlighting such topics as family trauma, mental illness, and gender identity.

Open and extremely humble, Ms. Zane discussed everything from the new book to tolerance on social media, and even sounded off on what she felt about last week’s Billboard Music Awards tribute to the late singer/musician Prince.

Can you talk about the research process that goes into a project like this?

I did extensive research. And I’ve been blessed to get many compliments from psychiatrists after they read Addicted and Nervous, so hopefully I’ll get them after they read this book (laughs). In “Nervous,” the second book in the series, I actually tackled Multiple Personality Disorder. I had no idea that it was so prevalent in society until I wrote it. A friend’s mother, who died about a year and a half ago, actually had Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s really crazy to me that I used to think it was such a rare thing, but it’s not that rare. And it’s the same with Intermittent Explosive Disorder – it’s way more common than people think.

On the stigma attached to mental illness, especially among African-American and religious communities:

A lot of mental illness is masked behind religion. I have a relative, whom I believe may have Bipolar Disorder, that is finally considering seeking treatment. But she would use “God speaking to her” as a way of making excuses for what she does in her life. And it’s a stigma, but it can happen to anybody. Different circumstances and factors can influence it, but a lot of people are not getting help.

Because of the aforementioned, Zane allowed the main character in Vengeance to confront her family history, and in the process realize the cycle of “hurt people hurting people.” The author expressed wanting to illustrate a compassionate portrait of mental illness, in addition to displaying issues within the transgender community with the same consideration – particularly with the character Hannah, who becomes a mother figure to a younger Wicket.

I decided to do a transgender character because I noticed when I would post something on my Facebook page about the transgender community, some others would become really heated and post negative and mean comments. I kicked a couple of people out of one of my groups last night for that very reason. I don’t have any tolerance for people writing negative posts that are racially motivated or that deal with gender identity, because it’s just not right. 

On writing a tragic turn in Hannah’s story (slight spoiler):

I was so stressed out that day, I had to go get donuts from the store! I was in a hotel writing and had to go out literally to buy donuts and other comfort food to mentally prepare. I do get really deep into my writing – to me the characters take on a life form. And I wanted to explore that whole situation because so many transgender people are not accepted, and they just want to live like everyone else. In this case, Hannah’s parents had rejected her, and her whole life she just wanted to feel accepted. 

Zane mentioned taking her children on a recent trip to Atlanta’s Civil and Human Rights Center because she wanted them to see how others had dedicated and sacrificed their lives to obtain equal opportunity. Further driving home her point on acceptance and what she wants people to take away from the book, she shared:

I feel like everybody is entitled to live their lives. So, I hope that people will learn tolerance. Many are afraid of others simply because they don’t understand them. When I was child my father, an expert in World Religions, not only took me to our church, but to Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues, and Seventh Day Adventists churches so I would have that exposure. And my parents also exposed me to different types of people – like on trips to Scotland where there were no other black people around at all! And I am very glad they raised me that way. I’ve become fascinated by various cultures and people, and I pretty much get along with everyone – as opposed to being scared of and making assumptions about others.

And on the MMT signature question – what artist’s biopic would she bring to the big screen?

I would say B.B. King. I am fascinated with the man he was and how much he accomplished. The first anniversary of his death just passed (May 14th) and I knew a lot about him, but learned much more recently. Like, one year he performed 342 shows – in that single year. And, until he was 70, he flew himself to many of his shows with a private pilot license. So to me, he was a highly energetic person, almost up to his death.

And the only reason I would not pick Prince – he is my favorite artist of all-time – is, although a lot of people are saying a bio is needed, I feel like he already did it on his own (Purple Rain).

And since she mentioned Prince, how did she feel about that Billboard Music Awards tribute?

There is no one they could have gotten to emulate him. But I appreciated that they let actual legends do the tribute – I’m a huge fan of both Madonna and Stevie Wonder – as opposed to someone younger like Drake. People like Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson have had decades long successes. It would have been nice, however, if they picked an upbeat song for the first – instead of “Nothing Compares 2 U.”  I think there would have been a negative reaction no matter who they chose (to perform), but people can’t take away that a legend honored another legend.

Although I agreed that Prince’s boots are too tall to fill, I shared that there were a few other living legends and older performers – like Sheila E., Chaka Khan, and The Time – that I wouldn’t have minded seeing invited – and that I am hoping the upcoming BET Awards tribute includes musical offspring like D’Angelo, Bilal and/or Janelle Monae and please, please, please invite Lenny Kravitz and Gary Clark Jr. on guitar!

But back to Vengeance, a quick and exciting read that I consumed in two days straight. Again, this novel has erotic content, and explicit language, so it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. I did ask Zane if she believed she had a huge following in the religious community to which she responded, “I’m speaking during a fundraiser at a church tonight!”

Vengeance was released May 24 and is available at retailers online and nationwide. Information on Zane’s book tour is listed on her Facebook page here.

PS: here’s holiday weekend giveaway #4! Want to win a “signed” copy of Vengeance? You must be a subscriber of this site, and send an email with your full name, address and the subject line “Revenge” to contests@musicmoviesthoughts.com and answer the following: Name the 2014 movie based on a Zane novel and name one of the stars. I will select one winner at random and notify by Thursday, June 2.

Good luck family! Thomasena

 

 

 

 

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

GIVEAWAY win passes to screen ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ Philly, PA

Twenty Feet From Stardom

Hey there MMT family!  I am very excited to announce that MusicMoviesThoughts has partnered with Allied-THA to giveaway passes for the hit film Twenty Feet From Stardom, which tells the stories of several well-known (& some maybe not as known) background vocalists who’ve complemented the likes of  Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Luther Vandross, and Michael Jackson just to name a few.

I am so stoked about this film because it has two of my favorite female singers: Lisa Fischer and Judith Hill.  Lisa stole my heart as a background vocalist for the late Luther Vandross and when she released her solo effort, which included the hits “How Can I Ease the Pain” and “WildFlower,” I became a forever fan.  More recently, I fell head over heels in fandom with Judith Hill, who was hand-picked by the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, for what was to be his comeback tour.  Judith recently appeared on the current season of The Voice, and though she didn’t make it to the finale I believe there are great things in her future.

“Twenty Feet From Stardom” will screen here in Philadelphia on Monday, June 24th, and will open locally on Friday, June 28.  For your chance to win an admit two pass you must: 1) make sure you are signed up to follow this blog (see top right of page) and 2) send an email with your full name to thinkmusicmovies@aol.com with the subject line “Twenty Feet.”  Winners will be selected and notified by Friday, June 21.

You can read the synopsis and check out the trailer below, and go to the official website for additional info at www.twentyfeetfromstardom.com.

Good luck!  Until next thought family, Thomasena

TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM synopsis

Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others.  

These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom.    Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few.  However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film.

Love, Peace and Soul – 25th Annual Soul Train Awards (11/25/12)

Hey there Music Movie family!!!!  How was everyone’s Thanksgiving holiday?  I had a beautiful time celebrating with my family this year, and I feel 20 lbs heavier right now! 🙂  And since the awards season has started (the CMA’s earlier this month & the AMA’s last week ushered it in), I’ll get plenty of chances to dance and work some of those extra, extra plates off ;).

My first opportunity is up tomorrow with BET’s airing of the 25th annual Soul Train Awards at 8pm (EST).  This year’s event will include performances from newbies like Elle Varner, Leah Labelle, and Marcus Canty; but I’m really looking forward to the New Edition tribute because I intend to dance all the way through!  Also looking forward to seeing some of my faves perform like Fantasia, Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton, and of course Stevie Wonder. Last, but certainly not least, I’m anticipating the special tribute for the late, great Don Cornelius.  Heck, I’m ready for the whole show. 😉  The great thing about it airing on the BET network is if you can’t watch tomorrow it will be repeated various times, so don’t fret.

And speaking of repeats, airing next Saturday 12/1 on the BBC channel is Spike Lee’s documentary, which pays homage to the late Michael Jackson, Bad 25.  Now anyone who knows me personally wouldn’t believe this, but I missed it on Thanksgiving night!  I knew the start time, and was preparing to watch, but became preoccupied with friends, good conversation, and only caught the beginning of the special.  I will view it next week, and trust I’ll own the doc once it’s out on DVD so don’t judge me ;).  I’m an MJJ fan for life!

Alright, that’s it for me family.  Leave a comment below about your favorite performance from this year’s Soul Train Awards or let me know your thoughts about Bad 25. Until next thought family, Thomasena

Next Thought On Music – The Return of Glenn Lewis

Well spoken.  Open.  Generous.  Just a few of the adjectives I would use to describe the extremely talented singer/songwriter Glenn Lewis.  You will remember him from his highly anticipated and well received début album, World Outside My Window, which featured the hit single “Don’t You Forget It”  I had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Lewis last Friday here in Philadelphia at Come Kleen Production’s “Philly LivePod”, and he humbly agreed to answer my music movie thought inquiries.

Me: What is the inspiration for the new music?

Glenn: “It’s been a long time coming.  For anybody that knows me or knows my music, I’m grateful and appreciative that people held out for it.  What kept me going is the passion and love for (my music)”…

Okay, so the pause came when we were interrupted by stage staff, who were assisting a videography crew and interviewer (shout out Michelle Snow!) that was preparing to meet with Glenn.  But oh was it worth the wait, as me and said staff were treated to an impromptu piano solo with his beautiful vocals to boot.  Okay, enough gushing.  Back to the questioning :).

Me: …so you were in the middle of that first question and giving me the inspiration and concept behind your new project.

Glenn: “Really, it’s been a combination of life experiences, (and) the accumulation of everything I’ve been going through, not to make it all sound deep,” he says with a smile.  “(But) the moments we move through are all we have.  Those moments take shape and become conversations, that become songs, that become life translated into music.  And the biggest thing for me is I really wanted to let go, have fun and (let) people see a different side of me this go around.”

Me:  What is the name of the first single?

Glenn:  “It actually hasn’t been decided yet.  There are a couple of joints that I like, but it hasn’t been decided.”

Me: …and when can we expect to hear that (in rotation)?

Glenn:  “Probably within the next month.”

Me: Who has been most influential to you as far as songwriting?

Glenn: “Inspiration derives from a lot of different sources, (and) anyone who has the freedom of expression and is so in tune and comfortable with their craft.  It will range from a Joni Mitchell, to The Beatles, to Stevie Wonder.  It could be anyone; it could be hip hop artists.  Because B.I.G. in his own way is inspirational and (Tu) Pac is inspirational, but I’m not about to drop 16 (bars) anytime soon!”

Me:  As far as your vocal styling, who would you say influenced you the most? 

Glenn: ” Most people pick up on Stevie Wonder, but I look to a variety of artists that have affected my vocal craft.  Michael Jackson, as a kid there was a sincerity to his voice that was just beautiful to me.  Charlie Wilson, Donny Hathaway, Maurice White and even some of my peers they motivate me.  You hear somebody do something, and you’re like I can do that.  It’s a healthy competition.”

Me: I gotta put something in there for my movie fans.  Favorite movie of all time?

Glenn:  “Too hard.  I’m such a movie buff and I love film.  But if we’re talking genres…”

Me: Musicals?

Glenn: “The Wiz.  As far as something dramatic or intense, there’s Cinderella Man, Love Jones, everything Spike Lee did is amazing and anything Will Farrell does as far as comedy.”

Me:  Last question.  A lot of musicians and vocal artists have transitioned into movies.  If you could play any role, what could you see yourself doing?

Glenn:  “If I had the opportunity, I would love to challenge myself by doing something comical or really serious, dark.  Because I’m somewhere in the middle of that, so to be able to go to whatever extreme would be really fun.”

I don’t know about you, but I am really excited to hear what Mr. Lewis has in store with this new project.  When I asked him about how his spiritual background influences his music, he shared “(one) particular thing I’ve learned in God’s patience with me is the understanding that we’re flawed creatures, but really it’s grace that sees us through.  So whatever purpose God has for our lives is founded in Him.  I try to keep it simple and try not to over think things.  I’ve learned to let go, not take things too serious, enjoy my life and the blessings I’ve been given.”  I personally am looking forward to witnessing the blessings that are in store for Glenn Lewis and being blessed by his new project.  And if I might suggest, I could see him in a Donny Hathaway biopic (but that’s my wishful thinking :)).

I’ll be sure to keep you posted with the album release information.  In the meantime, share a comment below and help me welcome Glenn back.  And check out the link below to his video for the hit “Don’t You Forget It.”

Until next thought family, Thomasena

Don’t You Forget It, Glenn Lewis (Sony, © 2002): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc4mRi7W2Ls&ob=av2e

5/25/12 UPDATE: Glenn Lewis’ first single is now expected to be released sometime in July 2012.  Will keep you updated as more info is released 😉