Posts by marceneaux

This Day in Film: “B.A.P.S.”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

(Photo: New Line Cinema)

On this day in 1997, Halle Berry wanted to make audiences laugh again.

Berry, who would go on to win the 2001 Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance inMonster’s Ball, teamed up with actress Natalie Desselle-Reid for the movie B.A.P.S.

The Robert Townsend–directed film featured Berry and Desselle-Reid in the roles of “Nisi” and “Mickey,” two waitresses in Decatur, Georgia, with big dreams of opening the world’s first joint hair salon and soul food restaurant.

Though the film has since become a staple of basic cable and pop-culture folklore, at the time it was widely panned. Noted film critic Roger Ebert gave the film the equally rare and colossally bad rating of zero stars.

In his review, Ebert wrote: “B.A.P.S. is jaw-droppingly bad, a movie so misconceived I wonder why anyone involved wanted to make it.”

His peers seemed to agree, as the film only noted a paltry 13 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

1997 theater-goers were inclined to agree as well. B.A.P.S. was budgeted for $10,000,000 yet only grossed a little more than $7.3 million at the box office.

If nothing else, at least the movie boasted a cameo from Rudy Ray Moore.

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This Day in Film: “Fresh”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Friday, August 24, 2012 at 9:42 am.

(Photo: Miramax Films)

Though the themes of drug and violence had already been depicted in several different movies before its release, the 1994 drama Fresh was praised as a film that told the same story in much more interesting way.

The film, written and directed by Boaz Yakin, follows 12-year-old Fresh, an urban teen who works as a runner for a drug dealer in order to support himself and his troubled sister. Fresh lives in a crowded housing project with his cousins and aunts. His sister is junkie while his father, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is an alcoholic who supports himself via chess game scams.

Fresh finds himself with the respect of local drug dealers because of his intelligence and honesty. Ultimately, the young child witnesses the murder of a classmate and ends up a target in his own right. He then has to use derive a way to protect his life.

The film was criticized for its depiction of urban life, but overall was widely praised. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote, “Here’s a movie filled with drama and excitement, unfolding a plot of brilliant complexity, in which the central character is solemn and silent, saying only what he has to say, revealing himself only strategically.”

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This Day in Film: “Blacula”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 12:54 pm.

(Photo: American International Pictures)

The Blaxploitation era covered drug dealers, pimps and hit men. It was only a matter of time before more treacherous characters were tackled in the popular genre’s flicks. Enter Blacula, a 1972 horror film starring William Marshall as an 18th century African prince that turns into a vampire following a trip to Transylvania. Two centuries later, the vampire rises and attacks various residents in the Watts district of Los Angeles. In the meantime, Blacula meets Tina, a woman he believes is the reincarnation of his wife.

Despite the film netting mixed reviews, Blacula was a top performer at the box office in 1972 and went on to receive the Best Horror Film at the Saturn Awards. The movie also spawned the sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, featuring Pam Grier the following year.

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This Day in Film: “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Friday, August 19, 2011 at 8:48 am.

(Photo: HBO)

For a while many wondered if a film about the life of the iconic and pioneering actress Dorothy Dandridge would ever be made. Certainly multiple high profile entertainers made the effort through the years. Model-actress Jayne Kennedy, television star Jasmine Guy, model-actress-singer Vanessa Williams, along with pop megastars Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston, all expressed interest in portraying the first Black woman to receive an Academy award nomination for Best Actress.

Ultimately, it was film star Halle Berry who achieved this feat by way of a made for TV biographical drama she dubbed a labor of love. Filmed over a span of a few weeks in early 1998, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge depicted the life of the now legendary starlet – examining her humbling beginnings as a roadhouse circuit performer in the South and going on to become one of the biggest actresses of her time.

Promoted with the tag line, “Right woman. Right place. Wrong time.” the HBO movie also shed light on her personal life, which was filled with much tragedy and heartache. Dandridge died of an overdose of pills in 1965, at the age of 41.

For her efforts, producer and starring actress Halle Berry won an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award.

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This Day in Film: “The Original Kings of Comedy”

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 9:33 am.

(Photo: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks)

On this day in 2000, the Spike Lee directed The Original Kings of Comedy was released to theaters. Filmed in front of a live audience at the Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina over a two-night stand, the movie captured the routines of four of the biggest Black comics at the time: Steve Harvey, Cedric The Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and the late Bernie Mac. The Original Kings of Comedy consistently sold out 10,000 to 15,000 seat capacity arenas during its coast-to-coast run – making it one of the biggest comedy tours in history.

Each respective comedian covered topics related to black culture, race relations, religion and family during their sets. In between each comedian’s bit, footage of the funny men backstage and their lives on the road were intertwined. On the movie, The New York Times wrote, “What comes out of these comedians’ hearts hits the most powerful chord, and the audience wants more of it.”

Others highlighted the comedic genius of Bernie Mac, with the critic at Film Threat claiming: “It is Bernie Mac who is the true King of Comedy here, following in the footsteps of Pryor and Murphy before him as he crosses from church-raised testifying, to furious black cultural theorizing, to barely controlled comedic genius.”

The Original Kings of Comedy was produced with an estimated $3,000,000 budget, but went on to gross a total of $38,168,022 at the box offices. The stand-up film also spawned several sequels, in particular The Queens of Comedy featuring Academy Award-winning actress Mo’Nique.

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Amy Winehouse Filmed Rumored To Be In Development

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 8:37 am.

(Photo: Anthony Harvey/PictureGroup)

A beloved yet troubled white soul singer dies at the age of 27, leaving behind an unfinished album, questions about her longstanding drug addiction and joining an ever-expanding lists of prolific singer-songwriters who died before the age of 30.

It already sounds like a movie, so it’s not surprising to hear reports that producers are already hard at work on a film about the life of Amy Winehouse. But are people already looking for an actress to star as the British crooner? That’s the word according to the Sun, who quotes a family source saying, “The feeling is there wouldn’t be an actress under 30 who wouldn’t want to play her.

The source added: “The first job is to get financial backing from co-production companies in the US. Some are showing interest because it’s a sure-fire money-spinner. They know anything Amy-related is going to be a huge success.”

There is apparently concern that due to Amy’s fluctuating weight and distinctive looks, it would be difficult to find an actress to properly mirror the singer on screen. That is, if that is the intention. The gossip pub already has one idea for an actress in mind: Lady Gaga.

They quote the pop star’s recent comments about Winehouse: “I was nobody when she was first coming out. I have really dark hair and all the time on the street people would go, ‘Amy!’ And they would go, Back to Black.  They’d scream at me.”

A separate source told the Daily Star newspaper: “Lady Gaga worshiped Amy and would love nothing more than to transform herself into her idol on the big screen. She’d be spot on performing Amy’s songs and has got the right look and attitude.

And they added, “Gaga’s been itching to make the transition from music into movies and sees this as the ideal role to launch her film career.”

While I don’t doubt Lady GaGa wants to get into movies, I expect Katy Perry to portray Rick James on film before Gaga plays Amy.

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This Day in Film: ‘Dangerous Minds’

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 11:38 am.

(Photo: Hollywood Pictures)

People love movies depicting challenged students saved by an unlikely, almost whimsical instructor or administrator that employs unorthodox teaching methods to save the day. Films like Lean On Me and Dead Poets Society are a testament to this, though works with shared themes prove to be profitable but not necessarily critically acclaimed.

Such is the case for the 1995 drama Dangerous Minds.

The bad kids gone good narrative is centered on the true story of ex-marine LouAnne Johnson (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), who struggles with her newfound role as teacher in what’s described as a “school within a school” for troubled students. Johnson, or “White Bread” as her Black and Latino students branded her, has to figure out how to teach students largely soiled by their poverty, drug abuse and gang activity.

She miraculously does so by way of bribing the kids with candy and teaching them about Bob Dylan. If that sounds unbelievable, congratulations, you have just the right amount of cynicism. In his Dangerous Minds review, legendary film critic Roger Ebert noted that the Dylan storyline seemed dubious and upon further research found that in book the movie is based on, “The real Miss Johnson used not Dylan but the lyrics of rap songs to get the class interested in poetry.”

Naturally, a lot of critics found the movie to be a bit unbelievable, too. In the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan, wrote, “The tale screenwriter Ronald Bass came up with, and the way director John N. Smith tells it, is stereotypical, predictable and simplified to the point of meaninglessness.”’s Bradley Steinbacher quipped, “Stay home and watch Welcome Back Kotter. It’s more enlightening.”

Yeah, what they said. Most didn’t agree with either critic’s assessment, though, as the film grossed more than $179 million. The movie also boasted a soundtrack that featured one of the biggest hits of the decade: Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” The Grammy-winning song was the biggest selling single of 1995, and is listed at number 69 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All-Time.

The movie also spawned a short-lived television spin-off on ABC. The show only lasted one season, however, and was blasted by the real LouAnne Johnson for the unbelievable turn her character had taken.

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Laurence Fishburne’s ‘Contagion’ Trailer

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Monday, August 8, 2011 at 11:41 am.

(Photo: Warner Brothers Pictures)

Celebrated director Steven Soderbergh said he will be retiring from film making sooner rather than later. It appears one of the last movies from the man behind works like Oceans Eleven and Traffic will be a tribute to Spring 1995. In the pandemic thriller Contagion, Matt Damon leads an all-star cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and Jude Law that centers on a global panic spurred by bird flu.

Indeed, the lethal airborne virus kills within days — prompting the worldwide medical community to race to find a cure before the virus takes everyone out of the game. Did I mention that chaos ensues, too?

Now if the synopsis and the above trailer sound familiar, congratulations: You obviously remember the movie Outbreak.

The only difference between the films are the faces and the animal behind the deadline virus. Outbreak had a monkey and Contagion has a bird. I’m sure the movie might prove to be entertaining given the talent on and off the screen, but you’ve got to be a donkey not to notice the similarities.

Check out the trailer below.

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This Day in Film: ‘Mo’ Better Blues’

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:24 am.

(Photo: Universal Studios)

Fans of Spike Lee know that the acclaimed director has long idealized jazz. His father, jazz musician Bill Lee, has composed a number of his son’s films. So it wasn’t surprising to see Spike create a film centered within that world. Unfortunately, the ambitious Mo’ Better Blues wasn’t as well received as the works preceding it.

The 1990 drama follows the life of Brooklyn jazz trumpeter Bleek Gilliam (played by Denzel Washington), who is conflicted in his personal relationships as much as he is in his professional ones. Bleek is torn between two women – the sultry songstress Clarke Bentancourt; and the less glamorous, but more stable Indigo Downes.

Meanwhile, Bleek’s professional troubles stem from his band needing better leadership in order to make it big.

Critics like the New York Times’ Caryn James lauded the visual aesthetics of the film though quipped, “But if the best you can say about a film is that it looks good, there’s serious trouble underneath. Like Bleek himself, Mo’ Better Blues is all smooth, handsome surface and no inner life.”

Peter Tavares, longtime film critic for Rolling Stone, had similar complaints, writing, “Spike Lee has helped right that wrong by making a film about and primarily for Blacks. Unfortunately, he has merely reshuffled the Hollywood clichés instead of rethinking them.”

And like any Spike Lee film, it was not released without controversy. The director was blasted by the Anti Defamation League for the Mo’ Better Blues’ depictions of the Jewish nightclub owners in the film. The organization claimed Lee was dredging up old anti-Semitic stereotypes and alleged he “has employed the same kind of tactics that he supposedly deplores.”

Spike Lee shot back at those claims in a New York Times editorial entitled “I Am Not An Anti-Semite,” dubbing the criticism “unrealistic and unfair.”

Mo’ Better Blues was released 21 years ago today.

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Justin Timberlake’s ‘In Time’ Trailer

Published by Michael Arceneaux on Monday, August 1, 2011 at 10:20 am.

(Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Justin Timberlake continues to pile on the film roles — effectively crushing the dreams of those who demand he record at least one more album since Justin Bieber isn’t even 18 yet. Timberlake’s latest role is a starring one in the science fiction thriller In Time. The film, directed by Andrew Niccol also features Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Alex Pettyfer and DeVaughn Nixon.

And if you look closely, you’ll also catch America’s Next Top Model runner-up YaYa DaCosta. YaYa continues to slowly but surely prove that she has all of the makings of a credible actress. No shade (well, not completely anyway) to those starring in the chitlin and Christian-themed plays.
As for In Time, the plot is reportedly as follows: “In the not-too-distant future t he aging gene has been switched off. To avoid overpopulation, time has become the currency and the way people pay for luxuries and necessities. The rich can live forever, while the rest try to negotiate for their immortality. A poor young man who comes into a fortune of time, though too late to help his mother from dying. He ends up on the run from a corrupt police force known as ‘time keepers.’”
Okay, I’m not exactly excited but it looks a lot better than the film adaptation of The Smurfs. So good for you, YaYa! Oh yeah, you, too, Justin. In Time opens on October 28, 2011.

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