What The Flick | BET.com http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick Tue, 22 Apr 2014 16:21:52 +0000 http://wordpress.org/?v=2.9.2 en hourly 1 Review: ‘Lady Day’ on Broadway http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/review-lady-day-on-broadway/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/review-lady-day-on-broadway/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 04:00:33 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7586 (Photo: Joseph Marzullo/WENN.com)

(Photo: Joseph Marzullo/WENN.com)

When an actor portrays a well-known figure in American history, usually there are similarities. Dorothy Dandridge and Halle Berry had uncanny similarities, both physically and as Black women who broke barriers at the Academy Awards. Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin in A Night With Janis Joplin is a blues singer and resembled the late, great rocker. But there are no such commonalities between Audra McDonald and Billie Holiday, which is why McDonald’s performance is 90 minutes of the most transformative work you will see on Broadway this year.

Audra McDonald is a mezzo-soprano, Julliard-trained Broadway singer. Billie Holiday had a thin voice with a small range, and her training was the do-or-die School of Hard Knocks.

McDonald was born in Berlin and raised in sunny Fresno, California. Holiday was born in Baltimore and lived much of her life in the rough streets of New York City.

Audra McDonald is one of the greatest successes in the history of Broadway — she’s won a record five Tonys. Billie Holiday is one of the greatest tragedies in American music.

It’s no secret the 43-year-old is an acting and singing beast, but when it was announced McDonald would play Holiday, many critics and fans of Broadway thought the casting was a stretch — even for Audra’s great range.  They should have known better than to doubt Miss Audra. She delivered yet another performance of a lifetime. But this is what Miss Audra does… she gave a performance of a lifetime in 2012’s Porgy and Bess, another performance of a lifetime in 1996’s Master Class and even the meanest of critics praised Audra McDonald’s performance in the panned, live version of the Sound of Music. The woman is a freak of performance nature.

From the first note (for a moment I thought she was lip-synching to Billie as a tribute of some sort), McDonald snatched up ever fiber of Billie’s being. The tone, the grit and the specific vocal distinction of Holiday was astounding to hear from another human being that wasn’t Billie Holiday.  Give Audra her sixth Tony.

Beautifully written by Lanie Robertson and directed by Lonny Price, Lady Day takes place at Emerson’s Bar and Grill in 1959 Philadelphia. Staged as a small venue concert and backed by a three-piece band, McDonald opens the show by stumbling to the stage in all her Billie glory, ironically dressed in a white gown and gloves. It’s the last four months of Holiday’s life, fresh out of jail for drug possession and singing in a town that she hates — Philly.  McDonald owns every piece of the stage and strolls through the audience to smoke cigarettes and refresh her drinks with straight gin — no chaser.

Less is more in Lady Day: the show is fittingly set with a small stage and tables for the audience privileged enough to land floor seats. The lighting is an eerie, almost smoky mist, channeling the beat-up Philly bar. Between each song, there are hilarious, disturbing and raunchy stories of Holiday’s epic life. Everything from how she fell in love with music to enduring racism in the Deep South to her tragic family to becoming an addict. With a drink and cigarette, the monologues are filled with n-words, f-bombs, b—–s and other obscenities that surprisingly save the show from the morbid. As sad as Holiday’s life story was, the superb storytelling in Lady Day found a way — like so many people — to present the laughter through the tears. You make do with what you got and don’t worry about what you don’t got.

Lady Day conquers great musical numbers, showcases the brilliance of Audra McDonald and accessibly tells the story of Holiday. Most importantly, the production recaptures the truth of Billie Holiday, who was born Eleanora Fagan. This is not the glamorous Diana Ross version from 1972. Billie was a boozing, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, uniquely politically-charged broad who believed in telling the truth with no shame. Lady Day is as close to the real Billie as we will get.

The 15 songs included jazz and blues classics like “Crazy He Calls Me,” “Pig Foot (And a Bottle of Beer)” and “T’aint’ Nobody’s Business If I Do.” Audra woke Billie up from the grave when she poured her soul in “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit.” However, it was a shock to not hear Billie’s other signature songs like “Good Morning Heartache” and, of course, “Lady Sings the Blues,” which could’ve easily been swapped out for the lesser known numbers.

Billie Holiday was about the feeling.  Whether it was misery or happiness, no one finessed emotions like Lady Day.  She influenced every artist from Frank Sinatra to Aretha Franklin.  Therefore, what makes Lady Day soar is the feeling.  A feeling that stays with you long after you leave the Circle in the Square Theatre. Billie Holiday is surely raising a glass in jazz heaven.

Lady Day is currently playing at Circle in the Square on Broadway.

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Movie Review: ‘Transcendence’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-transcendence/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-transcendence/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 04:00:46 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7570

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Johnny Depp disappointingly returns to the big screen in a flick that is destined to sweep the Razzies — Transcendence. Directed by Wally Pfister (his directorial debut), the film cannot transcend its weak sentiments, implausible scenarios, unlikable characters and painfully boring pace. The only truly transcendent element of the film is how Johnny Depp, now 50 years old, transcends all signs of aging!

Transcendence starts off promisingly with commentary on a world obsessed with social media and technology. We are all connected and disconnected. The idea is nothing original — you can read ruminations on the ills of our society on any random Facebook status — but for an alleged sci-fi thriller, it’s expected that the 120 minutes running time will be a joy ride. Not at all. Outside of Depp’s ageless beauty, Transcendence is another example of how A-list is not always the best.

Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, a prominent researcher in Artificial Intelligence who believes we all “create a God.” After his unexpected death, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) uploads his brain, which manifests a digital but dangerous version of Dr. Caster. He must be destroyed, as should everything he created. But the doctor fights back and the rest of the film all leads up to the one-liner, “We’re not going to fight them. We’re going to transcend them.” This “fight” happens an arduous 90 minutes into the epic 120 minutes. By this time, the audience is trying to transcend sleep.

Scene after scene, Transcendence stumbles with a troublesome script and unlikable characters. One epic low is Rebecca Hall’s character having a Lifetime movie moment, arguing with digitized Johnny Depp about her emotions — things aren’t what they seem! He is controlling her! She wants out. The theater busted out in laughter.

There are small roles with Morgan Freeman and Cory Hardrict. But even with a solid cast and the high-profile direction of Pfister, the film is a dud on every level of filmmaking. In one scene, Freeman gives Rebecca Hall a note that reads: “Run from this place!” If I could transcend time, I would hand the cast and crew a note that says: “Run from this movie!”

Transcendence is in theaters now.

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First Look: Trailer For James Brown Biopic “Get on Up” http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/first-look-trailer-for-james-brown-biopic-get-on-up/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/first-look-trailer-for-james-brown-biopic-get-on-up/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 14:00:07 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7559

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

A biopic on music legend James Brown has been in the works for the better part of three decades, and at long last the film is here. The first trailer for Get on Up, starring Chadwick Boseman as the king of funk, dropped this week and shows a sweeping portrait of Brown’s rough childhood growing up in a whore house, to his rise to fame. One of the most influential musical artists to ever live, Brown’s sound and signature style has impacted everyone from Prince and Michael Jackson to Justin Timberlake.

Get On Up is directed by Tate Taylor, whose debut film The Help was the sleeper hit of 2012. The Help’s Octavia Spencer also stars in the film, and makes an appearance in the trailer. Boseman, who came to notice with his moving portrayal of Jackie Robinson in the 2013 drama 42, looks to be the perfect choice to play Brown.

Check out the trailer for Get On Up below. The film hits theaters on August 1.

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Hot Trailer: Godzilla http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/hot-trailer-godzilla/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/hot-trailer-godzilla/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 14:00:46 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7550

(Photo: Warner Bros Pictures)

Hollywood is taking another stab at making Godzilla happen, and from the trailer it looks like no building will be left unturned. Gareth Edwards (Monsters) takes the helm of this reboot of the Japanese classic, with a prestigious cast that includes Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins and it-girl Elizabeth Olsen. Unlike the 1998 reboot, which annoyed fanboys with its modern rendition of Godzilla’s look, the creature in this film is closer to 1954’s original Gojira.

We won’t hold our breath for this new Godzilla to take a huge bite out of the box office, but we’ll admit the monster does look interesting. Check out the trailer below and judge for yourself. Godzilla hits theaters on May 16.

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Movie Review: ‘Non-Stop’ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-non-stop/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-non-stop/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 05:00:42 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7537

(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Summary: The friendly skies are a living nightmare when a terrorist harasses a federal air marshal with a drinking problem. But this isn’t your average terrorist; it’s a texter with impeccable grammar demanding 150 million dollars. William Marks, played by Liam Neeson, must find out which one of the crafty passengers is the texting terrorist or someone onboard will be killed every 20 minutes.

Review: Liam Neeson is the king of junk food action flicks. Audiences should expect no great plot, mediocre acting and nothing memorable. If you want a formulaic, brainless action thriller, Non-Stop is your movie. Does this mean Non-Stop is a great film? No! Does this mean Non-Stop is a bad film? Nope! It’s an irrelevant action movie without significance, but not without entertainment value.

Non-Stop is one of those movies where you ask the person next to you, “How is that possible?” Start with the most glamorous trans-Atlantic airplane I have ever seen equipped with a live feed to New York 1 across the Atlantic Ocean (you can’t even get New York 1 in Jersey!), impeccable Wi-Fi that can handle video uploading and hacking into a federal computer network — all while suffering through ungodly turbulence. I can’t even get a phone signal during a Nor’easter!

But endure the wild suspension of disbelief, and Non-Stop does its job. The film moves quickly, so it’s easy to ignore the stupidity of each conflict (like the bizarre deaths that happen every twenty minutes) or the hilarious reaction from frantic passengers.  That said, Neeson as the air marshal on the hunt for the texting terrorist is suspenseful enough. It’s a who-done-it in the sky. Is it the stewardess? A frantic NYPD officer? A bearded Muslim who everyone is giving the eye? A muscular computer programmer (Nate Parker)? Maybe Neeson as Bill Marks is the culprit? In the end, the answer is basic and the logic on how the terrorist managed to pull off such an elaborate hijacking is ludicrous.

The film includes a solid and diverse cast with Nate Parker, Julianne Moore and this year’s “it” girl Lupita Nyong’o. Unfortunately, we don’t get much from the fashionista, who is now an Oscar nominee for 12 Years a Slave. Surely Jaume Collet-Serra, the director, would have given the Kenyan actress a larger role had he known she would be up for an Academy Award two days after the film’s release.

An unexpected plus, there is subtle commentary on stereotyping of terrorists. In addition, Non-Stop clearly critiques the media running with a story and not fact checking, which results in more chaos in the sky.

Liam Neeson is the granddaddy of action films. The Oscar winner’s stoic, deep-voiced, monotone, but — most importantly — likable demeanor is consistently entertaining. You want him to win and he always does.

Non-Stop is in theaters now.

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Melissa McCarthy Drops New Trailer for Tammy http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/melissa-mccarthy-drops-new-trailer-for-tammy/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/melissa-mccarthy-drops-new-trailer-for-tammy/#comments Fri, 21 Feb 2014 15:00:05 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7512

(Photo: Warner Bros Pictures)

Female-centric comedies will continue their hot streak this summer with Tammy. The caper film, written by and starring Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy (an Oscar-nominee for Bridesmaids), just dropped a new — and hilarious — trailer. The clip features McCarthy in the title role, robbing a fast food restaurant with a paper bag over her head, all to the tune of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

McCarthy proved her box office might last year with the success of The Heat, also starring Sandra Bullock. Tammy, directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone, follows a woman who embarks on a Thelma & Louise-style road trip with her profane, alcoholic grandmother after losing her job and discovering her husband is cheating on her.

Tammy will hit theaters on July 2.

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Morgan Freeman Voices Vitruvius in The Lego Movie http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/morgan-freeman-voices-vitruvius-in-the-lego-movie/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/morgan-freeman-voices-vitruvius-in-the-lego-movie/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 19:15:12 +0000 smundhra http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7481

(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Morgan Freeman has lent his distinctive voice to dozens of roles over the years, from God to Nelson Mandela to several fictional presidents. Now, the actor’s vocal chords star in Warner Bros. refreshing animated film The Lego Movie.

Freeman plays the white-haired wizard Virtuvius in the story, about an everyman Lego minifigure who unwittingly takes on  President Business (Will Ferrell), who threatens to glue their free-form world together.

It may have been decades since you’ve played with Legos yourself, but this family-friendly flick is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Between the all-star cast, which also includes Chris Pratt and Hunger GamesElizabeth Banks, and the sharp, subversive storyline, The Lego Movie is simple enough for kids, but built for adults, too.

Check out a trailer below. The Lego Movie hits theaters on Friday, February 7.

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Movie Review: “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-inevitable-defeat-of-mister-pete/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/movie-review-the-inevitable-defeat-of-mister-pete/#comments Tue, 04 Feb 2014 05:00:12 +0000 ccane http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7356

(Photo: State Street Pictures)

Summary: After being abandoned by his heroin-addicted mother, 14-year-old Mister and his 9-year-old friend Pete endure the projects of Brooklyn on their own. Race and class intersect in this story of despair and survival.

Review: In many ways, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a classic tale. With the title almost sounding Shakespearean, it’s a story of childhood friends navigating the residuals of adult mistakes, forcing them to grow up at a rapid pace. Set in the projects of Brooklyn, screenwriter Michael Starrbury crafted a nuanced story with the highest of highs, the deepest of lows and enough complexities to provoke thought. For many viewers, the film might feel consistently macabre because there is no Hollywood ending.  Nonetheless, there is a bold joy in the George Tillman Jr.-directed film, which can be credited to Mister and Pete, played wonderfully by Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon. Their childlike innocence but adult sensitivities gave the flick an undeniable heart.

Jennifer Hudson stars as Mister’s drug-addicted mother Gloria. Next to Effie White in Dreamgirls, the performance is her best to date. There are also appearances from an unrecognizable Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Mackie and Jordin Sparks — all adding their high-profile chops to the indie flick. That said, the film is not perfect. In many scenes the storyline gets lost in its own poetry. But the direction of George Tillman Jr. and the writing of Michael Starrbury make for a solid cinematic team. In addition, the thoughtful score from Alicia Keys accentuates the  kids quirky and admirable ways to survive.  Mister and Pete see a light, no matter how dim, knowing there is something on the other side of their dire circumstances, which is a reality that resonates with many youths.

Side note: A variety of critics have sounded off on the film, but it’s important to note the version being released today is edited, shorter and includes a different ending than what was seen at Sundance.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is on DVD now.

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Lee Daniels Comments on Oscar Snub http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/lee-daniels-comments-on-oscar-snub/ http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/lee-daniels-comments-on-oscar-snub/#comments Tue, 21 Jan 2014 17:30:46 +0000 smundhra http://blogs.bet.com/celebrities/what-the-flick/?p=7473

(Photo: Christopher Polk/Getty Images for DCP)

Lee Daniels finally broke his silence on The Butler’s notorious Oscars snub, and the A-list director kept it classy with his comments. Speaking to TMZ at LAX, Daniels says it’s the media that starts the Oscar hype, not the artists who make the films.

“We don’t do it for awards, we do it for the art,” Daniels reiterates. TMZ’s cameraman gives the director props for the film, telling him his family loved it and the audience he saw it with gave the film a standing ovation.

Daniels, looking visibly touched, tells him, “that’s my award.”

Awards or not, no one can take away The Butler’s amazing box office run and universal critical raves. It was one of the few awards contenders this year that resonated with both critics and audiences. While The Butler didn’t earn any Golden Globes or Oscar nominations, Oprah Winfrey was in contention for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress (the honor ultimately went to 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o) and is up for eight NAACP Image Awards.

Daniels himself is now part of the elite $100 million directors club, with the historical epic grossing $160 million worldwide against a budget of just $30 million. Not a bad consolation prize.

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