Separating Beyond the Lights from Love and Basketball

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker star as an unlikely couple in the romantic comedy, Beyond the Lights. A British singer, Noni Jean (Mbatha-Raw), is wrestling with instant fame and identity issues when she meets a LAPD officer, Kaz Nicol (Parker) who saves her life. With many forces against them, the pair tries to preserve their young love.

It has been 14 years since Gina Prince-Bythewood wrote and directed Love and Basketball. Black audiences instantly fell in love with the chronological love of two athletes, who despite a rough patch of distance prevailed as childhood sweethearts. When Prince-Bythewood created Beyond the Lights, Relativity Media made a bad decision by closely connecting the two films in their marketing and promotions.

Realizing that the 2000 film was Prince-Bythewood’s biggest work and most notable love story, the connection instantly creates room for comparison. Besides love and Gina Prince-Bythewood, these are two different movies that should be valued as separate entities.

In every way possible, Noni and Kaz just did not flare the same spark and fan admiration as Monica and Quincy. The stories and setting were almost opposite and movies overall messages were not even in the same ballpark. The best way to appreciate Beyond the Lights is to separate the movies from its predecessor.

Beyond the Lights was not memorable and, even in the midst two hours, there was nothing left for the imagination or memory. While believable, the couple was your average atypical romance met with adversity, hurt, and reconciliation.
Mbatha-Raw’s character literally transforms from self-absorbed prom queen to a natural hair, modern woman, all in the name of love. Even though Noni is a fictional character, the woman she transformed into was the same woman I saw a few weeks ago at St. Benedict the Moor church. On set of Will Smith’s new movie, Concussion, it is clear that her “raw”, jovial talent is a mere reflection of who she really is.

She literally walked on that movie set and the room immediately lit up- no lashes, makeup, weave, and acrylic nails.  Similar to her royal role in Belle, Mbatha-Raw has used her multi-racial background in movies to address identity issues that many women are facing. Who am I? What does it mean to be comfortable in my own skin? Does artificial body enhancements define my self-image?

3 Stars: Gugu Mbatha Raw and Nate Parker together are effortlessly in sync. But because the movie has been saturated in Love and Basketball references, it takes away from the film’s individuality. There’s no need for a Venn diagram. It is up to the audience to separate the two fictional love stories.

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Beyond The Lights Passes

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Beyond The Lights is the story of Noni Jean, a hot new award-winning artist who is primed for superstardom.  But not all is what it seems, and the pressures cause Noni to nearly fall apart – until she meets Kaz Nicol, a promising young cop and aspiring politician who’s been assigned to her detail.  Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance.  But can Kaz’s love give Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be?

Find out for yourself on Wednesday, November 12th.  The Beyond the Lights screening is happening in the Waterfront at 7:30 PM.  For tickets, please comment below with your favorite music love story.  I’ll start with mine: Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998).  Dreamgirls (2006) has to be #2 though.

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Think Like A Man Too

The gang reunites in Las Vegas for Director Tim Story’s Think Like A Man Too. All four couples are returning from the original 2012 movie, inspired by Steve Harvey’s 2009 best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”. Headliner and Comedian Kevin Hart stars in what seems like the Black Hangover as Candace (Regina Hall) and Michael (Terrence J) jeopardize their wedding plans after a night of partying.

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Think Like A Man Too’s overpopulated cast includes veterans Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, La La Anthony, Gabrielle Union, Gary Owen, Jenifer Lewis and some new faces like Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Haysbert.

Following the four couples got a little bit more difficult when you add a condensed script, shorter movie, spotty narration, and too many hands in the project’s pot. As the movie progresses, new characters pop up frequently, and it was almost unnecessary to have that many people in the movie.

Also, the storyline shifted from focusing on the couples equally to focusing on the wedding with Kevin Hart leading the way with his handsome humor. Yes, Kevin Hart is beyond hilarious but he completely took the shine from his fellow cast mates. It was the Kevin Hart Show.

Kevin Hart

The sequel failed to mention Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man”, which was the premise of the original movie series. I found it quite odd that in the first movie the woman’s guide was mentioned frequently, but is completely depleted in Think Like A Man Too. It is as if the book’s value is replaced with Kevin Hart’s sporadic story-telling and carefree comedic flare.

I have said it multiple times, but sequels are extremely difficult to successfully pull off because there’s always something to compare it to. Think Like A Man set the bar high and this newest continuation just fell short. Think Like a Man Too was not the only sequel in June to disaapoint the fans.

22 Jump Street, which was recently defeated by Think Like A Man Too in this weekend’s box office, also failed to be as great as its 2012 maker, 21 Jump Street. Kevin Hart’s Ride Along partner, Ice Cube, stars in this comedic cop sequel with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Similar to Think Like A Man Too, occasionally, I laughed at the silly antics of the movie but it just wasn’t as great as its predecessor. 22 Jump Street’s ending went from comedy to a complete joke, and that’s not a good thing. Both 22 Jump Street and Think Like A Man Too fell victim to the Sophomore Jinx.

3 STARS: Not mentioning Steve Harvey’s book in Think Like A Man Too lost major cool points with me. Despite the chaotic, rushed plot, Kevin Hart comically delivers again!

Throwback Movie of the Month: She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

People assume that because I am a film critic I have seen every movie ever made. Contrary to popular belief, I have not! Matter of fact, I just watched Scarface (1982) for the first time this past week. And this whole time I thought it was an Italian mafia movie, but really it follows a thuggish Cuban on his way to the top of a drug cartel.

I know it looks like I know all things related to movies, but I don’t. And that’s the beauty of this job! In my free time, I am able to watch some of other people’s favorite movies just to form my own opinion about it. This month’s throwback movie is Spike Lee’s very first feature-length film, She’s Gotta Have It.

She's Gotta Have It

Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) is young, sexy, and terrorizing local Brooklyn men with her bold moves and striking confidence. Her boldest move was juggling THREE at one time. Her manly roster included:

(1) Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks): The Stand-Up Guy. After falling in love with Nola, Jamie fights for her commitment, but quickly realizes that her judgement is clouded with sex and attention.

(2) Greer (John Canada Terrell): The Show-Off. Materialistic and self-centered, the over-the-top model was concerned about what he could do for Nola rather than what he can do with her.

(3) Mars (Spike Lee): The Silly Boy. Begging reached a whole new level with Mars, a goofy small-time guy willing to share his beloved Nola.

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Spike Lee, who employs his sister, Joie Lee, for a role in She’s Gotta Have It, is like the Black Adam Sandler. Other than his sister, actors like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson. and Giancarlo Esposito have all been in more than one Spike Lee film. I love the fact that he keeps the circle tight, but he’s also willing to step out on a new actor. Overall, Mr. Lee keeps good, consistent actors in his movies.

The Morale of the Story

Ladies, we have all been there. Very rarely do women marry straight out of adolescence. As an adult, there’s some fishing around that has to occur before you find your prized trout. With all of its complicated elements, the dating field means having a few men on the bench AND on bases in order to find the all-star. I’ve been Nola Darling a few times and making those commitment decisions comes with maturity and trust. There’s no need to put all my eggs in a raggedy basket.

Let’s address the double standard too! If a man shuffles more than one woman then he’s labeled as a bachelor, pimp, or gigolo. But if a woman even lusts after more than one man, she’s cursed as a hoe, slut, and home wrecker. Every man is curious about the promiscuity of a woman with multiple male options. On the other end, fellow women scold her with a scarlet letter and put an all-points bulletin out about the new town whore. It’s not fair!

3 Stars: I gave Spike Lee an extra star because it was his very first major film project. She’s Gotta Have It clearly shows Spike’s amateur ability; however, the film sets the foundation for even better movies to follow like Do The Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992), and Crooklyn (1994). I particularly enjoyed the color contrasts of different scenes. For the most part the movie was in black and white, but occasionally, we got a splash of color.

Think Like A Man Too Passes (Round 2)

Movie Scene Queen proudly presents the second screening of Think Like A Man Too…

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In the highly anticipated sequel, which was inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man, all the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas. But plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event. The movie stars Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, and La La Anthony.
Think Like A Man Too is in theaters June 20, 2014.

The advance screening will be held Tuesday, June 17th at AMC Waterfront 22, beginning promptly at 7:30PM. Please comment below with your favorite part of Think Like A Man (2012). In MSQ tradition, I’ll start with mine: My favorite part was finding out Kevin Hart’s nagging wife was Wendy Williams!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

The Fault In Our Stars

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Based on the novel by John Green, The Fault In Our Stars is literally a sick love story about two teenagers with terminal cancer who fall in love with one another. Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Gus (Ansel Elgort) meet in a cancer support group led by a quirky Christian Patrick (Mike Birbiglia), who loves making terrible Gospel music. The movie also stars Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, and my personal favorite, Willem Dafoe.

Hazel and Gus, although on the verge of human non-existence, conduct a romantic relationship like any other young couple. From waiting to see who will call or text first to committing cheesy, over the top gestures to gain admiration, the twosome is ground-breaking. Their chemistry or undying affection makes you wonder: How can anyone fall in love with someone knowing they won’t be around much longer?

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The stars are most definitely aligned in this movie. The Fault in Our Stars is slightly more romantic than Titanic (1997) or the Notebook (2004), and is one of the greatest fictional love stories ever told. The movie’s hidden gem is Shailene Woodley. She’s is three traffic lights away from perfection. I am simply blown away in every project that features the 22-year-old and eager to see her future works.

Almost exactly a year ago, Woodley played a boyish, awkward high-schooler alongside Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now. And most recently, she played leading lady in the futuristic, cliquish film Divergent where she reunited with Miles Teller. In every movie, she holds the innocence of a newborn but the quick wit of an aged politician. Shailene Woodley is a Goddess!

Cancer is the elephant in the room in The Fault of the Stars. The fatal illness shapes the dialogue throughout the entire script, however the couples’ modernistic love is what takes precedence. With all of the advance medical technology, the tumorous disease still leaves many of families distraught with its causalities and The Fault In Our Stars shows those dark times.

The film had an Indiana setting, but you’ll easily notice some very familiar Pittsburgh sites. One of the climax scenes is taped at the BP gas station on Ardmore Blvd. While Hazel and Gus is having a serious medical emergency, all I could see was the Rebecca Avenue dingy green street sign dangling in the distance. Jack Reacher (2012), Grudge Match (2013), and Out of the Furnace (2013) were all recently filmed in the Steel City too, which leads me to believe that Pittsburgh is more than just the most livable city.

5 Stars: The Fault In Our Stars is a complicated yet complete love story. Shailene Woodley get more amazing with every film. WARNING: Lots of tissue and a warm buddy are definitely a necessity for this summer flick. (I think I cried the last 20 minutes of the movie. Don’t judge me!)

Think Like A Man Too Passes

In the highly anticipated sequel, which was inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man, all the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas. But plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event.

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The Movie Scene Queen will be hosting a private screening on Wednesday, May 21st at AMC Waterfront 22, beginning at 7:30PM. Yup, that’s ONE whole month before the rest of the world!!!

Comment below with your favorite Kevin Hart movie and I’ll send you the link to grab two passes. In MSQ tradition, I’ll start with mine: Soul Plane (2004).

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Ladies’ Night Out: The Other Woman Passes

Ladies Night Out

Ladies (Sorry Fellas),

If you are in the Greater Pittsburgh area, please join Blonde Girl Nok and the Movie Scene Queen tomorrow at the Waterfront for Ladies’ Night Out. The two female bloggers have acquired an entire movie theater to get together, socialize and watch Cameron Diaz’s new movie, The Other Woman.

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After discovering her boyfriend is married, a woman (Cameron Diaz) tries to get her ruined life back on track. But when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on (Leslie Mann), she realizes they have much in common, and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered (Kate Upton), all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.

If you are down for Ladies’ Night Out, just comment below with your first and last name and how many guests you plan to bring. REMEMBER, NO GUYS!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

About Last Night

About Last Night

“About Last Night”, starring Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant, is a romantic comedy about a group of friends who fall in love with one another. Facing commitment issues, a recent breakup and job troubles, Danny Martin (Ealy) finds love while his best friend, Bernie (Hart), advises him not to seek this female companionship.

Headliners Regina Hall and Kevin Hart stole the show, making “About Last Night” the perfect Valentine’s Day movie. Hall undeniably matches the comedic styles of Hart and the pair made almost every scene a laughing riot. Many would think the comedian would overshadow Regina Hall, but there’s an enjoyable balance between the two.

Kevin Hart is only halfway though his 2014 movies and he’s already made a big splash. “Ride Along” was the #1 movie in America for three consecutive weeks, breaking MLK weekend earning records. On February 8th, the movie hit its $100 million mark. Hart’s box office success is only a testament to his hardwork but also, what we all initially fell in love with, his comedy. The anticipated sequel “Think Like A Man Too” will be released June 20, 2014.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Regina Hall has always had a special place in my heart. The actress had me at the opening scene of “Scary Movie” (2000) when she mimicked the stereotypical behavior of Black women in the movie theatre. She is an hidden gem, taking advantage of her exposure in “Think Like A Man”, “The Best Man Holiday”, and now, “About Last Night” to stake her claim. She’s fun, flirty and feisty and is the perfect candidate for this movie.

As for Danny’s ex-girlfriend, Paula Patton is cheesy and over the top. I thought Robin Thicke’s wife would be the new Halle Berry, yet she’s been a complete flop. Her gorgeous looks are just not enough to maintain my admiration. She was barely mediocre in “Baggage Claim” and her brief stint in this movie is almost intolerable.

With an all Black cast, “About Last Night” surpasses several expectations compared to the original movie made in 1986. And that’s a hard thing to do. Normally, remakes diminish the original classic features, like “Guess Who” (2005), “Love Don’t Cost A Thing” (2003), and “The Honeymooners” (2005). But this remake did more than entertain. “About Last Night” is colorful, meaningful, and expounds on the wholeness of love.

3.5 Lovey Dovey Stars

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