Keeping Up with the Joneses Passes

An ordinary suburban couple finds it’s not easy keeping up with the Joneses – their impossibly gorgeous and ultra-sophisticated new neighbors – especially when they discover that Mr. and Mrs. “Jones” are covert operatives.

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The screening will be held on Thursday, October 13th at 7:30 PM at the AMC Waterfront 22. Please comment below with your favorite Zach Galifianakis moment.  Due Date (2010) might have been his funniest role.  I laughed so hard, from beginning to end.

Winners will be emailed the morning of Wednesday, October 12.

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

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Top Five Is Just What We Needed From Chris Rock

Chris Rock has become a household name as legendary standup comedian, Saturday Night Live vet, and most recently, as the voice of Marty the Zebra in the Madagascar series. But, the 49-year-old has dabbled in movie production and direction too. In his latest flick, Top Five, Rock is pretty much playing himself. Andre Allen (Rock) is a big-time movie star who fears going back into the comedy world after 4 years of sobriety and a chain reaction of box office flops.

Top Five, which also stars Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, and Gabrielle Union, is one of this year’s most creative and witty movies. Chris Rock, in true fashion, pushes the envelope with his racy, vulgar humor. One joke in particular involved a quick jab at JFK and the grassy knoll, so you can image the level of inappropriate hilarity.

Rapping buddies Jay Z and Kanye West serve as co-producers of the film. While the Roots’ Questlove managed the movie’s score as executive music producer. With that many musical geniuses involved, I was a little bummed to actually hear the music featured in the movie. The soundtrack was unoriginal and was filled with your everyday radio playlist.

While the music was predictable, the random listings of favorite rappers held more weight than that of the actual musical selection. The topic, specifically hip-hop, infrequently surfaced throughout the movie as characters discussed their own top rappers. This dialogue was the impromptu spice to this filmic feast.

There are so many surprise guests, both comedians and entertainers. So many wonderful, hilarious cameos that I am not willing to spoil their appearances. The obvious funny men, Cedric the Entertainer and Kevin Hart, were amongst the elite group.

Rosario Dawson’s character resonated with me personally and professionally. She played Chelsea Brown, a New York Times film critic who ghost writes under other names. I am Chelsea Brown- the journalist who wears many hats in the hopes of telling an honest story. Unlike other story chasers, we both possess the need to uncover the great, positive stories rather than dig up dirt.

This field is no easy ballpark. Between meetings some one-dimensional people and tasteless headlines, the idea of making newsworthy, well-written pieces is minimal. While there are some great perks to this work, it can get sidetracked with fame, recognition, and greed.

4 STARS: Chris Rock needed this movie. Chris Rock fans also needed this movie. Top Five is undeniably an amusing reflection of selecting and ranking who or what is most important in any given subject.

Since no one dared to show love to the ladies of hip-hop, here’s my Top Five Female Lyricists of All Time:

1.) Lauryn Hill
2.) MC Lyte
3.) Lil’ Kim
4.) Nicki Minaj
5.) Foxy Brown

Honorable Mention: Queen Latifah


Who’s in your Top Five?

No Good Deed

There’s no question why ‘No Good Deed’ is the #1 movie in America right now. Knocking ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ striaght out of the top spot, the movie’s quick suspense and appealing cast are clear indications that the film is well worth the $24.5 million box office sales.

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A deserted housewife, Terri (Taraji P. Henson), shows an escaped convict, Colin (Idris Elba), a brief act of kindness. But, that brief of act of kindness swiftly turns into a night of terror. Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba are electifrying and the pair, who also serves as executive producers, are a match made in movie heaven.

Idris Elba And Taraji P.Henson At The LA Special Screening Of Screen Gems' "No Good Deed"

When Idris Elba plays the villain it fondly reminds me of this days as Stringer Bell on HBO’s ‘The Wire’. His role in this movie is like when Denzel Washington was in ‘Training Day’ (2001)- the utter excitement of seeing the good looking guy play the bad boy. Elba is charmingly attractive on screen with his artifical American accent, even though his English accent slips in occassionally.

Doesn’t it seem like trailers are now starting to reveal too much of the storyline? Initially, I was frustrated with the ‘No Good Deed’ trailer because it was giving too much of the plot away. Despite the lengthy trailer, there are lots of twists and turns. The thriller creates the creepy suspense of ‘The Shining’ (1980) and man-vs-woman battle of ‘Enough’ (2002).

I knew it wouldn’t be long before someone took this fictional scenario and made a real life reference. When the Ray Rice NFL decision broke early last week, social media pages were flooded with a meme about women and their double standards. Here’s the Instagram post:

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Although this movie’s release date has been set for almost a year, maybe it was bad timing. Or maybe it’s a mere coincidence that Ray Rice’s video publicly surfaced around the same time a movie about domestic violence would be released. Clearly, the connection did not stop millions of movie goers from enjoying the movie this past weekend.

As a woman, at no point in time did Ray Rice’s elevator footage dilute my desire to see this flick. While domestic violence is a global epedimic, the issue is widely depcited in movies and should serve as platform rather than promotion. ‘No Good Deed’ touches on other relevant topics like Infidelity (Future, Stevie J) and Child Endangerment (Adrian Peterson). (And we didn’t attack those people or make a sad association.)

3.5 STARS

Throwback Movie of the Month: Dark Girls (2012)

The paper bag and snow-and-blow tests are direct derivatives of the 1712 Willie Lynch Speech that taught White slave owners how to put African Americans against one another based off of weight, class, skin color, and age. Willie Lynch’s advice to Virginia slave owners were to use our differences as a competitive separation tactic to better control slaves. Three hundred years later, society is still popularized with social trends like #teamdarkskin and #teamlightskin. A 2012 documentary closely looks at one group of Black people whose pigmentation has been less than “fair”- Dark Girls.

Dark Girls Film Poster

On Saturday, June 21st, Rights and Responsibility, an organization that uses film and other media to focus on human rights issues impacting people of African descent, held its first screenings in nearly 3 years. Dozens of spectators gathered at the Carnegie Library’s East Liberty Branch to watch the 70-minute documentary, Dark Girls.

Rights and Responsibility Executive Director, Dr. Aisha White, welcomed everyone and then introduced a powerful performance by Love Front Porch’s Vanessa German. Once the movie was over, a panel discussion, moderated by Demetria Bocella, included race relation experts like Dr. Stanley E. Denton, Associate Professor of Education at Point Park University, Dr. Beverly Goodwin, Professor of Psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Yolanda Covington-Ward, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh.

The documentary, directed by D. Channsin Berry and Actor Bill Duke, has six segments: The Impact, Family, Men on Women, Women on Men, Global, and Healing. The Help star Viola Davis might be the most well-known account in Dark Girls. Davis, who is sprinkled throughout the film, gives a brief synopsis on her childhood about being dark skinned, raised in a predominantly White neighborhood and how she was too Black for her neighborhood but also, coincidentally, too Black for her “Welfare camp” also.

While Dark Girls features expert commentary from historians and psychologists, it also had distinct accounts from African American men and women. We even heard from a couple White men who like Black women. But, who we failed to hear from was- White Women. Not one White woman was featured in the documentary to give us her opinion on the Dark-skinned Black woman. I found that very interesting!

The short film made several references to Black men about how they indulge in light-skinned or White women, prefer dark skinned women, or simply did not have a preference. But the film failed to have a serious, educated rebuttal from White women. And even though light skinned women where in the documentary, it would have also been enlightening to get their feedback as well.

The behavioral dynamics between women are a huge piece of the colorism, specifically the roles non-dark girls play in the perpetuation of stigmas that shadow dark women.

This might be slightly off topic, but I hate when people say they only date a specific race, especially Black men. To make such a sensitive decision, leads me to believe that the person is naive and immature. I would never limit my opportunities by saying that I only date Black men or White men. More specifically, I would never say, “Oh, I only date light-skinned men.” It just sounds close-minded and idiotic.

Dark Girls most informative part is about family and how parents are a child’s initial reassurance and boost in understanding, development, and self-esteem. LaQualla Davis, 30, thought Dark Girls “finally shed light to an issue within the Black community that needed to be exposed.” Davis, a dark-skinned woman, attributes her high self-esteem and confidence in her early values that were instilled by her parents. She recalls her mom always calling her “beautiful” and embracing her equally regardless of her dark skin.

3.5 STARS: Dark Girls is an ideal stepping stone to start healthy dialogue about colorism, but it is not the premiere premise or remedy to the issue. It’ll take more than a few dozen stories to solve this problem. The healing process is multi-dimensional and requires historical knowledge, self-esteem, and professional guidance in order to break the barriers of colorism for all people.

Dark Girls was released on DVD in September 2013 and is currently available on Netflix and Red Box. And if you need to borrow my Netflix account, let me know!

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

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

March 2014 Throwback Movie of the Month: Hollywood Shuffle

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For the first time, I caught Hollywood Shuffle on my boyfriend’s DVR. The movie came highly recommended by several people and I was not disappointed. The 1987 movie stars Robert Townsend (co-writer, director and producer) as aspiring actor, Bobby Taylor. The over-enthused Bobby Taylor quickly realizes that his daytime job as a hot dog boy is not helpful for his acting career after he lands a big role as a street thug in a major production.

Bobby’s success raises a lot of questions in the Black community about stereotypical roles. The great gig even rallies protesters. Internally, Bobby is facing a tough decision: Does he cater to the these stereotypical, demeaning roles to get his foot in the acting door? Or does he stand up to Hollywood executives and casting directors by denouncing the roles and others like it?

Hollywood Shuffle is undoubtedly funny, but it has an even deeper message. Are we willing to sell our souls for temporary gain? The even bigger message for actors, movie lovers, and Hollywood is the idea that African Americans are only subject to certain roles- maids, whores, street thugs, pimps, and slaves.

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Robert Townsend held the prestige versatility of Eddie Murphy long before his time. While he acts and produces, the finished product is always enjoyable. He also dabbles in TV as well. In the mid 90s, he had a family sitcom on the WB called The Parent ‘Hood. He uses specific imagery like daydreaming or creating over the top characters.

Because he doesn’t push the envelope as much as Spike Lee or use predictable humor like Tyler Perry, Robert Townsend still goes down as one of the best Black directors of all time. His movies range in genre and audience, and can be caught on many different TV networks. My favorite Robert Townsend movies are The Meteor Man (1993), B*A*P*S (1997), Jackie’s Back! (1999), Holiday Heart (2000), and Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001).

3.5 Stars: I definitely think I would have appreciated the movie more when it originally came out. (Even though the movie was released before I was born) But, nonetheless, the movie is some of Robert Townsend’s best work, a much needed play on the stereotypical and sometimes racist flaws of Hollywood. Seeing the movie recently only solidifies that while Lupita Nyong’o still received her Oscar recently for portraying a slave, the movie industry has evolved with classifying roles for African American. Black actors are most definitely breaking down barriers!

The Best Man Holiday

Best Man Holiday Film Poster
We’ve waited long enough. After almost 15 years, “The Best Man” (1999) crew has reunited for Christmas at the Sullivan’s in “The Best Man Holiday.”
The original cast returns starring Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica Calhoun, Regina Hall and Melissa De Sousa.

The issues from the first “Best Man” sadly spill over into the sequel. Jordan (Long) finally lands a beau, but that doesn’t stop Robin (Lathan) from believing Harper is still longing for his old friend. Lance (Chestnut) still holds the anger and betrayed emotional state from Harper’s night of passion with his wife, Mia (Calhoun). And Julian (Perrineau) and bachelor-party stripper, Candy (Hall) have to withstand the onset lurking of stuck-up, Shelby (De Sousa).

So many new things surface within this sea of friends too. The element of surprise is an understatement because the Best Man Holiday does not quite hold the fairy tale story line or epic Electric Slide conclusion like the earlier version.

The Best Men of “The Best Man Holiday”
All four men did an exceptional job, especially “Boyz ‘N The Hood” star Morris Chestnut. He has not aged and must be stricken with the Benjamin Button disease because there’s no way he is pushing 45. I’m certain the power of the camera and little bit of MAC makeup might have deceived my perception but Morris Chestnut looked amazing. Since the original “Best Man,” Chestnut has not made a lasting impression with his latest movies like “Not Easily Broken” (2009), “The Perfect Holiday” (2007), and “The Game Plan” (2007), but he has returned in this movie with a youthful, sprightly look.

Terrance Howard has had a busy year! Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” and “Prisoners” were both summer box office hits and Howard played vital supporting roles in both movies. Howard’s character is true to his outspoken, wild-humored self and he raised the bar on the stirring trouble in the company of his college buddies.

I was hesitant and skeptical to see this movie. After Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too,” I thought there was no hope for Black directors and their sequels. “Why Did I Get Married Too” had a dry plot and a surprise ending that was not conducive to movie’s sequence of events.
“The Best Man Holiday” initially had the same feel but Director Malcolm D. Lee transformed the movie with a strong climax and it turned out to be a remarkably impressive movie. I found myself crying (‘cause y’all know I’m a softy) as some of the movie’s shocking moments hit close to home.

4 STARS: The holiday season always emerges with some wonderful movies like “Home Alone” (1990), “This Christmas” (2007), and “Elf” (2003), and you can add “The Best Man Holiday” to the list.

The wait is officially over!

A very special shout-out to all of the Movie Scene Queen peeps that came out to the advance screening of the Best Man Holiday. Thank you!!!

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