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

If I Stay

If I Stay Film Poster

If I Stay, starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley, is this summer’s ultimate love-layered narrative. Based off of a Gayle Forman novel of the same name, Mia Hall (Moretz) has an out-of-body experience after enduring a car accident that kills her entire family. It’s her cello, which she’s mastered, and her semi-turbulent relationship with punk rocker boyfriend, Adam Wilde (Blackley), that ultimately keeps her alive.

Chloë Grace Moretz, who is only 17 years old, is simply spell binding. She holds a small time beauty. It’s not just her cute-as-a-button face or petite frame, but even at a young age, it is evident that Moretz has already established a prosperous career.

The book is as gratifying and relating as the movie. Gayle Forman’s words bleed right off of the page. Rarely do you see such actual depiction when making a movie based off a book. There’s a novel sequel to “If I Stay” called “Where She Went” where narration switches from Mia to Adam. Both books are currently on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, “If I Stay” is landing the #1 spot and the sequel comes in a close third place.

I’ve only read the first few pages of “Where She Went”, but I hope Director R.J. Cutler has the tenacity to push the rest of Mia and Adam’s story to the big screen. Cutler captures the creation of this love so effortlessly that I know making “Where She Went” ought to be a mere drop in the bucket.

“If I Stay” is “The Notebook”(2004), “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014), and “Ghost” (1990) all wrapped up into one pretty package. “If I Stay” is most similar to another novel-adapted movie, “The Fault In Our Stars”. Both movies tell the tale of young, unfortunate love with the multiple breakups, immature logic, and inevitable distance.

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Even though the plot is cut short with cancerous death, “The Fault in Our Stars” lingers in the air a little bit longer than “If I Stay”. The movie immediately becomes heartache when two young people with terminal cancers fall in love. Yet both films relay powerful messages- life sometimes pulls you away from love and every true love doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.

4.5 Stars:
I am tempted to give this movie a perfect score. While similar love stories have been told many different times, it is the sweet combination of the book and the movie that makes “If I Stay” one of the most leading romantic films of our time.

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!)

Divergent

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Based off of Veronica Roth’s 2011 novel, Divergent, set in a futuristic Chicago, follows a young woman who is trying to fit into a strict personality-based society. Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), along with all of the other teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, is given an aptitude test to help decide her fate. The city is divided into five non-transferable factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave), and Erudite (intelligent). Tris’ rare trait makes her decision difficult, but she leaves her parents and their Abnegation lifestyle to branch out on her own.

I did not read the book, but it did not hinder my understanding of the movie. It also did not play a deciding factor on whether I enjoyed the movie or not. I’m actually glad I did not read the book. I’m not a true fan of science fiction novels so I doubt if I would have even finished the book. Similar to a preschooler, I like books read to me from time to time so my safest median is an audiobook from iTunes.

The broader theme of the movie reflects contemporary societal problems. Between labels and social groups, we inadvertently cast people out or force people to define themselves. Divergent reminds me that we are all different and not simplistic enough to be assigned to a certain demographic.

Divergent has an awesome cast. The second movie where Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller teamed up. Last year, in ‘The Spectacular Now’, the two portrayed an odd high school couple. Both actors have a working chemistry. Although they weren’t love interests in this movie, they still share memorable, intense moments.

For all my Scandal fans, Fitz makes a guest appearance as Tris’ father, Andrew Prior. Tony Goldwyn makes the same distraught, confused Scandal faces during the entire movie. I thought Liv was going to pop out and fix all his Divergent problems. Damn you, Shonda Rhimes!

It’s so hard to not associate Mr. Goldwyn with his most famous, current role on the hit ABC show, but him pairing up with Ashley Judd in Divergent was a move in the right direction.

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Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz’s only daughter, Zoe Kravitz, plays Tris’ dauntless gal pal, Christina. She’s outspoken, strong and valorous. This is my first theatrical encounter with Zoe and I’m eager to see her other works.

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‘Paid in Full’ actor Mekhi Phifer was a breath of not-so-fresh air in the movie when he played chubby villain and Dauntless leader, Max. While Phifer’s filmography is not lengthy of gluts and glory, he has given us some classics: Soul Food (1997), 8 Mile (2002), and This Christmas (2009). Like Martin Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne, and Chris Tucker, he’s put on a little weight lately. And while his role as Max was brawny and tough, I just couldn’t help but to notice how he’s packed on the pounds.

Divergent Mekhi

Even in his most notable TV role as Dr. Greg Pratt on NBC’s long-running medical drama ER, Phifer looked pretty fit. One thing that Phifer reminds me is that weight does not equate the quality or greatness of an actor. Overall, Phifer holds a medium yet meaningful role in Divergent.

Without spoiling the movie, the ending was sucker fair. Although there was no cliff hanger, a great movie like Divergent should have went out with a bang or at least ended on a more exhilarating, exciting part. All Divergent novel readers like Denele Hughson have reassured me that book ended in a similar fashion. (I’ll take their word for it!)

The IMAX experience is the only way to experience this movie. Divergent has the crispness of actually seeing it live like a play. After watching Divergent, I wonder why all movies aren’t viewed through IMAX lenses. It makes for a better movie experience.

4 Solid Stars: A fantastic movie about soul searching and discovering your life’s purpose. Also, a great series completion for anyone who has previously read the novel. I wonder if Veronica Roth’s other two novels (Insurgent and Allegiant) will become movies too.

About Last Night

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“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

About Last Night Passes (Round 2)

If you weren’t able to catch the first few screenings of About Last Night, well today is your lucky day!

About Last Night

Here’s the information for the upcoming About Last Night screenings:

SouthSide Works
Thursday, February 6, 2014, 7:30PM
Visit http://www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter Gofobo Code: MSQLEFZ

AMC Waterfront
Tuesday, February 11, 2014, 7:30PM
Visit http://www.gofobo.com/rsvp and enter Gofobo Code: MSQ105Z

This would be the perfect early Valentine’s Day gift!

December 2013 Throwback Movie of the Month- Elf

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In light of the recent release of the Will Ferrell’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, it’s only right to choose Elf as this month’s throwback movie.

An orphan accidentally climbs into Santa Claus’ bag and is carried away to the North Pole. Head elf, Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) takes the baby and names him Buddy. Papa Elf raises Buddy like he’s an elf. But it’s clear that Buddy is different than the rest of the elves.

When Buddy becomes of age, he branches off to the city to find his real family. Buddy has some troubles getting accumulated to the fast paced life of New York City. More importantly, he has a difficult time establishing a relationship with his biological father, Walter (James Caan), keeping a job, and finding his first love, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). Eventually it’s up to Buddy the Elf and his mate, Jovie, to save Christmas.

Will Ferrell has such a lively, juvenile sense of humor. I know it was a piece of cake for him to be an elf. Buddy’s naive, candy popping attitude made the film that much more adorable. And he never took the large green Elf costume off.

This cute holiday movie included great music, classic Will Ferrell lines and all of the natural components of addictive season traditions from beginning to end.

As a Christmas classic, Elf joins Borrowed Hearts (1997), I’ll Be a Home for Christmas (1998), Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2 (1992), The Santa Clause film series with Tim Allen, Jingle All the Way (1996), and A Christmas Story (1983) as holiday necessities in my house. Elf is no doubt the Donny Hathaway-This-Christmas of movies.

5 Stars: Elf is family friendly, funny and full of child-like antics, Will Ferrell’s second best movie behind Stepbrothers (2009).

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Baggage Claim

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Director David E. Talbert assembles an all-star Black cast for this Fall’s romantic comedy about one woman’s frantic search for love in Baggage Claim. The cast features Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Jill Scott, Tia Mowry, Djimon Hounsou, Christina Milian, Taye Diggs, Boris Kodjoe, Lauren London, Jenifer Lewis, La La Anthony, Trey Songz, Rickey Smiley, and Terrance J.

Miss Montana Moore (Patton) is an attractive flight attendant who has 30 days and 30,000 miles to find a date to her little’s sister wedding. Stricken with the cliché “always a bridesmaid and never a bride” and with the help of her friends, she devises a plan to not only find a man, but a husband. This plan backfires when she realizes that what she’s looking for has been sitting right up under her nose the entire time.

Ladies, we’ve all been in our Montana Moore moment, where our heart is broken and nothing but a Saturday filled with Lifetime movies and ice cream will do. Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart is our anthem and tissue just won’t dry up the tears. It’s in that very moment that we must come to some sort of reality about the recent break up and use it as fuel to get back up, dust our shoulders off, and find a new love.

Move over Paula Patton because Miss Jill Scott is clearly marking her territory as a voluptuous vixen and great actress. There’s no doubt that she’s a talented musical artist but with her recent movie endeavors, such as Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married film series and the 2012 adaptation of Steel Magnolias, she’s a jack of all trades. Her Baggage Claim character, Gail Best is sexy, strong and independent. Similar to Montana, she’s a single flight attendant. Unlike Montana, she has no desires to get married and enjoys the company of many men. Never seeing Jill Scott in this light, it was energizing to see her recent weight loss has brought on some sexual spontaneity with her acting roles.

Systematically, the movie worked for me; however, there were minor glitches that I thought could have easily been avoided. For example, one scene Paula Patton’s dress was up her butt. Two scenes later, she has lip stick on her teeth. And during the entire movie, her clothes were either wrinkled or displaced as if the movie’s stylist was absent every day on set. It is the small things that distract you from actually enjoying the movie. I doubt these small errors were setting the tone for her character; it just looked like amateur movie mistakes.

3 Stars: It was a typical comedy romance. Half way through the movie, I knew exactly what was going to happen and I felt a little bamboozled when it took so long to reveal the ending. Baggage Claim is definitely a feel good movie for the single ladies providing hope for all those who haven’t found the right one yet.

Throwback Movie of the Month- Waiting to Exhale (June 2013)

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Now as an adult, the 1995 classic Waiting to Exhale makes more sense! The unfair rules of the game called love. The awkward dating scene. The struggles of being the other woman. The hectic life of single motherhood. The regretful dark clouds of abortion. The overall uncertainties, unfortunates, and inconsistencies of love would drive any woman insane. In Forest Whitaker’s directing debut, Waiting to Exhale, based off of the Terry McMillan novel, follows four women whose friendship becomes stronger as they battle a rough year.

Savannah- The Settled One
Played by the late Whitney Houston (RIP), Savannah Jackson was the typical successful Black woman; over consumed with her hectic life as a TV producer. Savannah’s love was often put on the back burner making her career superior. She settled for the occasional love of a married man, Kenneth (Dennis Haysbert- you know the Allstate Insurance man “Are you in good hands?”). Kenneth used his sick wife and young daughter as an excuse to remain in his martial commitment. In the end and against her mother’s advice, Savannah left Kenneth while supporting her friends in their own searches for love.

Bernadine- The Hurt One
Played by Angela Bassett, Bernadine Harris had it all until after 11 years of marriage she was confronted with a cheating husband, messy divorce, and single motherhood. Equipped with all the right qualifications to have her own career, Bernie was stuck with no financial resources to care for her home. Her biggest realization was the fact that her former husband was already shacked up with another woman and no longer the sole provider of her family. Bernie had to make a safe balance between caring for her children, reconciling the broken pieces of her heart, and identifying the resources to properly finance her newly constructed family.

My favorite Bernie scene was when she met James Wheeler (Wesley Snipes) in a hotel bar after a day in divorce court. All too many times when I’m traveling on business I find myself being James Wheeler; a person in foreign places meeting complete strangers but relating to them on many different levels. I’ll admit I’ve never (and I mean never) then spent the night wrapped in that stranger’s arms. But how simply sublime would it be to gravitate to someone you’ve never meet before in the matter of minutes.

Robin- The Broken One
Played by Lela Rochon, Robin Stokes, similar to her friend Savannah, was a successful executive who was in love with another woman’s husband, Russell (Leon). Dealing with post-abortion syndrome, Robin yearned for her ideal family and in the movie, you see Robin wasting her time with several men in hopes to snag her own husband. Like most of us women, Robin has a hard time letting Russell go knowing he’s the root of all her relationship problems. In the end, Robin finds the most “peace” with giving up that “piece” of her life.

Gloria- The Reasonable One
Played by Loretta Devine, Gloria Matthews was a beauty shop owner and single mother of a teenaged son, Tarik (Donald Faison). She falls madly in love with her next door neighbor, Marvin (Gregory Hines). Marvin quickly eased Gloria’s fresh wounds after finding out that her ex-husband was gay. Out of the four women, she’s the most reasonable one spewing helpful, realistic advice to her three female friends.

Overall, I love the way African American women were depicted in this film. Sexy & Successful! We’re not all married or all on welfare. Yes, we have our flaws but we create a diverse balanced group of beautiful creatures. The movie was praised for having an all-Black cast and being well received around the world. Well there were two White women in the movie; (1) the little girl who was performing oral sex on Gloria’s son and (2) Bernie’s husband’s mistress who was eventually pimp slapped in the middle of the board room. (But who’s keeping count!)

The Soundtrack
My hope is to eventually expand this blog to cover music as well as movies because Waiting to Exhale was a double pleasure; great movie and an even better soundtrack. I was recently in Boston and I listened to the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack from beginning to end. The soulful soundtrack brings back sweet yet sour memories of the any person you’ve ever loved intimately. What other soundtrack was originally produced and written by legendary music mogul Babyface featuring greats like Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, TLC, Brandy, CeCe Winans, and Toni Braxton? The greatness was all captured on one little CD. It’s a classic!

4.75 STARS: Any woman can relate to the turbulent ride of being with any man. RIP Whitney Houston

This blog post is dedicated to the ONE, who out of all the HIMs, took a piece of me and still kept it!

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