Jamie Foxx delivers in ‘Soul’; Film Evokes The Importance of Purpose and Passion

Death is a raw, touchy subject, especially now more than ever.

There are zero degrees of separation when identifying someone you know or love who has been affected by the coronavirus.

Death is also typically a conversation had amongst adults, so when Kemp Powers, Mike Jones and Pete Docter decided to create an animation film about life’s finale, I was more than skeptical.

But after 100 minutes of tear-jerking, feet-tapping, life-thinking reactions, I can proclaim that “Soul” is one of the best things this crazy year has produced.

Ironically, with the many people we have lost during this global pandemic, the movie is a sweet reminder about the true meaning of life, love and finding your purpose.

Pixar finally presents its first feature film with an African American leading role. Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx lends his voice talents for Joe Gardner, a jazz enthusiast and music teacher whose soul gets separated from his body right before the biggest gig of his life.

“Soul,” like jazz music, is beautiful, smooth and a delightful keepsake of both time and life.

“You already have a pretty fantastic life and sometimes that’s hard to see,” said “Soul” writer and director Pete Docter in a roundtable discussion hosted by the African American Film Critics Association.

Docter told me that when he’s on his death bed, he’s not going to be thinking about finishing the film on time or making sure it’s under budget, but Docter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, wants to reflect upon “family friends, and…everyday moments that I could easily take for granted.”

“I hope that people will have a gratitude for what they have.”

Out of all the undertones that resonated in “Soul,” the idea of purpose lingered at the top of the list. As Joe Gardner seeks to live for his love of jazz, we, too, crave to fulfill our destiny and walk in our purpose even though at times we seem to live aimlessly. If anything, life’s true purpose is the fuel to taking full advantage of your time here on Earth.

That is some deep stuff for a kids movie.

For the full review, please visit The New Pittsburgh Courier, Jamie Foxx delivers in ‘Soul’

Greenland Passes

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

Movie Scene Queen is hosting a virtual screening on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 7:30 PM. Please visit the following link for tickets:

http://stxtickets.com/tStKM93554

When visiting the link, you’ll register, claim your passes for the virtual screening, and then, you will receive an email confirmation. About one hour before the screening, you’ll get an email to check-in and reserve your spot. Please “arrive” early as “seating” is technically first come, first serve and it may sell out!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Songbird Passes

Four years into quarantine the virus has changed and so have we…

In the terrifying thriller SONGBIRD , the COVID-23 virus has mutated and the world is in its fourth year of lockdown. Infected Americans are ripped from their homes and forced into quarantine camps known as Q-Zones, from which there is no escape, as a few brave souls fight back against the forces of oppression. Amid this dystopian landscape, a fearless courier, Nico (KJ Apa), who’s immune to the deadly pathogen, finds hope and love with Sara (Sofia Carson), though her lockdown prohibits them from physical contact. When Sara is believed to have become infected, Nico races desperately across the barren streets of Los Angeles in search of the only thing that can save her from imprisonment … or worse.

The first feature film to be made during COVID-19 in Los Angeles, and about the pandemic itself, SONGBIRD also stars Bradley Whitford and Demi Moore as a wealthy couple who may hold the key to Nico’s mission; Alexandra Daddario as a singer enmeshed in a messy and forbidden affair; Paul Walter Hauser as a disabled veteran whose best friend – a drone named Max – is his eyes and ears to a world that has left him behind; Craig Robinson as Nico’s boss; and Peter Stormare as the corrupt head of the city’s “sanitation” department, which seizes those infected and transports them to the Q-Zone.

Movie Scene Queen is hosting a virtual screening on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at 7:30 PM. Grab your friends and family to gather for this exclusive movie event:

https://stxtickets.com/main/movie_landing/WkZqQ1I2NDE4Mg%3D%3D

When visiting the link, you’ll register, claim your passes for the virtual screening, and then, you will receive an email confirmation. About one hour before the screening, you’ll get an email to check-in and reserve your spot. Please “arrive” early as “seating” is technically first come, first served and it may sell out!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

My review of ‘coronavirus’—Zero Stars! Two Thumbs Down!

According to the Allegheny County Health Department, there were 19,499 cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County as of Nov. 14.

Well, I guess I make case number 19,500.

I will miss Thanksgiving with my family. I will miss getting dressed up to hang at my mom’s house, cracking jokes, and in the words of Uncle Phil, “Turkey with pillowy mounds of mashed potatoes, butter-drenched dressing. Tiny onions! Swimming in a sea of cream sauce.”

What about my cousin’s tradition of Black Friday shopping at the North Versailles Walmart? Last year, I almost clotheslined a woman for jipping the long line in an attempt to get a $98 flat screen TV.

All of those annual family traditions go right out of the window when the world’s deadliest virus is knocking on my doorstep. Who am I kidding? Coronavirus kicked in my door without a warrant and plopped right on my couch.

I don’t know where or from whom I contracted coronavirus, but I am fully aware of its path of destruction and the victims it has so carelessly left behind.

Since the pandemic started, I went straight into Power Ranger mode—the pink one, to be exact. I said to myself, “I can make a difference during these difficult times.” So, to date, I rescued over 600 pounds of food and delivered 518 meals with 412 Food Rescue, distributed 500 pairs of shoes to local children, supplied more than 8,000 students with bookbags and school supplies, and turned a typically small harvest party into a Homewood giveaway.

Ironically, with movie theaters closed, this pandemic has been good to your Movie Scene Queen, too. In April, we raised over $2,000 to provide immediate cash assistance to single parents. We became a registered trademark in August. Movie Scene Queen joined the African American Film Critics Association, creating a space to interview Spike Lee, Issa Rae, Nia Long, Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington, and others.

All I want to do is help people, and now, I need to help myself. I am hoping and praying that in 14 days I am COVID-free, and equally important, I wish upon a star that I do not spread the virus to anyone I know and love.

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, My review of ‘coronavirus’—Zero Stars! Two Thumbs Down!

Sophie Okonedo successfully tackles mental illness in Netflix’s ‘Ratched’

Typically, when Netflix audiences flock to social media with recommendations, I am skeptical, if not apprehensive, to tune in. But the memes and Facebook statuses twisted my arm into watching Netflix’s newest series, “Ratched.”

After all the posts I stumbled across, I was interested in one particular person, Sophie Okonedo.

The 52-year-old actress plays a patient, Charlotte Wells, who is suffering from multiple personality disorder. Based on Nurse Ratched in Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Ratched” follows a wacked-out nurse (Sarah Paulson) who terrorizes a California psychiatric hospital in hopes to set her serial-killer brother free.

SOPHIE OKONEDO

SOPHIE OKONEDO

The Netflix show also stars Finn Wittrock, Sharon Stone, Cynthia Nixon and Judy Davis.

This eight-part adaptation, which is set in 1947, is oddly wonderful. The familiar faces of American Horror Story, gruesome storylines, and quirky punchlines are a wonderful potion to great TV. But Sophie Okonedo steals the show.

Her raw talent is actually what saves the entire series for me because when “Ratched” gets slow she picks it up. When “Ratched” gets redundant and starts to look like every other season of American Horror Story, Okonedo pulls up with the craziest (no pun intended) monologue I have ever heard on a Netflix series.

She does not have much screen time and we are not introduced to her until the fifth episode, but it is just enough for her to capture audiences with her conviction and aptitude.

She is better than James McAvoy in Split (2016) and Glass (2019). She passed the “Acting with Multiple Personalities Disorder” test with flying colors. Since we are talking about how social media fads completely take over the world, let me add my two cents—it’s her range and commitment for me.

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, Sophie Okonedo successfully tackles mental illness in Netflix’s ‘Ratched’

Spike Lee and Delroy Lindo Reunite after 25 Years for Da 5 Bloods

It has been two and half decades since veteran actor Delroy Lindo and Academy Award winning director Spike Lee hooked up for a feature film.  The pair reunited for Netflix’s newest release, Da 5 Bloods, a tale of five Vietnam War veterans who return to Asia to tie up some loose ends.

Lindo portrays Paul, a veteran suffering with PTSD, wrestling with some war secrets, and battling with a “fractious” relationship with his son. Even in this vulnerable role, he is a fierce, strong, and proves why he works well with a visionary like Spike Lee.

“I needed to do this,” said Lindo referring to his part in the film.

In a virtual roundtable hosted by the African American Film Critics Association, Lindo tells me, “Spike inviting me to be part of his projects has gifted me with these brilliant characters to play as an actor.” Lindo has graced us with his presence in three Spike Lee joint previously- Malcolm X (1992), Crooklyn (1994), and Clockers (1995).

“That’s a gift to any actor that a creative worker of Spike’s statute would just call you and say “hey man come do this”, not only the invitation to participate in the work, but the content of the part,” said Lindo.

There is an undeniable alchemy when Spike Lee is sitting in the director’s chair and Delroy Lindo is on the other side of the camera. Both Lee and Lindo admitted some of the most powerful scenes in the movie are opportunities where Lindo and the cast improvised such as the riverboat market scene and when Lindo’s character breaks off from the group.

Give Delroy Lindo his flowers now. He continues to solidify his seat with the Hollywood greats, and he is tremendously talented.

Also starring Chadwick Boseman, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, and Jonathan Majors, Da 5 Bloods, even in 2.5 hours, is hard not to watch.  The suspense, intensity, and striking attractiveness of war brothers coming together calls for a really good cinematic picture.

This film is a dark reminder that Black soldiers went halfway around the world defending a country where they were barely free.  Black servicemen fought on the front lines in Vietnam, while their brothers and sisters fought for voting, desegregation, and basic civil liberties.

The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War were running congruently. Dr. King, Malcolm X, and JFK were all assassinated during this time. Imagine being a freedom fighter or person of color fighting a war abroad when there’s one in your own backyard.

For millennials, like myself, Da 5 Bloods is definitely an eye-opener. Even in fiction, the drops of relevant, thought-provoking history cause for deeper conversation about how Black people respond to war and the sacrifices a Black solider endures. I did not know much about the Vietnam War before watching this film, but I am now on a journey to find out more.

That is powerful remnants of a great film.

A Quiet Place Part II Passes

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Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

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Movie Scene Queen and Paramount Pictures are hosting A QUIET PLACE PART II ADVANCE SCREENING. Please join us in Monday, March 16th at 7:30PM at AMC Waterfront 22.  Please comment below with your favorite sequel. My favorite sequel of all time is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992).

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

The Invisible Man Passes

What would you do if your abusive partner suddenly became invisible?

Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC’s The InBetween), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO’s Euphoria).

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The Invisible Man screening will be held on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at 7:30 PM. Please comment below with your interest. See you at the movies!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Onward Passes

Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” introduces two teenage elf brothers (voices of Chris Pratt and Tom Holland) who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new original feature film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae—the team behind “Monsters University.” “Onward” releases in theaters on March 6, 2020.

Onward

Movie Scene Queen, Disney, and Pixar are hosting a special screening on Monday, March 2, 2020 at AMC Waterfront 22 at 7 PM. Family four packs to catch the advance screening of Onward are available.  All you have to do is comment below with the last Disney movie you’ve seen.

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Sweat Equity: Merecedes Williams is ready for her closeup

By Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The first row of the balcony at an advance screening for “Harriet” at AMC Waterfront 22 in Homestead was filled with high school students from Allderdice, laughing and enjoying the evening out.

The laughter settled down once the movie started and the life of 19th-century abolitionist Harriet Tubman unfurled on the screen. They were absorbing the re-creation of a world they had missed by more than 160 years. Still, there was no denying the parts that resonated.

Merecedes J. Williams, aka Movie Scene Queen, looks forward to that moment of recognition. The social media project assistant for Pittsburgh Public Schools is also the movie critic for The New Pittsburgh Courier.

Merecedes-0242-1-1581219590Photo by Ray Carrington

It was in her capacity as the Courier’s movie critic with access to free advance screenings that it occurred to Ms. Williams to make that opportunity available to Pittsburgh Public School students when it comes to films with educational value.

With the mission of expanding awareness of quality films for young people, Ms. Williams created the Movie Scene Queen entertainment blog seven years ago. Her goal then — as now — is to engage young people in discussions of films and to make free passes available to those in the Pittsburgh Public Schools who want to attend advance screenings.

On evenings when she is supervising a dozen or so students at a screening, Ms. Williams is also thinking about how to approach the movie critically and fairly as a reviewer. She’s both hostess and critic on those occasions, a burden she happily accepts many years into the gig.

The first movie she reviewed for the Courier was “Fruitvale Station,” the 2013 Michael B. Jordan classic about the killing of an unarmed and handcuffed black commuter by cops at a BART Station in Oakland, Calif.

“I thought, ‘Wow, how can I write about this?’” she said, recalling the tears streaming down her face when the movie was over. She fought her way through the sorrow to an evaluation of the film based on its aesthetic merits and social/political implications for African American viewers.

“This is much more than a movie,” she said of the film directed by Ryan Coogler. He would later gain even more fame as the director of “Black Panther,” one of the highest grossing movies of all time. “This is a film about unrepresented people who are being slaughtered by those who are supposed to protect and serve them,” she said.

Just as every superhero movie has an origin story, it was at that moment that Merecedes J. Williams became Movie Scene Queen.

There was so much educational value — painful as it was in a film like “Fruitvale Station” — that she wanted to play a role in exposing young people to that aspect of cinema culture.

“The idea was to stick with black films that predominantly showcase black actors, producers or directors,” she said. Early on, Ms. Williams also decided she had a social responsibility to bring things up in her movie reviews, even though it might cause some people to “look sideways at her” for being too preachy.

“It’s important to me to stay true to myself in every movie review, especially when I’m representing my opinion to a population I’m a part of,” she said of the Courier’s predominantly African American readership. “It’s a burden I’ll live with for the rest of my life as long as I’m black, female and writing.”

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sweat Equity: Merecedes Williams is ready for her closeup

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