Lately Disney has done its best to diversify its characters and place some pretty awesome twist on the “traditional princess.” Recently we watched Jasmine kick major butt, Tiana make her own dream come true, Meredith save her mother, and Anna and Elsa save each other. Loosely adapted from the ancient tales of the trickster demigod, Maui, prepare yourselves to meet “Moana!” Moana is a girl with her heart set on exploration. She yearns to explore the oceans and discover a fabled island. Disney’s official synopsis reiterates the previous statement and goes into depth concerning Moana and Maui; “In the ancient South Pacific world of Oceania, Moana, a born navigator, sets sail in search of a fabled island. During her incredible journey, she teams up with her hero, the legendary demi-god Maui, to traverse the open ocean on an action-packed voyage, encountering enormous sea creatures, breathtaking underworlds and ancient folklore.”
There is no doubt there are thousands of other people who assumed “Dear White People…” was a fake movie when trailers of it debuted on social media outlets everywhere. Well over the weekend all accusations of it being a myth were dispelled and I was treated to one of the funniest and realest films I have seen in quite some time. The movie pretty much satirizes our country’s current racial climate. Keep in mind this is a rare feat. Rarely does a movie make you giggle all the while pointing out some really important issues plaguing our society.
The films is primarily told through the eyes of Sam White (Tessa Thompson). She prides herself on being Black, and shows that pride by informing (bluntly) how Whites should treat Blacks and how Blacks should act in situations where they might be seen in a negative/stereotypical light. Her pro-Black nature really intensifies as the only Black dorm on campus is threatened to diversify. Feeling the culture of the campus is changing by the ominous threat of integration she opts to run for head of household in order to fight the administration’s policies. Still her ambitions only serve to mask her own personal problems and insecurities in love and with her family.
Glitz, glamour, and fame can be a drug worse than any chemical substance or emotional attachment. Some people handle it well, only making it a minor aspect of their lives. Others, however, suffocate in it. The pressure might as well be like a millstone around their necks! Now take this feeling and enter Noni Jean’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) world. Noni is a sensational singer and rising star on the fast track to global success. She has three platinum singles and is expected to break records. She even has a highly anticipated album soon to drop. However, all that pales in comparison to the emptiness she feels inside and her overbearing mother/manager (Minnie Driver). After winning her first Billboard Music Award, what should be a celebratory event becomes a distressing one when she tries to commit suicide by jumping from a balcony. Luckily she is saved by a cop working security for her, Kaz Nicol (Nate Parker). As she dangles from the balcony he says three of the sweetest and simplest words ever, “I see you…” Before she can even recover from the event she is forced to lie to the media about what has happened and enlists Kaz’s aide. He reluctantly complies and then distances himself from her, finding the limelight too bright. However, there is a real bond between the two of them and he finds himself drawn back to her. They instantly become what each other need in life. He becomes her hero, and she becomes an outlet to his straight laced, pre-planned life. Nevertheless, the couple have to contend with their respective demons and the media at large. Through it all Noni and Kaz learn “Beyond The Light” and the swirling drama that follows you have to be true to yourself. After all the truth is the only solid ground to stand on.
It is not too often a movie comes along that leaves you breathless. Bille Woodruff has done just that by bringing Zane’s “Addicted” to the Big Screen. This thrilling novel is now an even more thrilling film with plots, twists, and antics that will leave you feeling guilty for wanting to see more. Sharon Leal stars as Zoe Reynard an up and coming art distributor who has it all–beautiful children, a gorgeous home, and a loving husband. Still something is not right. No matter how much she has she is never truly fulfilled. Her life and responsibilities fall to hell after she gives into her growing sexual desires. She cheats on her husband, Kevin (Boris Kodjoe) with popular artist, Quentin Canosa (William Levy). At first their arrangement is one of sex and convenience, but unsurprisingly things get heavy, awkward, and dangerous when Quentin falls for her and demands she leaves her husband. No matter how hard Zoe tries to leave him alone she finds she is truly addicted not only to Quentin but sex in general!
Every now and then a film comes around that resonates with you. You are either reminded of who you were, who you are, or what you wish to be. The film takes on a journey of relativity where you live vicariously through the characters projected on the screen. Patrik-Ian Polk’s “Blackbird” is one such film. It tells the story of Randall “Randy Rousseau,” (Julian Walker) a high school senior living in a small Mississippi town. Randy is an aspiring actor with an amazing voice, showcased in his church choir. However, his life is plagued by the disappearance of his younger sister, his distraught mother, absentee father, and his own burgeoning homosexual desires. Try as he may, he cannot suppress his sexuality in his dreams where nightly, and vividly, he dreams about his friend Todd Waterson (Torrey Laamar) waking up in cold sweats and wet dreams. He tries to “pray the gay away,” but finds it futile. Everyone around him seems to know he is gay, but he and his mother (Mo’Nique). His friends and father (Isaiah Washington) encourage him to be himself. His life begins to shift when he and his friends opt to do a gay adaptation of “Romeo & Juliet,” “Romeo & Julian.” His attraction to Todd only increases and so does his disappointment, as he is forced to accept his crush is truly straight. Through his journey Randy learns that God is Love; and who he is and how he is, is perfectly okay.
Patrik-Ian Polk has done it again. By again, I mean released another movie accurately portraying the black and gay experience. Following in the footsteps of his previous films and series; “Punks,” “Noah’s ARC,” and “The Skinny;” “Blackbird” is a coming of age story with a religious twist. Julian Walker is “Randy Rousseau,” a young singer in a Southern Baptist town struggling with his sexuality. His little sister’s disappearance and his parents’ separation serve as a backdrop to his already complicated life. Blackbird truly shows the awkwardness and pain that can come from growing up Christian, Southern, Black, and gay in a small Mississippi town.
From the looks of the film the cast is stellar! His parents are played by Academy Award-winner Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington. This marks Mo’Nique’s first major role since 2009’s “Precious.” She and Isaiah are also producers of the show. Their appearance may yet give this film some mainstream appeal. With them involved we at least know it will be well acted, marinating well with Patrik’s film style. This marks Julian Walker’s cinematic debut. Based on reviews from critics, the boy has real acting chops and a bright future ahead of him. Terrell Tilford is Randy’s pastor determined to cure him of his homosexuality, and comes off as the “mean-to-do-well villain of the film.” The film is said to be tamer than its predecessors in sexuality, but nevertheless delivers a powerful story.Blackbird was released in various independent film festivals last years and will be making its Southeastern debut Thursday, October 2nd at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema Theater. If you have ever been young, awkward, or different Blackbird will resonate with you. Find yourself in the mix and check out this awesome film, I know I will!
History is the documentation of the enduring human story at large. For purposes of organization and to grasp the mind boggling hundreds of thousands of years we have been on this planet it is broken down into parts. Some of these parts are racial, cultural, or religious; but each are important in their own right. “PRIDE” entails one such momentous event in Gay and English history. In the mid-eighties the United Kingdom’s coal miners went on a year long strike for better wages, treatment, and benefits. During the process they were brutalized by the police and became the nation’s focus of anger. Even then prime minister Margaret Thatcher publicly denounced them. Interestingly, while the miners were persecuted more, the Gay and Lesbian community found a reprieve. Realizing this a group of gay activists, dubbing their support group, “Gays & Lesbians Support The Miners” (GLSM) formed to provide financial assistance for the National Union of Mine Workers. Armed with determination, and buckets to carry their donations, the group soon became the saviors of a small southern Welsh town.
The group was initially met with resistance from the very people they were trying to help. Thankfully, the citizens of the town were able to rally together and allow the GLSM to help them. The members of the group taught them tolerance and acceptance, while they provided them with a getaway from the oppression. The film is beautifully written and wonderfully filmed. Besides the history lesson you learn you also see a coming of age story, a coming out story, tales of forgiveness, life altering decisions, and the stigma of HIV/AIDS. In short the film says it perfectly, “…There’s no greater feeling than learning you have an unknown and unexpected friend in the midst of a battle…” Indeed, the miners and gays did find friends in one another. The year following the miners’ return to work, thousands of them came to march and support the LGBT community during London’s Gay Pride in 1985. Later, the the miners’ union drafted gay rights into the charter. You can catch PRIDE anywhere in the United Kingdom and in limited release in select American theaters!