January 31, 2013

By Kimberly C. Roberts

Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune


His early films “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents,” directed in tandem with his twin brother Albert, helped to establish the careers of Larenz Tate, Terrence Howard, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Tucker. Now Allen Hughes is at the helm of the crime drama “Broken City,” featuring a cast that includes heavyweights Mark Wahl­berg and Jeffrey Wright as well as Academy Award winners Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

While the scene has since changed from the gritty street business of the ‘hood to the cerebral shakedowns of upper level politics, Hughes is equally adept at exposing the criminal psyche, whether the perpetrator is wearing saggy jeans or an Armani suit.

While in Philadelphia with Wahl­berg to promote “Broken City,” his first feature film since “The Book of Eli” in 2010, Hughes talked about how the smart and timely screenplay by Hollywood novice Brian Tucker came to his attention.

“It was on the Black List, which is the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood — the caviar of scripts,” the exotic and animated Hughes said during a lively roundtable discussion at the Rittenhouse Hotel. “My agent sent me three scripts, and your agent — you can always tell when they really like something. They go, ‘Hey, read these things (whispering, ‘Check this one out’).’ My agent did that a few times, but with the computers now I have a hard time reading when they send them, so actually I threw ‘Broken City’ in the trash two times.

“There’s something about human beings — artists or whatever — you never know what they’re going through when they get something, and whatever I was going through, I read the first page and I was like, ‘I don’t understand this sh*t!’ Then something happened where I remembered the narrative and I was in a good place and I said, ‘Oh. It’s got a great heavy, it’s got a great lead, a great heroic redemption story there.’ Thank God, now you can drag it out of the trash. So I drug it out of the trash and I read the first 20 [pages] and I was like, ‘Oh sh*t! How did I miss this?’

Once a talented teen trying to make it in the film industry with Albert, who is nine minutes older, Hughes felt empathy for the struggling young screenwriter that is rare in Tinseltown.

“I had Brian Tucker meet me at the Palm Restaurant in West Hollywood, and when I read the script initially, it was such a grown man’s script — lions’ dens and power brokers and politics and a lot of scotch and this type of Scotch and that type of Scotch — and I’m like, ‘I can’t wait to meet this 58-year-old white man who’s going to teach me about Scotch and politics!’ ‘cause it’s such a great script,” Hughes said.

So I’m sitting there and then this young kid — looked like he was 19 — Black kid — walks up to me, and I’m like, ‘What is this kid walking up to me for? He must like ‘Menace’ or something.’ He goes, ‘Brian Tucker,’ and I went, ‘Oh. I guess I won’t be learning about Scotch and politics.’

“He was brilliant. He sat down and he was 26 at the time. He wrote [“Broken City”] when he was 24, and he was deflated because he had been through a lot with this script. By the time we got to it, it was a spec script. It was out of the system and he had been kind of abused with the script. So at the end of the meeting I said, ‘I’m going to make your movie, and I’m going to make it next. I promise you.”

While “Broken City,” now in theaters, was a solo project, Hughes remains in close contact with his brother. “He’s halfway across the world doing what he does,” he explained. “He’s in Prague. I just shot a commercial out there. I was out there for three weeks and he cooked me a great pork — I love pork — and he cooked this great meal, and he’s over there like ‘Rain Man’ on his computer. He says, ‘You know what Allen? I can do anything with the push of a button! With the push of a button! Hey! Let me show you somethin’. Come over here.’ And he’s showing me pictures from when we went to Amsterdam 12 years ago. I’m going, ‘Sh*t! You got a picture of me doing that?’

“He cuts a lot. He does these interesting little films and no one gets to see them. That’s all he does. He makes films in a different realm, though.” Even so, the Hughes Brothers have definite plans to collaborate in the future. “For sure! We’re gonna collaborate on everything, I think. It’s just gonna be one captain of each ship,” he said.

Hughes was so impressed with the City of Brotherly Love that filming in Philly could be part of his future. “I would love to!” he said. “I don’t know the project, but this Philly thing is emblematic. It all started here really. It’s emblematic of every city, really. There’s incentives here too. There’s a flavor — there’s an energy here. It reminds me of Detroit in lots of ways — very white and very Black — a very interesting mash-up.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

By Kimberly Roberts

Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune


The new BET-scripted comedy “Second Generation Wayans” debuted earlier this month (Jan. 15) after the premiere of “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” The half-hour series stars Damien Dante Wayans, Craig Wayans, George O. Gore II and Tatyana Ali.

According to the network, viewers will see “the good, the funny and the ugly” as Damien Dante and Craig emerge from the long shadows of their uncles, Keenan, Damon, Shawn and Marlon Wayans (as well as their aunt, Kim), to carve out their own paths to stardom in Hollywood.

Joining the comedic duo, who have essentially grown up in show business, is George O. Gore II (formerly of the sitcom “My Wife & Kids”) as friend and business partner George and Tatyana Ali (formerly of “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”) as their office assistant Maya.

“It’s basically ‘Entourage,’ but with my nephews in it,” said Marlon Wayans, one of the executive producers of the show. “That’s my sister Elvira’s son — Damien, and Deidre’s son is Craig.”

“I’m involved in it if they need me,” Keenan Ivory Wayans, the monarch of the Wayans comedy dynasty, told BET.com. “When they went to do this show, it initially was going to be all of us producing. But I said to Craig and Damien, ‘This is your thing and you’re doing this to establish yourselves, so you all don’t need me.’ They don’t need Marlon either [laughs]. But Marlon is there in case they need him. They’re doing their thing.”

It appears that the irreverent Marlon, whose hilarious feature film, “A Haunted House,” is now open in theaters, is passing on to his young nephews the showbiz knowledge that his big brother shared with him. “My brother Keenan taught me that you can’t just be a ‘Black actor,’” he said. “If you want to be a Black actor, expect not to work. If you want the Black actor to work, then you must take your Black a** and write and produce and learn to direct, so that you can write a vehicle for your Black actor to be in, and that’s the bottom line.”

“The Wayans family name is synonymous with comedy and entertainment, and you’ll indulge in plenty of laughter and amusement in ‘Second Generation Wayans.’ You’ll also witness firsthand that life as a Wayans and childhood star isn’t all fun and games in Hollywood. In a way, this series is a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to juggle the pressures of being famous while trying to create your own path,” said Loretha Jones, president of original programming at BET.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

By Dwight Brown

NNPA Film Critic


Never has contributing to the delinquency of a minor been so wonderfully tragic and compelling.

 Sometimes Woody Watson (Michael Rainey Jr.), an 11-year-old, is a vulnerable kid: “Only one place I have is OK.  Inside me where I can hide everything.” Other times he’s a little man, a baby gangsta tuff; one morning he points a squirt gun at a mirror with a scowl on his face, “What you gon’ do?  I’m the man, I’ll kill you.”

Woody lives with his grandma (Lonette McKee) at her house in the Baltimore ‘burbs. His Uncle Vincent, nicknamed V (Common), has been “away” for eight years, and he’s shacking there, too. V is caring and nurturing, when he’s not acting like a smooth-talking, well-dressed thug.  He dream of opening a high-class crab joint, cause local folks like to eat those indigenous crustaceans. But, dreams cost money.

Life changes for Wood the day V lets him skip school so he can show him the ropes, “You with me today. I’m gonna teach you real work s—.”  V’s trying to stay on the up and up, but devils from his past tug at him. In the middle of a drug war, a crime lord named Fish (Dennis Haysbert) and his cagey older brother Arthur (Danny Glover) scheme on V. A buddy named Caufield (Charles Dutton) tries to steer him in the right direction, but bad choices and circumstance pull him down harder than gravity.

There is something so disturbing about watching a child being initiated into a life of crime. This daring film does it with gruesome authenticity drawn from true, life experience. Sheldon Candis, director and co-writer, was just 9 years old when he rode shotgun with an older family member who was a purported drug dealer, “During those rides, he would explain to me what it takes to be a man.”  But a child can’t really comprehend adulthood; they can’t fathom the consequences of their actions. They just posture. Wood drinks, shoots a gun and scams like a 40-year-old, but he is clueless. You feel for him.

Candis and Justin Wilson’s screenplay starts off almost magical, like urban ghetto fairy dust, then becomes more and more grim as the boy and his uncle descend into a merciless crime world that devours them. V is like the devil, tempting an angel, yet he still has redeeming qualities and he imparts wisdom: He confirms that Wood knows Frederick Douglass taught other slaves to read, right there in Baltimore: “When you think you can’t make it, think about your ancestors ‘cause that’s what’s in your spirit.”

As a director, Candis has perfect instincts for urban storytelling. The gritty atmosphere he creates is so real you can taste the fresh Baltimore crabmeat, smell the streets and you flinch and duck when bullets fly. If you liked the cable series “The Wire,” this is your cup of java. There’s a very refined blend of memorable dialogue, graphic action, silent moments, pained glances and eye-catching visuals. Candis doesn’t overcook the characters or dramatic scenes; he lets them simmer. He gives the actors plenty of time to work their magic. In ways this film feels like an intelligent, artistic character study with a European sensibility.

Portuguese composer Nuno Malo has created a hypnotic score with strained strings and synthesizers. It’s not typical music for an urban tale, but the contrasts works. Some of the cinematography (Gavin Kelly) feels a bit soft almost emitting a blinding cloudy light.  It’s too atmospheric when stark realism might have been a better choice

Common has a natural swagger; it helped him become a noted rapper. In this film, the musician becomes an actor capable of emoting and conveying deep feelings. He goes head to head with veteran thespians like Glover (his Arthur is impeccably nuanced), Dutton (sure-footed as ever) and Haysbert (he should stop doing those insurance commercials and go back to film or theatre so people can be reminded that he is a top-notch actor).  If there is a scene-stealer, it is the very endearing and natural Rainey Jr.  He has acting chops far beyond his years and turns in a performance that is on par with Quvenzhané Wallis’ in Beast of the Southern Wild. When Rainey Jr. and Common get into their screaming matches, it’s powerful stuff.

V tries to prepare Wood for the worst, “If you show weakness they gon’ get at you.”

Film Rating: *** (3 Stars)

Visit Film Critic Dwight Brown at www.DwighBrownInk.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013



This week is a good week for new investment of money, time or energy. Your investment will be attractive to someone who wants to help. Make the call. This week let the feeling of being special bathe you. Soul Affirmation: I invest new faith in everything I do this week.



Opportunity knocks this week, be ready and waiting. An old love may resurface. Take a good look. This week is good for you financially. Look for a special opportunity at work. Families matters, spend time with yours.  Soul Affirmation: Old love? New love? The most important thing is true love!



They get on your nerves but you’ll profit from joining with them in a common effort. Pull close to an annoying buddy. Joint adventures will pay ten-fold. Household projects call. You and a lover can finally reach the same page.  Soul Affirmation: I am patient with all that comes my way this week.



This week begins three weeks during which success and romance are closely related. Kill two birds with one stone. Enjoy your feelings and let your brain relax. Suspend all judgments of others. Being stern won’t work for you this week.  Soul Affirmation: I judge no one, especially myself this week.



News that comes by phone, e-mail or snail mail makes it easier for you to remain upbeat. Focus on what is said. No matter what it is, find the good in it. Invite new insights. They could well come from your lover.  Soul Affirmation: I give thanks for who I am this week.



Don’t be dismayed if you tried to prevent it but couldn’t. It was meant to happen, and you were intended to learn from it. Nothing was lost. Something was delayed. After you’ve learned your lesson the chance will come again.  Soul Affirmation: Faith keeps me calm in the storms of life.



Your self-confidence is making you glow all over! People are attracted to your outlook this week, and you may be deluged with offers. Some may not be sincere, but trust your fabulous instincts and you’ll pick and choose what’s real for you.  Soul Affirmation: Clinging to the old will inhibit my growth this week.



Find motivation within yourself to complete a task that has been hanging around too long. You will want to play later in the week, and you’ll feel happier then with a clear mind. Remember that you’re the boss of your emotions.  Soul Affirmation: My imagination is the source of my happiness.



Remember that you are in control of your emotions this week. Things will look brighter as soon as you let yourself feel like the glowing spirit that you are. Co-create your reality this week by using positive emotions to remind yourself of how wonderful you are.  Soul Affirmation: I will ask joy to marry me.



You are in the middle of a dream coming true. Watch for signs that your wish is about to be granted. You’ll be very happy with what you’ve achieved.  Soul Affirmation: Love is easier than breathing.



Overall, the vibrations surrounding you this week are very good, very good indeed. Go with the best, and refuse to allow any minor inconvenience to spoil your sunny mood. You are going to have a lovely week. Soul Affirmation: He who doesn’t ask will remain a fool forever.



Remember that you look marvelous! Be prepared for lots of compliments this week, and plan to accept them gracefully. You may be planning a time period trip; it’s going to be a nice getaway. Soul Affirmation: Communication is a skeleton key that opens many doors.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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