MINI MOVIE REVIEW: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

The idea of replacing his classic museum exhibit friends with computerized replicas sets Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) into action in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.” This sequel to the 2006 film “Night at the Museum,” also features an evil Pharaoh character, who continues to threaten the exhibits’ ability to come to life by trying to destroy a magical tablet. In addition to Teddy Roosevelt ( Robin Williams), Jedediah (Owen Wilson), and the playful T-Rex returning, also in the mix is Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams), who has a role in saving the day. Though not as fun as the original, the sequel is worth seeing for the animation. While some Native American groups are taking issue with the depiction of General Custer in the film, and even toys that can be found in kids’ meal at a major fast-food chain, the film is light enough for the whole family to enjoy.

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MINI MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

BOOM BOOM POW! Explosion after explosion with autobots and their enemies sums up the new, two-plus hours “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” movie. Does it really matter what the plot is with Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox? Not Really. It’s just a mindless movie made for teenage boys. And how about the controversy with the so-called stereotypical, hip-hop talking, gold-toothed twins? Well, where’s the stereotype? Did you see this past Sunday’s BET Awards? Enough said!!!

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‘Remembering My Time’ With Michael Jackson

While washing dishes earlier this afternoon, I heard on a Los Angeles talk radio news station that Michael Jackson was hospitalized after suffering cardiac arrest. I immediately thought that celebrity deaths happen in threes – first there was Ed McMahon, second there was Farrah Fawcett (who died early this morning), and now Michael Jackson. But I quickly put the thought out of my head – no way the King of Pop would die. An onslaught of memories flashed through my mind – Jackson as a music pioneer and innovator; his songs making me sing and dance throughout elementary, high school, and college. And of course, one of the most exciting moments of my life – the time I met him back in the early-90s when I was an entertainment reporter. Then, I thought, oh no – he’s a child molester.

About an hour later, I received a text from another local Los Angeles radio station that the famed musician had indeed died. I didn‘t believe my eyes. I rushed to turn on the television where all the major news stations were still reporting that he was in the hospital. So, there was hope that the text was actually wrong. But, soon it all became terribly clear – major news was finally reporting that Jackson was dead. I felt numb. “No, not Michael Jackson, the King of Pop,” I thought in horror. The man who thrilled us with his unbelievable singing and dancing. The man who revealed the famed moonwalk dance on the Motown Records’ 25th Anniversary show. The man who brought us the phenomenal “Thriller” and “Bad” albums, and later in his career, the songs “Black and White” and “Remember The Time” was dead. This could not be happening.

I met Michael Jackson while he was shooting the 1992 video for “Remember The Time.” My roommate, who was working with the video’s director, John Singleton, was able to get me on the closed set at Universal Studios. She promised that I could interview Singleton (I was a reporter at the time for RadioScope, an internationally syndicated radio show) but of course not Jackson. When I got on the set, I met one of Jackson’s bodyguards, who was conveniently from New Orleans. Feeling comfortable with the homeboy, I asked if I could meet the star. But, I wasn’t holding my breath because I had heard rumors that he had an unpleasant disposition on the set; he walked around wearing a mask and wouldn’t shake hands with anyone. However, there was one chance – the bodyguard told me that Jackson may come out of his trailer to greet some guests and the bodyguard would call me over. So, I waited patiently and finally Jackson emerged from his trailer. As he was greeting some folks, the bodyguard gestured for me to join in.

I was introduced to Jackson as, “ Desi from New Orleans.” “It’s nice to meet you,” I said, careful not to shake his hand. He actually spoke to me and asked, “Are you really from New Orleans?” I answered back, surprisingly calm, “Yes.” He then asked, “Do you cook gumbo?” And I answered, “Of course.” Then I got the nod that he was going back in his trailer and I said bye to one of the greatest pop stars the world has ever seen.

I was so excited. As a writer/reporter for a small outfit, I had the opportunity to meet and interview several famous people, but this was tops – a coup! No, it wasn’t an interview, but how many people in the world could actually say that not only did they meet the King of Pop but that they also spoke with him? WOW!!! I was smiling from ear-to-ear for the rest of the day (and the week). I would remember this day for the rest of my life.

That was my time with the King of Pop. I realize that many of you may be waiting for one of my biting commentaries about Jackson’s very troubled last years, but I will just leave it like this for now. Once it sinks in that he is actually dead, I may be back for a more critical look at him, but for now I would like to remember the good times.

BTW, I did get the John Singleton interview:)

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One of our favorite romantic-comedy stars, Sandra Bullock, is back in “The Proposal.” Bullock stars as an uptight, super-bitchy Manhattan book editor, who is about to be deported (she plays a Canadian). In order to stop being thrown out the country, Bullock’s character forces her unsuspecting assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to announce that they are engaged. He agrees but several conditions have to be met to seal the deal – such as visiting his family in Alaska and convincing them that they are a real couple. While I love Bullock, this movie is quite predictable, too talky, and loooonnnnng. Indeed, Betty White lights up the screen as the assistant’s grandmother, but she can’t save this boring excuse for a romantic-comedy. Take a pass on this one!

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“Drag Me To Hell” is one laugh-out-loud ride at the theater. I’m not sure if it was meant to be funny, but I had a great time laughing, screaming, and hiding my face as I awaited the next scene. Starring Alison Lohman, the film is about a mousy loan officer, who picks the wrong person to deny a mortgage payment extension in order to get a promotion. The wronged person, played scarily funny and convincingly by Lorna Raver, places a curse on the loan officer. Once the loan officer realizes that she’s doomed, interesting visits to mediums to rid her of the curse prompt even funnier scenes. If you want a good and scary laugh, then this is definitely the movie for you. Oh, and the ending is to die for!


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What About Black Hollywood?

I recently volunteered at the Hollywood Black Film Festival, which took place in Beverly Hills, California. There were over a hundred full length features, shorts, and documentaries to view. Additionally, you could listen to panel discussions on various topics such as financing a film, distribution, and the state of film. I listened to one panel, the Producer’s Roundtable, and walked away a bit disturbed and perturbed by the message.

The panel discussion featured top television and film executives, who were surrounded by mostly eager black screenwriters, directors and actors. Soon, their eagerness turned to sadness as they were promptly told, in a nutshell, that films (feature and straight-to-video) are all about female-driven urban dramas (Beyonce’s “Obsessed”), and that if you want a film made it needs to have someone in it with name recognition to make it happen.

As for television, listen up folks, according to a CW programming executive, you can forget about telling “black stories” because the trend now is creating teeny-bopper dramas. But, not to worry, the African American woman exec warned that black writers/directors should learn how to write for all types of shows – you know, don’t limit yourself.

The CW exec also addressed the controversial cancellations of “The Game” and “Girlfriends.” She assured the audience that it had nothing to do with the CW not wanting black programming, but that it’s all about the green, as in money. She said that the shows were canceled due to low ratings and without those ratings the network can’t get those all important advertising dollars.

Needless to say, throughout the over-hour panel, the room turned sullen and there were several moans and groans, me included, upon hearing the dismal news.

What message does this send to up-and-coming black writers, directors, and actors? Oh, just push aside your dream and work on some silly show about snotty teens? Of course, it could be argued that working on such shows could lead to connections that could lead to a pet project, right? Or, maybe we should start our own thing and put out our own stuff, right? Well, we have that with TV One and BET, right? And, how about Tyler Perry with his own studio and all, right? And, what about the straight-to-video black companies (we know who they are), who put out all of those wonderful movies, right? And, what about the actors, who dream of being stars? Should they just be content playing the best friend roles? What are we complaining about? Shouldn’t we be satisfied?

Hmmm, I wonder what Spike Lee and Bill Cosby would have told the panel crowd? Remember, Spike Lee came out at a time when he was told that people wouldn’t watch his films. “The Cosby Show” became a hit when many told Bill Cosby that people wouldn’t want to watch a successful black family on TV.

To all those black writers, directors, actors – just keep on keepin’ on!

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MINI MOVIE REVIEW: Terminator Salvation

The new movie “Terminator Salvation” picks up where it left off from the 2003 film “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” – the machines have taken over the earth (or have they?), and a band of human resisters, led by John Connor (Christian Bale), try to stop them, or is it too late?  Though the movie can be confusing in the beginning, it eventually picks up with some nice drama and action, especially when part-cyborg/part-human character Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) meets Connor and he discovers that Marcus may be the key to saving the human race.  Bale is wonderful and strong in the role as John Connor, while Worthington meets him at every beat.  Other highlights include, Moon Bloodgood as a kick-ass, tough-as-nails, looking-for-love-resister, action sequences that won’t stop, and great sound that might give you an earache.  The lowlights, rapper Common is wasted in his role, and there’s a cute little black girl in the film, who doesn’t speak.  I must warn you that this film is a hard PG-13 rating, so, no little tykes.

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