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|Fri, October 06, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
To say that "When The Levees Broke" was more than a disappointment would not be enough. In a weak attempt to be a Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911" and allow victims to vent about a number of paranoid notions about who's the blame for the flooding of New Orleans and subsequent abandoning of citizens for day on end. Emotionally and mentally draining early in the four-hour documentary of interviews of people that once lived in the lower Ninth Ward repeatedly refer to hearing a loud explosion during the storm with the implication being that a levee was deliberately detonated leads you to question if they were coached.
Unfortunately, the film fails to supplement this anecdotal evidence with any tangible proof of tampering, leaving the discerning viewer believing that the breach was most likely caused by the category-five hurricane after all. Many people said the sound of the hurricane was like a freight train, therefore could the sound of an explosion really have been the wind.
Spike did an excellent job at capturing many heart wrenching aspects of the disaster. In concurrence with other critics that have said, "When The Levees Broke" is essentially and overambitious mess which ultimately fails to convey effectively the scale or scope of the ongoing tragedy. The work is extremely repetitive to the said stories recounted, whether about wading through sewage-filled water to the Convention Center, being stranded on a rooftop, being left to die in the sweltering heat inside the Superdome, separated from family members, and bussed out of town, or being denied insurance payments.
The sentiment of that we have seen this all before is compounded by the program's confusing chronology. During part four, for example, we hear from homeless people still complaining about FEMA's delay in providing trailers, although these remarks were ostensibly taped earlier than some contained in the third segment of the show. According to this production, all fault lies with the federal government, from the Army corps of engineers to FEMA director Michael Brown to President Bush to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
As if it was not enough, Spike decided to allow his documentary to be further tarnished with his giving Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and his former Police Chief Eddie Compass by giving these and several other pivotal political figures a platform to share their own self-serving spin about their handling of Katrina, when clearly their efforts were foreshadowed with continuous failures that have been well documented in the fabric of American History.
Spike allowed the selfish culprits to play the blame game in his docudrama. Finally, the appearances by well-meaning celebrities like Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, Rev. Al Sharpton, Wynton Marcellous, and others lend creditability, but there sporadic placement is distracting at moments from the fundamental story Spike attempts to narrate. In closing "When The Levees Broke" is a poorly executed catharsis for individuals that want to contribute to an unsupported and undocumented conspiracy theory. Spike true to his rip a scab of an old wound form, gives voice to individuals that are still suffering due to displacement and having lost everything that might have otherwise been forgotten about by America. Surprisingly enough I normally enjoy Spike's work and look forward to Oscar television commercial campaign for the 2007 Academy Award telecast.
Kobe no longer has the bubonic plague. Again there is proof that the 2003 scandal involving Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and a women accusing him of rape is no longer of concern to companies hoping to benefit from his star power. Just tw
|Tue, September 12, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Usher on Broadway in "Chicago," got so much fuss opening that I had to see for myself. A number of stars turned out to see the lady's man live on stage in the flashy role of Billy Flynn. Penelope Cruz, Phylicia Rashad, Rosie Perez, Gayle King, Jill Murray Jones, and Gabrielle Union are just a few of the names that have been dropped thus far not to mention the number of screaming women in the cheap seats every night pack the Ambassador Theater. "He's got charm for days," Union said. "If any man can charm a woman out of her jail cell and out of her clothes, it's Usher." Broadway veteran Phylicia Rashad said that Usher has the best stuff for the role and it was well suited for him. The 27-year-old Grammy Award winning singer will have a six week run in the musical and will hopefully become a better actor than what he started.
Not sure if it was his nerves that caused him to rush through some of his lines and chew up his words several times. Where Usher lacks in acting ability he makes up for it with his singing and especially his dancing. The Hip Hop crooner taps for the first time in the classic musical and truly lives up to the reputation of being the Michael Jackson of our day. Like the weak voice, shy, poor acting Michael in "The Wiz," he made up for his poor performance with his singing and dancing. Surely this is the best school Usher to perfect his acting. A few visits with the coach that P. Diddy used when he was on Broadway starring in "A Raisin In The Sun," would do Usher some good. The energy of a live audience will push him into perfection.
The singer said music and theater are his two loves and described them in this fashion, "I think music is like a monogamous relationship. Acting in theater is like a different woman every night," according to Usher's philosophy; I am happy to be on Broadway singing and dancing. I enjoy it." If you are in the New York you would do yourself an injustice not to see Usher Raymond in "Chicago."
Music is a passion that we all have and you must do yourself a favor and run out and purchase Vickie Winans latest offering "Woman to Woman: Songs of Life." The diva of gospel takes you on a musical journey as she ministers songs that speak to heartache and the pains of life and she offers encouragement with Hip Hop numbers like "Go Go Praise," produced by Rodney Jerkins. "It's Alright," brings an age old message with a new upbeat sound that is consistent to Vickie's mantra.
The first CD is studio recorded and disc two was recorded live and takes you straight to church. Vickie always does it right and this two disc CD set is complete with a beautiful photo journal of Vickie Winans, each photo speaks to her personality and makes you feel like you know her personally. Well, Obnoxious does know the diva well and loves every note. Do yourself a favor and add Vickie's opus to your CD collection.
What happened to Serena? Talking about poor performances, the Former U.S. Open Champion did not live up to past titles. Recently, she has not seemed to have been in the game. Having slid so far behind in the rankings she did not compete in the tournament. Serena has too much in common with the great disappointment of the 90's ice skating champion Debbie Thomas, who got married while training for the Winter Olympics. The athletes mind was not on the game and she only walked away with a bronze medal when Debbie was capable of doing far better. Serena is going to have to get her mind back on the game if she is going to continue. Yes, her injuries have caused some setbacks, but clearly is not the total culprit for her loosing. Tiger Woods sure made up for the lack of Serena not going to the U.S. Open with his unstoppable wins. Now you know Tiger ha
|Fri, August 25, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Like a genuine compliment, we never get tired of hearing what the Outkast duo have to say. Straight out of Idlewild, Georgia, these Southern spitfires have started a deafening blaze with their sixth album, not to mention the feature film by the same name. Hitting theatres everywhere August 25th, this musical is sure to be something you'll want to see again and again. How have they kept us entertained for almost a decade and a half? In a simple statement, they are creators of musical magic. I caught up with the illustrious Andre to see what is next in store for the 'Mighty O'.
BV: Idlewild's opening date is around the corner. How have you been preparing for the premiere?
Andre: Actually I haven't been preparing for it. I've been so busy. I haven't really had time to think about it, and I'm doing so many other things around it. I stay in the studio recording...like today, I've been working on music for an animated show on Cartoon Network.
BV: Cool! Now we know you'll be acting in 'Idlewild', but what other roles did you play in the creation of the film? Any directing, production, or writing?
Andre: I do plan to get into directing. I've been behind the scenes on the writing tip, you know, basically coming up with concepts and ideas. I plan to expound on that; learn a little more to get some experience under my belt.
BV: That's great. I'm sure many of your fans would love to see you step deeper into the film arena, especially with the successes you've had so far on the big screen. What was the hardest challenge you've had to face in pursuing acting?
Andre: That initial task of getting people to stop seeing you as whatever you've been built up as, a rapper or an entertainer. The actual work is not hard; it's getting people out of that mindframe.
BV: Well, you can't help it if you're multi-talented. Anyways, so many un-talented people call themselves 'rappers' or 'rap artists' today, but what do you define yourself as musically?
Andre: I'm just a creator. I make tracks for people, but I wouldn't even call myself a producer. I'm an experimentalist; I try different things and see what works.
BV: Speaking of creating, is the 'Idlewild' album inspired by the movie or vice-versa?
Andre: Both. We had some of the songs before the script was even written. So Brian wrote around a lot of the songs and got ideas from the songs. Then after the movie was shot, we got a lot of ideas from the movie.
BV: Ok. I've got to tell you that I love the way you dress. Who do you look to in terms of fashion and how do you define your personal style?
Andre: Prince Charles. I like to dress like royalty, princes and kings.
BV: Well, royalty is always associated with the color purple, but what's your favorite color?
Andre: It changes, but blue seems to be a constant.
BV: 'Idlewild Blue' maybe? (laughing) Naw, you definitely bring the king sh*t to the table. How much influence do you think your group had on the explosion of Southern hip-hop?
Andre: I think Outkast, Goodie Mob, Dungeon Family was kind of the first Southern rap group, after Geto Boys, to go national. We were hailing Southern lifestyle, we gave it feet, and people started having pride in being from the South. We don't sound like T.I. or Yung Joc, but all these cats tell us that they listened to us coming up. And it's a trip you know?
BV: So you think that you were the inspiration for a lot of Southern artists?
BV: Gotcha. In "Mighty O" you had a couple lines wher
|Fri, August 25, 2006 at 11:58 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
High energy... Action with an artistic finish.... Risk-taking direction... Creative cinematography and music that makes you feel like jumping out of your seat and re-discovering the rhythm and madness of the 1930's without losing the 2006 Hip-Hop rawness.... this is what you get when you settle down in the Theatre and witness the magic of "Idlewild".
Set in a Hip-Hop version of 1935 in the imagined Idlewild Georgia, which seems closely based off of the un-imagined and very real Idlewild, Michigan – a backwoods Black Martha's Vineyard during the time of segregation, we are taken on a dual blast between the world of two best friends living opposite but parallel lives. Sound familiar? Perhaps that is because it seems not far from the reality of the amazing Hip-Hop duo, OutKast, who spearheaded the two lead roles of this magical movie. Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, better known to fans as Andre 3000 and Big Boi, play the colorful, zany, and intriguingly sensitive roles of Rooster and Percival.
Performer at the cotton-club-esque nightclub, un-sanctimoniously dubbed "The Church", Rooster (Patton) finds himself in more trouble than he bargained for when the club's owner gets "stretched out" (a.k.a. taken out) by Idlewild's sleaziest, uncompromising gangster (Terrence Howard at his best). Strong-armed into inheriting his boss' club and debt, Rooster spends the rest of the movie trying highly energetic, amazingly slick ways of maneuvering around the inevitable traps of doing dirty business.
Meanwhile, Rooster's piano player and childhood best friend, Percival (Benjamin), drifts aimlessly within the mundane world of being a mortician. Forced into this lifestyle by his self-battered and often emotionally destructive father (played by the captivating Ben Vereen), Percival dreams of making music and exiting the business. In the midst of his dream deferred, he meets the charming chanteuse, Angel Davenport (newcomer Paula Patton) and finds another shot at musical success and even a shot at love.
With most musical movies, there are often unnecessary songs that interrupt the flow of action and seem forced and contrived- at best. And though some of the numbers may startle a little, with unexpected arrivals and placement, they are also delightful and pleasantly surprising, including a couple of strangely enchanting numbers with Rooster doing a duet with his animated talking flask, and Percival doing a wake-up number with a series of cuckoo alarm clocks. For a minute, you may think you're losing your sanity, but then you remember that this is OutKast... and just as with their groundbreaking music and videos, they will always take you on an un-predictable escapade that you'll be glad you took.
Laced with the passionate and striking choreography of Hinton Battle (Dreamgirls) that merges the sass of swing with the gyrations of bootie shake and the mechanics of b-boyin'... this film doesn't fall one step off beat. The cinematography is stunning, with camera angles and effects that create a beautiful sense of the Southern history and mythical tone of the film. The script is even impressive, capturing the accuracy of 1930's speech and vernacular, but peppered with 2006 spice and humor. The story effects in the most astonishing ways, and even tugs a bit at the heart strings when you least expect it.
OutKast is brilliant at re-inventing themselves, and "Idlewild" is proof. Just as captivating as the historical Idlewild that still exists today, this is definitely one of the most enjoyable movies of the year!
|Thurs, August 24, 2006 at 9:36 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
BEVERLY HILLS, California — Their disparate sensibilities have blended together for a genre-bending musical flavor that's yielded many sold-out concerts, dozens of awards, 30-plus music videos, two platinum albums and four multiplatinum albums. So, now that Outkast are moving their act to the big screen, why would anyone expect normalcy from this rarely idle, always wild pair?
"It was written around the music," André "3000" Benjamin recently said of "Idlewild," the quasi-musical that — it can be said with some level of certainty — is unlike any film that's ever come before it. "We'd been trying to do a film since we started, so me, Big Boi and Bryan [Barber, the duo's longtime collaborator/director] wrote ideas and scripts for an Outkast movie. This happened to be the one that worked."
From the moment that the first images begin flickering onto the silver screen, "Idlewild" makes the same bold pronouncement as the first few beats in any Outkast song: there are no rules here. Barber expands, shrinks and even "scratches" his images as though they were on a turntable; Benjamin's Percival sleeps in a room filled with dozens of synchronized, beat-keeping cuckoo clocks; Antwan "Big Boi" Patton plays a character named Rooster who has conversations with a cartoon on the side of his flask.
"There are elements of our personalities inside of the characters," Big Boi said of the film, set in the 1930s American South. "But for the most part, it was about knowing where the character started ... and where he ended up. You just really had to take him there."
Andre and Big Boi have taken each other to some very elevated places over the years, and they've always had significant help from Barber. So when it came time for the duo to make the jump to films, it seemed natural to hit him up yet again.
Check out the trailer premiere for Scorsese's "The Departed," "School for Scoundrels," "Borat" and more, on Overdrive.
"I was at film school at Clark Atlanta University, and Andre was dating this girl and lived in the apartment above me," Barber said of how their friendship began. "That's how I met him. I asked him to be in a short film I was going to shoot at that time, but we never did it because I ran out of my financial aid; I was going to shoot it with my money from college. We kept in touch over the years, and I would shoot all the behind-the-scenes footage while they were on tour. They pushed for me to do my first video, [1998's] 'Skew It on the Bar-B,' and the relationship has been strong ever since — we've shot maybe 10 videos together."
On his own, Barber has also gone on to become a significant figure in the music world, bringing his Outkast-honed talents to Destiny's Child's "Girl" and Bow Wow and Ciara's "Like You," not to mention the multiple-VMA-nominated video for Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man." For all three, the nerves of a first movie were lessened by the flick's music sequences, as well as their thorough knowledge of each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"Big Boi is a totally different guy from Dre, in the sense that you can have sushi and tea with Dre and listen to jazz, but with Big Boi you'd want to go and have drinks and hamburgers and go party at a club," Barber laughed. "Big is more playful, so it's harder for Big to get serious; whereas Dre, it's harder for him to become playful."
Barber kept that in mind, listened to the tracks Outkast were developing for the movie, and combined it all in his unorthodox script about an introspective mortician (Andre 3000) and fast-talking nightclub owner (Big Boi) on the run from a trigger-happy mob boss (Terrence Howard).
"Terrence had just finished 'Hustle and Flow,' " Barber said of the casting coup that landed the Oscar nominee just months before he hit it big. "But 'Hustle and Flow' wasn't out
|Mon, August 14, 2006 at 8:00 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
St. Louis native Jibbs has been ripping cats up on the rap scene for more than half his life, and he's not even old enough to vote yet. Born and raised in rapping, Jibbs acquired his quirky name from his parents, a nickname bestowed on him as a child. According to him, it was an old slang word for a mouthpiece, as in, ...Keep trippin' and I'm a hit you in your jibs."
A fitting name, since his mouth has been getting him recognition since he was 8 years old. And before he was rapping, he was boxing. "My dad used to be a boxer so he put me in the gym, when I was like four. When I turned 8, he got me in the ring. Boxing keeps you focused; you just go in there to knock their heads off. It's kind of like the industry..."
Taking inspiration from artists like Nelly and Lil' Wayne, Jibbs is on the rise with his new single, "Chain Hang Low," a remake of a track made some years ago, but never hit big. Jibbs hopes to change that, "I always knew the song was a hit, so my brother remade the beat and it was immaculate. We did something new; we kept the hook and rewrote everything else."
That is Jibbs' agenda: to do something new and different. Opening up for artists like Bow Wow and Jeezy gave him an opportunity to take notes, yet Jibbs has no intention of following someone else's formulas. "Not hating on nobody, but a lot of people are doing the same thing. I want to come and change things up to make hip hop a little more live."
His self-titled album, cleverly named, Jibbs featuring Jibbs, shows us from the jump that Jibbs is unique. His style is so versatile that in some songs he's rapping in two completely different ways, hence the name. In doing so, this former boxer plans to show the world that he is by no means a one dimensional rapper. "You won't listen to one song, go to the next and have it sound the same. I switch it up all the time."
"So," I ask him, "which one is harder, boxing or rapping?"
"Neither one," Jibbs responds with a laugh.
|Tue, August 08, 2006 at 11:59 PM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Captivating, intense, and adrenaline-filled, Spike Lee's latest joint, "Inside Man", is a motorcycle ride through the ins and outs of robbery. In the fashion of a whodunit gone completely awry, "Inside Man" takes the concept of action and masterfully mixes it with that satirically savvy Spike Lee humor, producing some good ol' fashioned entertainment.
Like everyone else, I had high expectations for a film being headed by heavy hitters Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, and Jodie Foster. Fortunately for me, I wasn't disappointed. This all-star cast carried the intensity and power of the story from its start to its finish.
The movie opens with an entrancing monologue by criminal mastermind, Dalton Russell (Owen), who glares right thru the camera lens and very coolly announces his brilliant execution of the perfect heist. Immediately, we want to know the details. The first of them being that Russell and his crime crew smoothly walk into a bank in Manhattan's Financial District disguised as painters, and take about fifty people hostage. Forcing everyone to strip and then re-dress into overalls and hats, thereby being indistinguishable from the robbers, the journey of the heist begins.
Assigned to the case is NYPD Detective Keith Frazier (Washington), whose recent work efforts have raised a few unwanted brows. Badly in need of a victory, Frazier and his partner, Mitchell (Chiwitel Ejiofor), set out to play a cool chess game with Russell, only to find out that they are the true pawns.
To further push along the action, bank president Case (Christopher Plummer) brings in a high-powered negotiator, Madeline White (Foster), to help protect some very secretive and dirty investments. Working for the bank and not for the robbers, and certainly not for Frazier, White throws a major monkey wrench in the unfolding of this case. This is revealed in some extremely intense and chilling back-and-forth between Frazier and White. It is Denzel and Jodie at their best! The verbal tennis game they play in these moments keeps us all on the edge of our seats, not wanting to miss a beat- as if indeed, we were watching Venus or Serena work their magic...
As the robbery unfolds, we advance through time intermittently, while Frazier and Mitchell conduct post-robbery interviews with each of the hostages. This is where Spike Lee does a brilliant job of pulling us into the mayhem of Frazier's world. We start itching for the answers. How'd this dude pull this off?
If you're like me, you look for a Spike Lee flick to drop some sort of knowledge in the form of even the tiniest pearl amongst a sea of gems. Call me traditional, but the Spike Lee that I've come to adore couldn't possibly exist in this world and not have some social commentary slipped in among the sexy rhythm of high-packed suspense. And he doesn't disappoint. No matter how smart-ass the commentary is, whether through a pre-teen hostage obsessed with a horribly violent and misogynistic video game (very reminiscent of 50 Cent's latest venture), or through the ruthlessly candid way that Russell engages with the cell-phone obsessed hostages, there is plenty of room to crack up, and still remain on the edge of your seat.
"Inside Man" is an ace in Spike Lee's highly unpredictable, and often uncompromising film repertoire. And it's just a real cool flick...
|Fri, July 14, 2006 at 11:59 AM|Send Blog · Share on Facebook · Bookmark on Delicious
Her voice is that deep kinda resonating rhythm... it feels rich and hits you in the soul. Each guitar string plucks a string on your heart. Her self-love is apparent...and begs everyone else to join the bandwagon. We all know who I'm talking about by now- right? Who else could I be talking about besides the one and only India.Arie?
The new album, Testimony: vol. 1, Life and Relationship, is out and ready for a good listening to. Filled with her signature guitar riffs and classic trills, the album is definitely familiar. Sometimes though, maybe a little too familiar. Often times, I wait for India to share a secret with us, musically or lyrically, that catches us off-guard and shows us a side that we wouldn't expect. Fortunately or un-, depending on how stagnant a fan one may be, Testimony... gives us an extension of the first two albums- in content and music quality, with just a couple of special production surprises sprinkled in here and there.
One nice surprise lies on track number nine, with the song, "Wings of Forgiveness", including production collaboration by Frank "Blame" Macek, Jared Gosselin, and Phillip White. The music is upbeat and still inclusive of that favorite India.Arie positivity. The lyrics- "If Nelson Mandela can forgive his oppressors, surely I can forgive you for your passion", shares an energized consciousness that doesn't agitate but rather celebrates the spirit of survival and forgiveness.
Another musical highlight is "Private Party"- if you enjoy that honest and pure guitar sound. You'll be able to hear the production collaboration of Stevie Wonder, among others. Though possibly a new female anthem that may be countered by that ol' clichéd male resistance (which may even be justified), "Private Party" is one of the self love hymns that put us back in the spirit of the India we first fell in love with for "Video".
True India fans will continue to take the voyage on this third album, but we may lose some shaky followers along the way. It seems that India has abandoned all concerns of "fitting" into boxes or expectations of others, and has instead embraced her true musical desires. Ranging from almost Black folklore, to contemporary "neo-soul" (which India is definitely challenging the meaning of), Testimony: vol. 1, Life and Relationship is an album that asks us to step outside of our definitions and celebrate ourselves. And now if we just get Ms. Arie to take her gloves off and get even more raw, we may find that self love comes from exposing the negative as much as celebrating the positive. Nonetheless, the album is definitely worth the voyage...