Author Archives: Editor

News & Gossip: Quick Read

written by Lee Pinkerton & Lamar Fegus-Palmer
19/08/14

Here at the Kush Films offices, we scour the internet on a daily basis, always on the look out for hot news and gossip from the international film industry.

And we’ve decided to bring those stories and video clips to you, so you can be as up-to date as we are!

We hope you like it – and you can also give us some feedback on how we can improve this page (tell us what kind of news you want to read about), or even the whole site if you like!

Sends comments here: info@kushfilms.com

Enjoy!

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Zoe Saldana is gorgeous in green even if she does play an alien!

First up we have an interview with the beautiful star of summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy Zoe Saldana, discussing her role in that movie, and her role in the upcoming biopic of music legend Nina Simone.

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Guess Who’s Back?

Next up we celebrate the return of Wesley Snipes.   In this video clip he discusses his return to movies in The Expendables 3, after an enforced career break courtesy of the US government.

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Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer knew Chad Boseman could play James Brown | Get On Up Exclusive.

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The Rock Shows You How To Work That Body!

And finally have you seen Hercules yet?  It stars wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in the title role, and he’s looking HENCH!  If you’ve ever wanted a body like that, Dwayne has kindly shared his workout regime with the world via YouTube.  But if you’re thinking about trying it, just be prepared for a world of pain!!

And if you just can’t get enough of the Rock, we’ve got a profile of him on the Kush site.  Check it out here.

That’s all for today ………….happy viewing!!

 

Film Review: The Guvnors

Written by Leslie Byron Pitt
11/08/14

 

 

GUVNORS_1SHEET_med

Films such as The Guvnors aggravate me. Not because they’re badly made, since The Guvnors is competent in terms of its craft. My issue with it is simply one of tiredness. The film has a unique slant on the grit Brit drama, which we thought we would have seen earlier than 2014. It also boasts a solid multi-cultural cast, featuring an unnerving performance from newcomer Harley Sylvester of Rizzle Kicks fame. The film holds nuggets of interest throughout.

That said, we are once again thrown back into the East End, with cockney hooligan’s and TheGuvnors_badboyscocksure hoodied thugs, cutting each other up. Violent old head, Mitch (a subtly fierce Doug Allen) finds himself dragged from his decent suburban life back to his old haunts, when a new batch of hooded gang members led by Adam (Sylvester) call him out to prove their dominance.

The Guvnors shows us just how influential Football Factory (2004) and Kidulthood (2006) have been to the British film industry in the past decade. The film, however only ever glances at the angles that set it apart. This may be enough to sway some of the well fed fans of the sub-genres.

Those looking outside the (early) work of Nick Love and Noel Clarke may only find frustration.

When the film touches on how the internet has altered how we look at violence, it drops the ball. It observes the idea of the changing shapes of gangs, but does little with the material. The only thing it really keeps up with is the Greek tragedy and sins of the father, which have been wrapped around a modern day Outlaw-like casing. Despite this, the convoluted screenplay does little to effectively lift the levels of the characters to any real complexity.

What we do get is a choppily edited allegory of two cultures of wanna-be soldiers who have no war to go to. Angry men who only have a conflict within themselves and each other.

My argument to this is: Do we need this? The old hooligans who gained their respect from boxing clubs and the ideal of the rejecting of hooligan violence is far more admirable in the likes of Shane Meadows features than here. The Guvnors has shades of the rabble rousing Harry Brown (2009) about it but none of the themes are as provocative as found in the likes of NEDS (2011) or even the little-seen Irish film Savage (2009).

It’s clear that particular aspects of football culture are part of director Gabe Turner’s interest.  The well received The Class of 92 (2013) was his feature before this. Unlike that documentary however, I don’t really draw much hope on The Guvnors reaching the heights of interest from outside its niche audience. The Guvnors shows Turner can draw solid performances from fresh talent and craft a decent looking  film. Now it’s definitely time to freshen things up.

Leslie Byron Pitt

 

The Guvnors in UK cinemas

 

Film Review: Finding Fela

written by Lee Pinkerton
11/09/14

finding_fela_poster_art_pIn my humble opinion, there are four giants of conscious Black music from the 1970s. James Brown, Stevie Wonder,  Bob Marley, and Fela Kuti.  Stevie Wonder is still with us touring and performing; there is a biopic about the life of James Brown to be released later this year;  and documentaries on Bob Marley are too numerous to mention. Undoubtedly the least well known of these artists in the west is Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.  But for Fela, more than any of the others mentioned, music truly was a revolutionary weapon.  Recently Kuti has started to enjoy a greater international exposure .

In 2009 there was a Broadway play featuring the great man’s music, and now this feature length (all two hours of it) documentary.

These docs always feature interviews with music critics and those who worked with the artist in question, and this film is no exception.  There are interviews with his long-time drummer Tony Allen, artist Lemi Ghariokwu (who illustrated 26 Fela album covers) and Fela’s African American ex-girlfriend and political tutor Sandra Izadore.

What I’d really like to have seen is more archive interviews with the man himself, and footage of him in his pomp in the 1970s, performing at his legendary Shrine nightclub. Unfortunately there is precious little of this, but the filmmakers  they try and make up for it with lots of footage from the Broadway play, and it times it seems more like a documentary on the making of the stage play than on the man himself.

This criticism aside, all the biographical information is here  – his elite family background, his education in London, his consciousness raising visit to the US in the late 60s, his creation of the new genre of Afrobeat, his clashes with the Nigerian government, the setting up of his compound the Kalakuta Republic, his joint wedding to  27 brides, his political activism, his numerous arrests and imprisonments, and his untimely death due to AIDS.

A nice touch is interviews with three of his children Seun, Femi and Yeni.

Though Fela was fearless in his goading of Nigeria’s corrupt military dictatorship, it is revealing to hear how fearful his children were of the trouble he brought on the family with his criticism of the authorities, which resulted in the army assault on his compound and the murder of his mother.

If you are not already familiar with the legend and music of the great man, this doc will help you get familiar.  And even if you are already acquainted with the music of the man, there is still more you can learn here.  Recommended for Afrobeat neophytes and veterans alike.

Lee Pinkerton

Finding Fela is in selected cinemas now

 

Wesley Snipes is back!

written by Lee Pinkerton
08/08/14

Whatever happened to Wesley Snipes? He was one of the hottest Black actors back in the 1990’s, moving from urban movies like King of New York and New Jack City  to action movies like Boiling Point, Drop Zone and Passenger 57.

After taking starring roles in two Spike Lee Joints (Jungle Fever and Mo Better Blues) he enjoyed a couple of successfull collaborations with Woody Harrellson (White Men Can’t Jump and Money Train).  He even had his own superhero franchise with Blade. But in the ’00s his movie career seemed to stall, with more than his fair share of straight to DVD material, and his decline was precipitated by his conviction for tax evasion in 2008.

wesley-snipes-expendables-3The last movie we saw him in before he started his three year prison sentence in 2010 was Brooklyn’s Finest alongside Don Cheadle and Richard Gere.

But now Wesley is set to return in his first film since his release last year, and he’s going back to his action movie best with a helping hand from his old co-star Sylvester Stallone (remember Demolition Man?).

Snipes (now 52) has a guest role in Stallone’s latest action sequel The Expendables 3, alongside other action veterans Arnold Schwarzennegger and Mel Gibson.  In the movie Snipes even shares a joke with his co-stars about his prison time.

Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture break into a fortress to free Doctor Death (played by Wesley Snipes), and after the successful rescue, the team boards a plane where they ask him why he was jailed. Snipes ominiously replies “Tax evasion.”

 

Its good to see Wesley back. Lets just hope that this time he’s employed a decent accountant!

The Expendables 3 is released in cinemas on August 15th.  Watch the trailer here

Lee Pinkerton

Black Women at the Movies: Finally in vogue?

written by Montré Aza Missouri
08/08/2014

More than twenty years ago, bell hooks examined the ambiguous relationship between black women and the cinema and argued that black female audiences have to take on an “oppositional gaze” distinctive from the intentions of predominately white male directors. According to hooks, this gaze of resistance is required in order for black women to find pleasure in the cinema.Black feminist critic Jacqueline Bobo in Black Women As Cultural Readers later echoed hooks’ notions of an alternative positioning for black women spectators. However, both recognised a shift during the 1990’s with black female reaction to the film Daughters of the Dust (1991) directed by Julie Dash, the first African-American woman to direct a theatrically released feature length film.

Daughters of the Dust, a poetic narrative told from multiple generations of African American women about a family’s Great Migration journey from the rural south to the urban north, represents a black feminist cinematic style and the potential for a new black female spectatorship. Although Bobo identifies this newly carved space for black women audiences as starting years earlier, with black women’s reception to Steven Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

This reaction to The Color Purple is as key in understanding black female spectatorship, as Daughters of the Dust is pivotal to analysing black female authorship. At the time of The Color Purple’s release, male dominated African American civil rights organisations protested the film, with some going so far as to picket outside of the cinemas where the film had been released. This public outcry was over the stereotypical depiction of black men in a film directed by a white man, despite the film being an adaption of a novel by a black woman.

Amidst public and media debate, mainstream feminist organisations, primarily led by white women, were virtually silent regarding the film. They did not come out in large numbers to give counter arguments in support of a film based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by a celebrated figure of the women’s movement. Instead, African American women—mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts—quietly ignored the protests and went to the cinema. They watched The Color Purple and breathed a heavy sigh of relief that seemingly went unnoticed by the news media, mainstream feminists and conventional community representatives.

In the decade prior to The Color Purple, black female representations on screen had been marked by Blaxploitation female buck characters such as Cleopatra Jones and Foxy Brown along with 1970’s portrayals of what film historian Donald Bogle calls tragic “sisters-in-distress” in films like Mahogany (1975) and Claudine (1974).

These depictions were limited to black nationalist notions of acceptable black femininity, framed to further black patriarchy. The Color Purple instead allowed black women spectators to take pleasure in seeing black female agency with a cinematic adaptation of this womanist novel.

It is this history of black female images in film, along with notable and highly problematic films such as The Birth of a Nation (1915) and The Imitation of Life (1934) that I recently recalled in talking with a close friend and cinematographer. Beyond our regular conversations about black film aesthetics and lighting for black performers, on this occasion we discussed current trends in Hollywood and independent film and my friend remarked, “Black women are the ‘in’ thing now.”

For a moment, his comment took me aback. Remembering hooks’ and Bobo’s arguments in terms of black women having perhaps the most complex relationship with the cinema of any demographic group among western audiences, I found this statement puzzling for several reasons.

I found myself remembering the enormous struggle of film directors like Julie Dash. Dash had spent decades and experienced numerous rejections by white male studio executives in making Daughters of the Dust. The idea of black women as now being embraced by an industry, which for more than a century had rendered us invisible as far as having the agency to tell our own stories yet hypervisible in depicting us as the oversexualised other, is hard to make sense of.

There is also a new generation of black women filmmakers to consider. These women filmmakers from the hip-hop generation to the millennials, have come of age in a post-civil rights era (or what Mark Anthony Neal calls the “post-soul”). They have been influenced by black feminist scholars such as bell hooks and inspired by pioneering filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Darnell MartinCheryl Dunye and Ngozi Onwurah. Black women directors – Dee Rees,Tina MabryAva DuVernayTanya HamiltonNikyatu Jusu and Akosua Adoma Owusu – are pushing boundaries in terms of stories, cinematic styles and in reframing black female identities beyond the narrowly constructed images of black women found in mainstream film and media.

These new black filmmakers are honing their skills at a time when the conventional systems of Hollywood are experiencing a certain ‘democratisation’ of film and media. The replacing of high cost celluloid film by digital technology was perhaps the first step in fostering more low-budget independent productions. Nowadays, new media with crowd sourcing for film finance, distribution and exhibition have provided more independent filmmakers with the opportunity to control key elements of the business side of film.

For black women this has been especially significant as generations-old traditions of networking through churches, schools and women’s social clubs have been transferred into the cyber realm of social media. Young, professional African American women have embraced digital technologies for communicating, networking and ultimately marketing their own products. Be it a new independent publishing company or their latest art house film, black women are able to speak directly to each other as potential audiences. Digital networking has opened the door to newfound entrepreneurship in independent film and media amongst young black women. A prime example is  African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM), an independent black film distribution company founded by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

Started in 2011, AFFRM has released seven films and is now distributing films internationally. But, it is important to recognise that black independent film in terms of distribution did not start with social media. Instead, one can look at the example of Haile Gerima and his strategies for marketing and distributing his 1993 slavery film Sankofa as a model for what is happening with contemporary social media in terms of independent film.

Likewise, the Sankofa model finds its roots in the marketing and distribution techniques used by 1920’s and 1930’s African American film pioneer Oscar Micheaux. Yet, what sets this current trend apart is the participation by black women in grassroots organising via social media in supporting films by and about black women.

What also distinguishes this new group of black independent filmmakers, both women and men – whose works Nelson George calls the “new black wave” – from the New Black Realism of the 1990’s and the 1970’s Blaxploitation era is a collectivism amongst new black wave filmmakers. Rather than focusing on the celebrity of a few black directors who are making it in the Hollywood system, this new black wave era is centred on a movement that fosters as many black filmmakers telling diverse, high quality stories as possible.

In 2013, the major studios released more films by and about black people than had been seen in decades. In part, this increase can be attributed to greater opportunities for black independent filmmakers to bypass the Hollywood system altogether and still have their films seen by targeted audiences. Also, the ability of studio-backed black filmmakers to work with local community and film organisations to incorporate grassroots marketing via social media in order to speak directly to their audiences has supported the commercial viability of black films overall.

What does this discussion of new media, digital production, marketing and distribution have to do with the question of black women as the “ in thing” as opposed to the one hundred plus years prior to now?

Personally, I am still uncertain how “in” black women really are. The numbers overall for women directors and for women in executive positions in the film industry remain a serious concern. Although the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has its first African American woman president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and as many celebrated another Academy Awards year in which a black woman performer, this year Lupita Nyong’o, walked away with an Oscar, I am not sure if we are really at a turning point for black women in the film industry as a whole.

Nyong'o, best supporting actress winner for her role in "12 Years a Slave", racts on stage at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

What I am confident about is a new relationship between black women and the media, specifically film. After more than a century of the black female form being battered by stereotypical constructions of ‘mammies’, ‘sapphires’, and ‘tragic mulattoes’, this current generation of black women spectators empowered by decades of black feminist thought, critically engage with media and readily recognise stereotypical images. Beyond simply spotting stereotypical portrayals, black women now have the platforms to critically examine how such images inform black female identities and to publicly call out producers and media organisations that present these problematic depictions of black women.

While film as an industry appears to remain a boy’s club that rarely if ever has black women in mind, film is a socio-cultural entity that has an enormous impact on how black women are viewed and on how we see ourselves. Whether the film industry has chosen black women as the new “in thing” or not is no matter. What is imperative is that black women tell our stories with the diversity and richness that speaks to the complexities of our experiences.

Montré Aza Missouri

Montré Aza Missouri has produced narrative and documentary films in the UK, the US, Ghana and Nigeria. She is an Assistant Professor in Film at Howard University where she teaches Directing, Scriptwriting, Film History and African Cinema. She is also the founding director of Parallel Film Collective a nonprofit organisation dedicated to producing, distributing and promoting “local equals global” film that transcends limiting racial, cultural and gender identities found in mainstream media. A former fellow at the Center for Media, Religion and Culture, Montré is completing her book Black Magic Woman and Narrative Film: Race, Sex and Afro-religiosity for Palgrave Macmillan. She is on twitter @MontreMissouri

This article was originally published by Media Diversified. Reproduced with permission

 

Profile of Alexis Rodney

Written by Lee Pinkerton
31/7/14

alexis rodney

Rising Black-British actor Alexis Rodney discovered his craft by accident.
“I always hated cross country when I was at school,” he confesses, “and I always slacked.”
“My P.E. teacher threatened me, that if I kept coming in last, he would put me in the school play.  I came in last again, so he sent me to the audition.”
Though he was sent as a punishment, the young Alexis liked what he found there.
“I was given one of the leads in the show. It was the first time anyone had given me praise.  That was the start of it.”
Alexis got the acting bug, and a few years later joined the National Youth Theatre. It was whilst there that he went to an open audition for the seminal TV drama Storm Damage (2000).

“I thought there was no way that they would go for me, a Surrey boy, playing someone from a childrens’ home in Brixton.”
But  Alexis won the part of villain of the piece Shinehead, playing alongside such Black British luminaries as Adrian Lester and Ashley Walters. From there he got himself an agent and prepared himself for all the offers that would come flooding in.
“I thought it was going to be plane sailing.  I thought having the TV credit and the agent behind me, it was going to be easy.  At that time I didn’t know what the British film industry was like.  I certainly didn’t know what it was like for a Black/mixed race actor.”
What actually followed for Alexis was a lot of barren years with few jobs. But he refused to give up.
“A lot of times I would get one great role, and then nothing for ages.  You can’t make a living out of that.  But I refuse to not work, so I did some theatre, and a lot of short films, and student films.  I felt that was the way to grow as an actor.”
Frustrated, Rodney tried his luck in the States, but that didn’t work out either.
“I had a bag of meetings in L.A.  But over there they want you to have some heat behind you, and they could tell I didn’t.”
Whilst trying to hustle up some work in the States, people kept asking him if he knew Femi Oguns back in London.  Femi was a Black British actor who had set up the Identity School of Acting and his own agency, and had infact already asked him to join. But Alexis had already rebuffed him.

Agent Femi Oguns changed the direction of Alexis' career

Agent Femi Oguns changed the direction of Alexis’ career

“I grew up with Femi on the acting scene,” explains Rodney. “But I wanted to be in the one of those big glamourous agencies. I wanted to be in that stable. So I turned him down.”

But when even people in LA were telling him he should hook up with Femi, Alexis realised he’d made a mistake, and gave Mr Oguns a call.
“He was quite cold with me to start with, cos I’d already turned him down twice.  I had to eat a lot of humble pie to get him to take me on. But it was the best move. He’s changed my career.”

The work started to come in – small roles in movies like Life and Lyrics (2006) again with Ashley Walters and Wild Target (2010) starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint, culminating in a role in last year’s Kick Ass 2.

One would think that with roles in big Hollywood productions that Alexis has been jetting back and forth to the states, but surprisingly all of those movies were filmed in the UK.
“You get the right lighting, throw in a yellow taxi, and ‘bang’ – you’re in New York!  But the healthy thing is that when I do go over to the States, they can see that I’ve got a lot of U.S. credits on my C.V.”
The part in Kick Ass 2 led to a supporting role in one of this summer’s blockbusters – Guardians of the Galaxy, as archetypal space villain Moloka Dar, starring alongside Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana.
“I didn’t think I did that well in the casting meeting, but you never know what people are looking for.”
And his next role is in yet another action blockbuster – this time in the Ridley Scott adaptation of the popular console game Halo.  Infact, in stark contrast to those barren years, he’s now looking forward to taking a holiday, as he’s being working back to back for the past year.

It just goes to show that sometimes, the best meal you can eat is some humble pie.

Guardians of the Galaxy is released on Friday August 1st

Halo is scheduled for release in 2015

You can follow Alexis on twitter @AlexisRodney
You can folllow Femi Oguns (MBE) on twitter @MrFemiOguns

Lee Pinkerton

 

 

Forthcoming Musical Biopics

written by Lee Pinkerton
25/07/14

If you like biographical films about your musical heroes as much as we do here at KushFilmsOnLine, then you’re in for a treat over the next few months. There is not one, or two, but three lined up for release before the end of the year, and three more in production which should hopefully find their way to us next year.

First to get a UK release is a documentary on the controversial inventor of Afro-beat –  Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

finding_fela_poster_art_pFinding Fela 
There have been literally dozens of documentaries on Jamaica’s reggae ambassador, but virtually nothing on his Nigerian equivalent –Fela Kuti the creator of Afro-beat. A film on this great man’s life is long overdue, especially since the young musical offspring of his creation has enjoyed such success of late.
Whilst drumming up support for his new Broadway musical, FELA! producer Stephen Hendel described Nigerian Afrobeat exponent Kuti as “without question one of the great composers and musicians and activists of the second half of the 20th century.”
Alex Gibney’s Finding Fela  is described as “A soulful ‘Felabration’ of the magnetic Kuti, with archive footage of the snake-hipped lothario interspersed with  live recording of the hugely successful FELA!, the first Broadway show to ever make the journey from New York to the bustling Nigerian capital city of Lagos.”
Gibney’s Finding Fela serves as a long overdue reassessment of a hugely influential artist who – until relatively recently – had been criminally overlooked by those outside of his home nation. The filmmakers have tried to provide as rounded and comprehensive a portrait of the Afrobeat pioneer as was possible given the relatively sparse archive footage available. Gibney flits between Hendel’s simplified stage production and Kuti’s real-life political persona: a man who taught his country that music could be their weapon against oppression.

Finding Fela enjoys a UK release on September 5th.  Look out for it

 

Get On Up get_on_up_large poster
Another musical pioneer who career has been strangely neglected on-screen, given his great musical influence and his iconic status is the ‘Hardest Working man in Showbusiness’, James Brown.  That is set to change with the release this year of Get On Up.  It chronicles the Godfather of Soul’s rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.
Chadwick Boseman stars in the title role, and Boseman has form when it comes to bio-pics, having previously played Jackie Robinson in movie 42, (which told the story of the first Black man in to play baseball in America major leagues). It also stars Oscar winner Viola Davis as Susie Brown, Octavia Spencer (who we recently saw in the powerful true story  Fruitvale Station), songstress Jill Scott as DeeDee Brown, and our very own Lennie James as Joe Brown.
If this movie is true to his life story then it should provide a bumpy ride, because as well as creating Funk, dining with Presidents, and (at his peak) owning private jets, a radio station and a record label, Brown’s life was peppered with accusations of wife-beating, drug abuse and imprisonment.

Not long now till we find out, as Get On Up is released in the UK on September 26th

Jimi: All Is By My SideAll-is-by-my-side-movie-poster-295x441
This film stars rapper-turned-actor Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000 from rap group Outkast) in the title role of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix in this revealing biopic from Academy Award-winning writer-director John Ridley.
Covering a year in Hendrix’s life from 1966-67 as an unknown backup guitarist playing New York’s Cheetah Club to making his mark in London’s music scene up until his Monterey Pop triumph, the film presents an intimate portrait of the sensitive young musician on the verge of becoming a rock legend.
Benjamin’s previous acting credits include Be Cool, (the disappointing sequel to Get Shorty), and Four Brothers alongside Mark Walberg and Tyrese.  All Is By My Side  is also noteable as it was written and directed by John Ridley who wrote the screenplays for the films Undercover Brother (2002) and Cold Around the Heart (1997) and the story for Three Kings (1999). Ridley is also the author of seven published novels, his first, Stray Dogs, was made into the feature film U Turn (1997) directed by Oliver Stone and starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, and Nick Nolte. Most recently he was also responsible for the screenplay for the Oscar winning 12 Years A Slave.
All is By My Side is slated for release in the UK on October 10th

That takes us up until the end of the year.  The next three movies have yet to have release dates and two are mired in controversy.

 

Nina!

Revealed - Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Revealed – Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Nina! is the story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson. It is described as ‘a  rare and poignant love story about a tormented genius who eventually finds love and peace’.
In development for at least 5 years, Mary J. Blige was initially attached to star in the film, but she was eventually replaced by Zoe Saldana who brought more international box office gravitas to the production.
But fans weren’t too pleased at news of Saldana’s casting. While her acting may not be an issue, fans and critics say she doesn’t look the part noting her thin frame and fair skin. 
The one constant actor throughout the ordeal is our own David Oyelowo, who plays Simone’s Paris-based manager Clifton HendersonMike Epps plays Richard Pryor in the film.
During a recent interview Saldana discussed the role and took the time to respond to her critics.
” I’m human. I wish I was made of steel and so certain things wouldn’t affect me. So it did affect me, but I couldn’t let that deter me from doing what I needed to do.
Just like everybody else, I feel very strongly about Nina Simone, and that was a story that needed to be told. I do believe that if everybody had more information about how this all came to be, it might help; but then again, I’m not here to get the acceptance of everyone — I’m here to be an artist first. Hopefully, people will enjoy the film and I helped shed some light on this amazing icon.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Saldana’s role isn’t the only thing causing a stir with the film.  Cynthia Mort, the director of the film, filed a lawsuit against the film’s producer claiming she was left out of certain key decisions.  Mort says as a result, she is not pleased with the direction of the film.  She is seeking monetary damages as well as “a declaration that the defendants can’t make decisions without her meaningful approval and consultation.”
No word yet on when the film will be released.

 

NWA – Straight Outta Compton

Unveiled by Dr. Dre, Ice Cube & director F. Gary Gray  - three of the cast members of NWA bio-pic

Unveiled by Dr. Dre & Ice Cube – three of the cast members of NWA bio-pic

Any true fan of hip-hop knows the importance of the group NWA.  With their 1988 debut album they put the West Coast of the US on the hip-hop map, and helped define the sub-genre of Gangsta Rap. Last month, Universal announced that Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about the gangsta rap pioneers, will finally get a release date after years in development. Is also worth noting that some 25 years later, two of the groups original members are still major players in the film and music industry.  The men in question, Ice Cube and Dr Dre, who are also producers of the film, tweeted out a photo of the cast.

Since director F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off, The Italian Job) held an open casting call for the film last April, the roles of Ice Cube, Dr Dre and Eazy-E have been cast, mostly with up and coming actors.  Ice Cube’s son, is slated to play his dad, who left the group in 1989 and went on to have an impressive solo career. Relative unknown Jason Mitchell will play role of Eazy-E. Corey Hawkins, who had a bit part in Iron Man 3, will play rapper-turned-headphone-impresario Dr Dre. (The roles of MC Ren and DJ Yella have not yet been cast.)
But this month, the casting of female roles caused major controversy.  A casting call for the movie was posted on the Facebook page of the Sande Alessi Casting company requesting the “hottest of the hottest” girls with “great bodies,” to the “fine” girls who “should be light-skinned,” right down to the girls who are “not in good shape” with “medium to dark skin tone,”
Understandably this request was met with accusations of  colorism and sexism.  Hopefully the production team can put this right, and get filming back on track in time for its scheduled release next year.

 

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis

Miles Ahead
And last but by no means least, filming has just started on a picture that will tell the story of jazz legend Miles Davis. Miles Ahead doesn’t attempt to tell his whole life story, but instead will focus on the time when Davis was ending his 5-year “quiet period” out of the public eye. Most of the movie is set in 1979 New York, when Davis recruits reporter Dave Brill (played by Ewan McGregor) to retrieve a recording stolen from the musician’s home.  It will also feature flashbacks to Davis’s affair with former wife Frances Taylor from 1956 to 1966.

It is a very personal project for Don Cheadle who directs and stars in the title role, and co-wrote the script. It is Cheadle’s directorial debut.  Shooting has just started in Cincinnati, and was years in development due to difficulty raising the finance. Cheadle eventually turned to crowd funding, raising over $343,000 with a campaign on Indiegogo.

No idea when this will get a release, but in the meantime let’s look forward to the release Finding Fela in September.

Lee Pinkerton

 

Profile of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

written by Lee Pinkerton
23/07/14

The Rock portraitHe used to be known as ‘The Rock’, but nowadays he prefers to be known by the name that his mama gave him.  Whatever you call him, its clear that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a now a major movie star.  The Forbes List of Hollywood’s top-earning actors placed him at number 2,  having earned an estimated $52 million (£30m) in the past year, mainly thanks to his work in the Fast and Furious franchise. That places him ahead of Leonardo Di Caprio, Christian Bale and Will Smith, coming second only to Robert Downey Jr.

So how did a former WWF wrestler become such a major Hollywood player?

His biography is interesting right from the start.  Dwayne Douglas Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to Rocky Johnson and Ata Johnson. His father was one of the Black Nova Scotians –  people of African American descent whose ancestors fled Colonial America as slaves or freemen, and later settled in Nova Scotia, Canada during the 18th and early 19th centuries.   His mother, Ata, was a descendant of a Samoan chief.  (That tattoo on his chest and arm that you sometimes see in pictures, but which is usually obscured for his movie roles, is a partial Samoan pe’a tattoo).

During his high school years, Dwayne played American football and received a full scholarship from the University of Miami where he had success as a football player, but in 1995, suffered a back injury which cost him a place in the NFL. He then signed a 3 year deal with the Canadian League but left after a year to pursue a career in wrestling, which was virtually the family business.
the rock - wrestlerHis father and grandfather, and several of Johnson’s other relatives were professional wrestlers, including his uncles, Afa and Sika Anoaʻi who performed as a tag-team called the The Wild Samoans.  His maternal grandmother, Lia Maivia, was one of wrestling’s few female professional promoters, taking over Polynesian Pacific Pro Wrestling after her husband’s death in 1982.

Johnson made his WWF debut in 1996 as Rocky Maivia, – a combination of his father and grandfather’s ring names. He went on to become one of the major acts of the wrestling scene, and the success of Johnson’s wrestling character allowed him to cross over into mainstream pop culture. He appeared on Wyclef Jean’s 2000 single “It Doesn’t Matter” and in its music video. In 2000, he hosted Saturday Night Live and Johnson has stated the success of that episode is the reason he began receiving offers from Hollywood studios. He had guest roles on Star Trek: Voyager, as an alien wrestler that uses The Rock’s famous moves, and on That ’70s Show, as his father, Rocky Johnson.

scorpion kingJohnson’s motion picture debut was a brief appearance as The Scorpion King in the opening sequence of The Mummy Returns, and that movie’s financial success led to his first leading role, in the sequel The Scorpion King.  He was listed in the 2007 Guinness World Records as the highest-paid actor in his first starring role, receiving US$5.5 million for this movie.  After that Johnson split his time between the wrestling ring and the big screen.

 

fast 5In 2011, he appeared in the fifth film of The Fast and the Furious film series, Fast Five, as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security Service agent assigned to hunt down the series’ protagonists. Johnson landed the role after series star Vin Diesel read comments and feedback from fans who wanted to see Diesel and Johnson in a movie together.  Fast Five grossed over $86 million in its opening weekend, the biggest opening for a Fast & Furious film, the biggest opening for an April release, and the biggest opening for a Johnson movie.

This summer Johnson stars as Hercules the powerful son of the god king Zeus. In the movie, having endured his legendary twelve labours, Hercules, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord. It looks set to be one of the biggest hits of a blockbuster summer.

Dwayne-Johnson-Hercules

After achieving success in the field of sports, being followed by success in action movies, Johnson’s career is reminiscent of the ‘Austrian Oak’ Arnold Schwarzenegger.  How long, we wonder, before he tries his hand at politics?  Watch this space.

Hercules is released in cinemas on July 25th.

 

Lee Pinkerton