Category: Movies/Film News

An Interview With the Stars of If Beale Street Could Talk

Stephan James and KiKi Layne play Fonny and Tish, two young lovers torn apart by Fonny’s false arrest, just as Tish finds out she’s pregnant. The film jumps through narratives, and we watch their love bloom at the same time we watch Tish’s family come together to face the terrible odds of getting Fonny free.

Nothing in If Beale Street Could Talk is new. Black love isn’t new. White cops wielding their power against marginalized populations isn’t new. Finding strength in vulnerability isn’t new. The many injustices of our justice system aren’t new. James Baldwin published If Beale Street Could Talk in 1974, and yet the combination of all these experiences—the love and the pain—manages to feel new in the hands of Moonlight director Barry Jenkins.

This isn’t James’s first time in a film that deals with such powerful themes. At 25, he’s already played icons Jesse Owens and John Lewis. But this is Layne’s first feature film, and next year she’ll be starring in another adaptation of a seminal work, Richard Wright’s Native Son. The two spoke about the beauty and urgency of Baldwin’s work, how Jenkins translated that to film, and how unfortunately timely and rare the film’s message is.

GQ: Before this, what was your relationship to James Baldwin’s work?

Stephan James: I had read The Fire Next Time a long time ago. I think I was more familiar with James as an activist, as a poet, but not necessarily his writing work. After I read the Beale Street screenplay for the first time, I went back and read the novel.

KiKi Layne: I hadn’t read any of his novels prior to this. I had just been familiar with all the different interviews and speeches he’d given. Beale Street was the first novel that I actually read, and I read it in preparation for my chemistry read. Since then I’ve read so much more. I mean, he’s definitely one of those authors you read one thing, and then you read everything.

What drew you to this movie? Was it just Baldwin’s story?

Layne: I just love that [Tish is] so vulnerable, and just all this love that’s around her. I thought that was so beautiful, how much Tish and Fonny love each other. I just felt like I hadn’t seen love like that for black people, where like you see these two young black people who are soul mates. That really drew me in, but then at the same time, because it’s James Baldwin, the way that he writes and speaks about all of these different injustices, and how beautifully all of that is interwoven with this really lovely love story… It’s amazing to me, the ability to speak about these really painful things but then still be so uplifted and invested in their love. I don’t know, I just think it’s so powerful how Baldwin and Barry, bringing it to film, were able to communicate these two stories in a way.

James: It was, for me, the prospect of working with James Baldwin and with Barry Jenkins, you know, that marriage. The both of them remind me of each other in a way, where they have this beautiful way of describing love and having an abundance of love amidst tragedy, and do it in such a poetic way. So the prospect of working with them, of working with Regina [King, who plays Tish’s mother], it was on, and it was something that was so important, something that I felt was so timely. I looked at Fonny and the ordeal he was going through, and right before finding out about this script I had learned about the Kalief Browder story. For me it was this full-circle moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, James Baldwin had written these words in 1974, but they mean so much now. They probably mean even more now.” I took it on almost like a responsibility to be the vessel to tell this type of story.

The story is unfortunately resonant almost 50 years after it was written. Why do you think now was the right time to tell it again?

James: James Baldwin has a way of describing our struggle and what we have always resorted to [in order] to get through those moments. Love is the biggest thing, right? Love and hope is how we’ve made it through the most tumultuous times, specifically for the African-American experience. You look at a system that has been made to protect you but has failed us time and time again. You have young men who are really having their innocence taken away from them before they get to realize who they even are as people. To me, just that timeliness and timelessness of the story struck me as important.

Layne: I think with social media, people are more aware of these injustices and have more stories and personal experiences and images that are related to a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with in the film. I think that helps to make it more powerful in this time, where you’re watching Fonny and you’re not just thinking about Fonny. You have all of these other images and men and stories that you could think about that are similar to what he is experiencing in the film. I think that’s what makes it really powerful this time, because I think it can be a lot more personal for many more audience members.

Exclusive: Watch Sparks Fly Between Omari Hardwick and Tika Sumpter In New Clip From ‘Nobody’s Fool’

Shadow and Act has an exclusive clip from the upcoming film from Tyler Perry, Nobody’s Fool.

The clip features an interaction between Frank (Omari Hardwick) and Danica (Tika Sumpter).

Here’s the film’s official description: Trying to get back on her feet, wild child Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) looks to her buttoned-up, by the book sister Danica (Sumpter) to help her get back on track. As these polar opposites collide — with hilarious and sometimes disastrous results — Tanya discovers that Danica’s picture-perfect life — including her mysterious boyfriend — may not be what it seems. 

Mehcad Brooks and Amber Riley also star.

The film is in theaters November 2.

Watch the clip below:

The Eminem-produced satire Bodied knows every dis you’ll have and gets there first

bodied

Joseph Kahn’s new satirical comedy, Bodied, is the “more of a comment than a question” movie about race, privilege, and verse of 2018. If Blindspotting had too much narrative cohesion and nuance for you, try Bodied, which riddles its audience with dialogue and ideas at such a rapid-fire pace that none of them ever make any direct or purposeful hits. The film follows the intersecting storylines of Behn Grymm (Jackie Long), a champion battle rapper, and Adam (Calum Worthy), a prim, white grad student writing his thesis on Behn’s “bars,” i.e., the combo of language and phrasing of rap-battle verses. As it turns out, Adam’s a quick study on the subject, and soon becomes a natural battle rapper himself. But this threatens his newfound friendship with Behn and his romantic relationship with vegan feminist Maya (Rory Uphold). Think All About Eve, but with men and free-styling.

Kahn, who began his career as a music video director, has never abandoned the slick, quick-cutting style that landed him jobs for Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Eminem, the latter serving as producer on this film. As a result of that style, the film becomes, at times, tiresome and annoying, when Kahn constantly whip-pans and zooms into close-ups. Not that these irksome quirks diminish the vibrancy of each individual rap battle Kahn portrays.

The script is penned by Alex Larsen (a.k.a. Kid Twist), a rap battle legend himself, whose own origin story as a self-professed nerdy white Canadian seems to be the inspiration behind Adam. The verses are wildly cerebral and complex but also base, marrying highbrow with the low. Larsen uses them to interrogate the lexicon of rap, trying to offer reasoning for why a smart, thoughtful person might also incorporate slurs against gay, black, Asian, and trans people into their verses, even if they wouldn’t use those words outside of a rap battle. Adam serves as the conduit for these reasonings and justifications, with his character’s inner dialogue in voice-over running through the pros and cons of every word: Is this sexist? Should I make a joke about Asians eating dogs? Is it too racist? Just racist enough? But Adam finds that it’s exactly those exaggerated insults that win crowd satisfaction and therefore the rap battle. And winning the battle becomes everything to Adam.

Much attention will likely be paid to Worthy and his performance as a walking dictionary who develops the bravado of a billionaire tech mogul. He’s quite convincing as a battle rapper, all the right words forming organically on his lips. But don’t forget Long, who’s expressive but grounded as Behn, anchoring this film in the kind of humanity that Adam lacks. It would have been satisfying to see more of this story through Behn’s eyes, but what the script fails to provide the character, Long fills in with his performance.

Larsen’s screenplay fascinatingly insulates itself from criticism, mostly by offering up the criticism first. Want to ask why most of the women in this film are bitches? Larsen’s already on it, by having one female character explain to another one that it’s not about being a woman—it’s about being a battle rapper. Want to point out that using offensive slurs, even in the context of a rap battle, doesn’t negate that they are offensive? Well, the script covers that, too, with Behn explaining that it’s the intent behind your words, the brazenness of crossing a line, that’s what actually hurts. As in the real world, there’s no easy path toward living the ultimate ethical life, and so justifications must be made to cope. Adam becomes a fountain of justifications as he grows ever more maniacal, his brain whirring with comebacks that feel good for him to say. He’s essentially addicted to crafting barbed bars to outwit his opponents. That’s his power.

Kahn and Larsen have a tendency to over-intellectualize their ideas. It’s like watching a self-defense mechanism work in real-time, and at lightning speed. And that in itself is impressive, even if it prevents the filmmakers from reaching any meaningful conclusions because it accurately presents the mental gymnastics a progressive person might engage in to justify their choices or wade through rigid social rules. Simultaneously entertaining, overwhelming, compelling, and grating, Bodied raises its hand and talks until words mean nothing and everything.

Fall Movie Guide: 33 Superhero, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy Movies to Look Out For

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 4.35.31 AMIt’s that time of year. The weather gets cooler, the leaves start to change, and movie releases get just a little more adult. At least, in theory. We’ve rounded up all the movies io9 readers will want to keep an eye out for through the end of the year.

This fall, awards season blends with genre in a bunch of unique ways thanks to filmmakers like Robert Zemeckis, Damien Chazelle, and Luca Guadagnino. Then there are the usual holiday blockbusters as well as lots of small and interesting horror movies, different takes on the superhero genre, unexpected sequels, spin-offs, and more. Here’s all the eclectic sci-fi, horror, and fantasy films coming to theaters (and streaming) in the next few months.

READ MORE: https://io9.gizmodo.com/fall-movie-guide-33-superhero-sci-fi-and-fantasy-mov-1828313859

In a statement for People, Whitney Houston’s mother said that learning about the claims of her daughter’s abuse were “overwhelming and unfathomable.”

Screen Shot 2018-07-14 at 8.08.50 AMWhitney Houston’s mother says allegations that her superstar daughter and her son were molested by her niece are “unfathomable.”

In a statement to People magazine on behalf of herself and sister singer Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston revealed they first learned of the claims two days before the documentary Whitney premiered in May.

In the film, Whitney Houston’s longtime assistant said the singer told her that cousin Dee Dee Warwick molested her as a child and Whitney’s oldest brother also made the same claim.

In the statement, Cissy Houston says Dee Dee Warwick may have had her “personal challenges,” but the idea that she would have molested her children is “overwhelming and unfathomable.”

Dee Dee Warwick died in 2008. Whitney Houston died in 2012.

Read More: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-whitney-houston-fred-rogers-ruth-bader-ginsburg-fuel-documentary-boom-1125567

July/August Cover Issue Exclusive: ‘Queen Sugar’s’ Vibrant Legacy

Arguably, Hollywood is becoming more diverse, but we still have a long way to go. When it comes to depicting African-American stories authentically, there’s still a bit of a gap between perception and reality. The OWN-housed television series not only contributes to bridging that gap but offers a refreshingly authentic look at BlacQueenSugarcover-584x377k life in the Southand beyond. Last fall, when prolific filmmaker and series executive producer Ava DuVernay brought Natalie Baszile’s iconic 2014 novel of the same name to life, she presented viewers with a work of art filled with themes of love, strife, family, and legacy.

Over the course of its first season, the world was introduced to the Bordelon siblings. We met them along with their pain, their struggle and their desire to be meaningful contributors to the world. Most importantly, we were presented with characters that placed family above everything. In the midst of the entertainment, we also received a much-needed glimpse of Black America. “I pull from my experiences as a Black man in America and all my brothers,” Kofi Siriboe, who plays Ralph Angel on the series told EBONY. “I see Ralph Angel in everybody.” What Siriboe said was critical. He sees Ralph Angel in everybody. That identity …that intangible ability to see characters who possess the embodiment of what and who we are is what’s been missing in Hollywood all of this time. For this month’s cover, EBONY traveled to New Orleans to speak with some of the cast and crew of the iconic series. “That’s the thing I love about Nova; there hasn’t been a character quite like her,” Rutina Wesley, who plays Nova, the eldest Bordelon sibling states. “I love that she’s really pretty unusual, and I think she’s flawed and very human. I love that I never quite know where she’s going. And I also love that anything is possible with Nova.”

Like the typical African-American family, Nova isn’t the only one dealing with conflict. Here sister, Charley Bordelon West is constantly attempting to whether her own storm. “Charley’s strength is a little superheroic,” Dawn-Lyen Gardner, who plays the character said. “She is really one of the most resilient characters I [believe] I’ve ever played.” Each character is complex and multi-layered. Through them, DuVernay has managed to bring the intricacies of Black familial life to 21st-century television. From the characters to the gorgeous setting, every choice feels like a return home.