Category Archives: Film

Beyond the Lights Premiere’s at 2014 Chicago International Film Festival

bythewoodDirector Gina Prince-Bythewood (pictured left) gives movie goers a look behind the flashing lights of fame with her latest project Beyond the Lights.

Bythewood wrote and directed this film that tells the story of music’s next big star Noni, a bi-racial young women raised by a single mother, who has the voice of an angel. On the verge of succumbing to the pressures of her stardom, Noni meets someone that helps her see who she is and helps her find her true voice.

The film screened during this year’s Chicago International Film and writer, director Bythewood was on hand to discuss how the film came to light in 2007 when she started writing it. Bythewood said Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland served as her inspiration for Noni and the film. She said the messages she hopes people take from the film are to choose life and be true to your002self. The film stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) as Noni, Nate Parker (The Secret Life of Bees), Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), and Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon).  Beyond the Lights hits theaters on November 14th, 2014.

Photos by Dan Locke

Racial Satire “Dear White People” Hits Theaters This Fall

DWP-Sam GroupDEAR WHITE PEOPLE follows the stories of four black students at Winchester University, where a riot breaks out over a popular ‘African American’ themed party thrown by a white fraternity. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in ‘post-racial’ America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.

Dear White People stars rising talents Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris,” Peeples), Tessa Thompson (For Colored Girls, “Veronica Mars”), Teyonah Parris (“Mad Men,” They Came Together), Brandon P. Bell (“Hollywood Heights”), Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street, CBGB), Malcolm Barrett (The Hurt Locker), Brittany Curran (“Chicago Fire”), Marque Richardson (“The Newsroom”) and Dennis Haysbert (“24,” Far From Heaven). Dear White People hits theaters October 17th.

For more information, visit


“12 Years a Slave” Director Steve McQueen, And Actress Lupita Nyong’o To Be Honored At The Hollywood Film Awards

lupita-steve-mcqueenCarlos de Abreu, founder and executive producer of the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards, announce that Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” director, Steve McQueen will be honored with the “Hollywood Breakout Director Award,” and actress Lupita Nyong’o will receive the “New Hollywood Award” for her great performance. The awards will be bestowed at the Hollywood Film Awards Gala Ceremony on Monday evening, October 21, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“We look forward to celebrating this exceptionally talented director and actress for their outstanding work and creative vision,” said de Abreu.

Steve McQueen is a British artist and filmmaker. In 2008, McQueen’s critically acclaimed first feature HUNGER won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival among countless other international prizes.  He followed with 2011’s incendiary film experience, SHAME, a provocative drama about addiction and secrecy in the modern world.   The film received numerous accolades and awards with McQueen winning the CinemAvvenire Award and FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival as well as nominations from BAFTA, the British Independent Film Awards, the London Film Festival, Evening Standard British Film Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.

In 1996, McQueen was the recipient of an ICA Futures Award, in 1998 he won a DAAD artist’s scholarship to Berlin and in 1999 – besides exhibiting at the ICA and at the Kunsthalle in Zürich – he also won the Turner Prize.  McQueen has exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Documenta (2002 and 2007) and at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009 where he represented Britain.  His work is held in museum collections around the world including Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou.

In 2003, he was appointed Official War Artist for the Iraq war by the Imperial War Museum and subsequently produced the poignant and controversial project Queen and Country, which commemorated the deaths of British soldiers who died in the Iraq War by presenting their portraits as a sheet of stamps.  In 2002, he was awarded the OBE and the CBE in 2011.

Born in London in 1969, McQueen lives and works in Amsterdam and London.

This winter, Lupita Nyong’o will co-star alongside Liam Neeson, Michelle Dockery and Julianne Moore in the thriller NON-STOP. This film is slated for a February 28, 2014 release by Universal Pictures.

The Kenyan actress is also a filmmaker, having served as the creator, director, editor, and producer of the award-winning feature-length documentary, IN MY GENES. The documentary follows eight individual Kenyans who have one thing in common: they were born with albinism, a genetic condition that causes a lack of pigmentation. In many parts of Africa, including Kenya, it is a condition that marginalizes, stigmatizes, and even endangers those who have it. Though highly visible in a society that is predominantly black, the reality of living with albinism is invisible to most. Through her intimate portraits, Nyong’o enables us see their challenges, humanity, and everyday triumphs.

A graduate of the Yale School of Drama’s acting program, Nyong’o’s stage credits include playing ‘Perdita’ in The Winter’s Tale (Yale Repertory Theater), ‘Sonya’ in Uncle Vanya, ‘Katherine’ in The Taming of the Shrew, as well as being in the original production of Michael Mitnick’s Elijah.

12 YEARS A SLAVE has won over audiences and critics alike at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals, as well as received the “People’s Choice Audience Award” at Toronto this year. The film is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom.  In the pre-Civil War United States,Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.  Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.  In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) forever alters his life.

In Memoriam: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

ebert UnRated Urban joins the film community and world in expressing sorrow of the death of film critic Roger Ebert. Chaz Ebert issued the following statement Thursday about the passing of her husband, Roger Ebert, a day after he celebrated 46 years as a film critic: “I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger — my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I’ve lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.

“Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were “the best things in my life.” He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life.

“We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition. “We are touched by all the kindness and the outpouring of love we’ve received. And I want to echo what Roger said in his last blog, thank you for going on this journey with us.”

The American Film Institute also issued a statement: “Roger Ebert championed the art of the moving image,” said AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale, “and by the courage of his personal example demonstrated how much movies matter.”

Ebert chaired the AFI AWARDS jury of critics, filmmakers and scholars who selected the year’s 10 best films in 2004.  “He held the gavel that day with the same enthusiasm for excellence that made his voice a force in American popular culture,” said Gazzale.

Ebert wrote BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970) for director Russ Meyer and then made his mark as a national critic on television with SNEAK PREVIEWS and AT THE MOVIES, often sharing the screen with Gene Siskel or other film critics and offering a thumbs-up or down assessment of both major studio releases and smaller independent films.  He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975.  In recent years, he inspired the film community by continuing to review films on his blog in spite of his courageous fight against cancer.

On behalf of all of us who love the movies – thumbs up, Roger – for a life well lived and our heart-felt thanks for all the gifts you will continue to give us as time goes by,” said Gazzale.

Photo from Roger Ebert website



Venting May Be Good For The Soul!

By Wendy Simmons

The one man show,”Wendell Tucker Hates the World, written by and starring Wendell Tucker is a hilarious yet intensely deep account of one man’s battle between the world and his sanity.

Tucker, also of the hip hop tribute “I Still Love Her”, once again produces an eye opening hard hitting punch to your psyche. In this rant of a play, Tucker discusses everything from love to the killing of Trayvon Martin, the economy, as well as his deep bout with depression. The recollection of his depression is what draws you into this man’s mind and helps you to understand why he may “hate the world”. This is an extremely well flowing, well transitioning way to hear how one person can see his surroundings and the massive amount of current events that are encompassing you daily.

But it’s not all about complaining and bashing…he offers and encourages suggestions on how to make this world better. It’s not for kids but it may give you ideas of what you should discuss with children afterward. Hurry and check out Wendell Tucker-Hates The World at the Provision Theater. Definitely worth the time and will spark conversations that you can take to the bar.

I give this $$$


40 Acres & A Mule Announce Theatrical Release of Spike Lee’s ‘Red Hook Summer’

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks announced yesterday that the company will undertake its first independent distribution effort with founder Spike Lee‘s Brooklyn coming-of-age story, Red Hook Summer. 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks will partner with New York-based Variance Films for the theatrical release, which will begin August 10th, 2012 in New York City theaters, expanding to the top 30 markets throughout the month of August.

“From my very first joint back in 1986, SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, I have been an independent filmmaker, and even today I still am,” said Spike Lee. “I’m elated to join forces with Variance Films for the independent distribution of my new joint Red Hook Summer. We look forward to getting this film into the marketplace, where we believe 100 percent that there is a starving audience for American independent films like Red Hook Summer.”   

The latest in Spike Lee’s “Chronicles of Brooklyn” (which also include She’s Gotta Have It, Do The Right Thing, Crooklyn, Clockers, and He Got Game), Red Hook Summer tells the story of Flik Royale, a sullen young boy from middle-class Atlanta who has come to spend the summer with his deeply religious grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse, in the housing projects of Red Hook. Having never met before, things quickly get off on the wrong foot as Bishop Enoch relentlessly attempts to convert Flik into a follower of Jesus Christ. Between his grandfather’s constant preaching and the culture shock of inner-city life, Flik’s summer appears to be a total disaster–until he meets Chazz Morningstar, a pretty girl his age, who shows Flik the brighter side of Brooklyn. Through her love and the love of his grandfather, Flik begins to realize that the world is a lot bigger, and perhaps a lot better, than he’d ever imagined.

For more information on the film, visit

Movie Trailer – BAD ASS (hits theaters April 13, 2012)

Decorated Vietnam hero Frank Vega returns home only to get shunned by society leaving him without a job or his high school sweetheart. It’s not until forty years later when an incident on a commuter bus (where he protects an elderly black man from a pair of skin heads) makes him a local hero where he’s suddenly celebrated once again. But his good fortune suddenly turns for the worse when his best friend Klondike is murdered and the police aren’t doing anything about it.

Bad Ass is directed by Craig Moss and stars Danny Trejo, Charles S. Dutton and Ron Perlman. Bad Ass hits theaters on April 13, 2012. Check out more info at

DVD Review: The Mortician

DVD Release: February 14, 2012

Review by James Klein

Wow, talk about false advertisement. The Mortician is promoted and packaged like this is a horror film. Far from it. Much like films such as Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society, this urban drama tries to be a life story about a lonely man helping a down on their luck family by getting away from an evil street gangster. While the previous films I mentioned worked due to the talent behind the camera and also in budget, The Mortician lacks the same heart and drama due to its extremely low budget and an oddly all British crew (shown in the making of featurette on the DVD) who just don’t seem to know what exactly makes an urban drama click.

The Mortician is about…well, a mortician. Played by Method Man, the mortician is a lonely, quiet, nerdy man who lives alone in a small apartment where he does taxidermy on the side and his only contact with anyone is when he goes to take refugee at a local hooker’s apartment. You know, the movie hooker whose beautiful and has a heart of goal. Even though the film is set in a real nasty crime filled area, the hooker is drop dead gorgeous and is always kind to her (Method) man.

While street crime and filth fill the streets, the mortician is busy fixing up all the dead bodies that come his way. When a beautiful young woman pulled from the canal is given to him, her young son tries to get in to see his dead mother but the mortician chases him away. When the boy’s ex-con uncle begins to work for the mortician, we find out that there is more to this dead body that is lead to believe. While the mortician sees much of himself in this young boy, he finally takes it upon himself to save the boy from this life of crime and help him find closure for his mother’s death.

I will say I expected The Mortician to be this silly over the top horror film and was glad to find a decent if not muddled story about a lonesome man with a dark past helping a young boy confront his. Method Man plays the mortician perfectly and shows great depth as an actor. The rest of the cast is fine although very mis-cast, especially Dash Mihok as Carver, the deadly gang member who is out to kill the boy but just looks like a skinny Irish hoodlum and Edward Furlong in a small, thankless role as the mortician’s supervisor. The cast just seems to “Hollywood” to me. They act fine but I never believed any of them would be criminals or poverty stricken inner-city folk. Even the setting looked too phony to me, as if the film makers were on the set of Death Wish 3 or Escape From New York. I just didn’t buy it. Maybe it was because of the budget. However, this film was shot in 3-D for God knows what reason. Is this the first drama shot in 3-D?

While the story is interesting, the pacing is very slow. At the 40 minute mark nothing had happened in this movie aside from the young woman’s death. I don’t mind character build up but let’s get a move on. At 89 minutes, the movie just dragged. It didn’t help that some of the music for the film seemed so made for TV-ish and was just too melodramatic and over the top. I do appreciate what the film makers tried to do but they end up making a forgettable film with good intentions.

Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day in theaters April 13

Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On the 7th Day is the second project in T.D. Jakes’ eponymous “Woman Thou Art Loosed!” franchise. The film will be released on April 13, 2012 in select AMC independent™ locations nationwide.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Neema Barnette, Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day tells a story of secrets, lies and deception.

In this dramatic thriller, shot on location in New Orleans, a husband (Underwood) and wife (Leal) find themselves in the midst of a crisis after their young daughter is kidnapped. The couple must race against time to find their child, who is believed to have been abducted by a serial killer that symbolically murders his victims ‘On the 7th Day.’ During their desperate search, a series of deep, dark, damaging secrets unveil a troubling past, putting the marriage and their futures in jeopardy.

The use of the number seven in the title is metaphorical, and symbolizes the timeline within the film by which the protagonists must resolve the mystery of their daughter’s abduction or face dire, unimaginable consequences.

For information on the film, visit

Film Review: The Grey

By Sommer Thornton

Liam Neeson (Taken) comes out the gate in 2012 in director Joe Carnahan’s new survival drama, “The Grey.” Liam Neeson stars as John, a brawny member of an Alaska oil drilling team, who is so plagued by his wife’s death he’s near suicide. But John and his crew soon meet immeasurable disaster when their plane crashes in the arctic. The survivors soon learn that in no man’s land, they are governed only by the laws of the wild, and John emerges as the “alpha”. The men must seek shelter, hunt, and evade multiple packs of wolves, whose territory they’ve invaded.

It wasn’t just the dense Alaskan landscape, but the compelling point of view shots of the plane crash and of the survivors in their most perilous moments that puts the viewer in the axis of terror. For some reason, John is never a pretentious hero. Yet he risks his life to save as many of his comrades as he can- probably because he understood that in the wild, there is survival in numbers. As the numbers of his crew dwindle John goes from survival to hero, to cursing God- and begging to be saved.

Liam Neeson is the usual valiant character with a heart, as he was in many of his earlier films. What makes this film worth seeing isn’t the “happy ending”. It’s truly the work of the editor, sound designer, and the cinematographer that make this movie great. At every moment the reverberating growl of the menacing wolves atop the sound of John and the men’s feet crunching backward in the snow mixed with the crackle of the fire immerses the viewer in the wild arctic tundra. I say, go see this movie and think happy thoughts after. The Grey comes out nationwide in theaters January 27, 2012.