The Man in 3B

The Man In 3BRelease Date:  2015
Genre:  Drama/Mystery
Rating:  NR
Studio(s): Tri Destined Studios; Urban Books Media.
Running Time: 93 mins.
Director: Trey Haley
Cast:  Lamman Rucker (Darryl Graham), Christian Keyes (Slim), Brely Evans (Connie), D.B. Woodside (Detective Thomas), Nafessa Williams (Krystal), Kellita Smith (Detective Anderson), Anthony Montgomery (Avery), Billy Dee Williams (Cain), James Black (Ben), Robert Ri’chard (Benny), Jackée Harry (Miss Bertha), Trisha Mann (Nancy), Olivia Longott (Jerri), Marla Gibbs (Ms. Mamie).

Story:  The story follows Daryl Graham who has just moved into a Jamaica, Queens apartment building. His neighbors – male and female alike – can’t stop talking about him. He quickly becomes intertwined in each of the tenants’ lives and things seem to be going well, but when a murder happens in the building everyone becomes a prime suspect. The movie is based on the New York Times bestselling novel The Man In 3B by Carl Weber. Source(s): Monsters and Critics; PAFF.org.

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A Girl Like Grace

a-girl-like-graceRelease Date:  2015
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Runtime:  94 mins.
Studio(s):  Azro Media, Datari Turner Productions, Leverage Films
Director:  Ty Hodges

Cast:  Ryan Destiny (Grace), Meagan Good (Share), Raven-Symoné (Mary), Paige Hurd (Andrea), Garcelle Beauvais (Lisa), Blair Redford (Billy), Romeo Miller (Jason), Leticia Jimenez (Evelyn), Datari Turner (Jeffery).

Story:  Movie follows seventeen-year-old Grace (Ryan Destiny), who grows up in a dysfunctional home raised by her single mother (Garcelle Beauvais). Grace fights for acceptance in the world while being bullied at school by Mary (Raven Symone). Grace looks for guidance from her best friend Andrea (Paige Hurd) and becomes heavily influenced by Andrea’s older sister Share (Meagan Good). A Girl Like Grace spirals into a dark world of sex, rebellion and her idea of womanhood. Source: Official Facebook page.  Photo Source:  mattersofmyheart.com.

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Critics’ Connection: Blackbird

Blackbird

Synopsis:  Seventeen-year-old Randy tries very hard to be a good person. Since his father left, Randy takes care of his emotionally disturbed mother, and he’s the kind of friend all of his classmates can depend on. As strong as he seems on the outside, Randy is hiding a secret inner struggle and denial of his true self. It’s not until he opens himself up to love that he discovers that becoming a man means accepting who you really are.

Starring: Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington, Kevin Allesee, Gary L. Gray, Nikki Jane, Torrey Laamar, Terrell Tilford, D. Woods and introducing Julian Walker. Director: Patrik-Ian Polk. Writers: Rikki Beadle Blair, Patrik-Ian Polk.  Source:  Official site, blackbirdthemovie.com.

What the critics are saying about Blackbird:

The Washington Post:  Randy is a Southern choirboy who turns to a portrait of Jesus on his bedroom wall when times get tough. His friends make the distinction between a real sin and a “Randy sin,” because the teen — a virgin who doesn’t curse, drink or stir up trouble — sets such a high bar for appropriate behavior. There’s just one thing. Randy has been having erotic dreams about one of his male classmates. And, despite his prayers, Jesus isn’t making them go away. That’s the tricky dilemma at the center of Blackbird, Randy’s religion is at odds with his nature.

But that essential and important struggle is hardly the movie’s only conundrum — and that’s the melodrama’s biggest flaw. Anything that can go wrong, will — often in spectacular fashion.  Regardless, the heart of the movie is in the right place. And although some of the acting from the younger stars comes across as amateurish, a few performances truly shine, especially those of Oscar winner Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington, who play Randy’s mother and father. Mo’Nique, who also produced the movie with her husband, Sidney Hicks, proves her talent here, turning in a powerful performance as a heartbroken woman who has lost one child and emotionally abandoned the other.

But Washington is even stronger in his more understated role. He comes across as a macho guy, but in one sweet moment, he vows to love his son no matter what. It’s such a quiet, simple moment in a movie full of more overwrought ones, but it makes a lasting impression. Blackbird would have benefited from using that approach more, rather than saddling a compelling drama with so much extra baggage. Read the full review at The Washington Post.

Ion Cinema: The blatant underrepresentation of black gay characters in film, whatever letter they’re placed into on the inclusive LGBT spectrum, is simply not reason enough to appreciate the elemental contrivances of Patrik-Ian Polk’s Blackbird.

The title has been inadvertently thrown into a higher caliber pop culture zeitgeist thanks to its distinction as Mo’Nique’s first post-Oscar role since her 2009 win for Best Supporting Actress in Precious. Kudos to Mo’Nique’s portrayal of religious fanaticism as the mental illness it looks and sounds like, but unfortunately her Claire Rousseau devolves into the wrong kind of camp, another wacky, weird, abusive matriarchal figure. Isaiah Washington strikes a more appropriate figure as Randy’s liberal minded father. This portrait of southern, familial angst could have been more successful had we left behind several tangents, notably the kidnapping of Randy’s younger sister, which his mother cites is God’s punishment of the family for his gayness.

Some very talented younger performers struggle to overcome contrivance, such as actors playing Randy’s friends like Nicole Lovince and Gary LeRoi Gray (who might have made a better Randy). Newcomer Julian Walker’s performance often feels like we’re watching high school theater, and isn’t up to the task of portraying the subtleties needed for a conflicted character such as Randy.

The familiar floridness of Blackbird renders it both inarticulate and flimsy, especially if compared to recent fare like Dee Rees’ beautiful Pariah (2011).   Read the full review at ioncinema.com.

One Room With A View:  It would be difficult to find a more earnest film than Blackbird, which is forthright, incisive and often heart-meltingly sweet. It is precisely this earnestness that holds our interest during the thematically bloated story. Blackbird implements a melodramatic style – perhaps more appropriate to the stage – which maximizes the dramatic effects. Unfortunately the theatricality also strains the plausibility and, ultimately, impact of the tale.  Despite the various inconsistencies, this is a well-made, emotionally engaging and entertaining watch. Read the full review at oneroomwithaview.com.

Critics’ Connection: Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love Still

Photo Source: Blackfilm.com

Story:  Set in West Philadelphia, born-and-raised basketball star Sergio Taylor (Eric D. Hill, Jr.) deals with the early pressures of fame.  Alongside older brother June (Cory Hardrict), who lost his own hoop dreams to the streets to provide for the family after their father’s death, and sister Jackie (KeKe Palmer), whose own musical ambitions are sidetracked by love, Sergio faces life-altering decisions on the streets of Philly.  Starring:  Keke Palmer, Cory Hardrict, Romeo Miller, Eric D. Hill, Jr., Macy Gray, Quincy Brown, Faison Love, Malik Yoba.  Director:  Jamal Hill.  Writer:  Jamal Hill.  Source:  Official Facebook page.

What the critics are saying about Brotherly Love:

Black Film: In Jamal Hill’s coming-of-age urban drama, Brotherly Love, themes of love, family, and trust are executed in a well-mannered way that could have easily been dismissed as a hodgepodge of melodrama storylines.

With a cast that includes familiar faces and newcomers from Cory Hardrict, Keke Palmer, Eric D. Hill, Jr., Julito McCullum, Romeo Miller, Logan Browning, Quincy Brown, Faizon Love, Macy Gray, Justin Martin, Marc John Jefferies, Little JJ, Teyana Taylor and Malik Yoba, this ensemble film brings in enough elements from comedy to drama that it becomes a moving, enjoyable treat highlighted by surprising performances.

Set in West Philadelphia, there are two sides of the streets, “The Top” and “The Bottom.” Over at the Bottom, we’re introduced to the Taylor family, where big brother June (Hardrict) has been providing for the family, since the loss of their father, through illegal gains so that his younger brother and basketball star Sergio (Hill Jr.) can be the one that gets out the hood and be the star he was meant to be. Not only does he have to stay loyal to his brother, but he’s also facing pressure with from boys at school, on and off the court.

There’s also younger Jackie (Palmer) who’s going through that teenage adolescence when she meets up with Chris Collins (Brown), who’s has the looks and a car, and is the son of a record executive. He’s seems like the perfect guy, especially when he can arrange to help out with her music career, but there’s one issue. He’s from The Top, where there’s already beef with June and his crew from The Bottom.

With an alcoholic mom (Macy Gray) who may or may not be conscious half the time, Sergio has to find a way to survive in a community littered by pressure from him succeed, drugs and violence.

Produced and starring an African American cast and crew, Brotherly Love brings in similar themes that folks can relate to but at the same time has a universal appeal that many will appreciate. See the full review at Black Film.

Hello Beautiful: Word on the “Black cinema” streets is that Brotherly Love is the new Juice or Boyz N The Hood. Based on the trailer, the homage is clear with its cute homegirls, shady drug dealers and a dollar and a dream prototypes. The elements are there to make Brotherly Love a potential successor. But as much as you’ll want to laud Jamal Hill‘s passion project, it will not be iconic as the films before it. With hopes of a dual fanbase from the Instagram generation and original movie-goers of Menace II Society, the film transpires more as a tribute than a true slice of life as a Black youth in 2015.

Generally speaking, the acting is standard in Brotherly Love. There are minor heartfelt moments and one particular twist and shocker that will make any suspense screenwriter nod with approval. There isn’t much to criticize the script for aside from its familiar territory.

What Brotherly Love lacks, however, is that documentary-style sensibility that dominated those 90s classic. Films like Juice and Menace II Society effortlessly connected to the current events of its day and even the local lifestyle and jargon of New York City or South Central L.A. were included as supporting characteristics. John Singleton‘s Boyz N The Hood, an impressively-layered take on Black-on-Black crime and police brutality in South Central, arrived just four months after Rodney King was viciously beaten by four White policemen on an L.A. highway in 1991. Singleton wasn’t merely imitating life in his art. His film further analyzed it. And the timing was remarkable. Brotherly Love barely contributes anything new to the storytelling of inner-city life. To target this movie as the new generation’s Boyz, Juice, or Menace is unfair and places it in a space that’s already been so culturally and significantly defined.

Brotherly Love attempted to be the film of our current time frame of “Black Lives Matters.” But we are still in search or waiting for that one film so honest and unique to the life as a Black girl or boy in the 21st century. See the full review at Hello Beautiful.

Note: The content of this post is adapted from the primary sources as referenced above. Click on the links to read the original reviews in their entirety.

For The Love of Ruth

For The Love of Ruth

Release Date:  5/9/15 (TV One)
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  NR
Studio(s):  Swirl Films
Running Time:  Unknown
Director:  Christine Swanson

Cast:  Denise Boutté (Ruth), Gary Dourdan (Braxton), Loretta Devine (Naomi Marachond), James Pickens, Jr. (Stephen).

Story:  Inspired by the biblical story, For The Love of Ruth follows the journey of Ruth Sommerling (Boutté), who, orphaned as a child and currently residing in a women’s shelter has lived a life filled with pain and disappointment. In rapid succession, Ruth marries Nicholas Marachond, but a dreadful accident leaves her widowed. Refusing to abandon the new family ties she’s formed, Ruth develops a close bond with Naomi Marachond (Devine). As the matriarch of the Marachond family, Naomi introduces Ruth to the fullness that a life filled with faith and loyalty presents. However, Naomi’s brother-in-law Stephen (Pickens, Jr.) discourages this connection and voices his suspicion of Ruth’s intentions. Ultimately, the love she desired all her life is found in Naomi’s reclusive cousin, Braxton (Dourdan) who despite objections from others showers Ruth with an outpouring of love and kindness. Source: TV One.

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Push

PushRelease Date:  4/26/15 (TBA)
Genre:  Drama/Thriller
Rating:  R
Studio(s):  Loud Films; IntrygueGraphics Media.
Running Time:  Unknown
Director:  Tery Wilson
Cast:  Shaquita Smith (Serenity), Jaye Taylor (Rosella), Patrick Walker (Brayden), Blue Kimble (Jace), Sayyed Shabazz (Davey), Jael Roberson (April), Allan Ansell (Detective Swanson).

Story:  Serenity has spent months orchestrating an identity theft heist that will payoff big but when a friend goes missing and the police get involved she has to make a decision to risk it all. Source: Official Facebook page, IMDB.

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Conflict of Interest

Conflict of InterestRelease Date:  4/25/15 (Las Vegas Black Film Festival)
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  Unknown
Studio(s):  BCB Records & Productions, T Ford Model Productions
Running Time:  115 mins.
Director:  Thomas Mikal Ford

Cast:  Jazsmin Lewis (Gabriele Winters), Thomas Mikal Ford (Jordan Winters), Bria L. Murphy (Asia), Viviane Brazile (Vivienne), Miguel A. Nunez, Jr. (Daryl), Mark Christopher Lawrence (Rich), Carl Anthony Payne, II (Mark), Dorien Wilson (Samson), Karen Malina White (Gabriele’s mother).

Story:  This thrilling story about love, betrayal and forgiveness, centers on Gabriele Winters, a successful no nonsense Deputy District Attorney, with an adoring and equally as successful husband (Jordan) and beautiful college age daughter (Asia). One day a case lands on her desk that threatens to expose a secret she has kept hidden for years. Could Donte, the alleged graffiti artist she is now prosecuting, be the SECRET that has haunted her for years? In her quest to find out the truth about Donte and yet maintain her secret, Gabriel begins breaking all the rules and her life is spiraling out of control; Jordan is disturbed by his wife’s unusual behavior and now believes that Gabriel is involved with another man. Gabriel is further pushed to the limits when Donte begins dating her daughter, Asia! Gabriel is forced to solve this mystery before this lie will destroy her marriage, life and job. This fact-finding, soul-stirring journey Gabriel now finds herself on, poses a conflict of interest not only in her professional life, but more importantly in her personal life. After peeling back years of hurt, pain and secrets, Gabriel discovers the importance of forgiveness and unconditional love. Source(s): coithemovie.com (official site), IMDB.

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