Troop Zero

Release Date:  2/1/19; Sundance Film Festival
Genre:  Family
Rating:  NR
Director:  Bert & Bertie
Studio(s):   Amazon Studios, Big Indie Pictures, Escape Artists
Running Time:  94 mins.
Cast:  Viola Davis, Allison Janney, McKenna Grace, Mike Epps

Story:  Nine-year-old oddball Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) is obsessed with space and making contact with the aliens of the universe. When she finds out the prize at the 1977 Birdie Jamboree is getting her voice on NASA’s Golden Record, Christmas forms her own misfit Birdie troop. Nothing can prepare them for the painfully perfect world of the legit Birdies. But, led by their reluctant yet fearless troop mama (Viola Davis) and Christmas’s dad (Jim Gaffigan), they find glory in the most unexpected circumstances—much to the despair of the ever-judgmental school principal, Miss Massey (Allison Janney).  Source:  Sundance.org.

Meet The Blacks

Meet The Blacks stillRelease Date:  4/29/16
Genre:  Comedy/Thriller
Rating:  R
Running Time: 90 mins.
Studio:(s)  Hidden Empire Film Group, Freestyle Releasing
Director:  Deon Taylor
Cast:  Mike Epps (Carl Black), Mike Tyson (James Clown), Andrew Bachelor (Freezee), Lavell Crawford (Parole Officer), Zulay Henao (Lorena), Charlie Murphy (Key Flo), DeRay Davis (Tyrone), Bresha Webb (Allie), George Lopez, Lil Duval.

Story:  Spoof of The Purge film franchise. The Black family is getting out of Detroit in hopes of a better life. After Carl Black (Mike Epps) comes into some unexpected funds, he takes his family and leaves the hustling lifestyle behind for something better. Carl, his wife Lorena (Zulay Henao), son Carl Jr., daughter Allie Black (Bresha Webb) and cousin Cronut (Lil Duval) pack up and move to Beverly Hills. Turns out, Carl couldn’t have picked a worse time to move. They arrive right around the time of the annual purge, when all crime is legal for twelve hours. Source: Flickeringmyth; IMDB.

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Nat Turner: Story of A Prophet

Prophet-The Story of Nat Turner booka/k/a The Nat Turner Story

Status:  Pre-Production
Release Date:  TBA
Genre:  Biography/Historical/Drama
Rating:  Unknown
Studio(s):  TMG Entertainment
Running Time: 120 mins.
Director:  Bill Duke

Cast:  Blair Underwood (Nat Turner), Keith David (Nathanial), Eric Roberts (Captain Hunt), Mindy Robinson (Mary Barrows), Mike Epps (Nelson), Kym Whitley (Momma Bridgette), Lester Speight (Hark), Todd Bridges (Jack Waller), LisaRaye McCoy (Esther), Kendrick Lamar (Young Nat Turner).

Details:  On 3/6/15, the Daily Film Forum reported Blair Underwood to star as Nat Turner.  Robinson Squared announces Nat Turner | Story of a Prophet, set to star Blair Underwood as Nat Turner, Lester Speight as Hark, Keith David as Nathanial Turner and Kendrick Lamar as the young Nat Turner.  Bridging generational gaps and historical divides to tell the true story of this man of God that has been perceived by many as a diabolical religious fanatic is written and produced by the award-winning filmmaker Kenya Cagle.

Cagle with his passion for filmmaking and creative literary mind has aligned forces with Bruce L. Turner, one of the descendants of the Nat Turner family to bring the amazing talents of Blair Underwood, Lester Speight, Keith David, Kendrick Lamar and a host of other Black Hollywood stars to feature in the new motion picture Nat Turner | Story of a Prophet based on the best-selling, top-rated screenplay novel written by award-winning filmmaker to highlight the facts that the textbooks seem to omit. This film is about the greatest slave insurrection in United States history and will be directed by Hollywood veteran director Bill Duke.

Nat Turner led an insurrection that changed the course of American History and African American pride. This is not only a story from historical court records and books on the subject matter, but actually features elements from oral family history that Cagle received while interviewing Turner’s descendants.  Source(s):  Daily Film Forum; IMDB.  Book Cover:  Official Facebook Page

Fifty Shades of Black

Release Date:  1/29/16 (In theaters)
Genre:  Comedy
Rating:  Unknown
Running Time:  Unknown
Studio(s):  IM Global, Open Road Films
Director:  Michael Tiddes
Cast:  Marlon Wayans, Jane Seymour, Mike Epps, Kali Hawk, Fred Willard.

Story:  A parody of the popular film/novel Fifty Shades of Gray.

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Details:  According to Variety Mike Epps, Kali Hawk, Jane Seymour, Affion Crockett and Fred Willard have joined Marlon Wayans in IM Global’s spoof Fifty Shades of Black.  Wayans, who stars as mysterious entrepreneur Christian Black, is a producer and writer of the film alongside regular writing and producing partner Rick Alvarez. Mike Tiddes is directing and Open Road, which distributed both of Wayans’ A Haunted House spoofs, has set a Jan. 29 release for the U.S.  Hawk (“Bridesmaids”) portrays the young woman drawn to Christian Black.

IM Global launched Fifty Shades of Black after Universal’s Fifty Shades of Grey took in $570 million at the worldwide box office. Source: Variety.

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Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?

Richard Pryor

Status:  Development Unknown (as of 4/24/17)
Release Date: TBA
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Genre: Drama/Biography
Rating: Not Available
Director: Lee Daniels
Cast:  Mike Epps (Richard Pryor), Oprah Winfrey (Marie Carter), Taraji P. Henson, Eddie Murphy (LeRoy Pryor), Kate Hudson (Jennifer Lee Pryor).

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Update 10/6/16:   Indie wire reported that Lee Daniels will indeed be directing “Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?” Harvey Weinstein announced during a press conference on this date about the biopic, which Mike Epps is starring in and Jay Z is producing.

Daniels was previously attached to the project before apparently leaving it. “I can tell you that Jay is going to produce the Richard Pryor movie with Lee Daniels directing,” said Weinstein.  Jay Z chimed, saying that Pryor’s story “is an American story. You’ll understand how many lives he’s touched, from every single comedian to rappers like Biggie Smalls.”  In addition to Epps, Is It Something I Said will feature Eddie Murphy as Pryor’s father, Oprah Winfrey as his grandmother (who apparently ran a brothel) and Kate Hudson as his final wife.

Update 9/1/14:  On August 26, 2014, ET confirmed that Oprah will be playing Richard Pryor’s grandmother, Marie Carter, in Lee Daniels’ highly anticipated biopic on the legendary comedian.

Pryor, who died from a heart attack in 2005, had a notoriously complicated relationship with his grandmother. Pryor grew up in a house of prostitution run by Marie, when his mother Gertrude walked out on the family when he was 10 years old.

Based on an August 24th tweet from Director Lee Daniels as well as an Instagram post by Oprah it is confirmed that actor Mike Epps will play Pryor. Epps is said to have blown Daniels and the producers away with his audition. He beat out big names such as Nick Cannon (who in July hinted in a TMZ interview that he landed the role), Marlon Wayans and Michael B. Jordan (who was attached to star in the project before it changed producers) to play Pryor. Mike Epps also plays Pryor in Cynthia Mort’s still-unreleased Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana.

No word yet on who will play Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee Pryor, who’s also producing the film, though rumor has it that Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway are both frontrunners for the role. Source(s): ETonline; Shadow and Act.

Update 7/22/14:   On this date TMZ reported:

“Richard Pyror was dying and mentally incapacitated when his wife duped him into signing over the rights to his name … so claims Pryor’s son, who’s trying to shut down a movie about his dad.

Richard Pryor, Jr. has fired off a cease and desist letter to Jennifer Lee Pryor, demanding she stop production of the Lee Daniels directed biopic immediately.

Richard Jr.’s lawyer told TMZ her client believes Pryor was in poor mental and physical health when he signed over the rights in 2005. Pryor died in December of that year.

Jennifer has been battling Pryor’s children over the film — including who should play Pryor.

On 7/17/14 TMZ posted a video of Richard Pryor, Jr. reporting that he has done a 180 and now feels Nick Cannon is the second most qualified guy to play his dad in the upcoming biopic … second to him.

Although Cannon hasn’t landed the role yet, he is lobbying hard to get it.  The Drumline star and America’s Got Talent host, mentioned he has had conversations about the film with reported director Lee Daniels.

Pryor Jr. and his sister Rain previously told TMZ … Cannon didn’t have the chops to pull off the role. They thought Marlon Wayans was the right guy.  But in the video, Pryor Jr. tells a TMZ photographer that Cannon’s passion for the role changed his mind and he now favors Cannon … certainly over his step mom’s choice, Terrence Howard.
Source(s):  TMZ, New York Daily News.

Details: On January 10, 2014 The Hollywood Reporter ran an exclusive that Lee Daniels is in negotiations to tackle an untitled Richard Pryor biopic as his follow-up to The Butler. The Weinstein Company, which produced and distributed Daniels’ hit about a White House butler, will fully finance the Richard Pryor project.

Michael B. Jordan, Marlon Wayans and Eddie Murphy are among the actors being eyed for the film, which has been in the works for years with different actors attached, including Wayans and Murphy. Sources say both are still in the mix, particularly Wayans, who at 41 years old is considered to be the right age for the project and whose screen test is said to have wowed Harvey Weinstein. But Jordan, who became a breakout star with The Weinstein Company’s Fruitvale Station, has emerged as the front-runner to tackle the life of the iconic comedian, who died in 2005 at age 65.

Pryor, who was hailed as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time, also had a troubled side. In 1980, he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine and suffered severe burns.

Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Pryor, is producing the film. She brings to the project more than 50 pages of Pryor’s personal journals, which offer a glimpse into his brilliant, but dark, mind.

The Pryor biopic has been attempted numerous times. Deadline previously reported in March 2013 that Forest Whitaker had taken over the nearly 20-year effort to bring the turbulent life of the stand-up comedy legend to the big screen under the title Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?

Another version had Bill Condon poised to direct Marlon Wayans in the starring role for Sony Pictures.  But everything took a back seat when Condon signed on to helm the final two Twilight Saga installments.  Other prior incarnations include a Martin Scorsese-directed drama to star Damon Wayans, this well before Pryor died in 2005. Later, there was a Showtime pic that was to star Eddie Griffin and another attempt at a feature that was to star Mike Epps with Kasi Lemmons directing. Condon’s first flirtation had Eddie Murphy briefly interested, and then Chris Rock was briefly in the conversation.

Pryor had an unbelievable life, from growing up in a brothel, rising to become comedy’s biggest stage star, pushing the envelope on an edgy TV show that was subversive and ahead of its time, transitioning to film stardom, and nearly dying when he accidentally ignited himself while freebasing cocaine. Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Comingsoon.

Check back for further details on the untitled Richard Pryor biopic as this story develops.

Nina

Nina PosterRelease Date:  2016
Studio(s):  Ealing Studios, Londinium Films, RLJ Entertainment
Director: Cynthia Mort
Genre: Drama/Biography
Cast:  Zoe Saldana (Nina Simone),  David Oyelowo (Clifton Henderson), Mike Epps (Richard Pryor), Alexa Davalos (Olivia), Ella Thomas (Lorraine Hansberry), Ella Joyce (Clifton’s Mom)

Nina Simone movie still

Story:  She was one of the century’s most extraordinary talents, a 15-time Grammy nominee and Grammy Hall of Fame Recipient; her mesmerizing songs and passionate politics combined to make her the unforgettable Nina Simone (Zoe Saldana). But fame and fortune came with a price, and her later years were riddled with depression, alcohol abuse and isolation. Rediscovering the meaning of her life and work took courage, strength and one true friend: Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), the man who started out as her assistant and eventually became her loyal manager. With Clifton’s encouragement, the “high priestess of soul” began a courageous journey back to her music … and, eventually, herself.  Source:  Shadow and Act.

Simone, who died in 2003, was a singer, songwriter and civil rights activist who performed in a wide range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, gospel and pop. She was a 15-time Grammy nominee and received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 2000.  The story follows Simone’s struggle to balance music, family and what she believes in, which leaves her living alone in France feeling exiled from her own country until she meets Clifton Henderson (David Oyelowo), who helps her rediscover meaning in her life and music, and to once again embrace America.  Source/Photo Source:  Variety.

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Update 9/11/15: Variety reported on 9/10/15 that RLJ Entertainment  has acquired all North American rights to Nina, starring Zoe Saldana as American singer-songwriter Nina Simone.  RLJ announced the deal Thursday at the start of the Toronto Film Festival, and plans a December release.

Update 6/11/15:  On 5/26/15 Shadow and Act stated that it looks like Nina Simone biopic starring Zoe Saldana is going to see the light of day, as Ben Latham-Jones of the UK’s Ealing Studios (the company behind the film) revealed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Nina will be released by eOne and Universal worldwide later this year.  Shadow and Act goes on to report that last year, the project was taken to the Cannes Film Market (Marche du Film), where it was screened for potential international distributors, and where eOne and Universal apparently picked up rights.  Source:  Shadow and Act.

Update 9/1/14:  The long-planned market screening of the biopic about legendary jazz singer Nina Simone starring Zoe Saldana went ahead on May 15th despite a lawsuit filed by director Cynthia Mort claiming its British production company hijacked the film.

Mort, a well-known TV writer, making her feature directorial debut, alleges producer Ealing Studios Enterprises, breached the terms of the director deal by cutting her out of the final editing process. According to the Complaint filed May 14th in Los Angeles, Mort had rights over the developing picture and “got approval over the final shooting script, the cast and crew, the line producer, the designer and all department heads as well as consulting rights on advertising, distribution, shooting schedule and budget.” However, as the suit further states, “throughout the course of the film’s production and post-production, defendants consistently acted to frustrate Mort’s involvement in the film, thereby breaching the Director Agreement. These breaches by the Defendants include, but are not limited to: taking complete control of editing the Film in June 2013 and failing to consult with Mort about subsequent cuts and changes; abandoning Mort’s previous cuts of the Film; failing to disclose the Film’s financials, finishing budget, and financing deals; and failing to keep Mort informed of other crucial creative and budgetary developments and decisions throughout production and post-production of the Film.”

Mort says the film doesn’t reflect her vision of Simone as a woman, musician and civil rights activist. She is seeking monetary damages, as well as “a declaration that the defendants can’t make decisions without her meaningful approval and consultation.”

The film first came under fire when it was announced that Saldana would be playing the title role (Shadow and Act reported that Mary J. Blige was initially attached to star in the film, but was eventually replaced by Saldana who brought more international box office gravitas to the production). Many Simone fans voiced their disappointment in the choice, citing racial differences, departure in appearance between Simone and Saldana and the fact that Saldana’s voice would not be up to par. Adding to the casting controversy, is the release of a recent photo of Saldana as Simone, which shows the actress with her skin darkened, a prosthetic nose and even possibly what looks like fake teeth to push her lips out and make them bigger. The “makeover” is being compared by some to the offensive tradition of blackface in which white performers donned theatrical makeup to portray blacks.

Saldana as Simone

Another point of contention is the story. According to Shadow and Act, the film’s official synopsis reads:

A rare and poignant love story about a tormented genius who eventually finds love and peace. The story of the late jazz musician and classical pianist Nina Simone including her rise to fame and relationship with her manager Clifton Henderson.

But as reported in The Daily Mail, Simone’s daughter, Lisa stated:

“They did not ask me or the Nina Simone estate to participate in the film at all. It is based on a lie because it is based on the life of my mother’s assistant, Clifton Henderson. Clifton was gay so he could not have had an affair with my mother, which is what the film implies.

Zoe Saldana portraying her is a bad joke because there are more gifted actresses who are more in keeping with my mother’s appearance. I know how my mother would feel about Zoe, so they are making a mockery of her experiences to construct their own truth.”

In spite of all the controversy and the filing of the lawsuit, it was business as usual as far as the production company was concerned and the film was screened to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival. Buyers polled by The Hollywood Reporter after the screening said they liked the film they saw. Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Essence.com, Shadow and Act, The Grapevine, SheKnows, Daily Mail.

Details:  According to Black Actors, photos of The Avatar actress on set, show her sporting dark make-up and an afro wig. Saldana received backlash after she was cast to play the titular role for “not being dark enough.” (Source(s): Black Actors; Movie Insider).

Repentance

repentanceRelease Date: 6/24/14, DVD; 2/28/14, Theatrical Release
Genre: Thriller
Rating: R
Studio: Codeblack Films/Lionsgate
Director: Philippe Caland
Cast:  Anthony Mackie (Tommy)
Forest Whitaker (Angel Sanchez)
Mike Epps (Ben)
Sanaa Lathan (Maggie)
Nicole Ari Parker (Sophie)
Story: Years after a drunken car crash that almost took his life, Thomas Carter (Anthony Mackie) has reinvented himself as a therapist/spiritual advisor who advocates a synthesis of world religions and positivity. He’s parlayed this vocation into a successful book release that one day draws the attention of Angel Sanchez (Forest Whitaker), a profoundly troubled man fixated on the “untimely” death of his mother. When Carter takes on Sanchez as a personal client in an effort to raise funds for his indebted brother Ben (Mike Epps), things quickly take a turn for the worse. Angel needs much more than a simple life coach. What may be simple to grasp for some is the idea that single actions in the past comprise tidal waves of reactions in the present. (Synopsis taken from Lionsgate).