Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dream Casting for Toni Braxton Lifetime Movie Biopic "Unbreak My Heart".

While there have been a few hit and misses with the Lifetime Movie biopics, namely the disaster of the casting and writing for the Aaliyah movie, but the rave reviews of the Whitney Houston biography starring Yaya Decosta, as a fan I am most certainly looking forward to the upcoming Toni Braxton biopic.  

There have been reports that the Grammy award winning megastar is ready to portray herself, however I feel to truly get the most out of this movie we need to allow this story to have its due diligence by having the lead role portrayed by a seasoned actress who can physically embody the evolution of from Toni's humble beginnings in Severn, Maryland to modern day.  

Serving as the executive producer, Ms. Braxton will be no stranger to the casting process, final review of the script and the production but does portraying yourself in your own biography truly tells your story in the best way? Well, a popular Lifetime movie fan favorite was the Fantasia Barrino story, with the singer portraying herself.  In this instance it worked, but it's good to note that Barrino was telling only the prior 5 years of her life.  Her biography was told for the specific chronicling of her compelling rise to stardom within a few years, so it was fitting that she played herself. But the Toni Braxton story is far more complex.  

In order for audiences to understand the woman and artist that Toni Braxton is now, you have to go back at least 30 years into her childhood, teen years and young womanhood.  In order to do that, we need an actress who can morph from a teenager to young adult seamlessly and who better than the fresh faced Keke Palmer who can still pull off a mature sensuality that Ms. Braxton is known for.  Keke definitely has the acting chops, her believability was proven playing Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas in CraxySexyCool: The TLC Story and she is no stranger to the Lifetime movie family playing the dramatic role of Carlina White in Abducted: The Carlina White story.  My vote is for Keke or another suitable actress to take on the lead role, though Toni herself is a capable actress also starring in several movie roles, including a recent Lifetime movie.  

Time will only tell the final decision but I'm still with my gut on this one, let a trained actress do this Toni, you will be there along the way to coach her to success much like Tina Turner did for Angela Basset's Oscar nominated performance in the biography, "What's Love Got to Do With It?" which was an impressive victory because the actresses does not resemble the singer but was able to copy her mannerisms and convey the story theatrically.  I project the same could happen with Palmer or another gifted actress.

[Photos used without permission of the copyright holders @kekepalmer via Instagram and screen cap from the "I Don't Want To" video released by Arista records.  No copyright infringement intended, used for editorial and informational purposes only. If said copyright holders wish for these images to be removed please contact this blog owner immediately.]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

FOX's "Empire" Episode 1 & 2 Review - Does the Show Have Staying Power?

With only two episodes into their second season, many fans and critics alike are saying that Fox's mega hit series "Empire" may not have the staying power they thought at first. Some are complaining that the season took too long to return, while others complain that the storylines have drug on for far too long without any real resolution. But that is to be expected, it's the nature of television sitcom design, you have to keep the audience wanting more so they keep tuning in once they become invested in the characters. 

Last seasons cliffhanger saw main protagonist Lucious Lyon played by Terrance Howard being carted off to jail for the murder of his friend and his ex-wife Cookie Lyon's cousin named Bunkie.  With that it meant one of the three Lyon brothers would have to take over the presiding role of the Empire Records company board of trustees for their father. We all know now, Lucious surprised everyone by choosing once at odd offspring Jamal to take over in his absence.  As the new season opens we see the once mild-tempered Jamal has become power happy, almost to the point of emulating his father, in a bad way, much the chagrin of his mother Cookie, and the added disdain of his brothers rapper Hakeem and record executive Andre.  The three scorned Lyons now devise a plan to devise a hostile takeover of the company but it fails miserably when Jamal secretly discovers their plan and alerts Lucious who is still acting as a managing Svengali from prison. 

Episode two we see Cookie, played by Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson and her sons planning to compete with Empire Records by opening up their own company aptly called Lyon Dynasty, but without the funding and the power they need from Lucious' brand and name their efforts seem futile. We did get to see some interesting highlights such as Lucious' shifty lawyer organizing a studio to record music, Luscious performing rap vocals reminiscent of the Hustle and Flow era that first connected him to Henson and made both popular household names. There was also a brief flashback of Lucious and his mother played by Grammy award-winning superstar Kelly Rowland while arguing with his eldest son Andre during a prison visit.  It greatly implies that Lucious was loved by his mother but she may have been plagued with mental illness which could be the reason why he and Andre, who also suffers from mental illness are always disagreeing and having personal issues with trust; something that I'm sure episode three of the rest of the season will delve into even deeper.  So that's it Luscious has "mommy issues", and it clearly shows. Don't forget to tune into Fox Wednesday's 9/8 central for the next episode of the highly anticipated second season of Empire.

[Photo Source: used without permission, but for editorial and Informative purposes. No copyright infringement intended, if you are the copyright holder, all images will be removed at your discretion.]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recap: BET Awards 2015 -- The Tributes, Reunions and Surprises!

The 2015 BET Awards opened with a stirring performance by Kendrick Lamar whose rhymes reflected the state of Blacks in the United States. The audience (fellow artists, actors, reality stars and the like) were indeed moved and gave him a great reception. 

Hosts Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross greeted the audience with their awkward yet funny version of Estelle's "Conquerer" made famous from Empire.  Coming back from commercial we peeped an awkward glimpse of Rihanna sitting it the audience with a roll of duct tape in her lap, still no clue as to why! A performance by Janelle Monae hyped the crowd with her new single "Yoga", showcasing her dancing and great performance skills. Included in the performance was newcomer Jedenna with his first major award show performance of "Classic Man".

Nicki Minaj won for the consecutive time for Best Female Rapper, bribing her mom on stage, who by the way was just as stunning as she shouted out all the nominees with personal highlight given to Dej Loaf, reiterating she would be joining her on the Pinkprint tour.

BET series "The Game" made a big announcement that Derwin and Melanie, played by Pooch Hall and Tia Mowry would be officially coming back for the series finale on August 5, 2015, much to the excitement of fans.

Chris Brown and Tyga also performed a medley of current hits. I was a bit thrown off by Chris' overdubbing and lip syncing which for me throws off the overall package of the performance. Either sing or lip synch and be done with it. Of course the dancing was on point and all the female audience members were happy.  Though introduced first, Tyga was really nothing more than a bonfire hype man. Another awkward moment was the inclusion of Omarion but no Jhene Aiko for "Post to Be". Even weirder the cameraman panning to Rihanna singing along to Jhene's voice in the audience.

A special highlight was the Music Matters feature of new artist Avery Wilson, popular on Vine and other social media platforms for his covers and he's also a former American Idol contestant by he didn't advance far in the competition. He's now being mentored by music legend Clive Davis.

The running gag with Rihanna continued as she hilariously bound and gagged Floyd Mayweather Jr. as he sat next to transgenders B. Scott and Laverne Cox. The Weekend performed... And that's all I have to mention. Total snooze fest -- even the special guest feature of Alicia Keys did nothing for me. Sadly the highly awarded singer did not rise to the occasion and her vocal prowess needs coaching.

I was excited for the 20 year Bad Boy Entertainment anniversary performance. Daddy definitely still has it! He stays in his lane and just does classic Puff. Though we saw features from Mase, 112, the Lox, French Montana, Lil Kim and Pharreal the clear star and stand out performer is STILL Diddy, who doesn't miss a step, but maybe a line here and there which was hilariously shades by Brandy mouthing "sing yo line Puff!" from the audience.

Speaking of dancing newcomer Silento had an impromptu performance of his popular song "Watch Me" with hosts Anthony and Tracee performing with their TV children from the show Blackish.

The true highlight of the show was the Smokey Robinson tribute. With a stirring outage of his history relayed by Berry Gordy, Aretha Franklin, Janelle Monae and John Legend. Performances included newcomer Tori Kelly soulful performance of Whose Loving You", Robin Thicke's vocalist mirroring of "Oooh Baby Baby" oh so smoothly and Neyo's modern take on "Tears of a Clown".  As far as the 75 year old legend, who has been in the industry for over 60 years still looks springy and a mere 50 years old. He recanted his graciousness for his many blessing and triumphs so humbly and beautifully in his acceptance speech/prayer. The key moment was his admonition to all entertainers to be grateful for their accomplishments and to stop being haughty and full of themselves, which garnered a standing ovation. The best part though had to be the legend himself crooning his hits "Tracks of My Tears", "Crusin" & "My Girl" just as clearly and full as the original recordings.

On with the show Meek Mill lit up the stage with Nicki Minaj and Chris Brown for their new single "All Eyes on You". The musical stars of Empire -- Yazz, Jussie Smollet and Soraya had a great medley of their soundtrack hits with a cameo from Juicy J. 

As far as this years tributes -- one of the sheer highlights for me was Anthony Hamilton's rendition of "The Thrill is Gone" in tribute to the late B. B. King. This years Humanitarian award went to Tom Joyner for he and his foundations philanthropic work to raise money and awareness for HBCU's and its students. The Janet tribute was... cute. I understand Janet is a dance legend but no attempts at singing her songs was pointless to me. Tinashe has come along way, she did her best. Jason Derulo definitely has the skills and Ciara did her best Janet interpretation down to the Jackson leg bounce.

I was impressed to see long time rivals K. Michelle and Tamar Braxton sing out their current singles "Hard to Do" & "If I Don't Have You" and publicly apologize and forgive each other. Special highlight was them coming together to sing with the legendary Patti LaBelle on "If Only You Knew" and later embraced and walked off stage together smiling and chatting.  I'm so proud!

We finally found out what the Rihanna teases were for as she treated us to a trailer for her music video BBHMM (Bitch Betta Have My Money) were she apparently kidnaps someone as the video faded away.

We also saw a brief performance by Best New Artist nominee Fetty Wap in the final stretch of the show. The show ended rather anticlimactically with a brief commercial interlude a 45 second goodbye by Anthony and Tracee.  All in all, the 4 hour award show had its ups and downs, but it was definitely entertaining!

(Photo Source:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cinematic Review: Lifetime's "Whitney" Movie...

"'s not right, but it's OKAY!" Those were the imperious words sung by "The Voice" Whitney Houston. The term "mixed emotions" is often used to convey the thoughts I have in mind, but a more accurate statement would describe them as "conflicting". On paper the Lifetime movie "Whitney" was a good story, it answered and revealed some elements of Whitney's infamous life but it mainly focused on her relationship with husband Bobby Brown.  But did it serve what we as an audience was looking for? Simply, the answer is... No.  The movie should have been called "I Will Always Love You: The Whitney & Bobby Love Story" rather than being billed as a true biopic.

The movie spanned approximately 5 years of her life right around the height of her career during "The Bodyguard" era, starting from when she met Bobby at the Soul Train Awards till shortly after the mega tour to promote the music for her first leading role as Rachel Marin along with Kevin Costner in the classic "The Bodyguard". What the movie was able to accomplish was depicting the alleged drug use and attempting to answer rumors of who truly was the addict in the relationship - *spoiler alert* it was alleged that it was Whitney who introduced cocaine onto Bobby, though other interviews, including ones from her own brother already have proven she started on drugs in her early years before she was even famous or meeting Brown which was later in her life.

However what the movie failed to do was give us Whitney herself. She was known for being regal, a people's princess and being very articulate in the public eye, but Whitney was a really a homegirl from New Jersey whose behind the scenes persona was more laid back and rowdy.  We didn't get a chance to see that versatility in Yaya Dacosta's portrayal, more of a hodge podge of dramatics and inexperienced acting. We can applaud the production for their physical casting, the likenesses of Whitney, Clive Davis and Cissy Houston were uncanny but the quality of acting from many of the key players just was not there. The breakout star was indeed Arlen Escarpeta with his portrayal of Bobby Brown who was able to capture both his bad boy persona and boyish vulnerability, in addition to his raunchy on stage presence. But the real star was Deborah Cox's singing voice dubbing for Whitney throughout the movie.  Deborah is a rare talent and its a shame that her music career hasn't surpassed far beyond what she's already accomplished.  She soared through every ballad like a warm knife through chilled butter. Smooth and silky, not trying but easily exceeding as if she herself was meat to sing the reknowed songs. No one can truly emulate Whitney in due justice but she did near best renditions of all the songs -- I really wish they released them for download.

The movie was neither a hit nor a miss, it's like one of those meals you eat, it's pleasant but doesn't nessecarily satisfy your hunger. I felt like this Lifetime movie was a prelude to the REAL film, serving as an introduction to the real biography, preparing us in a sense for something grander to come. I applaud the effort of director Angela Bassett, she succeeded in attempting to execute the dream to the best of her ability but not quite the full vision. We indeed will always love Whitney, nothing will ever be good enough to capture all that she meant to people worldwide.  She wasn't just a singer or an actress or her many other titles, but she was indeed a national treasure.  We may be quick to criticize bodies of work that are supposed to be done in her honor, but for our queen of the night, she deserved the best. In life and in tragedy, we shall indeed love her better after death.

[Photo Source: (Used without permission but for editorial purposes only.) If you would like to view Lifetime's "Whitney" movie, please visit their official website for the online presentation and reairing schedule on the network.]

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