November 01, 2012

By: Chelsea Battle

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

 

What do you get when you mix a former member of the Wu Tang Klan, Kung Fu, and Quentin Tarantino’s production skills? “The Man With the Iron Fists” is what. The new Kung Fu thriller, set for release in theaters November 2, is not only rapper RZA’s directorial debut, but also marks his first time co-writing and starring in a major feature film.

Working alongside an all-star cast, including such heavyweights as Russell Crowe and Lucy Lui, RZA plays a humble blacksmith turned lethal martial artist who helps to defend his village against a rising fleet of warriors, assassins, and a rogue war hero.  Set in 19th century feudal China, the movie affords him the opportunity to live out his childhood fantasy of playing a martial arts hero. 

“I’ve fantasized about being a martial artist since I was a kid,” he reveals.

Still, the hip hop trailblazer’s ties to a Kung Fu thriller might seem to some an unlikely union. Having gained his fame as a member of the group Rolling Stone once called “the best rap group ever,” RZA’s battles have usually been set to beats.  However, the multifaceted artist shares that he has been an avid Kung Fu junkie since the late 70s. In fact, when the Wu Tang Clan formed in 1993, its name was derived from one of RZA’s favorite Kung Fu flicks: “Shaolin and Wu Tang.”

Born Robert Diggs, from the time he was 9 years old the Brooklyn native lived and breathed martial arts films, from the Wuxia (movies with Chinese martial arts) to the Jidaigeki genre (Japanese films featuring samurai, craftsmen etc.) and beyond.  It was after seeing the Shaw Brothers film, “The 36 Chambers of Shaolin,” that his passion for martial arts films was significantly heightened.  RZA muses that he began to recognize the similarities between the movie and his life. 

“‘36 Chambers of Shaolin’ is about a guy who is a student and there’s oppression going on,” he explains.

“As a student he feels compelled to be a part of the revolution, and eventually he has to flee to Shaolin. On the way his friend flees with him and eventually sacrifices his life for him. So I’m seeing brotherhood.  I’m seeing loyalty.  I’m seeing the fight against oppression. These types of things I’m feeling in my own life, in my own neighborhood—being together with my crew, being with my brothers, and fighting against the day-to-day struggles of life and what we feel to be oppression in the projects.”

In 1993 when the Wu Tang Clan debuted their first album, which they entitled “Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers),” it was a way of paying tribute to the movie.

Kung Fu movies quickly became an escape for RZA, who would go to theaters and float effortlessly into a different world.  Fast forward to the present, the real world where RZA would discover that actually directing a film—his own film—was not an easy process.  “The Man With the Iron Fists” is a project 6 years in the making.  RZA admits that he was not the best screenwriter at the time the story idea was conceived, so he relied on the tutelage of those close to him in the film industry. Although RZA created the story, the film was actually co-written by his friend Eli Roth, whose credits include directing “Hostel” and acting in “Inglorious Bastards.”   The movie was produced under the guidance of award winning film director Quentin Tarantino.

“I was advised by Quentin Tarantino to write my ideas down,” says RZA.

“I wrote [‘The Man With the Iron Fists’] into a 90 page script.  I wasn’t very good at writing screenplays—I hadn’t studied it; I wrote songs.”

In the movie’s infancy, production companies initially shot down the script, suggesting that the characters needed more development. After collaborating with Roth, who expressed an interest in the story early on, the script was expanded and pitched again. 

“My buddy Eli Roth heard about the story and thought it would make a great movie and he came on board,” says RZA.

“He took it to some people, some producers, and they couldn’t really see the vision so he took the 90 page script and rewrote it into a 130 page screenplay. Then they had the vision and saw what it was.”

Once he had a winning script RZA needed to be certain that his directorial skills were up to par. After studying filmmaking under the well-seasoned eye of Tarantino for 6 years, he looked to his mentor for the green light.

“I had to be ready to direct,” RZA stresses.

“Tarantino was in there, but he wasn’t going to let me take any job unless I was ready… I asked him after 2 years and he said, ‘Bobby, I don’t think you’re ready.’ I asked him after 4 years; he still didn’t think I was ready. But after the sixth year he said, ‘Bobby, I think you’re ready!’ Eli came to him and told him what we had… and he gave us his blessings and we went for it.”

Testimony and evidence have shown how instrumental the Wu Tang Clan and martial arts movies have been in allowing RZA to express himself. Both have now led him to this moment, the big screen, which in his opinion is the ultimate form of expression.

“When I saw ‘Kill Bill’ (Tarantino’s award-winning film), I saw the lane I wanted to go in; I saw something that showed me that music is just one expression of myself,” he reflects.

“Clothing and designing is one expression, writing is another. But there is a medium where I can take all those expressions and put into one package, and that’s filmmaking.”

RZA has arrived, and all signs point to go. Set to be released in theaters this week, “The Man With the Iron Fists” serves as impressive evidence of what this talented artist can do when he puts his mind to it.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 25, 2012

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper

 

Sheila John­son, co-founder of Black Enter­tain­ment Television, bad-mouthed the Black network at a recent event, saying it had become a “squandered” voice.

Speaking at the “Conversa­tions and Encoun­t­ers” program at the Carmel Art and Film Festival in Monterey Coun­ty, Calif., Johnson said the new BET “reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African Ameri­cans in particular,” according to EurWeb.com.

Now a strategic adviser to The Huffington Post, Johnson reflected on the “good old days” of the network she and her husband built, saying she was most proud of BET’s Teen Summit, which ran from 1989 to 2002.

But Johnson seemed unimpressed with the theme and direction of the network since it was sold and placed under new management.

“I think we squandered a really important cable network, when it really could have been the voice of Black America. We’re losing our voice as a race as a result,” she ranted. “I’m really worried about what our young people are watching. There are so many young people who are using the television as a babysitter.  We have parents who are not being parents and not monitoring what their children are watching.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 25, 2012

ARIES

An unexpected clash may arise this week from an unlikely area. Try to maintain a position as mediator, rather than joining the fray. Loyalties may be stretched, but they won’t break. What you need is within you. Go there and get it.  Soul Affirmation: My spirit will fill me with gladness.

 

TAURUS

Co-workers or customers may be grumpy this week. Don’t take it personally. Dwell in your peaceful inner space and the space around you will reflect the peaceful vibrations.  Soul Affirmation: Jewelry reflects the beauty of my feelings about myself.

 

GEMINI

You feel centered this week and full of efficient energy. Use this week to accomplish tasks, make plans, and finalize arrangements that need to be made. Face into personal responsibilities with love and pleasure now.  Soul Affirmation: I enjoy discovering new territory this week.

 

CANCER

You can build a bridge with your imagination to reach the person you want to meet. Build the very best bridge your imagination can afford. Your soulmate will then cross over to you. Your intentions are warm and sincere.  Soul Affirmation: Being true to others is the way to be true to myself.

 

LEO

You need to relax. The urge to do everything will take a toll on you this week unless you make a concerted effort to slow your own vibes down. Think peace love and happiness and let them be real values for you. Feed your soul.  Soul Affirmation: I calm my emotions by forgetting about the past.

 

VIRGO

You’ll be efficient and productive this week if you got some rest. Slow down. Sometimes less is more, and you’ll see you’re doing better than most. Use your talents to create some free time for yourself.  Soul Affirmation: I go inside myself to find peace and joy this week.

 

LIBRA

Someone wants to argue, and it’s up to you to walk away. It’s easy to let go of any idea of control if you remember that you are only responsible for your own feelings. Act healthy this week and enjoy your life.  Soul Affirmation: As chances come around again. I take advantage of them.

 

SCORPIO

Be flexible as others present changes and new schedules for a group activity. Your easy-going attitude will allow you to reschedule appointments easily. Watch the sun rise it’ll be good for your spirits! Soul Affirmation: I release internal pressure by enjoying the beauties of the world around me.

 

SAGITTARIUS

Give your busy brain a rest and work your body this week. It’s a great day for physical activity that can loosen up muscles and relieve tensions. You’ll receive some practical advice from a distant relative.  Soul Affirmation: Newness of outlook helps me deal with the monotonies of life

 

CAPRICORN

Family responsibilities may feel like a chore this week. If you relinquish control of the situation, a natural order will occur, and things will organize themselves. You can let people be who they are.  Soul Affirmation: I call on my creative talents to pay my bills.

 

AQUARIUS

A secret may be revealed in a casual conversation. Your confidence is valued and appreciated. Take it all in! There’s no returning to what has been once you realize the gift you’ve been given.  Soul Affirmation: Helping others is the true measure of my worth.

 

PISCES

A friend from the past could suddenly appear in your life. This could be a highly beneficial reunion for both of you. Let bygones be bygones, and renew this friendship. Love isn’t used up just because it’s shared.  Soul Affirmation: Charm is my middle name this week.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 25, 2012

By MESFIN FEKADU | Associated Press

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Alicia Keys, after giving birth to her son two years ago, said she wanted to create tools for children. Now she's launching an app for kids.

“The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee” is about a young New York City girl’s relationship with her wise grandmother. Keys produced music for the interactive app, which will be released Thursday for $3.99.

“It’s a new adventure for me, and I’m really enjoying it,” the Grammy Award winner said in an interview Wednesday.

The app is loosely based on Keys’ relationship with her grandmother. It’s centered in LeeLee’s bedroom, and it allows users to read books, play music and write in a journal.

“It does remind me of my world,” the New York-born singer said. “The piano, the journal, music’s such a big part of my life, the city, all of that.”

Keys is launching the app through her company AK Worldwide and Bento Box Interactive. She said raising her 2-year-old son, Egypt, was part of the app’s inspiration.

“I was just getting introduced to kind of the TV shows and the DVDs and all the things you start kind of introducing your kids to, and I thought how cool it would be to be a part of something that really allows them to hear music from different places, different cultures, different sounds,” she said. “That’s what we’re able to do with this.”

Keys is a 14-time Grammy winner. Her fifth album, “Girl On Fire,” is out Nov. 27. Maxwell, Jamie xx, Bruno Mars and John Legend are among the featured acts and songwriters.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

October 25, 2012

Despite rumors of massive debt when he died, Jackson is proving that he is still the king; his income from the grave proves it.

When it comes to dead celebrity earnings, it's hard to beat Michael Jackson. The pop singer, who died in 2009 at the age of 50, earned more than any living artist in the past 12 months: $145 million.

Dubbed ‘Music’s postmortem cash king,’ he has earned more than any single living artist since his death. Jackson continues to rake in revenues from the work of other artists (through his 50% stake in the Sony/ATV publishing catalog), his own material (the Mijac Music catalog), a Cirque du Soleil show (the Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour) and other sources. His total would be even higher if FORBES hadn’t credited the advance for the latter to last year’s $170 million total.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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