September 19, 2013

By Kam Williams

LAWT Contributing Writer


It’s the Fourth of July in suburbia where we find 16 year-old Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) caring for her bedridden mother (Yolonda Ross) while her father Joe’s (Wendell Pierce) job has taken him out of town. Normally, Joe can trust his dutiful daughter to dote on her mom, but on this evening, for some reason, raging hormones have her hot and bothered to the point of distraction.

After a little phone sex, she invites a guy she met in the mall over for what he arrogantly expects to be a 15-minute booty call. Dexter (E.J. Bonilla) is a former, high school basketball star whose glory days ended abruptly when he graduated from high school.

He’s been in a drug-fueled, downward spiral ever since, and all that he has going for him is an ability to charm gullible young girls out of their pants. But when Abby has second thoughts about succumbing to Dexter’s powers of seduction so easily, she talks him into taking her out for a ride.

Meanwhile, her dad isn’t really away on business, but up to monkey business on the other side of town. Turns out Joe is secretly bisexual and has rendezvoused with a gay kid (Emory Cohen) he met online who is also in the closet but obviously inexperienced and needs to be shown the ropes.

Thus unfolds Four, a compelling character-driven drama about a very eventful day-in-the-lives of four lost souls each searching for a little independence on Independence Day. The movie marks the auspicious writing and directorial debut of recent Columbia Film School grad Joshua Sanchez.

A cautionary tale featuring spectacular Fourth of July fireworks of the emotional variety.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, profanity and brief drug use

Running time: 75 minutes

Distributor: 306 Releasing

To see a trailer for Four, visit:

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 19, 2013


Associated Press


NEW YORK (AP) — Spike Lee will receive the 20th annual Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which carries a reward of $300,000.

The Gish Prize Trust announced the selection Wednesday. Selection committee chairman Darren Walker said Lee was chosen “for his brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking.”

Lee said in an interview that was he was well acquainted with Lillian Gish as the actress of “The Birth of a Nation” and “The Night of the Hunter,” but he was unfamiliar with the prize that was established in Gish’s will. She requested that the prize, one of the largest and most prestigious in the arts, be given every year to “a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind’s enjoyment and understanding of life.”

“I hadn't even heard of it,” Lee said in an interview. “It was a phone call that came completely out of the blue.”

“It was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever had,” the director added.

The prize will be presented to Lee at the Museum of Modern Art on Oct. 30. Past honorees include Bob Dylan, Arthur Miller and Frank Gehry.

Lee’s films range from the racially charged 1989 Brooklyn drama “Do the Right Thing” to the 1992 biopic “Malcolm X” to the post-Katrina New Orleans documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” This November, Lee will release “Oldboy,” a remake of the Park Chan-wook South Korean thriller.

“I wanted to build a body of work, to hone my craft and get better as a storyteller,” Lee said. “All my favorite filmmakers are storytellers.”

In July, Lee launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund his next movie, which he vaguely promised would be about “the addiction of blood.” The crowd-sourcing campaign succeeded in raising $1.4 million.

The $300,000 of the Gish Prize is a huge boon to any independent filmmaker. Recipients are free to use the money however they like.

What will Lee use it for?

“What I do with it is nobody’s business,” said Lee. “I will do what I want. You’re not the IRS or somebody else. This is something I did not ask for, even know about, and thank God I got it.

“I will promise you this: I will make good use of it.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 19, 2013

CHICAGO (AP) -- Earvin "Magic" Johnson is getting a little help from Chicago rapper Common for his newest off-court endeavor.

The former NBA star launched his "Friends of Magic" initiative Wednesday. The idea is to help at-risk students, including dropouts, graduate from high school.

Johnson, Common and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn attended the event at Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy in Chicago, an education facility backed in part by Johnson's business enterprises.

An emotional Johnson spoke after listening to one of the students who has had success in the academy's education programs.

Wiping away tears, Johnson said he's trying to give back and felt gratified by his organization's work. Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy contracts with Chicago Public Schools to help dropouts.

Common is a Grammy-winning artist and actor.



Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 19, 2013 

By Stacy A. Anderson

Associated Press 


Phylicia Rashad is best known for starring roles on stage and television, but as a director she decided to commemorate a historic moment that helped spur the civil rights movement.

The Tony Award-winning actress directed a reading of the play "Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963" at the Kennedy Center Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the bombing at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Four girls were killed in the explosion, which was set by white supremacists and helped spur passage of landmark civil rights legislation.

Rashad, who is recognized for her portrayal as the matriarch on "The Cosby Show" TV series and Broadway's "A Raisin in the Sun," said she wanted the reading to emphasize the "sanctity of joy, human existence and the value of all life."

The play was written by Christina Ham and starred students from Howard University and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Rashad, an alumna of Howard University, said acting and directing are both challenging and rewarding. In her role as director, Rashad said she works to keep the creative energy in line with the writer's vision, "while leaving room for people to add to the vision in a collaborative effort."

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

September 19, 2013

By Ed Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer


Like a familiar friend that stayed away too long, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night was welcomed with open arms on September 9th. America and the rest of the entertainment world showed up for the late-night homecoming almost 20 years in the making. Ironically, not much has changed during that time as Arsenio still remains the only African-American host in the late night genre much like he was in the 90s. Plenty have come and gone during his absence, but none have been able to duplicate the success of the man responsible for taking urban America mainstream. Many of the stars, who got their initial exposure to Middle America via the original Arsenio Hall show, appeared on the 2013 version to help kick things off. Chris Tucker, Ice Cube, Snoop Lion (formerly known as Snoop Dogg), Magic Johnson, Paula Abdul, Angela Bassett and many others stopped by to give Arsenio some love. As a result, for its premiere, the Arsenio Hall show was the #1 talk show in the key 18 to 49 demographic. Even with the show’s strong beginning, Hall doesn’t have any delusions about his return to late night.

“So I’ve got a new show. Nobody knows if it’s going to be good or not. Nobody, you know?” said Hall frankly. “I don’t blame the people - there are people who are watching me and my return with apprehension -- agents, publicists, and managers. I’ve got to go out there and I’ve got to turn it out. And it was the same way the first time around.” He added: You’ve got to turn it out because a lot of people are just waiting to see how you do. Sure my friends - Magic is coming, sure Eddie is coming. You know, people I put in the mix the first time around, Trisha Yearwood is coming and Mariah is coming. But there are a lot of people who just want to watch and see what is going to happen. And I know in that sense I don’t get to come in, ‘Well you know Arsenio Hall is back!’ That don’t mean sh-- to nobody.”

While many Hollywood insiders appear skeptical of Hall’s return, fans seem excited about the possibilities. “I used to always watch his show when I was younger,” said Sherie Baylock of Los Angeles. “I don’t really watch much late night anymore, so it’ll be good to have him back maybe I’ll stay up now.” “I think with Arsenio, we’ll start to see more of the acts we know,” claimed David Nichols of Los Angeles. “I mean you always see the big stars, the Oprahs, the Jay-Zs, the Beyonces on the other shows but they’re not the only ones out there and I think he’ll give everybody a chance.”

Breaking new acts and providing up-and-coming artists a platform was a part of the recipe that originally made his iconic show, well iconic. As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” so you can expect that strategy to be included in Hall’s winning formula this time around.

“One of the big differences is I’m not in it so much alone as I used to be back in the day…now we’re in an era where you can turn on Jimmy Kimmel and hear him saying ladies and gentlemen, Rick Ross and, you know, ladies and gentlemen Kobe Bryant. There was a time when Johnny didn’t care about sitting with Danny Ainge and, you know, the present mayor of Sacramento, Kevin Johnson,” Hall stated. “I think what happened with my show is it showed the viability of certain African American acts. There was a time in this town where we’d throw mama from the train if you could make money. And once they found out that you can put African Americans on TV of every element of entertainment and people will watch, people noticed.” Hall continued, “So maybe my responsibility - because I understand that I don’t come back into the game being the Arsenio of the 90s; I come back into the game as the new small guy and I’ll probably have to earn my way back in again by maybe being the person who looks for the new or tries to get ahead of the curve…you know, there was a time when Dr. Dre would call me and say, ‘I want to introduce you to this guy named Calvin from Long Beach’ and on my show that later became ladies and gentlemen, Snoop Doggy Dog.”

Once again, Arsenio is poised to fill a niche and provide for the masses what has for the most part been absent from late night television. Of course, this time around let’s hope it doesn’t cost him his show. For years in the African American community it has been a widely held belief that Hall’s departure from late night came due to an infamous interview on his previous show with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

“First of all, my letter of resignation was written to a studio executive at that time who ran Paramount, his name is (Carey McCluggage). The letter went to Carey before Farrakhan ever appeared,” Hall insisted. “I had a good relationship with Paramount so even after I resigned, I continued to do shows while they checked with Bill Bellamy and Jon Stewart and different people under the Viacom Paramount MTV banner to decide who would take over for me and take the show. I continued to do the show and during that period there was the Farrakhan booking.” Hall went on to say, “there was an article written that said the show was cancelled. That confused a lot of people. And because the article came out around the time of the Farrakhan interview, the black public didn’t get a chance to know the truth about the ending. The bottom line is when I left, there was really no drama. I left to seek some balance in my life as a man. I didn’t know what that was at that time. I didn’t know whether I wanted to do more acting, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go on the road and do standup, I didn’t know whether it meant that I just needed a break. But I did what I did for personal reasons.”

In the end it turned out to be the personal pursuit of a man to change his family life, his love life and to have a child. “I was soul searching. It had nothing to do with business. I left because I had done it and I just wanted to find some balance in my life. And I’ve done some things, done a lot of things in my life, and I miss my show and I’m coming back to it. And I apologize to the black community for the journalistic misunderstandings and lies that were dispersed when I left,” said Hall emphatically.

Regardless of the reason, it’s safe to say that audiences around the country are genuinely excited for the return of one of Cleveland’s favorite sons and so is he. “When you make that decision [to return] you look back on your life and you realize, you know what, I’m a standup comic and a talk show host and that’s when I’m happiest. Basically, when I walk out there at night imagine seeing a woman that you loved, the one that got away, the only woman you’ve ever loved, that’s who I’ll see when I walk out.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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