January 24, 2013

By Dwight Brown

NNPA Film Critic

 

Never has contributing to the delinquency of a minor been so wonderfully tragic and compelling.

 Sometimes Woody Watson (Michael Rainey Jr.), an 11-year-old, is a vulnerable kid: “Only one place I have is OK.  Inside me where I can hide everything.” Other times he’s a little man, a baby gangsta tuff; one morning he points a squirt gun at a mirror with a scowl on his face, “What you gon’ do?  I’m the man, I’ll kill you.”

Woody lives with his grandma (Lonette McKee) at her house in the Baltimore ‘burbs. His Uncle Vincent, nicknamed V (Common), has been “away” for eight years, and he’s shacking there, too. V is caring and nurturing, when he’s not acting like a smooth-talking, well-dressed thug.  He dream of opening a high-class crab joint, cause local folks like to eat those indigenous crustaceans. But, dreams cost money.

Life changes for Wood the day V lets him skip school so he can show him the ropes, “You with me today. I’m gonna teach you real work s—.”  V’s trying to stay on the up and up, but devils from his past tug at him. In the middle of a drug war, a crime lord named Fish (Dennis Haysbert) and his cagey older brother Arthur (Danny Glover) scheme on V. A buddy named Caufield (Charles Dutton) tries to steer him in the right direction, but bad choices and circumstance pull him down harder than gravity.

There is something so disturbing about watching a child being initiated into a life of crime. This daring film does it with gruesome authenticity drawn from true, life experience. Sheldon Candis, director and co-writer, was just 9 years old when he rode shotgun with an older family member who was a purported drug dealer, “During those rides, he would explain to me what it takes to be a man.”  But a child can’t really comprehend adulthood; they can’t fathom the consequences of their actions. They just posture. Wood drinks, shoots a gun and scams like a 40-year-old, but he is clueless. You feel for him.

Candis and Justin Wilson’s screenplay starts off almost magical, like urban ghetto fairy dust, then becomes more and more grim as the boy and his uncle descend into a merciless crime world that devours them. V is like the devil, tempting an angel, yet he still has redeeming qualities and he imparts wisdom: He confirms that Wood knows Frederick Douglass taught other slaves to read, right there in Baltimore: “When you think you can’t make it, think about your ancestors ‘cause that’s what’s in your spirit.”

As a director, Candis has perfect instincts for urban storytelling. The gritty atmosphere he creates is so real you can taste the fresh Baltimore crabmeat, smell the streets and you flinch and duck when bullets fly. If you liked the cable series “The Wire,” this is your cup of java. There’s a very refined blend of memorable dialogue, graphic action, silent moments, pained glances and eye-catching visuals. Candis doesn’t overcook the characters or dramatic scenes; he lets them simmer. He gives the actors plenty of time to work their magic. In ways this film feels like an intelligent, artistic character study with a European sensibility.

Portuguese composer Nuno Malo has created a hypnotic score with strained strings and synthesizers. It’s not typical music for an urban tale, but the contrasts works. Some of the cinematography (Gavin Kelly) feels a bit soft almost emitting a blinding cloudy light.  It’s too atmospheric when stark realism might have been a better choice

Common has a natural swagger; it helped him become a noted rapper. In this film, the musician becomes an actor capable of emoting and conveying deep feelings. He goes head to head with veteran thespians like Glover (his Arthur is impeccably nuanced), Dutton (sure-footed as ever) and Haysbert (he should stop doing those insurance commercials and go back to film or theatre so people can be reminded that he is a top-notch actor).  If there is a scene-stealer, it is the very endearing and natural Rainey Jr.  He has acting chops far beyond his years and turns in a performance that is on par with Quvenzhané Wallis’ in Beast of the Southern Wild. When Rainey Jr. and Common get into their screaming matches, it’s powerful stuff.

V tries to prepare Wood for the worst, “If you show weakness they gon’ get at you.”

Film Rating: *** (3 Stars)

Visit Film Critic Dwight Brown at www.DwighBrownInk.com.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

 

ARIES

This week is a good week for new investment of money, time or energy. Your investment will be attractive to someone who wants to help. Make the call. This week let the feeling of being special bathe you. Soul Affirmation: I invest new faith in everything I do this week.

 

TAURUS

Opportunity knocks this week, be ready and waiting. An old love may resurface. Take a good look. This week is good for you financially. Look for a special opportunity at work. Families matters, spend time with yours.  Soul Affirmation: Old love? New love? The most important thing is true love!

 

GEMINI

They get on your nerves but you’ll profit from joining with them in a common effort. Pull close to an annoying buddy. Joint adventures will pay ten-fold. Household projects call. You and a lover can finally reach the same page.  Soul Affirmation: I am patient with all that comes my way this week.

 

CANCER

This week begins three weeks during which success and romance are closely related. Kill two birds with one stone. Enjoy your feelings and let your brain relax. Suspend all judgments of others. Being stern won’t work for you this week.  Soul Affirmation: I judge no one, especially myself this week.

 

LEO

News that comes by phone, e-mail or snail mail makes it easier for you to remain upbeat. Focus on what is said. No matter what it is, find the good in it. Invite new insights. They could well come from your lover.  Soul Affirmation: I give thanks for who I am this week.

 

VIRGO

Don’t be dismayed if you tried to prevent it but couldn’t. It was meant to happen, and you were intended to learn from it. Nothing was lost. Something was delayed. After you’ve learned your lesson the chance will come again.  Soul Affirmation: Faith keeps me calm in the storms of life.

 

LIBRA

Your self-confidence is making you glow all over! People are attracted to your outlook this week, and you may be deluged with offers. Some may not be sincere, but trust your fabulous instincts and you’ll pick and choose what’s real for you.  Soul Affirmation: Clinging to the old will inhibit my growth this week.

 

SCORPIO

Find motivation within yourself to complete a task that has been hanging around too long. You will want to play later in the week, and you’ll feel happier then with a clear mind. Remember that you’re the boss of your emotions.  Soul Affirmation: My imagination is the source of my happiness.

 

SAGITTARIUS

Remember that you are in control of your emotions this week. Things will look brighter as soon as you let yourself feel like the glowing spirit that you are. Co-create your reality this week by using positive emotions to remind yourself of how wonderful you are.  Soul Affirmation: I will ask joy to marry me.

 

CAPRICORN

You are in the middle of a dream coming true. Watch for signs that your wish is about to be granted. You’ll be very happy with what you’ve achieved.  Soul Affirmation: Love is easier than breathing.

 

AQUARIUS

Overall, the vibrations surrounding you this week are very good, very good indeed. Go with the best, and refuse to allow any minor inconvenience to spoil your sunny mood. You are going to have a lovely week. Soul Affirmation: He who doesn’t ask will remain a fool forever.

 

PISCES

Remember that you look marvelous! Be prepared for lots of compliments this week, and plan to accept them gracefully. You may be planning a time period trip; it’s going to be a nice getaway. Soul Affirmation: Communication is a skeleton key that opens many doors.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY

Associated Press

 

Al Green says if things had worked out, it would have been him serenading President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle at the inaugural ball.

Jennifer Hudson sang Green’s classic “Let’s Stay Together,” leaving many to wonder why the soul legend wasn’t singing his own hit for the first couple.

In a statement to The Associated Press, his representative said Green had been asked to sing, but scheduling conflicts prevented him from attending Monday’s festivities. Green said he'd be honored to sing for the president in the future.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Obama famously sang a snippet of the song at an event last year that Green attended.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

Comedian-TV talk show host Steve Harvey is hosting next month's NAACP Image Awards.

The organization said Tuesday that presenters will include “Django Unchained” nominees Samuel L. Jackson and Jamie Foxx. Queen Latifah and Tony Goldwyn also will be among the presenters. Dennis Haysbert will be the announcer for the live broadcast.

Harvey said he’s honored to host the ceremony and promised “great things in store for the night.”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards honor diversity in the arts. Contenders for the top movie prize are “Flight,” “Django Unchained,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Red Tails” and “Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds.”

The 44th annual ceremony is scheduled to air Feb. 1 on NBC.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

January 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

Police responded to Chris Brown's home after they received a call about a domestic violence situation that turned out to be false.

The Los Angeles Times reports police were contacted shortly before 5 p.m. Monday about a domestic violence incident. When police arrived, members of Brown’s staff were at the home, but the singer wasn’t.

Police searched the home and didn’t find any problems.

It’s the latest so-called “swatting” prank targeting celebrities. The practice is intended to get multiple officers, including specialized SWAT teams sent to a home.

Last week, Beverly Hills police responded to a fake armed robbery call at Tom Cruise's house. Other hoax calls have been made involving the homes of Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Miley Cyrus.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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