Thursday, February 26, 2009

Get On The Bus With Jill Scott's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency

While taking a break from the 9-6 monotony, guess who I spotted chillin' on a bus stop on Sunset Blvd? Mother-to-be, poetess, singer, actress, and one of my all time favorite performers, Jill Scott! Across 2 lanes of heavy trafficI couldn't watch the road and her too so I pulled Corolla into a nearby gas station and busted a "flick", papparrazzi style with the Blackberry.

Okay, that first paragraph is obviously poetic license 'cause Jill is hardly riding city buses anymore. Not that she wouldn't, but with fame comes sacrifice. Still it was good to see her likeness and new series, 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' getting strong promotion in Hollywood. I took these pics near the corner of Sunset and Wilton Place. Though I would have preferred to see the colorful banner on a huge billboard--and they may exist, I just haven't seen them--these pretty benches definitely got my attention. However, if people had been sitting down...Well, at least it's a busy intersection.

The series was shot in Botswana last year and will air, March 29th on HBO. 'Dreamgirls' and 'Frog Princess' actress, Anika Noni Rose, also stars. Get more info about 'The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency' from my post last year HERE. And see below behind-the-scenes footage of Jill, Anika,the cast, and now deceased director, Anthony Minghella from CNN.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Power of Inspiration: Viola Davis Had No Doubt

Like many people I watched the Academy Awards surrounded by the glamour and glitz of my own making dressed in the most splendid pair of sweats pants and matching t-shirt designed by the famous American company, Hanes. The touch, the feel, of cotton....I digress.

And while enjoying the sexy Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) dance and sing his way into possibly a future Oscar hosting opportunity, I couldn't help reflecting on my own Oscar experience in 2003 when I had a brief moment to chat with Halle Berry backstage. You can read about that experience under my "personal experiences" category to the right. And then I also thought about how excited nominees, Taraji P. Henson, and Viola Davis must have been now that they had officially been "invited to the party" in Hollywood, sort of speak.

I've had the pleasure of talking to Taraji in the past year or so, but have never had the opportunity to meet, Tony Award winner, Viola Davis. She wasn't at the "Madea Goes To Jail" junket so questions concerning the Oscar nomination and others went unanswered, and I missed her most of her tv appearances. But I found a really good interview today with Davis that inspired me, better yet challenged, me to hold on to faith. Despite what you see on camera, there's a lot of people in the industry going through some hardships, just like everybody else.

Yet Viola's story is one that definitely demonstrates that no matter what we're experiencing currently, it does not have to be the end, just merely a difficult chapter in the book of life. Watch this insightful interview done with NPR.

Viola Davis, I was a casual observer of your work before, but now you've gained a fan. Not because of the nomination and because "everybody knows your name" right now, but because you've shared the truth of where you've been and what it really took to get to where you wanted to go. And you looked absolutely FABULOUS at the Oscars! Go 'head Ms. Viola! Now will somebody please give this woman some roles that not only showcases her acting chops, but also her true beauty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Need the time? See Jermaine Dupri's New Watch Collection

Lately, I've been visiting celebrity blogs and one of my favs is The new blog of hit machine, music producer, Jermaine Dupri. We all know JD can run a super successful record label, produce chart topping hits, and throw amazing parties. But did ya also know he created a fun Grammy Museum exhibit, is now doing professional photography, and recently launched a line of watches too? How does he find the time? Look below:

These eye catching time pieces are called Pop watches. Collaborating on the design was famous jewelry maker, Pascal Mouawad. In a press release Mouawad stated the design was inspired by "pop art of yesteryear" and the "vibrancy of today's pop culture". Similarly, Dupri said his inspiration was the Swatch watches from the 80's (remember those?) and Andy Warhol. Interesting...

The cost for one of these funky accessories is between $120 and $290 and will be on sale at major department stores. No word when, so be on the look out.

Peace! I truly mean that!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Madea Goes To Jail

Have you seen this woman? She's wanted here in Hollywood and pictured everywhere from Beverly Hills to North Hollywood to South Central and beyond. This pic I took right on the corner of Sunset & Vine.

Those of us that could easily pick her out in any police line up, know that such a picture could only mean one thing. Madea's baaaaaack! Obviously, you can't keep a good man--I mean woman--down and Lionsgate and Tyler Perry Studios'(TPS) show us why in thier new film, "Madea Goes to Jail". But this time the pistol-toting matriarch is going to have to do some time in the big house, and I'm not talking the one where brother, Joe, collects his check. No, I'm talking about the only place where Lil' Kim and Martha Stewart would ever be caught wearing the same colorful outfit. You guessed it! JAIL!

In this new comedic adventure Madea's antics--including a high speed chase and assault on several police officers--land her in anger management classes taught by none other than, Dr. Phil. Of course, when the classes fail and her road rage gives new meaning to "need a lift?" she winds up back in court. This time before no-nonsense law enforcer, Judge Greg Mathis. With one brief look at her record, he sends her away for an extended vacation courtesy of Dekalb County, Georgia.

But Madea isn't the character wreaking havoc in the lives of ATL's finest. Good girl gone bad, Candace Washington (Kiesha Knight Pulliam), is turning the life of high school friend, Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) upside down. A young Assistant District Attorney on the move, Hardaway's life is going smoothly--a pretty fiance (Ion Overmann), solid career, plans for a "buppy" future--until he's reunited with Candace, in court. She's now a prostitute in need of defense. Outwardly, the two have nothing in common, but secretly they share a past that significantly impacts both their lives.

In jail is where Madea and Candace meet. As their friendship blossoms they are taught the value of forgiveness and responsibility with the help of an unconventional counselor/teacher named Ellen (Viola Davis). It's a predictable moral story, but you don't really mind when you're busy laughing at Madea's jail house rowdiness.

Overall, the film is an enjoyable escape. The story is simple but not overly dumb-down. Yes, there are some stretches in the story, as one reporter pointed out during the press junket, but it doesn't take away from what audiences enjoy most about a Madea film--and that's fun and laughter. Personally, I would have liked to have seen better development of the love story between Candace and Joshua, but I can always go back to "Diary" for that.

So would I recommend seeing "Big Mama" Madea take charge of the big house in theaters this Friday? If you are in need of a laughter and a little escapism from your worries, then I say, yes. And if you are worry-free, my answer is the same. Though TPS may not have hit the cinematic ball out of the park this time, I still think this film is worthy supporting so that he can continually keep stepping up to bat in the Hollywood game. Remember, it's all about the box office benjamins, baby!

And in other TPS news, if you should happen to bump into Ms. Ross, Diana that is, please tell her that Tyler Perry is trying to reach her. Recently at the Four Seasons Hotel, Perry told press he's got a supreme movie role in mind for her in his new film, "A Jazz Man's Blues."

"Tyler Perry is after Diana Ross! Put that in the headlines", said Perry."The script is done. I wrote it in 1995...Got to get the right cast to do it. She's a major part of it along with Ben Kingsley, Cicely Tyson, Kimberly Elise, and myself."

And he also told us that "Why Did I Get Married?" fans need to get ready. "Why Did I Get Married Too" is on its way. Said Perry, "I'm writing it right now!" And you David and Tamela fans, have more to look forward too as well. The dynamic acting and singing duo now have their own show and it will air soon on TBS! Hallelu-er! Check for more information.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My 51st Annual Grammy Awards Experience

It's the day after. The 51 st Annual Grammy show is officially over. I sat backstage in the media room enjoying the show with fellow press people. And from my seat I got a great view of not only the show but some of the stars too! Overall, the show went well considering the last minute changes that had to be made due to the unfolding drama between scheduled performers, Rihanna and Chris Brown.

Ironically, while I sat in the busy room filled with entertainment journalists from CNN, AP, and the like, there was no public mention of what was going on between the young couple, both of which were Grammy nominated. There was only a whisper between a few journalists behind me. But with a breaking story like that it's understandable why competing news agency would keep the news to themselves as more details came in. I, myself, had received the news via BlackBerry just as Sir Paul McCartney took stage to answer our questions.

With so much going on with two of the industry's biggest stars, the award show went on without any obvious hiccups due to their absence. The show must go on, and it did! Quick thinking Grammy producers added a performance by Rev. Al Green and rearranged some other elements of the production to give audiences a solid 3 hour star-studded 51st Grammy Awards presentation. So here are my highlights from the media room:

Jennifer Hudson. The moment she hit stage, our attention went straight to the monitors. No clickety-clack of keyboards, no voice-over recordings, no talking on Iphone and Blackberry phones. We were literally glued to the screen. And when her emotional performance was over, damn near every woman--myself included--and a couple of dudes too were wiping tears. I hadn't really "felt" a performance like that in years. Unfortunately, she did not come to talk to press--no surprise there--but if she had, undoubtedly she would have received another standing ovation.

"I demand you put it back!" Sir Paul McCartney said passionately about music in schools. A huge supporter of music programs in schools, McCartney stated music programs were "a life safer for me. To be able to retreat in music is a great thing." And after 40 years, many folk still retreat to the Beatles famous white album--deemed by some the greatest rock album of all time. When asked how he felt about it now, Sir Paul said "in truth looking back on it, I truly can't believe it. I'm kind of amazed we did it cause we were kids." Interestingly, how many of today's young artist do you think will be able to look back 40 years from now and say the same thing about their music and it's relevance.

Multiple Grammy winning gospel singer, Yolanda Adams, announced she and Whitney Houston are not only praying together but singing together as well on Houston's upcoming album. She also made mention of stepping again into the acting arena as opera great, Leontyne Price. And now that her contract with Columbia Records is over she said she's considering some other genres of music including an album of love songs and possibly working with a couple of Hip Hop artists including Common and Kanye West.

And speaking of Ms. Houston, word on the street is she's back! From Clive Davis' party to backstage of the Staples Center, people were talking about Whitney and her come back. She looked fabulous during the broadcast and gave a great performance at Clive's event. We're rooting for you, Whitney!

And glory, glory, glory! Grammy winning gospel sisters, Mary Mary, told us they are branching out too and creating not only a line of bath and beauty products but also jeans. Look for those in stores next month. This was Grammy number 2 for them and earned in the Best Gospel Performance Category.

Moving on to more "wordly" topics, renown jazz musician Herbie Hancock said he is working on a global project, the Imagine Project, that will explore the anthropology of music, you could say, starting in Africa. It will feature collaborations from artists around the world and be done in different languages. And when asked what young artists he would like to collab with he said jokingly, "He [Stevie Wonder] stole my idea". In other words, the maestro wants to jam with the Jonas Brothers.

Last living member of the legendary group, The Four Tops, Duke Fakir, said a Four Tops movie is in the works. No actors were announced but Fakir let us know the film is definitely in development. And if you saw the show, then you couldn't help but notice somebody missed a few rehearsals as one reporter mentioned. With everyone having different schedules Fakir explained stand ins were used for rehearsals, and all the performers hit stage together for the first time last night. But really, who cares! It was a fun performance and for me, personally, they didn't have to dance just deliver the songs I grew up to.

That's a wrap for me folks. After battling rain, heavy traffic, crowds, and the usual Hollywood fanfare for 2 days, I eagerly went home to watch the west coast broadcast. So fade to black on my 51st Grammy Awards experience and fade up on the "The Young and Arrested" drama of Chris and Rihanna.

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