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Oct 25th

Louder than a bomb

Louder than a bomb

DVD chronicles Chicago Poetry Slam

Does the hip-hop style of rhyming and its down-to-earth subject-matter about life in the ‘hood deserve the same respect as the classical couplets of Keats and other lofty lyricists whose work benefits from ivory-towered academia’s stamp of approval?

The answer to that question might lie in Louder Than a Bomb, a documentary chronicling the Slam Poetry competition of the same name staged annually in the Windy City.
   
Its 600+ entrants from 60+ schools are an ethnically-diverse array of high students who share a passion for the spoken word format. Co-directed by Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel (nephew of the legendary, late film critic Gene Siskel), the film telescopes narrowly on the fortunes of four teams and their talented standouts.

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3D Sequel’s Spectacular Showdown of the Gods Improves upon the Original Episode

3D Sequel’s Spectacular Showdown of the Gods Improves upon the Original Episode

Wrath of the Titans

I wish somebody would help me understand why the characters in movies set in ancient Greece invariably speak with British accents, since the English language didn’t even come into existence until centuries later. Other than that glaring anachronism, I have no complaints about Wrath of the Titans, a 3D sequel which is a rarity in that actually eclipses the original in quality.   

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles), this visually-captivating action-adventure revolves around another epic battle between the forces of good and evil. Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Danny Huston and Ralph Fiennes have returned to reprise their lead roles as Perseus, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, respectively.     

The story unfolds a decade after the initial installment which ended with hero Perseus’ defeat of the Kraken. Since slaying the monstrous sea monsters, the widowed demigod has been passing an unassuming existence as an ordinary fisherman, quietly raising his now 10 year-old son, Helius (John Bell), in obscurity.   

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Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World

Inspiration: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World

“Inspiration allows 30 exceptional people to tell their unique stories. Each of these women takes us on her life journey, describing the people, the teachings and the circumstances that shaped her.  We see the role that family, culture, community and mentorship play, as well as the influence of dreams, ambitions and ideas.
These women have achieved extraordinary success in the face of seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Even more important, each one has attributes of character--integrity, courage, energy, commitment, faith, drive--that illustrate how talent and character come together to create a rich and fulfilling life.
The results are astonishing… and I hope you enjoy and find inspiration in their stories.”
-- Excerpted from the Preface (pg. 6)

 

As a journalist, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a number of the talented trailblazers profiled in this book. But while I might have done a decent job of capturing, say, Laila Ali’s dogged determination, Raven-Symone’s admirable maturity, or Soledad O’Brien’s sheer brilliance, those tete-a-tetes still seem to pale in comparison to the emotional depth of the material captured on the pages of Inspiration.
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American Family: A contemporary look at Black identity

American Family: A contemporary look at Black identity


Park Square Theatre presents American Family, a world premiere commission, produced in association with Carlyle Brown & Company, now through April 7.

Set in Alabama, in 1964, the play opens on the playground where Mary Ellen Collins last saw her mother. At just nine years old, Mary Ellen had been taken away by her long-absent father after her mother was deemed unfit for marrying a Black man. Now a young adult, Mary Ellen has finally read the letters her mother sent to her over the years since that terrible separation. From those letters, she learns about her half-brother, born after she was taken away, and reaches out to meet him for the first time. Sharing their stories, brother and sister begin to heal from the past, with the hope that the family comes back together.


The idea for this commission bubbled up after Park Square’s production of Othello in 2009. James A. Williams, who was Othello and is featured as the grandfather in American Family, was working with Carlyle Brown in preparation for his role, directed by Richard Cook.

“Richard Cook has been extraordinary,” says Brown. “He has given me great artistic freedom.  It has truly been a collaborative venture, allowing me to bring into the process a constellation of artists that comprise Carlyle Brown & Company, to play roles written with them in mind.”

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Snow White saves Prince in refreshing overhaul of beloved classic

 Snow White saves Prince in refreshing overhaul of beloved classic

Everybody knows that the story of Snow White is about an expiring damsel-in distress who’s ultimately revived by a handsome Prince’s kiss on the lips. But the world has changed considerably since the Grimm Brothers first published the fairytale in 1812, so why not tweak it a tad to reflect 21st Century sensibilities?

That is ostensibly the idea behind Mirror Mirror, a novel overhaul of the original into a female empowerment flick featuring a spunky heroine capable of saving herself rather than having to rely on a knight in shining armor. Directed by Punjab-born Tarsem Singh, this incarnation even includes a Bollywood dance number during the closing credits.

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Jasmine in bloom

Jasmine in bloom


Jasmine Guy
The “October Baby” Interview

Born in Boston on March 10, 1962, Jasmine Guy is a Renaissance woman with dancer, actress, singer, director, and writer on her resume. She performed in the Broadway productions of The Wiz, Leader of the Pack, Grease, and Chicago, and she has also served as a stage director and choreographer on numerous occasions.        

Still, the versatile entertainer remains best known for her work in television, especially for creating the iconic character Whitley Gilbert on A Different World. Her other TV credits include recurring roles on The Vampire Diaries, Fame, Touched by an Angel, Melrose Place and Dead Like Me. 

 On the big screen, Jasmine appeared in such movies as School Daze, Harlem Nights and Stomp the Yard 2. She is the author of Evolution of a Revolutionary, a book about the life and journey of Afeni Shakur, and she released an eponymous record album on Warner Brothers Records in 1990. 

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DeRay Vision

DeRay Vision

DeRay Davis: The “21 Jump Street” Interview

A born hustler from Chicago’s South Side, DeRay Davis began his career on the comedy club circuit and was first noticed by Hollywood while onstage at Atlanta’s Laffapalooza Festival. Shortly after moving to LA, he won the Comedy Central Laugh Riots Competition and was subsequently a standout on the Cedric the Entertainer Tour and at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival.

DeRay’s film credits include Jumping the Broom, Get Him to the Greek, Semi-Pro, Barbershop, Barbershop 2, Johnson Family Vacation, Old Dogs, Life as We Know It, Imagine That, License to Wed, School for Scoundrels and Scary Movie 4. And on the small screen, he has appeared in HBO's Entourage, Comedy Central's Reno 911, Comedy Central Presents DeRay Davis, Comedy Central's Premium Blend and BET's ComicView, along with doing various voices on The Boondocks.

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