BB2 Monthly Assessment (April)

This year, I started doing a monthly assessment of myself. It is what it sounds like: at the end of each month, I take a look at things about myself, how I’m improving, and how much more I have to go. It’s my 4th one now, and it really is helping me to think more and more about gaining a stronger self-awareness in order to move through life improving on a daily basis. The best way to go through life is to seek to learn more, improve, and strive for higher and higher goals.

Last month’s assessment ended with ‘belonging’ as one of the main points I wanted to think about/focus on more; trying to pay attention to where I feel most comfortable with fitting in, how I might belong to a place/group/people, and how I operate. This is probably the biggest thing I focused on throughout April. Everyone has the need to feel as though they belong to something. When you’re a young teenager, you long to figure out where you fit in the best and feel the most comfortable – maybe it’s the basketball team, maybe it’s art class, maybe it’s band, maybe it’s simply with a circle of friends whom know you the best. No matter what, it is within this group that you will give your best efforts and often enjoy your time the most. As we grow, I believe we as social beings who thrive from others in our own way (age notwithstanding) still seek to have at least one or two places such as this. Maybe it’ll be our workplace (especially if it is within our ideal career); maybe it’s with a special activity we do in our free time, like singing in the community choir or weekly church functions. It helps to define who you are in a way.

One thing I’ve come to learn about myself is that I feel as though I can belong to a group more when I feel as though I can contribute something in a positive way – especially when it involves responsibility. When I can help complete a goal or task, I feel like I’m giving back or helping, and I feel much more a part a major contributor, and therefore I feel more comfortable being involved. When I am unable to do this, I feel much more removed from the group. For example, throughout this month, my voice went in and out for some days due to physical illness. As a result, I had to take a few days off here and there from singing in choirs at school to rest my voice, allowing it to (eventually) return in full. Most days, I would still sit in on rehearsals to still receive the information, but by doing that & not being able to contribute by singing, I felt so useless. I know that’s not really true, but I couldn’t help but feel much more removed from helping the groups achieve a great goal – musical greatness in performance. On the contrary, I’ve had more and more positive experiences in the choirs have done the opposite for me. With the Men’s Chorus, the music I rehearsed/conducted with them went beautifully in our performances after much hard work, and the more time I had in front of them to make music, the more comfortable I became with these guys in general. One of these concerts brought me the most fun I’ve had performing in a choir concert in a long time, and by now, I had gained a strong sense of belonging with them. Moreso, I started to feel a similar sense of belonging with the Chorale (a group which I had originally felt more intimidated by being in) because I began to have more time either in front of them for rehearsals and started getting to know other members a bit better.

Last month I also wrote about feeling this more and more with my church choir, and much of this was for similar reasons – being able to invest more time & responsibility to stay connected with them; as well as the fact that they are just plain old wonderful human beings (seriously, the kindest people I will ever meet). I’ve also more than established this with my coworkers at my weekend part-time job of many years, but this took a long time to feel completely comfortable – I was a quiet, stoic worker when they hired me. By now, the more time I spent there, the more comfortable I became with the genuinely kindhearted environment, and especially the more I was able to enjoy the people & prove I was a responsible worker – the more I opened up and became myself. Now it’s not as much of a job for me as it is being able to spend time working with another family of mine.

Belonging to an accepting family – whether it’s my actual loving family, my fun work family, my wonderful church choir family, or my newly developing school family – is an important aspect of my life and development as a person. These relationships, while varied, help me to adjust to and through life in ways that make it all worth it in a unique, but important way. I feel more attached and important when these are in place, and not as though I’m just going through motions on anything. When I feel as though I’m missing this in an area, I feel either less inclined to invest myself in whatever’s going on, or I just feel useless, as though I am not a part of anything. And when we’re not a part of something good, we need to be sure we’re not a part of something bad…before it finds us.
-BB2

One note alone can't make an entire symphony.

One note alone can’t make an entire symphony.-

Advertisements

Music Monday: Back to the Future Theme

Hi all, and welcome to this week’s segment of Music Monday! In this segment*, I’ll post a song I enjoy and ask you some of your favorites.

*Today, whilst busy, I remembered mid-day to do this, and asked myself “Why in the world did you start a ‘weekly’ segment on a Monday?!” Good question, Future BB2, said Past BB2. The answer? Seeing as how Mondays are already the ill-looked-upon stepchild of Friday & Saturday, why not lift our spirits a bit with some good music?

ANYWAY! For this installment of Music Monday, here is a song I’ve been into since childhood.

Back to the Future: Title Theme

I think everyone secretly has that epic theme song they play in their heads when something…well, “epic” happens to them. Maybe it’s when you’re driving somewhere, in a hurried panic, and you suddenly have a quick second to speed through the yellow light before it changes. Then WOOSH, victory! *cue music* Or maybe it’s the music you hear when you receive really, really good news. For me, that is this gorgeous and exciting theme song. Back to the Future came out in 1985, and it still holds up as one of the most well-known action/sci-fi movies in existence. Among the many things that make this movie amazing and memorable (its’ action, characters’ catch phrases, adventure, true zeitgeist of the 80s) is definitely that theme song. Alan Silvestri composed the score for these movies, and you can really tell from listening just how much heart & soul he and the orchestra put into this music from downbeat to cutoff. It’s not just epic adventure music – the score alone captures the essence of the emotions the characters are going through, the new worlds and situations they encounter, and it always manages to evoke a good few emotions from the audience as well. It’ll always be at the top of my favorite movie theme songs, and the big climactic moment (esp. at 2:30 in the above video) will always be the first thing I think of when a triumphant victory occurs.

So there’s this week’s MUSIC MONDAY! I hope you enjoy this epic movie theme – now tell me what yours might be? Pirates of the CaribbeanStar WarsIndiana Jones90s Batman? (Lol.) Drop some thoughts below, and let’s get musically epic!

Have a great week, and sing on my brethren!

-BB2

great scott

Judas is Scary Yet!

In lieu of having just celebrated Holy Week, this past weekend my siblings & I watched some Easter movie specials, and explored the age-old question:

Judas, what the heck?

If you get familiar enough with the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, you learn that Judas was fulfilling a prophesy by turning Jesus in to the Romans/Pharisees. But there’s a few parts of the story which you have to wonder what in the doggone world was going on in this man’s head. So let’s take a ride through yet another sketch comedy to adventure into the (slightly exaggerated) possibilities!

Judas Is Scary Yet

[…get it? Judas Iscariot? Haha. Okay, moving on.]

(Scene: The Last Supper. Jesus and the 12 disciples are seated around the table, eating and chatting, jovial.)

PETER: And then I was like, “No no, we’ll come to YOUR church this time, it’s a brief walk!” and she was all (high falseto) “but Simon Peter, what about the sea between between our two cities?” (regular) And I said “Water? HAH! Water?! Do you know who my Master is?! I’ll just walk on over there! We do it all the time!” Haha, she was quite speechless, my brethren.

ANDREW: And you mean to tell me that she believed you would walk on the water to her?

PETER: ‘Believed’? If the Master had me do it once, surely I can attempt it again! Why, I’ll surely skip right over those fish this time!

THOMAS: Yeah…I doubt that’ll work, but you know. Do you.

PETER: Oh, shush Thomas! Judas Iscariot, pass the bread please! (no response) …Judas?

JUDAS: (sudden panic) WHAT ABOUT THE SILVER PIECES?!?!?!?!

[All stare]

JUDAS: Oh, sorry. Here you go, Peter. (Passes a pitcher of water across the table)

PETER: Thank you, but this isn’t bread; it’s water.

JUDAS: Well you don’t have to ‘wine’ about. Ha. Get it? Wine, whine. (nervous “please accept me”-induced laughter; snorts; quickly turns into awkward silence)

JESUS: …Now is a good time for me to speak to you all about this. Each of you, take a piece of this bread. (Passes bread around the table; all disciples take a piece) Take, eat. This is my very self – my body – broken for you.

JUDAS: Pretty crummy body, if you ask me. Do you even lift, Master? (nervous laughter again; all stare in disbelief)

ANDREW: Judas, please. (JUDAS makes a squints his face at ANDREW, mockingly)

JESUS: Take and drink. (passes wine around; all take a sip) This is my blood. I will soon die.

JUDAS: Well obviously, if we’re all drinking your blood, you’ll die. OOOH, does this mean I can turn into a Messiah too if I drink your blood? I’ll call myself “Jesus Iscariot” or “Iscariot the Chariot” or “Earth, Wind and JUDAS!”

PETER: JUDAS! Cease this madness! The Master is having a serious moment!

JESUS: On the night I am taken, one of you in this very room will betray me and hand me over to the enemy. (All Disciples except JUDAS react in concerned disbelief and fear)

PETER: We would never betray you, Master! It…surely it isn’t…it can’t be me, is it? Master, is it I?

ANDREW: Master, is it I?

JAMES: Master, is it I?

(Each disciple asks JESUS this one-by-one while JUDAS looks around nervously, looking for an escape. He thinks:)

JUDAS: (thinking) Hoooo boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I wonder if he knows. He probably knows. I’ll never live this down. What have I done? I always said I’d NEVER betray a man with hair longer than mine. But I needed that money…how else am I supposed to support my figs-eating habit? I haven’t been this nervous since I arm-wrestled that kid on the mount for the last few pieces of bread and fish. Darn Jesus, making us share that with everyone. Oh shoot, they’re almost done…don’t make eye contact..don’t make eye contact…

THOMAS: Master, is it I? I mean, I doubt it, but…

JOHN: Oh my gosh, really?

JESUS: He who betrays me knows it. He is here. (looks at Judas, with minimal expression, but still conveying “I understand, but I’m still disappointed.)

JUDAS: (Looks around, like “What? Me? Oh nah?”) …Uh…uh…uh…oh right. *ahem* Master is it I?

JAMES: Kind of late on your line there, buddy.

JESUS: You have said it.

JUDAS: Um…yeah… (looks up suddenly) Oh, what’s that, Lazarus? You need help getting out of the tomb? (stands quickly) Well I guess if I’m the only guy who can help bring you back from the dead again — (starts to run off)

MATTHEW: What?! The Master brought him back ages ago! What are you talking about?

JOHN: Where are you going at a time like this??

JUDAS: Oh you know…I just need to go…do the…Judas-y things I do…

JESUS: Do what you must. (They meet eyes. JUDAS freezes for a moment.)

JUDAS: Well you know what they say…if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the tomb!

BARTHOLEMEW: You only tell that joke when you’re about to betray people.

JUDAS: You only look that stupid when you’re about to…. I GOTTA GO!!! (runs out)

PETER: (after silence) …Is Lazarus really dead again? I just went to Mount Fitness with him last week—

JESUS: Peter. No. Come on.

**********

(Scene: Garden of Gethsemene. JUDAS is leading the ROMANS to capture JESUS, who is just returning from prayer to awake the disciples, who are sleeping on the grass)

JESUS: Awake, all of you! How can you sleep at a time like this! I asked you to stay awake and keep watch! Wake up!

PETER: (jumps up) Aaaaaaaand then I said “Mom, if I wanna walk on water, it’s my life, okay??? —oh, hey Master. I was just telling the guys–

JESUS: You were sleeping.

ANDREW: We were sleeping on the cold hard ground!…and yeah we fell asleep.

JESUS: You had one job! Get up quickly, for he who betrays me is near!

[JUDAS & the ROMANS stop about 30 ft. away from JESUS]

JUDAS: (to the ROMANS) The man I kiss is the one you want.

CAPTAIN: …A kiss, are you sure? You could simply begin talking to him or shake his hand, that’ll give us the–

JUDAS: No no no. I’ve already planned this out. A kiss. It must be a kiss.

CAPTAIN: Really, you could even point to him, or yell “JESUS THE CHRIST, HERE YOU ARE OUT IN THE OPEN–”

JUDAS: LOOK. Clearly you don’t know anything about betraying people. You kiss them. That’s how you do it! All right!?

CAPTAIN: If you say so… (JUDAS walks towards JESUS) … what a strange man…

JUDAS: (to himself) All right. Showtime. (to JESUS, jovial) Master! Hey, sorry I fell behind. Peter forgot to give me the address! It’s so good to see you, come here big guy —

[JUDAS awkwardly and slowly starts to kiss JESUS, and first grabs His shoulders/holds Him]

JESUS: Judas, you don’t necessarily have to—

JUDAS: No no, I got this buddy, it’s all good, just showing you how much I love you–

[JUDAS continues to try kissing JESUS on the cheek, misses, and gets his shoulder]

JUDAS: Sorry, I’m sorry, I’m gonna get this right–

JESUS: Judas, you really don’t–

JUDAS: Don’t say anything, I can do this!

CAPTAIN: Judas, I think we know who he is now, you can stop–

JUDAS: NO! This is my one job, man! I can do this! (tries again; misses the cheek again and gets his forehead)

PETER: That’s maaaaaaaajor bro code right there. He’s getting kicked out of the Disciples for this.

ANDREW: …But not for betraying the Master?

PETER: Is that what this is? Wow, all this time I thought it’d be Matthew the tax collector.

THOMAS: I doubt that ever happening.

PETER: DUDE.

JUDAS: Okay, okay, everyone just calm down and let me handle this! (finally kisses his cheek)

JESUS: (staring blankly at JUDAS) Judas…you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?

JUDAS: Yeah, maybe I should have shaken your hand like they said.

JESUS: Hmmm.

CAPTAIN: All right fellas, there he is! Forward! (ROMANS grab JESUS)

THADDEUS: (points & yells) Those men are gonna hurt Jesus!

PETER: Come on, Disciples! We can’t let them take the Master!

DISCIPLES: (action hero-fighting poses) FOR THE MASTERRRRRRR!!! (they charge forward and try to fight; the CAPTAIN pulls a sword and the DISCIPLES run away)

THOMAS: (running) I IMMEDIATELY DOUBT THIS DECISION!!!!!!!!

PETER: YOU COWARDS! I got this Master!!! (grabs a sword and accidentally cuts a ROMAN’s ear off) Take this, Roman scum — uh-oh.

JESUS: PETER, NO!!! We will not shed blood for more blood! I did not teach you that way! (Holds the ROMAN’s ear on his head; it heals and is back in place)

ROMAN: I…wow…thank you, sir.

JUDAS: Hey, you never did that with me! Come on, man, I gave you my best Judas Iscari-kiss!

CAPTAIN: Let’s move him out! (ROMANS take JESUS away)

PETER: Noooo! What have I done? We have shamed the Master… (cries)

JUDAS: Hey, it’s all right, buddy… (fake-consoles PETER, patting him on the back without really caring about him) It’ll be okay…we’ll find another Jewish master to follow around. You…you want a ride my special Judas Iscariot chariot? I’ll let you do that, Peter. Just you.

PETER: You MONSTER!!! I could kill you, you double-crossing, backstabbing, sneaky, two-faced, money-grubbing, skinny piece of trash!

JUDAS: HEY! I’m not that skinny!

PETER: AAAAAAH!!!! (attacks him; JUDAS stops him)

JUDAS: Hey man, come on, violence won’t fix this. You just cut a guy’s ear off, for Iscariot’s sake! You’re just angry right now. Come on, let’s hug this out. (tries to awkwardly hug/kiss him)

PETER: (breaks away) Yeeeeah, I’m not doing this. (walks away) I shall go find the Master, and defend Him to the death!

THOMAS: (from a distance, offstageI doubt you’ll actually do that!

JUDAS: DUDE, SERIOUSLY!

-FIN.-

judas

*Please know that this, once again, is just a comedic look at things. I am a Christian and greatly believe in the events of the Bible, and am not trying to be blasphemous. Just funny. Hope you enjoyed it!

-BB2

Music Monday: Kirk Franklin

Hi all, and welcome this week’s segment of Music Monday! In this segment, I’ll post a song I enjoy and ask you some of your favorites.

For this installment of Music Monday, here is a song I grew up with and have been into for many years now. Let me start by saying, the title of the song is not what the gutters in your mind think it might be at first.

Let Me Touch You (from Whatcha Lookin’ 4)

In the early 90s, Kirk Franklin released his second gospel album, Whatcha Lookin’ 4, featuring himself leading his choir ‘The Family’. Throughout the 90s, they all became well versed into the gospel scene, as we loved his extremely upbeat personality through the music, the infectious enthusiasm of himself and the choir onstage (you just knew they were having a good time in every song), and most importantly, the praise/worship of God really shone through in such creative & meaningful ways that the audience could adapt to. If you weren’t a listener who believed in Jesus & his healing power, listening to Kirk share the greatness of Him (even sometimes including essence of personal turnaround experiences) just might be powerful enough to make you think really hard about it. This entire album = wonderful.

Let Me Touch You was during a set in the middle of the concert in which Kirk sat at the piano for some slightly more somber/melodic songs. My personal favorite is this one. The soloist is Dalon Collins, and in the song he asks Jesus: “Let me touch you and see if you are real, even though I know your heart my hands can heal; but sometimes I get discouraged and I need your strength and shield. Jesus, let me touch you and see if you are real.” I mean, man. Those lyrics are just the beginning of the song! It goes on to become so reflective of that longing that so many people have for Jesus in many situations (or in general), and wanting/needing His love more and more. The melody/music is so simple compared to some of the other songs in the album, but after the music starts to build towards the key change, the intensity created doesn’t go over the top – it simply captures the need for having Jesus near for comfort. Collins was a fantastic, passionate soloist in The Family back in the day (who still performs solo as far as I can find) and everything he pours into the song just makes this perfectly meaningful, musical, and magnificent. It truly feels like the tone this song captures is reminiscent of the love and reaching one really has for Jesus. I’ll probably love this song forever, and I hope it continues to live on.

So there’s this week’s MUSIC MONDAY! I hope you enjoy Let Me Touch You – now give me a song you enjoy! Who knows, perhaps we’ll inspire each other musically towards something new.

Have a great week, and sing on my brethren!

-BB2

Why Prince of Egypt is a Must-See Classic

prince of egypt

Prince of Egypt (1998)

I love this movie! Not going into too much detail today, but I just want to briefly highlight why I think this movie is gold: as an animated project, as a movie period, as a story…so many great things.

I feel like most have at least heard the story of Moses, so instead of doing a summary, I’ll just dive right into what’s great about this.

WHAT WORKS

  1. The Soundtrack – Man oh man. I love movies that have such a strong soundtrack, and especially when every song is memorable, well-done, full of heart & the best of efforts, the right musicians, capture the true essence of the movie’s action, and just…aaah it’s so good. Every song performed by the characters with such passion, and you fall in love with singing any of them (Deliver Us, Heaven’s Eyes, When You Believe…yes, even Steve Martin/Martin Short’s Playing with the Big Boys is fun!). However, I do wish that Danny Glover would have actually sung Heaven’s Eyes. But I know that’s never going to happen. Oh well. Thank you, Brian Stokes Mitchell.
  2. Animation – It’s fantastic. The animation works so hard, along with the music, voice acting, and other aspects of the movie to show capture the intensity, emotions, and relationships taking place in the story. The result is something that still holds strong as a visual that connects us even more with what’s taking place. When this movie came out, the visual artwork in this was just stunning for its’ time. Today in 2014, even if we’ve seen things that have amazed us even further since technology continued to advance, it still holds up very much as a strong spectacle.
  3. Characters – I’ll mention the best treatment of character development in my final point, but the characters in this movie really work for me! In addition to being directly from the original story, they also take some of the main characters a little farther to be relatable to any audience in a way similar to any good movie. Ramses’ parents aren’t just cardboard cutout rulers of Egypt – they do have feelings and thoughts similar to what people we know today would have (given a certain upbringing). Seti, Ramses’ father, when explaining how Egypt works & why he had to kill the Hebrew babies, isn’t just a stoic “this is how it must be because of tradition”; I mean, he was, but he also seemed like he did have a slight sense of care and passion for what he was doing, as well as for his son to rise to the occasion of carrying on what he had come to love doing over the years. The mother was also very heartwarming and loving. And Jethro was so much fun! We even get to know Moses wife in this! Granted, liberties were taken here too (such as her joining him to Egypt), but nothing that gets in the way or insults the original story. Finally, EVERY voice actor put their heart and soul into making these characters come to life, to the point that I don’t hear the actor – I hear the character. Later, I go “OH that IS Patrick Stewart! Awesome! Wait, they got Jeff Goldblum in there? Huh!”
  4. Treatment of the Biblical Story – This is probably the most important aspect, and the one that was the best handled aspect of the entire movie. Double whammy! It’s like this: any time someone makes a movie based on a Biblical story, some filmmakers have been known to take more…“liberty” with the story than others. (Worst one I ever saw? A Noah’s Ark story in which Noah got in a fight w/one of his sons due to cabin fever.) Anyway! These storytellers not only stick to the script for the most part, they also work in the relationship between Moses & Ramses, who grow up as brothers. We get to know them as two very close brothers, and when Moses begins to realize his Hebrew roots and he has to leave Egypt, Ramses is very pained by this. As a result, he is overjoyed when Moses returns after many years – until he learns about his mission from God to free the Hebrew slaves. Then as the plagues occur (leading to the death of Ramses’ own son), he two of them are truly pained in their hearts that they must now be pitted against each other. Watching the two of them in this development is the best (and only/coolest) idea for character development in a Bible movie I’ve ever seen. We get to relate to them in a different way that some movies with these stories can’t tell without making something up that misses the point. This truly added a great strength to the movie that gave it a new edge, relatability, story, true character development, and another awesome song for the soundtrack during the plagues (Let My People Go) that visually shows us the turmoil the two of them are going through while they must remain in their roles as God’s messenger vs. stubborn ruler. Because of this, I feel like even those who did not grow up with (or are big on) the Bible or the story of God using Moses to deliver the Hebrew slaves from bondage through miraculous/extreme events can enjoy this story because of the connection with the characters, and perhaps get sucked in enough to get the essence of a great story with something more.

CONCLUSION:

There is truly so much to talk about with this movie, but it must be seen to be truly enjoyed. I watched it with my family again this weekend, as it’s been one of our family favorites for years. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, I definitely say give it a watch. The effort, passion, and care given to every single aspect will not disappoint.

BLACKOMETER: 9.5/10

Happy Easter/Resurrection Sunday to everyone! May you be inspired by God’s sending Christ to die for our sins, as well as enjoying good family & friends, at this most important of holidays.

-BB2

resurrestion sunday

Joyful Noise: A Movie that Missed the Point

joyfulnoise_ad31

Joyful Noise (2012)

Queen Latifah & Dolly Parton in a movie together about singing. What could go wrong? (Good question.)

SUMMARY:

Queen Latifah & Dolly Parton both sing in a church choir together – a pretty good one – who is known for coming out successfully in church choir competitions. They are led by Parton’s father, who passes away suddenly, but the church elects Latifah as the new leader instead of Parton. Of course, Dolly Parton isn’t super pleased that she wasn’t chosen, and makes this pretty clear, spawning an odd little feud with Latifah. Meanwhile, Latifah has to deal with her two children Keke Palmer (who wants to be a breakup star but struggles to deal with her MIA father) & song w/a mental illness. Parton’s grandson shows up as the oddball trouble-making who shakes things up, and gets close to Keke Palmer, despite her mother’s strict ‘be home when the streetlights come on and praise the Lord’ rules. Throughout the movie, Latifah has to deal with the choir wanting her to not be so stubborn with her overly-traditional ways, and this even includes dealing with some family issues.

WHAT’S… okay.

  1. Music – The songs are nice. Not memorable, but everyone does a good job musically. The singers can sing. That’s a good start. The music is done by Mervyn Warren, by the way – a great musician/producer who’s knows what he’s doing (he was even in Take 6 for some years at their start). That helps. Parton’s song reflecting on her father is nice, but forgettable.
  2. My Old Friend Courtney – Oh look, it’s Courtney B. Vance! Preaching yet again. Haven’t seen him since Preacher’s Wife. Ha. How fun.
  3. Walter – At first, I didn’t think I’d like Latifah’s son, Walter, in this movie, who is dealing with life as a teen with asperger syndrome. But I do like what this character brings to the movie – he was well-written, brought a lot of realistic struggle (yet heart) to the story, and should have been the only major subplot. The best part of the movie is his scene w/Latifah where he questions why God made him like this. That scene is touching, to the movie’s credit – followed by her singing Fix Me, Jesus.
  4. THERE’S the Queen – It takes a long time (somewhat understandably) to see the Queen Latifah we’re used to. After an hour of maintaining her ‘holier-than-thou’ routine, she finally starts playing the dozens on Parton when she confronts her at work, which gave me the personality I recognize and enjoy. Sometime later, after what seems like an eternity of Keke Palmer snapping and complaining and calling her mother out of her name, Latifah FINALLY smacks Palmer. Now I don’t say that in a “wooo violence!” kind of way. Let’s just say Palmer’s character was terribly annoying when she got to her angry teenager part of her development. That slap scene was long-awaited and 30 minutes too late.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

  1. Pop Songs in Church – I don’t get it? Okay, here’s the deal. A gospel choir appearing behind a Michael Jackson song, for example, on one of his concerts is a fantastic feature that kicks things up a notch. I am a fan of what this adds. But a church choir, of any genre, singing secular/pop songs in church is not what they are for when it comes to the Sunday morning gig. The church choir’s main purpose is to use music as a ministry tool for God’s messages. Man in the Mirror is a great song, but it’s not a message people come to hear about God’s Word. I’m not against non-traditional styles in a church by any means, but it has to be used for reasons that make sense and do the job of attracting people to listen because of the sound, but leave with the message. Sadly, that isn’t paid attention to here. (See more in my final point.)
  2. The Random Subplot – so two of the choir members randomly (and I mean, randomly) hook up in front of the church, and their lovemaking literally kills the man. Then we cut to his funeral and they try to play it off as a dark joke. This comes remains a subplot later on, but everything I just described happens within 60 seconds – it’s really quick. WHAT’S THE POINT?! Most random, stupid thing ever. It’s not funny, and it’s totally worthless. Them hooking up so suddenly might have been funny on its’ own without the abrupt death joke. Now the joke is whenever men get with this woman, they “tap it and die.” Great. Next.
  3. Kirk Franklin – Kirk Franklin is a fantastic, amazing gospel artist who’s been around since the 90s, and he’s one of the biggest voices in gospel music. He’s also appeared in movies/TV acting as something similar to what he does in real life, because he’s a pretty game guy. In this movie, he cameos as the leader of the dynamic choir who keeps beating Latifah’s choir. I love seeing him here, but it seriously feels like they could have used anybody, and therefore wasted his time. Here’s my theory: They saw Kirk performing somewhere, showed up with cameras, lied to him about what they were really doing, shot the movie around him, and then announced him as another character. Kirk saw it and said “I could be mad and sue…but hopefully someone will see my song and get a the ministry out of it that I intended.” Which is nice. Then he watched the rest of the movie and was like “…oh. They said I cheated. That ain’t cool.”
  4. Dragging – There are plenty of scenes & moments that do drag. And when they drag, they drag pretty hard. A song or two definitely do this (There’s NO reason why we have to watch a full song by their competition in the finals). And then, after a few predictable scenes you saw coming, someone cusses just to ‘throw you off.’ Okay.
  5. Olivia – Keke Palmer did a fine job acting in this movie, and has already proven herself as an actress. I also am pretty much convinced that the chemistry between her and Latifah & Parton was good. HOWEVER. I HATE HER CHARACTER. When she learns the truth about her father leaving, she starts moping & doping around, acting disrespectfully bitter, and it’s not just hard to watch – it’s dreadfully annoying. I wish this role was played by an actress I didn’t care about so I didn’t feel as bad since I like Keke Palmer. I wonder what the Love Don’t Cost a Thing chick is up to…
  6. The Finals Song – Okay. Remember in Drumline (not saying it’s a good movie, just hear me out), Orlando Jones’ character was extremely pro-traditional style and Nick Cannon’s character was extremely new style? In the end, they both had to learn to meet in the middle in some way, which resulted in a better payoff. This is the better way to go for movies like that. I’m not a fan of movies that bring in this kind of story and end with conforming completely to one style, and I’ll tell you why. The movie basically said “Yeah, the traditional way of music making/praising God is great, but screw that, we want to win and capture people’s attention, so let’s go TOTALLY new!” Here are the problems with that:
    1. There is NO Middle Ground. They don’t even try to meet halfway. They basically condone the older style (from which the influence came) as the less popular idea. This movie is clearly going for what’s popular, and that’s pop music w/choreography.
    2. The Message of Ministry Gets Lost. A church choir singing over beats of a more modern is not the end of the world, and it can be used to get a younger audience to listen. But there has to be more to it than that. This music is supposed to be about something – in this case, God’s message, or people praising Him. This was tossed aside during the finals song for an ‘exciting, hip sound’. So what’s the takeaway? Not what we started with.
    3. The Song Has NO Substance. It really…really feels like this song was only put here to out-do something like the competition scene of Sister Act 2. Latifah starts it off by saying “can we take God higher?” but then the song has no substance in terms of being about anything. It’s just a bunch of people singing loudly, bright lights, snappy dance moves, and a lot of excited people on stage because they’re singing and dancing like they’re in Glee. My point? This is now no longer using music as an expression of something, but rather using it as a gimmick. This misses the point entirely.

Queen Latifah’s Top 3 Momma Metaphors:

  1. There’s always free cheese in the mousetrap. But trust me, the mice ain’t happy.
  2. You’re a fault zone! Anyone who gets too close to you is gonna have rocks falling on them too!
  3. When someone doesn’t fit into a box, you don’t try to shove them in w/everybody else. You build a bigger box!

CONCLUSION:

This movie goes from decent to okay to kind of slow & predictable to terribly insulting to art. Everyone looks like they were having a nice time, the music itself was given actual effort by the performers, and I did enjoy the Walter stuff, which really was the best material. (Why couldn’t we just get a movie based around him?) But the biggest issue really is the value placed on the music and its’ purpose. By the end, no one in this movie, even the pastor, shows that they care about why they’re singing, just that they want to win by any means necessary; even if it means conforming to a style that wouldn’t be bad if they remembered to include some actual substance/message. And the people who DID care about more than winning are eventually won over. Sadly, this movie doesn’t make a Joyful Noise – it just makes NOISE.

BLACKOMETER: 4/10

Let me know what you think!

-BB2

Rugrats Go Wild – a Wild, Smelly Mess

Where are my 90s Nickelodeon kids at?

Where are my 90s Nickelodeon kids at?

Rugrats Go Wild (2003)

SUMMARY

This movie combines two popular 90s/early 2000s Nickelodeon animated shows from the same studio: Rugrats and Wild Thornberrys. The Rugrats families’ cruise vacation goes horribly wrong when Stu Pickles lands them a different boat that gets shipwrecked on an island. Thankfully, there are others here – the Thornberrys – and throughout a means of multiple escapades, confusion of identity, talking dogs, and a deep sea adventure, they begin to meet and help each other out in different ways. (As long as we don’t have to smell them.)

WHAT WORKS:

  1. Susie Gets To Go – I remember being so upset when they didn’t let Susie, the black character, go to Paris with everyone else in the second Rugrats movie. Susie then attends this trip, explaining that her parents are otherwise preoccupied but she wanted to go on the cruise with them. That’s fine, we don’t need to be too crowded with characters in this movie. But I love Susie. She’s Angelica’s ultimate match, and the true hero of the show. I can only guess that when she was left out of the Paris adventure, Rugrats producers got many angry complaints from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. It worked! She might not have gotten to be in a good movie, but at least she wasn’t left behind this time.
  2. The Babies – What remains is the charm of their innocence and adventure together – that, thankfully, remains. It’s elevated when Nigel is with them and finally returns to his normal self and is very endearing towards them as they wait for rescue. My only question, though: where the heck was Kimi? You know, Kimi Finster, Chucky’s new sister from the last movie? She didn’t do anything here. Just wondering.
  3. A Few Good Moments – There’s still a few miscellaneous moments that remind you we’re in a Rugrats or Wild Thornberrys show. Nigel Thornberry (Tim Curry) is just a joy to watch when he’s not outside of his mind. Of course seeing Susie counteract Angelica’s antagonism is great. Debbie’s joke ‘When I write the autobiography about my life (and I will!)…I will not be kind’ still gets a chuckle from me. And of course, you get the Rugrats’ parents not being very good at watching their kids, causing them to get into mischief. (Which reminds me, I missed Grandpa in this adventure.) The 2 best jokes:
    1. Tommy (before waking up Nigel): This calls for my emergency bottle!
    2. Stu: That gum won’t stay sticky forever! (purely due to delivery)

WHAT DOESN’T WORK:

  1. Animation – I’m pretty sure the animation on the TV show was better looking than this movie. The introductory animation was pretty strange. It just jumps out at you in a way that says “PAY ATTENTION TO ME, KIDS! I’M COOL, FUN, HIP, AND IN YOUR FACE!” The latter, you are. The whole movie played off like this, and it set the tone for replacing what could have been more charm and humor that families (not just kids) could enjoy together (like a good Disney/Pixar film) with, instead, nonstop action.
  2. Debbie’s Motivations – Maybe I missed a chapter of the Wild Thornberrys show between their movie and this movie, but we’re introduced to Debbie being very annoyed that her family won’t spend time together because they’re all too busy to take a vacation. The problem with this is that Debbie has always been a self-centered, average teenage girl trying to do anything but spend time with her family. This makes it sound forced. Then in her next scene, she’s right back to being her loathing, annoyed, bossy self. Consistency…ha. Minor details.
  3. The Songs Aren’t Memorable – Eh they’re not. The WORST one = the song Spike “sings” with Siri the leopard. She sounds like she’s dying while choking on marbles…and trying to sing for her life. Next.
  4. Pointless Subplots – Good lord there’s a lot, and they’re all stupid. The parents leave to go find help, leaving Stu to watch the babies. The babies are looking for Nigel Thornberry to help Stu somehow, who is moping on the shore. Eliza is helping Spike look for the babies, and since she can talk to animals, we now get Bruce Willis as Spike, who irks a poorly sung leopard to go eat the babies. Nigel finds the babies, but falls from a cliffs (first onto a tree right on his Nigel Thornberries…) and the fall causes him to think he’s a toddler again. Angelica is being ‘trained’ by Debbie on how to be bossy, but she accidentally jacks their ride up when she triggers the escape pods during a ride back to find the babies.  Meanwhile, Chuckie get lost & accidentally switches places with Donnie. Oh, and something about Phil & Lil giving up eating bugs was a big deal for a minute. Yeah, it gets needlessly complicated for a freaking Rugrats movie. And not only do I not think I even mentioned everything, but also, some of these plot points have NOTHING to do with the movie. Who cares that Chucky & Donnie switch places? What does it add other than the idea that they kind of look alike a little bit? Also…
  5. Bruce Willis as Spike – Who cares that Spike can talk? He was more a part of the first movie when he heroically fought the wolf almost to death to save the babies. This is just a weird gimmick (along w/Bruce Willis’ appearance) to bring in crowds which shouldn’t be a bad reason, but if the movie was good enough on its’ own merits, it wouldn’t be needed. On another note, I can tell the moments in the movie when Willis, at the table read, said “really? You guys want me to say/sing that? Well, you’re the experts I guess…” and then did all his voice recording in one day, took the check and got in the car going “well that was odd…”
  6. The Moral – It is nice that they tried to encouraged families needing to spend time together. It just felt thrown in there, and it took away from how heartwarming the ending should have been.
  7. Effort – The worst thing overall about this movie is that there just doesn’t feel like anyone put any effort into making this movie worthy of being a cinematic release. It was 75 mins, and if they had trimmed out a few of the subplots, it would have been at least acceptable as a TV crossover special that we could forget about after it aired. But instead of putting actual effort into the script, coherent plot points, character’s purpose to the story that were true to who they are, the animation, and the music – they put their effort into deciding where the scratch-and-sniff points would be to gross us out. Oh, and on Bruce Willis’ lines. (But seriously, they were NOT trying with those songs.) Look, I’m not asking my TV-based kid’s movie to be perfect. But don’t just throw a bunch of people on the screen doing things for the sake of them doing things. It’s obvious that you don’t care, and this is insulting to anyone watching any movie or piece of artwork, no matter what age.

SCRATCH & SNIFF

This movie came out while scratch-and-sniff was a big deal. So in the theater, kids got themselves the scratch-and-sniff cards with 6 different movie items to be indicated when you should smell them by a number on the screen. They mostly suck.

  1. They want me to smell a cupcake first. Okay, those are nice.
  2. Now they want me to smell Darwin’s peanut butter. Okay. Uh it just rained on them. That’s a little nasty.
  3. Uh…wait what am I supposed to smell this time? Angelica is singing…she’s dressed as a disillusioned islander…I don’t know what’s going on…does Angelica smell bad? Oh the signal’s gone now…okay. No idea what that was all about.
  4. Now they want me to smell Phil’s feet. Charming.
  5. Now I have to smell Debbie’s drink…
  6. Random for Nigel’s random fish, put in only for the scratch & sniff. That’s all. It smells. We get it. It smells bad, like this movie. The novelty died by this point.

CONCLUSION:

I loved growing up with the Rugrats especially, but…yeah, this movie wasn’t good. It’s pretty harmless I guess, but it’s darn sloppy. There’s a fine difference between bringing characters together to do something fun/meaningful/endearing vs. doing it just to dump characters and things and crazy situations on screen to keep kids busy for a while & cash in on it. This usually doesn’t make for anything good, just slightly insulting. It feels like someone said “you know, there just might be enough parallels between Wild Thornberrys and Rugrats that we could do a TV special together.” Then someone else said “Hey, remember Bruce Willis from North? We should get him in a Nickelodeon movie!” And since they had a movie star in their show, it had to be a movie…so we got this. Then they realized they needed a moral and songs. But they put more effort in the scratch & sniff thing than in the actual animation, storyline, or even the music. If you like these shows separately, watch them & enjoy. If you want to see their movies, see the first Rugrats movie & Wild Thornberrys movie. Feel free to skip this smelly crossover.

BLACKOMETER: 3/10

Let me know what you think!

-BB2

Nigel Thornberry