BB2 Monthly Assessment: August

So, first of all…2014 is now 2/3 over. …Wow. That’s pretty crazy to think about! Especially when you’ve been through a decent amount of life lessons and situations throughout the past year. As I sit down to reflect on my personal growth over the past month, this was the first thing that came to mind. I don’t know if I have much different to say then my post last weekend about ‘slowing down’, but after some thoughts at church this morning, I just have a couple brief things that have crossed my mind in regards to my personal growth and life journey.

Last weekend, I wrote about how I fell on my knee at work as a result of running around before my shift. This took place because I was rushing around in a hurry to get in place on time, and one of my chronic life issues is learning how to slow down with both little things logistically and big things in life to understand them just enough before acting. One of my favorite duos in the Bible right now is Martha & Mary. Their story is that Jesus came over their house, and Martha was busy rushing around to busily prepare for the visit and make all the logistics in place just right – she was a worker bee, hardcore. Then she got upset when her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping her cook and clean, but was instead sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him talk. Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her work, and Jesus told Martha that Mary was where she should be – listening to Him and basking in a relationship. It wasn’t wrong of Martha to work and get things done, but she didn’t have a healthy balance between doing things for Jesus vs. doing things with Jesus. I think in life, it’s VERY easy for us to be a Martha – rushing around to get multiple tasks done that are important…but if we don’t balance them out and slow down enough to truly grasp them, we’ll miss the point of them. And if we miss the point, we could easily miss what God might have for us around the corner! We might even miss the essence of what it is we’re working towards in the first place. I personally know that this will become even more of a challenge for myself this semester between my multiple school studies and responsibilities, work, performing, and everything else I’m involved with. It’ll be up to me to stop as much as I can to really look at what’s going on in my life, tasks and life lessons, in order to grasp what I need to continue to advance in the big scheme of things in this life. (That was a loaded statement, but I get what I meant.)

I also need to make sure that I do 3 things: Gird (or tighten) my mind, Guard my heart, and Guide my lifestyle. These are things in this morning’s sermon, based around discipline & focus in your faith. It made me think a bit about how these are things needed in our faith, our lives, our thoughts, our actions, our families, our careers…so on and so forth. I need to keep special tabs on my mind, heart and soul by watching what I feed them – because you are what you eat, ultimately. For example, I like writing music. If all I listen to is trap music, it’s probably what I’ll want to write whenever I get an idea – that’s not a horrible idea, but it stifles my creativity and range if that’s all I’m doing. (Same goes if I stayed in one area of a specific kind of classical music). I can say the same thing about unhealthy life habits! I need to up my watch on these things because they are what will create my lifestyle. I really like how my lifestyle has become much more aware and smarter this year, but I know I still have a ways to go – and taking that awareness up to consistency in habits is what will make my lifestyle even stronger. When I look at the lifestyles of others whom I greatly respect and look up to, whether they are other teachers, professors, parents, or 30-somethings whom I look up to for where I want to be short-term: I realize that their journeys were built on strong lifestyle choices that probably had to adjust by strong guiding of their souls and habits.

-BB2
guide your life

Why VH1’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ is a Disrespectful Biopic of Michael Jackson

So, the last biopic I wrote about, Get On Up, was not completely accurate in every fact they portrayed about the life of James Brown. The general gist was to show many of the trials he overcame while climbing his way to the top, and while a few facts here and there were stretched or glossed over, it was still a very well done movie with a lot of effort and a lot of heart.

This…THIS. Is NOT that kind of movie.

VH1 released Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story (not to be confused with the hit song) in August 2004, near one of the worst points of the famous pop star’s life. He had most recently been battling further child molestation charges, dangled his youngest child over a balcony, and a British man had just tricked him into letting him doing a documentary on him only to portray him further as a pedophile. Unlike the well-known 6-hour TV movie Jacksons: An American Dream that followed the story of MJ and his family growing up until his early adulthood (a special which, I might add, was a very-well done staple of entertainment in the lives of many people I know), this film just something that gets everything wrong from the beginning. The acting is wrong, the casting is wrong, the dialogue is wrong, the shots filmed & editing are wrong, the make-up is wrong…and that’s just the start. You may or may not have even heard of this lesser known special, or many of the actors involved (and most of them didn’t do too much afterwards). It suffers from the lackluster quality that many African-American-centered films did in the mid-2000s, but since this is a biopic of a figure many of us grew up with and loved in some capacity (big or small), there are reasons why the final product is something to be disgusted with.

You know the drill. It’s time for a list.

  1. Flex Alexander: If you’ve ever seen UPN’s One on One with Kyla Pratt & Robert RiChard (where ARE you, Bobby?!), you remember Flex as Pratt’s father on the show. You know, the goofy single dad that was always saying “FLA-DAP!” Yeah, that guy. He was pretty funny in his own way, and apparently used to impersonate Michael Jackson on the show a lot. Well, someone saw this and thought they should make a movie about it with him as the lead. First mistake. Yeah, Flex does a decent impersonation of MJ’s high voice as we know it, but here’s what all is wrong here, in NO particular order:
    1. He’s too tall.
    2. He’s too dark, and the make-up doesn’t hide it.
    3. MJ didn’t talk that high ALL THE TIME.
    4. He can’t dance nearly as good as MJ.
    5. The photos/memorabilia of MJ in transitions are ALL of Flex as MJ. This isn’t abnormal, but it’s extremely obvious.
    6. He plays him as naive, aloof and pathetic the entire time, and that’s just not entirely true. He was eccentric and he did have a childlike spirit about him, yes – but he did make himself business smart, and he didn’t just run around like an excited monkey chasing a banana all the time. Flex has one note from the director – MJ is a child. Jut stick with that and make it last for two hours.
  2. Parody: The whole thing just feels like a parody of Michael Jackson, rather than a movie celebrating his life, or even just documenting things that happened. It feels like someone slapped on some crappy white face, started acting like MJ with one joke, but forgot what the punch lines were. If this was a 5-minute comedy sketch and we were supposed to find it funny, we might fund parts of it funny and move on (such as plenty of other shows were doing at the time with jokes about his nose, skin color, etc.). However, this goes on…and on…and on. It feels like the movie, via Flex’s portrayal of Jackson, is yelling at us “MJ is so naive and goofy, laugh!” but then later it’s “MJ is sad, cry with us!” back and forth. This makes it too much to take seriously.
  3. Casting/Writing: Okay. I won’t bother looking up the names of any of these actors again like I did earlier, because it honestly doesn’t matter – you haven’t heard of anyone in this cast. (Most of them have this special within the top 4 projects they are known for on their IMDb page, which is not a good sign for their career.) The gentleman who plays Joe Jackson is written off just as a good-for-nothing jerk who you’re not supposed to care about. If you watch An American Dream or privy yourself to Jackson 5 history, you learn that while Joe was mean and drove the boys a lot growing up, he did have love for his boys and looked out for them as they grew up. Lisa Presley, who Jackson married in the 90s, doesn’t look like her that much and is not that great an actress to begin with – decent case of underacting. Liza Minnelli, on the other hand, is now very much overacted. Good Lord – even for real life Liza Minnelli it’s a lot. And she was good friends with MJ during his life! Even the woman who MJ had his children with is somehow even blander than the real life woman. Diana Ross doesn’t look like Diana Ross…which, as an early influence on MJ, is pretty lousy. I could go on and on…but yeah. All of this is subject to bad writing AND casting. It’s the life of Michael Jackson, an important figure in music, pop culture and humanitarianism for decades, and you’re a music channel…you can’t even get good B-list actors to portray important figures in his life? No, just some fla-dapping? Okay.
  4. Story – The ONLY good thing about the story is that other events impacting the country at the time are included in the film, such as the 911 attacks. Otherwise, the movie skirts around negative experiences MJ had with his family and the world while he lived in Neverland, but plays around with the details a LOT…or other times it jumps ship to avoid the details. Throughout the film, MJ lives in Neverland, completely avoiding typical social graces or the outside world, trying to live as a child; when faced with bad situations, he just says “I can fix anything” or ignores good advice by others quickly saying “you don’t believe in this place! [Neverland]” while his bodyguard/life coach “Bobby” (ever heard of him? I ain’t.) tries to tell him to grow up and stop tampering with his image. There’s a tagged on ending where MJ says, via voice-over, that he will face his charges and face his fears knowing what his fans are with them. Okay??? With Get On Up, even when facts were wrong, they at least accomplished what they wanted clearly, which I stated earlier. What does this movie want to tell us? “Michael Jackson had (or as this time, ‘has’) some struggles, but he’s…going to deal with them, I guess” – the problem here is that this movie was released right in the heat of more of his problems! We didn’t know what the outcome would be yet!! So what are we supposed to get out of this? There’s nothing comforting in the slightest to offer us, and then it doesn’t end – it just stops. That’s not MJ’s fault, because history was still writing itself – I just wish the movie would have waited for things to settle. It could have been a much more clever look into his psyche at the time – nope, cheesy ending where he does a voice over. Kewl.
  5. Make-up: MY LORD IN HEAVEN, THIS MOVIE’S MICHAEL JACKSON IS SOOOO UGLY. Let me explain: real-life MJ after his plastic surgery…wasn’t very attractive. Yes, it was a big shocker and it was scary. (This film tries to say that he did it just to get a new look for his next album…when his skin condition added much more to the rationale.) FLEX ALEXANDER MAKES AN UGLY MICHAEL JACKSON. And this is not his fault – he is a naturally kind of dark black man, and the pale-face make up is not done nearly well enough to even look as creepy as real-life MJ did – I personally think it’s worse. He instead looks like a big grey scrawny monkey-ish type of figure. Also, his nose size barely changes, which is a big thing to miss in 2004.
  6. No Effort = No Respect: This is the all-encompassing issue with this film. If you are going to make ANYTHING about a person’s life, know what you hope to accomplish and do it. Most things about MJ’s life we see are setting out to honor his life and music. The opposite would be the documentary in the early 2000s that declared him as a child obsessing lunatic – this is sad, but it accomplished a preset goal. Man in the Mirror did not know what it wanted to do. Sometimes it tries to honor MJ, other times it’s stating facts about what happened to him, and other times it truly feels like it is bashing him. The main issue that creates this mess – NO EFFORT. NOT A SINGLE CRAP WAS GIVEN. This is why the editing sucks. This is why Flex is so ugly as MJ. This is why the casting and directing is terrible. This is why the sets are boring. This is why the story is sketchy, rude, and lackluster. Because no one cared! No one cared about this man enough to give him a film even clear enough to pick a side. It throws the worst part of his life at us (the events that ushered into his downward spiral) and says “he kinda got in big trouble, but maybe he’ll be okay and some junk!” rather than “I will overcome, and so can you – make good choices and learn from mine” AT LEAST. It’s the laziest, most unbalanced, rudest type of way in which to approach talking about the true life, struggles and even accomplishments of someone’s life – by not taking the time to do it right.

Now, does it matter that it was a MJ movie? What if it had been about a local legend or your next door neighbor? What if it was about Ghandi, the Pope or Jesus? (We’ve all seen these.) If you’re going to deal with true lives and events, at least take the time to TRY doing it right. Changing some things here and there isn’t the best idea, but to just not even give a crap in your attempt and to remain ignorant of what the right approach is – this is the most disrespectful thing you can do. It’s like if I was a pastor who had to give a eulogy for your mother, and I knew one thing about her – she can’t cook. That’s all I talk about, I downplay what you loved about her, get the lamest sounding songs for the music selections, got a sound guy who didn’t know what he was doing, rolled out of bed & wore sweats to the funeral, and ended my speech with “she was all right, I guess. Okay, when’s the family dinner?”

-BB2

(P.S. Yes, I was infuriated by the fact that BET was playing this among things to “honor MJ’s life on his birthday” when this does everything but honor anyone involved. I’m love his music and even though I don’t claim to be his biggest fan, I respect the genius/musician that he was, and I don’t think anyone deserves an effortless piece of work like this made about them, living or deceased.)

“Slow Means Slow!”

IMG_0025
When I was taking piano lessons during my undergrad days, this was what my beloved teacher (an old-as-Noah’s ark, snarky, but loving prodigy of a woman) would always yell at me. “Slower! Slower! Stop rushing through it, play slower! Slow means slow! Hark, slow!” Not that I had a tendency to rush the given tempo of the music, but as complex as piano music can be, I was always trying to remember to get everything correct: proper fingering, pedal at the right moment, appropriate posture, and, oh yeah – ALL THOSE RIGHT NOTES. With so much to remember, I was thinking too technical sometimes/concentrating on not screwing up, and I would forget easily to take the time to slow down just enough to enjoy the music and truly understand it. As my band director once said, “the more you know the music, the more music there is.” Now yes, knowing the correct notes and other techniques are highly important, and without this competency, it doesn’t matter how “into it” or “artistic” you are trying to be – it’ll still sound less than stellar. However, a balance of both is needed for true success. If you only focus on the who, what, when, where, why and just try to have your T’s crossed and your I’s dotted, you’ll miss out on the big picture easily.

Why am I thinking about this right now? Well, by nature, I am a very busy person. I’m constantly on-the-go busy, and my brain is always cycling on what’s coming next and what I need to do to keep things successful. With school starting this Monday, being on a graduate assistantship, teaching a class, working on the weekends, and several other activities I’m involved in, it’s going to be exceptionally easy for me to get caught up and need to “SLOW DOWN!” In fact, I just had this wake-up call yesterday. I went straight from preparing multiple things at school to work, and was in such a hurry to eat and change before my shift, that I tripped going up the stairs and injured my knee. I did my best to ignore it and finish my shift, but my terrible psuedo-limping attempts didn’t fool my manager/coworkers for a minute. I intended to spend several hours between office work and then going to work today, but after much deliberation (aka my knee yelling at me when getting in the shower proved treacherous), I ended up staying home, and planning on getting my knee looked at by a professional. Yes, it hurts to walk pretty badly – skin was broken a bit, and leg movement of any kind is no picnic.

As inopportune of a time as this is between school starting on Monday, major work events on the weekend, and now not being able to ride my bike (which I JUST started getting back into this week!), it really forced me to [literally] stop and realize that if I’m not careful during the semester to watch my pace whenever possible, I might have a physical or mental collision just trying to get everything done. Short term = I’d be physically disadvantaged, or mentally messed up from overload for a while. Long term = I’d be missing out on why I’m doing the things that I’m doing because I’m so focused on getting tasks done moreso than taking care of myself. I preach self-care to everyone, but almost never put myself before others when it’s the most critical. Many of us goal-oriented folks are like this, no? I’d say as busy season approaches, this is a good time to stop and reflect on what it means to look out for oneself before it’s too late.

Hoping from good news from the doctor!

Slow Means Slow.
-BB2

Get On Up: Leaves You Wanting More

"A groove is something you feel."

“A groove is something you feel.”

Get On Up (2014)

SUMMARY
This movie shows a close look at the life of James Brown, showing the challenges he faced starting as a poor child with erratic parents and racial profiling of the 1940s South. He eventually hooked up with other friends to start a singing group and was soon discovered by producers who wanted to take him to the next level. Of course, going to the next level when your ideas are very different from anyone else’s, battling segregation, and dealing with personal scars from the past are never easy, but it is the inevitable situation when rising to stardom in this era. Get On Up uses much of what Brown encountered to show that you can face the challenges at any cost to achieve your destiny.

WHAT WORKS

  1. Chadwick Boseman – This quickly rising actor truly captures the essence of James Brown. It’s so much more than an accurate impersonation – he really embodies the man’s actions, thoughts, style and spirit! He’s tremendous while replicating the onstage performances, he is consistently charismatic, and he portrays the attitude (good and bad) that Brown had with his bandmates, employees & family behind the scenes. He really brought Brown to life in my opinion; he made me side with Brown when he would overcome something, and likewise get annoyed with him for being big-headed. Not much else I can say except, just a great, great performance. I expect to see at least a good Oscar nomination in some months.
  2. Nelsan Ellis – Ellis plays Brown’s best friend and bandmate Bobby Byrd, and man was he good. I decided that Byrd was my favorite person in the entire movie. From the moment he met James Brown, and throughout every crazy/groundbreaking idea and questionable moment when he should have left him for good (as some did), Bobby remained not just his reliable right-hand man, but a true friend. He advised him as a friend does when necessary, kept it real with him, and also understood that James was the kind of person meant to be in front, sharing his strong influence with the world. There’s a very well-done scene where he shares the latter with Craig Robinson’s character, and you can tell he captured the spirit of not only Bobby while saying this, but a good friend who supports the efforts of someone who is taking off in a seemingly bigger way than they may be.

    "Negro, what makes you think I'm leaving too? I've been here this long!"

    “Negro, what makes you think I’m leaving too? I’ve been here this long!”JB & Bobby

  3. Actors – This film has several good performances by tremendous talent, whether they are familiar faces or not. Dan Aykroyd as Brown’s longtime manager does a great job; Octavia Spencer is always stellar; her The Help partner in crime, Viola Davis is as heartwarming as ever; I thought Jill Scott, playing one of Brown’s wives, did a fantastic job as well. Oh, and it was awesome seeing Craig Robinson in something like this! And look, there’s Keith Robinson! The boy who played little James Brown (Jordan Scott) did a WONDERFUL job as well! My personal favorite, though: Brandon Smith as young Little Richard. He may. To look much like him, but I had so much fun watching this guy embody Little Richard just as he was starting to take off in his music. There’s a scene where he advises James Brown on how to start launching a career in the music world that is really great to watch, just based on the accurate performances, and the chemistry/interaction behind these row staples of music in their prime. (Plus, Little Richard is just a delight. Whoooo!)

    "Yo mama is a no-account fool. But you ain't. You're gonna be all right. You got that spirit in you."

    “Yo mama is a no-account fool. But you ain’t. You’re gonna be okay. You got that spirit in you.”

  4. Soundtrack – They were wise to stick with original James Brown recordings up throughout the film. It really does give it the authentic feel it needs to come from the different points in history. Plus, I mean, come on…it’s James Brown music! Win-win situation automatically. James Brown’s music will definitely live on forever, and this movie helps to keep it that way.
  5. History/Impact – It was really great to see how James Brown and his crew responded to different national/worldwide points in history, and the impact they were able to have on these events. I personally wasn’t aware of the concert they still fought to have after Martin Luther King Jr.’s shooting to promote positive African-American representation, for example. We also witness a Battle Royale event during Brown’s childhood, and I confess to being less aware that this took place during the 1940s, as it looked reminiscent of slave cock fights held during private parties in the 1800s. Of course it’s hard to look at the lifespan of someone without at least acknowledging some of the historical events they lived through, but showing them here in relation to Brown was good historical awareness for people like me. (For the most part…)

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

  1. Timeline– This is sadly never consistent, and I tried my best to remain open-minded to it. The timeline goes ALL over the place,  literally jumping around – it starts in a 1988 scene that doesn’t set a good tone for the movie, nor does it make sense at the time (and doesn’t make complete sense when it returns there towards the end of the film). Next it jumps back and forth from the 60s to his childhood until eventually we sort of settle chronologically, with several dips back to his childhood. I know we’re typically used to chronological biopics with the occasional flashbacks, so at first I tried to open my mind to a different turn for this movie. However it was so all over the place in the first half hour that it made it much more difficult to adjust to and understand.
  2. First Person vs. Narrative – The film has a good few random moments  that go from a steady narrative to James Brown looking at the camera, talking to YOU. He even winks once that I remember. One of these turns into a big rant about how the music business works. Now, this threw me off each and every time. If you want to have someone narrate their biopic, fine – but do it the entire time (like Kevin Hart will probably do for his 2064 biopic). The randomness of this made me feel like I had just switched over to Everybody Hates Chris or something.
  3. Fact vs. Fiction – Like most Hollywood biopics, this movie has it’s fair share of fabricated stories. Because this movie gets you potentially so invested in James Brown’s story in a passionate way, this makes you all the more upset when you discover what was changed (for any reason). After you see this movie, I encourage you to research what actually occurred vs. what the movie tells you. It’s not that bad or exaggerated as a whole by any means; but I will say you’ll be disappointed by one or two things. (On the positive, it’s always good when biopics like this are well done enough to make you curious to research about the reality of what you just saw.)
  4. What is not Emphasized – I almost labeled this section “What’s glossed over” or “what’s left out”, until a good point was made to me after talking about the film. Many have left saying that major parts of Brown’s life were either left out or entirely glossed over (his drug addiction especially). On one hand, maybe this isn’t what the movie needed to be emphasized if it wanted to simply show that James Brown had to overcome a lot to get to a new level. On the other hand, these things are important and would have provided clarity on some of the hazy facts & timeline confusions in the movie as well.

CONCLUSION:
It definitely feels like James Brown is the one telling this story – and I mean that in a way to account for everything I mentioned above. In terms of quality, the movie looks and sounds fantastic, from the phenomenal music and passionate acting to the make-up crew. I was excited for this movie as soon as I saw the first trailer, and I’m still glad I saw it, and that it was made. I do wish the timeline was done in a more consistent fashion, and I’d love to wish that certain facts weren’t thrown to the wayside for dramatic movie effect, but we all know how this works in Hollywood. Despite that, I still say give this movie a watch! It’s a great look at the times, the business, memorable people in stellar performances, and of course, music that has played a very influential part on our culture. It set out to show that James Brown overcame struggles rooting back to his childhood to get to a highly acclaimed spot in music, and it did just that.

BLACKOMETER: 7/10

Let me know what you think!
Stay funky,
-BB2

Hot Tub Time Machine: As Crazy As It Sounds


Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
This movie. I just…can’t.

SUMMARY
Three buddies, Adam, Lou & Nick (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson) set out on a trip to escape their disappointing adult lives by reliving the glory days at their boyhood ski resort. They bring Adam’s lowly nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) and after a wild night in their glowing hot tub, they awaken to a very familiar and strange version of their current spot: the ’80s! Aaaah! As they go through their weekend, they must figure out how to get home before Adam’s nephew is erased from existence, and if they’ll spend this time replicating this weekend, or taking the opportunity to change how their lives became so dreary.

WHAT WORKS

  1. Comedy – Okay, credit where credit is due. This movie is pretty funny. It’s very crass & inappropriate, and because it’s dealing with time travel, it’s very self-referential to the modern times (Lindsay Lohan, Google, etc.). That being said, a lot of the jokes used are still pretty good and I did laugh a good amount. I won’t say all the jokes work, but when they do, they really do. I still think “What color is Michael Jackson?” “…black.” “AAAAAAAH!!!!” is hilarious.
  2. Characters – These guys, for the most part, are fun to watch as characters on their on. Craig Robinson’s Nick is a pretty dry but funny token black guy held who’s loyal to his wife even if she’s cheating on him; Rob Corddry’s Lou is a boisterous, raunchy ladies man who just wants to get laid & drink; John Cusack’s Adam is a loyal guy as well who spends too much time thinking about the glory days and what got him to his current paralyzing lifestyle; then you have Clark Duke’s Jacob, the awkward big guy who doesn’t always know the right thing to say…oh shoot. I just realized who these guys are.
  3. Running Arm Gag – Poor George McFly. He plays a bellhop who lost his arm the last time they were at the ski lodge in the 80s, so there’s a big running gag in which multiple opportunities show up for the removal of his arm to take place. I’m not gonna lie…I thought this was kind of funny. He’s also the only memorable side character.
  4. Morals – I think what this movie is trying to say is that you have to stay true to who you are, and stick by your friends through thick and thin, no matter how crappy the times get. When they all finally have a chance to go back, Lou and Adam finally have a truly touching moment in which their loyalty to their friendship is established. That’s pretty good for a movie of this caliber when you think about it. I mean, it’s about a hot tub time machine. However…

WHAT’S RIDICULOUS

  1. More Questions than Answers – This is what the movie left me with from top to bottom. Okay: the title of the movie pretty much gives you what you think you’re gonna get. And maybe everything doesn’t end to be explained! Maybe it’s just fate that the hot tub kicks the door down & starts glowing. Okay. But when my brother had to pause the movie before I saw the end, saying “Whatever happens, don’t ask any questions; just accept it”, that’s not always the best sign.
  2. Line Crossing – Usually with movies like this that use boundary-crossing crude humor, it’s no surprise in 2010. We know what kind of film we’re gonna get when we read the premise and go through the first 5 minutes. Some of my favorite movies are kind of crude, so most of these didn’t really bother me that much. However there are a couple scenes in which things did go a bit too far for the sake of one joke. If you want to make a joke about losing a bet and having to perform a less-than-ideal sexual act on your friend, okay…but I think this movie started having a little too much with itself. (That was an untimely array of words.)

    "I feel pregnant."

    “I feel pregnant.”

  3. Chevy Chase – Okay, what the heck?! I’m not mad that he’s here, but…what the heck is he doing?! Hahaha. He appears to be the very vague (and I mean very vague) “spirit guide” for these guys, giving them metaphorical sayings about what they need to do and when in order to learn what they need to learn before being able to go back home. But my thing is, he’s not only extra vague (you get the point of what he’s doing immediately), but once the story is over and everything is resolved, we don’t see him anymore! He doesn’t give any final vague “all is mended” or “what have you learned” kind of deal, or even pop his head in the final shot just so we know that this was all on purpose. Is it necessary? Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t know…I just feel like I’m missing some closure. Also: that’s Chevy Chase. What.
  4. RipOff? – I don’t know. Maybe because I’m so loyal to Back to the Future, but when Lou changes everything at the end of the movie to better his friends’ lives…on one hand, you see it coming in a way, so you accept how stupid it is and appreciate the fact the movie is over. On the other hand, I realized that this happened at the end of Back to the Future for the McFly family (sort of by accident since he was just trying to restore his family’s past and help his father face his fears in the past). Is this not what people would do in real life? Maybe, probably. But the ending moral about friendship gets kind of convoluted when they’re allowed to take the well-meaningness of Back to the Future’s ending with so much soon-to-be-dated ploys for how to fix their own lives. Also: Chevy Chase. What.
  5. Craig Robinson: This is a very small personal complaint: but despite how talented and good I think Craig Robinson is, I really wish he would stop playing the same guy in almost everything I see him in (other than Daddy’s Little Girls and The Office). He’s usually the nice black guy who’s down on his luck, but he’s charming, loyal, and singing. Always singing. Not that he’s bad! I just don’t want him to be pigeon-holed as this all the time. Let him do some other things, Hollywood!

CONCLUSION
It’s pretty ridiculous, and I didn’t talk about everything in it on purpose – you kind of forget some of it a few days later. It’s got good chemistry between the actors, and some good jokes, but you really have to suspend a lot of belief to let it work. It’s definitely inappropriate in many ways as well, but if you’re cool with all of this and you just want to laugh at something implausible with some fun characters for a while, I’d say this will work for you. But if you’re the type who needs an explanation (even just a small one) as to how things work in that movie’s universe…you may find yourself frustrated.

BLACKOMETER: 5.8/10
Let me know what you think!
-BB2

P.S.: By the way…WHY IS THIS THING DESERVING OF A SEQUEL. WITH CHEVY CHASE.
P.P.S.: WHAT WAS UP WITH THE SQUIRREL?!?

Robin Williams: Ode to an Original


A loyal genie.
A confident Peter Pan.
A sneaky nanny.
A dream-making doctor.
An inspired writer.
An absent-minded professor.
A frightened 10-year-old-boy.
Popeye. (Forgot about that one, didn’t you?)

All these are just a few of the things which Robin Williams was at one time, and this barely scratches the surface of his versatility. He brought laughter, joy, love, tears, and a variety of other positive memories into the lives of many around the world with his special talents in the world of entertainment. He was a grand example of someone who was fearless enough to try many different things – and no matter how they were received, he was at least able to say he attempted them, which no one else could. In this right, he was more than an actor or a comedian: he was a trailblazer.

Truthfully, the cause of his death being reported as a likely suicide deeply hurts my heart. It’s very tough to think about people who bring such joy to others for such a long time struggling with their own intense unhappiness. He had reportedly been dealing with severe depression and substance abuse for a long time, and had recently been checked into rehabilitation. One must really be dealing with some very heavy inner demons to reach a point in which they feel life is truly no longer worth living, and that death is the only escape from their problems. This isn’t the first story of similarity among celebrities I’ve heard of in 2014, and it happens across the globe at a highly unfortunate rate. He left behind many memorable characters and movies, yes, but he also left behind a family of dear loved ones. I won’t act like I understand the depth of another person’s depression that leads them to this point, because I am not in their situation. What I do know is that the one time in my life in which I genuinely considered this as an out from my life, I couldn’t bring myself to do it due to not being able to leave my family/having just enough of Christ’s love in me to filter through my struggles.

So to anyone reading this: please know that death is never the ultimate out. No matter how low times may be, there are still people on earth who care about you, whether you are Robin Williams or someone who lives in a small town with only one good friend. Most importantly, God loves you, and would never put more on you than you can bear. You can’t do it on your own.

For now, God bless Mr. Williams, his loved ones, and anyone else who may be dealing with (or have dealt with) thoughts of suicide.

Music Monday: Sinema (Swoope)

Hello all, and welcome to this week’s segment of #MusicMonday! In this segment, we take a look at music past, present and future to celebrate the artistry, and its’ effect on us as a people.

Today’s #MusicMonday doubles as a promo for a new album release of an artist I’ve known for some years now! It just hit iTunes last week and I haven’t been able to put it down yet!

Allen Swoope released his newest hip-hop/rap album last week, Sinema, which uses many of the same styles of hip-hop beats & music creatively, while the focus is on the message he is telling through story and God’s Word. His other projects over the past few years typically do something similar, but this one uses all 12 tracks in a row to tell one straight story – one of lust, addiction, fantasy, and sin. It opens up with an exchange of phone calls between Swoope & a woman named Mya Desiree. (Get it?) They’re into each other, but she spend the album leaving messages trying to get in touch with him while he continues to avoid her. They hooked up recently, and he wants her, but was it really worth it? Is there more to their story? How long can he keep her in the wings, and why won’t she let up? Was it love or lust?

Musically, this thing sounds fresh as a mug. Swoope himself came up as a highly gifted church musician, and created nothing but the best & dopest of sounds in the studio. To add to it, he brought in other talented singers and rappers (J.R., Tragic Hero, Natalie Lauren, Tedashii, etc.) to add to the effect. I could go on about the sound of this album, but really, that’s not where the focus is, and you can get a good sense of that yourself by listening to it. The focus is on the message! I won’t ruin the story for you if you haven’t heard the album, but seriously, check this thing out. Swoope is a master at using God’s words and messages for us and finding ways to put it in music that will captivate the listener. The hook is a dope sound with a beat – but the truthful messages to teach and minister to others is what really sticks. Music is such a powerful medium that can promote any message about whatever’s out there in the world today that might not be the best for us to digest. Any rapper out today can do that – but Swoope specifically focuses on utilizing the words straight from the Kingdom of God. And done so genuine! It’s not just “we made a beat and threw ‘Jesus’ in it” – it truly is from someone who’s heart is after God and making the lives of someone who will learn from this better.

So that’s today’s #MusicMonday! Go on iTunes and check out Swoope’s work and let me know what you think! Let’s promote hip-hop that isn’t only good, but promotes something great.

Have a great week, and sing on, my brethren!
-BB2