Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AAFCA Calls 2016 Best Year For Blacks in Cinema

Gil Robertson

(Los Angeles, CA) – In anticipation of its annual Best Of list, the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) has already proclaimed 2016 the best EVER for Blacks in cinema. AAFCA not only applauds the increased volume of films representing the Black experience released in 2016, but also the range of diverse storylines. “The studios and major film distributors really gave it to us this year,” says Gil Robertson, AAFCA co-founder/president. “By any measurement, it’s been an exceptional year for Blacks in film. From comedies to high-quality dramas and documentaries, 2016 will forever represent a bonanza year for Black cinema and all cinema really.” 

Anchored by the successful box office comedies, “Ride Along 2,” (January), “Barbershop 3,” (April) and “Central Intelligence” (June); 2016 will also end on a high note with the December release of the dramas “Fences” and “Hidden Figures,” two films AAFCA feels as an organization representing African American film critics nationwide are sure bets to reap Oscar nominations. And then there is “Moonlight,” a critically acclaimed indie that has already been widely acknowledged as one of the best of the year and is highly favored for a Best Picture nomination and possible win. The quiet film “Loving” also has Oscar buzz and so does the documentary “The 13th.” “The amount of quality feature films, documentaries and TV shows released in 2016 about the black experience easily make it the best year ever. It has truly been an unapologetically black year in the industry as filmmakers brought to life some of the cultures most fascinating stories and subjects with bold storytelling perspective,” says AAFCA co-founder, Shawn Edwards.

To underscore everything, the surprising and amazing success of Tyler Perry’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” further points to why 2016 has been so extraordinary. In 2016, Black films of all spectrums have performed particularly well, financially with some and both financially and/or critically with others. On the awards front, the AAFCA co-founders are particularly bold. “I am going to go out on a limb and predict that we will see a black actor nominated in every acting category and that at least four black-themed films will be nominated for Best Picture,” says Edwards. “Regardless of the final tally,” Robertson says more cautiously, “we are both confident that we’ll see a record number of black nominees when Awards Season kicks into high gear.”

“The coming award nominations are going to definitely put a pause on #OscarsSoWhite this year,” says Robertson. “But what we wonder is for how long? It’s undeniable that the studios have responded admirably to the tremendous outcry from the African American community through its delivery of the films that we’ve seen this year. But what about next year and the year after that? Unfortunately the question that we must ask with every watershed year is ‘how long will it last?’ Were the past 12 months an anomaly or does it signal the beginning of Hollywood being more committed to supporting a diverse lineup of Black films? And what about films about the Asian, Hispanic, Native American and LGBT communities? “Moonlight” has been a bright spot in representing both the Black and LGBT communities but we need more. So we at AAFCA are extremely hopeful that these 2016 Black films will have a domino effect in providing platform opportunities for films that represent other communities as well.”


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

'Star,' Fox Original Series, Debuts December 14

The debut of FOX's original series STAR, starring Queen Latfah, Lenny Kravitz and Tyrese airs after Empire on Wednesday, December 14, at 9 p.m.   

Here is a sneak peek:

​"Everybody Wants To Be A Star"​

​"Take Control of Your Destiny"​

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pasadena Playhouse Tree Lighting Gala Set

 PASADENA, CA (Nov 28, 2016) –The Pasadena Playhouse (Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director and Danny Feldman, Producing Artistic Director) announced today that this year’s Panto at the Playhouse, Lythgoe Family Productions’ A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS (opening Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016) kicks off with a special Tree Lighting Celebration on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 at The Pasadena Playhouse (39 S. El Molino Avenue).  Hosted by Ben Giroux (CW’s Hart of Dixie), the holiday event features performances by Dawnn Lewis (A Different World), The Bob Baker Marionettes and Alex Newell (Glee) with special guests Assemblymember Chris Holden and his wife Melanie Caldwell-Holden and Lauren Taylor (“Cinderella” in  A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS) to help light the Christmas Tree.

Danny Feldman, Producing Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse, said, “I can’t think of a better way to usher in the holiday season with a Tree Lighting  Celebration before next week’s opening of our production of A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS. This is a time to bring together not only our good friends and family, but a special time to share with the community as well.”

The Pasadena Playhouse Tree Lighting Celebration features:
The Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s Holiday Show in The Pasadena Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard.
Musical performances by A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS’ Alex Newell and Grammy Award-winner Dawnn Lewis. 

Tree Lighting Celebration with special guests Assemblymember Chris Holden and his wife Melanie Caldwell-Holden and Disney star Lauren Taylor.
Beacon Media is a proud sponsor of The Pasadena Playhouse Tree Lighting Celebration.
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The Pasadena Playhouse presents Lythgoe Family Panto’s A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS starring Lauren Taylor as “Cinderella,” Morgan Taylor as “Baroness Hardup” and Alex Newell as “Fairy God Person.”

Returning from last year’s hugely successful Panto at The Playhouse production of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell – A Pirates Christmas will be director Bonnie Lythgoe (“So You Think You Can Dance”), choreographer Spencer Liff (Emmy nominee “So You Think You Can Dance”) and musical director Michael Orland (“American Idol”).  The book is by Kris Lythgoe, costume design by Lythgoe Family Panto, and casting by Becky Lythgoe.

Lythgoe Family Panto produces fun, musical theatre the whole family can enjoy and pride themselves on creating a memorable experience a family can share together. Known for their creativity and involvement in television hits “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the Lythgoes are dedicated to bringing affordable theatre to families across America. Based on the Grimm fairytales and others, each story has been modernized with topical scripts for parents and well known pop songs for kids. A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS will include such pop hits as,” Meghan Trainor’s  “Me Too” and “No,” Kelly Clarkson’s "Breakaway," Michael Buble’s “Just Haven't Met You Yet” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

Panto at The Playhouse is celebrating its fifth year at The Pasadena Playhouse.  Past productions at The Pasadena Playhouse include: the world premiere of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell – A Pirates Christmas starring Sabrina Carpenter and John O’Hurley, Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight starring Olivia Holt and Lucy Lawless, A Snow White Christmas starring Ariana Grande and Neil Patrick Harris and Aladdin and His Winter Wish starring Ben Vereen, Jordan Fisher, and Ashley Argota. 

One hour before every performance, guests and their families are invited to enjoy holiday activities in “Winter Wonderland” located at The Playhouse’s Engemann Family Courtyard.

A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS will play from December 8, 2016 – January 8, 2017 at The Pasadena Playhouse.  The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.  The performance schedule is Tuesdays – Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 12 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.; Special matinees -- Friday, December 23 at 3 p.m.; Monday, December 26 at 3 p.m., Wednesday, December 28 at 3 p.m. and Friday, December 30 at 3 p.m.; Wednesday, January 4 at 3 p.m. and Thursday, January 5 at 3 p.m. (No performances December 25 and January 1.)

Tickets for A CINDERELLA CHRISTMAS range from $25.00 - $125.00. Tickets are required for admission to the production by everyone with the exception of children under the age of 2 who can attend the show without a ticket if they sit on a parent or guardian’s lap throughout the performance.

GOLDEN TICKETS are available as an add-on to any child’s ticket for an additional $75 each (limit of 10 Golden Tickets available per performance). A Golden Ticket provides the ticketholder (recommended for children aged 4 - 12) with a special onstage sing-a-long experience during the production and a surprise gift bag.

Tickets are available by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529, and online 24 hours a day at

Sunday, November 27, 2016

'Hairspray Live! Airs December 7 On NBC

“Hairspray Live!” features an all-star cast including Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Ephraim Sykes, exciting newcomer Maddie Baillioand special guest stars Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes, Andrea Martin and Rosie O’Donnell.

“Hairspray Live!” will bring back the creative talents of “The Wiz Live!” director Kenny Leon (Tony winner, “A Raisin in the Sun”) and script adaptor Harvey Fierstein (four-time Tony winner, “Torch Song Trilogy,” “Hairspray,” and “La Cage aux Folles”).  “Hairspray Live!” will also enlist the original Broadway adaptation’s choreographer Jerry Mitchell (“Kinky Boots,” “On Your Feet”), original songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Smash” and Broadway’s upcoming “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), two-time Emmy Award-winning live television director Alex Rudzinski, award-winning costume designer Mary Vogt (“Kong: Skull Island,” “Men in Back”), music director Lon Hoyt (“On Your Feet,” “Hairspray” on Broadway and feature film) and award-winning production designer Derek McLane (Academy Awards, “Beautiful”).

Twitter: @HairsprayLive
Instagram: @nbchairspraylive

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard Are Spies In "Allied"

By Darlene Donloe

The opening scene of the drama Allied has Brad Pitt parachuting behind enemy lines.

He plays Max Vatan, a World War II British intelligence officer stationed in North Africa in 1942.

He’s there on a mission to assassinate a German official. He is paired up with a French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour, aptly played by Marion Cotillard. Beausejour, who has never met Vatan, pretends to be his loving wife. Careful not to blow their cover, the two must keep up appearances in order to gain the confidence and access to the German elite.

When the mission in completed, the two spies fall in love, marry and become parents. Everything is fine, well, as fine as anything can be when you’re part of the intelligence community.

Vatan’s world is rocked when his superiors inform him that his wife may be a double spy.

Refusing to believe the allegations, Vatan, who truly loves his wife, sets out to prove them wrong.

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard

That’s when the movie starts to kick in. From that point on every move Vatan makes and every move Beausejour makes look and seem suspicious.

Is she a spy or isn’t she?  The audience literally doesn’t find out until the very end of the film.

Out in theaters nationwide November 23, Allied (Paramount Pictures) is being marketed as a sexy, suspenseful thriller.

There is some notable intrigue in this old-fashioned film, and more than a few sexy model-like close-ups of Brad Pitt. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Surprisingly, this “sexy” thriller displays very little chemistry between the two leads.  There is a love scene that takes place during a sand storm that should, in theory, melt the screen. It doesn’t. The sound of the sand is annoying. The heat that should rise from their claimed love is only lukewarm.

Brad Pitt

Ironically, Cotillard’s character says several times during the film, “I keep the emotions real. That’s why it works.” It’s ironic because the film lacks emotions.

Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump/What Lies Beneath) directs this interesting drama. There are several old school sweeping vista shots giving the film a special texture. Zemeckis’ film is a throwback to a particular era, most notably the Casablanca-ish film noir of a bygone time. The story is inviting, but the execution doesn’t quite pull it all together. Both Cotillard and Pitt, who has done several WWII films, give good performances, but their romance seems stiff.

Marion Cotillard

The film feels a bit like Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Steven Knight, stars Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode and Simon McBurney.

ON THE DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent) Allied gets an L (likeable).

Allied is Rated R: (for violence, some sexuality/nudity, language and brief drug use);
Running time: 2 h 4 min.


26th Annual NAACP Theatre Award Winners

By Darlene Donloe
The best in Los Angeles theatre was lauded this week at the 26th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards, held at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
Joe Morton

The show, hosted by Wendy Raquel Robinson and Miguel Nunez, honored Joe Morton with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
“To say this leaves me speechless is an understatement,” said Morton. “Theater gives me a voice.”
Samuel Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson received the Trailblazer Award.
“Theater has always been a home for me,” said Jackson. “Because of the theater I know what true love is. That’s where I met my husband.”
Jackson is married to fellow actor Samuel L. Jackson who was in attendance to support his wife.
Rory Pullens, the executive director of Arts Education for Los Angeles Unified School District, received the Humanitarian Award.  Pullens was honored for his focus on increasing access and equity to the arts for all students.
Singer Ledisi, who is currently the ambassador for the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy, was awarded the Spirit Award.
Entertainer Obba Babatunde performed a spirited version of the classic Mr. Bojangles.  There was also a performance by Black Lives Matter and a special performance by Tammi Mac, who presented a snippet from her award-winning show, Bag Lady.
Ron Hasson

Ron Hasson, president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP and a national board member was in attendance to congratulate the nominees and the winners.
“There is always a need in Hollywood to have people of color see their heroes and sheroes,” said Hasson. “It is important to acknowledge those who have entertained us over the years.”
Miguel Nunez spoke about the importance of the event. 
Miguel Nunez

“Everybody likes to be recognized for the work they do,” said Nunez. “We don’t do it for the recognition, though. But, it’s still good to be recognized for your efforts.”
Loretta Devine

“It’s wonderful to be recognized by your peer group,” said actress Loretta Devine. “It gives you the incentive to keep working.”
Kenny Lattimore

“This kind of show is important because we are celebrating ourselves,” said singer Kenny Lattimore. “It’s important to celebrate the stories that come from us.  We have beautiful stories.  It’s most important for us to tell our stories so people can get to know us.”
Paul Jackson Jr. and his wife, Michaela

Musician Paul Jackson Jr. said the awards show was important because “it honors us.”  “You can’t wait for someone else to pat you on the back. Pat yourself on the back. Tell someone, ‘I like what you're doing.’ Be encouraging to someone.”
Kenny Leon

“Anything that presents our culture in a positive light is good,” said director Kenny Leon. “We should always take time to celebrate ourselves.”
Herb J. Wesson, Jr.
"It's always important to recognize our own," said Herb J. Wesson, Jr., president, Los Angeles City Council, Council member, Tenth District. "We support the NAACP. One of the greatest organization around. This is an important event. We need this kind of show more than ever right now."
Wren T. Brown

Wren T. Brown, founder/producing artist director of the Ebony Repertory Theatre won an award for Best Producer – Equity for The Gospel at Colonus.
“In the words of Winston Churchill, 'what a great tragedy if one day you were figuratively tapped on your shoulder and was ill prepared,'” said Brown. “Ladies and gentleman I have been preparing for this role of producer all of my life. I mean that very earnestly. You don’t just learn it in a couple of years.  It’s about understanding what it means to be sensitive to a musician, to an actor, to a singer, to a director, to a designer. It’s not just finding money to produce the effort.  It’s about an accumulated entity of all of those dynamics coming together in such a way that you produce a professional opportunity. My definition as producer is the producing of opportunity. I’m so thankful I’ve been able to do that at the Ebony Repertory Theatre.”
Multiple theater award winners included Motown the Musical, The Gospel At Colonus, Dreamscape, Recorded in Hollywood, The Best of Enemies and Love Soul Deep.
Following is a complete list of winners:
Best Choreography – Equity
Motown The Musical – Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams

Best Choreography – Local
Ucarmen – Lungelo Ngamlana

Best Costumes – Equity
Motown The Musical – Esosa

Best Costumes – Local
Detroit 67 – Michaela Mendiola

Best Director – Equity
Fences – Gregg T. Daniel

Best Director – Local
Dreamscape – Rickerby Hinds

Best Director of a Musical – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Denise Dowse

Best Ensemble Cast – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus

Best Ensemble Cast – Local
Recorded In Hollywood

Best Lead Female - Equity
The Best Of Enemies – Tiffany Rebecca Royale

Best Lead Female – Local 
Dreamscape – Rhaechyl Walker and Natali Micchiche

Best Lead Male – Equity
Satchmo at the Waldorf – John Douglas Thompson

Best Lead Male – Local
Dreamscape – John “Faahz” Merchant

Best Lighting – Equity 
Fences – Karyn D. Lawrence

Best Lighting - Local
I And You – Jeremy Pivnick

Best Music Director – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus - Abdul Hamid Royal

Best Music Director – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Stephan Terry

Best One Person Show - Local
Keena Unbranded – Keena Ferguson

Best Playwright – Equity
Motown the Musical – Berry Gordy

Best Playwright – Local
Changes – Wallace Demarria

Best Producer – Equity
The Gospel At Colonus – Wren T. Brown

Best Producer – Local
Recorded In Hollywood – Dolphins of Hollywood Productions, LLC and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners

Best Set Design – Equity
Satchmo at the Waldorf – Lee Savage

Best Set Design – Local
Pieces – Helleaux Studio Design

Best Sound – Equity
Motown The Musical – Ethan Popp and Bryan Crook

Best Sound – Local
My Children! My Africa! – Warren Davis

Best Supporting Female – Equity
To Kill A Mockingbird – Earnestine Phillips

Best Supporting Female – Local
Love Soul Deep – Nadine Ellis

Best Supporting Male – Equity
The Best Of Enemies – Shon Fuller

Best Supporting Male – Local
The Conversation – Danny De Lloyd