Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WGN's "Underground" Set To Return March 8

Pictured above (L - R): Aisha Hinds as Harriet Tubman, Amirah Vann as Ernestine, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Rosalee, 
Aldis Hodge as Noah, Alano Miller as Cato, and Jessica de Gouw as Elizabeth Hawkes in WGN America’s “Underground.”
Photo Credit: WGN America


LOS ANGELES, February 21, 2017 – In advance of the second season premiere of WGN America’s hit original series “Underground,” on Wednesday, March 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, fans are getting a chance to go behind the scenes with the cast and crew in an all new documentary, Breaking Free.   Premiering Sunday, March 5 on WGN America, this half-hour special highlights how a daring few broke free from slavery, one of the greatest atrocities in human history, and established a route to freedom that became known as the Underground Railroad. The documentary special will tell the stories of the fugitive heroes from Harriet Tubman to William Still and uncover the inspiration behind creating “Underground.” Viewers will get a chance to see the making of “Underground” season two and hear from cast, crew and civil rights leaders on why this story deserves to be told today.  Prior to its nationwide premiere on WGN America, the special is currently rolling out across Tribune Broadcasting’s 42 local stations. 

Series stars Jurnee Smollett-BellAldis HodgeAlano MillerJessica de GouwAmirah Vann and Aisha Hinds are featured in the special, along with creators, writers and executive producers Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, and director and executive producer Anthony Hemingway. Additional interviewees featured include; Dr. Noelle Trent (Director of Interpretation Collections & Education National Civil Rights Museum), Dr. Clarence Newsome (President, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center), Mekeisha Madden Toby (Writer, Essence Magazine), Dominic Patten (Writer, Deadline.com), and Fergus Bordewich (Author, Bound for Canaan).  

The celebrated “Underground” cast returning this season includes: Jurnee Smollett-Bell (“Friday Night Lights,” The Great Debaters) as Rosalee, the formerly timid and sheltered enslaved woman who was called upon to display untapped courage in order to escape North; Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures) as Noah, the strong and charismatic leader of the infamous Macon 7.  He sacrificed everything to get Rosalee and young Boo to freedom; Jessica de Gouw (“Arrow,” “Dracula”) as Elizabeth Hawkes, an Ohio socialite turned dedicated abolitionist who is driven by a sense of morality; Alano Miller (Loving, “Atlanta”) as Cato, a cunning and calculating member of the Macon 7 who is always looking out for number one; Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) as August Pullman, a lone wolf slave catcher who walks a tightrope between morality and survival; Amirah Vann (“Girls,” And So It Goes) as Ernestine, Rosalee’s mother and formerly the head house servant on the Macon Plantation; and Marc Blucas (“Blue Bloods”) as John Hawkes, an abolitionist lawyer who will break the laws he’s sworn to uphold in order to serve what he knows to be right.  

Joining the cast in season two as recurring guest stars are: Aisha Hinds (“Under the Dome,” “True Blood,” Star Trek Into Darkness) in the pioneering role of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad's most famous conductor revered for her grit, perseverance and unrelenting will to help scores of enslaved people reach their freedom; Bokeem Woodbine (“Fargo,” the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming, Total Recall) as Daniel, a skilled stonemason, who has decided to take freedom into his own hands.  Jasika Nicole (“Fringe,” “Scandal”) as Georgia, an abolitionist with a covert station along the Underground whose quiet confidence hides secrets of her own; DeWanda Wise (“Shots Fired”) as Clara, a preacher’s daughter from an enslaved community; Michael Trotter (“Rosewood”) as Biographer, an astute observer of people often fearful of taking chances, who lives through the lives of others; Jesse Luken (“Justified,” 42) as Smoke, the fearless second in command of Patty Cannon’s infamous gang of slave catchers; Sadie Stratton (“Code Black,” “Boy Meets World”) as Patty Cannon, and Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winner and ten-time Grammy Award® winning singer-songwriter John Legend as renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

“Underground” delivered three million total viewers weekly, and made history as WGN America's most-watched original program ever in its freshman season.  The series was recently honored with a number of recognitions including four NAACP Image Awards nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Amirah Vann) and Outstanding Directing in a Dramatic Series (Anthony Hemingway).   Additionally, the African American Film Critics Association named “Underground” as Best TV Show (Cable/New Media) and the second highest show overall for 2016, and honored Director Anthony Hemmingway with their 2017 Horizon Award.  The series also won several awards at the inaugural Cynopsis TV Awards including Best New Drama Series, Best Series Writing (Drama) and Best Showrunner.

From Sony Pictures Television, “Underground” is created and written by Misha Green ("Sons of Anarchy," "Heroes") and Joe Pokaski ("Heroes," "Daredevil"), who serve as Executive Producers alongside Emmy Award® winning executive producer/director Anthony Hemingway (“The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story," “The Wire”); Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend) of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell (King Arthur, Holy Rollers) and Joby Harold (King Arthur, Edge of Tomorrow) of Safehouse Pictures; John Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted Film Co (Southside with You, La La Land).; and Mark Taylor (“MadTV”). Season two of the gripping original drama was shot in Savannah, Georgia.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Philip and Tanya Hart Prep Bessie Coleman Film

Los Angeles, CA — Philip and Tanya Hart are prepping a movie about aviation pioneer Bessie Coleman.   Based upon Philip Hart's source material from his two Bessie Coleman books for young readers and a treatment developed by the Harts while at Disney Studios, the two producers are now moving ahead into development and production of 'Flying Free with Bessie Coleman.'   The Hart's daughter Ayanna Hart is a producing partner on this movie.  Ayanna Hart is COO and in-house producer at Fancy Film in Los Angeles an elite post-production house that has worked on Academy Award-winning films.

Bessie Coleman earned her pilot's license in France in 1921 becoming the first black woman to earn a pilot's license two years before famous pilot Amelia Earhart earned her license.  Bessie Coleman's mother was African American while her father was Native American.   Upon returning to the United States from France after earning her pilot's license Bessie Coleman barnstormed the nation doing air shows and promoting aviation as a career for African Americans.   Her goal was to open a flight school to teach aviation mechanics and to give flying lessons.  The Bessie Coleman Aero Club opened in Los Angeles in 1929 thus becoming the first all-black flight school in the world. Philip Hart's great-uncle James Herman Banning was the chief pilot for the Bessie Coleman Aero Club, which in 1931 put on the first all-black air show at LA's Eastside airport.

Philip Hart is author of "Up in the Air: The Story of Bessie Coleman," (1996), "Bessie Coleman: Just the Facts," (2005), and "Flying Free: America's First Black Aviators," a 1992 Notable Children's Trade Book.  These three books for young readers were published by Lerner Publishing Group and their paper back rights were acquired by Scholastic.     Philip Hart is also author of the 2013 Oxford University Press online photo essay "Early African American Aviators" which includes a chapter on Bessie Coleman.   Philip and Tanya Hart are producers and writers of the 1987 PBS documentary film "Flyers In Search of a Dream" which tells the stories of early African American aviators, Including Bessie Coleman.   This film is available in the PBS Video catalogue and from Netflix.   

The Harts are planning for a 2019 release of "Flying Free with Bessie Coleman."

About Philip and Tanya Hart
The Harts have produced, written and hosted film, television and radio content for over 30 years.   They were recipients of The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors Diversity Award in 2011.   Tanya Hart has won Emmy Awards, Peabody Awards and Ohio State Awards for her documentary films and television programs.  Tanya Hart is in the Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Gallery.  Philip Hart is in the University of Colorado Distinguished Alumni Gallery along with actor/activist Robert Redford and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.   The Harts 3-hour syndicated radio documentary "Ray Charles: The Music Lives On" is available at www.cdbaby.com/tanyahart2 and on streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music.   Another of their syndicated radio programs "Hart Moments" aired nationally for 10 years.   Tanya Hart is also a professional vocalist having sung with the Boston Pops, Freddie Hubbard, and Maurice Starr (New Edition, New Kids on the Block) and has "Tanya Hart Sings" available at www.cdbaby.com/tanyahart and on streaming services such as iTunes, Spotify and Apple Music.   "Hollywood Live with Tanya Hart" airs Monday-Friday on American Urban Radio Networks' (www.aurn.com) 300 affiliate stations nationwide.   Tanya Hart launched BET's west coast operations in 1990 and produced that network's first west coast program "Live From LA with Tanya Hart".  Tanya Hart is co-chair of The Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors.  Philip Hart is also an urban planner and developer and in 2010 was named Executive of the Year by Commercial Property Executive.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Zoot Suit' Slick Production At Mark Taper Forum

Courtesy of Craig Schwartz
Demian Bichir, center left, Mathias Ponce and company in 'Zoot Suit'

By Darlene Donloe

Nearly 40 years ago on Aug. 17, 1978, a trailblazing show called Zoot Suit hit the Mark Taper Forum stage and literally changed the face of theater. In 1979, it made history as the first Chicano Broadway musical and launched the career of Edward James Olmos, who received a Tony nomination for his portrayal of the metaphorical Pachuco, who guides us through the story in his “too cool for school” dynamic zoot suit. Olmos later starred in the 1980 movie, directed by Luis Valdez.

Originally commissioned and developed by Center Theatre Group, the show, presented in association with El Teatro Campesino, played the Taper and then moved on to the Aquarius in Hollywood before making its move to the Great White Way.

Fast forward to February 2017 and Zoot Suit, which is a true story about a scandalous court case, is making a triumphant return at the Mark Taper Forum through March 26.

The show about the tension between generations in a Chicano family, the rifts between cultures in America and how racism and injustice can haunt a city and a society, proves how history can repeat itself. It’s a timely piece that cast a spotlight on the relationship between law enforcement and brown and black people.
In the Mark Taper Forum production, Oscar-nominated actor Demian Bichir takes over the heavily-macho role Olmos made famous. Bichir’s accent is so thick and his voice so raspy that at times, especially when he’s speaking in Spanish, the dialogue becomes lost in translation. Still, his swag is so on point, you just laugh along with the rest of the audience.
The story focuses on Henry Reyna (Matias Ponce), who helms a street gang that is accused of killing a man at Sleepy Lagoon, a popular swimming hole.  His crew includes Joey (Oscar Comacho), Smiley (Raul Cardona) and Tommy (Caleb Foote).
When the group is jailed for the crime, they must all find a way to survive, while never losing faith that the system will find them innocent.   While in jail, Henry, who intended to marry Della (Jeanine Mason) before he was jailed, becomes entangled when he starts to correspond and meet with leftist journalist Alice Bloomfield (Tiffany Dupont), who advocates for his release.
Valdez’s staging is vibrant, brisk and effective.  The cast is strong and the pace of the show keeps the story moving forward.
This is a rich, thematic and lively show with a timely story that’s full of infectious music and lots of dancing.

The opening night audience was ecstatic when Rose Portillo, who portrays Henry’s mother, returns to the show after portraying Della in the original cast. Daniel Valdez, who starred as Henry on Broadway, also received a huge ovation opening night.

The production team is to be commended. The songs (Zoot Suit Boogie and Chucos Suaves) of composer Lalo Guerrero, regarded as the father of Chicano music are infectious. Christopher Acebo’s set design actually seems to expand the Mark Taper Forum stage. There are several risers that increase the vastness of the playing field.  Maria Torres’ irresistible choreography makes you want to swing and sway in your seat.  From start to finish this show is engaging. All of this makes for a production that is a must-see.

Zoot Suit, directed and written by Luis Valdez, stars Brian Abraham, Mariela Arteaga, Demian Bicher, Melinna Bobadilla, Oscar Camacho, Stephani Candelaria, Raul Cardona, Fiona Cheung, Tiffany Dupont, Caleb Foote, Holly Hyman, Kimberlee Kidd, Rocio Lopez, Jeanine Mason, Tom G. McMahon, Andres Ortiz, Michael Naydoe Pinedo, Matias Ponce, Rose Portillo, Gilbert Saldivar, Richard Steinmetz, Evan Strand, Bradford Tatum, Raphael Thomas and Daniel Valdez.

Zoot Suit director/writer: Luis Valdez; 
Music: Lalo Guerrero
set; designer: Christopher Acebo
costume; designer: Ann Closs-Farley
; lighting designer: Pablo Santiago; 
sound designer: Philip G. Allen
; musical director: Daniel Valdez
; projection designer: David Murakami
; choreographer: Maria Torres.
 Presented by Center Theatre Group, in association with El Teatro Campesino.

 On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Zoot Suit gets an E (excellent).

Zoot Suit, The Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA  90012. $25-$95; For information: (213) 628-2772 or online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.

HBFF Announces Opening and Closing Night Films

(February 17, 2017 – Marina Del Rey, CA) – Tanya Kersey, Executive Director, announces the Opening and Closing Night Films for the 2017 season of The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF). The festival will open on Wed., Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. (RED CARPET STARTS at 6 p.m.) with the feature film “The Preacher’s Son” and close on Sat. Feb 25 at 9 p.m. (Red Carpet starts at 8 p.m.) with “Everything But A Man” at the AMC Marina 6, Villa Marina Marketplace Mall, 4335 Glencoe Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292.

The HBFF opens with an exciting line up of 100 films, along with panels, panelists and festivities over a four-day period. HBFF happens February 22 – 26, 2017 and will be hosted at Hotel MdR, 13480 Maxella Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292. 

DATE: Wed. Feb 22, 2017
TIMES: 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (Red carpet starts at 6 p.m.)
VENUE: AMC Marina 6, Villa Marina Marketplace Mall
ADDRESS: 4335 Glencoe Ave., Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

Based on the characters from New York Times bestselling author Carl Weber's novel The Preacher’s Son. Bishop T.K. Wilson, his wife & two children are a well respected family in their community — yet the Wilson kids are fighting temptations, and the bishop’s son, Dante, has plans that don’t include taking over his fathers church. Tri-Destined Studios

Director: Trey Haley
Writer: Carl Weber
Stars: Christian Keyes, Clifton Powell, Valarie Pettiford, Vanessa Bell Calloway and MORE…
Running time: 110 minutes

DATE: Sat. Feb. 25, 2017
TIME: 9 p.m. (Red carpet starts at 8 p.m.)
VENUE: AMC Marina 6, Villa Marina Marketplace Mall
ADDRESS: 4335 Glencoe Ave., Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

HBFF is holding its closing night film a night early due to the Academy Awards presentation on Feb 26 and in deference to the fact that a historic 18 African Americans have been nominated, across all categories, for Oscars this year. We want everyone watching the Oscars and celebrating the nominations and inclusion of African Americans this year!

She's sexy, smart, successful... and still single. "Everything But A Man" explores the paradox modern career women face, having to think and act like a man in the work world, but still be expected to behave like "a lady" in order to keep a man. The story follows a high achieving but secretly lonely lawyer who despite all her material success is a failure when it comes to love. Things heat up for her when she meets a handsome, mysterious man from another culture. But his radical lifestyle differences threaten to shake up her world and challenge her beliefs on love, relationships and what it means to be a "strong" woman. Race, class, gender and culture all clash in this unconventional romantic comedy-drama. N’Vision Pictures, Jet Media Productions, Bek Films & Sneak Preview Entertainment

Writer/director: Nnegest Likke
Stars: Monica Calhoun, Jimmy Jean-Louis and Camille Winbush.
Running time: 110 minutes

Known as one of the leading Black film festivals in the world, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) is now in its fourteenth year, the upcoming edition of Hollywood Black Film Festival’s theme is “Festival at the Beach”.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Onagan Launches New Entertainment Company

LOS ANGELES, CA (February 15, 2017) – Theatre executive Patty Onagan has launched Patty Onagan Consulting specializing in theatre and live entertainment, it was officially announced today. Onagan’s new venture will create strategies that include marketing, communications, publicity, as well as producing and special events. 

Since 2009, she served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for The Pasadena Playhouse, State Theater of California, Onagan continues the relationship as the press representative on productions and handling the institution’s public relations campaigns. Her additional clients include Ebony Repertory Theatre and Lythgoe Family Panto. 

“I am excited to launch this company where I can create successful communications and marketing campaigns and offer production expertise and skills from special events to stage and live entertainment presentations,” said Onagan. “It is especially gratifying to have The Pasadena Playhouse, Ebony Repertory Theatre and Lythgoe Family Panto as my premiere clients. I have worked with each of these organizations and share their passion for introducing and bringing quality theatrical experiences to audiences.” 

“Throughout her tenure with The Playhouse, Patty worked tirelessly to help promote our productions, to engage new audiences and, most importantly, to bring theater to the community,” said Danny Feldman, Producing Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse. “We are very pleased to be amongst her first clients.”

"Ebony Repertory Theatre has had the distinct honor of being represented by Patty Onagan for the last eight years. Her professionalism, guidance, preparation, resourcefulness, insight and grace under fire, has allowed our company to rest securely in her hands. Working with Patty is perpetually a first rate experience," stated Wren T. Brown, Founder/Producing Artistic Director of Ebony Repertory Theatre.

"We are so excited to continue our work with Patty Onagan. Patty has an abundance of experience and knowledge in theatre and we are looking forward to her being a key component in the on going success and expansion of Panto," said Kris Lythgoe, President of Lythgoe Family Panto.

Onagan began her ten-year association in 2006 with The Pasadena Playhouse, first representing the organization as their publicist, and later joined the staff as Director of Marketing and Communications. She has led marketing and/or publicity campaigns for Fences starring Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, A Night with Janis Joplin, Citizen Twain starring Val Kilmer, and the recently launched God Looked Away starring Al Pacino and Judith Light, resulting in historic record-breaking sales. She was responsible for launching and branding Panto at The Playhouse, the theatre’s annual holiday production in association with producing partners Lythgoe Family Panto led by Kris and Becky Lythgoe. Panto at The Playhouse is now a Southern California holiday favorite and just celebrated its fifth anniversary at the theatre with the presentation of A Cinderella Christmas, and continues to be a top revenue generator.

Onagan’s theatrical career began as a press agent at Broadway's Circle In The Square Theatre. She later joined Broadway's leading public relations agency Boneau/Bryan-Brown as a senior staff member. She created and managed world premiere public relations campaigns for Disney's Broadway productions including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Aida, and King David, and was instrumental in the reopening of the historical New Amsterdam Theatre. 

In 1995, she opened and was the head of Boneau/Bryan-Brown's Los Angeles office, where she continued to oversee publicity for Walt Disney Theatrical's domestic productions and to launch Disney's international licensed staged shows. Eventually she worked in-house at Walt Disney Theatrical Productions as Marketing and Communications Manager and also served on The Walt Disney Company's Synergy Committee. 

Patty later formed her own full service entertainment marketing and public relations agency in Beverly Hills with clients ranging from theatre, film, television studios and record labels. Among her clients were the Geffen Playhouse, Ebony Repertory Theatre, Canon Theatre, Theater League Touring Productions at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Pussycat Dolls Live! at the Roxy, the Los Angeles premiere of Hedwig and the Angry Inch produced by David Bowie, Cinemax Outdoor Film Festival, Disney Records, Warner Bros., among countless others. 

Onagan served as a producer for the world premiere production of bare: a pop opera, directed by Kristin Hanggi. Bare received numerous awards including the Ovation Award for Best Musical of an Intimate Theatre. She produced the Los Angeles Premiere of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi also directed by Hanggi.

She raised nearly $500,000 as the producer of benefit concerts supporting the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic in Hollywood, the Clinton Bush Haiti Relief Fund, Save the Children, UNICEF, and the American Red Cross campaigns to support the rebuilding of Japan and relief for the Philippines. Patty also led the marketing and communications campaigns for the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles hipster fundraiser TwentyWonder.

Onagan has worked with several artists including Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Al Pacino, Judith Light, Ariane Grande, Wayne Brady, Val Kilmer, Valerie Harper, Taraji P. Henson, Sam Harris, Alan Menken, Julie Taymor, Sheldon Epps, Richard Chamberlain, Sandra Tsing Loh, Keith David, Kristin Hanggi, Sabrina Carpenter, Bradley Whitford, John Cameron Mitchell, John O’Hurley, Lucy Lawless, Tori Spelling, Lorna Luft, Ed Asner, and others.

AAFCA Gives 'Seal of Approval' To TV Series

(Los Angeles, CA) February 15, 2017 – The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) is proud to award its “Seal of Approval” to the upcoming “Occupy Truth” episode of the critically-acclaimed Freeform television series “Switched at Birth.” The episode, airing February 28, provocatively tackles the timely issue of student activism motivated by racially-based frustrations that exist on college campuses. 

“Few series have highlighted this issue as boldly and as nuanced as ‘Switched at Birth,’ explains AAFCA president Gil Robertson. “The ‘Occupy Truth’ episode digs deep to peel back several layers to systematic racism and highlights the role race plays especially in the collegiate environment.”

Presented in three chapters, the February 28 “Occupy Truth” episode of “Switched at Birth” explores the various perspectives of three African American characters on the show: Iris, who spearheads a student protest on the campus; Sharee, who is hesitant to become politically active; and Chris, the campus baseball star who is worried about the risk protesting poses to his athletic career. 

“The approach the ‘Occupy Truth’ episode takes is as important as the subject matter itself,” says Robertson. “Instead of presenting one viewpoint as definitive, this episode highlights the fact that divergent viewpoints do exist within the African American community and does so with nuance and complexity. And AAFCA felt it only fitting to champion that message with its coveted Seal of Approval encouraging its core audience and others to watch it.”

The AAFCA Seal of Approval was instituted to identify entertainment content that merits special praise for its representation of African American themes and imagery. “Since its inception, the AAFCA Seal has served as a proactive measure in partnership with the film and TV community to ensure that diversity extends far beyond just bodies,” says Robertson. “At AAFCA, we understand that many in our industry do want to do better and the AAFCA Seal is one way of guiding the industry in this journey and encouraging it to add meaningful content that elevates our collective understanding of one another. And the ‘Occupy Truth’ episode of ‘Switched at Birth’ certainly reflects that mission."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

'Fifty Shades Darker' Lacks Warmth And Passion

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Darker. Photo: Universal Studios

By Darlene Donloe

You know a movie is in trouble when a mature audience made up of all-media professionals - laughs throughout the movie, during scenes that are supposed to be hot, heavy, slow, deliberate, sexy and provocative.  The laughter was so incessant in Fifty Shades Darker - that I thought for a moment that the movie was actually supposed to be a comedy.  By the way, there are some comedic moments, but the film is not, I repeat not, a comedy.

So, here we are again with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), the brooding billionaire with a weird proclivity for sex, trying to woo the damsel named Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).

When we left Christian and Anastasia in author E. L. James’ original film, Fifty Shades Of Grey, Anastasia had left Christian because he was getting off on the pain he was inflicting. This time we open with Grey doing everything he can to win her back.  He promises there will be no secrets. This time he will be open and honest and they will no longer have the master-slave relationship.                                                                                                                                                                 
Things seem to be going Christian’s way until a mysterious woman shows up and threatens Anastasia.  Who is the woman? Who is she to Christian?  What does she want? Why has she come back? All are good questions.  However, the reasons are still a bit murky.

Then there is another woman played by Kim Basinger, who was previously in Christian’s life, but is now jus a mysterious entity.

And then there is Anastasia’s new boss. What a creep!  The story is already set up to have him make an appearance in Three Shades Darker (at least that’s what I’m calling it).

In this latest sexcapade, Christian is still a dominant figure.

We do manage to find out more about him, though.  We find out he was abused as a child, which actually explains a lot.  He has several cigarette burns on his chest. We find out his mother was a crack addict who died when he was still very young. His adoptive mother is played by Marcia Gay Harden, who is always spectacular.

I don’t mean to be picky, but there was one scene – well, there was more than one scene, but for the sake of this review, I’m going to talk about this one scene. Without giving it away, someone goes missing, but shows up safe and sound without any explanation.  It makes absolutely no sense.  It’s hilarious! 

The problem with Fifty Shades Darker, directed by James Foley, is that it's simply not sexy. Christian and Anastasia are not a sexy couple. They are just two people who have raw, kinky sex.  And, maybe that’s all it needs.  Maybe that’s just what the fans want! Jamie Dornan is a nice enough looking man.  Dakota Johnson is a cute woman. But there is something missing – and, to be fair, I just don’t know what it is.
Fifty Shades Darker is Rated R: for sex and bared female breasts. Running time: 1h 58m.

Fifty Shades Darker is directed by James Foley, written by Niall Leonard and stars Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford and Bella Heathcote.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no) N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Fifty Shades Darker get an N-L (Needs work - likeable).

Monday, February 13, 2017

Clint Holmes Set To Take Fans On A 'Rendezvous'

A song that singer-songwriter Clint Holmes wrote fondly recalling the Sunday afternoons he used to spend with his father at the historic Colored Musicians Club of Buffalo in upstate New York where he was first exposed to jazz serves as the centerpiece of “Rendezvous,” his new album slated for release on February 24 from LL Music.  

“I was twelve and it was a true coming of age moment for me. I had never seen my dad in his world. He worked three jobs and never seemed happy until I saw him in this element. I fell in love with jazz and how cool it felt to interact with the ‘cats’ the way my dad did,” said Holmes, the son of an African-American father and a white British mother who was a classically-trained opera singer.  

With jazz timing and phrasing informing his velvety tenor croon on eleven cuts, including three new songs that he co-wrote, Holmes surrounded himself with a royal herd of jazz “cats” on the collection that was produced by two-time Grammy winner Gregg Field. The sophisticated session offers a diverse play list that reinterprets modern day and classic pop hits, soulful R&B, theatrical tunes and numbers culled from the Great American Songbook. Field placed Holmes’ voice front and center amidst live instrumentation, sweeping strings and orchestra accompaniment, and sparse piano and vocal settings. The first single shipped to radio stations for airplay is “Say Something,” a duet between Holmes and multi-time Grammy nominee Ledisi. Grammy winner Patti Austin sang, conducted and arranged the background vocals on the track that will also be remixed for dance floors and serviced to club DJs.            

Class and elegance reign on a cunning big band mashup of “I Loves You Porgy”/”There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York” pairing Holmes and Grammy-winning chanteuse Dee Dee Bridgewater backed by The Count Basie Orchestra. Holmes will join Bridgewater and the famed orchestra on stage at the legendary Blue Note in New York City on February 4 and 5 to perform the showstopper arranged by four-time Grammy winner Gordon Goodwin.     

Stellar contributions proliferate “Rendezvous.” Holmes and Grammy winner Jane Monheit break hearts on a sublime rendition of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” Swinging jazz and blues mingle “At The Rendezvous,” which is illuminated by a storming Hammond B-3 solo from Grammy-nominated organist Joey DeFrancesco. Closing the record with poignancy, Holmes penned lyrics to the sweetly melodic “What You Leave Behind,” composed by contemporary jazz luminary Dave Koz, who embellished the acoustic guitar and vocal track with a gracefully emoting sax solo.            

“Every track does come from a personal place for me and this CD is a ‘rendezvous’ in every sense of the word – a coming together of great and generous artists. The material I selected for the album is specific and biographical while being universal at the same time,” Holmes concluded.    

Holmes burst onto the pop landscape nearly 45 years ago with the million-selling smash “Playground in My Mind.” His enduring and accomplished career as a recording artist, multidimensional showman and consummate entertainer includes tenure as Joan Rivers’ sidekick on her late night television program, a stint as musical feature and event correspondent on “Entertainment Tonight,” and his own Emmy-winning talk/variety show. Along with appearing in marquee musicals across the country, he has written the book, music and lyrics to original shows and cabaret acts. A critically-acclaimed draw in Las Vegas and New York City in recent decades, Holmes concluded an extended run at the Palazzo a short time ago and soon expects to announce a new Vegas residency with a production inspired by “Rendezvous.” For more information, please visit www.ClintHolmes.com.

“Rendezvous” contains the following songs:

“Stop This Train”
“At The Rendezvous” featuring Joey DeFrancesco
“I Loves You Porgy”/”There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York” featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater and The Count Basie Orchestra
“Every Time We Say Goodbye” featuring Jane Monheit
“All Of Me”
“Say Something” featuring Ledisi
“The Perfect Trance”
“My Way”
“What You Leave Behind” featuring Dave Koz