Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Angry Birds Movie 2 Opens August 16

A hilarious all-star cast of new and returning talent is brought together as the flightless birds and scheming green pigs take their beef to the next level.

Directed by: Thurop Van Orman

Screenplay by:  Peter Ackerman

Produced by:  John Cohen

     Jason Sudeikis
Josh Gad
Leslie Jones
Bill Hader
Rachel Bloom
Sterling K. Brown
Eugenio Derbez
Danny McBride
Peter Dinklage
Zach Woods
Dove Cameron
Lil Rel Howery
Beck Bennett
Nicki Minaj
Brooklynn Prince

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Broad Presents Soul Of A Nation: Art In The Age Of Black Power 1963-1983

By Darlene Donloe

It was three years in the making, but Soul Of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983 finally made its West Coast debut at The Broad.

The international exhibition, designed to showcase era-defining artwork that changed the face of art in America, celebrates the work of more than 60 Black artists made over two revolutionary decades in American history, beginning in 1963 at the height of the civil rights, Black Power and Black Feminism movements. The show features more than 200 pieces.  

John Outterbridge
Traditional Hang-up (Containment Series), 1969 

Romare Bearden
The Conjur Woman, 1964

The exhibit, which includes paintings, sculptures, street photography, murals and more, examines the influences, from the civil rights and Black Power movements to minimalism and developments in abstraction, on artists such as Romare Bearden Barkley Hendricks, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White and William T. Williams.

Senga Nengudi
Internal II, 1977, 2015
Nylon Tights

Faith Ringgold
The Flag is Bleeding, 1967

Barkley Hendricks
Icon for My Man Superman
(Superman Never Saved Any Black People - Bobby Seale), 1969
Betye Saar
Spirit Catcher, 1977

The work of Los Angeles artist Betye Saar, who attended the opening, is explored in a gallery that recreates a portion of the artist’s first survey exhibition in 1973 at California State University, Los Angeles. Another gallery examines the unique approaches to the graphic image by Charles White, David Hammons, and Timothy Washington, focusing on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1971 exhibition Three Graphic Artists that featured the artists, and which came out of the activist efforts of the Black Arts Council.

Joanne Heyler

“The 60’s to the ’80s defined so much about our contemporary culture,” said Joanne Heyler, founding director, The Broad. “Many of the fault lines we face in our society today are plainly visible in Soul Of A Nation. To walk through the wide array of works in its galleries, starting with Norm Lewis’ abstract painting in black and white, America The Beautiful, which once viewed up close reveals charred symbols of white supremacy, is to feel the present as much as the past.”

Norm Lewis
America the Beautiful

It’s such an honor that the show has come here to The Broad,” said Mark Godfrey, senior curator, international art. “The question that really we asked was, Who are the important African American artists and what are the important questions African American artists were asking prior to this generation? In many ways, it was that question that sparked the research for Soul of A Nation.”

(l-r) Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley

“And crucially that question why when we think of American art in the 20th century are there a certain set of names that we can think of and many voices that hadn’t been heard and weren’t a part of it, said Zoe Whitley, curator, international art, Tate Modern. “And in terms of our thinking very much about how we can expand the canon and what that means. That may mean looking to different geographic regions. But it also really crucially means taking another look at regions we think we know well. At histories, we think we already have down pat and that became a very important part of the process.”

Barkley Hendricks
Brilliantly Endowed (Self-Portrait), 1977 
Barbara Jones-Hogu
Unite (First State), 1969

Opening today, the exhibit, presented by the contemporary art museum, kicked off its opening weekend with a number of events, including a star-studded opening party held Friday night. Celebs and notables on hand included Eli Broad and Edythe L. Broad, Jay Z, Michael Ealy, Sherry Lansing, Tia Mowry, Courtney Vance, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Glynn Turman and Jo-Ann Allen, Debbie Allen and Norm Nixon, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Ricky Minor, Diarra Kilpatrick, Nafessa Williams, Fran Drescher, Mehcad Brooks, Tina Knowles, Richard Lawson, BET CEO Debra L. Lee, Natasha Rothwell, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Chow and featured artist Betye Saar.

Wadsworth Jarrell
Revolutionary (Angela Davis), 1971

Frank Bowling
Texas Louise, 1971

There are also works on loan by celebrity collectors Beyonce and Jay Z (a body print by Los Angeles-based artist David Hammons), and Tonya and Spike Lee (Norman Lewis’ America the Beautiful).

In support of Soul of A Nation, there is exhibition programming throughout the run including: Art and Politics: Soul of a Nation Symposium (Sat., March 23, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.) – Location – Aratani Theatre, 244 San Pedro St., Los Angeles; Soul of a Nation Curator Conversation: Mark Godfrey, Zoe Whitley and Bridget R. Cooks (Sun., March 24, 2-3:30 p.m.); Exhibiting Black Art in 1970s Los Angeles (Sat., Apr. 27, 2-3:30 p.m.); An Evening of Music Curated by Quincy Jones and Terrace Martin (Sat., June 1, 8:30 p.m.); Jazz Nights at the Broad (July 17, Aug. 14, 8:30 p.m.); Free Soul of a Nation Gallery Talks (Thursdays 7 p.m., beginning May 2); Time is Running Out of Time: Experimental Film and Video from the L.A. Rebellion and Today (Feb. 2-Sept 14) – Location: Art & Practice, 3401 W. 43rd Place, Los Angeles.

Bridget R. Cooks

Programming today included enriching conversations, artist talks, and poetry, organized by UC Irvine professors Bridget R. Cooks (associate professor, African American Studies and Art History) and Frank B. Wilderson III (chair of African American Studies). The event will include compelling conversations between artists featured in the exhibition, such as Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell and Gerald Williams with Vida L. Brown (visual arts curator, California African American Museum) and Mel Edwards with Dale Davis (artist and co-founder, Brockman Gallery), facilitated by Isabelle Lutterodt (director, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery), as well as renowned art historians and curators like Thelma Golden (director and chief curator, The Studio Museum), Phyllis J. Jackson (associate professor, art history, Pomona College), Kellie Jones (professor, art history and archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies, Columbia University), and Naima J. Keith (deputy director and chief curator, California African American Museum).

Charles White
J'Accuse! No. 5, 1966

Roy DeCarava
Black Light

Distinguished poet Kamau Daáood, author of The Language of Saxophones: Selected Poems of Kamau Daáood and the critically acclaimed album, Leimert Park, conducted a reading today. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, spoke in conversation with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay.

In honor of the Soul of a Nation exhibition, legendary producer, musician, and composer Quincy Jones curated an exclusive playlist on Apple Music that includes James Brown’s Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud and Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

The Broad is a contemporary art museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad.

Soul of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983, The Broad, 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles; tickets are $12-$18, free for children 17 and under; free admission to Soul of a Nation every Thursday from 5 – 8 p.m. (last entry at 7 p.m.) during the exhibition’s run.  For information:

Friday, March 22, 2019

Peele's Horror Film Is Scaring The Hell Out Of 'Us'

By Darlene Donloe

Jordan Peele wants to scare the hell out of Us and he’s doing a good job. The trailer for Us, opening today nationwide is about as creepy a horror film as you can get.

But wait. There’s more.  If you think the trailer is spine-chilling, hold on to your hat because sh*t just got real.

Once again Peele, whose movie Get Out was a 2017 runaway hit, has crafted a story that is unique, thought-provoking, radical, in-your-face, comical and deliriously juicy.

When the movie starts - the opening crawl on the screen talks about the miles and miles of abandoned underground tunnels, roads, and railroads that are below the city streets and how no one really knows why. This is Peele's social commentary about the underclass and the forgotten people who have become invisible. 

The psychological drama is about Adelaide Wilson, her husband and their two kids (a son and a daughter), who return to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic, unexplainable experience from the past, and compounded by a number of eerie coincidences, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. After spending a tense day at the beach with their friends, the Tylers (Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon), Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four strangers show up at the home forcing the Wilsons to fight for their lives. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.

Lupita Nyong'o, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph

After spending a tense beach day with their friends, the Tylers (Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon), Adelaide and her family return to their vacation home in northern California. When darkness falls, the Wilsons discover the silhouette of four figures holding hands as they stand in the driveway. It’s one of the more terrifying moments in the film.

Lupita Nyong'o

It’s an interesting concept when someone is confronted with themselves. Yes, we all look in a mirror and see the image reflected back. But it’s an all-new ball game when there is a physical doppelganger sitting opposite you that looks more like you than any identical twin ever could. Add in the fact that the ‘you’ you’re looking at wants to harm you – and you’ve got a serious situation on your hands.

Just like a standard horror film, Us has plenty of scary music. It has loads of “don’t go in there” moments, “that doesn’t make any sense” moments and even more “the person is behind you” moments that keep the audience on their toes.

Lupita Nyong'o 

The first half of the film is better than the second, probably because that’s when everything is set up.  There is an interesting twist at the end – so watch closely.  

Peele has crafted a wonderful, straightforward horror film that lends itself to a sequel. This film will surely have all of ‘Us’ keeping the lights on at night.

Winston Duke, Lupita Nyong'o and Evan Alex

(Universal Pictures) is written and directed by Jordan Peele, and stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Anna Diop, Noelle Sheldon, Cali Sheldon, Kara Hayward, Yahya Abdul Mateen II, Madison Curry, and Nathan Harrington.

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

Rating: R (for violence/terror, and language).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Trotman 'Got To Give It Up' to Marvin Gaye

Sax salutes sexy soul on Elan Trotman’s “Dear Marvin,” a collection of 10 of Marvin Gaye’s best-loved songs that drops on April 2, the late legendary R&B singer’s 80th birthday. Preceding the set’s arrival is the single “Got To Give It Up,” a vibrant reboot of one of Gaye’s funky dance tracks that is the No. 1 most-added single on the Billboard chart this week as an instrumental from the Woodward Avenue Records album produced by Charles Haynes (Marcus Miller, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah) and Trotman.

“It’s amazing how this project came about. ‘Got To Give It Up’ has been a huge part of my live show for the past two years and has always been a crowd favorite. That is just one of the many factors that inspired me to record the song and to dig deeper into Marvin’s catalog and life story. I had no idea that his 80th birthday would be coming up around our time of completing the album, but once I found out, I knew we had to release it on April 2 to mark the occasion,” said Trotman, an award-winning saxophonist who has topped the Billboard singles chart more than ten times.

In reimagining Gaye’s catalog in instrumental form, Trotman shares the spotlight on “Dear Marvin,” with premier soloists, including Grammy-winning keyboardist Jeff Lorber, seminal urban-jazz flutist Najee, esteemed trumpeter Patches Stewart, soul-jazz-hip hop-funk trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and veteran guitarist Sherrod Barnes. Trotman strategically deploys vocals to illumine a few key tracks. Ray Greene (Santana, Tower of Power) begs on “Mercy Mercy Me”; rapper Obadele Thompson plies his come-on skills to “I Want You”; and Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith provides the cure through “Sexual Healing.” Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra enhance a pair of tracks with strings. Including Haynes, Trotman’s core collaborators are his former colleagues from Berklee College of Music: keyboardist Mitch Henry (Marsha Ambrosius), bassists Kyle Miles and Keithen Foster (H.E.R.), and percussionist Atticus Cole.        

“It’s been an honor to be able to share my interpretations of some of Marvin’s classics. As with all cover projects, I made an extra effort to learn lyrics and storylines for each composition in order to truly understand his interpretations and performances on each song,” said the Boston-based Trotman, who is planning to be in Los Angeles on April 2 for an 11am ceremony held by the United States Postal Service at The Greek Theatre to celebrate the release of the Marvin Gaye commemorative Forever stamp. 

“We, Marvin's family, heard about Elan doing a musical tribute to Marvin. We are very pleased with his album 'Dear Marvin,' and are so happy that it will be released on his birthday, April 2. The musicians are all incredible! Thank you, Elan Trotman. Job well done,” said Janis Gaye, Gaye’s second wife.

“Dear Marvin,” is Trotman’s eighth album and second on the Woodward Avenue Records imprint. The label issued the saxophone-flute player’s 2013 disc, “Tropicality,” an autobiographical album that colors contemporary jazz with native sounds from Trotman’s homeland, Barbados. Trotman curates, produces and hosts the Barbados Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend annually over Columbus Day Weekend with the sixth edition taking place this October 10-14. Bringing that winning formula closer to home, he will launch the first annual Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Excursion and Golf Weekend in Oak Bluffs, MA on June 28-30. To support the album release, Trotman will perform at festivals, theaters and nightclubs through October beginning with the prestigious Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival in Reading, PA on April 5.      

“Dear Marvin,” contains the following songs:

“Inner City Blues” featuring Sherrod Barnes
“Got To Give It Up”
“Distant Lover” featuring Patches Stewart
“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”
“Mercy Mercy Me” featuring Ray Greene
“I Want You” featuring Obadele Thompson
“Sexual Healing” featuring “Smithsoneon”
“After The Dance” featuring Najee
“Trouble Man” featuring Jeff Lorber
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” featuring Jeff Bradshaw

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Review: Black Super Hero Magic Mama

Kimberly Hébert Gregory

By Darlene Donloe

Parents are not supposed to bury their children. When it happens, the pain is unfathomable and, for some debilitating.  That’s exactly what happens to Sabrina when she loses her 14-year-old son Tramarion to a police shooting in Black Super Hero Magic Mama, a drama/comedy by Inda Craig-Galván, currently having its world premiere at the Geffen Playhouse’s Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.

When the play opens, Sabrina (Kimberly Hébert Gregory), a single mother, is reading Harry Potter as a bedtime story to her son. She then begins to wax lyrical about how most heroes and heroines in books and films frequently encounter personalities similar to the people they already know. That would prove to be pivotal in the show’s second act.

Tramarion (Cedric Joe) is a mother’s dream. He’s a good student. He’s currently studying Know Your Heritage, the high school black history quiz show. He and his friend, Flat Joe (Noah Abbott) are in the midst of writing a comic book where Sabrina’s face is used as the heroine.

(l-r) Noah Abbott and Cedric Joe

Sabrina doesn’t exactly approve of her son’s friendship with Flat Joe. The thinks Flat Joe is a bad influence. She’s apprehensive about letting her son loose in the city. She’s trying her best to keep him safe.  The night of the black history quiz show competition, Tramarion wants to ride to the competition on the bus with his Coach Corey Brackett (Daryl C. Brown) and his teammates.  It literally becomes a life-changing decision.

Later that night, after the team’s big win, the coach realizes he has left the keys inside the van.  Surrounded by the boys, including Tramarion, the coach tries to gain entry into the van by any means necessary. When a cop sees what’s happening, he tells everyone to put their hands up. Tramarion happens to be holding the trophy which shines when a flashlight hits it. Mistaking the trophy as a gun – the officer fires his gun – shooting and killing Tramarion.

Inda Craig-Galván

With her son now a statistic, Sabrina goes into a slightly catatonic state. Even though her sister Lena (Cynthia Kaye McWilliams) tries to bring her back from the edge, she finds she’s unable to face the ensuing flurry of media attention. Crippled by grief and anger, she retreats into a fantasy world of superheroes and arch villains that inhabit the comic book created by her son and his friend before his death. Assuming the role of the Maasai Angel rather than the expected part of a grieving mother, Sabrina battles her enemies along the way to peace.

While the first act is a straight-forward look at the tragedy that befalls Sabrina, the second act takes a hard left and enters the comic book world. The second act has a good amount of comedy that makes the show feel disjointed. It feels like the audience is seeing two shows.

The set design doesn’t lend itself to a free-flowing show for Director Robert O’Hara. It plays a little clunky.  Center stage houses Tramarion’s bed on a revolving pedestal. The set design works when the two secondary characters play 'stage left' and 'stage right' as both newscasters in Act 1 and crazy comic book characters in Act 2.  In Act 1 - upstage center is a brilliant cityscape that also doubles as a screen to project images. In Act 2 it becomes the set of a game show.

Cynthia Kaye McWilliams

Kimberly Hébert Gregory holds down the show along with Cynthia Kaye McWilliams.  Gregory’s grief as Sabrina is palpable and McWilliams’ attempts to bring her sister back from the brink – ring authentic.

The two boys, Cedric Joe, and Noah Abbott are adorable. Satisfactory performances from the supporting cast.

Although at times Black Super Hero Magic Mama plays like two separate plays (a drama and a comedy) fortunately - by the time the show ends, Inda Craig-Galván wraps it up nicely.

Kimberly Hébert Gregory
This is an emotional journey presented with moments of levity - probably to lessen the blow surrounding a young black man being killed at the hands of the police. It’s a recurring story that, unfortunately, has become our reality far too often.

Black Super Hero Magic Mama, written by Inda Craig-Galván, and directed by Robert O'Hara, stars Noah Abbott, Reiko Aylesworth, Walter Belenky, Daryl C. Brown, Kevin Douglas, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, Cedric Joe, and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams.

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

Black Super Hero Magic Mama, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles; 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; through April 14; $30-$120 (subject to change);  (310) 208-5454 or; Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.