This edition of The Limelight talks to the legendary Leslie Uggams, highlights former “The Apprentice” winner, Randal Pinkett; talks to “Skyline” and “Scrubs” star, Donald Faison; takes a look at new DVDs, what’s On TV and has reviews of several films. Check it out!
AT THE MOVIES
FRANKIE AND ALICE – Halle Berry has already won one Academy Award. With her latest turn in the movie “Frankie and Alice,” the actress may well be on the verge of yet another Oscar® nod. Berry portrays Frankie, who suffers from multiple personality disorder. It’s the 1970s and Frankie is making ends meet by working as a stripper. Geoffrey Sax directs. On the Donloe Scale, “Frankie and Alice” gets an O (OK).
BLACK SWAN – Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and Barbara Hershey star in this dark drama about the world of ballet behind the scenes. Darren Aronofsky’s thriller is raw and gutsy as it follows Nina (played by Portman) an ambitious New York ballerina determined to dance the lead in Swan Lake. On her quest to achieve perfection, Nina, overworks her body and her mind one her way to learning life’s lessons the hard way. The real story reveals the violent nature of a beautiful artform. This is much more than a dance movie. It’s a thriller, a horror flick, a dark, edgy film. It’s not what you’d expect. This is a mesmerizing movie with Oscar written all over it for acting, writing and directing. On the Donloe Scale, “Black Swan” gets an E (excellent). (Fox Searchlight)
I WILL FOLLOW - Publicist turned film director Ava DuVernay is enjoying the success of her first feature length film titled, I Will Follow, a drama about how to continue your life after its been met by devastation. Duvernay takes a page out of her own life to write and direct this deeply personal story. The movie stars Salli-Richardson-Whitfield, Omari Hardwick, Michole White, Dijon Talton, Blair Underwood and Beverly Todd. DuVernay also wrote and directed the acclaimed BET documentary “My Mic Sounds Nice” and “This Is the Life.” On the Donloe Scale, I Will Follow gets an O (Outstanding)
FASTER – The trailer for Dwayne Johnson’s new movie, “Faster,” proclaims, “If you’re looking for action, the tough guy movie of the year is here.” That’s an understatement. For years, Johnson’s WWF wrestling alter ego, “The Rock,” was known for being a tough guy, often dominating his opponents in the ring. That was a walk in the park. In his latest role as, Driver, Johnson takes ‘tough guy” to a whole new level. After serving 10 years in prison, Driver is released and immediately sets out to avenge the murder of his brother during the botched bank robbery that put him behind bars in the first place. The film also stars Billy Bob Thornton. On the DONLOE SCALE, Faster, from CBS Films, gets an L for Likeable.
UNSTOPPABLE – Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson star in this action-packed flick about a runaway, conductorless train loaded with combustible materials that is headed toward a highly populated area. Washington, not surprisingly, gives a noteworthy performance, as does his co-stars Dawson and Pine. Washington and Pine play working class heroes who take it upon themselves to save the day. Director Tony Scott has sculpted a movie that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. On the Donloe Scale, “Unstoppable” gets an O (Outstanding).
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS - In this seventh and final installment of the beloved Harry Potter series, Harry faces new troubles; he must collect all of the Horcruxes that the evil Lord Voldemort has left behind. He has no idea where these are and he has to destroy them all, even without the faintest idea how to do so. If you missed the previous six movies, you’ll be as lost as I was. I saw the first two, but having missed the middle three, I was confused. However, the movie was still entertaining. It stars Daniel Radcliffe in the title role. This Warner Bros. film is rated PG-13. It’s currently in theaters. On the Donloe Scale, it gets an E for excellent.
NIGHT CATCHES US – Kerry Washington, Anthony Mackie and Wendell Pierce star in this drama by writer-director Tanya Hamilton. When a former member of the Black Panthers returns to his old stomping ground in Philadelphia in 1976, some old wounds are uncovered. Good performances by Washington, Mackie and Pierce. Hamilton crafts an interesting story. On the Donloe Scale, “Night Catches Us” gets an O (OK).
COMPANY MEN – The ensemble cast in John Wells’ latest flick boasts Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner and Eammon Walker, all of whom bring their “A” game to this smart, absorbing flick. With a story that is timely, The Company Men pulls back the curtain on a company’s downsizing tactics. The results are devastating. Three men go from living high on the hog, to being completely blind-sided with the reality of unemployment. Their lives begin to slowly and then quickly unravel, leaving all three more than weary. Incredible acting from everyone in the cast. Wells’ direction is on target. To its credit, this movie feels all too real. On the Donloe Scale, “The Company Men” gets an E (excellent).
THE FIGHTER – A boxer, played by Mark Wahlberg goes for glory with the help of his brother (Christian Bale), who happens to be a crackhead. Bale is exceptional – even looking the part with his incredible weight loss. The movie is based on a real story. The real story is about the early years of boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s. Ward would eventually win the world light welterweight title. This moving drama is directed by David O. Russell. On the Donloe Scale, “The Fighter” gets an E (excellent).
FOR COLORED GIRLS – Tyler Perry puts the powerful words of Ntozake Shange on the big screen in this dramatic piece about Black womanhood. Although Shange’s expressive words reigned in the ‘70s, they still ring true in 2010. The movie is based on Shange's play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf." The original play featured seven women known by colors performing a collection of 20 poems. The movie, gives each of the 20 characters names. The poems are gut-wrenching and thought-provoking. The film stars Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Loretta Devine, Hill Harper, Michael Ealy, Macy Gray, Khalil Kain, Omari Hardwick and Richard Lawson. (Lionsgate) On the Donloe Scale, “For Colored Girls” gets an O (OK).
The Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK/Outstanding) and E (exquisite/excellent).
Leslie Uggams Is An
Leslie Uggams has this showbiz thing down pat.
She’s recorded albums, appeared in concerts, starred on television, won an Emmy (‘Fantasy’), made movies and appeared on Broadway, where she earned a Tony Award for ‘Hallelujah, Baby!
And, after 60 years in entertainment, the legendary performer shows no signs of slowing down.
The singer/actress is currently starring in, ‘Uptown Downtown,’ an evening of personal and revelatory stories and songs that tells how Uggams successfully began and maintained her celebrated career.
The show is called ‘Uptown Downtown’ because Uggams takes the audience on a journey from her beginnings in ‘Uptown’ New York, where she was born (Washington Heights) and eventually started singing at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre – to ‘Downtown’, where she starred on Broadway.
The idea for the show came from her friend and collaborator Michael Bush, who urged her to tell her story. Bush, who is the show’s director, was also her collaborator on “Stormy Weather,” a show that starred Uggams as Lena Horne.
The idea was hatched earlier this year after Uggams performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center as part of the American Songbook. Peppered in her performance were anecdotes about her career and the people she has met along the way.
“I agreed to do the American Songbook because New York is my home and I wanted to do something special,” said Uggams, who recently won an Audelco Award for her starring role in First Breeze of Summer at the acclaimed Off-Broadway Signature Theatre. “I hadn’t done anything in New York in a long time.”
Her show was so successful and well received that Bush and Uggams, realizing they had something special decided to branch out with the show.
“I’m not doing a confessional,” said Uggams. “Actually, I’ve lived a rather sane life. But, the show is filled with good music and interesting stories that I hope everyone will like.”
And, when it comes to good music, ‘Uptown Downtown’ features selections like "There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon for New York" (George Gershwin–Ira Gershwin–Dubose Heyward), “Them There Eyes” (Maceo Pinkard-Doris Taubre-William Tracey), “On the Town,” "Porgy and Bess," "My Own Morning" (Betty Comden–Adolph Green–Jule Styne), ‘Being Good from "Hallelujah, Baby!,” “Hello, Young Lovers” (Richard Rodgers–Oscar Hammerstein II) and more.
All of this music is very familiar to Uggams, who literally grew up in showbiz.
When she was nine-years-old, Uggams was the opening act at The Apollo for entertainment icons like Ella Fitzgerald, Louie Armstrong and Dinah Washington, who she affectionately called “Aunt Ella, Pops and Aunt Dinah, respectively.” She also played Ethel Waters’ niece on the television series, Beulah and made appearances on Your Show of Shows, The Milton Berle Show, and The Arthur Godfrey Show. When she was a teenager Uggams landed a recording contract with Columbia Records and became a regular on Sing Along With Mitch, making her one of the first African American performers to regularly be seen on a prime-time program. Next came The Leslie Uggams Show, a television variety program and then her unforgettable role as Kizzy in Roots.
Her Broadway credits include: starring alongside James Earl Jones in On Golden Pond and co-starring in the Broadway hit Thoroughly Modern Millie. In 2001, her Broadway portrayal of Ruby in August Wilson’s King Hedley II was nominated for a Tony Award. Her Off-Broadway performances include: The Old Settler and Keb Mo’s blues musical Thunder Knocking on the Door.
It’s clear that Uggams, who has no plans to retire, loves her work.
The feisty thespian, who eats right and works out (but ‘hates it’) to maintain good health and energy, is always ready for the next show.
“I love what I do,” she said.
Uggams, who co-stars in the soon-to-be-released independent film, Toe to Toe, says she’s just as excited today about performing as she was at the beginning of her career.
“Oh, yeah, I’m still excited,” said Uggams. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it. You gotta have joy. I still get butterflies before going on stage because I want it to be right. When that is no longer happening it’s time to give it up.”
‘Uptown Downtown’ provides Uggams no safety net. It’s just her and an eight-piece orchestra.
“This is a two act production,” said Uggams. “I think everyone is going to have a good time. It’s like having everybody Uptown Downtown around the country.
The best: Detroit 1-8-7, The Event, Men of a Certain Age, Hot in Cleveland, Boardwalk Empire, Luther, Glee, Dexter, The Good Wife, Burn Notice, Conan, The Mentalist, Grey’s Anatomy, Psych, The Amazing Race, NCIS, Modern Family, Hawaii Five-O, No Ordinary Family, Castle, The Big C, and The Undercovers.
Actress Tempestt Bledsoe, who gained fame on “The Cosby Show,” has been tapped to replace Niecy Nash on the cable show, “Clean House.”
Snoop Dogg will sit down with Cathy Hughes to discuss his life on “TV One on One,” Sun., Dec. 12, 9-10 p.m. ET, repeating at 1 a.m.
Andre Braugher, Scott Bakula and Ray Romano are set to return for a second season of “Men Of A Certain Age” at 10 p.m. Mondays on TNT. Last year, Braugher won an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Owen, who suffers from low self-esteem.
Showtime’s “Dexter,” starring Michael C. Hall, will return to the airwaves Sun., Dec. 12, 9-10 p.m. The show about a serial killer continues to be gory and perverse.
‘The Closer” will end next year, at the conclusion of its seventh season, according to TNT. The network said that the decision to close the series was made by actress Kyra Sedgwick, who won an Emmy this year and has been nominated four other time for her portrayal of the abrasive LAPD Det. Brenda Leigh Johnson. The Closer premiered in 2005.
A&amp;amp;E has canceled ‘The Hasselhoffs” after only two airings. The show never really caught on with audiences. The show’s audience about THE HOFF and his two daughters was 30 percent lower than the first week.
Randal Pinkett In Black and White
Randal Pinkett gained notoriety as the first African American to win Donald Trump’s popular NBC reality television show, “The Apprentice.”
In season four, he was selected as one of 18 candidates chosen from among one million applicants to compete for the opportunity to run one of Donald Trump’s companies.
His momentous win in 2005 was tempered and a bit controversial, in that, he was also the first contestant to be asked by Trump if he’d be willing to share the coveted title – with a white woman. His answer, not surprisingly, was, no. Pinkett stood his ground and was named the sole ‘Apprentice.’
Since that time Pinkett, 39, has been very busy. As an executive with Trump Entertainment Resorts in Atlantic City, he went on to manage several renovation projects for Trump, including a bar, a restaurant, an Asian noodle bar and more.
He has also written a book along with Jeffrey Robinson with Philana Patterson titled, Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness (Amacom Books, $24.95).
The 10 strategies, says Pinkett, Ph.D., were created for African Americans to use to successfully navigate today’s rapidly changing professional landscape.
Throughout his endeavors, Pinkett, who is married (Zahara) and the father of three-year-old Amira, has placed great emphasis on his desire to give back to the community.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in New Jersey, Pinkett, who holds five degrees, is the founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners, a multimillion-dollar consulting firm based in Newark, NJ, that specializes in program management, information technology and public policy. BCT Partners is a minority-owned and operated company and one of the leading firms in the country with expertise in housing and community development, economic development, healthcare, human services and education.
Most notably, Pinkett was, reportedly, the first and only African-American to receive a Rhodes scholarship at Rutgers University.
I recently spoke to Pinkett about his controversial moment on “The Apprentice” and why he wrote his tome. His book tour is scheduled to begin in February 2011.
DD: Why did you write the book?
RP: I wrote the book because we (co-writer Jeffrey Robinson) were not happy with what we saw and what we experienced.
DD: Why is the book titled Black Faces in White Places?
RP: In 2010 you can talk to any African American who has moved up the ranks to mid management on up and you realize there are very few people who look like you. When you look at the numbers it makes no sense that the numbers look the way they do. There are these Jackie Robinsons out there - people who are the only ones.
DD: Your book is about success. Are you successful? If so, what makes you successful?
RP: I would say I humbly am successful. In the book we define success and we define greatness. Part of our argument is we focus too much on success and not greatness. Greatness is a reflection of what you do for other people. Success is a reflection of you. I run a million dollar corporation, I have five degrees. I’m a Rhodes scholar. All of those accolades qualify as successful. By societal standards and my own standard.
DD: If there is only one strategy someone should follow, which one should it be?
RP: Pick number 1. The 10 strategies build off of each other.
DD: What happened after you were named The Apprentice?
RP: I was hired that December and started work in February. I managed several renovation projects, including a restaurant, an Asian noodle bar and a bar.
DD: Were you annoyed when Donald Trump asked you to share the title?
RP: Interestingly, the opening of the book is the transcript from the finale. I was insulted and angered about the mere suggestion that I share the title with someone, who in my opinion, wasn’t my equal. I did anticipate he would pull that stunt. There were rumors amongst the cast and producers and internet. I was very well prepared. I had a series of meeting with my executive team to prepare me for that. I would not walk away with sharing the title. If he had insisted I do it, I was going to tell him he was fired and I quit.
DD: Regarding the way African Americans are succeeding in the workplace – are you encouraged or discouraged?
RP: I’m a hopeless optimist. I’m very encouraged. My experience is that there are a lot of hardworking well-educated African Americans out there who want to get ahead.
DD: How do you let your hair down?
RP: Well, first, I don’t have any hair. But, I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I love music.
DD: What kind?
RP: R&amp;amp;B, soul, jazz and hip-hop. My favorite artist is Mary J. Blige.
DD: Your favorite movie and book? My favorite movie is “Do The Right Thing.” My favorite book is Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun.
For more information, please visit: http://www.randalpinkett.com
“YEAR OF THE FISH” (Gigantic Pictures) debuts on DVD, Feb. 8, 2011. The film is a modern-day adaptation of Cinderella based on a 9th Century Chinese variant of the folk-tale, the oldest known version of the story, recorded some 800 years before the better-known European versions. In a new twist to the classic tale, a lovely young girl named Ye Xian (An Nguyen) travels alone to New York City to try to make some money for her sick father back home in China. There she is employed by Mrs. Su (Tsai Chin), who runs a massage parlor in the heart of Chinatown. But in exchange for her transportation to America, Ye Xian owes a debt to Mrs. Su that will not be easy to repay. The film was written and directed by first time feature filmmaker David Kaplan. For mature audiences, running time: 96 min., consumer retail price: $24.98.
“WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?,” (Passion River Films) debuts on DVD Jan., 25, 2011. The film takes a compelling look into the rise of the conservative movement in America. The film is packed with provocative interviews and footage that shed light on the rise of what is now widely known as The Tea Party Movement. Running time: 90 min., based on the book by Thomas Frank. Retail price: $24.98.
Faison Takes To The Sky-line
Donald Faison loves being an actor.
Since 1992, he’s been making his talents known on both the big and small screens.
Some of his film credits include “Clueless,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “Next Day Air,” “Something New,” “Remember the Titans” and “Juice.”
Best known for his role as Dr. Chris Turk on the comedy series, “Scrubs,” Faison recently took on a more dramatic, action-packed role in the movie, “Skyline.”
I caught up with the actor recently to ask him about his latest movie and to talk about his career.
DD: Tell me about Skyline.
DF: It’s a movie I did about five months ago. It’s an action sci-fi adventure that takes place in present day. Imagine aliens attacking and taking everyone on the planet. It’s not the kind of movie we’ve seen before. It’s always the military that we follow. In “Independence Day” we followed Will Smith and the president. This is about the everyday man who is not larger than life. There’s no Tom Cruise or Bruce Willis.
DD: Why did you want to do this movie?
DF: I’ve always wanted to do action adventure. I’m a fan of sci-fi. My favorite movie is “The Empire Strikes Back.” I wanted to be Harrison Ford. Everybody played cowboys and Indians. I was playing cowboys and aliens.
DD: Talk about your character Terry.
DF: He’s a special effects artist in Hollywood who works for himself. He has his own special effects company. He’s a natural leader. He‘s the boss of so many people.
DD: In the movie it looks like the world is coming to an end. If you knew the end was coming, what would be the last thing you’d do?
DF: I’d want to see my kids. I’d have to make sure I get to see them. See my girlfriend and family members.
DD: Is this movie more scary or more action-packed?
DF: It has a lot of sci-fi and action. It’s not a horror film. I like horror films. I like it all
DD: As a black man in a movie where people are getting destroyed quickly, do you make it to the end?
DF: Let me just say, the black man is a hero.
DD: How do you decide what movies you’re going to do?
DF: I’ve just been lucky to be a part of good movies. I can’t sit here and say I have a strategy to all of this. I have movies that have never seen the light of day and some that have gone straight to video or cable. I’ve had more duds than hits, including pilots that never went anywhere.
DD: So, what’s up next?
DF: Well, I hope to be a better chess player. No, really, when it comes down to it, work begets work. I don’t want to sip the Kool Aid. Tomorrow it could all end. I don’t want to act like I’m too good.