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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I am obsessed with Lisbeth Salander, she is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. After reading the Steig Larsson Millenium Trilogy I find pierced Goth girls somewhat sexy. Anyway back to the books and films.  I read all three books in a row, then watched all three Swedish films. What I enjoyed most about the Lisbeth character is her willingness to fight back and protect herself from male brutality.

The underlining storyline in Larsson’s trilogy is the sexual and emotional abuse of women at the hands of men. Lisabeth is an anomaly in popular culture. She is not the female victim who needs a man to protect her, she is a warrior princess! Once I heard Director David Fincher (Aliens 3, Se7ven, Fight Game,The Game, Panic Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) was going to helm this picture, I knew the American version would be in good hands.

Fincher’s version of TGWTDT is a s dark and even more suspenseful than the original film. It is a hybrid of espionage, serial killer and high tech hackerism all tied up in a big bad black bow. The books and movie are like nothing else in Hollywood, brutal and unforgiving for a sophisticated audience that can appreciate dark intensity in their films.

I can’t believe this film got a “R” rating . It is not for the easily offended, and clearly not for teens, it should have received an NC-17 rating. Daniel Craig was an excellent pick to play the journalist Mikael Blomquist. Hats off for Fincher to choose little known Rooney Mara over a Hollywood starlet like Scarlett Johansson (she is fine).

If you get a chance read the book before seeing the film you will get greater insight into what motivates Salander, but it isn’t necessary to read it to enjoy one of the best films of the year!

 

 

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Okay from the start this is kind of weird, three acts I dig alot come out with new music in the last month. All of them excluding Lala Hathaway must have decided they were just going to do them and work that artistic bone to the max. This is why I really love Meshell Ndegeocello  and Van Hunt. These two artists often defy labels.

There is a risk when an artist steps out and does what the hell they want to do. The labels get angry and some ardent fans will also, but the great ones always step out and try something new.

Meshell Ndegeocello-Weather

Meshell has branched off from traditional funk R&B for a while so “Weather”  is not a shocker. It is reminiscent of her 1999 CD “Bitter“.  Like “Bitter”, “Weather” is  Meshell in one of her musical moods. Slow dark and very indie sounding, her music has been a hybrid of sounds for the last half decade rock, blues, funk. One of the better cuts “Dirty World” is a fine example of how she blends genres.

Lalah Hathaway-Where it all Begins

This is probably one of the better R&B cd’s of the year. Lalah goes a little more commercial with a couple of uptempo grooves like “Strong Woman“. Lalah is by far one of the most underrated artists of our time. She got it from her Daddy!. “Where it all Begins” is very nice. One of the hottest cuts is”Small of My Back”. This cut is so sexy I just wanna… OOOH  when I hear it! The cd is commercial but not to the point where Lalah is doing stuff that does not work for her. Its a must buy!

Van Hunt-”What were you hoping for?” Van Hunt’s first two CD’s were a hot blend of blues, funk and rock. He’s kind of a Curtis Mayfield- Prince progeny.  His biggest hits were “Dust” and “Seconds of Pleasure”. I enjoy artists who push the envelope and do their thing. This cd may have done it a little too much. But that’s cool he’s taking chances. My favorite cut is “Designer Jeans”, an amazing hybrid of funk and heavy guitar rock. Van Hunt has worked with Rahsaan Patterson in the past. I would include him in the Black indie fun soul category with my girl Meshell. “What were you hoping for? Its not his best cd but I applaud him for taking a chance. I guess the title of the cd is apropos. I was expecting some great stuff like his past two cd’s , but you cant always get what you want.

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My Life II -The Journey Continues  (Act 1)

I love Mary J. Blige. She is of the old school. You can tell if she is not feeling the song emotionally she won’t sing it. Her latest project My Life II-The Journey Continues (Act 1) is a nice mix of the Queen of Hip Hop Soul, and with the new Pop ballad thing she has been doing on her recent albums.

The latest CD starts off with Diddy inspired uptempo hip hop stuff she has always been known for. Good head boppin dancin music.

The transformation she has made since her first cd “My Life” is beautiful. From the days of her  dealing with drug addiction and pain from a tough childhood, Mary J. has to a grown into woman who now loves and respects herself. It shows in her music, that old depressed undisciplined voice of the young  Mary, has evolved into the strong willed star of the 21st century.

My favorite song on the album is “Need Someone”, (Matt Morris song)  it has a country music feel to it it is haunting.  20 years ago I’m sure the old Mary would have slapped Diddy if he told her to put this on her album.  This is what I like about her ,she is beginning to stretch out past the R and B barrier.

Another standout cut is a duet with Beyonce “Love a Woman”.

I became more of a Mary fan in the last 7 years when she started getting her life together.  Her maturation  has shown in her music, less angst and better music through out. It just goes to show the happier people are, the better art they can produce.

 

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If you don’t know you betta ask somebody like me about the best TV show “not” on TV! Execs at BET and TVONE need to chase Issa Rae (creator of The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl) and sign her to a long term contract. Her internet TV show blows “The Game” and “Love that Girl ” away. It’s about a young sister who lives in LA who just doesn’t click with most other black folks or most other people period. She is socially awkward and sometimes tries too damn hard to fit in.

It is refreshingly funny. I hate to compare it to anything, but here we go…”The Office” one of the best sitcoms ever on TV. The writing and production on this show is top notch.   Rae has been raising money to support the production on “Kickstarter” , a website that helps fundraise for struggling projects. I first became hip to it by listening to the best radio show in America on NPR’s “Tell me More with Michel Martin“.

Writing is so important for any artistic endeavor that hits the small or big screen. I find so many of the Black themed movie and TV shows that make,  it lack that component. “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl”  is incredibly well written. Go check it out ,pass it on to your friends. If you know any execs at BET or TVOne let them know about it! Wait HBO would be a better match for creative reasons!

Sexy ass Syleena Johnson is back! Her latest album “Chapter V:Underrated” is aptly titled. The best damn voice you may not know. This is her fifth CD. The Grammy Nominated singer has worked with R. Kelly, Kanye West (All Falls Down) and Twista. I love this sista’s style, her gritty but smooth sexy voice.

The new CD is her best since her second “Chapter 2:The Voice” which was a monster! She can go from a ballad to a hot club hip hop banger!   This is a must buy hot Sh&^*$T!!!!! Radio sucks so listen to me and check it out.

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  The Original Jill Scott From the Vault Vol. 1

Skip to my Loo. I want my money back ! Now!!!! There is a reason this stuff was left in the Vault, this stuff sucks. There might be three good cuts out of the 16 or 18, I can’t remember. I never thought I would say a Jill Scott album was bad, but I am. These are outtakes that never should have seen the light of day. But like every company Hidden Beach records was trying to take advantage of the sales of her great album “Light of the Sun“.

I don’t really blame them but they need to refund me seriously. Just like the outtakes from  Prince’s “The Vault:Old Friends for Sale” in which Warner Bros. put out some sucky cuts from the purple one. If you want to buy some stuff that wasn’t highly promoted by Jill buy the Collaborations cd she put out a few years back. She has duets with Darius (Hootie and the Blowfish) Rucker, Al Jarreau and Ronnie Isley. This cd has very mediocre stuff for Jill for any one else it would be great, but my standards for Jill are high I guess.

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Contagion

Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Syriana, Ocean’s 11, Michael Clayton) is slowly becoming one of my favorite movie directors. The Oscar people need to just give him the damn baldheaded man right now. He knocks this flick out of the park. Alot of my friends say oh here we go again with the latest version of “Outbreak” another virus end of the world movie. I say get you ass in the theater tonight. The all-star Oscar cast is “amazing” with Laurence Fishburne in his best role possibly in his career, as a Centers for Disease Control official dealing with an Outbreak of a deadly plague sweeping the world.

This film follows the virus from the end to the beginning. Jude Law plays an excellent anti-government conspiracy theorist blogger who becomes what he hates. Personally I think a plague will wipe out humanity one day so maybe that’s why I’m feeling this flick so much, but Soderberg does a great job at dealing with the science of a contagion and not losing an audience with all of the scientific talk.

If you enjoy an intelligent thriller with more than car chases and explosions this one is for you!

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I was a big fan of the films as a kid so when I saw the trailer for this one I was yeah I’m there. And I was not dissapointed. I won’t give it away but for the 20 and thirty somethings out there who are not familiar with the 5 film franchise from the 1970′s. I was rooting for the Apes like most of the theater. But I like many of the African Americans I’ve spoken with had a strange feeling after the film. I felt a comraderie with the Apes who were treated as pets or guinea pigs, much like African Americans through out the history of this country.  So seeing them liberate themselves from the tyranny of human bondage was awesome, but zi also no the history of racism with Black people being called monkeys are apes. Overall it was a great adaptation of an old hit, I recommend it highly.

 

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The English Patient

I went to my Netflix que the other day and decided I wanted to re-see (made that up) a classic, so I picked “The English Patient” winner of 9 Academy Awards including Best picture in 1996. Fantastic film, I’d forgotten whether or not I had watched the entire film. Great acting, story, cinematography the whole nine. It got me to thinking why don’t we se more films by Black directors that attempt to be great?

There are three recent films by African Americans that come close. Spike Lee‘s “Malcolm X” , “Do the Right Thing” and John Singleton’sBoyz N Da Hood“. Those are three of my favorite’s of all time. All three received Oscar Nominations (Denzel for best actor …but he was robbed with Al Pacino getting it for “Scent of a Woman”). Outside of that there have a been a few creative triumphs by Black directors “Training Day” directed by Antoine Fuqua, “Antwon Fisher” (Denzel should have received at least a nomination for Best Director). I may be missing one or two but other wise we haven’t had many worthy of such praise. Instead we get the tired Black middle class love story. A decade ago that cast would have had Vivica Foxx, Morris Chestnut and Gabriel Union. Now it’s Paula Patton (what the hell was she doing in this flick she’s a much better actress who doesn’t need junk like this), Laz Alonso and some tired actor from a Tyler Perry movie.

We have so many stories that can be told about our people, from our people. Where are the science fiction flicks, the thrillers the straight dramas no comedy included? I blame the Black community along with the movie industry. Black folks like,  most Americans settle for the lowest common denominator in our art (sex and low brow comedy). Our comedy consists of straight cookery thanks to the number one Black director Tyler Perry. I guess we get what we deserve. If you don’t demand quality you won’t get it.

The other problem is bootlegging, its killing African American films. A week before the flick is out some African brotha in Harlem or DC is on the street corner selling a really bad copy of it. That affects the kind of films we get to see. If Hollywood see’s the numbers of Black people going to the theater dwindle because of the bootleg phenomena, then they won’t green light movies we like.

Spike hasn’t done  a studio film in three years. He tried to get funding for a sequel to ” Inside Man” which made  $184 million worldwide, his most successful film ever (more than any single  Tyler Perry film).

I am a movie buff, I enjoy going to the theater rather than sitting home and watching them on TV. I want that feeling of excitement again, when a good Black director does a film that isn’t straight coonery, or  story of Black pathology (Precious, For Colored Girls).We have Black writers coming up with great stories, but they won’t be seen as long as we refuse to support those skilled artists. Film is more than just a way to make a buck, it’s also an art form that projects who we are as a people around the world. I once met an African brotha who told me he thought all African Americans were lazy, crazy, violent and dumb because of the movies he saw growing up on the Continent. That’s sad.

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Louie

FX is quickly becoming one of my favorite cable networks from “Louie” to “Justified” to “Wilfred” and the now moved to DirectvDamages“, it is the HBO to regular cable. If you like adult and I mean really adult humor and drama check this network out. “Louie” is kind of hard to describe its not a sitcom but more of a faux reality show. It’s hard to explain but I’ll try, the show stars Louis C.K. a real standup comedian who will make fun of anything. He puts the “P” in Politically Incorrect. The show follows Louie during his everyday life as a single dad to two girls by day, and a relatively successful standup comedian by night. In between are snippets of his racy standup routine. This week Louie took his young girls on a trip to Pennsylvania to visit his 97 year-old aunt. He wanted them to get to know someone who lived in during a different time period . He expected the aunt to tell them about riding on a horse and buggy, living without computers etc. That didn’t work out very well because old auntie had a racist streak mentioning the word nigger a few times upsetting his daughters. It was hilarious seeing the young girls trying to figure out what planet this old woman was from as she mention “niggertoes” a name for a nut. The show pushes the envelope as far as possible, so if you’re the sensitive type stay away.

Wilfred

A dog that smokes weed? That’s what “Wilfred” does, well he does in the mind of Ryan (Elijah Wood of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy). Ryan is a non-practicing lawyer who suffers from depression. He’s taking meds that are making him see things. Well he communicates with his next door neighbor’s dog. Actually he does more than communicate with Wilfred, he smokes weed with Wilfred, hangs out with the Aussie accented dog played by Jason Gann. Other people see Wilfred as just a dog, but for Ryan Wilfred may be the only thing keeping him from taking his life. Funny in a real dirty sarcastic way.  Gann plays an angry dog who hates being told what to do, and being treated less than a human. You have to suspend your imagination and just go with it. I love this one.