Friday, March 07, 2008

101: Greatest Show On Earth debut column

ISSUE # 101

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REDEMPTION FILM...There's always talk of a new Bob Marley bio pic on the way. But we're betting that this one will actually get off ground. Marley's widow Rita Marley is now on board to exec produce the first-ever biopic of her late husband, according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is based on her 2004 autobiography No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley. The Weinstein Co. will produce and distribute. Lizzie Borden ("Working Girls") is scripting. And get this, Rita wants hip hop artist/actress--and Bob Marley's daughter-in-law--Lauryn Hill to portray her onscreen. As many know, Hill married Rohan (Bob Marley's son by Janet Hunt) a few years back. Also on the way is Martin Scorsese's authorized feature documentary on Marley, which will be released on what would have been the music icon's 65th birthday, February 6, 2010. When it rains it seems to pour in Hollywood. But if timed right, the two much-anticipated projects won't overshadow each other.

QUICK CHANGE ARTIST...Madonna has got nothing on media exec Keith Clinkscales, who seems to be able to reinvent himself over and over again. This time, the founding editor of Vibe, turned publisher of the now-defunct Honey and Blaze and now senior VP of content development and enterprises over at ESPN, is hitting the film world. He just announced that ESPN, in collaboration with The Walt Disney Studios, is forming ESPN Films. It is a new venture which will develop scripted and documentary film projects for television and theatrical release. First up will be 30/30, which will focus on the last three decades of sports. Thirty filmmakers will each be asked to tell a sports-themed story in a series of one-hour films, which will begin airing on ESPN in Sept. 2009. Sounds like a great way to expand the ESPN brand, but the inclusion of new media elements and even a special project on Black women in sports could really help score.

HEY CUZ...We have a hot tip on on an up-and-coming Latino actor and new action thriller in the works. We hear Eric Martinez (pictured left) will be much in-demand after his turn as a hit man in Oblivious. And the flick's screenwriter Marlon Campbell is poised to follow in first cousin (and former biz partner) Tyler Perry's footsteps. Perry's agent, William Morris, is even in the mix. The powerhouse agency just inked a deal with Campbell to complete the casting and select a director. Filming is already set for this summer in Atlanta with actress Natina Reed, co-star of Bring It On, and platinum-selling girl trio Blaque. Campbell's Relentezz Films will release the film. "The studio will be announced soon," promises Campbell. You know, we'll keep you abreast of further development.

NEW LINE MAKEOVER...Major changes over at New Line Cinema. In cost cutting efforts, Time Warner Inc. recently announced its Warner Bros. Entertainment studio would absorb its New Line Cinema. On top of this New Line founder Robert Shaye and his co-chief executive, Michael Lynne, are exiting. New Line, which is set to release The Hobbit in 2010 and Sex and the City (this May), will have separate development, production and marketing departments; but it will integrate those functions with its new parent division. New Line was once known known for its quirky indie films before churning out blockbusters such as the Lord of the Rings series, but initially it made a good part of its revenue and reputation via the usual MO--using Urban-flavored entertainment. And through this rise was given to such flicks as All About The Benjamins, Blade, Set It Off, Above The Rim, House Party - a vibe which we haven't seen from the studio in quite a while! Thus, could it be that if the company had remembered that diversity equals profitability, this item might read a bit differently today?

DIGGS GET A BREAK..."Day Break" fan alert. The show that many thought got yanked way too soon off ABC has found a new home of sorts on TV One. The Black-owned network will start rebroadcasting the 13-episode action thriller starring Taye Diggs on March 16. It will also air seven never-before-seen episodes. As an added marketing perk, the network is planning an interactive component. for "Day Break" viewers. Through blogs, games, and video, users are invited to join a force of detective to solve the murder mystery.


BIG POPPA IN THE HOUSE...The wait is over. After a nationwide search for a newcomer to play the late rapper Biggie Smalls in the highly anticipated Fox Searchlight bio-pic being executive produced by his mother, Voletta Wallace, and Sean Combs; they have found their man in Brooklyn-based rapper Jamal Woolard. This newcomer will star along side Angela Bassett (as Voletta), Derek Luke (as Diddy), Dennis “Da Menace” White for the role D-Roc (Biggie's best friend), and Anthony Mackie (as Tupac Shakur) in the George Tillman Jr. directed film. Notorious is set for release in January. A studio hasn't taken this serious an approach with a rap drama since 8 Mile. Lets see if they pull out all the bells and whistles of new and traditional media promotion when the time comes.

...Already this sounds like a powerhouse Hip-Hop film lineup. According to the folks over at Ruff Ryder Films; Eminem, Eve, Ludacris, and Chingy are all in talks to appear in the company's project aptly titled Ruff Ryders, which is slated for a fall 2008 release and stars raptor (our new name for a strong trend of rappers tuned actors and one, which we might add has been overlooked by the mainstream) DMX and actress Meagan Good. According to new Ruff Ryders Films president Tariq Alexander, "We currently have three major studios interested...This will be a theatrical release with great crossover appeal so we’re just going to let them fight it out." In a related note, The A-List was one of the first to pinpoint Alexander as a player-to-watch when when we covered Alexander's own The System Within and The Stick-up Kids film projects (

GOT NEXT?...A hot new digital talent show seems about ready to blow up. With rapper Lil Wayne and R&B group Jagged Edge put on as judges/hosts, "Making The Next Hit" ( just held an open audition for singers, producers, and rappers who will compete for a music video/recording/distribution deal. Call it "American Idol," with flavor. But while "Next" has pulled in two name names, it's may benefit in drawing traffic by utilizing some guerilla marketing moves to stand above competition and really get headz noddin'.

WHO'S GOT THE MOVES?...For a moment it seemed like breakdancing was too old school to keep pace with rap music. But lately it seems like Hollywood can't get enough of Hip Hop dance movies. The problem: same storyline and moves. Now, a new documentary by Benson Lee entitled PLANET B-BOY ( comes correct. Instead of having American suburban kids trying to do their best head spin, this new indie flick, which opens March 21 in New York and L.A. and is distributed by Elephant Eye Films, has an international flava and several storylines. It was shot in Osaka, Paris, Seoul and Las Vegas. In it an American dancer in Vegas looks for his big break; a Korean son seeks his father's approval; a 12-year-old French boy confronts his family's racism. Then all the b-boys collide in Germany for a dance-off. If this little flick can pull in respectable box office numbers, it could spark Hollywood to be a little more creative when it comes to this genre. (Photo Credit: Benson Lee)

BlackVoices founder Barry Cooper has been tapped by REACH Media as the company's Vice President of Interactive. Cooper, currently the online managing editor for Virginian-Pilot, will oversee, which was created by syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner. Cooper launched in 1996; it was sold to AOL in 2004.


There's a reason the media constantly refers to Senator Obama as a Rock star. Even Huckabee picked up his bass guitar to hit the stage. Maybe it all started with sax-playing Bill Clinton, but these days, entertainment and politics are intrinsically tied--for better or worse. Welcome to our new guest section on where politics and entertainment meet.

Will they or won't they? That was the swirl of on-line speculation yesterday as to whether Senator Obama and wife Michelle would attend Thursday night's Broadway premiere of entertainment doyenne Debbie Allen's produced Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. After all, well-placed sources said the secret service had even been sent to "sweep" the theater just days in advance. Of course, while the Senator's attendance would have little or no impact on his position overall as a leading Democratic Presidential Candidate but we can all but admit his possible appearance at this event and dare we say this race for the White House just may be showbiz at its best.

And certainly one would not have been able to help but also connect the dots to see that the veritiable gathering of multicultural achievement in different industries under one Broadway rough would be a very hot thought. Come on, admit it. Political players of that caliber, hue and style in attendance with such invited star power of Denzel and Jada is unprecedented. In short, Times Square would be off the hook.

In fact, according to Jack Howard, a leading political consultant on the east coast, "I felt a great sense of personal pride when I read that the Senator maybe accompanying his wife Michelle to the opening night of the exciting new production of the Broadway play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Of course some naysayers would argue that Senator Obama's time, should he have checked out the play, would be better spent at this stage of the campaign meeting and greeting voters in states that have primary elections coming up. But hey, there could well be many an undecided voter in that theater audience as well. Who knows?

While Obama may not have shown up opening night, he does play lead in his own greatest show on earth. --Clementine Clarke


Je’Caryous Johnson’s 3 Ways to Get A Husband, I’m Ready Production, Merriam Theatre, Philadelphia
3 Ways to Get A Husband, which is touring the country, is in line with the crowd pleasing, Black factory of shows, by the likes of David E. Talbert and the uber prolific, Tyler Perry.

It’s billed as a stage play, not a musical, however audiences are treated to some fine performances by the Mom and Dad of the show, played by Lenny Williams and “As We Lay” Shirley Murdock. It’s also underscored throughout with a little Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Sister Sledge etc, some songs are even dubbed “Black Anthems” by the breakout character, Homeless Jerome, played by Reggie Reg, who does spot-on impersonations of Denzel Washington, Jesse Jackson and Bill Clinton.

In fact, the B plot involving the three homeless characters living under a bridge, played much stronger than the romantic triangle of the main plot. Billy Dee Williams, homeless and suffering from post-traumatic shock, can still convincingly captivate a woman half his age.

Although the meaning is explained early on, the title of the play 3 Ways to Get A Husband is a bit misleading. The lead character Chastity (side note: Loved her shoes in every scene) actually has to choose between marrying the intensely sexy Devon, played by Leon (The Temptations TV movie, BET’s L-Bow Room, Waiting to Exhale) who’s just back from the Iraq War and Jamarcus, a Will Smith type, who’s ballin and has been there for Chastity while Devon’s been away.

My only real complaint, other than the rather shoddy production value of the sets, was that there were no Playbills, only a $10 “Souvenir” Program Book, filled mostly with advertisements for other I’m Ready Productions productions. Rating: B List. – Le Anne Lindsay

Days of Wrath, directed by Celia Fox, Foxy Films (seeking distributor, repped by William Morris)

The Days of Wrath teaser reading "Wilmer Valderrama, as you have never seen him before," is correct. Valderrama, who most know from "That 70's Show," plays the part of a soul-less creature named Daniel aka Danny Boy. "Immortal till he dies," Danny Boy dreams of emulating Tony Montana from Scarface, creating a criminal empire in Los Angeles as far as he can see. To accomplish his goals, he goes against the orders of Mario, the head of the Triple 7 gang, and car jacks a rapper and rival African American gang members. Local civilians are caught in the crossfire, including Mario's mother. This car jacking gone wrong changes Mario and Danny Boy's relationship completely. Now ostracized and hunted by the Triple 7 crew, Danny Boy goes it alone wreaking havoc on innocent civilians and the rival gang.

Days of Wrath's talented cast includes Ricardo Chavira as Detective Romeros and Taye Diggs as Steve Loreto , as well as a cameo performance by Laurence Fishburne. The production values are terrific albeit with the usual examples of slow motion action while bullets are flying. The soundtrack adds an edgy flair to it all. However, the body count is high and the resounding message of the movie is revenge and hopelessness. Some might say the movie is keeping it real. This is a reflection of life on the streets and unfortunately for some, a daily reality, however, as entertainment, it leaves this reviewer empty. Rating: The B- List. --Dana Rebecca Woods

Actor Wilmer Valderrama hangin' with the director, Celia Fox, of his new film, Days Of Wrath at the Sherry Lansing Theatre on the Paramount lot. (photo credit: Manuel Vargas)