Hip-hop and R&B play a strong influence in Prince-Bythewood’s latest film, Beyond the Lights, a drama about the pressures of fame and the toll it takes on the world’s latest superstar, Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), until she falls for a member of her security detail (Nate Parker) and realizes there’s more to life than her career. Gina took time out from her busy schedule to chat with RT about her Five Favorite Films. Check them out below.
The chemistry between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney was insane. Anytime that movie comes on cable, I can’t not watch it and it’s really because of their chemistry and the movie’s just fun. Don Cheadle is great in it. I love the story of it. I love the way Soderbergh shot it and I love the love story aspect of it.
Central Station (Walter Salles, 1998; 94% Tomatometer)
I saw that film and I don’t like to cry in movies — I don’t think anybody does — just because it’s embarrassing, but I was sobbing in that film. It was such a beautiful story. It was this little film that spoke volumes and emotions were just so real and it just moved me. And honestly, I saw it at a time where I’d grown up loving movies and there was a period where suddenly it seemed like everything coming out was the same and I started getting annoyed and then I saw Central Station and Life is Beautiful within months (of each other) and it restored my faith in film-making.
I loved that film. It tells me so much as a director. I studied it so much in terms of the camera and how you use the camera to tell the story. The performances were great, but it was really the technical aspect of it that is so fascinating to me. What Scorsese was able to do with the camera to tell the story and speak to characters and give every character an entrance. It’s another film that’s almost perfect.
A documentary that doesn’t feel like a documentary. It feels like a movie, a movie that I get lost in every time I see it. What’s amazing is if you had scripted it the way it happened people wouldn’t buy it and wouldn’t believe it. But the fact it happened that way in real life, it was mesmerizing and those two boys they were real and you rooted for them and you felt for them and you went through every emotion with them. It was so beautifully done and changed the game in terms of documentaries in making them more commercial and giving them a bigger platform than they had prior.
Beyond the Lights is definitely a passion project for you; you got the inspiration for the story when you attended an Alicia Keys concert. Is that what drove you to using music so much for the movie?
It’s definitely a passion project and I love music and I write some music, so it kind of makes sense that as a writer the story came into my head when I was at that concert. It doesn’t always happen like that for me as a writer when the story just comes but it was so specific and this character was so specific of a woman struggling to find her self-worth within an industry that takes pride almost in tearing that
down. It just felt like it was right to explore and hip-hop/R&B is such a complicated world right now and hasn’t been explored and putting a love story within that as well was fun for me as a writer. And I thought, honestly, it would be an easy sell, given that it was the music scene with a love story, and I was shocked that every studio turned it down — twice — but I believed in it and believed in Gugu ( Mbatha-Raw ) when I found her to play Noni.
What hip-hop and R&B influences did you have growing up?
What is funny is that I was adopted by white parents and grew up in Pacific Grove, California, which had maybe six black people in the entire town. So, I grew up on Pete Seeger and Joan Baez and The Cure and The Who, and it wasn’t until I heard New Edition when I was in high school that it was suddenly like, “Wait, this is what I’m feeling.” I respect the music I grew up on — it definitely moves me, and Peter Gabriel is an artist that I love still today — but when I heard that New Edition tape and then I just played that tape, wore it out, and I just connected with it. Once I got to college it was all hip-hop and R&B for me and it’s the music that I connect to and feel, but for the last couple years it’s really been moving into a dangerous, angry place that’s been trickling down into everyday culture. It scares me because I have two young boys, so I’m making this film in hopes that we can change the conversation.
Hip-hop and R&B in the 1980s and 1990s was so different than how it is now. It’s interesting how it’s evolved.
It was fun and it was about the voice. It’s strange because R&B used to be about loving your woman, and now its about hating women. You know, that doesn’t make sense.
Beyond the Lights is in theaters now.
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Even though last year’s "Dukes of Hazzard" raked in a respectable $80 million at the box office, don’t look for another go from the Broken Lizard crew. "Dukes" director Jay Chandrasekhar and fellow Lizard Kevin Heffernan told RT they’re over it, and after this month’s "Beerfest" they plan on turning their attention to more Broken Lizard projects, including "The Greek Road," "The Babymaker," and … "Super Troopers 2!"
A direct-to-video "Dukes of Hazzard" prequel is already being filmed without the involvement of the Broken Lizard guys, but they seem ok with that. "Beerfest" kicks off the first release from Warner Bros. in a three-year deal, and they’ve got a few more crazy scripts up their sleeves.
This month, the Broken Lizards compete in every drinking game known to man in "Beerfest"
"The Greek Road"
One such project is a completed script called "The Greek Road," which the Lizards (Heffernan, Chandrasekhar, and fellow members Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske) have finished co-writing. They are in talks with Warner Bros. to secure funding for the period pic, which is set in ancient Greece and would require a larger-than-normal budget for a Broken Lizard movie.
And what is the plot for this next pic? Heffernan explains, "The movie we really want to do next is called The Greek Road. It’s set in ancient Greece, it’s a comedy. The general idea is that I play a fellow by the name of Plato — he is a freshman wrestling recruit at Athens University, and he’s failing his freshmen seminar, Basic Thought."
"So they bring in this hotshot senior to tutor him. His name is…Socrates. So Socrates tutors him and they end up road tripping to the Olympics to wrestle. And then the gods try to stop them. It’s a period piece. Steve is Socrates, and then Eric, Paul and Jay play Zeus, Poseidon and Hades who are trying to stop us from getting to the Olympics."
Chandrasekhar says "The Greek Road" will likely start filming in spring 2007; but first, he’d like to squeeze in another Broken Lizard production this fall:
"I want to make a movie with Kevin called "The Babymaker," said Chandrasekhar. "He plays a former high school football star who’s married and he and his wife want to have a kid, and they try for a year and they just can’t have a kid. Sothey go to a doctor and the doctor says, "Your sperm is no good," and he goes, "Nah, trust me dude, the sperm’s good." And [the doctor] says, "It’s no good, I’m telling you it’s no good," and he goes, "IT’S GOOD."
And so he eventually tells his wife that five years ago he donated 20 batches of sperm to a sperm bank, and they don’t take it unless it’s good. He did it because he needed a little extra money for his wife’s ring. And she’s furious; "You have other kids out there, you bought my ring with beat off money!" So he goes back to the sperm bank and says, I need my sperm back…And they say, well we only have one batch and we promised it to somebody. So then he goes and puts together a little team of his friends, and they go and try to do a sperm bank heist."
"Super Troopers 2"
But what of a sequel to the beloved cult hit, "Super Troopers?" Though fans have long been screaming for a sequel, reprising their Vermont State trooper characters is not on the immediate horizon for the five-some. However, they are considering the sequel in the future and have settled on a loose story — it would be called "Super Troopers ’76," and it will be a prequel in which they play the equally inept fathers of their "Super Troopers" characters.
"The joke is that we’ll make it Super Troopers ’76, set during the bicentennial," Chandrasekhar told RT. "We’ll have a little shaggier hair and mustaches…we might do it, I don’t know. That movie has sort of a special place in a lot of people’s hearts, so all we can do is f*ck it up…So I don’t know…I’ve been writing some little gags and I have a little file of "Super Troopers 2" gags, and we’ll see if we turn that into a flick or not."
Another frame packed with four new national releases is led by Oliver Stone‘s 9/11 drama "World Trade Center" from Paramount. A trio of lower profile pics round out the weekend – Sony’s family adventure "Zoom," Buena Vista’s teen drama "Step Up," and The Weinstein Company’s horror flick "Pulse." Despite all the new entries, Will Ferrell will try to win the box office title for the second consecutive time with his comedy "Talladega Nights" which has been racing well ahead of its competition since opening last weekend.
Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Maria Bello star in the high-profile story of courage "World Trade Center" which Paramount debuted on Wednesday. The PG-13 film tells the real life story of John McLoughlin and William Jimeno, two Port Authority cops who were trapped in the rubble of the Twin Towers on September 11. Rather than focus on any villains, "WTC" only tells the story of ordinary men put into extraordinary circumstances and how their families coped. Mature adults will make up the primary audience. Teen appeal seems limited. Since the box office is currently lacking choices for older adults, the Oliver Stone film will not face much direct competition. Men and women will be equally drawn to this emotionally-charged story of heroism.
There will be many moviegoers that will find it to be too soon for a film about a tragedy just approaching its fifth anniversary. However, curiousity will bring out others looking for an uplifting story about that fateful Tuesday morning. "WTC" should appeal to many of the same people who turned out for 2004’s "Ladder 49." That film featured Cage’s "Face/Off" nemesis John Travolta as a noble firefighter and just told a tale about American heroes doing the right thing for each other, and not really dwelling on any enemy. "Ladder" bowed to $22.1M over three days.
Center will also be compared to April’s United 93 which was the first Hollywood film to tackle 9/11. With a subdued release in under 1,800 locations, that pic opened well with $11.5M and a solid $6,395 average. "WTC" has more theaters, more starpower in front of and behind the camera, and is not as grim. Reviews have mostly been good which will help. Long-term prospects are encouraging since the rest of August has nothing major for mature adults. Now playing in 2,803 theaters, "World Trade Center" might open with about $18M over the weekend and around $24M over five days.
Tim Allen plays an ex-super hero who is called upon to train a group of slacker kids in Sony’s new family film "Zoom." The PG-rated pic will have plenty of competition as it marks the fourth consecutive week that studios have rolled out movies aimed at young ones. Only this time, it isn’t a toon. Allen has always been a consistent draw in this genre, most notably in his "Santa Clause" movies which sees its third installment this coming holiday season. Earlier this year, he starred in the Disney remake "The Shaggy Dog" which bowed to $16.3M in March. "Zoom," which co-stars Courteney Cox and Chevy Chase, will not reach that level as it is not generating as much excitement. Plus the volume on the marketing push has been typical of a mid-August opener. Flying into 2,501 theaters, "Zoom" might debut with around $9M.
Hollywood seems to have written a new rule stating that 9/11 films must be counter-programmed with teen-girl pics that explore popular extracurricular activities. "United 93" opened against the gymnastics comedy "Stick It," and now "WTC" will face Buena Vista’s "Step Up" which finds a ballerina and a tough street dancer locking hips. The PG-13 film will play primarily to young females and the studio is hoping to score another low-cost hit like Disney’s April comedy which debuted to a better-than-expected $10.8M. "Step Up" lacks marquee stars, but does offer some faces that add value when it comes to the Clearasil crowd. The bad boy meets good girl formula is once again tested and little crossover to older patrons is likely. Competition for teens and young adults is ample so a breakout bow may not surface, but a respectable showing is likely. Dancing into 2,100 theaters, "Step Up" could debut to around $8M.
Supernatural beasties attack us innocent humans through cell phones and email in the new horror flick "Pulse." The PG-13 film is aimed at teens that have seen every other film and want some quick thrills before heading back to school. With no major stars, and a concept that is far from intriguing, the Weinstein Co. release should be in for some modest dollars over the weekend. "The Descent" will be "Pulse’s" major foe, but like most fright flicks, the chicks-in-a-cave movie should tumble down further on the charts in its second weekend. "Step Up" and "Talladega Nights" will also be distracting teens. Opening in 2,326 theaters, "Pulse" might scare up about $8M this weekend.
In foreign film releases, Yash Raj Films opens the all-star Bollywood film "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (Never Say Goodbye) in top markets across North America. Shot in New York, the Hindi-language film explores the breakdown of marital bonds. Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro ("Central Station") headlines "The House of Sand" which Sony Classics platforms in New York and Los Angeles this Friday. The story of three generations of women in the barren lands of northern Brazil played at the Tribeca Film Festival and will roll out into more cities throughout the rest of summer.
Last weekend’s box office champ "Talladega Nights" hopes to retain its crown in its second lap. The Will Ferrell hit is sure to see a large decline, but competition for teens and young adults is not too fierce. A 50% drop would leave Sony with about $23M for the session and a solid ten-day cume of $92M. Paramount’s "Barnyard" may fall by 40% and rake in around $9.5M pushing its total to $33M after ten days. The Johnny Depp megasmash "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" could drop by another 40% to $6.5M lifting its jaw-dropping total to $392M.
LAST YEAR: Director John Singleton scored a top spot debut with his revenge thriller "Four Brothers" which debuted with $21.2M. Paramount found its way to $74.5M with the Mark Wahlberg drama. Opening in second was the Kate Hudson suspense thriller "The Skeleton Key" with $16.1M on its way to $47.8M for Universal. Falling from first to third was the comedy "The Dukes of Hazzard" with $13M dropping a steep 58% from its bow. Rival comedy "Wedding Crashers" held up much better easing 26% in its fifth frame to $11.8M. Opening in fifth place with $9.6M was Sony’s comedy sequel "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" which ended its run with just $22.3M. The weekend’s other new release, the military drama "The Great Raid," opened modestly in tenth with only $3.4M on its way to $10.2M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com