Looking for a Slightly Oldie But Goodie Flick: Check out “Brown Sugar” with Sanaa Lathan & Taye Diggs

As you can guess, graduation has gotten me a little behind on the blogging. No worries. I’m still here. And I’ve got several movie reviews coming down the pike. But instead of looking forward, I decided to do a little reminiscing on some of the best (and often overlooked) movies of the past. Check out my review of the 2001 flick Brown Sugar.

“Hip-Hop: You are the Love of My Life.”

It’s rare to find a movie that mixes music, culture, humor and love in an artistic and intelligent manner. Brown Sugar (2002) starring Sanaa Lathan and Taye Diggs does just that. It’s a refreshing romantic comedy that features the unsung love between two old friends and their love affair with the tie that bonds them – hip-hop.

Pete Rock, De La Soul, Method Man, Jermaine Dupre, Common and Russell Simmons. These are just a few of hip-hop music‘s greats. Brown Sugar opens with their honest and revealing responses to the question: “So when did you fall in love with hip-hop?”

This is the question that Sidney Shaw (Sanaa Lathan), a music journalist, has asked of her interviewees for the past 10 years. It is also the question of her life. In the beginning, her answer was simple. “I remember the very first day I fell in love with hip hop. It was July 18, 1984.”

It’s no coincidence that this day was also the day she met Dre Ellis (Taye Diggs) on a New York brownstone stoop 15 years ago. (The film was one of the first productions to shoot on location in New York after 9/11.) Both of them stopped to stare at a lyrical battle in the Bronx between rappers Doug E. Fresh, Dana Dane, and Slick Rick the Ruler. This moment was their initiation into the hip-hop culture and forever defined their love for the genre.

The two impressionable youngsters let music be their life’s guide. Dre became a well-known record producer and executive for a major record label. And Sidney has succeeded in her career as a film critic, working first for the Los Angeles Times and then as editor of hip-hop magazine, XXL. She is also authoring a book on her love affair with rap music.  Her discussion of hip-hop for the manuscript serves as the poetic thread and shining star that guides the story along.

Although Sidney and Dre seem to be perfect for one another and have a lot in common like music and childhood experiences, they’ve never pursued a relationship. Instead, they’ve kept it platonic and remained close — just like their rapport with hip-hop.

“For many people, hip-hop was that first friend. The first to talk to us. The first to understand. Hip-hop has always been that kind of friend to me. Like any relationship, I’ve watched it grow. I’ve watched it change,” said Sidney as she typed her manuscript.

Somewhat of a workaholic, Sidney hasn’t made much time for romance. On the other hand, smooth and suave Dre is quite the player who has had his choice of women. However after dating one special woman for a couple of months, a beautiful entertainment attorney Reese (Nicole Ari Parker of TV’s “Soul Food”), who he calls “brown sugar” because she is “wifey material” – smart and fine, he decides to pop the question.  Reese, who doesn’t yet realize the strong connection between Sidney and Dre, joyfully accepts.

As Dre’s best friend, Sidney does her best to fight her feelings and support his upcoming nuptials and relationship with Reese, who quickly learns that their relationship comes second to his friendship with Sid.  Dre’s impending marriage to Reese only continues to stirs up Sidney’s emotions that she’s trying her best to ignore. Her cousin and friend, Francine (Queen Latifah), tells her she should fight for her man. In Francine’s words, Sidney could get the best of both worlds – “the buddy and the booty.”

Although there are a couple of bumps along the walk down the aisle, Dre and now jealous Reese manage to get married. And maybe, just maybe, the two old chums are better of as friends?
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CB Reviews “Adventureland”: An 80′s Coming of Age Ride

Eighties nostalgia, young love, and the horrors of summer jobs describe the cinematic ride, Adventureland.

Although written and directed by Greg Mottola, best known for the comedic hit Superbad (2007), this film can only be loosely called a comedy. (And if you are expecting a laugh-filled movie experience like his last film, then Adventureland is not for you.) Instead, Mottola delivers a coming of age story set in Pittsburgh in the 1980s.

Adventureland is the story of college graduate, James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) who has big plans to move to New York City and attend Columbia University’s graduate school. He wants to become a travel essayist and thinks a master’s degree in journalism will help him because the field is “still an old boys’ network.”

However, James’s big plans and lifelong dreams fall flat when he finds out that his parents are broke. Not only is his college graduation gift of traveling through Europe with his buddy cancelled, but his parents also tell him he needs to get a summer job to save money.

After rounds of applications to every menial and entry-level job in town, Brennan finds he isn’t qualified for anything, except a “games” job at the local amusement park, “Adventureland.” So, tucking his highly educated tail between his legs, he attempts to make the best of the situation.

James soon finds there are some upsides to his rather brainless job. He develops friendships with people who are crazier and more socially awkward than he is. In fact, in some of his summer circles, James becomes the “almost-cool kid.” He also meets a girl, Em (Kristen Stewart) who is the sad, often depressed, and girl-next-door plain. Yet, she is sexy enough to tug at his heart strings. (And if you are wondering who is Kristen Stewart, you must not have seen the latest vampire film sensation, Twilight. She is the young actress who starred in this movie and has become a major success.)

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CB Reviews “Duplicity”: Finally! The Sophisticated Sexy Thriller We’ve Been Waiting For

Everyone loves a good love story. How about adding some twists and turns as well as some tricks and tests between two star-crossed spies? That’s the recipe for Duplicity, the sophisticated, cleverly written romantic thriller starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen that doesn’t disappoint.

Like most Hollywood love stories, the secret affair between Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and Ray Koval (Clive Owen) begins with the guy spewing some clever pick-up lines – to which Stenwick denies at first. However, after a bit of back and forth between the two, they end up doing the horizontal tango in the most beautiful and luxurious of places, a decadent hotel room in Dubai on Independence Day in 2003.

This chance encounter develops into a clandestine love affair that spans five to six years on screen – although it’s not told chronologically. Rather, it simply sets the stage and tempo for the espionage story that unravels. Duplicity takes the viewer on a seductive path to figure out who is going to win in a knockdown, drag out “corporate death match” between two battling pharmaceutical companies to develop a one-of-a-kind product first. Their longstanding competition and race to win requires teams of spies, double agents and former CIA operatives. And that’s where Claire Stenwick, Ex-CIA, and Ray Koval, Ex-MI6, get a piece of the action. The two are hired to spy on each other’s company but are secretly in cohorts. Because after all says Stenwick, “All we have to do is find the product. If we get there first, we make a fortune.” Their scheming and maneuvering takes the audience on a thrilling ride.

Written and directed by Tony Gilroy who worked his same magic in Michael Clayton and The Bourne Identity series, Duplicity delivers sophisticated, action-packed and perfectly paced scenes as well as sharp writing and well-timed comebacks.

In addition to the artfully writing which leaves you on the edge of your seat attempting to solve the mystery (which you can’t), Duplicity characters are cast flawlessly. The hilarious, ultra-competitive CEO, Richard Garsik, is played perfectly by the Sideways (2004) star, Paul Giamatti. And British actor, Tom Wilkinson (most recently seen in Valkyrie with Tom Cruise) carries off the calm, collected and scheming role of Garsik’s arch nemesis. The opening scene with two characters locked in a physical, slow motion, middle aged men fight is hilarious, unexpected and a pleasure to watch.

And of course, the pairing of Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, seen together before in Closer (2004), is pure genius. The two light up the screen with genuine chemistry that is both exciting, enticing and sexy. Roberts, who’s an unbelievable forty-one years old, proves that she’s still a knockout and a box office hit.

Although the relationship between Stenwick and Koval is full of sparks and lustful encounters, it’s not for the lighthearted. The basic components of a good relationship – love and trust – are continuously tested on a personal and business basis for them. From worries about the other cheating while undercover to wondering if they are each keeping their part of the bargain, the mere concept of trust is never taken for granted. “Admit it. You don’t trust me either,” said by Stenwick to Koval, which just about sums up their liaison.

And if your eyes get tired of watching two of the hottest stars on the screen – Roberts and Owen (which would be hard to believe) – the beautiful Condé Nast Traveler-like locales are a feast to behold. Duplicity takes the viewer on a visual smorgasbord and broke travelers dream with scenes in Dubai, Rome, Miami, Zurich and London. The cobblestone streets, Roman architecture, and clear blue seas are just a few of the treats.

Suspenseful, sexy and full of espionage – Duplicity keeps you guessing right until the very end. The guy gets the girl but do they pass go, reach the goal and collect their reward? Who gets gamed? You will definitely want to know. And besides, it’s a lot of fun to watch.




Dwayne Johnson as the Angry “Rock Obama” on Saturday Night Live

Since his entry into the national political landscape, most of us have been wondering when will the ultra smooth, never ruffled President Barack Obama lose his cool? Well, Saturday Night Live and Dwayne Johnson (“The Rock”) answer this question for us in a recent skit. A staffer prods President Obama to get angry with Republican Senators who oppose his bills. After a round of questions peppered with baby insults, Obama finally gets mad (in a “Hulk-like” fashion). So now people know… when Barack Obama becomes angry — he really turns into the “Rock Obama.” Check out the video.




What CB’s Jammin To: Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” featuring T-Pain


Blame It – Jamie Foxx feat. T-Pain

It’s been a minute since I posted a music favorite because I honestly have to FEEL the song. Well, Jamie Foxx gets this CARAMEL BELLA’s music pick. His latest, “Blame It,” featuring T-Pain, off his “Intuition” album is soo hot that it hasn’t left my CD changer or iTunes since I started playing it. I commute about 30 minutes to graduate school  each day and sometimes I repeat the song the whole way (yes, I know.. a bit excessive).  It’s just what a girl needs to get excited about the day (and wake up).

But speaking of the song and its lyrics. You have to love the lines:

“She said she usually don’t…But I know that she fronts. ‘Cause shorty knows what she wants. She doesn’t want to seem like she’s easy..”

So ladies, do we blame alcohol for our intimate (*wink*) indiscretions? And fellas, do you buy the bellas drinks to lower their inhibitions?? Hmmm.. Interesting things to ponder while shaking your butt to Foxx’s “Blame It.”

And check out all the celebrities in the video (directed by Hype Williams): Forrest Whitaker, Samuel L. Jackson, Ron Howard, Jake Gyllenhaal, and of course T-Pain. It seems more like a mini-movie than your usual hip hop video fare.

Enjoy!

Smooches,

The Caramel Bella




Twitter..Life in 140 Characters or Less

twitter-window

Twitter. Twitter. Twitter. Hopefully by now, you’ve heard all about it. News on Twitter (the free microblogging service that let’s you send 140-character messages on whatever you want) is everywhere. It’s as if the media has twitter diarrhea because lately it’s all they are talking about. Reporters from all across the country are joining Twitter in droves and writing about their experiences like David Pogue of the NYT.

Now the media discussion has changed slightly from “hey, there’s this new service called Twitter” to it’s impact on the world of journalism. As Reuters reports, “News organizations are all a-twitter about Twitter: Is it a friend or a foe? Should it be embraced or eschewed? Will Twitter kill journalism or revive it?”

And then you have media outlets like the Financial Times that are trying to teach their readers about the culture and language of Twitter. You know, twitter messages are called “tweets.” The peeps who sign up to read your messages are “followers.” And when you send out someone else’s tweet, you are “re-tweeting.”(This is easily done by addressing your message to a follower by adding an “@” sign to their name, i.e., @faraichideya.)

And as interesting (or not) as this whole conversation about what Twitter is, the better question to ask is why are people using it? Why has Twitter caught on?

The media’s recent discussion and “discovery” is quite amusing to several of us (myself included), who has used Twitter for six months or more (called early adopters) because it used to be a new tool. There was something special about discovering it. Twitter’s long-time users have several reasons for loving and using the free, web-based service.

Like a lot of users, Danyel Smith (@danamo), editor of Vibe, (who I am a big fan of) started using the service because she was curious about it.

danamo

Others like novelist/music journalist/cultural critic Touré (@ToureX) thought it could help his professional writing skills.

tourex

BTW, he doesn’t really need any help in this area but it’s somehow endearing that he is continuously thinking about and working on his writing. It makes us think he is just like the rest of us, which is one of the beauties of Twitter. Unlike traditional media, which tends to be top-down or a one-way means of “them” telling “us” as readers something, Twitter creates a one-on-one conversation where anyone with a Twitter account can join in the conversation. It’s about two-way communication. Several journalists even started asking their Twitter followers if there were questions they wanted to ask in an important interview. Thus, it’s revolutionizing the way journalism is being done.

Many folks are joining because their favorite celebrities are on Twitter. There are few places in the world where you can talk to TV and movie stars like Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife Demi Moore (@mrskutcher)… and they might talk back. Twitter has given regular folks yet another window into the daily lives of stars through their Twitter streams. You can find all sorts of celebs from Britney Spears (@britneyspears) to Puff Daddy (@iamdiddy) to MC Hammer (@MCHammer) to Omarosa (@omarosa). They are all there – tweeting away!

twitterati

Gawker even started tracking Twitter accounts with their daily posting of the Twitterati. It’s hilarious and a reminder that people are broadcasting their thoughts out onto the Internet for anyone to read (unless you adjust your privacy settings). And now, a person’s tweets (Senators, writers, TV stars and regular people) have somehow become the news and fodder for the media? Interesting flip!

And there are thousands that are just like me, who also use Twitter because it helps us connect with people – new and old friends. It even helps you meet like-minded folks. Whatever you are into, there is someone on Twitter that likes the same thing. (And you can use Twitter’s search site to find posts on your favorite subject.)

Twitter also keeps you informed and quickly (if you follow the right folks). And you don’t have to check thousands of news sites or even go to a RSS feed service. If you are following @CNN or @Drudge_Report or other media sites and the reporters that have recently hopped on-board, you will be definitely be in the know. And if you downloaded Twitterific or Tweetie for your iPhone (or Twitterberry for your Blackberry), you have these conversations and breaking news at your fingertips.

And obviously, if you have something interesting to say or sell, you should be using Twitter. Except beware, no one likes a constant self-promoter. The Twitter world is all about the give and take of information… you know, sharing. It feels like a conversation (although at times a bit scattered), but a talk nonetheless.

The merits of Twitter and its impact on media will be debated for years to come. But with technology giants, like Google (@Google) joining the Twitter fray, isn’t it time you checked it out for yourself. Don’t take my word for it or the thousands of media folks ranting or raving about it. See for yourself.. You may become a Tweetering fool that neglects their Facebook account for a bit (or is that just me).

Note: post also appears on HuffingtonPost and Pop+Politics




The Dangers of the Rihanna Photo Leak

rihanna_090220_mn

The country is going nuts over the Rihanna and Chris Brown story in which he allegedly hit her. And more recently, TMZ’s battered and bruised photo of Rihanna was leaked all over the internet. Has anyone stopped to wonder if the photo leak was a good idea. First of all, poor Rihanna. What about her privacy rights? How could the Los Angeles Police Department leak this photo? It’s like someone should have to pay for her privacy breach. It’s bad enough that she had to go through this whole incident without seeing a picture of her battered face splattered on the front page of several magazines and all over the Internet (I hate posting the picture here).

And recently, an ABC News story reports that Rihanna’s unauthorized photo may discourage other domestic violence victims from reporting the abuse. “For victims who see these kinds of pictures it’s all too real,” said Bea Hanson to ABC News.  Hanson is “chief programming officer at victim assistance agency Safe Horizon in New York City, who routinely treats women who have endured domestic violence.” The media and the police (who leaked the photo) seems to have gone too far — and with little regard to the women both organizations claim they want to protect.




And the Oscars Winners Are…..

Here are the winners. Out of the ones that I predicted, I scored 8 1/2 out of 11 (I couldn’t really decide between Rourke & Penn). Not too bad! You’ll see where I didn’t predict correctly with the strike-throughs. Maybe I should take my butt to Vegas! Anyway, I am very pleased with all the awards for “Slumdog”!!!

BEST PICTURE: “Slumdog Millionaire”
ACTOR LEADING: Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (2nd choice: Sean Penn in “Milk”
ACTOR, SUPPORTING: Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”
ACTRESS, LEADING: Kate Winslet in “The Reader”
ACTRESS, SUPPORTING: Viola Davis in “Doubt” (just hopeful.. if not Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”) Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED: “Slumdog Millionaire”
SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL: “Milk”
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Waltz with Bashir” (loved it) “Departures”
ANIMATED FEATURE: “WALL-E”
ART DIRECTION: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Slumdog Millionaire”




CB’s Oscar Predictions

CB056255

Okay… with just minutes until the Oscars. I’m going to run through my selections (or predictions rather) for the awards.

BEST PICTURE: “Slumdog Millionaire”
ACTOR LEADING: Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (2nd choice: Sean Penn in “Milk”)
ACTOR, SUPPORTING: Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road”
ACTRESS, LEADING: Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (or… Meryl Streep in “Doubt”)
ACTRESS, SUPPORTING: Viola Davis in “Doubt” (just hopeful.. if not Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”)
SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED: “Slumdog Millionaire”
SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL: “Milk” (I have to vote for this movie somewhere. I really enjoyed it. Although I heard Harvey Milk was portrayed a bit too stereotypical gay and effeminate than he was in real life. Hmm?)
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Waltz with Bashir” (loved it)
ANIMATED FEATURE: “WALL-E”
ART DIRECTION: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
CINEMATOGRAPHY: “Slumdog Millionaire”




SNL Has New Album & Video “I’m On A Boat” featuring T-Pain

Weird Al Yankovic has some competition. The guys behind Saturday Night Live (SNL) skits are dropping their own album, “Incredibad,” on February 10. Their latest video, “I’m On A Boat,” features SNL staffers, Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer, and hip hop, megastar T-Pain (You have to include “The Pain” on the track because his sound equals instant hit.) The video is ridiculous and it’s nice to know T-Pain can laugh at himself (because we sure are).




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my luvs

My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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Bad drivers, cranky and moody people, lack of sleep, crime, filth

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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