1776: A Broadway Musical About the Signing of the Declaration of Independence

Posted on July 2, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Celebrate the 4th of July by watching the entertaining and inspiring “1776,” based on the Broadway musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The movie does not shy away from the terrible compromise on slavery that the founding fathers agreed to in order to make this country one nation, with a fault line that would shatter our deepest convictions enumerated in the very document our country was established on. The characters are really brought to life with all of their courage and hope as well as their faults and fears.

EHere’s a glimpse from a recent Broadway staged version, with Santino Fontana of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

And from the movie, with William Daniel as the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams.

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Celebrate Mother’s Day with a Mamma Mia Sing-Along!!

Posted on May 9, 2018 at 3:10 pm

You know what moms love?  Well, breakfast in bed, of course, and hand-made cards and poems, but after that, they love “Mamma Mia!”  And there are free screenings all across the country this Sunday for Mother’s Day!

Copyright Universal 2018

In anticipation of its upcoming Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Universal Pictures today announced that free sing-along screenings of the blockbuster musical comedy Mamma Mia! will be available on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13, at 25 theater locations across the U.S. and Canada. Each guest who requests a ticket the day of the screening—at a participating location—will be given one free admission to the 10:00 a.m. showing, up to theater capacity.

Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis and may only be picked up at the theater box office starting at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 13. This offer is valid for the 10:00 a.m. showing of Mamma Mia! The Movie on May 13, at participating locations only.

For more information and a list of theaters offering the special screenings, please visit www.MammasDaySingAlong.com

And get ready for a prequel/sequel, coming July 20, 2018!

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Based on a play Musical


Posted on December 22, 2016 at 5:43 pm

Copyright 2016 Paramount

August Wilson’s towering play, the winner of the Tony and Pulitzer prizes, has been magnificently put on screen by director/star Denzel Washington, who won a Tony for the play’s 2012 Broadway revival, and who works with much of that show’s cast in this version.

Wilson’s own screenplay wisely avoids the usual impulse to “open up” a play by adding locations and reducing the dialogue. The best known of Wilson’s ten-play “Pittsburgh cycle,” one for each decade of the 20th century, “Fences” is a story of epic scope and mythic resonance. The gorgeous dialog makes poetry out of the kind of talk we hear around us all day: the jokes, mock insults, and bragging of co-workers and long-time friends, the intimate humor of a longtime couple, anguished confrontation, bitter recollection, back-and-forth that skims the surface while the emotions roil and explode below. To the extent that it preserves the artificiality of a theatrical performance, it emphasizes its ambitious reach. If a play has a character named Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) who is cognitively impaired following a war injury, who carries a trumpet, and who constantly reminds his brother of a betrayal and survivor guilt, if the tile “Fences” is literal and metaphorical and the character building the fence talks about keeping out the actual angel of death, the audience must recognize these signals of serious, profound, dramatic engagement with eternal themes and be grateful for the chance to be a part of it.

Washington plays Troy, a garbageman who was once a star of a Negro Leagues baseball team but was too old to cross over into the Major Leagues the way Jackie Robinson did. He still keeps a bat and ball in the back yard. He still holds onto the bitterness and dashed dreams of his years as a player. But now, he just wants a promotion to driver, a job only held by white men where he works.

His wife is Rose (Oscar-winner Viola Davis, who also won a Tony for her performance in the revival). We first see Troy bragging to his best friend Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson) about how he laid down the law when he met Rose, telling her he was not interested in marriage. She laughs indulgently and affectionately, but makes it clear that it was quite the contrary. “I told him if he wasn’t the marrying kind, then move out the way so the marrying kind could find me.”

Troy and Rose have a son in high school, Cory (Jovan Adepo), a talented football player. Rose sees football as a chance for Cory to attend college, and Cory desperately wants to play. But Troy refuses, saying “The white man ain’t gonna let you get nowhere with that football noway.” His mind and spirit have been so constricted by what he has faced that he cannot bring himself to believe that real opportunity exists for Cory. Or perhaps he cannot face the possibility that Cory will do what he could not.

Troy also has an older son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), with a woman he never married. Lyons, a musician, asks Troy for a loan, mostly as a way to find a way to talk to him, to find a way to see if he means anything to him. Troy tells him he should not need to ask for money, and Lyons responds, “If you wanted to change me, you should’ve been there when I was growing up.”

And Troy worries about his brother Gabriel, who lived with Troy and and Rose in a home they bought with his disability money, but who has moved down the street because he wants more independence. Troy feels guilty for not taking care of him, and for living in a house he would not have been able to afford but for his brother’s disability.

And so, he makes a bad decision that will shatter his family’s foundation. The scene where Davis goes from disbelief to shock to fury will be used for decades in acting class, but she is just as impressive in the movie’s final moments. While Troy occupies much of the screen time and dialogue, it is really Rose who is the heart of the story. Troy can brood, but cannot change. He can hurt, but he cannot heal. He is so damaged that he cannot offer his sons love or respect. But see Rose’s strength. Her resolve is not grounded in compromise or concession. Her soul has expanded to encompass all of life’s contradictions. And it is the great gift of this film that it expands ours, too.

Parents should know that this film includes themes of racism and adultery, some strong language, sexual references, and a sad death.

Family discussion: Do you agree with Rose’s choice? Why didn’t Troy want Cory to play football? What do we learn from Troy’s relationship with Gabriel?

If you like this, try: “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Desire Under the Elms”

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Based on a play Drama Race and Diversity


Posted on October 27, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: NR (some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout)
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing, alcohol, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Bullies, beating, disturbing images, sad offscreen death
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie, homophobia
Date Released to Theaters: October 28, 2016
Date Released to DVD: February 27, 2017
Amazon.com ASIN: B01LTHZVM4
Copyright 2016 Plan B Entertainment
Copyright 2016 Plan B Entertainment

In the 2017 Oscar winner for Best Picture, a man tells a young boy a story, and, as with many stories adults tell children, especially in movies, it is a story with a purpose. Juan (Mahershala Ali) tells the boy derisively known as “Little” (Alex Hibbert) that when he was young, a woman saw him at night and told him that the silvery moonlight made his dark skin looked blue. She said he should be called Blue from then on. But, he tells Little, he wasn’t. “At some point you gotta decide for yourself who you gonna be. Can’t let nobody make that decision for you.”

In “Moonlight,” a film of a delicate, shimmering beauty that measures up to the title, the boy will struggle to make that decision for himself. Three chapters, as a child, a teenager and a young man, played by three different actors, are labeled with three different names that he is called: the taunting nickname Little, his birth certificate name Chiron (played by Ashton Sanders), and the nickname given to him by someone who had a profound impact on him, Black (played by Trevante Rhodes). Who will he decide to be?

The story begins in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. Little runs from bullies and hides out in a crack house, where he is discovered by Juan, a kind-hearted drug dealer. Little won’t talk, so Juan takes him home, where his warmhearted significant other, Teresa (singer Janelle Monae) gives little some food and lets him stay the night. The next day, Juan brings Little back to his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), a nurse who loves Little but leaves him alone much of the time. “He can take care of hisself. He good like that.”

In the second section, he is a skinny teenager all but abandoned by his mother, who has become addicted to drugs, and bullied at school. He still does not talk much, but he has one friend, Kevin (Jharrel Jerome), who calls him Black. Chiron cannot even acknowledge to himself that he wants more from Kevin, but one night on the beach, they share a piercingly sweet moment of tenderness that will indirectly lead to an act of violence.

When we see him again, he is a man, with an armor of muscle and gold teeth grillz, still almost silent, still almost isolated. But a call from Kevin inspires a journey.

The film is based on a play called “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by McArthur awardee Tarell Alvin McCraney, who worked with director Barry Jenkins (the lovely romance “Medicine for Melancholy”) on adapting it for the screen. Both McCraney and Jenkins, like Little, had mothers who struggled with addiction, and Jenkins grew up on the Liberty City setting of the film.

The small miracle of the movie is the way it subverts the expectations the audience has based on news reports and many, many other movies. Every character is authentically complex. The graceful, poetic score by composer Nicholas Britell gives the story epic scope and heartbreaking intimacy.

We see Juan’s kindness and wisdom as he holds Little gently in the ocean, teaching him to swim and, more important, giving him an idea of what a man can be. We hear his thoughtful answer when Little asks him what “faggot” means. And yet, when Paula wants drugs, Juan supplies them, even knowing what it will do to Little. The confident, capable Kevin casually mentions time in prison as though it was an inevitable rite of passage. Little/Chiron/Black is physically transformed from chapter to chapter. We are continually challenged and confounded, yet held close to the heart of the story by its romantic lyricism and, most of all, the spacious humanity of its love for its characters.

Parents should know that this film includes very mature material: bullying, brutality, drug dealing and drug abuse, very strong language including homophobic slurs, sexual references and explicit sexual situations.

Family discussion: Why does the main character have a different name in each chapter? What do you think happened to Juan?

If you like this, try: “Medicine for Melancholy”

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Trailer: “Fences” with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis

Posted on September 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

There is no movie I am looking forward to this fall more than “Fences,” with my two favorite performers, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, and based on the Tony and Pulitzer prize winning play by August Wilson. Here is the first look.

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