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Interviews
UserpicHeavenly Sistahs Expound on Brotherly Love
Posted by Kam Williams
21.04.2015

Queen Latifah and Keke Palmer
The “Brotherly Love” Interview
with Kam Williams

Keke Palmer is a multi-talented actress, singer, songwriter and talk show host who made her screen debut at the age of 10 in Barbershop 2 before landing a breakout role a couple of years later as the title character in Akeelah and the Bee. The emerging ingenue has since embarked on an enviable showbiz career in film, on TV and in music while also finding time to give back to the community.

By contrast Oscar-nominee Queen Latifah (for Chicago) started out as a hip-hop artist before adding acting to her repertoire. She’s also proved to be a popular spokesperson for everything from Jenny Craig to Pizza hut to CoverGirl cosmetics.

Here, the two talk about Brotherly Love, a hip-hop driven drama starring Keke which was produced by Latifah.        

 

Kam Williams: Hi Queen and Keke, I’m so honored to have this opportunity to speak with both of you.

Keke Palmer: So are we.

Queen Latifah: Thanks, Kam.

 

KW: Queen, Professor/Filmmaker/Author Hisani DuBose has a question for you: With all that you've accomplished, was it still difficult for you to get this project greenlit?

QL: Well, it wasn’t hard to get it greenlit, because we greenlit it. [Laughs] It’s easy when you’re the greenlighter. Really, it was more about lining up the financing. It always comes back to the dollars and cents, and finding the money to be able to fund the project and make it happen. That’s what we went on immediately, and I’m fortunate to work with a tiger who doesn’t rest until it all happens. He and I really jumped in on it until and worked with some other partners to help create the finances, and they came through for us. So, we all put it together, collectively, and made it happen.

 

KW: Hisani has one for Keke, too: Did you feel a lot of pressure having to grow from a child star into a woman under the bright lights of Hollywood?

KP: I definitely, at times, felt the pressures of life similar to the pressures anyone would feel growing up. The only difference was that maybe more people were aware of mine. But, if anything, I changed the pressure from negative to positive. So, instead of thinking everybody wanted to see me fail, I decided everybody wanted to see me win, since I wanted to see myself win. I’m glad and appreciate having people on my team who are watching and looking out for me. Let me continue to make them proud and continue to give away the gift that was given to me.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Keke, how did you prepare to play Jackie?

KP: I thought it was really awesome that I got a chance to be in a movie being made right in Philadelphia. Being around a lot of kids, walking around the streets of Overbrook and actually getting to know the neighborhood helped give me an idea of what their reality was like. It was nice to discover that it wasn’t that much different from where I grew up. And then I also got to spend time with the rest of the cast, because this was an independent film. That meant we had so much more creative control and creative liberties, as well as a lot of time to spend with one another while we were trying to get everything going. I think the chemistry among the cast is what really makes the film feel so good to me. We got to work with each other long enough to get a feel for each other and that really made the characters come to life.  

 

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What message do you want people to take away Brotherly Love?

KP: I want them to get whatever they honestly get from it. I don’t want to tell them what they should be receiving from it, ‘cause that would kill the experience. But what I took away from the film was the importance of choices. Sometimes, when you grow up in one of these poverty-stricken neighborhoods where the educational system isn’t the best, you don’t realize that you have any choices. Often, kids don’t appreciate the choices available, as if it’s either the street or nothing. I want them to understand that reality is what’s relative to you, and that you can make choices that allow you to create a new reality for yourself. 

 

KW: Bobby Shenker says: I was so excited to hear that you’re starring as Bessie Smith. Years ago, when I saw you in Living Out Loud [with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito], I said, “This woman needs to play Bessie Smith in a biopic.” And I'm sure I've posted numerous suggestions of this over the years. So I'm ecstatic! I think I revisited that thought when you did Chicago. My only wish would have been that it was on the big screen. Love from Philly to the Queen!

QL: Thanks Bobby!

 

KW: Marcia Evans says: Share that we sistahs are proud of the Queen. And tell her that not only myself but my mother and my aunt adore her work. So she must keep her film projects coming because we will be watching. We can't wait to see her upcoming new biopic about the iconic blues singer Bessie Smith. She asks: Do you have another biopic planned?

QL: Thanks, Marcia. There are actually a couple floating around, but the scripts aren’t quite where they need to be for me to pull the trigger on them yet. And I’m working on three scripts that are really close to me featuring three completely different characters from totally different time periods. So, I’m going to have a lot of fun once I decide which one’s going to go first. And I can’t wait! [Chuckles]

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden says: Keke, I am impressed with your career achievements at a young age, and I’m additionally impressed with your philanthropic work, for example, with the Boys & Girls Club, Urban Farming, Saving Our Daughters, including anti-bullying, etcetera. What motivated you to be so involved with charitable activities? 

KP: Something that was instilled in me by my parents at a very young age is that there is no happy life without a life of service. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to always encounter others who share that philosophy, like Queen Latifah, people who understand that when you’ve been blessed, you have to share your gifts, and you also have to help others give their gifts away. Being of service is something that really makes me happy. Being able to tell young kids about something they might never have known without meeting someone with my experiences is what really what I feel it’s all about. I feel that’s the only way that you get fulfillment out of life.  

 

KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What advice do you have to offer young girls hoping to emulate your success? 

KP: To be true to your heart, and if you’re passionate about your dream, work towards it but don’t allow your idea of how you think it should manifest prevent what’s actually unfolding from happening. You know what I mean? Be present in the moment and allow yourself to be guided by it by God. Allow Him to guide you and just embrace every situation, good or bad, since you’re experiencing it because you’re meant to go through it.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, and best of luck with Brotherly Love.

QL: Thanks, Kam.

KP: Bye.

To see a trailer for Brotherly Love, visit: http://brotherlylovethemovie.com/#trailer

    


Helicopter Mom
Film Review by Kam Williams

Lloyd’s (Jason Dolley) life has been made miserable by his compulsively-hovering mother, Maggie (Nia Vardalos), who can’t help but monitor his every move. The frustrated teenager’s only hope for relief rests with getting accepted to a college clear across the country, since that would make it impossible for her to meddle in his business day in and day out. Until then, he’s doing his best to avoid her while making plans to attend the impending senior prom.

But that proves easier said than done, given how the lonely divorcee has no shame about peppering her beleaguered little boy with probing personal questions like “Are you seeing anyone?” “When was your first kiss?” and “What do you think about when you masturbate?

So, it’s no surprise that Lloyd isn’t at all forthcoming, even about his sexual preference. That hasn’t prevented Maggie from coming to the conclusion that he must be gay, because of such supposedly telltale signs as sensitivity and writing poetry.

Another big clue she’s seized on is the fact that he prefers to have a platonic relationship with the gorgeous cheerleader (Skyler Samuels) who’s gone gaga over him. Consequently, Maggie has not only attempted to coax Lloyd out of the closet, but she’s applied for scholarships that are reserved for homosexuals.

Is he or isn’t he? That’s the question at the heart of Helicopter Mom, a dysfunctional family comedy directed by Salome Breziner (The Secret Life of Dorks). Thanks to a cleverly-conceived, well-concealed script the movie actually keeps you guessing whether or not Lloyd is straight right up to the very end.

The film features Oscar-nominee Nia Vardalos as the title character in her best role since My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). She and co-star Jason Dolley generate the requisite negative chemistry to convince you that they really might be mother and son locked in a battle over the right to privacy.

An alternately humorous and sobering cautionary tale chronicling the woes of an exasperated kid smothered by a well-meaning mom in an era of omnipresent parenting.

Very Good (3 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 84 minutes

Distributor: E1 Entertainment

To see a trailer for Helicopter Mom, visit: https://vimeo.com/97173719

Or: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUAyEPeHXow

    


Brotherly Love
Film Review by Kam Williams

Twins Jackie (Keke Palmer) and Sergio Taylor (Eric D. Hill, Jr.) already had it tough enough growing up in the ghetto before the untimely demise of their dad a few years ago. But then their mother (Macy Gray) stopped functioning and started hitting the bottle.

That’s when their big brother, June (Cory Hardrict), became the family breadwinner, and it’s been a struggle for him to keep a roof over their heads ever since. So, he started dealing drugs hoping that his becoming an outlaw would at least enable his siblings to keep their noses clean and continue pursuing their dreams. After all, Sergio is one of the top high school basketball players in the nation, while Jackie is an aspiring singer in need of a big break.

By comparison, the living is easy for kids like Chris Collins (Quincy Brown) from “The Hilltop,” the upscale enclave located just across the proverbial tracks. He’s a classmate of Jackie’s at Overbrook High, where students from his ‘hood don’t mix with those from “The Bottom,” especially in the wake of the gang warfare that recently claimed the life of one of his cousins.

Chris has a crush on Jackie, and she likes him, too. Under normal circumstances theirs would be a match made in heaven, since his father is a famous record producer capable of launching a promising talent’s musical career.

However, complications arise reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet when the competing clans suggest that the pair separate. Will the star-crossed lovers follow their hearts or capitulate to the pressure from friends and relatives?

Written and directed by Jamal Hill (Autumn), Brotherly Love is a gritty, inner-city saga of Shakespearean proportions shot on location in West Philadelphia. Provided you have a strong stomach for Ebonics laced with lots of cursing and the N-word, you’ll likely find this super-realistic adventure quite compelling.

As far as performances are concerned, Keke Palmer is terrific in the lead role as Jackie. She also belts out a couple of tunes on the soundtrack, including a mesmerizing, closing credits rendition of the Harold Melvin R&B classic, “Wake Up Everybody.” And the rest of the cast, especially Cory Hardrict, Romeo Miller, Macy Gray, Eric D. Hill, Jr., Quincy Brown and Faizon Love, does a great job creating the requisite edgy atmosphere that imbues the production with a very authentic feel for the duration.

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo? I be hanging with my homeys, mama!

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for violence, profanity and ethnic slurs

Running time: 111 minutes

Distributor: Liquid Soul Media / Freestyle Releasing   

To see a trailer for Brotherly Love, visit: http://brotherlylovethemovie.com/#trailer

    


Unfriended
Film Review by Kam Williams

On April 9, 2013, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) drank too much at a high school classmate’s unsupervised keg party, and promptly passed out and pooped on herself. Time was when such immature behavior might be forgiven as a youthful indiscretion and quietly swept under the rug just as soon as the hangover wore off the next morning.

But then came the unforgiving Digital Age during which the slightest faux pas can so easily come back to haunt you forever. That’s precisely what happened to Laura, thanks to the mean-spirited fellow reveler who, instead of coming to the assistance of a damsel-in-distress, whipped out a cell to record an embarrassing video of her sprawled on the ground with her skirt hiked above the waist.

The initial invasion of privacy escalated to cyber-bulling when the movie was posted online followed by a thread of cruel comments. After several days of mercilessly teasing, the tortured teen finally took her own life with a gun.

Now, it’s exactly one year later, and we find Laura’s former BBF Blaire (Shelley Hennig) flirting with Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) via Skype. Their sensual exchange comes to an abrupt end when they are joined in the chatroom by a trio of friends, Jess (Renee Olstead) Adam (Will Peltz) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki).

Next thing you know, an anonymous intruder claiming to be Laura announces her presence and starts divulging deep secrets about each of them. The spooked quintet assumes the uninvited guest to be their prankster pal, Val (Courtney Halverson), until she pops up on a separate screen. Then, when “Laura” starts knocking them off one-by-one, it becomes clear that they are dealing with a disembodied spirit bent on vengeance.

Directed by Levan Gabriadze, Unfriended is a found footage horror flick ostensibly designed with Millennials in mind. For, this novel genre-bender unfolds on a computer from beginning to its terrifying end. Although most folks over 30 are apt to find the hyperactive adventure visually-disconcerting, the up-and-coming generation weaned on screens is likely to be right at home, given how they’re glued to electronic stimuli, 24/7.

Revenge as a dish best served pixilated!

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for violence, sexuality, teen drug and alcohol abuse, and pervasive profanity

Running time: 82 minutes

Distributor: Universal Pictures

    


Alex of Venice
Film Review by Kam Williams

Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has been such a workaholic attorney that she’s been blissfully unaware of her husband George’s (Chris Messina) discontent with the marriage. Between shuttling their 10 year-old son (Skyler Gartner) to school and making sure his father-in-law (Don Johnson) takes his meds, the stay-at-home dad has grown tired of his role as Mr. Mom.

After all, his original plan was to pursue a career as an artist while caring for the family. But his domestic duties have kept him too busy to do any painting.

So, Alex is caught totally by surprise the day he announces that he wants out and summarily vacates the premises. Suddenly, she finds herself overwhelmed after having to juggle her job and her hubby’s responsibilities.

She’s used to putting in long hours at the office, including on Sunday. But it soon becomes clear that she has to reorder her priorities, despite her sister’s (Katie Nehra) moving in to help pick up some of the slack.

Alex begins to appreciate that there’s more to life than the rat race, and she decides it’s time she step off the treadmill to spend more quality time with her son. Furthermore, George was the only man she’d ever slept with. Now free to date, she impulsively gets involved with a hunky black defendant (Derek Luke) she spots across a crowded courtroom, even though she’s the representing his opponent in a hotly-contested civil case.

Thus unfolds Alex of Venice, a super-realistic slice-of-life adventure featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the title role. The movie also marks the noteworthy directorial debut of co-star Chris Messina, winner of a SAG Award for Argo in the Outstanding Cast category.

This quixotic character study proves to be less poignant than meandering, as it paints a plausible picture of a just-dumped divorcee doing her best to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams.

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated R for profanity, sexual references and drug use

Running time: 86 minutes

Distributor: Screen Media Films

To see a trailer for Alex of Venice, visit:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtLX_Y5_VG4