Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“I Will Follow” Now on DVD, Salli Richardson-Whitfield Stars

By Darlene Donloe

Salli Richardson Whitfield & Omari Hardwick

The independent film, “I Will Follow,” the brainchild of writer/director/producer Ava DuVernay, is set for release on DVD Aug. 23, 2011.
    The drama, which found success and won several awards during its heavy film festival circuit, was released in theaters nationwide last March.
    The movie, which takes place during one day in a Topanga Canyon home, focuses on a woman named Maye, played by Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who is sorting through her life while dealing with the death of Amanda, her recently deceased aunt (Beverly Todd). Amanda, who had breast cancer, decided she wanted to die at home and skip chemotherapy.
    The movie, which is loosely based on what director DuVernay actually experienced with her own aunt, also stars Omari Hardwick (For Colored Girls), Blair Underwood (The Event), Michole White and Beverly Todd (Crash).
    DuVernay, a publicist (The DuVernay Agency) and founder of AFFRM, (African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement) has several other projects under her directorial belt including, My Mic Sounds Nice, This Is The Life and Live From Essence Music Festival.
    However, “I Will Follow” is her first feature film. The movie is an Official Selection of AFI Fest and Chicago International Film Festival and winner of Pan-African International and Urbanworld Film Festivals.
    I recently caught up with Richardson-Whitfield (Syfy’s Eureka, I Am Legend, Antwone Fisher), who is married to actor Dondre Whitfield, to talk about her role in I Will Follow and the release of the DVD.
    DD:  What was it about I Will Follow that attracted you?
SRW: Well, it’s one of those things. My manager was instrumental in getting the script to me. I had no idea who Ava [DuVernay] was. I had to make a decision in a week. I read it. It was beautiful.  My manager said, ‘you have to do this.’ Once I met Ava and we sat down and talked, I realized she was a powerhouse. I said, ok, I’m going to put my trust in you. As an African American, this piece is rare. I made the right decision. I’m so happy to know Ava.
DD: How did you decide to play her  - what did you want to make sure you got across?
SRW:  I don’t know if I look at things like that. I look at the situation. What am I going through as an actress? I just get there and I do it.  I learn my words and know my situation. I do a little improv work with actors to get a relationship. I go where my feelings take me. I go along with the character. Now that I’ve been doing this TV show for so long, it’s helped me as an actress not to plan too much.
DD: Did you approach the role differently once you found out if was the director’s story?
SRW: It makes it a little more precious. She didn’t try to make me be her or act like her or get me to be a particularway in a scene because she would have been that director. She really helped me connect. She showed me a pic of her aunt one day. Seeing the picture helped me find the sadness and the depth of how hard this was for her.
DD: Could you relate to your character in any way?
SRW: Definitely. I’m not a big crier. I’m the one who keeps everything happy and strong. I don’t show a lot of emotion all of the time unless really needed. I think that’s what she felt that Maye was. It was a journey to find those feelings.

DD: What goes into your decision to play a role?
SRW: Right now the things I do on the side, I look for thing that scare me. I sit there for a moment and say I don’t know if I can do this. If it doesn’t scare me I may not want to do it. There are some things I can do with my eyes close. I have to put in some hard work, but I’m always striving to get better.
DD: Are you happy with the success of the film?
SRW: You do this tiny little film and most films like this would have done well at film festivals, but no one else would have every seen it. That’s why Ava is brilliant as a director. She knows how to market her film. I’m very surprised and happy about the film.
DD: What’s up next for you?
SRW: I started directing my show (Eureka) th last two years, last season and this season. I find I love it. Now that my show is over, I’m looking to do a short film during my break. I’m also interested in finding a new TV show to do.
DD: What does TV do for you and what does film do for you?
SRW: What’s great about film is - a character has a beginning, middle and end. You get four months to explore a character. With TV, I’ve gotten to an unbelievable comfort zone. I used to be an over preparer. It’s good when you do that but sometimes you’re not letting yourself be. It gave me a comfort in my acting. I like the consistency of a show. With my show [Eureka], because it’s cable, you only shoot 13 a season. I like to do a show, have fun and on break find an artistic piece to do.
DD: Your show, Eureka is about to end.
SRW: Yes, we’ll be done on Aug. 30. It’s done. It’s been five years. I’m excited about being home. While doing the show I’ve had to fly home every weekend. It’s hard when you have young children. My daughter is seven and my son is two.

"I Will Follow" will be available at Amazon.com and Walmart on Aug. 23, 2011.  MSRP: $14.99

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Emma Stone, Octavia Spencer & Viola Davis

Kathryn Stockett’s novel about African American maids and the white families they work for, is heavy, but worth the weight.
It opened today (Aug. 10) and is on course to gross $5 million on its first day in theaters.
The beloved novel, set in early-1960s Jackson, Mississippi, focuses on the relationship of ‘The Help’ and the white families they work for.
While ‘The Help’ can clean their homes, their clothes, raise their babies and cook their food, the movie highlights how maids in the south in the 60s were still mistreated, disrespected and looked upon as the underclass.  Although this movie doesn’t reveal anything new from that era, it points out how whites really felt about the black women who spent more time in their homes raising their children - than in their own homes.
And, although they were involved in almost every aspect of a white families home  - they were forbidden to touch white people (except for their children) or to use the family’s bathrooms.
    The movie is poignant and funny as the maids tell how they really feel about white people and specifically the families they work for. Some of it is harsh, but it’s a chance for the women to speak their truth. Speaking the truth, during that time could have gotten the women jailed, beaten or worse yet, killed because racial tensions were high during the civil rights movement.
    ‘The Help’ is an easy look at the issues that surrounded the volatile climate of the civil rights movement.  The south was relentless in its disdain for ‘coloreds’ at the time. The movie, however, plays it safe in its presentation.
To its credit, The Help boasts an exceptional cast.
Viola Davis plays Aibileen, an impassive maid. A sturdy actress, Davis, already an Academy Award nominee, could possibly get yet another nod. She has already mastered diving in head first to present three-dimensional characters. Davis is always effective as she infuses her characters with a spirit and a soul.
Viola Davis & Bryce Dallas Howard

Octavia Spencer, nearly steals the film as Minny, the take-no-stuff maid.  She clearly provides comic relief and a feistiness that also proves to be a form of bravery.  She actually has the best storyline in the film.
She too, could quite possibly get an Academy nod in the supporting actress category with her expressive face and impeccable comedic timing.
Davis and Spencer play maids who agree to tell their stories to a young white journalist, “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone), who wants to write a book from the maids points of view.
Cicely Tyson is spectacular as a maid named Constantine.  Bryce Dallas Howard rocks as Hilly, an uptight society girl, while Sissy Spacek brings on the funny as her mother. Howard is a delicious villain and Spacek and Allison Janney give fabulous supporting turns.
Stone’s Skeeter is a ballsy college student turned writer, who wanted to write a firsthand account of the maid/family relationship as seen through the eyes of the maid. Not to draw attention to herself or the maids, who would surely lose their jobs if they are found out, Skeeter starts secretly interviewing the two brave maids about their experiences. After a racial incident in the town more maids come forward to share their stories.
This is one of the best movies of the year!!!
The Help (Walt Disney Pictures), directed by Tate Taylor, is rated PG-13. Running time: 146 min.
On the DONLOE Scale, The Help gets an E (excellent).
The Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK) and E (excellent).

Friday, August 5, 2011


Following are reviews of recently released or soon to be released films.  Films include: Crazy Stupid Love, The Guard, Higher Ground, Horrible Bosses and Captain America. 
All of the films will receive a DONLOE Scale rating. On the Donloe Scale, D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (OK-Outstanding) and E (excellent-exquisite).

This ensemble comedy with several stories interwoven, focuses on the split-up of straight-laced Cal (Steve Carell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), who have been married more than 20 years. Emily, who is having an affair, has become bored with the marriage and wants to move on. Cal takes the split hard.
Jonah Bobo, who plays the couple’s 13-year-old son, Robbie nearly steals this movie. He has a crush on the family babysitter (Analeigh Tipton), who has a secret crush of her own.
The fun begins when Cal meets a womanizer named Jacob (Ryan Gosling) at a club.  Jacob not only helps Cal with a complete makeover, he teaches him how to pick up women.  Jacob meets his match when he begins a relationship with Hannah (Emma Stone), a law student who tries to get him to be monogamous.
The movie comes together quite nicely at the end with a few surprises.
Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon also star.
Crazy, Stupid, Love, (Warner Bros.), written by Dan Fogelman, is rated PG-13 and is currently in theaters nationwide.  Length: 117 minutes.
On the DONLOE Scale, Crazy, Stupid, Love gets an O (OK).

    This is a smart, funny and dramatic film. It’s a tale of murder, police corruption, blackmail and drug trafficking.   Two cops, Wendell Everett, an FBI agent from America (Don Cheadle) and a salty Irish small town policeman named Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) join forces to bring down a drug-smuggling ring. Everett and Boyle are initially at odds, especially with Boyle’s constant racially insensitive rants. Boyle resents Everett’s arrogance and Everett dislikes Boyle’s small town thinking.
    Both Cheadle and Gleeson are impressive in their roles.
The Guard was the official selection of the 2011 Sundance, Tribeca and Los Angeles Film Festivals.
The Guard (Sony Pictures Classics), written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, stars Don Cheadle, Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan.
The Guard, rated R, is currently in theaters. Running time: 96 min.
On the DONLOE Scale, The Guard gets an E (excellent).

This is actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut.   The film depicts the landscape of a tight-knit spiritual community thrown for a loop when one of their own begins to question her faith.  The Film tells the story of a thoughtful woman’s struggles with belief, love and trust – in human relationships as well as in God.
Faith, love and honesty are the cornerstone of this story about a woman who learns that no matter how many time she loses her footing, she has within herself all that’s necessary to get to a higher place.
Higher Ground, stars Farmiga (also directs), Joshua Leonard, John Hawkes, Donna Murphy, Dagmara Dominczyk, Norbert Leo Butz, Bill Irwin, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Higher Ground (Sony Pictures Classics), with a running time of 109 min., is set for an August 26, New York and Los Angeles release.
On the DONLOE Scale, Higher Ground gets at O (OK).

CAPTAIN AMERICA: The First Avenger
This is a great popcorn movie that, of course, doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s the latest in the comic book turned movie offerings. The blockbuster film, directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer), doesn’t deliver anything new, but it is a lot of fun. Set in 1942, during World War II, the movie stars Chris Evans in the title role. He plays a U.S. Army soldier-turned-superhero (a character first introduced by Marvel Comics 70 years ago).  Captain America is a one-man army, who kicks butt and takes names.
Evans plays Steve Rogers, who, once a scrawny asthmatic, through a science experiment becomes Captain America, who is determined to serve his country.
The film, directed by Joe Johnston, also stars Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones and Derek Luke.
Captain America (Paramount Pictures), written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is rated PG-13, running time: 2 hr. 1 min.
On the DONLOE Scale, Captain America: The First Avenger gets an O (OK).


This is a funny movie. It stars Jason Bateman and Jason Sudeikis.
Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros.), currently in theaters, has a running time of 97 minutes.
    The story is simple. Three friends, who all work at three separate jobs, conspire to kill each other’s bosses. Of course, none of the three friends is a criminal, but when they try to hire Motherf---ker Jones, played by Jamie Foxx, to do the dirty deeds for them, all kinds of funny is let loose.
    This movie goes to show you, that even good folks can go bad. Revenge rules in this wacky comedy.
Kevin Spacey is a smarmy, sadistic boss to Bateman’s character; incredibly corrupt Colin Farrell gives Sudeikis a case of the flux and Jennifer Aniston sexually harasses Dale, played by Charlie Day.
Horrible Bosses (Warner Bros. Pictures), directed by Seth Gordon, is rated R; running time 1 hr. 37 min.
On the DONLOE Scale, Horrible Bosses gets at O (OK).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jonathan Butler Talks About His ‘Soul Of Summer’ Concert


By Darlene Donloe

For the first time in his long and storied career, jazz guitarist and vocalist, Jonathan Butler (So Strong) has put together his own ‘Soul of Summer’ concert tour, featuring singer Maysa and saxophonist Eric Darius.
Butler, who is originally from South Africa, recently said he, Maysa (A Woman in Love) and Darius (On A Mission) are doing the tour to pay tribute to some of the most unforgettable soul music of all time. 
The trio, who have been touring various venues around the country this summer, are set to bring their act to the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach Summer Jazz Festival on Aug. 5. 
Other cities set to get the tour include Temecula, San Diego, Richmond, VA, Detroit and the Bay area in Northern California. Previous stops included Memphis, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Hampton, VA and San Francisco.
Some of Butler’s hits include Falling In Love With Jesus, Sarah, Sarah; "Lies" and "Holding On." 
I caught up with Butler, who vacillates between gospel, smooth jazz and R&B, to talk about the tour.
DD: Why did you want to do this tour?
JB: I wanted to do something on my own. It was a great way to present a package tour of music I love and artists I love. Fans can hear our current things.   I have 15 CDs.  I have a lot of music. I chose this music. It fits well with Maysa. She’s working with Angela Bofill. She sings her music in the show.  There is a good flow. I want to do this kind of tour year end and year out.

DD: Why did you choose Maysa and Eric Darius for your first tour?
JB: I like her music. I love her voice. We’ve been friends for awhile. Maysa sang with me awhile back on my Do You Love Me CD and I recently worked with Eric on a jazz cruise. I’d worked with them both and had wonderful experiences. With both of them as part of the tour, I don’t need to sweat. It’s a great mixture.
DD: So chemistry was important?
JB: It was important that we all vibed well together because my concept for ‘The Summer of Soul’ is unlike other all-star shows. Instead of just playing our hits, we are going to take the audience on a journey through the very best of the soul music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and right on up to the present. We’re going to be digging up some gems that people love but haven’t heard in years! I have my daughter Jodie also on background. We have some fresh energy.
DD: So, who else will we hear?
JB: This is a tribute to music by people like Curtis Mayfield, Angela Bofill, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, plus our own original thing. It’s an urban thing we’re doing. We’re doing a mixture of instrumental and R&B. We’re paying tribute.  People will get the great experience of a great live concert. We have an unplug set where we talk about the early influences. We show our age in the middle of the show.
DD: You’ve worked with a lot of artists.
JB: I’ve worked with Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Jazz Attack, George Duke, Will Downing and more. I decided it’s time for me to do something on my own and now is as good a time as ever.
DD: I read where you said this was a return to your R&B roots. So, where have you been?
JB: If you know me, people following me over the years have experienced me going from R&B to gospel to something like the Story of Life.  I’m always turning the soil in search of myself. It’s just what artists do.

DD: At one point you were singing a little bit of everything.
JB: For a while what I was singing is not what I was feeling or where I was going. It’s about spiritually and knowing what’s right. It’s about not letting labels tell you to write songs about things that don’t’ gel with your beliefs. The one thing close to my heart was turning my heart to South Africa where I was from. It was a departure from R&B and about really reaching my roots.
I didn’t want to right another ‘Sarah, Sarah’. I was maturing in the industry. That’s why I departed from R&B.
    DD: Tell me about your gospel music.
JB: Gospel is my true calling. It took me a long time to accept my calling. God has called me to share gospel through music. I’m in a unique position. I’m walking a parallel universe of being in church on Sunday and at the Hyatt on Saturday blessing people who did not to go to church on Sunday. I have to do Falling In Love With Jesus or people will get mad.
    DD: Why did you name your current CD, So Strong?
JB: I wanted it to be playful and strong, nothing deep. I’m an optimistic type of guy. I have a lot to be positive about.
DD: What are you trying to say with So Strong?
JB: We all go through ups and downs and tough times. A couple of years ago my wife, Barenese, was diagnosed with cancer, I lost my mother, lost my good friend, Wayman Tisdale. I had no idea I had a record inside of me. I had no music inside of me at the time. I was consumed with my wife. We’ve been married 29 years. We were facing a challenge. Our faith was tried. Losing my mother – I did not know how I was going to deal with that. This album emerged. I didn’t want to do an instrumental. I wanted to sing. This album came together. This was the right title. Barenese is healed and is back to normal. Music is therapeutic.
DD: How do you write a song? Do you keep a tape recorder with you? 
JB: While I’m driving I may have an idea. I sing the idea into the phone. Often times they disappear. They are either good or bad. Sometimes I’ll wake up with an idea.
DD: Tell me about the Jonathan Butler Safari you’re doing in South Africa, Nov. 5-12.
JB: I’ve been doing jazz cruises. They approached me and said, ‘We would love for you to host a safari to South Africa.’ I’m a proud South African. I couldn’t believe it. I jumped onboard. It’s going to be 40 people who are going to travel with me on South African Airways. I will take you to where I grew up, show you my country, taste my food and wine. We’ll visit Cape Town, wineries, Cape Point, townships and Port Elizabeth.

    DD: Give us a website where we can get more info.
 JB: We have a few spaces left. People can go to
    www.Jonathanbutler.com.  Going to Africa is going to be a spiritual experience.
        For information on the Hyatt Newport Jazz Festival: