22 November 2014

Lately.....

Holiday decorations at the Time Warner building
My therapist asked me the other day if I was staving off a depression. "No, I replied. I don't think so." That was several days ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've been feeling tired lately, like I wanted to sleep for 1,000 years. I haven't been working out like I should be which I believe is part of it.  But "depression," the word always feels so extreme to me.

The truth is I enjoy my life; love it really. Are there things that I'm dissatisfied with? Of course, but I'm generally happy and enthusiastic. These last couple of weeks in particular has really reaped some fantastic opportunities for me, doing things that I absolutely adore. Plus I got two free coffees (life is GRAND).

So why am I so tired? Why the exhaustion? Perhaps I need to start eating meat again on a regular basis. Maybe it's winter time, and the fact that it's dark at noon is killing my vibe.  Perhaps I just need a good run, or maybe it's the idea of getting through another Holiday season without my parents. In actuality I think I'm not quite over the stress and anxiety of this past summer, and  it is finally catching up with me mentally.

The thing is, even if I am staving off a depression I hope I can continue to keep it at bay. I'm starting to get some real traction, I just need the motivation to press forward.

Friends tonight, gym tomorrow.

xoxoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxo

21 November 2014

'Scandal' Winter Finale Recap: "Where the Sun Don’t Shine"



Jake and Fitz are still at each other’s throats and Papa Pope is in the wind. Fitz has sent all of his man power after Rowan, but to no avail. Instead of finding Big Pappa, they find Olivia’s Mama who Rowan had said he killed. (We all know that he didn't kill her, apparently he's obsessed with her, visiting her every day.)

Mama Pope seems crazed and deranged as usual. Either she’s lost her mind from living in that death hole for so long, or she actually doesn't think that Liv is on to her and her conniving ways. But oh, Olivia is most certainly on. She orders her boys to charge her mother with murder, terrorism and treason, and then she tells them to hunt down her father and kill him.  Clearly someone is not trying to play nicely with her makers.

Liv isn’t the only one whose world is crumbling. Huck and Quinn go after Javi after he witnesses them kill Dan Kubiak. The boy is obviously traumatized, and Huck’s ex-wife is enraged that Huck has been in contact with the boy after she explicitly told him to leave them alone. It's not looking like Huck is ever going to have a relationship with his child; perhaps he should have listened to Liv when she tried to reason with him. (Shonda just let Huck be great.)

Back at 1600 Pennsylvania Fitz is trying to figure out what to do about Angola. He wants retaliate for the attack because doesn’t want to seem weak. However, Fitz really doesn't have the heart for a war.
After cleaning up the mess, Quinn tells Liv about the twisted triangle of Kubiak, Lizzie Bear and VP Andrew Nichols (I really miss Sally Langston, she was a terrifying delight). Liv has barely hung up the phone when Lizzie marches her self-righteous self into OPA to tell Liv she knows was Cyrus Beene bugging her phone, and not the virus that Liv told her it was. Ms. Girl is not happy that she's been lied to, and she basically lets a Liv know that she will destroying Cyrus.

Liv rushes off to the White House to tell Cyrus that ish is gonna hit the fan, but it's already much too late. Liv can barely finish her sentence when Abby rushes in saying The Times has been asking her about sexy pictures with Cyrus in them.

On the defensive, Liv briefs the President's inner circle about Cyrus and Male Escort Michael. She also lets it be known that VP Andrew is screwing Lizzie; tragically poor Mellie is caught surprise. (She really thought her and Blandrew had a sweet thing…smh.)

The press is having a field day, a Republic Chief of Staff is having a tawdry affair with a hooker “Chief of Staffs” one headline reads.   At first the White House tries to stall, but then David Rosen gets wind of what's happening which means congressional hearing and resignations.  (Why must David always be the white hat wearing tattle tell? He has got to start wearing more black.)

Basically all of this is unacceptable. We all know we can’t have Fitz in the White House without Cyrus, and I suppose Fitz realizes this as well because he tells Liv to fight for Cyrus. Liv’s big plan… “Pretty Woman: 2014 edition", she wants Michael and Cyrus to get married. (Basically Cyrus would “own” Michael as opposed to “renting” him. There are all types of gag orders, prenups and contracts at play.) Michael says yes (obviously he's set for life, the man gets something like a million a year for 3 years.) Cyrus however is not here for it.  He calls it “cruel and unfair.” (I'm not sure why he's pissed at Michael, he knew he was for sale so what did he expect.)

Jake has finally been let out of his cage and he's in the streets trying to track down Rowan. He can't seem to figure out how their failed capture of commanded went wrong.  But, Jake isn’t the only one on the hunt, someone is after him as well.

Jake figures out that Rowan is trying to tie up loose ends, which means that he’s killing everyone that was every involved in B613. Quinn, Huck and Charlie are all at risk. Quinn tries to be nice and warn Charlie, which results in a hot and heavy tumble in the sheets. (I really don’t see it for Charlie and Quinn is so disturbing.)

Read more at Shadow and Act

xoxoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxo

19 November 2014

Film Review|| The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1



The third film of the wildly popular franchise, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1" has a dark and ferocious tone, making it increasingly explosive. As the franchise has matured, so has its subject matter. The narrative is no longer about a girl who stood up for her little sister, but instead about a young woman who stood against a tyrannical government and its leader.

Rescued from the horrors of the Quarter Quell, the film opens, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in District 13, a world she'd previously thought destroyed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the Capitol. And yet, despite being forced into hiding, District 13 and its citizens have not only survived, but thrived. It’s a well-ordered society; led brilliantly and meticulously by President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Without excess or frivolity, District 13 contrasts sharply with the over-saturated colors and superfluous settings of the Capitol.

So unlike the lush greenery and vast wildlife that we've grown accustomed to seeing in the previous films, District 13 is gray and muted. The rigid order of living underground, along with the confining walls and tunnels of District 13 provide the perfect prison-like backdrop for Katniss’ uncertainty and uneasiness.

As Katniss battles with her ongoing depression, she finds herself unable to connect with those around her. She is constantly at the very edge of her sanity, unsure about her decisions and those of the people surrounding her; especially without Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who has been a constant presence in her life since the beginning of The Games. Katniss’ sister, Primrose (Willow Shields) is the only one that seems to be able to breakthrough to her. Realizing that Katniss is in the position to make requests, since District 13 is counting on her to become the Mockingjay, Primrose convinces her to demand that Peeta be rescued from the Capitol.

This film is not at all the action-packed thriller that we’ve become accustomed to in this franchise. Instead, it’s a slow progression; a psychological analysis of Katniss as she struggles to become the symbol of a revolution. Continually mistrusting of those around her, terrorized by President Snow, and manipulated by President Coin, Katniss is obviously a pawn in a much larger game; one she is not sure that she’s willing to play any longer. The residents of District 13 are unsure of what to make of her. President Coin’s right hand man, Boggs (Mahershala Ali) is skeptical of Katniss immediately, and remains uncertain that she is the right person to lead the revolution. Torn between her conscience and the people of Panem, Katniss also finds herself stuck between her best friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and the boy she’s grown to love, Peeta.

Director Francis Lawrence, beautifully constructs a war film around a major facet of war and revolution: propaganda. After all, how are leaders of revolution born, if not for the way in which they captivate and mobilize their followers?

Continue reading at Shadow and Act.



xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox 

18 November 2014

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Cast & Director Dish on Winding Down the Franchise



At a recent press junket, Shadow and Act was present as the majority of the cast of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1," spoke about the series and their experiences.
Here are some of the highlights:

Francis Lawrence (director), Nina Jacobson (producer), Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Julianne Moore (President Alma Coin), Donald Sutherland (President Coriolanus Snow), Natalie Dormer (Cressida), Mahershala Ali (Boggs), Sam Clafin (Finnick Odair), Willow Shields (Primrose Everdeen), and Jeffery Wright (Beetee Latier) were present for the conference.

On "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part 1"
Francis Lawrence: This half of Mockingjay is really about Katniss discovering what she means to people; all of the districts. And really taking on the responsibility of her role in this revolution. It gave us the opportunity to explore one of the facets of war, which is propaganda.

Fascism vs. Freedom and being caught in the middle. On the political and social sophistication of the books and films
Jennifer Lawrence: Katniss is representing the consequences of war. It’s not that she doesn’t believe in what President Coin wants. It’s not that she doesn’t believe that the Capitol is a terrible government that is only good for the one percent. But war is complicated, and it affects everyone on both sides. I think for Katniss being caught in the middle is feeling pain from both sides. There really is no right way to start or end a war.

Julianne Moore: When I read [the books] I was really struck by the political allegory, and that is very unusual in YA. The thing about dystopia is that what is posits is whether or not we have free will as human beings. And for adolescents in particular, that’s a time when that idea is looming pretty large because you haven’t had free will. You’re in your parents’ house and you’re looking to… who you’re going to be as human being.  So here you have this central character who is trying to decide who she is going to be personally, and who she is going to be politically; and it’s fascinating.  It’s really wonderful. Suzanne Collins also sets up this idea about the difference between freedom and totalitarianism, and how you move from one system to another. I think it’s amazing and it speaks to not just me, but millions of people.

Donald Sutherland: The allegory is evident. When I first read the script I truly wanted to be apart of this project  so that I could look back at the end of my life, which is very close, and say I was a piece of this. Because for me how she has presented this dilemma to young people, and demanded from them a resolution; demanded from them participation that could change things. Because the world that my generation is leaving everyone is a disaster in every respect; politically, socially and economically. I hope that it would be a catalyst for young people. To get them off the seat of their pants …that someone from Occupy or wherever use these films to generate from young people an energy that  will take them into the voting booths of the United States in 2016 and make people responsible, politicians responsible for their words and their actions.

On the lack of physical action scenes in the film
Jennifer Lawrence: There was a lot less action in this movie. [Katniss] is in a very different place emotionally at the beginning of this movie, and the Games have completely changed her. She has to completely rebuild herself.  There wasn’t time for much action. Instead, there was just time for her reaction to everything.

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Finish reading at Shadow and Act.

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox

17 November 2014

Interview|| Mahershala Ali Talks 'Hunger Games,' 'House of Cards,' Dream Role, Race in the Industry




In "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1," Mahershala Ali plays Boggs. He is introduced to us as President Coin’s (Julianne Moore) right hand man. After Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) assumes the role of the Mockingjay, Boggs becomes her personal bodyguard.
At a recent junket for the film, we spoke with Ali about working on the project, "House of Cards," his dream role, and race in the film and television industry.

Aramide Tinubu: First, I’d like to say congratulations on all of your success.  I’ve been watching "House of Cards" and I’m obsessed with "The Hunger Games," like the majority of America.  I’d like to start off by asking how you prepared to become Boggs. At the 2013 Emmy’s, you spoke about working to truly understand the characters that you portray. Boggs has always lived underground. How did you prepare to become him?

Mahershala Ali: One of the first things I wanted to do was change how I felt in my body. I couldn’t change my look because I was finishing up "House of Cards," so I couldn’t grow out a beard, or grow hair or anything like that; which I would have ideally loved to do. It felt appropriate for the character at the time. So, the best thing I could do was begin to lift weights a little. I had worked on slimming down in the last couple of years just to be able to look like a businessman in a suit for "House of Cards." So now, I wanted to feel a little bit more present and just different in my body, so I picked up like five to seven pounds, so I was working out quite a bit. And then, going to work, I kind of just changed the environment for myself, sonically. There were a couple of albums I would listen to in my trailer to put me in the headspace of District 13.  So I was listening to this Method Man album "Tical," which came out in like ’94 or ’95.  It just sounded appropriate for the piece it sounded like "District 13" to me; in that time, and in this building rebellion.  So then I just build. The work that I do with all of my characters is have some sense of where they come from.  I kind of create my own story for myself. What’s going on with my parents, are they alive?  Or family, do I have children?  Do you see those things or not? All the mental work that I have to do to be present and give off a sense of truth that can connect with the audience.

Continue reading at Shadow and Act 


xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox

14 November 2014

Scandal Season 4, Episode 8: Thou Shall Not Forsake Thy Father



I would like to start of by saying that by the end of this episode my stomach was bubbling in fear. I was NOT prepared for went down!!!

The episode picks up right where last week’s dropped off. Now that Tom has admitted that Rowan was the one who ordered him to kill Gerry; Olivia, Fitz and Jake are in a bunker somewhere in the depths of DC discussing strategy.

Unfortunately, because Jake and Fitz refuse to be adults we must contend with this long drawn out pissing contest.  Jake is not happy. He tells Fitzy to call him Captain Ballard and he lets him know he won’t soon forget the poor treatment he received at his hand, especially since Fitz knew he had nothing to do with Gerry’s death. Jake is desperate to kill Rowan and he wants Liv to allow him to do it. Instead, Fitz and Liv are pushing to prosecute Rowan in a secret investigation and trial, which we all know isn’t going to work. Realizing that his freedom is tentative, especially because he’s stuck in a bunker, Jake finally let’s them know about the B613 files that he’s been holding on to.

Back above ground, Lizzie Bear has sought out Olivia and the Gladiators because she thinks her phone is being bugged. Though Liv doesn’t particularly care for Elizabeth, she respects her and agrees to take her on as a client. Huck tries to figure out whose been hacking Lizzie’s phone, while poor Quinn is bored to tears staking out Dan Kubiak.

Meanwhile, Vice President Andrew is nearly blown to bits upon leaving a speech condemning the West Angola liberation front.  Though he isn’t hurt badly in the attack, Cyrus is distraught knowing that his relationship with Male Escort Michael may have led to the compromise in national safety. He looked like he was barely keeping it together.

Despite their last terrifying encounter, Papa Pope is still trying to force Olivia to have a relationship with him. He tells her, “I will always be there waiting for you.” (Quite honestly, I don’t know why she picked up the phone in the first place, especially since he began referring to her vagina as a “spoil” YUCK.)

Finish reading at Shadow and Act.

xoxox Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxo

13 November 2014

Film Review || Beyond the Lights



In this media obsessed society we are constantly bombarded with images of celebrities. We have become constant voyeurs, looking from the outside in. We form our opinions about celeb lives from tabloids and photographs, never truly knowing what it is that we are judging or praising.  Gina Prince- Bythewood’s Beyond the Lights gives us a rare and intricate look at the life of a fast-rising star, from the inside out. 

Prince-Bythewood’s third feature film follows, Noni Jean (Gugu Mbatha- Raw) a young entertainer who is on a fast track to major fame, but who is suffocating internally. Mega-sexualized, overworked and bitterly unhappy, Noni has become a puppet, controlled by her label and her mother/manager, Macy (Minnie Driver).  Nauseated by the stage-show that has become her life, Noni decides to jump from the balcony of her hotel room.

Kaz (Nate Parker) is the police officer assigned to Noni the evening she attempts suicide. Though he’s able to talk her out of leaping to her death, Naz is disgusted by the circus and lies that follow the incident. (He's a true boy scout at heart.) Unwilling to be sucked into Noni's circus, Kaz attempts to walk away. Despite his efforts, their connection crackles and ignites.

Noni  is drawn to Kaz's quiet, damn near broody nature.(Parker is perfect in the role. He’s constantly watching, quietly observing, taking her all in.) Likewise, Kaz is intrigued by Noni's spirit. She's hidden somewhere behind the image that she presents to the world.

The film is breathtaking because of the exquisite  performances. So often romantic dramas fall into the realm of corny.(And this is from a sappy girl who appreciates a bit of corniness.)  Few films, those like Love Jones (1997) and The Notebook (2004) speak universally to audiences about love.  The honesty in those films is what connects us. Mbatha-Raw and Parker's performances are so electric that they remain believable throughout the entire film. Their characters become more of themselves as their connection deepens. Prince-Bythewood made the decision to strip Noni bare both mentally and physically. As the film progresses the layers of makeup, hair and costuming are peeled away until Mbatha-Raw's bare face is left staring wide-eyed at us.

Kaz becomes more himself as well, perhaps in ways that he least expected to. Often it's the paths that we so rigidly insist on following that are holding us back from our densities. (I really could wax poetic about how delicious Nate Parker looked in this film, but that’s neither here nor there...)

The man doesn't even have any facial hair and I'm STILL here for it! (Y'all know my disgust for lack of facial hair.)

Another standout performance in the film is Minnie Driver as Noni's mother, Macy Jean. A shrewd woman, she seems to value Noni’s image over her well-being. The beauty in the role is that Prince-Bythewood refrains from making Macy completely villainous. She has layers and complexities just like anyone else. 

The film is extremely contemporary, it's very much a romance of this moment. It does not shy away from issues of mental health, race, class, celebrity culture and sex. I also really enjoyed the equality dynamic amongst the pair in terms of their careers and ambitions. (Don't nobody want a lazy ass partner.) 

Beyond the Lights is lovely. Arguably better than Prince-Bythewood's first feature Love & Basketball (2001). (I'm sure there will be a thousand debates about this.) The performances are outstanding, the music is entertaining and the chemistry is extremely sexy. (Did I mention Nate Parker?!! Gugu is also stunning and you should check her out in Belle if you have not seen it.)  I know one thing, I shall never view plane takeoffs the same (surfbort). I’d even go out on a limb and say that men will enjoy the film as much as women. 

Go head on Ms. Prince-Bythewood, continue to make them tell your stories! I'm so here for Black women directing mainstream films. (Ava DuVernay's Selma is up next.)

Beyond the Lights is in theaters November 14. (Take your boo, your mama and them. Or just take yourself, you're worth the date.)




xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxox

PS. Nate Parker