*(Via the Hollywood Reporter) – The domestic box office is enjoying good traffic over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, with Universal’s action-thriller Contraband easily taking the lead (as of Sunday morning 01-15-12).
Starring Mark Wahlberg and Kate Beckinsale, Contraband is exepcted to gross $28.4 million for the four-day weekend, following a three-day gross of $24.1 million (official four day numbers will be reported Monday morning).
“Contraband” and Disney’s 3D re-release of “Beauty and the Beast” are both overperforming, helping to boost total box office revenues up over last year.
“Beauty and the Beast,” coming in No. 2, is anticipating a four day gross of $24.7 million. Its three day gross is $18.5 million, already the best January opening for an animated film. Hoodwinked! was the previous record-holder, grossing $16.9 million over the four-day MLK weekend in 2006.
The weekend’s third new entry, Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton muscial comedy “Joyful Noise,” should post a four-day gross of $14 million to $14.5 million. Its three day gross is $11.3 million.
*Sparks may fly between Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton when they play adversaries with conflicting perspectives in their new movie, Joyful Noise, opening this weekend in theaters throughout North America, but in a recent New York City interview for the film, it was obvious the two entertainment icons could not have been happier about teaming up on the big screen. “Dolly and I had a lot of conversations before the film started,” says Latifah, who also serves as one of the films executive producers. “We felt that on top of making a good movie, and some good songs, we could actually uplift folks. ‘Joyful Noise’ is basically a movie about people making it through challenges, pulling together to accomplish a goal and reclaim their spirits along the way. That’s what a lot of people need today, hope.”
“Doing a movie like this was such a blessing for me because it felt like I was doing something good for God…something good for people, and something good for me,” says Parton, who also penned several songs for the movie. “These days everybody is so depressed. People are thinking the world is going to end. Nobody’s got any money. ..Nobody knows when the world is going to end, but even if it were going to end tomorrow, we need to be doing our very best today.”
Writer-Director Todd Graff sets his movie in the fictional small town of Pacashau, Georgia during hard times. The community is counting on the Divinity Church Choir to lift their spirits by winning the National Joyful Noise competition; but the conflict between the choir’s two leading ladies, newly appointed choir director Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and feisty church benefactor G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) threatens to dismantle the whole thing. To further complicate matters, two rebellious teens are thrown into the mix: “Randy” (Jeremy Jordan) –
G.G.’s rebellious grandson, who has an ear for music, and an eye for Olivia (Keke Palmer), Vi Rose’s daughter.
A former theatre actor and relatively new film director, Graff drew on childhood memories to develop this tale about two strong-minded, opposite women in a small town Southern gospel choir. He recalled ladies coming over every Tuesday and Thursday night to sing while his mom conducted.
When asked if his background as an actor and writer made his job as director of this film any easier Graff admits, “The best thing for me is that it lowers the panic level significantly.” In working with the actors, he was able to empathize on a deeper level; and hearing the words in his script being spoken enabled him to revise or fix lines that didn’t convey well, almost effortlessly. “You can actually get the work done without the noise of fear in your head,” he adds.
Writing the character of “G. G. Sparrow with Dolly Parton in mind, he still found it hard to believe when she accepted. “Everything should be so easy,” Graff says of getting Dolly Parton, who hadn’t done a movie in 20 years, to accept the role. “It was incredible. I had no reason to believe that she would make this movie…We got on a plane. We went to Nashville. We sat there waiting for her in this room…and you hear her before you see her. And you smell her before you see her. She wears all of this perfume and these giant heels. It’s nine o’clock in the morning. She’s got a face-full of makeup. She’s got her wig like she’s worked an hour-and-a-half on it. She is Dolly Parton, and you hear her singing from down the hall as you hear her approaching in her heels…I thought, ‘it just doesn’t get better than this’. Even if she doesn’t do the movie, you’ve got the anecdote of all time.
Graff says Parton had never seen any of his movies, and just took the script at face value. No ground rules or diva plays. She just wanted to be sure they were all on the same page about the kind of movie they were going to make. Within an hour, Graff says, they were best buds; with Parton even baking fudge for the director on the set. I would think to myself, ‘She had a 7AM call, when did she have time to bake cookies?’”
Joyful Noise may be a feel-good film, but it also engages some very serious issues. Relationships for one, such as the often strained mother-teenage daughter dynamic; and the additional challenges faced by a parent raising a child with special needs. The writer also chose to show the perspective of being a teen with special needs; someone with the knowledge that they are different and the frustrations that surround that difference. And then there are the strains on the husband-wife relationship; especially when a parent is absent from the home, yet still a strong part of the family. Graff did a good job tackling these issues, and balanced the delicate nature of these issues without compromising a believable outcome.
There is so much solid acting from this ensemble, it makes some of the more cheeky moments of the film easier to forgive. Audiences will love the music and the multi-leveled characters. Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton shine for sure in their respective roles; with Latifah more than aptly delivering the depth of a mother working to keep it all together. Two especially outstanding moments come during her honest, soul-stirring performance of “Fix Me Jesus” and her scene-stealing monologue while reprimanding her daughter at the elevator. Graff says Latifah’s “big scene” – the one just mentioned, was not originally in the script. “This is Queen Latifah, and she doesn’t have a big scene,” he realized. Without saying a word to anyone he went into overdrive to create the eight-minute scene. “I would have been in trouble if she did not like it,” he laughs.
Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan are pure gold. As two talented teens dealing with “sparks” of their own, they add to the friction between G.G. and Vi Rose. Palmer, who audiences will remember from the acclaimed film, Akeelah and the Bee”, shows she is all grown up and able to handle her first onscreen kiss. A talented singer, Palmer delivers a strong performance as the 16-year-old choir member, trying to break free from her mother’s overbearing, traditional ways, by leading a choir mutiny. “Pretty much anything that isn’t straight out of the Bible, Vi Rose is against,” she says. “Olivia is trying to sort out all of these feelings, about her mom, herself, Randy, and the fact that her dad’s not around. So she rebels.” Palmer worked with Latifah in one of her very first film roles, and was thrilled to be working with her again. “Dana is so cool and she and Dolly are fun to watch with all that sass and comedy when they go at each other.”
“I’ve known Keke since she was little,” says Latifah, “so to see her all grown up and doing her thing is pretty awesome. Her energy and talent are just unbelievable.”
Jordan, who performs an amazing rendition of the Paul McCartney song, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, and even sings a duet with Dolly Parton, is new to film. The director admits he found him “by happy accident” while attending the Broadway production of “Rock of Ages”, and knew he was right for the part of G.G.’s free-spirited prodigal grandson. He shows a genuine sensitivity in his moments with Walter (played beautifully by Dexter Darden); the special needs son of Vi Rose who suffers from aspergers syndrome. Audiences beware: you may not be able to get the song, Walk Away Renee, made popular by The Left Banke in 1966, out of your head for a few days!
Graff says working with Latifah and Parton; as well as both of the younger actors presented their own unique challenges.
“Not only were they two different groups of people, but they were four totally different types of actor. Jeremy is a trained theatre actor, so he comes from a place where it is about the text. So you sit and talk with him…It’s a specific way of working with that kind of an actor. Keke comes from Nickelodeon, Disney channel; where I would have to tell her ‘stop facing front all the time. There are not three cameras here, there is one camera and it will cover you….She was great and she was very direct able, but it was a different way of having to work…And then you have Dolly who…at this point she’s a brand name…She is all heart…very smart, an incredible businesswoman. But as an actor, her head doesn’t enter into it. If it feels right then it’s ok. She just wants you to tell her what to do, she wants to digest it and filter it through that heart and put it out there.”
“Like Dolly,” Graff continues, “Queen Latifah’s background is music. And she’s also an incredibly smart lady; but she’s completely intuitive. [It has to] make sense to her, almost street sense of what feels right and what doesn’t. One of the traits of a director is just to be a good lawyer…basically, manipulate you into doing the thing I want you to do, so that we can make this moment work…You can’t out-lawyer, Dana [Latifah’s given name]. She just doesn’t care how good you are at saying the thing you want to say. If it doesn’t feel right to her; if it doesn’t pass her ‘BS’ detector. It ain’t gonna happen. I didn’t have to rewrite a single line of dialogue for anybody, except Dana. And it’s not because she thinks it was wrong, the moment was wrong or doesn’t make sense…She would say, ‘that’s not how this woman would say that’. And if I went down the road of ‘I actually wrote this woman and created her so of the two of us, I actually know this woman better’ – she didn’t care. She would say, ‘You wrote her, that’s fine [but] I have to play her. I have to do this now. I don’t care if it’s your mother. Now it’s my aunt.”
Graff said through it all, it was stimulating trying to figure out the best way to work with the actors; and in his resolution to make a movie without trying to imply miracles he says, “It was important to me that the characters be flawed…In the end everybody is still broke. This is not a movie about miracles, it’s a movie about people coming together.”
Rounding out the excellent casting of ‘Joyful Noise’ is Kris Kristofferson as the gone-too-soon husband of G.G. Sparrow; Jesse L. Martin as the absent husband of Vi Rose Hill; and Courtney B. Vance as the church pastor. But it is the music that may ultimately sneak up and steal the show. This is a film about gospel music competitions; and gospel great Kirk Franklin makes his mark in the film performing “In Love” a song he wrote and performs with a choir that turns out to be Pacashau’s arch-rival.
Preparing for the film, Graff attended real gospel competitions, revealing, “They have become enormous over the past decade or so. I went to one in Newark, New Jersey that was sold out – 18,000 seats. They sell out the Staples Center…These things are a huge deal.”
Five-time Grammy award winner Mervyn Warren is the film’s composer and music producer. A former member of the group Take 6, he has known Todd Graff for over a decade. He is also seen in the film as the choir’s pianist. Warren began writing and arranging the music for the film just after Graff finished an early version of the script. ‘Joyful Noise’ fuses the sounds of gospel, pop, country, rock and R&B from the music of Michael Jackson, Sly & The Family Stone, Usher, Paul McCartney, Chris Brown and Stevie Wonder and performed by the Pacashau choir cast. And the incredible competition medley shows several of the songs making seamless transitions into the next- beautifully demonstrating how popular music lends itself to the gospel genre. No change in the song, just the intent.
Alcon Entertainment’s ‘Joyful Noise’ distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures opens nationwide today, January 13, 2012.
DeBorah B. Pryor began her career in journalism in New York City more than 30 years ago. She has been a contributing writer for EURweb since 2003. She is an adjunct instructor at UCLA Extension and Glendale Community College teaching her popular and unique original workshop “Public Speaking for the Private Person” to people challenged by communicating effectively in their personal and professional lives. Visit her website at http://www.dpryorpresents.com for more information.
*Appearing on the “Today” show Thursday, country music icon Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah came together to promote their upcoming movie musical, “Joyful Noise,” complete with a musical collabo.
After anchor Ann Curry mentioned a creative “intersection” between the two stars, Parton and Latifah responded with an impromptu rap, featuring Latifah beatboxing as Parton spat about 8 bars, including the line: “Oh, she’s the Queen of her own hood / But I’m the Queen of Dollywood.”
“Joyful Noise,” featuring Parton, Latifah and Keke Palmer, is in theaters Friday (Jan. 13).
The Alcon Entertainment presentation Joyful Noise, distribuited by Warner Bros.
*“Gospel is influenced by so many genres. We have to allow that influence for the youth,” said Queen Latifah about the Praise & Worship music used in the Warner Bros’ distributed Alcon Entertainment presentation Joyful Noise, which stars Queen, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan and Courtney B. Vance. “It’s a new generation. I don’t remember people dancing in the church, but it’s the kids’ way and it’s for the right reasons.”
Joyful Noise, which arrives in theaters January 13, 2012, is a must see for all music lovers. Not only do you get the most inspirational Contemporary Praise & Worship music from beginning to end, but you will see some dance moves not normally seen in traditional churches.
Written and directed by Todd Graff (The Abyss) and music by Maryn Warren, Joyful Noise centers on the Divinity Church Choir and their passionate attempt at winning the National Joyful Noise Competition. Vi Rose (Queen Latifa) is the new choir director who refuses to ‘modernize’ the choir’s performance for the competition.
Choir member G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) is Vi Rose’s rival for the choir director position and a supporter of change. G.G.’s grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) develops a soft spot for Vi Rose’s daughter Olivia (Keke Palmer), also a choir member and soloist, and joins the choir to get closer. Vi Rose is fighting against the budding young relationship and the choir’s plea for change.
“Meryn brought me these love songs turned into Praise for God,” Dolly Parton said about the outstanding music used in this film. “He did a marvelous job. You can dance to it and praise to it.”
Joyful Noise also stars Kris Kristofferson, Dexter Darden, Angela Grovey, Paul Woolfolk and Jesse L. Martin. Queen Latifah and long time manager Shakim Compere are co-executive producers, along with Timothy M. Bourne. This musically driven film presents the Gospel through Pop, Country, Rock, R&B and Spiritual channels. The Divinity Church Choir will also tackle songs from artists that include Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, Usher, Paul McCartney, Sly & the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder.
To learn more about the Warner Bros’ distributed film Joyful Noise log onto www.JoyfulNoisethemovie.com. Joyful Noise is rated PG-13 and arrives in theaters January 13, 2012.
Disney ABC Television announces its winter schedule; ‘Let It Shine’ and ‘Scandal’ appear to be winners
Cast of ABC's new series "Scandal"
*I attended the Disney ABC Television Group Winter Press Tour where they announced their programming schedule for winter 2012. Of the many shows announced the Disney Channel original movie “Let It Shine,” starring Courtney B. Vance (The Preachers Wife), Dawnn Lewis (A Different World), Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”), Coco Jones and Trevor Jackson, and the ABC series “Scandal” starring Kerry Washington (Ray), Columbus Short (Stomp), Tony Goldwyn (The Pelican Brief), and Jeff Perry (“Grey Anatomy”) appear to be winners.
Created and co-executively produced by Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”), “Scandal,” is based on the life of co-executive producer Judy Smith, a Crisis Communications Strategist, played by Kerry Washington. Directed by Paul Hoen, the Disney movie “Let It Shine,” is about parents (Vance and Lewis) – rooted in a traditional church – who are trying to deal with their son, played by Tyler, who has a passion for Hip-Hop music.
“2012 is starting with an omni-bus distribution deal with Comcast,” said Disney Channel’s President Gary March. “Our content will be available for laptops, smart phone and tablets. Our viewers are digital.”
In 2011 Disney Channel was the #1 network for kids and received the highest ratings across all platforms: Disney XD, and Disney, Jr.
The rest of the schedule includes “The Revolution,” a reality show where a person’s body, mind and wardrobe is revolutionized. ABC’s “Missing” starring Ashley Judd and Cliff Curtis; “Don’t Trust the B____ in Apartment 23; “The River,” “GCB,” ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” and “Jane By Design,” and returning shows “Desperate Housewives,” “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” “Suburgatory,” and “Happy Endings.”
For more information on the new shows of ABC Disney Television Group log onto www.DisneyABCTV.com.
*Hopefully, African-American cinema will mature right along with her.
Keke Palmer is far too composed for only having been on this Earth for 18 years. She’s avoided scandal despite matriculating from child to fully-grown film star, a rarity to be sure. Not only that, she is genuinely affable and comfortable in her skin despite her fame. Few of us could say as much when we were teenagers.
As I expressed in the beginning, the real question is, has the African-American movie industry also matured with her? The marketing push behind Joyful Noise (which opens nationwide January 13) has not been limited to niche or ethnically marginalized outlets. Commercials for the highly-anticipated film can be found everywhere from the middle of college and pro football games on ESPN, to prime time slots on the traditional networks.
For a movie featuring a majority African-American cast with an interracial love story and gospel theme at its center; it’s a bold marketing statement by Warner Bros. Pictures. We should collectively take note.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the fact that this is a movie designed to reach the diverse fan bases of its ensemble cast which also includes Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton. The three featured actresses offer different fan bases, traversing different generations and genres. Expect country, gospel, R&B and hip-hop fans to support this film…or at least that is the hope.
I get it, really I do.
On the surface, Joyful Noise is willing to offer a colorblind look at America today through its casting and marketing; and that’s a beautiful thing. But at it’s heart, it’s music and story against the gospel backdrop is straight out of the annals of African-American cinema.
The gospel-themed movie has been a staple for African-Americans for decades and likely the film will <em>need </em>to resonate with the demographic to be fully successful. Let’s be honest, it has been some time since a majority African-American, gospel-themed movie has hit the theaters without the protagonist donning a dress. No disrespect to Tyler Perry, but there is no baggage or controversy attached to Joyful Noise. That’s a beautiful thing too. There is nothing standing in the way of its success from that standpoint.
Colorblind marketing aside, African-American audiences have been clamoring for movies that don’t feature the stereotypical violence, materialism, misogyny and dare I say buffoonery all-too-often found in “Black” movies…whatever that means. Despite what is highlighted on the silver screen, it really is okay to feature African-Americans in movies not named “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” or rely on drugs or prison as key components of telling a “Black” story.
Back to Keke Palmer…
Palmer is no stranger to positive and substantive work as an actress. From starring alongside Laurence Fishburne role in the critically-acclaimed Akeelah & the Bee to her Nickelodeon sitcom, True Jackson, VP; Palmer has consistently elevated the conversation as to how African-Americans actors and movies need not flaunt stereotypes or other demeaning imagery in order to make a commercially successful product.
I recently sat down with Palmer to get her thoughts on Joyful Noise, her approach to her career and how she hopes her fan base will mature right along with her as she moves further into adulthood.
Morris W. O’Kelly (Mo’Kelly) is a political correspondent for the BBC Radio and Television networks and author of the syndicated entertainment column The Mo’Kelly Report. For more Mo’Kelly, go to MrMokelly.com. Mo’Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes all commentary.
*EURweb and Warner Bros is giving you a chance win a pair of tickets to be in the house at the January 9 (Hollywood) premiere of “Joyful Noise,” the new musical comedy starring Queen Latfah, Dolly Parton and Keke Palmer.
To win, just answer our trivia question below and email your entry to email@example.com, along with your name and mobile phone number. Hurry, contest ends Wednesday (01-04-12) at 5pm Pacific.
Trivia Question: What was Queen Latifah known for before she became an actress?