The more excuses I have heard people use to be or not to be in love, the more I wonder if love’s definition is changing. Some of the excuses I have heard (I kid you not) have been things like: they make me laugh, they walk too fast, they drink too much, they have nice furniture, they are considerate or they have a job. I know; when I heard some of these all I could do was just stand there and stare at them, wondering if they were serious. For me love is love; there are no qualifiers or conditions. I get amused when someone tells me they wished she was shorter or wished he was not so hairy, like these are really deal breakers? I just do not get it. With some cultures it is frowned upon to love someone outside of one’s race or religion. I respect their thinking though I do not have to accept it. If two people can find each other and fall in love; in my book, they have won one of the grand prizes in life. Besides the love two people share, love can be used as a protection. The love of animals can make a person choose to become a vegan or the love of architecture can motivate someone to become an activist to preserve important buildings. Love is one of the most powerful forces in the world; that is why it can make some people heroes and others crazy. AFTER their father had died June, played by Cory Hardrict (American Sniper, Gran Torino), had to take care of Sergio and Jackie, played by Eric D. Hill Jr. (Hurricane Season, Orange is the New Black-TV) and Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Joyful Noise), his younger brother and sister. He would have to do whatever it took to keep them on track in their tough neighborhood. Though this dramatic film was set in Philadelphia, the story had one strong element straight out from the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. Except for the location it essentially was the same story which made the scenes quite predictable. The other story line was one that has been played before and was done better than this one. The film was pretty bland for me; nothing horrendously glaring nor very interesting. I thought Keke and Cory were the strongest actors out of the cast, though I liked seeing Macy Gray (For Colored Girls, The Paperboy) as Mrs. Taylor. The idea for this story was based on solid ground; however, I did not find anything special about it. This may be a forgettable film but it will not stop me from loving movies.
1 3/4 stars
The last song set was my favorite part of this musical comedy because it reminded me how much I love concerts. There was nothing like being with 20,000 people who were there for one reason: to watch a musical artist create a magical moment. I especially would get a kick when a musician or singer made an unexpected change to a familiar song. It made me feel special as if I were part of an exceptional group, that would be the only ones to hear that version of the song. That fond memory was pretty much the only good thing associated with this cheesy film. A cross between the television show Glee and the movie Footloose, this film had nothing original to bring to the genre of singing competitions. Queen Latifah (Just Wright, Chicago) was newly appointed church choir director Vi Rose Hill. She was chosen over long term benefactor and choir member G. G. Sparrow, played by Dolly Parton (Nine to Five, Steel Magnolias). This set up a continual conflict between the two women. If it involved Vi’s daughter Olivia, played by Keke Palmer (Akeelah and the Bee, Cleaner) and G. G.’s grandson Randy Garrity, played by relative newcomer Jeremy Jordan or what musical direction to take the choir; the two woman never let up in every situation. The script was nothing but cringe worthy and icky. It came across as if the writers cut and paste bits from other movies, thinking since it worked once it would work again. Of course, Queen Latifah and Dolly had their big solos and for the most part I enjoyed the singing numbers from everyone. But then again I am a sucker for most any singing done in a movie. Sadly I have to say on a musical scale, this movie was a D flat.
1 7/8 stars — DVD
I always assumed spelling bees were somewhat boring; give me a good game of scrabble instead. But I have to tell you, this movie could have been titled Word Battle. With a perfect mix of drama and excitement, I was enthralled with the steady build up of it, all the way to the final scene. Akeelah Anderson, played by Keke Palmer (Joyful Noise, Madea Goes to Jail), was an eleven year old girl from South Los Angeles. Life was not easy for her, having a seemingly inattentive single parent, a troublesome brother, along with the daily school pressures from teachers and peers. Keke’s performance was totally believable, as she displayed a great range of emotions. Entering the school’s spelling bee, she surprised herself and everyone else by winning it. With some coaxing, the principal pushes Akeelah to continue on to the next level, with help from English professor Dr. Joshua Larabee, played by Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Contagion). Between the two characters, I loved watching the emotional bond forming between them, as the story progressed. By the end of the movie I wanted to yell out letters at the television to help Akeelah. This was a wonderful story that really inspired me, as I recalled what that feeling is like when you realize you can do something well.
3 1/3 stars — DVD