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Ashley Ratcliff is the assistant editor at Home Media Magazine. She is passionate about faith and urban films, which are the focus of the “Stepping Out” blog. The University of California, Santa Barbara graduate recently co-authored her first book, Stories 4 Women, a collection of true short stories. Ratcliff’s career began at the Palos Verdes Peninsula News, where she developed an affinity for interviewing newsmakers and sharing her perspectives in commentaries. Contact her with faith and urban film tips and inquiries at aratcliff@questex.com.

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12 Mar, 2013

Lifetime’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ Cast Does Admirable Job

Alfre Woodard, Phylicia Rashad, Queen Latifah and Jill Scott — a virtual dream team of talented actresses. Seeing these women of color come together for Lifetime’s remake of Steel Magnolias, to me, was significant because I admire each of them.

Woodard was remarkable as the sweet, wise matriarch in The Family That Preys. Her portrayal of the sassy Southern belle Ouiser in the revamped Steel Magnolias earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.

Rashad (Clairee) will forever be my TV mother, as I’m a HUGE fan of “The Cosby Show.” Sure, she was amazing in A Raisin in the Sun, For Colored Girls, Good Deeds and every other project she’s involved with, but seeing her as the Clair Huxtable is as good as it gets.

I’ve been rockin’ with Queen Latifah (M’Lynn) since the days of her sitcom, “Living Single.” I even named my car after her character, Khadijah, the editor and publisher of the fictional Flavor magazine.

And Scott (Truvy), the soulful Grammy Award-winning songstress, has blossomed into a wonderful actress. The way she commanded her breakout roles in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married?” films was outstanding.

Up-and-coming co-stars Adepero Oduye and Condola Rashad, who happens to be Phylicia Rashad’s daughter, also gave commendable performances as Annelle and Shelby, respectively.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases the new, all-Black version of the 1989 film, which first was a stage play, on DVD with UltraViolet May 7.

The 2012 Steel Magnolias apparently was the highest-rated movie of the year for the Lifetime network. Move over, Liz & Dick.

Admittedly, I never had the desire to watch the original film because I simply felt I couldn’t relate. Boy was I wrong.

While it was a plus seeing actresses who look like me in the film, Steel Magnolias transcends boundaries of race, age and class. It is a movie that has the ability to touch women of all kinds. It definitely spoke me, as I found myself getting misty-eyed a couple times while watching at home.

Hopefully, Sony Pictures’ release will allow a new generation and demographic to grab hold of the timeless tale of friendship, motherhood and the joys and sorrows that bind this vibrant group of women.

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21 Feb, 2013

Drawing the Line

Tom Bancroft (left) and Tony Bancroft (right)
Tom Bancroft (left) and Tony Bancroft (right)

Growing up in the Bancroft household, twins Tom and Tony were competitive just like any set of brothers. But instead of wanting to be the best on the football field or basketball court, they tried to top each other with their artistic prowess.

“We just both love to draw, so that’s what we were competitive with,” said Tony Bancroft. “Just as iron sharpens iron, we improved at a faster pace because of our competitiveness.”

The brothers quickly rose up the ranks to work on the animation of numerous Disney films, such as The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. They worked closely together on The Lion King, as Tony drew warthog Pumbaa and Tom drew young Simba, collaborating on the sequence leading up to the upbeat tune “Hakuna Matata.”

They got an even closer working relationship when Tony was appointed co-director of Mulan with Barry Cook, and Tom was named supervising animator for the title character’s comical dragon companion, Mushu.

“That was the great experience as twin brothers to have our characters interact with each other, but then it was a whole different thing when it was Mulan, and now he’s my boss,” said Tom Bancroft, who is three minutes older than Tony. “… I had enough on my plate with Mushu and the challenges of making him as good as I could that I didn’t question him too much. Because he was an animator too, he knew what I was up against also. In the end, it was a very favorable relationship. We would have our lunches, where we would go off and just be brothers.”

As a first-time director, Tony said overseeing a film was a welcome — and sometimes stressful — change of pace. He and colleague Cook earned an Annie, the animation world’s answer to the Oscar, for Mulan.

“As an animator, you’re very much like an actor on a live-action film,” Tony said. “You get very involved with your character. You try to understand the ins and outs of it. … But as a director, you get to see the big picture, no pun intended. You’re involved day to day with the larger elements of the overall story, character development, and you really catch every aspect of the feature.”

The Mulan experience was equally satisfying for Tom, who considers Mushu his favorite character to work on during his more than two-decades-long career. After perfecting hundred of versions of the spunky character, voiced by comedian Eddie Murphy, Tom was able to hone in on a creature that was an integral part of the film.

“Mushu is Eddie Murphy and me combined, which is an extremely odd combination. I couldn’t be more different than Eddie Murphy,” Tom said with a laugh. “… I evolved with [Mushu] as an artist and as an animator, and was able to bring so much to it. It was a great opportunity. He’s one of those characters that as an animator, you just hope you get to work on once in your career. It’s been a real blessing to do that.”

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment March 12 re-releases Mulan as a two-movie collection with Mulan II. It is available as a three-disc Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack ($39.99), with bonus material including deleted scenes, featurettes, music videos and a commentary. A two-DVD set is listed at $29.99.

The release marks the 15th anniversary of the 1998 film about a Chinese maiden who goes undercover in the army to save her father from death and becomes a great hero in the process.

A father of three daughters, Tony said the character of Mulan makes a great role model for girls.

“We really wanted to present a different kind of Disney heroine,” he said. “Up until that point, there was Belle and Jasmine, Cinderella and Snow White. [But they] were all dependent upon their prince charming coming to save them. ... For Mulan, she was different; she didn’t really change herself as much as she changed how society views — ancient China, in this case — a woman. It was a real privilege to be able to present this new kind of Disney heroine to the world. I think that’s what really resonated with a lot of audiences.”

Mulan was also positive for youngsters in that its theme urges viewers to be true to themselves, Tony said.

“It was very important for [Mulan] not to change or be affected by those around her, to really stand up for who she was,” he said. “What I want my kids to learn from it and other generations of kids to learn from it is they can be true to who they are — their faith, their beliefs, being true to their parents and family. That’s a big part of the Mulan story; I hope that’s the legacy of the film more than anything.”

Throughout the years, the Bancroft brothers have held on to their Christian faith, even facing criticism at times for their participation in animated films that were a perceived affront to their religious beliefs.

“For every film at Disney, it was all about trying to find the thing in the film that spoke to my faith. Sometimes there where conflicts. There were a lot of faith things in Pocahontas that I didn’t agree with,” said Tom, a father of four who animated the title character. “I don’t pray to the spirit of the trees, obviously. And I would get questioned at church even: ‘How can you work on a film that’s so different from your faith?’ To me, I wasn’t telling my faith. That’s not what the film’s about. I was accurately trying to portray part of the story [about] the Indian culture at that time.

“It would be unfair to leave some of that out, and it would be even worse to include anything of mine or somebody else’s faith when it wasn’t true,” he added. “[But] never taking my eyes off my faith or the gospel of Jesus Christ being a part of my life, and how I work with others was always, hopefully, goal No. 1 in my life.”

Although the siblings no longer draw for Disney films, they continue to animate and share their faith in the process. Tony founded Christian-based Toonacious Family Entertainment in 2002, while Tom is working on a project for the Christian Broadcasting Network that focuses on Bible stories.

“Part of the reason why I left Disney was I felt a real calling that God had given me a lot of opportunities at an early age, unexpectedly, and put me in a place where I had earned a lot of experience,” Tony said. “I felt had God had given me so many opportunities in my career that it was leading toward something, to do something a little more independent.”

Added Tom, “How we show God and Christ in our lives is more of what we say and do than what we draw, obviously. You can show Christ in your life in a creative way in what you leave out rather than what you put in. Sometimes, just making a film that doesn’t have violence and sex and things like that, and also making a family film can be an uplifting experience. … But my experience at Disney was more about what we left out that I could be proud of.”


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30 Nov, 2012

Introducing Faith Light Media

Indie distributor House Lights Media today unveiled its faith- and family-based division, Faith Light Media, which provides Christian and inspirational offerings.

Faith Light Media’s first title, Hidden Rage, released in July, is a gripping account of one high school student’s harrowing bout with bullying and depression. The drama won a Dove Foundation “Faith Based” award for its inspirational message (Read review here).

Up next from Faith Light Media is “Little Baby Disciples,” its second project that introduces Bible concepts to children in an interactive way. The Lord’s Prayer, the first DVD in the series, has earned a five-dove ranking by the Dove Foundation and will be available Feb. 26, 2013, at retail and online stores.

“With the launch of Faith Light Media, we are focused on introducing appropriate and inspirational content to the North American market so families can experience the innovation of independent filmmakers within this genre,” said Sandy Moore, Faith Light Media’s chief marketing officer.

“Faith Light Media’s primary focus is to distribute innovative projects that we have recognized for their strong faith and family messages, and serve a product category that we feel has long been underserved,” added Steve Roberts, CEO of Faith Light Media. “Faith Light Media is a natural extension of House Lights Media’s commitment to the innovative filmmaker.”

The company plans to use social media outlets to market and introduce their projects to the secular and non-secular market.


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30 Nov, 2012

I Risked Life and Limb for a $39 Blu-ray Player

The only willing recruit I could find to accompany me in my harebrained scheme was my fun-loving sister, Ayesha. I now see why other family members and friends scoffed at the idea of braving Walmart on Thanksgiving.

Nonetheless, my sister and I arrived at the Murrieta, Calif., Walmart at 8 p.m., just as the doors had opened, ready to see what Black Thursday had in store. I came for the $39 LG Blu-ray player and the $148 32-inch Emerson TV, both under the one-hour in-store guarantee from 10 to 11 p.m. My sister sought a vacuum cleaner and gifts for her son.

What ensued next runs the gamut of emotions: excitement, expectancy, impatience, frustration, fear.

After   asking   three   store  clerks where the line was for the Blu-ray players, we arrived smack dab in the middle of the store to find a pallet of the players stacked a few inches taller than my 5-foot-3 frame and about the length of a passenger van. There was no line, just people closely huddled around the stack, like a scene from a sitcom where the protagonists enter a radio contest and must keep their hands on a car the longest to win concert tickets.

Without hesitation I took my place at the least occupied corner of the pile. It was about 8:25 p.m. “Only an hour and a half to go — I can do this,” I thought, abandoning hope of locating the flat-screen TV.

By 9 p.m. my feet already were hurting, my mouth was dry, my body temperature had risen and I was having second thoughts. Ayesha had left to peruse other bargains throughout the store, while I began to make small talk with the other shoppers to pass the time.

That night, the social norms of personal space were out the window, as more and more people vying for a $39 Blu-ray player began to swarm the stack.

Ayesha returned about 20 minutes later with a vacuum cleaner, a telescope for my nephew and other miscellaneous items. I used the vacuum box as a seat, which helped me soldier on. I had gotten my second wind, and was in it to win it. After sending my sister to fetch me a $30 steam mop, she went to get a place in the massive line that wrapped the entire store.

By about 9:30 p.m., the other shoppers were beginning to crack, and the flow of store traffic was being disrupted by the spectacle that had become “The Great Blu-ray Player Wait.”

“Hey, Tony, can we just take the players now? I mean, by the time we get in line, it’ll be 10 o’clock any way,” one chatty shopper asked the store clerk sent to supervise the LG players. By now, they were on a first-name basis.

“No,” the stern Walmart employee responded. He wasn’t budging.

At this point, people had lost all sense of manners, and little scuffles were beginning to break out between shoppers who were being bumped by other customers trying to improve their position. At several points, customers asked Walmart employees if there was a more orderly method they could use (it seems there was an organized line for the other big-ticket doorbusters), but each time, the clerks said it was too late to change things up.

Then things got really real at 9:50 p.m.

Some punk ran off with a couple of Blu-players prematurely, causing a frenzy. At that moment, all bets were off. It was every man (woman) for himself (herself). So I grabbed two (one for my mother, one for myself), and attempted to bulldoze my way from the crowd like a running back on the gridiron. Elbows were flying. One caught me in my left arm, but I had to keep moving. I darted up to the checkout line to find my sister, with a look of terror in her eyes. She had only heard the melee from several yards back and was wondering where I was.

We then began to laugh, realizing the ridiculousness of it all. It was hard to believe that these were people who hours prior, perhaps, had discussed the many things they were thankful for over Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m grateful Ayesha and I made it out alive, albeit after midnight. Whereas my zany sister thinks we should make Black Thursday shopping a sisterly tradition, I think we should retire from the game early.

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12 Sep, 2012

Pass the Grace, Please

Whether you’d like to admit it, we’re all in need of forgiveness. The Grace Card from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment uses the story of two very different policemen to paint a poignant picture of that simple truth.

In the faith-based film, the well-respected Sam Wright (Michael Higgenbottom) gets promoted to a sergeant in the Memphis Police Department, much to the disappointment of fellow officer Bill “Mac” McDonald (Michael Joiner), who has been on the force longer.

Also fueling his animosity is an underlying race issue. Mac’s toddler son was killed some 17 years prior in the aftermath of a police chase involving an African-American drug dealer. It’s the impetus for Mac becoming a cop, but the tragic incident also has led to him having prejudice toward blacks. Sam, who also pastors a local church, is African-American, and tries to make the best out of their situation, when they are paired together for patrols.

Both Sam and Mac have struggles in their home lives, as the former is estranged from his father and the latter is at his wits’ end being the sole provider for the household (his wife suffered a workplace injury) and raising an unmotivated teen son, Blake (Rob Erickson), headed down the wrong path.

In a shocking turn of events, Mac, responding to a call with Sam, accidentally shoots his son as the boy attempts a robbery. This terrible mishap causes more strife between Mac and his wife, as their son’s life is jeopardized. Blake needs a kidney transplant immediately, and the chances of him finding one are slim.

What happens next is a testament to the power of God’s grace.

Sam knew that being partnered with Mac, an unbeliever who was contentious at every turn, was a test from God. While he could have easily just held a grudge against Mac for the way he previously treated him, Sam instead showed his colleague love and compassion, and then went an extra mile to give a kidney to Mac’s son. Basically, he showed grace.

After his surgery, Sam goes on to tell his congregation about the “Grace Card,” a heartfelt pledge that he passed along to Mac. It reads: "I promise to pray for you every day, ask your forgiveness, grant you the same and be your friend always." In turn, Mac offers the “Grace Card” to the most unexpected person who actually needs it the most.

Sam’s selflessness reminds me of what Paul says in Acts 20:24: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

The Grace Card ends with this great reminder from Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved …” The film — definitely a tear-jerker, in a good way — hit home in a manner that made me reflect on my own life and reaffirmed how much more compassionate we should be toward those around us. After all, people have shown such kindness to me when I didn’t deserve it. I think it’s a feeling to which we all can relate.

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31 Aug, 2012

‘Holy Roller’ Preaches Hope in Darkness

Angus Benfield said he set out to write a character that hit close to home while penning the screenplay for the uplifting drama The Holy Roller.

It turns out that the main character, Pastor Luke, is a lot like Benfield, an Australian actor-filmmaker who also is involved in ministry. In the film, which Image Entertainment releases Sept. 25 on DVD ($27.97), Benfield plays Luke, a genuine but out-of-touch small-town pastor.

When he relocates to the city, a shrewd club owner (Jeremy Brennan) convinces Luke to use the waning venue as a church. Luke quickly becomes a big-time televangelist, basking in the money and fame that come with his new platform. He also falls for a feisty singer (Victoria Abbott) who leads the congregation in worship songs. However, it’s only when Luke endures hardship that he truly learns what it means to exercise his faith.

“I developed this idea of, what would happen if a nightclub became a church?” Benfield said. “I thought it’d be a really cool idea to take this naïve, bumbling idiot and put him in this kind of world. I always thought it was interesting when you’re around people who are in the nightclub scene, and they find out that you’re a pastor, how they react is quite funny.”

Benfield, who preaches every now and then, said he could relate to Luke’s humble beginnings as the shepherd of a fledgling congregation.

“I was a youth pastor many years back,” he said. “I was part of a small church that was planted, and it was that whole process of trying to get it off the ground and hardly anyone turns up, and suddenly you have a lot of interesting characters that walk through the door. That wasn’t too much of a stretch for me.”

Pastor Luke reaches the masses with his simple, conversational lessons. For the bonus material for The Holy Roller, Benfield extracted some of those sermons from the film as a Discussion Guide designed for more in-depth bible study.

Other extras include a filmmakers’ commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an interview with Benfield and director Patrick Gillies.

“My main goal was to make a film that really anyone could watch,” Benfield said. “The spiritual message would be that God is in the gutter with everybody. He’s in these dark places and in nightclubs. There is always hope in those dark spots.”

That is especially true for those involved with the project, considering that the film itself was touched by tragedy. The Holly Roller has the distinction of being the last movie shot in Christchurch, New Zealand, before a major earthquake struck the city in February 2011. The disaster killed 185 people — including some of the film crew’s friends and extended family members — and decimated many structures.

“That probably resonates with a lot of people,” Benfield said. “We were down there doing post-production when it happened. A lot of the buildings we filmed aren’t there any more or are being brought down. It’s sort of an interesting timing thing as well.”

Benfield noted that the exact day the earthquake hit, he was visiting a theater that he hoped would host the film’s premiere. The Holly Roller screened in Christchurch as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival in September 2011.

“It was a bit of an eerie thing,” he said. “I think people have mixed feelings. Some people might have found it a bit sad. We had some people who couldn’t quite bring themselves to watch it, as it is when you go through something like that.”

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15 Aug, 2012

Cast of Typecasts

Screenwriters Keith Merryman and David A. Newman knew that adapting Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, into a good movie meant casting a dream team of actors who could do it justice.

Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco and Terrence J bring their respective strengths to their characters in Think Like a Man, which Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Aug. 28 on Blu-ray Disc ($35.99) and DVD ($30.99).

In Think Like a Man, four friends — “The Dreamer” (Ealy), “The Mama’s Boy” (Terrence J), “The Player” (Malco) and “The Non-committer” (Ferraro) — plot to turn the tables on their women when they discover the ladies have been using the book's relationship advice against them, creating a clever battle of the sexes.

“I knew I had the ingredients to make a classy, intelligent and really funny movie,” said director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four). “Once I sit down with all the actors and we make sure we’re telling the same story, then, I must admit, I get out of the way. There’s so many happy mistakes and so many things that happened that you just can’t direct.”

One might lump comedian and scene-stealer Hart into that “happy mistake” category, as he supplies many of the laughs in the romantic comedy as Cedric, “The Even Happier Divorced Guy.”

“The good thing about acting is making choices,” he said. “… For me, it’s choosing a tone and sticking with that tone, as long as that tone is realistic. You can be as funny as you want to be, but you want to be believable. You want people to believe that this guy could actually exist.”

“With this kind of all-star team, it’s like having Dwight Howard or Shaq back in the day,” Story added. “You got somebody that, when it comes to being funny, you can always throw him the ball and he’ll slam dunk it. … If you ever needed a jolt, you could just go to Kevin.”

This, of course, prompted a wealth of footage that now is available in the bonus material, which includes deleted scenes and a gag reel. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are “The Guy Code,” “Men vs. Women,” “He Said, She Said” and “Comedy Behind the Scenes” featurettes.

The male co-stars said they were relieved that Hart was cast because it meant that they just simply had to act, without the pressure of being “funny.”

“I would be a fool to try to out-funny Kevin Hart in a movie,” Malco said. “… You have to be pretty secure in your job to even get to a point of working in this caliber of talent.”

For cast members like Union, Ealy and Henson, the film presented the opportunity to step out and portray stark contrasts to their typical roles.

“I normally play the girl who’s got it all figured out, and somehow can’t find a man from the right side of the tracks,” said Union, who stars as Kristen. “This is a whole different experience that so many of may friends [and I] have experienced … having different wants and needs and timetables than the person that you’re with. That was the thing that appealed to me the most, and just being able to do something different and explore different paths of relationships we don’t touch upon.”

Ealy, who has starred in some intense roles, this time around plays Dominic, the sensitive, financially challenged, top chef in the making.

“He has to be vulnerable; he has to be a good friend,” he said. “But more importantly, in terms of the path I try to drive this character, as far as the relationship is concerned, it was all about finding your muse and then being inspired by that muse, then through the pain of losing that muse, you find self-motivation.”

Take the Ensemble's Advice

Throughout the film, the characters give each other dating advice — some better than others. Cast members were kind enough to give their two cents on various aspects of relationships. Here’s what they had to say:

Ferrara on picking the right mate: “What I’ve learned as I get a little bit older is people always say what they want, what they’re looking for, and I think that’s the wrong approach because that’s always going to change. What you want now is going to be different from what you want in five years. What I’ve learned from past experiences is what you don’t want. That’s something that’s not going to change.”

Hall on dating a mama’s boy: “Don’t compete. Love their mama, too, and then she’ll actually be on your side more. You can’t win.”

Terrence J on the best way to end a fight when you’re wrong: “As a man, you have to be the man, and you have to assume responsibility for your actions. That’s why this movie is so important is because it will hold a mirror up to everybody.”

Hall on the best way to end a fight when you’re wrong: “[Say] ‘I’m sorry’ – a nice, genuine apology and a meal. Men like food. Men don’t need anything grand, but a meal and affection and quiet time.”

Ferrara on couples moving in together: “Just be ready for the fact that this could end the relationship. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea. I think it’s a good idea because if this is someone that you end up with, you’re going to live together at some point. … It can go either way. Stuff will change. It’s a risk.”

Union on couples moving in together: “I wouldn’t recommend it for college students. I think it’s important to have your own space and know what it’s like to be on your own, like truly on your own: financially independent, emotionally independent, before you join up. By a certain age it’s none of that “you complete me” s***. [laughs] You have to know we are two wholly formed individuals moving forward together. I need to know, do you clean the toilet? What’s your taste like? I need to know if you have an affinity for black lacquer furniture. These things you’ll never know until you share space. I think it has to come with age and maturity, and two truly independent people joining together. If one person is having to be carried, then it’s a bad situation to live with somebody because, do I get to claim you on my taxes? Because you’re a child. You’re a dependent. [laughs]”

Ealy on whether a woman should “think like a man”: “I think women should try to understand how men think, but I don’t know if we think the same way. You know what I mean? Kevin [Hart] will view life differently, and Romany [Malco] will view life differently. I think you’ve got to take every scenario as it is. And I don’t know if every man can speak on behalf of me. There are some generalities that I think are accurate, and, yes, I think there are some things that women will learn from this movie like I personally learned a couple of things from ‘Sex and the City.’ That’s kind of what we’re putting out there. Some information on how we kind of process things, and how we run decisions … through each other. You don’t always come up with stuff on your own; we go to our boys, our crew and are like, ‘So listen. This is what I’m going through. What do you think?,’ and get all kinds of bad advice. [laughs]”


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8 Aug, 2012

Phylicia Rashad Exudes Grace and Power in ‘Good Deeds’

One of the actresses I’ve always admired is Phylicia Rashad, who became my “TV mom” when she starred as the feisty, clever matriarch Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” The way she commands an audience and brings such truth to the characters she portrays makes her stand out, to me, as one of the greats.

These qualities are displayed yet again as she stars in Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, currently out on disc from Lionsgate. If memory serves, this is Rashad’s second time starring in a Perry film (see 2010’s For Colored Girls).

In the dramedy, Rashad plays Wilimena Deeds, the widowed mother of Wesley Deeds (Perry), the poised but predictable heir of the family business, and his hot-headed younger brother, Walter (played convincingly by Brian White).

I saw the film in theaters earlier this year but recently revisited the film on DVD and was blown away once more by the depth that Rashad brings to her character. While Rashad’s role is supporting, she is very memorable as the strong backbone of the family who has it all together — at least from the outside looking in. When the threads begin to unravel, Wilimena doesn’t hesitate to tell her sons how she really feels in a way that makes you simultaneously empathize with and detest her.

In Good Deeds, we find Wesley trying to keep the family business afloat while enduring jealousy from Walter and pressures from his mother to marry Natalie (Gabrielle Union), his fiancée with an equally impressive pedigree. Wesley’s penchant for prioritizing others’ wishes for his life is tossed aside once he haphazardly befriends Lindsey Wakefield (played by the ever-beautiful Thandie Newton), the downtrodden janitor of Deeds’ building. She and her daughter are newly homeless. Lindsey’s husband died while fighting in Iraq, leaving her to fend for herself.

Lindsey’s brutal honesty is refreshing to Wesley, and their relationship leads the prim-and-proper businessman to live dangerously for once. When Wilimena learns of their new boundary-pushing friendship, she is quick to put the two of them in their place. You get the sense that Wilimena wanting the best for Wesley stems from a difficult past from which she and her husband worked tirelessly to rise above.

I’m glad the filmmakers opted to dig a little deeper into Rashad’s character in the “Motherly Love” featurette included in the DVD special features. Co-star Newton, who plays dogged single mother Lindsey, summed it up perfectly: Rashad is the epitome of grace and power.

The scenes involving Rashad, Perry and White prove the most compelling as you begin to discern that there are so many things left unsaid and so many pieces to a murky backstory that are untold. Perry reveals in the featurette that the three actors played their roles as if there was a family secret buried under the surface, which raises the level of intensity of that family dynamic and makes Good Deeds all the more interesting.

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25 Jun, 2012

Urban Product Guide Roundup: 'Suddenly Single,' 'Think Like a Man' and More

ENTERTAINMENT ONE July 17 sends out Bill Bellamy: Crazy, Sexy, Dirty (DVD $14.98), an hour-long stand-up special featuring the comedian engaging the audience on such topics as sex chat rooms, Jay-Z and Beyonce, and more. Due Aug. 28 is Redemption of a Dog (DVD $14.98), with Tony Rock, Lynn Whitfield, Tamera Mowry, Melyssa Ford and Faun A. Chambers. Out Sept. 18 is stand-up special Katt Williams: Kattpacalypse (DVD $1998).

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT July 3 releases The American Dream (DVD $14.98), in which two best friends enlist in the Marines for a brighter future than what their home offers. Arriving Sept. 4 (prebook Aug. 7) is Suddenly Single (DVD $14.98), a stage play from prolific playwright David E. Talbert and starring Garcelle Beauvais (“The Jamie Foxx Show”) and Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”), in which a woman has to face being single after 17 years of marriage.

LIONSGATE June 26 introduces Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns: Season 6 (three-DVD set $29.98), in which David Mann (Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family) — the 2011 NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series — stars as Mr. Brown, a lovable patriarch just trying to make good on a misguided promise to his late father. Also due June 26 is C’Mon Man (DVD $26.98), with deleted scenes and outtakes. It stars top comedians Tony Rock (“Everybody Hates Chris”), Rodney Perry (Madea’s Big Happy Family) and Faune Chambers Watkins (White Chicks).

PHASE 4 FILMS July 24 smokes out Budz House (DVD $29.99), with cast interviews from stars Wesley Jonathan, and comedians Luenell and Faizon Love; a “Backstage at Budz House Comedy Special” sneak peek with comedians Kevin Hart, Chris Spencer, Love and others; music videos; and a trailer.

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT Aug. 28 (prebook July 26) offers Think Like a Man (DVD $30.99, BD $35.99), in which four friends conspire against their women when they discover they have been using Steve Harvey’s relationship advice — found in his bestselling self-help book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man — against them. It stars Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Jerry Ferrara, Gabrielle Union, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Terrence J, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Jenifer Lewis, La La Anthony and Chris Brown. Bonus material includes deleted scenes and a gag reel, with four featurettes exclusive to the Blu-ray.

— Maribel Castañeda contributed to this report

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1 Jun, 2012

Ziggy Speaks Fondly of His Famous Father in ‘Marley’

Much has been written and filmed about reggae legend Bob Marley, a striking, vibrant man who influenced the world with his revolutionary yet unifying music and message. Many of those prior works, however, were completed without involvement from Marley’s family.

Marley, due Aug. 7 (order date July 10) on Blu-ray ($29.98) and DVD ($26.98) from Magnolia Pictures, is the definitive documentary on the Jamaican musician, with interviews from his first-born son David “Ziggy” Marley, eldest daughter Cedella Marley and wife Rita Marley, among others who were closest to him.

“Throughout the years there have been a lot of things done about my father, and I’ve never been involved with any of them,” said Ziggy Marley, also an executive producer on the film. “To honor my father, being an integral part of this, I think he would appreciate that from me, as his first son. I wanted to honor him in that way, too.”

From time to time, Ziggy would hear about new projects focusing on his famous father. But those works are insignificant, he said, if they don’t involve the people who truly knew Marley, beyond what they’ve seen in archival footage, read in the press or heard on his albums.

“The only thing that mattered is that the thing that I’m involved with is the definitive thing,” Ziggy said. “I never looked at those things. … What do these people know about my father that I don’t know? … When I see somebody writing a book or making a film, who thought they know my father, but not really, I don’t give it any credit.”

Marley details the life of the icon, from his humble beginnings as a biracial child in a rural community in St. Ann, Jamaica, to his superstar status across the globe, to his death at the age of 36, caused by complications from melanoma.

It’s the in-betweens that matter most to the family members Marley left behind. Lessons learned while growing up surrounded by the Rastafarian culture, in which Marley was so richly involved, are the tenderest reminders of his dad, Ziggy said.

“We learn unity; we learn spirituality; we learn discipline; we learn about living natural; we learn about music,” he said. “All of these things were not only taught by my father, but taught by the culture that we grew up in. ... My father’s life teaches us about revolutionaries, really — having a desire to change or impact the society that we live in, to make it better for the oppressed people of whatever community we’re living in.”

Having been one of the kids who spent the most time with his father (he reportedly begot 11 children with many women), Ziggy said the things he learned about Marley’s adolescence during the making of the documentary came as a surprise to him.

“What I didn’t know about his color, his being mixed,” he said. “I didn’t know he got kind of ridiculed in his early years because of that in Kingston, and probably teased, as [his stepbrother] Bunny [Wailer] said, worse than teased. It was like, really? I was kind of angry at that.”

Robert Nesta Marley was so much more than his hit songs, a champion of the Rastafarian movement and a diamond from the rough streets of Trench Town. Ziggy hopes that in viewing Marley, people will see the emotional connection he shared with those whom knew him best.

“It’s much different when you … know somebody’s real-life story and what they’ve been through, not just through music or on stage, through their experiences in life,” Ziggy said. “[People] will see something different than what they’ve already seen about Bob, and just bring them close to him as somebody who’s a part of the human experience.”

Bonus material featured in Marley includes a commentary with Ziggy and director Kevin Macdonald; “Around the World,” a featurette with people speaking about Marley’s influence; an extended interview with Bunny Wailer; a “Children’s Memories” featurette with siblings Ziggy, Stephen and Cedella; “Listening to ‘I’m Loose,’” which showcases interviewees discussing their reactions to the song; a photo gallery; and a theatrical trailer.

“It was pretty cool doing the commentary on my side,” Ziggy said. “I spoke freely — the DVD’s going to be very interesting. I think probably even more interesting than the theatrical release. … It’s a pretty free commentary style. I’m pretty real, too.”

Perhaps a little too real, as Ziggy, when asked if the commentary afforded him the opportunity to articulate things he never had the chance to, responded, “Definitely. Some things I might regret, actually.”

Making sure Marley’s legacy lives on is something that comes naturally to Ziggy, who recognizes that his father made a lasting impression on people around the globe.

“I feel he is worth all the adoration, people adoring him and all of this,” he said. “... It’s legitimate because what he has done and what he means is real. I feel good about it. He’s worth that sort of respect and love that he gets.”

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