I've seen a lot of bad pilots in my life, many of which never made it to air. It's also widely known that pilots are generally tough. It takes time to find the right rhythm, and only a keen eye can spot its potential. So when I see a strong pilot, I'm stunned. Such is the case with The Sinner, starring Jessica Biel. The series is also executive produced by Biel, and this is her first regular role on a television series since 7th Heaven. Biel's producing partner, Michelle Purple, also serves as an executive producer, and this was done through their company Iron Ocean Films.
Episode one makes it very clear that we're in for a ride. Biel plays a young mother named Cora who commits an unspeakable act of violence in public while sitting on the beach with her family. There's no explanation for her behavior, and Cora insists that there's simply no motivation behind her act. But Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) thinks differently.
In just one episode I can safely say this is Biel's finest role. Were it not for the trailer, you'd be shocked by her act, while also being able to watch it again and spot the signs that something about her behavior is slightly awry. This requires a great amount of nuance and intrigue, and she plays it perfectly. And I'm not the only one who thought so. The series drew 3.5 million viewers making it the summer’s top cable drama series debut.
Tune in to the anthology drama on Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA Network
It's no secret that Angelina Jolie has suffered from a serious amount of bad press as of late. For starters, her private "pain" surrounding her divorce from Brad Pitt was made public time and time again, with Jolie's team inserting well-placed press leaks that implied he got physical with his child while on a drunken rant aboard a private plane. Though these details might hold true, any and all leaks only serve to hurt their children. The benefit, of course, is that Jolie's reputation remains intact. Many people who subsequently bad-mouthed the actress, such as Melissa Etheridge and Perez Hilton, reportedly received letters from Jolie's lawyer. Etheridge, who was a personal friend to Pitt's prior to his Jolie marriage, divulged that Jolie was horrible to Laura Dern, who was in a relationship with Billy Bob Thornton when Jolie took up with him. In Dern's own words, "I left our home to work on a movie, and while I was away, my boyfriend got married, and I’ve never heard from him again.” Etheridge said, "I helped Laura move out of her house with Billy Bob — I like broke into their home to get their stuff out because it was so nasty." And even if you don't believe these details to be true, there's one thing we know for sure. Angelina Jolie was one half of a highly insensitive duo that publicly declared their love at the expense of Jennifer Aniston, who was married to Pitt. There's no need to replay that old tune, but there's no excuse for saying you fell in love on a movie set, when the man you fell in love with was married at that time. Keep that to yourself. Furthermore, posing in a W Magazine spread as a faux family on the heels of his marriage ending, is also highly insensitive. Summation? Any and all stories about Angelina Jolie having questionable character are NOT hard for me to believe. Now for the good stuff…
During a recent interview with Vanity Fair which was meant to inspire some compassion for Jolie while promoting her latest film, she described an extremely disturbing audition process. Here's the original excerpt:
In order to find their lead, to play young Loung Ung, the casting directors set up a game, rather disturbing in its realism: they put money on the table and asked the child to think of something she needed the money for, and then to snatch it away. The director would pretend to catch the child, and the child would have to come up with a lie. “Srey Moch [the girl ultimately chosen for the part] was the only child that stared at the money for a very, very long time,” Jolie says. “When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back.” Jolie then tears up. “When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.”
Social media rightfully erupted at playing mind games with a young child, and Jolie's team issued a swift response, saying:
Every measure was taken to ensure the safety, comfort and well-being of the children on the film starting from the auditions through production to the present. Parents, guardians, partner NGOs whose job it is to care for children, and medical doctors were always on hand everyday, to ensure everyone had all they needed. And above all to make sure that no one was in any way hurt by participating in the recreation of such a painful part of their country’s history.
I am upset that a pretend exercise in an improvisation, from an actual scene in the film, has been written about as if it was a real scenario. The suggestion that real money was taken from a child during an audition is false and upsetting. I would be outraged myself if this had happened.
The point of this film is to bring attention to the horrors children face in war, and to help fight to protect them.
Producer Rithy Panh said:
The children were not tricked or entrapped, as some have suggested. They understood very well that this was acting, and make believe. What made Srey Moch, who was chosen for the lead role of Loung Ung, so special was that she said that she would want the money not for herself, but for her grandfather.
When I first read Angelina Jolie's response, I immediately put on my lawyer hat. For starters, Jolie did not specifically say that the children KNEW it was an acting exercise. Though she insisted that their welfare was protected, if the game was in fact executed as it was described, then it's very disturbing. If Panh; however, is correct in that they knew it was acting, then fine. But Vanity Fair stood by it's story today and published the original transcript. Here it is:
We just went in and–you just go in and do some auditions with the kids. And it’s not really an audition with children. We had this game where it would be–and I wasn’t there and they didn’t know what they were really doing. They kind of said, “Oh, a camera’s coming up and we want to play a game with you.” And the game for that character was “We’re going to put some money on the table. Think of something that you need that money for.” Sometimes it was money, sometimes it was a cookie. [Laughter] “And then take it.” And then we would catch them. “We’re going to catch you, and we’d like you to try to lie that you didn’t have it.”
So it was very interesting seeing the kids and how they would–some were very conscious of the camera. They were actually–there are so many talented kids in this country. But Srey Moch was the only child that stared at that money for a very, very long time before she picked it up, and then bravely, brazenly lying, like was trying to hide, but then she also kind of–
And then when she was forced to give it back became very kind of like strong, emotional, she became overwhelmed with emotion that she was–and she just–all of these different things flooded out. And I don’t think she or her family would mind me saying when she was later asked what that money was for, she said her grandfather died and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.
There are a lot of important things to note from reading the transcript. First, based on that text, neither the producer nor Angelina Jolie can say with certainty that the children understood that they were in the land of pretend. In fact, when the child said she would use the money for her grandfather's funeral, we can lean more in the direction of her NOT understanding. Sure she might have said what she "pretend" thought of, but we can't be positive. Second, if Angelina Jolie was not present during this process, then she can't vouch for it. All she has is hearsay, as do we.
Vanity Fair received a letter from Jolie's lawyer, asking the magazine to essentially say they made a mistake. They reviewed the transcript, taped on two devices, and stand by their story. There's a lesson to be learned here, and it starts with camp Jolie. There's only so much you can do to protect your star, and sending out letters with unreasonable demands isn't one of them. Maybe she should question the casting process rather than defending it.
My history with Matchbox Twenty dates back to their inception. They’re an Orlando-based band that sent tongues wagging in their hometown prior to their massive success. If you’re from Florida like me and ran in certain circles, you’d likely now brag about finding them first. To be fair, my brother found them first and I went along for the ride, but that’s neither here nor there.
The group currently consists of Rob Thomas (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Kyle Cook (lead guitar, backing vocals), Brian Yale (bass), and Paul Doucette (rhythm guitar, drums, backing vocals). They began as Tabitha’s secret, which included Matchbox Twenty members Rob Thomas, Brian Yale, and Paul Doucette (who replaced Chris Smith) in addition to Jay Stanley and bassist John Goff. Creative and personal conflicts caused the end of Tabitha’s Secret and the subsequent ousting of Stanley and Goff, who later filed suit. They were replaced with Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor, and Matchbox Twenty emerged. It’s been said that Goff and Stanley did not want to sign a deal with the production company of Atlantic Records rep Matt Serletic. But shortly after Matchbox Twenty and Serletic joined forces, the band had a seven-year deal with Atlantic Records. Their debut studio album, ‘Yourself or Someone Like You’ put them on the map.
Kyle Cook had previously exited Matchbox Twenty last year, saying there was a “deterioration of communication, disagreements on when, where and how we tour and a general break down of democracy within the group.” Cook reunited with his band-mates for the 2017 “A Brief History of Everything Tour”, and though it’s unclear why he finally came around, his other band, Rivers and Rust, served as the opening act. As for rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor, he left the band in 2005, saying “I will no longer be a member of the band. I know most of you were confused if not slightly angered by this news. I wish there was some bright rainbow of an answer here … but there is not.” At the time, a “source” told Billboard “The band has decided not to renew his services.”
Rob Thomas previously teamed with Counting Crows for a very successful 2016 summer co-headline tour. It’s no secret that Thomas can fly solo, and I was fortunate enough to see his tour at The Greek with Counting Crows. He was excellent. In fact, I attended that show to cover Counting Crows, and I was delightfully pleased with the bonus of Thomas. That being said, now that I’ve seen him with his band-mates at The Forum, the magic is greatly multiplied. There’s something about performing with the guys he grew up with that takes Thomas up a notch. He’s got this earnest energy that makes you feel as if you’re seeing a band about to make it big, yet they’re so polished and professional, they can carry an arena with ease. I’ve seen a lot of our greatest artists perform without the band with which they got their break, and it’s simply never the same. I’ve seen Crosby without Stills, Nash and Young, Jennifer Nettles without Kristian Bush (Sugarland), and Jon Bon Jovi without Richie Sambora. It can be done, but should it? In fact, I’m a firm believer that discontent can fuel creativity, and though I know nothing of Thomas’ band dynamics, what I know is this — seeing Matchbox Twenty live is a true privilege.
Sit down, white boys. The Flossy Posse has arrived, and your members-only club is tired. Girls Trip is the answer to high-concept comedies that can’t survive the script (see Bad Moms). The film stars self-help author Ryan (Regina Hall), gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), single mother Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and hilariously loose-lipped Dina (standout star Tiffany Haddish). Time has forced them apart, but when Ryan gets invited to New Orleans on business, she brings the group together for a much-needed reunion.
It goes without saying that a female-led cast is already a coup. It also goes without saying that an all black cast is an even-more-welcome addition to the Cinemasphere. In a previous, scathing review of Bad Moms, I made it clear that the content was obviously written by white men, and the escapades therefore represented the antics of some Brentwood b*tches that had far too much time on their hands. THIS is not THAT. In a scene that can nearly sum up this message, Sasha visits the French Quarter, where she sees some drunk men on a makeshift zip-line and says, “That’s some white-boy sh*t right there.” Elizabeth Davelli (Kate Walsh) delightfully adds to this idea as Ryan’s white agent whose uncomfortable use of slang made me rethink writing #Slay on Instagram.
Girls Trip was written by Kenya Barris (black-ish) and Tracy Oliver (The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl) and directed by Malcolm D. Lee (The Best Man films). This is important. First, it’s important to diversify the brains behind this business, because without that diversity, we won’t get to see fresh, original art. Sure we’ve seen drunken antics a million times, but have we seen Tiffany Haddish deliver delicious profanity about the hidden usages of a grapefruit (you’ll have to see the film)? These women know how to execute an exceptional script. And most importantly, they know how to adequately represent the heart of the film minus the pretty little bow. It didn’t just hit the mark, it kicked the door open.
There you have it folks! Your very own power trio! Listen to “Little Lies” below.
Excited about Jay-Z’s new album, I listened to it in its entirety, and without outside influence of any kind. I was immediately struck by a lyric on “The Story of O.J.,” which says, “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.” I listened again and again, in hopes that the context would in some way call-out the anti-Semitic stereotype, and I quickly discovered that was not the case. Soon, I turned to google, where I found a ridiculous defense by famed Israeli-American music manager Guy Oseary, in which he claims Jay’s lyrics are actually a compliment.
First, shame on Guy Oseary. To use what I can only assume is a personal friendship to cloud his judgment is gross. Claims like these are never a compliment, and though he acknowledges that the “‘rich jew’ the ‘business jew’ the ‘jew that owns the world’ is a stereotype which has been repeatedly used with the wrong sentiment,” somehow Jay gets a pass here because Mr. Oseary read it in context. I too read the context, and that context is indeed anti-Semitic. I am perfectly capable of understanding the implication here, and I’m no sycophant whose entire paycheck is fueled by the music industry’s power players.
The anti-Semitic notion that Jews own the world and that our success is to the detriment of others, is not only offensive, it’s extremely dangerous. These conspiracies such as the world domination by Jews, are the same claims that once fueled Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, who felt it their purpose to stop us from such a takeover. It’s a heated declaration with dire consequences, and it should not be taken lightly — or as a compliment.
Finally, is it possible Jay-Z had pure intentions, and he wrongly used this lyric as an expression of admiration? To put it simply, it doesn’t matter. If Bill Maher doesn’t get a pass from the black community for wrongly using the horrific term “house nig***” in a terrible attempt at a joke, then Jay-Z doesn’t get a pass from the Jewish community for perpetuating this disgusting stereotype. He should know better.
I pride myself on having a musical ear, and that bold declaration is backed up by having found The Lumineers long before anyone else. I’m not often impressed, but when I am, I’m fiercely loyal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to make it, or whether you’ve made it at all. I will insist it’s because the music industry is blind, and it can’t possibly be for lack of talent. Why? Because I said so, and I know what I know. One such artist is Jades Goudreault who I found many years ago during one of my internet deep dives. I immediately reached out and was shocked that she had yet to be discovered.
On the other end of that conversation was a sweet teenager who traded my enthusiasm for kind compliments, humility, and a clear ambition. Five years later, she’s at it again, and this time with an original tune called “Bow Down” and I’m happy to report that I love it.
Jades was born in Montreal to a single mother and French is her first language. She moved from Montreal to Florida at age four, where she quickly figured out her desire to perform. It’s also no surprise that she was voted nicest person in high school because our email exchanges make me yearn to root for her. Despite spending a few years in Los Angeles honing her skills, she now lives in Florida where she performs at local festivals and special events. She began gaining attention after Radio One Lebanon posted a mashup she did with Jake Donaldson, and it quickly rose to 1 million views. Jades is currently recording her first EP, and her single, “Bow Down” is available on Spotify, iTunes, and more. I’m told the song is now in the top ten most downloaded tracks of the week in Canada. Listen to her single below.
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