Review: ‘Body Cam,’ starring Mary J. Blige, Nat Wolff, David Zayas and Anika Noni Rose

May 20, 2020

by Carla Hay

Mary J. Blige in “Body Cam” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

“Body Cam”

Directed by Malik Vitthal

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional city of Swinton, Louisiana, the horror film “Body Cam” has a racially diverse cast (African American, white, Latino and Asian) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A veteran cop goes rogue in investigating a series of mysterious and bloody murders that have been recorded on surveillance videos.

Culture Audience: “Body Cam” will appeal primarily to Mary J. Blige fans and to people who like formulaic and predictable horror movies.

Nat Wolff in “Body Cam” (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

Grammy-winning singer Mary J. Blige was nominated for two Oscars for the 2017 Netflix drama “Mudbound” (Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song), so it’s a shame that her next role in a live-action film turned out to be such an embarrassing dud.

After “Mudbound,” Blige had voice roles in the animated films “Sherlock Gnomes” (2018) and “Trolls World Tour” (2020), with both roles as supporting characters. In the live-action “Body Cam,” Blige is front and center as the main character— a troubled cop named Renée Lomito-Smith, who lives and works in the fictional city of Swinton, Louisiana. The movie is Blige’s first time getting top billing in a major motion picture—”Body Cam” is from the ViacomCBS-owned companies Paramount Pictures and BET Films—and it’s an unfortunate career misstep for her as an actress, due to her wooden acting in the film and the movie’s silly plot.

The only saving grace is that “Body Cam” has little chance of being seen by a large audience, so there probably won’t be permanent damage to Blige’s efforts to be taken seriously as an actress. Paramount Pictures apparently has so little faith in this movie that the studio didn’t even release a trailer for the film until the week before “Body Cam” was dumped as a direct-to-video release.

The beginning of “Body Cam” (which has almost every scene taking place at night) shows Swinton as a city in racial turmoil over police brutality. The opening scene takes place in a local diner, where a TV news report shows that a white cop from the Swinton Police Department has been acquitted in a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man. As the news report is shown on TV, a black cop named Kevin Ganning (played by Ian Casselberry) enters the diner, but he is told by the older black gentleman who serves him a cup of coffee that he’s not welcome in the diner.

After Kevin leaves the diner during this rainy night, he’s alone on patrol duty when he encounters a green Chevy van in a routine traffic stop. He looks inside the vehicle and sees something bloody in the back. He then orders the driver to step outside. A black woman in her 30s, wearing a hooded jacket, steps out with her arms raised. And then, a mysterious forces swoops Kevin up in the air.

The movie’s story then shifts to 12 hours earlier, when Blige’s Renée character is seen in a meeting with an internal affairs psychiatrist named Dr. Lee (played by Han Soto), who interrogates her about her mental health, by asking if she has insomnia or troubling thoughts. “Have you moved on from your son’s death?” he asks.

As viewers learn, Renée has been grieving over the death of her pre-teen son Christopher (played by Jibrail Nantambu in flashback scenes), who passed away from an accidental drowning in a neighbor’s swimming pool. Although her husband Gary (played by Demetrius Grosse) is grieving too—Christopher was their only child—and Gary is very supportive of Renée, her emotional turmoil has apparently affected her job performance.

Renée is under investigation because she slapped a civilian during an argument with the civilian—an incident that was captured on her body cam, but not shown in the movie. The meeting is to determine if she will be suspended or be able to continue working in the department. Ultimately, Renée (who was on administrative leave during the investigation) gets to keep her job.

When she returns to the police department, Renée is put on the night shift and welcomed warmly by her colleagues. They include Sergeant Kesper (played by David Zayas) and patrol-duty fellow police officers Kevin Ganning, Darlo Penda (played by David Warshofsky), Gabe Roberts (played by Philip Fornah) and Mariah Birke (played by Naima Ramos-Chapman). Renée also finds out that she’s been paired with a rookie cop named Danny Holledge (played by Nat Wolff), who previously worked with Ganning.

The police staff meetings led by Sergeant Kesper show that there is a culture of strong solidarity that’s expected of the cops. Kesper expresses that the recent acquittal of their fellow cop colleague was the right decision. He also warns his subordinates that the controversial shootings have caused a lot of anger toward cops, so extra care must be taken in dealing with the public.

Meanwhile, Renée’s colleagues tease her about having to be stuck with a rookie. She isn’t thrilled about having to train a newcomer, but she brushes off the good-natured ribbing and does her best to work with Danny, who is a “by the book” type of of cop and eager to impress his more experienced co-workers.

It isn’t long for Renée and Danny to find out that they have very different styles of working. Renée is more of the “take charge” type, while Danny is more of a passive observer who follows the lead of someone who has authority over him. While out on patrol, they encounter a black boy who’s about 5 years old sitting alone in the middle of the street. As Renée approaches the boy with concern, his mother bursts out of a nearby house and shouts at Renée not to touch her son.

A small group of angry neighbors suddenly appear, and they’re hostile to Renée and Danny. Because they are cops, they’re clearly not wanted in the neighborhood. Renée quickly diffuses the situation by reassuring the crowd that she was only trying to help the boy because he wasn’t being supervised by an adult. As they leave the area, Danny tells Renée that he respects how she handled the incident.

Renée and Danny then arrive at an apparent crime scene: Officer Ganning’s squad car has been apparently abandoned, with the cop nowhere in sight. The green Chevy van shown earlier is near the squad car and also appears to be abandoned. The van has no license plates. And soon, Renée and Danny find a lot of blood near the car and bloody teeth on the hood of the car.

When Renée looks at the surveillance footage from the dashboard camera, and she sees how Officer Ganning encountered the mystery woman and then appeared to be abducted and lifted up in the sky by a mysterious and shadowy force. He was then brutally thrown on the ground. While the injured and bloodied cop is crawling on the ground, he is scooped up again and lets out a horrified scream.

While she’s still absorbing what she just saw, Renée tells the investigating cop Detective Susan Hayes (played by Laura Grice) that Office Ganning was probably murdered. But when Detective Hayes looks at the surveillance video, she tells Renée that the video was apparently erased because the footage doesn’t exist.

Upon further investigation, it’s confirmed that Office Ganning was murdered, when his mangled body is found impaled like a scarecrow on a steel link fence. In shock, Renée and Danny commiserate with each other at a local diner, where she opens up to him about the incident that put her on a leave of absence. She admits that she “lost it” with the civilian because he called her a “black bitch.”

She also tells Danny about her son Christopher and how he died. “I can’t let another person close to me die without doing something,” Renée tells Danny. And so, the rest of the movie is about Renée’s attempt to solve the mystery of her colleague’s murder and other similar murders that happen throughout the story.

Through surveillance footage, Renée was able to find out that the mystery woman in the van is a registered nurse named Taneesha Branz (played by Anika Noni Rose), who used to work at Winton Hospital but has mysteriously disappeared. And by doing an Internet search, Renée finds out that Taneesha had a 14-year-old son named DeMarco (played by Mason Mackie) who died of foul play, since he was found shot in an abandoned industrial area.

Unfortunately, this shoddily written screenplay from Nicholas McCarthy and Richmond Riedel has Renée breaking all kinds of laws to get to the bottom of the mystery herself. She steals evidence from crime scenes, and she breaks into Taneesha’s abandoned home multiple times. Danny uncomfortably witnesses some of these law violations (he’s with Renée the first time that she breaks into Taneesha’s empty house), and he voices his objections, but Renée essentially ignores him and does what she wants anyway as she tries to solve the case all on her own.

Part of her “going rogue” also includes a laughable scene where she convinces a morgue attendant to leave her alone in a roomful of bodies so that she can find the thumbprint that she needs to unlock a cell phone that she stole. This takes place after the “killer on the loose” strikes again by massacring several people in a rampage at a convenience store.

Danny and Renée, who are apparently the only cops in Swinton who get called to murder scenes, are the first police officers to arrive after this mass murder spree. And, of course, Renée goes straight to the store’s security video to see what happened, since the ongoing theme in the movie is that Renée (and the viewers) are putting the pieces of the puzzle together through video surveillance footage.

The lackluster direction of Malik Vitthal and the moronic screenplay are mainly to blame for this dreary and unimaginative movie. The pacing in “Body Cam” is sometimes too slow for a story that’s supposed to be a suspenseful thriller/horror movie. The expected bloody gore (which isn’t very creative) takes place in numerous scenes, but the movie lacks character development in its paint-by-numbers storytelling that’s derivative of so many below-average movies in the horror genre.

And some viewers might be very annoyed that because almost everything in the movie happens at night, the entire color palette of the film is very dark and often very murky, even in the interior scenes. “Body Cam” cinematographer Pedro Luque lights a lot of scenes as if almost every location in Swinton is grimy and polluted. The movie was actually filmed in the vibrant city of New Orleans, but you wouldn’t know it from how the cinematography makes this movie’s city look like a depressing urban wasteland.

Blige often delivers her lines in a monotone voice and stiff demeanor that might be her attempt to portray Renée as someone who is numb with grief, but it comes across as simply dull and dreadful acting. The other actors in the film do an adequate job with their underwritten characters that have very forgettable dialogue. And in the case of Rose, who plays a mostly mute Taneesha, there’s hardly any dialogue to be said. Blige is the one who’s supposed to carry the film as the main character, and it appears that she’s not quite ready for this type of heavy lifting. Blige’s original song “Can’t Be Life” is tacked on to the film’s end credits, but even that tune is forgettable and certainly won’t be nominated for any awards.

The ending of “Body Cam” is very easy to predict, even down to the climactic scene that takes place in a dark and abandoned building where no self-respecting cop would go without backup. Unlike the surveillance video in the movie, “Body Cam” can’t be deleted or erased from Blige’s list of acting credits, but she probably wants to forget that she made this substandard film.

Paramount Pictures released “Body Cam” on digital on May 19, 2020. The movie’s VOD release date is June 2, 2020.

Review: ‘Trolls World Tour,’ featuring the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Rachel Bloom, Sam Rockwell, Anderson .Paak, James Corden and Kelly Clarkson

April 12, 2020

by Carla Hay

Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) in “Trolls World Tour” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)

“Trolls World Tour”

Directed by Walt Dohrn and David P.  Smith

Culture Representation: This animated film sequel to 2016’s “Trolls” has a racially diverse cast (white, African American, Latino and Asian) voicing characters based on troll dolls.

Culture Clash: The trolls live in different territories based on the music of their lifestyles, and the queen of the rock territory wants to take over everything.

Culture Audience: “Trolls World Tour” is a family-friendly film that will appeal mostly to kids, adults who young at heart and people who like a variety of hit songs.

Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom) in “Trolls World Tour” (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)

On Broadway, there are jukebox musicals that string together a plot in between the performance of hit songs. And now, the jukebox musical trend has reached animated films with “Trolls World Tour,” which is a showcase for some original songs but mostly retro hits from various genres of music. This sequel to 2016’s “Trolls” packs in even more stars in the voice cast than its predecessor movie. The result is an energetic and vibrant ride that is utterly predictable but should be a crowd-pleaser for its intended audience.

Even though the plot of “Trolls World Tour” is pretty simple, there are five people who are credited with writing the screenplay: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Maya Forbes, Wallace Wolodarsky and Elizabeth Tippet. The large writing team for this movie is also a reflection of the huge increase in the size of the “Trolls World” voice cast, compared to the first “Trolls” movie. Walt Dohrn, who co-directed “Trolls” with Mike Mitchell, returns as a director on “Trolls World Tour,” but this time with David P. Smith as co-director. Dohrn voices several of the supporting characters in both movies.

Viewers of “Trolls World Tour” don’t need to see the first “Trolls” movie to understand what’s going on in this sequel, but it helps if more of a backstory is needed for the two central characters in both films: Princess Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and her best friend/love interest Bark (voiced by Justin Timberlake). In “Trolls,” Bark (who tends to be overly pessimistic) became a reluctant ally and then eventual best friend to Poppy (who tends to be overly optimistic) in the Trolls’ quest to defeat the sad and angry creatures known as Bergens, whose goal was to make everyone in the world as miserable as they are.

In “Trolls World Tour,” the chief villain is Princess Barb (voiced by Rachel Bloom) a rocker girl who leads the Trolls whose music of choice is hard rock/heavy metal. Ozzy Osbourne is perfectly cast for the voice of King Thrash, Barb’s father. Barb’s goal is to have rock music take over all six territories in the Troll Kingdom. Each territory represents the music that embodies the Trolls’ lifestyle in each territory.

The other five territories represent the music genres of pop, techno, country, funk and classical. In the beginning of the movie, Barb and her minions arrive in a fleet of sharks to take over the techno territory. She takes a valuable guitar string from the Techno trolls and then she and her army of rock Trolls then move on to conquer the next territory.

When news of the invasion hits the pop territory, Poppy thinks that Barb has good intentions to unite all of the Trolls. But her father King Peppy (voiced by Dohrn) reveals a secret from the Trolls’ historical past: The Trolls almost had a civil war over their different tastes in music, so the music territories were created so Trolls who liked the same genre of music could live together in harmony. Each territory was bestowed with a magical guitar string that has the power to control that territory.

Barb is on a mission to collect all six of the magical strings to put them on a guitar. Once the guitar has the six strings on it, she’ll play an “ultimate power chord” that will give her and rock music complete control over all the Troll territories. Since “Trolls World Tour” is an animated jukebox musical, Barb belts out several rock songs along the way, including Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and Heart’s “Barracuda.”

“Trolls World Tour” has several jokes about clichés and criticisms that go with certain music genres. The movie pokes fun at pop for being simple, repetitive “earworm” music. Rock is parodied for attracting low-life burnouts who wear mullets or mohawks and do “devil horn” signs. Country music has a stereotype of being full of sad songs and fans who act like rednecks or country bumpkins.

Classical music is labeled as “boring.” Techno gets criticism for its artists not playing “real” instruments. And funk (whose territory is populated with African American voice actors) calls out rap and pop for over-using funk samples. The original song “It’s All Love (History of Funk)” is a clap back to all the music that lifted funk riffs to make hit songs and funk artists not being paid properly for these samples.

Not for nothing, George Clinton (co-founder of Parliament-Funkadelic, one of the most-sampled groups of all time) is cast as new Trolls character King Quincy, who rules the funk territory Vibe City with Queen Essence (voiced by Mary J. Blige). The funk royals have a son named Prince D, voiced by hip-hop star Anderson .Paak, who performs the original song “Don’t Slack” with Timberlake in the film.  And returning Trolls character Cooper (voiced by Ron Funches) from the pop territory finds out that he has a connection to the funk territory.

“Trolls World Tour” once again has Poppy convincing a reluctant and wary Branch to go with her to help stop the chief villain before it’s too late. “Trolls” characters that are also in “Trolls World Tour” are loyal Biggie (voiced by James Corden) and wisecracking Guy Diamond (voiced by Kunal Nayyar), who provide some of the comic relief in the film

But there are so many new characters in “Trolls World Tour” that the movie could feel overstuffed for people who have short attention spans and might have trouble keeping track of them all. Guy now has a son named Tiny Diamond (voiced by Kenan Thompson). Delta Dawn (voiced by Kelly Clarkson) is a sassy, big-haired redhead who is a singer and leader of the country music territory.

Also in the country music territory is Hickory (voiced by Sam Rockwell), a multitalented and brave cowboy who befriends Poppy, much to Branch’s chagrin. Branch has been trying to tell Poppy that he loves her but is afraid to do it, so he gets jealous when it looks like Hickory is winning Poppy’s admiration. Hickory is the biggest standout new character in “Trolls World Tour” since he and his “yee-haw” can-do personality get a lot of screen time.

Some other supporting characters in the movie are the bounty hunters that Barb hires to help her track down the elusive pop guitar string that Poppy has in her possession. The bounty hunters are smooth jazz musician Chaz (voiced by Jamie Dornan), a clarinet-playing Kenny G type who plays hypnotic music that gets on people’s nerves. The other bounty hunters are musical groups representing reggaeton, K-Pop and yodelers. J Balvin has a cameo as the reggaeton leader, and his song “Mi Gente” is in the movie.

There are several familiar hits that get the medley treatment in “Trolls World Tour,” including Spice Girls’ “Wannabe,” Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations,” Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” has the lyrics reworked with the word “trolls” replacing the word “girls.” Dierks Bentley’s song “Leaving Lonesome Flats” (written for “Trolls World Tour”) is featured in a country music segment. And an electronic-dance music concert in the movie’s opening scene has the DJ playing Daft Punk’s “One More Time.”

“Trolls World Tour” music directors are Timberlake and Ludwig Goransson, the musician who won an Oscar and a Grammy for the “Black Panther” score, as well as Grammys for co-writing and producing Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” Timberlake and Goransson co-wrote and produced the majority of the original songs in “Trolls World Tour,” such as the ballad “Perfect for Me,” “Don’t Slack” and “Just Sing (Trolls World Tour),” which is the movie’s obvious signature anthem. The music is very catchy, but won’t be as huge as Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!,” the Oscar-nominated song from the first “Trolls” movie.

In its plot about Barb the villain trying to make all the Trolls conform to the way she wants them to be, “Trolls World Tour” has a message that people can live peacefully while respecting each other’s differences. It’s a message that comes wrapped in a lot of musical numbers and action sequences, but it’s something that audiences can take to heart. And along the way, some people might learn more about music genres that they might have previously dismissed because of certain prejudices.

Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation released “Trolls World Tour” for rental only on digital and VOD on April 10, 2020.

2019 BET Awards: Tyler Perry, Mary J. Blige to receive special prizes

June 12, 2019

The following is a press release from BET:

BET announces Tyler Perry will be honored with the Ultimate Icon Award, and Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, Oscar-nominated actress and philanthropist Mary J. Blige will be honored with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the 19th annual “BET Awards.” The entertainment powerhouse and business mogul will be presented with the Ultimate Icon Award for his continued cultural impact in entertainment. The 2019 “BET Awards” will air LIVE on Sunday, June 23 at 8pm ET from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, CA on BET.

Tyler Perry, the now world-renowned producer, director, actor, screenwriter, playwright, and author, built his entertainment empire up from meager beginnings. Inspired by a simple piece of advice from Oprah Winfrey, Perry began his career by simply putting his thoughts and life experiences to paper, creating the foundation of his acclaimed catalog of plays, films, television series, and award-winning novels. Taking his iconic character Madea from stage to screen, Perry introduced the world to a “God-fearing, gun-toting, loud-mouthed grandmother”, in 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” He’s since gone on to create numerous successful feature films and scripted series like “House of Payne” and “The Haves and The Have Nots” that bring messages of spiritual hope and down-home humor into homes across the country.

In the fall of 2006, Perry opened a 200,000 square foot studio in Atlanta which during its operation, was home to over 15 films and 800 episodes of Perry’s five television series. In 2015, Tyler Perry expanded and opened a state-of-the-art film and television studio on the historic grounds of the former Fort McPherson army base.  The new 330-acre campus is one of the largest production studios in the country boasting 40 buildings on the national register of historic places, 11 purpose-build sound stages, 200 acres of green space and an expansive backlot.  His unique brand of inspirational entertainment has authentically spoken to and impacted black culture and helped shape the future of black entertainment.

With a career of landmark achievements including eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 32 nominations), two Academy Award nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, and a SAG nomination, Mary J. Blige has remained a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era and cemented herself as a global superstar. And in the ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base—responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums. She began moving people with her soulful voice at the age of 18 when she became Uptown Records youngest and first female artist. Over the years, Blige has helped redefine R&B in the contemporary music era with chart-topping hits like “Be Without You”, “No More Drama” and “Family Affair.” At the 2018 Academy Awards, Blige made history as the first double nominee across the acting and music categories for Best Song and Best Supporting Actress for her work on Mudbound.

As previously announced, the first group of performers for the 19th annual “BET Awards” include Cardi B, DJ Khaled, Migos, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lizzo, Mustard, Lil Baby, Yung Miami of City Girls, Lucky Daye and Kiana Ledé. Additionally, Taraji P. Henson, Lena Waithe, Morris Chestnut, Yara Shahidi, and Marsai Martin were also announced as presenters.

The 2019 “BET AWARDS” will simulcast LIVE at 8pm ET across seven Viacom networks in the U.S. including BET, BET HER, MTV, MTV 2, MTV Classic, VH1, and Logo. Internationally, the show will simulcast for the first time on BET Africa at 2am CAT on June 24, followed by international broadcasts in the UK on June 24 at 9pm BST, South Korea on June 25 at 9pm KST and in France on June 25 at 9pm CEST.  Internationally, BET will honor Best International Act in-show, along with the fan-voted category Best New International Act and BET International Global Good Award during the live red carpet pre-show.

Connie Orlando, Executive Vice-President, Head of Programming at BET will serve as Executive Producer for the “BET Awards” 2019 along with Jesse Collins, CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment.

BET.com/betawards is the official site for the “BET Awards” and will have all the latest news and updates about this year’s show.

ABOUT BET NETWORKS

BET Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIA.B), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news, and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel reaches more than 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and sub-Saharan Africa. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions: BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.

ABOUT “BET AWARDS”

The “BET Awards” is one of the most watched awards shows on cable television according to the Nielsen Company. The “BET Awards” franchise remains as the #1 program in cable TV history among African-Americans, and it is BET’s #1 telecast every year. It recognizes the triumphs and successes of artists, entertainers, and athletes in a variety of categories.

ABOUT JESSE COLLINS ENTERTAINMENT

Jesse Collins Entertainment (JCE) is a full-service television and film production company founded by entertainment industry veteran Jesse Collins. For more than a decade, Collins has played an integral role in producing some of television’s most memorable moments in music entertainment. Collins has produced groundbreaking and award-winning television programming, including “BET Awards,” “Grammy Awards,” “Soul Train Music Awards,” “BET Honors,” “UNCF An Evening of Stars,” “ABFF Awards” and “BET Hip Hop Awards.” Collins was an executive producer of the hit TV series “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” starring Kevin Hart, and the critically acclaimed “The New Edition Story,” a biopic on the boy band that aired as a three-part miniseries on BET in January 2017. He is also the executive producer of VH1 shows “Dear Mama” and “Hip Hop Squares” with Ice Cube. Most recently, JCE executive-produced “The Bobby Brown Story.” The miniseries picked up where “The New Edition Story” miniseries left off and chronicled the talented but troubled singer’s exit from the popular 80s boy band through his solo success. It debuted on BET in September 2018 and was the highest-rated non-tentpole program on the network since “The New Edition Story.” Next for JCE is the second season of “American Soul” on BET and Netflix’s upcoming series “Rhythm and Flow.”

 

2019 BET Experience: Mary J. Blige, Cardi B, Migos, Meek Mill, YG, H.E.R., Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, among celebrity participants

May 20, 2019

The following is a press release from BET:

BET Networks announced the highly anticipated BET Fan Fest lineup as part of the BET Experience at L.A. LIVE presented by Coca-Cola® June 20 – 23, 2019. The annual festival will include the return of Genius Talks, BET Experience 3-on-3 Celebrity Basketball Tournament, Celebrity Dodgeball Game, BET X House of Fashion & Beauty, Coca-Cola Music Studio, DJ Hed presents Kicksperience sponsored by Sprite®, Casting Call along with a newly added activations, Roller-skating Party, Next Rap Star.

FRIDAY, JUNE 21 AND SATURDAY, JUNE 22

COCA-COLA MUSIC STUDIO

The BET Experience Coca-Cola Music Studio will debut some of today’s emerging acts including Elhae, Killumantii, TJ Porter, Ceraadi, Bobby Sessions, Earth Gang, Control the Sound, Happy Birthday Calvin and other special guests.

BET X HOUSE OF FASHION & BEAUTY

BET X House of Fashion & Beauty will be a destination that celebrates and highlights the best of urban hip hop culture through the lens of fashion, beauty, music and dance. Embracing the diversity of hip hop and the nuance manifestations of the international cultural experience, House of Fashion & Beauty will feature the authentic stories of the “streets” through a global perspective with music, fashion and beauty being at the center. Participating talent include

GENIUS TALKS

The always-inspirational Genius Talks returns with prominent personalities across various industries joining fans for uplifting conversation and gems of guidance based on their experiences. This year, Lena Waithe, Yara Shahidi, and Marsai Martin join the series alongside moderator, Jemele Hill, to share their knowledge and keys to success with fans. Past guests have included illustrious stars such as Snoop Dogg, Kobe Bryant, Ava DuVernay, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, DJ Khaled, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tip “T.I.” Harris and Yvonne Orji.

CELEBRITY DODGEBALL GAME

The annual BET Experience Celebrity Dodgeball Game returns, four teams of celebrity challengers will face off in the all-new Celebrity Dodgeball Game taking place on Friday, June 21.

DJ HED PRESENTS KICKSPERIENCE SPONSORED BY SPRITE®

The fresh interactive sneaker event, Kicksperience is back! DJ Hed Presents Kicksperince sponsored by Sprite® will highlight the sneaker culture phenomenon, bringing together generations of culture defining sneakers, streetwear brands, art, and music to the robust BET Fan Fest line-up. The electrifying pop-up will incorporate artists and tastemakers, authentic to sneaker culture, for the ultimate sneaker experience. The activation will host a sneaker customization space with renowned Artist, Chad Cantcolor, brands ranging from Puma to Sprayground, live taping of BET Digital’s Colorways & Toeboxes, and opportunities to purchase shoes on site. Selected by LA’s own DJ Hed performers include Rapsody,1TakeJay, AzChike, Azjah, GPerico, John Hart, Morgan Westbrook, Reason, Sneakk (SOB X RBE), Villain Park, Yhung T.O., Shoreline Mafia, Cupakke, Kamaiyah, and more!

GAMING TOURNAMENT

A dedicated gaming lounge within the BET Experience will give gamers an opportunity to play against and with celebrities and professional gamers for an opportunity to win one-of-a-kind prizes. Fans will compete with/ against our influencers in a variety of games from NBA2k to Fortnite including iPodKing Carter, The Lopes Brothers, Cheeseaholic, iDropzBodies, Bunnny MightgameU, Sunzi, Black Krystel and more

BET EXPERIENCE FOOD COURT *DUBSMASH MEETUP

A meet & greet experience featuringThe WickerTwinz, Essence and some of today’s up and coming hip-hop acts. Come hang and hit a challenge with some of your favorite dancers.

MCDONALDS STAGE PERFORMANCE

BJ The Chicago Kid to perform with other special guests.

NEXT RAP STAR

Do you have what it takes to be the next Cardi B, YG, or Drake? BET Experience is looking for the “Next Rap Star” in an once-in-a-lifetime competition to showing off your skills and charisma for a distribution deal with Island Records and the chance to perform at the 2020 BET Experience.

CASTING CALL

BET is on the search for fresh new faces to hit the airwaves. Come show off your acting chops in front of an esteemed panel of casting directors and BET Executives who will select an actor to win the opportunity to potentially join the cast of a BET Movie, TV Series or commercial.

3-on-3 CELEBRITY BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Four star-studded teams will go head-to-head for bragging rights and for a charity at the 3-on-3 Celebrity Basketball Tournament. Download the BETX ’19 App to exclusively purchase your tickets for the Celebrity Basketball Game.

BET HER AWARDS

The empowering night honors the innovation and marked successes of women of color across various industries who have unapologetically broken barriers in the entertainment, arts and technology industries. Additionally, The BET HER Awards will include a special spotlight on two deserving nonprofit organizations dedicated to uplift and empower women of color.

BET EXPERIENCE AT L.A. LIVE PRESENTED BY COCA-COLA®

BET Networks, an entertainment powerhouse, once again brings the BET EXPERIENCE AT L.A. LIVE (BETX), June 20 – 23, 2019 presented by Coca-Cola®. This four-day event will be filled with music concerts taking place at The Novo by Microsoft and STAPLES Center; the BET Fan Fest at the Los Angeles Convention Center including seminars, celebrity basketball games, celebrity meet & greets; and other special interactive events. The weekend will be capped off with the “BET Awards” on Sunday, June 23, 2019 at Microsoft Theater.

Staples Center concerts:

June 20, 2019: Mary J. Blige. H.E.R., Summer Walker, Queen Naija, Bri Steves

June 21, 2019: Meek Mill, YG, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Blueface, Roddy Ricch

June 22, 2019: Cardi B, Migos, Lil Yachty, Lil Baby, City Girls, Trippie Redd

HOW TO ATTEND:

The BET Fan Fest wristbands return to the fan experience this year. All attendees will be required to wear their wristband upon arrival in order to enter the free BET Fan Fest. Beginning May 6, attendees will be able to register for the BET Fan Fest wristbands by downloading the BETX ’19 app or going to www.betexperience.com. The BET Fan Fest wristband grants attendees access to some of the hottest events happening during the BET Experience weekend; including the House of Fashion & Beauty, Coke Stage, DJ Hed presents Kicksperience sponsored by Sprite, and year three of the BET Casting Call. Additionally, tickets to the BETX Celebrity Basketball game will be available for purchase starting today.

VIP Packages for the BET Experience at L.A. LIVE are on sale NOW. In addition to VIP amenities throughout the weekend and incredible seats for STAPLES Center shows, four levels of BETX VIP Packages offer guests the only opportunity to purchase tickets to the highly anticipated BET Awards, broadcast live from Microsoft Theater. Full package amenities and pricing for the Diamond, Platinum, Gold Plus and Gold Packages can be found by visiting https://www.betexperience.com or by calling (877) 234-8425.

General tickets for the BET Experience at L.A. LIVE presented by Coca-Cola® are available NOW at http://www.axs.com/betexperience.

ABOUT THE BET EXPERIENCE APP:

The BET Experience App is your interactive personal guide that takes you inside every installation, performance, and celebrity pop-up during BET Awards Weekend. Custom alerts let you stay up to date on all BET FanFest show schedules in real-time, celebrity meet & greets and other surprises throughout the ultimate four-day event. Go to the Apple Store or Google Play and download the BET Experience app today! Available on iOS & Android. Download it at BETExperience.com/app.

Follow the BET Experience on Twitter @betexperience for the latest and greatest and join the hottest conversation by using #BETEXPERIENCE. Feel free to also check us out online at http://www.betexperience.com.

About BET Networks

BET Networks, a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ:VIA)(NASDAQ:VIA.B), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel is in nearly 85 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa, France and South Korea. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET Networks around the globe.

2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits, Moody Blues, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe inducted; Tom Petty, Chris Cornell get tributes

April 15, 2018

by Carla Hay

Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi during Bon Jovi’s performance at the 33rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium in Cleveland on April 14, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

On April 14, 2018, at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, the 33rd annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony formally inducted Bon Jovi, the Cars, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, Nina Simone (in the performer category) and Sister Rosetta Tharpe (in the early influencer category). The inductees, announced in December 2017, were voted on by a combination of ballots from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members and online voting from the public. HBO will televise highlights from the ceremony in a special that premieres on May 5, 2018, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Bon Jovi’s performance included the band’s reunion with two former Bon Jovi members: guitarist Richie Sambora (who was in Bon Jovi from 1983 to 2013) and bassist Alec John Such, who was in Bon Jovi from 1983 to 1994. Radio personality Howard Stern inducted Bon Jovi, whose current members are lead singer Jon Bon Jovi, drummer Tico Torres, keyboardist David Bryan, bassist Hugh McDonald and guitarist Phil X. Bon Jovi’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame set list consisted of “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “It’s My Life,” “When We Were Us” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

The Killers lead singer Brandon Flowers inducted the Cars, who formed in 1976 and amicably disbanded in 1988, but they had all surviving original members in attendance  at the induction ceremony: lead singer/guitarist Ric Ocasek, lead guitarist Elliot Easton, keyboardist Greg Hawkes and drummer David Robinson. (Bass player Benjamin Orr died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer.) The reunited Cars then went on to perform “My Best Friend’s Girl,”  “Moving in Stereo,” “Just What I I Needed” and “You Might Think” with Weezer’s Scott Shriner filling in on bass.

Later in the ceremony, the Killers performed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” and Petty’s solo song “Free Fallin'” in a tribute to Petty, who died in 2017 of opioid-related causes.

Dire Straits broke up in 1995, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony wasn’t enough to bring the band’s most famous lineup back together. Former Dire Straits lead singer/guitarist Mark Knopfler and his rhythm guitarist David Knopfler opted not to attend; the two brothers who co-founded Dire Straits did not give an official explanation for snubbing the ceremony, but there have been reports that David Knopfler had issues with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s travel reimbursements. Former Dire Straits members Alan Clark (keyboards), Guy Fletcher (guitar) and John Illsley (bass) were there to represent the band at the ceremony, and they performed “Telegraph Road”

The Moody Blues, inducted by Heart lead singer Ann Wilson, did make it intact to the ceremony. The Moody Blues have been going strong since 1964, and the Moody Blues key players who attended the ceremony were current members Justin Hayward (lead singer), John Lodge  and Graeme Edge (drums) and former members Denny Laine (guitar) and Mike Pinder (keyboards). The current members of Moody Blues then performed “I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock in Roll Band,” “Your Wildest Dreams,” Nights in White Satin” and “Ride My See-Saw.”

Wilson and Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell later paid tribute to fellow Seattle musician Chris Cornell, who committed suicide in 2017. Cornell was the lead singer of the bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. Wilson and Cantrell performed Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” in tribute to Cornell.

Nina Simone (who died in 2003 at the age of 70) was inducted by Mary J. Blige, who years ago had been planned to star in a biopic about Simone. Sam Waymon (Simone’s brother) accepted the honor on her behalf.) Lauryn Hill and Andra Day performed a musical tribute that included a medley of Simone songs including including “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” “I Put a Spell on You” and “Feeling Good.”

Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard inducted Tharpe, who died of a stroke in 1973 at the age of 58. Howard, Questlove and Paul Shaffer performed Tharpe’s “That’s All” and were then joined by Felicia Collins  for Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day.”

2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: Mary J. Blige, Howard Stern, Ann Wilson among the presenters

March 29, 2018

2018 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction logo

The following is a press release from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

Special guests at this year’s sold-out Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by Klipsch Audio, on April 14th at Public Auditorium in Cleveland will include:

  • Mary J. Blige presenting for Nina Simone
  • Andra Day performing for Nina Simone
  • Brittany Howard presenting for Sister Rosetta Tharpe
  • Ann Wilson presenting for The Moody Blues
  • Brandon Flowers presenting for The Cars
  • Howard Stern presenting for Bon Jovi

The 2018 Ceremony will honor this year’s inductees: Bon Jovi, The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

The Ceremony will once again exclusively premiere on HBO on May 5th at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Red carpet arrivals on April 14th will be live streamed from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on rockhall.com, the Rock Hall’s Facebook page (@rockandrollhalloffame) and YouTube page (youtube.com/user/rockhall).

The Rock Hall will host a week of events leading up to the ceremony, including the unveiling the all new Hall of Fame, featuring the 2018 Inductee exhibit. The new floor will open on Saturday, April 7th during Celebration Day at the Museum with a performance by 2018 Inductee Richie Sambora, free admission, and a firework show. Visit rockhall.com for a complete schedule of Rock Week events.
To receive Induction Ceremony updates and announcements sign up for the Rock Hall’s e-newsletter at www.rockhall.com/e-newsletter, follow the Rock Hall on Facebook (@rockandrollhalloffame), Twitter (@rockhall) and Instagram (@rockhall) or join the conversation using #RockHall2018.

Hollywood Walk of Fame announces 2018 star recipients

June 22. 2017

The following is a press release from the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

A new group of entertainment professionals in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Live Theatre/Live Performance, Radio and Recording have been selected to receive stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was announced today, Thursday, June 22, 2017 by the Walk of Fame Selection Committee of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. These honorees were chosen from among hundreds of nominations to the committee at a meeting held in June and ratified by the Hollywood Chamber’s Board of Directors. Television Producer and Walk of Famer Vin Di Bona, Chair of the Walk of Fame Selection Committee for 2017, announced the new honorees with Leron Gubler, President & CEO for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who is also the emcee of the Walk of Fame ceremonies.

The new selections were revealed to the world via live stream exclusively on the official website www.walkoffame.com. The live stream began at 2:15 p.m. PDT and was held at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offices.

“The Walk of Fame Selection Committee is pleased to announce our newest honorees to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Committee looked carefully at each nominee and we feel that we have selected an eclectic group of talent that will appeal to the tastes of many fans around the world,” said Di Bona. “As a Walk of Famer myself, I know these honorees will remember the dedication of their stars with great memories and will be proud that they are part of Hollywood’s history now and forever. We look forward to their big day as the Walk of Fame Class of 2018 becomes cemented one by one on the most famous sidewalk in the world!”

The Hollywood Walk of Fame Class of 2018 are:

In the category of MOTION PICTURES:   Jack Black, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Goldblum, F. Gary Gray, Mark Hamill, Jennifer Lawrence, Gina Lollobrigida, Minnie Mouse, Nick Nolte and Zoe Saldana

In the category of TELEVISION:   Anthony Anderson, Gillian Anderson, Lynda Carter, Simon Cowell, RuPaul Charles, Taraji P. Henson, Eric McCormack, Ryan Murphy, Niecy Nash, Mandy Patinkin, Shonda Rhimes, and posthumous Steve Irwin

In the category of RECORDING:  Mary J. Blige, Sir Richard Branson, Petula Clark, Harry Connick, Jr., Ice T, Snoop Dogg, Carrie Underwood and “Weird Al” Yankovic

In the category of RADIO:   Steve Jones

In the category of LIVE THEATRE/LIVE PERFORMANCE:   Charles Aznavour, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and posthumous Bernie Mac

The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and its Walk of Fame Selection Committee congratulate all the honorees. Dates have not been scheduled for these star ceremonies. Recipients have two years to schedule star ceremonies from the date of selection before they expire. Upcoming star ceremonies are usually announced ten days prior to dedication on the official website www.walkoffame.com.

2017 Soul Beach Music Festival: Usher, Mary J. Blige, the Roots, Faith Evans, Cedric the Entertainer to perform

March 2, 2017
Soul Beach Music Festival

Usher,  Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, the Roots and Cedric the Entertainer will perform the 17th annual Soul Beach Music Festival, which will take place  in Aruba from May 24 to 29, 2017. The Roots have teamed up with Usher as his accompanying band, and performed several shows with him in 2016. Blige’s 14th studio album, “Strength of a Woman,” is due out sometime in 2017. In 2016, she co-headlined a tour with Maxwell. Evans was part of the Bad Boy Family reunion tour in 2016. The Roots also serve as the in-house band for NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Usher’s eighth studio album, “Hard II Love,” was released in September 2016.