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Movie Review: The Wedding Ringer

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Kevin Hart and Josh Gad star comedy/satire “The Wedding Ringer.”

Kevin Hart and Josh Gad star comedy/satire “The Wedding Ringer.”

By Dwight Brown
NNPA Film Critic

 

In a now infamously leaked email, Screen Gems President Clint Culpepper called comedian Kevin Hart a “whore” because he wanted him to use his huge social media following to promote Think Like A Man Too, and Hart wouldn’t do it without being paid more money. Kevin politely responded in the press, “Knowing your self worth is extremely important people… I look at myself as a brand and because of that I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of.”

Culpepper was wrong. Hart isn’t a “whore,” he’s just “prolific” and good at what he does. He pumps out three to four movies a year like he’s puppy mill. Single-handily, he turns mediocre movies into a comedy event. He earns his paycheck. Don’t hate the player, hate the game!

Doug (Josh Gad, Thanks for Sharing) is a pudgy, four-eyed well-to-do businessman who has landed a dyed-blonde, gold-digging fiancée (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, TV’s The Big Bang Theory) who is way out of his league. Their wedding day is two weeks away and the loser has no best man, no groomsmen and not one friend who’ll accept an invitation to his nuptials. Someone pulls his coattails and turns him on to a professional “Best Man.” Jim Callahan (Hart) is the proud, but clandestine owner/CEO of Best Man, Inc. He can rock a wedding with a phony, teary-eyed reception toast, fawning rent-a-groomsmen and a happy ending release.

Writer/director Jeremy Garelick (The Break Up) marks his feature filmmaking debut with this sketchy story that could go in either direction: ribald comedy, or flat formulaic bomb. He’s got just enough of a plotline to sustain a 90-minute film. However, his movie runs 101 minutes. Surprisingly, he keeps the proceedings going at a nice pace and you don’t get bored. In part, that’s because of his nimble writing and direction. Also, his cast breathes life into the characters, interprets the dialogue with zest and knows how to work the sensitive moments, which are thoughtfully interspersed among the dull ones.

Garelick’s filmmaking peaks in three key sequences: One, a wedding dance scene with Gad and Hart doing their well-coordinated interpretation of “The Dougie.” Two, a hard-fought tackle football game that pits Doug’s arrogant, chest-pumping father-in-law (Ken Howard, TV’s The White Shadow) and his senior citizens crew against Doug, Jimmy and the fake groomsmen (“They look like the cast of Goonies grew up to be rapists.”). Three, a bachelor party that involves a Basset Hound, peanut butter and unprotected testicles. (Ouch! Don’t ask, don’t tell!)

Jenifer Lewis plays Jimmy’s sage and sassy secretary, and her self-assuredness is comical and motherly. Jorge Garcia (TV’s Lost), Affion Crockett (A Haunted House) and Aaron Takahashi, as three of the for-hire male entourage, raise a chuckle. Josh Gad goes toe-to-toe up with Hart on the dance floor and in every scene. Hart, with his usual impish charm, manhandles the dialogue, works the character into a frenzy and smiles in such an endearing way you want to give him all the money in your pocket. Gad and Hart have chemistry, but someone tell Gad, it ain’t a real bromance. Hart is moving on to his next comic pairing, real soon. (Get Hard with Will Ferrell opens in March.)

The Wedding Ringer isn’t innovative, but ultimately it’s a crowd-pleasing movie. Hart, with his command of social media, will get fans in theater seats. Garelick’s writing/direction coupled with the cast’s high jinks will keep audiences laughing. But folks keep in mind, though Kevin Hart is not a “whore,” he isn’t marriage material either. This is just a hook up. A comedy booty call. A pretty good one.

 

Visit NNPA Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

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Art

Poet Laureates Provides Poetry That Heals the Soul

The City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

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The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.
The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft.

By Clifford L. Williams

Poetry is a universal language…it’s the song of the heart that feeds the soul.

That was the message shared by five poet laureates from the Bay Area last week at a gathering to introduce the City of Richmond’s 2021– 2023 Poet Laureate, David Flores, during an Open Mic event at CoBiz Richmond, in collaboration with Richmond’s Arts and Cultural Commission.

Flores was joined by fellow poet laureates including Eevelyn Mitchell of El Cerrito, Jeremy Snyder of Vallejo, Ayodele Nzinga of Oakland and Tongo Eisen-Martin of San Francisco to celebrate Flores’ installation. Each poet shared some of their work with the audience. A laureate is a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field.

Flores, an 11-year former schoolteacher for the Richmond Unified School District, submitted a few poems and some of his writings to a panel of commissioners last May, who reviewed his work and eventually selected him as the city’s newest poet laureate.

“To me, this is an opportunity to really highlight poetry as an art form accessible to everyone in our city,” said Flores. “I will use this appointment to actively engage young people and adults to allow them the opportunity to not only hear art but to also inspire them to share their work.”

Flores said that since COVID 19, people have been disconnected and now need community bonding to express themselves through art and poetry. “As a poet laureate, I want to grow as an artist and share my work,” said Flores. “It’s fulfilling as a shared humanity to connect and inspire people and a way to spark communication with one another. Once you have that experience, you feel confidence and there’s no going back.”

The poet laureates are not connected as a group but are part of a community that supports each other with our craft. Laureates help to bring awareness of poetry and literacy through the arts to their respective communities during their two-year appointments. Each laureate goes through a process involving several steps, outlined by a panel of commissioners, who make the final selections.

“One of the main things we do as poet laureates is to encourage unity within our community through the arts,” said Mitchell. “Our specific responsibilities are to highlight poetry as an outlet to allow people to express themselves.

“As poet laureate, we put on events to encourage our community to become more involved and aware, and to be more unified in bringing awareness, unity, respect and love within the community. Because of the pandemic, we are all trying to figure out our new norm.

“With everything that has been going on for the past two years, I firmly believe it’s important that we as a community, and I as a poet laureate, need to bring harmony back into our lives,” she said. “It is my quest and priority to promote that. We are neighbors, we are friends, we are a community, and we need each other to survive.”

The general public can learn more about their city’s poet laureate events and activities by contacting their Arts and Cultural Commission.

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Bay Area

Skyline High Girls Volleyball Team Makes History

The team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match.

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The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team
The Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team.

As the season comes to a close for the Skyline High School Girls Volleyball team, the members are celebrating that they went farther than any Skyline or OUSD/OAL volleyball team ever has. On the final day, November 19, the team played in Orange County, taking on Santa Clarita Christian School in the California Interscholastic Federation Division 5 CIF State Championship match. Skyline fell short 3 games to 1, coming in as runner-up. The photo above shows the team posing with their trophy after the match.

 

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Activism

Samba Funk! to Hold Annual ‘Funkraiser’ in Honor of Founding Member Monica Hastings-Smith

Called MoniCarnival in memory of our beloved sister and founding member Monica Hastings-Smith, JOY 11 will feature live performances, DJs, vegan food, a youth zone, and a community bateria-style jam in a comfortable, indoor-outdoor space convenient for social-distancing.  

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Monica Hastings-Smith. Photo courtesy of SambaFunk!
Monica Hastings-Smith. Photo courtesy of SambaFunk!

By Daktari Shari, PsyD & Theo Aytchan Williams

SambaFunk! will present JOY 11, MoniCarnival, a funkraiser, celebration and party on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, on the island located at 809 50th Ave. in Oakland. This year’s event is family friendly, starting at 2:00 p.m. with youth-specific programming.

Called MoniCarnival in memory of our beloved sister and founding member Monica Hastings-Smith, JOY 11 will feature live performances, DJs, vegan food, a youth zone, and a community bateria-style jam in a comfortable, indoor-outdoor space convenient for social-distancing.

Monica was an Oakland native born on Jan. 22, 1965. After a year-long battle with cancer, she took flight to the realm of the ‘Ancestars’ at the tender age of 56. Also raised in Oakland, Monica served as an artist, activist, educator, mother, mentor, trailblazer, guiding light, and contributor to local and far-reaching creative communities of and throughout the Afro-Diaspora.

A graduate of Bishop O’Dowd and the University of California, Berkeley, she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and a co-founder of the Soul of Oakland. Monica participated in, partnered and collaborated with countless community organizations and schools including but not limited to Fogo Na Roupa, SambaFunk!, BoomShake, Manzanita SEED, and Urban Promise Academy.

SambaFunk!’s 11th Annual JOY Party, MoniCarnival will be a day party with live performances by Everyday Party, a musical duo Monica co-founded with Iwalani Venerable (@thesunflowerlioness) that offers music for young audiences; the soulful sounds of Kah Liberation (@kahliberationofficial); and the SambaFunk! performance ensemble including dancers, FunkTyme bateria and Funkternal band playing some longtime favorites also penned by Monica.

MoniCarnival will open with native son DJ Henroc spinning world rhythms and culminating with world-renowned Soul House DJ Patrick Wilson immersing the attendees in deep, soulful house music, inviting us all to take flight under the stars. Rounding out the evening will be a moving and grooving Community Drum Jam for Monica’s many percussion and drum friends to join together in harmony. All drummers are invited.

JOY 11, MoniCarnival also serves as the official launch for the 2022 Carnival season. “This is our biggest fundraising event of the year and largest family event since the COVID lockdown,” said SambaFunk! Artistic Director Theo Aytchan Williams. “I’m personally asking all supporters and well-wishers of SambaFunk! to show their support with their attendance and make a generous donation. Our goal is to raise $25,000.”

A portion of the proceeds from JOY 11, MoniCarnival will be donated to the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, which offers affordable music lessons and learning experiences centered around African American musical culture to youth and adults of all ages.

Pandemic protocols will be observed with onsite PPE and sanitizing stations. Masks are required.

To purchase tickets and make donations for JOY 11, Monicarnival, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/joy-11-monicarnival-funkraiser-day-party-tickets-204311028787.

For additional details, contact us at sambafunky@gmail.com, visit our SambaFunk.com website, or give us a call at 510-451-6100.

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