Friday, 20 January 2017

RUN ALL NIGHT: Paternal instincts, police corruption collide in new Jamie Foxx thriller, Sleepless

MAN UP: Foxx plays Vincent Downs, a Vegas cop and less-than-stellar father trying to do right by his young son.

Knowing your one and only child is in mortal danger is enough to quicken the steps and bolster the resolve of even the most delinquent father. We get a classic example in Sleepless, the fast-paced and adrenaline-inducing new cinematic thrill ride from filmmaker Baran Bo Odar, in which Jamie Foxx’s paternal instincts, not to mention his mettle, are put to the test. 

Harking back to his Miami Vice era, Foxx stars as Vincent Downs, a Las Vegas cop who’s been working undercover in Internal Affairs for the past two years. Alongside his partner Sean Cass (an underutilized Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris), Downs makes one of the biggest cocaine busts of his career but things go haywire. When he confiscates a large stash of prime coke that belongs to casino tycoon Stan Rubino (Dermot Mulroney), Rubino raises the stakes by kidnapping Downs’ teenage son Thomas (Octavius Johnson). 

To make matters worse, Rubino was supposed to hand over the drugs to the menacing Rob Novak (Scoot McNairy), a ruthless dealer following in his father’s footsteps. Infuriated by the turn of events, he literally grabs Rubino by the balls. 

Michelle Monaghan plays Jennifer, an embittered officer whose frustrating latest case becomes linked with the drug operations. Hence she crosses paths with Downs, who has a hard time convincing her he’s not a dirty cop but a desperate father who will do whatever it takes to rescue his son. Character actor David Harbour appears as Dennison, Monaghan’s frequently MIA partner. Meanwhile, Gabrielle Union rounds out the main cast as Dena, a hardworking nurse and Thomas’ concerned mother who can read Vincent Downs, her former lover, like a book. 

Working with a highly commendable script from screenwriter Andrea Berloff, Odar deeply immerses us in the night life of The City That Never Sleeps, a hotbed of gambling, drugs and anything-goes abandon. But at its core – driven by Foxx’s committed performance and the strong support he gets from his castmates – Sleepless is a stark and frighteningly realistic depiction of police corruption, the dangerous and deadly drugs business and the plight of a father who resorts to desperate and determined actions to get his kid out of harm’s way. Tyrone’s Verdict: B






NEWS FEED: Game-changing business leaders for JSE conference + MoBay to host inaugural Jamaica Int’l Exhibition

BIGGER & BETTER: Come June 1-4, Jamaica will play host to “the biggest trade show to be held in this country or anywhere in the region.” So says Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) President Metry Seaga, who was addressing the recent launch of the Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE), at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Rose Hall, St. James, which will also host the big event in June. “The JIE is a new and exciting venture which will offer business people an opportunity to interact with some of the largest and most important traders worldwide, in an up-close and personal atmosphere, aimed at discovering new markets and exploring untapped potential,” Seaga says. “The JIE, we feel will fill a void that currently exists to bring business people from all around the world into Jamaica to sell their wares and see what opportunities exist in Jamaica.”

LOCAL SPAN, GLOBAL REACH: Three days chock-full of activities – starting with a grand Opening Ceremony and Cocktails – will unfold at the 2017 Investments and Capital Markets Conference, being hosted by the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, from January 24-26. Under the theme “Global Investment Horizon: Our Options and Future,” the conference will bring together corporate professionals, technocrats, business owners and influential investors (et al) to meet and engage global business leaders, industry innovators and visionary independent thinkers. In addition to expert panel discussions, game-changing keynote addresses will come from, among others, Michael Lee Chin, Brian Wynter, Fernando Alvarado (Sustainable Energy Central America), Ungad Chadda (TMX Group Limited), Professor Wayne Dunn (Canada’s CSR Training Institute), Hon. Audley Shaw and PM Andrew Holness. Go to jamstockex.com for online registration and more information.






THE GOOD FIGHT: Jamaicans must defend and promote justice, morality – Dr. Burchell Taylor

ON MESSAGE: The veteran preacher urged Jamaica to reclaim its power as a nation "walking humbly with God."

According to Rev. Dr. Burchell Taylor, for there to be transformation and significant positive change across Jamaica, justice and compassion, morality and dignity, must go hand in hand. Rev. Taylor, who was delivering the keynote address at Thursday’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, also called on leaders in all sectors and Jamaicans from all walks to hold fast to humility and forge a strong moral vision for the way forward. “We must make an enduring commitment to uphold and promote in all that we do the immeasurable sanctity of human dignity. In all that we do, we must remember that human dignity is at stake,” Dr. Taylor told the rap audience.

During his nearly hour-long address, the iconic preacher-man, head of Kingston’s landmark Bethel Baptist Church since 1970, emphasized that justice cannot be reserved for only those in the upper echelons of society. For too long, he stressed, the cries of the downtrodden and dispossessed have been woefully ignored. “The common [declaration] ‘We want justice!’ is an intuitive, native cry. And we mustn’t let our stereotypical perspectives distract us from that,” he noted, adding that we all have a role to play – collective action – in fostering a flourishing justice system. “We who seek justice need to come together. We must ensure that every member of the society has access to the goods that will lead to a life of dignity. This is our task.”

Citing troubling crime statistics and alarming news reports involving members of the clergy, Dr. Taylor warned that Jamaica is experiencing “a quaking” of its moral foundation. “We also sense that we are a people at odds with ourselves which is [being manifested] in the vilest and cruelest criminal acts of violence,” noted the reverend, who delivered the address at the very first prayer breakfast back in 1981. The solution, he firmly believes, rests in our collective responsibility to do the right thing and fight vigorously for justice, while reclaiming the sizeable power that comes with being a people walking humbly with God.

This is a point that Sir Patrick Allen also underscored, as he brought greetings from King’s House. “We all have to be agents of change for the better,” the Governor General noted. “We who lead must be the examples of all that we wish for our beloved nation. May we never lose our belief in the power of prayer and be mindful of our responsibility to love and serve one another.”

Now in its 37th year, the National Leadership Prayer Breakfast brought together a host of Government and Opposition members, corporate, consular and diplomatic corps personnel, dozens of clergymen and folks from the wider society to reflect on issues of national importance – not least among them, peace, justice, reconciliation and unity. This year’s breakfast observed the theme “God-empowered intervention for transformation.”






Thursday, 19 January 2017

THEATRE’S MAN OF THE YEAR: David Tulloch’s creative genius, triumphant 2016 and brilliant future

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Tulloch sharing a scene with costars Sabrina Thomas and Leonie Forbes in Across the Bridge.

“What was your favourite David Tulloch production this year?” Years from now that’s a question you’ll hear frequently in and out of the theatre fraternity. The golden boy of the Jamaican stage is all grown up, commanding the scene with productions that dually provoke and entertain his loyal supporters (and woo new fans), while holding up a crystal-clear mirror to the Jamaican society.

Without a doubt, Tulloch likes to explore big, important themes that resonate across the board (family, prejudice, pride, injustice), but as his ever-growing body of work indicates, he also has a taste for stories that disturb and ruffle the feathers of his viewers. (Risqué, anyone?). 

These days his creative output is reflecting both sides of the coin – and he delivers the work (occasionally as writer-director-producer; occasionally as co-star) with relish. Consider last year’s one-two punch of Not My Child (an edge-of-your-seat drama) and 3some (a sexed-up romp) – two vastly dissimilar animals that unleashed pure theatrical Viagra. 

At the same time, Tulloch’s star is increasingly on the rise. No longer the fleet-footed playwright-producer on the hunt for spaces to stage his work, these days the 36-year-old is occupying the resident manager’s chair at the new and improved Phoenix Theatre (formerly The Theatre Place) on Haining Road in New Kingston and adding to his business cred with the rollout of JamStage Productions, with partner Orlando Sinclair, to complement his 15-year-old enterprise Probemaster Productions which, in spite of the economic hardships, continues to advance from strength to strength. 

On December 16, JamStage got the ball rolling with the premiere of its maiden production, Bad Breed, a fast-paced laughathon starring Michael Nicholson and Terri Salmon. But nothing could prepare us for the heartfelt, pitch-perfect Across the Bridge (opening a week later by Probemaster), in which Tulloch reteamed with his idol and theatre mother Leonie Forbes to treat theatergoers to something deeply moving – and end the year on a memorable high. Put another way, that’s how you bring the curtains down. 

It remains to be seen what 2017 and beyond has in store for Tulloch – artist, father, husband, trendsetter – and what he has in store for us; how he’ll push himself creatively. What’s become abundantly clear? He’s not one to rest on his laurels.






Wednesday, 18 January 2017

KEEPING SCORE: Razor-sharp and snarky, Four Can’t Play hits a home run

LIFE'S A BEACH: HoShing and Samuels laughing it up; (below) HoShing, Lowe and Titus.

Four Can’t Play (Basil Dawkins Productions) 
Director: Douglas Prout and Toni-Kay Dawkins 
Cast: Oliver Samuels, Ruth HoShing, Dennis Titus and Maylynne Lowe 
Venue: Little Little Theatre, Kingston 

YOU’D love to be a fly on the wall at the Jamaican-based north-coast hotel, where the action (heated drama, flat-out-funny humour) unfolds in Four Can’t Play, the well-written and splendidly acted new stage work from Basil Dawkins. 

Having already treated theatregoers to such memorable potboilers as What the Hell is Happening To Us, Dear?, For Better or Worse, Which Way Is Out? (and the list goes on), the veteran playwright makes a solid return to form, exploring relationship dynamics, flawed personalities, pride and dignity, with terrific results. Simply put, the play sizzles. 

In addition to his quartet of strong actors, Dawkins has an excellent repeat collaborator in Douglas Prout (co-directing again with Toni-Kay Dawkins), who elevates the script into a triumph boasting just the right the balance of entertainment, food for thought and life lessons. If nothing else, Four Can’t Play proves that the Dawkins/Prout dream team knows people and they know drama. 

We are introduced to two couples, who are staying at this well-appointed hotel that has a gorgeous poolside, where most of the action takes place. But they’re not here for a romantic getaway. Oh, no. Couples counselling has brought this foursome all the way out here. 

As it turns out, the older couple – a retired superintendent affectionately called ‘Heartthrob’ (Samuels) and his bride-to-be Gwen (HoShing) are gearing up for that trip down the aisle. The younger pair – a former ‘mixologist’ named Barry (Titus) and his estranged private-dancer spouse Anne (Lowe) are getting a divorce after nine years. 
The couples are in adjoining rooms, so they end up sharing the pool and swapping stories. Heartthrob’s vociferous snoring is a potential deal-breaker for Gwen, who can be a tad overbearing, given her high standards. Anne’s frequent dalliances with the men she “performs” for rub Barry the wrong way. As we come to find out, he has an explosively violent temper. In other words, these are people you know or known by someone you know. Still, what starts out as a relatively peaceful, relaxing and purposeful weekend devolves into a hot mess, where even the police have to get involved. 

They say the course of true love never runs smooth, and Four Can’t Play drives this point home – and then some. It helps, too, that the actors (last seen together in 2014’s Divorce Papers) share a winning chemistry that keeps audience members riveted. Samuels and HoShing are at that certain age and certain stage of their careers, where the performances they offer feel effortless – a lip-smacking lesson in character study that isn’t lost on their younger counterparts. 

Razor-sharp and emotionally precise, Titus and Lowe burn a hole in the stage, bringing that raw passion and electric energy we associate with lovers constantly at loggerheads. Lowe, especially, delivers truly mesmerizing work, as the story nears its climax. 

Watching Four Can’t Play you might recall classics like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and even Tyler Perry’s more recent Why Did I Get Married? But you are never less than impressed by Dawkins’ uncanny ability to marry (pun intended) dramatic and comedic elements in his storytelling to sterling effect. In short, and with next to nothing to complain about, Four Can’t Play scores. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+






Sunday, 8 January 2017

STEPPING UP: Pantomime’s fresh faces welcome the life-changing LTM experience

FRONT & CENTRE: The pantomime's newcomers are a diverse bunch passionate about the stage.

Smart and savvy young Jamaican actors who take the craft seriously are always on the lookout for opportunities in the performing arts to hone their talents and upgrade their skills. In the local arts community, the LTM Pantomime Company offers the ideal launching-pad for these up-and-comers, as they get to sing, dance and act and learn the ropes of the industry, while following in the footsteps of such distinguished pantomime alums as Miss Lou and Mass Ran, Michael ‘Stringbean’ Nicholson, Nadean Rawlins and Oliver Samuels.

This season, six fresh faces make their debut in the national pantomime, bringing boundless energy and laudable commitment to their small roles in the Robert Clarke-directed musical comedy The Upses & De Downzies Dem.

It’s a diverse bunch of youngsters who are passionate about the stage and seem intent on making the most of the chance they’ve been given. “It’s been a great experience. I never thought I would get the opportunity to perform in a production like the pantomime, so it’s a dream come true,” says Janelle Wilson, a 20-year-old student, who is currently reading for a degree in Business Administration at UTech, where she also studied drama as an elective.

Impressed by her abilities, Wilson’s drama tutor Philip Clarke recommended her to the Pantomime Company, where she aced the audition. She’s been working to solidify her place in the troupe ever since, while balancing her love of performance with her academic obligations. “At first I felt a bit frustrated,” she readily admits, “but I think I’m settling in now.”

Schoolmate Michaela Brown, 19, who is doing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Technology, knows the feeling. “It’s a close-knit group, and it’s an honour to be a part of it. But it takes a lot of hard work and commitment,” shares the JCDC Festival alumna. “I’ve been watching the pantomime for 16 years, so to finally join the cast is an achievement I’m proud of.”

Kevin Bloomfield, 19, an Innswood High graduate, has also done time with the JCDC Festival. Jahmali Rhoden is currently studying aspects of the performing arts at the Excelsior Community College. Ricardo Johnson, who sings with the UWI Men’s Chorus, has performed with Father HoLung & Friends, while Shawna-Kaye Turner, a shy 27-year-old now growing in confidence, is also enrolled at UTech. “I’m learning a lot. It’s fun. I love drama, I love the stage, and working with these other experienced actors is a welcome experience for me,” says Turner, who’s done shows at church and back in high school. “I’ve been on many stages, but never a big stage like this.”

Both Bloomfield and 22-year-old Ricardo Campbell are budding singers. “I do acting to enhance my stage performance as a pop and reggae vocalist,” notes Campbell, whose fledgling company VS Plus will be signing young artistes in the years to come. “I want my company to not only sign people but also push them to go internationally.”

According to Anya Gloudon, who puts out an annual casting call for the Pantomime Company, the night is young on the theatre careers of these promising first-timers, who have shown that they are willing to learn and grow as professional performers. “They have been settling in fairly well. This is the most newcomers we’ve taken in in one year,” Gloudon tells TALLAWAH. “They still have a lot to learn, and there’s the discipline and certain habits that have to be looked at. But as we go along, we’ll gel more and more.”






PUMP UP THE VOLUME: Grace Jones’ life story headed to the big screen

CAMERA READY: The superstar's fans will be treated to personal footage and live performance clips.

What will the official biographical film project about the life and times of Grace Jones look like? If new reports are any reliable indication, the finished product will not be out of place among the documentary features that so eloquently captured the stories of Usain Bolt (I Am Bolt) and Bob Marley (Kevin MacDonald’s Marley), among other icons.

Commissioned by BBC Films, Grace Jones: The Musical of My Life will come to audiences later this year as “an observational portrait” that combines personal video footage with staged musical sequences to offer a detailed, up-close-and-personal snapshot of the life of the now 68-year-old pop legend and provocateur, who was born in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, but migrated to England (at age 13), where her meteoric rise to fame began.

Sophie Fiennes, sister of acting powerhouses and siblings Ralph Fiennes (The Reader, The English Patient) and Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) will helm the project, which is being distributed by Picture House Entertainment. 

Jones shot to stardom with disco hits like “Pull Up To My Bumper” and “I Need A Man” (to cite a couple of her party-starting anthems), while her film credits include sizeable roles in the James Bond classic A View to Kill, Boomerang, Conan the Destroyer and Shaka Zulu.  The announcement of the film’s impending release comes in the wake of her 2015 autobiography, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs, which graced bestseller lists around the world.

THE CHOSEN ONE: Who will succeed Prof. Mervyn Morris as Poet Laureate? The National Library of Jamaica has issued a call for nominations from the general public for worthy candidates to fill the post of Poet Laureate of Jamaica, for the 2017-2020 period. Nominations open officially on Monday, January 9 and close on February 13. Go to nlj.gov.jm/poetlaureate/nominations.htm for more information.

THE KIDS ❤ BOLT: The awards and prizes continue to roll in for sprinting powerhouse and philanthropist Usain Bolt, who recently picked up the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice 'Need for Speed' Award to add to his impressive and ever-growing collection. Bolt, who is the frontrunner for Sportsman of the Year honours at next week’s RJR Sports Foundation Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, also copped an award from France’s L’Equipe recently and is the reigning IAAF World Male Athlete of the Year.