Saturday, 8 December 2018

A FREE MAN: Jamaicans rejoice as reggae icon Buju Banton returns home

WALKING TALL: Banton waves to supporters as he makes his way through the NMIA airport.

ON Friday night, it was a health-looking Buju Banton, a vision in white (tam, shirt and sweater) and blue jeans who stepped off the plane and made his way inside the Norman Manley International Airport, where his arrival was met with jubilation by a throng of supporters, most of them armed with smartphones and video cameras, eager to capture images of The Gargamel’s long-awaited return to his island home.

The Grammy-winning reggae superstar (né Mark Myrie) was first setting foot on Jamaican soil after serving eight years at the McRae Correctional Facility in Georgia, USA, on drug-related charges. It was widely publicized that he would be released on December 8.

Anticipation was heightened for Buju’s release, when a message recently appeared on Instagram from the freedom-bound entertainer. It read, “In light of the adversity I have encountered, I feel the need to stress that my only desire going forward is peace and love. I only want to be associated with my craft.”

According to the post, he’s also looking forward to the opportunity to properly thank his fans and loyal supporters. “Having survived, I want to share the good news and strength of my music, which I have devoted my life to. I look forward to the opportunity to say a personal thanks to my fans and everyone who supported me.”

As was previously reported, preparations are in high gear for a slew of comeback performances by the 45-year-old roots-reggae legend, known for hits like “Til Shiloh” and “Destiny,” not to mention the Grammy-winning opus Rasta Got Soul.

Reports have indicated that Banton’s first concert will take place next March at the Grizzly’s Planation in Priory, St. Ann, ahead of dates in Trinidad and The Bahamas. ‘The Long Walk to Freedom’ Tour has been scheduled for the summer.

MAN OF THE HOUSE: Trust and family values take a provocative spin in What Goes Around

BETWEEN US: Castmates Thomas and Nicholson; Jones and Tulloch.

What Goes Around (Probemaster Entertainment)
Director: David Tulloch
Cast: Neisha Yen Jones, Michael Nicholson, Sabrina Thomas, Samantha Brevett and David Tulloch
Venue: The Blue Room (Phoenix Theatre), New Kingston

“AT this point in my life, everything is going so right. What could possibly go wrong?” Alistaire Robinson (David Tulloch), the central male character in the awesome new play What Goes Around, has hit a purple patch in his life. He just got a raise and a promotion for stellar performance at the insurance company where he works – and she shares a gorgeous home with his wife, Gina (Neisha Yen Jones) and daughter, Tiffany (who we, sadly, never meet).

Like most couples, Al and Gina bicker and fight all the time, chiefly over his frequent absence from the nest due to “work commitments”), but for the most part they are a close-knit little bunch, complete with a sharp-tongued housekeeper named Shanda (Sabrina Thomas).

Truth be told, Gina is getting restless, convinced that her marriage is in trouble. She has her suspicions about Al and his devoted secretary Michelle (Samantha Brevett), especially when Al announces he’ll be heading off to Negril for a weekend retreat with the boss.

Gina decides to hire a gardener/handyman. Tall and sturdily built, Richard (Michael Nicholson) seems just the man for the job. “I come to take care of all the problems in this house,” he announces, giving us some shifty eyes.

Is this man who he says he is? What’s really going down in Negril? The audience is in for some shocking developments that start to unfold when Tiffany suddenly vanishes, and the dream world that Alistaire worked so hard to build starts to crumble around him.

Full of passion, secrets and lies, and endless alibis, What Goes Around is Tulloch’s reworking of his 2015 hit Sins of the Flesh. The soap-opera elements remain (seemingly unavoidable), but it feels way sharper, the overall package much tighter, than the original. 

The cast is first-rate, especially Tulloch and Jones who seem to have fine-tuned that chemistry they ignited while doing 2017’s White Skin, Black Heart

While Nicholson is all grit and unflinching commitment to the task at hand, Brevett shows that she can bring the sultry-sweet, a sharp contrast to her Anita in this summer’s Sugar Daddy. Thomas, meanwhile, displays a real gift for spiky comedy. 

Provocative and entertaining, What Goes Around is quintessential Tulloch. At its core, it’s about something we all struggle with at some point in our lives: finding the courage to tell the truth and do the right thing. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

AWARDS SEASON WATCH: Spotlight on Best Reggae Album nominees and 2019 Golden Globes contenders

>> Going for Gold: Protoje, Etana score their first Grammy nods 
The hardworking queens of reggae music are represented in this season’s Grammy race, thanks to songbird Etana’s nod for her critically acclaimed opus Reggae Forever. Released by Tad’s International, the disc joins four other worthy contenders in the category reserved annually for Best Reggae Album. Protoje has also scored his first nod for Grammy honours, with A Matter of Time making the cut. The Shaggy and Sting collaborative sizzler 44/876 also picked up a nomination alongside Black Uhuru’s As the World Turns. Ziggy Marley, meanwhile, earned his 13th career nomination for Rebellion Rises. The 61st Grammy Awards are set for Feb. 10 at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. 

>> Golden Globes 2019: Vice earns 6 nods, A Star is Born gets 5 
Vice, a well-reviewed dark comedy about the Dick Cheney-George W. Bush ‘bromance’ leads the pack of contenders for the Golden Globes, with six nominations, including a Best Actor nod for leading man Christian Bale, who is hardly recognizable as the embattled for US Vice-President. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced the nominees on Thursday morning. Earning runner-up honours, with five nominations apiece are the crowd-pleasing hits A Star is Born, Green Book and The Favourite. The field of Best Picture (Drama) nominees is comprised of A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, If Beale Street Could Talk, BlackKlansman and Black Panther, while the Musical/Comedy contenders are The Favourite, Green Book, Mary Poppins Returns and Crazy Rich Asians. The winners will be announced during a ceremony at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on January 6.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

NEWS FEED: 2018 Sportsman/woman of the Year ballot now complete + Usain Bolt’s Turkish possibility + Chris Gayle wins defamation court case

STAYING IN THE GAME: Is Usain Bolt moving to Turkey? The UK’s Daily Mail has reported that managers of football club Sivasspor have expressed interest in offering the retired sprint legend the opportunity to fulfil his dream of playing professional soccer. According to the report, the Turkish club could offer a deal to Bolt’s agent for the second half of the current European season. Sivasspor is currently ranked 12th in Turkey’s top division league. The 32-year-old sportsman, whose quest for a professional-football contract has seen him training with teams in Norway and South Africa (and more recently with Australia’s Central Coast Mariners) insists that this is something he seriously wants to pursue. “This is not about money,” Bolt says. “This is my dream.” 

PAID IN FULL: It’s time for Chris Gayle to collect! The Jamaican superstar batsman has won his defamation suit against Australia’s Fairfax Media, which published articles in 2016 alleging that Gayle exposed himself to a female massage therapist during the 2015 World Cup. A New South Wales court has awarded the veteran cricketer US$221,000 (J$28 million) in damages. Chris Gayle was represented at the hearing by his spokesman Grant Vandenburg, who told journalists, “All he wants to do is play cricket, and he’d really, really love to come back to Australia – a country that he loves as much as anywhere – and play in the Big Bash.” 

ELITE LEAGUE: Sunshine Girls’ MVP Shamera Sterling, athletics powerhouse Shericka Jackson and Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment are the new additions to the list of nominees for the 2018 National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards, being handed out by the RJR/Gleaner Sports Foundation on January 18 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston. Sterling joins a strong field that already includes Stafanie Taylor (cricket), Daniel Thomas-Dodd (track-and-field), Khadija Shaw (football), Janieve Russell (track-and-field), Aisha Praught-Leer (track-and-field), Shanieka Ricketts (track-and-field) Kimberly Williams (track-and-field), and record-breaking swimmer Alia Atkinson, while Parchment completes the ballot that also features Chris Binnie (squash), Ronald Levy (track-and-field), O’Dayne Richards (track-and-field) and Fedrick Dacres (track-and-field).

REAL TALK: Dalton Harris’ victory is a story of humility, enormous talent and personal transformation

PITCH PERFECT: For many fans, Harris has always had the 'X factor'.

ON Sunday, December 2, Dalton Harris was announced as the winner of the 2018 season of the X Factor UK singing competition, after fending off spirited challenges from some worthy contenders. 

The writing was long on the wall, and as the competition hit the home stretch, it became abundantly clear that this 24-year-old natural, a son of Sanguinetti in Clarendon, was about to enter the history books.

Along with global household-name status, his big win goes hand-in-hand with Tessanne Chin’s triumph on Season 5 of The Voice. Tessanne and Dalton must do a song together. The lyrics are taking shape in my head as we speak. 

For countless folks who saw Dalton Harris win the Digicel Rising Stars competition in 2010 and watched him on the X Factor, the most fascinating thing to comment on is his transformation, physically and vocally. Donovan Germaine and Kingston College were a blessing. 

Dalton has morphed into a grown man whose confident and self-assured delivery of the songs he performed on X Factor was remarkable, unforgettable stuff. I get goosegumps everytime I hear his rendition of “Listen.” 

In hindsight, there was absolutely no doubt about his abilities as a singer. The boy’s got real talent, and it helped him win Rising Stars. But what a phenomenal instrument his voice has become! You can tell he did some serious vocal work with Germaine’s Penthouse label, and the results now speak for themselves. People are in awe. I am in awe. 

He’s not one of those singers who does vocal acrobatics for the sake of showing off. In Dalton’s case, they elevate his performances. Already, it’s something that comes close to mastery. 

Now that he’s released his first single, “The Power of Love,” and is about to embark on a solo journey, what kind of career can Dalton Harris have? I see him as a future Maxwell, with a little Maxi Priest thrown into the mix. I hope he gets a great team to work with. 

As for the haters and detractors, they will have to take a seat. Dalton Harris and his army of supporters are winning right now.

SOCIETY, SOCIETY: Jean, Hubie and loyal supporters celebrate ProComm’s 40 glorious years

FEELING FESTIVE: The ProComm team shares in the cutting of the cake; (below) Lowrie-Chin, with Christelle Harris and Ruth Hussey.

What: ProComm 40th anniversary cocktail reception 

Where: Jamaica Pegasus Hotel – Talk of the Town 

When: Thursday evening 

Guest List: Thalia Lyn, William Mahfood, Chorvelle Johnson, Steadman Fuller, High Commissioner Amanda Frazer, Eleanor B. Jones, Dr. Michael Abrahams, Dr. Marcia Forbes, Justin Morin, Paget DeFreitas, Donna Parchment Brown, Custos Patricia Dunwell, Mike Fennell, and many more 

Enchanted Evening: As the room filled to capacity with well-dressed folks and the wait staff began serving bubbly and bites, compere Tony Lowrie invited Archbishop Kenneth Richards to bless the evening’s proceedings. 

Memory Lane: Who knew that lady of the hour Jean Lowrie-Chin (looking stunning in black) signed her first ProComm contract with the Pegasus exactly 40 years ago (on Nov. 29, the same date as this event)? Or that she presented the very first ProComm scholarship (she’s big on education) to Calabar old boy Etmore Williams, who lived in Grant’s Pen at the time, and went on to become a sales and marketing manager? 

Why We Celebrate Jean: From the Gleaner’s Flair magazine to the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) to Grace’s Heather Little-White Household Worker of the Year Awards (born from an idea she pitched to Don Wehby), Jean Lowrie-Chin CD has always epitomized the twin ideas of social responsibility and nation-building. The success of her work as a public relations professional, said guest speaker Dorothy Pine McLarty, remains firmly rooted in her “clear and unbiased approach to communication” and being committed to extending the love of country through various programmes.” 

In Her Own Words: A bonafide trailblazer, Lowrie-Chin gives props to her support system, chiefly the kids (Anita and Noel) and the Barack to her Michelle, Hubert. “Hubie is my rock! I am so grateful,” she told the roomful of well-wishers. The 40-year journey, she admits, has been fraught with challenges but utterly fulfilling, thanks to a great group of team players. “ProComm has weathered 40 years because of the hard work and dedication of family and the support of clients,” she said. The biggest lesson of all? “One you do PR, you can handle anything.”

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

SET IT OFF: Widows reels you in with a crackling tale of risk and retribution

EXIT STRATEGY: Davis and the ladies finalize their plan.

SET in Chicago, Widows is a twisty, engrossing drama-thriller about ruthless betrayal, resilience and survival that presents leading-lady Viola Davis with the grittiest role of her Oscar-winning career. 

Davis stars as Veronica Rollings, a devoted wife mourning the death of her Caucasian husband, Harry (Liam Neeson), and desperately trying to pick up the pieces. Veronica (who had lost her only son, Marcus, to police brutality) is devastated by her husband’s tragic end, but as viewers soon learn, Harry was no saint. He was a criminal with a taste for big money who made a lot of enemies. And now that he’s dead, they’ve turned on Veronica to collect.

She is scared to death of Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), an aspiring politician in Chicago’s 18th Ward who claims Harry stole a couple millions from him. Jamal’s younger brother (played by Daniel Kaluuya) is twice as frightening. 

When Veronica discovers the blueprint for Harry’s next big score, she seeks out the bereaved wives (Michelle Rodriquez and Elizabeth Debicki) of Harry’s cronies who are also near penniless, and together they hatch a plan to steal five million dollars to pay off the debts and give their lives a fresh start. 

Easier said than done. 

Directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), who co-wrote the screenplay with Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn, Widows is a superlative feature that moves at a steady pace, ratcheting up the intrigue and suspense as the plot thickens. 

The film is heavy with star power, featuring tidy supporting work from Colin Farrell, Jacki Weaver, Cynthia Erivo and Robert Duvall, among others. 

Davis is in her element. Veronica has to make tough choices, some she’s not proud of, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And that’s really what this film is all about: how one copes with the fiery darts life throws at you when you least expect them. 

Still, there are no innocents and certainly no winners in Widows. Because what McQueen’s jolting film underscores, above all else, is the universal truth that you reap what you sow. Tyrone’s Verdict: A-