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FATi, the New Queen of AfroPop, Is Taking the World by Storm | What's The 411 Interview

VIDEO CONVERSATION: FATi, The New Queen of AfroPop

FATi, the new Queen of Afropop, is on a mission and she gives us the deets when she sits down with What’s The 411’s host, the award-winning journalist, Kizzy Cox, and comedian Onika McLean.

FATi takes us on her career voyage starting with giving up her “day job” with the thought of showcasing her talents on Broadway to going back home to Abidjan to structure her singing career to performing before 500,000 people at a concert in Nairobi, Kenya, and more.

FATi is not the typical newbie in the recording industry, as her father, helped her to understand early in the process that she needs to be more than a singer and take control of her product. He’s also quick to remind her when necessary that "you got to be about your business."

When FATi arrived in Nairobi, Kenya to perform at a benefit with her uncle, Robert “Kool” Bell, to find 500,000 people in the audience, she showed her vulnerability, as she suffered a serious case of stage-fright. And, FATi’s mother immediately took on the Cher character in the movie, Moonstruck, to set her straight. Needless to say, FATi rebounded quickly and performed to rave reviews.

Coming from a tight-knit family, everyone is on board with supporting FATi’s dream; in fact, her brother is her manager. And, FATi is having a great time while living her dream. She’s still looking forward to performing on Broadway and would love to perform with Akon, Missy Elliot, T Savage, and Shekhinah (South Africa) to name a few.

FATi knows everything is about timing, and she’s willing to stay focused, and continue to do the work, so she will be ready for greater opportunities.

MUSIC VIDEO: FATi Performs Her Latest Song, QUEEN

A Dog’s Journey, a mediocre adventure. | WHAT'S THE 411 MOVIE REVIEW

Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) mourns the loss of her son who was killed in an auto accident. The fact that his wife, Gloria (Betty Gilpin) and their young daughter CJ, are staying with her and her husband, Ethan (Dennis Quaid) helps the grieving mother get over her loss. However, Gloria becomes unhappy with the arrangement, takes CJ and leaves. At the same time, Ethan’s dog Bailey dies. As the canine departs this world, Ethan asks him to always look after CJ. Bailey keeps that promise. Living and dying multiple times, sometimes as a big dog, sometimes as a small one, he always manages to find and protect CJ.

A Dog’s Journey, a moderately entertaining film. Written by four screenwriters, the story is predictable and often drags along. This is not a film for kids. It covers mature and often painful topics.

The best part of A Dog’s Journey is the cast's extraordinary acting. Kathryn Prescott who plays the adult CJ and Gilpin in the role as her mother, are exceptional. Gilpin, 32, whose character ages throughout the film is only five years older than her on-screen daughter, Prescott who is 27.

What is also exceptional is cast diversity. This film gets an “A”. Asian American actor, Henry Lau has a substantial role as CJ’s lifelong friend. There are other people of color with important supporting slots.

A Dog’s Journey is rated PG for mature content, perilous situations, and off-color humor.

A Dog’s Journey is 108 minutes in length, and it gets a Rent It, rating.

Breakthrough comes through for viewers | What's The 411 Movie Review

If you’ve been watching TV over the last few weeks, you’re likely to already know the story of Breakthrough. The film is based on the true story of John Smith (Marcel Ruiz), a young teen, who falls through the ice which formed on a local lake. Underwater for 15 minutes, he incredibly survives what doctors call a miracle. His mother, a deeply religious woman, credits her prayer and faith for his survival.

To succeed, Breakthrough had its own obstacles to overcome, keeping viewers’ interest in a story in which the outcome is already known. Like John, it comes through.

Leading the cast is Chrissy Metz in the role of John’s mother. Metz is amazing! She dominates every scene she’s in, with determination and when necessary, confrontation. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this was real life and she really did have a kid whose life was at risk. Director Roxann Dawson or whoever is responsible for casting Metz should be commended. Metz like John’s real-life mother is full figured. Hollywood often opts for thin actresses when the real-life characters they play are overweight.

This story tugs on the viewers’ heartstrings. In this day of constant conflict among groups, it’s good to see this diverse community come together and root for John. But some of the locals asked John, why you? His school teacher pondered about the death of her husband who had no such miraculous recovery from an aneurysm.

John is on the high school basketball team and is also a fan of the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry. Of course, it had to be that way; Curry is Breakthrough’s executive producer.

Breakthrough earns an “A” in cast diversity. Dennis Haysbert plays the doctor who shepherds John through his miraculous recovery. And Mike Colter, who plays the first responder, had his own incredible experience when a voice spoke to him as he tried to rescue John. He thought it was his boss; it wasn’t.

Breakthrough gets a See It! rating. It comes together in an intriguing and heartwarming way. Breakthrough is rated, PG (for thematic content including peril) and is 90 minutes in length. And appropriately opens during the Easter holidays.

Little is Big on Entertainment | WHAT’S THE 411 MOVIE REVIEW

She’s the ultimate Alpha female, Jordan (Regina Hall) runs her highly successful tech enterprise mercilessly. She insults and constantly threatens her staff. She’s condescending to everyone else in her world. One day Jordan offends the wrong person who magically transforms her back to her 13-year-old self. After getting over the shock of this transformation, she realizes that even as a teen she has a business to run. So, she turns to the primary target of her abuse, April (Issa Rae), her personal assistant to serve as her guardian and to run the day-to-day operations of her business.

Little is simply a lot of fun and it gets a See It! rating. It’s funny and even as a comedy serves up superior acting. Marsai Martin of Blackish fame who plays the younger Jordan, rules! She personifies the teenage version of the iron-willed executive that we saw in the adult Jordan. Her performance is key to the success of Little. She also works her natural “do” throughout the movie. Marsai who will soon be 15-years-old in real life also is one of the film’s executive producers, and according to NPR that makes her the youngest one in Hollywood.

Marsai Martin as a preteen Jordan Sanders in the movie Little photo courtesy of Universal Pictures 700x487

Marsai Martin, as the preteen Jordan Sanders in the movie, Little. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

The rest of the creative team includes Tina Gordon, Will Packer, Kenya Barris, and Tracy Oliver. This group of African Americans should be commended for the creation of such positive black characters: Jordan has two married parents. There’s nobody on welfare or in jail. And no one calls each other the “N” word. Jordan definitely behaves like what many would call the “B” word, yet no one says it! (And they shouldn’t.) While this is definitely a female dominated story, the black men are upbeat and supportive of the ladies as they deal with their myriad of issues.

Little earns a solid “A” for cast diversity. It’s frankly one of the most diverse casts you’ll see. Which is also consistent with the fact the story is set in Atlanta. Little is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and is 109 minutes in length.

Take a little time to see Little. You won’t regret it!

Pet Sematary, gets better with age | What’s The 411 MOVIE REVIEW

It’s been 20 years since the first film based upon Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Pet Sematary, was first released. In the 2019 remake, like the original story, Dr. Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), relocates from the fast pace of Boston, with his wife, Rachel (Amy Seimetz), son and daughter, to a quieter and more relaxed, rural Maine. Immediately, they find a pet cemetery burial ground hidden deep in the woods near the family's new home. A place where the locals have entombed their deceased pets and livestock for decades. When the family’s pet cat succumbs to a roadside accident, Louis turns to his reclusive neighbor, Jud Crandall (John Lithgow), for help in disposing of the feline. Jud, wanting to help relieve the family’s pain, sets off a chain of events leading to nightmarish results.

Pet Sematary, the handiwork of master scary guy, Stephen King, will entertain, scare and fascinate you! And it’s a See It! The fact that viewers are likely to have varying degrees of familiarity with the story is not a problem; as just the right amount of the original plot has been changed. And this familiarity piques viewers’ interest as to when, what they know will happen, is going to happen. Those who know very little about this film will still find it gripping.

The producers dug up a great group of performers. Horror films generally don’t require any acting range beyond a well-timed look of fear and authentic sounding screams. But Pet Sematary, demands more and Clarke, Seimetz and Lithgow provide it. Each character deals with his or her demons requiring them to behave in a way that convinces viewers of the deep anguish they each suffer.

Of course, there are some leaps in credibility. Like trucks driving at highway speeds on a narrow, country road where children and pets might be crossing. And why are horror films always set in remote areas? Why not in a high-rise apartment?

As to cast diversity, Pet Sematary gets an A-. The cast is small, and the film is set in an area which would likely have a small minority population. However, a black man has a major supporting and other people of color, smaller supporting roles.

It’s rated R for horror, violence, bloody images, and some language, and is 101 minutes in length. Pet Sematary is worth your while!

Sharland Hendrix’s Journey to Actress and Voice-Over Artist | Episode 139

Sharland Hendrix Gives up her job and steps out on faith to become a voice-over artist and actress

In Episode 139 of What's The 411, recorded on March 19, 2019, journalist Kizzy Cox, and comedian Onika McLean are talking with actress Sharland Hendrix, as she talks about her journey from event management at the Apollo Theater and meeting and working with A-listers such as Robert De Niro and Gladys Knight to becoming an actress, voice-over artist, and singer. Ms. Hendrix details her steps including how to select people to work with, her agent, the secret to doing voice-over work from home on a budget, and more.

Us, let’s us down. | What’s The 411 MOVIE REVIEW

There’s a saying: Adulthood is that time in life when you get over your childhood. And that is certainly the case for Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o) who suffered a traumatic beachfront experience as a child. Now having married and moved away from that location, she and her family, husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and their two children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) return to the site to vacation with their friends, the Tylers. The families rent houses down the street from each other.

Adelaide immediately feels creeped-out upon arriving at the house. She tries to suppress the feelings as her husband launches into a fun-loving, we’re-on-vacation mode. That night Adelaide realizes that her queasiness is justified when four strangers appear in their driveway and the group, which looks exactly like her own family, is not there for fun and games.

Us, from writer and director Jordan Peele who scored a huge hit with his 2017 film, Get Out, turns out an utter disappointment this time in Us. I fully expected another different twist to the horror film format. Unique in the way Get Out cleverly intertwined race and terror, in a way not seen before. In Us, the only difference is that it has a black cast.

Us has all the features of the genre that makes these films seem so insipid. The villains are human yet are always a lot stronger than ordinary people. The characters must behave in the most implausible way. For example, the Wilsons arguing over who should drive when they need to make a lifesaving escape. Then there’s Adelaide’s getting out of the safety of the vehicle to confront weapon-carrying killers. My favorite horror film lunacy is how moments after the most terrifying and bloody encounters, the survivors engage in light banter. As if nothing just happened. In Us, after a nearly fatal ordeal, the Wilsons calmly chat, and the son even munches on Skittles.

The dialogue falls into “the who says that?” category. While driving along and listening to music, Adelaide turns to her son, in the back seat, snaps her fingers and tells him to “get in the rhythm”. Is that what a black mother would say to her child? And in describing their attackers’ strategy, the husband, Gabe opines that would take a shit load of coordination!

Peele’s own father was absent from much of his life. Interestingly, the black father character in Get Out had an absentee father. In Us, Peele creates Gabe, a bumbling and childlike parent. It’s almost as if Adelaide has three kids rather than two.

Speaking of Adelaide, Lupita Nyong’o is exceptional. She holds this film together. It’s unfortunate that she wasted her vast talents on this production.

As to cast diversity, we give Us a B+. It has a relatively small group of characters. There are the Wilsons and the Tylers, who are white. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for other performers. Asians and Hispanics are pretty much absent from this production.

Us gets a split rating; if you like horror films, See It! If not, wait and Rent It.

Us is rated “R” for violence/terror, and language, and is 116 minutes in length. At a budget of $20M, which is small by movie-making standards, there is no question that Us is bound to be a financial success.

Wendy Williams Staying in a Sober House; George Clooney Defends Meghan Markle [411TV NEWS]

What's The 411 QUICK TAKES: Howard Stern on Wendy Williams; Michael Jackson's family may sue the producers of Leaving Neverland and more

In this episode of What's The 411’s Quick Takes, award-winning journalist Kizzy Cox, and comedian Onika McLean are talking about Wendy Williams and her admission that she has been staying in a Sober House; radio shock-jock, Howard Stern who went in on Wendy Williams after she says he’s gone Hollywood and lost his edge; actor, filmmaker and businessman, George Clooney, put his protective shield around Ms. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, as he believes the British press is treating her like it treated Princess Diana, and; the late Michael Jackson’s children, Paris Jackson; Prince Jackson, and; Prince Michael Jackson; may sue Wade Robson and James Safechuck, and the other producers of Leaving Neverland.

Wonder Park is wonderful! [MOVIE REVIEW]

June Bailey, played by newcomer, Brianna Denski, is a precocious and creative eight-year-old, visualizes and creates a model for a magical amusement park she calls, Wonder Park. One day while traveling with her math camp class on a field trip, she decides that the outing just isn’t for her. With the help of a classmate, she creates a diversion and exits the school bus and heads home. She takes a shortcut through the woods and what does she find? A place called Wonderland that has all the rides and characters from her imaginary place, Wonder Park. But things aren’t quite the way she dreamed of - and Wonderland residents look to her for answers.

Wonder Park is a computer-animated adventure film full of vivid colors and lively characters and it’s a See It! I like the fact that the genius in this story is a girl. Traditionally these roles have been filled by boys.

The story is busy. June deals with family issues, annoying relatives, a pesky neighbor, not to mention finding her dream landscape is actually a bit of a nightmare. Kids today expect intriguing plots and subplots like this film offers. The days of Bugs Bunny simply trying to foil Elmer Fudd are long gone!

As a parent, one aspect of the film troubled me: June escaping the school trip and then taking a shortcut through the woods to get home. That’s not recommended behavior. The target market for the film is kids and they can be easily influenced.

In addition to Brianna Denski, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Mila Kunis, John Oliver, Jennifer Garner, and Matthew Broderick, star and provide voices for the characters.

Wonder Park is rated PG for some mild thematic elements and action and it’s 86 minutes in length. Wonder Park is a See It!

The Aftermath is entertaining after all! [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s 1946. World War II has ended. To the victors go the spoils. The winning British are in Germany governing the losing Germans. Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) leads the British efforts to bring order to the City of Hamburg. Morgan’s wife, Rachel (Keira Knightley) arrives from England where the two reunite to begin their post-war lives together. The British Government, as it has a right to do, takes over a mansion owned by a German architect, Stefan Lubert, (Alexander Skarsgård). This becomes the Colonel and his wife’s new home. There are camps set up for displaced Germans like Lubert, a widower, and his daughter who resides with him. However, Morgan, much to his wife’s chagrin, allows the Luberts to stay in the mansion’s attic. From that point, The Aftermath begins, with the characters confronting a range of conflicts and challenges.

The Aftermath succeeds not because it’s an exceptional production, but because it’s a refreshing change from current film experiences. It’s a period piece. And, the re-creation of worn-torn Germany, the story’s highlighting of the continued hostilities between the forces even though the war has officially ended – give the movie a value which underlies the main storyline.

The character conflicts are real and compelling. Lewis and Rachel debate a loss they suffered. Stefan tries to convince his daughter that they are actually lucky to be in the attic. Then there’s tension between Rachel and Stefan. Lewis is often away from home carrying out his military duties. So, one has to question his leaving Rachel in the mansion with the taller and better-looking Stefan.

Each of the lead actors proffers strong performances. Ultimately, The Aftermath comes together in an entertaining and even a bit educational way. And it gets our highest rating, See It!

The Aftermath is rated R for sexual content/nudity, and violence including some disturbing images and is 108 minutes in length.

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