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MOVIE REVIEW: Almost Christmas is more than Almost Good

It's a bittersweet time. Christmas is approaching. Walter (Danny Glover), a retired auto repair shop owner, tries his best to make the most of the holiday season. But it's hard. He lost the love of his life; his wife, the mother of his four children, his beloved, Grace (Rachel Kylian). Things are not completely somber because his four children, two daughters Rachel (Gabrielle Union) and Cheryl (Kimberly Elise) and his sons, Christian (Romany Malco) and Evan (Jessie Usher) are coming home.

The kids are adults with their own array of issues. Rachel and Cheryl never grew out of their sisterly rivalry. Also, Rachel's trying to make it through law school as a divorced mother of a precocious daughter, Niya (Nadej K Bailey). Rachel also does her best to put the brakes on her old high school flame, Malachi (Omar Epps), who still lives in the neighborhood. Cheryl's husband, (J.B. Smoove) is an ex-NBA player with a wandering eye who constantly relives a winning shot he made in an NBA championship game. Son, Christian is married to Sonya (Nicole Ari Parker), is pre-occupied with running for Congress and is paying very little attention to his wife and two children. Then there's Walter's and Grace's later in life, oops baby, Evan, who is a college football star recovering from an injury.

Also, dropping in is Aunt May (Mo'Nique), Grace's sister, a well-traveled backup vocalist for some of the 80s most famous singers.

Almost Christmas shares with viewers the five days of this family's Christmas get together.

Just from the abbreviated plot summary above you can see that this is a very busy storyline. Half the stuff going on, I didn't even include. That's the problem; it's too much. With a large cast and each individual is dealing with multiple issues, it's sort of a Grand Central Station, on screen.

The film features a successful, educated upper-middle-class black family. Yet the writer, David E. Talbert, embraces standard Hollywood African-American gathering must haves: they have to do a partially or fully choreographed dance; there has to be fisticuffs, and there has to be a gun pulled.

Maybe my experiences are atypical. I have been to hundreds of social events organized and attended by black people and I don't recall a single fight and no guns have ever been displayed. However, I have to admit there have been a few dance lines to breakout!

The film's humor is so predictable and is seen coming minutes before it happens. For example, Cheryl's husband takes a tumble after he climbs on the roof to fix a blinking Santa Claus. And it strays a bit from reality. Like the fact that Christian is in the middle of a run for Congress. As a political junkie, I can say, there are no congressional elections or primaries near Christmas.

Almost Christmas does shine in a couple of ways: like the flashbacks of Walter's and Grace's time together. There is a deep and undeniable love between the two that is obvious from character's glances, making words unnecessary.

This is an outstanding cast. It is good to see Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, and Kimberly Elise among others on the screen. They individually and as a group, just get it done. Great casting of Nadej K. Bailey as Gabrielle's daughter as they have a very strong resemblance. Speaking of Glover, he has involvement in no less than six films between now and the end of next year!

As to our cast diversity rating, Almost Christmas gets a "B". Of course, the cast is primarily African American with a few white supporting actors, like John Michael Higgins who plays Christian's campaign manager. However, there are no Hispanics or Asians in notable roles.

So what's the verdict on Almost Christmas? It ekes out our highest rating, See It! The overall entertainment value combined with a very strong cast makes it worth a trip to the theater. It's about two hours long and is rated PG-13 (for suggestive material, drug content, and language).

A Kickstarter Campaign for Amiri Baraka's Last Play

Kickstarter Campaign to Produce Most Dangerous Man in America

Actor-activist Danny Glover, New Federal Theatre's Woodie King, Jr., and journalist/ author Herb Boyd were among the luminaries who helped announce the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to raise $40,000 for legendary poet, playwright and activist Amiri Baraka's final play, Most Dangerous Man in America, about W.E.B. DuBois. Following opening remarks made by Dr. Khalil Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, at a news conference held today, Glover offered homage, saying Baraka helped transform his life in the arts.

Actor-activist-Danny-Glover-reading-at-press-conference 650x867Actor and activist Danny Glover reading notes prior to press conference. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson/What's The 411 Networks

Glover, whose friendship with the acclaimed writer spanned nearly 50 years, noted, "I met Amiri Baraka for the first time in the Spring of 1967, when I was a 20-year-old student at San Francisco State. Amiri's on-campus presence was essential, and a catalyst for establishing the College of Ethnic Studies, which 45 years later is still the only one in the nation." Glover also said, "Amiri Baraka was the most dangerous man in America! Now, his son, Ras Baraka, is mayor of Newark. Amiri's legacy is that he imparted an understanding of the dialectics of history-making moments."

Scheduled for world premiere on May 28, 2015, Most Dangerous Man in America will be produced and directed by King.

Woodie-King Producer-Director-New-Federal-Theatre-being-interviewed-prior-to-press-conference 650x647 New Federal Theatre Producer and Director, Woodie King, talking with a reporter prior to the press conference. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson/What's The 411 Networks

"Our Kickstarter donors essentially are producers of a play conceived and written by a world-class theatre icon," said Woodie King Jr., Producer and Director, New Federal Theatre and producer of Amiri Baraka's plays since the 1960s. "They also are investors in both Baraka and DuBois' vibrant, rich legacies through a play depicting the triumph of the human spirit."

Former ABC News reporter Art McFarland will star as DuBois and Petronia Paley as Shirley Graham DuBois. Both actors made brief statements about their roles and the historic play, which dramatizes what many consider to be among the most traumatic events in America during the reign of McCarthyism.

Art-McFarland-talking-with-actress-Petronia  Paley Amiri-Baraka-photo 650x583 Former WABC-TV new anchor Art McFarland and actress Petronia Paley speaking prior to the press conference. Photo credit: Luvon Roberson/What's The 411 Networks

A world-renowned scholar, historian, author, Pan-Africanist, and civil rights activist, DuBois, a founder of the NAACP and one of the most important civil rights leaders of the first half of the 20th Century, was indicted by the Justice Department/FBI for his peace activism and unrelenting protest against nuclear weapons. Although not convicted at his 1951 trial, the US government confiscated his passport and held it for eight years.

WEB-Dubois Founder-NAACP Niagara-Movement 650x366Scholar, activist, and founder of the NAACP. W.E.B. DuBois

Other highlights of the news conference:
- Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring Danny Glover, Emmy Award winning actor Glynn Turman, poet Jessica Care Moore, and Woodie King, Jr. To watch, click:  .
- Tony-nominated actor Ralph Carter's soul-stirring rendition of "Freedom Fighters."

To donate and help raise $40,0000 for Amiri Baraka's final play, Most Dangerous Man in America, go to Pledges for $25 can nab tickets to preview performances of the play; larger amounts can reap big-time rewards, including first-edition copies of books by Amiri Baraka and DuBois, vintage posters, historic magazines, DVDs, and original artwork – or even co-producer credit. Books by famed caricaturist-cartoonist Albert "Al"Hirschfeld will be included among the gifts to Kickstarter donors. The project will only be funded if at least $40,000 is pledged by Sunday, March 1, at 11:59 pm EST.

Woodie-King-Kickstarter-Memorabilia 650x781Memorabilia that will be gifted to kickstarter contributors. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson/What's The 411 Networks

For more information, visit New Federal Theatre on Facebook or at

  • Published in Theatre
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