And we're off… the first month of film releases for the new year 2012, and what can we expect where *black cinema* is concerned?
Well, January will probably see one of the few months throughout 2012 with the highest number of *black films* released theatrically – 2. That's right, 2 films with stories centered around characters of African descent, will be released theatrically (in the USA) this month, and you won't find many other months with 2 or more films scheduled for theatrical distribution (I didn't say none, but a tiny few).
First up this month, on January 13th, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer and Courtney B. Vance will join Dolly Parton and Jeremy Jordan in Todd Graff's musical/drama Joyful Noise.
Short description: Two women, one a mother of two teenagers, the other a widow of the recently deceased choir director, join forces to save their small-town gospel choir.
It's not high on my to-see list, but thank goodness for press screenings, which means, I won't have to pay for my screening when I do see it :)
No theater counts yet, but I'm assuming this family-friendly feel-good movie will open wide.
Second, the following week, on January 20th, the long-awaited George Lucas-produced, Anthony Hemingway-directed WWII actioner Red Tails, will open in theaters. And given all we've written about the film over the last 6 or so months, there's apparently A LOT riding on it; if the stars of the film Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr are right, black cinema's future depends on the success of Red Tails; yes, that's right, they said that, after a screening of the film for the Congressional Black Caucus, last year (2011).
To say there's pressure on some for this $93 million film (funded entirely by Lucas) to succeed would be an understatement; I'm sure the stars of it hope that it thrills at the box office; but maybe no one wants this to succeed more than Lucas, who has $93 million riding on it.
Red Tails is set for release on January 20 – a period that was once relegated to the release of films that studios weren't particularly high on; although there's no longer some steadfast rule in that regard.
I'm sure press screenings will begin shortly, if they haven't already, and I hope I am invited to one.
No theater counts yet, but I'm sure it'll open wide as well.
I should mention those films that don't center on black characters but do feature black actors in supporting roles, like Courtney B. Vance in another January 2012 movie, The Divide – a horror flick which comes out the same weekend as Joyful Noise (January 13th); so we'll have two Courtney B. Vance movies dueling at the box office that weekend; also catch Michael Ealy assuming supporting role duties in the next Underworld movie in the franchise, Underworld Awakening (let's hope the brotha lives to see the end and doesn't get his head bitten off by some lycan); that comes out January 20th; then the following weekend, Brit Nonso Anozie, will be one part of a team led by Liam Neeson, who find themselves in a battle for their lives against a pack of rogue wolves on the frozen tundra of the Alaskan wilderness (again, like Michael Ealy, I hope the brotha lives until the end of the movie and doesn't get his head bitten off by some…); that same weekend, Anthony Mackie can be seen in the heist thriller Man On A Ledge; Sherri Shepherd plays a hooker with a heart of gold named Lula in One For The Money; and still that same weekend, January 27th, Ice Cube plays a detective investigating Woody Harrelson's corrupt cop in Rampart.
And these are all films we've covered here on S&A.
Last but not least are all the 2012 Sundance Film Festival feature films that center on stories about people of African descent, like Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer, Ava DuVernay's Middle Of Nowhere, Sheldon Candis' LUV, Sam Pollard's Slavery By Another Name, Terence Nance's An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty, and Benh Zeitlin's Beasts Of The Southern Wild.
Granted these are feature films that only those attending Sundance this month will see (unless they are part of one of the fesitval's recent new initiatives, like partnerships with YouTube, as well as simultaneous theatrical screenings of selected films in select cities around the country). Although Sam Pollard's Slavery By Another Name will make its TV debut on PBS on February 13th, a couple of weeks after the festival ends, so most of the rest of you will be able to watch it then.
The others you'll have to wait until they screen at a theater near you (hopefully anyway).
So that's about it for January. I think we can all agree that Red Tails will be the film that all eyes will be on this month!
Of course there'll be screening series here and there, many of which we'll highlight throughout the month as we are notifed of them.