Filed in Article Underground

Yes, Underground Tells Slaves’ Stories, But It’s No Historical Snooze


TV Guide – Yes, WGN America’s Underground is about the Underground Railroad, the term given to the network of people and safe stations that allowed slaves to escape bondage in the South for the northern part of America and Canada. Although it’s a topic often explored in American history textbooks, the show’s writers and producers want you to know that this is decidedly not an educational exercise. “We didn’t want it to feel stuck in the period,” says John Legend, an executive producer. “We didn’t want people to feel like they were in a museum. We wanted it to feel fresh.” That begins with the musical direction. Although Kanye West was previously attached the project as a musical director, it’s Legend who’s the head honcho of the show’s sound (is you listen closely, you can hear his background vocals on the show’s theme song, “Heaven’s Door,” by Alice Smith).


Created by Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy) and Joe Pokaski (Heroes), Underground tells the story of people who dared to make the 600-mile trek from a Georgia plantation to freedom. The show digs into their humanity, bringing to life the small details you may (or may not) have read. “All I saw about the Underground Railroad was this little square in social studies,” said Pokaski. “The more I learned, I saw how dangerous and heroic it was to run.” With five seasons in mind, the creators are looking to tell lots of stories and illuminate the three-dimensional qualities of people we know little about. We’ll see, for example, their ingenuity, Green says — how people hid costumes, shipped themselves in crates or pretended to be white to get freedom for themselves and others.


Stars include Christopher Meloni, Aldis Hodge and Jurnee Smollett-Bell– sister of Empire star Jussie Smollet, who will guest-star; this will mark the first time in 20 years the siblings appear in the same series.


Underground premieres Wednesday, March 9 on WGN.

Filed in Article Underground

‘Underground’ traces path from slavery to freedom


USA TODAY – The Underground Railroad, a path and a movement that allowed people to escape slavery in pre-Civil War America, forms the center of WGN America’s Underground (March 9).


Actors in the drama, which opens at a Georgia plantation in 1857, Friday told writers at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that they appreciate the empowerment of the characters, who are charting their own course to freedom.


“It glorifies everybody’s strength,” said Aldis Hodge, who plays Noah, one of the escaping group’s leaders. “Noah realizes everybody around him has something he doesn’t have. It’s going to take a sense of community to figure this out.”

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Filed in Article Underground Video

WGN America’s Underground Railroad Escape Thriller Gets March Premiere Date, Two Trailers


TV LINE -WGN America’s highly anticipated journey through the Underground Railroad finally has a departure date.


Underground, the drama series starring Jurnee Smollett-Bell (True Blood), Aldis Hodge (TURN) and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU), will premiere on March 9, TVLine has learned.


We also have your first look at two trailers for the series, which provide introductions to the runaway slaves, the plantation owners who aim to keep them captive and the good-natured allies who provide shelter along the way.


Additional Underground cast members include Jussie Smollett (Empire), Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Adina Porter (The 100), Jessica de Gouw (Arrow), Alano Miller (Jane the Virgin), Theodus Crane (The Walking Dead), Chris Chalk (Gotham), Reed Diamond (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mykelti Williamson (Justified), Amirah Vann (Girls), Renwick Scott (Treme) and Johnny Ray Gill (Rectify).


Filed in Article Underground Video

First ‘Underground’ Teaser Trailer Underscores Desperate and Dangerous Times

WGN America, home of Manhattan and Salem, is debuting a new series in the new year focusing on the story of the Underground Railroad. The series comes from Misha Green (Sons of Anarchy), Joe Pokaski (Daredevil), and is also executive produced by John Legend (who will handle the score, soundtrack and all music elements of the series); it will revolve around a group of slaves on a plantation who band together to fight for their freedom. As WGN puts it,

“Underground” tells the story of revolutionaries who use their ingenuity, power and perseverance to attempt the greatest escape in history despite the dire consequences that awaited them on the other side.

Or as the trailer puts it, armed with a Bible and a gun: “When we run, ain’t no white man going to be able to stop us.” Check out the first teaser trailer below (which, like Manhattan, is stylishly shot and full of restive energy).


The series will debut on WGN America in early 2016. You can check out all of the character descriptions and posters here, as well as the new character posters below.


Continue reading First ‘Underground’ Teaser Trailer Underscores Desperate and Dangerous Times

Filed in Article Jack Reacher 2


Today fans of Tom Cruise got some good news. Paramount Pictures has announced that principal photography has begun for the sequel to the 2012 action film, Jack Reacher. Check out all the details here.


Actor/Producer/Stunt Extraordinaire Tom Cruise is back at it again. Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, and Tom Cruise have elected to go the franchise route with Jack Reacher, the 2012 action film based on the Lee Child’s book called “One Shot, which itself is part of a series of Jack Reacher novels. The new film will be titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and will be based on the 18th book in Childs’ Jack Reacher series titled “Never Go Back”. The new film is set to release on October 21, 2016, and will be directed by Edward Zwick. The film will be produced by Tom Cruise himself in addition to Don Granger, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, and Christopher McQuerrie. It will also feature Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Austin Hebert, and Aldis Hodge, among others.


For fans of action films, there is a lot to like here. First, the original film Jack Reacher pretty much gave fans what they were looking for and it’s always great to see Tom Cruise kicking ass. The film was profitable and earned mostly positive reviews. More importantly, it gave us the working relationship between Cruise and McQuerrie, which yielded the excellent Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. With this sequel, they’re back working together again, although McQuerrie, who directed the first Jack Reacher film, is only producing this time. Still, Edward Zwick has proven himself as a capable action-film director (Blood Diamond) to take over for McQuerrie, and has also worked with Cruise before to great success (The Last Samurai). It also helps that Zwick is helping to write the script as well. Typically directors do the best job when they are filming their own material.


Filed in Article Underground

John Legend’s Historical Drama ‘Underground’ Teases First Look at Characters


WGN America series about Underground Railroad was executive produced by Oscar-winning composer and Akiva Goldsman and is set to debut in early 2016


WGN America released six character posters for its new Underground Railroad drama “Underground” on Sunday.


The series follows follows a group of plantation slaves who band together for the fight for their lives and their freedom as they make the perilous journey from the deep South to the North.


The series stars Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Amriah Vann, and Alano Miller. In addition, Smollett-Bell’s brother, “Empire” star Jussie Smollett, will appear on the series as a runaway slave.


The series will also feature Marc Blucas, Adina Porter, Mykelti Williamson, Johnny Ray Gill, and Chris Chalk and many more.


Misha Green wrote and created the series along with Joe Pokaski. The pair also serve as executive producers alongside Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman of Weed Road Pictures; Tory Tunnell and Joby Harold of Safehouse Pictures; and Academy Award-winning songwriter John Legend, along with Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius of Get Lifted.


Anthony Hemingway directs and serves as executive producer for the first four episodes. Sony Pictures Television and Tribune Studios are producing.


“Underground” is set to premiere on WGN in early 2016


Filed in Article Straight Outta Compton

Living Large

Sorry I missed this awesome article.


Icons now, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Ren, MC Yella and Eazy-E began their storied lives just trying to survive and prosper in the meanest ‘hood in L.A.


“I was watching TV in a New York hotel room when I saw Ice Cube on Queen Latifah [the talk show], and she asked what he was doing next,” recounts Oscar-nominated cinematographer (and lifelong rap/hip-hop fan) Matthew Libatique, ASC. “When Cube said a film called Straight Outta Compton, I literally jumped up and grabbed the phone. For the first time in my career, I called my agent and said I really want that project.”

Straight Outta Compton

Fortunately for Libatique, he and Compton director, F. Gary Gray, shared the same agency. They met on Oscar day, 2014, to discuss the film. As Libatique picks up the story: “I remember walking into Gary’s office and seeing this wall of images – one image per scene in chronology with the script. I had come to that meeting with some general ideas about camera movement, but nothing textural that related to color or mood.


“These images, which were basically snapshots by friends or people who were around N.W.A. at that time and happened to have a camera, were completely naturalistic. They put you right there in that time and place, in the recording studios, the concert tours, the photo and video shoots, right on the streets.”


Libatique says the office images felt like a good starting point, “because to me this movie was an origin story about superheroes,” he adds. “I remember telling Gary [in that first meeting] how I read a lot of comic books as a kid, and my favorites were always the origin stories – the ones that showed how Batman or Superman or the Green Lantern became who they are. That’s what Straight Outta Compton is – an origin story about people who ultimately become larger than life in the eyes of pop culture.”

Straight Outta Compton


The superhero metaphor (from the man who shot Ironman and Ironman 2) is well placed. The Los Angeles where the transformative gangsta rap group known as N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes) came of age was as treacherous and crime-ridden as any in the history of that city. Rival Crips and Bloods gangs ruled the streets with crack-cocaine empires, while a militarized LAPD waged indiscriminate war on criminals and civilians alike. Black teenagers (especially those with phone pagers) were ever-moving targets.

Continue reading Living Large

Filed in Article Straight Outta Compton

‘Straight Outta Compton’: 8 film facts

Straight Outta Compton, the artful N.W.A biopic, has topped the box office two weekends in a row, earning a staggering $111.5 million. Eight facts that moviegoers probably don’t know about the hip-hop hit.


1. It has Lupita Nyong’o’s seal of approval.


Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has mad pride for Corey Hawkins (as a young Dr. Dre), whom she calls “irresistible.” (They met while shooting her 2014 thriller Non-Stop.) His background is impressive: Hawkins is a Juilliard School graduate who starred on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet, playing Tybalt.



2. This crew has history.


There’s a reason director F. Gary Gray nailed the tone of N.W.A’s story: He has known this crew for years. Early on, Gray helmed music videos for Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, including It Was A Good Day, “which is the four-minute version of Friday to me,” Ice Cube said in a YouTube roundtable recently. (1995’s Friday was Gray’s feature debut.) “It’s the same thing that Spike (Lee) does in New York. He makes our neighborhoods look beautiful. … It’s more about the humanity than just all the hood (stuff) they can show.”


Continue reading ‘Straight Outta Compton’: 8 film facts

Filed in Article Straight Outta Compton

‘Straight Outta Compton’ Is Being Seen as a Possible Oscar Contender


Straight Outta Compton is having a killer opening weekend, pulling in a projected $56.1 million and scoring rave reviews from the majority of film critics and fans. And after a screening for Academy Award voters the N.W.A. biopic is now being seen as one of the first potential Oscar contenders of the year.


According to THR, Universal has become “bullish” about the film’s award show prospects. Attendance was higher than usual at Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, which screens most major releases. Those in attendance gave a round of applause to Compton’s pre-credit scene, with the warm reception continuing after the film ended.


“It succeeds as a studio picture while transcending what that usually is,” an Academy member told THR. “It’s a very visceral, poetic, terrific film. It is worthy of some real consideration, particularly I think for acting, directing and even best picture—but, but, it’s very early in the season, and there are a zillion other pictures coming out.”


While it’s still very early, Compton could become the surprise Oscar contender for 2016. But it’d be far from the first time N.W.A. shocked the world.



Filed in Article Straight Outta Compton

Cast of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ surprises fans in Los Angeles

On Friday, August 14, Straight Outta Compton cast members Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown, Jr., Aldis Hodge, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., and Corey Hawkins made surprise appearances at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills and Cinemark 18 Theaters in Los Angeles. Excited guests took photos with the cast as well as received signed posters prior to viewing the film. Check out snaps from the cast and their lucky fans below.



Photo courtesy of Allied Moxy/Chardae Jenkins