July 1984 was an important time in the lives of Dre (Taye Diggs) and Sidney (Sanaa Lathan): That summer they met on a street corner in New York City and fell in love--with hip-hop music. Fifteen years later Dre is a successful music executive for Millennium Records while Sidney is an esteemed music writer for XXL. Although both are involved in relationships with different people they have a tendency to turn to one another when the chips are down. So when Millennium enters a recording deal with a gimmicky rap duo called Ren and Ten but refuses to sign Chris (Mos Def) a talented MC Dre becomes more disillusioned with his career and turns to Sidney rather than his wife Reese (Nicole Ari Parker) for support. "I'm tired of making bullshit and calling it hip-hop " he tells Sidney before announcing his decision to start his own label Brown Sugar. But it's not long before Dre and Sidney's significant others become threatened by their friendship and everything comes to a head. You may be pleasantly surprised that although a love story is at the heart of Brown Sugar the film is never sappy or sentimental.
Diggs is well cast as Dre; it's nice to see his character evolve and ultimately figure out what is important to him. Lathan's character Sidney on the other hand is a mystery. We know what she does for a living and the logistics of how she got there but we don't know anything else about her. The sparks weren't exactly flying between Diggs and Lathan either and while the events that shaped the characters' lives and relationship are well documented their emotional connection goes largely unexplained. As for the supporting cast Mos Def as the budding entertainer Chris who's a cab driver by day probably conveyed the most realistic and down-to-earth character. I was surprised to find out he wasn't actually an MC it came so naturally to him. His friendship with Dre was probably one of the most endearing in the film. Queen Latifah has a small role as Sidney's tell-it-like-it-is cousin but she doesn't get much opportunity to expand her character.
Don't be put off by the trailer for Brown Sugar which markets the film as belonging to the Two Can Play That Game-genre--so much so that I actually thought I was at the wrong screening when I saw it. The film starts off with nice black-and-white documentary-type footage of well-known hip-hop personalities including Big Daddy Kane Russell Simmons and Jermaine Dupri describing the moment they fell in love with hip-hop. The interviews are part of a book that Sidney is working on and she narrates exerpts from it to underline developments in her relationship with Dre. In his directorial debut Rick Famuyiwa who also co-wrote the project with Michael Elliot uses some interesting techniques including 3/4 split screens and freeze-frames. Some long scenes have also been edited in a jagged style but the camerawork is never overdone.
Pop oddity Michael Jackson has a not-so-new bouncing baby boy. In its latest issue, People magazine reports that Jackson brought the 6-month-old baby backstage at Siegfried and Roy's Las Vegas show on July 30, along with his two other children, Prince Michael, 5, and daughter Paris, 4. The mother's identity remains a mystery, but a source tells the magazine the child was conceived the old-fashioned way, and added, "(Jackson) said, 'This is my third child." Jackson, 43, has reportedly been introducing the tot as "Prince Michael II" and "No. 3." Friends of the singer told People that Jackson's ex-wife Deborah Rowe, a former dermatologist's assistant and mother of his two other children, is possibly the baby's mother. The two were married in 1996 and divorced three years later.
The 2002 Venice Film Festival, which runs Aug. 29 through Sept. 8, is shunning the paparazzi. According to The Associated Press, celebs will no longer have to strut past photographers and eager fans when heading to premieres and will instead arrive by car. Organizers say they did away with the 60-yard walk because it proved embarrassing for lesser-known film figures, plus the festival has a new sponsor providing spiffy cars for the new entrance.
Hugh Grant really does have a soft side, after all. In an interview with Hello! magazine, Liz Hurley said her ex-boyfriend and one of several godfathers to her son Damian has been a regular visitor to her home in South Kensington, west London. "Hugh has never really been familiar with any children," she said, "But yeah, he does a little bit of coochy-cooing, and he tickles him. He's great with him. He's sweet."
Veteran metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne said he feels like his "spirit's dead" since learning that his wife and manager, Sharon, has cancer, Reuters reports. Osbourne recalled feeling apprehensive after the success of his MTV show The Osbournes in an interview on On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. "I remember saying to Sharon, 'This is too good right now, we're getting so much good stuff, nothing gets that high without coming down with a bang,'" he said. The interview airs this week on the Fox News channel.
Taye Diggs has been added to the ensemble cast of A Midsummer Night's Rave, Variety reports. The film, a Shakespeare-based romantic comedy about twentysomethings influenced by a drug dealer named Puck, also stars Andrew Keegan, Sunny Mabrey, Corey Pearson, Chris Owen, Jason London, Greg Zola, Ted Stryker, Carrie Fisher, Lauren German, Chad Lindberg, Matt Czuchry and Will McCormack.
Producers of ABC's upcoming remake of the TV cop show Dragnet said Wednesday actor Danny Huston will play the lead character--a Los Angeles police detective, Reuters reports. Huston, 40, is the son of John Huston, who directed film noir classics like The Maltese Falcon, and the half-brother of actress Anjelica Huston.
CBS said Wednesday that 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl will replace Dan Rather as anchor for 48 Hours Investigates. According to Reuters, Rather will focus more time on 60 Minutes II and his current position as anchor for the CBS Evening News.
Singer Cyndi Lauper tripped onstage and fell about 5 feet while performing to a sell-out crowd in Oklahoma City, hurting her shin and ankle. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lauper--opening for Cher's farewell tour--continued with her set but later had to be carried off by a stagehand. She was taken to a hospital, where she was treated and released a few hours later.
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has joined forces with the NAACP and the Rock the Vote campaign to relaunch Rap the Vote, a project aimed at getting people ages 18 to 24 to vote, the AP reports. Developed two years after Rock the Vote was launched in 1990, Rap the Vote is aimed at reaching those more into hip-hop than rock. The public-service announcements, featuring Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Rosie Perez, are intended to increase voter registration for the 2004 presidential race.