After months of discussion and media hype, “Think Like a Man,” a highly entertaining romantic comedy inspired by Steve Harvey’s New York Times best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” opens today in theaters nationwide.
Featuring a strong ensemble cast, “Think Like a Man” is directed by Tim Story of “Barbershop” fame, and follows four beautiful and successful women, all looking for love. There’s Kristen (Gabrielle Union), who’s in a longtime relationship that appears to be going nowhere; Candace (Regina Hall), a devoted single mother who is looking for a good, stable man; Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a successful “Type A” businesswoman who is actively seeking a man who is “on her level,” and the sexy Mya (Meagan Good) who has dated a string of opportunistic losers — the latest being the silly and immature Alex (Chris Brown).
The ladies are dealing with the usual suspects when it comes to the men in their lives - Zeke, the smooth playboy (Romany Malco), Michael (Terrence J), the hopeless “Mama’s Boy,” the complacent, commitment-phobic Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Dominic (Michael Ealy), the hardworking guy with limitless potential, who often gets overlooked because that potential has yet to be realized. Despite the women’s angst, this band of merry men thinks that life is great — except for their pint-sized pal Cedric (Kevin Hart), who is going through a messy divorce, and never lets any of them forget it.
Just as their frustration becomes unbearable, the ladies see Steve Harvey on TV discussing his new book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and are instantly intrigued. They race to buy copies of Harvey’s “self-help” book, and immediately put his plan into action. His advice works like a charm until the guys discover that they are being “played,” and that it was another man who sold them out.
The clever and engaging screenplay was written by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, although that appears to mean very little to Philly’s outrageous Kevin Hart, who will do or say just about anything, forcing his cast mates to deal with the fallout. Fortunately, he was working with a group of professionals who rather enjoyed the challenge of managing an out-of-control scene stealer who would improvise during his scenes, talk non-stop, dissolve into tears without warning and physically threaten folks who were almost two feet taller and about 100 pounds heavier than he.
For me, and apparently for the rest of the ladies in the house, the most captivating couple was Lauren and Dominic, the controlling over-achiever and the struggling dreamer who has yet to arrive. Versatile Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson sizzles as Lauren, who drives the best cars, drinks the best champagne and is waiting for a man who can top her impressive six-figure income to show up.
The cerebral and sensuous Michael Ealy does a slow burn as Dominic, a sincere, ambitious guy who parks cars and works as a waiter while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional chef. One day while parking an expensive car for a customer, he encounters Lauren, and against his better judgment (along with his friends’ bad advice), allows her to believe that it is his. A relationship develops and the sparks fly until Lauren discovers that it’s all based on a lie. Can she love a man based on his potential, or will she find it impossible to “lower” her standards?
Tim Story does a brilliant job of directing this superb ensemble which includes sassy veteran Jenifer Lewis as Michael’s overbearing mother, and Steve Harvey appears just enough for the audience to associate him with his book. There are countless cameo appearances in the film, and you will have a great time pointing them out, particularly when you finally get to meet Cedric’s estranged wife.
Featuring an engaging story, a beautiful, talented cast, and Kevin Hart’s hilarious hi-jinks, “Think Like a Man” was definitely worth the wait, and for those who still have not seen enough of Taraji Henson at the conclusion of the movie, she is featured in all her natural glory in “Allure” magazine’s “Look Better Naked” photo spread hitting newsstands April 24. (Rated PG-13)
Celebrity Sound Bytes: Michael Ealy, on why good guys are often overlooked: “Guys like Dominic get overlooked because it starts when you’re young — high school. I have this theory that if young girls looked at the 3.8, 4.0 GPA instead of athletes ... when I was growing up in Maryland/D.C., it was drug dealers ... they had the cash, they had the clothes, the swagger, but it’s the guy who was getting the 4.0 who’s running American Express right now. That’s the difference. It’s all about everybody having to evolve. Women have to start out as girls, and they have this fascination with what’s flashy. The same thing with guys. At the end of the day, I think women overlook guys like Dominic because their priorities are not in the right place.”
Steve Harvey: “Every man can change, and every man eventually will change, but there is only one woman that we will change for.”
Director Spike Lee’s most recent feature films have been larger studio releases, including “Miracle at St. Anna” with Derek Luke and Michael Ealy and “Inside Man,” starring Denzel Washington. With the release of “Red Hook Summer,’ now open in theaters, he returns to the smaller, more intimate style that made such an impact in the ’80s, when he introduced “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze” and “Do the Right Thing.”
“Red Hook Summer,” co-written by Lee and James McBride, is the story of Flik Royale, a young boy from middle class Atlanta, who comes to meet his maternal grandfather for the first time, and spend the summer with him in Brooklyn’s Red Hook housing project. Although he initially is not happy about it, Flik has fun in spite of himself, learns some serious life lessons, and realizes that there is a whole world outside of Atlanta.
Lee was recently in Philadelphia to promote “Red Hook Summer,” and I sat down with him at Ms. Tootsie’s, the popular soul food restaurant on South Street, to discuss his latest project. I’ve interviewed Lee on several occasions, and as always, he was in a “New York state of mind.”
“It’s going back to my ongoing chronicles of Brooklyn, New York,” Lee said of “Red Hook Summer,” which he financed completely on his own. “It started with the first one, ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ in 1989, ‘Do the Right Thing,’ 1989, then ‘Crooklyn,’ then ‘Clockers,’ ‘He Got Game,’ and now ‘Red Hook Summer,’ so that’s six films.”
When asked why he chose Red Hook in particular as the setting for his film, Lee responded. “Many different reasons. It’s a very strange, peculiar, cut-off neighborhood from the rest of Brooklyn. James McBride grew up in Red Hook. (NBA star) Carmello Anthony is from Red Hook.”
The story is told through three outstanding young actors including Jules Brown as Flik, Toni Lysaith as Chazz Morningstar and Sincere Peters as 12-year-old Blessing Rowe. “They all went to my old junior high school,” Lee said. “There was a drama teacher there — Mr. Evan Robinson. He’s a great teacher, and once James and I wrote the script, I knew that I could go just sit in the back of his class and find [good young actors]. I said, ‘There goes Flik. There goes Chazz. There goes Blessing.’”
While “Red Hook Summer” has an overall atmosphere of innocence, it does ultimately deal with some adult issues, and I asked Lee why he chose to tell this story through the eyes of young people.
“James McBride and I both have teenagers, Lee said. “We had breakfast one morning and said, ‘How come we don’t see kids like our teenagers in films?’ That’s where it started.”
Lee also enlists the services of the talented Nate Parker, who has appeared in “The Great Debaters,” “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Red Tails,” playing noble, upstanding characters or an individual who ultimately finds redemption. However, in “Red Hook Summer,” he plays Box, a gang leader who appears to be torn between good and evil.
“I didn’t want to do another stereotypical portrayal of a gang member,” Lee explained. “You need great actors to elevate your material, or it’s just going to be the same thing again and again and again.”
While summer blockbusters have their place, I was happy to see Lee revisit the provocative storytelling that indeed is his strength. “This is no big studio film, so you will not see any TV ads for it,” he said. “This is all grassroots. Beginning with people like yourself, we’re going to get the word out,” Lee said. “Radio stations, TV stuff, social media — all that’s being done.”
So as the latest “Spike Lee Joint” faces its opening weekend, the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker said in parting, “Just come out and see it, and make up your own mind.”
He succumbed to rabies in “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in “For Colored Girls.” He was an undercover federal agent in “Sleeper Cell” and a top-notch attorney in “The Good Wife.” Now, Michael Ealy returns to the spotlight in the action comedy “Common Law,” premiering Friday, May 11 at 10 p.m. on USA Network.
“It’s like ‘Bad Boys,’ ‘Lethal Weapon’ — that kind of thing, except we’ve got so many issues between us that our captain makes us go to couple’s counseling,” said Ealy, while in Philadelphia with Steve Harvey to promote the hit feature film, “Think Like a Man,” which led the box office for two consecutive weeks.
Ealy stars as Detective Travis Marks in “Common Law,” which, according to the network, is about two cops with a problem - each other. Despite their differences, Travis and his partner Wes Mitchell (Warren Kole) are incredible detectives with a seven-year track record as the best detectives in the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division. When their constant bickering begins to disrupt their partnership, their captain forces them into couples’ therapy to save their “work marriage.”
“Tough-as-nails” therapist Dr. Ryan (Sonya Walger) is brought in to help them understand and resolve their conflicts, and confront their demons in order to enhance their ability to work together solving crimes.
Ealy, whose low, smoky voice belies his smallish stature and gentle persona, first captivated movie-goers as “Pretty” Ricky Nash in Ice Cube’s highly successful “Barbershop” series. However, he has since built his career on more dramatic roles, such as Beau Willie, the troubled war veteran in Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls.”
“When I first got in the business, it was very important for me to be taken seriously,” Ealy explained when I spoke to him recently at the posh Ritz Carlton. “I didn’t want my looks or anything like that to kind of overshadow the talent. I worked my ass off, and people don’t see — they just see the finished product. They don’t know how many nights I spent on the train working on my lines coming home from a waiter’s shift to get ready for this play I’m only doing on the weekends. People don’t know about that.
“But my thing was, ‘Show ‘em the talent.’ I needed to be taken seriously, so I went for the most difficult, challenging roles that I could find. I didn’t want any fluff. I didn’t want a romantic comedy. I didn’t want to do anything like that. All I wanted to do was the most cerebral stuff that I could find. ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ was a dream come true for me. I never thought that they would let me play Tea Cake. Then, when ‘For Colored Girls’ came, it was a tough one, because the angle was, this is a man who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
Now with a solid backlog of dramatic performances, Ealy can relax, enjoy the success of “Think Like a Man,” and have bit of fun in “Common Law.” Any yes, ladies. His eyes really are sky blue.
LOS ANGELES — The date-night movies “Think Like a Man” and “The Lucky One” finally have knocked “The Hunger Games” off its No. 1 box-office perch.
“Think Like a Man,” based on Steve Harvey’s dating-advice best-seller, debuted as the top weekend draw with $33 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That’s almost double what studio executives had expected for the Sony Screen Gems ensemble movie, which features Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union.
The Warner Bros. drama “The Lucky One,” starring Zac Efron in an adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ romance novel, opened at No. 2 with $22.8 million. It also came in a bit above studio expectations going into the weekend.
“Think Like a Man” was produced for about $13 million and took in nearly that much on opening day Friday alone, with business getting even better on Saturday. Sony executives had figured the movie might pull in about $17 million for the whole weekend.
“It was a wild ride. It just got better and better as the night went on Friday. Then to be up so much on Saturday,” said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony.
Lionsgate’s blockbuster “The Hunger Games” took in $14.5 million, slipping to third-place after four weekends at No. 1. The film raised its domestic total to $356.9 million.
“The Hunger Games” added $13 million overseas, where its total now stands at $215.8 million, for a worldwide haul of $573 million.
Disney’s nature documentary “Chimpanzee” opened at No. 4 with $10.2 million.
Despite some healthy newcomers, Hollywood’s overall revenues dipped for the second weekend in a row. Domestic receipts totaled $129 million, down 5 percent from the same weekend last year, when “Rio” led with $26.3 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Revenues likely will decline again next weekend, with no huge newcomers expected to come close to the $86.2 million debut of “Fast Five” over that same weekend last year.
But business should shoot back up after that as the superhero ensemble “The Avengers” launches one of Hollywood’s biggest summer lineups ever over the first weekend of May.
“‘Fast Five’ basically performed to summer box-office numbers in pre-summer last year,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. “We’re not going to have a ‘Fast Five’ in late April this year, but that’s OK, because we’ve got ‘Avengers a week later, and that’ll more than make up for it.”
So far in 2012, domestic revenues are at $3.1 billion, up 16.6 percent from last year’s, according to Hollywood.com.
Paramount’s 3-D version of James Cameron’s blockbuster “Titanic” added $5 million to bring its three-week domestic total to $52.8 million. The film’s lifetime domestic haul now stands at $653.6 million.
With $34.3 million more overseas, the 3-D version’s international total rose to $225 million, pushing the lifetime worldwide gross of “Titanic” to $2.1 billion. — (AP)