Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Spike’s New Film is Bad, Kickstarter Funding is Worse’s movie critic, Kam Williams, is my friend.  He is one of the most easy going guys I know.  He has reviewed thousands of films over the course of his career, and has been writing for for over a decade.  His film reviews are rarely harshly critical. Indeed, he usually finds something good to say about most films, and is more than fair when critiquing Black independent films.

However, Kam’s review of Spike Lee’s latest film, Da Blood of Jesus, was the most scathing review that I can recall him ever writing.  The review was so unfavorable, were it not for my years of experience with Kam, I may not have published it.

…a boring vampire adventure that’s severely lacking in terms of tension, thrills, premise, storyline, special f/x, plausibility, production value, editing and character development… 

What makes this film’s effort doubly disappointing is that nearly $1.5 million dollars was raised, via Kickstarter, to fund this film.   When I originally learned about Spike using Kickstarter, to fund the production of this film, I did not like the idea. Someone with Spike’s resources shouldn’t use Kickstarter; his campaign would draw attention and potential funding away from smaller indie filmmakers, who could benefit more from the crowdfunding platform, without the competition from a wealthy celebrity.

Kickstarter, who made a lot of money from Spike’s massive campaign, explained how Spike’s campaign actually helps other filmmakers, “Spike Lee brought three decades of fans to Kickstarter when he launched his project.”  Kickstarter implied, but was careful not to state, that Spike’s backers would also back other filmmakers.  Kickstarter has all the data, to tell what actually happened.  They could very easily run a report to tell us how many people, that were new Kickstarter, whose first contribution was to Spike’s movie project, and who subsequently went on to contribute to small indie film project.  I suspect these figures were not reported as it would not support the narrative Kickstarter has created.

kickstarterBut is the real kicker; if this film makes any money, all the profits goes directly to Spike.  If the film loses money, which this one very likely will, all of the risk goes to the contributors.  Meanwhile, Kickstarter receives 5%, off the top, no matter what happens!

The entire risk reward model has been turned completely on its head.

I appreciate there are people who are completely satisfied contributing $5,000 to this project, in return for a signed poster.  But they deserved more—at the very least a decent movie.  The best hustle in the world is the one in which the mark is completely unaware they have been scammed.

The web’s most successful websites, rather than liberating the masses, is really just making it easier for the rich to get richer.  The real trick, however, is that this is happening right before our eyes, and many of us of think we are benefiting from the situation.


February 28th 2013 – eNewsletter Highlights

Our monthly eNewsletter contains information about books and films by or about people of African descent. eNewsletter - February 28th 2013 - #199

Authors You Should Know (Children’s Book Authors)

Sharon FlakeSharon Flake

Flake is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, with a degree in English. She is also an bestselling author.

Flake’s first novel The Skin I’m In won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award and tells the story of Seventh-grader Maleeka Madison is miserable when a new teacher comes to her depressed inner-city school. Miss Saunders evidently is rich, self-assured in spite of the white birthmark across her black skin, and prone to getting into kids’ faces about both their behavior and their academic potential.

Fiction Book Reviews

Pick the Next Novel We ReviewPick the Next Book We Review

While we have a few novels queued up for our March 2013 eNewsletter, there were none reviewed for this issue. Thanks to our subscribers we are able to guarantee at least one of the following novels, to be published in May, will be reviewed for our April 2013 eNewsletter.

You may also recommend a novel of your choice. If we get 20 or more new eNewsletter subscribers this month, I will pick one of your suggested novels to review as well.

Complete our one question survey to help choose which of the following six books we will review next .

Nonfiction Book Reviews

Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community Edited by Gil L. Robertson IV

The shocking statistics indicate that over 40% of black men and women are choosing to remain unmarried, and that about a quarter of the brothers tying the knot are picking partners of another ethnicity. And when you factor in the 75% African-American illegitimacy rate, the black community’s long-term prospects aren’t exactly brilliant.

Overall, Where Did Our Love Go? proves to be a most informative and entertaining read, at least in terms of the individual contributors’ intimate experiences. I can’t say that the diversity of personal opinions contained on the pages allows one to draw a conclusion about where African-American culture is headed but I don’t think anybody’s expecting the black community to share a monolithic mindset anymore anyway.


quvenzhane-wallis-newsOscar Recap: Argo Wins Best Picture While Life of Pi Lands the Most Awards by Kam Williams

Much of the pre-Oscar buzz had been about Seth MacFarlane’s hosting the Oscars, and how his irreverent brand of humor would be received by the crowd. Although he didn’t take many potshots at Hollywood royalty, his monologue, performances and banter did reflect a disappointing coarsening of the culture.

In a skit inspired by Denzel Washington’s film Flight, he had a black, hand puppet drinking alcohol and snorting coke. Then there was his shockingly-pedophilic sexualizing of 9 year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) by speculating about when she’d be too old to date George Clooney. And he made light of domestic abuse when he suggested that Chris Brown and Rihanna considered Django Unchained a date movie because it was about a man trying to get back a woman who’s been subjected to unspeakable violence.

Film Reviews

War Witch filmWar Witch

Komona’s (Rachel Mwanza) life was irreversibly altered at the tender age of 12 when rebel forces led by the Great Tiger (Mizinga Mwinga) rampaged through her tiny African village. The unfortunate girl was forced at gunpoint to kill her own parents (Starlette Mathata and Alex Herabo) before being abducted and brainwashed into joining the cause.

The picture is cleverly constructed as a series of vivid flashbacks narrated by Komona directly addressing the unborn baby growing in her belly. While the plucky protagonist easily earns our admiration for maintaining her sanity in the midst of the madness, there is still something slightly unsettling about a production so matter-of-fact about the endless atrocities providing the backdrop for such a touching front story.


Book Events Across the CountryVisit the Homepage to Learn More About Book Events, Including;

  • Queens Spring Book Fair, April 20, Jamaica, NY
  • 1st Annual Bronx Literary Festival, May 18, Bronx, NY
  • Baltimore Urban Book Festival, July 14, Baltimore., MD
  • The QBR Wheatley Book Awards, July 19, Harlem, NY
  • The 15th Harlem Book Fair, July 20, Harlem, NY
  • National Book Club Conference, Aug 2-4, Atlanta, GA
  • Charlotte Book Fair, Oct 5, Charlotte , NC
  • National Black Book Festival, Oct 24-26, Houston, TX

Read the complete eNewsletter

Join the 1%

Subscribed to the eNewsletter and become part of the 1%My goal is to encourage at least 1% of our current subscribers to purchase their subscription to the eNewsletter for only $7.99 per year. Your paid subscription makes it possible for me, with the support of dedicated writers, to continue to improve our coverage of books, films and related subjects.

If you are already a paid subscriber, thank you! Your financial support is the clearest signal that what we are doing here is perceived as valuable and worthy of continuing.

Troy Johnson
Founder, eNewsletter – December 31st 2012 – Issue #197

enewsletter eNewsletter – December 31st 2012 – Issue #197

I hope you enjoy’s last eNewsletter for 2012. Please take a moment to complete our short Website and eNewsletter Feedback Survey. Your responses are important and will help us continue to improve or services and coverage of writers, books and film.

I would also like to thank everyone who has chosen to support, with a paid subscription to this eNewsletter. Your support is both needed and greatly appreciated — thank you!  (Please read the rest of my note, continued at the end of this eNewsletter)

Authors You Should Know

news-jayneJayne Cortez

Jayne Cortez (May 10, 1936 – December 28, 2012) was a poet, and performance artist. Cortez authored eleven books of poetry and performed her poems with music on nine recordings. Her voice is celebrated for its political, surrealistic, dynamic innovations in lyricism, and visceral sound. Cortez has presented her work and ideas at universities, museums, and festivals around the world.

She is a recipient of several awards including: Arts International, the National Endowment for the Arts, the International African Festival Award. The Langston Hughes Medal, The American Book Award, and the Thelma McAndless Distinguished Professorship Award. mourns the passing of our “Womanist Warrior”.

news-solomonSolomon Jones

Solomon Jones is an bestselling author and award-winning journalist who has been featured nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition, CNN Headline News, in Essence magazine, and in a Verizon advertising campaign called Realize, which spotlighted entrepreneurs who overcame adversity to succeed.

Jones began his professional writing career in 1993, penning articles for the Philadelphia Tribune while living at the Ridge Avenue Shelter. He graduated cum laude with a journalism B.A. from Temple University in 1997, and went on to be published in Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, and the Philadelphia Weekly. Jones’ latest novel The Dead Man’s Wife (Minotaur Books, October 2012), is a diabolical story about marriage gone awry. This is the 3rd book in his Colletti series.

news-frank-yerbyFrank Yerby

Mr. Yerby (September 5, 1916 – November 29, 1991), historical novelist, short story writer, and poet, graduated from Augusta’s Paine College, received a master’s degree from Fisk University and taught at Florida A&M in Tallahassee and Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. His story, Health Card, won the O. Henry Memorial Award for the best first published short story in 1944.

Yerby is best known as the first African-American writer to become a millionaire from his pen, and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation. Yerby has published more than 30 novels, which has sold more than 55 million copies — perhaps the highest grossing African-American authors of all time. Several including The Foxes of Harrow (1946), The Golden Hawk (1948), The Saracen Blade (1952) were turned into successful movies.

news-tyoraTyora Moody

Moody is an author and entrepreneur. Her debut novel, When Rain Falls, (Kensington, March 2012) in which Tyora’s character, Candance Johnson asks the question, “Why does God keep taking away the people I love?” when her best friend is brutally murdered. Ensnared by a deep-rooted bitterness, seeping her faith day by day, Candace is determined to seek justice.

Moody also owns and operates, a design and marketing company. For over twelve years, she has worked with authors, small business owners and non-profit organizations to develop their online presence. For free tips, how-to guides and ecourses, visit

Nonfiction Book Reviews


Iconic: Decoding Images of the Revolutionary Black Woman – by Lakesia D. Johnson

But she [Michelle Obama]“patiently tolerated Larry King’s persistent questioning and subverted his attempts to depict her as an angry black woman… by emphasizing her role as mother, wife, and nurturer of the nation.” Although Michelle managed to sidestep the effort to pigeonhole her as problematical, this was not the first time the media tried to marginalize an intelligent black female in this fashion.

The history of such mistreatment from Sojourner Truth in the 19th Century to Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver in the 20th up to the First Lady in the 21st is the subject of Iconic, a groundbreaking book which delineates precisely how African-American women have been plagued by belittling imagery in the media for ages. This insightful opus was written by Professor Lakesia Johnson who teaches courses on race, feminism and pop culture at Grinnell College in Iowa.

news-sweetSweet Tea and Cornbread: Inspiring, Motivating and Empowering Black Women to Take Back Their Bodies & Live a Healthier Lifestyle by Karrie Marchbanks

‘Tis the season to make New Year’s resolutions, and a popular one is to shed a few pounds, a proposition easier said than done. For black women, losing weight is even more of a challenge, at least that’s the thesis of Karrie Marchbanks, an African-American female speaking from experience.

She says that sisters are losing the battle of the bulge because of bad eating habits further complicated by a reluctance to exercise due to a fear of sweating out their hair. Not to worry. Ms. Marchbanks, a single-mom currently residing in North Carolina, has come up with a plan to get you the body you deserve, and in just 21 days.


joanne-c-hillhouse-sketchCaribbean Books You Should Know by Joanne C. Hillhouse

With end of year upon us, I thought I might share some favourite Caribbean reads. I’m limiting my list to adult fiction that I’ve read in the last couple of years, but keep in mind that just because it’s newish to me doesn’t mean it’s new-new. And just because it’s not listed doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, but really the list has to end somewhere. So, it goes without saying that this list is both severely limited and highly subjective. All disclaimers covered? Okay, here goes.

news-kamThe top 100 Films of 2012 by Kam Williams

It’s impossible for me to limit my favorite films of 2012 to just 10 of the year’s 1,000 or so releases After all, it feels unfair even to compare most of them to each other, since they represent so many different genres, countries and cultures, and enjoyed such a range in budgets.

Therefore, as per usual, this critic’s annual list features 100 entries in order to honor as many of the best offerings as possible. Be sure to also check out Kam’s Blacktrospective — the Best in Black Film for 2012.

news-graph7 Free Tools Guaranteed to Make Your Website Better by Troy Johnson

Here are a list of free tools I regularly use to manage I consider them invaluable and part of the reason I’ve been able to keep the website not just viable, but growing and improving for over 15 years.

Of course I utilize countless other applications, tools, widgets, and more to make go. However, these are 7 tools, which are absolutely free, that I’m sure will help improve your website, and make it a cool place to visit. Set to Mark 15 Years Online – Publisher Weekly Magazine Article by Diane Patrick

Since Troy Johnson started the African American Literature Book Club ( in 1998, much has changed in African-American publishing and the way books are promoted and sold.

Johnson launched, a popular online literary portal serving black interest books and authors, as an experiment. He was looking to learn how to make money online and set the goal for as one that would expose readers to good books and authors. Visit PW to read the entire article.

news-booksWhat Was The Last Book You Read? The Celebrity Edition

Over the years we’ve published hundreds of interviews with celebrities. Each one is usually asked, what is now known as the bookworm Troy Johnson Question, “What was the last book you’ve read?”

The question can be quite revealing about the person being interviewed and the books given are usually worth checking out. Actually two of the books mentioned, The Alchemist (read the actress Tamala Jones) and Standing at the Scratch Line (read by Tyler Perry) are my personal favorites. Learn which books gospel singer Yolanda Adams, singer/songwriter Ne-Yo, and other celebrities have read recently.

Film Reviews

news-djangoDjango Unchained

Hollywood has promoted a set of stereotypes when it comes to the depictions of black-white race relations during slavery, with classics like The Birth of the Nation (1915) and Gone with the Wind (1939) setting the tone. Consequently, most movies have by-and-large suggested that it was a benign institution under which docile African-Americans were well-treated by kindly masters, at least as long as they remained submissive and knew their place.

Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to put a fresh spin on the genre, much as he did in the World War II flick Inglourious Basterds (2009). With Django Unchained, the iconoclast writer/director again rattles the cinematic cage by virtue of an irreverent adventure that audaciously turns the conventional thinking on its head.

Also check out our interviews with Quentin Tarantino and Jamie Foxx as they talk about Django Unchained.

news-lovingThe Loving Story

Soon after Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving tied the knot in Washington, DC on June 2, 1958, they decided to move back to their tiny hometown of Central Point, Virginia to settle down and start a family. The groom, a bricklayer by trade, even purchased a plot of land where he promised to build his bride a house.

However, Virginia was one of 24 states where interracial marriage was still illegal because of racist laws designed to rob minorities of their dignity and to keep them in a lower social and economic status. Since Richard was white and Mildred was a mix of black and Native-American, it was just a matter of time before the local sheriff would catch wind of their illicit liaison and crack down on the felons like a ton of bricks.


news-valjeanneValjeanne Jeffers Interview with Derrick Ferguson

Science fiction author, Valjeanne Jeffers, is a graduate of Spelman College, North Carolina Central University and is a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective.

Derrick Ferguson: Tell us about the Immortal series.

Valjeanne Jeffers: Each novel has time-travel, sorcery and shape shifting woven into the plot. The books are set on the alternate planet Tundra, a world without racism, sexism, poverty or crime. This is the setting of Immortal in the year 3075.

news-authorsAuthors N Focus

The Authors N Focus, is “A Site for New and Established Writers to Shine!” Charles and Chandra are the hosts and co-producers of the show which spotlights emerging or established authors, publishers, poets on their recent books or projects.

You may watch videos of the interviews on their TV Show Page Pictured (l to r) are hosts Chandra Adams, Charles Chatmon & Cherie Johnson, during their interview with Cherie (their 1st guest).

Book Related News

news-sell-booksCash 4 Books: Sell Your Used Books Online

Cash 4 Books makes selling your used books very easy. A free iPhone ap scans your book’s barcode and tell you exactly how much they are willing to pay you. Shipping is free you print the mailing label and apply it to the box.

Discussion Board Conversations

Does Race Exist?

Pioneer: I figured I’d start this thread to continue our discussion on race and whether or not it’s a social construct.

Troy: Pioneer, once the human genome was sequenced it became plain to everyone that there is only one race of people on planet earth. Race is indeed, an arbitrary social construct. In fact I wish our government would get out of the business of using it.

news-racePioneer: I believe that humans are all of the same SPECIES, but definitely of different races/breeds. Read the rest of the conversation.

More on the Subject of Race
Are interracial relationships over represented in film?

This is something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, the issue really jumped out at me while I was updating a page which includes the most recently reviewed movies I’ve posted on the website.

It seems to me that there are far more interracial couples in film than there are Black couples. When a brother is in a relationship with a sister in film, the Brother is dysfunctional. (read what others think) Housekeeping

Get Your Photo on’s Homepage


You can have your photo added to the homepage and several other very popular webpages including our Authors Profile page and Blog. This service is free with a purchase of an Authors Profile Page or may be purchased separately.

news-berniceGet Your “Mug” on for Free

Author Bernice McFadden loves her mug. McFadden is the authors of several award winning novels. Her latest novel, Gathering of Waters (Akashic Books) was selected as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012 by the New York Times, and The Washington Post named it one of the 50 Best Books of 2012! FAQ How do I get my book in“How do I get my book on”

This is perhaps the most frequently asked question I get. Learn 8 ways to get you book on (5 of them are free!)

Letter Continued

…Troy, if you have not yet purchased your subscription, please consider purchasing an annual subscription, to this eNewsletter today, for only $7.99 per year. Your financial support will help us provide you with information about authors and books that get too little coverage anywhere else. Join the list of subscribers who have shown their support.

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news-troyOur next eNewsletter will be published in late January 2013. Look out for our popular annual bestsellers lists and more.

Happy New Year from!

Peace & Love,
Troy Johnson
President,, LLC


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