Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Love Supremes

Vocal histrionics and thinly veiled Motown storylines mar this overburdened, musical adaptation

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

When you’re making a movie musical based loosely around a fictional Motown and the best singer in your cast is Eddie Murphy, you’ve got problems. That’s the stumbling block writer-director Bill Condon never quite cleared in putting together the movie version of the Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Murphy doesn’t have the best voice in the picture; in fact, his modest tenor is easily outclassed by Beyoncé Knowles, American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose. Those three divas, however, approach singing as an athletic competition, whereas Murphy knows how to shape a song and sell it. Murphy’s character, Jimmy “Thunder” Early, is the only truly soulful singer on the screen. The thing is, the movie isn’t about him. It’s about three teenage girls from Detroit who form a vocal group called the Dreamettes. As they work the local amateur shows, their focal point is Effie (Hudson), a belter who wows the crowds while Deena (Knowles) and Michelle (Rose) chirp harmonies behind her. The trio gets its big break when it’s hired as Jimmy Early’s backup singers. Meanwhile, a local Cadillac salesman named Curtis (Jamie Foxx) has founded Rainbow Records as a vehicle for liberating Jimmy from the R&B charts and putting him on the pop charts. The movie is nearly devoid of humor. In fact, the funniest line here comes at the end of the final credits, which announce, “These characters and events are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.” It’s no secret that Dreamgirls is closely modeled on the Supremes and Motown Records, and what fun there is in the movie comes from matching the thinly disguised fictional characters to their real-life counterparts.

Continue reading »

Volver

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Using a story ripped from the pages of midday television soap operas, Volver (Spanish for: to return) lacks the spontaneous combustion of outrageous wit and style the director is best known for but reveals a filmmaker who knows how to play to his audience. Particularly notable for its almost complete absence of men, here Almodovar directs his gaze on the lives of independent and idiosyncratic women who struggle with their urban environs and each other. Which doesn’t mean the film is an estrogen-fest of hugs and tears. There’s plenty of lust, murder and deceit to go around. Described by the director as a blend of Mildred Pierce and Arsenic and Old Lace, the story follows three generations of Spanish women coping with death and deception. Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo) and her hairdresser sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) find their lives upended after the sudden death of a senile old Aunt. A childhood friend stricken with cancer begins to question the mysterious fire that killed the girl’s parents; Raimunda’s deadbeat husband is unexpectedly murdered, and — most alarmingly — Sole is visited by her mother’s ghost. Nothing, of course, is as it seems, as family secrets start to entangle every twist of the plot.

Continue reading »

Night at the Museum

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Ben Stiller stars as, well, Ben Stiller, though he’s given the name Larry Daley, a standard-issue movie single dad who’s just a big goofy kid himself. Of course his ex-wife (Kim Raver) wants him to stop clowning and get a stable job as not to disappoint their son Nick (Jake Cherry). So he lands a gig as night watchman at New York’s Museum of Natural History, replacing three old coots that are set to retire: Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs and a still-feisty Mickey Rooney. The old farts drop a few hints and leave him a stack of well-worn instructions, but fail to spell out what Larry is in for, which he only figures out when the giant T-Rex Skeleton suddenly starts chasing him around the lobby. Yep, it turns out that the cursed amulet of the mummy in the basement magically animates the museum’s displays when the sun goes down, and Larry is just the schmuck to clean up the mess. The film is a traditional, high-concept popcorn picture, one so old-school it almost feels like a lost Abbot and Costello vehicle, but it’s tricked out with enough wit, energy and gee-whiz modern-effects wizardry to keep Mom, Dad and your little brother thoroughly entertained.

Continue reading »

We Are Marshall

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

For a football movie, there sure as hell isn’t a lot of pigskin here. A would-be inspirational drama about the redemptive power of lacing up and getting back out on the field, the film is based a real-life tragedy at West Virginia’s Marshall University in 1970. It opens with the plane crash that killed nearly every member of the school’s football team. Wracked with survivor’s guilt, the scrappy senior player Nate (Anthony Mackie) and the square-jawed assistant coach Red (Matthew Fox) are united by a mostly unqualified, partly insane coaching candidate, Jack Leyngel (Matthew McConaughey). The long, tedious slog to getting a new team out on the field thus begins, aided by a zillion period-music montages and almost as many inconsequential subplots in which the “need for football” in a time of crisis is hotly debated. After a while, it becomes clear that these guys don’t need football; they need Dr. Phil.

Continue reading »

The Good Shepherd

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Having outdone Bond in the Jason Bourne movies, Matt Damon returns to the cloak-and-dagger game with an entirely different sort of espionage drama. Damon’s Edward Wilson is a secret agent, but he’s a cold calculating son of a bitch that makes 007 look like a mere reckless playboy, and his movie is as careful and aloof as Casino Royale is brash and escapist. What The Good Shepherd lacks in action and excitement it makes up in relentless tension and good old-fashioned paranoia. In following the fictional Wilson from his recruitment at Yale’s “Skull and Bones” society through World War II and the Bay of Pigs disaster, the film chronicles the birth of the C.I.A. and the rise of the American intelligence machine. There are enough crosses, double-crosses, shifting alliances, secrets and lies to fill a bookshelf of LeCarré novels, mostly spoken in a dense code language of “tailors and bakers.” It’s an awful lot of story for one sitting and at nearly three-hours long it sometimes feels like a semester of history class.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rocky, punched out

He’s got man-boobies, he’s grumpy and he’s back!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

The first half of Rocky Balboa is a melancholy mood piece, and it’s poignant to see the loveable lug in decline, still shambling around his old Philly haunts chasing ghosts of glory days. Adrian has answered the final bell, and a heartbroken Rock just can’t let her go. Even his crusty brother-in Law Paulie (Burt Young) thinks Balboa’s endless nostalgia is pathetic, and the two old farts bicker like grumpier old men. Most of the money’s gone, but Balboa owns a tiny Italian bistro, which seems to survive on his fading celebrity as he regales diners with the same old tales of his battles long ago. The only one not charmed by Rocky is his son Robert (Milo Ventimiglia), who’s mildly embarrassed by his pop’s fame and wants to succeed in business without his help. All of this is sweet and endearing, until the entrance of the brash Heavyweight champ who has run out of serious contenders. So, a good 15 years after he was declared medically unfit to fight in Rocky V, Balboa somehow mystically gets a shot at the current champion, after ESPN airs a simulated match-up, and sparks the hype machine. All the good vibes engendered by the previous hour and a half evaporate the moment Stallone doffs his yellow and black robes to reveal a chest that looks like a child’s balloon overstuffed with cottage cheese.

Continue reading »

Charlotte’s Web

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Charlotte’s Web is produced by Walden Media, a company dedicated to bringing Christian ideals to mainstream family entertainment. You can tell that the movie’s messages are being communicated with a sledgehammer right from the beginning, when the creepily animal-obsessed Fern (Dakota Fanning) runs out in the middle of the night to stop her father (Kevin Anderson) from slaughtering a runt piglet. “If I’d been born small, would you have killed me?” she shrieks. It’s not so much the line as it is Fanning’s psychotic delivery of it, and that weird, Right to Life bumper-sticker quality infects the whole film, no matter how much director Gary Winick tries to lighten the mood with candy-colored, Norman Rockwell-inspired scenes of all-American, apple-pie hominess.

Continue reading »

Pursuit of Happyness

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a smart, hard-working African-American man struggling to keep his head above the treacherous economic waters of Reagan-era San Francisco. Chris thinks he’s found the ticket to a better life when he applies for an unpaid internship at the investment firm Dean Witter; Linda, sick of Chris’ schemes, walks out on her husband and son. “Salesman to intern is backwards,” she says. The rest of the movie chronicle’s Chris’ long, hard slog to simply get by on little to no income as he kisses ass and proves his worth at Dean Witter. It’s not so much a rags-to-riches story as it is a rags-to-homelessness-to-eventual-employment tale. In its plot and dialogue, the movie never plays the race card. But the inequality is there in every shot: When the faces of the city’s Mercedes-driving, hotshot businessmen are almost all white, and the throngs of people waiting in line at the homeless shelter are almost all black, it doesn’t take a genius to know a wrong needs to be righted.

Continue reading »

The Architect

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Anthony LaPaglia is Leo Waters, an esteemed architect and university professor who resides in the wealthy suburbs with his quietly dysfunctional family. There’s the obsessive-compulsive wife, Julia (Isabella Rosellini), who’s working up nerve to flee her pristine, gilded cage. There’s confused college dropout Martin (Sebastian Sans) and 15-year-old Christina (Hayden Panetierre, the cheerleader from Heroes) who struggles with loneliness and her double-D sexuality. Leo’s ivory tower ignorance is shattered when the fiery resident (Viola Davis) of one if his early design projects — a South Side Chicago housing project — shows up at his home asking him to endorse their demolition. Unwilling to accept real world faults in his idealized design; Leo is forced to confront the fissures that run through every facet of his life. First-time director Matt Tauber labors mightily to open up David Greig’s play with a wide variety of locations, but the drama still feels constricted and stagy. Some of that can be blamed on Tauber’s listless direction but much of the blame falls to Grieg’s didactic and undernourished narrative.

Continue reading »

Eragon

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM

A poor young farm boy named Eragon (Edward Speleers) stumbles across a blue stone in the woods. To his wonder and amazement it hatches a magical blue dragon (with the voice of Rachel Weisz). Meanwhile, a dark lord (John Malkovich), sensing the egg’s new owner, sends a demonic sorcerer (Robert Carlyle) and his evil minions to find the boy. In their search they kill Eragon’s beloved uncle, causing the boy to seek out an old hermit (Jeremy Irons) — who turns out to be the last member of an ancient order able to wield powerful magic. Together, mentor and student struggle to reach a group of fierce rebels and aid them in their fight against the wicked king’s armies. Along the way Eragon rescues a warrior princess (Sienna Guillory) and attracts the help of a mysteriously cloaked fighter (Garrett Hedlund). Based on Christopher Paolini’s best-selling dragon-riding fantasy novel.

Continue reading »

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Most Popular

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation