Monthly Archives: May 2010

Dreamgirls (2006)

My Rating: 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “An excellent work of performance, music, drama and history!”

In 1960s Detroit, a good night onstage can get you noticed but it won’t get your song played on the radio. Here, a new kind of music is on the cusp of being born – a sound with roots buried deep in the soul of Detroit itself, where songs are about more than what’s on the surface, and everyone is bound together by a shared dream. Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a car salesman aching to make his mark in the music business – to form his own record label and get its sound heard on mainstream radio at a time when civil rights are still only a whisper in the streets. He just needs the angle, the right talent, the right product to sell.

Dreamgirls

Late for their stint in a local talent show, The Dreamettes – Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose), and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) – show up in their cheap wigs and homemade dresses, rehearsing songs and steps by Effie’s brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), with hopes that talent and sheer desire will break them out of the only life that seems available to them. They’re young. They’re beautiful.They’re just what Curtis is looking for. All they have to do is trust him. James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy) is a pioneer of the new Detroit sound, spellbinding audiences all along the “Chitlin’ Circuit” with his electrifying blend of soul and rock ‘n’ roll.

Dreamgirls

Curtis finesses The Dreamettes a gig singing backup for Early, and suddenly, for all of them, the gulf between what they want and what they can have draws closer for the first time. Curtis launches the girls as a solo act, rechristening them The Dreams, knowing in his gut that success lies not with the soulful voice of Effie, but with the demure beauty and malleable style of Deena – despite their history…and Curtis’ promises. Deena is ready to step into the spotlight, even as Effie fades away. As a new musical age dawns, Curtis’ driving ambition pushes this one-time family to the forefront of an industry in the throes of music revolution.

Dreamgirls

But when the lights come up and the curtains part, they hardly recognize who they’ve become. Their dreams are finally there for the taking, but at a price that may be too heavy for their hearts to bear. The groundbreaking Tony Award-winning Broadway phenomenon comes to life as an all-new motion picture adaptation written and directed by Academy Award®® winner Bill Condon. A Laurence Mark production presented by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures, “Dreamgirls,” is a compelling story of love and loyalty, fame and betrayal that tracks the struggle, sacrifices and triumphs of a group of outsiders carrying their landmark sound into mainstream America in the 1960s and ’70s.

Failure to Launch (2006)

My Rating: 2.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “An average romantic comedy. Saw it for Bradley Cooper. Hopeless!”

Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker, SEX AND THE CITY) has a highly unusual job in this at times cartoonish romantic comedy: she’s an interventionist. What this means is that parents of young men who are still living at home well into adulthood can hire her to date their sons, which lends the often troubled men the fortitude to strike out on their own. Trip (Matthew McConaughey) seemingly fits this description perfectly; a 35-year-old extreme sports enthusiast and boat salesman, he uses his living situation to quickly end any relationship that becomes too serious. Trip’s doting mother (Kathy Bates) and quirky father (former quarterbackTerry Bradshaw) hire Paula at their friends’ adamant recommendation, and she sets about her tried-and-true method of winning Trip over. A few obstacles emerge, however, as Trip’s buddy Ace (Justin Bartha) finds out the truth, and must be bribed by a date with Paula’s hilariously hostile roommate Kit (Zooey Deschanel). Paula also discovers a few things about Trip’s past that make her realize how different he is from the rest of her clients, but just as she begins to develop real feelings for him, disaster strikes. Though somewhat meandering in its plotline, some of the best and funniest moments in FAILURE TO LAUNCH are provided by its supporting cast.

Failure to Launch
Deschanel provides dry, intelligent humor in a subplot involving a mockingbird that’s taken up residence outside her window, as well as her courtship by adoring suitor Ace. Bates as usual gives a complex performance, doing much with the part provided for her, while a game Bradshaw is appealing in his eccentricities. The film’s somewhat fantastical plot is quickly eclipsed by the charm of the characters, the irresistible slapstick humor, and, in the end, heartwarming sentiment and lessons learned.

The Wolfman (2010)

My Rating: 3/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Expectations shattered. Couldn’t find my kind of Benicio-effect here!”

Inspired by the classic Universal film that launched a legacy of horror, The Wolfman brings the myth of a cursed man back to its iconic origins. Oscar® winner Benicio Del Toro stars as Lawrence Talbot, a haunted nobleman lured back to his family estate after his brother vanishes. Reunited with his estranged father (Oscar® winner Anthony Hopkins), Talbot sets out to find his brother…and discovers a horrifying destiny for himself.

The Wolfman

Lawrence Talbot’s childhood ended the night his mother died. After he left the sleepy Victorian hamlet of Blackmoor, he spent decades recovering and trying to forget. But when his brother’s fiancée, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt), tracks him down to help find her missing love, Talbot returns home to join the search. He learns that something with brute strength and insatiable bloodlust has been killing the villagers, and that a suspicious Scotland Yard inspector named Aberline (Hugo Weaving) has come to investigate.

The Wolfman

As he pieces together the gory puzzle, he hears of an ancient curse that turns the afflicted into werewolves when the moon is full. Now, if he has any chance at ending the slaughter and protecting the woman he has grown to love, Talbot must destroy the vicious creature in the woods surrounding Blackmoor. But as he hunts for the nightmarish beast, a simple man with a tortured past will uncover a primal side to himself…one he never imagined existed.


Haven (2006)

My Rating: 3.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “A romantic, chaotic drama. A capturing jigsaw style movie-making. I loved it!”

Imagine you just got a fax that the Feds will be at your door in a matter of minutes. The government has remembered the taxes you forgot to pay and it’s time to take an extended vacation. No problem — you can pack light and still get by with a little extra weight strapped around your midsection – 28 lbs. to be exact — the weight of a cool million in hundred dollar bills. Such is the case with corrupt businessman Carl Ridley (Bill Paxton). He let his greed get the better of him, and now he’s on the run, his daughter Pippa (Agnes Bruckner) reluctantly in tow.

Haven

Just turned 18, Pippa is not happy to leave her friends and comfortable life in Miami, even if it’s for the exotic Cayman Islands, but Dad’s in kind of a rush, so there’s no time for questions. When they get to the islands, Ridley is preoccupied. Banks are rapidly closing and he’s got to find a clean place to store his dirty money. In fact, he doesn’t even notice that the bungalow he rented is already occupied — but his daughter sure does. She finds native Caymanian Fritz (Victor Rasuk) sleeping off a late night in her bed, and when she walks in on him, he flees out the window, leaving his wallet behind. Suddenly Pippa’s not so sorry about landing in paradise. She tracks down Fritz and discovers that the local bad boy is a real charmer who’s more than willing to show her the island, including its wild parties. But Fritz has a dark side, too. He owes money to island gang leader Ritchie Ritch (Raz Adoti), and when he spies Pippa’s dad handling a lot of cash, Fritz suddenly knows how to get Ritchie off his back. Unaware that she’s leading her father into even more trouble than he had in the United States, Pippa and her innocence are headed for a rude awakening.

Haven

Also about to have their innocence destroyed are young lovers Shy and Andrea (Orlando Bloom and Zoë Saldana), who finally consummate their passion, only to be discovered by Andrea’s brother, gang wannabe Hammer (Anthony Mackie). Acting on his father’s wishes, Hammer is bent on ending the relationship . . . no matter what it takes. Written and directed by native Caymanian Frank E. Flowers, and filmed entirely in the 100-square mile West Indies paradise, Haven is an edgy, suspenseful, viscerally gripping ensemble film in which unconnected lives intersect and ignite a violent chain of events that turns tranquility into chaos. In an instant, greed collides with innocence and passion goes up against those who forbid it, and all at once an idyllic tropical refuge becomes anything but safe.

The Book of Eli (2010)

My Rating: 3.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “A stylish, and violently crafted post-apocalyptic thriller!”

In the not-too-distant future, some 30 years after the final war, a solitary man walks across the wasteland that was once America. Empty cities, broken highways, seared earth–all around him, the marks of catastrophic destruction. There is no civilization here, no law. The roads belong to gangs that would murder a man for his shoes, an ounce of water…or for nothing at all.  But they’re no match for this traveler.

The Book of Eli

A warrior not by choice but necessity, Eli (Denzel Washington) seeks only peace but, if challenged, will cut his attackers down before they realize their fatal mistake. It’s not his life he guards so fiercely but his hope for the future; a hope he has carried and protected for 30 years and is determined to realize. Driven by this commitment and guided by his belief in something greater than himself, Eli does what he must to survive–and continue. Only one other man in this ruined world understands the power Eli holds, and is determined to make it his own: Carnegie (Gary Oldman), the self-appointed despot of a makeshift town of thieves and gunmen.

The Book of Eli

Meanwhile, Carnegie’s adopted daughter Solara (Mila Kunis) is fascinated by Eli for another reason: the glimpse he offers of what may exist beyond her stepfather’s domain. But neither will find it easy to deter him. Nothing–and no one–can stand in his way. Eli must keep moving to fulfill his destiny and bring help to a ravaged humanity.

The Hunted (2003)

My Rating: 2.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “A gory thriller with top class cast and a blown off storyline!”

Director William Friedkin gave us a cop pushing hard against the criminal element deep within himself in the classic crime thriller “The French Connection.” He enhanced the meaning of “devil” for an entire generation and gave us a rare look at a man of God fighting a malignant force by admitting that he, too, was sinful in “The Exorcist.” And in “To Live and Die in L.A.,” he locked a single-minded cop and a career criminal into a power struggle that mapped the hypocrisies of their entire society. Now, in “The Hunted,” Friedkin explores man’s inner conflict over his own evils in the most primal, elemental way, by telling the story of a retired teacher of warfare (Tommy Lee Jones) who must battle his former student (Benicio Del Toro), a top special-forces assassin gone renegade. Paramount Pictures presents, in association with Lakeshore Entertainment, a Ricardo Mestres/Alphaville Production.

The Hunted

A William Friedkin Film starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, “The Hunted” also features Connie Nielson, Leslie Stefanson, John Finn, Jose Zuniga, Ron Canada, Mark Pellegrino and Lonny Chapman. The film is directed by William Friedkin and written by David Griffiths & Peter Griffiths and Art Monterastelli. Ricardo Mestres and James Jacks serve as producers. The executive producers are David Griffiths, Peter Griffiths, Marcus Viscidi and Sean Daniel and the co-producer is Art Monterastelli. Paramount Pictures is part of the entertainment operations of Viacom Inc., one of the world’s largest entertainment and media companies, and a leader in the production, promotion and distribution of entertainment news, sports and music. The film is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for strong bloody violence and some language.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

My Rating: 4.5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Incredibly awesome performances from Streep and Hathaway. A splendid comedy!”

A drastic improvement on Lauren Weisberger‘s bestselling novel, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA showcases Meryl Streep’s knack for combining humor and sadness. While likely inspired by notorious VOGUE editor Anna Wintour, Streep’s Miranda Priestly (head of Runway magazine) is entirely her own creation. Sporting silvery hair, a vast collection of fur coats, an encyclopedic knowledge of all things fashionable, and a killer smile, Miranda is full of wicked charm. With her mature beauty and commanding presence, Miranda is as fascinating to watch as she is intimidating to the constant rotation of assistants thrown her way. When bookish Northwestern grad Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) interviews to become Miranda’s newest lackey, Miranda hires her not for her lackluster wardrobe but for her intellect.

The Devil Wears Prada

Inside the pristine Runway offices, Andy suffers through a never-ending list of impossible tasks, and is the subject of constant harassment by Miranda’s jealous first assistant (Emily Blunt). But to the dismay of her boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) and close friends, Andy slowly finds herself seduced by the glamorous world of fashion, and by Miranda herself. While Andy’s transformation comes largely in the form of new designer clothing, the makeover is mental as well. What starts out as a firm belief in fashion’s vapidity and in Miranda’s heartlessness gradually fades into the suspicion that the boss from hell might just be hiding a soul.

The Devil Wears Prada

While the book villainized its title character, the film gives new depths to her wrath. As Andy trades her undergrad wardrobe for one packed with Prada and Chanel (with help from Stanley Tucci in a brilliant role), viewers are able to savor the work of costume designer Patricia Field. Together with director David Frankel (who also worked on SEX AND THE CITY), Field creates a world of fashion so wonderfully extreme it would be hard for anyone to resist.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

My Rating: 3/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Spellbinding visual treat, but story sucks, I mean I didn’t like it a bit!”

Director and subject matter make for a perfect marriage in Tim Burton’s version of the Lewis Carroll classic.

Alice in Wonderland

ALICE IN WONDERLAND stars frequent Burton collaborator Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, DEFIANCE’s Mia Wasikowska as Alice, and Anne Hathaway as the White Queen.


The Alibi (2006)

My Rating: 3/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “A funny mix of lies, cheats, love and marketing!”

A first-rate cast that includes Steve Coogan, Selma Blair, and Sam Elliott stars in LIES AND ALIBIES, a drama that centers on Ray, a man who runs an alibi service for those looking to conduct discreet affairs.

The Alibi

When Ray and his business run into trouble, he turns to Lola, his clever, sharp-tongued, right-hand woman. Stylish, witty, and absorbing, LIES AND ALIBIES recalls the Thin Man movies of the late 1930s, yet is decidedly fresh and contemporary.

Catch a Fire (2006)

My Rating: 5/5 STARS
MovieStudio Quote >> “Explosive, true and a daring masterpiece on Apartheid!”

Powerfully telling the story of a South African hero’s journey to freedom, Catch a Fire is the new film from director Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence). The political thriller takes place during the country’s turbulent and divided times in the early 1980s, and in the new South Africa of today. Derek Luke portrays real-life hero Patrick Chamusso. Patrick is a charming and loving husband to his wife Precious (Bonnie Henna), and a caring father to his two young daughters.

Catch a Fire

He works as a foreman at the centrally located Secunda oil refinery, which is a symbol of South Africa’s self-sufficiency at a time when the world was protesting the country’s oppressive apartheid system. In his spare time, Patrick coaches a local boys’ soccer team. Carefully toeing the hard line imposed on blacks by apartheid, Patrick is completely apolitical. Academy Award winner Tim Robbins plays Nic Vos, a Colonel in the country’s Police Security Branch. The shrewd and charismatic Vos strives to maintain order in volatile situations, which have become more and more frequent as the outlawed activist organization African National Congress (ANC) rallies blacks against apartheid. Vos is also concerned for the safety of his wife and two daughters. He and his family live a world away from the Chamusso family … until the innocent Patrick comes under suspicion and is arrested (in June 1980) for sabotage of the Secunda oil refinery. His alibi is compromised, and Patrick is desperate to shield Precious from a past indiscretion and keep his job.

Catch a Fire

But he is ill-prepared to withstand brutal interrogations by Vos’ men. As Vos further insinuates himself into the lives of the Chamussos, to Patrick’s shock and shame, Precious herself is jailed and tortured. Although he and Precious are soon released from custody, Patrick is stunned into action and completely reorients his sense of self and purpose. He leaves his family to join up with the ANC. Becoming a rebel fighter and political operative, Patrick is radicalized on behalf of his people and his country. He ultimately envisions a formidable and dangerous follow-up strike against the Secunda refinery, risking his own life and future. Change must and will come, for Patrick and his family, and for South Africa itself.