January 07, 2007

Boys, they'll make you happy

Maybe I just pick good movies to see, or perhaps I stick to movies I think there's a good chance I'll like. Regardless, I'm happy to say that these two reviews are both positive.


I would venture to say that every year there is one film that we're just dying to see in our household. But I don't know when we anticipated it so highly we built our holiday travel plans around it! On Christmas Day we were poised and ready to see the (sold out) Dreamgirls. Thankfully I have seen the sad man who rides the bus in those commercials and picked our tickets up in advance.

How best to sum up this movie? Jennifer Hudson rules the universe, and the audience at our screening applauded no less than four times. But let me elaborate...

The movie is already ahead in that it's chock full of some classic, catchy, memorable songs. I defy you to get the tunes out of your head the next day. In particular there are winning moments with "Steppin' To the Bad Side" and "Move."

And then of course we have J-Hud. It is as if, like Athena, she sprung fully grown from the head of Jennifer Holliday, poised to take the character of Effie into the next milennium. She growls, she rolls her eyes, she bitches, she moans. And most importantly - she belts. Sure, her crowning moment (and the reason she'll receive an Oscar nomination) is "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." But watch for her more subtle and sparkling performances with "One Night Only" and "I Am Changing." She doesn't steal the movie, but you'll be hard pressed to not have her be the first thing you talk about when you exit the theater.

The rest of the cast is mostly great. Beyonce is quite surprising in her turn as Deena. She plays it as very meek and unassured in the beginning, only asserting herself with the very well-sung "Listen" in the final act. I would say she is no Sheryl Lee Ralph [whom I meant recently is an absolutely divine human being], but she doesn't disappoint either. To really appreciate her performance I call your attention to her own attention to the details. Look at her when they first take the stage as Jimmy Earley's back-up singers. Her face is all nervousness as she tries to quickly find a choreographed groove. It's one moment that actually stands out to me. Let's just say my respect for Ms. Knowles has gone up several notches.

Yet the most underrated performance from the reviews I have read is Anika Noni Rose. Perhaps that's appropriate, as she portrays the underrated, "forgotten" member of the trio, Lorrell. Noni (I can call her that, because I know we're totally going to be BFFs), provides the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in the film, and really grows as a character throughout. The shy giggling teenager at the start becomes a cool self-assured woman when she finally ends her troubled romance with Jimmy. Thankfully she gets a chance to shine as a singer in the made-for-the-movie song "Patience." [Trivia moment - the lounge singer late in the film is Loretta Divine, who played the original Lorrell on Broadway.]

Speaking of Jimmy, it is with great surprise that I tell you Eddie Murphy is kinda awesome. He creates a believeable character that's all his own, wooing ladies you believe he could actually get. And he sings! Well! When he starts in on "Cadillac Car" I just love it.

The weak spot here is Jamie Foxx. He's not bad, per se, but it's just not his best work. I kept finiding myself thinking how much better he was in Ray.

As for the rest of the film, it's all glitz and glamour. The costumes, divine when appropriate, at other times hilarious in that "I can't believe people wore that in the 70s" way. The music is well-integrated to the plot, better than in Chicago. The editing is fast-paced and will leave you breathless. When the three girls sashay onto the stage all in red flapping sequins for "Steppin'" you'll say, "Now THAT is what I paid for!"

Children of Men

What could be more completely different than the above film? How about Alfonso Cuaron's horrific vision of society in ruins in the year 2027? Nothing is more cheery than a future where all of mankind is sterile.

Borrowed from P.D. James' excellent novel of the same name (read it, really liked it), the movie isn't uplifting, but it's not really a tearjerker either. It's thoughtful, interesting, and visually depressing. What I liked most about the movie is that it just keeps going - you don't have moments of people sitting around blathering on and on. Sadly it was overlooked at the Golden Globes and likely won't get any Oscar notice.

The highlight (shocking, I know) is Clive Owen. He's very, very good - but not at all trying to be the sexy stud we know and love. He's just a man trying to help any way he can. How hot is that?

This is not a movie about a destination. It's about the journey. And appropriately - it ends when the journey has neared its conclusion. It's satisfying in this simplicity, and yet you'll find the visions of what mankind can do to itself will linger well after the lights come up.


ScottE. said...

Jennifer Hudson rocks...end of story. No denying it. But the reason I want to go back is to watch Eddie Murphy. His performance was amazing and the one performance I was most skeptical of going in the theatre. Bravo for taking this role and truly inhabiting it. I see Oscar nom for him as well.

Beyonce, although great, just didn't bring anything but pretty to the role. She sounds great. She can move and she is pretty, but outside of that I feel she was just a pawn to Curtis' chessmaster.

Clive Owen. Done and done. Good movie and a very intersting idea. What would happen if women suddenly became infertile the world over? Would society suddenly fall?

Stef said...

I'm still kinda on the fence about whether I want to see Dreamgirls or not. I dunno, it's just not seeming like a "must see" to me cuz Beyonce and Jamie Foxx are both "ehhhh" in my book. BUT, I'm hearing so much great stuff about Jennifer Hudson and I downloaded the "And I Am Telling You..." song and loved it. So, I may see it just to see a real "star is born" moment.

And as for Children of Men - I really liked it, even though it's so dark and difficult. It's smart and funny and ultimately hopeful. I would truly watch Clive Owen do anything, but I'm glad when he makes good choices so I don't actually have to watch him in crap! :-) My mom and I got in an argument today, though, about the role of animals in the film -- interesting to discuss. And I think there's still the possibility that it could get some Oscar noms - sometimes the Globes miss a good film or two, and many of the reviews I'm reading are calling this one of if not the best picture of the year. So I have my fingers crossed for Alfonso!

The Kara said...

Your new BFF, Noni, played the daughter in the Broadway CAROLINE OR CHANGE. She was so amazing in that show, that when she came on screen when I saw DREAMGIRLS I almost jumped out of my skin. Also, word on the street is she is... wait for it... 40 years old. She played a 16 year-old woman in CAROLINE. Amazing. I loved the movie as well - just wish they had filmed it and allowed an intermission. I found myself needing to have a moment after I'M TELLING YOU.

ScottE. said...

Stef: I'd go. I'm not a huge Beyonce fan..true I have Crazy In Love on the iPod, but I'm not really in her corner cheering her on. Jamie Fox...same...he's fine, but not for me. Beyonce, although the producers would have you believe is a lead actress always seems to be just in the periphery (sp?). It's not really until her major solo bit towards the end of the film does it feel she qualifies as a lead character. Jamie Fox's character is a snake and he plays it pretty well, so you can not like him and it's ok.

As for the "Star is Born" moment with J-Hud--TRUE..it's worth it. As is the "Star is Re-Born" moment with Eddie Murphy! Love J-Hud, but the biggest suprise is Eddie...I'll go to the bank saying that! But it's his star to lose if he keeps making poor decisions in his other films!

Stef said...

BTW, I saw "Notes on a Scandal" today. If you haven't already, you both should make tracks to go see this one. Judi and Cate are both divine in very different ways. Now I'm rooting for them for awards bling!

Dorez said...

I haven't seen "Dreamgirls" but I did get to visit the set while they were shooting the film and had a chance to see Eddie Murphy perform. What a treat. He really shocked me. His performance was amazing. I'm not a fan of musicals. But, I'll probably take my husband to see the movie, 'cause he loves that kind of music and he thinks the world of Jamie Foxx. I've met Loretta Divine several times and saw her again yesterday on the set of her new film, "This Christmas." She was rushed so we barely had a chance to say more than 'hello.' But she's a sweet person and I'm sure we could have talked longer if we'd had the chance.

I'm looking forward to seeing "Notes On A Scandal." (I hope that's the correct title.) I love Judi Dench and I've probably seen nearly all of her movies.
- Dorez