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Ben's Movie Reviews
Dreamgirls (2006) **** Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose Dir. Bill Conden
I have two words to say about this film: Dreamgirls Rocks! It is one of the most spectacular films playing this year. One of the most amazing things happened when the picture finished and the credits rolled the audience applauded. I have never in my time seen an audience applaud the screen, and to top it off they applauded the star of the evening Jennifer Hudson who gives a powerhouse performance as Effie White, the headstrong singer who wants to be the star but gets nothing for her hard efforts.
It's the story of dreams, hope and song as we follow three friends: Effie, Deena Jones, and Loreen, who get whisked away to be backup singers for James T. Early (superbly played by Eddie Murphy) and soon the dreams begin, with Curtis Taylor (Fox) at the helm treating the music business like a used car salesman. The team gets raves and soon Deena becomes the lead singer as she is what the public wants to see. This sparks off a feud with Deena, Curtis and Effie. Curtis leaves Effie for Deena, and Effie departs to find something better in life. Deena Jones becomes the biggest hit since the telephone and the struggles with fame and her love life. Curtis becomes so involved with the fame and money that he forgets those who got him to where he is today. He gets caught up in a scandal and corruption that Deena leaves and the Dreams give their final performance.
The film is based on the 1981 hit Broadway Show starring legends Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine (who has a small cameo). Now it commands the big screen with solid performances from all especially Beyonce who gives a terrific performance and her vocals hit home, even the new song "Listen" is perfect and she really gets to show her stuff. Eddie Murphy scores one of his best performances ever as James T. Early, he rips your heart when he finally comes to realize that he made a mistake and there is no going back, I see Oscar Nomination in his future and possibly a win. Anika Noni Rose who is no stranger to Broadway, she won a Tony Award for Caroline or Change, and here she has a small but memorable role and I was very grateful she got to sing. Jamie Foxx seemed a bit uncomfortable at the beginning of the film but soon warms up and gets better as the film progresses.
The biggest thrill of the evening was the bravura performance by Jennifer Hudson who commands the screen and gives one of the greatest performances of the year. She gives everything into her role and sends shivers down your spine with her heart wrenching songs "And I am Telling You, I'm Not Going" and "I am Changing". I heard sighs and cries in the audience, and yes I even had tears down my face during "And I am Telling You". I definitely see the possibility of an Oscar win in her future and she most definitely deserves it.
Bill Condon should be commended and does a terrific job bringing this to the big screen, he hits all the right notes, it isn't as flashy as Chicago was, but I think it's a tad bit better as you actually get to see the performances in action. I do hope he gets nominated for an Oscar as he was viciously snubbed at the Golden Globes. I say everyone should see this film; it is not to be missed. I place this as one of the best films of 2006.
The Producers (2005)
The Producers (2005) **** Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, Will Farrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart Dir. Susan Stroman
I don't think the critics know what they are talking about. This movie rocked! It took me back to the old days of movie musicals. You know, the Bugsby Berkley years, big and flashy with hum able songs. Based on the 1968 film starring Zero Maestel and Gene Wilder, and the smash hit on Broadway, the story of a failing Producer named Max Bialystock who has just had the worst show in town close called Funny Boy, a musical version of Hamlet. Distraught he runs into accountant Leo Bloom who comes up with the notion that you can make more money with a flop than with a hit. Max overjoyed to hear such wonderful news lays it all out. Step 1. They find the worst play ever written, the "mother lode" as Max calls it when he comes across Springtime for Hitler, written by neo-nazi Franz Liebkind. Step 2. Hire the worst director, a prime and proper gay man named Roger Debris who wants to keep everything gay! Step 3. Raise 2 million dollars from Max's backers: harmless little old ladies looking for a last roll in the hay. Step 4 Open on Broadway and before you can say step 5 they close and run off to Rio. All goes well until Springtime for Hitler becomes a success leaving Leo and Max in the dust.
People have been comparing it to the original, which sure it has some of the same lines, and the story is the same, but both shows have something different to offer. You get songs in this version that you don't get in the original. Nathan Lane tears up the screen and will have you in stitches as Max; his show stopping number "Betrayed" will have you applauding. Matthew Broderick is also very good as Leo who can't grab life by the balls and go. He sings "I Wanna Be A Producer" with such gusto and dances with Ms. Uma Thurman, who is amazing as Ulla, and their dance number has sheds of the old Astaire and Rogers's musicals of the 30s.
Also excellent, are Will Farrell as the Nazi who speaks to his birds and Gary Beach and Roger Bart as Roger De Bris and Carmen Ghia they gay "couple" who want to put Springtime for Hitler on the stage, both stand out in the cast, and both played the roles on Broadway. Other familiar faces you will see are Jon Lovitz as Leo's accounting firms boss, Michael McKean as one of the prisoners and Richard Kind as the Jury Foreman who took over in the Nathan Lane role on the stage.
Susan Stroman doesn't make the camera cuts flashy, they are simple, which makes it more enjoyable to watch the dance numbers, from the opening number to the hilarious "Along Came Bialy" when the old ladies do a dance break with walkers, to "Keep it Gay" to the uproarious Springtime for Hitler number. The best-staged number was probably "I Wanna Be A Producer" as it has shades from the 30s mixed with modern day. It was wonderful! If you listen to some critics who choose to say "this film show inexperience" or "not as good as the original" you are missing a terrific movie musical that is just as good as Chicago! Plus Mel Brooks was also standing there at the helm with Ms. Stroman. Be advised to stay until the very end of the credits to view something special! Bravo!
Wastes a lot of talent
I checked this film out because I had read how terrible it was. And it was terrible. It seems to be that with the amount of talent that was wasted in this film, that somewhere something good could have come about it. But the dialogue was so laughable, and poor Audrey Hepburn looking very foolish. The end of the film is lifted (in bad taste) right from another Hepburn film called Charade. At the end you have no idea what is going on, or why the building is on fire, or why people are dying left and right. Ben Gazarra, James Mason, Beatrice Straight and Heburn are all wasted. Find another murder mystery instead of this clunker.
I was fortunate to view this at the NYC premiere. I was in total awe. After shaking hands with Kitty Carlisle Hart and saying Hi to the most recently departed Fay Wray, I was just amazed. It was an experience I will never ever forget. I also saw Miss Celeste Holm, Tommy Tune, Chita Rivera. It was totally wonderful! The film was excellent. I wanted to just sit there for hours and hours listening to what the actors and actresses had to say. Their stories were fascinating. Which is what a Documentary should be. Telling the story about what life was like. Giving the "Inside Scoop" I hope I will be able to see the sequel to it. Anyone who says this film is Amateurish obviously overlooks the fact that this film will be a classic and should receive an Oscar Nomination, if not the Oscar for best Documentary. Anyone guy who can go and interview over a hundred stars, has to be amazing.
Go and buy this DVD!!!! It is worth every Penny!
The Swarm (1978)
Not that bad of a film.
When it comes to disaster films Irwin Allen is the master. I decided to finally watch The Swarm about a year after i got it. It wasn't as bad as people are lead to believe. Of course it is no masterpiece. Michael Caine is again wasted in a terribly written role but he does what any great actor can do and that is make the most of it. The rest of the cast tries its best with the terrible script too. There are a few scares, but they rest is laughable. Though it does rank highly above two other crappier films of this genre, "EMPIRE OF THE ANTS" and "THE BEES" If you want a good bug killing flick, choose this one or "KINGDOM OF SPIDERS" or "ARACHNOPHOBIA".