Friday, March 30, 2007


Year: 2006
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Danny Glover

I'm not really a fan of musicals. The best one I've ever watched was The Sound Of Music. That one really stood out among every other musical ever made for film, such as Moulin Rouge (which was quite good) and The Phantom Of The Opera (which was overdramatic). So how does Dreamgirls fare?

Based on the Broadway musical and loosely inspired by The Supremes' true life story, Dreamgirls tells the story of the highs and lows of a trio of black women aspiring to be singers in the 1960s. Effie White, Deena Jones and Lorell Robinson form a group called The Dreamettes and enter themselves in a talent contest. Their performance catches the eye of music mogul Curtis Taylor Jr, who gets them a gig doing backup singing for well-known black popstar James "Thunder" Early. Curtis also hires Effie's brother C.C. to help write songs for them.

As they progress, they soon realise that selling black music to the masses, mainly made up of white folks is tough. So Curtis resorts to all kinds of tactics, from paying off the right people to getting gigs at places frequented by white people. Then he does something drastic when he tries to market the girls as artistes in their own right: replace Effie with Deena to sing lead. This doesn't go down well with the former, who tries to slip into her new role as backup singer, but eventually gets fed up and leaves the group.

Curtis gets a replacement and continues pushing the girls forward, as Effie tries to make it on her own. More turbulence awaits as Curtis resorts to more underhanded maneuvers, while the members fall in and out of love with the men in their lives, namely Deena and Curtis & Lorell and James. Things come to a head when Effie comes back to the music world solo.

OK, now for the reason why I don't really dig musicals. They have singing sessions every 5 minutes, and even though this movie is set in the entertainment business, not all performances take place on stage with an audience watching. It is a musical after all, so expect the characters to burst into song when you least expect it. Granted, some songs like It's All Over and Steppin' To The Bad Side were quite charming. But some of the other numbers just stretch over 5 or 6 minutes, and it gets very tiresome after a while. The fact that the movie is over 2 hours long doesn't help either.

Kudos to Hudson for making Effie stand out, though I felt that her Oscar win for best supporting actress was more due to her singing and not her acting. She has a voice that truly grabs your attention throughout the film. Murphy nearly steals the show portraying James Early. It's nice to see him in a serious role instead of those obnoxious multiple personality comedies he's so famous for. Beyonce is just well, Beyonce. Sure she can sing, but if she wants to be taken seriously as an actress, she should stop playing herself on screen. Jamie Foxx of course, does not disappoint as the cold and sneaky Curtis.

I'd recommend this film for people who like musicals, though it's probably not the best one out there. If you don't like musicals, try watching something else. (3/5)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Pursuit Of Happyness

Year: 2006
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton

How many of you remember the sitcom The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air? Will Smith stars as a kid from the streets of Philly sent to live with his rich uncle and aunt in Bel Air, and every week he drives them nuts with his antics. I enjoyed that show back in the day, he was truly a hilarious actor. But that was a long time ago, now we can see Smith in more serious stories such as this one.

The Pursuit Of Happyness is based on a true story set in San Francisco in 1981. Smith plays Chris Gardner, a salesman struggling to make ends meet and look after his wife Linda and 5 year old son Christopher. What does he sell? Bone density scanners. It's this big square metal appliance that is as big as a computer monitor, and I don't mean flat screen ones. Anyway, despite Chris being a good people person, he finds it hard to sell something that most hospitals would consider "an unnecessary luxury item". With Linda putting in extra shifts at work and the bills and taxes piling up day after day, it's only a matter of time before she snaps and makes a decision to leave him.

Chris however, refuses to give up his son to her, and vows to look after him. How you might ask? Well, thanks to a tip from a stockbroker with a very nice convertible, Chris decides to apply for an internship at a stockbroker firm. He succeeds after impressing the human resources head by solving a Rubik's cube in a matter of minutes. Although he gets the internship, he will not be paid during his course, and only one out of twenty interns gets the job. So that leaves Chris having to sell what's left of his scanners in order for him and his son to survive. But it gets harder as more financial woes hit him. He can't pay the rent, so he moves into a motel. When he can't pay the motel, he and his son are forced to sleep in a subway toilet, and then later having to line up with hundreds of other homeless people seeking a place to stay for the night at the shelter for the homeless. And despite all this, Chris stays focused, looking after his son while working super hard at the internship, determined to pass the course and get the job he needs.

Smith, who is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this role, puts in an intense and heartwarming portrayal of a father who loves his son so much, he'd do anything for him. Smith's real son Jaden also puts in a good performance as Christopher. Watch out for Dan Castellaneta (he voices Homer in The Simpsons) as the trainer for the interns in the firm.

The film also does a good job in presenting what America looked like in the early 80s, when there were so many people struggling to make ends meet as the economy suffers and they have to live in shelters. I'll give it points for its realistic depiction of the subject matter, but the film gets dragged on a little too long for my liking. Smith's performance is worth checking out though. You will be moved by it, and perhaps that's the point being presented in this film.

Here's a little trivia: the real Chris Gardner served as associate producer and makes a cameo appearance at the end of the film. If you like good drama about love for your family, check this out. (3.5/5)


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