Tony-winning Broadway star Anika Noni Rose was snapped posing on the red carpet at Variety magazine's Power Of Women Luncheon in New York City. The event was set up to honour various women in the media who have contributed to performing arts or charitable causes.
When this South African animated adventure embraces its unique setting and characters, it's visually stunning and a lot of fun. But it also tries to force everything into a trite Hollywood formula, unnecessarily adding clunky songs, goofy comedy sidekicks and big action set-pieces. Still, there's enough fresh storytelling and lively humour to keep us engaged, and some spectacular animation too.
It's set in the Great Karoo desert, where a herd of zebras has fenced off its own watering hole. But as a drought sets in, bullied half-striped zebra Khumba (voiced by Jake T. Austin) becomes worried about the animals outside. When he hears about a mythical pond that can restore his stripes and supply water to everyone, he leaves his best pal Tombi (AnnaSophia Robb) to take an epic trek across the desert. Along the way he picks up a variety of goofy travelling companions, including a hyena (Steve Buscemi), buffalo (Loretta Devine) and ostrich (Richard E. Grant). But he's also hunted by the vicious half-blind leopard Phango (Liam Neeson), who blames Khumba for his own hot-tempered misfortunes.
The animators far surpass the simplistic script with imagery that takes the breath away, from expansive landscapes to cleverly designed characters. And as the wacky sidekicks continually try to push the film over into slapstick silliness, the startlingly violent Phango reminds us of the darker side of nature as well as some deeper African cultural issues. This mix sometimes feels jarring, but that works in the film's favour. As do some inspired comical gags involving, for instance, a nutty sheep (Catherine Tate), a gang of hilariously agreeable meerkats and a herd of dumb-jock springboks.
Continue reading: Khumba Review
By trying to include an entire acclaimed novel on-screen, first-time filmmaker Biyi Bandele waters down momentous real-life events. The film is fascinating enough to hold our attention as it traces the first decade of Nigeria's independence, but the human drama at the centre never feels like much more than a soap opera.
The story starts in 1960 Lagos, as Nigeria proudly declares independence and looks to a bright future as Africa's largest, most prosperous nation. At the centre are twin sisters educated in America and Britain: Olanna (Thandie Newton) decides against working in the government, travelling north to teach at university; Kainene (Anika Noni Rose) moves east to manage their father's business. But it's their love lives that define them. Olanna falls for colleague Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), whose Mama (Onyeka Onwenu) treats her as if she's a witch. Meanwhile, Kainene has a passionate affair with married Englishman Richard (Joseph Mawle). And both of their relationship struggles are echoed in Nigeria's violent birth pangs.
The film is punctuated with newsreel footage from the period, which adds to the authentic production design. The 1960s are recreated on-screen with an attention to detail from the bustling village streets to the stylish Mad Men-like sophistication of upper-class sitting rooms. Indeed, the focus is on the contrast between locals caught in ethnic and religious traditions and the foreign-educated progressive thinkers. So it's no wonder that the country experiences a series of violent coups, ethnic cleansing and a hideous civil war.
Continue reading: Half Of A Yellow Sun Review
Khumba is a young zebra who was born missing half of his stripes. Following his birth, there came a deadly drought threatening the survival of the herd and killing his mother. To his superstitious peers and his father, Khumba's unusual appearance is an extremely bad omen and he is eventually driven to run away from the herd to find water and acceptance elsewhere, leaving his only friend in Great Karoo, Tombi. On his travels, he meets a motherly wildebeest named Mama V and her wacky friend Bradley the Ostrich who are willing to travel with him and protect him from the ills of the wild, namely Phango the Leopard whose presence is a threat to every other creature in Great Karoo. He also meets Mantis, who reveals a map that could lead them to a waterhole - or will it instead lead Khumba to find his stripes?
'Khumba' is a heart-warming animated flick about that timeless message of accepting people's differences. It has been directed by Anthony Silverston in first direction, who co-wrote the screenplay alongside previous writing partner Raffaella Delle Donne ('Zambezia'). It was nominated for a Cristal award for best feature at the 2013 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and has already been released in the US.
In 1940s New Orleans, Tiana (voiced by Rose) has grown up with a dream to have her own jazz joint. But as a young black woman she has to work two jobs to make ends meet. One day the sinister Facilier (David) turns a visitor, Prince Naveen (Campos), into a frog as part of an elaborate plot to take over the city. But things don't go as expected Tiana reluctantly kisses the frog, and soon they're lost in the bayou with only a trumpet-playing gator (Wooley) and a lovelorn firefly (Cummings) to help them.
Continue reading: The Princess And The Frog Review
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