You don't need to have heard a single song by Outkast to appreciate Idlewild's brilliance. The film has a life - at times almost fantastical - that springs from the screen and pounces and coos in your lap as though it's wooing you. Barber was a video clip director, he cut his teeth on three minute commercials for bands like Outkast, and he's got the polish down so tight it's almost part of the celluloid. At times it can be distracting. Sometimes there is so much happening on screen that you eyes overload and your brain shuts down. You just can't catch it all. But the music - that snaky (perfectly used) synth bass line, that flapping guitar work, the sugary gut punch of the horns - pulls you back into the film like a musical whirlpool.
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Unfortunately, aside from a few tastes of local flavor, this buffed-clean Boyz n the Hood could have been set on either side of the Mason-Dixon line. The mansions meant to represent the city's wealth could stand beyond any iron gate in Beverly Hills. The greasy spoon diner that attracts the film's high school slackers could be housed in Greenwich Village - the fact that the kids order sweet tea doesn't automatically make ATL southern. Heck, the film's life lessons are obvious to anyone, whether they're from the streets or the suburbs.
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