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Honeydripper Review


Grim
Somewhere right about the time that blues great Keb' Mo' shows up as a blind guitarist named Possum who loves nothing more than to pick at his instrument and dispense homespun wisdom with a wry chuckle, it becomes clear that Honeydripper is not going to be anything close to the film that it should be. For sure, it would be near impossible, and probably not even advisable, for a filmmaker to totally eschew cliché when placing a film in as weighted a setting as John Sayles has done here. A small town in Alabama named Harmony, circa 1950, with a mean white sheriff, a lot of dirt-poor black folk, a bucolic landscape of thick green forests and insect-buzzed cotton fields, and plenty of porches to watch life go by from -- the blues is in the air. It's all the characters can do not to burst into choreographed song and dance.

As usual with Sayles, there's a hard knot of a good story here. The film is named for the town's Honeydripper Lounge, a ramshackle affair that serves up a good fried chicken affair but whose old blues singer can't compete with the jukebox R&B getting blasted by the competition down the street. Danny Glover plays the owner, Pine Top Purvis, a piano player with a violent past who's in debt to everyone in town and about out of chances. His last one is a New Orleans hot shot named Guitar Sam who's got a radio hit and is booked to play the Honeydripper on Saturday; only problem is, when the train shows up, Guitar Sam is nowhere to be found, even though Purvis has plastered the town with ads. The whole thing is a scramble, with Purvis frantically (well, not frantically, maybe busily; it is the old South, after all, and things take time) working every last hustle he can to stay ahead of the creditors and the corrupt sheriff (Stacy Keach, playing it more for laid-back humor than menace) who will shut him down if he can't find somebody who looks and plays like Guitar Sam to show up on Saturday. Maybe that handsome fella who just hopped off the train and is chatting up Purvis' daughter could do the trick...

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Picture - Kasi Lemmons, Vondie Curtis Hall Beverly Hills, California, Thursday 6th December 2007

Kasi Lemmons and Vondie Curtis Hall - Kasi Lemmons, Vondie Curtis Hall Beverly Hills, California - Premiere of 'Atonement' held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - Arrivals Thursday 6th December 2007

Turn It Up Review


Grim

Real life hip hop stars Pras and Ja Rule star as an ambitious young rapper and his violent best friend/producer in "Turn It Up," a film spawned by Pras' song "Ghetto Superstar," which appeared on the soundtrack for Warren Beatty's bold political satire "Bulworth."

But while these two recording artists do a sincere and effective job making their characters feel true-to-life and depicting the ugly side of the rap label biz, the movie adheres to a formula of "money, drugs and 'hos" (to quote Ja Rule's character) that is neither ambitious nor bold.

With a pretty standard edge-of-the-ghetto backdrop and a plot concerning what Pras' perfectionist proto-rapper is willing to do to make his dream come true, "Turn It Up" mixes the predictable (a ruthless drug kingpin, a pregnant girlfriend, an absentee father looking for redemption) with a few Hong Kong-style shootouts that making killing look cool as long as you're killing people less moral than yourself.

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Vondie Curtis Hall

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