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Last Vegas Review


Very Good

An almost ridiculously strong cast and a witty script by the writer of Crazy Stupid Love make this silly film a lot more entertaining than it should be. As it playfully explores long friendships and the struggles of ageing, it turns into a four-sided bromance. So even if the film feels a little under-powered, it's still thoroughly charming.

At the centre are four lifelong buddies who are determined not to grow old. Paddy (De Niro) is trying to recover from grief over his wife's death, while Archie (Freeman) is tired of being fussed over by his son (Ealy) and Sam (Kline) hates living in a retirement community with his spirited wife (Gleason). So they jump on the chance to travel to Vegas for a stag weekend for their pal Billy (Douglas), who is marrying a woman (Blair) in her 30s. And getting together sparks their youthful sense of mischief as they plan a lavish party. Especially when two of them begin to fall for lounge singer Diana (Steenburgen).

Having five Oscar winners in the lead roles gives considerable oomph to the whole project, as these seasoned veterans bring out engaging details of their characters. Douglas has the safest role as a hapless lover-boy, while De Niro does the emotional heavy lifting and Kline endures the cheapest jokes (because his wife has given him a "free pass" for the weekend). Meanwhile, Freeman is clearly having the most fun: cool and relaxed with a naughty glint in his eye. And Steenburgen provides some badly needed female feistiness.

Continue reading: Last Vegas Review

'Political Animals' Definitely Not Set For Another Series


Sigourney Weaver Greg Berlanti Laurence Mark

Producers of 'Political Animals' have officially decided not to release any more episodes of the mini-series having considered for a time extending it to at least another series.

The USA Network political drama starring Sigourney Weaver as a divorced First Lady, governor of Illinois and Secretary of State was created by Greg Berlanti famed for producing superhero movie 'Green Lantern' and TV comedy drama 'Dirty Sexy Money'. It ran for 6 episodes from July to August and was originally only thought to be a limited series, however there was discussion about how many more stories could be squeezed out of it. 'We are proud of 'Political Animals', our miniseries that attracted critical acclaim and impacted the cultural conversation this summer', USA Network said in an official statement. 'It was a pleasure to work with Greg Berlanti and Laurence Mark [producer] and a powerful cast led by Sigourney Weaver. We look forward to collaborating again with these immensely talented creatives.'

Berlanti recently posted a Tweet regarding the support he's received over the TV show: 'Thanks everyone for the nice tweets regarding Political Animals. It remains one of the best and most rewarding experiences of my life. The cast, the crew, writers, studio and USA were all a dream to work with. We all got to make what we set out to. Couldn't be more proud!'

Dreamgirls Review


Very Good
If only they had let Bill Condon direct Chicago instead of just writing the screenplay. As Condon shows with his razzle-dazzle adaptation of the 1981 Tony-winning musical Dreamgirls, he would have been quite an improvement on Chicago director Rob Marshall -- who, before he gave us a mostly-Chinese cast for Memoirs of a Geisha, tried unconvincingly to prove that Renée Zellweger could sing and Richard Gere could dance. It didn't quite kill the movie (the material is almost indestructible), but made one wonder what it could have been with some actual professionals in the lead. Condon makes no such mistake with Dreamgirls, finding a cast with just the right mix of theatrical chops and movie star charisma. In short: If anybody's thinking of doing a film of Jelly's Last Jam, they should see what Eddie Murphy's schedule looks like.The story is just about perfect for a musical: simple enough to hang a number of tunes on, and not so complex that it requires an inordinate amount of dialogue. A quick pastiche of a number of popular R&B groups from the 1960s and '70s, the musical follows one talented Supremes-like trio of singers, the Dreams, as they get their big break doing backup for James Brown-esque screecher James "Thunder" Early and secure the services of ambitious proto-music mogul Curtis Taylor. The fortunes of some will rise, others will fall, trusts will be betrayed, and beliefs about love and friendship will be tested -- basically nothing that can't be best expressed by a soaring ballad.Dreamgirls fairly jumps out of the gate with startling impatience, doing everything possible to get the audience's attention short of having the performers actually reach out from the screen and drag people up on stage. The entire beginning -- set backstage at a Detroit talent show -- is a barrage of spotlights, flashy and coordinated outfits, and neck-breaking music-video editing; the remainder of the film lets up a little, but not much. The energetic songs come fast and quick, Condon and his brilliant cast snapping them out like there's no shortage. Fortunately, there isn't.The genius of the original musical was setting itself in such a fecund period for R&B and soul, thus providing a deep well from which to draw inspiration. It was that period starting when songs that were popular on African-American radio ("race records," as they were called) were either ignored or stolen and watered down for the white mainstream, moving into the golden era of the Motown groups and stretching up until the early stirrings of disco. Dreamgirls hits, sometimes obliquely, on a number of big historical moments from this period, such as the scene where Taylor (Jamie Foxx) comes up with the idea of payola to bribe DJs to get the girls' songs on the air. The film is hardly weighted down by history, however, as there's always another number to get to, or another fight to resolve; most of the latter being caused by Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), the loudest and most talented of the trio.Condon took a risk by casting a relative unknown (well, save for American Idol) in this key role, but it more than pays off. Cast aside by Taylor fairly early on, once the chillingly business-like producer decides she's too much trouble, Effie spends a good deal of time in exile, working on a comeback. As everyone knows, Hudson more than holds up her end in the singing department, rattling the rafters each and every time it's called for. But fortunately she's a good enough actress to keep her character likeable, admirably tough instead of annoyingly stubborn. Foxx plays things closer to the vest than he normally does, which gives his character a chilling villainy at times, but comes dangerously close to non-acting at others -- with a similarly muted turn in Miami Vice, this could mark a disturbing trend for a normally explosive performer.The biggest and most pleasant surprise, however, is Eddie Murphy as Early. When he could have fallen back on his well-tooled James Brown impression, Murphy instead mixes up a number of different performers into his act and adds his own swagger and polish, while not forgetting the painful vulnerability of a once ground-breaking artist who's terrified about being left behind (there's more than a little autobiography in this performance). It's as though a curtain has been raised from Murphy: He knew and we knew all along that he could pull off something like this, but it just took the right film to make everybody realize once again, what a star he is.With all the killer tunes and star turns (even the normally sleep-inducing Beyoncé Knowles, as the Diana Ross-like Deena Jones, knocks it out of the park) it's surprising in the end that Dreamgirls isn't a complete winner. Maybe too much ground is covered too fast, too much attention paid to flash and artifice, when more groundwork should have been laid. For some reason, even with all the powerful emotions unleashed during the film, there's a strange hollowness at the end, once all the bright lights have dimmed and echoes faded. Maybe it's too much to ask that a musical deliver knockout songs and a solidly-constructed story at the same time, as the two often work at cross purposes. More likely, we should just be happy that Hollywood has figured out how to make musicals again, even if they only come around every four years or so.His girls like to party all the time.

Finding Forrester Review


Good
They're already calling it "Good Will Hunting in the hood," and it's for good reason. Gus Van Sant's latest takes us back to the inner city (or The Bronx, at least) for a second verse of that feel-good feeling, with none other than Sean Connery as a crotchety old shut-in who teaches (and learns from, natch) a local teen (Rob Brown) who sneaks into his apartment.

If you've seen the trailer, you know the story. The local Bronx kids live in fear of "the window," a ghostlike man who stares down at them creepily while they shoot hoops. On a dare, young Jamal (Brown) sneaks into the place, finding it cluttered with books. He's given a scare and Jamal runs off, leaving his backpack behind.

Continue reading: Finding Forrester Review

Hanging Up Review


OK
There's just something really screwy about a family like the Ephrons.

A pair of sisters (Nora and Delia) collectively control the purse strings of many a woman and hold they keys to the heart of the modern romantic through two movies: Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. Nora Ephron (along with Meg Ryan), redefined delis and male-female interaction with 1989's When Harry Met Sally.... Both are the daughters of a screenwriting duo, children of The Industry, and have become higher-level powerbrokers than their parents ever were with a string of well publicized hits and soon forgotten misses that formed a winning streak that lasted up until now.

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Center Stage Review


Weak
At the American Ballet Academy, there is an abundance of passion, talent and determination. Of course these things simply aren't enough when it comes to making it as a professional ballet dancer.

As the camera probes into a crowded room of ballerinas spinning and dipping, a young blond is immediately isolated from the bunch. The male choreographer's assistant notes that the girl has poor form. The choreographer retorts, "Who cares, look at her." And with that the blonde, blue-eyed Jodie is given a spot in the American Ballet Academy, the Julliard of dancing.

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Glitter Review


Terrible
After enduring Mariah Carey's film debut, Glitter, I'm reminded of a bit from Chris Rock's Bigger and Blacker. In response to women saying that they can raise a child without a man, Rock says, "You can drive a car with your feet, but that don't mean it should be done." To that I say, you can give Mariah Carey a movie, but that certainly don't mean it should be done.

Sure, there are plenty of pop star film vehicles out there -- from The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night to the Spice Girls' Spice World -- but none have been so vapidly pointless or laughable as Glitter. Everything about this complete tripe is ludicrous.

Continue reading: Glitter Review

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Laurence Mark Movies

Last Vegas Movie Review

Last Vegas Movie Review

An almost ridiculously strong cast and a witty script by the writer of Crazy Stupid...

Dreamgirls Movie Review

Dreamgirls Movie Review

If only they had let Bill Condon direct Chicago instead of just writing the screenplay....

Finding Forrester Movie Review

Finding Forrester Movie Review

They're already calling it "Good Will Hunting in the hood," and it's for good reason....

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Hanging Up Movie Review

Hanging Up Movie Review

There's just something really screwy about a family like the Ephrons.A pair of sisters (Nora...

Center Stage Movie Review

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Glitter Movie Review

Glitter Movie Review

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