Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movie Review: Burlesque

 My friend KJ and I spent part of our Thanksgiving Day in the cineplex. We wanted a fun, light movie and most of the holiday releases didn’t fit the bill. Faster is an action-packed, angry revenge pic, and we wanted laughter not a pissed off Rock. Thanks to reading a spoiler-laden review of Love and Other Drugs, I got the feeling that it might be a bit of a downer. And who wants to feel down before stuffing themselves with stuffing, turkey and all of the rest of the fixings? Tangled was light and fun, but we weren’t in the mood to be surrounded by the kiddies on Thanksgiving. Since KJ and I both liked musicals, we settled on Burlesque. We got what we were looking for a fun light movie. We enjoyed ourselves.

Now, Burlesque isn’t Chicago. It won’t be winning a bunch of Academy Awards … which is probably why the critics, for the most part, have hated it. However, I’m not judging the movie on some lofty set of standards that it wasn’t aiming for in the first place, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. I went to see some great singing and dancing an awesome set design and costumes, and I got exactly what I was looking for.

The plot was straightforward enough. Small town Iowa girl Ali (Christina Aguilera) heads for the bright lights of Los Angeles. She stumbles on the Burlesque club, with its fabulous owner Tess (Cher) and has to be a part of it. She starts off as a waitress and moves up to show girl, where she clashes with headlining diva, Nikki. Of course, once Tess and company hear The Voice, Ali becomes the new HDIC (Head Diva in Charge).

Clichés abound. There is the obligatory love triangle. Ali must choose between the wealthy Marcus (Eric Dane) and bartender/songwriter/roommate Jack (Cam Gigandet). Then, there is the club-in-jeopardy angle. Marcus wants to buy the club from the cash-strapped Tess who is facing a huge balloon payment on the club that she can’t possibly pay.

Aguilera will never be accused of being a great actress (and the wig she wore for most of the movie was bad to the point of distraction), but she is passable here. What she lacks in acting chops, she more than makes up for on the stage. The musical numbers are what everyone seeing Burlesque is coming to see and they were awesome. Great costumes. Catchy tunes. Christina Aguilera and Cher on vocals. It was a good time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Get Your Turkey Fix ... Then See a Flick!

If you are like me, you like a little movie along with your turkey and stuffing. While the boys settle down for an evening of football, me and the girlfriends often choose to spend our turkey-induced tryptophan haze in a darkened theatre. This year, five movies are being released for the long-weekend and there is a little something for everyone.

If you think that the one thing missing from a big boisterous musical is the genius of … Cher, then your prayers have been answered. Or, maybe, you’ve been waiting patiently for Christina Aguilera and her big dramatic voice to make a big screen debut, your guardian angel has a surprise! Burlesque, a small town girl (Aguilera) comes to Los Angeles and dreams of making it big in a burlesque club. Since we’re all hankering for flashy costumes, audacious set designs and over-the-top singing, this is what me and my girls will be seeing Thursday night.

Love and Other Drugs
If you are yearning for a side of romance to go with your yams, then may I suggest Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep and unrepentant playboy who unexpectantly meets his match in the bubbly Anne Hathaway.

If you’re hitting the Cineplex with the kiddie table set, Tangled might be more to your liking. It’s a retelling of Rapuntzel’s tale, the girl with all that hair and of course, her prince charming.

If you wait until the football games are over, your guy will probably go for the testosterone fest that is Faster. The Rock, fast cars, lots of ass-kicking, need I say more?

The Nutcracker
The classic ballet is being brought to life in 3-D no less. Starring Elle Fanning, John Turturro and Nathan Lane, rest assured, it won’t be just dancing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Really. It's True. I'm Not Joking.

In maybe the least presidential move EVER, Bill Clinton is appearing in The Hangover 2. Yes, the former President of the United States and Leader of the Free World stepped in for a disgraced Mel Gibson.

While his wife is meeting with heads of state as the Secretary of State, Bill will be appearing along side the pot-smoking Zach Galifianakis in a sequel to a movie that featured blow-job giving senior citizens, Mike Tyson, hookers, tigers and drunken tooth extrations.

Unstoppable? Not Quite.

Unstoppable failed to live up to its name. The Denzel Washington film about a runaway train was stopped in its tracks from taking the number one spot at the box office this weekend. Standing in it's way? Will Ferrell's animated Megamind.which retained the number one spot for the second week in a row and made off with $30 million. Unstoppable came in second with $23 million. However, the film is said to have cost over $100 million to make so it might have to wait until DVD sales to recoup the investment.

The real story is how Harrison Ford's workplace comedy Morning Glory barely managed to make the top five with under $10 million (9.6 to be exact) in ticket sales. Could this mean that Ford is possibly past his prime? Maybe it means that people don't like him as much in comedies. Although they didn't like him in drama either if Extraordinary Measures, released earlier this year is any indication. Maybe he should stick to action as the last Indiana Jones flick did reasonably well (amidst horrible reviews).

23 Years Young!

D'oh! The Simpsons will be back next year for Season 23! At the end of that season, they will have approximately 515 episodes. The Simpsons are the longest running comedy in television history. Law & Order would have beat out Gunsmoke, the longest running drama, if NBC had renewed it for one more season (I'm still mad about that).

But one show beats them all isn't a comedy or a drama ... it's news. Meet the Press has been aired consistently for 62 years with over 4850 episodes. Just one year behind it is the CBS Evening News. Holding the records for both the longest running drama and the longest running daytime drama is Guiding Light at 57 years.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raising Hope: Check It Out

I’ve been underwhelmed and unimpressed with this year’s Fall TV choices. The shows I really enjoyed like Lone Star and Undercovers didn’t last. The shows I had high hopes for The Event and Running Wilde failed to connect with me. Yet, there is one new show that has delivered: Raising Hope.

This show was barely on my register. The premise: teen dad raising a baby with his quirky middle class family didn’t create pique my interest. In fact, more than anything else, I watched it because it came on after Glee and before Running Wilde, which, as a huge Arrested Development fan, I was eagerly anticipating (what a huge letdown!).

Raising Hope is consistently funny. Newcomer Lucas Neff is Jimmy Chance whose one-night stand with a serial killer leaves him a single dad to infant Hope after the baby’s mother is executed. This was the pilot and while serial killers and execution don’t seem like a comedic gold mine, trust me, it was funny.

While the show might revolve around Neff, it’s the supporting cast that makes Raising Hope such fun to watch. I’ve seen Martha Plimpton for years, mainly as a guest star on dramatic series like Law & Order, Medium, and The Good Wife. Never in a million years did I see her as a comedic actress; but her timing and reactions as Jimmy’s mother Virginia are dead-on. She gets to play of Garret Dillahunt, as Jimmy's dad, another actor mainly known through dramatic guest roles on Criminal Minds, CSI and Damages with a surprising flair for comedy.

Bringing the entire cast together is comedy legend Cloris Leachman as great-grandma Maw Maw. She’s senile with scattered moments of lucidity and she steals every scene she’s in. Whether she’s thinking she’s in labor or running after some teens that tried to steal her candy on Halloween (while wearing a cat costume), she’s hysterical.

Leachman, Plimpton, Dillahunt and Neff are able to make it work because the writers have given them some great material to work with.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it tonight and turn the channel before Running Wilde.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cat Fights and Train Wrecks! At Least A Girl Can Hope!

Over a year after Michael Jackson’s death, the King of Pop can still cause controversy. His first posthumous album, Michael, is set to be released and over the weekend the first single was released (or was it leaked?). Devoted fans aren’t sure it’s Michael on the vocals.

But DivaSoulSista isn’t about music; we’re about movies and television. So all this talk about MJ got me thinking about LJ. Yes, that’s LaToya Jackson if you’re nasty! She’s going to be on one of my guiltiest of guilty pleasures, Celebrity Apprentice. She’ll be joining celebrity attorney and talk show host, Star Jones, former soap star Lisa Rinna, singer Dionne Warwick (where’d they find her), former super model Niki Taylor, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin and … wait for it … NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Maybe LaToya will surprise us with her astute business acumen and sales savvy. Sure, that would be great. But, am I wrong for hoping that she ends up being a train wreck of Cindy Lauper proportions? Now, that would make some good guilty television watching! You know the teams start off with the men versus the women, so she, Star and NeNe will be on the same team. Can you say catfight????

In case you’re wondering, the men’s team includes rapper Lil’ John, singer Meatloaf, singer and talk show host Mark McGrath, Survivor’s first winner, Richard Hatch, baseball player, Jose Conseco, 70’s teen heartthrob David Cassidy and actor Gary Busey.

With a cast like this, I’m expecting the worst … which means this season could be one of the best!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Movie Review: Due Date

 In 1987, Planes, Trains and Automobiles followed straight-laced Steve Martin as he gets stuck traveling with kooky John Candy (who is still mourning the death of his beloved wife) across the country, to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner. In 2010, Due Date follows straight-laced (and in need of anger management) Robert Downey Jr. as he gets stuck traveling cross country with kooky Zach Galifianakis (who is mourning the recent death of his beloved father).

It’s easy to see how the producers pitched this film to the studios, It’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles for a new generation (i.e. – it includes pot smoking, immigration gags, masturbation and an inappropriate use of someone’s ashes).

Aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) literally runs into Peter Highman (Downey) (or at least his car) as he’s trying to catch a flight out of Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport. In the process, their bags get switched which causes a problem when TSA agents find Ethan’s glaucoma medicine (read: pot) in what appears to be Peter’s bag. It gets worst from there when Ethan ends up in first class where Highman’s Blackberry and Ethan’s repeated use of the words “terrorist” and “bomb” not only get the pair kicked off of the plane but also added to the federal government’s “No Fly” list.

When Highman realizes that he has lost his wallet in the ruckus, he has no choice but to drive with Ethan and his dog, Sonny, to Los Angeles.

I enjoyed this movie and went in expecting lots of laughs. While there were definitely some laugh out loud moments, there weren’t as many as I was expecting – which is often the case with ‘sweet’ comedies. What made the movie work was the undeniable chemistry between Downey and Galifianakis. This movie would have completely fallen flat without their connection.

Jamie Foxx as Highman’s best friend and Juliette Lewis as a pot dealer in Birmingham are good in their extended cameos but, make no mistake, it’s up to the two stars to carry this. They carried it as far as they can, but to go the distance, they needed funnier material to work with.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Movie Review: For Colored Girls

I fell in love with Ntozake Shange’s play, For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide when the Rainbow Wasn’t Enuf (which she referred to as a choreopoem) way back in high school when I was a bit of a thespian (that's a lover of acting, not to be confused with a lover of other women – not that there is anything wrong with that). I read and reread the play. I loved it. I even used several of the monologues as audition pieces.  For those unfamiliar with the play, For Colored Girls, for short, it is a collection of poems told by eight different women only known by their colors: Red, Orange, Green, Yellow, Brown, Purple, White and Blue.

When I found out Tyler Perry was turning it into a film, I had concerns and I had questions. How do you take a collection of monologues by characters that have little interaction and turn it into a film? Do you add men, because as they were the inspiration for most of the poems, there were none in the play? So, I went into this film very reluctant. I came out very pleased.

Perry had to start by creating relationships between the women. Yasmine/Yellow (Anika Noni Rose) was a dance instructor and Nyla/Purple (Tessa Thompson) was one of her students, looking forward to starting college. Nyla was the sister of the beautiful and promiscuous Tangie/Orange (Thandie Newton) who was estranged from their mother, the very religious Alice/White (Whoopi Goldberg). Tangie and her landlord Gilda (Phylicia Rashad) shared the fifth floor of their walk-up apartment building with the hardworking and abused Crystal/Brown (Kimberly Elise), who worked for the high-powered Jo/Red (Janet Jackson). Rounding out the cast were Kelly/Blue (Kerry Washington) a social worker and Juanita/Green (Loretta Devine) a nurse, starting a non-profit health center for women.

Men play pivotal, if not central roles: Michael Ealy, Richard Lawson, Omari Hardwick and Khalil Khan have the thankless task of bringing these men, who have collectively caused so much pain, to life. Hill Harper stars as a character of Perry’s own creation, a good guy, who's sole purpose seems to be to show women that all men aren't bad.

The performances were spot-on, with the women, and the men, bringing the intensity necessary to not just bring these women to life but to flesh them out as full characters. I don’t normally give Perry a lot of props in the writing department but he did a great job of creating the world and the relationships in which these characters could exist.

He also didn’t shy away from the brutality of some of the subject matter: abuse, rape and murder are all handled and handled well. In fact, the most powerful poem in the play becomes a pivot turning point in the film and it is brought to horrifying life. I had half expected the Hollywood happy ending but Perry stayed true to the play.

However, in staying true to the play and some of the monologues, the film sometimes came across as stilted and disjointed. He keeps many of the lines from the original play intact. As a fan of the play, I appreciated that (and even after all these years was able to quote lines right along with the actresses). If you aren’t familiar with the play, many of the lines will seem to go on too long or just seem slightly out-of-place.

As a result, this is a film that sometimes feels more like theater. To me that isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Having said that, I highly recommend this film, not just for Colored Girls but for all girls (and some sensitive guys too).

Underperforming Undercovers Canceled

They tried but it didn’t work. The J.J. Abrams produced Undercovers just didn’t catch on. Thirteen episodes were ordered and that will be all. Abrams, the producer of Lost, Alias and Fringe. The show will air its final three episodes over the next few weeks.

Personally, I think Abrams fans didn’t want what Abrams had to offer. Fans of Lost, Fringe and even Alias like the intricacy and the complexity of Abrams shows. However, this time around he was offering light and breezy and Abrams fans weren’t looking for light and breezy. Unfortunately, neither was anyone else.

I had held out hope that the series might catch on about a month ago when NBC ordered four more episodes. However, 13 proved to be an unlucky number and that’s a shame. The show was gorgeous, like its two leads Boris Kodjoe and Gugu-Mbatha Raw. The script was getting better and the show had a fun Hart to Hart feel that I appreciated.

Too bad more people didn’t tune in.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Sweeps are Upon Us!

Wow! Time flies! I looked up and realized it was November 4th. Sweeps month has already started, a fact I was reminded of when a good friend of mine reminded me that tonight is the raw post-rape episode of Private Practice. So, we’re in for four weeks of all new programming chock-full of grittiness, guest starts and plot changes.

Tonight, in addition to PP, Mad Men’s John Slatterly will boldly go where co-star Jon Hamm has already gone before and guest star on 30 Rock as a candidate for the House of Representatives.

On Bones this month, Wayne Knight (the infamous Newman from Seinfeld) guest stars and before the month is over, someone will be shot!

Lyle Lovett plays an X-Files-like FBI agent on the November 15th episode of Castle where he interferes with a murder investigation/possible alien abduction.

Cougartown celebrates Jules (Courtney Cox) 42nd birthday and later in the month, she tries to put a romantic twist on Thanksgiving dinner.

Dancing with the Stars comes to an end but before you have the chance to miss it, you’ll have Skating with the Stars to look forward to!

On Glee, Puck is sprung from the juvenile pokie. We get to see more of football coach Beastie and we get Gwyneth Paltrow guess starring as a substitute teacher who covers Cee-Lo Green’s F**k You. Plus, love could be in the air for Kurt.

Get scoop on more shows, like, Dexter, Chuck, Hellcats, Gossip Girl and more at Zap2It.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Baaccckkk! ... Well, Almost

I will be the first to admit when I heard the rumors that Jennifer Lopez and then Steven Tyler were being considered for the coveted judge positions on American Idol, I laughed and kept it moving. Lopez? Really? Isn’t there a romantic comedy, or two or three that she should be starring in or maybe another CD she needs to run off to the studio to make? And Aerosmith frontman, Tyler, a real rock-n-roll Skeletor (seriously, I look at him and it’s Halloween every day). Really? I chuckled and said, “Dream On.”

When I found out that these were really the judges, for the first time since the show began I considered boycotting it. In fact, part of me is still contemplating an American Idol blackout. But then, I saw this promo for the new season and I remembered why I’m such an Idol fan.

It isn’t about the judges. It isn’t about the practically insufferable Ryan Secrest. It’s about the contestants. It’s about finding a favorite and seeing how far they can go. This promo wisely sidesteps the judge drama and goes back to what made Idol, Idol.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Zach G Smokes a Jay

Okay, let me start by saying this, I am one of the few members of Generation X who has never been high. Sure I've been drunk (hey, I did graduate from a notorious party school) but I've never been high. I never wanted anything up my nose. I, for damn sure, would never stick myself with a needle. Basically, I never understood the logic of buying an illicit drug from some guy I wouldn't trust to valet park my car.
Smoking, of any sort, has always seemed nasty to me, especially smoking some wet joint that a whole bunch of people have already slobbered on. Eeeewww. I think I'll pass. Besides stoners just lay around laughing about nothing and eating a bunch of junk food ... it just never seemed appealing to me.

So the whole "Let's legalize it!" mantra escapes me. Why is it so important to be able to get high? What's so great about it.

Well, a lot of people obviously diagree with me, including star of The Hangover and Due Date (out this Friday), Zach Galifianakis. In an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, while discussing Proposition 19, a California proposal to legalize marijuana, he appeared to light up a doobie and smoked it on-air. Some are now saying that it might not have been the real deal.

Despite high-profile proponents like Galifianakis, Proposition 19 is expected to be defeated in tomorrow's election.

Check it out for yourself.

Rocky Horror - Glee Style

My apologies... I thought I posted this last week!

Glee’s Rocky Horror episode last night reminded me of why I love this show so much. Glee can be, at times, a victim of its own success – indulging in all the celebrity fanfare. You can’t really blame the producers for the Madonna, Britney and even Gaga-based episodes. After all, it’s an honor to have so many megastars honored to have their music featured on your little show. But, I think Glee is best when it focuses on the characters and the music.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is all about fun (it definitely isn’t about plot!) and this episode captured that spirit and enthusiasm. Everyone was in on the act. We got to hear John Stamos sing, Emma (Jayma Mays) rip Will’s (Matthew Morrison) shirt off. And of course, we got a couple of nice ab shots from new comer Chord Overstreet! Mercedes (Amber Riley) stepped into the spotlight and put her own spin on Dr. Frankenfurter (the sweet transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania). Granted, the original was played deliciously by Tim Curry who killed it in a leather corset, hose and heels but she did something different with it and I respect that.

The guest casting that has become such an issue of late was perfect with Rocky Horror originals Barry Bostwick (Brad) and Meatloaf (Eddie) playing TV executives who were against a school production of the adult-themed musical. We got to see more of Sue too (the recent episodes have been a little Sue-light). And a little Sue is always a good thing!

If there was a major drawback for me, it was the bizarre way the Rocky Horror songs were censored. Frankenfurter’s Sweet Transvestite didn’t come from Transsexual Transylvania but from Sensational Transylvania. When Emma sang Touch Me, she didn’t fear getting into heavy petting but heavy sweating. Huh? This from a show that just a week before showed two cheerleaders making out on a bed and discussing a lesbian sex act – not to mention plots about pregnant teenagers and teen boys who get a little too excited too quickly. The changes seemed random and unnecessary.

Next week is all about baseball so it will be a Glee free week but in two weeks, the show will be back and by the promo it looks to be pretty good.