Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Foxx’

Annie: Changed Up But Still Fun—Movie

December 22, 2014

Sometimes a movie surprises you…in a good way…and so it is with the 2014 “Annie.” Extremely entertaining, full of heart and fun, there’s truly not a bad performance in the entire film. And while you won’t tap dance your way out of the theatre, you’ll leave humming with a smile on your face. Directed by Will Gluck with screenplay by Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, based on Thomas Meehan’s stage play book and Harold Gray ‘s comic strip, Little Orphan Annie, the best way to enjoy this “Annie” is to leave your memories of yesteryear’s versions behind and appreciate this version on its own merit.

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“Annie” 2014 is less a traditional movie musical and more of a dramedy with musical numbers sprinkled in. Set in present day, Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives in a group foster home run by Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a one-time wanna-be actress and present-day alcoholic. Annie was abandoned by her parents as a child outside an Italian restaurant, left with nothing but half a locket and a note saying that someday they hoped to see her again at the restaurant. One afternoon, while trying to save a dog from being tortured by some neighborhood boys, she is almost hit by a car, but is swept out of harm’s way by Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a self-made billionaire running for mayor. His campaign advisor (Bobby Cannavale) thinks there might be benefit to his campaign…giving him some much need humanization…by inviting Annie to live with Stacks for a period of time. And so she and her newly adopted dog, Sandy, come to live with Stacks in his penthouse. Annie’s relationship with Stacks, his assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne), Ms. Hannigan and the girls under her “care” carry the story forward.

Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx, “Annie’s” two leads, are both very good and have terrific chemistry together. Wallis, so winning in her “Beasts of the Southern Wild” film debut, continues to captivate. She’s extremely convincing in conveying Annie’s innocence and street smarts. She definitely has some dance moves and sings well enough in the role. It is no surprise that Foxx can sing and dance, and as Stacks, he is absolutely charmingly perfect in the part.

As good as Wallis and Foxx are, it really is the rest of the cast that helps make Annie as entertaining as it is. At times Cameron Diaz’s Hannigan may seem over the top, but truth be told, she is really good as the drunk longing for the good old days. Her scenes with the girls are fun to watch and her “Easy Street” song and dance with Cannavale is very sweet. Her interaction with David Zayas as the shop owner, Lou, who harbors a crush on Hannigan, is especially good. And when her singing truly counts, her voice in the part works. Rose Byrne’s scenes with Wallis are achingly good. However, the real hands-down scene stealer is Stephanie Kurtzuba as Mrs. Kovacevic, the case worker helping Annie. She is just amazing…funny, musical, and capable of saying so much with just the blink of an eye, she steals every scene she is in without even trying.

There is some very appealing singing and dancing by Annie and the foster girls. “It’s the Hard Knock Life” is particularly enjoyable. “Annie” also features some amusing cameos and has some great NYC and subway shots adding to the film’s overall enjoyment.

See this “Annie” with an open mind and you’ll be glad you did. It’s just a plain good time at the movies.

3 nuggets out of 4

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Horrible Bosses 2: One Too Many—Movie

December 2, 2014

Sometimes once is enough and so it is with “Horrible Bosses 2.” The pained expression that Jason Bateman wears throughout most of the movie says it all…it’s almost as if he is in the audience watching the annoying performances of Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis. Directed by Sean Anders with screenplay and story by Anders, John Morris, Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley and Michael Markowitz, “Horrible Bosses 2” picks up where the first one leaves off.

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With former bosses either dead, in prison or seeking help for addiction, Nick (Jason Bateman), (Kurt) Jason Sudeikis and Dale (Charlie Day) have formed a company and are looking for investors to bring their invention, the “Shower Buddy,” to market. When they are swindled by investor Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz), the trio resorts to drastic measures—the kidnapping of Hanson’s son, Rex (Chris Pine), who becomes a very willing victim. Along the way, the three come into contact with Dale’s former dental boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), and Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), Nick’s former boss now residing in prison. And for old time’s sake, they once again go to Dean “MF” Jones (Jamie Foxx) for advice who surprisingly provides sound counsel.

The problem with “Horrible Bosses” isn’t that it’s dumb or unfunny. The film does have some very amusing moments, with the emphasis on some. The issue is that there just isn’t enough there, there. Thus we are left with the never-ending Greek chorus of Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis spouting the most imbecilic conversation imaginable. After half an hour of this you’re ready to charge the screen shouting, “STOP IT!! ENOUGH ALREADY!” Jason Bateman is left out of most of this nonsensical dialogue and he’s slightly the better for it. But that begs the question; does he really need the money this badly to do a sequel as bad as this one? He looks like he’s swallowed a lemon for most of the movie. The film’s two saving graces are Christoph Waltz and most especially, Chris Pine. Waltz makes for a terrific villainous father and businessman. Pine is a complete surprise as a comedic actor. He seems as if he was born to do comedies, he is that good.

In the end, nothing or no one can really save “Horrible Bosses 2.” To see really funny, clever movies about terrible bosses, save your money and seek out “Swimming with the Sharks,” with an evil Kevin Spacey or Michael Caine’s “A Shock to the System” to learn how to really take care of a bad boss.

1 ½ nuggets out of 4

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Andrew Garfield Truly is a Hero—Movie

May 12, 2014

What is it about directors and their toys? Why do so many of them not know when enough is enough? “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” has so much going for it from an acting and plot point of view, but the 30 minutes or so before the film’s final 10 minutes almost does it in. Thank goodness for Andrew Garfield, who, as Spider-Man, really does save the day.

The_Amazing_Spiderman_2_posterDirected by Marc Webb, with screenplay by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Pinkner, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” opens explosively with a great chase scene with Paul Giamatti (as we’ve never ever seen him before) as the villainous Aleksei Sytsevich and some very witty dialogue from Spider-Man. The film feels almost joyous in part…at least in the beginning. Spider-Man/Peter Parker is basking in his “Spidey” ways and enjoys helping people and making a difference.. And he’s in love…in love with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). His main problem at the film’s start is that NYC has grown tired of him. To some, he’s a vigilante…to others he seems to be inserting himself into situations where his help may not be wanted. However, his life begins to change when he and Gwen break up. His concerns for her safety have finally gotten the best of their relationship…at least for a while.

Entering into the mix are two new characters—Matt Dillon (Jamie Foxx) and Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan). Matt works as a maintenance man/electrician for the mega corporation, Oscorp. As a lowly worker, no one ever notices him and this “invisibility’ has taken a toll on his psyche. To make matters worse, it’s quite possible that credit for a plan which  he submitted to Oscorp and could have brought him millions, was stolen from him and has truly embittered him. Harry is Peter’s childhood friend, whose father owns Oscorp and is dying. In his own way, Harry has led an invisible life, spending most of his time abroad, deliberately kept away from the family business…Oscorp. These two lonely characters collide in a very sad, violent manner, becoming Electro and the Green Goblin respectively. In so doing, they initiate a battle scene with Spider-Man that seems to go on for hours and hours.

Therein lies “The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s” problem—the very lengthy war between the three. It would appear that no one had the guts to tell the director, “Cut! Enough already! The audience will get it.” I understand that the film needs to get its money’s worth of the 3-D effects. But in all honesty, 3-D is completely unnecessary in making this movie more enjoyable or entertaining.

What does work for “Spider-Man 2” in spades is the acting and the dialogue. As Spider-Man/Peter Parker, Garfield is spectacular. He’s capable of expressing joy, sadness and everything in between. He brings a real fun-loving spirit to the film. Garfield also has terrific chemistry with all of his co-stars. His scenes with Sally Field, as his Aunt May are absolutely perfect…but Field is no slouch in the acting department either. There seems to be nothing she can’t do. She just feels so right as his aunt. Emma Stone is very good as Gwen…who loves Peter, but is not content to be the “little woman” waiting for him on the sidelines of his life. Stone has just the right “oomph” to make this believable. (As an aside, it must be said that no matter how good Garfield and Stone are, they cannot and do not pass for high-school seniors. College seniors, perhaps, but high school is one glaring, laughable mistake). Jamie Foxx does an excellent job in showcasing the life of the invisible. Dane DeHaan is fantastic as the “poor little rich boy.” He knows how to work those huge eyes of his as either those of a villain or innocent. His early scenes with Garfield feel like real friendship and his work with Chris Cooper as his dying father and Colm Feore as his father’s right-hand man are heart-breakingly done. “Spider-Man 2” also does a great job in rounding out Peter’s back-story with Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott as Mary and Richard Parker, his and mother and father.

“The Amazing Spiderman 2” has so much going for it via story and acting, the prolonged fights just really serve to lessen its “amazingness.” Hopefully director Webb has gotten this out of his system.

2 ½ nuggets out of 4

 

Django Unchained: The Chains That Bind—Movie

December 27, 2012

Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like “Django Unchained.” I thought I’d be alone in the theatre Christmas Day, but no. My screening was sold out as was the one after it. I’m not sure what this says about us as a people. I like to think that it just says the group of Tarantino-lovers is larger than I thought and we don’t care when his movies come out…we will be there. Simply put—Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, is brutal, chilling, completely over-the-top and pure Tarantino through and through. I loved it!

Beginning with the opening credits, “Django Unchained” plays tribute to the old spaghetti-westerns—thematically and stylistically. Even the song at the start of the movie sounds like it’s been lifted from a Sergio Leone movie.

The film stars Jamie Foxx stars as Django, a recently purchased slave. He “meets cute” with German-born Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) in 1858 Texas. Schultz makes his real living as a bounty hunter and is in search of the Brittle Brothers, notorious slave owners, when he encounters Django. Django knows the Brothers and in exchange for helping Schultz capture them, Schultz promises Django his freedom. And with that we’re off to the races.

The two form a bounty-hunting partnership and head south—the ultimate goal to find and rescue Django’s German-speaking wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), sold and resold in the slave trade business. In their quest to find Broomhilda, Django and Shultz run into a whole host of unsavory characters–beginning with Big Daddy (Don Johnson, bearing a striking resemblance to Colonel Sanders) and ending with Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprioDjango_Unchained_Poster) and his head of house, Stephen (a barely recognizable Samuel L. Jackson). Candie is the current owner of Broomhilda,

Jamie Foxx is not actually called upon to do much acting, but he does bring just the right touch of intensity to his role. Kerry Washington’s Broomhilda has several harrowing scenes and she is terrific in them. Christoph Waltz, so great in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” is even better in “Django.” He is the one constant in the film and has dialogue with nearly every single actor and is sheer perfection.

As good as Foxx, Washington and Waltz are, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson steal the movie.

Funny, cruel and unhinged…this is a DiCaprio we’ve never before seen. Words can’t express how great he is. Simply amazing isn’t good enough. I don’t think DiCaprio has ever been bad and for my money is very underrated as an actor, but with this role and under Tarantino’s direction, he takes this performance to a whole new level. I can’t wait to see what he does next and I hope he has another project with Tarantino soon.

As Stephen, Samuel L. Jackson is the whitest black person the world has ever seen. His role is initially a quiet one, but you know that can’t last. This character is also very different for him and he makes the most of it.

“Django’s” cast is enormous (and some of the actors are so old and grizzled they are unrecognizable at first)…and at 165 minutes, so is the running time. But would I want to miss one second of the uncomfortably funny sheet scene with Jonah Hill  (billed as Bag Head #2)? No. Or one less word of the back and forth dialogue between DiCaprio and Waltz? A thousand times no!

As outrageous and crude as “Django Unchained” is, I don’t think it ever forgets the serious, abominable subject at the heart of the story—slavery. The positive about “Django” is that it doesn’t sugarcoat the awfulness and shame that slavery was. And thus, it doesn’t let the audience forget it either. “Django” may be at its best when German-born Schultz expresses his bewilderment and outrage at the practice.

“Django Unchained” is a Quentin Tarantino masterpiece and should not be missed.

4 nuggets out of 4


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