Tag Archives: Whoopi Goldberg

[Review] – A Little Bit Of Heaven

18 May

Title: A Little Bit of Heaven
Year: 2012
Director: Nicole Kassell
Writer: Gren Wells
Starring: Kate Hudson, Gael García Bernal, Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual content, including crude references, and language
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 4%
Metacritic: 14

Boy is this a bad, bad film. The kind of film that you should only watch if you really, really can’t sleep in a plane and that’s the only option and you’ve finished your big book of sudoku puzzles. What’s worse is that there are quite a bit of people I like involved in this film, but they’re all trapped in this remarkably corny device set around a romance between two actors who, though normally quite decent performers, don’t even show the hint of anything resembling believable chemistry. It actually just got me sad that this is what’s become of Kate Hudson‘s career.

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Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

3 Dec

Title: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Year: 2011
Director: Constance Marks
Writers: Philip Shane and Justin Weinstein
Starring: Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Oz, Jim Henson
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 86 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 8.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

The Muppets just stormed into theaters this past Thanksgiving weekend, led by Jason Segel to a seriously astonishing critical reception and a commercial performance that showed everyone the Muppets were back in town charming our pants off. However, I still haven’t seen that latest film, even though I’m really dying to do so, but as the huge Muppets fan that I am Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey may just be enough to get me going until I finally get to check out the new Muppets film.

This documentary focuses on Kevin Clash, a guy that was also a huge fan of the Muppets, a guy who really wanted to make puppets of his own and who one day just couldn’t fight the urge of cutting his dad’s coat to bring his first creation to life. This is kind of like the Jim Henson fan that puts all of us other Jim Henson fans to shame, he followed the Muppet creator’s blueprint pretty much every step of the way, building his own puppets, getting started on a local kid TV show in the same area as his hero once did. That, of course, started leading to bigger and better things, the culmination of which came when he was asked to come on board for Sesame Street. The rest, as they say, is history; Kevin Clash was given the task of taking over Elmo, a character he reinvented to become the lovable red puppet we all know and love today, one that’s as beloved by children worldwide and as popular a Christmas toy because of what Mr. Clash brought to him.

This is a seriously neat documentary, it’s not the best of the year (Senna holds that honor so far, by a mile) because it’s not necessarily like a super incisive or courageous or bold, statement-making documentary, it’s just a neat little look at the life of a kid who grew up in a middle-class suburb of Baltimore, making puppets as a way to express himself, putting shows for the kids of his neighborhood and eventually finding stardom because of those unique set of skills. And director Constance Marks makes really good use of all the footage and interviews he has to work with here, giving us close looks to the events that really marked Mr. Clash’s life, including some really neat looks at the time when he met Kermit Love which gave him a big break, and an account of the time when he discovered the Elmo character.

So this really plays out like just a really nice and kind of inspiring biography of Mr. Clash, there are times in which Mr. Marks tries to give this one some sort of drama by showing us the guilt Mr. Clash sometimes feels about not spending as much time as he would like with his daughter, but for the most part this is just a really happy affair that may make more than one audience member rush home and try to follow his or her dream. Because that’s kind of how it all works out here, we have a really hard-working guy who was really good at what he did, a guy who was backed up by his family in such a weird career path (his dad only told him to ask before he did it again when he found out his son had made a puppet out of his coat) and who made it big, and is now focusing on sharing his talent with young people who want to do the same, and giving heaps of kids all around the world some joyous moments thanks to his most celebrated creation.

Because one can’t deny that Elmo is just a really nifty creation, and finding out how that little red furry guy came to be is quite enchanting thanks to how this film tells it. Another puppeteer had tried Elmo out, but couldn’t quite crack the little fella and so it was given to Mr. Clash who started toying around with it, trying out all sorts of different voices until the one we all know and love came about, and later deciding that Elmo was to be all about giving and feeling loved, about hugs and tickles.

Now look, I said this is a neat film with pretty much no real conflict within it other than the death of Jim Henson and the stuff about him not seeing his daughter all that much, and those kind of adversities are what usually make documentaries compelling to me. So because there wasn’t anything major to add conflict is kind of why I didn’t find Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey to be one of the year’s best documentaries, but in just how easy-going and uncomplicated it is, it does manage to reach a pretty magical stride. Because magical is the right word to describe the community of puppeteers, all of them sharing Kevin Clash’s love for their art and for Jim Henson, and all of them giving their all to their little creations, studying the smallest of details in order to share so much happiness with kids around the world. This film is bursting with love much like Elmo, and also much like Elmo, it’s damn hard not to love it back.

Grade: B+

For Colored Girls

16 Nov

Title: For Colored Girls
Year:
2010
Director:
Tyler Perry
Writer:
Tyler Perry, adapting from the play by Ntozake Shange
Starring:
Janet Jackson, Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Kimberly Elise, Kerry Washington, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson, Macy Gray
MPAA Rating:
R, some disturbing violence including a rape, sexual content and language
Runtime:
134 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
4.0
Rotten Tomatoes:
33%

 

This is the very first R-rated Tyler Perry film, and is by far his most serious effort to date. And For Colored Girls is a film that, at first, I was very undecided upon, but then I found myself liking it quite a bit. On the one side the cast is seriously top-notch, all very powerful ladies giving very good performances, and you can tell Mr. Perry was really passionate about the source material and the story he had to tell, but, on the other side, as usually happens with Mr. Perry, this one ends up going into way-too-melodramatic territory a fair bit, and those overtones, and the monologues the characters give that are suited only for the play, just end up hurting the film.

Tyler Perry, love him or hate him, is a very special filmmaker because he really knows how to appeal to his target audience. Seriously, no matter how his films are received critically, and there have been some that have taken a beating, they always perform well at the box office, scoring really consistent opening weekend numbers north of $20 million no matter what, and that’s because his audience loves him and they are very loyal to his brand. With For Colored Girls, the adaptation of the 1975 Tony Award-nominated play which had the much longer title of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf Mr. Perry makes a very different film, but I have a feeling that his target demographic, mostly African Americans and mostly women within that demo, will still enjoy it quite a bit.

I will never attempt to explain why Mr. Perry’s audience is made in its majority of African American women, it may have to do with him seriously knowing how to get to them, maybe they like the huge melodrama of his dramatic films, the crude-ish humor of his comedies, and how he can switch the tonality of his films in one feel swoop. I don’t know. And as I said, I will never attempt to explain it because I’m a nineteen year-old male white teenager and would probably have no clue of what I’m talking about when referring to his specific appeal, but I do find it fascinating that we have a filmmaker in our times that’s so in sync with this audience, that’s why I respect the guy so much.

The core schtick of Mr. Perry’s films is intact here, this is all very melodramatic, full of very powerful women that will aim for your tears like crazy. And this is, I would say, the best film he’s made to date. This was a difficult film to make because of the source material which was tough to handle properly, but I did really like For Colored Girls much more than the one’s he’s made in the past, especially because the huge cast he aligned for this one performed to his beat like the best trained musicians.

The play on which this is based is unique, it has poems and music and movement and is just a very distinct experience. It centers on a group of people that have been classified by colors by the author, who then proceeds to show them all in some very dark periods of life some women may go through. The topics the film touches upon are indeed very dark, and seriously get to you, you don’t need to be a part of Mr. Perry’s target audience to feel that, and that’s why I found For Colored Girls effective, these are some very serious emotions Mr. Perry has to film, and the cast he got to help him tell these stories is just amazing.

There are some famous names here, Janet Jackson and Whoopi Golberg are here, and they are both fine, same goes for Thandie Newton, who I found to be even better. But the real star of For Colored Girls, to me, was a more unknown name, I’m talking about Kimberly Elise. I won’t talk about Ms. Elise’s character, Crystal, nor about what her dark story is, but trust me, it’s a very affecting story that will touch you no matter what. It’s seriously riveting how she plays Crystal, and she gets the MVP trophy in this really good cast from me.

Mr. Perry I thought ultimately handled the play really well. He added a couple of characters to the story, and was very good at putting new stuff in to make his characters richer while still clearly showing his love for the source material. You do get lost at times by the language that comes straight from the play, which at times makes the film look like a taped performance, and the transition it makes into Mr. Perry trademark melodrama, that I thought could have been done better since stylized prose from the play did sometimes get in the way. The thing is that the material is just damn hard to film, when I first heard of this adaptation I had no idea how anyone would pull it off, when I heard Mr. Perry was going to do it my doubts only multiplied, but, while not a perfect effort, I do give him a huge amount of kudos since the essence of the play was kept intact, and without damaging that essence he made this film accessible, maybe not as accessible as his Madea comedies, but much more accessible than I was initially thinking it was going to be.

Plus, I mean just look at this cast. These are all great performers giving great performances because, even though when mixed with the straight-out film drama it they don’t work as well, the soliloquies as stand-alone performances are very well done by these actresses. That’s the thing, I’m not grading this one any higher because I don’t think one could make a film out of this material and get it graded any higher by my own personal tastes and standards. This is just a difficult play to handle, but for what it’s worth, Mr. Perry I think did the best of it, and in the process, as I said, crafted the best film he’s done to date.

Grade: B

Toy Story 3

22 Jul

Title: Toy Story 3
Year: 2010
Director: Lee Unkrich
Writer: Michael Arndt, from a story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Ned Beatty, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Estelle Harris, John Morris, Jodi Benson, Laurie Metcalf, Blake Clark, Whoopi Goldberg
MPAA Rating: G
Runtime: 103 min
Major Awards: 1 Golden Globe, 1 NBR Award, 1 BAFTA
IMDb Rating: 9.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 99%

This was one of five or so most highly anticipated films of all year to pretty much everyone I talked to, and the expectations were seriously high, the second sequel to a legendary franchise that started the biggest animation studio there is, which on top of that hasn’t made a single bad film yet, and trust me when I say they didn’t break that streak with this one, Pixar is still batting a perfect 1.000, all of their films have been commercial and critical hits and Toy Story 3 is the latest of them all, yet another masterpiece that blends comedy and adventure and a helluva lot of deep emotions, especially during the end that left me spilling a few tears, and it mixes them seemingly effortlessly.

Toy Story has been of special impact in my life, I was four years old when the first one came out, eight when the sequel came out and now eighteen with this one, by this I mean that I am of the same generation as the film’s toy owner, Andy, and I still have all my action figures from the first films in my room, with my name scribbled in black sharpie in their feet, just like Andy did in the films, I have grown up with these toys at the same time as Andy, and this was a film I wouldn’t have been okay with if it ended up being anything less than perfect, thankfully Pixar didn’t disappoint me, but then again, it’s not like they ever have.

Toy Story as a franchise is one that spans fifteen years, three films, over a billion and a half dollars in worldwide grosses and counting, an Academy Award and pretty much another guaranteed this year, and was arguably the one responsible for starting the whole animation film business that has been dominating the box office since, it’s a franchise that has marked the lives of many, one that has made us laugh a lot and cry a lot in the process, and one franchise that was made with a lot of love from the best people in the industry, and one that exudes just as much love to us the audience. And I could go on and on for thousands of words about the impact Toy Story and Pixar has had on my life, but that’s for another day, here I have to review Toy Story 3 and I’ll take just as much joy out of doing that.

In this third and closing act of the franchise Andy is, as I said, at the age when you have to leave home and go to college, and like so many guys his age at the point of their lives, his mother tells him to sort out his stuff, especially the toys we all know and love, which have been kept away in his room for some years now. But Andy loves his toys, especially Woody whom he initially wants to take to college with him, but the other toys however are scrambled up and accidentally sent to a daycare as donations. Woody obviously ends up going with them, but unlike the other toys he knows Andy wanted to keep them in the attic until he returned and would later give them to his kids, the other toys, thinking Andy actually wanted to get rid of them aren’t feeling that much love towards him in the daycare and just want to be played with by the kids there.

And that’s when we meet the other toys at the daycare, who are led by a fluffy huggable pink bear named Lotso, who at first appears to be super friendly but is actually an evil and sad dictator of the daycare, with most of the toys under his spell and command. And that’s the main plot, our beloved toys fighting to get out of the daycare and rule of Lotso, all of this is told with the typical care and humor of Pixar, with a great script by Michael Arndt who’s only other screenplay was the one for Little Miss Sunshine, which earned him an Oscar. The new characters in Toy Story 3 are as endearing as the original ones, I missed Bo Peep quite a bit but there are a lot of great new characters to keep us just as entertained, because that’s what this film does throughout, entertain, the hour and forty minutes pass you by really quickly, not to mention the customary short shown before the film, Day & Night, is a great as every other short Pixar has put out.

After the toys break out of the daycare center they suffer through a scary event, and you know that will turn out having a happy ending but it really is frightening to watch, and the ending of the movie is a happy affair, but it’s one filled with a lot of nostalgia and emotions that you can relate to and that really struck a nerve to every single audience member in the theatre I went to, and yes, tears were shed, but at least you have those 3D glasses to hide them under, finally those served a purpose, because the 3D in this one is as unnecessary as it always is, but still, this is a masterpiece, appreciate it as such.

Grade: A+