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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
November 20, 2007
A Gangster's Rise and A Gangster's Fall
Mood:  hug me
Now Playing: American Gangster
Topic: Movie Reviews

American Gangster is such an engaging drama that I hardly noticed its 2.5hour length. It's a good-paced and well-acted movie. It's no Oscar contender, but it is a good film. Denzel Washington's portrayl of uber-gangster Frank Lucas was well-played and subtly acted. In some scenes, it could have been easy for him to go over-the-top like Al Pacino in Scarface. Russell Crowe's was great as the scrappy New Jersey cop trying to bring down Harlem's drug kingpin. Russell's performance was also surprisingly low-key. It also made me re-realize how sexyRussell Crowe compared to the other pretty-boy leading men. 
Josh Brolin stands out as the dirty and flashy New York City cop on the take. In a scene where she confronts her son about his dirty business, Ruby Dee is powerful and steals the limelight as Frank Lucas' mother. In his brief role as rival drug czar Nicky Barnes, Cuba Gooding Jr. acts against type. It made me want to see more of him.

The violence, blood and gore are minimum, and the cameos are maximum! The RZA from the Wu Tang Clan appears as cop! Recently arrested rapper T.I. is as an up-and-coming pitcher turned drug distributor. Although Lucas ended up imprisoned for 15 years, losing his wife and his fortune, many wanna-be real life gangsters will treat American Gangster as the new criminal primer.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 3:14 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
May 26, 2007
A Beautiful Disappointment
Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: Dream Girls: The Movie
Topic: Movie Reviews

I was a 9-year-old Brooklynite when Dreamgirls debuted on Broadway in 1981. I remember fondly the radio and television commercials, and bus advertisements for the Dreamgirls as well as for other popular shows at the time (Annie, Evita, A Chorus Line, etc...). I wanted to see every one of those shows, because that's what rich and sophisticated New Yorkers do--the see Broadway shows. When the marketing machine started pumping out the pre-release hype for the film adaptation, I began playing the original cast album over and over in preparation for the movie's Christmas '06 release. (I had to wait until it came out on DVD since I was home, pregnant and on bed rest.) Needless to say, I was extremely excited when the DVD arrived from Netflix. I hadn't had such high expectations for movie since I heard that the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) was sexy , violent and used his hands more than flashy technology. Although 30-minutes too long, Casino Royale lived up to my fantasies and Dreamgirls fell flat.


The story about a singing group who tries to make it big in a dirty record industry and loses their lead singer is a story as old as time itself. We've seen it in movies (The 5 Heartbeats, the campy Josie and the Pussycats), in real life (Van Halen, Destiny's Child, the Jackson 5, No Doubt, etc...) and on Vh1. There's nothing new that can be added to this story, and will only be fresh to those who have just started following popular music and its trends. Dreamgirls is terribly clichéd from the shady business manager to singling out of the beauty as the only bankable talent to one character's tragic death. In this regard, the movie comes off flat. It is so predictable that you're unable to be drawn into the fantasy. As a stage production, it was probably easy to not notice this because the viewer is hypnotized by the lights, the glitter, costumes, the dancing, and the presence of the stars. There's a disconnect with the audience once a Broadway show becomes a movie. (I had the similar reaction to Chicago.)


Dreamgirls is not a bad movie. It just lacks dimension. There is no character development or really no spoken or seen catalyst for their motivations, hence no chemistry between the characters. Jennifer Hudson's overweight big-voiced Effie White and Jamie Foxx's shady music manager/car salesman Curtis Taylor Jr. have a love affair that is ruined when Curtis' record sales ambitions and affection are focused on Deena (played by Beyonce Knowles). When the inevitable break up occurs, it lacks heart because the audience never sees any spark that proved they were even together.


Hudson plays Effie as the sassy, sexy, cocky, diva to the hilt--a complete opposite of her own humble personality. Eddie Murphy does an excellent job playing the outrageous Little Richard cum Marvin Gaye-esque James Early. When these two are own the screen, you can take your eyes or ears off of them. It is their sheer inner-brilliance that brings life to their otherwise one-note characters. Beyonce is does well as the superstar-in-training, Deena. She's unbelievable when she is playing the young innocent singer who frowns on premarital sex, but she does bring vulnerability to the older Deena whose inactions makes her as strong a betrayer as Curtis. Jamie Foxx, who is usually charismatic and charming on screen, is a dull as dishwater.

 To call Dreamgirls a thinly-veiled account of The Supremes and the rise of Berry Gordy's Motown would be a great understatement. Deena's later/solo career costumes, hairstyles, and make-up is basically the look book for Diana Ross' Mahogany. There is a montage chronicling the rise of Curtis' record company, and the acts they feature are dead ringers for The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson 5. Later in his career, Eddie Murphy's James Early eschews his old sound for "message music," sports a rhinestone-decorated denim jacket, and crochet cap. If that isn't Marvin Gaye, I'm not an unpaid blogger but a writer for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section.  As unethical and as controlling as Berry Gordy, Jr. might have been, he doesn't deserve the heavy-handed vilification he receives in this movie.

All in all, Dreamgirls is a beautiful disappointment. The acting is solid, the singing is terrific, the songs are catchy, and the costumes are eye candy. The Oscar nominations (and awards) it received were well deserved, and after seeing the movie, I can tell you the controversy about it not receiving a Best Picture nod was blown out of proportion. It wasn't an Oscar-worthy film.


 Oscar Nominations for Dreamgirls:

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 11:48 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: May 26, 2007 4:41 PM EDT
June 30, 2006
The Devil Wears Club Monaco
Mood:  happy
Now Playing: The Devil Wears Prada
Topic: Movie Reviews
The cinematic version of The Devil Wears Prada was a joy to watch, even from the front row. The theater was filled with couples of all shapes, sizes, races, genders and orientations. Even straight men with their girlfriends laughed at all of the appropriate moments in this so-called "chick flick"-- which doesn't leave the sickly sweet aftertaste of the majority of films that get slapped with that demeaning chick flick moniker. The Devil Wears Prada retains the bitter bite of the movie's "Devil," editrix Miranda Priestly.

Anne Hathaway plays fresh-out-of-college Andrea "Andy" Sachs as the na?ve and idealistic journalist the way you would imagine a Northwestern journalism grad to be. As so sharply pointed out by Stanley Tucci's character, fashion editor Nigel, Andrea feels that working at the fashion magazine Runway is beneath her training and intelligence. She's only there because one year as Miranda Priestly's assistant will guarantee her a spot at any of the more "literary" magazines in New York City.

So desperate for that big break, Andy plays peon to Miranda's #1 assistant and spends every waking moment as Miranda's handmaiden--appeasing her most bizarre whims. She sells her soul to the job, leaving friendships, family, and a very cute boyfriend, played by Entourage's Adrian Grenier, twisting in the wind. Everyone sympathizes with Andy, but don't understand why she continues to allow herself to be abused. Andy knows but is afraid to say it--she wants to be successful. As the movie follows Andy down her career path, we realize that Andy is as fierce and as competitive as Miranda when it comes to her career. Who is the real devil in this movie? Is it Miranda Priestly who knows what she is and plays to win at all costs? Or is it Andy who pretends she has no choice to do what she does to get ahead?

Meryl Streep deserves a Best Supporting Actress nomination as the cold, berating, insulting, patronizing, condescending, back-stabbing, anal retentive editor Miranda Priestly. With her asymmetrical silver-haired bob and air of superiority, anyone within 100 feet of her should be both duly impressed and scared. Even when Streep allows the bitch-editor to reveal her humanity, we never feel sorry for her. Why? Because Miranda doesn't want it and you better not give it.

The Devil Wears Prada is a whirlwind of Manhattan scenery, top shelf wardrobes, pretty men, good music, and stunningly beautiful fashion. Half-way through the movie, my eyes were as wide as Andy's black-rimmed doe ones. My heart was in my throat as they flashed the montage of Paris Fashion Weeks' top runway shows. I was envious. It was at that moment that I understood what fashion is as Miranda sees it. It is a fantasy land to the outsiders, and they long to be in the positions of Miranda and Andy.

I tried to read the novelby Lauren Weisberger in preparation of the film. Reportedly, the book is based on her experiences as Anne Wintour's assistant at Vogue magazine. The book was overwritten, tedious, and exhausting. I lost my patience of wading through for the conclusion at 250 pages with about 100 to go. The movie was significantly retooled, and is a faster and smoother story. The flick was better then the book, so don't read it. See it!

~~~~Trailer Report~~~~

There is a new movie coming out later this year starring Nicolas Cage as a New York City cop on duty the day the terrorists slammed a commercial jet liner into the World Trade Center. It is called, simply enough, World Trade Center. Even though they were using recreated and not actual 9/11 news footage, watching just a few seconds of the destruction and pain that day caused made tears run down my face. I can't say whether or not it is too soon for U.S. audiences to see a film about 9/11 considering Hollywood made World War 2 films during WW2, but I do know it is too soon for New Yorkers to see. (Especially since firemen, EMS workers, policemen, and other rescue workers are still dying from respiratory conditions developed directly as a result of the debris from the WTC.)

There's also a whodunit movie based on the real life death of George Reeves (the the 1950s TV Superman) starring Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, and Bob Hoskins. I'm totally excited to see that movie. It is called Hollywoodland

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:01 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: July 1, 2006 3:00 PM EDT
June 11, 2006
Not the Same Ol' Black and White
Mood:  chatty
Now Playing: Something New
Topic: Movie Reviews
When the movie Something New was being advertised earlier this year on the Black radio station that I listen to, it was being touted as "a movie by Black women for Black women about what Black women want." Because the movie is about a love affair between a Black woman and a White man, are we to believe that what Black women really want are White men? My husband and I would guffaw imaging how Black women would react if African-American sex symbol Morris Chestnut would star in an interracial love story claiming to be "a movie by Black men for Black man about what Black men really want." Can you imagine the riots in the street that Black women around the United States would have started? They would have been burning Morris Chestnut in effigy! As the DVD came to the stores, they changed the marketing a bit. It's now a romantic comedy about a Black woman trying to find Mr. Right, and race is not even mentioned. After watching the movie, the latter marketing strategy was more accurate. This movie is not as much about race as we are led to believe although some people are not going to get past the race issue and pay attention to the deeper issue. (For a movie about Black women and the White men that love them that discusses race, check out the indie flick Restaurant starring Adrien Brody and, 'lo and behold, the male lead of Something New Simon Baker!)

Sanaa Lathan plays Kenya McQueen, who is a top executive at a financial firm, a homeowner, a six-figure earner, and is the daughter of an upper-class Black family. This character is smart, beautiful, well-off, and a successful professional. All of the Black people in this movie are all smart, well-off, successful professionals, educated, and firmly entrenched in the middle-class and upper-class and all the long-standing traditions that go along with being a part of the Black Bourgeoisie (also see Talented Tenth) There are no single mothers, drug addicts, slackers, or hustlers among these people in this movie. It is a slice of Black America that is rarely, if ever, portrayed in the media. It is also a life most Americans believe only White people live. Although it was probably not Something New’s intention, this movie reveals the real division in the United States. It isn’t racism at all, but classism.

(On an extreme side note, the Black Bourgeoisie could also be called the Talented Tenth that W.E.B. DuBois wrote about--educated Blacks who would come back to their poorer Black communities and lift their people up. In reality, this has not happened to the degree that DuBois probably envisioned. The TT/BB separated themselves from the lower-class of their race causing a type of intra-racism. Educated and professional Blacks have been slapped with the monikers of Uncle Toms, sell-outs, and wannabe White folk from those in the Black communities they left behind. See, they also believe that middle- and upper-class living is only something White people can achieve.)

When Kenya and her girlfriends go out for champagne together on Valentine’s Day, they give a list of their ideal man. Besides being Black, he has to be well-spoken, well-educated, have a job, and be close to the same professional caliber of these ladies. They want a man who is their class equal. It has been theorized that this is a problem among new generations of Black women. They can’t find a Black man equal to them, because Black women are outpacing them in getting a higher education and in the workplace. What’s a woman to do? If this were the typical Black and White sister-girl movie or an episode of the now-defunct Rikki Lake Show, the women would have shallowly agreed that it was time to go White. This is not Kenya’s plan at all. It is to keep hope alive to find a Black man that meets her qualifications.

Enter landscaper, Brian, played by Simon Baker, an Aussie native. He’s a man who wears blazers over tee-shirts and spends his days elbow deep in dirt and flowers. He’s not rich but he makes a decent living. He is also White. Brian and Kenya have a strong chemistry, but Kenya is very resistant to their relationship even before it begins. On the outside, she plays the race card saying she would prefer Black men. As the movie moves along and we get a deeper look into her upper-class upbringing, we realize that race is only the second problem. Brian is not upper class in the slightest. This is clearly illustrated when Kenya’s younger brother refuses to shake Brian’s hand upon meeting him for the first time. With a shocked look to his sister’s look of reproach, he declares rather indignantly that “He’s the help.” and not "he's white."

As the romance goes through ups and downs familiar to all rom-com fans, class and race battle it out for the cause Kenya and Brian's relationship problems. When Kenya wants to discuss the subtle racism she bears at her job, Brian wonders if she’s being paranoid because her upper-class education and life has taken her further than most White people. Kenya isn’t being paranoid, but as the argument continues you can understand Brian’s stance. A moneyed life has given Kenya a leg up over everyone even with the racism she endures.

As a romance movie and a study of class in the United States, Something New was a refreshing movie albeit the metaphorical language was heavy handed. Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan heat up the screen with their furtive glances brimming with lust. When they finally come together romantically, you’ll exhale as though you were in the romantic clinch. Sanaa Lathan proves she is a great actress as she conveys a thousand inner feelings with just a mere expression. Simon Baker is no chump either, with his genial charm and his rugged pretty-boy looks, letting his eyes and gentle touches convey his feelings more than his words. I don’t know where Hollywood has been hiding Simon Baker, but they need to get him into more movies pronto. Preferably with his shirt off, but that’s my own Black woman’s bias. ;-)

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:24 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: June 11, 2006 10:26 PM EDT
April 24, 2006
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: Derailed and Restaurant-- Movies that Kinda Sucked
Topic: Movie Reviews
This was a bad movie viewing weekend for moi.

Despite Jennifer Aniston's presence in the movie Derailed, I longed to see this movie because it starred the incredibly sexy and brooding Clive Owen.Mr. Owens has been on imaginary "To Do List" since I saw him Closer with Julia Roberts and Jude Who? Derailed had a lot of buzz surrounding it because it was supposed to be an erotic thriller of sorts--a man is dragged into a web of blackmail and murder because of an extra marital relationship. I was panting before the movie hit the theaters. Finally, I get the flick in my DVD player and I'm sorely disappointed. SORELY DISAPPOINTED

Clive Owen's plays Charles Schine, the poor sap who is pulled into a scheme to cover up a crime to protect his wife from learning about his affair. Schine makes one stupid and clumsy decision after the next. It is painful to watch Owen poor all this angst and pain into the world's most stupid man. When Schine's co-worker, Winston (played by the rapper and head of the Wu Tang Clan, RZA) becomes a deadly victim half way through the movie, I stop the movie. Winston's presence is the only decent thing in the flick, and keeps me watching. His demise feel like a betrayal. However, I do make it through the rest of the movie.

Clive Owen's dark and simmering eyes couldn't save this movie for me. This sexy thriller provided too little sex and not enough thrill.

I then moved on to the 2000 indie flick Restaurant starring Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, Grammy-winner Lauryn Hill, and a host of other recognizable actors from Malcolm-Jamal Warner to Jesse L. Martin to Simon Baker. Restaurant is a complicated little movie about the lives of struggling artists working in a New Jersey eatery. The movie tries very hard to dissect U.S. race relations between blacks and whites as well as love relations between men and women.

Adrien Brody's Chris is a playwright with a penchant for acquiring black women as lovers while trying not to become the racist his father was. (It is worth noting that perhaps Chris goes out of his way to have black lovers as a form of rebellion towards his dead father--using the women for their skin color. This angle is never really explored.) His best buddy, Reggae, is white and feels more comfortable cruising the hood for marijuana and hookers than his black friends whom the neighborhood would be far safer for them to travel. Lauryn Hill and Elise O'Neal are the two African-American loves of Chris's life, and who are also pursued by Simon Baker's character.(Lauyrn Hill's Leslie does fall for the charms of Baker offscreen.) Half in jest, I describe would Restaurant as the movie where the white men get the black women and the black men stand at the back and ignore it.

Restaurant also tries to tackle the hardships of broken hearts and forming new love relationships. It also tackles alcoholism, the delicate nature of using the word Nigger (um, sorry, "N" word), homophobia, classism, and the tenuous balance between sexuality and religion. This movie is so ambitious that it loses its identity in the midst of all the subplots. It becomes a fractured character study where we never fully understand the behaviors of the main characters or understand how they're able to resolve their crisis.

On the plus side, it had more sex than Derailed.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 11:21 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: April 24, 2006 11:25 PM EDT
April 9, 2006
You Knew Jack's Intention, His Last Name Was Twist!
Mood:  special
Now Playing: A Review of Brokeback Mountain
Topic: Movie Reviews

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain, so the media said, was the most gut-wrenching love story of the year. But, where was the love? Jack (played Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis (played by Heath Ledger) seemed more like really good buddies, who just happened to fuck because there were no women around. They horsed around (no pun intended), drank, fought, and shot the shit. Even when they did appear to share their emotions, neither one ever uttered the word “love.” The closest the audience comes to seeing that they are truly in love is when Ennis becomes jealous of Jack’s gay dalliances in Mexico. Only love or hate can inspire such a strong emotion as jealousy, and from their years of being fuck buddies we know that they didn’t hate each other.

Brokeback Mountain was a good movie. Heath Ledger was perfect as Ennis—the tight-lipped and emotionally congested cowboy. The only time he ever let his guard down or succumbed to the niceties of people was when he was with Jack. (He allowed Jack to tenderly caress him, and found rest by snuggling in his arms.) The only emotion he ever let himself show in public was violence. I got the sense that when he got into fights with other men he was really trying to beat up himself. For that performance, Heath Ledger deserved all the accolades he received and may have even been jerked by the Academy for an Oscar. (Michelle Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal also turned in Oscar-worthy performances.)

Jake Gyllenhaal used his lanky frame and doe-eyes to his best advantage as the bull rider with the fantastical dreams. From the first time Jack reached out to Ennis, you knew that it was over for Ennis. Jack turned him out, but it was Ennis who held the power in the relationship by being the emotional recluse—forcing Jack to always reach out for him. Jack was as starved for reciprocation as Ennis’ long-suffering wife, Alma. Jack and Alma were constantly waiting for Ennis to say the there magic words that they, themselves, were afraid to say in case they didn’t get the answer they wanted. His presence, as Alma learned the hard way, was not a guarantee of his love.

Again, I ask, where was the love? It was deep down somewhere in Ennis, where even Ennis was unable to touch and that was the biggest flaw of Brokeback Mountain. Nobody could reach Ennis’s heart.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 9:36 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: April 9, 2006 9:42 PM EDT
November 27, 2005
Viva La Boheme
Mood:  celebratory
Now Playing: Rent
Topic: Movie Reviews
What is Bohemianism?:
Though a Bohemian is a native of the Czech province of Bohemia, a secondary meaning for bohemian emerged in 19th century France. The term was used to describe artists, writers, and disenchanted people of all sorts who wished to live non-traditional lifestyles.he term reflects the French perception, held since the 15th century, that the gypsies had come from Bohemia. Literary bohemians were associated in the French imagination with roving gypsies, outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. The term carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of 'Philistines'), and also carries a less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness with personal hygiene. Bohemians were often associated with drugs and self-induced poverty. --

Rent...the movie
A review by Rocki White
November 27, 2005

I will admit first off that I am not a Rent-o-phile. I have never seen the musical although I do know that the musical, now entering its tenth season on Broadway, has had more guest performers than the entire run of the Love Boat. I know it is supposed to be based on the play/book La Boheme, which I know nothing about. I also know the creator, Jonathon Larson, died before the show hit Broadway. I also know the show won a Pulitzer for best drama, and a slew of 1996 Tony Awards. During the 1996-1997 Broadway season, I saw another innovative show that critics loved--Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. From the Broadway: The American Musical compilation CD, I knew the popular song Season of Life from Rent. However, I didn't discover that until winter 2004. Needless to say, I went into the movie not knowing much about the plot of the show, but looking to be entertained and not disappointed by the film adaptation.

I was not disappointed with Rent...the movie although it was directed by Chris Columbus (who ruined Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets for me). Out of four stars, I give it three solid stars. However, I should delve into the flaws before I heap on the praise. That would only be fair.

Rent is a time capsule of a New York City that no longer exists. As a matter of fact, the NYC that Rent takes place in didn't even exist when the show hit Broadway. In 1995, AIDS was no longer a death sentence and phrases like "living with AIDS" were the norm. AZT was replaced with Protease Inhibitors. The heart of NYC bohemia, SoHo and Greenwich Village, became filled with Yuppies who were the only ones able to afford the soaring rents (no pun intended).

In the Giuliani era of NYC, Times Square and 42nd Street was cleaned of its charm. The hookers, the homeless (Squeegee Men), and drug addicts had been bulldozed out of sight by the corporate sponsors and family entertainment. Even the gays and lesbians seemed less threatening as they became more and more a marketing niche as opposed to a hated and disenfranchised population. And ironically enough, Rent came to Broadway stage at a time when Broadway was starting to sell out its soul to Disney, Hollywood actors (no offense Hugh Jackman), and musical tracks instead of real life musicians.

Rent was dated when it became a hit, but somehow it works. It works on stage and works on the screen. As a native New Yorker who remembers dirty streets, crack heads, graffiti-ed subways, and the squatters and tent cities in Tompkins Square Park, Rent is a beautiful reminder that New York is good even when it is really bad. It's full of youthful ambition and a will to succeed even when the odds are stacked against you. Death, sickness, poverty, and hunger are the prices one must pay to live out their dreams. Rent is about fulfilling dreams when everything works against you. It's also, as the Seasons of Life eludes, about love and living for only today.

Except for the lesbian lawyer Joanne, played by Tracie Thomas, and erotic dancer Mimi, played by a feline sexy Rosario Dawson, everyone in the movie are holdovers from the original stage production. Some critics say that they are too old to be playing characters that are at least 10 years younger. I don't hold their age against them--is there a time limit on optimism, ambition, dreams? You'll recognize Jesse L. Martin from his stint on Law and Order; Taye Diggs from How Stella Got Her Groove Back; and Diggs' wife, Idina Menzel from her Tony-award winning stint in Broadway's Wicked.

I was wholly moved by the plot, the acting, the singing, and of the NYC of long ago. I sat until the end of the credits singing along until finally the lights came up. I knew in my heart that I would be buying the original Broadway soundtrack and movie soundtrack and the DVD when it came out. I hope the movie gets an Oscar nod for best picture, best movie score, and that Rosario Dawson gets an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

Rent! You gotta see it!

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 9:19 PM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: December 1, 2005 5:57 PM EST
November 22, 2005
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: All That Jazz
Topic: Movie Reviews
All That Jazz is a semi-autobiographical film about director, choreographer, and dancer Bob Fosse. Fosse was a Chicago native who used tour with vaudeville groups until he made it to Broadway. As a choreographer, he was well known for his sexualized movements and penchant for fishnets and bowler hats. The movie stars Roy Schneider as Joe Gideon cum Bob Fosse-- a chain-smoking tyrant of a choreographer with an ego as huge a his sexual appetite for women. Roy Schneider does a great job of assuming the sinewy characteristics of a life-long dancer.

Bob Fosse co-wrote and directed All That Jazz. ATJ gives us a peek inside the genius of Fosse. It is a fantastical story told as part musical, docudrama, and camp. (When Joe Gideon's alter-ego leans in beside the real Gideon, in bed after heart surgery, and whispers "cue hospital hallucination, you know, finally, that this is no ordinary flick.) Fosse skewers not only the financiers of Broadway musicals and the women he bedded, he also sticks it to himself the hardest. Gideon is such a jerk that when he is faced with a heart attack from years of drinking, screwing and pill-popping, you can?t decide if you want him to live or die.

All that Jazz is a movie that requires concentration with the quick cuts from Joe?s present to his past and into his imagination. There are also several viewings of Joe's daily routine (The routine consists of Joe popping a pill, using eye drops, taking a shower, shaking the pain out of his wrist, and then facing himself in the mirror to utter ?Show time.?). At first, the repetitions come off as annoying but eventually you realize it is a comparison of learning a dance. You repeat and repeat and repeat until you get it right. (And once it hits the stage, you repeat and repeat and repeat for 8 shows a week.) The theme of repetition and perfection come up in the film often.

Joe is working on a film project that is overdue to the movie company ( in real life it is a version of Bob Fosse's biographical film Lenny based on the life of comedian Lenny Bruce). He relentlessly watches the draft over and over again finding every flaw but never finding what good is in it. From every dance that is rehearsed ad nauseum to the parade of women that come in and out of Joe's life, his mere existence is about repetition until perfection but he never finds it. This movie, however, is as close to perfect as a bio-pic can get (witty, sexy, good music, great dancing, excellent acting).

All that Jazz also takes me back to the late 70s and early 80s when Broadway musicals seemed to having a revival in NYC. I fondly remember seeing commercials on television for Evita, Dreamgirls, A Chorus Line, Annie, La Cage Aux Folles and other favorites. I also remember hearing songs from those musicals played on the radio--re-edited and discofied for everyone. All that Jazz and Cabaret melded into one for me as kid. Life, theater, and the movies were just one big song and dance routine.

(I did especially the dance routine that Joe's daughter and girlfriend did to a life recording of Peter Allen's "Everything Old Is New Again."


Who is Bob Fosse Any Way? Bob Fosse (June 23, 1927 - September 23, 1987) was a musical theater choreographer and director.

Fosse developed a jazz dance style that was immediately recognizable, exuding a stylized, cynical sexuality. Bowler hats, fishnet stockings, canes and chairs were distinctive trademarks. His dance routines are intense and demanding, requiring considerable stamina. Technically the style involves moving one part of the body whilst holding the rest in a still pose - a combination of precisely-executed gestures ("hand ballet", to use his own term), both sinuous flows and rapid kicks and jerks. The filmed routines in Cabaret (1972) are particularly characteristic: the vulgar energy of vaudeville and burlesque updated and cooly contained within a slick, knowing sophistication.

About Musical theater From My Childhood

More recent eras

1976 brought one of the great contemporary musicals to the stage. A Chorus Line emerged from recorded group therapy-style sessions Michael Bennett conducted with gypsies - those who sing and dance in support of the leading players - from the Broadway community. From hundreds of hours of tapes, James Kirkwood and Nick Dante fashioned a book about an audition for a musical, incorporating into it many of the real-life stories of those who had sat in on the sessions - and some of whom eventually played variations of themselves or each other in the show. With music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban, A Chorus Line first opened at Joseph Papp's Public Theater in lower Manhattan. Advance word-of-mouth - that something extraordinary was about to explode - boosted box office sales, and after critics ran out of superlatives to describe what they witnessed on opening night, what initially had been planned as a limited engagement eventually moved to the Shubert Theater uptown for a run that seemed to last forever. The show swept the Tony Awards and won the Pulitzer Prize, and its hit song, What I Did for Love, became an instant standard.

Clearly, Broadway audiences were eager to welcome musicals that strayed from the usual style and substance. John Kander and Fred Ebb explored pre-World War II Nazi Germany in Cabaret and Prohibition-era Chicago, which relied on old vaudeville techniques to tell its tale of murder and the media. Pippin, by Stephen Schwartz, was set in the days of Charlemagne. Federico Fellini's autobiographical film 8? became Maury Yeston's Nine. But old-fashioned values were embraced, as well, in such hits as Annie, 42nd Street, My One and Only, and popular revivals of No, No, Nanette and Irene.


Coming next week, a review of the movie adaptation of Rent.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:14 AM EST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: November 27, 2005 9:09 PM EST
August 8, 2005
Mood:  not sure
Topic: Movie Reviews
BV Reviews: 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman'
By Armond White, AOL BlackVoices

"Everybody needs love," Martha and the Vandellas sang back in the '60s. That knowledge is the key to the successful Tyler Perry phenomenon. Writer, performer and entrepreneur Perry combines humor and soap opera, expressing the need to be loved in the new movie 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman.' His winning formula has been seen in the seven stage plays he has toured across the United States and in several direct-to-video releases. So far his productions have grossed nearly $75 million. Black music video veteran director Darren Grant now confirms it for a new medium.

Break It Down: Perry's comic gimmick is downscale but delightful.
'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' feels like the first black-movie soap opera because love stories geared to the experiences and ideas of the black community are rare on the big screen. Nothing in either the blaxploitation movement of the 1970s or the hood movie movement of the 1990s fulfilled the popular taste that Perry sets his sights on in 'Diary.' The story of how Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) pulls herself together after being thrown out of her Atlanta home by her cruel, cheating husband (Steve Harris) makes an appeal to a totally different set of audience emotions.

Previously, successful black filmmakers have concentrated on action genres aimed at black male ticket buyers. Perry realizes that there is a vast audience of black female ticket buyers who want another approach to storytelling. 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' capitalizes on romance the way 'Superfly' or 'New Jack City' capitalized on crime. Helen McCarter's story is about a black woman's personal fulfillment and self-realization, not a black man's egotistical demonstration before the world that he can control his own finances and destiny. The stage plays Perry has written, produced and performed in prove that his concept has grassroots appeal. But what makes it unusual -- and universally successful -- is that this appeal isn't limited to gender.

Part of Perry's secret is that women and men both share the same desire, as Martha and the Vandellas knew -- even if men and women rarely confess it to each other (and certainly not in public). 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' makes those feelings public cinematically. It starts out like a psycho-dramatic version of 'Waiting to Exhale': Helen narrates about her rich lawyer husband's infidelity like Eve recounting how she was thrown out of the Garden of Eden.

Grant directs the early scenes of paradise lost with a sure knack for soap opera extravagance and pity. No episode of 'Dynasty' or 'The Young and the Restless' is more shamelessly compelling. The image of Helen in a red evening dress being dragged across a marble floor and tossed between the columns of a Southern mansion is so full of drama it verges on being irresistibly campy.

Perry's show biz expertise is in knowing how to maintain that careful balance. It is just at that point -- when Helen's heart can break no further -- that the movie shifts tone. 'Diary' stops being a pity party and becomes a comedy of self-resurrection. It is no accident that this shift is accomplished by the introduction of a new character, Madea, who is Helen's grandmother and the community Big Mama. Large breasted, loudmouthed, strong willed and with a pistol packed in her purse, Madea almost emanates from Helen's subconscious. But she is also a mythic figure from the bosom of the Southern black family.

Madea is bodacious, outrageous and courageous. She is also played by a man -- Tyler Perry himself -- in an audacious act of showmanship. This black Mrs. Doubtfire is Tyler's tribute to the black matriarch as well as to the tradition of black drag performers. He brings both traditions together through the good-hearted notion of celebrating everyone's need to be loved. Helen learns how to respect herself, earn the devotion of a good man (Orlando played by Shemar Moore) as well as the proper handling of an abusive mate. Madea guarantees that these lessons are learned through humor but Perry is sincere when he backs Madea up with another matriarch figure, Helen's wise mother Myrtle played by Cicely Tyson.

In 'Diary,' Perry realizes that the emotional torments used to sell millions of black romance novels also have a restorative, comic flip side. His ingenious gimmick as a cultural impresario is to tickle that funny bone by going back to the roots of folk culture -- the front porch story, the chitlin' circuit revue, the gospel epiphany. 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' is not profound art, but it combines the great pleasures familiar from the most popular forms of black public expression.

Break It Down: Perry's comic gimmick is downscale but delightful.

Feb. 18, 2005

Find Armond White's Review by clicking here.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 11:21 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
I Guess I'm Not Really A Bougie Black Woman After All--Maybe
Mood:  quizzical
Now Playing: Diary of a Mad Black Woman
Topic: Movie Reviews

To get a better understanding of this post click: What is BOUGIE?

Today I saw Diary of a Mad Black Woman on DVD. It is based on one of Tyler Perry's highly popular "chitlin' circuit/gospel" play featuring his most infamous/famous character, Madea (played by Mr. Perry himself). In New York City, all of these so-called "gospel plays" are shown at the Beacon Theater. It is almost a joke among Black New Yorkers, because the plays/musicals follow a very traditional pattern. It usually stars a former B-list R&B singer (like Christopher Williams or Me'lissa Morgan) or B-list Black TV star (like Malik Yoba). A woman is usually extremely wronged by a black man. And said black woman usually learns a lesson from the wisdom of her female peers and this lesson has a big walloping dose of God and Jesus in it. Most times, the men are also redeemed. And they always most certainly will play at the Beacon Theater.

It is also a joke, most secretly and sometimes not so secretly, because Black folk associate those who see these plays as "ghetto" or too poor/ignorant to see something more highbrow (so-to-speak). Half my heart believed this although I saw the last of the Mama I Want to Sing trilogy nearly ten years ago. (Oddly enough it wasn't at the Beacon Theater but an off Broadway theater in the Village.) Somewhere, somehow, or something convinced me that I was beyond "Chitlin Circuit" plays, musicals or movies (i.e. Soul Plane). Maybe it's because I never flocked to them to begin with or maybe I started to believe that once a Black man or woman reached a certain educational or financial status, he or she became less ghetto, more white, and thus Bougie and was or should above these things.

I can't go in "da hood" now where I grew up , and expect to somehow be down with folk. I'm a woman with a graduate degree and a seemingly middle class existence that clashes with where I grew up. I often have conflicts within myself on definitions of what it means to be Black or Bougie. I also have conflicts about whether or not growing up in the ghetto makes me ghetto. I don't fit into any pre-determined category. I fit into many yet I don't fit into any. This, on occasion, bothers me.(More posts on this later, I suspect.) No one wants to be the oddball.

And speaking of oddballs, lets get back to Diary of a Mad Black Woman...It is not your typical middle-class Black movie genre (see movies like The Brothers, The Wood, The Best Man, Love Jones...) of the past ten years that are geared toward Black people who don't see themselves in the gangster, inner-city, tough reality films like Menace to Society or Boyz In DA Hood. These "hood" Black flicks and "bougie" Black flicks have a tendency to be extremes of how Black people either see themselves or wish to see themselves (Love and Basketball may be the exception). Diary...somehow brings both elements together into a cohesive and entertaining film without beating one over the head with its "I'm so Street" or "I'm so Middle Class" pathos. It also retains all of the characteristics and charm associated with the Gospel plays, but it is done so with a light hand.

My favorite part of this movie is its blatant Christian and/orMoral (by Webster's Definition) moral message about Forgiveness. It is wonderful that this message is delivered in such a non-Pollyanna fashion. It also is delivered without being a conservative, boring, dull or condemning flick. It serves the medicine with a bit of sugar. I think Diary is a movie that can appeal to nearly all Blacks despite their actual or perceived socio-economic-cultural levels, and appeal to Christians or God-believers who don't consider themselves Holy Rollers.

With all that said, you still probably won't find me up in the Beacon Theater anytime soon. :-)

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 4:12 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: August 8, 2005 4:16 AM EDT
July 10, 2005
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Some Obscure Flicks I Like You May Like
Topic: Movie Reviews
In the Mood for Love: Set in Hong Kong, 1962, Chow Mo-Wan is a newspaper editor who moves into a new building with his wife. At approximately the same time, Su Li-zhen, a beautiful secretary and her executive husband also move in to the crowded building. With their spouses often away, Chow and Li-zhen spend time together as friends. Soon, they are shocked to discover that their spouses are having an affair. Hurt and angry, they find comfort in their growing friendship even as they resolve not to be like their unfaithful mates.

Paris is Burning: This is a documentary of 'drag nights' among New York's African- and Latino-American underclass. Drag queens are interviewed and observed preparing for and competing in many 'balls'.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door: A black man plays Uncle Tom in order to gain access to CIA training, then uses that knowledge to plot a new American Revolution.

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman: Senior Master Chef Chu lives in a large house in Taipei with his three unmarried daughters, Jia-Jen, a chemistry teacher converted to Christianity, Jia-Chien, an airline executive, and Jia-Ning, a student who also works in a fast food restaurant. Life in the house revolves around the ritual of an elaborate dinner each Sunday, and the love lives of all the family members.

Dirty Pretty Things
: Okwe, a kind-hearted Nigerian doctor, and Senay, a Turkish chambermaid, work at the same West London hotel. The hotel is run by Senor Sneaky and is the sort of place where dirty business like drug dealing and prostitution takes place. However, when Okwe finds a human heart in one of the toilets, he uncovers something far more sinister than just a common crime.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: Angelique, a young student, is in love with a married doctor. We see her attempts to make him leave his pregnant wife, but he does not appear for meetings or finally the booked journey to Florence. Then the movie is turned back to the beginning, and the view changes: We are now following the view of the doctor instead of Angeliques. And things look quite different now...

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 11:17 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
July 8, 2005
No More Comic Book Movies, Please
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: The Fantastic Four
Topic: Movie Reviews
The Fantastic Four opens today nationwide. As soon as I had heard they were making a movie based on the FF comic book, I groaned. I remember the ill-fated one from the late 80s/early 90s that is only availble on bootleg. It sucked and I'm sure this one does too. Actually, if you read the New York Times Review you'll have proof that it sucks.

We've had X-men, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Batman, Superman (and Superman again coming soon!), the Punisher (two versions that were both awful), Blade (first two kicked serious ass and I could watch the first one non-stop), Elektra (*groan*), Daredevil (*double groan*), Constantine, and Sin City (which I actually want to see for the animation/flimmaking style although I've pretty much come to the conclusion that Robert Rodriguez is a mediocore filmmaker). Can we stop right there? How many more comic books have to be ruined because of the movie franchises they spawned.

(Wait, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, but X-Men and X-2 and Spider-Man and Spider-Man were good movies. Batman Begins was really good and Super-man 2 with General Zod is legendary. This is true. All those movies were really good, but... Rumor has it that X-3 will be directed by Brett Ratner. A music video director? Who did Rush Hour 1 and 2 and the soulless Manhunter-remake Red Dragon? Gimme a break. The X-men are much deeper than that of a director whose movies are as shallow as a puddle.)

Spider-Man 3 may be good, but lets just wait. Remember Batman #3, Superman #3 with Richard Pryor, or how about Star Trek 3? The third sequel in anything is guaranteed to be bad. Just ask Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers. The Michael Keaton Batman movie that produced three more sequels pretty much destroyed the franchise that was only saved by darker, better written, and better acted animated series.)

Maybe it's my geek side coming out but I wish they would stop using comic books and popular novels to make movies. The writers' union should rise up and force Hollywood to come up with movies that have original plots.


Not until they make...

A movie based on the comic book Preacher starring...well...that will have to be another post. And a movie based on The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay starring Adrien Brody as the Amazing Kavalier and the guy who plays Michael Novotony from Queer as Folk as Sammy Clay (or maybe Shia LeBeouf or Tim Roth). Susan Silverman or the girl from Welcome to the Dollhouse should play Rosa--Kavalier's squeeze.

More casting posts to follow in the future.


I'll post more on this topic in the futre I'm sure...

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 12:53 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: July 26, 2005 3:20 PM EDT
July 6, 2005
War of the Worlds Scared the Shit out of Me and Drove Tom Cruise Crazy
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: War of the Worlds
Topic: Movie Reviews
I've been severely mentally sidetracked by Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds. It was an excellent movie, clocking in at about 2 hours long. It's action packed, drama filled, and the tension is as taut as a guitar string. Let me stress this with the utmost seriousness, this movie is terrifying. Its the best and the scariet movie I've
seen in the 18 months. If you suffering from the teeniest, tiniest, eensy-bitsest (sp?) post traumatic stress from 9/11, don't see this movie. There are many scenes that are reminiscent of that day. Thankfully, Steven spared us from showing NYC being devastated (yet again) on film. That sh*t ain't cool to look at no more.

I sat through the majority of this movie with my mouth open, and my hands gripped my face. I even screamed a few times. I was not alone in the theatre
with this reaction. I think my husband put it best when he said: "if I was watching this movie at home, I would have straight up stopped it and put it back in the case." It jangled my nerves so much I was tempted to leave the theater in the middle, but was too afraid that I would have fallen down the steps from my own flashback of terror. There is one scene where American fighters streak loudly across the sky that reminded me of 9/12 when a fighter flew low and fast over my apartment, and I cowered under the table in fear.

Maybe your resolve is better than mine. If it is, see the movie. It is great. If it isn't, pretend like you did and call it a movie seen. As a matter of fact, see Batman Begins. That was good, dark, but not as frightful.


I'm truly waiting for Tom Cruise's head to explode on television. Is it me or has he truly lost it? I've never seen him so animated or clearly not giving a damn. I used to have a crush on him 20 years ago. My soft spot for him is quickly fading although I do like his recent string of movies. Give me a movie with Tom Cruise running like a madman and I'll give you a movie I might enjoy.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 8:55 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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