Whitney Houston: I wanna dance with somebody
Directed by Kasi Lemmons (who played Clarice Starling’s FBI classmate in ‘The silence of the Lambs’) this film tells the tale of superstar Whitney Houston. Whitney was blessed with a beautiful voice but faced with many obstacles. – her homophobic parents and their religious extremism; her struggle to support her entire family; her discomfort with fame; her ill-advised marriage to Bobby Brown and her eventual drug addiction. Her parents’ opposition to her relationship with her childhood sweetheart Robyn Crawford was the starting point for her spiral into addiction and tragedy. Unfortunately her family were involved in this production. And you can tell. Her mother Cissy (backing singer to Aretha Franklin) is still alive and is painted as an unsung hero in this. Her father is portrayed as a corrupt thief who squandered her fortune. This part is true, but in real life Cissy was allegedly the major homophobe. The sanitised portrayals of the still living characters is perhaps understandable, but the A to Z chronological account of her life from pre-fame to her untimely drowning in a bath as a result of a cocaine binge is quite dull and pedestrian. Naomi Ackie gives a decent performance, but watching her lip-syncing to Whitney was unimpressive – it’s far better to watch YouTube clips of the real deal. It’s interesting enough because of the songs and because Whitney was such a compelling character, but overall it’s rather mediocre and lacklustre.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance
Directed by Steven Soderbergh this is the third part in the Magic Mike trilogy. It’s a searing expose on the futility of fast fashion in the field of male dance, and how one activist dancer vows to remove said clothing from the artform – in other words it’s the Channing Tatum, male-stripper movie. He’s now working as a bartender in Miami, having lost his 2nd hand furniture business during the economic crash. He encounters glamourous, divorcee Salma Hayek who lures him to her leaba (‘leaba’ being the Irish word for bed) before hiring him as director of a new stripper show in a heritage theatre in the West End of London. Despite the presence of the pulchritudinous Tatum, this film is as sexy as cauliflower.
Brendan Fraser is on the Oscar trail in this new Darren Aronofsky fill. He plays a morbidly obese online university lecturer named Charlie. Charlie has congestive heart failure and is attempting to rebuild a relationship with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (played by Sadie Sink from ‘Stranger Things’). His carer Liz (played by Oscar nominee Hong Chau) is suspicious of the motives of both Ellie and the young missionary who befriends Charlie. Adapted from the stage production of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter, it is moving account of grief and loss. Brendan Fraser gives an outstanding performance of Charlie who has literally eaten the grief he felt for his lover, and who now has no way to escape. He surely must be favourite for the Best Actor Oscar for this role. It’s a dark and bleak but powerful film.
This autobiographical film by Steven Spielberg is about his childhood in New Jersey, Arizona and finally California, and his lifelong love affair with film. Mr. and Mrs. Fabelman (played by the Oscar nominated Paul Dano and Michelle Williams) have a troubled relationship, which impacts their children. Paul Dano looks like a thumb – although despite his appearance he gives a fine performance. Michelle Williams is less impressive as the needy, weepy Mrs. Fabelman. I know this was how Spielberg wanted the character to be played but I found it irritating. This film isn’t nearly as good as it thinks it is, and seems to be an attempt by Spielberg to win a third best director Oscar for a blandly competent but ultimately forgettable and undeserving film.
A man called Otto
Adapted from the 2015 Swedish film ‘ A man called Ove’ this remake stars Tom Hanks as the titular Otto. Otto is a cantankerous old man, angry with the world. Having seen the trailer I had assumed that this was going to be a comedy. It’s actually much darker. Six months after his beloved wife’s death Otto is grieving and depressed and decides to take his own life. His efforts are continually thwarted by his clumsy new neighbours who have moved in with their young family next door. It’s a moving film and Tom Hanks captures the pain of grief and loneliness quite acutely. Impressive film.
The story of an artificially intelligent doll adopted by a girl whose parents have died, who outgrows her design and becomes vengeful and murderous. It’s like a less tongue-in-cheek ‘Child’s Play’. It’s a silly horror-comedy and it’s very enjoyable. A sequel has already been green-lit. I expect we’ll be seeing many more sequels in the coming years.