If it's crap ... We'll tell you
This week's first movie can be summed up in one word...
Yeah, it's Sparkle
Set in the 1960s, three sisters form a girl group and soon become Motown sensations, against their mother's wishes. But fame becomes both a challenge and an obstacle, as the close-knit family begins to fall apart due to this. But one girl, Sparkle, senses some hope for her future, despite every circumstance.
The film stars Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Whitney Houston, Mike Epps, Cee Lo Green, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Tamela Mann and Omari Hardwick. Sparkle features songs from the original film written by soul musician Curtis Mayfield as well as new compositions by R&B artist R. Kelly. This film is the debut of R&B/pop singer and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks as an actress.
This film probably wouldn't have been under my radar had it not been for the two leads, Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston. Sparks is one of the better singes to have come out of American Idol and Houston is...well, she's an idol in her own way. She's one of the greatest singers this world has seen and to know that she's gone for good really got to me the day I found out she had died, RIP Ms. Houston.
Anyway, back to the film. This is a remake of the 1976 movie of the same name which starred Irene Cara, pre-Fame and Phillip Michael Thomas, pre-Miami Vice. I haven't seen that film so I can't really give my thoughts on that. What about the movie I saw today?
This is one of those movies where I'm more positive than negative about it. There's a lot about the movie I liked but the things that are really bad about it really stick out.
Let's start with the good things.
Jordin Sparks is terrific here in her lead debut, she has a great acting potential and it shows in this movie. Houston is also really great here and I really believe this is the best acting role I've seen her in. When the two work together in scenes, it's pitch perfect. The person that really surprised me was Curtis Armstrong, best known as Booger from Revenge Of The Nerds as well as Snot on American Dad and Dan on Dan Vs.. I thought he was really great in the small bits that he was in and he played a role that's completely outside of what I would usually see him in. He's more like the role he played in Ray, ironically the head of a record company much like he is in this film.
I also Carmen Ejogo, who plays Sister in the film, and Tika Sumpter, who plays Dolores in the film. I thought they both worked very well with Sparks and with Houston in the film. Ejogo also delivers one of the film's best peformances, acting wise and singing wise.
The songs are very well done and are all very catchy, there was not one song I really hated and I though they were all done very well.
Lastly, the direction was very good. This is Salim Akil, who directed one of my favorite movies from last year, Jumping The Broom, and he does a very good job giving the film a distinctive 60s look.
The bad things start off with Mike Epps. I usually like his work but I really didn't like him here. He's suppose to be the funny comedian but none of his jokes that the character he had did were all that funny. I also really couldn't buy him as a sleazebag. But that may have had something to do with the material given to him.
Which leads into the next problem with the movie, it seemed that the screenplay had too much points where they mention race. Cee Lo Green plays a character called Black, some of the dialogue felt way too stereotypical for black people, and some of that dialogue goes to level of 'White people do this, black people do this'. I don't think that's the fault of the screenwriter Mara Brock Alki but more to the story writers, Joel Schumacher and Howard Rosenman, especially Schumacher because half of it sounds like something he would say. After all, as we all know, Joel Schumacher is history's greatest monster.
And lastly, and I think this is the biggest problem with the film. The film is called Sparkle, but Sparkle isn't the main focus of the film until the last 30 minutes. Most of the film is spent on Sister (Carmen Ejogo) as she goes through her ups and downs. Once she's sent away in the last 30 minutes, the film then turns over to Sparkle trying to be a successful singer-songwriter. I'm not sure if that's what happened in the original film but I do know that when I walked into this film, I was hoping to hear the story of Sparkle. It's like what happened with The Lorax, The Lorax's story has been pushed aside for a story about a boy trying to grow a new plant for a girl he liked. If you're going to make a movie called Sparkle, have the story be about Sparkle. Keep in mind, I haven't seen the original film so as far as I know, this is probably what happened in the original film.
Overall, I really liked Sparkle, it's flawed, it can get melodramtic sometimes, but it's an overall enjoyable movie. Sparks, Houston, Ejogo, and Sumpter are all great in the film. It's a good movie but a flawed one. A low
THE EXPENDABLES 2
The first Expendables film wasn't the big dumb over the top action epic that I was hoping for but then again, 2010 was one of the worst years for movies. With that said, I still enjoyed the film mostly for the over the top action sequences and that badass 20 minute finale. The biggest fault was that the villians were bland and forgettable and the story wasn't really summed out as well as it should've. It's a movie where you need to check your brain at the door and go in expecting dumb fun action for 100 minutes.
Now onto the second film...
The film follows The Expendables, a mercenary group, as they seek revenge against Jean Vilain (Jean Claude Van Damme), a rival mercenary who murders one of their own, and threatens the world with a deadly weapon. The cast includes Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, and Liam Hemsworth.
Right off the bat, The Expendables 2 easily outpaces everything that was done in the original film. But that doesn't really propel the film to five star excellence by any means.
Stallone and the crew work very well together and a lot of the comic humor that's mixed in here also works well. One of the biggest surprises of the film was Liam Hemsworth, who at first seemed unnecessary in the cast. The guy only gets a few lines in The Hunger Games and then he's only seen in quiet moments, so why was he considered worthy of being in The Expendables 2, Chris Hemsworth would've made much more sense. But when you see Hemsworth in the film, he's pretty damn good for the little bit he's in. He's got a lot of charisma and he's very good in the film.
The action sequences are incredibly well done here. There's a great sequence where the team crashes their plane into the caves and it's very effective and even better, the last major action sequence featuring all these action stars working together blowing the crap out of the bad guys. It's so much fun to watch and next to The Avengers' finale, it's the best climax of any movie I've seen this Summer.
The film is also paced well, it doesn't feel long and it does what I wish every Summer movie would do and not go over 2 hours long and pad out their story.
The biggest fault of the film is the story. Again, much of the story for the film doesn't really add up all that well and it doesn't fit well together. The first film had the same problem only worse. Here, they try to fix it but don't really succeed at it.
Even though I liked Van Damme's villianious role better than the villian in the last film, I still thought that Van Damme went a little too over the edge. His evil plan didn't make much sense and it seemed like he was taken down way too easily.
As with the first movie, The Expendables 2 is in its' best condition when you turn your brain off at the start and just accept the fact that you're heading for a brainless action spectacular, which is what you do get here. It's a smoother ride than the first film and that gives the film a high Matinee for me.