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January 05, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-01-05

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, January 5, 2007 - 5

A rather
good
Dream
LATEST MUSICAL BREAKS
LACKLUSTER TREND
By HYATT MICHAELS
Daily Arts Writer
Since the trailer hit theaters last year and its
critical explosion at this
summer's Cannes film
festival (for a 20-minute
preview, no less), "Dream- Dreamgiris
girls" left fans of the origi- At the
nal musical salivating for Showcase and
its opening. After all the Quality 16
hype, the final product is
inevitably disappointing DreamWorks
- but even in its missteps,
the film is one of this years finest.
The movie focuses on the rise of Detroit-
based girl group The Dreamettes. Led by defiant
diva Effie (Jennifer Hudson, TV's "American
Idol") and backed by the gorgeous Denna (singer
Beyonce Knowles) and adorable Loreal (Anika
Noni Rose, "Surviving Christmas"), the girls
are offered the chance to sing background for
R&B crooner James "Thunder" Early (Eddie
Murphy, "I Spy") thanks to the help of conniv-
ing car-salesmen-turned-music-tycoon Curtis
Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx, "Ray"). From there the
Dreamettes leave Early, shorten their name to
the Dreams and watch their careers take off
- with varied consequences for all involved
that highlight the backstabbing inherent in the
music industry.
"Dreamgirls" especially shines compared to
the recent string of musical adaptation flops like
"Phantom of the Opera" and "Rent," but after its
gorgeous first act, the kinetic pacing of the film
becomes a problem. With a running time of more
than two hours, nine years worth of events pass
so fast it takes a while to become attached to the
characters. Problems arise when the cast ages
too quickly and their personal relationships sour
before there's enough connection made with
the audience. Academy Award-winning writer/
director Condon ("Kinsey," writer of "Chicago")
fills the void with enough knee-tapping choreog-
raphy from music-video maven Fatima and daz-
zling backdrops to make up for its problems.
The film undoubtedly triumphs with Hud-
son. When she's ousted from the Dreams, she
responds with an incredibly moving rendition
of "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," and there's

courtesy of MGM/columbia

Same steps. same chucks. same Stallone.

In'Balboa'a legacy
we can respect

"Together, we can turn Motown into Gotown."
enough power and subtle rage in her voice that
any formal problems with the film are forgot-
ten, if only momentarily. There should be no
comparisons to Jennifer Holiday's renowned
performance as Effie in the original 1981 Broad-
way production, but Hudson owns the character
with a fierce grip - a feat somewhat absent with
the rest of the cast.
Take Jamie Foxx's sly performance as the
snake who betrays Effie and shatters the origi-
nal Dreams. He doesn't shine the way he did in
"Ray," but it's not because of poor acting. Foxx's
understated Curtis is actually effective as he
slowly transforms from boyish car salesmen to
sneaky record producer.
Supporting players Anika Noni Rose and
Eddie Murphy are also strong, but like Foxx,
they make the most of thin roles. Even with
short screen time, Murphy conjures an intensity
that's been absent in his recent work. His flailing
has-been Thunder Early is at times hilarious and
later heartbreaking. Tony Award-winner Rose's
glorious turn as Loreal, Murphy's long-suffering
mistress, is missed whenever she's forced back
into the shadows of Knowles and Hudson.
Although it's easy to complain about the thin-
ly drawn characters, it's still hard to deny the

LIKE STAGE, LIKE SCREEN
After a special debut over break, The Michigan Theater
will continue to guarantee all seating for "Dreamgirls,"
emulating the experience of going to the original must-
cal. Regular ticket prices apply to all performances. This
weekend, it will show at::
Friday: 7:15 p.m., 10 p.m.
Saturday: 4:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 10 p.m.
Sunday: 3 p.m., 6:15 p.m., 9 p.m.
genuine joy of watching the actors giving their
all in every scene - both singing and acted.
"Dreamgirls" isn't meant to be a groundbreak-
ing dramatic achievement, but a roaring confec-
tion of music and glittering costumes. Like the
original musical, the only person you should be
rooting for by the film's end is Effie.
"Dreamgirls" suffers, indeed, from flaws in its
adaptation. As with many filmed stage musicals,
sometimes it just doesn't work. But the passion
and energy put into the production practically
spills from the screen and into the audience, and
that's already much more than can be said of its
recent competition.

By PAUL TASSI
DailyFilm Editor
Unless "Rocky VII" is Balboa
boxing George Foreman in a retire-
ment home or fightingApollo Creed
in heaven,
"Rocky Bal-
boa" will be
the last we see Rocky
of the Italian Balboa
Stallion, and At Showcase
it really is a and Quality 16
fitting good- MGM/Columbia
bye. After the
travesty of "V," Stallone heard the
disenchanted masses wanting more
and set to work on the film he knew
he had to make. A metaphor for his
own career, "Rocky Balboa" sets
out to prove that both Stallone and
Rocky have what it takes to go the
distance and be the best, even after
all these years.
We reunite with Rocky (Stal-
lone) as an aging former champ
who recently lost his wife, Adrian,
to cancer. He barely talks to his
workaholic son (Milo Ventimiglia,
TV's "Heroes") and watches as the
old neighborhood crumbles around
him. In a world where professional
boxing has become stale and rou-
tine, a computer simulation on
SportsCenter predicts that in his
primeRockywouldK.O. thecurrent
champ, Mason "The Line" Dixon
(real life boxer Antonio Tarver).
The simulation gets a lot of people
talking and the ex-champ thinking
about what he's still got left in him.
Dixon extends a fight invitation
and after a classic "Rocky" train-
ing montage, the Stallion is ready
to come out of retirement. The old
and new champions come together
in a surprisingly fierce clash that
closely mirrors Rocky's first big
bout against Apollo Creed.
The biggest disappoint-
ment of the film is Tarver's
Dixon. Previous "Rocky"
rivals have not been nearly as eas-
ily forgotten ranging from the
cocky, charming champion Apollo
Creed to the hulking Soviet termi-
nator Ivan Drago. Dixon is entirely
too static, not arrogant or vicious
enough to inspire real hatred and
not intimidating or bold enough to
command the audience's respect.
Perhaps his character suffers from

a lack of personality since Tarver
is actually a real boxer rather than
an actor. Whatever the issue, it
drags the rest of the film down as
the audience lacks a villain to really
root against.
A large part of the film consists
of Stallone's Rocky giving mono-
logues about "how things used
tuh be" and how he "still gots sum
stuff left inside a me." It's nice to
see Rocky still has that loveable
teddy bear charm from past films.
But more often than not this time
around, Rocky triumphs over his
ultimate foe: the English language.
The majority of his speeches come
across as quite heartfelt and com-
pelling. Corny lines that would nor-
mally have you rolling your eyes in
other films feel right at home here,
and only add to the awkward Bal-
boa charm.
If Rocky's brains or heart don't
do it for you, his body should round
out the package. If you think a
sixty-year old man can't have an
eight-pack, you're wrong. With
veins erupting all over his body like
the Incredible Hulk, it's clear that
Sylvester Stallone hasn't stopped
Stallone still has
pecs, develops
acting chops.
hitting the "Bowflex" since the
last film. It is truly impressive to
see Stallone reprise this extremely
physical role after all this time, and
do so without missing a step.
Very rarely does a film series
"need" to have another sequel. With
films like "Indiana Jones and the
Ravages of Time" and "pie Hard 4"
in the works, sometimes it might be
better to quite while you're ahead.
In this case however, "Rocky V" left
a taste in fans mouths that needed
to be washed away and "Rocky Bal-
boa" was a sequel that absolutely
had to be made. Stallone effectively
places the bookend on this classic
series and leaves fans satisfied. Just
as inspiring as the first films, it's a
relief to see Rocky leave how we met
him, a champion of the people.

The dragon is solid, all else is dubious

in__f TTT1TCTl1T1TT TT/ T 114ITTATTTI L_____I____

By CHRISTOPHER LECHNER
Daily Arts Writer
Christopher Paolini's story is the
stuff of dreams: He is the teenager
who wrote a
novel and had *
it published
by his parents, Eragon
only to watch At Showcase
as it became and Quality 16
a wildly suc- 20th century Fox
cessful New
York Times bestseller. That book
was "Eragon"; now, with one
sequel down and one more in the
works, the first book of the Inheri-
tance Trilogy has been adapted for
the screen.
While the book was ultimately
unoriginal and derivative, it had
a certain charm that made it plea-
surable and fun when taken for
S what it was: light entertainment.
The film, however, can only dupli-
cate the book's flaws.
The movie opens with Eragon
(newcomer Ed Speleers), a young

farmboy
egg whi
The egg
and Eras
life befo
forces o
(John M
fidential
is wise a
(Jeremy
en"), wh
Kenobi a
hob
swordpl,
ing.
The w
is the ser
podge o
and hor

, who discovers a dragon even come close to presenting the
ile hunting in the forest. original story, and there is no logi-
hatches into a dragon, cal reason for the many changes.
gon is forced to flee for his For example, Murtagh (Garrett
re he gets captured by the Hedlund, "Four Brothers"), who
f the evil king Galbatorix plays quite an important role in
alkovich, "Art School Con- the book, is reduced to a cameo.
"). Accompanying Eragon Ultimately, those who have not
nd grizzled veteran Brom read the book will probably be
Irons, "Kingdom of Heav- confused as each scene plays out
io does his best Obi-Wan independently of the others - this,
is he teaches Eragon about makes the film at times almost
incomprehensible without some
prior knowledge of the characters
here are the and their quest.
Perhaps worst of all is that this
bits when you epic story was reduced to a mere
99 minutes. There's no time to
teed them? flesh out any of the characters or
plotlines.
But the location where the film
is shot (mostly Hungary) is breath-
ay, magic and dragon rid- taking, and the set production is
excellent. The digital effects, no
vorst part about the movie doubt the reason that first-time
eenplay, which is a hodge- director and special-effects wiz-
f familiar visual setups ard Stefen Fangmeier ("Lemony
rible dialogue. It doesn't Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate

Events") was hired, are crisp and
work well. And Eragon's drag-
on Saphira (voiced by Rachael
Weisz, "The Constant Gardener")
is among the only places the film
matches the magic of the text.
The acting in the film is erratic,
even though Fangmeier has an A-
list cast including not only irons
and Malkovich, but Djimon Hon-
sou ("The Island"). Speleers in
the lead is adequate, though it's
painfully clear he has not had any
acting experience when he has to
share the screen with Irons.
"Eragon" is mostunsatisfying as
a movie because of how easily cor-
rectable so many of the problems
with the film are. It's just another
example of a cheap studio cash-in
of a literary phenomenon.

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