Bob Mondello Bob Mondello reviews movies and covers the arts for NPR News, seeing at least 250 films and 100 plays annually, and shares critiques and commentaries on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine
All Things Considered.
August 25, 2006 Idlewild, the new movie from hip-hop duo OutKast, opens today. NPR's Bob Mondello gives us the scoop. OutKast's new movie Idlewild gets off to such a sharp start -- swooping camera, black and white photos leaping to life, notes jumping off a music stand to dance in a juke joint -- that you barely notice for a while that the hip-hop stars it's all centered on are the least of it. They're not bad, they're just not actors, and for most of the movie, they're so protected by writer/director Bryan Barber that it doesn't really matter. During musical numbers, he knows they'll be right at home, and during non-musical moments, he surrounds them with old Hollywood pros like Terrence Howard, Ben Vereen, and Cicely Tyson who could probably make a scene work even if they were acting opposite cardboard cutouts. OutKast's "Andre 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton are not cardboard cutouts, of course. Benjamin's reticent composer/pianist is serviceably soulful (largely in voiceovers), and Patton's comic stage-star lives up to his character's name of Rooster (largely by strutting cock-o'-the-walk-style). The plot they're wrapped up in is as much a remix of 1930s gangster-movie conventions as the score is a remix of OutKast songs. The atmosphere is heady, the plot idiotic, and the movie a bit of a mess. But it's a lively, ambitious one, and likely to prove a crowd-pleaser.
OutKast Goes Old School in 'Idlewild'
August 18, 2006 -- Edward Norton plays a turn-of-the-last-century magician who’s willing to bring down the entire Hungarian Empire as long as it means he’ll get the girl. Considering that the girl is Jessica Biel, who could blame him? Meanwhile, Paul Giamatti is furrowed of brow and delectably wry as the magic-loving inspector who’s hot on nearly everyone’s heels. Director Neil Burger gets the period details right in his first costume epic and has a field day with showing how magic was managed back then (on one occasion, the folks who, for purposes of the script, are guessing wrong about how a trick is being done, are actually demonstrating how it WAS managed in 1900). In short, the illusions are smart, as is the script. The cinematography is gorgeous, as is Biel. Now it’s up to the marketing department to pull a rabbit out of its hat and make a period drama stand out among the summer blockbusters. The Illusionist
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July 28, 2006 Family Values have rarely been so easy to endorse in a comedy that's definitely not for the kiddies. Audiences at Sundance ate this one up, and if the general public has any sense, it'll do the same. It's an ensemble comedy, featuring a porn-loving, blue-talking Gramps (Alan Arkin) who snorts heroin in the basement and is coaching 7-year-old Olive for the Little Miss Sunshine Beauty Pageant. Olive's 16-year-old brother Dwayne hates the world and loves Nietzsche, and to prove it, he hasn't spoken to anyone in 9 months. Comparatively normal, sensitive Mom (Toni Collette) has her hands full with a husband (Greg Kinnear) who's a relentless self-improvement guru, and a gay brother (Steve Carrell) who knows more about Proust than just about anyone, but who's just tried to kill himself because the world's second biggest authority on Proust just stole his boyfriend. Circumstances conspire to force them all into their aging VW bus to get Olive to the Pageant, but the clutch is about to go and the door's falling off and well... hijinks ensue. Great fun, muddled only slightly by a last half-hour that's sunnier than it needs to be. But then, the film's called Little Miss Sunshine: Little Miss Sunshine, no?
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