Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: André Benjamin, Antwan A. Patton, Ving Rhames, Terrence Howard, Bill Nunn
Genres: Drama, Musicals & Performing Arts, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
A MUSICAL SET IN THE PROHIBITION ERA AMERICAN SOUTH, WHERE A SPEAKEASY PERFORMER & CLUB MANAGER 'ROOSTER' MUST CONTEND WITH GANGSTERS WHO HAVE THEIR EYES ON THE CLUB WHILE HIS PIANO PLAYER & PARTNER PERCIVAL MUST CHOOSE BE... more »
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William D. from SMYRNA, NY
Reviewed on 5/3/2009...
This is a great film. Not perfect but, the movement and music. The energy. The raw talent of the principles and the director. I loved it, not to be missed.
OutKasts Other Musicals by 8 Mile
Bitcetc | Houston, TX USA | 08/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Had this movie sustained the cinematic brilliance of its first few minutes, there is no question that it would have been something so out of the ordinary as to become an instant classic. As it is, it may have some cross-and-jostle work to establish itself as one of the Movies of the Year to see, but its flashes of original genius strung together with an operatic plot and dynamic cinematography, make a necklace of great flash and fire. Surely this one, with its embarrassment of talent, will be mentioned in several categories, not only music, at Oscar time. Worth seeing--- absolutely. I can hardly wait for the DVD, so that I can watch its excess to excess.
The film is going to have a generational promotional gap, not just the much-discussed racial one. It can't be dismissed as "the hip-hop Moulin Rouge", as I heard one member of our preview audience critique it coming out of the theater. If she were old enough, she would know that it's more akin to a "hip-hop Caberet", with Rooster (Antwan Andre "Big Boi" Patton of Outkast) as Sally Bowles. Plot and camera work similarities to Moulin Rouge do not necessarily a "Moulin Noir" make, but yes, the similarities are there.
Let's don't go there. Let's talk about what's blazingly new and fresh about this musical. For people who "hate musicals", this one (as Cabaret did) solves the problem of two people in face-to-face dialogue embarrassingly and improbably breaking into song. The musical numbers are the entertainment at "The Church", a speakeasy in the South during Prohibition Era. Entertainment which is akin to Moulin Rouge's flamboyance, combining a jazz age lindy-hop with hip hop is dazzlingly choreographed by Tony Award winner Hinton Battle. While Macy Gray is wonderful as a hard-edged club singer, it is Rooster's first musical number at the Church, fusing jazz, cabaret and hip-hop, which blows the lid off.
OutKast fans (I count myself one) have to wait for plot development for the introverted Percival, played by Andre Benjamin, to display his musical talent. We are told it is there from the beginning of the movie, but it is not until he breaks out of his shell to coax the beautiful singer Angel Davenport (Paula Patton) to live her dream that he overcomes his stage fright and showcases his music. And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the centerpiece musical sparkler of this necklace, an impossible fusion number which turns sensational when
performed with confidence and style. Oh, my! What talent will do with notes on a page!
"The Church", wryly named to showcase the corruption of bootleg liquor running, gambling and prostitution, is the hang-out for the dapper gangsta-land "Spats", Ving Rhames, who keeps the lid on violence in the "Showtime at the Apollo" club atmosphere and the dangerous business of squeezing both his booze supplier and the club owner, Sunshine Ace. We despise Ace more than anyone in the movie, until we get to know Trumpy (chillingly played by the gorgeous Terence Howard), who also comes out of his "shell" to reveal himself as a stupid and sadistic killer. The odd flatness of Howard's voice is powerfully used here to underscore his stupidity and the delight he has in killing people.
When greats like Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson are little more than
cameos, you know you have talent to spare. My one concern is that the music style may be too much fusion to keep the hip-hop fans happy, and the movie may be too hip-hop to attract the general audience it deserves. The horrid truth is that I am a middle-aged white woman, one of the two demographic segments supposed to love musicals. But while my credibility is suspect, my general film-critiquing skills are generally pretty solid. Abandon your preconceptions and your prejudices, whatever they are, and Just Go See.
Interesting Visuals Don't Compensate for Acting
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 08/30/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Idlewild", the new musical featuring Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, both members of the musical group OutKast, is a mess. This is both a compliment and a criticism. The result is a wildly uneven film filled with bland performances and a very unique, interesting visual appeal.
Georgia. The Prohibition Era. Percival (Andre Benjamin, "Four Brothers") works at his father's (Ben Vereen) funeral home during the day, slowly taking over all responsibilities as his dad boozes the day away. At night, he sings at a local speakeasy called Church, which is run by Ace (Faizon Love). His lifelong friend, Rooster (Antwan Patton), also sings at the club, but runs his former mentor's (Ving Rhames) illegal activities during the day. Every night, his wife drops him off at the club complaining that he isn't spending enough time at home, with their five kids. One day, Trumpy (Terrence Howard), a local gangster who also runs booze, has a fight with Ace and before he knows it, Rooster is in charge of Church. Adding the stress of running the club isn't easy and Rooster doesn't like paying Trumpy's increased charges for booze. As Rooster looks for a new source of booze, Percival falls in love with Angel (Paula Patton), a beautiful new singer, who has dreams of going to Chicago to make it big.
"Idlewild", directed by Bryan Barber, probably would not have been made without the success of "Moulin Rouge" a few years ago. The two films share many characteristics. Like its predecessor, "Idlewild" exhibits a frantic sense of editing; the musical numbers more closely resemble music videos, with most cuts lasting just a few frames. This isn't surprising given the background of the director and his two stars. Both films also use contemporary music in a historical context providing each with an undeniable energy and appeal.
Barber is clearly more comfortable with the visual than the dramatic. From the moment the film begins, as we watch an old phonograph start playing a record, the director uses a blend of animation, live action, graphics and music to depict the fast moving story of the two friends during the Prohibition Era. As the record begins playing, the camera swoops up to a series of old photographs, slowing dissolving between them. But then, a figure in each begins to move a little, growing slightly, and these photos help to establish the setting and the tone of the story. As we flip through these photos, color begins to dissolve into an old photo and we watch as the film starts and the characters are introduced. Barber returns to this technique, in modified ways, throughout, providing a unique transitional device.
There is also the unusual addition of a talking flask. Rooster inherits the item from his mentor (Rhames) and frequently looks at it. As he looks at it, the rooster in the logo on the silver vessel comes to life, talking to him, providing a sort of Greek chorus. This idea doesn't really gel and seems to be a distraction.
The musical numbers have a unique energy, a lot of which comes from the fast-paced editing style. This technique adds interest to this portion of the film, but they also help to cover up any inconsistencies in the song or choreography. Strangely, Benjamin and Patton almost never sing together in the film and the songs suffer because of it. Early, Benjamin sings a song which we can barely hear over the din in the club. Later, Patton does a song, rapping through the lyrics as showgirls dance around him. This song is better, but the choreography seems a little stiff. But because of the editing, many of these flaws are covered up. We simply don't have time to concentrate on any one aspect for long. However, we can hear the song better and the two singers alone are not nearly as dynamic as they are when paired. Late in the film, Benjamin sings a song which is very reminiscent of Cab Calloway (one of Percival's idols) and seems clearly influenced by Busby Berkeley. Everyone is dressed in white, moving around white pianos in front of a shiny black backdrop. It is an interesting attempt to recreate the look and feel of a bygone era.
The filmmaker and stars deserve a lot of credit for not taking the easy route. Instead of telling a modern day story, they attempt a period piece and the attention to detail is impressive. Dialogue, production design and costumes all appear authentic and the only time the period is lost is during the songs. It had to be a difficult sell to get a studio to make this film. Imagine how much easier it would've been to make a modern day tale featuring the popular group's music. The studio probably would've preferred it, but by taking this more challenging approach, the film becomes more memorable. It still isn't perfect, but it is fun to watch.
Movies featuring singers are often problematic. They are trained for different things and are not always able to make the transition to the big screen. Of the two, Benjamin has an undeniable screen charisma. In his previous film, John Singleton's "Four Brothers", he worked with a seasoned director and turned in an interesting, believable debut performance. His work in "Idlewild" is good, but bland. He almost never changes his facial expression through good and bad. He clearly needs a more seasoned director to guide him to an interesting, believable performance. Patton is more effective trying to display varying emotions, but his delivery is as bland as Benjamin's performance. His voice never changes volume, so everything coming out of his mouth (including lyrics) becomes a monotone that fails to reach any highs or lows.
Terrence Howard turns in his least interesting work to date. It is odd to me that he would take such a small, supporting role, after his work in "Hustle and Flow" and "Crash". He is essentially playing the same character he played in "Four Brothers", but in a different era, and both characters are uninteresting and stereotypical. We have seen corrupt cops and gangsters before, so if an actor with the skill of Howard is going to take on such a role, he should bring something new to it. In "Idlewild", he seems to play a stock gangster. There is little, if anything, to make this character memorable.
The supporting cast is impressive, but many of these actors appear for brief glorified cameos. Ben Vereen, Cicely Tyson, Macy Gray, Ving Rhames, Patti LaBelle all pop up, but they are rarely given the chance to add anything to the film musically. What a disappointment.
Barber is clearly comfortable with the visual aspects of the filmmaking process. Hopefully, he will soon be able to match those talents with improved skills in storytelling. When this happens, we might have a filmmaker who creates some memorable escapes. Until that point, his efforts will be very hit and miss.
Ben Dugan | Flying Monkey Killer | 01/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There's a funny thing about "Idlewild" that few movies can achieve: you know you've seen everything on screen here before, but the movie is filmed, and put together, with such gusto and energy that it's next to impossible not to like.
I would reiterate the plot for you, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Rooster, played by Antwan "Big Boi" Patton, "inherits" a Depression-era speakeasy called Church and must deal with a ruthless gangster played by "Hustle and Flow" star Terrance Howard. Percivel, played by Andre "Andre 3000" Benjamin, is the son of a mortician who dreams of being a jazz composer who meets and falls for a mysterious woman who comes to sing in the speakeasy.
Or something like that.
"Idlewild" has it's share of problems, that's for sure. The movie is twenty minutes too long and occasionally, mostly during the films final half an hour, gets bogged down in cliches and predicatability. Any moviegoer who has seen there fair share of movies can figure out what's going to happen to him and when about twenty minutes into the picture.
But you know what? Forget all that. "Idlewild" is a movie to be watched, not thought about, and sometimes that's okay. And you get a lot of good stuff to look at. Bryan Barber, who also wrote the script and has directed many OutKast videos as well, has an excellent eye for popping visuals, and he brings them all out here. The musical numbers are excellent and have an energy that is lacking from most movies. And I can honestly say that I have never seen a movie before that blends the French classic "Amelie", the old 1940's Warner Brothers film noir and gangster pictures and hip-hop music into one film before. And even if it doesn't all blend together flawlessly, you'd have to have a grey heart not to at least respect that.
The acting is pretty top notch as well. In addition to the always great Cicley Tyson and Ben Verren, both of whom are underused sadly, the film features some nice supporting turns, most notably from Ving Rhames, still the coolest actor on the planet not to get enought quality work. Newcomer Paula Patton, no relation to Antwan, is excellent in the role of love interst to Andre, Big Boi and Andre both perform their roles well, Big Boi full of energy and swagger, Andre full some still motions as if he were sculpture coming to life. It's a performance that some have written off as dull, but is in fact more layered then it first appears.
Again "Idlewild" is flawed and isn't going to save the world or change your mind about anything. But I don't think it's trying to. Rather "Idlewild" just wants to entertain you for two hours and for the most part it does that in spades.
Well worth a rental."