Tag Archives: Jamie Foxx

Little Girl Lost

Modernized ‘Annie’ is an underwhelming, quasi-musical mess

1111746 – ANNIE

Annie

Starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx & Cameron Diaz

Directed by Will Gluck

PG

“You’re such a special little girl,” one character tells the world’s most famous little orphan during this latest musical remake of her well-traveled tale.

And it’s certainly true: Little Orphan Annie, the eternally young waif, has cut a 90-year swath across pop culture, from comic strips to the Broadway stage and beyond. You’ve got to be some kinda special to live nearly 100 years and never look a day over 9.

But most people who are familiar with Annie today know her from the 1982 musical made about the 1970s Broadway production, and that will be the standard—for better and for worse—to which much of this new Annie will be compared.

Perhaps it’s finally time for Little Orphan Annie to come out of the 1920s and into the modern world, and this version does that, all right, putting a shiny contemporary spin on an old, familiar story. But just how well will Annie fans take to mashed-up, hip-hop songs, miscast performers, and a production that sinks far more than often than it soars?

Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx

Quvenzhane Wallis & Jamie Foxx

The new Annie, Quvenzhanè Wallis, who received an Academy Award nomination when she was 6 for her starring role in as the unflappable bayou child in Beasts of the Southern Wild, has a relaxed, natural charm and undeniable cuteness. But she’s no “stage kid,” and she’s clearly out of her element in a role requiring extensive singing and dancing.

Jamie Foxx plays Will Stacks, the contemporary equivalent of Daddy Warbucks, now a fat-cat tech tycoon running for mayor of New York. Cameron Diaz is Miss Hannigan, the boozy-floozy foster mom raising Annie—a several other preteen tykes—in a welfare-funded tenement. Bobby Cannvale and Rose Bryne are Stacks’ campaign manager and personal assistant, working hard to humanize his cool, aloof image.

Fine performers all, they’re hamstrung by cinematography, choreography (or lack of it) and staging that leaves them stumbling, bumbling, flailing, wailing and sounding like their vocals have been pumped into an Annie atomizer. Director Will Gluck, whose previous films include the witty teen comedy Easy A and the sexy relationship farce Friends With Benefits, had never directed a musical before. This makes you wonder if he’d ever paid much attention to one, either.

Enter Annie—now a foster child instead of an orphan—in an encounter than becomes a YouTube viral video and a campaign godsend for Stacks, and the opportunity for the moppet to work her magic.

1111746 Ð ANNIEExcept there’s not a lot of magic to be found—certainly not in the signature show tunes, like Tomorrow, Hard Knock Life and Little Girls, which are revised with new lyrics and urbanized, boom-box-y arrangements, and supplemented with some new tunes entirely. The storyline, though mostly hewing to Annie basics, dazzles it up with contemporary window dressing, including a Big Apple setting, jazzy lingo (“janky,” “Bam!”), celebrity cameos (Hey, there’s Michael J. Fox! And Austin Kutcher—and Mila Kunis!) and a breathlessly “today” subplot driven by cell-phone tracking and Twitter postings.

But it all makes for one big, underwhelming quasi-musical mess. Little Orphan Annie has been a kitschy, pop-cultural treasure for nearly a century, arcing across generations with a message of spunk, sunshine, adventure, uplift and the possibilities of better, brighter tomorrows. But most viewers will probably be disappointed to watch this Annie fall—and ring—achingly flat, reminding them mostly of much more enjoyable yesterdays.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Itsy Bitsy Spider

Marvel Comics’ wall-crawling teen hero has to fight for his own spotlight

Andrew Garfield

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone & Jamie Foxx

Directed by Marc Webb

PG-13, 142 min.

 

The other night on TV, a show featured an urban-legend-ish conversation about someone who’d been bitten by a spider and then discovered little spiders crawling out of the bump on his neck.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that as I watched this, the latest in the ongoing Hollywood franchise about a nerdy teenager, Peter Parker, turned into a wisecracking, crime-fighting superhero by the bite of a radioactive arachnid. Not only is the Spider-Man empire, with its deep comic-book roots that go back to 1962, built on the bite of a spider, but this now marks the fifth big-screen treatment of the tale, and the second notch of the new cinematic arc following the original Spider-Man cinema trilogy, starring Tobey Maguire, that ended in 2007.

Andrew GarfieldThose little spiders—they just keep coming. The problem is, now they’re in danger of getting lost in their own enormous web: massive productions with king-size star sizzle, mega special effects and north-of-$200-million budgets. This time around, the iconic wall-crawler (Andrew Garfield, reprising his role from 2012) has to deal with multiple villains, Peter Parker’s complicated relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, also returning), and troubling questions about his deceased parents.

Director Marc Webb, who also directed 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man, throws a lot into the movie’s sprawling two hours and 20-plus minutes—eye-popping action, tender moments, romance, humor, and musings on life, death, love, longing, friendship, loss, hope and the importance of fighting “for what matters to you.”

906429 - The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Jamie Foxx as Electro.

It’s jam-packed, stuffed with too much of everything, especially bad guys—do we really need three of them? Jamie Foxx plays an electrical engineer with serious self-esteem issues who gets turned, via a freak high-voltage mishap, into the rampaging super-villain Electro. Dane DeHaan is Harry Osborne, Parker’s rich, preppy high-school friend with a mutant family gene that morphs him into the monstrous Green Goblin. And Paul Giamatti, who opens the movie as a Russian prison escapee, later appears transformed into yet another one of Spidey’s archenemies from the good ol’ Marvel Comic book days.

Andrew Garfield;Emma Stone

Garfield and Stone have natural chemistry as Peter Parker and girlfriend Gwen.

Garfield, 30, and Stone, 25, seem a tad old to be playing recently graduated high school seniors. But the two of them have great natural chemistry (they’re a real-life couple, too). And their scenes together, especially when Garfield is out of the Spidey spandex and playing plain ol’ Peter, provide the movie’s strongest human heartbeat. Webb, whose directing resumè also includes the indie charmer 500 Days of Summer, gives Pete ’n’ Gwen just as much of the story as Spider-Man, a wise move for making this movie resonate even more as a date flick.

Like most comic-based characters, superheroes never seem to age; Peter Parker/Spider-Man will always be eternally young. At least it’s that way in the movies, where time can be suspended, reset and rewound, and “old” actors, like Maguire, can be replaced by newer ones, like Garfield—who’s already signed on to star in the first of the two additional Amazing Spider-Man follow-ups.

Yes, those little spiders—they do just keep coming. Perhaps next time, the itsy bitsy spider won’t have such a hard time fighting for his own spotlight.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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