Jamie Foxx proves himself worthy of all the Oscar hype for his portrayal of blind R&B legend Ray Charles. The film does a remarkable job of summarizing Charles’s strengths as a musical innovator and his weaknesses as a philandering heroin addict, while Foxx seems to be channeling the beloved artist’s musical inspiration.
Using the pieces of a shattered phone, a kidnapped woman contacts a stranger and begs him for help, even though she doesn’t know where she is or why she’s been abducted. Director David R. Ellis takes a clever (albeit farfetched) B-movie idea and gives it just enough complications to be surprising without stretching our credulity too far, and the action is giddy with suspense and excitement.
While, “quirky” or “alternative” movies are now so common that they have become a genre unto themselves, that didn’t stop this goofy, melancholy, seriocomic slice of life from creating an auspicious buzz at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Part romance, part character study, part coming-of-age diary, Zach Braff’s impressive directorial debut invites the audience to embrace the joy and pain of being human.
|Angels in America
Tony Kushner’s prize-winning play summed up the Reagan era for an entire generation of theatre-goers. Now director Mike Nichols’ star-studded 2003 HBO adaptation provides a time capsule of the ’80s – an astonishing mix of philosophy, politics, and vibrant gay soap opera.
|Ry Cooder – Chavez Ravine
After generating such popular and critical interest in Cuban music of decades past with the Buena Vista Social Club, Cooder and a cast of seminal Chicano artists present a song cycle that conjures an era rich in UFOs, the Red Scare, and political machinations that leveled the Chavez Ravine barrio to lure the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. An ambitious, theatrical, time-machine of a CD.
|Arcade Fire – Funeral
In their full-length debut, Montreal’s Arcade Fire embodies the meaning of the term “original”, spinning elaborate art-rock full of passion and atmosphere. A blend of post-punk, rock, pop, folk, classical, and more are all set to epic, crashing art-rock and disco rhythms and backed by angsty vocals. It will make your head spin – in a good way.
|Jodeci – Back to the Future
A decade ago, these talented brothers perfected the please-baby-please-begging-on-my-knees love ballad on two platinum-selling albums. On this new “best of” collection, Jodeci’s melodic yearnings, gospel inflections, and soaring cadences are captured and brilliantly mixed. A must-have for fans of old-school soul and early hip-hop.
|Teenage Fanclub – Man-made
The Scottish four-piece has swerved slightly from its classic-era indie pop a la Badfinger and Big Star on its first US-recorded album, with Tortoise’s John McEntire producing. Their vibe continues to be timeless, accessible, and as satisfyingly cool as ever, and repeated listens bring out all the subtle, nuances in the hook-laden material.