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Deja Vu

After a devastating ferry bombing, New Orleans agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) investigates. A series of clues points to a dead woman, Claire, who becomes the key to solving the riddle. Helped by FBI agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer), Doug enters a strange world of futuristic detection that allows him to see into the past. Using the knowledge of the present, he literally races against the clock to prevent the disaster from happening and capture the person responsible.
Director Tony Scott’s previous ventures involved slightly offbeat plots mixed with gritty action, which Deja Vu has. After Doug accepts that he can use a time device as an investigative tool, he involves himself into the strange concept determined to save lives. As he slowly watches Claire go about her routine in the past, he begins to fall in love. The feeling gets returned when he travels back in time to save her, making for an unusual romance between people who have never met. The romance is a mere sub-plot to the main event of hunting the terrorist whose radical ideas make for a dangerous perpetrator of hate.
Scott’s sense of visual style is evident taking the viewer right into the story. The first half of the film is a straight forward investigate drama which suddenly turns into the realms of sci fi with the time travel strand. The convoluted ‘technobable’ does become confusing at times, but once Doug uses the new device to his advantage the story possibilities become evident, with clues from both timelines being used to save the day. The general story narrative does tend to drag on somewhat lessening the impact of the finale.
Denzel Washington gives his usual strong performance bringing a true sense of selfless heroism to his role. Washington’s easy going charm grounds the movie in a way that is crucial for the audience to believe the time twisting scenario. The scenes between Washington and Paula Patton, playing Claire, show the confusion and determination of a pair who are caught in a time paradox, providing support to each other until the end. Val Kilmer doesn’t have much to do but still shows the talent that made him a unique actor upon his debut.
Whilst there is a lot of interesting story ideas, unfortunately the running time drags the concept to breaking point. With tighter editing the film could have been a very punchy futuristic thriller. What remains seems like a good short film trapped in an overlong one that itself doesn’t know its’ time limits.
Rating out of 10: 6
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Dreamgirls

Effie, Deena and Lorrell make up a trio of singers called The Dreamettes. Performing at a talent quest, they are spotted by opportunistic promoter Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) who thinks they have what it takes to make it to the top. Initially playing back up to smooth crooner, James ‘Thunder’ Early (Eddie Murphy), the girls branch out on their own, slowly climbing the ladder of success. The glitter and glam of the sequinned life holds several surprises for the soul sisters.
Based on a Broadway hit, Dreamgirls offers a glitzy overview of a chapter in Motown music. Certain real-life performers would be able to see themselves in their fictional counterparts although most emerge with their reputations intact. As their manager tries to perfect the pop package he has created, the women attempt to show their personalities amongst the hype. Against the backdrop of the rising racial tensions of the 60s, the tensions within the band threaten to boil over with as much force.
Movies based on musicals have had mixed success in recent years. Usually the direction and acting have remained in their theatrical roots, despite being transferred to the more flexible film medium. Dreamgirls avoids those pitfalls with a wonderfully opulent spectacle of sound and vision. The musical numbers and set design are well staged, moving the story along at a breathless pace. Whilst some songs seem too contemporary for the films’ setting, others serve to remind of a bygone era of catchy songs where the lyrics were more important than the facade of the performance.
The acting by the female leads is outstanding, all equipping themselves admirably. They never forget to give an actual performance amongst the singing, an important factor in its success. Jennifer Hudson as Effie is a standout amongst the ladies, giving as much gusto and spark her role requires. Eddie Murphy is excellent as James Early, finally coming out of the self induced acting coma he’s been in for the last few years. The role shows how good Murphy can be, injecting plenty of energy that brings the film to life. The only actor who lets the side down is Jamie Foxx, who never seems to come to grips with his role being completely unconvincing as a sleazy promoter. Foxx is one of the main leads showing how mis-casting a role can impact a film.
Dreamgirls is a generally well-made musical that offers up some great performances and fabulous costumes. Those looking for diva tantrums and catfights may be disappointed as the movies’ legal team must have made sure the script didn’t aim too hard at it’s targets. For entertainment value and great music however, the film expertly slinks across the dance floor to its rousing finale.
Rating out of 10: 7
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