Monday, January 01, 2007

Dreamgirls (aka: Never Again to the Metropolitan 14)

Wow. You know, I remember when they built the Metropolitan 14. It's a gigantic movie theater just South of the Motor Mile on I-35, tucked a ways back from the freeway as the handful of acres between the theater and the parking lot is sort of a run-off/ swampy area. But you can't miss it. The theater is four stories tall, with a gigantic tower poking up from the trees another several yards. The tower is adorned with neon rings humongous silvery statues of nude dudes, like something out of a Joel Shumacher Batman film. Inside there are statues of nude ladies, so there's equal opportunity for abso-ludicrousness.

But, since day 1, The Metropolitan has been bad news. I saw "Unbreakable" there, and was distracted for the duration of the film by a weird, stagnant swampy smell which, I assume, came from the swamp or something foul going on with the pipes. The cavernous theaters give the illusion that nobody can hear you, and thus the knobs of South Austin all flock to the theater (now that Riverside is closed down) and, seemingly, find the movies the BEST place to hold a conversation.

And, so it was with Dreamgirls. I kinda-sorta knew we were in trouble when folks were drifting in to the movie as it began (after 20 minutes of trailers, so, you know, these people were committed). Then were stunned to learn Dreamgirls was a musical, and thusly laughed and laughed whenever anyone broke into song. Which was pretty much continuously. We gave the evil eye, and both Jamie and I shushed (I resorted to the "quiet!" shush). All of this seemed to just egg on the couple who was certainly old enough to know better. So, maybe 45 minutes in, we finally moved.

I doubt our departure from our seats achieved the desired effect of somehow shaming these folks as I heard the guy laugh again two or three more times.

In the interim, a trio of teenagers who had been loudly chatting mid-theater up and left. I have no idea what spurred their departure. I like to think someone tried to shiv them.

And then the capper was when, during the FINAL scene of the movie, a family of morbidly obese folks loudly waddled their way into the row behind us, and began an involved conversation. Our quick "shush" was met with laughter and a quick discussion of how they were upsetting people. Of course, the final scene is not really the time to throw in the towel, but I seriously considered quitting as there was no new information to be gleened.

Unfortunately, most of the things I can usually think to say which probably WOULD make folks hush up are generally fairly offensive and could, potentially, lead to gun-play. The League is not ready to ruin a movie by bleeding out in his Milk Duds, so we do our best to just "shush". Further, the few times I have summoned an usher, the usher really, really DOES NOT want to get involved, and the folks have invariably been quiet as churchmice until the usher departs.

I guess I probably would have been upset if the movie were awful, and, in fact, I probably would have left. But I sort of liked Dreamgirls. Yes, it's a musical, but I will cop to enjoying a good musical now and then. A lot of love went into the movie, and unlike several recent period movies, they actually do the hairstyles and clothes of the era fairly decent justice.

I'm just going to get this out of the way: Beyonce Knowles is freakishly beautiful. When I look at Beyonce in the film, I am unsure of what I am looking at. She consistently appears to be either computer generated or air brushed. I don't want this note to detract from her acting or singing, because both are swell. She's SUPPOSED to be beautiful in the film, and obviously the DP had a good time working with her as a subject. Make of that what you will.

The rest of the cast is very good as well. Eddie Murphy pulls out his long-lost singing talents, and occasionally channels his old James Brown SNL-persona, but never inappropriately. Jamie Foxx plays the most complicated character of the film, but I don't think it's a huge surprise to say he handles both singing and acting just fine, what with he owning awards and all that. Jennifer Hudson plays a surprisingly large part in the film, and aside from a few moments which weren't nailed, her voice easily carries her through the part.

I guess not every single song was my sort of song, and I had expected something a little more of the early-"Supremes", but instead you get a "Behind the Music" career spanning tale of a fictional band, told in the musical format. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you're someone who looks at R&B or rock history as modern myth, and if you dig the songs. But at somewhere just over two-hours, the narrative's arc is only rarely surprising, especially when character arcs echo real-life talent or standard tropes of "makin' it" flicks.

Do I recommend the flick? Man, I don't know. if you're the bonehead who was heartily laughing behind us, then no. It's a musical. Would I buy the soundtrack? I don't know. I liked some of the songs, but as a good musical, the songs are focused on expressing character's thoughts and moving the action forward, just... you know, in a decades-spanning R&B format. So...

It's probably nothing I'm ever going to buy on DVD, I don't think. But, heck, it was a fun movie. I'd send the KareBear and Admiral to go see it.


Anonymous said...

People have become so rude and churlish at movie theatres that I rarely go anymore. - JD

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't remember the last time I attended a movie where I didn't have to give someone the evil eye at least once. It did get to the point when we lived in Arizona where we went a good 8 months or so (Ryan can correct me if I'm wrong) without seeing a movie in the theaters because we got tired of wasting money being irritated throughout the film.

Anonymous said...

It is pretty awful. Really, the only time I will go to the movies now is the first screening on opening night, because with the genre movies and such, it is generally nerds like me who want to see the movie as much as I do. They won't tolerate talking during a film like that. But if you miss opening day, you're sunk. This, really, is the sad consequence of home theatres. People are so used to watching movies at home and behaving as they wish that they do so at the theatre. Steans is right, too, the ushers won't do anything. - JD

The League said...

In general, Austin at least offers some theaters like The Alamo theaters which cater to folks like myself and draw a better audience. We've also had good luck at the Regal Cinema near Jason's house.

In Phoenix, we had no options. Teenagers texting through movies at the mall theater and parents taking phone calls and chatting with their kids at the one near our house.

I can't believe that theater chains don't see the much-publicized noise in theaters as enough of a problem to actually try to do something about it. Theaters have even quit running the pre-movie "shut up" messages. But, you have to show up before the credits in order to read those messages, so maybe they realized they weren't helping.

Anonymous said...

I like the Sydney Pollack "shut up" spot that our AMC theater has been running before features lately. Have you seen it?

The League said...

I have not seen Syndey laying the smack down. Any idea which chain is carrying the message?

We also have a similar message at the Alamo Drafthouse. However, ours stars Chuck Norris declaring that of his many lethal possibilities, he would choose a deadly chokehold as his mode for dealing with talkers.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, if you tell people to silence themselves, they will stab you in the neck with a pencil or something.

The League said...

I don't worry about that too much when it's me and Jason, but when jamie is there, I really don't want to get into a shouting match or slugfest with some moron during Harry Potter. Unfortunately, Jamie and I see 95% of movies together.

Anonymous said...

AMC is carrying the Sydney Pollack spot. In it, a 20-something slob is blubbering on the phone to his girlfriend, apologizing, when Pollack steps into frame to criticize his performance, the lighting, the set, etc. And then he says something like, "oh, I'm sorry, is my directing interfering with your phone call?"