AT THE MOVIES: Hot Brazillians, hot jazz, and a tooth fairy from hell

Chicago
By Chris Correa
4.5 Hatchets

Glittering like a black diamond and pulsing with frenetic tunefulness, Chicago, the cinematic adaptation of the 1976 Broadway musical attempts to raise the roof of multiplexes far and wide and nearly burns a hole through the film it’s printed on.

Director Rob Marshall has taken the bones of Walter Bobbie’s streamlined 1996 revival and scaled the piece up to its original luxurious scope. Instead of an ensemble of leather, lace and steel scaffolding, the production now gleams like the chrome on a Packard car and the loud fabrics dressing the cast are almost audibly so.

The one quibble audiences might have with Chicago is that it doesn’t emulate the slinky choreography of Bob Fosse so much as tilt its bowler hat to it. Rather than recreating Fosse’s original steps, the dancing has a more conventional kick-up-your-heels flash to it. This doesn’t hinder the movie itself, but it may leave Fosse connoisseurs pining for the arched joints and seductive lurching.

Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta-Jones dazzle like matinee idols of Hollywood’s golden age. Ditto to Richard Gere, Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly–all wonders in the roles of their lives. What Chicago does–if nothing else–is raise the bar for American screen acting again. It’s been too long since actors have strove to sing, dance and emote with the same enthusiasm as Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. Not only is Chicago the best movie musical since 1972’s Cabaret (also a Fosse musical), it’s also far and away one of the best films of the year.

City of God
by Jeff Frost
3.5 Hatchets

Welcome to the City of God, a notorious Brazilian housing project. In the depths of this impoverished ghetto, the youth have two vices, playing soccer and committing crimes. They’re good at both or at least good enough to make the “gangs of New York” look like a catty sewing circle.

Fernando Meirelles’ City of God is based on the novel by Paulo Lins. It tells the story of two children, Rocket and Little Dice, who hail from the titular neighborhood. Though they run in the same social circle, the two boys take two completely different paths in life. Rocket follows his dream of becoming a photographer, while Dice aspires to become the crime lord of the neighborhood. The movie tells a harrowing coming of age tale for both boys, against the back drop of a city torn apart by drugs, violence and gang warfare.

Meirelles’ film is, in a word, brutal. Based on a true story, the film uses mostly actors from the actual places where the film takes place. This adds an air of authenticity, matched only by the ferocious, lifelike violence that defines the story from beginning to end.

Meirelles’ direction provides the film with a gritty look, bringing even the dusty concrete jungle to life.

Though not wholly original, the film’s message that children are the product of their environment is conveyed with little room for debate. From the start, we see how the youths go from playing a game to hijacking a gas truck. Crime is just as much a part of the housing project as the cookie-cutter domiciles and dusty landscapes. But the character of Rocket serves as a foil to the amoral and hot-headed Dice, rising above his means and become something more than a gangster.

Though flawed at times, City of God is an aggressive, affecting saga of life in a place where there is seemingly no life to be had.

Darkness Falls
By Lauren Spitzer
1.5 Hatchets

Just when you thought the tooth fairy was a nice lady who gave you money in exchange for teeth, think again. Director Jonathan Liebesman’s film, Darkness Falls, gives us a run for our money with the story of the “tooth fairy” turned evil. Terribly, terribly evil.

As legend goes, the small town, ironically called Darkness Falls, has been haunted by the evil presence of Matilda Dixon, also know as the “tooth fairy.” Matilda’s unlucky death causes her to seek revenge on the town’s people that mistakenly murdered her. The tooth fairy’s spirit subsequently decides to kill those who loose their last baby tooth, and pretty much anyone else who gets in her way. Sorry kids, the tooth fairy isn’t so nice.

The horror turns to Kyle Walsh, (Chaney Kley) one of the fairy’s prey, who returns to town after a 12-year departure due to his mother’s murder by the fairy. Kyle returns in order to instruct his old friend Caitlin (Emma Caulfield) and her distressed brother Michael (Lee Cormie) to “stay in the light,” the only power to which the fairy is sensitive.

What seems like a fire-side ghost story, this 75-minute horror flick is filled with obvious one-liners and predictable horror standards. To generate some sense of climax, the power in the entire town goes off in the middle of the night. This leads Michael to appropriately state that “we’re all gonna die.”

While the film plays on one’s fear of the dark, it does nothing more than advise the audience to “stay in the light,” a repeated line that filled about half the screenplay. Unfortunately, there was no light shed on any part of this flick. The most interesting character was the tooth fairy, at least she did something with her time other than hang out under bear light bulbs.

Darkness sure enough fell on this motion picture. Rated PG-13 merely for its inclusion of blood and a bit of absurd violence, the film’s essence can be caught in the previews.

I believe one of the film’s characters hit the nail on the head when he said, “All this over a f***ing tooth.” My thoughts exactly.

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