Winter Holiday Movie Preview
Hollywood blockbusters overwhelm urban releases
By Angela Baldassarre
This Holiday season yields little in terms of urban or independent cinema, but plenty to guarantee that those box-office receipts keep coming in.
One that certainly won't be making a lot of money - not because it's not good but because it's getting a limited release in theatres - is Lauren Lazin's documentary Tupac: Resurrection. The film, narrated by Tupac himself from compilations of audio interview clips, promises one hour and 55 minutes of rare video footage, never-before-seen home movies, private photographs, and excerpts from his poetry, journals and personal letters.
Acclaimed by critics at the Sundance Film Festival, Resurrection, which started production in the Spring 2002 and filmed in cities including Oakland, Los Angeles, Baltimore and New York, is the first movie to be fully authorized and produced by the rapper's mother, Afeni Shakur.
"I always feel like I get special treatment. I never felt that I couldn't ask anyone for anything," Shakur told journalists recently about the hip-hop community. "I respect them, I have a lot of respect for them. I like them. They're nice to me, and they're good to my son."
Shakur created Amaru Entertainment-Amaru Records after her son was shot to death in 1996, and the company has put together albums of his unreleased work and oversaw a book also titled Tupac: Resurrection.
Shakur says she's relied on help from rappers including Dr. Dre and Eminem to help keep her son's name, and music, alive. "I'm conscious of the fact that I'm 56 trying to do my son's work," she said. "I don't know that we would have been able to keep an ethical, quality project without the hip-hop community caring almost as much as me."
Shakur, who also created the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation Inc., which encourages children in the arts, reflects on what might have been. "Who knows what would have happened (had he lived)?" she said. "I'm sad that he can't see how much people appreciate his work. I think he would have been pleased. I think he would be pleased to know how much people appreciate his mom, too."
Among the more commercially viable pictures to be released this season is, of course, the third and final Matrix installment Matrix: Revolutions.
Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Nona Gaye are back in this futuristic tale about humans fighting a computer-dominated government. Nothing is known about this film, except that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is now capable of amazing feats, including flight, time-control, and super-speed.
In its attempt to cut down on piracy and capitalize on the trilogy's popularity, Warner Bros. has devised a unique release schedule for the film. Except for Kampala, in Uganda, where the film will be released a day earlier, Revolutions will be released at exactly the same time in 65 countries across the world. This will mean a 6 a.m start for fans in Los Angeles, 9 a.m in New York, 2 p.m in London, 5 p.m in Moscow and 11 p.m in Tokyo on November 5. It is the first time a film has been released in this way. Imax Corporation, which owns the technology behind the format, struck a deal with Warner Bros to simultaneously show the film on November 5.
Meanwhile, the makers of the Matrix films are considering only promoting the third film, Matrix Revolutions, for next year's Oscars over its predecessor The Matrix Reloaded that came out in May. Both films were shot on the same 240-day shoot and Warners, which produced the films, had considered pushing for both of them to be nominated as a single entry. But the academy refused saying the movies were released separately, each with its own marketing campaign.
Another biggie this season is Disney's Haunted Mansion, starring Eddie Murphy. Based on the famous theme park, the movie centres on a man (Murphy) and his family (Marsha Thomason, Marc John Jefferies, Aree Davis) who encounter a ghost while visiting a haunted house during a job interview. There he learns the value of family, and the lesson that he should make sure he never neglects them again.
This is the third in a wave of movies that Disney is doing based on their theme park attractions, following The Country Bears and Pirates of the Caribbean. The actual Disney theme park ride(s) claim to have "999 happy haunts", and according to Yahoo.com there are indeed 999 ghosts in this film, although it's not yet known if we'll see them all.
Another family-friendly film is Blizzard, directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation's LeVar Burton. Not much is known about this movie except that it centres on a young ice-skater's encounter with an enchanted reindeer (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg). The film also stars Brenda Blethyn and Christopher Plummer.
Not so family-oriented is Bille Woodruff's Honey, where Mekhi Phifer plays a guy with connections in the music industry who helps out struggling dancer and choreographer Honey Daniels (Jessica Alba). Honey dreams of starting a neighbourhood dance school, but when she's discovered by a music executive, she abandons the project and becomes a famous music-video choreographer. But her newfound success is threatened when the guy who discovered her attempts to destroy her after she refuses to have sex with him. The film also stars Lil' Romeo as a kid who needs a break more than Honey does.
Others in the movie, which was filmed in Toronto, include David Moscow, Zachary Williams, Joy Bryant and Lonette McKee, with cameo appearances by hip hop/R&B stars Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, Third Story, Sean Desmond, Tweet, and Jadakiss and Sheek of The L.O.X.