Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton Co-Star in Gospel-Driven Musical Drama
When choir director Bernard Sparrow (Kris Kristofferson) passes away unexpectedly, Pastor Dale (Courtney B. Vance) finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Should he promote the dearly departed deacon’s deserving assistant, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah), or award the position to his grieving widow, G.G. (Dolly Parton)?
After agonizing over the decision, the good reverend settles on the former, potentially risking the survival of Sacred Divinity, since the well-to-do Sparrow family is the cash-strapped Church’s major benefactor. By comparison, life’s a struggle for Vi Rose and most of the other citizens of Pacashau, Georgia.
The economic recession has turned the once-thriving town into a decaying metropolis marked by foreclosure signs, a soup kitchen packed with the homeless, and a business district dotted with vacant storefronts.
G.G.’s grudgingly ratifying the appointment of Vi Rose is the answer to the prayers of Pastor Dale who is desperate to avoid creating a rift in his tight-knit congregation. For, he hopes that the choir might restore a measure of pride to the beleaguered Pacashau community by prevailing at the upcoming National Gospel Competition.
That unlikely feat is the raison d’etre of Joyful Noise, a faith-based mix of modern morality play and musical numbers. The soulful singing performances are the film’s forte, from Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson’s heartfelt duet on “From Here To The Moon And Back” to Keke Palmer and Jeremy Jordan’s equally-evocative interpretation of “Maybe I’m Amazed” to Ivan Kelley, Jr.’s spirited rendition of “That’s The Way God Planned It.”
As for the pat plotline, the point of departure finds Vi Rose with her hands full and dividing her time from trying to raise two teenagers alone because her husband (Jesse L. Martin) abandoned the family for the military on account of the lack of local jobs. Their son, Walter (Dexter Darden), is in need of help handling his Asperger’s Syndrome while boy-crazy daughter, Olivia (Palmer), sure could use a more appropriate suitor than the thug (Paul Woolfolk) who’s been courting her lately.
Everything changes the day G.G.’s Prodigal Grandson Randy (Jordan) rolls back into town from New York City unexpectedly. Although a little rough around the edges, the misunderstood young man is just the answer for everybody’s malady.
First, he falls in love with Olivia at first sight. Then he serves as a surrogate big brother to Walter. And when he joins the choir, it’s only a matter of time before he mends the fences between Vi Rose and his granny on the road to the finals at the Joyful Noise contest in Los Angeles.
A modern parable that’s fun for the whole family with an uplifting message about the power of cooperation. Can I get an Amen?
Ever since he was a child, Richard Garriott’s dream was to follow in his father Owen’s footsteps by becoming an astronaut. After all, during his formative years he got to watch his dad train before rocketing into orbit aboard NASA Skylab and Space Shuttle missions.
But Richard was ruled ineligible for consideration because of his poor vision, so he had to pursue another line of work entirely. He nonetheless went on to enjoy astounding success as a computer programmer, most notably as the inventor of the successful series of Ultima fantasy games.
Still wanting to experience space travel, Richard eventually approached Russia about becoming a cosmonaut, and was allowed to purchase a ticket aboard a Soyuz launch for $30 million. So, at the age of 47, he was finally able to fulfill his elusive lifelong dream.
The long road to that unlikely achievement is carefully recounted in Man On A Mission, a triumphant biopic chronicling the extra-terrestrial exploits of a nearsighted nerd-turned-21st century Buck Rogers. Provided you can get past the specter of a self-indulgent rich guy spending so much money to become the first father and son in history to escape the Earth’s gravity, the picture is actually fairly fascinating.
The film reveals some rather intimate details about life aboard the International Space Station, from how the crew members go to the bathroom to how they stay in shape to how they keep themselves entertained by juggling and doing card tricks. They also conduct scientific experiments, even Richard, who was given the assignment of documenting exactly what happens when ice melts in outer space.
The movie has its funny moments, too, like when a couple of astronauts floating opposite head-to-toe keep accusing each other of being the one who’s upside-down. Plus, there is the sobering interlude when Richard expresses his apprehension about the danger of immolation during the capsule’s fiery reentry into the atmosphere at the end of the 12-day trip.
Revenge of the computer geek!
Very Good (3 stars).
Running time: 83 minutes.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening January 20, 2012
Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close (PG-13 for profanity, disturbing images and mature themes). Post 9/11 drama about a 9-year-old boy’s (Thomas Horn) desperate search for the lock that matches the mysterious key left behind by his father (Tom Hanks) who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. With Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, John Goodman and Jeffrey Wright.
Haywire (R for violence). Revenge thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh about a special ops agent (Gina Carano) determined to track down the traitor who double-crossed her and left her for dead while on a dangerous assignment in Dublin, Ireland. With Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender.
Red Tails (PG-13 for violence). WWII saga set in Europe in 1944 recounting the bravery of Tuskegee Airmen grounded because of their skin color who make the most of an opportunity to fight for their country when they are grudgingly enlisted to save the day. Ensemble cast includes Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ne-Yo, Method Man and Gerald McRaney.
Underworld: Awakening (R for profanity, gore and graphic violence). Kate Beckinsale reprises her role in this sci-fi sequel as a warrior vampire who now escapes from prison to lead a confederation of werewolves and the undead in an all-out war with humanity. Featuring India Eisley, Michael Ealy and Theo James.
The City Dark (Unrated). Light pollution expose’ about the deleterious effect on the quality of life exacted by an increasingly bright planet.
Coriolanus (R for graphic violence). Ralph Fiennes stars in the title role of this modernistic reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s classic play about a banished Roman general who enters an unholy alliance with a sworn enemy (Gerard Butler). With Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Chastain and Brian Cox.
Crazy Horse (Unrated). Revealing documentary offering an eye-opening peek inside the legendary Crazy Horse, a classy strip club which has been staging choreographed, burlesque shows in Paris since 1951. (In French and English with subtitles).
The Flowers Of War (Unrated). Historical drama based on the Geling Yan novel about a mortician (Christian Bale) who poses as a priest in order to save the lives of prostitutes and parishioners during the Japanese’s rape of Nanking. With Shigeo Kobayashi, Bai Xue and Paul Schneider. (In English, Mandarin and Japanese with subtitles.)
Miss Bala (R for profanity, sexuality and brutal violence). Dream deferred drama about a beauty pageant contestant (Stephanie Sigman) forced to abandon her pursuit of the Miss Mexico title when she’s kidnapped by a drug kingpin (Noe Hernandez) after witnessing a gangland-style massacre inside a seedy Tijuana disco. With Irene Azuela, Jose Yenque and James Russo. (In Spanish and English with subtitles.)
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth (Unrated). Urban renewal documentary about a much-ballyhooed St. Louis housing project that opened to fanfare in 1954 only to be deliberately detonated and turned to rubble just 20 years later, due to vacancies, vandalism and a host of other inner-city maladies.
Scalene (Unrated). Triangulated, psychological thriller chronicling the quest for vengeance of the mother (Margo Martindale) of a mentally challenged mute (Adam Scarimbolo) imprisoned for raping his college-age babysitter (Hanna Hall). Support cast includes Jim Dougherty, LaDonna Pettijohn and Raymond Kester.
Ultrasuede: In Search Of Halston (Unrated). Reverential biopic celebrating the glamour and decadence of the late fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick (1932-1990). Featuring reflections by Liza Minelli, Diane von Furstenberg, Billy Joel, Andre Leon Talley and Anjelica Huston.
Watching TV With The Red Chinese (Unrated). Cross-cultural comedy set in NYC in 1980 revolving around a well-meaning neighbor (Ryan O’Nan) who decides to try to play big brother to a trio of transfer students (Leonard Nam, James Chen and Keong Sim) from the People’s Republic. With Gillian Jacobs, Constance Wu and Idara Victor. (In English and Chinese with subtitles.)