Cinema Picks for Friday 2nd February

Dreamgirls is the much hyped film film version of the 80’s Broadway musical. A thinly disguised rise and fall story loosely based on the story of The Supremes and Motown Records, it stars Beyonce Knowles and Jennifer Hudson as singers whose careers take a different trajectory under the guidance of a savvy empresario (Jamie Foxx). Although director Bill Condon infuses things with and undeniable panache and verve, there is something lacking in the story which just isn’t dramatic or moving enough. That said ,Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy (as the act the girls initially sing for) deliver terrific performances. Hudson, in particular, eats up the screen and could well win an Oscar for her supporting turn.

Based on Zoe Heller’s novel of the same name, Notes On A Scandal is an absorbing tale of scheming and status in contemporary London. Barbara (Judi Dench) is a veteran teacher becomes quietly obsessed with Sheba (Cate Blanchett), a younger colleague. When she learns about her affair with a pupil, she uses the information to her own devious ends. As you might expect the two standout things here are the lead performances. Dench, in an unusually dark role, gives a splendidly nasty portrayal of a bitter loner whilst Blanchett is also on fine form as a privileged and frustrated urban mother. Patrick Marber’s script has echoes of Harold Pinter, with its fine balance of comic menace and shifting power games whilst director Richard Eyre never quite lets things descend in to TV drama territory.

Arthur and the Invisibles is a surreal and only intermittently successful children’s film from director Luc Besson that mixes live action with animation. When a young boy (Freddie Highmore) tries to save his grandmother’s house from repossession, he has to venture into the world of the Minimoys – tiny elfin beings that exist in his garden. Despite an amazing cast of voices (that includes none other than Madonna, David Bowie and Robert De Niro) the story never really takes off and the mix of animation and live action is uneasy throughout. It passes the time but should have been much more engaging given the talent involved.

FILM OF THE WEEK: Notes on a Scandal

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