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Posted 09 August 2012 - 05:24 PM
And the Lord asks me what I did with my life,
I will say I spent it with you.
Posted 09 August 2012 - 10:27 PM
By Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY
Back in 1976, when Whitney Houston was a New Jersey schoolgirl on the brink of adolescence, she fell in love at first sight.
Not with a boy. But with a movie.
Its title? Sparkle, a low-budget drama about three singing sisters in late-'50s Harlem as they strive for fame and face family hardships. A cult classic and an inspiration for Dreamgirls, it was a rare film about strong black women that stood apart from the era's blaxploitation flicks.
Houston, a diva-in-training who would soon chase her own musical dreams, was hooked. For the next several months, she spent every Saturday going steady withSparkle, starting with the matinee and staying through to the evening show.
Houston explained her obsession to reporters last fall on the set of the long-awaited Sparkle remake that she executive-produced and in which she plays Emma, the stern God-fearing mother of a trio of ambitious daughters.
"This was kind of like positive reinforcement for young African-American women," she said. "It was just anybody who wanted to pursue their dream, their desires, their goals and present their gifts. It just appealed to me." She added: "And I never let go of it."
Sadly, fans were forced to let go of Houston when she died Feb. 11 at age 48, just months after she finished her labor of love — one that took a decade to become a reality and will open Aug. 17.
During the shoot, there were few signs that tragedy would soon befall the vocalist. Instead, her co-stars speak warmly of the joy and professionalism Houston displayed on the set.
"We were all walking on eggshells, and she said, 'No, no,' " says Tika Sumpter, who plays middle sister Delores. "She was so chill. She treated us as if we really were her children. One day, she just came over to me and said, 'I'm so proud of you.' I got teary-eyed, just the way she said it."
Echoing those sentiments is Carmen Ejogo, who sizzles as the slinky oldest sibling, Sister. With Houston on board, "we all knew this was fated to be something special," she says. "I think her sister-in-law, Pat, said it most eloquently at her funeral. That doingSparkle was one of the happiest times of Whitney's life. It was magical."
One of the ways that Houston, mother of 19-year-old Bobbi Kristina Brown, most impressed director Salim Akil was by keeping it real. "At some point, people were worried that Whitney had a little pooch on her stomach," he says. "But she loved that part of the character. She knew you can't have children and be a supermodel. If you didn't believe in Emma, you didn't believe anything else in the movie."
Yet, once the camera stopped, one of the most beloved singers in the world slipped back into the self-destructive habits that had altered her glorious tones as well as her angelic features.
Instead of triumphantly walking the carpet at the film's premiere, Houston ended up drowning in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel during Grammy Awards weekend — an event that was her coronation back in the '80s — with various drugs in her system, including cocaine.
Remember her this way
Now Sparkle is more than a mere movie. It is a final farewell to a great entertainer who once prophetically sang, "Didn't we almost have it all?"
"I view this movie as my gift for her," says Sparkleproducer Debra Martin Chase, who became her business partner and friend while working together onThe Preacher's Wife as well as the 1997 TV specialCinderella. "People will be able to remember her in this way. Beautiful, healthy, radiant. Not with pictures from bad times."
She recalls the day when Houston first suggested that they collaborate on a remake of Sparkle. Says Chase: "Warner Bros. had the rights at the time, and they had a three-picture deal with Aaliyah," a rising urban-pop artist. "They said if we were interested, they would put the movie into development with her."
All was in place for the 22-year-old to play the title role, until her untimely death in 2001 in a plane crash brought the project to a halt. After Warner Bros. dropped out, the remake sat on the shelf. "Over the years, people in the African-American community would ask me more about Sparkle than anything else," Chase says. "I just knew we would get it made somehow." Persistence paid off when Sony/TriStar signed on three years ago and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks took over as Sparkle.
Given Houston's musical heritage — gospel singer Cissy Houston is her mother, Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick are cousins, Darlene Love is her godmother and Aretha Franklin her "honorary" aunt — it was natural for her to be attracted to the original movie. "She knew even then she was headed down the path to stardom," Martin says.
Houston probably could see herself in the rebelliousness of Sister, a knockout who blossoms in the spotlight but is tempted by the darker side of show business. And, while she watched Sparkle over and over again as a girl, she most likely connected to sweet Sparkle, the youngest, who possesses abundant talent but lacks confidence.
Unlike the young women in the film, however, no one stood in Houston's way. Instead, she was the anointed one and expected to join the family business. And she did, giving her first performance as a soloist in a church choir at age 11. From there, musical history was made.
Such a birthright came with a heavy price. "She was somebody who was born to be placed on a pedestal," Chase says. "But her quest in life was to be a normal person."
She refers to writer Malcolm Gladwell's observation that it takes 10,000 hours to acquire true expertise. "Her whole childhood was those 10,000 hours. It prepared her for superstardom. That voice, that face. And she did it. She broke every record. She won every award."
But when Houston finally wanted to take a much-deserved break, it was hard to come by. "When you are given so much, much is expected," Chase notes. "Those incredible gifts were a burden. People kept asking, 'Why aren't you singing?' She saw herself as an artist. But in reality, when you are that successful, you are a corporation. She had employees, obligations."
With her tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown behind her and after several rounds of rehab, it looked as if Houston might pull herself together again with Sparkle. The mother character was adapted to her image and strengths, changing from a housemaid who toils for a rich white family and lives in a ghetto flat to an estimable middle-class Detroit businesswoman whose own attempt at a singing career failed and who now lives for her family and church.
However, it didn't help that so many years had passed since Houston last acted on the big screen.
'Bursting with happiness'
Chase says there was only one time that she was late getting to the Sparkle set: the first day of shooting. "She was in her trailer, and she was futzing around and I told her, 'We've got to go.' We got in the van, and there was dead silence. Then she said, 'You know, I hadn't done this for a long time.' I told her, 'Yes, but it is going to be great.' That was her way of saying she was nervous. But she is a performer and a tough lady."
Houston never faltered again, Chase confirms. "She was in the hair and makeup trailer by 5 o'clock each morning. Even when she was not working, she came to the set and hung out. She was energetic and bursting with happiness."
That is, until the very end of the shoot, when she couldn't bear to leave Detroit. Adds Chase: "It is hard for us to understand what it would be like to look into your day and not know what is coming next. She was so present in Detroit."
Says Sparks, who shares a duet with Houston that is heard over the end credits: "I get chills thinking about this, but it is good that it took so long to get Sparkle made. If it came out 10 years ago, Whitney wouldn't have been old enough to play the mother. I think it worked out the way it was supposed to. And for fans, this will be the last image they will remember of her."
Derek Luke, who plays Sparkle's love interest and who shared Houston's deep religious beliefs, insists he and the fellow New Jersey native will meet again. "We both believed in heaven. And heaven for us is like being in the other room. Eventually, you will see someone."
Edited by Austin, 09 August 2012 - 10:29 PM.
Posted 14 August 2012 - 01:32 AM
Keep sparkling. Whitney forever.
A Brave heart is a Powerful weapon. A Voice inspires the Way. One Love. Whitney forever
Posted 14 August 2012 - 02:22 AM
Posted 14 August 2012 - 05:40 AM
Nightline from ABC News : 'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's Final Bow
Posted 14 August 2012 - 08:52 AM
Nightline from ABC News : 'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's Final Bow
Just wanted to add - based on this clip alone, Whitney didn't hold back in this film. Every little thing she did in that short performance was genuine. The tears were genuine, the emotions were real. It's almost as if she's no longer just a movie character.
Posted 14 August 2012 - 02:29 PM
Posted 14 August 2012 - 02:40 PM
It makes nothing but sense. I'm going on Saturday. I'm terrified I'm gonna be inconsolable when the closing credits roll.
Posted 14 August 2012 - 03:23 PM
Nightline from ABC News : 'Sparkle,' Whitney Houston's Final Bow
Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:21 PM
Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:51 PM
Posted 17 August 2012 - 09:46 AM
(EW.com) -- "Sparkle" is a movie for anyone who thought that the pop melodrama of "Dreamgirls" wasn't over-the-top enough.
Set in the late '60s, it tells the story of three sisters from middle-class Detroit who form a girl group sort of like the Supremes. They're astoundingly talented, they want to be famous, and at one point they get their shot at a major deal with Columbia Records.
But all sorts of things keep getting in the way, like an abusive, coke-sniffing celebrity boyfriend — what happens to him will leave your jaw on the floor — and, more than that, their oppressively uptight church-lady mother, played with teasing confidence and force by Whitney Houston in her final screen role.
The movie is a remake of the 1976 ersatz-Supremes Hollywood fable that starred Irene Cara, and the earlier film's setting — the late '50s and early '60s — made sense. Transplanting the material ahead nearly a decade, to the era of race riots and black power (when the classic Motown sound was, in fact, already starting to fade), hurts the movie's credibility, since it is now all the harder to believe that three feisty grown women are still living in their puritanical mother's house because they're too cowed to go out on their own. From its opening scene, set inside a hopping Detroit nightclub, Sparkle is charged with a synthetically corny high tension. (Cee Lo Green shows up in that scene, and does a fine job of playing a conk-haired funk-soul relic who loves the ladies, but then he completely vanishes from the movie.)
The three sisters are each cut from a very different cloth. The quietly ambitious Sparkle, a brilliant songwriter, is played by the sixth-season American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who proves to be a lot like Irene Cara — that is, she's pretty in a slightly pained way and wholesomely sincere to the point of being a bit boring. The whippersnapper Dolores (Tika Sumpter) mostly stays in the background, except when she explodes in moments of vengeful high dudgeon. And then there's the sister known, literally, as Sister, who's the star of the group and is played by the ravishingly sexy and accomplished British actress Carmen Ejogo. In this role, she looks and acts strikingly like a demon-driven, down-and-dirty Beyoncé, and her scenes with Mike Epps, as her charismatic but hateful comedian lover, are the most potent in the film. The truth is that whenever Sister is on screen, we're a little unsure why the movie is named after anyone else.
Sparkle uses some of the same imitation-Motown numbers by Curtis Mayfield that powered the 1976 version, along with new songs by R. Kelly. The music is all highly competent and, frankly, just unmemorable enough to make you wish that you were hearing authentic period chestnuts instead. The trouble with Sparkle isn't that it's overwrought (that's what's sometimes fun about it). It's that everything in the movie is derivative and third-hand: a copy of a copy. The film is pulp that's been fed through a strainer, with bits and pieces squeezed out of a dozen other, better movies ("What's Love Got to Do With It", "Lady Sings the Blues," and "Dreamgirls," to name just a few). At times, it's like a Joan Crawford neurotic-mother fantasy, and the gravelly conviction of Whitney Houston's performance proves that this could have been the first step not merely in a comeback but in a major re-invention. She had the instincts of a superb character actress.
At other times, the movie is a girl-group biopic that never quite delivers the charge of success that we're longing to see. Jordin Sparks' big, climactic on-stage number is supposed to do that, but to me it's just a testament to the way that too many "Idol" graduates, with their how-many-notes-can-I-cram-inside-a-note technical bravura, short-circuit any true connection with the audience. "Sparkle" is never more than an overheated mediocrity. The one thing it isn't, however, is dull. Grade: B-
Posted 17 August 2012 - 09:47 AM
by Grady Smith
Two years ago, Sylvester Stallone assembled a leathery crew of aging musclebound action stars for The Expendables, and the $80 million in-your-face action film went on to be a hit, grossing $103.1 million domestically and an explosive $274.5 million worldwide.
For these actors, a sequel wasn’t just an enticing prospect, it was an inevitable one.
Thus, we now have The Expendables 2, which is facing off this weekend against three titles more geared toward families: Paranorman, Sparkle, and The Odd Life of Timothy Green. How will these four titles fare at the box office?
Read on for my weekend box office predictions:
1. The Expendables 2 – $38 million
All the guys are back for Expendables 2 — Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, and Ah-nold — but there are a few fresh faces, too. Namely, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and token “let’s bring in the young crowd” actor Liam Hemsworth.
The kitsch factor of seeing all these grizzled action stars in one place is still the franchise’s selling point, and according to BoxOffice.com’s Shawn Robbins, social media activity for the sequel has been substantially stronger than its predecessor, which opened with $34.8 million in August 2010. Adult men will make up the vast majority of the audience and likely drive Expendables 2, which is playing in 3,316 theaters, to about $38 million in its first frame. Lionsgate reportedly acquired the $90 million film from Nu Image for $35 million.
2. Sparkle – $18 million
Though Jordin Sparks is making her acting debut, it is Whitney Houston’s final onscreen performance that will lure in curious moviegoers to see ScreenGems’ 1960s musical family drama Sparkle this weekend. The film, which cost a slim $14 million to make, is getting a narrow release in 2,244 theaters — a common tactic for a movie targeting a predominantly African-American audience (Think Like A Man, another ScreenGems film, started on 2,052 theaters earlier this year) — which should yield a strong per-theater average.
Although tracking and studio expectations have the film earning about $14-15 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, as Tyler Perry’s titles have proved, movies geared towards an African-American female audience have often been underestimated by industry watchers; Sparkle could be bigger than most expect. I’m going with a rather bullish (feel free to chide me if I’m wrong on Sunday!) $18 million.
3. The Bourne Legacy – $17 million
Last week’s chart topper is facing direct competition from The Expendables 2, plus a lukewarm “B” CinemaScore grade. It may tumble 55 percent to $17 million, which would lift its ten-day total to about $70 million.
4. ParaNorman – $15 million
Focus Features scored with 2009′s Coraline, the dark 3-D animation that quietly earned $75.3 million during its domestic run. The same filmmaking team came together for ParaNorman, another ghoulish take on typically sunny animated fare. ParaNorman won’t have the benefit of the 3-D craze, which really sparked in 2009, on its side the way Coraline did, but it will still earn some cash due to a big 3,429 theater count. Families are spread thin between Odd Life and Sparkle, but ParaNorman, which likely cost somewhere in the $60 million range (the reported budget of Coraline) may scare up $15 million.
5. The Odd Life of Timothy Green – $14 million
The Disney feature, which stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton and was made for just under $25 million, looked like it would become a typical August misfire a few weeks ago, but a hard marketing push has raised awareness for the whimsical tale considerable, and its prospects seem much rosier.
In its Wednesday debut, the film earned $2.3 million, the same number that Hope Springs started with on Wednesday last week before pulling $14.6 million over the weekend. Hope Springs carried a much older audience that waited until the weekend to hit the theater, which resulted in the big boost, but Odd Life may be a bit smaller. Still, thanks to strong word-of-mouth from its “A-” CinemaScore grade, Timothy Green, playing in 2,598 theaters, may blossom to $14 million.
Posted 17 August 2012 - 09:50 AM
The melodramatic story is familiar, though the talented cast makes the most of rather tired material.
A remake of the 1976 original, this version is set in Detroit during the late 1960s and features the last performance of Whitney Houston, who died in February.
Houston plays fiercely protective matriarch Emma, who is determined to keep her three daughters away from the temptations that nearly killed her.
A singer in her younger years, Emma is hell-bent on discouraging the musical aspirations of youngest daughter Sparkle (Jordin Sparks).
Middle daughter Dolores (Tika Sumpter) has applied to medical school. Emma is thrilled. She wishes her oldest, Tammy (Carmen Ejogo), would marry a doctor. But Tammy (referred to as Sister) is not interested in playing it safe. Almost 30, she's eager to get out from under her mother's roof. Though Tammy has a guy who loves her in Levi (Omari Hardwick), she's seduced by the glamorous life offered by comedian Satin (Mike Epps).
Sparkle is a spirited songwriter who convinces Tammy to perform one of her songs at a local club. That leads to the three sisters trying out for a local musical contest, spurred on by Stix (Derek Luke), who becomes their manager and also has eyes for Sparkle.
The trio are a wonderfully appealing group, inspired by Motown and a melange of R&B and gospel music. Dolores is sassy and Sparkle is spunky, but Tammy's sultry moves attract most of the attention. Sparkle tries to keep her sisters united, but Tammy's life takes a downward spiral as she moves in with the smooth, but cruel, Satin.
While Sparks has a genuine sparkle and an amazing voice, she doesn't get to fully show it off until more than 90 minutes into the movie. Houston is convincing as the loving but inflexible mom. Houston has a singing solo while at church, but she's clearly a supporting player in the movie, which she also executive-produced.
It's too bad Sparkle trots out so many A Star is Born-style clichés. Fortunately, the film is full of show-stopping musical numbers that all but drown out the predictable story.
Envisioned as a starring vehicle for Sparks, Sparkle is also a fitting curtain call for Houston. Her character's ultimate willingness to acknowledge her daughter's dreams and encourage the musical aspirations of the next generation is a lovely final tribute.
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