Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 2/28/23;
Sony Pictures;
Drama;
Box Office $23.68 million;
$30.99 DVD, $38.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for strong drug content, some strong language, suggestive references and smoking.
Stars Naomi Ackie, Stanley Tucci, Ashton Sanders, Tamara Tunie, Nafessa Williams, Clarke Peters, Dave Heard.

The Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody does a decent job dramatizing the legendary vocalist’s complicated relationship with superstardom, but the backbone of the film is its soundtrack of her greatest hits.

The film tracks Houston’s rise in the 1980s from singing in a church choir to putting out one hit record after another, and how she turned to drugs in the 1990s to balance the stresses of fame and family, which ultimately led to her unexpected death in 2012 at age 48.

Naomi Ackie delivers a sparkling performance as Whitney, whose career is depicted as having two primary influences. Her mother, Cissy (Tamara Tunie), a famous gospel singer in her own right, feigns a sore throat when she spots a bigwig producer in the crowd at her nightclub gig, forcing Whitney to sing in her stead. That producer, Clive Davis (Stanley Tucci), ends up signing Whitney to a recording contract.

Her newfound fame causes friction in her personal life, as her father (Clarke Peters) is wary of her relationship with her girlfriend, Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams), and insists they be seen in public dating men. This sends Whitney into the arms of rapper Bobby Brown (Ashton Sander), kicking off their infamous marriage, much to the chagrin of Robyn.

Through it all, Whitney projects an image of America’s sweetheart, masking the descent into substance abuse began to destroy her talents.

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If something seems familiar about the proceedings, it may be because the screenwriter is biopic specialist Anthony McCarten, who is also responsible for the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. This film’s structure bears a striking resemblance to that one in the sense that they both make sure to depict the iconic moments everyone knows, and then fill in the gaps with behind-the-scenes tales, culminating in a faithful re-creation of a live performance considered by many as a career pinnacle.

In another odd bit of coincidence, the film’s director, Kasi Lemmons, is married to Vondie Curtis-Hall, who directed 2001’s Glitter, a widely panned A Star Is Born knockoff with some eerie parallels to Whitney Houston’s life, starring another “voice of a generation,” Mariah Carey.

For most movies about artists and musicians, the formula would include showing the elements of their lives that influenced their work, but since Whitney didn’t write her own songs, in I Wanna Dance we get numerous scenes of Davis playing song samples for her to decide which ones to make her own.

The songs played in the film are Whitney’s recordings, though Ackie does a nice job with the lip-synching. To further the emphasis on the music, the Blu-ray offers a “Whitney’s Jukebox” mode that just plays the scenes in which the songs are played. The Jukebox lets viewers jump to any song, shuffle them or play them in the order presented in the film, which equates to about 33 minutes of music.

The Blu-ray also includes six deleted scenes that run about eight minutes total.

Rounding out the home video extras are three making-of featurettes: The seven-and-a-half-minute “Becoming Whitney” focuses on Ackie’s performance; the eight-minute “Moments of an Icon” looks at the efforts taken to re-create some of Whitney’s most-famous performances; and the five-and-a-half-minute “The Personal Touch” looks at how Whitney’s friends and family were involved in the project.

‘Supernova’ to Arrive on Blu-ray Disc, DVD on May 18 From Wolfe Video

Independent distributor Wolfe Video has set a May 18 home release date for Supernova, a British drama written and directed by Harry Macqueen.

The film will be released on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, with a prebook date for retailers of April 6.

Supernova follows Sam (Colin Firth) and Tusker (Stanley Tucci), partners of 20 years, as they travel across England in their old camper van, visiting friends, family and places from their past. Tusker is diagnosed with early onset dementia, prompting the pair to spend as much time together as they can.

Supernova had its world premiere at the San Sebastián International Film in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain, in September 2020.

The film was released in the United States in January by Bleecker Street and in the United Kingdom in March by StudioCanal.

Netflix Acquires 9/11 Biopic ‘Worth’

Netflix has acquired the 9/11 biopic Worth for release in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and select other countries.

Higher Ground Productions, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will present the film alongside Netflix in September 2021, for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Directed by Sara Colangelo (The Kindergarten Teacher), the film stars Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton (The Trial of the Chicago 7, Spotlight, Birdman), Academy Award nominee Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada, The Hunger Games), Academy Award nominee Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Lost Girls), Tate Donovan, Talia Balsam and Laura Benanti.

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Based on Kenneth Feinberg’s memoir What Is Life Worth, the film follows Kenneth Feinberg (Keaton), an accomplished lawyer appointed Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, tasked by Congress to allocate financial compensation to the victims of the tragedy — to calculate incalculable loss in the face of cynicism, bureaucracy and the politics of division.

‘The Children Act’ With Emma Thompson Due on DVD Nov. 13 From Lionsgate

The Children Act, starring Emma Thompson, will come out on DVD Nov. 13 from Lionsgate.

Based on the novel by Ian McEwan (Atonement), the film follows a British High Court judge  (Thompson) asked to rule in the complicated case of a minor who refuses life-saving treatment. The film also stars Stanley Tucci and Fionn Whitehead.

The DVD ($19.98) Includes an audio commentary with director Richard Eyre, writer Ian McEwan and producer Duncan Kenworthy.

‘Final Portrait’ to Debut on DVD and Digital July 31 From Sony

Final Portrait, written and directed by Stanley Tucci and starring Geoffrey Rush and Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name), will debut on DVD and digital July 31 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Adapted from James Lord’s memoir A Giacometti Portrait, the film tells the story of famed artist Alberto Giacometti (Rush) who asks the American writer and art-lover James Lord (Hammer) to sit for a portrait, which takes much longer than either of them anticipate. The film also stars Tony Shalhoub (TVs “Monk,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Sylvie Testud (La Vie en Rose) and Clémence Poésy (In Bruges).

The DVD includes interview clips from the cast and filmmakers and behind-the-scenes footage from the set.