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PCR #496 (Vol. 10, No. 39). This edition is for the week of September 21--27, 2009.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Fame"  by Mike Smith
Series Retrospective: Our Gang  by ED Tucker
The Top 30 Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Actresses, #21-30  by Lisa Scherer Ciurro
Kansai Gangstas  by Jason Fetters
The Great Comic Book Swindle: Captain America Chapter .... .... .... .... .... .... ....  by Brandon Jones
Obama Tour - Acorn .... Auto Insurance? Excise Tax? .... Cosby Agrees With Carter, So What About Michael Steele .... You Bunch Of Teenagers .... 50 Ways... .... .... ....  by Brandon Jones
Minnesota .... Vote Early And Often .... Sorry To Hear .... Sorry Your Mom Was A Drunk (or Was She)? .... Bitter Bastard .... .... .... .... My Favorite Films, Part 2...  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Naturi Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer and Debbie Allen
Directed by: Kevin Tancharoen
Rated: PG
Running Time: 1 hour 50 mins

I’ve found in the years I’ve been reviewing films that the hardest part of the job is judging what are often called re-boots, re-imaginings or, plain and to the point, remakes. “Planet of the Apes.” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” “Halloween.” These were new versions of films I had enjoyed in the past and when I watched them I had to try my best to judge them on their own merits. I was two years out of high school when the original “Fame” was released and, to someone who lived for drama class and had harbored dreams of a career in the performing arts, it was a revelation. A school where the classes consisted of acting, singing and dancing? Where do I sign up? Nearly thirty years later, the answer is the same.

The New York City High School for the Performing Arts (referred to in the film as “P.A.”) has an alumni list that rivals Beverly Hills High School. Graduates include Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen, Jennifer Aniston, Adrien Brody, Al Pacino and Wesley Snipes. Not a bad half dozen, wouldn’t you agree. Each year 10,000 students apply. Only 200 are chosen. In this story, the new students are as diverse as they are talented. Denise (Naughton) is there to pursue her parents’ dream of being a concert pianist, but she harbors a secret desire to sing. Jenny (Kay Panabaker) is a shy girl trying to make it as an actress. Kevin (Paul McGill) has moved to the Big Apple from Iowa to pursue a career in the ballet. Marco (Asher Book) is a gifted singer. Victor (Walter Perez) is a skilled musician looking to become the next Jay-Z. And Malik (Collins Pennie) is an angry young man convinced that his penned up anger at life will make him a great actor. As each one’s story becomes known, the more the audience learns their dreams and fears.

What I enjoy best about this version of “Fame” are the actors cast to portray the schools’ teachers. Original film cast member Debbie Allen, who also starred in the “Fame” television series for six years, returns, now principal of the school. Grammer stars as one of the music teachers while Charles S. Dutton gives a fine performance as an acting instructor. Neuwirth (best known as Lilith from “Cheers”) and Megan Mullally (ditto as Karen from “Will and Grace”) are perfect representatives for this film and its message of following your dreams. I was very fortunate to see both of these fine actresses on stage long before they were household names: Neuwirth in a 1980 touring production of “A Chorus Line” and Mullally fourteen years later on Broadway in “Grease.” Both utilize their strengths as the ballet and singing teacher respectively. Of the students the stand out is Naughton, who recently portrayed Lil Kim in the Biggie Smalls biography “Notorious.” She has great presence on screen and an amazing voice. One of the film’s highlights occurs when she tackles “Out Here On My Own,” which was sung by Irene Cara in the original film. Director Tancharoen, who has worked in the past with everyone from Britney Spears to Michael Jackson, shows his talents by presenting each musical number as if it were a separate music video, allowing each song to tell it’s own story. The only down note here is that the songs aren’t as memorable as those in the original.

On a scale of zero to four I give the new “Fame”

This week's movie review of "Fame" is ©2009 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2009, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2009 by Nolan B. Canova.