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Sparkle (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 18, 2012 by  



“Sparkle” is a well-done remake of the original 1976 film that not only showcases the beautiful performances by Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks but also introduces us to a fine actress in Carmen Ejogo, who I hope to see more of in the near future.  Another wonderful film from Salim Akil and crew, “Sparkle” is recommended on Blu-ray!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Stage 6 Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Sparkle

THEATRICAL RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 116 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 Aspect Ratio), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, French and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Thai

COMPANY: Tri Star/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: PG-13 (For mature thematic content including domestic abuse and drug material.  And for some violence.)

Release Date: November 30, 2012

Directed by Salim Akil

Screenplay by Mara Brock Akil

Story by Joel Schumacher and Howard Rosenman

Produced by T.D. Jakes, Curtis Wallace

Co-Producer: Salim Akil, Mara Brock Akil

Executive Producer: Gaylyn Fraiche, Whitney Houston, Avram “Butch” Kaplan, Scott Putnam, Howard Rosenman

Music by Salaam Remi

Cinematography by Anastas M. Nichoas

Edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire

Casting by Twinkie Byrd

Production Design by Gary Frutkoff

Art Direction by Gary Myers

Set Decoration by Tina Tottis

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter

Starring:

Jordin Sparks as Sparkle

Whitney Houston as Emma

Derek Luke as Stix

Mike Epps as Satin

Carmen Ejogo as Sister

Tika Sumpter as Dolores

Omari Hardwick as Levi

CeeLo Green as Black

Curtis Armstrong as Larry

Terrence Jenkins as Red

Tamela J. Mann as Ms. Sara Waters

Michael Beach as Rev. Bryce

Sparkle is a timeless story of the bonds of family, the trials of success and the power of music. In her feature film debut, “American Idol” sensation Jordin Sparks stars as Sparkle, a young woman whose big dreams seem almost impossible. She’s been warned against the pitfalls of the music industry by her protective mother (Whitney Houston), yet encouraged by the handsome and ambitious Stix (Derek Luke), Sparkle forms a trio with her sisters (Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo). Together, they perform the soul-stirring songs that Sparkle pens. But as their fame grows, so does the risk of jealousy, self-doubt and insidious temptation. This sweeping drama is brought to life with a powerful cast including Mike Epps, Omari Hardwick and CeeLo Green.

From director Salim Akil (“Jumping the Broom”, “The Game”) comes a remake of the 1976 film “Sparkle” (originally written by Joel Schumacher (“Batman Forever”, “Phone Booth”, “The Phantom of the Opera”) and Howard Rosenman (“The Family Man”, “Father of the Bride”, “Breakfast with Scot”), with an updated screenplay by Mara Brock Akil (“The Game”, “Cougar Town”, “Girlfriends”).

Originally inspired by The Supremes, “Sparkle” would become the fifth and final feature film of singer Whitney Houston, who died three months after the filming ended.

“Sparkle” is set in Detroit, Michigan in 1968.  The film begins with a performance by Black (portrayed by Cee Lo Green) at a nightclub.  At the club, Stix (portrayed by Derek Luke), who is an aspiring record label executive watches as Tammy “Sister” Anderson (portrayed by Carmen Ejogo) performs on stage.

With her younger sister Sparkle Anderson (portrayed by Jordin Sparks) rooting her on, Sister wows the crowd with her sexy performance of “Yes I Do”, which was written by Sparkle.

But as Stix and others want to talk to the sisters, the sisters rush out of the club after the performance in order to get back home because of their strict, religious mother Emma (portrayed by Whitney Houston).    And fortunately, their sister Delores “Dee” is home to help them sneak back into the house.

The following morning, Stix and his older cousin Levi (portrayed by Omari Hardwick) see Sister, Dee and Sparkle sitting in the choir at church and Levi tells Stix of how the three sisters are musically talented.

We learn from Ms. Waters (portrayed by Tamela Mann), a friend of Emma, that the oldest daughter Sister is almost 30-years-old and because of problems in New York City, she was forced to come back to Detroit to live with Emma.

With a bible study hosted at the home of the Anderson’s, Stix and Levi join in the bible study and Stix immediately discovers Sparkle’s talent of singing and songwriting and decides to encourage her of pursuing a music career.  But Stix tells him that she’s just a backup to her older sister and that her mother was also a former singer, but nearly died by pursuing her dream.

But Stix manages to convince Sister and Dee, who try to get their younger sister involved as Dee sees the opportunity to pay for medical school and Sister, looks it as a way to leave home and use her talent.

Meanwhile, Levi pursues a relationship with Sister and wants her to consider with being him forever.  Giving her a small ring box with a picture of a ring but promising a real ring when he can afford it.  But watching from afar is comedian Satin Struthers (portrayed by Mike Epps) and insults Levi for not being able to afford a real ring for Sister.

After several performances, the sisters start to make money but immediately, Levi starts to see how Satin is trying to get close to Sister.  And when the sisters become a popular act, as Levi gives sister some flowers, Satin comes in with a ring and Sister accepts.  This leads to a near fight between Levi and Satin and Levi is upset that his cousin Stix didn’t have his back, but Stix tries to explain that there is only so much he can do because of business.  And Levi splits for good.

One day during dinner after church, Emma with Dee, Sparkle, Rev. Bryce, Ms. Waters and her daughter Bertha are having a good dinner until Satin and Sister come.  Immediately, Satin starts to make rude remarks about religion and starts arguing with the Rev. This leads to Emma showing her dislike towards him and then leading Sister to defend her new boyfriend and telling her off of how she had to raise her mom, who was drunk and sleeping in her own vomit while she was pursuing a music career.  Emma tells everyone that Sister is not telling the whole story and that if she leaves with this man, she is never to come back into the house.   Sister chooses Satin over her family and eventually leaves home and marries him.

As the sisters continue their music act, they see a difference with Sister.  Not only is she high on drugs during a rehearsal, when the girls are invited to open for Aretha Franklin, they see her with a black eye and bruises and know that she is being beaten by Satin.  And he is drugging her up with cocaine.

When Emma sees her daughters performing on television, she is shocked and angry that her other two daughters have gone against her rules of singing outside of the church.  And when Sparkle comes home, Emma gives her daughter an ultimatum that if she wants to continue living with her, she must abandon her music career.  But will she?

Meanwhile, the domestic and drug abuse of sister continues to worsen.   And with her beaten and all drugged up, it may ruin the chances of the Sister’s become a major music act and getting a contract with Columbia Records.

Can Sparkle and Dee help their sister?  Or will their music career be a bust?

VIDEO:

“Sparkle” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Picture quality is fantastic.  Skin tones are natural, outdoor scenes to the selections of bright color tones for the 1968 clothing are vibrant, black levels are nice and deep, overall feeling is warm and natural.   “Sparkle” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Sparkle” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English – Audio Description Track and in French and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital.  As one can expect from a film with a lot of music, the music sounds fantastic in lossless!  Great use of front channels and surround for the music.  Dialogue is crystal clear and while outside of the music, the film is primarily dialogue-driven, there are moments of crowd ambiance throughout the film.  But primarily, the film is music and dialogue-driven and the music sounds fantastic!

Subtitles are in English, English sDH, Chinese, French, Korean and Thai.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Sparkle” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Director/Producer Salim Akil
  • Extended performance of “Hooked On Your Love” – (5:03) The full extended performance of “Hooked on Your Love”.
  • A Tribute to Whitney Houston – (19:50) Featuring an interview with the director, producers and cast of their memories of working with Whitney Houston.  And how the film came at the right time for Whitney Houston.
  • A Dream Come True – (17:29) Producer Debra Martin Chase talks about how she and Whitney Houston wanted to develop a remake of “Sparkle”.  Interviews with Chase, Houston, director Salim Akil and the cast on the making of “Sparkle”.  And also making the 2012 film different from the 1976 film.
  • Sparkle & Shine – (15:58) A featurette about the cast performances in “Sparkle”.
  • A Sparkling Performance – (15:35) Director Salim Akil talks about the choreography of the film with interviews with the dance choreographer and cast.
  • “Celebrate” Music Video By Whitney Houston & Jordin Sparks – (3:45) Music video featuring Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks.

EXTRAS:

“Sparkle” comes with an UltraViolet code which allows to the film to be downloaded to a computer and on select Apple and Android devices and stream to computers, tablets or smartphones.  “Sparkle” also comes with a cardboard cover case.

Last year, I was entertained by Salim Akil’s “Jump the Broom” and after seeing the remake of “Sparkle”, I can easily say that I was entertained once again.

Sure, the film received a lot of attention as Whitney Houston’s final film as an actress and it’s understandable to see why.  Houston shows us a happier side of the singer/actress/producer but there are other pluses of this remake of why “Sparkle” is a film worth watching.

First, the film is a remake of the 1976 film of the same name.  While circumstances are similar in terms of three daughters trying to make it in the music industry and one hindered by drugs and domestic abuse, the original film was almost a rags-to-riches story of a trio born from late ’50s Harlem and the film deals with the seedy underground of local gangsters and mafia involvement.  That’s where the 2012 film differs from the original.

The setting of this film is in 1968 and the young ladies are not from the ghetto.  They live in a beautiful home, they have jobs, one is trying to be a doctor, they are heavily involved with their church’s choir.  There is an emphasis by the writers to not show the banality of African American films and making these characters live in a better situation.  Also, where the original film features their mother who is hardworking as a maid in order to support her three children, Whitney Houston’s character of Emma is not struggling.  She has a job, she had troubles in her life but now has become religious and a mother caring for her children, despite wanting to protect them from the life she endured while pursuing a career in the music industry.

The three sisters which consists of Sister, Dee and Sparkle were fascinating to watch.  Many people are familiar with the amazing musical talent of Jordin Sparks, but I have not heard of Carmen Ejogo prior to this film and felt that she absolutely shined in this film more than anyone in the cast.  Not only was she expected to play the sexy, rebellious daughter who can sing but also to take on the role of the daughter who later gets high on drugs and is beaten continuously by her husband.  In fact, while the film is named Sparkle, most of the film earlier on, tends to focus on Carmen Ejogo’s character of Sister.

She is the oldest daughter/sister, she is the primary vocalist, she is the one dating the comedian Satin and the musical careers of the sisters falls on her shoulders.  While the character Dee is not a major highlight in the film (until the end), unlike Dwan Smith’s Dolores in the 1976 film, Dee is portrayed as a young woman who cares about her sisters but also one pursuing higher education.

Where Sparkle comes in, is the youngest sister and daughter who doesn’t know where her place is in the world.  Her boyfriend Stix is the manager and promoter but as a respectable sister, she is fine in being the background singer, the person that is not the center of the group.  Also, where middle-sister Dee is the primary thinker of the three sisters, Sparkle wants to see how far the careers of the Sister & the Sisters group will go and if they get the recording contact they were offered.

It’s only when the character of Sister is taken out of the film due to an unfortunate incident, the spotlight then begins to shine on Sparkle.  She must make a choice, follow her mother’s wishes to abandon her musical career or pursue her dream?

And while the original film was probably more of product of its time especially with the inclusion of the gangsters and mafia, writer Mara Brok Akil did a good job in trying to keep this 2012 film much different than its predecessor by making the ladies much more respectable and less focus about the seedy crime life but to focus on the troubles of the ladies trying to have a musical career and one being subjected to domestic abuse and drugs.

“Sparkle” is a film that showcases beautiful music that makes you want to groove and its lossless soundtrack on Blu-ray definitely makes this film sound much more incredible and lively.  Picture quality is also wonderful and for special features, several making of featurettes but also a tribute to Whitney Houston who passed away three months after the making of the film.

Overall, “Sparkle” is a well-done remake of the original 1976 film that not only showcases the beautiful performances by Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks but also introduces us to a fine actress in Carmen Ejogo, who I hope to see more of in the near future.  Another wonderful film from Salim Akil and crew, “Sparkle” is recommended on Blu-ray!






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