DVD REVIEWS: ‘Wilson Phillips: Live from Infinity Hall’ and ‘A MusiCares Tribute to Barbra Streisand’

Take cover

Like just about everyone in the early ’90s, I had the CD Wilson Phillips, the all-girl trio made up of the daughters of founders of the Mamas and the Papas and the Beach Boys. And like just about everyone else, I forgot about them until Bridesmaids. OK, not forgot — but like Hootie and the Blowfish, they were one of those groups that had a great first album, an unforgettable single (“Hold On,” which I still have to listen to in its entirety when it plays on the radio) and then their moment was gone.

In some ways, it was a surprise, because their close harmonies showed skill (though the band broke up in 1993 anyway). But not it seems less of a surprise, as Live from Infinity Hall (Masterworks) — the DVD of their new album, Dedicated, a tribute of covers originally recorded by their famous parents — reveals a depressing limitation of talent. When Wendy and Carnie Wilson and Chynna Phillips sing in unison, the support of each provides context, if not power; when they go into solos, as they do on the Pet Sounds classic “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” I had to stop the DVD for fear of being driven to madness.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Glee Project’ season 2

The whole idea of The Glee Project is just so… so… meta. That’s not surprising — Glee is itself as much a mash-up of culture as the songs it performs. On the Project, average kids (Gleeks all) compete a la American Idol for the reward: A guest arc on next season.

Part of the appeal of Glee has always been its empowering sensibility: The characters all look like actual high schoolers, from the cheerleading beauty queen to the kid in a wheelchair to the flamboyant gay kid to the jock to the chunky, sassy black girl. It’s no surprise, then, that the Project has a similarly quirky cast: Mario, who’s blind; Ali, who is a paraplegic; Maxfield, a country boy who just started singing; and Tyler, a female-to-male transgender, pictured. And like Glee, it’s shamelessly manipulative. Watching these kids who desperately want to perform, who idolize the cast members of Glee (who are mentors; the first one is Lea Michele) is charming.

Of course, there is a sameness to a lot of it; half the kids (including a girl) look like Justin Beiber, and they flirt with the camera like pros and you kinda want everyone to win. This ain’t no Real Housekids — it’s happy reality.

Debuts tonight on Oxygen.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Movie Monday: “New Year’s Eve” in wide release

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day.

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

For the entire review, click here.

DEETS: Rated PG-13. In wide release.

—  Rich Lopez

Auld lang sigh

A very sappy New Year’s Eve… but still fun

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There’s a long history of uniting big stars in a jam-packed ensemble cast. Sure, typically C-list celebrities met their fates in capsized ships and burning buildings, but there’s something about the combined star power of multiple marquee names that are irresistible draws.

In New Year’s Eve, the wattage is high: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron (pictured), Halle Berry, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer join more than a dozen of their Hollywood colleagues in this quasi-sequel to director Garry Marshall’s previous celebfest, Valentine’s Day. (By the time he gets to Cinco de Mayo, there’s gonna be nobody left but Charo, Justin Bieber and Cheech Marin.)

Like VD, NYE involves multiple story lines that converge in some way or another by the end of the movie — in this case, culminating around the stroke of midnight. Predictable themes of fresh starts and the letdown of holidays populate the various love stories and there are moments of genuine emotion and heartfelt humor.

There’s nothing blatantly gay about the film, but plenty of gay-by-association appeal thanks to LGBT faves Swank, Parker, Michele, Efron and too-hot-for-TV Josh Duhamel. Sofia Vergara, the buxom star of Modern Family, is a great foil to the increasingly unlikable Katherine Heigl, whose character never really clicks with the audience.

What’s great about New Year’s Eve is Marshall’s way of leveling the playing field among his regular stars and mega-stars. Everybody gets equal billing, equal screen time, and for the most part, equally fun roles. That any holiday film delivers cloyingly sweet dramedy should be anticipated from the moment you plop a twenty down at the ticket window, but it sure would be nice to be caught off-guard with just a single moment that is completely organic and unexpected.

Alas, most of the stories’ conclusions could be predicted by a 10-year-old, but there’s such an earnestness and joy in the actors’ performances paired with their gosh-darn eye twinkles and larger-than-life charisma that make this movie worth at least a Prosecco toast, if not a half-glass of real champagne.

— Steven Lindsey

Three and a half stars.
Now playing in wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas