The Hot Sheet
Burlesque — In her starring debut Christina Aguilera sings and dances up a storm, which is about all that’s required of her as Ali, a small-town girl whose big voice makes her the toast of L.A. Stanley Tucci, resurrecting his sassy gay sidekick from The Devil Wears Prada, and Cam Gigandet, clad in guyliner and little else, are appealing, but let’s face it, Cher’s long-awaited return to the big screen as Tess, the no-nonsense club owner-headliner is the major draw. Her defiant power ballad “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” is a showstopper and should be a drag queen staple by the weekend. While camp lovers are certain to be disappointed — writer-director Steven Antin hasn't delivered the second coming of Showgirls they’ve been salivating for — bona fide musical aficionados might be as well. Despite the racy nightclub setting, the flashy Fosse-esque choreography, and its myriad charms, Burlesque doesn't reach the dizzying heights of Cabaret or Chicago either.
The King’s Speech — A Single Man’s Colin Firth gives another mesmerizing performance as stammering King George VI, who enlists a speech therapist (vividly played by Geoffrey Rush) to prepare him for public speaking. Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mum, Priscilla Queen of the Desert’s Guy Pearce as the abdicating Duke of Windsor, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him turn by Brideshead Revisited’s Anthony Andrews help make this not only an incredibly accessible historical drama but a genuine crowd-pleaser and probable awards contender.
Undertow — A religious Peruvian fisherman (Cristian Mercado, riveting) tries to have it all — he's devoted to his pregnant wife but maintains a discreet relationship with a male lover until a tragedy rocks his bittersweet romantic triangle. Javier Fuentes-León's assured and quietly devastating directorial debut has already won numerous awards on the festival circuit and is Peru's official entry for the Academy Award for foreign language film.
Love and Other Drugs — Brokeback Mountain’s Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway reteam in this frisky comedy-drama about a charismatic Viagra salesman with commitment issues who meets his match in an irresistible woman with health problems. The two talented actors demonstrate a refreshing lack of inhibition as well as a natural chemistry that helps elevate the sometimes formulaic (think Jerry Maguire meets Love Story) plot.
Let Freedom Reign by Chrisette Michele — From the Keyshia Cole/Mary J. Blige school of R&B, Chrisette Michele combines a knack for churning out catchy tunes with an expressive voice that can tackle dance tracks, slow jams, and power ballads. While Blige can be a bit heavy-handed with the vocal theatrics and Cole, while talented, seems to keep cranking out the same schmaltzy ballad over and over, Michele has range, and the collection of tunes on her third album makes for a highly enjoyable set. First single “I’m a Star” is uplifting without seeming preachy while “I Don’t Know Why, But I Do” is the kind of blues-infused piano track you wish Whitney Houston had tackled for her comeback. She didn’t, allowing Michele’s star to fly higher. A must-listen.
Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj — The hip-hop world has been talking about Nicki Minaj for months, but her debut disc, Pink Friday, is just dropping this week. Minaj’s talent for rap is evident — pop-influenced tracks “Fly,” featuring Rihanna, and “Right Thru Me” are the strongest — and she’s certainly made more than a few gay fans with her rumored bisexuality (she’s denied this but claims she doesn’t date men or women) and support for an increased gay presence in hip-hop. But the use of the f bomb and the played-out “No Homo” by collaborator Eminem on the album’s second track make this a questionable swallow. Minaj has the talent, but will gay fans feel alienated by her duet partner?
Watch the promo for Pink Friday below.
Sherlock — The BBC’s modern take on Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes doesn’t pack quite the same homoerotic tension as Guy Ritchie’s reimagining, but Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) have an Odd Couple-like rapport that makes for an enjoyable TV experience. Director Paul McGuigan (Push) crafts a fast-paced, highly stylish pilot, and though seeing Holmes amid a sea of cell phones is a bit jarring at first, it’s quality BBC TV at its best.