Sunday, January 5, 2014

My 2013 in film

Now that we're a good five days into 2014, I thought I'd share with you some thoughts on some of the films I saw, specifically the ones in theaters. Keep in mind, I don't get out to the movies much to be honest and what I do go see…well you'll see what I'm really into as we go along. So let's get started.

Iron Man 3:



First of all, I must say, shame on the marketing people…and that's something I'm going to say more than once on this list. When I saw the trailers for Iron Man 3, I thought we were in store for Marvel's version of The Dark Knight. And that was not the case at all. That does not mean this made it a bad movie. Far from it, it's in fact quite consistent with the rest of the Marvel franchise. It's action-packed, funny and, above all else, fun and entertaining. The performances are of course excellent, especially from Ben Kingsley. True,  I was a little disappointed by the twist ending at first but the film still managed to entertain. It actually surprises me how many people give this movie crap for its twist even going as far to say that Iron Man 2 was a better movie. Um….no. Just…no. Overall, an entertaining flick.

Man of Steel:



Oh dear. First of all, let me say, if you liked this movie, that's totally fine. Heck, I have good friends who enjoyed it. That being said….I didn't enjoy it. I feel that the website, "Honest Trailers", put it best when they said, "God forbid a Superman movie be any fun for anyone." And that's the problem with this movie, it wasn't fun. The tone is almost consistently grim throughout. I don't claim to be an expert on superheroes as the most I know from them is the movies but the last time I checked, Superman is supposed to be uplifting, yes? The movie is also not helped by the excessive use of shaky cam. I don't mind the consistent use of handheld cameras if it's done well. One of my favorite miniseries, Bleak House from 2005, uses handheld cameras throughout. But there is a scene at the beginning of the movie's prologue on Krypton (which, to be fair, is a pretty cool sequence albeit one so long it felt like the end of another much better movie) where Russell Crowe as Jor-El, the father of Superman, is in front of the council. We start with a wide shot and the camera is shaking. And that was the moment in the theater, where I realized that was how the rest of the movie was going to be shot.

It's also a very derivative movie in that it hits a lot of the plot points from the first two Christopher Reeve movies. It's still an origin story, there's still Krypton, a similar fate befalls a character who appears in Superman and Man of Steel. And just for good measure, our main villain is Zod! To be fair, Michael Shannon is good as Zod. Hell, all the actors do well in their respective roles. But the script gives them so little to work with and it is such a downer of a movie to sit through. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to the Batman vs. Superman movie. I love me a good superhero movie….trouble is, this wasn't a good superhero movie.

Despicable Me 2:



Ah, now this was the pick-me-up I needed after Man of Steel. I'm quite a fan of the first Despicable Me but was honestly skeptical when I heard there would be a second one. Would they overdo the Minions, would the script be a rehash of the first one, in short, would it fall victim to sequelitis? And surprisingly, it did not. The movie doesn't try to one-up itself by being this big bloated epic. Far from it, it actually manages to take a storyline that we as audience members have seen before but still manage to be really funny and heartwarming. The Minions are still as funny as ever, Gru and the girls are a lot of fun. Surprisingly, I wasn't crazy about Kristen Wiig's character. But all in all, it set out to entertain and that's exactly what happened.

The World's End



Ah, finally, a movie that wasn't a sequel or a reboot. For those who don't know, Hot Fuzz is one of my absolute favorite comedies of all time. And yes, I have finally seen Shaun of the Dead. So I was quite looking forward to this movie when it came out. And it did not disappoint. This is the final film in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy. And seeing this film, I understand why it's considered a trilogy in terms of filmmaking as opposed to story structure. All three films have the same story structure, variations on jokes and even share the very clever styles of editing. And to top it all off, all three films are funny as all hell. The performances are of course great, particularly from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and special mention must be made of Martin Freeman and Paddy Considine. My one complaint is that the movie ends on a bit of a downer, but not nearly as bad as Man of Steel. Either way, it's a very funny film that deserves repeat viewings along with its two predecessors. It also deserves being on my DVD shelf….so why the hell do I only have Hot Fuzz? Christ, what's wrong with me?


Next movie.

Planes



I actually thought this movie was a lot of fun, I don't know why it got so many….GOTCHA!!!!! I didn't even see this movie!

Moving on.

Thor: The Dark World



Now I know there are people out there who don't like certain movies from the Marvelverse for various reasons but honestly, I think that outside of Iron Man 2, this particular franchise has been nothing if not consistent in providing its audience with a fun two hours at the theater. And just like Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World was no exception. I really enjoyed the first Thor movie and was looking forward to this movie. Was it the greatest movie ever? No. But it was an entertaining watch. And, yes, Tom Hiddleston is amazing as Loki. And that's really all I have to say about this one. Well, there is one more thing….this sequel, I like it. ANOTHER!!!!!

Frozen



When I heard that Robert Lopez was going to write the music and that Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff and Santino Fontana would be involved with this movie, I got excited.

And then came this teaser.



And that was when a lot of us went "Uh oh" in our heads for fear that this movie might be…well….bad.

Up until the above trailer I posted was released, it seemed like the advertisers were set on promoting the humor of Frozen. And while Frozen is a very funny film, it's also a very heartfelt one. So again, shame on you, marketing! In many ways, Frozen a departure from the typical Disney mold. Romance isn't a huge factor, defeating a dastardly villain isn't the main focus. It's a movie about family more than anything else. And the songs! Oh! My! Goodness! I enjoyed the songs in Tangled and thought The Princess and The Frog had one of the best villain songs to come out of a Disney movie while still having an enjoyable song score by Randy Newman (yes, I know all the jokes that were made about him but dammit, I liked these songs). Frozen has the best songs to come out of a Disney film, period. And the way the film is edited and shot during these numbers, all I could think was, "These are the kinds of shots and editing I wanted out of Les Miserables last year."  The animation is gorgeous, the voice actors are all great, it's just a really fantastic movie that managed to prove a lot of people, including myself, wrong.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug



No question about it, this was the movie of 2013 I was the most hyped for pretty much from the moment that the An Unexpected Journey ended. But before I go into the movie itself, I have to share a bit about what happened when I went to see it.

Because there was a misunderstanding and Moviefone's iPhone app doesn't specify the format that these movies are being shown in, I found myself arriving for not just a 3-D showing….but the 48 fps format as well. And boy, was it distracting. I'm sorry but 48 fps is a terrible way to view movies! It looks like it was shot in some kind of high frequency videotape as opposed to film, digital or no. I could not get into the movie to save my life. Around the halfway point, I'd pretty much made a resolve to go back and see the movie again in the regular format just to see if it would make a difference.

And boy did it!

I enjoyed An Unexpected Journey immensely while still understanding people's hang ups about it. That being said, The Desolation of Smaug is easily a major improvement over the film. For a start, stuff actually happens. True, we got to see a lot of the mini-adventures in the first movie but this one hits the ground running and we finally arrive at the point of the story we've been waiting for, that point being Smaug himself. And….he's fantastic. The effects on this giant behemoth of a lizard are a sight to behold, Benedict Cumberbatch's performance is nothing short of terrifying….and then the movie decides to give its audience blue balls. I won't say where if you haven't seen it already but the film ends with one of the most frustrating cliffhangers ever! And that was the moment that confirmed in my head the biggest reservation I've had about The Hobbit.

IT DIDN'T NEED TO BE THREE EFFING MOVIES!!!!!!!

That being said, I still look forward to the last movie…or as I'm gonna start calling it, "the rest of this damn movie". These last two movies have been a fun if somewhat frustrating ride and any return visit to Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth is always welcome!

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Shortest story in the world, it's Ron Burgundy, it's still funny. Has the barest semblance of a plot and it doesn't matter in the slightest. Moving on.

American Hustle



After all the blockbusters and animated films and whatnot, I thought I'd broaden my horizons a bit with two movies that I would normally wait and see until they were OnDemand.

I don't quite know what it was that drew me to American Hustle. All I knew was that it was getting good buzz and that I like Christian Bale. The good news is, the movie is pretty damn good. It manages to be both funny and the tiniest bit heartbreaking as well. But what I really can't praise enough in this movie are the performances, particularly Christian Bale who disappears into this role and Jennifer Lawrence who I've never seen in anything up until now. I was a little distracted by some other things going on in my head when I saw this movie so I look forward to a repeat viewing especially of those two actors in particular.

and now we come to the final movie of 2013 I saw in theaters but first a shout out to Digital Theatre's screening of the 2013 revival of Merrily We Roll Along. I love that there are people out there trying to bring theater to the masses whether it's Digital Theatre or National Theatre Live (now if only they could do a few more screenings in Randolph). The production was beautiful and the performances were amazing, But now let's talk about…

The Wolf of Wall Street



This was 3 straight hours of basically every conceivable form of social, moral and physical depravity that you can show onscreen….and I enjoyed the everliving crap out of it! That said, it was also the most embarrassing moviegoing experience because….I took my mother to this movie! And she did not enjoy watching every conceivable form of social, moral and physical depravity that you can show onscreen for 3 straight hours. But thankfully, the movie is a damn good one. I don't know how much of this story is true and wouldn't at all be surprised if the real Jordan Belfort has…um….a tendency to exaggerate but if it did turn out to be true, I wouldn't doubt it for a second. This movie is a lot of things. It is funny. It is heartbreaking. It is brutal. It is excessive. It is horrifying. It is uncomfortable. It is sensationalistic. It is also a good half hour too long. I swear this movie had more fakeout endings than The Return of the King. Just when I thought the movie would be wrapping up, it kept going. But nevertheless, it is a great movie. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill especially are fantastic. And I tell ya what, I'm never going to Benihana again. I don't care whose birthday it is.

And those were my moviegoing experiences of 2013. Hope you enjoyed reading and hopefully I'll be back with something sooner rather than later.

Peace.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Favorite scores of the 1980s

  • Big River
  • Blood Brothers
  • Chess
  • Dreamgirls
  • Into The Woods
  • Les Miserables
  • Little Shop of Horrors
  • Merrily We Roll Along
  • Miss Saigon
  • Nine
  • Sunday In The Park With George
  • The Phantom of the Opera

Favorite scores of the 1990s


  • A New Brain
  • Assassins
  • Children of Eden
  • Floyd Collins
  • King David
  • Kiss of the Spider Woman
  • Kristina Fran Duvemala
  • Marie Christine
  • Parade
  • Passion
  • Ragtime
  • Rent
  • Side Show
  • Steel Pier
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The Capeman
  • The Fix
  • The Life
  • The Secret Garden
  • Titanic

Favorite scores of the 2000s

Still goin'.


  • A Catered Affair
  • Amour
  • Avenue Q
  • Bare
  • Bat Boy
  • Bernarda Alba
  • Bright Lights, Big City
  • Caroline or Change
  • Dessa Rose
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Grey Gardens
  • Hairspray
  • In The Heights
  • Jerry Springer - The Opera
  • Memphis
  • Next to Normal
  • Passing Strange
  • Spring Awakening
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Taboo
  • The Drowsy Chaperone
  • The Full Monty
  • The Light in the Piazza
  • The Producers
  • The Wild Party (LaChiusa)
  • The Witches of Eastwick
  • Thou Shalt Not
  • Urinetown
  • Wicked

Favorite scores of the 2010s….so far

Well after that rant, I thought I would share my personal favorite scores. And just to make it easier on your eyes, I'm doing it by decade. So here we go.


  • Betty Blue Eyes
  • Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • Dogfight
  • Far From Heaven
  • Giant
  • Kinky Boots
  • Leap of Faith
  • Matilda
  • Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812
  • Queen of the Mist
  • The Book of Mormon
  • Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Random rant - WTF Andrew Lloyd Webber

*sigh* Well, it is nice to be back.

Now let's get to the rant, shall we.

For those who came in late, let's get a couple of things out of the way:
Yes, I still enjoy *most* of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music.
Yes, I enjoy Wicked.
In general, I do enjoy a nice full-throated power ballad every now and again.
That being said, Andrew Lloyd Webber needs to shut his dumb ass up!!!!!
For those who don't know, when it comes to the press, Andrew Lloyd Webber is *desperately* in need of a filter. Basically, he'll let any old thing just roll right the frick on out of his damn mouth. Whether it was the piss-poor damage control he did when he gave Patti LuPone the boot from Sunset Boulevard or putting down Phantom while promoting Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber is clearly one who is bad with words. Ironic since he's not his own lyricist.
But today, I saw this:
http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Andrew-Lloyd-Webber-WICKED-Was-Last-Musical-to-Have-Really-Good-Songs-20131129
Lloyd Webber said and I quote:
"The thing I've noticed is that music has not been a part of the most successful musicals of the last few years...The last musical that had really good songs in it was Wicked. You don't go and see the big hit musicals right now for the songs and it would be nice get back to that." 
Oh dude….you have no idea how many composers you've just pissed off. Particularly one in particular. His name is Tim Minchin. 
For those who've (last time I say that, I promise) been living under a rock, Tim Minchin is enjoying a well-earned success with his musical, Matilda. He also was cast in the role of Judas for ALW's arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Recently, he expressed outrage that his performance was in fact auto-tuned. Well, now I daresay that his Lordship has given Minchin something else to be pissed off about.
Basically, what Mr. Lloyd Webber has done is put down ten years' worth of musical theater writing, ten years of scores that even I admire more than Wicked. And if I was a composer writing for musical theater who wasn't Stephen Schwartz, I'd be pissed off.
(PS: You really wanna hear the best Stephen Schwartz score, get thee to iTunes and download the cast album of Children of Eden).
So in summation, as you can probably guess, I think this is complete bullshit and I'll bet you dollars to donuts we hear something from Tim Minchin in particular in the next few days. In the meantime, I'm gonna follow this up with a list of my personal favorite post-Wicked scores, guilty pleasures 'n all.
Peace!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thoughts on The Tony Awards

Hello, mah children! You may have heard that a small obscure little affair known as the Antoinette Perrys took place on Sunday night. As with many of these previous award shows, it drew divisive reactions. I was initially going to make a YouTube video but instead of subjecting you to long pauses (and trust me, there would've been a LOT), I thought I'd write a review. So here goes.

Before I start, I want to say that I really love the Beacon Theater as a venue for the Tonys. It's much more intimate than Radio City Music Hall which, let's face it, people, is way too friggin' huge! Remember when Tonya Pinkins did the number from Caroline or Change? It looked like she was performing in a cavern!
First, let's talk about the performances. Little bit of trivia, the idea of the Mormons knocking on the doors of stars was an idea from last year. Unfortunately, the idea was nixed. But not for long! Best part? James Earl Jones and the Darth Vader headshot. We then moved on to the "What If Life Were More Like Theater" number led by host Neil Patrick Harris with awesome cameos from Patti LuPone, Amanda Seyfried (who I've got the hots for, big time -- yeah, I said it)Jesse Tyler Ferguson and upcoming Annie star Lilla Crawford. The number was a lot of fun and, of course, made the very good point that "If life were more like theater, life wouldn't suck so much!"

And as I'm too lazy to find out what order the performances were actually in, we shall simply go in alphabetical order starting with Evita and their performance of "And The Money Kept Rolling In (and Out), which I have to admit I did enjoy. True, Elena Roger is vocally not my ideal Eva Peron, as seems to be the case with many people but gosh darn it, Ricky Martin's Che was awesome and Rob Ashford's choreography keeps things "rolling rolling rolling/Rolling rolling rolling/Rolling rolling rolling/Rolling rolling rolling"! I can't wait for the cast album!

Now we examine the performance of "Buddy's Blues" from the long-shuttered revival of Follies. For those who don't already know, I made a treacherous trek out to New York during the freak October snowstorm just to see this beautiful revival and it did not disappoint...too much (I'm lookin' at you, Bernie). I was honestly a little surprised to hear that they were doing "Buddy's Blues". While I think every song in the show is an absolute gem, it surprised me how underwhelming I actually found the song choice. I guess I think some of those gems are brighter than the others, go fig. Fortunately, Danny Burstein's performance itself more than reminded me why I loved this production so much.

Let us now move on to the performance of Ghost. I'm not gonna lie, I'm not in a hurry to see this show and this number, which is a mixture of "Unchained Melody" and "I Had A Life" didn't help much. Oh well, different strokes.

I would love to talk about the performance of Godspell but I have bad news....I wasn't paying attention. I think I was busy tweeting something during the performance. Corbin forgive me!!!!

Meanwhile, somewhere in the ocean, Royal Cruise Line's production of Hairspray performed....what is there to say about it that hasn't already been said? Harvey Fierstein's intro was funny though.

The one performance people seemed to pile on more than Hairspray was the title song from Jesus Christ Superstar. But to be honest, I actually really liked this performance. Ok, yeah, the choreography for this production in general isn't very good but everything else...me likey! First of all, Josh Young has officially become one of my favorite Judases next to Carl Anderson. Second of all, I thought the image of Jesus on the video screen was actually pretty haunting. And seeing the screen lift up to reveal the entire company...epic! Overall, choreography aside, I really like this revival in general. And if you read my review of the 2000 revival, you know that it could've been a helluva lot worse!

Next up on our list of lazy reviewing is "Rise Up" from the now-shuttered Leap of Faith. Looking at this performance, I believe the word, "Clusterfuck" comes to mind. Yeah, I know I said I'd never say "Fuck" again but it did feel somewhat appropriate. Now let's get one thing straight, even though I felt like this show wasn't perfect in either incarnation, I still honestly really like it and look forward to the cast album. However, I do feel that this performance tried to throw way too much at the audience at once. But I do admire the cast for their energy and secretly loved that little bit with Eliseo Roman rockin' out on the tambourine.

And now we come to a performance by one of the big hits of the seasons, "Seize The Day" from  Newsies. Let's get this out of the way, yes, I think the stage musical is better than the movie. Now, let's talk about the performance. All I can say is, if you saw it, it should come as no surprise to you that Christopher Gatelli won the Tony for Best Choreography shortly before this performance. And that's all I'm gonna say.

From Newsies, I move on to the number a show that has kind of stayed off my radar, Nice Work If You Can Get It. Unlike Ghost, this show actually interests me quite a bit. Going off of this number, the show looks like a lot of fun. It also helps that two of the actors, Michael McGrath and Judy Kaye, took home Tonys that night. True, a lot of people give Matthew Broderick shit these days but c'mon, that's Simba, man (or Ferris, depending on which movie you saw first)! And listening to Kelli O'Hara sing while holding a shotgun...priceless!

And now we have reached the number from the show that took home the Tony for Best Musical, "Gold" from Once. I'm not as familiar with Once as I am with Newsies but I really loved this performance, especially watching Cristin Millioti's performance. She didn't say anything at all but she just captivated you. I just wish I knew the context of the scene. And do I have to say that the song sounded gorgeous?

And finally, we come to the final performance from a musical of the evening, a medley from Porgy & Bess. This was probably my least favorite performance from a nominated musical just because it felt so rushed in that it felt like it ended as soon as it started. And yet I have to say that the CG animated projections looked way nicer than the set they're actually using in the production. And of course, with the exception of a few rough notes hit by Norm Lewis, the cast still sounds as phenomenal as they did when I saw it in Cambridge.

And of course, I liked the section that featured performances from Peter and the Starcatcher, End of the Rainbow, and One Man, Two Guv'nors. See that, Tony producers, you let some plays actually perform and the world didn't explode. Remember that when you're putting the show together next year.

So with the recaps of the performances out of the way, I'll give my honest opinions about the winners and I'll start with the one I'm actually not happy with and that was Porgy & Bess winning Best Revival. Now before anyone who liked this production goes nuts, let me make one thing perfectly clear, I love the original opera, I do like Suzan Lori-Parks's adaptation of the material and I think the production has a phenomenal cast. The only thing I still don't like about the production is the set design but that's it. So why am I not happy it won Best Revival? Well, it sounds kind of cliched to say it at this point but I really loved the hell out of Follies. But I guess the fact that it's been closed since January and the only way to see it again would've been to schlep out to LA must've been a big deciding factor. But, as simplistic as it sounds, in my opinion, Porgy & Bess is a good revival but Follies was a GREAT revival. That said, I'm extremely happy Audra McDonald finally has that damn Best Leading Actress in a Musical Tony!!!! Another winner I was extremely happy for was Alan Menken for Newsies! Yeah, I know most of those songs were written for the movie but, hell, even though I'm not a mega-fan of the movie, these are good songs, dammit! I will admit I was surprised that Once took home the Tony simply because I assumed Newsies would take it but when they kept winning award after award, I figured that Newsies didn't stand too much of a chance. Hell, Once even beat out Spider-Man for Best Scenery. I also want to point out a trend I noticed in some of the winners. Three of the actors who took home Tonys are former members of the company of Spamalot (Steve Kazee, Christian Borle and Michael McGrath). Just sayin'.

And those are more or less my thoughts on the Tony Awards. Overall, I enjoyed the awards, not as much as last year but still a fun night overall. And I certainly hope they stick with the Beacon in the future...or at least keep trying to host the show in an actual theater. What else is there to say except here's to the coming season! May it be as unique and varied as this one!

Peace!