Tag Archives: Musical

Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

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Rating: A-/ Fifteen-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is in a bit of a bind. His squabbling parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are officially broke and have decided to transfer him from his posh private school to a tough inner city Dublin school, which it soon becomes clear is a complete hellhole where the students go totally fucking Lord of the Flies and the teachers sit back and  do nothing. Bullied on his first day by the virulent Barry (Ian Kenny,) Conor finds a release by starting a band with some classmates to impress an aspiring model (Lucy Boynton) one year his senior, despite not knowing the first thing about music. Continue reading Movie Review: Sing Street (2016)

Movie Review: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

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Rating: A/ I haven’t read a Roald Dahl book in ages, but I remember them being among my favorites when I was a small child. I liked The Twits so much, in fact, that I read it twice- once to myself, once to my brother. Dahl is a bit of an enigma; he’s a brilliant storyteller but at the same time it’s hard to picture his children’s books being published in this politically correct day and age. He spins tales that are dark, often frightening, and sometimes venomously mean; fables to curl the toes of sensitive children. Continue reading Movie Review: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Into the Woods (2014)

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From the opening scene (and song,) I had a sneaking feeling that “Into the Woods” wasn’t going to work for me. The musical sequences in this film are ponderous and transitionally awkward, while the plot lacks cohesion. And while I appreciated the fact that dark elements from the original fairy tales that “Into the Woods” portrays are upheld in this reimagining, I’m still not sold on a extremely pedo Johnny Depp ambling around as the ‘big bad wolf’ stalking a prepubescent Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) singing about deliciously plump little girl flesh. I know the original tale has some predatory and not exactly savory implications, but puh-leeze! Did Johnny Depp think this role of all things would give his flaccid career a jumpstart?

In this unevenly written attempt to mesh multiple classic fairy tales, ‘Baker’ (James Corden) and ‘Baker’s Wife’ (Emily Blunt) (Nice to know they put so much thought into the lead protagonists” names eh? 😛 ) want to conceive a child desperately, and a witch (played by Meryl Streep) materializes in their bakery one day to say that the reason that Baker is shooting blanks is because of a curse that befell Corden’s father (Simon Russell Beale) before him. The witch proceeds to info them that they need to obtain four magic artifacts in order to break the curse. First. a cow as white as milk, which belongs to a bubble-headed boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone.)

Second a cape as red as blood (see if you can figure that one out.) The other two, I will leave you to find out for yourself should you decide to watch the movie. Only when the couple have acquired the magic objects can they bear a child. And when the lives of various fairy tale characters intersect in the woods, nothing will ever be the same.

First of all, I cannot believe that Meryl Streep got nominated for an academy award. I mean, she’s not bad. ‘Not bad.’ She’s certainly not award material. As it become kosher to hand Streep an Oscar every time she goes to get her car keys (no offense to Mrs. Streep, who is talented as well as nontraditionally beautiful.) She just didn’t rock my world here. The entire cast was less than spectacular, though Corden comes off best as a well-intentioned buffoon.

The real problem, however, was the plotting. Big things seem to lead to more big things with little cohesive connection. The storyline is pretty convoluted (though not, to be fair, as convoluted as the later years of “Lost.”) In other words, I knew what was happening,  it just didn’t flow well. The climactic fight scene was a joke- a few stones are slung and a massive villainess who should have been epic wordlessly drops to her demise. Several major deaths also prove to be majorly underwhelming. One character simply gets pushed to the ground (or it seemed to me) and is dead in the next scene. Why? It’s a plot contrivance, that’s why.

There are moments of magic, but they’re few and far between in this rather silly movie. If you like fractured fairy-tales, watch “The Princess Bride,” “Shrek,” or the very entertaining TV series “Once Upon a Time.” While “Into the Woods” might enthrall some, I found it to be a disappointing misfire.

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Gypsy (1993)

The first part of this film, led by a manic Bette Midler, plays like “Toddlers & Tiaras” for the Great Depression era. Mama Rose (Midler) spends so much time immersing her daughters in showbiz and sick infantilism, insisting on making them wear little girl’s clothes well into puberty, that she forgets what is best for her girls altogether.

Though not as dark a musical as Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd” or Lars Von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” “Gypsy” emanates a diseased kind of wistfulness, marked by broken dreams and shattered egos. Meanwhile Bette Midler plays Mama Rose as if it was her last performance on earth, but backed up by the stagy sets and old-timey attitude, her performance is actually a strength, not a deterrent.

Rose’s daughters, Louise and June (Cynthia Gibb and Jennifer Rae Beck), are as different as different can be, but remain close, their bonds strengthened by having survived their mother. Louise, gawky and shy, is innocent and soft spoken, while June, the “‘star” of mama’s show, is more political and assertive.

Mama Rose is both outrageously self-centered and ridiculously narcissistic, guided not so much by dreams as delusions. She ruins her daughters’ lives and later expects them to thank her for it. But it’s hard not to pity her as she struggles to find success in a world that doesn’t hand out fame easily.

Into this disastrous dynamic strolls Herbie (Peter Riegert), an agent who attempts to help Mama Rose on her way to success in exchange for her hand in marriage. But it seems that Mama can not be held down, and even Herbie may soon grow sick of her games.

There are some overtones in this film which could be considered an allegory for loss of innocence in the entertainment industry. The acting is good but not amazing, but the story and the music are the real reasons to watch this. The plot itself is based on a memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee (AKA Louise) who found fame at long last at the price of her innocence. Overall the movie is worth watching as a very good musical, with Bette Midler running the show as crazy Mama Rose. Recommended.

Cry-Baby (1990)

Admittedly, “Cry-Baby” is a very silly movie, and that silliness may not appeal to everyone. I for one found myself consistently bored by the campy goings-on, and found little to like about delinquent greaser ‘Cry-Baby’ (Johnny Depp) and his redneck family, when the movie insists we cheer on their successes and ‘gee-whiz’ at their failures.

It’s 1960’s Baltimore, and prim, perfect Allison (Amy Locane) has it all- social status, wealth, and a dapper boyfriend (Stephen Mailer.) But, gee, the ‘Drapes’ from the wrong side of the tracks seem to be having more fun, and Allison is doomed to be a ‘Square,’ destined for a life of courteousness and decency.  Or is she?

Everything changes when Allison meets Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker (Depp,) a singing, dancing, rocking Drape bad boy who wins her heart. But a series of rivalries and misunderstandings strive to keep Cry-Baby and Allison apart. There will be a lot of music and a lot of fights before a customary happy ending, and for me they couldn’t get there fast enough.

I’ll be honest with you, folks… the acting here is mediocre, and Johnny Depp as ‘Cry-Baby’ is unexpectedly terrible. The only stand-outs here are Stephen Mailer as Baldwin, Allison’s boyfriend with puppy-dog eyes and a black, black heart, and Polly Bergen, as Allison’s well-meaning but clueless grandma. The rest are forgettable.

Also, there are a load of stereotypes in this movie, all of them attempts at satiric humor and achieving none. Authority figures are the dunces and ‘bad guys’ of the movie, while promiscuous teenagers and thieves are the ones we should look up to.

The movie throws around stereotypes of typically corrupt cops and stupid Christians, while the responsible adults were so ‘square’ that one can only roll their eyes and wonder if director John Waters has the mentality of a goth teen whining to his dear diary about the hypocrisy of grown-ups. Like, they say one thing and mean another. Burn!

In the end, we are caught between the self-conscious morals of the ‘Squares’ and the wild unpredictability and grit of the ‘Drapes,’ from Cry-Baby’s nutty stolen hubcap-selling Aunt Ramona (Susan Tyrrell) to the thuggish girl uncharitably called ‘Hatchet-Face’ (Kim McGuire.)

But guess what? None of the characters are particularly appealing to me. And maybe next time, John Waters will keep his shallow Goth-kid observations about the inherent dishonesty of adults and the dangers of being square to himself. Burn, indeed.
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