Tag Archives: Musicals

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)

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Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

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Rating: A- / When Tangled first came out and the promos started pouring in, it really didn’t look like my cup of tea. It seemed to me like an attempt to replicate the success of Shrek and other hip, self-aware fairy tale satires. Frankly, I had had enough of Shrek and it’s sequels. Not only that, I had had enough of the whole screwball fairy tale reimagining genre. But Tangled wasn’t the movie I expected it to be. It was a take on fairy tales, in a sense; in particular one fairy tale (Rapunzel,) but it was also charming and sweet and featured one of Disney’s most eerily effective villains. Not only is Tangled a good movie for the kiddies, it might just win the hearts of the grown-ups in their lives too. Continue reading Movie Review: Tangled (2010)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

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Coincidentally, Tim Burton’s grim, macabre musical tragedy ties in with an important moment in my life; “Sweeney Todd” was the first review I ever wrote. I can’t seem to recover this piece of my early teenhood, but I’m happy to say I’ve grown enormously as a critic since my gawky adolescence, and while I have a long way to go, well… who doesn’t? It’s been a rewarding and worthy journey, albeit with many frustrating pitfalls along the way.

Anyway, what can I say? I love “Sweeney.” Always have. I know it isn’t the most popular film with the critics, but I think of it as the last great film Tim Burton has done in recent times. I’ll be perfectly frank… I enjoyed the Burtster’s take on “Alice in Wonderland.” Guilty pleasure, folks, don’t judge me. “Big Eyes” was a mistake one that should not be repeated. Who would have known Tim Burton would be the one to get a terrible performance out of Christoph Waltz? Guys, is that even possible?

While “Alice in Wonderland” was gaudy entertainment, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is a dark morality tale, with, in my opinion, a genuine sense of artistry behind it. There was a barber and his wife… and it took only a bit of sleight hand by a corrupt judge (the suitably villainous Alan Rickman) to tear that happy couple apart forever. Now the barber (Johnny Depp,) sent away for a crime he didn’t commit, is a sadistic sociopath bent on revenge.

His wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) is out of the picture, having been driven crazy by the judge’s lascivious appetites, and their once infant daughter Joanna (Jayne Wisener) is Turpin’s young, beautiful prisoner. Lovestruck sailor boy Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) concocts a plan to rescue Joanna, but the barber, Benjamin Barker, or Sweeney Todd as he is now called, seems more concerned with getting gory revenge on the judge that ruined his life than protecting his daughter’s welfare.

Helena Bonham Carter gives the most artful performance as the  equally homicidal Mrs. Lovett, who owns a pie shop known far and wide for it’s disgusting grub (as well as questionable sanitation) and forms a deal with Sweeney converting the men the insane barber kills with his razor into delicious meat pies, satiating his bloodlust while — surprise! business soars.

I’ve heard some people criticize Bonham Carter and Depp’s singing voices — saying they are not up for the job of a musical — but I did not consider their relative inexperience a problem. “Sweeney Todd” is stylized and moody and very, very gory, so expect blood spraying literally all over the set in various scenes. The psychology behind the character’s motivations — and their justifications for the atrocities the choose to commit —is interesting and I love the music. Catchy tunes are a prerequisite in a movie like this, and “Sweeney Todd” has the goods in terms of an addictive score.

Helena Bonham Carter acts with her eyes and the dark makeup shadowing her peepers makes her look perpetually like a work of expressionist art. Depp is slightly less compelling, playing the ultimate emo enraged (however justifiably) with how his life turned out. The only character I truly found myself empathizing with was the little boy (payed by Edward Sanders) who believed with an wide—eyed earnesty and breathtaking innocence that he would look after and protect Mrs. Lovett, and she him.

The rest? Fuck them. Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett were morally reprehensible and foul; Joanna and Anthony were a little too much like starcrossed Disney lovers who walked into the wrong movie. Though I had a nagging feeling throughout that Joanna was exploiting the foolishly naive Anthony’s affections in order to get the hell out of dodge. She would be his prize, another kind of slavery, but anything was better than remaining in Judge Turpin’s lecherous possession.

“Sweeney Todd”‘s plot isn’t realistic at all (there’s a kind of unintentional hilarity in the way that, despite endless hint —dropping and an almost identical appearance, Turpin refuses to acknowledge Sweeney’s true identity —who is he, Clark Kent pulling the glasses on his face and the wool over the Judge’s eyes?)

My brother (ever the source of dry wit) quipped that when it came to Judge Turpin, ‘it was hard not to feel sorry for someone who was so like a potato in IQ.’ Not all villains have to be evil geniuses, but damn, that was kind of ridiculous, Turpin had to have gotten into a position of power by some method other than fucking people over. Apparently intelligence wasn’t one of them.

“Sweeney Todd” is a highly enjoyable film even while being morbid and tragic on a grand scale. The stylized storytelling and violence keeps it from being too tough a watch. The acting’s fine, the story’s cool, but the music? That’s really something to stay for. Tim Burton has his moments, and this is one of them. Those with weak stomachs might want to steer clear of this enthusiastically gory flick.

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Frozen (2013)

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To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to “Frozen” when it hit theaters. The advertisements offered (as far as I could tell) corny jokes, typical animation, and the antics of an annoying comic-relief snowman. Cynical? Maybe. But that’s the way I felt, until I actually saw the movie and became a convert. Frozen is an adorable movie, and one that children are likely to love. For some reason expected Elsa, the ice queen to be some kind of deranged psycho, but I was was immediately compelled by her story. Even Olaf, a sidekick I’d been thoroughly prepared to dislike, had his moments.

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Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is hidden like a leper for her volatile magical powers that make objects she comes into contact with turn to ice. Afraid of hurting her sunny and bewilderingly naive sister, Anna (voice of Kristen Bell,) she sits in a solitary room until tings go terribly wrong at the royal coronation and she takes to the wild. Anna, who hitherto wasn’t aware of her sister’s strange powers, goes of to find Elsa, accompanied by  gruff working man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff.) Kristoff loves his reindeer, Sven. Like, a lot. Anthropomorphic snowman Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) comes along, happy for the attention. Meanwhile, Hans (Santino Fontana,) Anna’s recently acquired crush guards the kingdom, and a permanent winter (which Elsa inadvertently caused) looms over the landscape.

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All the musical sequences were delightful with the exception of the ‘fixer-upper’ song performed by a group of mystical… trolls. That one just didn’t do it for me. Anna and Elsa were both well-written, but I was drawn more to Elsa, probably because I dig troubled characters. The animation was beautiful. The humor was a little hit or miss, but more often than not it hit it’s target. I love some of the little details like how Anna’s hair is a rat nest in the morning. Ever since I was a child I’ve been waiting for this- a princess who looked like a real person when she got up in the morning, before she put on her make-up, did her hair, and went out to face the world. Classic Disney princesses always look like they sleepwalked through the meadow to the beauty salon.

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The villain here is a little different as well, not only because he only reveals himself in the later portion of the movie, but because he isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of a villain. He’s handsome, well-groomed, and seems for all accounts and purposes to be quite charming. It’s never a bad idea to remind children that not all villains have moles and wild hair and yellow teeth, and feast on rat flesh in dark, dank dens. This movie isn’t one of the best kids’ films of all time, but it’s appealing, visually stunning, and sometimes even a little emotional. Find an excuse to see it, even if you have to take a friend’s kid to save your pride.

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