Category: Musical


In The Heights

June 23rd, 2021 — 1:20am

In The Heights
****

This musical may very well live on for future generations and enter the category of great productions such as Westside Story and Hamilton. The latter also had the lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda as he did In The Heights. This is the movie version of the Broadway musical which opened in New York in 2008 and which we had enjoyed then.

The story takes place in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan in New York City. We meet a young man who hopes to return to native country of Dominican Republic. There are interesting subplots, which include a beloved grandmother who reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, a young woman who comes back to the neighborhood after her first year of college at Stanford University and is torn apart by conflicts concerning how to fit in and, of course, there is passionate romance. We may have missed a couple of beats and some of the subplots; however, we do not think this matters very much because we are overwhelmed with the music, singing, and absolutely terrific choreography to the backdrop of this very realistic depiction of life in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. There is among many scenes of sensational movie magic, where two lovers are seen dancing on the side of the buildings, just to highlight the creativity of the production.

We originally planned to watch this movie in two to three parts since we knew it was 2 hours and 22 minutes; however, we could not resist watching the entire film in one sitting.

The cast, while mostly not known to us, were extremely talented in song and dance as well as in the development of their characters. We did recognize Jimmy Smits in one character role, and a small but interesting role which Miranda did cast himself.

This is certainly a movie to see for its sweet stories, pluck and exuberance, joyous musical style and fantastic production numbers. It is a happy opening up following the months of pandemic isolation. and if you have the chance to see it live, we are sure that the stage production is a knockout.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom

December 29th, 2020 — 3:13am

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
****
This film is Based on the play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. The setting is the 1920s and a Black Jazz Group is preparing for a recording session. The film takes a deep dive into a couple of the characters. The main focus is on Levee, a black trumpet player who wants to play things his way and dreams of forming his own band rather than playing back-up to a great black singer. He is played by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as he passed away shortly after the filming this movie. His character embodied the frustration of black men, especially talented ones who were held back by prejudices of the time. The other star of this film was Viola Davis who lived within Ma Rainey, a black superstar singer who is going to take everything her talent deserved although she clearly had to stand up and make her righteous demands. The storyline, great acting by the entire cast, directed by George C. Wolfe, provided a wonderful insight into the oppression and prejudices which emerged in this time period. The senior producer for this excellent film was Denzel Washington.

Our biggest disappointment with the film was that it ended when it did. We so much wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped could be there. Instead, we were shown the endless frustration and pain that has been the plight of so many black people. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, History, Musical

The Prom

December 26th, 2020 — 8:37am

The Prom ( Netflix)
*****

The cast of a Broadway Musical has hopes and expectations for a great review on opening night. However, much to their disappointment and despair, the reviews are just the opposite, and their show is doomed to close.The cast tries to find something that will put them back in the limelight and come upon a story about a High School in Indiana that is trying to deny a young lesbain couple the right to attend their prom together. They decide that this is their opporutity for relevance and they travel to Indiana where they meet the couple as well as the high school principal and other important players in this drama and participate in shaking up stronlgy held beliefs and biases.

Enough with the outline of the plot. What makes this a sensational movie is that it stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana Grande, Michael Key Keegan, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman, and many other great performers. It is directed by Ryan Murphy. We did not previously quite appreciate the musical talents of this great cast, but if anything, they are over the top. As the plot develops in the small town with all the complications of this gay couple challenging the set ways of the Midwesterners, the Broadway interlopers break into song and dance. You may not have known that these great actors can really belt out musical pieces. The choreography was also fantastic. The storyline will push all your buttons. The result is a movie worthy of the best on the Broadway stage and full of lofty ideals and great fun!

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Musical

What Happened Miss Simone?

November 29th, 2020 — 12:52am

We also reviewed this film a few years ago when it came out. We suggest that you also look at that review ( What Happened, Miss Simone? )which also has a link to one her outstanding performances.

****
What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix)

This 2015 documentary film was directed by Liz Garbus and is nominated for best documentary film at the 88th Academy Awards. Nina Simone is a little girl who appeared to be destined to become a child prodigy classical pianist. Her natural talents as a pianist as well as a singer diverted her into performing as a jazz artist. Being a young black woman, she used her musical talent to be an important voice in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s. She would often be singing in a musical manner what the black leaders were saying in so many ways, especially as she came forth and performed her classic song, Mississippi Goddamn! Ms. Simone’s personal life was complicated as the man whom she married and became her manager also physically abused her.

The editing of this film was magnificent as there were clips of her performing and talking as well as segments of observation by people who knew her including her husband and most important, her daughter. These were all blended together with wonderful clips of performances by this great artist.

Sadly, it turns out that Ms. Simone appeared to have had an underlying depression, which dominated her later years. She died at the age of 70, but her music will never be forgotten.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

Echo In The Canyon

August 4th, 2020 — 12:13am

Echo In The Canyon (Netflix)
****

Being relative newcomers to Los Angeles and not having grown up here, we had no idea how the lovely mountain and valley area northwest of downtown Los Angeles is actually the birth place of the “California Sound.” The musicians who were drawn to this area in the early 1960s included well known groups such as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and The Mamas & the Papas as well as many other groups. They transformed folk music into the all familiar electric guitar sound that still resonates today. The film was directed by Andrew Slater and features Jakob Dylan, a very talented musician himself who also happens to be the son of Bob Dylan. He interviewed several of the featured musicians who were now in their senior years including Stephen Stills, Michelle Phillips, David Crosby, Graham Nash, and even Ringo Starr. Jakob Dylan is also shown performing a good deal of the time. Many of these interviews appeared to be made just for this film and there were also many archival clips. Many parts of this film were made in the famous Los Angeles recording studios.

What was it about Laurel Canyon that attracted these musicians and allowed it to be the birthplace of this beloved sound? In part, it was the presence of recording companies including the iconic MGM building that resembles a stack of records. Also, most likely, the proximity to the movie studios and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. While not highlighted in the film, this also was the time of psychedelic drugs such as LSD that were often associated with rock and roll. Whatever the attraction, it was a magical time that gave birth to the unforgettable music and the musicians that created it. This movie, whether it is a trip down memory lane or an introductory education about the music of the 60s, is a worthwhile cinematic and music experience. (2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

Yesterday

November 1st, 2019 — 1:39am

****

Yesterday

Cross-country air flight often allows us to come across a film that we may not usually choose to see in a local movie theater. Yesterday was such a film, which had a very unique premise and an excellent execution. It was directed by Daniel Boyle and written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis.

A musician living in England (Himesh Patel) decides that he has had it with his music career and is ready to give up and quit trying to be a successful singer. He is driving away from his latest and what he believes will be his last gig when he is involved in a serious auto accident. He is knocked unconscious and loses two of his front teeth. As he recovers from his injury, new dental work and is ready to try to live a normal life, not as a musician, he comes to a very amazing realization. Everything in the world is as it was before his accident, except nobody has ever heard of the Beatles or any of their songs. If he makes a reference to “Let It Be”, nobody knows the musical reference to the great Beatles’ classic hit. In fact, nobody has ever heard of the Beatles. “Google” thinks that the Beatles are only insects

Our musician begins to write some “Beatles” songs which he remembers and reconstructs. We watch him gradually develop into an extremely popular performer who is writing new songs (classic Beatle hits) all the time and becomes known as the “Greatest Songwriter of All Time.” He performs in gigantic venues and receives great acclaim. There is a romantic subplot with his girlfriend (Lily James) and we also see a statement being made about the music industry through his new female agent who greedily seeks to reap the rewards of his tremendous popularity.

The storyline builds to an interesting climax and in the end, we have had an opportunity to enjoy the great music of the Beatles but also have seen a wonderful satire. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical

Judy

September 28th, 2019 — 7:43pm

****

Judy-rm

Do not expect this film to be filled with scenes of Judy Garland at the top of her game throughout her illustrious career. Rather, the movie focuses on the last year of her life where she went to England to try to rejuvenate her career, which was fading in the United States. There are some flashbacks to her childhood and early years, but it is mostly about the final curtain calls. The brightest part of this movie experience directed by Rupert Gooke, based on a play by Peter Quilter, is the outstanding performance of Renee Zellweger who plays Judy Garland. She has figured out the mannerisms and is pretty close to her voice as we remember it (maybe not quite the energy). Zellweger is superb and we would bet on her receiving some awards for this performance. We strongly recommend this movie to be seen and enjoyed. (2019)

Any comments are welcome below

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Blinded By The Light

July 26th, 2019 — 6:43pm

*****

Blinded By The Light-sp

If you have ever been moved and inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen, this film will touch and perhaps hit in your gut. It is based on the life experience of co-screenwriter, Sarfraz Manzoor, who grew up in a Pakistani family in a small city in Great Britain. He was inspired by the words and music of Springsteen, which made him rebel from the traditional cultural expectations of his Pakistani family. The story also highlights the painful discrimination that can exist against minority groups not only in Great Britain but in other parts of the world including, obviously, the United States.

The director, Gurinder Chadha, in her previous work, which includes Bend It Like Beckham, has highlighted the convergence of traditional and modern culture. The music and of course the words of Springsteen can very powerful and inspiring. In this film, we not only hear the lyrics, but at times they graphically explode onto the screen.

The young man who plays Javed (Viveik Kalra) is captivating on the screen and the supporting actors are excellent, but it is the music and words of Springsteen which continue to inspire young people and emotionally touch the older generation, who will be reminded of their earlier turning points in life, that will make this movie a success. It is highly recommended to both the young and old who will understand the universal feeling to run free (2019).

To purchase the music of Bruce Springsteen and other items related to him on Amazon, please click here

 

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Musical

Rocketman

June 5th, 2019 — 4:23am

*****

Rocketman

The recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, is turning out to be one of the most popular films of last year and we expect that this film will achieve equal acclaim. Although the current movie is a different kind of musical, the director, Dexter Fletcher, also worked on last year’s great hit. In Rocketman, the story of Elton John is told in a fashion of great film musicals with a wonderful ensemble dancing and singing. Elton John is inhabited by Taron Egerton who does all of Elton John’s singing in great voice, which captures the energy and beauty of Rocketman himself.

The story of course is true to life as it traces the great singer’s life from his talent appearing in early childhood, his painful interaction with his parents and his emergence on the musical scene. The story pulls back the curtain and helps the viewer understand how John struggled with his sexuality and with alcohol and drugs, which nearly destroyed him. Particularly poignant is the meaningful relationship he had with his friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, magnificently played by Jaimie Bell. Through it all, the main character emerges and can say and gloriously sing, “I’m still standing.” The movie and story feels real and authentic. It is not surprising that the real Elton John is the film’s executive producer. This movie has to be added to your Do Not Miss List. (2019)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Musical

Bohemian Rhapsody

January 22nd, 2019 — 2:50am

*****

Bohemian Rhapsody-rm

If you or your children were following the contemporary music scene in the 1970s and the 1980s, you had to be familiar with the sound of Queen and must have rocked or swayed to “We Will Rock You”. However, you may not know all the details and the ins and outs behind the scenes of this band especially the story of lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

We also suspect that the making of this film must be a fascinating story in and of itself. Originally, Sacha Baron Cohen was scheduled to play Freddie Mercury, but after he dropped out, Rami Malek was given the part. The original director, Bryan Singer apparently only completed two-thirds of the film before he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher after various conflicts which we don’t understand.

These issues aside, there is no question that Rami Malek was terrific in the lead role. He was given a dental prosthesis which gave him a physical appearance closely resembling the real Freddie Mercury. He also took singing and piano lessons as well as having an accent coach. As indicated in the final credits, a very large technical staff was able to synchronize the actual singing of Mercury,Queen and their music to the actors’ performances which had to be quite an accomplishment. The other band members were played by Ben Hardy, Joe Mazello, Gwilym Lee and Brian May. According to the photos and film clips shown of the real band members at the end of the film, the appearance of the actors were dead ringers for the real band members.

However, the success and brilliance of this movie aside from the projection of the original music was a telling of the sensitive and complicated story of Freddie Mercury. Born to Pakistani parents, he had the confidence in his music ability to become the lead singer in the band which he joined as a young man and led them to their meteoric rise. Of course, there were conflicts with managers, record companies and among themselves. However, the biggest conflict was the turmoil within Mercury himself. Engaged to his beautiful girlfriend, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), he reluctantly had to confront the fact that he was gay (and of course this is in the age of AIDS).

The film concludes with the focus on the famous 1985 Live Aid concert for famine relief in Africa. All of the top singers in the world were there and many people felt that Queen stole the show. Their performance was recreated in a magnificent cinematic accomplishment. The actual Live Aid concert raised $125 million in famine relief for Africa. Incidentally thus far (prior to the Oscars in which this movie is likely to be a contender) this film has grossed $743 million which is five times more than the money raised in the 1985 Live Aid concert.(2019)

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Musical

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