Category: 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)

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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

Springsteen On Broadway

December 24th, 2018 — 4:02am

****

Springsteen on Broadway-nf

When you think of Bruce Springsteen entertaining an audience, you probably envision an open-air concert venue with him rocking away with his group, the E Street Band. That is not how “The Boss” chose to make his latest live appearance. The now 70-year-old music icon decided to appear at the Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway in Manhattan. He provided an intimate one-man show, which had a 14-month limited run on Broadway but fortunately for many of his fans, the two-and-a-half-hour concert is now captured and available on Netflix. It is a close up of a very personal dialogue between Springsteen and the audience as he tries to tell the story of his life with his guitar, harmonica and piano and of course his voice and words.

He begins with a description of how he was impacted as an 8-year-old child by seeing a new singer on his small TV set in 1956, what for him was the beginning of rock and roll. Although not mentioning him by name, he obviously was referring to the first television appearance of Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Springsteen describes his childhood and family and we soon realize that the real working man that he was always singing and telling stories about was in fact his father. Springsteen confesses that he himself never worked nine to five and that the magical description of the Jersey Shore was an exaggerated figment of his imagination although that is where he did live during his early years and near where he lives now. But certainly, the feelings and emotions about which Springsteen was singing came from the bottom of his heart. The spirit and energy, which inspired an entire generation, were unmistakably recreated on the stage at the Walter Kerr Theater. It was poignant, thoughtful and brought you close and kept you there. Spingsteen’s use of language both in his monologues and in his songs is riveting and poetic. The pictures he paints remain in your heart and imagination.

Although this was a one-man show, he was joined for a few minutes and one song with his wife, Patti Scialfa. They sang a duet in which she did not have any solo interludes although he had several during their time together on stage.

This recorded concert is really a gift to his many fans who can now recreate at will the emotional connection that they had to a special time in their lives and to this man who inspired them to step up and find the part of themselves that was “Born to Run”. (2018)

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

A Star Is Born

December 14th, 2018 — 2:18am

****

A Star Is Born-rm

Bradley Cooper demonstrates his acting, performing, writing and directing talent as he co-stars with Lady Gaga in the 2018 version of A Star Is Born. The storyline will be no surprise to today’s moviegoers. Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a famous musician who performs before thousands at open-air concerts. He stumbles across Ally (Lady Gaga) an unknown singer who he sees on stage at a small club. He comes to recognize her musical talent and also falls in love with her. We are able to appreciate the chemistry between them and also watch Ally blossom forth with all her musical talent.

The music scenes are terrific as they are performed in outdoor concert venues and, of course, Lady Gaga puts her magnificent singing talent into her character. Cooper, not known as a musician, has studied hard and gives his character very believable skills as a singer and guitar player. There was a great deal of depth to these two performances, as well as, from the supporting roles provided by Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Anthony Ramos, Shangela Laquifa Wadley and several others.

This is the fourth cinematic version of A Star Is Born. While the story is similar in all of them, there are different points of emphasis particularly in the characters played by Janet Gaynor (1937), Judy Garland (1954) and Barbra Streisand (1976). There is an excellent YouTube video (click on previous three words) comparing them.

The fate of Cooper’s character is particularly relevant in the 2018 contemporary scene in regard to alcoholism and opioid use. This problem is spiraling out of control today with a terrifying mortality rate particularly in young and middle-aged people. The emotional depiction of this problem in this film makes it especially pertinet for today’s movie audiences. (2018).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical

Basmati Blues

February 1st, 2018 — 5:21am

****

Basmati Blues

Even before La La Land, which won five Oscars last season was released, the team behind Basmati Blues was planning this old fashioned musical. It was co-written and eventually directed by Danny Baron who worked with producers Monique Caufield, Jeffrey Soros and Ruedi Gerber, all experienced movie makers. Their idea was not just to make a Hollywood musical, but to come up with one that had a storyline which would take place in India and would meld that country’s culture, dance and music along with the traditional American musical. They put together a very talented casts starring Brie Larson, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2015 for Room. Miss Larson proves herself not only to be a talented actress but to be one who can sing and dance. She is paired with Utkarsh Ambudkar who is an All-American actor with an Indian heritage. The cast also includes Scott Bakula and Tyne Daly who are quite capable of singing and dancing along with Donald Sutherland who plays his villain type.

The storyline shows an American, very large seed manufacturing company that wants to sell its new product to the farmers of India. They send the young, brilliant, beautiful scientist (Larson) to India to convince the farmers to use this product (which did have a serious flaw). There is an Indian science guy (Ambudkar) who thought that he had a better idea. There is drama, intrigue, a little romance and of course, music, dance and song. It was a little disturbing that the people of India were being conned and weren’t as smart as they should have been. But you know (no spoiler alert here) that in the end there is a crescendo with happy, enjoyable music, dance and song in a beautiful setting. Everyone seemed to be leaving the theater with a big smile on his and her face which is the way it should be (2017).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

Amy

December 22nd, 2016 — 5:35am

**screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-25-32-pm

Amy – nf

As you may know, Amy Winehouse came from a Jewish middle class family in England and became a world famous singer. She died of alcohol and drug use at the age of 27. This documentary film directed by Asif Kapala uses archival film and narrations by people who knew her. We see her as a four or five-year-old girl seemingly independent with a mind of her own which was characteristic of her as she got older. She was confident in her singing as well as in her writing lyrics and she brought to life the words that she wrote which described her life and world around her.

We really were not shown enough to understand her family dynamics. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old and her father was shown trying to control her career and her mother seemed to be a loving woman in the background. While her music was meaningful to a very large audience, her personal relationships seemed quite troubled. Blake, her boyfriend, then husband and then ex-husband who also spent a few years in jail, brought her deeper into drugs as she got older. Amy was an interesting young woman who had a meteoric rise and then fall. However, we are not really provided with in-depth interviews of the significant players in her life. Perhaps some future biography will provide this. The film, of course, was mostly in a foreign language (British English). Subtitles were frequently provided especially when she sang but not all the time. So occasionally, we would not know what was being said on the screen.

The highlight of the movie was a video segment showing Amy and Tony Bennett working in the studio to produce a recording of their duet by them. Bennett said that he thought Amy Winehouse was one of the greatest jazz singers of all time alongside of Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan. (2015)

 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Documentary, Musical

La La Land

December 12th, 2016 — 6:41am

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-7-02-19-pm*****

La La Land – rm

This movie makes the statement that Los Angeles is where dreams are made and are broken and yet it is the city where anything can happen. This is a movie in the tradition of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse and reflects so many great musicals of the past that have come across the silver screen.

Emma Stone is Mia, a young woman who works in a coffee shop on a big movie lot and aspires to be an actress. So many times she seems to be just one audition callback away from starting on the road to her dreams. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a musician who masterfully plays piano and keyboard and could be a great modern musician but he really favors old-fashioned jazz. He would prefer the music that was played in small clubs in days gone bye where each session was a creative story onto itself.

This movie is filled with  great music. The characters break into dance and song quite spontaneously and, believe it or not, there is nothing that seems unnatural as they glide or tap across the screen singing and swaying with each other. Despite some stereotypical dialogue, you will get drawn into the storyline quite easily. We can just about guarantee that while at times you may not be sure if you are watching a dream unfold, the story will touch you and probably bring tears to your eyes.

Stone and Gosling have certainly mastered the song and dance. Great credit for this movie goes to director/writer Damien Chazelle (known for his direction of the movie “Whiplash”). The photography was magnificent and very skillfully directed by cinematographer, Linus Sandgren. Credit for the songs and original score goes to Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Don’t miss the opening sequence. It shows LA at its best and worst, and what seemed to be one of the longest, continuous, complicated takes in movie history (there probably was some editing here but it didn’t look like it to us). This movie deserves the Oscar hype that it is getting. Don’t miss it. (2016)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Musical

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