Category: Musical


Rita Moreno-Just a Girl who Decided to Go For it

December 14th, 2021 — 2:48am

Rita Moreno – Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
****

The title of this movie is the iconic actress’ self-proclaimed model. This film traces the famed actress from her humble beginnings to the gigantic success that she was on Broadway and Hollywood. She initially accepted the stereotypic roles as a Puerto Rican woman who could dance and sing and when she wanted to do so, could have a Spanish accent or not. This documentary film records her life going back to when she was a co-star with Marlon Brando and they were also lovers. It traces other relationships including her long marriage to a Jewish man who was not in show business and her raising of her one daughter. There are comments by people who knew her and worked with her such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan, and many other well-known names. The movie was directed by Mariem Pérez Riera. The release of this documentary coincides with Steven Spielberg’s new film, which is a remake of the 1957 famed musical West Side Story in which Ms. Moreno had a major role. She has a strong part in the new West Side Story as well. This documentary is a loving and carefully curated depiction of Rita Moreno’s life story.
Certainly, her warmth and her talent burst forth in this most enjoyable film. We especially appreciate the vibrant personality that she has now as an octogenarian and it is clear that she is one of great talents of our time.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

Tic Tick Boom

November 20th, 2021 — 8:22am

Tic Tic Boom -nf
*****
We just watched this great musical on Netflix. It is in the tradition of great Broadway musicals. In fact, it has a close connection to one of the greatest shows that ever was on the Broadway stage.

This is the true story of Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield), a young musical writer who is nearing an important birthday and is putting together a musical which he hoped would be his Broadway debut before he turned 30. The story takes place in the early 1990s. This was the time AIDS and gay men were being struck down with this fatal disease which is poignantly discussed in this movie via one of the characters who is a friend of the playwright. The main focus of the story is on Larson as he struggles to complete writing his show so he could put on a scheduled workshop where potential Broadway producers have been invited and will be attending including the legendary Steven Sondheim. At the same time Larson is putting together his final musical piece for the show, he is parting with his long-time girlfriend who will be leaving town to pursue her career which provides a very dramatic poignant moment. The music is terrific, the story is breathtaking and riveting. It reflects the dedication and heartbreak behind the scenes which is portrayed magnificently with song and dance.

The entire musical experience becomes even more meaningful when you know the behind the scene story upon which this movie is based. We see in the film, that this show did not make it to Broadway. In reality, Jonathan Larson did not give up. He put together another show called “RENT” which was destined to be one of the all-time Broadway successful musicals. However, sadly, Jonathan Lawson died of a fatal aneurysm the night before the show was to open. It is therefore quite fitting that another Broadway icon Lin-Manual Miranda produced and directed this film which we were pleased to give 5 stars.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, 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

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