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Tuesday, 15 June 2021 22:12

‘In The Heights’ flies high

Full disclosure: I love a movie musical.

I love the big production numbers and over-the-top performances. I love storytelling through song and watching scores of extras dance in unison. I love the way that a three-minute song can do the emotional heavy lifting of a half-hour’s worth of dialogue.

So I was always going to dig “In the Heights,” the Jon M. Chu-directed film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s iconic musical of the same name, currently in theaters and available via streaming on HBO Max. Sure, I had a few minor misgivings – the film had passed through multiple hands on its way to the screen, which is rarely a positive sign – but with Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hughes both onboard, I figured at the very least, we were looking at a high floor.

But as it turns out, the title is indicative of a lot more than just the neighborhood in which it is set, because by God, this movie SOARS.

Published in Movies

All criticism is subjective.

While we can steep our reviews of films or books or albums in an effort toward objectivity, the truth is that our own personal tastes and biases are going to be part of the equation. It’s the nature of the business – our opinions are what form the foundation of our writings on the matter.

And yet, sometimes, we’re gifted with a piece of art that manages to largely transcend that struggle between the subjective and objective. We read or watch or hear something that establishes its value and purity simply through being what it is. One can try to attach judgments or measurements to it, but its power is made obvious by the fact that it exists.

“Best Summer Ever” is that kind of art. It’s an original musical, directed by Michael Parks Randa and Lauren Smitelli from a script co-penned by the two plus Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh and Andrew Pilkington. The film is the latest project from Zeno Mountain Farm, a camp whose mission is to immerse the disabled and non-disabled in the arts.

And it is an absolute delight.

Featuring an entirely inclusive cast, “Best Summer Ever” is unique in that that inclusivity isn’t central to the plot. It simply is, in a manner that practically vibrates with joyous energy. It is a sweet and good-hearted story of young love, featuring a number of original songs and a winking affection for other examples of the teen movie musical genre. It is a charming and often hilarious film, one that illustrates the possibilities that come with refusing to let our differences define us.

Published in Buzz

We’ve seen a steady stream of movies converted into Broadway musicals in recent years to no small success. And there’s been plenty of transitioning in the other direction – the path from stage to screen has been well-traveled.

Converting musicals into movies is an interesting process. You never know if the filmmakers are going to be able to capture the essence of a musical – its spirit. Finding the right ways to convert the visceral nature of live performance onto film is always a crapshoot – one where sometimes you get “West Side Story,” sometimes you get “Cats.”

“The Prom” – currently streaming on Netflix – is the kind of movie that could be deemed nearer the former or the latter, depending on who you ask. Directed by Ryan Murphy and adapted to the screen by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin from their and Matthew Sklar’s 2018 musical of the same name, it’s a brightly-colored and broad (and dated) look at LGBTQ inclusivity and celebrity activism.

“The Prom” is driven by high-energy performances, delightful production numbers and some songs that are catchy as hell, all in service of what is ultimately intended to be a very sweet love story. Oh, and the cast is dynamite. While it has its clunky and/or heavy-handed moments and occasional missteps, it is by and large a fun and (mostly) funny take on what it means to want to help versus actually stepping up and helping.

Published in Movies
Monday, 23 December 2019 22:25

Who let the ‘Cats’ out?

Sometimes, you see a trailer for a movie that captures your attention for all the wrong reasons. You find yourself questioning what possible series of increasingly poor decisions would lead to a world in which this movie came to be. You’re asking fundamental questions like “How?” and – perhaps more importantly – “Why?”

Those are the feelings that bubbled up from deep inside most reasonable people upon first viewing the trailer for “Cats,” director Tom Hooper’s star-studded adaptation of the (somewhat bewilderingly) beloved Broadway musical. Watching CGI-blended cat/human monstrosities gambol and cavort across the screen for just those few moments raised far more questions than any piece of art could ever answer.

Here’s the thing – that ain’t even the half of it.

“Cats” is a tortured fever dream of a film, the sort of nightmarish cinematic experience that feels like the unholy offspring of a coked-up studio executive notes session and a dark ritual intended to summon forth the Elder Gods. I walked out of this movie expecting my phone to ring, with a voice on the other end speak-singing a semi-melodic song informing me that I would die in seven days.

We are all cursed. We are all damned. We are all Cats.

Published in Movies

I love me a movie musical. My deep and abiding affection for the joy and wonder of the genre is well-documented. So it should come as no surprise that I was interested in checking out “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” the sequel to 2008’s blockbuster hit “Mamma Mia.”

But here’s the thing – I had never SEEN “Mamma Mia.” This despite not just the aforementioned movie musical love, but an actorly crush on Meryl Streep AND a long-standing affinity for the music of ABBA! It makes zero sense that I would not have seen that film. And so, I rectified that fact before taking in the sequel.

You don’t need me to tell you about the first film, but I can tell you that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” stays largely true to the unabashedly dorky spirit of its predecessor, packed with impromptu musical numbers and hammy scenery chewing and the inarguably outstanding music of ABBA. It also makes the unusual choice of serving as both a sequel AND a prequel to the original, roughly splitting the story between the two timelines. It is campy, winking and just delightful.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 13:47

‘The Greatest Showman’ not that great

Musical has its moments, but mostly falls short

Published in Movies
Sunday, 08 January 2017 18:29

'La La Land' is la-la-lovely

Movie musical a wonderful blend of old and new

Published in Movies

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