Category Archives: Musical

Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

We all have baggage.

— Ramona Flowers

Film nerds everywhere were almost salivating over the release of three-time Omie Award winning, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. I was one of those people, but I didn’t have the dollars to watch the film at the time. No, wait, that was when I saw The Town instead of this, right. Big mistake that was. I was bummed that I didn’t get the chance to see it until now.

The movie starts with the classic Atari 8-bit making over the opening credits. You know that it’s going to off-kilter from there. The titular Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a 22-year-old nerd from Toronto that between jobs and is dating a high schooler named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). Scott is the bassist in a band named Sex Bob-omb with lead guitarist, Stephen (Mark Webber), his morose ex-gf drummer, Kim (Alison Pill) with Young Neil (Johnny Simmons) hanging around them.

Hearing the band play obviously bad music, Knives is convinced that they are awesome and should go into Battle of the Bands to get a record contract from G-Man aka Gideon (Jason Schwartzman).

One day, Scott meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) at a library. He falls hard for her and wants to know everything about her when they meet again at a party. He convinces her to go out on a date with her. What Scott doesn’t realize is that in order to date her, he has to get past her seven evil exes.

The movie is a Nintendo style video game come to life with the pop up points, life points, the way the exes explode when they are defeated. There is one thing that I didn’t enjoy was Michael Cera’s obvious stunt double that had a Raggedy Andy mop top on his head. That threw me for a loop.

It was nice to see something different in a quirky romantic comedy. I think that this movie is too cutting edge for me. Everybody seems to love the film. I like it. It’s probably going to be one of those that I have to watch again to fully appreciate it. It might happen with The Big Lebowski. Who knows?

Judgment: If you like to see a guy with the built of a Holocaust victim beating the crap out some people, this is your flick.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Moulin Rouge! (2001)

The show must go on, Satine. We’re creatures of the underworld. We can’t afford to love.

— Zidler

It wasn’t my intention of doing a Ewan McGregor double feature, but Moulin Rouge! was starts on Logo when I finished watching The Ghost Writer. I thought why the hell not. This is one of those movies that everybody saw when it came out, but I didn’t. A movie set in the turn of the 20th century with music ranging from Elton John to Gloria Estefan to LaBelle to Madonna. How the hell would that work?

I saw the film later that year when Nicole Kidman was getting a lot of Oscar buzz for her lead performance. The movie landed her an Oscar nomination and won two for the beautiful set design and the lush costumes. This is a gay movie through and through. It has gorgeous lead actors, recognizable pop songs and vibrant costumes. What more could you want in a film?

A penniless writer, Christian (McGregor) sits at his typewriter banging away at the keys. He re-tells the past year of his life. His time at the infamous Paris nightspot, the Moulin Rouge, a dance hall and bordello. He tells about the great love of his life, the “Sparkling Diamond”, Satine (Kidman), who is the star of the Moulin Rouge.

Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) has an idea of turning the club into a reputable theater. To do so, they need the help of a financier named The Duke (Richard Roxburgh). The Bohemians behind the show: Audrey (David Wenham), Satie (Matthew Whittet), The Doctor (Garry McDonald),  Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and the Argentinian (Jacek Koman) are trying to put on a pitch for their show, “Spectacular, Spectacular”. They need Chrisitan’s help to do it.

During the performance of Satine’s entrance number, Satine mistakes Christian for The Duke because they have a similar tux on. In her private Arabian elephant boudoir, Satine seduces Christian, but Christian thinks that he is audition to be the writer of the show. Christian woos her with his rendition of “Your Song” and she falls instantly in love with him. Satine realizes that she seduced the wrong man and hilarity ensues when The Duke comes to her elephant for their love session.

The main characters try to distract The Duke for finding out the love between Christian and Satine by pitching the plot of “Spectacular, Spectacular.” The Duke is impressed by it and decides to invest. The others didn’t realize that Satine had bewitched The Duke by delivering the same song that wooed her, making The Duke fall in love with her. The most unlikely of love triangles.

Whenever I see this movie, I have a big smile on my face. I am following along with the dialogue, the dance moves and the journey that the characters go on. Director Baz Luhrmann had the ability to turn a conventional genre on its head like he did with the rest of his Red Curtain trilogy with Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet. I was surprised that he wasn’t nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.

I am not saying that this movie is flawless. There were a couple of gaps that had me scratching my head like why didn’t The Duke pulls Satine aside when she was shaking her tail feathers at Christian? He was right next to him. Or when Satine was delivering her “smoldering temptress” look with the red dress who Satine thinks is the Duke, she arrives in a black night gown and has the same dress on after the pitch section?

I don’t like the “Like a Virgin” moment of the film. I know that it’s supposed to be comedic, but I was cringing at the thought of it.

Judgment: How could you not have fun with this movie?

Rating: 8.5/10

Duck Soup (1933)

I danced before Napoleon. No, Napoleon danced before me. As a matter of fact, he danced 200 years before me.

— Rufus T. Firefly

Back in Houston for a couple of days, I was surprised that the movies that I have DVRed months prior are still there. I wanted to see the benchmark Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup. The #220 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb was first on my radar when it was discussed on The Last Five segment of one of my must-listen podcasts, Cinebanter. I wanted to see more classic movies than looking at the dreck coming out this year. The movie is almost eighty years old and I was laughing out loud with this flick.

The fictional country of Freedonia is on the verge of bankrupcy. In a last ditch effort to save the nation, Ms. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) outs the leader of the country and appoints an absolute baffoon named Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx). The news does not sit well with Ambassador Trestino (Louis Calhern) of rival country Sylania wants to take over both countries. He conspires with the famous dancer, Vera Marcal (Raquel Torres) to find some sort of dirt on the new leader to oust him. Trestino’s master plan is to seduce Ms. Teasdale for her money and seize control of the country.

Firefly tries to shake up the way that the government has been run that put them into debt in the first place. A couple members of Firefly’s cabinet have resigned from the post. Feelings the pressure that run a country would get. Firefly randomly takes a peanut vendor off the street, Chicolini (Chico Marx) to make his new Secretary of War when Trestino tries to instigate a war between the two countries. What Firefly doesn’t know that Chicolini is working for the other side with Pinky (Harpo Marx) as spies. Hilarity ensues.

I was surprised how much that I laughed in this movie. I’m not saying that the movie is all good. I thought there was some gags that fell flat especially with Harpo doing his bits with the Lemonade Stand Guy (Edgar Kennedy). I was checking to see when the next scene would happen. I thought that Groucho’s witty quips was the best things about the movie. Lastly, the musical interludes were a bit jarring for me. Where the hell did they come from?

Judgment: If you want to see a solid slapstick comedy, check this out.

Rating: ***1/2

The Wiz (1978)

Girl, do you know that you’re 24 years old, and you’ve never been south of 125th Street? Well, you haven’t!

— Aunt Em

I have only seen bits and pieces of African-American interpretation of the classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz simply called The Wiz. I know some of the famous songs in the films like “If You Believe”, “No Bad News” and “Ease on Down the Road”. I don’t remember anything else. I was surprised that Sidney Lumet directed this movie when I looked up his credits on IMDb. This film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1979, but it came away empty handed. I can understand why.

This version of story taken place in Harlem where the introverted Dorothy (Diana Ross) is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher living with his Aunt Em (Theresa Merritt) and Uncle Henry (Stanley Greene). During a Thanksgiving celebration, Aunt Em tries to persuade Dorothy to accept a high school teaching position. Dorothy is reluctant to move on with her life. She is comfortable staying in Harlem at the same apartment.

When she tries to take out the garbage, her dog Toto runs out of the apartment into the massive snowstorm. When she recovers him, a funnel cloud whisks her into Munchkin Land where people come alive from the graffiti on the walls. When Dorothy and Toto crash into the land from the Oz ceiling, she kills the Wicked Witch of the East, Evermean. She frees the munchkins from the evil reign of Evermean, who inherits her silver high heel shoes from the Good Witch of the North, Miss One (Thelma Carpenter). Dorothy desperately wants to go home. Miss One tells Dorothy to fellow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City to find the Wiz (Richard Pryor) who is the only person that could send her back home.

Dorothy is left wandering around Oz that resembles New York City until she meets the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) the next day. He is surrounded by the Four Crows (Derrick Bell, Roderick-Spencer Sibert, Kashka Banjoko, Ronald ‘Smokey’ Stevens) that refuses to let him down to watch around his garden. Dorothy intervenes and frees him. She wants to bring Scarecrow along who wants to find a brain from the Wiz.

They find the yellow brick road and find the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell) who was trapped under fallen props at an amusement park and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) at a local library front. They tag along for Tin Man to find a heart and the Lion to find courage. In order to go to the Wiz, they have to kill the Wicked Witch of West, Evillene (Mabel King).

I have no words to say about this movie. I was happy watching the bits and pieces that I have seen. This movie is over two hours long. It felt like six hours. I am not exaggerating. The sequences go on repeatedly for far too long. I cannot believe that this movie was nominated for any Oscars, except for the music. I thought the music was the only saving grace in this steaming pile of a film.

Judgment: Buy the soundtrack instead. Save yourself the torture to your eyes.

Rating: *1/2

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I was cursed by a dastardly witch doctor. One minute I’m a prince, charming and handsome, cutting the rug, and the next minute – woah!

— Prince Naveen

The Disney Company has gone back to their hand-drawn animation roots with the release of The Princess and the Frog. Deviating from the classic tale, “The Frog Prince”, the movie is set in 1930s New Orleans. This is billed as Disney’s first movie with an African American princess as the lead. The problem is that it’s not… really.

A young woman named Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works double shifts as a waitress to save enough money to open her own restaurant. It has been a life long dream for hers and her father, James (Terrence Howard) that died years earlier. Her aging mother, Eudora (Oprah Winfrey) wants Tiana to focus on finding a man that could provide her with the life that she always dreamed.

As fate would have it, Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruce Campos) visits New Orleans to find a bride quickly. He has been cut off from his wealth, because of her womanizing, philandering ways. Accompanying the inconspicuous Prince Naveen on his journey is his manservant, Lawrence (Peter Bartlett).

When the duo steps off the ship, “The Shadow Man” Dr. Facilier (Keith David), a voodoo doctor that pretends to be a tarot reader, confronts them. He wants to isolate them to grant their greatest wishes, for Naveen it is wealth and fortune that he was stripped and for Lawrence it is a privileged life like Naveen’s. They both decide to have a deal with The Shadow Man where Naveen is turned into a frog.

Tiana’s friend from childhood, Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) commissions her to provide 500 beignets for her masquerade ball that night. With the money from her dad, “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman), Tiana has enough money to make a payment on a broken down warehouse. The problem is that another bidder made a bid on that property, and she needed the money by the next day or she will lose it.

Distraught about the situation, Tiana spills food on herself. Charlotte quickly whisked Tiana into her room to change. She is dressed as a princess when she wishes on the Northern Star for a solution to her situation. Prince Naveen as the frog shows up to convince Tiana to kiss him to turn him back into a human. She is reluctant at first, but she does kiss him. There has an adverse effect; she is turned into a frog.

The whole movie is an epic journey for Naveen and Tiana to go into the grand bayou to seek out the wisdom of old, blind voodoo queen, Mama Odie (Jenifer Lewis). Along the journey, a trumpeting playing alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) and the broken down Cajun lightning bug Raymond (Jim Cummings) befriend Naveen and Tiana.

In the African American community, people are debating about the state of class in the movie. The privileged people in the movie were the whites and poor were the blacks. They don’t realize in that at the time, blacks people did not have the same opportunities that whites had. They had to work extra hard to catch up. Even though this is a fairy tale, it doesn’t have to be completely unrealistic in that aspect.

This was supposed to be a return to form for Disney, but I thought there was something about the climax of the movie that bothered me. I thought it was wrapped up too tightly at the end of the movie with all the characters collimating at the Mardi Gras parade at the same time. The love story between Naveen and Tiana felt a little rushed to me. I did not have room to breathe. Besides, that I thought that it was a fun time with the upbeat jazzy numbers the characters.

Judgment: A Disney movie that has a somewhat lackluster story.

Rating: ****

Nine (2009)

You’re a world class liar, darling. Go out there and lie for Italy. Lie for Italia.

— Liliane La Fleur

Based on the Broadway musical, Nine was taken from Federico Fellini’s film 8 1/2. Director Rob Marshall tries to implement the same tactic of having the musical numbers be a part of a characters imagination translated. It makes you wish that he did this movie first then his previous Oscar winning effort, Chicago.

A down in the dumps Italian director, Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) is reeling that his last two movies have flopped. He is scrambling to write a script for his next movie, “Italia” before productions begins in ten days. Guido’s producing partner, Dante (Ricky Tognazzi) is urging Guido to get out of his funk and put pen to paper.

The Italian press grills Guido to get some secrets about the movie that doesn’t have a script. Guido is running himself so ragged that retreats into his memories and fantasies to find some inspiration for the movie. Most of the musical numbers are sung on the half-constructed set on Cinecitta sound stage. Guido tries to rely on the women he had met in his life to get a creative spark.

He seeks the advice of his long-time costume designer and confidant Liliane “Lilli” La Fleur (Judi Dench) to find out what to do about the movie. She could only give him encouraging words to get the creative juices flowing.

Guido tries to get away from the pressures of movie by going to the Bellavista Hotel away from Rome. He calls his long-suffering wife, Luisa (Marion Cotillard) to try to join him at the hotel, but he reconsiders the request. He decides to calls his mistress, Carla (Penélope Cruz) instead. They rekindle their affair as Guido’s muse for his earlier movies, Claudia (Nicole Kidman) demands to see a script before shooting a single frame.

Guido is worked up from stress about the movie that he makes himself sick. He retreats more into his past to try to find a single fragment of something that could be the basis of his movie, including schmoozing with a Vogue writer, Stephanie (Kate Hudson), having conversations with his dead Mamma (Sophia Loren), and a local hooker, Saraghina (Fergie) to teach him about love.

Most of the musical numbers were flat, except for “Cinema Italiano”, “Be Italian” and Marion’s songs, “My Husband Makes Movies” and “Take It All.” She was the only person in the movie that I felt any emotion towards me. Penelope is getting all the attention, but I think that if the Academy vote Marion in supporting I would be happy with that result.

Judgment: It’s not Chicago. See this movie for Marion’s performance.

Rating: ***1/2

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.

— The Criminologist

The cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been entrenched in American culture since it bombed at the box office in 1975. I always wanted to go to the midnight showings of this movie, but I didn’t want to feel like a noob going there. I am familiar with the music seeing that I have the soundtrack to the 2001 Broadway revival. I get a kick out of going back into a time warp to visit Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his cretins of the night.

Nostalgia floods back when the first thing you see is those flame red lips singing the opening number about this tale of an uptight couple; Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) getting stranded one fateful night in a rainstorm. The Criminologist (Charles Gray) that recalls the events of that night narrates the tale.

They arrive at the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) with his band of misfits, abused manservant Riff-Raff (Richard O’Brien), maid Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and groupie Columbia (Little Nell). Brad wants to use the telephone to get the car fixed, but the Doctor has other plans for the twosome.

He wants them to witness the birth of his perfect companion, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). As the night progress, the Transylvanians’ influence corrupts the good couple.

Everybody knows that the acting is not good bordering on soap opera melodrama. The music is spastic like the cast sucked helium before recording the soundtrack. Is it bad or is it so bad that it’s good?

Judgment: There is something enjoyable about this trainwreck of a movie.

Rating: ***1/2

Cry-Baby (1990)

I may be a drape, but I love your granddaughter. And if that’s a crime, I’ll stand convicted, ma’am.

— Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker

I believe that Cry-Baby is my first experience watching a John Waters movie from beginning to end. Known for his subversive movies, I was hesitant watching this film. I didn’t know how what to expect. I was surprised that this movie was more of a musical that anything else. It doesn’t that this is a good movie.

Taking place in Baltimore 1954, Wade Walter aka Cry Baby (Johnny Depp) and Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane) meet each other while getting a vaccination at the gym. They like each other but it like John Waters’ version of “Romeo and Juliet”. Cry-Baby is a Drape, one of the juvenile delinquents of the town. However, Alison is a Square through and through with her boyfriend Baldwin (Stephen Mailer) and grandmother (Polly Bergen) try to reel her inner drape back.

The two factions clash as Cry-Baby wants to participate in the RSVP talent contest at Mrs. Vernon-Williams’ charm school. Cry-Baby crashes the contest to whisk Alison away on his brand new motorcycle from his grandmother, Ramona Rickettes (Susan Tyrrell), grandmother and uncle Belvedere (Iggy Pop) to his favorite drape hang out, Turkey Point.

Alison meets the rest of Cry-Baby crew that doesn’t tale a liking to the outsider. There is Cry-Baby’s badass pregnant sister Pepper (Ricki Lake), the vixen Wanda (Traci Lords) and the couple Milton (Darren E. Burrows) and Hatchet-Face (Kim McGuire). There is a Drape wannabe Lenora (Kim Webb) has a crush on Cry-Baby, she is the romantic rival.

At the Drapes’ own talent show, Jukebox Jamboree showed Alison what Cry-Baby can do with his voice, hips and electric guitar-playing. Alison is torn between her duties of being with her Square boyfriend, Baldwin or have a wild ride with Cry-Baby.

The movie was short. It felt rushed. It was shallow. Pop in and out. That’s it. I wasn’t invested in the character long enough to care about them. The musical sequences were very entertaining. That’s all.

Judgment: I heard that there is a Broadway musical of this movie, I’d rather see that.

Rating: **1/2

Pirate Radio (2009)

boat_that_rocked_ver8

To all our listeners, this is what I have to say – God bless you all. And as for you bastards in charge, don’t dream it’s over. Years will come, years will go, and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song. Nothing important dies tonight, just a few ugly guys on a crappy ship. The only sadness tonight is that, in future years, there’ll be so many fantastic songs that it will not be our privilege to play. But, believe you me, they will still be written, they will still be sung and they will be the wonder of the world.

— The Count

Pirate Radio is Americanized version of the British film, The Boat That Rocked that was released earlier this year across the pond. The television trailer advertised this movie as a single American deejay taking a stand to the British government. That is not entirely true. So much have been cut out that it makes the story boring. It did.

In 1966, radio stations in Britain play less than forty minutes of rock and roll music a day. There is a single boat called Radio Rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that broadcasts 24 hours of rock and roll.

A young man, Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent to the boat, because he was expelled from school for smoking some grass. His godfather, Quentin (Bill Nighy) is the owner of the pirate radio station. Carl is introduced to the various deejays there like The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Angus (Rhys Darby), Dave (Nick Frost), Simon (Chris O’Dowd), Mark (Tom Wisdom) and Bob (Ralph Brown).

Carl becomes one of the helpers with News John (Will Adamsdale), Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke), Felicity (Katherine Parkinson) and Harold (Ike Hamilton). The pirates want to stand up to the status quo.

The British government wants to shut down the pirate radio station by Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branaugh). He thinks that the music is corrupting the youth to drink, fornicate, and experiment with drugs. His only mission is to shut down the radio station within a year.

Alistair enlists Twatt (Jack Davenport) to help shut down the station. First, they have it to illegal to advertise on the station. It seems to work, but the station brings back a retired deejay, Gavin (Rhys Ifans) to woo the advertisers back. The Count is threatened by Gavin’s arrival.

Alistair has grown impatient with Twatt “going for the jugular”. Twatt finds a way to shut them down when a fisherman’s distress call is blocked. They try to get the public on their side by January 1; pirate radio will be illegal because the endangerment of fisherman on the open seas, The Marine Offenses Act.

I thought that the movie was be about the the government trying to shut down the pirate radio station, but it’s not. I had to have these twists and turns about coming of age and paternity determination. It’s like a dead fish wrapped in the newspaper sitting on the deck for a week. PSH tries so hard to recapture his Lester Bangs persona, but it falls short here. The classic rock & roll music was the redeeming quality this movie.

Judgment: A watered down movie that doesn’t keep your attention afloat.

Rating: ***

The School of Rock (2003)

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I pledge allegiance… to the band… of Mr. Schneebly… and will not fight him… for creative control… and will defer to him on all issues related to the musical direction of the band.

— Dewey Finn

To purge myself of the horror movie binge that I’ve been in for the past week, I wanted to watch a comedy. The School of Rock was a movie that I intended to see; because the positive buzz, it received a couple of years ago. It’s a breath of fresh rockin’ air.

Jack Black delivers a solid comedic performance as Dewey Finn, a slacker rock guitarist that is crashing on his friend’s, Ned Schneebly (Mike White) couch. Ned’s frigid girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman) wants to kick him out unless he gets a job to pay the rent.

His band, No Vacancy decides to let him go, because of his showboating, the twenty-minute solos and him stage diving to no one. Desperate to find work, he wants to sell one of his Gibson guitars. Fate comes in when Dewey answers a call that was meant for Ned for a substitute teacher job from the principal of Horace Green Prep, Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack).

Dewey pretends to be Ned to get a job. When he goes into the classroom, he is hung over from the night before and he doesn’t want to teach the kids anything. Dewey learns that every Tuesday, the kids have music class. He likes what he hears, but he doesn’t like their stuffy type of music. He wants to teach the kids the fundamentals of rock.

Now that he is band-less, he shapes the kids to be his band so he could make it for Battle of the Bands in three weeks. It’s a secret project.

I am not a rock listener, per se, but I love watching people dealing with rock. It’s weird. I thought that the kids were very good. Jack Black was playing Jack Black, but turned up to eleven. I loved that he was Mr. Chips for the 2000s.

Judgment: A kick ass movie that makes you want to rock.

Rating: ****

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