Thursday, February 4, 2016

What's Next On My List? Grease: Live

I remember about a month ago I came across the photo shoot of this project and my jaw dropped. I had no idea this was in plan, and maybe it is better. I am one of those people who is not into remakes very much and well, a simply Grease remake would've made me insane. Why? Because if they want to force it down my throat again then give it something extra (I'm still not OK with the Dirty Dancing remake...). And well, making a televised version of the musical? Now that is indeed something extra. I waited anxiously to see it and wow...

I'll summarize the story, although I doubt I can find anyone out there who doesn't know it yet. Danny and Sandy have a summer romance, but they are very much different in high school, than in private. Fallen trap to the roles they play at school, Danny tries to win Sandy back by having to show his real sweet side, while at the same time Sandy wishes to change for him. It is senior year at Rydell High and their group of friends all feel that an era is coming to an end, but they won't give up on being friends just because school is over.

As I said before, I didn't know this was happening and well, it's a good thing for a simple reason: the cast. I realized that when they make remakes and I have to assist actor by actor to see who will play my favorite characters I just go insane. It is usually never the people I would like to. Here, instead, I just saw the poster and was immediately taken back into the magical world that is Grease. And well I knew that I would never enjoy a simply remake, and at the same time I would never get to see the Broadway show live, and well, this might be the closest I came to it and I was not disappointed!
That said, I know this movie by heart. And my favorite couple are not the main characters, but Rizzo and Kenickie and well the bar was really high for me. And I was blown away by Hudgens' performance. This version actually gave a bit more attention to her feelings and relationship with Kenickie and although for some she wasn't the best character, however, to me her struggle is real... much real than the love between two people who care too much about their appearance than the one they are in love with... I'm sorry, yes, I went there. The whole story is really about kids trying very hard to adhere to the status quo instead of being their true self. And it is a fine story, it made a classic and people keep watching and re-watching it. But for this very reason I never really cared about Danny and Sandy. But that changed too.
Hough and Tveit simply took me on a journey with them. I fell in love with the songs again. I felt that Danny actually wanted to change, not just behind his friends' back or just to appear cute and nice in front of Sandy again. Although, in so many years I still don't understand the lyrics "Sandy my darling, you hurt me real bad, you know it's true" ... like what was he referring to? Danny was rude once, then again, then he let Sandy leave and just danced with Cha-cha and I never really got why he wanted to 'force' himself onto her in the car, I mean... it was just weird. And then she hurt him? With what exactly? There is an extra line here, when we find out that Sandy lied to her parents to be with him, and lied to him as well in a way. So I guess it kinda makes sense, but not really. It's just weird to me. Perhaps she hit the car door harder than I thought... Still, I think that she changing for him in the end was major and Danny did try to change, he got into sports and so on, but people never remember that... they only remember the leather pants Sandy wore... and I can't blame them!
My last criticism is a simple change in the story that I don't get honestly, and that was the Thunder road race. In the movie Kenickie gets and accident by mistake, while here Danny does it to him on purpose. I didn't see that point of that, to be honest. I liked that Danny had to be the hero to win the race by chance. He was the main character, but it wasn't his beef that got them there, but the one between Kenickie and the head of the Scorpions, but there is something satisfying about seeing him win. Here, well... I just found it a bit forced, but maybe for the ones who converted the movie into the musical this seemed more logical. Perhaps this is just me nit-picking.

That said, the musical itself was magnificent. The dances brought to life simple songs that were - before - just part of a movie soundtrack to me. A lot of these songs simply got a new meaning and became favorites again. I adored Tveit's Danny and Hough's Sandy, and as I said before Hudgens' hit it out of the park, and she was incredibly cute with PenaVega's Kenickie. Among the rest of the cast, well, I was very happy to see Ana Gasteyer, she's simply awesome! And our original Frenchy, Didi Conn and Doody, Barry Pearl appear as other iconic characters and in the end put on their original costumes from the movie just made my heart skip a beat! And one person in particular blew me away: Mario Lopez. This guy is a born performer I tell you! And it just makes me extra sad that he isn't acting more... instead of being a talk show host. And, in the end, hats off to directors Thomas Kail and Alex Rudnizsky! These guys know what they are doing!

So watch it? Yes! Why haven't you yet? Grease is the word, for crying out loud! Off you pop and let me know what you thought in the comments!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ 

Danny - Aaron Tveit
Kenickie - Carlos PenaVega
Marty - Keke Palmer
Doody - Jordan Fisher
Putzie - David Del Rio
Sonny - Andrew Call
Mrs. Murdock - Eve Plumb
Principal McGee - Ana Gasteyer
Coach Calhoun - Wendell Pierce
Vince Fontaine - Mario Lopez

Monday, February 1, 2016

What's Next On My List? Demolition Man

Growing up I was a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. I still am and last year I decided to write about his movies for a whole month! And now, I decided to try and make that a yearly tradition. And why wouldn't I? Stallone movies are awesome: even the silly ones have charm to them. Seeing that Mr Stallone is nominated for an Oscar this year, I think that spending this month to talk about him is really the very least. So please enjoy the second installment of #StalloneMonth

Officer John Spartan is on a man hunt, to get a criminal - a bomber-man - Simon Phoenix in custody. His hunt makes him break the law as well, and it results in negligence and the death of several hundred people. Once apprehended Phoenix is frozen and due to his actions, Spartan is frozen as well as part of their rehabilitation program. Once awaken for parole, several years later, Phoenix escapes and wreaks havoc onto the peaceful planet that has come to be since their arrest. Spartan is then awoken as well, as he is the only one who can stop him. The world is a peaceful place and the police is not equipped to handle a mass murderer, nor do they actually train officers to handle violence. It is up to Spartan again to put Phoenix behind bars.

This movie is incredibly stupid, but in a good way. By that I mean that the idea behind it is very smart. It shows that what seems perfect on the surface, might just be rotten on the inside. In the movie there is a whole scene directed to showcase homeless people living in the sewers. It perfectly shows that sometimes we don't solve problems, we just push them aside. And that is essentially what the movie is about: freezing someone will not rehabilitate them as although they are literally prisoners, they are not actually in prison. Time stops for them, life stops for them. The bad guy never learned his lesson and people had to pay the prize for that. So as far as the message of the movie is concerned, I think it is brilliant and quite ahead of its time, as it doesn't want to shove a moral down your throat but it leaves you thinking.
So why is it a stupid movie? Well, because it also tries to emphasize a lot of things that it shouldn't. The police force are portrayed as complete idiots... just because you live in a peaceful world that doesn't mean you should hire dumb people or that you don't need schooling anymore. Second point is that the villain is really just insane and the whole idea of him being freed while the cop who got him isn't - simply due to negligence -, is a big question mark over the movie. Last, but not least... the future stinks. It tries to give you a variation of many futuristic movies you have seen but it lacks logic. You won't give up meat and sex, America, you are not fooling anyone.

Is it a good movie? It has a good message and the action scenes are really fun. It has an overall good cast, but it is clumsy here and there and unfortunately many believe that the good doesn't make up for the bad parts. Is it still enjoyable? Yes, very much, as it is a good 90's movie. And if you are a Stallone fan you should see it, just to be able to appreciate Wesley Snipes' presence in The Expendables (click here to read my review!).

Until the next item on my list.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

John Spartan - Sylvester Stallone
Simon Phoenix - Wesley Snipes
Lenina Huxley - Sandra Bullock
Edgar Friendly - Denis Leary

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Blogger: Saying Goodbye to Alan Rickman

I wanted to take some time before writing this, because it didn't seem right to make Bowie's death seem less important because of a tragedy that followed just days later. I did, however, wanted to talk about him as well, as I feel I should pay tribute to one of the best actors of the 20 and 21st century, Alan Rickman.

"I do take my work seriously and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously."

For a lot of people he is none other than Professor Snape, essentually, he embodied that character and everyone loved him, no matter their opinion of the movies vs. the books. But not me, for me he is Colonel Brandon from Sense & Sensibility: the charming blonde who loved Marianne Dashwood and waited for her. His love was something that always inspired me and I thought he was a great addition to the cast of one of my favorite movies of all time.

"I don't play villains, I play very interesting people."

Despite his wonderful voice that made him one of the most unique actors in Britain and Hollywood combined, he did have several other roles that I don't believe could have ever been played by anyone else. Those include my favorite Alexander Dane from Galaxy Quest, Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the evil and twisted Judge Turpin from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, everyone's favorite Hans Gruber from Die Hard, not to mention Metatron from Dogma and the one I have a love and hate relationship with, Harry from Love Actually.
I chose these characters because they are all so different and it just goes to show what a wonderful actor he was. And as sad as I am, and I really am, I am also very happy that he, at the age of 29 decided to become an actor and that we have all of these movies that we can at any time get from the shelf and pop it into the DVD player and he'll be here with us. It's a horrible loss, but we need to look at the good side of it, whatever small that may be.

"I love America because whenever I go home -- there's something about England and coming from England -- but as soon as you walk down the steps of the plane you shrink. And you have to start saying 'sorry' and being polite and curtsying and things like that... America just lets me be the klutz I really am."

We will all miss you Mr Rickman, be assured. You have been one of those actors to whom we should all look up to and as a person, someone we should inspire to be. I am terribly sorry that he had to leave us, and no matter what others say, it was too soon. I'd like to say f*ck cancer, truly, truly, all of these great people are being taken from us for something that I am fairly certain could've long been cured by now.

We'll await the movies you still worked on with a lot of anticipation and promise that you'll never be forgotten, Professor, never.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Blogger: Remembering David Bowie

I hate to start off the year this way... but I really want to pay my respects. While writing this another one of the best British voices has passed away, and I'll be sure to mention him in a different post, because I loved him dearly too. Nonetheless, this Monday (on the 11th of January 2016) it was announced that singer and songwriter David Bowie has passed away and I wanted to take a chance to tell you about how and why I loved him.
[during an interview about his new album in 1999] 
"I have nothing to say about the new album. Can I go now?"

My first encounter with David Bowie was ... terrible. I'd like to address that it was, however, not his fault, but my brother's. He rented Labyrinth and we started to watch it but I was too little and I completely freaked out because of the little goblins and monsters who came to steal the baby in the beginning of the movie (oh yeah, spoilers). It took me several years to gain the courage to rewatch the movie and up to today I still haven't actually seen it from beginning to end. I have, however, fallen in love with the songs in the movie. It wasn't until high school that I actually got around to listen to other songs from Bowie, but until then it was the sweet voice of the Goblin King that helped me fall asleep with "As The World Falls Down" for more than 10 years now.

"I'm an instant star; just add water."

To me, he'll always be the Goblin King, for some he is Ziggy Stardust, and for others he is simply Bowie. What changed him for me, the person who made him a singer again was my biology teacher in high school. He loved Bowie and he - being an singer himself - often shared and sang songs of his. That's how I got to know him. From that point on I listened to all sorts of songs from him, but among my favorites there will always be "New Killer Star", which my teacher showed me on our way to Prague for a class trip. And then "Absolute Beginners", which my teacher sang to us when we were graduating.

"I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human."

The last chapter was of course the soundtracks he contributed to. I just read a list of movies he contributed to and well, it is true that he was also an actor that had several movie roles - not only Labyrinth had a musical base, but others too -, but here I am referring to people using his songs in movies. One example, one that really hit it out of the park for me by transporting me back to the 80's, was "Heroes", featured in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The movie had a bit of a modern style, but the moment you hear this song you know you are back in time. Others include "Underpressure" in Grosse Pointe Blanke, where it is used at a high school reunion, then of course "Changes" from Shrek 2, and finally my favorite... I have a favorite movie, something I rewatch every year on my birthday and well, that being the case Bowie's voice is always something that comes with the celebration. I not only love this song, but the lyrics for me are simply divine, and that is "Young Americans", featured in Sixteen Candles.

"All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it."

I was not a super fan, I'll admit it, yet more than once he got under my skin and made me feel things a lot of other artists never could. Artist, yes, that's the best way to define him. He was a singer, yes, an actor, but really he created art with his music, by working in every field and genre and evolving the way many other 80's bands and singers never could. Not to mention his music videos are really something out of this world sometimes! And that's great, you know? It makes you think, it makes you wonder and ponder about a lot of questions that wouldn't have otherwise crossed your mind. I love those because I like to be prepared for the future. I know that's impossible, but it still calms me down.

I will miss him, but otherwise I know that I can at any time pop in one of his albums and he'll be here with me. And I think that's the best thing about songs and movies: once they are out there I can get them back any time I want and they will never leave me. And we should be indeed thankful that we shared the Earth with him, because he was truly magnificent.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

What's Next On My List? RENT

Here we are, the end of another year... I have been writing reviews for five years now and I can tell you that it is still one of my favorite things to do. I love movies and I love to talk about them. My audience is pretty limited, although I am very proud to see the number of views go up and up as time passes. To end this year, as you may have seen, I have reviewed musical movies in an attempt to let people know maybe they shouldn't listen to the critics... for last I saved one of my all time favorites, because I wanted to ask everyone:
"How do you measure a year in the life?"

Mark is a wannabe director. He is making a movie about his life and friends. His roomate Roger was a musician who struggles to write a new song. He starts dating a young girl from downstairs, Mimi, who is a drug addict and has no intention to quit for Roger. Collins is their best friend who visits them on Christmas Eve but is badly beaten up on the street. He is helped by Angel, and over the holidays the two fall in love. Maureen is a born performer, Mark's ex, who is now engaged to Joanne, but she struggles with monogamy. Finally you have Benny, former best friend of Mark, Roger and Collins, who decides to marry rich to get out of the bohemian life the others chose for themselves. For this decision they despise him. Most of them, however, share another thing in common: HIV. Mark's movie reflects that perhaps one day he'll be the only one left alive, and then, how should he go on living?

This musical is actually a modernization of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme, in which the disease in question was tubercolosis and not HIV. Nonetheless, nasty diseases... Getting back to this version, I love this musical for various reasons, among them the songs, the cast, the story, but ultimately what I adore is how it conveys the message of love. It doesn't matter if you are black or white, boy or a girl, young or old, rich or poor, sick or healthy, you deserve to be loved! And you deserve to love someone and have no regrets about it! What is the point in arguing over nonsense when life is limited? When time isn't endless? Why would you turn away from your feelings when they are the only thing that keep you alive? That is what this movie taught me. Sorry, this musical. And when you think about all those damn romantic stories that actually lack stories but want to push "LOVE" in your face, you realize they just lack substance... you do need a good story, you do need to be able to get from A to B, with character development, shades of background and the moral of the story has to speak for itself - and not be said out loud over and over again... That is why this musical is simply wonderful.
That having been said I did have two small problems, something my sister and I both talked about. After saying all these good things you might call be a hypocrite, but I will only criticize two things from the movie version, something to do with editing and not the musical! One was cutting a song, "Halloween", which was also on the DVD, so they did shoot it (click here to watch it on Youtube!). I was sad because there is a bit of a weird cut where Roger leaves them and after the funeral and Mark sings about his fear of being lonely, as all the couples broke up and half of them are sick. What follows is him getting caught up in work and Roger leaving to finish his song, and it is very intense, but I missed an intro to that, and that song was perfect. The other thing we didn't agree with was the ending... on the DVD there is an alternate ending that resembles that of the beginning of the movie (an homage to that play): they eight main characters stand on the stage and sing the opening song "Seasons of Love".
In this ending the eight stand there again and Angel is missing, they sing "Finale B" and well... there is a moment where Angel comes out to the stage and your heart simply skips a beat, it is so perfect! We cry everytime we see that ending. The problem with the one they kept is that they start watching Mark's film which is simply a collection of images from the movie that we have already seen. If they decided to go that way, I would've prefered images we haven't seen yet instead of flashback to something that happened literally 10 minutes earlier... I don't know why they chose that in the end, but I feel that if they paid attention to having that homage to begin with, they really could've ended with it as well.

I watch this movie every year, because I keep showing to my friends... almost everyone is on board now, but I still have a couple of people to turn to the Rent side of the force :D My favorite couple is Collins and Angel. Their song, "I'll Cover You" rings in my ear every other day; how both wished to be a safe haven for the other is very beautiful to me. The second has to be Maureen and Joanne, mostly because I have been in love with a person like Maureen and I could see their struggle and I love "Take Me or Leave Me" and recommend it to all my friends who have at least fallen for one who couldn't see the wonderful person in them! In the end the two end up together as they realize that all the problems they have are foolish and they love each other. More people should be like Maureen and Joanne!

Why is this musical also important? On the one side, the Hungarian version was horrible, simply because we don't have - and that is no offence to the mother country that originates this musical - an HIV problem. It isn't totally uncommon, but I don't even think that the percentages of infected people reach the decimals. Many people cannot understand love between a two gay man - one a transvestite -, nor the love between two lesbians - one of which doesn't believe in monogamy. And not because they don't want to, it is simply that they haven't encountered it. But that doesn't take away from the depth and importance of a story like this. Other than the movie, and the Broadway version (click here to watch on Youtube!), that I love as well, I await the 20 year anniversary special coming in 2016! Something to look forward to in the new year!

Watch it? Do you need any more reasons? :)


_ _ _ _ _ 

Mark Cohen - Anthony Rapp
Roger Davis - Adam Pascal
Mimi Marquez - Rosario Dawson
Tom Collins - Jesse L. Martin
Angel Dumott Schunard - Wilson Jermaine Heredia
Maureen Johnson - Idina Menzel
Joanne Jefferson - Tracie Thoms
Benjamin Coffin III - Taye Diggs