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 me 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 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 it 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 not successful, 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

Monday, December 28, 2015

What's Next On My List? Into The Woods

This came out just a year ago on Christmas day, actually, here in Hungary and I meant to cram in a review, but I didn't see it then, just a couple of months later, so it is not so Christmassy to me as it is to others. Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned. Let us review:

This is a tale of a Baker and his wife who, in order to reverse a curse put on their family, must collect various items from various fairy tales - Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk - so the witch next door will reverse the curse. At the end of the first act it seems that all is well that ends well, but that is not the point of our story... Prince Charming was never actually taught to be loyal, the baker's wife leaves him, Cinderella doesn't quite like being a princess and Jack brings the anger of a giant upon the land they all live on. Only then do they realize that the point of life is not to achieve what you dream of, but nurture it, care for it, and make sure that your wish was not in vain.

I liked this musical a lot. My problem was really one: Jack's story. He goes up the beanstalk to the giants and as far as we knew he was welcomed, given food and then he stole from them... like why? I am sure I am missing a key element from the original story that I should look up, but I don't think I have to. This is actually a problem from the original musical, not so much the movie version. Every other character is given enough background that even without knowing the original you have no problem putting the story together. But Jack... he is just a big question mark to me. Not to mention that I cannot blame the Giant for destroying everything! The movie cut here and there - as there is no point when they acknowledge that Rapunzel and the Baker are siblings, so much so that I didn't realize it myself -, but it hit it out of the park for me in other places. Little Red Riding Hood's characters was simply wonderful, the Baker was as sweet as he was meant to be, the two Princes' were spot on and well... you can't beat Meryl Streep!
This movie doesn't have the fairy tale happy ending. AND IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO. I love people who say that the second act was unneccessary... come on, how can you be so shallow? The whole point is that one must overcome obsticles, that there are no fairy tale endings, and that running away from your responsibilities is never the answer! This movie has the same quality for which I adored The Phantom Of The Opera (click here to read review!), meaning that it elevated the play to another level, one that can be perfectly translated through the big screen. I do not get the bad reviews, nor do I understand why it went so unappreciated, with a cast this talented, with homages to the original fairy tales (before they got Disneyfied), great songs and jokes that make me laugh over and over! Just listen to this song and I dare you to tell me that it isn't magnificient!

Watch it? Yes! Please! Try to see beyond the shallow comments and criticism! This story is so deep and there is so much you can learn from it! And well... Meryl effing Streep is in it!!! GO WATCH IT! I just don't see how one can be disappointed! (I gave it a 10 on imdb... just sayin'!)

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

Witch - Meryl Streep
Cinderella - Anna Kendrick
Baker - James Corden
Baker's Wife - Emily Blunt
Stepmother - Christine Baranski
Florinda - Tammy Blanchard
Lucinda - Lucy Punch
Jack's Mother - Tracey Ullman
Little Red Riding Hood - Lilla Crawford
Wolf - Johnny Depp
Rapunzel's Prince - Billy Magnussen
Rapunzel - Mackenzie Mauzy
Cinderella's Prince - Chris Pine

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What's Next On My List? The Phantom Of The Opera

For this year's Christmas review I wanted to stay on the musical route. This might not be Christmassy for most people, but for me it is, because it is a story set in the winter and the movie itself came out right before Christmas.

Christine Dae has always been in the background of a major opera house, until a mysterious Phantom inside the opera house plays with the directors. He manages to get Christine in the spotlight and then shows himself to her for the first time. Christine, however, doesn't fall in love with him the way he had hoped, and she gets together with her childhood crush, Raoul, who doesn't believe that the Phantom is a real person. Once he reveals himself to make sure his demands are met, the Opera House as a one person decides to fight him, Soon enough he realizes that if he really loves Christine he should let her go instead of expecting her to love him out of fear.

I have a love and hate relationship with this musical. I love the movie, I think it was a hundred times better than almost any other musical movie. Why? Well it elevated the play. Movie is a great medium and it gives way to a lot of things that a live play cannot do. This was my main problem with Les Miserables (click here to read my review!) that it didn't give me any extra. It didn't give me anything about the past of the characters instead it gave me a lot of close ups that made me think I was invading someone's personal space... here I know what happened to the Phantom, I know his back story I know why he is this way! Then, I have Christine and I get to know her dad, her feelings about Raoul, and her fear of the Phantom as well as interest in him. Not to mention the scenery... this movie is incredible to look at! It took everything from the play and just kicked it up a notch and it needed that! The opera house, the snow, the choreography, and the chandelier! Not to mention the actors... in the theatre many times (especially in Hungary) the Phantom is played by someone who is very ugly... they might be able to sing but I could never believe the struggle that Christine goes through with her devotion to the Phantom and her love of Raoul. Here I do! I do think this is hard for her, I do find that there is a conflict within her over the person who taught her how to sing and brought her fame as well as the person she had loved all of her life.
Finally, I wanted to talk about the actors... a lot of people criticize this movie for the singing and I don't get that... I know why they laugh at a Russell Crowe, I also get why you shouldn't have mainstream Hollywood actors in a musical movie just because they are famous... but you don't here! You have actors who weren't well known and who sing very well and act very well! But I mentioned in the beginning that I have a love and hate relationship and well... the hate part comes in when the casting is not good. And I have encountered that more often on stage than in the movie: here it works. So although this being an ultimate classic I still prefer the movie over the play. Moving on, the music? Sublime and I listen to every recording available out there, from anniversary concerts to the original Broadway cast as well as the movie version. I can honestly say this is one of my favorite musicals of all time! And the movie does do it justice! You just can't beat that song when it starts playing...

Watch it? Please do. Don't believe the critics and actually compare it to other musical movies! You'll see that there is something magical in this one that truly catapults it out of this world! And the winter scene? It screams Christmas to me and there is a nod to a happy ending that makes this touching, but terrifying story a perfect movie/musical/play! (And I am aware it was originally a book!)

Until the next item on my list!


_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Phantom of the Opera - Gerard Butler
Christina Dae - Emmy Rossum
Madame Giry - Miranda Richardson
Carlotta - Minnie Driver
Firmin - Ciarán Hinds
Andre - Simon Callow

Sunday, December 20, 2015

FRESH FROM THE THEATRE: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Back in 2011, when I started this blog my first real review was "Why you should enjoy Star Wars Episode I, II and III in spite of public opinion", and I still stand by what I wrote and I love those movies. They are guilty pleasure for me, and for a lot of people, with awesome music and good actors. Deal with it :D anyway, it has only been four years and here we are, with a new story. I have just seen it with a dear friend of mine, I'm sorry to say there will be spoilers, so if you don't want it ruined, I suggest you skip this review and come back when you have seen it!

It is Episode VII, Luke has disappeared and the First Order is after him to destroy the Jedi's for good. One of their stormtroopers gets away with a pilot of the Resistance, Poe Dameron, and they end up on Jakku, the former meets Rey. Both are guided by BB-8, a droid who holds a map fragment to find Luke. During their attempt to escape the First Order they encounter Han Solo and Chewbacca, who takes them to the Resistence, but after an ambush Rey is taken by the First Order and one of their leaders, Kylo Ren, tries to get the information out of her. The First Order has in the meantime perfected a weapon that has the the power of eight Death Stars and while on a rescue mission to get Rey the Resistance enables their weapon. Rey faces Kylo Ren and she sets out to find Luke.

Before Episode III came out I held an all day marathon to rewatch the original trilogy and my first idea was that they could - easily - continue the franchise with the three main characters, just put the story 30 years later and use them to introduce the new characters! And when they did exactly that I had a heartattack... I was very curious to see what will happen and I refused to think too much into it. If I were to come up with my own version I would've been disappointed (remember movie adaptations? It's a curse to think ahead...), so I just had to wait. And wait I did! And disappointed I was not :D

The Bad:
I want to start with what I didn't like because I want to get it out of the way soon. This was a great Star Wars movie, but it wasn't the best movie ever made, ever. To begin with, Finn at first was bad at everything and then got better, which is nice, but it seemed to me that he should've been a bit clumsier even the second time that he wielded a lightsaber... Knowing who Kylo Ren is and his power it seemed simply foolish to me that he would challenge him - even if in that situation it would've been hard to just run away. Still, you immediately recall that Rey had that stick and she's got skills with weapons of this kind. Moving on, not enough Leia and not enough Captain Phasma! I loved that we have a strong female protagonist, but damn, MORE! Give us more of that! I do, however, get that this is the first movie and well... this was really a nice twist but very-very similar to the New Hope... so much so that this is almost the same movie. People might hate me for this, but when they brought up the schematics for the Death Star and compared it to that planet I just thought: this is gonna be the same ending and unfortunately it basically was... and not just the ending, calling it Jakku is very nice, but that planet was really a smaller version of Tatooine. With Rey, we have someone skilled who is clearly in the wrong side of the galaxy and thanks to a droid carrying a message for someone else, she is saved from her dead-end life. Sounds similar? I don't mind watching the same film, because I have no fear that this was on purpose, but a sand planet... I think they could've been a bit more creative there.

The Good:
Everything. Why did I begin with the bad?Because I am aware that this is just the first movie! There is so much more to go! And what I mentioned above are really minor things, but you know what? There is no perfect movie - it doesn't matter if I had those couple of problems because it is nothing that cannot be fixed. Moreover: I did not feel that it was two hours long and I liked the setup and I liked the characters. What really sold this story to me is that I could feel the love behind the scenes. The director, the cast, the crew, they are all fans who care for their source material and care for what they are giving us. I did have criticism, but trust me, if a movie leaves me thinking about it 5 hours later, it doesn't matter if I am nit-picking, that is still one f*cking good movie! I liked every character - even the clearly neo-nazi blondie dude - as well as the antagonist and every protagonist. If you watch episode I, II and III you'll notice that sometimes CGI takes over the story and the characters get lost, here they made sure to have as much action as character development and with all the comic book movies out there that yell ACTION, ACTION, ACTION, I really needed focus on the little guy as much as the plot, and I got that, and this is what made it a good movie! Not to mention that a little robot expressed more emotions in just a couple of scenes, without talking or facial expressions, than some stories have in 90 minutes! He was done brilliantly!

Trying to guess what is next - as in, what I think will happen:
Who is Rey? I know there are a lot of books and comics that tried to expand this universe, I'll be honest, I barely know any of them. According to my friend there is a version where Han and Leia had twins, and well we do have two people who can use the force here. Still, the movie seemed to hint that Rey is Luke's daughter, with the "That lightsaber was Luke's and his father's before him", and it is calling her now. And, overall, I think Leia could never leave her in that place, while I think Luke, for the greater good, could. I'm not calling him a worse parent, I'm just saying that he is driven by something else than Leia is, for example; and Leia missed her son, as she mentioned it in every single scene she had, while Luke disappeared on them...
I need to, however, point out that there is a problem with this logic as well. When did we establish that the force can only be passed on by blood? I mean... all those Jedis of the Republic didn't have Jedi parents! Jedis were not allowed to have children at all! To me the logic that someone who can use the force has to be a Jedi's child is simply stupid. Rey doesn't have to be Kylo Ren's sister, nor cousin. Remember all the younglings Anakin killed in Episode III? They were skilled children who could be taught the way of the force. Why can't Rey be just like that? Another youngster who does have potential in her, but isn't necessarily a member of this one God forsaken family... Not to mention that we don't know anything about her family yet, it could be and will be important, but to me it isn't obvious yet. AND I LOVE THAT. We don't know what's going to happen and I adore that!

All this having been said, see it? WHAT?! ARE YOU SAYING YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! WHY ARE YOU READING THIS? GO-GO-GO!!! Watch Episode IV than V, than II and III and finally VI and have a great evening at the cinema! Happy f*cking holidays!

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

Finn - John Boyega
Poe Dameron - Oscar Isaac
Kylo Ren - Adam Driver
Han Solo - Harrison Ford
Leia Organa - Carrie Fisher
Chewbacca - Peter Mayhew
Supreme Leader Snoke - Andy Serkis
General Phasma - Gwendoline Christie
Luke Skywalker - Mark Hamill

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What's Next On My List? Moulin Rouge

Here's another movie that got a lot of criticism for being... a musical. People should really start coming up with reasonable arguments because sometimes they are just simply ridiculous!

A young writer, Christian, finds himself in love with a prostitute, Satine, working at the Moulin Rouge. He, and a group of artists, come up with the idea of a play, so that he can spend as much time as possible with her, while getting funding from a young Duke who is also in love with Satine. The duke not only finds out about their union behind his back, but even if he were to do something about it, it is too late as Satine was sick to begin with. Christian loses her, but only after having made her dream come true.

Funny thing about this movie is that people either love it or hate it. I am neither. I liked the movie to begin with and I saw so many negative reviews that I started to think it over and came to a simple conclusion: it is neither good nor bad. It has ridiculous moments, true, but it has beautiful ones as well. In some cases the director simply hit it out of the park (you are reading this and you know exactly which scene I am referring to!), and in others it fell flat. Why? Mostly because it wanted to compensate the sadness with something entertaining, but it didn't come up with actual jokes, just long sequences that many times made me feel embarassed: something I do not like to feel at all. This was most of the time set off by the Duke's character, who himself was a weird person, so it is only natural that he would have that effect on the viewer, but because of that a lot of precious moments in the film got lost in translation for me. However, this is to me will never be entertaining. Someone who has anxieties and is generally an awkward person will never come off to me as a comic relief character, thus his presence as a sort of balance between the seriousness of the movie and the ridiculousness of it didn't come across a lot of times. Unfortunately, the other comic relief characters too became much more serious after one faithful song and the awkwardness level just grew and grew. If I had to criticize the movie I would say that the Duke's character was the biggest flaw for me.
But do you know what the fun part is? Here I am, trying to analyze correctly and from a neutral point of view the movie, but it is all in vain. Moulin Rouge was one of the first musical movies of the wave that started in the 2000s and up to today the biggest criticism it actually got was that "It didn't have original songs"... this is the one thing that still up to today drives me insane, and I have written about this several times, with my review about Glee (click here to read), which was adored by everyone despite seemingly having the same fault, not to mention that everything in American television that shows creativity musical-wise gets axed in a heart-beat... So what if these are old songs? They sound great. The lyrics get knew meanings, they tell new stories, they are given life again. Think of Roxanne by The Police... that song gave you a whole new universe to explore, not just a 3 minute 80's tune about a man in love with a prostitute. This scene... oh yeah, this is everything! Watch it if you don't know it! This song makes me want to sing and cry at the same time while I have goosebumps all over... truly fantastic!

There was a lot of work put into this story and for that I applaud it and appreciate it very much. Is it the best love story ever told? Definitely not, as it has been told already many times before. Does that mean the movie is bad? No. Not at all. The reason that does make this a good movie in the end is that the story can stand alone without the music. Many musical movies that come from an original idea instead of Broadway sometimes fall short because their intent is to have a song after a song, but the story is not really, well... existent. Here on the other hand you have a concise story from beginning to end and I think the songs only make it better. Watch it? Sure, it's actually quite good.

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

Satine - Nicole Kidman
Christian - Ewan McGregor
Toulouse-Lautrec - John Leguizamo
Harold Zidler - Jim Broadbent
The Duke - Richard Roxburgh

Saturday, December 5, 2015

What's Next On My List? Hairspray

Our next stop on the list of musical reviews is another big favorite, let alone the historical background of the story, but it was one that got me hooked from the trailer on and keeps giving me butterflies every single time I re-watch it or listen to the songs:

Tracy is not your traditional good looking girl, but she dares to dream big. It is 1962 and after landing a spot as a dancer on a TV show, Tracy decides to use her influence to teach people a thing or two about segregation. She herself doesn't see skin color, but she sees people, and having been pushed by her friends to believe in her dreams she wishes to make some other dreams come true for those friends!

This movie got me shivering in my seat the whole time through. I saw it three times in theatre, actually, because I couldn't grew tired of it! I love the songs, I love the characters, and it is here that I fell in love with Zac Efron (oh yeah, sorry, I didn't care for those shitty HSM movies...). And OMG, James Marsden... he is such a cutie pie! He - for once - wasn't playing the guy that doesn't get chosen in the end. His singing voice is something unearthly, I tell you! I really can't think of anything I didn't love about this movie. It was funny, at times sad, but the good guys won, the songs are really cool and I adore the cast: Brittany Snow, Amanda Bynes (before she went and lost it...), Queen Latifah, Christopher Walken and Michelle Pfeiffer? It really doesn't get any better than this!
Yes, this is a remake, and I saw pieces of the original and can honestly say I don't care much for it... this is both a remake and musical movie done right! FYI, the rating on imdb is bullshit again. What I also adore about this movie is that, besides being very entertaining, it actually decided to portray a piece of American history - one of the most important pieces actually -, and that is the fight for civil rights in American and the wish to end segregation. By showing how unfair it was to different people based on skin color the story uses as an argument the most important emotion of all: love. Two of the main characters, Penny and Seaweed fall in love, and the latter's mom tells them that they will have to fight a lot of idiots, but in the end love will prevail. And it really does! So as far as the moral of the story goes, for me it is a 10/10!
"Cause the world keeps spinning
Round and 'round 
And my heart's keeping time 
To the speed of sound 
I was lost til I heard the drums 
Then I found my way."

Watch it? YES! What more do you need? Fun, love with great music in a period piece set in 1960's America! Off with you, and let me know what you thought!

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

Tracy - Nikki Blonsky
Link - Zac Efron
Amber - Brittany Snow
Penny - Amanda Bynes
Seaweed - Elijah Kelley
Maybelle - Queen Latifah
Corny Collins - James Marsden