Currently browsing the "Musical" category.

Review: The Lion King (2019)

Can you feel the love again?

In the circle of life that is cinema, The Lion King is back in all its original story glory, with a couple of new songs and stunning visual effects. The “reimagining” of the 1994 animated classic blends live-action techniques with virtual reality tools and photo-real digital imagery to create an all-new computer-generated medium that resembles something of a cross between traditional animation, Animal Kingdom and Mr. Ed. The added layer of ‘realism’ makes the light stuff lighter – and the dark stuff darker – in and around the fictional landscape of Pride Rock, somewhere in Africa.

Review: Yesterday

Quick – try and recite the lyrics to Eleanor Rigby (“picks up the rice in the church…”) Not so easy, is it? Imagine having to recount the music and lyrics to all the Beatles classics – or risk having them gone forever? That’s a dilemma central to the premise of Yesterday, a somewhat bland yet charming cinematic tribute to the Beatles – and to love, love, love.

Won’t you please, please help me… stop singing so I can tell you about the movie? Don’t let me down. Here goes:

Review: Echo in the Canyon

When I lived in Los Angeles, I frequently drove through Laurel Canyon on the way to and from work and I knew that over the years it had been famous for its arty inhabitants. I even looked at a rental house or two there, since I loved the counterculture vibe of the place. Echo in the Canyon is a documentary celebrating the musicians of the mid-60’s who lived there and invented folk-rock together and separately. The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas and so many of the biggest groups of the day were there, creating and collaborating. The film is hosted by Jakob Dylan, lead singer-songwriter of the band The Wallflowers. He sits down for chats with an array of famous 20th century musicians – including Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn, Jackson Browne, and Tom Petty in his very last film interview. And those interviews are intercut with the making of an album and a 2015 Los Angeles tribute concert with contemporary artists (Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones) performing some of the songs made famous by those musicians of the canyon. It’s a lot of fun.

Review: Rocketman

This one took some serious rumination, because as much I would love to say I loved Rocketman, I can only say I liked it. I’m still thinking about it though, so it’s possible my verdict will change over time, much like my initial reaction toward Bohemian Rhapsody which impressed me more upon second viewing. It’s not fair to directly compare Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody however, because even though they share a director (sort of, in part) and touch on similar topics relating to music, addiction, sexuality, excess, friendship, family and betrayal – the movies themselves are quite different, narratively and stylistically.

Review: Aladdin (2019)

I must confess I went into Disney’s live-action Aladdin with the lowest of expectations and a great deal of skepticism. I’m an ardent fan of the 1992 animated classic and couldn’t imagine anyone other than Robin Williams – in human or animated form – playing the big blue wisecracking “Genie.” I still think Williams set an unattainable bar for Will Smith – or anyone else who dares to step into Genie’s shoes. And yet… Aladdin 2.0 is quite good, especially if you’re into family-friendly movie musicals (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Greatest Showman, etc.). It pays homage to the old while bringing something new to our “whole new world.”

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2018

It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.

Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.

Review: Mary Poppins Returns

Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, The Girl on the Train) is practically perfect in every way as the practically-perfect nanny Mary Poppins in the long-awaited sequel, Mary Poppins Returns. The film itself, however, is not so practically-perfect, mostly because the songs are far less memorable and joyful than those featured in the 1964 classic starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. I guess you could say that Mary Poppins Returns is practically okay in every way that counts: it offers up decent family-friendly viewing over the holidays; is reminiscent of that bygone era of heartwarming live-action movie musicals; and is awash in colorful costumes and scenery.

Review: Vox Lux

Vox Lux aka A Pop Star is Born begins in 1999 with a school shooting where young Celeste played by Raffey Cassidy (Tomorrowland, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) is badly injured, but survives. And when she performs a song she’s written with her sister at the memorial to express her feelings, it strikes a chord with the public and before you know it she’s a little pop star, despite having middling talent. The rest of the film is a meditation on our fixation with celebrity and violence and what that does to older Celeste played by Natalie Portman as she lives through it. I can see why the concept would attract a writer to hang a story on it, but unfortunately the execution of the film doesn’t ultimately support such a heavy load.

Review: A Star Is Born

About a week after I first saw the latest version of A Star Is Born, I took advantage of a rainy weekend to catch up on the 1937 original, the 1954 remake, and the 1976 remake of the remake. Then I watched the latest version again. And I can honestly say, the newest one is my favorite, in part because it draws on the best parts of all its predecessors while bringing the classic tragic love story into present-day context, complete with an awesome original soundtrack. We’ll surely be hearing at least one of those songs at this year’s Oscars.

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

The story may be lame as heck, but who cares? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delivers exactly what I expected: a groovy movie musical with a simple plot built around lyrics to ABBA songs — just like the first Mamma Mia! nearly a decade ago. In some ways, the sequel is even better, thanks to the singing, dancing and acting chops of Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a younger version of free-spirited Donna Sheridan, the role inhabited by Meryl Streep in 2008. Streep is back for the sequel, but only for a brief yet poignant scene in the final minutes of the film (no spoilers). And oh yeah, Cher pops in too – as Donna’s showstopper (and scene-stealer) of a Mom.