Currently browsing the "Musical" category.

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.

Review: Pitch Perfect 3

Awards season is filled with a lot of complex, thought-provoking stuff that represents your cinematic meat and potatoes, with a side of veggies. Pitch Perfect 3 is your fluffy dessert. A simple treat that goes down easy but should be consumed in moderation. It’s not nearly as good as the refreshingly original Pitch Perfect (2012) or its entertaining sequel, Pitch Perfect 2 (2015). But it is good enough to satisfy the fan base (you know who you are, pitches). At this point, the law of diminishing returns has definitely nibbled away at the comedy/music franchise. But there’s room for replenishment and redemption because the main characters are still fun to watch, and the music is still fun to hear. In other words, despite PP3 being marketed as the Bellas’ “Farewell Tour,” there will surely be a PP4 ‘Comeback Tour’.

Review: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman is the type of movie I could watch multiple times – not for the (so-so) plot – but rather, for the musical production numbers filled with heart, spectacle and earworms galore. If you don’t like Broadway musicals, The Greatest Showman won’t ring your bell. But if you’re a fan (as I am), you’re bound to enjoy this original movie musical that is, in essence, a Broadway show on the big screen. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of a Moulin Rouge or Les Miz, but like the circus that P.T. Barnum created, The Greatest Showman is fun for the whole family. And c’mon, who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman, the most versatile guy in show business?!

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast represented near-perfection for an animated musical when it competed for Best Picture honors in 1991. So it’s hard to imagine that any reimagining of the “tale as old as time” could possibly hold a candle – or a lumiere – to that instant classic. But Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast does what it set out to do, and that’s bring a strong cast, a contemporary vibe, and a few new songs to audiences old and new. And while it’s not perfect, it is quite enchanting.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

La La Land

Believe the buzz. La La Land IS the best movie of 2016. It’s certainly my top pick for top honors in the Oscar pool. But here’s the twist. I had to see it twice to fully appreciate the story and the spectacle. The first time I saw it was at the Middleburg Film Festival in October, in cramped seats in a hotel ballroom. About a month later, I saw it again – on a big screen, in a real theater, with a good sound system. And I was hooked. It doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre. It’s part musical, part drama, part comedy, part fantasy, part romance… all packaged together in a unique, thought-provoking, entertaining and bittersweet film about dreams, relationships, and the paths taken – or not taken – in life.

Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers are prolific filmmakers, but for me their films are hit or miss. I loved No Country for Old Men, and Fargo was amazing. But then there are those utterly forgettable flicks – The Lady Killers, or Burn After Reading. I’d put Hail, Caesar! somewhere in between. It’s plenty entertaining but it isn’t going on the shelf with The Big Lebowski. It’s a lovely walk around 50s era Hollywood with a star-studded cast having a lot of fun. And if for nothing else, you should see it for Channing Tatum’s dance number.

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 is a perfectly entertaining movie. From a plot perspective, it doesn’t measure up to its 2012 surprise-hit predecessor Pitch Perfect, but what it lacks in story, it makes up for in gleeful fun. Here’s the gist: the Bellas of Barden University are riding high as three-time national a capella champions. But an embarrassing faux pas and wardrobe malfunction during a performance at the Kennedy Center (for the POTUS no less) results in the school suspending the all-girl singing group, now comprised mostly of seniors who really need to be thinking about life after college anyway. The gals strike a deal with the school – and the a capella governing body – that if they can pull off an upset victory at an International competition that no American group has ever won, then the Bellas will be reinstated, and all will be forgiven. Ready, set, cue the music! What follows is pure fun, with informal sing-offs, bonding exercises, surprise cameos, and the return of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins in all their satirical glory as professional commentators for the singing competitions. They are hysterically inappropriate.

Mainstream Chick’s Christmas Day cheat sheet

Apologies. I’ve been remiss in posting my reviews. So in the interest of time – and a quick read for those planning a Christmas holiday escape to the movies – here are some of my picks, and misses:

Selma – This is, hands down, one of my favorite movies of the year, though it’s only opening in limited release on Christmas (NY, DC, LA, Atlanta) before expanding nationwide on January 9th. If it’s playing at a theater near you, check it out. It’s about the 1965 MLK-led civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that culminated in passage of the Voting Rights Act. Its message of civil disobedience and non-violence to enact change is relevant, timely and powerful.