Category Archives: musical

The Great Gatsby 2013

The Great Gatsby ~ Every time I think of this Baz Luhrman flick, I can’t help thinking about the “Entourage” fictional version Gatsby. Maybe if I keep thinking that, I can also manifest another fake movie from the show, Aquaman, ’cause that one I really want to see.

At first, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to see this new version of Gatsby. I remember vaguely reading it as a teenager, and then being made to read it in college. I remember watching a TV version as an ABC movie of the week back in the seventies and being bored to tears.

The Great Gatsby is a lot of tell vs. show, along with subtext and metaphor that if you don’t get, your English teacher or professor will have a seizure. It’s also full of unlikable characters. It serves its purpose, like say Catcher in the Rye, don’t get me wrong, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Then there’s the problem of the director. Baz Luhrman, for me, is a creator of extremes. I think his Romeo + Juliet is a work of brilliance, yet his critically acclaimed Moulin Rouge! revels in the mud of my bottom five. I hated it. And because of it, I approach any further Luhrman work with contempt, derision, and caution. The Great Gatsby, seemingly in a similar vein to those two previously mentioned films, is definitely no exception.

I did not hate this version of Gatsby, but I didn’t love it either. It falls somewhere around my impression of the 1970s one, less than impressed, and bored. The leads are strong and perfect had this been in hands of any other director. Luhrman resorts to camera tricks, fast motion, modern music, and even 3-D trickery, and all any of it does is sour and dilute the classic story. Don’t waste your time, unless you’re a fan or morbidly curious.

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Glee Star Dead at 31

Over the weekend, “Glee” star Cory Monteith was found dead in Vancouver, he was 31. Recently released from rehab, drugs are suspected but unconfirmed.

Acting since he was a child, he rose quickly to stardom on Fox’s “Glee” a few years back playing Finn, high school footballer who joins the glee club. The musical comedy drama experienced great success in the first couple seasons, but then fell victim to what does in most high school shows – graduation. Trapped between following popular cast to college and introducing new characters, “Glee” has floundered. Finn recently returned to a bigger role as a co-teacher of the glee club.

The Canadian actor and singer had been in a relationship with “Glee” co-star Lea Michelle for a time before his death. He will be missed.

Vogues of 1938

Vogues of 1938 ~ Regular readers of this blog know I love “Dark Shadows” – the TV series, not last summer’s Johnny Depp vehicle. Well, when I saw this movie listed, starring Joan Bennett, DS’ Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the Collins family matriarch. I know she had a serious film career before DS, over seventy movies, but I’d never seen any, that I know of, so I had to check this out.

Walter Wanger’s Vogues of 1938 is a lavish color musical that also stars Warren Baxter as the male lead opposite Bennett. She’s a socialite who becomes a model after a failed marriage. The sets and costumes are terrific for the time, and the print is crisp and bright.

The movie is clever and snappy, like most from the decade. The story is weak, but plays second to the terrific musical numbers and the visuals so it’s okay. The worst part is …Joan Bennett! She’s stiff, fake, and unappealing. Literally everything works on this flick except her. I’m glad she found her home finally in soap operas. Worth seeing, but be forewarned.

The Pineland Players Present Bye Bye Birdie

The Pineland Players present “Bye Bye Birdie” – Book by Michael Stewart, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Lee Adams, Originally Produced by Edward Padula

It’s the late 1950s and teenagers from across the United States are going crazy for the handsome rock star, Conrad Birdie. Meanwhile, his manager, Albert Peterson, is going into debt and has staked his financial future on Conrad’s success. Albert’s secretary, Rosie, is increasingly frustrated with the time and money Albert is losing on his project. Disaster strikes when Conrad receives a draft notice to join the military. Thus, Albert attempts to stage a farewell party for Conrad in which he is to kiss one lucky fan on the Ed Sullivan Show before he leaves for the army. Kim MacAfee, from Sweet Apple, Ohio, is the lucky girl chosen to be kissed. But conflict arises when her boyfriend, Hugo Peabody, gets jealous, and Rosie becomes fed-up with Albert’s lack of commitment. Eventually, things turn out alright. Kim and Hugo resolve their problems while Albert agrees to leave managing, become an English teacher, and marry Rosie.

The Cast – Albert Peterson: Dave Ferris, Rose Alvarez: Arielle Thomas, Helen: Megan Bandomer, Ursula Merkle: Alanna Campbell, Kim MacAfee: Emily Chant, Mrs. Doris MacAfee: Jennifer Walker, Mr. Harry MacAfee: Michael Post, Randi MacAfee: Abby Chant, Mrs. Mae Peterson: Rachel Ulriksen, Conrad Birdie: Erich Schmal, Hugo Peabody: Dylan Paulson, Reporters: Stephanie Lottes, Tyrone Fuimaono, Mayor: James Hoffman, Mayor’s Wife: Karen Malone, Mrs. Merkle: Cindy Clark, Nancy: Bryce Turkheimer, Gloria Rasputin: Sammi Kristie, Penelope: Julianna Rankel, Mrs. Johnson: Michelle Bartasius, Maude F Charles: Abby Zahn, Alice: Rachel Benassutti, Margie: Mariah Schultz, Harvey Johnson: David Thomas, Sad Girls: Danielle Romanuski, Sarah Stearn

August 10, 11, 17, 18, 2012 at The Neeta School, 44 Neeta Trail, Medford Lakes, NJ

Bye Bye Birdie Tickets Now Available!!!

Show Dates: August 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30pm, August 18 at 2:00pm And don’t forget about our traditional “Meet the Cast” Ice Cream Social immediately following the August 18th matinee.

The Ticket request line is now open. You can request tickets or get more information by calling the Pineland Players information line at 609-286-3485. Leave a message with your name and phone number, your ticket date(s) and how many, and we will return your call to confirm your request.

Or you can use our on-line ticket request form. Click Here to go to the request form. Complete the form and click the “Submit” button at the bottom. We will confirm your request using the method you specified (phone or email) in the form. (you may also put in a ticket request at Saturday rehearsal; see anyone at the front desk)

BY REQUEST, WE NOW HAVE RESERVED SEATING, SO GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY FOR BEST SEATING AVAILABILITY.

Ticket prices – Adults $12, Children under 12 & Seniors, $10. Group rate, 10 or more tickets, $8. Ice Cream Social, $4.

Tickets will be held at the ticket desk on the night of your show, payable in cash or check payable to “Pineland Players.”

Alyas Batman en Robin

Alyas Batman en Robin ~ This film, made in the Philippines in the early 1990s, is hard to describe. On one hand it is the stuff of legend, like Andy Warhol’s Batman, or the also Filipino Alyas Batman at Robin from 1963, something few people in the United States have even ever seen. On the other it’s just bizarre. Though made in the Philippines it has many of the hallmarks of a Bollywood film – comedy, drama, romance, and people spontaneously breaking into song and dance.

The plot has criminals taking on the identities of their idols – the Penguin, and the Joker, among others – to rob banks. To counteract this, two men, I am unsure if they are brothers or father and son, dress up like Batman and Robin, and have their car souped up to look like the Batmobile. Hilarity, romance, as well as song and dance numbers ensue, as one would expect.

For an unauthorized film using DC Comics characters, some of it looks good, not great, but some is better than that prime time NBC “Challenge of the Superheroes.” The costumes are plays on the 1966 TV series rather than the Tim Burton films of the time. Comedian Rene Requiestas as the Joker reminds me of Prince’s alter-ego Gemini, and not in a good way.

All in all this is probably worth a look for the curious. If you watch it in the wrong mood, you’ll be horrified, but if you watch it with the right attitude, you’ll be satisfactorily entertained.

The Lorax

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax ~ I learned to read very early, thanks to my big sister, starting with Dr. Seuss favorites like “Hop on Pop,” “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish,” “Fox in Socks” and of course the classics like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” And although I quickly graduated to comic books, and then real books, I never lost my love of the Doctor (in this case, Seuss, not the guy with the TARDIS).

Though I had never actually read the book I do distinctly remember my first encounter with “The Lorax.” The night the animated version premiered on CBS I was allowed to stay up later than usual to watch it. I was interested but not very because I thought that previous TV versions of Seuss’ work, excepting the Grinch, we’re inferior to the source material. Yes, even at seven, I was nurturing a critical mind.

I had not just a critic’s thought process, but I was also pretty hip to propaganda, even if it was positive propaganda. I had seen the Justice League fight pollution and promote ecology in the comics, and it had hit a sour note with me. It’s not that I don’t believe in the causes, I do, it’s just I’m very against being fed a message in lieu of a story or characterization. I saw that hand at work in “The Lorax.” The bottom line is I don’t mind being educated while I’m entertained – I just don’t want to be preached at.

Which brings all the way back to 2012 and the movie Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. The Bride and I saw it in 3D, so we spent far far too much to get in. By my estimation, this would have been fine in just plain 2D. There’s still a message here in this expanded tale of the Lorax, but really not enough to annoy me. Trust me, it’s still there, but nothing like Lou Dobbs and other conservatives have exclaimed (and did I read right, did they call “The Lorax” a novel?). It is clear, not at all subtle, but not overbearing either.

Instead I got to enjoy the fun relationship between Ted (Zac Effron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), watching Ted escape the city in interesting ways, and hearing the moral yet endearing story of The Once-ler (Ed Helms) and the appropriately annoying (here at least) Danny DeVito in the title role. There is also the predictable role for Betty White. No offense, honey, I love ya, but it’s getting old. There were a few pointless scenes, like the chase at the end with the seed. I almost wanted to yell at the screen, “Give it to Wall-E, he’ll keep it safe!”

All in all though, it was good, and non-offensive. Add a fun original soundtrack (no excuses for only two nominees in the Best Song category at next year’s Oscars) and you have yourself an entertaining hit movie. I don’t have a good record with Seuss properties turned into films (note the Grinch and Horton), but this one’s a winner.

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Quickies 2-10-2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ~ I really liked this a lot. It was clever, and owed more than a lot stylistically to both “Psych” and “The Mentalist” in the way they showed how Holmes’ intellect works. Whereas the first movie worked very hard to pull in new and old fans with its new twist on the characters, this sequel played it closer to the source material. Great ending in tribute to the old stories as well. If you’re a reader, you’ll see it coming a mile away. Loved it, and can’t wait for the next one.

Three Inches ~ This SyFy pilot doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, a serious concept or a sitcom filmed like a drama. A teenaged boy discovers that he’s telekinetic, but can only move objects a distance of three inches. Superhero antics without costumes that comic book fans will hate. It might as well be “Alphas” meets Mystery Men, but with a hesitant sense of humor. Me, I hope it doesn’t become a series, but it’s always nice to see Andrea Martin, and she’s great here.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol ~ Now I slept through a lot of this apparently. That seems to be a problem because to me, it didn’t seem like I missed much. Tom Cruise didn’t talk much, and it felt like wall-to-wall action. Cruise hanging off the building, which I did see, is do not miss. The problem is that I only really saw an intermittent half-hour of this flick, and it’s really almost two and a half hours long. Judge as you see fit.

Jazz Boat ~ Screenwriter Ken Hughes directed this 1960 pseudo gangster musical that was apparently supposed to be Britain’s answer to Guys and Dolls. It’s all youth gangs in London tussling over girls and money in a confrontation that finally takes place on a riverboat on the Thames, with musical interludes along the way. Much more entertaining than it sounds, we get to see what kind of star Anthony Newley could have been. I liked this a lot, serious guilty pleasure.

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The Jazz Singer

The Jazz Singer ~ Okay, I confess, I’ve never seen the classic 1927 The Jazz Singer before, heck, I’ve never even seen the 1979 Neil Diamond version. I know, I know, how dare I call myself a film critic and not have seen it. Well, sit still, I’m amending that tonight as I watch it.

I know of the film’s importance, in fact I know quite a bit about it, just never sat through the whole thing before. We all know the story, Al Jolson plays Jakie Rabinowitz, the son of a devout Jewish cantor who wants his son to replace him when he retires, all Jakie wants to do is be a song and dance man on stage. It’s a touching, time honored story, one that resonates today. The generation gap always works, just ask Neil Diamond.

The film is often noted as being the first talkie, but in reality, only a few sequences feature what was called ‘synchronized dialogue.’ And despite the name, there’s not really all that much dialogue beyond the six songs featured. That said, the musical sequences are amazing, and probably startled and stunned audiences for the better when it was first seen in movie theaters.

The Jazz Singer, despite its reputation is primarily a silent film, with terrific singing episodes, and it’s also a damn good flick with dynamic if melodramatic performances. But then again, silents operated on the melodrama principle, so no points off. This is a great film, not really what I expected, but still one of the best films of its era. See it if you get a chance. The DVD has some wonderful background material.

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The Muppets

The Muppets ~ After a summer of sneaky and wonderful previews and preview parodies, the Muppets are finally back. Absent from movie theaters for over a decade, this is a welcome return for those who remember them and grew up with them – and hopefully an introduction for those new to the Muppets.

Writer/producer/star Jason Segel brings us a surprising film filled with nostalgia, heart, and most of all, fun. The plot has Jason and his brother, Walter, a rather annoying new Muppet who steals screen time from the more established and much more entertaining Muppets, ‘getting the band back together’ so the Muppets can save their old theater from an evil oil tycoon. Yes, it sounds predictable, and is at times, but it is filled with the same magic and fun that made these characters do wonderful over the years on television and in films.

My favorite part of The Muppets, besides the whimsy and adult humor that made the past shows and movies so great, is that it’s a self-aware movie musical. That whole wink-wink nudge-nudge attitude disarms and informs the silliness of the convention and makes the flick for me. As much as I love musicals there’s always that weird awkwardness of folks spontaneously breaking into song. Here I loved it.

Of course the problem of a big franchise like the Muppets is fitting in everyone’s favorite. It’s one of the reasons I dislike the bland Walter here. That said, I wanted to see more of Fozzie’s tribute cover band, the Muppets’ evil counterparts, the Moopets – great fodder there. This is great fun, recommended.

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Tangled

Tangled ~ Much like Disney’s last animated feature, The Princess and the Frog that re-imagined the fairy tale of “The Frog Prince,” Tangled gives “Rapunzel” a new spin. And while very little of the film has the energy or the verve of the preview featuring the music of Pink, it is still very good.

Leads Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, though not most folks’ choice of a male lead, hand in terrific performances. Levi, especially proving the magic of animation is about voice work, not appearances. Character actor Donna Murphy rounds out the singing cast as the heavy, with Alan Menken doing the music this time out.

The songs are formula unfortunately and go in all the right places and do everything these types of songs have done for Disney songs for almost two decades. They’re almost interchangeable, which again, is not to say they are not good. One tune, “I’ve Got a Dream,” stands out far above the others in its difference above all else. It’s an almost Monty Python-ic madcap piece that brings more than a few laughs with it.

All in all, a great entry for Disney’ fiftieth animated feature, and their first CGI one without Pixar. We’ve seen it before, but it’s still worth seeing again, ya know? Terrific holiday fare for the kids, and the adults, recommended.

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