Archive for the ‘Musical’ Category

An aspiring actress makes her way to Hollywood to live out every actress’s dream. Hitting up as many auditions as possible, she struggles to make a break into the industry. Wandering into a bar, she meets a pianist named Sebastian and then finally talks to him at a pool party. They start a romance, during which time he breaks it big with his music career while she continues to find an in with the movie industry. When a play catches the attention of a talent agent, the career paths for the couple starts to diverge in different directions, putting a strain on their relationship.

Dance Party: The film starts without any real focus on the main actors, giving viewers a taste of classic Hollywood dance numbers. It is a spectacle of dance and diversity on the highway. While this number was truly enjoyable, other moments in the film were a little less magical. The marquee dance between Stone and Gosling under the stars was entertaining but seemed a little less than stellar with the actors struggling not to look down at their feet. Still, this is the type of film that Hollywood eats up about itself.

Life Imagined: One of the interesting twists in this film happened near the end of the story, where the viewer gets to see a glimpse of another life. What if they had actually met and fell in love in the bar rather than through their competing careers? What if they were able to support each other through their successes?

Beautiful Transitions: Unlike The Artist, this film projected in bright colors and romantic scenes. The song City of Stars pops up throughout the film and helps to move the story and romance from one stage to the next. During Audition and Planetarium, the viewer is taken into whole new worlds of imagination.

Final Verdict: While the film is very enjoyable, the story was a little off-putting. Stone played a bit too much of a damsel while Gosling was a bit too standoffish. The acting, singing, and dancing was good but not award-worthy.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5


rudderless__movie_poster__by_bwleigh2013-d7h42v1Tragedy can hit at the most random of times. After closing a big deal with his advertising firm, Sam calls his son to meet up to celebrate but gets stood up. While at the bar, he sees a report on the news about a shooting at his son’s school. A short time later, Sam arrives at his son’s funeral and his life starts to take a dark turn. After losing his job, he moves into his boat and lays low for two years. Sam runs into his ex-wife, who gives him several items from his son’s room. After listening to some of the music, he gets the courage to play one of the songs at The Trill. A young musician, Quentin, really enjoys Sam’s song and begins to pursue Sam to play again. After wearing him down, Quentin and Sam expand their band and start to draw a real following.

Review: A real shocking story, Rudderless was a film that focused on pain and healing. William H. Macy (Trill) served as both a character and the film’s director. While only playing a small part, his influence in the complex storyline was palpable. Sending Billy Crudup (Sam) through the wringer, the performance was heartfelt and pure. As a father who struggled with the loss of his son, he traveled through the emotions of shock, painlessness, sorrow, and, eventually, healing. Anton Yelchin (Quentin) was a strong counterpoint, starting as a positive influence to pull Crudup’s character out of his slump and eventually forcefully challenging his inability to deal with the death of his son.

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**Spoiler Alert** The shocking turn in this film was when it was revealed that Sam’s son was actually the one who committed the shooting at his school, killing 6 students. Sam spiraled into real depression and despair, unable to comprehend what happened to his son. He had somewhat escaped his pain but never really dealt with it until he was finally called out by Kate (Selena Gomez). With her forceful tone refusing to let him get away with playing the songs without dealing with the connection to his son, she eventually forced him to reveal his past to his bandmates and force him to make a decision about his future and his influence on Quentin.

While the film started with an even and somber tone, the shocking twist and powerful conclusion make this a hidden gem of the past year.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

into-the-woods-poster1A baker and his wife. A boy selling a cow. A red-hooded girl. A woman in a tower. Another controlled by her family. These seemingly unconnected people become intertwined when a witch seeks to break a spell placed upon her years ago. She appears before the baker and demands that he gather key items for her within three days time and she will remove a curse she placed on his family, allowing him and his wife to bear a child. Of the items he needs to find are a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold. As the baker and his wife head out to retrieve the items, they find that each item is attached to one of the others bound to them by destiny. Each of the encounters also begins to muddle the idea of happily ever after and unleashes a potentially large threat upon the land.

Review: In an adaptation of the 1986 musical, Rob Marshall aimed to take the mashup of these Brothers Grimm fairytales and get the story onto the big screen after 15 years of trying. Overall, the musical was entertaining, but it was also not the full story as originally projected. With Disney at the helm, there was a slightly lesser focus on adult themes, even though there were significant swings in the tone of the story. While only Meryl Streep (the witch) has received recognition for her performance, the overall cast balanced each other out well. James Corden (the baker) and Emily Blunt (the baker’s wife) present a great back and forth conflict of partnership and individuality, Daniel Huttlestone (Jack) shows off a solid singing voice, Lilia Crawford (Red Riding Hood) maintains a fun sassiness, and Anna Kendrick (Cinderella) shows off a combination of her vocal talents and fun energy.

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Where the film succeeds is with its light-hearted humor. One of the best scenes included Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel’s prince) and Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince) in a battle of angst put to a flighty ballad. Cinderella’s inner turmoil over running from the prince was also another great moment. Each of these elements helped to keep the overall feel whimsical without taking away from the overall story.

While imaginative, the part when the fairytales start to go wrong ended up being where the musical lost a bit of steam. The witch’s purpose for breaking the spell on her seemed fruitless. The ragtag group is united, but ultimately falls short of a truly happy ending. Rapunzel’s (Mackenzie Mauzy) story felt like an afterthought, considering her hair was not truly the ingredient needed by the witch. Shortcomings, like these, and the potential Disney (or some other production company) could have taken to be a little more risqué with their storytelling take away from this musical truly being larger than life.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

les-mis-posterOn the verge of finally getting to taste freedom again, Inspector Javert reminds Jean Valjean that he will forever be a prisoner even without the physical chains. Nearly getting caught for stealing silver from a priest, Jean sees his opportunity to turn around his life and denounces himself of his former name. Finding a new home and becoming mayor, Jean believes he has found peace until Javert returns and chases him away, after Jean makes a promise to Fantine to find and care for her daughter, Cosette. On the run, Jean recovers Cosette from Thenardier and disappears. Several years later, the masses in Paris are getting restless with the poverty and despair, with Marius and Enjolras leading the cause. But when Marius spots the alluring Cosette, their love causes Jean to join the fight and

Starring: Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Javert), Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Isabelle Allen (Young Cosette), Sacha Baron Cohen (Thenardier), Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras), Samantha Barks (Eponine), Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche), Colm Wilkinson (Bishop), Stephen Tate (Fauchelevent), Tim Downie (Brevet), Bertie Carvel (Bamatabois), Ian Pirie (Babet), Adam Pierce (Brujon)

Combining the performances as a collective, the cast does an exceptional job with focusing on giving the emotional performance over the more beautiful one. Jackman is quite the performer, but even he pales in comparison to Hathaway. She turns in quite the show of passion and pain, particularly during I Dreamed a Dream. Crowe has been criticized for a lack of range, but he is actually a solid vocalist. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are quite humorous and were a perfect pair to cast for the roles of the Thenardiers. Barks also turns in a rather strong moment with On My Own. Seyfried and Redmayne have their moments as well.

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While the story mostly follows Jean Valjean and eventually Cosette, the whole film was surrounded by the disparity of the French people, under the strong watch of an aggressive officer of the French police. Taking heart to the code of the law, Javert was well known for his ruthless pursuit and swift justice, even for the most minor of crimes. For Valjean, stealing a loaf of bread meant yards of slavery and labor, only to be released into a world that refused to give him a chance for redemption. After receiving a moment of kindness from the Bishop, Valjean vowed to do whatever he could to live a life a respect, but not before attempting to abandon his past. His protection of Cosette became complicated as he had to keep her hidden in the shadows because of Javert’s pursuit, but he knew there would be a day when she would either become curious or be seen by someone who would steal her away. Rather than trying to keep her to himself, he stepped in to help in the revolution to save Marius for his Cosette. Even with a few run-ins with Javert, he successfully finds ways to prevent Cosette from ever falling victim to the harsh revolution or loss after Fantine.

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Taking Claude-Michel Schonberg’s, Jean-Marc Natel’s and Alain Boublil’s original book turned musical, Tom Hooper hoped to play off of his recent success with The King’s Speech and turn the musical into a hit film. Going a different route than other recent musical films, Hooper employed the live singing approach rather than overlaying studio performances onto the video footage. In the end, this meant that a more realistic and synced performance could be captured. In addition to the vocal performances, Hooper also focused on some interesting camera shots, in particular the closeups during dramatic solo songs like I Dreamed a Dream and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. While this did help with the drama felt during each of the scenes, they are sometimes dragged on a little too long and became overwhelming on the movie theater screen. Otherwise, the makeup work, costumes and scenery helped to enhance the vivid telling of the Les Miserables story.

Les Miserables is a strong translation of the musical into a feature film and the movie’s versions of the famous songs are well adapted and engaging.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5

As she starts her college career at Barden University, Beca can dream of nothing but leaving everything behind to go out to LA and pursue her career in music production. Refusing to let her miss out on the experience of college, her father pushes her to at least give school one year and she must join a student organization. Scouring the involvement fair, a desperate leader of the Barden Belles a capella group seeks Beca out and has a feeling that she has found a great addition to the group. Looking to recoup from a devastating loss in the previous year’s nationals, Chloe and Aubrey realize that they are going to struggle to even get back to the finals with a group of women who are far different than their usual recruits. As Beca gets sucked into the a capella group, she also finds herself slowly falling for one of the guys of her a capella competition.

Starring: Anna Kendrick (Beca), Skylar Astin (Jesse), Ben Platt (Benji), Brittany Snow (Chloe), Anna Camp (Aubrey), Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy), Alexis Knapp (Stacie), Ester Dean (Cynthia Rose), Hana Mae Lee (Lilly), Kelley Jakle (Jessica), Wanetah Walmsley (Denise), Adam DeVine (Bumper), Nicole Lovince (Kori), Shelley Regner (Ashley), Elizabeth Banks (Gail), John Michael Higgins (John), John Benjamin Hickey (Dr. Mitchell), Jinhee Joung (Kimmy Jin), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Tommy), Joe Lo Truglio (Clef #1), Har Mar Superstar (Clef #2), Jason Jones (Clef #3), Donald Faison (Clef #4)

Anna Kendrick is one of the rising stars of the business. She projects an indie presence with a hint of sass that makes her an intriguing performer. Brittany Snow manages herself well as the bubbly, lovable supporting character, while Rebel Wilson has taken her strong comedic presence to a level that allows her to stand out of the crowd. Skylar Astin feels like a bit of a safe pick as the male lead, but he also matches well, in terms of his personality, with Kendrick. Including Banks and Higgins as the commentators was a very smart choice as they have a great play back and forth in their dialogue. The Clef quartet was also a great additional cameo to help maintain the humorous energy of the film.


Better known for his work with TV shows like Dawson’s Creek and Everwood, Jason Moore jumped at his first chance of a feature film by taking on a coming-of-age story of a young woman looking for a sense of belonging. Beca did not realize that she was all but isolated through her passion for music by the way that she remained so focused on her mixing. Her father may not have had a great relationship with her, but his push to join a student group was going to create more of an impact than she could ever have guessed. The Barden Bellas were coming off an embarrassing defeat at nationals the year before, when Aubrey completely lost in during a solo on stage but also inherited the leadership role. Aubrey and Beca were at odds immediately, as Aubrey was more of a dictator in the way the group performed and Beca was more comfortable with questioning every move Aubrey made. Beca and Fat Amy slowly tried to push the group to break through it’s rigid persona, but a surprise second chance for success and an emotional release of frustration finally allowed the women to identify who they were going to be as an a capella group.


The film is overrun with references from other films. The biggest one certainly is the 80s influence of The Breakfast Club, but there is also a strange similarity to Bring It On. Where the high school teen comedy focused on a teams struggles to find itself and win a cheer competition, this film took a similar path but gave it a slightly more mature tone but actually a significantly higher degree of humor. Using The Breakfast Club seems to highlight a trend that has appeared in a lot of films recently. 80s music and film have made a resurgence, and seem to be more successful when blended with today’s ideas. This also gets exhibited with how the Barden Bellas seem to bore people with their attempts at winning by using The Sign by TLC.

This film may be similar to a previous high school-based movie on competition but it also feels like a breath of fresh air in a film industry that has felt a little stale. It re-imagines a film type that is enjoyable for a general audience beyond its projected age group.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5

With the release of a new film by their heroes, Terrance and Philip, the boys of South Park are looking for any way to sneak into the theater without getting stopped by the rated “R” tag. When the film causes Kenny to attempt to imitate one of the stunts and leads to his death, the parents of South Park go into a rage. When they take their campaign to lobby against the movie, their aggression leads to the brink of war between the United States and Canada. Kyle, Stan and Cartman join a children-led resistance to save Terrance and Philip from certain execution. Meanwhile, Kenny is dragged to hell and meets an unlikely romantic pairing, Satan and Saddam Hussein. Unbenounced to everyone, Saddam is planning to use the onslaught of war as a means for reentering the world and taking over as its ruler.

Starring: Trey Parker (Stan/Cartman/Satan/Mr. Garrison/Philip/Randy Marsh/Mr. Mackey/Ned), Matt Stone (Kyle/Kenny/Saddam/Terrance/Jimbo/Gerald Broflovski), Mary Kay Bergman (Mrs. Cartman/Sheila Broflovski/Sharon Marsh/Wendy), Isaac Hayes (Chef), Jesse Howell/Anthony Cross-Thomas/Franchesca Clifford (Ike), George Clooney (Dr. Gouache), Brent Spiner (Conan O’Brien), Minnie Driver (Brooke Shields), Dave Foley (The Baldwin Brothers), Eric Idle (Dr. Vosknocker)

Though the main part of the cast came together to support most of the voices for the film, Matt Stone and Trey Parker could not do this film alone with the scope of the story and number of characters involved. The four boys are still the main focus, but celebrity talent, including George Clooney, Minnie Driver, Dave Foley and Eric Idle, joined the pair. Some of them gave more thoughtful performances to represent their characters (Idle), while others were quick but pointed to poke fun at their personalities (Foley).


Trey Parker took the lead on this one and tried to expand the scope of what normally takes place during a 22-minute episode with some great success. The boys are basically having an average adventure with their efforts to sneak into the theater to see the Terrance and Philip movie, eventually leading to Kenny lighting himself on fire. The parents get into an uproar and develop the Mothers Against Canada campaign, leading to Canada’s attack on the Baldwins. Sheila Broflovski charges her way into the role of leading the US against the Canadiens. Meanwhile as an effort to eliminate their children’s need to watch programs like Terrance and Philip, a doctor develops a V-Chip for a child’s brain and implants it into Cartman’s head. This eliminates his ability to curse without getting shocked by the chip. The oncoming war between the nations leads to a group being formed, initially by Gregory and then taken over by Stan, La Resistance. Their sole purpose was not to stop the war but to save Terrance and Philip from a public execution. All of this allowed Saddam to rise to the surface while suppressing Satan’s ability to lead his demonic army.


Besides the crazy premise and collections of individual stories, the film took a surprise presentation as a musical. Parker manages this element quite well with a combination of some humorous imagery and their classic comedic delivery. The traditional television cast actually voices all of the songs involving their characters, with the only additional vocal talent being Howard McGillin as Gregory. Included in the soundtrack are songs like Eye of a Child by Michael McDonald, Uncle F***** by Matt Stone & Trey Parker, Blame Canada by Mary Kay Bergman, Up There by Trey Parker and La Resistance (Medley) by the entire cast. The soundtrack also includes many of the songs voiced by other musical talents including Nappy Roots, Kid Rock, RuPaul and Violent Femmes.

The movie is truly humorous, even with a little less of the social/political message that the show generally invokes. The musical element only makes it that much more unique.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

Sherrie Christian, a young girl from Oklahoma, has decided to go out to Hollywood to make it as a singer. Upon her arrival, she is robbed and feels helpless. To her rescue, Drew Boley appears and offers her an opportunity to work at the infamous Bourbon Club. With an upcoming performance by Stacee Jaxx poised to bring the Bourbon Club back to prominence, the recently elected mayor and his wife are set on cleaning up the streets of Los Angeles, starting with Bourbon. In the days leading up to the big performance, Sherrie and Drew blossom in their romance and feel like all is perfect in the world. With the arrival of Stacee Jaxx, their worlds are shaken up. Drew gets his big break and rocks the house. Sherrie checks in on Stacee and is misinterpreted by Drew to have slept with the rock god. The night ends with the pair splitting into divergent paths, the Bourbon in trouble due to shady dealings and Patricia’s march of purity strengthening against rock & roll.

Starring: Diego Boneta (Drew Boley), Julianne Hough (Sherrie Christian), Tom Cruise (Stacee Jaxx), Alec Baldwin (Dennis Dupree), Russell Brand (Lonny), Bryan Cranston (Mayor Mike Whitmore), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Patricia Whitmore), Paul Giamatti (Paul Gill), Malin Akerman (Constance Sack), Mary J. Blige (Justice Charlier), Angelo Valderrama (Chico), Erica Frene (Beth)

While the acting overall was fairly decent, the more important element was the singing. Tom Cruise garnered the most obvious attention due to his role in the film and his status as an actor, but he was actually a very entertaining performer and has been highlighted to have done all of his own singing. While not as large in name but certainly in terms of their vocal chords, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta had both the stage presence and the vocals to back up their starring roles. The only characters that did not fit as well with their vocal work were Alec Baldwin and Paul Giamatti, both of whom seemed to force it to sound good but were audibly strained in their delivery. On the acting front, Catherine Zeta Jones comes off rather awkwardly in her attempt to be a pure Christian on a warpath, particularly in the stiffness of her performance (more so than the character truly dictated).


The story of Rock of Ages was certainly an entertaining collection of rock & roll’s glory days of hair and glam rock anthems and ballads. Adam Shankman wove some of the biggest hits of the genre into a compelling story that pitted love against fame and decency against freedom. Following the stories of Sherrie and Drew played more into the first of the two themes, particularly as the night of the Stacee Jaxx performance causes a rift between the two. Sherrie’s abandonment of the Bourbon comes from a place of feeling lost, similar to the lyrics of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Her decent into the world of a gentlemen’s club initially represents the opposite paths of her and Drew, at least until his dreams of his band’s rise to glory are cut short by Paul’s transformation of the rock band into a boy band. He became frustrated and finally able to truly listen to Sherrie’s claims of fidelity.


On the decency versus freedom angle, Patricia’s desires to clean up the streets have less to do with Christian morals than they do with revenge against the man who scorned her. Though her musical number Hit Me With Your Best Shot was a little awkward in its presentation of God-fearing women dancing provocatively and gyrating into the air, it helped to set up some of the drama for the Bourbon and provide a little more depth for Dennis and Lonny’s struggles to keep rock & roll alive. Conflict arose between Stacee and Paul, as well, due to Paul’s underhanded dealings and focus on profit over the power of rock.

Included within the film are the following adaptations of famous rock songs: Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City, Night Ranger – Sister Christian, David Lee Roth – Just Like Paradise, Poison – Nothin’ But a Good Time & Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Foreigner – Juke Box Hero, Waiting for a Girl like You  & I Want to Know What Love Is, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock n’ Roll, Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot Shadows of the Night, Extreme – More Than Words, Warrant – Heaven, Bon Jovi – Wanted Dead or Alive, Twisted Sister – I Wanna Rock & We’re Not Gonna Take It, Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar on Me, Quarterflash – Harden My Heart, Whitesnake – Here I Go Again, REO Speedwagon – Can’t Fight This FeelingUndercover Love, The Scorpions – Rock You Like a Hurricane, Starship – We Build This City, Journey – Any Way You Want ItDon’t Stop Believin’

Full of great rock classics and overall good renditions using a combination of vocal talents, this film reaches out with open arms. Though a few of the moments are a little awkward and some of the acting is a little hokey, it is easy to look past it and simply have a good time.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5