Musical

Lady Gaga

I don’t usually watch music videos but earlier today Amber showed me the video for Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” To be completely honest I thought it was so weird I found it unnerving.  It’s the kind of thing that made me afraid I might have nightmares about it.  I consider myself a pretty open minded person but I feel haunted by how strange that video is.  I don’t know much about Lady Gaga but I did know she was a little out there.  I feel like I should have been prepared but somehow it still seemed to unnerve me.  I couldn’t look away either, like it reached out and snatched my attention in a firm grip.  I actually like the song and find it quite catchy but what the hell is wrong with that woman right? Am I wrong or have I just gotten “too old for this shit“?

Les Miserables

Year: 2012
Directed By:  Tom Hooper
Written By: Victor Hugo (novel) William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, and Herbert Kretzmer (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW 

I think this is one of the greatest stories of all time, yet I have never actually read the book.  About 15 years ago it was our assignment during my sophomore year in English class.  I specifically remember utilizing the internet for the first time to read the Spark Notes for the novel.  What I found to be so interesting was how much I loved the story simply reading the synopsis.  I enjoyed it so much I actually earned the highest grades in the class on all the tests even though I hadn’t actually read it.  I was very vocal during discussions too because I had a lot to say about the story back then.  I think I was about 15 at the time and I thought I was so clever but despite being lazy and cheating on the assignment I still felt I learned something from it.  It’s a great story with powerful characters in it, I hope it is still required reading today and kids are putting more effort into it than I did despite what I may have learned or felt about it.

I did enjoy this story when I was in tenth grade but hadn’t revisited it in the years that passed before this movie came out and had forgotten most of it.  I had looked forward to this movie at first because the cast was shaping up to be significant but when I heard it was a musical I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I always tell people that there is no room for musicals in the movie industry these days and then something this great comes out and makes me look like an idiot.  What’s funny is it’s a mistake I continue to not learn from.  I should have learned my lesson when Chicago blew me away but I didn’t.  This movie too has made me take back a statement or two.  When we finally sat down to watch it I was really dreading it too; I couldn’t have been more surprised by how wrong I was.  This movie is incredible from beginning to end and every single one of the actors literally blows me away with the power of their performances.

Who knew Wolverine could sing? I literally had no idea and during that scene when he rips up his papers I was literally floored by the strength of his voice.  He put on a powerful performance all throughout the film but when he walks out of that house holding that note for what seems like forever my jaw dropped.  I hope he didn’t have to do too many takes for that scene because he looked on the verge of an aneurysm at a certain point.  I have liked Hugh Jackman since he first hit the scene playing Wolverine for the first of seven times, so far.  I have been a fan of most of the movies he has made and of course there is nobody out there that can bring one of the coolest Marvel characters to life like he does.  I think he did a great job as Jean Valjean and have a new found respect for an actor who already had plenty of my respect.

Surprising me even more than Jackman is Russell Crowe.  Seriously, who knew he was capable of this? I have said it many times now, but Russell Crowe always brings it.  Think he can’t do something? Don’t hold your breath because just when you count him out he is belting out these songs with a range that seems completely out of nowhere.  Javert is one of the coolest characters ever even though he is an antagonist in the story.  He is the enemy of Valjean but only because the two find themselves on other sides of the law.  Javert is noble and true to the point that he would rather die than dishonor himself.  I love that in the character, it’s an honesty worthy of respect and Crowe carries it on his face throughout the film.  Despite how much a dick Crowe is rumored to be in real life he pulls off noble and honest characters really well.  He didn’t get nominated for his role in this movie and I am surprised by that because so many were.

Anne Hathaway did win the Academy Award for her role and definitely deserved it. Her performance is so profound I nearly feel bad for all those things I said in our Havoc review.  She is too good and talented an actress to talk about so shamelessly. She is a rare actress who actually has the skills to match her flawless beauty.  I look forward to what else she can do as an actress; the sky is the limit for her.  I thought she would have a longer role in this film but that just goes to show how little I remembered about this story that had such an impact on me in my youth.  Sadly Fantine isn’t in the film for very long but the fact that she won the Oscar despite that is a testament to what she accomplished.

Amanda Seyfried is nice on the eyes but I didn’t think she was exceptional in the film, or maybe she was just drastically outshined by her peers.  Helena Bonham Carter is great in everything she does and this is no different.  She is seemingly ageless and bringing her talent to a wide range of films lately. I was a huge fan of Da Ali G Show and for a while thought Sacha Baron Cohen was a genius and probably one of the most incredible comedians out there.  Once the game was up and he couldn’t get away with his type of comedy anymore I lost interest.  He does a great job in this movie but I just haven’t been a big fan of him as an actor.  The rest of the cast is more or less unknown to me but I thought they all held up well and held their own next to these huge stars.

I am always pleased to be surprised by a movie and this one surprised me in many ways.  I went in with a bad attitude about watching a musical but found myself enthralled by the power of the film.  It captivated me immediately and by the end of the movie had earned my respect. I like the songs, I like the actors in the movie, and I think the story is incredible.  Hands down this movie earned its keep in our collection and I think it is without doubt worth your time to see it.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is truly incredible. The way the music carries you through the entire film, but isn’t confusing at all is a work of genius. I don’t even know how they were able to sing an entire movie and I was able to keep up and understand. And the immense talent that this film has in it is remarkable. Anne Hathaway blew me away. I just think she is the bee’s knees when it comes to acting. She started in the silly little film about becoming a princess and here she is lighting it up on the big screen singing across from Hugh Jackman. She completely impressed me as well as the entire cast. This film is an amazing adaptation and it is well worth anyone’s time, even if you aren’t the biggest musical fan.

Cosette-Official-Movie-Poster-les-miserables-2012-movie-32280133-864-1280

I love this poster. The coloring is spot on for the mood of this movie. And this girl is almost the reason for hope. The hope to be something better and to live a better life where you can dream to be better. Her eyes are stark and draw you in. I love the proportions. She is a little off center to the right and her hair goes to the opposite direction. This creates a dramatic view of movement. The typography is great and almost has a bit of passion to it. I love this poster. I think the designers did an incredible job.

NEXT MOVIE: Lethal Weapon (1987)

The Doors

Year: 1991
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Written By: J. Randall Johnson & Oliver Stone

RYAN’S REVIEW

Ten years ago this was one of my favorite movies and I watched it all the time.  In hindsight, that was probably part of my problem in my late teens. I haven’t seen this movie in several years since I took a ride with it and it led me to a dark place.  This is a great movie made by a guy that was really really high when he put his vision together.  You can be stone cold sober and still feel like you are tripping when you watch this movie, but that’s part of what makes it exceptional. The soundtrack is also noteworthy.  I am still a fan of The Doors and their music plays throughout the entire film.

Oliver Stone has always been one of my favorite directors and he made many great movies in the 80s and 90s.  Stone has never been any stranger to drug use and I think that is more than obvious in nearly all of his films.  Even in the beginning of his career he was writing the screenplay for Scarface and basing it partly on his own personal experiences.  He was getting really high while making his Academy Award winning film Platoonalso based in part on personal experiences in the war.  He has been busted numerous times over the years for using drugs as well.  I don’t think there is really any problem with an artist finding his creative motivation with drugs though, especially if he is making something great.  I do think he made something great with this film too, but at the same time I must admit it didn’t do me any favors in my youth and I consider it a disruptive influence for anybody young.

Stone was a fan of The Doors and he put a lot of effort into this film.  He did a lot of research when writing but took many liberties with the story nonetheless.  Stone does that; he makes an effort to tell the truth but inevitably deviates from the plan in order to tell the story he wants to tell.  Jim Morrison‘s real life girlfriend Patricia Kennealy served as an advisor on the film and even played a small part as the priestess in the Wiccan wedding ceremony.  Yet she still had a problem with her portrayal in the film and Stone later admitted that he wrote her as a combination of many women and should have renamed the character.

Stone was initially reluctant to cast Val Kilmer in the role of Jim Morrison.  Kilmer was persistent in his efforts to get the role and personally financed the recording of him singing songs by The Doors.  He played a tape for Stone saying that some of the songs were him and some were Morrison singing.  When Stone couldn’t tell them apart Kilmer got the job and what a job he did.  This is easily one of the best performances of Kilmer’s career and he did a great job of looking and sounding just like Jim Morrison. Meg Ryan may have had the leading female role but I actually think Kathleen Quinlan played a better and more significant part. The film also has a great supporting cast including Michael Madsen, Kevin Dillon, and Michael Wincott.

I don’t watch movies about musicians and bands very often because they all seem to tell the same story.  The musicians that get films made about them are all self-destructive and arrogant people that don’t look so good in the feature.  I’m thinking mainly about Johnny Cash and Ray Charles in addition to this film about Jim Morrison. These men were all heavy drug users who took advantage of others around them and I think the movies about them actually tarnish their memory instead of honoring it.  I don’t like watching films that I feel like I have seen before so I specifically didn’t like Ray or Walk the Line. I’m afraid I only have room for one film about a self-absorbed and out-of-control musician in our collection and this is the one that got my attention early. It has ruined me on all the other films like it.

This is a great movie but it does drag out a bit too long at two hours and twenty minutes.  There are only so much drugs and alcohol you can watch Morrison ingest during that time and it gets to be too much at times.  If you are a fan of the music made by The Doors then you should definitely see this film because most of their best songs are played.  Otherwise I don’t know that there is much point to seeing this film.  I think it’s a good one and I still like it but it is only in our collection as a relic from our youth.  This one takes us back and reminds us of times when we lived a wilder life but we are different people today. So I will only tentatively recommend this film and warn you of its well deserved R rating, this film is good but buyers beware.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Gah, I don’t want to even write about this movie. It takes me back to college and the days I don’t talk about anymore because, well I am a mother now and moms don’t talk about their crazy college days. This movie is by the great Oliver Stone, and I am sure Ryan expressed his undying love for above. It is beautifully made and captures a time in history of chaos while following the life of Jim Morrision. I love the way they played the music throughout the film. It had all of the iconic songs and more of the ones you know if you are a Doors fan. This is a really cool movie, and it was obviously made for people who are on drugs. It is really trippy, just like the time, the person and the music.

NEXT MOVIE: Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

Chicago

Year: 2002
Directed By: Rob Marshall
Written By: Bill Condon and Bob Fosse

RYAN’S REVIEW

I remember taking Amber to see this movie back in 2002 when we were just a couple horny teenagers.  I took her to see it because I was probably trying to get her into bed but I actually ended up enjoying the movie.  I distinctly remember being really impressed with the film and telling many people how good it was.  This movie isn’t one I would have ever seen on my own because it really isn’t up my alley.  I did thoroughly enjoyed the movie despite all that and I think that’s part of what makes it such a great film.  I especially didn’t think a musical had any place in the film industry in 2002 but was proven wrong.  This movie got nominated for nearly everything and won many of the nominations including Best Picture and Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones.  Renee Zellweger, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, and Rob Marshall were all nominated as well.

I have never been a big fan of Renee Zellweger but I cannot deny that she is fantastic actress.  She will be in a couple of our upcoming movies in the “C” section of our collection too.  I happen to like her roles in those movies better (Cinderella Man and Cold Mountain specifically) and I’d rather discuss her at more depth in those posts.  I do not like Richard Gere either, in fact I specifically don’t watch films with him in it, this film being a rare exception.  I think it’s because of Pretty Woman, that damn movie spawned tons of films with the exact same damn premise.  I typically avoid Julia Roberts for the same reason.  I can’t say Gere really brought much to the film. I suppose that it is something that he didn’t bring the film down, but a better actor could have been cast in his role. Catherine Zeta-Jones is great in this movie and really deserved her Oscar.  In this movie she explodes with talent that I don’t think many people even knew she had in her. She is singing and dancing with intensity and she is so seductive. I have always been indifferent to her as an actress though and while she is a beautiful woman she just isn’t really my type. Queen Latifah is great as well in this movie, this performance helped her career greatly at the time when her star was rising.  I am a big fan of John C. Reilly and like him in nearly everything he does.  I am not always a fan of his really goofy movies with Will Ferrell but he has made many great movies as a serious actor including this film. Lucy Lui also makes a great cameo in this movie, but I feel she has never risen to her full potential as an actress. Rob Marshall did a good job with this movie but I haven’t seen any other film he has made.  In 2009 he made what appeared to be a very similar film to this one, Nine, with Daniel Day-Lewis but it wasn’t not nearly as successful.

Amber and I actually took a vacation to Chicago this year and since we are reviewing a movie by the same name I would like to take the chance to say a little about the city.  Chicago can be intimidating because it is so large but it is very tourist friendly.  What really impressed me the most about the city, besides its beautiful architecture and never-ending buildings, was how traffic was handled.  For a town with so many people traffic seemed to be a non issue.  There is a unique network of roads in Chicago and traffic directors on duty during what would typically be rush hour and they direct both vehicles and pedestrians.  Chicago is unique because it is a city that was built to be a city.  Nearly the entire city was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and when rebuilding started city planners and architects from all over the country came to help.  The city was designed by the best people available to be a great city and that’s exactly what they made.  We had a great trip and I would recommend it as a vacation spot to anyone looking for somewhere awesome to go.

Now back to the movie, I can attest that this movie can be enjoyed by anybody because I like it.  As I said before this is a movie that isn’t really up my alley.  It’s based on a Broadway show, there’s signing and dancing, it stars an actor I specifically don’t like, and actresses I’m not all that fond of. For all intensive purposes I should hate this movie but on the contrary I like it.  The songs aren’t bad, the choreography is very good, and the performances are great. This was a great movie and it is more than worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

Ryan’s crazy. I totally took him to see this to get him into bed. I really don’t remember if that’s the truth of it, or if I just really wanted to see this film. I was still in high school when this came out and I was taking a film critique class, in which we watched Guys and Dolls. I thoroughly enjoyed that one so much, that when I saw this trailer on television, I just knew that I had to go and see it. I am so glad we did. I remember being blown away by how good it actually was. The music fits so well into every scene so seamlessly. Most musicals just piss me off because it is just singing and dancing and no plot, a lot like the recent abomination on television: Glee. (My good friend Jessica would kill me for saying that.)

If you aren’t that into musicals, I get that, but this one is different. This one is worth watching. I even have the soundtrack and can sing all the songs, and that is very unlike me. Check this one out. If anything, you get to see a bunch of hot ladies dancing around in hardly nothing. I also want to mention the outstanding performances of Queen Latifah, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

NEXT MOVIE: Chinatown (1974)

Across the Universe

Year: 2007
Directed By: Julie Taymor
Written By: DIck Clement

RYAN’S REVIEW:

This is a very cool movie, but it’s not my favorite. I love the Beatles, and they are synonymous with a time period that my generation loves to immortalize.  The story that the film follows does a good job of portraying the struggles that gripped certain places during the 60s.  That’s what I love about this film, because I am guilty, I want to immortalize the 60s just as much as anyone else, and I love the music from that era.  I don’t care for the story of Jude and Lucy however and regularly find myself bored and waiting for a better song to come up. This is the kind of movie that I always seem to be trying to talk myself into, but honestly it’s just not for me.  I can vouch for the fact that it is an awesome movie and many people will love it.  It’s not for everybody though, and I just happen to be one of those.  It’s got great choreography and they did a great job making this movie, but it is a bit artsy for me.  It’s a really long film too, which it has to be, there was a lot of music to cram in and a lot of elements from that era in history that needed to be incorporated.  If you are a Beatles fan try it out, even if you aren’t it’s worth a chance.  Good movie worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW:

We own this film because I demanded that we own it. I truly love this film. If you are a Beatles fan you will either love it or hate it, there is no in between. I love the Beatles and I love the history of the 60s and it comes together here in a beautiful way. The music of the Beatles brings together a story of love and self searching during a time of struggle and enlightenment. For me, the music of the Beatles comes to life in a completely different way, painted before my eyes in a moving story. I wish I could have been in my 20s in the sixties. What an era.

The main character in this film is a UK resident that travels to America searching of something different, for his father and love. He finds it in Lucy, how clever, and the movie follows the journey of love found and lost, set to the amazing words of the Beatles. This is a must see if you are a fan of musicals, but if you love music at all I definitely recommend watching this flick.

NEXT MOVIE: Adaptation (2002)