Crackle and Movie Musicals

These are two separate points but both are in the same news cycle. To begin Jerry Seinfeld and his brilliant series Comedians in Cars getting Coffee will be moving from Crackle to Netflix in late 2017. Now the show is the biggest thing that Crackle has along with Sports Jeopardy. I’ve like Seinfeld’s series since it came out, as it is interesting to see the interactions between Jerry and his friends as well as other comedians and actors or related people (Lorne Michaels, Barack Obama). If you haven’t seen an episode yet, what’s taken you so long. Also involved with the deal is a couple of Jerry Seinfeld stand-up specials as well as series development deals. It seems Netflix is turning into the place for comedy as they continue to ink deals for stand-up specials, recently with Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. With the loss of its biggest show will Crackle still exist come 2018 or will it find life with some other show or just have the Sony movies.

With the popularity of La La Land, Hollywood is once again hoping that the movie musical can make a comeback. However this story seem to always come out when there is a super popular musical out but the genre hasn’t really left. Now the films that are coming out are more biographical like Straight Outta Compton, Love and Music or they are like Pitch Perfect where they fit in some pop songs into the film or they are just animated. Sure this is nice to see something different at the movie theater but it really depends on the quality of the film that comes out. As The New York Times notes there are several major studios devoting major resources to musical for the first time since the 90s. Some of these films are going to be bringing hits like Wicked and Matilda to the screen, Playbill has a nice list of rumored film adaptions. Now it seems Disney is remaking all their animated films as live action so we’ve got those to look forward to as well. There will be more original films coming out and it would be great if these turned out to be good movies. With the revival of musicals on television it seems like we are going to continue in the time where the average individual we get multiple chance to see a musical. Yet once again I would rather have a few quality movie musical every year over a large quantity of movie musicals.

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New Musicals

With Anastasia and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory already planned to open on Broadway as well as that Spongebob musical the news that they are working on adapting Moulin Rouge! for the stage makes a bunch of sense. Sure when the film came out in 2001 me and my friends would discuss how it would be wonderful if it was adapted for the stage. Something akin to talk of a stage version of Newsies, we were sure that it would eventually happen but hadn’t a clue when. It seems likely that we will continue seeing this idea adapting popular films into stage musicals going forward as it seems to have happened throughout history. I think it would be real cool if like The Prince of Egypt could somehow be adapted for the stage. It would be nice if we could get some new ideas on Broadway and touring the globe but new musicals take time to refine whereas adapting a film is perhaps easier, don’t really have a clue here, but with the story already done you just have to write up song and fit them in some place.

San Diego Comic Con 2016

This weekend is the big Comic Convention in San Diego. It started as a comic book convention but over the years it’s turned more into a movie and television expo with most of the major studios bringing cast and directors to talk about upcoming productions, sure Comics still have a large presence but I doubt it’s as comprehensive as the film and television aspect. This year, Stephen Schwartz went to Comic Con and had an interesting announcement as he is working on four new songs for the film version of the musical Wicked. This is something that’s been rumored since it opened on Broadway to happen and it’s nice to see some progress on the project.  Stay tuned this weekend for a bunch of trailers to come out, like there are new trailers for the upcoming Marvel series on Netflix (Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders) and it seem likely that we’ll be seeing something from the other Marvel show Agents of SHIELD and the CW’s DC Comic shows (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow) and it seems likely we will see a trailer for the Power Rangers movie and other films like that .

News Roundup

Television:  This first story seems like good news as it seems The Big Bang Theory the show that people love to hate on might be nearing its final season. At a decade old they are getting to the point where the show just won’t work as well with half of the characters married to each other and one couple expecting a child. Sure it might get to end like Two and a Half Men just because it is the second highest rated show on television after Sunday Night Football by adding someone new to the show and removing one of the name stars.

Movie Musicals: So Playbill.com has a list of new movie musicals in development and it is an interesting list. Some of the films on the list sound like good ideas, but there are a couple that just sound stupid like a West Side Story remake by Spielberg and a remake of Little Shop of Horrors with a revised and perhaps updated script. One that I think would be really great is In The Heights, Lin- Manuel Miranda’s first musical about Washington Heights.  As it might bring in a breath of fresh air to the movie musical genre as it now seems that Disney will be happy just remaking all their animated movie films as live action films.

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

I liked the first movie and thought that a second movie would be a good idea but I don’t think it really worked out for the best and now there are talks about a third film in the works, not sure how I feel about that one yet.

Spoilers to follow so read with caution.

So Pitch Perfect 2 begins with the Barden Bellas doing a national tour for winning a third ICCA (college A Cappella) national championship in a row. They preform at a birthday celebration for President Obama and suffer a mishap as one of the costumes rips and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) exposes herself to everyone watching.  The Bellas are suspended by the ICCA and can’t hold auditions but Beca (Anna Kendrick) pleads and says if they can win the World Championship they will be reinstated  or the group will end. They learn that a team from Germany has taken over their tour. From here you already know where the plot is heading the girls are going to be working to try and beat the German team. A freshman, Emily (Hailee Steinfeld)  comes to their house and since she is a legacy they allow her to audition and she becomes a Bella.

Beca is trying to figure out what to do after school is over and she takes an internship at a recording studio, and this plot really doesn’t go anywhere sure we have Keegan-Michael Key but we go there like three times and nothing really happens. The Bellas have a real problem as they need to find their sound again after the disaster at the beginning, the other problem they have is that the whole group exists of seniors and one freshman. They are forced together in funny situations and all the secrets come out they all basically say that they weren’t looking at leaving each other as they have all been such an important part of their lives. The Bellas then sing Cups (the big song from the last movie) together and they found their harmony.  All of them but Emily graduate and they go off to Copenhagen for the World Championship and they win over the crowd and come back with their good name reestablished.

It’s not that it’s a bad movie I just found it predictable and the whole plot really wouldn’t exist in real life. It would have been interesting if this film was about them trying to defend the National Championship or trying to win it back and have some real college A Cappella groups appear (SoCal VoCals, Voices in Your Head, Pitch Slapped) as competition. What we get is basically a retread of the last movie, Bellas are embarrassed at the first performance, there’s a riff-off, the second performance ends with a disaster, then they regroup and become a team again and win with the final performance. If you liked the first one your bound to like this second one it was a decent popcorn movie. It’s about a small microcosm the A Cappella world and sure it’s nice that more people have been introduced to this style of music as Barbershop an A cappella are two cool styles of music

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Last year on the Fourth of July I raved about 1776 and wondered if there were any other great movies to watch on the Fourth of July and Yankee Doodle Dandy was suggested. I said that I’d watch it the next time I caught it on TCM, and as it happened that was on Independence Day.

Yankee Doodle Dandy is a film biography of George M. Cohan from 1942 staring James Cagney. First off it’s not really a truly biographical film as there are some changes to the story to simplify and make a better story. However I am sure that this is what happens with most of the bio-pics that come out. The movie has uses a pretty cool device at the film is presented at Cohan telling his life story to the President, who has summoned Cohan to present a Congressional Gold Medal or something. I didn’t know much about Cohan before seeing the movie. George Cohan was a member of The Four Cohans with his parents and sister, they were a vaudeville act in the 1890s. George would eventually make it to Broadway. In 1904 his first musical Little Johnny Jones debuted on Broadway. From then on he became a producer and continued to write his own music, from 1904-20 he had over 50 shows on Broadway and at some times as many as five shows running at the same time. This is what earned him the nickname as “the man who owned Broadway”. Besides musicals Cohan was one of the big Tin Pan Alley composers publishing about 300 songs and wrote the song “Over There” which was a rallying song during the World Wars.

The biggest surprises for me with the film was James Cagney, who is best known for playing mobsters in movies but this was the film that Cagney won his Best Actor Oscar. Many critics call Yankee Doodle Dandy Cagney’s best film. It’s a great film and full of laughs and at time I found myself going Cohan wrote that song, many times during the movie. If you haven’t seen it next time it’s on take some time to watch it and enjoy a trip of nostalgia.

Nashville (1975)

From what I read about the film, Nashville, is one of Robert Altman’s best films. I had enjoyed MASH and other films by him. I do not agree with this idea that it’s his best. The film just has too many main characters and and at times it seems like they just are trying to have all the characters eventually run into each other, all around the bicentennial. As usual, spoilers are to follow.

The story was sort of interesting as it’s about 24 people in Nashville who are trying to succeed in the Gospel/Country music scene in Nashville and hold on to their success. There is also a backburner plot with a folksy Politician running for president is holding a rally in four days and that is where everyone one goes. I felt that there was too much going on to completely follow, there are two male superstars one black the other white, the queen of country music who is coming back from a burn accident, that white gospel singer in an all black choir, the one who can’t sing, the one trying to break into the business, a folksy trio and one of these singers gets shot at the end and that’s about it.

Nashville has a pretty impressive cast, Jeff Goldblum is in it as well as Karen Black, Ned Beatty, Keith Carradine, Shelly Duvall, Scott Glenn, Lily Tomlin and Keenan Wynn.  Keith Carradine won an Oscar for Best Song for this film, as most of the songs in the film were written and preformed by the actors themselves. It’s an interesting glimpse at the world in Nashville around the bicentennial. As like most Altman films, so I’ve read, there wasn’t really a script it was more of an outline of what was going to happen. Most of the extras were the natives of Nashville who just happened to be wherever they were when they were filming.

 

Newsies: The Musical

I don’t know how many times I watched this with my older sister growing up it was one of her favorite movies and she watched it so many times that the audio track was off, or so we thought. It turns out that the audio track had been re-dubbed in some parts of the movie. So when the news that it was being made into a stage musical came out I was sure to get here the Cast Recording and the next time I saw her she had listened to it and could go through and say what all was changed. So when the announcement that Newsies was coming to the National Theater in DC we put it on our calendars and noted that we had to go see it.

So the time had come and we finally went to see it and while it was thoroughly enjoyable and is a big youth empowerment musical and is about the Newsboys’ strike of 1899 and is mostly  true story about when they effectively shut down the World and Journal as Pulitzer and Hearst refused to reduced prices for the newsboy bundle back to the 50 cents for 100 papers as it was before the Spanish American War. Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t arrive at the nick of time to save the day and it wasn’t led by Jack Kelly but by Kid Blink who was from Brooklyn. The story ends with a rather draw as the price doesn’t get lowered from 60 cents but Hearst and Pulitzer agree to buy back any unsold papers.

In the musical there were some things that I really liked and other things that I didn’t. In this part there will be spoilers so please read with some caution. I am a huge fan of the set that they used it as it could be twisted and moved and they had a great use of projections, from which we had some cool moments. As for the adaptation from screen to stage there were things that changed for the better and some that seemed completely unnecessary. A big improvement is the character of Medda Larkin is scaled back and the most annoying songs in the movie has been replaced with a new one. The other big change is making the reporter a young female and merging both the reporter and Les and Davey’s sister into one individual, this new character Katherine Plummer is the new love interest as well. Katherine ends up being the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer which just seems like they were shoehorning the character in the story as well as the romance between Katherine and Jack. Of the things that really didn’t change was Davey, he isn’t that great of a character in the movie or the stage version, and that is completely the fault of the book as I am sure they could have made him more likeable. I was joking with my sister before we saw it that they should end it just like the movie with a boy, I think it’s Les, jump up into the air and they freeze it until the credits are all over and then he falls on the ground. That would have been really funny, but holding in the air like that would be impossible in real life.

If you get a chance to go see this musical it is worth the time and money even if you aren’t that big of a fan of the movie as the audience consisted of a bunch of families with young children. This is a nice musical to take your son to see even perhaps as their first stage musical, as are most Disney musicals.  If you are a part of the cult following of the film then you are seeing the stage version no matter what as it was created for them after all their demands for a stage version of the film were heard.

Barry Lyndon, Bullitt and Jersey Boys

With all the snow that my area has received I’ve had some free time and I watched a couple of movies. Some have been on my list of movies to see forever and others were a nice reprieve from the serious film classics. As always spoilers are bound to follow.

Barry Lyndon is one the forgotten Stanley Kubrick film, It is based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray. Kubrick had wanted to make like a Vanity Fair movie but it was made into a miniseries and he felt that the book couldn’t be adequately adapted for the short time span that film provides. First and foremost the film looks superb it was cool with the use of candles as that is what would have been used to light a room back in the 18th century.  As for the story it is a two part tale in the first part we watch as Redmond Barry try to make something of himself. He runs from home after he duels his cousin’s fiance and runs into a highwayman only to lose everything. So he joins the army of Great Britain and fights in the seven years war.,While in the army he deserts and tries to make his way to freedom only to be caught by the Prussian and Barry is coerced into serving for Prussia. After the war Barry stay in Prussia where he becomes a undercover agent trying to root out the Chevalier who they suspect as a spy, although he is just a simple gambler. Barry and the Chevalier make there way out of Prussia and go around Europe cheating people out of money. Barry tires of gambling and decided to marry into wealth and falls for the Countess of Lyndon and after her elderly husband dies they marry.  In part two we see Barry try to make money on his own unsuccessfully thought and the other misfortunes that Barry encountered.  To be honest about the film it drags on a lot for as much as I really wanted to like the film I felt it was like a half an hour too long. Now I only have to the early Kubrick film left to see.

Bullitt was a big disappointment. For all the hype the film gets for it’s car chase, the best part of the film, the rest of the film seems flat. I think it also has to do with seeing so many car chases that have been influenced by the Bullitt scene that perhaps I’ve been let down by seeing a whole bunch of stuff that came after. As for the film Bullitt follows a San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt who has been charged by a politician at keeping a “Mob informant” safe until the subcommittee hearing takes place. Why the Senate was meeting in San Francisco in never mentioned. But as it turns our the informant really stole two million from the Chicago mob and they are trying to kill him. The mob get to him and shoot him up, although we later learn that this man is not the one who is trying to make off with two million from the mob. Just watch the car chase and you will be fine, it’s bound to be somewhere on the internet.

Jersey Boys is the film based on the musical based on the life of the Four Seasons. Clint Eastwood directs the film and it’s alright. They took the stage musical and tweaked it a bit and filmed it. The film simplifies many things in the story as well and make it a nicer story overall by cutting some things. This film has Christopher Walken in it so there that to it as well. It was interesting to learn a bit more about the Four Seasons.

The Last Five Years

I have been a fan of The Last Five Years for it seems ages, I own the Off-Broadway Cast Recording with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott  and it was my first introduction to Jason Robert Brown. So when I heard they were making a film version I was excited. The Last Five Years tells the story of a relationship forwards (Jamie, the male) and backwards (Cathy, the female) at the same time, some people have said this is confusing but I don’t understand this argument. The show was inspired by Jason Robert Brown’s own failed marriage. Over on Unequally Yoked there is a nice post and there is also one at Monique Ocampo Writes. Spoiler to follow so please be careful if you read anymore.

In the film we have Anna Kendrick as Cathy and Jeremy Jordan as Jamie and we get to see a bunch of other characters, on stage it is just the two of them singing songs. The film begins with Cathy at the end of the relationship belting about how she is hurting from everything Jamie has done to her and their divorce. Then the mood changes and we are five year in the past and watching Jamie laments that he is disappointing his mother for finding a shiksa and he claims that Cathy is someone that he thinks he can be in love with. The story then moves back to Cathy we are in Ohio at Summer Stock and she and Jamie are having a fight since he has can only spend one day with Cathy. Jamie is an author on the rise he gets a call and people like his book and want to publish it and he decides to get a place with Cathy. Back with Cathy we hear about Jamie is basically gone writing his book and attending functions  but she still loves his smile and believes that she’s a part of his success. Cathy and Jamie celebrate their first Christmas together and Jamie tells Cathy a story basically saying that he will support her acting career as long as she want to be an actress.  Cathy is in Ohio and she is telling Jamie about how disappointing her summer has been without him. This is followed by the one time in the show when the timelines intersect Jamie and Cathy’s wedding.  After the wedding Jamie isn’t excited since there seems to be a never ending stream of women who now find him interesting since he is unavailable. Cathy goes to an audition and tries to land an acting job, she comes home disappointed and she realizes that she doesn’t want Jamie to be the only one to find success. Jamie accuses Cathy of not supporting him because acting hasn’t panned out well for her, but adds that he is still supportive of her choice.  Cathy tells Jamie about a friend from high school and says that she can do better than them and they move in together. Jamie is in and out of bed with other women and blames this on Cathy somehow and tells the other women that he could be in love with someone like them. We reach the end of the loop Cathy sings a farewell after their first date “Goodbye until tomorrow” and Jamie leaves  he’s packed his bags and closes the bank account their five year relationship is over.   That’s about as simple of a plot outline you can get with this show.

The relationship in this musical is a very modern relationship there is a spark at the beginning and over the years it starts to fade. One of the thing about the musical is that it is hard to pick a winner between the two who has the upper hand at the beginning you really feel sorry for Cathy with Jamie cheating on her but then towards the middle you begin to fall for Jamie and see that he does love Cathy, only to be disappointed when we reach the end. Cathy on the other hand goes from devastated from the divorce to sort of disappearing in the middle bits to complete joy at meeting Jamie. One of the big questions that I leave with is do Cathy and Jamie even love each other before they get married  Cathy says that she doesn’t need any lifetime commitment and Jamie says “I think I could be in love with someone like you”  both of these are early on in the relationship as well.  Is this a one sided relationship, purely based on looks or is there more to their relationship? This is one of the biggest questions that we all face today what makes a relationship and hopefully it is more than a swipe on Tinder or a brief hook up. This  seems to be the extent of Cathy and Jamie’s love it is shallow and it doesn’t go anywhere, like many modern relationships.

Now we’ve come to the should I go see it section, if you haven’t noticed I basically say you should go see all the movies that I talk about. I liked the movie and this makes it two good movie musical since December, although I doubt that this will make Hollywood jump on the musical bandwagon again. The Last Five Years is available on iTunes, streaming and in a small number of theaters, if it is not showing near you rent it or buy it from iTunes or streaming. If you are a fan of the musical, go it is a faithful adaptation and sort of expands the universe. If you like musicals you are bound to have a fun time watching it since it is a good movie musical and fans of romances should enjoy it as well.