Archive for the Musicals Category

Footlight Parade

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The last–and to some aficionados, the best–of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s three Warner Bros. efforts of 1933, Footlight Parade stars James Cagney as a Broadway musical comedy producer. Cagney is unceremoniously put out of business when talking pictures arrive. To keep his head above water, Jimmy hits upon a swell idea: he’ll stage musical “prologues” for movie theatres, then ship them out to the various picture palaces in New York. Halfway through the picture, Cagney is obliged to assemble three mammoth prologues and present them back-to-back in three different theatres. There are all sorts of backstage intrigues, not the least of which concerns the predatory hijinks of gold-digger Claire Dodd

What people are saying:

“…generates laughs at a criminal rate” 4 stars

“What a gem! Saw it in the TCM’s on demand line-up, started it and just was transfixed. Dated, but in a timeless way that goes back not just to the 1930’s but to what it must have been like in vaudeville. Cagney is in top form and terrifically supported by Blondell, Keeler and a all round great cast. Powell is ok, being not nearly as annoying as he usually is. Great music/dance numbers with pussy cats, a honeymoon hotel, a waterfall and – the topper – Shanghai Lil. All of it wrapped up in snappy, risqué dialogue.” 4 stars

“It has singing. It has drama. It has comedy. It has a story. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made … period. If you can’t enjoy this movie, then you must be either asleep or in some kind of mental disarray. In “Yankee Doodle Dandy” James Cagney sings and dances his way to an Academy Award; but in this movie he is BETTER! This is James Cagney at his quisessential BEST! He’s fast with the one-liners! He’s fast with his feet! It’s nonstop action. And the song-and-dance skits are classics, especially “Shanghai Lil.” And the supporting cast is great; and the entire movie is upbeat, fast moving, and exudes confidence. And even though this movie was made over 70 years ago, it’s still watchable, even today. And of course, this movie features Miss Ruby Keeler (who was married to Al Jolson). She is the perfect partner for James Cagney … and Dick Powell too! If you like upbeat, fast paced movies, with lots of singing and dancing, this is the movie to watch.” 5 stars

“This is an example of one of those “super cutesie” type of flicks. Every character is loveable and silly in their own way. Though the Busby Berkeley dance numbers aren’t the best, the achievement of complexity and style is still in others choreographers left field.” 5 stars

“This fabulous movie must be viewed knowing that millions scraped together 10 cents to see it and forget the gloomy day-to-day economic conditions during the 30’s. Remember, 10 cents bought a loaf of bread back then, so this was a minor luxury for many people. It’s testimony to how Hollywood did its best to make the USA feel a little better about itself. You’ll note that with the studio system in Hollywood at the time many of the actors and actresses were type-cast in similar movies, e.g. James Cagney, William Powell, Ruby Keeler, Frank McHugh, Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee . Then too, branches of the U.S. military were always respected with enthusiasm and patriotism as in the use of military precision marching by the great choreographer, Busby Berkeley, at the end.” 4 stars

Invitation to the Dance

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Gene Kelly brings his remarkable talents as star, director and choreographer to this glittering gala of music, dance and pantomime – and the result is a lush, one-of-a-kind musical flight of fancy. The film has three episodes, each with its own distinct period and mood. In Circus, a clown (Kelly) in a small carnival troupe is hopelessly in love with the show’s high-wire walker. Ring Around the Rosy is a satiric tale about a bracelet which travels from the wrist of one fickle lover to another. Sinbad the Sailor blends live action and animation as Kelly dances his way into an Arabian Nights world after rubbing Aladdin’s Lamp. Showcasing talents from ballet companies of New York, Paris, London and Rome, this imaginative tour de force is a must-see for dance lovers everywhere!

What people are saying:

“When watching a Gene Kelly musical one could have the feeling that the musical numbers were interrupted by the story, not the other way round. Here Kelly finds a project with a scope big enough to fit his whole ego, finally doing away with all the story (in the way of words, at least) and leaving us with all the dancing. This criminally unseen impressionistic film opens quite a window into the imagination of one of Old Hollywood’s most prolific artists – and not quite unlike Singin’ in the Rain“, he made a movie looking at the core of what it was about to make an MGM musical: it was about being artsy, it was about being kitschy, about working with archetypes and especially about wearing tights and trying to melt icebergs by smiling at the camera.” 4 stars

“this was Kelly’s pet project- a film with dance, and only dance. No dialogue, only mime, movement and music. However to his disappointment, MGM shelved its release and when it was the film was released badly- it was too arty farty to be popular with the audiences at that time. Well, I love this film. It’s adventurous and interesting, and it’s worth a watch to appreciate all the work Kelly’s put into this work, which showcases some of the greatest dancers across many styles. So go watch this under-rated film and you will be in awe of all the talent shown before your eyes!” 4 1/2 stars

“No wonder INVITATION TO THE DANCE found no audience at the box office. The first two musical sequences, “Circus” and “Ring Around the Rosy” are monumental bores dragged down by pedestrian stories and, in the second one, inept use of camera trickery to speed up the action. But the third, “Sinbad the Sailor,” makes expert use of the Rimsky-Korsakov ballet score and makes dazzling use of animated effects, especially for the dancing between Kelly and a couple of Arabian guards which are highly original, intricate and amusing examples of combining live action with animation. It’s the kind of originality sadly missing in the previously mentioned stories. The “Sinbad” highlight almost makes up for the rest of the film with its own brand of originality–but alas, the first two sequences are enough to turn many viewers away from watching the final segment. Summing up: Easy to see why this one failed miserably to attract a target audience with either high or low brow tastes.” 1 star

“this movie is probably one of the most boring pictures I ever saw. it has got nothing to tell, except for the three little stories that are brutally forced into a concept without inspiration, but filled with unusable ideas. oh yeah, Kelly was a genius alright, but this is a perfect example of how geniuses can BEEP the BEEP up. the stories are already known to the general audience, so what I was searching for, was a novelty about them all. I was bitter when I found out Kelly only repeated himself. the story with the clown made me wonder if I washed my feet today… too bad, this truly is a movie to see while washing your feet, so you can do something useful when the torment begins. second part, the ‘crime’: really stupid and boring, it made me compare the good with the bad, and this seemed to be the ugly. the third part made me realize Kelly repeats himself over and over again, like a little child with a doll or when a kid becomes a teenager. too bad for the whole idea, this movie didn’t reach adulthood for me, it should have stayed in Kelly’s brain.” 1 star

“A series of short skits with Kelly dancing. The first is Circus which is done in a minstrel/vaudeville style. Kelly plays a mime/clown, he acts on the stage and dances in the street with a group. There are only 3 actors listed in this part and they are on stage with him, there is no talking in this part only dancing. The dancing goes from Kelly’s style to ballet with the other two actors. The story is about a guy, Kelly’s clown, falling in love with the girl who is in love with the other guy. It shows how some people will do silly and dangerous to get the person we love, in this case the clown tries to do the high wire act to impress the girl, he falls and dies. The second skit is titled Ring Around the Rosy. It involves 8 actors/dancers with Kelly and the other two from Circus. This is a more present day setting going from parties to clubs. Again no talking during the entire skit, just music. It is a series of performances of mainly couples dancing about love and love lost and temptation. The third skit is titled Sinbad the Sailor and to be obvious it has a Middle Eastern theme. After the initial scenes Kelly and a boy go on a series of animated adventures the most visually striking is when he dances with 2 guards. This is Kellys version of Fantasia and fits into the film as art movement of the early 50’s. It is interesting to view as a history of film as it is very much like watching a play on film. The animation is not as stimulating compared with Disney but it is innovative none the less.” 3 1/2 stars

La La Land

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2018 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

What people are saying:

“La La Land breathes new life into a bygone genre with thrillingly assured direction, powerful performances, and an irresistible excess of heart” 5 stars

“If Gene Kelly, Woody Allen and Steve Martin had a chance to collaborate, the result might be La La Land, the remarkable new movie by precocious young writer/director Damien Chazelle.” 4 stars

“I loved, loved, loved this movie! At first I wasn’t sure but it definitely had me hooked by the end. Ryan and Emma are so good together and I had goose bumps and tears by the end. I don’t love musicals with never ending song and dance numbers but this wasn’t that way at all. It was magical, fun, endearing, sad, happy, true to life and fantastical, and yes, it does provide those fluttery, over-whelming feelings of new love.” 5 stars

“I cannot understand the widespread appeal of this film. Neither protagonist makes the subtle nuanced decisions of adult life; the mid-way compromises of relationship-making. The choreography is nothing on the scale of the musicals of old. These are two great actors undercut by an underdeveloped script and serving the poorly executed concept of reviving the musical genre.” 2 stars

“Most of my reviews bring up something about clichés, as Hollywood seems to be badly plagued by them. The clichés in this film are different, however. They are more of nostalgic clichés, the ones that give you that fluttery feeling in your stomach, help you escape, and help you feel. And, oh my, do they make this movie beautiful! The best way to describe “La La Land” is that it is a love song. It is a love song to the ‘dying’ art of classical jazz music. It is a love song to the touching and heartfelt boy-meets-girl romance stories. It is a love song to the revolutionary spectacles of musical films that brought in the new age of cinema. It is a love song to the struggling artists that are stuck between dreams and reality. “La La Land” is gorgeous, fun, romantic, tragic, and sweet, all in one. Bravo!” 5 stars

That’s Entertainment, part II

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , on December 31, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire present more golden moments from the MGM film library, this time including comedy and drama as well as classic musical numbers.

What people are saying:

“Probably the most impressive opening cast credits in the history of cinema – other than Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, they’re all in recycled clips though for this sequel that isn’t just musicals this time. The two hosts do offer something new though with original singing and dancing interludes between the repeats which are a mix of song left on the cutting room floor from the first That’s Entertainment, and other famous scenes from the Hollywood period of filmmaking that is no more. It’s not a bad celebration of what’s come before.” 3 stars

“The organization and hosting by Astaire and Kelly is lacking, but the clips, as always, are priceless. These movies always bring tears to my eyes.” 3 1/2 stars

“Some splendid clips, but the best had already been used up for the first movie. And seeing Astaire and Kelly together again is nice, but a bit unsettling given their ages – especially Astaire who looks like he might snap like a twig if a stiff breeze turns up.” 4 stars

“I enjoyed seeing some classic clips, but I didn’t feel that the movie itself was very good. It’s randomly thrown together with no rhyme or reason. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire are legends and it is nice to see them clowning around, but a movie like this works better with several people taking turns sharing memories.” 2 1/2 stars

“What a joy to see Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dancing and singing together again… They are definitely my 2 favorite dancers. If you like musicals this is the movie to watch to find the best of those times… Great continuation to “That’s Entertainment”” 4 stars

That’s Entertainment!

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on December 31, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

MGM musical numbers from the introduction of sound in the late ’20s through to the 1950s, possibly with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland getting the most coverage. Linked by some of the stars who worked at MGM handing the commentary on one to another.

What people are saying:

“‘Boy, do we need it now’ was catchphrase when this MGM musical salute was first released–and it stands even more today.” 5 stars

“That’s entertainment indeed! I do not particularly care for musicals, but when some of the best musical numbers ever made are all pieced together, it is phenomenal. Incredibly interesting and fascinating. Historically important film. Great narration.” 4 stars

“I liked all the compiliations of musicals but it’s pretty much a marathon of shows. I would rather see musicals with plots. ” 1 1/2 stars

“The MGM musical equivalent of a clip show. Some of the edited down sequences make me sad (take note, MGM special edition gnomes), but the overall breadth of material is awesome.” 4 stars

“Sure, it’s just a video compilation piece, no different than something the History Channel might’ve produced, but if one has grown up watching the films in this compilation it transforms before your eyes, assuming the teary qualities of a deathbed goodbye of a hypochondriac, weakly whispering “remember the good times when …” into your ear. You know that they’re not dying, but nonetheless feel the strings of your heart pulled anyway and have to admire the work of a master manipulator despite yourself.” 5 stars

Carousel

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story revolves around Billy Bigelow, a rough-talking, macho, handsome carousel barker, and Julie Jordan, a young, innocent mill worker, both living their busy lives in the small town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. They fall in love, but both are fired from their jobs for different reasons – Billy because he paid too much attention to Julie and incurred the wrath of the jealous carousel owner Mrs. Mullin, and Julie because she stayed out past the curfew imposed by the understanding but stern mill owner, Mr. Bascombe. Billy and Julie marry and go to live at the seaside spa of her cousin Nettie, but Billy becomes bitter because he is unable to find work, and in his frustration, strikes Julie (this moment is not shown at all in the film). Mrs. Mullin, the jealous carousel owner who is infatuated with him, hears of this and goes to Nettie’s to offer Billy his old job back, but will not re-hire him unless he leaves his wife. Billy seems to be considering the idea when Julie asks to talk privately. Julie, fearing he will be enraged, timidly tells him she is pregnant. But Billy is overjoyed and now firmly refuses Mrs. Mullin’s offer. However, newly worried about not having enough money to provide for his child, and unskilled at anything except being a carousel barker, Billy secretly agrees to join his pal Jigger Craigin in robbing the wealthy Bascombe.

During a clambake, held on a nearby island, Billy and Jigger sneak to the mainland to commit the robbery, but Bascombe, who is usually unarmed, carries a gun and the robbery is foiled. While Bascombe is momentarily distracted, Jigger flees and leaves Billy at the mercy of the police. Cornered, but trying to escape, Billy climbs atop a pile of crates, whereupon the pile collapses and Billy accidentally falls on his own knife. The others return from the clambake, and Julie sees the mortally wounded Billy. She rushes over to him and he dies after saying his last words to her. Julie is devastated because she truly loved him, even though she never had the courage to say it out loud.

Fifteen years later, in the other world (apparently the back door of Heaven), Billy is told that he can return to Earth for one day to make amends. Billy returns to find his daughter Louise emotionally scarred because she is constantly taunted over the fact that her father tried to commit a robbery. Billy, not telling her who he is, makes himself visible, tries to cheer her up, and gives her a star that he stole from Heaven. Louise refuses it, frightened, and Billy, in desperation, slaps her hand. She rushes inside the house and informs Julie of what happened, saying that she did not feel a slap, but a kiss. Billy tries to make himself invisible before Julie can see him, but she has glimpsed him for just a split second, and senses that he has come back for a reason. Billy asks his Heavenly Guide for permission to go to Louise’s high school graduation, and there he silently gives both her and Julie the confidence they need and the knowledge that, in spite of everything, he loved Julie.

REVIEW:

I’ve been trying to get back to reviewing classic musicals, but it is kind of hard since I’ve watched almost all of the major movie musicals. Of those that are left I can think of two that really stick out to the general public, Kiss Me, Kate and this film, Carousel. From what I hear there are some changes made that may or may not have a major bearing on how I see this film, so let’s see what I think, shall we?

What is this about?

Billy Bigelow has been dead for fifteen years, and now outside the pearly gates, he long waived his right to go back to Earth for a day. But he has heard that there is a problem with his family, namely his wife Julie Bigelow née Jordan and the child he never met, that problem with which he would now like to head back to Earth to assist in rectifying. Before he is allowed back to Earth, he has to get the OK from the gatekeeper, to who he tells his story… Immediately attracted to each other, he and Julie met when he worked as a carousel barker. Both stated to the other that they did not believe in love or marriage, but they did get married. Because the shrewish carousel owner, Mrs. Mullin, was attracted to Billy herself, and since she believed he was only of use as a barker if he was single to attract the young women to the carousel, she fired him. With no other job skills and unwilling to take just any job, Billy did not provide for Julie but rather lived off Julie’s Aunt Nettie. But Billy figured he could be the breadwinner through his association with a criminal lowlife named Jigger Craigin, which led to his death. In going back to Earth, Billy not only hopes to help his child, but “tell” Julie of his true feeling for her.

What did I like?

Music, man. Shirley Jones isn’t just the romantic lead in this musical, but also The Music Man. What you may not realize is that her on-screen daughter, Susan Luckey, was also in River City. I’m not sure if there just weren’t that many talented actresses that could pull off musicals, if this was a studio contract thing, or what have you, but it is always nice to see actors from one film work together in a totally different picture.

Fair and balanced. Ah, the late 1800s! A time of innocence, simplicity, and town fairs/carnivals. This isn’t exactly a period piece, at least not compared to what we see today, but it is set in this era. One feels completely transported back to this time, even with the simple sets. A true testament to the imagination of those behind the scenes of this flick.

Song and dance. How is the music? Well, this is a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, so that should tell you what to expect. The songs are a mixed bag, as with many Hollywood translation of musicals, but the standouts “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” really shine through. I also must mention the elaborate dance number down on the pier. While not the quality of a Gene Kelly number, it was tight, clean, and entertaining….though I could have gone without the sailors taking their shirts off at the end. This isn’t Magic Mike, after all!

What didn’t I like?

Titular machine. The titular carousel is not really a part of this film. It serves as a place of employment, albeit briefly, for our leading man, and that’s pretty much it. This makes me wonder why the title was chosen. Perhaps, in the original play, there is more focus on the carousel, but I can’t be certain. Changing the title may have been box office murder at the time this was released, but I still wonder if a better, more suitable title could be found.

Opposites attract. We all know the story. One character is prim, proper and from an upstanding family. The other is from the wrong side of the tracks, probably has some sort of criminal record, or at least a bad reputation. Somehow, these crazy kids come together and become infatuated with each other. Tale as old as time, right? Well, just once I’d like for there to be a change in this tale, even if it is just a gender switch. Some things get old after a while, you know?

Only if you want her to. Billy’s ghost/spirit/soul comes back to Earth to set his 15 year old daughter on the right path, before she ends up making the wrong decision. Nothing wrong with that, until he slaps her and the mother comes out to see what happened. We’ve seen thousands of films, tv shows, and even cartoons using this trope. Usually, the spirit is not visible. In this case, it was his choice to be visible or not. I thought that was a nice touch, except Shirley Jones’ character came out of the house so fast, surely she saw him. If that was the idea, then I retract this dislike.

So, what did I think of Carousel? This has been a horrible past few days. I needed something light and fun to watch. While this wasn’t as light as I thought it would be, I still had fun watching. This is one of those musicals that is for the more romantically inclined of us, which isn’t me, but I still found enjoyment from the music. The plot is a little thin, but still a good story, I especially appreciated the flashback. Do I recommend this? Yes…yes I do. Most of the time, you can’t go wrong with a musical from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and this is no exception!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Teen Beach 2

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Modern day teens Mack and Brady get a real world visit from Lela, Tanner, Butchy, and other surfer and biker pals from the beach party film within a film, Wet Side Story.

What people are saying:

What can I say that 92 others haven’t already said? This is such a Disney Movie, is that meant in any kind of bad way? NO WAY. I love my Disney movies, well 98% of them. this one falls in that category. The terrific ones. Did you love the first “Teen Beach”? No reason at all not to love this one too. Wonderful stars, wonderful story, wonderful songs and singing and wonderful dance numbers. now let us look at the 4 prime stars, Leila, couldn’t find her real name sorry, is wonderful and sweet. Mack, Maia Mitchell, has to be a future star. Brady, Ross Lynch, dynamic voice and dancer and pretty easy on the eyes too. Now Tanner, goofy and lovable and seriously adorable played by Garrett Clayton, to me was the stand out.” 5 stars

Liked most of the music and Tanner is hysterical. But, it lacked the same charisma as the first. Mack is still whiney and I definitely hated the end in the “real world”. Kids: girls ages 4 and 12 got bored. I may have been the only one to sit through the whole thing.” 3 stars

A nice try to add on to a good thing. It has all the traditional Walt Disney sentiments and style. It doesn’t quite outdo the first edition, but it is still good family fun.” 4 stars

The movie was going great until the ending. I REALLY hated it because the whole point of the movie was Mack and Brady bonding over their memories on the beach, especially their experience in the Wet Side Story film from the first Teen Beach Movie. I just don’t understand why the filmmakers had to make it look like the two of them never met each other. Honestly, it kind of ruined the magic of the first film which kind of made the second movie very depressing. I would like for someone to let me know what the whole point of this film was because no matter how many times I think about it, I just don’t understand it. This movie did have decent music and dancing, but in my opinion, I wish this movie had never been made because the ending was not only upsetting, but it generally did not make any sense at all.” 1 star

Wasn’t what I was expecting. While the music was great the whole theme of the movie was off – especially the ending. I would have thought the movie would have been about the cast that suddenly appeared on the beach at the end of the first movie. About how they adjusted to life now instead of living in the movie. Very disappointing.” 1 star