film, musical

Movie Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

It has been over 10 years since the previous Mamma Mia and took the musical world by storm. Whether it was good or bad people were talking about it; I have often seen it listed as a guilty pleasure film for many. As I mentioned in my review of the first film which you can view here I was looking forward to the sequel but I won’t lie and say I wasn’t concerned that they would mess up with the original story. While the sequel was not perfect and might have messed up the timeline a tiny bit I still very much enjoyed the movie. As this is still in theaters I’m issuing a big spoiler alert. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Five years after the previous film Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) now runs the hotel after Donna (Meryl Streep) passed away a year ago. She plans a big re-opening of the hotel named after Donna as she prepares along with the staff; including new gloomy manager Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia), one of her dads/stepfather Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan) who is still grieving Donna’s death and her mom’s closest friend Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters). Sophie expresses her desire to make her mother proud, but she is also upset because two of her dads Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) and Harry (Colin Firth) cannot make it and Sky (Dominic Cooper) has a job offer in New York; further somewhat straining their relationship. Meanwhile while this is happening the audience travels all the way back to 1979 when Donna (Lily James) graduates from Oxford, along with Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Rosie (Alexa Davies). After her mother doesn’t show up for her graduation Donna decides to travel to the island of Kalokairi. While traveling there, and after arriving Donna meets three men that would change her life forever: the quirky Harry (Hugh Skinner), the flirty Bill (Josh Dylan) and the handsome Sam (Jeremy Irvine) I probably shouldn’t go into too much more, but I cannot forget the arrival of Sophie’s estranged grandmother Ruby (Cher)

There have been times when movies get a sequel and they are not really necessary. That is what I originally thought when I heard about this film; however those thoughts were quickly erased from my mind a few moments after Lily James came on the screen. She has recently been an actress I have admired over a few of her films and this role is no exception. I’m sure she felt the pressure of portraying a young version of Meryl Streep (arguably the greatest actress alive today) but I thought she absolutely nailed it in terms of acting and singing. I also very much enjoyed the younger versions of the dads. Skinner, Dylan and Irvine are all very good looking men, their singing voices were better than I thought they were gonna be and their acting was pretty spot one with their older selves; I hope their careers continue to grow after this. Wynn and Davies were perfect as Tanya and Rosie; Davies if I may say had me laughing a little too loud in the theater at times. Of course I cannot forget about the original cast members that returned. Seyfried shined once again as Sophie while Streep’s appearance was brief but nonetheless enjoyable. It was great to see Brosnan, Skarsgård and Firth again; and while some singing has improved it is not by much. Baranski and Walters were just as hilarious as in the first film (Baranski has a line that almost had me falling out of my seat) while Cooper did pretty well as Sky; although I admit his singing voice may have gone down since the first film. Garcia was amusing as Fernando but of course a special spotlight was shined on Cher as Ruby. Whether it is her singing or her acting you cannot take your eyes off of Cher. The writing was pretty good, but I was a little annoyed because how Donna met the guys in the film doesn’t seem to line up with how it was in the original show and movie.

The soundtrack for the movie including many more of ABBA’s greatest hits and I think it might actually be better than the first. Favorites from the first film such as “Mamma Mia” performed by James, Wynn and Davies, “Dancing Queen” by the present cast “I Have a Dream” by James “Waterloo” performed hilariously by James and Skinner “The Name of the Game” by James as she expresses her love for Sam and “Super Trooper” by everyone at the end of the film made their way back, songs from the Broadway show that did not make it to the first film such as “One of Us” performed by Seyfried and Cooper on opposite sides of the world and “Knowing Me Knowing You” performed by James and Irvine as the couple breaks up appeared while new songs were added to tell the past story of Donna as well as the present with Sophie and company. Among the new songs were “Fernando” sung brilliantly by Cher, “Why Did It Have to Be Me” by James, Skinner and Dylan, “Andante Andante” by James, “Angel Eyes” and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” by Seyfried, Walters and Baranski and finally “My Love, My Life” by Streep and Seyfried which may or may not leave a tear in your eye.

Regardless of the small inaccuracies I still loved the sequel I did not know I wanted. While you may not have to watch the original film to understand the sequel it does help a little bit. I will definitely by going again and again to see Mamma Mia Here We Go Again.

based on a book, Disney, Fairy Tale, film, musical

Movie Review: Disney’s The Princess and The Frog

Disney knows how to take classic fairy tales and turn it into major motion pictures; yes I am aware that it is probably the understatement of the century. However they also know how to make their movies relevant to audiences, regardless of when the film takes place. In 2009 Disney took the beloved childhood story of The Princess and the Frog, but found a way to modernized it. Having re-watched the film recently I decided to give my thoughts on one of Disney’s more relevant to today animated movies. Spoilers will be ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

The film takes place beginning in 1912 but quickly transitions to 1926 in the beautiful city of New Orleans. Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) works as a waitress at two diners, and has a natural talent for cooking. She wants to own her own restaurant and work as a chef, having been inspired by her late father James (Terrance Howard); owning a restaurant was always a dream he wanted to share with Tiana and his wife Eudora (Oprah Winfrey), but he passed away before it became a reality. Not wanting to let her father’s dream die, Tiana spends all her time working and earning money towards a restaurant, even picking out an old sugar mill as the location. However her ambition leaves very little to no time for a social life.

New Orleans soon welcomes the arrival of Prince Naveen of Maldonia (Bruno Campos), a handsome and seemingly wealthy young man; although it is revealed his parents have cut him off because of his irresponsible behavior. Tiana’s best friend from childhood, Charlotte La Bouff (Jennifer Cody), decides to take advantage of the prince’s arrival (having wanted to marry a prince since she was a child.) Along with her rich daddy Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff (John Goodman) Charlotte throws a big costume party at their mansion, hoping to impress the prince; hiring Tiana to work as a chef and giving her enough money to buy the mill. Meanwhile Naveen, along with his over-worked man-servant Lawrence (Peter Bartlett), run into Dr. Facilier (Keith David), an evil voodoo witch doctor also going by the nickname The Shadowman. Dr. Facilier takes advantage of both Naveen’s stupidity and Lawrence’s greed, making their dreams come true; but not in the way they expected or probably wanted. At the party while Charlotte is dancing with “Naveen” Tiana is depressed; she may lose the sugar mill due to a higher bidder and has a limited amount of time to raise enough money to continue her dream. Desperate Tiana turns to the Evening Star, a star that allegedly can make wishes come true. Tiana sees a frog next to her and freaks out when it starts talking; the talking frog is of course the real Naveen.

Believing Tiana is a princess, based on her outfit and not realizing it is a costume party, Naveen asks Tiana to kiss him to break the spell like in the original fairy tale. Tiana reluctantly agrees after Naveen promises to provide money for her restaurant. However after Tiana kisses him, she is turned into a frog! The two manage to escape the party, but leave an impression on the fake Naveen, whom is actually Lawrence. He is wearing a talisman provided by Facilier. Facilier’s plan is for Lawrence to marry Charlotte and split her money once Big Daddy dies; which Facilier plans to make happen the moment they say “I do.” Tiana and Naveen make it to bayou where they meet a colorful cast of characters: Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) a trumpet playing alligator who desires to be human just to play the with the big boys (and not worry about guns), Ray (Jim Cummings) a Cajun firefly who is in love with the Evening Star he calls Evangeline and finally Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis), a nearly 200 blind voodoo priestess with plenty of sass to spare. Together they have to find a way to turn Tiana and Naveen back to human and stop Dr. Facilier, along with his shadow friends from the other side. During their adventure Tiana and Naveen grow as characters and discover what they want might not be what they need; Naveen realizing there is more to life than money while Tiana figures out she can have more than one goal in life. The two also fall very deeply in love with each other as time begins to run out. This is probably about as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the film; although I admit it is not hard to figure out.

While The Princess and the Frog did not do as well at the box office as Disney would have thought, I still think the movie was fantastic when I watched it in theaters, and I still think that today. I have been a fan of Anika Noni Rose since her role in Dreamgirls and I knew she would be great as Tiana. I believe Tiana is one of the more modern Disney princesses having been the only one so far to hold a job and a goal; I think many young children can look up to her along with the other princesses. Bruno Campos is fabulous as Naveen as his character develops from a self-absorbed playboy to a caring individual. Keith David is absolutely perfect as Dr. Facilier. Facilier has often been described as the love child of two of Disney’s classic villains, Jafar and Cruella DeVil; while I see elements of them Facilier still stands out among the Disney villains with his unique form of voodoo and charismatic personality. Jennifer Cody is hilarious as Charlotte; at first it was almost easy to write the character off as a spoiled rich daddy’s girl at first, but she proved to have a kind heart as big as her ambition. Louis, Ray and Mama Odie steal the show whenever they come on-screen; I have big props to Wooley, Cummings and Lewis on their performances. Terrance Howard and Oprah Winfrey brief appearances as James and Eudora helped show just how Tiana got to where she was in the beginning of the film, and also how they in a way helped Tiana at the end during her face-off with Facilier. The rest of the cast, as well as the writing and hand-drawn animation, is wonderful as well; the film was nominated for two Oscars in 2010 for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Of course a great Disney movie comes with an equally great soundtrack; most of the songs were written by the incomparable Randy Newman. The song nominated for the Oscar is Tiana’s anthem (because every Disney princess has one) “Almost There” The song not only reflects Tiana’s ambition, but the animated sequence which has Tiana imagining her restaurant as she sings is beautifully hand-drawn. Multiple versions of “Down in New Orleans” are performed in the movie, two times by Rose in the beginning and end of the film while the main version is performed as we are introduced to the adult version of the characters by Dr. John. Facilier has a song (because every cool Disney villain needs one) called “Friends on the Other Side” where he manipulates Naveen and Lawrence and shows off his powers. Louis sings with Tina and Naveen as they say what they would do “When We’re Human” an upbeat song needed after a few close calls by Tiana and Naveen in the swamp. Ray has two numbers in the film: “Gonna Take You There” as he guides Tiana, Naveen and Louis to Mama Odie and “Ma Belle Evangeline” as he sings about his love for Evangeline; I know it sounds weird but it is a very romantic song. Mama Odie has a show-stopping number called “Dig a Little Deeper” where she says Tiana and Naveen may know what they want, but if they dig deeper they’ll find what they need; this makes Naveen realize just how deep his feelings are for Tiana. The final number, and the only song not written by Randy Newman, is during the credits of the film which sums up Tiana and Naveen’s relationship perfectly. It is called “Never Knew I Needed” performed by the multi-time Grammy winning artist Ne-Yo. Ne-Yo’s voice is wonderful to listen to as he sings about the woman who appeared in his life when he needed her; it is probably my favorite song on the soundtrack.

If you have not watched The Princess and the Frog I would highly recommend watching it; might not be a need to watch immediately but is still a great film. I may even call this an underrated Disney film, having been overshadowed in 2009 by another great Disney/Pixar film out earlier that year. The Princess and the Frog is, in my opinion, one of Disney’s more modern movies and I promise when you watch it you will not be disappointed.

based on a book, classic, film, musical, must see

Classic Movie Review: The Wizard of Oz

Today I am writing my 200th blog. For those that have been around since the beginning I thank you. For those who are just starting, I thank you as well.

For my 200th blog I wanted to make it special; a movie or show I believe everyone has or should see (if you have not, it must be put on the top spot on the must watch list immediately.) While glossing over the list of movies I’ve watch one stuck out and I knew I struck gold. It was one of the first non-animated movies I remember watching as a kid, the movie that made me fall in love with musicals and arguably the most watched movie of all time (not just in my house): The Wizard of Oz. Based on the beloved 1900 children’s book by L. Frank Baum, this 1939 classic musical is considered to be one of the greatest musicals and films of all time; and I’d love to find someone who would say otherwise. If for some reason you have not seen The Wizard of Oz here is the biggest spoiler alert I could possible give. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Beginning in sepia tone Dorothy Gale (Jud Garland) and her dog Toto (Terry) lives with her Aunt Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) on their farm in Kansas. Toto gets in trouble when he bites the mean neighbor Miss Almira Gultch (Margaret Hamilton). Dorothy tries to explain what happened to her aunt and uncle, but they and the farm hands Huck (Ray Bolger), Hickory (Jack Haley) and Zeke (Bert Lahr) are too busy working to listen to her. Gultch arrives with the sheriff’s permission to take Toto away and put him down, much to Dorothy’s sadness, but the dog escapes. Dorothy and Toto run away, but after meeting and sort of tricked by the strange but kind hearted Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan who pulls off five roles in the movie) into turning around. A tornado has formed as Dorothy races home, but is too late to get in the storm cellar. She tries to seek shelter in her room, but gets knocked out.

Waking up she sees very odd things outside her window (her home was picked up by the tornado) before landing in the colorful Land of Oz; Dorothy famously saying “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy meets the beautiful Glinda the Good Witch (Billie Burke) and the munchkins of Munckinland in the Land of Oz. They thank her for killing the Wicked Witch of the East; much to Dorothy’s horror her home crushed the witch to death leaving only her feet visible. However trouble soon arrives when the Wicked Witch of the West (Hamilton) arrives; Glinda says she’s worse than her sister. The Wicked Witch wants her sister’s magic ruby slippers, but Glinda has already given them to Dorothy; the witch promising “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too.” Dorothy wants to go home, but Glinda’s magic is not powerful enough to make it possible. Glinda says to Dorothy only The Wizard of Oz (Morgan) can help her; she must take the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. Dorothy takes the path and soon meets three others who need help. The Scarecrow (Bolger) who desires a brain, the Tin Woodsman (Haley) who wants a heart and the Cowardly Lion (Lahr) who needs courage; Dorothy invites them all to accompany her to Oz. The four get stopped multiple times by the Wicked Witch, including a poppy field to make them sleep, but they make it to the Emerald City and eventually see the Wizard. He will only grant their requests if they bring him the Wicked Witch’s broomstick, but they will have to kill her to make that possible. About as far as I should go without spoiling the rest of the movie for those that haven’t read the book or watched it.

The Wizard of Oz is constantly listed as a movie many should watch before the age of 14, and if you have not that is absolutely fine. I remember watching the movie when I was a kid and just being completely enamored with it. The music, the characters, the story; even how it started off tan before going color. I still watch the movie today, maybe not with as much enthusiasm as when I was five but I still enjoy it.

The characters are just incredible to watch. Judy Garland shines as Dorothy Gale, considered to be the most iconic role in her career; she even won an honorary juvenile Oscar for this role along with her role in Babes in America. Bolger is so fun to watch as Scarecrow (try and find his deleted dance sequence for the “If I Only Had a Brain” number; it is great to watch.) Haley, while amazing as the Tin-man, was not the first actor cast for the part; actor Buddy Ebsen was supposed to be the Tin-man but fell ill after putting on the make-up (it was coated in aluminum powder and it got into his lungs, but thankfully lived.) Lahr is hilarious as the Lion; he might be my favorite of the Oz trio. Morgan is absolutely amazing in his five roles in the movie (Marvel, the doorman, the cabbie, the guard and the Wizard) a feet not often used in films back then or even now. Burke is lovely as Glinda. Of course I cannot forget the performance of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch; one of the most iconic villains on-screen. I know she struggled after the film with children being frightened of her well after the movie; there is a very famous episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood where he showed that she was a person underneath the robe and green make-up. The writing, cinematography and background music are some of the best I’ve seen in film, I would appreciate this more as I got into movies.

I cannot forget the wonderful soundtrack that goes along with the movie. Scarecrow, Tin-man and the Lion each have their own songs explaining what they would do if they had their respective gifts; the Lion has an additional number saying what he’d do “If I Were the King of the Forrest”. The munchkins have a number of songs, the two most famous being “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” and “Follow The Yellow Brick Road/You’re Off to See the Wizard”; Dorothy and her friends reprise the latter half song three more times with “We’re” instead of “You’re” The residents of Emerald City welcome Dorothy and her friend with a number called “The Merry Old Land of Oz” However the most famous song of all is “Over the Rainbow”. Dorothy sings this while in Kansas saying how she wished there was a place where she couldn’t get into trouble; honestly I still get goosebumps when I listen to it.

The Wizard of Oz would win two Oscars, including Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow” as well as Best Score; the film was also nominated for Best Special Effects, art direction, cinematography in color and Best Picture. It has also been listed on multiple American Film Institute 100 best lists. Three quotes on 100 Quotes: # 4 “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”, #99 “I’ll get you my pretty and your little dog too” and # 23 “There’s no place like home” Two songs on the 100 songs: # 1″Over the Rainbow” and #82 “Ding Dong The Witch is Dead”, #43 on 100 Thrills, #4 villain on 100 Heroes and Villains, top 10 Fantasy film at #1, #26 on 100 Cheers, #3 on Movie Musicals, and #6 on the 100 Movie, it would slip to #10 on the 10th Anniversary list. The film inspired multiple adaptions of the book, including the Broadway production, film and TV special “The Wiz.” Allegedly five pairs of Dorothy’s ruby slippers were made; one can be seen at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C while another pair was stolen years ago and has not been seen since.

If you have not experience The Wizard of Oz, what are you waiting for? Grab your ruby slippers and get ready to travel from Kansas (or wherever you live) to the Land of Oz, but always remember “There’s no place like home.”

based on a book, based on true story, classic, film, Marvel Films, musical, must see

What Movies are Perfect to watch of the 4th of July?

First and foremost Happy Independence Day to everyone here in the United States. I hope you have a great day no matter what you are doing; hanging by the pool while someone makes burgers and hot-dogs or spending the day inside (hopefully with air conditioning) and watching some patriotic movies. Whether it is something about our founding fathers or a movie that makes you feel patriotic. Today I want to do something a little different today other than a review. I’m gonna give you some movies I feel are perfect to watch whether it’d be today or just to make you proud of waving the American Flag. Here are some of my picks in no particular order. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

  1. Yankee Doodle Dandy. This 1942 biographical musical follows the true story of George M. Cohan (James Cagney) as he takes Broadway by storm; although his ego gets in the way a lot. Featuring songs such as “Over There” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “The Yankee Doodle Boy”. This film means so much to me because it was one of my grandmother’s favorites. Knowing George M. Cohan was so proud of our flag, and he was born on the fourth of July, makes me happy to be a musical fan as well as an American.
  2. Air Force One. I did a review for this 1997 film, but let me give you a quick recap. President James Marshall (Harrison Ford) has to rely on his former military training when terrorists, led by Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman), hijack Air Force One and threaten to kill everyone on board unless their dictator is released. One of my favorite Harrison Ford films outside the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises; this film showed just what would anyone do to protect their family; also who doesn’t cheer a little when Marshall says “Get off my plane.”
  3. 1776. Yes another musical but at least it takes place leading up to why we celebrate the fourth of July. This 1972 film, based on the Broadway musical sees the Continental Congress as they make tough decisions; including whether or not independence from England is worth it. Starring William Daniels (yes, Mr. Feeny from Boy Meets World) as John Adams, Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin, Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson and Virginia Vestoff as Abigail Adams this musical gets your feet taping and flag waving.
  4. Jaws. Maybe not a movie about war or the American flag, but this 1975 film helped start the phenomenon known as summer blockbusters at the movies. Jaws is about a town being threatened by a great white shark and the three men wanting to put the shark down for good. The film does take place over the Fourth of July weekend, so I guess that counts.
  5. A League of their Own. Baseball has often been called the American past-time, and this 1992 film just might be one of the best sports films of all time. Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty the film takes a look back at the short lived All American Girls Professional Baseball League which took place during World War II. We watch as the girls have to deal with sexism, getting the public’s attention and proving they can be just as good as the men. A true classic film if I may say so.
  6.  Hidden Figures. I don’t want to call this film a surprise hit, but I’ll admit that I did not expect to see this 2016 movie to appear at so many award shows. That being said it is still a fantastic watch. When it looks like the Russians might beat the U.S. to space three brilliant African American women working for NASA step up to make it possible. Staring Taraji P. Henson as mathematician Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as supervisor, and later computer expert Dorothy Vaughen and Janelle Monáe as engineer Mary Jackson. The film also features Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst and Mahershala Ali as people who either stood in the way or made a path for them to succeed. A movie about change as well as patriotism.
  7. The Rocky franchise. I know many will say Rocky IV is the most associated with patriotism, and that may be true, but I think not enough credit is given to the other films (at least the first three in addition to the fourth.) The franchise follows boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) as he does from underdog to champion while finding and keeping the love of Adrian (Talia Shire). Everyone loves the underdog story, but I’ll admit the 1985 fourth film in the franchise is probably the more patriotic of the franchise; Rocky fights a Russian boxer named Drago (Dolph Lundgren) on Russian turf after Drago kills Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring. On a side note I cannot wait to see Creed II this fall.
  8. Independence Day. Come on, how was I not going to put this 1996 film on here? When aliens arrive to take over the world, military forces must team up to combat the menace. Starring Will Smith in one of his breakthrough movie roles, Bill Pullman as the president of the United States, Jeff Goldblum and Vivica A. Fox this film showed when a force wants to fight, we are gonna fight back.
  9. Captain America: The First Avenger. I had to put one superhero movie on here and this 2011 film might be the most American of them all. The origin of one of the most popular comic book heroes is brought to life as Steve Trevor (Chris Evans) is transformed into Captain America. While starting of as joke, Steve soon proves he has the strength and heart of an American hero as his fights off a secret organization known as Hydra. Admittedly this is the weakest origin film of the Marvel movies, but it was one heck of a start to the Captain America part of the franchise.
  10. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Another underdog story, but this time it involves politics. Released in 1939, Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) is taken under the wing of Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) a crooked senator. The simple-minded Smith is at first destroyed by the newspapers and politicians, but after a little help Smith rallies for the people and earns their respect, as well as the respect of the Senate. James Stewart does a phenomenal job and his speech reaffirming what America is truly about is one of the best parts of the movie.

I hope everyone has a great Independence Day. Is there a film missing from my list that is one yours? Please leave a comment of what film and why it is great for the Fourth of July.

based on true story, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Walk The Line

I was re-watching the teaser trailer for the upcoming Freddie Mercury film, Bohemian Rhapsody, with a friend the other day. I said how much I was looking forward to watching it and before we knew it the conversation shifted to other musical biographical films we loved. The one film we both agreed on was this 2005 award winning movie about one of the greatest country singers of all time, and the woman that changed his life. As always a spoiler alert is being issued. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix, nominated for an Oscar for his part) had a tough life growing up after the death of his brother Jack. He would enlist in the Air Force in 1950 and be stationed in West Germany. Having always loved singing Johnny would purchase a guitar in 1952 and begin writing songs just to find solace; one of the songs being “Folsom Prison Blues”. Johnny would later marry his girlfriend Vivian Liberto (Ginnifer Goodwin) and had four children with her while working as a door to door salesman. Music still kept calling Johnny and, after organizing a band, would perform and earn a contract for Sun Records, owned by Sam Phillips (Dallas Roberts). While touring, Johnny meets June Carter (Reese Witherspoon who won an Oscar for her part). The two develop a close bond; with Johnny quickly falling in love for her. Despite feeling the same way (and divorcing two husbands with one child each throughout the course of the movie), June refuses to be with Johnny; even after they have a passionate night together. In addition to the rejection Johnny begins abusing drugs and alcohol and his performance begins to become affected. Johnny would later be arrested for purchasing drugs and, in addition to noticing how close Johnny and June are, Vivian divorces him. June, after pleas from his mother, helps Johnny get back on his feet and the two finally begin a relationship; it inspires June to write perhaps Cash’s most famous song “Ring of Fire”. Johnny discovers most of his fans are prisoners and decides to record a live concert album inside one of the prisons; specifically Folsom Prison despite the protests from the record producers. The album would become a huge success and Johnny and June would later marry; the film concludes with him famously proposing on stage and her accepting.

I know I probably gave away a lot of the film, but everything is a part of music history. Johnny Cash is one of the most successful country artists of all time and, if I may say, one of the most unique voices I’ve heard. His story is something to watch on screen. I thought then as I do now that Joaquin Phoenix was perfect as Cash; while I think he looked more like Elvis rather than Cash his performance made up for it. The true standout of the film is Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. While I think her role as Elle Woods will go down as her most iconic part, when it comes to acting I think Walk the Line has been Reese’s best role to date; winning multiple awards including the Golden Globe and Oscar. The chemistry between Phoenix and Witherspoon is infectious as was the real love between Johnny and June (of course there was a lot of drama getting to that happy ending.) Walk The Line was also nominated for four other Oscars including Best Actor, Costume, Film Editing and Sound. Being a musical there has to be a great soundtrack to go with it; and this Grammy winning album did not disappoint. Phoenix and Witherspoon provided their own singing and I have to admit I was surprised to hear how good they were; while they did not sound exactly like Johnny and June it came pretty close. While I am not certain how accurate the film is I would say Walk the Line is one heck of a drama/musical biographical movie. If you enjoy those movies put this on the must watch list.

Fairy Tale, film, musical

Movie Review: A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song

The third installment of the Cinderella story franchise may not be as well known (or as good) as the previous two, but it is still a decent watch. Released on DVD in 2011 this one is more musical than the other two and took the story in a different direction, which actually made it all the more interesting. Spoilers ahead as always. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Katie Gibbs (Lucy Hale) is a student at the Wellesley Academy of Arts aspiring to be a singer, but has many obstacles in her way. For starters she lives with her horrible stepmother (and headmistress of the school) Gail Van Ravensway (Missi Pyle) who has never had success as an artist, her mean and tone-deaf step sister Bev (Megan Park), her trouble making (but actually cares about her) step brother Victor (Matthew Lintz) and Gail’s guru Tony (Manu Narayan), and cannot escape Gail or Bev in school with only her friend Angela (Jessalyn Williams) for company. Gail gets excited when Guy Morgan (Dikran Tulaine), the president of Massive Records Inc. comes to enroll his son, and gorgeous pop star, Luke (Freddie Stroma) in the school. Katie manages to slip in a demo into Guy’s briefcase, and capture the attention of Luke, but Gail claims it is Bev’s. On the night of a big Bollywood ball at the school Gail orders Katie to babysit Victor, but she convinces Tony (who is not actually a guru but an actor needing the work) to do the job. Katie, wearing a disguise, impresses Luke with her voice but quickly leaves when Gail arrives. However Gail beats Katie home and threatens Angela’s education if Katie doesn’t help Bev get with Luke. Katie agrees, even though it is killing her seeing Luke with Bev. About as far as I should go, but given the material it is probably not hard to figure out.

While I did not like this film as much as the previous Cinderella stories, I did like the twist that the stepmother actually beats Cinderella home and force her to help the stepsister; for the record I don’t support it but is definitely a good twist. I was a little familiar with Lucy Hale from some works, but I had no idea how great of a singer she was; it was a very pleasant surprise. Freddie Stroma I remembered from Harry Potter and I was glad to see him as a good guy, and a pretty good singer. Missi Pyle is hilarious as Gail; I almost sympathized with Megan Park and enjoyed the performances of Lintz, Narayan and Williams. The writing and filming could have been better, but I liked the soundtrack. Lucy Hale sang really well with songs such as “Make You Believe”, “Bless Myself” and “Run This Town” while Stroma did pretty good on “Knockin”. While this is probably not must see, if you liked the previous Cinderella stories, then A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song is great for you.

based on true story, Disney, film, musical, must see

Movie Review: Disney’s Newsies The Broadway Musical

For those who can’t get to New York for the Broadway experience many shows film productions (hopefully with the original cast) to give audiences an amazing experience, and this one can be found on Netflix streaming (as of the date of this blog so beware). Based on the Disney 1992 film, as well as the actual 1899 newsboys strike, this show under the Disney name premiered on Broadway in 2012 after a run at the legendary Papermill Playhouse the previous year and was a huge success. The show ran for two years, winning the Tony for Best Choreography and Best Original Score while nominated for six others including Best book, leading actor and musical, before going out on national tour. In 2017 a production was filmed in Los Angeles with much of the original cast coming back and was released in theaters. I had seen the Broadway version of Newsies just after a couple of the original cast members had left, but nonetheless loved it; the guy who played the lead Corey Cott is one of my Broadway crushes and highly recommend watching him live if given the chance. However when I heard about this there was no way me and my theater loving mother were going to miss out on this especially since we are huge fans of Jeremy Jordan who rocketed to super-stardom after this role. Spoilers ahead as usual. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Jack Kelly (Jordan) is a newspaper delivery boy with a shady past living in New York City along with several other young men in the same profession including his best friend Crutchie (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) who has a limp. Jack hates New York and often dreams of heading out west, specifically to Santa Fe. When buying their papers for the day Jack and Crutchie meet Davey (Ben Fankhauser) and his younger brother Les (Ethan Steiner) who unlike the other Newsies have a family, but need the work. Jack agrees to help them out, for a small portion and introduces them to his friend Medda Larkin (Aisha De Haas) a woman who owns a theater and often hires Jack to paint beautiful backdrops for her shows. Jack also meets Katherine Plumber (Kara Lindsay) a reporter for the New York Sun looking to break out of the society pages and soon becomes smitten with her. The next day New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) announced that the price for the Newsies has gone up from fifty to sixty cents which in turn will force them to sell more papers in order to earn the same as before. Outraged Jack, along with Davey, Crutchie, Les and the other Newsies organize a strike with Katherine covering it. However Jack must decide if this is worth it after police show up along with the corrupt and evil warden of the local juvenile center and the protest ends badly. About as far as I should go without giving away the rest of the show.

Let me start off by saying how amazing this musical is. From the writing, acting and especially the choreography, Newsies is an absolutely fabulous show. For anyone that says guys can’t dance and/or do musicals show them this (there is at least one more example but that is another day). To give you just a small idea of how incredible the dancing is picture this: in the climatic number the guys are dancing on very thin newspaper pages and not slipping (for the record do not try it unless you want to break something or fall on your rear end).

Moving on, the acting was just as good as I remembered the show, even with a couple of different actors than in the show I saw. I actually saw Jeremy Jordan in a Broadway production of West Side Story as Tony about two years before he became Jack Kelly. Between this and a movie he did also in 2012 (which I plan on reviewing at a later date) I knew he looked familiar; then I heard him sing and it came back to me. Having just missed him in the original Broadway show I had to see him in the role that launched his career and let’s just say he was nominated for the Tony for a good reason. I am so happy that he has had so much success, not just on Broadway but on television shows such as Smash and Supergirl because he is so talented. Of course every great lead needs a just as good cast and this one doesn’t disappoint. Keenan-Bolger, Fankhauser, Steiner and the other Newsies are amazing singers, actors and dancers and I hope to continue watching them on Broadway. Lindsay is great as Katherine with fantastic vocals and facial expressions as I remembered from the show. I do not think I saw Blanchard as Pulitzer nor Haas as Larkin in the show, but they were still very good to watch.

I cannot forget about the great soundtrack with so many songs that will either have you belting (probably badly), tapping your foot (or trying to recreate the dance) or feeling goosebumps going up and down your arm and/or spine. The first song I want to talk about is the last song before intermission “Santa Fe” which Jordan does brilliantly (as did Cott when I watched the show) as he laments what happened at the protest and vowing to soon leave New York; it takes a lot to deliver the emotion of Kelly as well as maintain the notes. One of the most popular songs is called “Seize the Day” which is the big climatic number in the first act involving the dancing on newspapers; between that and the angelic singing I saw why this number is talked about more than the others. One of my favorite numbers is “Something to Believe In” where Jack and Katherine declare their love for one another despite some huge bumps. Other songs I recommend listening to are “Carrying the Banner”, “That’s Rich”, “The World Will Know”, “Watch What Happens” “King of New York” and “Once and For All”. Once again Newsies: The Broadway Musical is still on Netflix streaming as of this date, but I do not know how long it will be there. Until that date seize the day (so not sorry I did that) and watch this unbelievable musical.