Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fa La La!: A Few Musical Movies to Check Out

Summer is on its way out, soon to be replaced with the fall. With this change will be the starting of a new school season, the changing of colors in the leaves of trees, and the release of a lot of films that no one has ever heard of that are sure to win a whole lot of awards. There are few better ways to savor what's left of this current season while also looking forward to and celebrating the coming of the next season than to relax and listen to some great music. Below are listed a few musical movies that are sure to contribute greatly to this pursuit.

Admittedly, the idea that anyone can successfully cover up to two discs worth of the Beatles' material is hard to believe. That these covers can be used to create an actual storyline with characters, all of it based off of Lennon & Co.'s tunes is even more difficult to swallow. Across the Universe, though, pulls it off and delivers a fun and fantastical on-screen version of their iconic heroes' world. The sixties, as presented here, are certainly a spectacle to behold, touching on many of the biggest events and social trends at the time, such as the war in Vietnam, the underground rock scene, counter culture, radical politics similar to the Weathermen, and many more. To back it all up is a cast who can definately sing: Jim Sturgess, as main character Jude, is suprisingly strong, as are the various supporting cast members who show up throughout. Still skeptical? Bono makes an appearance, singing "I Am the Walrus." 'Nuff said.

Soundtrack: Across The Universe [Deluxe Edition]

A cult classic and indie phenomenon, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has been adored by hipsters, internet dorks, theater kids, and Joss Whedon lovers everywhere. During the WGA writer's strike of 2008 many, including Whedon, didn't have any projects to work on. Rather than sit around, Whedon decided to begin working on what would eventually become this award-winning picture (thank goodness). Neil Patrick Harris stars here as the wannabe villain Dr. Horrible, who between chasing after love interest Penny, scheming to defeat his rival Captain Hammer, attempting to join the Evil League of Evil, and yes, running a blog, finds time to sing a few songs. What a guy. The soundtrack is super catchy and carries a nice variety. Whether it be the sweet, heartfelt "My Freeze Ray," creepy cool "Slipping," or the epic "Brand New Day," there is something here for everyone to enjoy.

Soundtrack: Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog (Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Moulin Rouge!, simply put, rocks. Well, the 2001 version directed by Baz Luhrman does, anyways. Apparently this film has a whopping six predecessors. However, judging from how well-made the most modern version was, this revelation does not come as much of a suprise. The story at first appears deceptively cliché: a boy named Christian falls for a girl named Satine working in a caberet as a courtesan. She must contend with the third point of this triangle, the evil Duke of Monroth. What's interesting is how the cast takes the traditional tale of such a triangle, twists it all up, and presents its own spin with a more nuanced vision of romance and human relationships. Plus, listening to well known favorites such as The Police's "Roxanne," Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" being belted out in a totally unconventional, bizarre manner is simultaneously hilarious and incredibly entertaining (it makes one wonder where the idea for Glee may have come from...).

Soundtrack: Moulin Rouge

The film Once is a triumph in two respects. In one respect it is simple. There are no big celebrity names, fancy CGI, over the top camera work, complex plotlines, fancy fight scenes,  massive song and dance numbers, heaping mounds of melodrama, or a huge budget to be found here. Instead, Once is about a short period where a guy and girl (their names are never mentioned) meet and share a memorable time making wonderful music. Just seeing this pair sit and talk and play away on an acoustic guitar or piano is beautiful to watch. Once triumphs in a second respect by feeling real. So many films attempt to throw about so many different gimmicks to woo their audience, but never connect to the audience - or the audience to its characters - in any meaningful way. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who play the two leads, connect to the audience only by being who they truly are as individuals. Prior to this film, they were both professional musicians rather than actors, so their performances here are their genuine personalities. Many scenes are shot at friends' or relatives' homes to save money. Hansard and Irglová even shared a brief time as a dating couple during production. What's shown is really not too far off from events that took place in reality. It's all so intimate, like a home video documenting two people experiencing a very believable relationship. Once, despite its name, deserves far more than a single viewing.

Soundtrack: Once

"You Sack of Wine!"
-Nate S

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