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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Musical I Really Want As A Movie

Okay, first of all, screw everyone who thinks wanting to see musicals makes me gay.  I'm not, and I'm willing to jump Andi on a webcam to prove it.  That being said, I grew up hearing a lot of music throughout my childhood.  I hated my mother, and celebrate regularly the fact that she died (hopefully painfully), but of the very small and few things she did for me as I grew up the best one is that she gave me an appreciation of a wide variety of music.  That's a topic I haven't really touched on a great deal across any of my blogsites, and at some point I'll dedicate an entire post to that specific subject.  For now, I'll discuss the music I listened to most frequently, and where I'm leading with this.

We had one of those humongous stereo systems back in the 70's.  Kept it until we moved in 2005, if I'm not mistaken.  You know the type: It looked like a buffet, the size of this thing, and took up the space of a loveseat.  Had a lid that was hinged, and could be kind of propped up by a bar that worked only half the time.  Was a grand old piece of tech that slowly stopped working so well in the 80s and 90s, as you'd expect, but even though it would take almost ten minutes to warm up and play, I still used it until I got my first boombox.  Yes, I typed boombox there, and the description of that piece of equipment will wait until that other music post.

The stereo sat in the living room (for a semi-detailed floor plan of Denham, refer to the Autobiography blog from the links on the right column), and was fairly central to the house, so the whole house heard whatever was played on it.  I used to play all the "Hooked On Classics" albums on it, but I always went back to the first three albums I really heard on that stereo:  "Bugsy Malone," "The Music Man" and "Sweet Charity."  I still have those three albums, along with every other album I ever owned from childhood on up (including "Thriller," if you can believe it), but now have them on CD as well.  I saw the first in theatres when the movie first came out, saw the second one onstage via the Scarborough Choral Society, and saw the third on television a few times.  So, as you can see, I was listening and watching good musicals from an early age.

Things haven't changed much since then, except for the fact that the choice to see a musical nowadays is mine and mine alone.  I own "West Side Story" on DVD, along with "South Pacific" and "Oklahoma."  "The Music Man" is in there too, and so is "Brigadoon."  When "Chicago" came out in theatres, I saw that and fell in love with it; it can be found in my collection as well.  "Phantom Of The Opera" was the first big ticket theatre experience I paid for from my own money back in the 80s during it's first ever run at the Toronto Pantages, just after the theatre was restored from being the Imperial Six movie house, and I still like the original British stage production soundtrack over the movie's.  And, of course, there is "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which if you know me you know goes down as one of my favourite movies of all time.

However, through all of these wonderful titles, classic and modern (okay, not modern, but not 'heady days of the 50s musical' either), one title has affected me more than any other...and yet it has never come to Toronto as a big production (if it isn't playing on Yonge St. or King St. West, it isn't a big production), and it's never been made into a movie.  Yet, the music is arguably the best in any musical, including "Mamma Mia," since it was written by the same duo who did all the music for that incredible hit.  Wondering what musical you somehow missed that I know about?  Please, read on...

Back in 1984, I was only really discovering my long-term tastes in musical style and genre.  I still state to this day that that particular year, 1984, is the best year musically I've ever enjoyed.  During that summer, on the old 1050 CHUM Top 30 lists in the newspapers, there were three weeks solid where I knew and adored each and every song on those lists.  Never happened before that year, never happened after that year, will likely never happen again.  Sometime during that year, earlier than the summer if I remember correctly (unless the following story occurred the summer of 1985, which is entirely possible), a song sung by someone named Murray Head.  The song was called "One Night In Bangkok," and I fell in love with it.  So much so, that I got my grandmother to take me to Sam The Record Man's store on Yonge Street (that's right, the old flagship store with the famous record logo) to find the cassette it was on (I had by now moved to cassette tapes).  To my surprise, it was on a double cassette set called "Chess" and it was about $45!  Well, that ixnayed that purchase in a hurry!  I left the store downtrodden by the fact that it was such an expensive purchase, but kept in mind that I wanted to get it at some point.

I don't know for certain how things progressed from there, but I think I started doing my shoplifting thing a couple of years later.  For a while it was high times for me, swiping everything i wanted that wasn't nailed down.  I grabbed classical music, books, games...and this was around the same time that "Phantom Of the Opera" came out and was getting ready to come to Toronto.  It was around this period that I swiped my first copy of "Chess."  And, it was only after I did so that I became aware that this was a musical written by Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, the two male members of ABBA, with lyrics written by Tim Rice who collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on most of his pre-Phantom musicals.  I was thrilled, because not too long after this I heard that a production of "Chess" was coming to Toronto!  Since I had just gotten a hold of my Phantom tickets, and I knew that the "Chess" tickets would be cheaper (due to a lesser theatre holding the performances), I was all ready to go - but before I could scrounge up the cash, the production was cancelled, and it resulted in the show never coming to Canada the way it did to Broadway.  I personally feel that the reason it never did come to Canada is that they were planning on doing the Broadway version of the show, which changed the locations of certain songs and overall didn't have the punch the original British version had, especially since they changed the storyline to satisfy American audiences.

Many years later, in the 90s, a production of the show did in fact come to Toronto.  It played in a little theatre downtown, and I actually had the opportunity to do volunteer work assisting building the sets (which came about when I went to buy tickets and they mentioned in passing that they needed people to aide getting the show running).  I hated that experience, due to the manner in which the work was being done, and the ultimate quality of what was going to be onstage.  It was a shitty little production, following the Broadway version of the musical, and it wasn't worthy of the music or the pedigree of the writers.  As it turned out, the guy who sold me the tickets and ran the building of the set pieces also was the lead actor, if that gives you any idea of how pathetic the end result turned out to be.  However, at least I (kind of) saw the show live, on stage.  I feel that it just isn't enough, though.  I would still like to see the original storyline, though I know for a fact that Benny and Bjorn have altered the production from it's original form over the years.

Currently, there are rumours of a major revival of "Chess" being planned for Broadway, but there is nothing concrete about it.  The musical has been released as a virtually 'spoken-word-free' production in 2009 on DVD as well, but I'd love it if the whole "Phantom" movie treatment were done for this.  I know the critical reviews of the American version were horrible (due again to the alteration of the production for those audiences - the U.S. won't even allow the original production to be performed within it's borders, I shit you not), but there has always been a loyal following to the original concept album, and it is to those supporters that I strongly appeal too:  Band together, get the word out, and push someone to get a movie off the ground for this incredible score!

I've done my part.  Links to all things "Chess," not including any of the Broadway alterations, and a plea for a movie.  All I can still do is tweet this on Twitter, and I will do so as usual once I post the article.  Hearing that "Chess" could be a movie would be one hell of a 40th birthday present for me next month, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Movies About Trains, And Weird Classics

Odd title, I know, but basically I'm posting the equivalent of two posts together today.  Neither topic has a lot of stuff regarding them, so together they'll make one big post!

First, there is my problem with train movies.  I just watched "Unstoppable" with my family this past weekend, on Blu-Ray in the comfort of my own home.  I enjoyed the flick, sure, and am glad we have it on disc (though the fact that we bought it before watching it on any Pay TV channel is not typical of my buying habits), but I finished the movie a bit disappointed.  Not as disappointed as I was at the end of "Runaway Train (1985)," mind you, but still not as pleased with the flick as I could have been.  The reason is simple, and it is that for a ll the tension of a train going crazy-fast through a mostly urban setting, there was virtually no loss of life or property damage to speak of.  Now, I know this is based on a true story, and I've done my research, so here are links to two accounts of the REAL events that 'inspired' the film:  One from Answers.com, and the article from CNN.com.  Really, the actual event just was not that thrilling or dangerous.  Yes, two cars had the chemical mentioned in the movie, and yes, the conductor of the train was a twit who forgot to change a switch until the engine was almost at it, but 70 mph through residential towns and a threat of derailment into a fuel yard?  Not even close.  So, I figure, if Hollywood was willing enough to change the flick that dramatically, why the hell didn't they go all out?

Truth is, it has been a long time since a train movie has actually caused real destruction or death within the confines of the storyline.  The two best known by myself personally are 1976's "Silver Streak" and "The Cassandra Crossing."  Odd that both these films came out the same year, but no matter.  Both of these are train-based films, with wildly different storylines.  "Silver Streak" is about a theft that turns into a murder, and ends with a train smashing into Chicago's downtown terminal; "The Cassandra Crossing" involves a bunch of train passengers being infected with a bacterial plague, and through a convoluted series of events ends with half of the train going across a bridge not used since 1948, which collapses and kills everyone on board.  Now, realizing that these films are as of this writing 35 years old, I have to wonder what an actual train disaster movie would look like now that technology can do so much more today.  The truth of the matter is that Hollywood seems to think that unless the entire world is threatened (Think "Knowing" and "2012"), disaster flicks don't work.

The funny thing is, unless something tangible is destroyed, disaster movies don't work at all, and that's why 1985's "Runaway Train" sucks so bad.  All movie we're anticipating that this train cannot be stopped, no way, not possible, and the entire audience is poised for an incredibly destructive ending.  Then, as we slip into the final minutes, Jon Voight gets up on the lone engine, stands stoically facing his impending doom in the crash we've all been waiting for and...fade.  WHAT?  FADE?  Are you freaking KIDDING ME??!!?  Look, I know that I am in the minority on this, and that other websites rave about this flick from an Oscar standpoint, but I want to see an engine fall off a cliff, damnit!  Yes, I know that the final crash isn't technically 'needed' at this point, and that the movie is more an intellectual drama than anything else...but I was still let down by this ending.  Then again, due to my feeling of despondency regarding it, I haven't actually watched it through the eyes of an adult, one who appreciates drama on a different level than a teenager (I was 14 when the flick came out), so maybe I'll watch it again, and decide if my thoughts remain the same.

Bottom line, however, is that if I'm paying to watch a train cause destruction when running unmanned at high speed, I need more than a derailed engine, a flipped trailer, and a plowed-through boxcar.  Trains rock, and all I'm asking for is a throwback to when destruction for destruction's sake was cool!

Now then, on to the second of today's topics: Weird Classic Films.  This is a genre I have created myself, and for those who know me personally.  In this genre, I place all the films that are so damn offbeat that you either loathe them or love them immediately after viewing them, and so unusual overall that they deserve placement in the genre I've made for them.  The first I'll mention is one I just finally got on DVD via my lovely wife, and that is 1991's "Nothing But Trouble."  Weird flick this, about people trapped in a town ruled over by a reeve who chooses to slaughter anyone he perceives as a 'banker' due to his family's losses during the Great Depression.  All this reads like a bad horror novel, but it is in fact a comedy, one which got horrible reviews but has become a minor cult hit.  Odd, weird, stars Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd, Demi Moore, and features Tupac when he was still with digital underground.  Great, offbeat comedy, but most certainly not for everyone.  Nor is my next choice, "Transylvania 6-5000."  Somehow this one is even more weird, with two tabloid reporters being sent to Transylvania to unearth a 'Frankenstein' story with which to sell papers.  They unwittingly stumble upon most of the old Hammer movie cliches, including a wolfman, a Jekyll and Hyde scientist, and a sex-crazed vampira.  Through all of this, an oft-rung telephone plays the chorus to the old song the title is based upon, keeping the gag running throughout the movie.  Including Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Micheal Richards, Carol Kane, John Byner and Geena Davis as the aforementioned vampira, the cast is quite diverse comically, and for me personally makes the movie work as a mindless laugh, not too be taken seriously in any way whatsoever.

The other two odd little titles I want to mention almost fall into the category of overlooked classics.  The first is Mel Brooks' "High Anxiety," a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant career in psychological horror.  The film is hilarious, starring Brooks himself, and lampooning to various degrees the majority of Hitchcock's films, focusing mainly upon "Vertigo" but with nods to "Psycho," "The Birds," "North By Northwest" and a multitude of others.  This movie marked Brooks' first speaking role (in "Silent Movie" he was, well, silent), and Hitchcock himself apparently sent Brooks a bottle of wine in appreciation for the film.  If you know your Hitchcock, and have a sense of humour, this film is made for you.  The final movie I want to mention today, though this is by no means the end of my list of twisted little gems, is "Blame It On The Bellboy."  Now, here we have a typical British comedy of miscommunication and mistaken identity.  The movie stars quite a pile of famous British and Australian actors, including Dudley Moore, Bryan Brown, Richard Griffiths, Penelope Wilton and also starring Bronson Pinchot as the titular Bellboy.  The movie shows off Venice beautifully, and is exactly the type of farce you'd expect from such a great cast of comedic actors (except for Bryan Brown of course, best known in North America for his roles in the two "F/X" movies.

There are quite a lot of other movies I consider to be a part of my Weird Classic genre, but I want to save them for another day, rather than have this post suddenly expand to fill a ridiculous amount of space.  If you feel that there are other titles you'd like to hear my opinion on in regards to trains or oddness, feel free to leave a comment below, and I shall address them in a future post.  For now, however, I shall head into the sunset, with a final request that, as always, you keep some popcorn warm for my return.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Late Oscars Review, And How To Fix Them

After yet another lovely bout of food poisoning, I'm here to say not a whole hell of a lot about the Oscars.

First off, I'm not going to list all the winners.  Either you watched the telecast or you didn't, and if you didn't then you had all day yesterday to scan through numerous media outlets to find out the results.  So if you are looking for a list of who won what race, go forth and hunt on a site that published the news yesterday.  I wasn't actually going to write the entire list out anyway; announcing the nominees is a news event, but listing the winners is something that airs on television for over three hours and as such is more a televisual event, and isn't much to do with movies apart from the basic subject matter.

Secondly, everyone is slamming James Franco and Anne Hathaway for their hosting duties being a range of negative things, from uninspired to boring.  I need to weigh in on this, so here's the skinny:  EVERY OSCAR SHOW IS BORING!  I can't remember when it hasn't been!  I don't care if it is Billy Crystal, Bob Hope, anyone...the show DRAGS!  The problem, however, has nothing to do with the hosts.  The problem is the awards that regular people don't give a damn about, combined with thank you speeches from people we've never heard of.  Don't get me wrong, it isn't that we ultimately don't care about who the guy holding the light steady on one side of Helen Mirrin's face for that one scene where she's talking to that one guy before they do that stuff; it is more that we appreciate that the shot was lit well subconsciously - we don't need to hear him thank his wife, a bunch of people who got him the job, the director for telling him what wattage bulb to use, and the guy who put the tape on the floor to make sure he stayed still while the camera was rolling in order to make that appreciation known.  The Academy gets copies of all the documentaries, all the foreign films, and all the shorts to view before they vote.  Tell me, how many of us saw any short this year other than the one from Pixar tied to "Toy Story 3?"  Exactly.  And that is why we don't really care very much which Animated Short got a little golden statue that closely resembled Aunt Jemima in the sense that in some shots it looked as though it was filled with syrup.

I don't have anything against the Oscar telecast, or awards shows in general, but lay the boring blame at the feet of the people who really deserve it:  Whoever chooses which awards to broadcast.  I don't know about anyone else, but I'd be fine with the show consisting of exactly these segments:  Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Movie, Best Documentary, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, a lifetime achievement award, the In Memoriam segment, and the performing and result of Best Song.  That's it.  That would cut the show down to about two hours.  Manageable for the talent in the theatre, as they have more time for parties and less time not drinking; better for the viewing audience since there isn't as much superfluous crap to sit through; better for advertisers as there will be less chance of people hating their ads due to repetition.  It's all good for everyone.  Oh, and the other awards that usually fill the time during the awards show?  Well, since they have no trouble showing just a quick clip of the technical awards, lump them in with them and broadcast that particular ceremony on a secondary station, like E!.  That way, if there really is someone who gives a damn about those awards, they can still see them - but you are no longer inflicting this joyless boredom on the rest of us who couldn't care less.

For my personal opinion, I thought Anne was great, both during the telecast and in the introductory short beforehand.  James Franco, however, did bother me due to what I determined to be an incredible lack of sleep.  He looked slightly drugged, and if he was perhaps he should have been.  I don't, however, think the show was poor as a result of the two of them hosting.  I really don't think they could have done much more than they did.  When they were required onstage, just as Billy Crystal would have been, they hit their marks, got their jokes off, and introduced the next presenters just fine.  That's all they are supposed to do, and there was nothing wrong with what they did, so lay off.  If you want to get pissed about something not handled well, why not slam the In Memoriam part of the evening.  It was one thing to have him snubbed by the Screen Actor's Guild award show, but to have the Oscars also forget to put Corey Haim in the memorial clips?  That to me is a huge problem, and I hope someone gets fired for it.  Not because I loved Corey Haim, not because I'm Canadian and so was he, not because I knew him in any way, shape or form.  No, I want someone fired because the In Memoriam tribute is meant to be that: a final tribute to those who made the films we love and are entertained by, and often a reminder of those the community has lost.  Leaving ANYONE out who has been on screen and made an impact should have been remembered.  The guy did "Silver Bullet," "Lucas," and "The Lost Boys" for crying out loud!  Old movies, yes, but did they have an impact?  Hell yes they did!  They must have, or a recent reality television show would never have been created (I'm not saying "The Two Coreys" was any good, but it does show that at least one other person thought Haim was worth more than being ignored after his passing).

So, let's take stock here.  Shorten the show by removing awards that bore the audience from being televised, remember EVERYONE who passed away in any given year (Haim was not the first forgotten celebrity), and don't hire a host who needs to get some rest.  That's it.  That is how you'd get glowing reviews from an Oscar telecast these days, and if that formula isn't followed then you get what you deserve.

As to the actual winners on Sunday night, I have to say I'm pleased as punch that "The King's Speech" took home Best Picture and Best Actor.  Out of all the movies up for the biggest prize that I haven't seen, it is by far the one I'm most interested in, and Colin Firth deserves the big recognition as well.  I just wish Geoffrey Rush had gotten Best Supporting Actor along with him.  As to the other winners, well, good for you.  I think Julianne Moore was robbed of a nomination for "The Kids Are Alright."  I also think "Inception" received exactly the awards it deserved, those being visual based.

So that's it for my review of the Academy Awards broadcast this year.  Until next time, keep the popcorn warm.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How About Some Upcoming Movie Trailers?

Been a while since I posted here, simply because my limited ability to get around means reviews of current movies would be lies when I haven't been able to see them.  What I can do instead is offer a pile of trailers for upcoming flicks, and then get back to trying to get myself out to catch some of my anticipated films for 2011.

To that end, here are some trailers for movies I listed as my picks for this year.  Enjoy!

Hope those will keep everyone happy for a bit.  Until next time, keep the popcorn warm for me.  Oh, and I like the white cheddar topping.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rumours And News For January 27th

Have a few interesting bits of info for my loyal readers today, so get comfy and keep reading!

First off, it turns out Bill Clinton will NOT have a cameo in "The Hangover 2."  Yes, he stopped by the shoot for whatever reason, but it was not to film anything for the movie.  This comes direct from Ed Helms, and the entire story can be found at The Playlist.

Next up is news regarding Universal's movie and possible television adaptations of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" series.  The plan as of now is to take the seven novels and condense them into three feature films, with a possible T.V. series following from that.  Latest casting news puts Javier Bardem, recently nominated for an Oscar for his role in "Biutiful," as The Gunslinger.  Ron Howard is directing the movies for Universal.

We also have some casting news for "Prometheus," Ridley Scott's apparent prequel to the "Alien" saga, but not.  Micheal Fassbender has signed on to be an android, probably part of the Bishop Series, that might have something to do with the DNA link to the Alien that Scott has recently been discussing.  More rumours involve Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie vying for the secondary female lead, Vickers.  Noomi Repace ("Girl With The Dragon Tattoo") has already been signed for the female lead.  Additionally, the movie has been set to release on June 8th, 2012, from a previous March date, setting this up for a possible tentpole position in the 20th Century Fox 2012 lineup.  More news when it leaks.

Another blow to fans of "The Hobbit" as filming has been delayed due to director Peter Jackson being hospitalized due to acute stomach pains caused by a perforated ulcer.  The filming delay will be minor, affecting only the start of filming, not the release date, December 19th, 2012.

That's all the news and rumours for today.  Until next time, keep the popcorn warm for me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nominations 2011

Morning all.  Today marks the day the nominations are announced for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards for the ceremony on February 27th.  I am typing this AS the nominations are being announced, and will provide any links that are available to titles already available for purchase at Amazon.  Deeper information can be found at Oscar.com as well.  Enjoy!

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role: 
Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role:
Christian Bale for The Fighter (2010)

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Best Foreign Language Film:
Dogtooth (2009): Giorgos Lanthimos(Greece)
Incendies (2010): Denis Villeneuve(Canada)
Best Animated Feature Film:
Toy Story 3 (2010)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role:
Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role:
Best Achievement In Directing:
Best Motion Picture Of The Year:
127 Hours (2010)
Black Swan (2010)
Inception (2010)
True Grit (2010)
The King's Speech won 12 nominations, with "True Grit" following with 10.  "Toy Story 3" is the highest grossing film nominated this year for Best Picture, and only the third animated feature ever nominated.

So there you have it, the list of nominees for this year's Academy Awards.  I will not be posting the winners as they are announced on February 27th, but will follow in the morning afterwards with the complete list of winners and an updated list of Amazon links, allowing you to purchase titles right from the blog.  Oh, and in case there is any confusion, I'm not all of a sudden taking a month-long break, so remember to keep the popcorn warm for me!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Keanu Reeves Drops Bombshell - And Other News

Am I maybe exaggerating?  Maybe.  You be the judge.  Personally, I'm interested, but skeptical.  Only time will tell.

So here's the news:  Keanu was at the London International School For The Performing Arts where he was speaking to a class about a current movie of his.  Which movie?  Who cares, the news that I'm leading up to would make you forget the name anyway.  Well, he gets talking about new movies he's gearing up to do, including "47 Ronin" and "Bill & Ted 3."  Then he starts talking about the big news.

The Wachowskis have written scripts for "Matrix" 4 and 5, and they will be in 3D.

Additionally, they have talked to James Cameron regarding the advantages and disadvantages of filming with 3D.  Keanu promised that he wants these movies to be worthy of the name "Matrix," and that the visuals will change movie-making the same way the visuals in the first "Matrix" movie did.

He went on to discuss how the Wachowskis have sold a script to Warner for $5 million, making it the most expensive script sale in history, for a futuristic version of "Robin Hood" with Will Smith attached as the lead.  Full story can be found on AICN.

Oh, and there is also a rumour floating about that the DVD/Blu-Ray for "Tron: Legacy" has a teaser bit for "Tron 3."  Guess we'll have to wait for the release for that to be proven true or false.  Having yet to see the sequel, I have no comment other than the reporting of the rumour.

Until next time, keep the popcorn warm.