Monday, March 03, 2008

Movie Mon. - Musical Miscues

Across the Universe: Musical which utilizes Beatles songs to help tell the story of two young lovers (Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood) dealing with tumultuous Vietnam War era. Poor Across the Universe; doomed to forever be compared (generally unfavorably) to Moulin Rouge due to their shared nature as big, noisy musicals with a score composed solely of popular music, even if AtU’s range is a bit more limited. Of course, AtU didn’t do itself any favors in this respect, having a male lead whose singing voice is remarkably similar to that of Ewan McGreggor’s. But really, there are quite a few differences in the way the two films approach the insertion of popular music into the story; unfortunately, Moulin Rouge approach to this seems to be pretty much superior to AtU in just about every respect, in my opinion. Which is sad, really, because the music in AtU is excellent; I was highly impressed with most all of the versions of the songs (Dana Fuchs is spectacular as the Janis Joplin-esque Sadie, and I was surprised by the quality Evan Rachel Wood's singing voice) and have had to dig out my Beatles music to help quiet the songs stuck in my head. But unfortunately, outside of their early work, not a lot of the Beatles' music lends itself well to telling a coherent narrative, and by refusing to play around with the lyrics like Moulin Rouge did -- an understandable choice, since tinkering with the lyrics of Beatles songs would more than likely completely alienate the core audience for a film like this -- the film is hamstrung by the band's later, more psychedelic song stylings. Plus, I have to wonder if I was the only one who felt let down every time someone would make a comment that referenced a Beatles song without actually launching into the song? I mean, when you have an older character say something about when he's 64, or another character remark about the character Maxwell and his hammer, is it too much to ask that we actuall hear "When I'm 64" or "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"? Not that I wanted them to make Max a serial killer, mind you, but still! In the end, I think the film is still worth a watch for a few of the numbers, but overall, I was disappointed.

Jumper: Sci-fi action flick about David Rice, a young man (Hayden Christensen) with the power to teleport anywhere he's ever been, and the secret society known as the Paladins (led by Samuel L. Jackson) who see it as their sacred duty to kill Jumpers. I read the first book in the series this movie was based on many, many, many years ago, back when I was still in Wyandotte, a fact I remember because part of the book is set in Stillwater, and I hadn't moved off to college yet. But I digress. Overall, I thought Jumper was a nice little flick, with some interesting action sequences, but outside of Jamie Bell's loner Jumper character, I didn't feel much of a connection with any of the characters, and was having a hard time keeping myself awake during the first third of the film. Once the Paladins began hunting David in earnest, the film picked up, but in the end, I'd be more likely to recommend this one as a renter than a full-price flick.

Romance and Cigarettes:
Off-beat romantic comedy about a philandering husband (James Gandolfini) whose wife (Susan Sarandon) finds out about his adulterous ways and cuts him out of her life without kicking him out of the house. Oh, and did I mention it's a musical? No? Well, that's okay, neither did the Netflix synopsis, so I was pretty shell-shocked when James Gandolfini's singing along with a radio playing "Lonely is a Man Without Love" became a full-fledged musical number. It wasn't too far into watching this that I thought to myself it should probably have been a selection for The Odd Squodd Mostly-Regular Dark and Twisty, Strange and Unusual, Off-Beat, Quirky, Movie Fest, with its weirdo characters and their weirdo conversations and weirdo dream sequences with weirdo musical numbers. And, if it had been an OSMRDaTSaUOBQMF selection, I would have had an opportunity to do a post-OSMRDaTSaUOBQMF blog post exploring the truth that just because a film tries to be off-beat and quirky, that doesn't automatically win it a place in my off-beat and quirky heart, but since this is just a regular Move Monday post, all I'll say is that some films try too hard, and some films just never gel -- this one sort of falls into both catergories. The movie definitely had its moments, but I can't think of much of anyone I could recommend it to.

Death at a Funeral:
Dark British comedy about a series of mishaps that take place at a funeral for a respected family man with a big secret. Another "had its moments" film, and pretty much every single one of those moments revolved around Alan Tudyk's character, a nervous, uptight man who accidentally gets slipped some acid and spends most of the film tripping out. Tudyk is hilarious, as usual, but most of the other sources of comedy fell flat for me, but I chalk that up more to a disconnect between my personal sense of humor and its low tolerance for comedy of embarrassment and the films intended audience.

Justice League: The New Frontier:
Latest is a series of direct-to-DVD animated film from DC comics, The New Frontier is an adaptation of the excellent mini-series by Darwyn Cooke which tells the story of the rise of the Silver Age of super-heroes during the late 50s. The comic book was excellent, and I'm tempted to apply the same label to the film as well. A bit more mature than what some might expect (there's a moderately bloody sequence set during the Korean War early on), so it might not be the best choice to show your more sensitive young ones, but for fans of quality animation, this one is worth your while. Yes, there is a little bit of cheesiness here and there (Superman's inspirational speech and resultant huzzahs from the crowd definitely worked better on paper than on video), but for this long time comic geek, it was all worth it just to see Barry Allen spring his Flash costume from his ring and race off to Vegas to beat up Captain Cold.


cedric said...

Hmmm, Hayden Christensen possesses powers and is part of an elite group of Paladins led by Sam Jackson. He eventually becomes an outsider and is hunted by others in the group he was once a part of. Where have I seen that before?

cedricdadumbass said...

Sorry, misread that. I thought he part of the group. My bad yo. mea culpa.

cedricdacaveman said...

Oops, forgot the word "was". I'm gonna stop posting now and go back to work.