Chicago

 

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My son is currently ending a run in his high school’s production of Chicago, hence our household being soaked in “All That Jazz” for the last several months. (On a side note, these kids did an AMAZING job in this production – I mean, live music in a high school musical? Unheard of!) I’d never seen the play before, or even the movie version. Better late than never, right?

I can see how Chicago managed to nab Best Picture – it really is a spectacle of a film. The idea to stage most of the musical numbers in Roxie’s head was genius and well executed, although it caused the pacing to be stilted in parts.

Catherine Zeta-Jones also deserved 100% of her Oscar win – she was electrifying as Velma Kelley, stealing the show from Renee Zellweger. You know, I traditionally don’t care much for Renee Zellweger one way or another, but I hated her in Chicago. I wanted to punch her in the fucking face…no, I wanted to punch Roxie Hart in the fucking face. I guess that means that Zellweger did a good job, because she made me absolutely hate her character.

Poor Richard Gere, the only main actor who didn’t get nominated. Hell, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah got nominated.

Cell Block Tango is the best musical number, followed closely by I Can’t Do it By Myself. Basically, every scene with Zeta-Jones was magic. I was missing My Baby and Me, one of my favorites from the stage version.

I gagged a little bit when the credits started and I saw “Harvey Weinstein” – so I guess that’s going to be a thing that happens now when I watch old Miramax films.

I was on the fence about the rating – is it two BOBs or three? Ultimately, I decided on three, because my husband – who hates musicals – sat through the whole thing. I know, I was shocked, too!

Moana

 

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I know, I know…I’m late to the Moana party. The girl has been trying to get me to watch it for YEARS, but it just hadn’t worked out until I scheduled a special ‘Movie Luau’ with her. The boy is at Band Camp and the husband is closing all week, so I set up several Movie Nights for the two of us. First up, Moana and Hawaiian Chicken.

Above all else, the songs are the best part of Moana. I mean, Lin-Manuel Miranda – how could they not be the best? ‘How Far I’ll Go’ and ‘You’re Welcome’ are obvious favorites, but I’ve actually had ‘Shiny’ stuck in my head the most. Is it because of my recent fascination with Jemaine Clement? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just a catchy tune, sung by a crab. Oh! I told the girl about the Decorator Crab we used to have – she didn’t know they were a real thing! See – Moana is educational, too.

Please put The Rock in every movie I watch, thank you. Also, I demand a rap breakdown in all of The Rock’s future movies.

I very much appreciated the conscious departure from yet another Disney Princess looking for her Prince story. Maui even pokes fun at the trope by repeatedly calling Moana a princess, which she vehemently denies. Thank you Disney for confirming that not every adventure needs a romance!

I enjoyed Moana very much and want Lin-Manuel Miranda to take over writing all Disney songs this instant!

Next up for Movie Night, From Dusk Til Dawn and Taco Tuesday!

Grease 2

 

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I think my daughter hates me. I was watching Grease and Grease 2 came on afterwards and she made me watch it, too. Somehow, I had managed to avoid it for the last 42 years. It’s so, SO bad. I give her credit, though – about half way through, she begged to change the channel, but I wouldn’t let her. She must live with the consequences of her bad decisions.

So instead of muscle cars, the thing is motorcycles. And instead of Sandy, the Australian exchange student, we get her cousin Michael, the English exchange student. Good thing Frenchy, the Beauty School Dropout, is around to push the plot along by telling Michael exactly what he needs to do to win Stephanie’s heart. Barf. Strangely enough, she mysteriously disappears halfway through the movie.

Why does everyone except Michelle Pfeiffer look period appropriate? Her hair is just not right, and neither are her clothes. Honestly, I don’t even think that Michelle Pfeiffer is even in the same movie as everyone else.

So many songs – and they are so dumb! Weird as hell songs about bowling and sexual reproduction and going to the grocery store. What the actual fuck? and the Motorcycle Heaven scene – are they fucking kidding? There’s only one explanation – cocaine. Bales and bales of cocaine.

Why is the bad guy the same pitted-face dick from the first movie? So lazy. And why did I have to see so much of Adrian Zmed’s nipples? He just comes off as a dick the whole movie, especially when he is making out with Judy Garland’s daughter. Oh, and Christopher McDonald (he eats pieces of shit for breakfast)! And the Sagal twins – I was OBSESSED with that show Double Trouble!

I didn’t realize that Pamela Adlon is Pamela Segall – she was in one of my favorite movies as a kid – Something Special (AKA Milly/Willy). I need to track that down for my kids to watch.

I hope I never have to sit through this again.

Viva Las Vegas

What better way to prepare my kids for their first Las Vegas vacation than forcing them to watch Viva Las Vegas?Actually, Fear and Loathing or The Hangover would be a better way, but I can’t in good conscience have an eight and five year old watch either of those films…or can I? Hmmmmm…

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Viva Las Vegas before…I knew it would be cheesy, but I wasn’t prepared for Velveeta Nagasaki level of total cheese meltdown.

It was fun seeing old Las Vegas exteriors. As a frequent Vegas visitor, I recognized more signs from the Neon Boneyard than what’s actually still lit in Vegas. I was delighted to see The Stratosphere in the background of many of the shots. The Strat was one of the hotels we stayed in when we got married in Vegas.

Ann-Margret dances like she’s having a seizure. Maybe it was a bad case of the “Elvis Fever”? My five year old daughter spontaneously got up and started dancing during the Roulette Wheel dance scene. She has the “Elvis Fever” too!

I forgot that all movies from the 50s and 60s end with a wedding. Where there’s sexual tension, there must be wedding bells…was it fear that film audiences would riot if they couldn’t go home fantasizing about Elvis and Ann-Margret consummating their lust in a marital bed?

  

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

About halfway through, I found myself wondering if they would ever stop singing, craving a cigarette madly.

I’ve never been much into Broadway Musicals, even as a self-professed Drama Fag throughout High School and College. I can pinpoint my rapid loss of interest to exactly the moment that I wasn’t cast as Rizzo in my High School’s production of ‘Grease.’ My complete lack of singing ability was as much to blame as my Amazonian height, hence I was cast in the only non-singing role as the Principal, Mrs. Whatshername. I still watch Grease every time it’s on TV, but the more singing in a Musical, the quicker I get bored. The Wizard of Oz and Grease have about the right amount of music for me – less than 50%. Both Willy Wonka and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory are borderline. Pretty much all other musicals (except, of course, Poultrygeist) annoy the shit out of me. Hold on a sec, I actually have to take some brownies to a girl scout meeting.

…Now that I’m back, I’ve got to admit that the Sweeney Todd songs are catchy. ‘Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies’ has been stuck in my head all morning, intermingled with “Pretty Women.” Johnny Depp, probably the most versatile actor on the planet, did an admirable singing job. While obviously not a classically trained singer, he did a good job. Not good enough to warrant an attempt at a music career, but good. Good singing is not always a good thing. Every time that Johanna sang, I wanted to stick cigarette butts in my ears to drown out the noise. I know that’s how professional singing is supposed to sound, but it doesn’t mean I want to listen to it.

Notwithstanding all the singing, it seemed more like Tim Burton was adapting a comic book or graphic novel, rather than a Broadway Musical. My husband said it reminded him of Sin City. Sweeney Todd + comic book = an imaginary lightbulb going on over my head. As much as I would have liked to block this memory, it just jumped out of my memory holder. (Props to my four year old son for coming up with a much better phrase for ‘brain.’) I spent about five years sleeping underneath a massive Sweeney Todd comic book poster at my ex’s apartment. I hadn’t thought about that poster in over a decade, but I’m seeing it now, every single detail. How many times did I stare into the eyes of Michael Zulli’s artwork, bored to tears, waiting for the assault on my nether regions to be over? How many conversations did I have with Sweeney Todd while I was under the influence? How many times did I wish that Mr. Todd could tell me how many strange women (and men) had been through there when I wasn’t around? I digress…Neil Gaiman never actually finished the comic, but if he did, it would have been very, very close to Tim Burton’s vision.

Except for all the singing and the fact that the film accidentally reminded me of sex with my ex – say it with me, “Ew!” – I enjoyed the film. Johnny Depp is always fun to watch and I am one of the few people I know that can stand Helena Bonham Carter. (Maybe because I went through a phase where I dressed and acted like Marla Singer?) Sacha Baron Cohen’s manbulge makes an appearance, as it does in every film he does. Alan Rickman was also fun to watch as a dirty sex offender – I wonder if my best friend got turned on? She’s got a serious Snape fixation. I definitely recommend Sweeney Todd as a Musical for people annoyed by Musicals, such as myself.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

While it’s not at all considered bad taste to like The Beatles, The Bee Gees or Peter Frampton individually, it is most definitely bad taste to like watching Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I had the bright idea to turn Friday nights into “Movie Night” for my kids, intending to show them the films that I loved as kid. The inaugural film was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a musical mashed together out the titular Beatles’ album, plus Abbey Road. Peter Frampton stars as “Billy Shears,” the lead singer of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The rest of the band is played by The Bee Gees as “The Hendersons” and his girlfriend is “Strawberry Fields.” George Burns is “Mr. Kite.” The villain is “Mean Mr. Mustard.” There’s also a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” Alice Cooper is Father Sun, AKA “The Sun King.” Steve Martin is the highpoint in his manic turn as “Maxwell.”

My four year old son did not give a shit about any of the film, except the scene with Steve Martin performing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” His eyes were glued to the screen and his only words were, “I want to be him!” In retrospect, I should have asked him why…I suspect it was because he was hitting people on the head with a hammer.

The first time I ever saw this film, I thought it was part of a fever dream when I had the chicken pox in second grade. My sister and I were stuck at home for a whole week, all we could do was watch TV and scratch ourselves. I remember watching it on the Channel 13 Million Dollar Movie and falling in love. (Don’t judge me, I was 8 years old!) Eventually, I recorded it and watched it ad nauseum for a few years. I loved the soundtrack and had it on cassette. In college, I bought the soundtrack on pristine vinyl at Half Price Books…but I hadn’t seen the film in almost 20 years until this viewing – I’ll be the first to admit that it was extremely painful to watch. It was even worse than I expected. I had forgotten that there is no dialogue, the story is advanced via the songs and narration by George Burns. I was rather surprised by all the pot smoking in a PG film, but it would be easy enough for a child to overlook. Surprisingly, the music still holds up – especially Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together,” which I actually prefer to The Beatles’ version. My son’s only other comment during the film was “I want long hair,” after seeing Steven Tyler performing. Hmmmm…

The finale of the film is a living, singing version of the cover of the Sgt. Pepper album, with the cast and a bunch of people who were famous in 1978, but are probably dead now. Except Carol Channing – she’s not dead yet? Oh yeah, I think Tina Turner is still alive, too.

In summary, movie night was a success, but I’m not so sure that my kids were too happy about my film choice. Next up, Howard the Duck.

    

Hairspray (2007)

Overheard somewhere in Hollywood…

“Hey Eddie, it’s me, Johnny T…remember when you said I could borrow your fat black lady suit? Well, my career is in a total slump, so I figure I could…what? You’re letting Martin Lawrence use if for Big Momma’s House 3? Awww, fuck – looks like I’ll have to figure out a way to get the studio to pay for one….

Travolta pretty much ruins the film for me. He just sucks as Edna. Although I appreciate the fact that he’s the only one that even attempted a Baltimore accent – it is indeed a very shitty Baltimore accent. Likewise the casting of Zac Efron – he is the pussiest Link Larkin I could ever imagine. He doesn’t hold a candle to Michael St. Gerard – the original Link, but then again, who could? Possibly the Elvis impersonator from last week’s America’s Got Talent? I really don’t understand Zac Efron’s appeal – supposedly he gets teenage panties wet – I just don’t see it. I can’t wait until Perez yanks him out of the closet.

When I look at Brittany Snow, I can’t help but see a member of the Aryan Nation. (Me = big Nip/Tuck fan.) Somehow, that typecasting made her perfect for the part of racist Amber Von Tussle. I hate her nose though – she looks like Telly to me.

The rest of the casting was A-okay. Michelle Pfeiffer was an excellent choice for Velma, as was the casting of Christopher Walken as Wilbur Turnblad. Walken really does have some smooth moves, doesn’t he? Nikki Blonsky isn’t as cute as Ricki Lake, but she was really good nonetheless. I hope she doesn’t become bulimic or get a coke habit.

No Madison! No Beatniks! No Franklin Von Tussle or exploding beehives! What the fuck? It’s hard not to compare it with the original, but then again, they took out my favorite things!

I should love Hairspray, but I just can’t. I tried so hard, but every time John Travolta appeared, I just wanted to kick him in his amply padded ass. Even John Waters’ cameo as the ‘flasher next door’ couldn’t make it all better.

 

Head

Proof positive that The Monkees were on more drugs than The Beatles.

Most people don’t even know that The Monkees made a movie, much less how trippy and bizarre it is. It’s actually the best movie to come out of a rock band ever, barring The Wall. All of The Beatles’ movies are like watching paint dry, especially Yellow Submarine. I’ll ram knitting needles into my eyes if I ever have to watch The Schlong Remains the Same again. Even 200 Motels – by one of my favorite artists, Frank Zappa – made me fall asleep. Head remains the only one that stands up to repeated viewings – and the toddler test.

Co-written by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson (creator of The Monkees, but also director of Five Easy Pieces and The Postman Always Rings Twice), Head was designed to overturn all the preconceptions everyone had about The Monkees. Well aware of their manufactured image, they embraced it and used it to portray themselves very differently than their TV show. This succeeds on some levels, with Tork portrayed as philosophic and Nesmith as an asshole, but it doesn’t come across as much with Dolenz and Jones, although the image of tiny Jones as a boxer getting knocked the fuck out is more amusing than you would think.

In addition to a cameo by writer Jack Nicholson, there are all kinds of famous faces that pop up in Head. Dennis Hopper is in the scene with Nicholson. Teri Garr and Annette Funicello pop in as love interests. Toni Basil dances with Davy Jones. Frank Zappa wanders in with a talking cow that is very critical of The Monkees’ performance. But by far, the weirdest cameo of all is Victor Mature. As “The Big Victor,” The Monkees are not only as inconsequential as his dandruff – they ARE his dandruff.

Head contains the best music of The Monkees’ entire catalogue. It’s not bubblegum at all. On the contrary, it has a more Jefferson Airplane/Pink Floyd feel that most would not even recognize as The Monkees. My favorites are The Porpoise Song and Daddy’s Song, although I prefer the outtake on the soundtrack with Nesmith’s vocals as opposed to Davy’s.

On a tenuously related note, here’s a link to The Office’s Kate Flannery’s account of her love affair with Davy Jones while touring with The Brady Bunch Stage Show. WARNING: May cause one to puke in one’s own mouth.

 

Cry-Baby

Sublime parody of Jailhouse Rock.

Johnny Depp is Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker, orphan without a cause. He falls in love with Allison, a good girl who wants to be bad. He fights for Allison and does it in song. When John Waters does a musical, he does it right. Even though all of the singing voices are dubbed, there are some great musical numbers. Cry-Baby’s pelvis puts Elvis to shame.

This is the last time we’ll get to see the fat Ricki Lake in film. Between this and Serial Mom, she lost some serious weight, like a hundred pounds. She is Pepper, Cry-Baby’s pregnant sister. She’s already got several kids, what’s a few more?

Traci Lords also makes an appearance as one of the Drape girls. This was one of the first non-porn films that she made – is it any wonder that John Waters would be one of the first to give her a chance? I actually have Traci Lords’ CD 1000 Fires, it’s not bad, just the usual derivative techno stuff, but it does have the main song from Mortal Kombat – bet, you didn’t know that was her.

Last Christmas, I sat around the dinner table with my family and do you know what we were watching as we ate our Christmas feast? You got it, we were watching Cry-Baby. Very fucking Norman Rockwell, if you ask me.

 

Hairspray (1988)

John Waters made a film that’s rated PG. Who could’ve predicted that?

Hairspray was the first Waters film I saw. I was in 7th grade – young, impressionable, naive (okay, maybe not naive). From that moment on, I was in love. I had no idea what I was in love with, of course, until I had seen more John Waters’ films, but there was a glimmer of it in Hairspray. The underlying promise of perversity and depravity to be revealed with each new John Waters’ film that I would view.

Before Ricki Lake was a talk show queen, she was Tracy Turnblad. She was ‘pleasantly plump’ – but she could dance her ass off. Divine plays his last role on the big screen at Tracy’s mom. This is also the most celebrity cameo laden Waters’ film. He cashed in all his favors for this one.

Baltimore, 1962. Tracy gets on a teen dance show and tries to integrate it, while snagging the leading man. She must overcome overprotective parents, jealous competitors and racism. Hmmm, sounds like an Afterschool Special. Hairspray has got to be the most socially responsible film that John Waters has ever made and probably will ever make. Why?

Why not? If David Lynch, the reigning king of unintelligible cinema can make a G rated film, it’s not so hard to believe that John Waters would try it as well…of course, it is his only PG film, though Cry-Baby squeaks by with a PG-13. Think of it as John Waters for pussies.

I still watch Hairspray about once a month. Maybe next time I go to the Village, I’ll do the ‘dirty boogie.’