Category Archives: musical

Country Strong (Shana Feste, 2010)

Country Strong is a story about a successuful country singer, Kelly Canter, who just had enough of it. Having just recovered after her infamous breakdown, she goes on a new tour, along with rising stars Beau Hatton and Chiles Stanton, in a hope to repair her crumbling career and find some stability in life. These three and Kelly’s husband James, who is also her manager, are engaged in a complicated emotional relationship, and sometimes let the feelings get the best of them, which eventually leads to a painful resolution.

This film surpassed my expactations by turning out quite unsimple. The story is not at all stereotypical: all the primary characters are interesting, complex personalities, and relationship between them is far from being a banal love quadrangle as one would expect from a movie almost entirely dedicated to country music. The story of Kelly, who got lost after achieving fame and success, and failed to find a proper way out, is not only touching, but truthful and completely unhackneyed; it is designed and implemented in the most sutle manner. The affection that grows eventually between Beau and Chiles (where do they get those names, by the way?) looks natural to me; there are no signes of any forcing, it just blooms like, it seems, would’ve in life.

The finale is a little predictable, that might be true, but all in all, it’s a decent and powerful story implemented on a very high professional level, with lots of great music, and healthy emotional charge. It was enjoyable experience; the kind I would gladly recommend to anyone.

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Music of the Heart (Wes Craven, 1999)

Music of the Heart is a rather typical inspirational film. As usual, it tells a story of a challenge and successful overcoming of it; in this case twice: first instance was about a woman newly freed from an unfortunate marriage starting a brand new career in antagonistic circumstances, and the second is her fighting the jeopardy of her program being shut down for good. Suffice it to say, both cases ended with her triumphant.

This story is based on real events that took place somewhere in the 1980s-1990s assuring the plausibility, and it does look pretty good from all perspectives except one – it’s a case of survivorship bias. Movies like this, deliberately or not, introduce into the audience’s minds a simple yet alluring idea that if you are talented enough and work really hard, you will eventually win no matter what difficulties stand in your way. But the thing is, a story with similar beginning but one that ended up with failure has no chances to make it to the screen in the first place; only the successful ones would be adapted, which creates a significant disbalance. Of course, this matters only from the standpoint of realism, because makes the universe of discourse discrepant from the real universe.

However, the purpose of such films is different: they are meant to inspire the spirit and elevate the mood. And Music of the Hearth does so quite perfectly. Not in the least thanks to high quality implementation, which includes acting, as well as all the technical aspects, and, of course, the music. The music is pretty great.

I have to say, this film is not what one would expect from Wes Craven; he may have been trying to prove to himself that he’s capable of more than making just the horrors, and if that’s the case, he did bring it out quite clearly, – allowing for the fact, of course, that he simply moved into a different, but no less confined genre. But all in all, it is enjoyable and really nice movie, so who cares.

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Galavant (s.02)

During the whole 2nd season Galavant chases whatever made the 1st season so great and fails miserably. External attributes may seem unchanged, but the spirit, the elusive substance that made the show so light and fascinating – it’s gone. And that is the reason why it got cancelled – inderectly, through the drop of ratings.

The humor is questionable most of the time; there are some funny jokes, but they are so rare, it actually becomes a curious phenomenon – how it could have happenned so fast and so definitively? The ideas, the boons writers come up with are often weird instead of interesting, and sometimes are plain stupid. It’s understandable that contradictions and paradoxes are one of the major components of the show’s narrative’s fabric, but in season 2 the overall quantity of those goes off the charts and that’s a little depressing, because nothing makes sense, and nothing is the key word here.

One of the first episodes seems like taken from an alternative universe; it’s about the democracy and the castle which is gone, and it makes even less sense than everything else: during the very same episode some scenes from the castle were shown, and no explanation was offered, not even via a clever remark, like they usually do. That was highly frustrating; it prevented me from enjoying the series, – well, along with all the other stuff.

Because of lack of humor the majority of singing numbers feel like an ordinary bullshit hollywood musical, which only adds to all the negative impressions.

All in all it seems like the writers were stretching the story as hard as they could by adding more and more storyturns, none of which were plausible; basically, it’s a hot mess – terribly unfunny and uninteresting. Decision to prolong the show into 2nd season might be one of the worst ever: they not only failed, they also spoiled the 1st season, maybe hopelessly.

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Galavant (s.01)

Galavant is a parody on all the noble-knight-figth-to-the-death-evil-king cliches, and there’s nothing much to say about it, except that it’s a musical, and it’s an absolute pleasure. It’s perfect from every angle: energetic, funny, smarty, witty, brilliantly played and sung, very bright, totally fascinating. At that, extremely powerful implementation is characteristic of all the episodes, from first to last, – and though it’s not very long, the ability to maintain this kind of quality on pretty much the same level through-out is still impressive. The music, the dancing, – every gag is staged and directed on a completely mindblowing level. The only unpleasant thing about it is that it ends so soon.

Hopefully, 2nd season will be fun as well, but expectations are not very high, – after all, there should be a reason for show’s cancellation after just 2 seasons. But there may be other things at play, so we’ll see.

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Le bal (Ettore Scola, 1983)

Le bal is a film without words and a lot of dancing. It shows a Paris dancing joint, and the people who come there, who are apparently all frequent visitors, from the times of German occupation during WWII until decades later. There are a lot of characters, each uniquely designed, and correspondingly – a great number of interactions, every single one of which is shown and processed without using any words at all.

There is an acting excersise called “organic silence”, when the participants have to co-exist within some space (usually, a stage) without resorting to voice communication. Usually it looks kinda weird, because speech is natural, and its absence is not; but this set of restrictions is very easily defined and sometimes can produce interesting results, which is why the students often like to expand this excersise into their next level works, – but then again, because it’s pretty simple to construct, but not that simple to enliven, the vast majority of such works are bound to stay experimental, i.e. not interesting.

Sometimes, though, an already developed cinema master adverts to a ambigious method like this, and then – well, then magic happens, although not without flaws. Like, in Le bal, for example, the story is told absolutely brilliantly, because all that is going on is very much clear with minimal amount of attention (which is still required – after all, there are almost no sound clues), but sometimes the characters’ behaviour deviates slightly from the realistic model – not to the bullshit level, nowhere near it, but enough to evoke a barely perceptible sensation of discrepancy. Another thing – at times the movie becomes a bit too allegoric, which is, probably, not a bad thing for this storytelling format, but I’m still inclined to make note of it.

And yet, this movie still feels like a light and wonderful adventure, and though it’s won’t make it to my very-best list, I do find it extremely interesting and entertaining.

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Empire (s.02)

Empire’s second season is 1.5 times longer than the first one, and this might be exactly the thing that’s killed the show.

It is divided into two parts, first being dedicated mostly to the hostile takeover intrigue – it ends with the 12th episode. Except for the structure and characters’ motivation it’s pretty much fine: the dialogs are rather good; the music is almost as great as before, although word “hot” in reference to it is hugely overused and starts to sound more and more like bullshit with time; the acting is okay too. Unfortunately, the whole thing with Camilla standing behind the takeover is terrible and undermines all the good stuff – it just doesn’t add up from the standpoint of logic, and when something like this happens, it becomes really hard to trust the integrity of the narrative. Other things do not help as well: storylines are being initiated only to be killed at birth (whatever happened to Valentina after Lucious stole her, for example? what about the christian rap thing?), and the motivation of some primary personages (like Andre, or Hakeem) feels strong, but is questionable as there seem to be not enough grounds for the adopted lines of development.

But however weak this first part may be, it was still quite entertaining – at least, there’s a purposeful story at play. Real trouble started after the double death tragedy. The show completely lost its focus – the writers, unable to come up with a single storyline, started to rush about, taking this route and that, but concentrating almost exclusively on the internal family problems. They brough back the FBI investingation, which was completely out of the blue (and contradictory to the previous events), but the most sickening part is that they tried to fill the void by bringing into the story more and more family members from the past, constructing wierd and unfeasible relationships between the old ones and the new ones along the way. Because of this the show started to look like a fucking Santa Barbara – especially thanks to the finale of the season, where the concentration of bullshit exceeded any reasonable limits. Against this awfully hollow background the vulgarity and triteness of the RnB\hip-hop culture became exceptionally evident – it was always there, but was more or less compensated by the strength of the drama before.

And if before I was totally willing to forgive all the small logical lapses, all the crude and unelegant solutions, as well as talentless discharge of very promising storylines (just take Anika clearing the way for her baby alone), now it’s quite impossible to ignore. The show turned into a cheap melodrama, and I have no idea how would they climb out of this pit. Frankly speaking, I’m not that interested in finding out, at least right now disgust in me is stronger than curiosity.

I think, increasing number of episodes was a serious mistake on the part of Daniels and Strong. If they wouldn’t have done it, the structure of the season would’ve been different, probably more gathered, but for sure there would have been no need in going soap.

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Empire (s.01)

Empire is a show about music; it’s filled with music to the top; music is basically oozing out of its every pore. And it’s not just any music: the series takes a very deep look into the history and development of RnB and hip-hop. Well, not so much history – after all, it’s all a fictional story, but it surely conveys the atmosphere, the inescapable connection between music and criminal activity that has been forming this cloud of genres from the start.

The musical company that the show is named after is one of the top competitors in the field, but its path has always been a struggle for survival, and that struggle becomes much more intense when one of the original founders finally comes out of the prison: external and internal conflicts start to aggravate accelerating each other on every round. In order to stay on top of things, key people make decision, some of which turn out to be quite bad; this amplifies the jeopardy, and ultimatelly puts all the achievements at risk. In short, it’s quite a mess – but only in terms of life and human relationships; as for the drama, it’s very well-structured; almost all the events are well-grounded and built into the inevitable movement of the preconditions’ logical development. Some exceptions might include: Cookie forgetting about the hit she ordered by mistake almost immediately after it happened; not using Elle’s mishap to bring down Anika; and, of course, the thing that triggered the final swirl – Lucious’ confession when under the sleeping pill. These thing might have been written and implemented better, but in the end they don’t really ruin anything.

The music is pretty great, and one thing you need to understand here is that I’m not really into it. My sound of choice would be rock, metal and other related genres – that’s what really resonates with me; so when I’m saying that the music on this show is good, it’s because I try to look on things objectively – to the best of my ability. I rather often witness a contradiction between claims and reality (when some work of art being a part of the narrative is declared outstanding with no evidence to corroborate it whatsoever), – well, this is definetely not the case. Songs performed for the series are really hot, as the characters keep calling it; I totally believe that people would love it. Combined with a pretty high level of drama it produces a rather strong impression.

The acting is good, although younger members of the cast were more interesting than the older ones, even though it’s all built around Lucious and Cookie. Technical implementation is great as well – or, at least, I haven’t noticed any fuckups. All in all, the show is pleasant to watch, and it captivates quite strongly. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done with the 2nd season.

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