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Movie Review: St. Louis Blues (1958)

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St. Louis Blues, 1958

Source: Wikipedia

Summary (Partly taken from IMDB): Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can’t stay away from the music of the streets and workers. Once he gives in to the lure of blues and jazz, Handy discovers a gift for songwriting and becomes an accompanist for the speakeasy singer Go Go Germaine. However, he must soon choose between his father’s wishes and his own.

My Review:  One of the best things about this film is its star-studded cast. Will Handy is played by musician Nat King Cole, Go Go Germaine by singer-actress Eartha Kitt, and Go Go’s husband by musician Cab Calloway. Other notable stars include gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, actresses Pearl Bailey and Ruby Dee, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Besides the cast, their performances are very memorable. Nat King Cole does a great job on playing the cornet, singing, and acting. Eartha Kitt’s character  is  sexy and assertive and Kitt plays the role well. In addition, Kitt’s singing is a lovely mix of angelic and soulful.  Furthermore, Pearl Bailey’s small singing role in the film is just as good as Mahalia Jackson’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s.

The only lackluster element of the film is the storyline. A fusion of the film The Jazz Singer and the life of the real W.C. Handy, it is nothing more than a way to incorporate some of the songs that Handy wrote. If you have seen The Jazz Singer or enough references to the film, then the storyline will be predictable.

Overall, the film is a fantastic tribute to the contributions and influence of W.C. Handy. If you enjoy blues, jazz, gospel, or love musicals, then I recommend this film.

 

Here is the trailer for St. Louis Blues

 

 

Movie Review: Les Misérables (2013 DVD)

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Movie Rating: PG-13

Plot Summary from IMDB: In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean, who for decades has been hunted by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole, agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s daughter, Cosette. The fateful decision changes their lives forever.

One highlight of the film is the singing and acting. Hugh Jackman, (Jean Valjean)  Ann Hathaway (Fantine),  and Russell Crowe (Javert) were fantastic. In addition, Samantha Barks (Éponine) does a beautiful job that rivals the performance of Anne Hathaway.

In addition, some of the songs tell the story well.  In particular, “Look Down” forms a powerful theme by showing how all the protagonists are connected through social prejudice. Also, “One Day More” is a great rallying theme for the cast of the movie. When it comes to certain characters,  some songs like Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and Jean Valjean’s “What Have I Done?”capture them well.

Despite the excellent singing and songs, there are huge flaws that made the film less enjoyable. One flaw that is noticeable within the first ten minutes is the fast pacing. It made certain events a bit confusing and unrealistic. For instance, Jean Valjean’s epiphanies were too rushed because of the singing.

Another flaw of the film is the lack of dialogue. Since this is a movie adaptation of the broadway show, this is understandable. However, both the film and the broadway show were inspired by a poignant novel with thought-provoking lines. Without some of them in place of the songs, the movie feels like a musical soap opera that is hard to take seriously.

Overall, the film was mostly a disappointment. If you enjoy the broadway show or musicals in general, then feel free to give the film a try. However, avoid this film if you read the book first or if you hate musicals.

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Movie Review: RENT (DVD)

Book Review: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (Unabridged Version)

Written by Serena Zola

March 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Movie Review: RENT (DVD)

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 Rating: PG-13

 

RENT is a film that is based on the broadway musical of the same time and  features six members of the original broadway cast. Set in New York city, the film follows several bohemian young people as they struggle to pay their rent and live under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Director Chris Columbus and the cast have done a fantastic job, but the film has some flaws.

One of the best things about this film is the music. Without the broadway show tune sound, it sounds a little like something you could listen to on the radio. There are many genres that the songs incorporate such as rock, gospel, and pop, so there is something for everyone. Also, some of the songs help to create themes for some of the characters. For instance, the scene for the song “Today 4 You” does a good job of capturing the character of Angel and her unselfish and friendly nature.

Another thing about the film that was well done was the characters. They are very diverse because they come from different ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations. Despite these differences, they have a few things that unite them together. One of the most prominent things is their passion and pride in their art, which is best seen through the scenes for the song “La Vie Bohéme”.

A more tragic thing that binds them together is the threat of HIV/AIDS. Half of the main characters have the disease and so suffer physically and emotionally. Since the film is set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the disease is treated as a threat and so those who have the disease are faced with prejudice and made to feel that no one cares about them and that they are alone. A touching thing in the film that shows the emotional vulnerability of those with HIV/AIDS is the support group Life Support and the song “Will I”?

At the same time, those who do not have the disease are also suffering, because they are aware of the fact their friends are slowly dying. While this isn’t shown very well in the film,  there is a good show of grief that makes up for it a little bit, especially with the song, “I’ll Cover You Reprise”. Another flaw that ruins the film a little is the story duration, i.e. the length of the storyline. Toward the end of the film, it becomes rushed. There were moments that could have been drawn out more.

Overall, the film was very good. I was impressed with the singing talent of the cast and have a few favorite songs and characters from the film. I recommend this film to any young people, particularly those who struggle with coming to terms with who they are. Also, I recommend this film to anyone who needs comfort coping with any disease or loss.

Here is the scene “Will I?” from the film:

Written by Serena Zola

April 28, 2012 at 1:34 PM

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