Thursday, 19 June 2014

Film & Music Review of the Day

Before watching August: Osage County ask yourself a question, and, if at all possible, be honest with yourself....

"Do I like films with an excess of talking?"

If you like films full of action or easily accessible humour then this film is definitely NOT for you. A:OC is a densely written, challenging film with some career-defining performances.

Even if you're not a fan of Streep or Roberts there is much here to praise. Both are amazing in their roles and truly deserved the award nominations they received.

So, what's it about? That's a tough one.
On the surface it's about a dysfunctional family coming together over the death of a family member. Old issues resurface and new problems arise. It's a family nightmare compacted into two hours.

But, dig a little deeper and this is primarily a story about cruelty and karma. The old adage "what goes around, comes around" really rings true with this story.

Many of the characters will probably be recognisable. I know Streep's character reminded me of my own mother at times and I could definitely see myself in Julia Roberts' character.

Is it any good? Another tough question.
On the one hand it's a simple YES. The performances are faultless and the writing is clever, witty, disturbing and mesmerising.
BUT, on the other hand, it's uncomfortable to watch sometimes and I'm not sure how much re-watch value there is. None of the characters are particularly likeable; so I'm not sure how much time I would like to spend in their company.

In a nutshell, I think I'd be re-watching to see the performances and NOT for the story.

Watch if you likes films like There Will Be Blood, or The Hurt Locker
Avoid if you like films such as Transformers, Underworld, The Fast and the Furious

The blu-ray has a brilliant picture - almost too good as it shows every wrinkle! The film doesn't really need an impressive soundscape; but the DTS HD Master tracks does a great job. All dialogue is clear and there are no dips or peaks.

If, like me, you're a fan of musical theatre the film Rocky doesn't seem like the first choice to adapt into a musical. When I first heard it was going to happen I thought it was the most awful decision since Carrie: The Musical.

But, as with Carrie, Rocky Broadway (as they decided to all it) is a pleasant surprise.

The story centres on a struggling heavyweight boxer just waiting for his moment. That career defining moment. But, there are some things more important. Such as falling in love.

So, if you've seen the film with Sylvester Stallone you will already know the story. That story is reinvented for the stage and embellished to great effect by the songs. Surprised? I was.
Rocky Balboa singing does not immediately sound like it will work. I'm glad to say my misgivings were unfounded.

I rarely get to see a musical on stage, so, for me, the cast recording is my only experience of the show. Some recordings can completely fail to capture the show's atmosphere (Mamma Mia - MUCH better live), while others make you feel like you're in the theatre. I'm pleased to say that Rocky Broadway falls into the latter category.

This Broadway Cast recording stars Andy Karl as Rocky and Margo Seibert as Adrian. For me, it is the relationship and chemistry between these characters that make or break this show; and I'm very pleased to report that both of them are amazing.
Andy Karl brings a sensitivity to Rocky that was there in the film, but is now laid bare and exposed. Song does that anyway and never more so than in this show. The same can be said of Margo Seibert.

The show is written by long-time Broadway collaborators Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens - writers of such brilliant shows as Ragtime and Seussical The Musical.
What they've managed to do with this show is create an easily accessible score that still has enough complexity to appeal to more die-hard theatre fans. There are definitely songs in this show that you will be humming after a couple of listens.

There are moments in the score that reminded me of songs from Disney's Hercules (on Patriotic) and also Ghost the Musical  (on In the Ring)- neither of which is a bad thing in my opinion.

Thankfully, the decision to still concentrate on the love story between Rocky and Adrian works.
Adrian's ode to hopes and fears about Rocky, Raining, is a stand-out track but there are many, many songs to admire here, such as: My Nose Ain't Broken, Happiness and Adrian. Also of special note is Training Montage 2 because it incorporates the brilliant Eye of the Tiger to great effect.

While maybe not as rewarding as other shows I've recently listened to such as The Bridges of Madison County or Violet, Rocky Broadway is nonetheless a worthy addition to the Broadway catalogue and to my musicals collection.

Highly recommended! 8 out of 10.

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