I Just Can’t Control My Beats

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Confession: I have watched Pitch Perfect at least five times now and all within the past couple of weeks.  It’s like I just can’t stop.  I saved it on my DVR and have been watching it in pieces ever since my first full viewing more than two weeks ago.  It’s gotten to where I fast-forward through the non-singing parts, repeatedly watching the song performances, especially the final two.  I never watched Glee, not for any particular reason, so I am unable to make the obvious comparison there.  But I do generally like musicals and Pitch Perfect manages to combine some really excellent musical numbers with a plot as aloof and relatable as that of Bring It On.  Just as any non-cheerleader could enjoy the shenanigans of Bring It On, you need not be an a capella enthusiast to enjoy Pitch Perfect.  It’s a sweet, feel-good flick with likeable characters and some really fun music.

The Sing-Off got me into a capella (well, not counting those years in junior high when I adored Boyz II Men) and generally primed audiences across America for this movie.  It centers around Beca, played with irresistible charm by Anna Kendrick, a college freshman who has no actual desire to attend college but is giving it a shot to appease her father.  She wants to move to LA to start paying her dues in the music industry, hoping to make a career out of DJ-ing.  With much coaxing by her dad and a senior named Chloe (the adorable Brittany Snow), she reluctantly auditions for the Bardon Bellas, an all-female a capella group on campus who have an intense rivalry with the all-male group, the Treblemakers.  Beca earns a spot with the Bellas and slowly brings new life to their stale routine.

While Kendrick is undoubtedly the star of this flick, it is very much an ensemble movie.  Senior and leader of the Bellas, Aubrey Posen (Anna Camp), Chloe and Beca probably get the most lines but supporting characters Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson stealing the majority of her scenes), anna-kendrick-rebel-wilson-hana-mae-lee-pitch-perfectCynthia Rose (Ester Dean) and Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) hit every mark… and note.  (Sorry – couldn’t resist.)  The boys make the most of their screen time as well, especially Beca’s love interest, Jesse (Skylar Astin), his nerdy roommate Benji (Ben Platt), and two of the Treblemakers, Bumper and Donald, played by Adam DeVine (of the hilarious series Workaholics) and Utkarsh Ambudkar, respectively.  There’s competition, friendship, romance and loads of music but there is also an abundance of humor.  Pitch Perfect never takes itself too seriously.  In fact, it gets rather silly at times.  The vast majority of jokes land and there’s even a big throwback to a certain ’80s icon of pop culture that warms the cockles of my heart.

Of course, as I’ve already hinted, the music itself is what drives it home.  The lulls between songs are relatively short and each performance not only plays a relevant role in the central plot but adds a guilty pleasure level of enjoyment, leading viewers like me to watch repeatedly, never tiring of the actors’ unprocessed and natural voices or the fun, practiced choreography.  There are even a few cameos the likes of Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins and Donald Faison.  That’s right – Turk makes an appearance and anything that lets me watch Turk sing and dance is okay by me.

There isn’t anything terribly original or unpredictable about Pitch Perfect but every minute is amusing, there are loads of laughs and at least 30 solid minutes of fun musical performances.  Need more?  30 Rock writer Kay Cannon wrote it.  I knew that would hook you.  😉

~Nikki

‘The Great Gatsby’ Trailer

I saw an unbelievably fantastic trailer this weekend, for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. We caught it in 3D, and oh my dear sweet baby Jesus, the glitter, the music, the CAST!, the fireworks, confetti – it looks like Moulin Rouge got caught in the roaring 20s with Jack Dawson and just SIGN ME UP RIGHT NOW. (This is coming from somebody who loves Moulin like a drug and while watching the blu ray, was certain the TV would start bleeding red and blue paint. I LOVE Luhrmann’s cracked-out interpretations of stories and mashups of color and modern music. I am also LONGING for a 3D re-release of the 2001 Parisian sparkler.)

~Annie

And in case you were wondering what the hell that killer track is playing over the last 2/3 of the trailer, it’s ‘Love is Blindness’ by Jack White. You’re welcome.

Misty Water-Colored Memories, Of The Way We Were

We’re now two episodes into the third season of Glee, and I’m feeling the need to eliminate this show from my DVR scheduler. Unfortunately, due to my many neuroses, I’m pretty much chained to it, by a pair of invisible Nielsen handcuffs.  Here’s my “I Wish I Could Break Up With You” love letter (er, novel) to my current least-favorite show:Dear Glee,

Why do I still watch you?  You aren’t funny anymore.  At all.  I still don’t understand how you were nominated for best COMEDY at the EMMY’S.  Regardless, I used to love you.  Like, luuuuuuuuuve you.  A long time ago, you would consistently make me laugh, cry, give me chills, goosebumps, and make my heart soar with your awesome musical numbers.  You have some extremely talented, interesting characters who had (or so I thought) many layers to their personalities.

You had soooo much going for you.  You took a storyline about a woman FAKING HER PREGNANCY and made it not only believable, but understandable. (Can’t believe I just typed that last sentence) I sympathized with the evil, crazy bitch that was Terri Schuester.  I laughed when she acted like a spoiled brat, but I also felt bad for her plight of just wanting to be closer to her hubby.  I hated what she did to Will, but I got it.  And to tell a story like that, successfully, takes skill.  The scene where Will discovers the truth was like, hardcore for a musical show, and about as real as you’ve ever been.

The music = magic.  It’s always been another cast member, and you treated it as such, and helped make each song your own.  You mixed up current hits, pop culture standards, indie favorites, and tons of show tunes.  You took a shitty Kelly Clarkson song that I hated desperately and turned it into something I now belt at the top of my lungs.  This awesome love profession montage happy-on-steroids scene made that happen for me.  You used to be able to do work this voodoo on most songs you attempted.  See: “Halo/Walking on Sunshine” mashup, “Defying Gravity”, “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Bad Romance”, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, pretty much the entire Madonna episode… the list goes on.

BUT:  With the start of last season, you kind of went off the rails.  Your songs lost their enchanting quality.  The only ones that stuck out were Blaine’s “Teenage Dream” and the Kurt/Rachel duet of “For Good.”  I found myself, as each episode aired, going, “meh.”  I know your cast works really hard, and it seems like everybody’s having a great time, and giving it their all, but you gave up one key point to making a story be, um, any good.  Continuity.

There is LITERALLY. (Chris Traeger voice) NO.  CONTINUITY.  BETWEEN.  CHARACTERS.  OR.  STORYLINES.  NONE.  I no longer care who is dating who or who is joining which club or quitting which club or going to nationals or trying to destroy the club because you have taught me that IT DOESN’T MATTER.  EVERYTHING WILL BE 100% DIFFERENT ON NEXT WEEK’S EPISODE.

You brought in Gwyneth Paltrow, whose “Holly Holiday” made me bored and cringey.  You hooked up Lauren Zizes with Puck, and while I appreciate the sentiment, (and wished things like that happened in real life) it just didn’t make sense.  You made us believe, in a really touching move, that the kids singing at Sue’s sister’s funeral showed the promise of a truce or at least a bit more respect for the club on Sue’s part (and Lynch is more than up for the challenge), but NO.  New season, same old one-note hatred.  Honestly, how many times can we be expected to watch as she “tries to shut the club down.”  It’s getting OLD.  Old as time, and we’re only on season three.

Don’t even get me started on Will/Emma.  You took a marvelous potential relationship with heart and soul and obsessive compulsive disorder and just abandoned it, for no reason other than “they can’t be together this soon in the series.”  Now that they’re “together” (seriously, when did that even happen?!?!  At episode one last week, I was like, huh?  Did I miss something?), I no longer care.

The only thing I’ve enjoyed from you has been anything having to do with a gay character.  Chris Colfer continues to be one of my favorites, and the addition of Blaine as his boyfriend is probably the smartest thing you could have done.  Darren Criss is a phenomenal performer who makes my heart (and panties) swell with happiness at the sight of him.  I find their relationship to be kind of inspiring – they’re certainly the healthiest couple amidst a sea of dysfunctional wackjobs.  The only storylines last year that had any true depth and realism were Santana coming to terms with her bi-sexuality, and the (seriously scary) drama regarding the closeted Karofsky harassing Kurt.

Please, for the love of EVERYTHING HOLY, stop doing a complete 360 of every single storyline for every single episode.  Make your characters stay true to who they are.  Quit flaunting in magazines that certain kids are leaving, then changing your mind.  The kids have to graduate, but we can still follow them in their new lives – the show can have more than one set, ya know.  Stop being so damned silly.  This is not a kid’s show.  You want us to take you lightly enough to believe the hare-brained schemes and jokes, yet seriously enough to touch on real-life issues facing kids today (and adults for that matter), and that’s a tough tightrope to walk. You need a better balance pole.

As much as I want to – I’ll never stop believin’ – so please give me somethin’ to believe in                     With love (reluctantly),                                                                                                                                  ~Annie

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Ah yes, movie musicals.  Sounds like a good idea for another list!  We had to make it a duet though, because we’re sadly lacking in the amount of musicals we’ve seen, which is odd, because we both heart them quite a lot.

Sweeney Todd:  I’ve never seen this play but I had heard a very vague description of the plot prior to seeing the movie.  As you know, I love dark, disturbing tales and, in my opinion, Johnny Depp can do no wrong.  So when I saw the trailer for this flick, I knew, for me, it was a must-see.  Depp and his leading lady, the always-engaging Helena Bonham Carter, played their roles with passion and intensity and sang their songs charismatically, giving the already heavy story even more depth.  I loved the somber tunes and the dreary London scenery.  And the bleak finale rounded out this heart-wrenching tale perfectly.  (N.)

Grease:  This movie is practically a classic, as far as I’m concerned.  Much to my mother’s dismay, I went through a phase in middle school during which I watched this awesome flick every afternoon after school.  I couldn’t say how long this lasted, weeks or months, perhaps, but I never seemed to tire of it.  It’s a simple enough story but the characters and the music give it vibrancy and humor and make it oh-so-enjoyable.  (N.)

Sound of Music:  The grandaddy of all musicals, and one of my favorites.  Yeah it’s cheesy, yeah it’s 60s, but the Austrian countryside is stunning, Captain Von Trapp is the original DILF, and the music, oh sweet lord, the music.   Does it get any better than Julie Andrews, putting one arm in the air and the other around her head, hitting those notes in “Do Re Mi”, on the steps of the Mirabell Gardens of Salzburg?  Plus, this is aired every Christmas, so it’s built into my psyche to provide extreme levels of comfort, security, and happiness.   (A.)

Moulin Rouge:  I swoon at the very mention of this film!  I love, love, love this movie.  I’ve always been a Ewan McGregor fan and seeing him sing his heart out only cemented my good opinion of him.  He was so charming, so sweet, so utterly adorable.  And he could actually sing!  He and Nicole Kidman had beautiful chemistry and all of the side characters were wonderful.  The true star of this movie, however, was the music.  I loved the play on pop culture with ironically adapted songs like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the hilarious near-spoof of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.”  One of my favorite songs ever, and favorite scenes ever, came during the narcoleptic Argentinian’s rendition of “Roxanne.”  God, it give me chills thinking about it.  And “Come What May,” sung as a duet with such fervor by Kidman and McGregor, made this a love story of Casablanca caliber.  (N.)

Beauty and the Beast & The Little Mermaid:  The two greatest Disney musicals, in our humble opinions.  Everything about these is enchanting.  “Be Our Guest.”  The castle, the magic, the gloomy, ominous woods, the French countryside.  The underwater scenes, Prince Eric (you studly animated hunk, you), Urusla (one of the GREATEST Disney villainesses), “Under the Sea”, “Kiss the Girl”, “Part of Your World.”  These movies are INCREDIBLE.  Just thinking about them, as I am writing, is making me giddy.  I’m sure I sound like a senior citizen, but they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.  Tale as old as time, indeed.  (A.)

Honorable Mentions:

Mamma Mia! & Across the Universe:  These get lumped together because they are both mediocre films, but the vibrant visuals and excellent musical source material null and void the mediocrity.  Who doesn’t love the Beatles or Abba?  (Don’t answer that, actually).  I happen to love both, and watching Meryl Streep and the rest of the cast clearly have the time of their lives gyrating on a dock in the Grecian sun while belting out one of the happiest songs ever written (Yeah, I mean “Dancing Queen”, so screw you) could fill even the darkest heart with joy.  Aside from Pierce Brosnan essentially defecating all over the disco joy that is “S.O.S.” – seriously, it sounds like someone is brutally torturing a moose – both soundtracks are golden.  Universe, especially, has some beautifully trippy scenes and unique takes on absolute standards.  I’ve never seen Mamma Mia! the musical, or the Cirque de Soleil LOVE show but both are on my bucket list, and until then, these’ll work just fine.  (A.)

~~Nikki & Annie