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Why the “Magic Mike” Musical Adaptation is the Best. Idea. Ever. (NSFW)

News broke this week that Magic Mike (or STRIPPED: The Channing Tatum Story) is being made into a musical. Here are a few reasons why you should put on your recording of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland’s “Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again” and celebrate.

C’mon. Celebrate.

The creative team is, like, really good.

The creative lineup for the musical adaptation of Magic Mike is just as fine as the movie’s original cast. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Tony/Pulitzer-winners for Next to Normal) are writing the score, while Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is writing the book. All three have exciting new musicals in the latter stages of development. Kitt and Yorkey’s If/Then, starring musical goddess Idina Menzel, is set for a Spring 2014 Broadway debut, while the musical version of American Psycho (book by Aguirre-Sacasa) will debut in London later this year. I see beautiful rock songs about tearaway pants on our future.

The storyline is actually made for a musical.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Magic Mike follows Channing Tatum as he dreams to start his own business while working as a male stripper to pay the bills. That’s basically the dudebro version of Sweet Charity.

With less Bob Fosse and more… everything.

Meanwhile, he meets a nineteen-year-old kid who’s looking for work, and he helps him get into the stripping business (A Star Is Born redux). Add in Tatum’s love interest, the kid’s sister who wants to keep him safe from the perils of male strippertude (hello, Guys and Dolls), and you have a musical theatre plot combo breaker.

It can have a little more fun than the actual movie.

The film had some great, ahem, dance sequences, but the Stephen Soderbergh-directed piece ventured a little too far into the dark side. Musical theatre is a form that can’t help being comedic, and hopefully, the Magic Mike sequel can have more fun with its subject matter. Which is male stripping. Which is kind of hilarious.

But we all know the most important reason why this musical must be made…

There will be hot naked men to look at.

No offense to The Full Monty, but I especially look forward to a musical that has a ending sequence that looks more like this:

And I’m not alone. The demographics for Broadway audiences tend to run mostly female and mostly gay. Are many lady theatregoers not interested in seeing hot naked men? Of course. Are many gay male theatregoers not interested in seeing hot naked men? I guess. But nudity is still an audience draw, and it won’t be any different when Magic Mike is ready for its Broadway debut. With or without its pants on.

Shirtless Matt Bomer thanks you for your time.

Trailer Alert: Saving Mr. Banks

The history of making Mary Poppins into a film was a troubled one. Author P.L. Travers strongly disliked the film when it came out, and she forbade Walt Disney from ever making another Poppins film.

That hasn’t stopped Disney from making Saving Mr. Banks, a film that reimagines the making of Mary Poppins with Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers. The rest of the cast looks equally fabulous, with Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, my wife Ruth Wilson, and many more rounding off the cast. Bonus points to Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak in some funny scenes as the Sherman brothers.

While it may not be historically accurate, I wouldn’t mind the extra spoonful of sugar added to this movie.

The Most Anticipated Book of the Fall Releases an Excerpt

Confession: I love The Room. In every way an unintentionally so-bad-it’s-good movie can be loved. When I’m down, an instant pick-me-up is to watch its bizarre flower shop scene. And I’ve done the “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa” gesture far too often.

And have made everyone around me instantly uncomfortable.
And have made everyone around me instantly uncomfortable.

Like many Room fans, I’ve been fascinated by filmmaker Tommy Wiseau’s… everything. And now we can all learn more about the film, because Greg Sestero (Mark! “Oh hi, Mark!”) wrote a book about his experience called The Disaster Artist. It’s coming out in October, and A.V. Club posted an exclusive excerpt from the book. It really can only be described as surreal.

PS. If you didn’t already know, Greg Sestero was a guest on “How Did This Get Made”  and spoke about The Room. I’ve only listened to it twice.

Can I Mention Again That It Was My Dream To Adapt ‘Sound and the Fury?’

Oh God, How Can I Love and Hate Someone So Much at the Same Time?

James Franco, hire me for all your screenwriting needs like RIGHT NOW. And then never talk to me again because I think you’re captivatingly gross and wonderfully nauseating.

http://www.wordandfilm.com/2013/07/james-franco-has-only-yet-begun-to-faulkner-announces-the-sound-and-the-fury-adaptation/

WHO’S GOING TO PLAY QUENTIN AHHHHH ANYONE WANT TO MAKE A DREAM CASTLIST?

7 Things You Should Know About The Bling Ring

 

1) You will hear Sleigh Bells’ “Crown on the Ground” everywhere you go. Everything you do that is remotely different from the thing you just finished doing will be amplified by the electropop awesomeness that is this song. I’m talking about things like putting toothpaste on a toothbrush. Walking down a random hallway. Removing the staple from a stack of papers. EVERYTHING.

 

2) Emma Watson is pretty cool. In fact, she’s the coolest part of this movie. To be honest, I hadn’t been convinced that Emma Watson could be NotHermione before I saw this movie. I hope she’s found a niche in darkly comic, self-aggrandizing roles that are light years away from her previous everygirl roles. For more on this phenomenon, read the Daily Mail’s review-slash-love-letter to Emma Watson. Also this.

 

3) You will find out a bunch of things about teenagers that you already knew. Like that they take lots of pictures on their phones. And idolize celebrities. And stupidly publicize everything on Facebook. You will also learn a bunch of things about pretty, rich white kids that you already knew. Like that their parents are oblivious or willfully ignorant to the fact that their kids lead jewel-stealing, crack-snorting, gun-toting double lives. You will also learn something about celebrities that you already knew. Namely, that they are stupid.

 

4) Perhaps this movie is less about our materialistic culture and more about a culture that glorifies crime with no consequences. Half of the teens in the bling ring group attend an alternative high school for kids who couldn’t finish normal high school AKA deliquents. But heaven forbid we actually tell these kids that they did something wrong or give them concrete consequences for their actions! The other half of the group are home-schooled by a new-age, The Secret– toting mom who gives out Adderol like vitamins. She actually knows her girls are coming home at the crack of dawn from wild parties but never acts upon these instincts. Later in the film, one of the alt. high school girls crashes her car while intoxicated. She later brushes off her arrest, saying something like now she’s got to pick up trash for like ever, or something. The fact that these kids don’t get caught after multiple burglarlies only serves to make them more confident and more entitled. Couldn’t we also say this of famous celebrity offenders who only serve mere hours of their prison sentences and get released as newly-reformed citizens?

 

5) So #4 came about with some heavy thinking. Because there wasn’t really much else to think about. Too much of The Bling Ring feels just as superficial as its anti-heroines. The girls don’t seem to have much motivation… or personality for that matter… besides to just say they’ve got a piece of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. They have NOTHING at stake.

Part of what makes Emma Watson’s performance so memorable is that she seems to understand the shallowness of her character the best out of all the cast. Everyone else seems to be in a different movie, a serious deep movie except it doesn’t get much deeper.

 

6) What’s going on with the dude at the center of the bling ring? His characteristically effeminate tendencies and platonic relationship with the rest of the girls make him the hardest character to grip. Why does he continue to get mixed up in the burglaries? What does his blurred, undefinable sexuality say about his follower role in the group? I miss grad school.

 

7) Paris Hilton’s house is exactly what you think Paris Hilton’s house would look like.

 

 

Mediums at Work at The Orpheus Variations

There was a point in The Orpheus Variations’s short 45-minute progress where I thought to myself, I should really just drop everything and join an experimental theater company. It’s so exciting to see a production whose mission is so purposeful and whose work is not only unique, but also innovatively reflective on the future of the performing arts.

Robert Kitchens & Amanda Dieli in The Orpheus Variations - Photos by Mitch Dean
Robert Kitchens & Amanda Dieli in The Orpheus Variations – Photos by Mitch Dean

Orpheus is not so much a story as a conglomeration of reflections on love, relationships, loss, and memory. While the title does invoke the Greek myth of Orpheus, the famed musician who travels to the Underworld after his wife Eurydice dies on the day of their wedding, the myth’s presence in the play is at most symbolic. The script, which is more like a two-person lyrical ballad/ narrative voiceover, is recited stage left by ensemble members while ‘Orpheus’ and ‘Eurydice’ act out their fragmented roles without speech.

While this is happening, two other ensemble members each film the actors with hand-held video recorders. This live video feed is controlled by a feed technician and is projected onto a screen behind the actors so that the audience watches the film as it being produced. What is most striking about the simultaneous live performance/video capture is the sharp dissonances between the two. The first dissonance is that fact that inherent in the two different mediums is the concept of time. In film, we take for granted that what is being filmed HAS been filmed. The performances in the film are in the past and have been reproduced so that we can watch them at our convenience. Film’s time is also cognitively different for the film’s cast and crew. They may do scenes out of order; they may have repetitive takes that can them be edited on or edited out; they may take as much time needed to set up a costume or a location. The sequence and length of scenes in a film has no relationship to the actual time taken to produce. (I just watched an interview with Gene Wilder– my new old Hollywood crush– where he states that he felt much  more liberated on a film set than on a stage precisely because he could be free to experiment in each take with the knowledge that it could be re-done, edited out, or re-scripted). Stage work, on the other hand, produces a real-time representation of the work needed to create a story. We know that in a two-hour play, the cast and crew will be working for those two hours in sequence, even if the plot’s events constitute more than a two-hour span. What you see is what you get.

In Orpheus, what you see is what you get… and then some. The Deconstructive Theatre Project, the aforementioned theater troupe I’d impulsively join, makes deconstruction about WAY more than the transparency of process (in the Brechtian vein of breaking the fourth wall, making sets and costumes look fabricated and unrealistic, etc.). Here, we actually see the lie that the process produces– the film projected behind us. This is another dissonance of the process. We see the actors using makeshift tools (a piece of wallpaper, a miniature house, a train set, a spray can, a branch, a clear container of sand, etc.) to produce a very pretty realistic film. Even though we see that ‘Eurydice’ only has her feet in a fishtank, the film shows her clearly drowning. Even though we see the hands of an Orpheus double preparing tea while the real Orpheus prepares for his next scene, the film makes the transition seamless.

The ensemble’s energetic, yet quite mechanical, live production of a film is all for the sake of process mirroring content. Here’s where things get a bit trippy. Artistic Director Adam Thompson explained in the company talk back how his interest in the neuroscience of memory was integrated into the structure of the play. For one thing, the part of the brain that recalls memories is the same part of the brain used in our imaginative thinking. As has been shown time and again in psychological studies, memories are incredibly fickle things, easily-influenced by our emotional states, our biases, our environments, our imaginations, etc. Memory is likewise a construction of different sensory intake, all located in different parts of the brain.

For the DTP, the film projection is Orpheus’s constructed memory. Meanwhile, the audience is privy to the simultaneous construction of the memory through the actors live performance. We can see exactly how the symbolic memory effectively misrepresents the actual process. It lies to us. The company’s busy efforts to set up the scenes for these memories mimic the way that we, both biologically and emotionally, busily struggle to reproduce (and also reconstruct) our memories.

Awesome stuff, huh?

Now, getting back to the lovers, I definitely think that the play can continue to develop its themes through the couple’s relationship as the company intends to extend it. While the relationship between lying and memory is extraordinarily effective in the process of the play, do we have any reason to doubt Orpheus’s recollections? Might the content and form become even more unified had there been planted in the audience’s mind certain seeds of doubt as to how reliable our narrators’ accounts are? It doesn’t need to be overt– the script’s nuanced, poetic language is a perfect accompaniment to the business of the stage. It makes a completed piece that resonates both on an emotional and intellectual level. I’m very interested to see how DTP continues to work in its multimedia approach and where they decide to take both Orpheus and their mission.

The Orpheus Variations is being presented this weekend only (through June 30) at the HERE Arts Center by the Deconstructive Theatre Project.

Sigh No More! Reasons Why Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado” is Amazing!

I hereby bestow on Joss Whedon the ability to adapt any bloody work of Shakespeare he so wishes into film (I believe that’s part of my abilities as an ex- English Major). And here’s why:

1) We Missed You, Whedonverse!

Audiences have been treating Much Ado as some weird departure from regular Joss Whedon material. Most of the man’s work comprises of action-adventure/ scifi-fantasy genre work with slick-talking, butt-kicking protagonists and large-scale production work. And yea, I guess when you put it that way, it does seem like a surprise move to follow the third highest grossing film of all time with a micro-budget, Shakespearean adaptation shot in Whedon’s house with actors whose names don’t rhyme with Bobert Mowney Punior.

BUT, I’d argue that Much Ado is very much in vein with Whedon’s work– in fact, much more so than The Avengers franchise. Five minutes into Much Ado and you get the odd sense that you’ve seen this before. The bound-for-love couple who express their love for each other with insults and denial.  The miscommunications that deeply wound otherwise wonderful relationships. The unique balance of a sharp, fun, and nuanced script with plenty of physical comedy. Like any good ‘auteur,’ Whedon takes his themes, his dramatic structure, his characters, from one of the greatest sources of Western storytelling and incorporates them into his unique creative vision, whether it be that of a teenage girl fighting big baddies or of rogue soldiers on the fringes of the galaxy. Shakespeare seems to be everywhere in contemporary culture, but Whedon truly knows how to use it for meet his own vision as a storyteller.

Also, how much fun was it to see our favorites from the Whedonverse! Who knows why Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker haven’t had roles as exciting as their Angel characters? Those two are just brilliant. Luckily, their versatility and charm are on full effect in Much Ado. Every time a Whedonverse actor appeared on screen, 50% of the audience gave a happy squeal (Andrew! was most audible) and with reason– Whedon’s assembled a great bunch of people over the years to do his bidding. The more, the merrier!

Get it, get it! Wes and Fred 4 Lyfe

2) LESS IS MORE

Like any normal six-year old, I regularly watched Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of Much Ado. My 16 year old sister insisted I be a cultured second grader. This same sister also introduced me to Buffy and Angel and Firefly. (Come to think of it, she’d probably be a better source about the connections between Billy Shakes and Jossy Weed than me). Branagh’s version always existed as a kind of model for the way Much Ado plays out, so much so that even the Tennant/Tate partnership last year took came in second to it (you know, on the list I have on my wall next to my bed of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever.)

Tennant and Tate are chums…

…but Branagh and Thompson get it done

Rather than go for Branagh’s Italian villa setting or the Donmar’s 1980’s shindig, Whedon’s Much Ado is much simpler. The black-and-white movie, filmed completely in Whedon’s palace home, makes for some strikingly nuanced yet affirming visuals, and allows Shakespeare’s word to vibrate unhindered throughout the story. Maybe that’s why audiences seem surprised that they are actually able to understand the story in Whedon’s film. They’re unmediated, direct, and resounding.  (That being said, check out both other adaptations if the interest moves you. I personally like Branagh’s but the trick scenes in the Tennant/Tate production are pretty wonderful).

3) I don’t have a three. I guess…. Shakespeare’s awesome and I’m so glad that artists continue to push the boundaries of his work. Go team!

Andrew and Mal thank you for your time.

Trailer Alert: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

When I learned that Leonardo DiCaprio was filming The Wolf of Wall Street, I quickly dismissed it. The title reminded me of all those movies that are “thrillers” about rich and powerful white guys having pissing contests with other rich and powerful white guys.

But the trailer proved me wrong. It’s actually a black comedy that is the crazy lovechild between American Psycho and Animal House. Leo’s dancing at 1:34 is ripe for the meme-ing, and Matthew McConaughey looks like he’s going to deliver another great scene stealing character-y performance.

Thank you movie gods for answering my prayers.

Age of Convoluted Blockbusters

http://badassdigest.com/2013/06/12/film-crit-hulk-smash-the-age-of-the-convoluted-blockbuster/

An excellent essay by the always insightful, intelligent, and presumably handsome FilmCritHulk. I feel exactly the same way about Star Trek, Man of Steel, and the past season of Doctor Who.

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