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Current Movie Musicals - DVDs, VHS, Videos

Chicago the Movie

Chicago - the Movie (2003)
Director: Rob Marshall

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Bob Fosse's sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director's 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring '20s, but Chicago reeks of '70s disenchantment--this isn't just Fosse's material, it's his attitude, too. That's probably why the movie's breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere gleefully sheds his customary cool to belt out a showstopper. (Yes, they all do their own singing and dancing.) Whatever qualms musical purists may have about director Rob Marshall's cut-cut-cut style, the film's sheer exuberance is intoxicating. Given the scarcity of big-screen musicals in the last 25 years, that's a cause for singing, dancing, cheering. And all that jazz.
-from website

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8 Mile

8 Mile (Widescreen Edition) (2002)
Starring: Eminem
Director: Curtis Hanson

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Rap star Eminem makes a strong movie debut in 8 Mile, an urban drama that makes a fairly standard plot fly through its gritty attention to detail. Jimmy Smith (Eminem), nicknamed B Rabbit, can't pull himself together to take the next step with his career--or with his life. Angry about his alcoholic mother (Kim Basinger) and worried about his little sister, Rabbit lets out his feelings with twisting, clever raps admired by his friends, who keep pushing him to enter a weekly rap face-off. But Rabbit resists--until he meets a girl (Brittany Murphy) who might offer him support and a little hope that his life could get better. Under the smart and ambitious direction of Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys) and ably supported by the excellent cast and the burnt-out environment of Detroit slums, Eminem reveals a surprising vulnerability that makes 8 Mile vivid and compelling.
-from website

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Baz Luhrmans Red Curtain Trilogy

Baz Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly Ballroom / Romeo + Juliet / Moulin Rouge)

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Baz Luhrmann has coined the term red curtain cinema for his technique of using theatrical conventions to invigorate films to dazzling and dizzying heights, as shown in the three contained in this set: Strictly Ballroom (1993), William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (1996), and Moulin Rouge (2001). Luhrmann notes the important characteristics of this style: take a well-known myth or fable and set it in a heightened creative world that the audience can participate in. In Strictly Ballroom, it's both David and Goliath and the Ugly Duckling set in the supercharged world of ballroom-dancing competition. For Romeo & Juliet, it's the star-crossed lovers transplanted to modern-day Verona Beach yet still peppered with Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. Moulin Rouge takes the story of Orpheus descending into the underworld in search of love then sets it in 19th-century Paris and adds modern pop songs. The Red Curtain Trilogy includes these three films in loaded special-edition DVDs (all available separately), with featurettes and commentary tracks by Luhrmann and production designer (and Luhrmann's wife) Catherine Martin among others, and, in the case of Moulin Rouge, a second disc of features. Fans may opt for this trilogy rather than the separate discs because of its exclusive bonus DVD, "Behind the Red Curtain," the centerpiece of which is the documentary "Red Curtain Cinema," in which Luhrmann explains his theory behind this system of storytelling. It's 20 minutes if you watch it straight through, but numerous onscreen links offer two hours of older interviews, clips from other Luhrmann works, scripts, and an example of the Bollywood style. Other items include a 6-minute tour of the "House of Iona" (the home of the Bazmark creative team), and a grab bag of other materials such as all three scripts, DVD-ROM features, and an early example of the "red curtain" style, a pop interpretation of a Benjamin Britten opera excerpt called "Now Until the Light of Day." No doubt Luhrmann fans will consider the Red Curtain Trilogy "spectacular spectacular."
-from website

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A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line (1985)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Terrence Mann
Director: Richard Attenborough

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If you've never seen this popular production performed on stage in its original form as one of the longest-running musicals in Broadway history, the movie version is probably your next best option--heck, it's your only option! But beware the major difference between the experience of stage and screen, because A Chorus Line is a perfect example of a show that doesn't translate well from one medium to another. Director Richard Attenborough gives it his best shot, cutting some of the production numbers and adding new ones while "opening up" the show to explore the off-stage lives of struggling performers as they prepare for another grueling audition. Michael Douglas plays the harsh, workaholic director who puts the auditioning "gypsies" through the paces, winnowing a large group of hopefuls down to eight lucky cast members for his next big show. There's a subplot about the director's former girlfriend, who returns for the big audition, and along the way the other hopefuls sing and dance while revealing their various hopes and fears. On screen, the musical works best when focused on its dramatic passages; otherwise it's impossible to escape the fact that this material is best suited to live performance.
-from website

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Absolute Beginners

Absolute Beginners (1986)
Starring: Patsy Kensit, Eddie O'Connell
Director: Julien Temple

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A commercial disaster upon its release in 1986, Absolute Beginners is an uneven but often stunning attempt at revitalizing the movie musical with postmodern sensibilities. Director Julien Temple was making his first foray into dramatic features after an impressive string of music videos and documentaries (including the first of two Temple-directed profiles of the Sex Pistols), and he upped the stakes by harnessing his visual ingenuity to a period piece exploring London's social transformation at the edge of the '60s--a fleeting moment in the pop zeitgeist that may as well have been the Cambrian Age to Temple's MTV-generation audience. This is post-World War II London turning the corner from economic austerity, giddy with jazz and early rock, yet to witness the Beatles and the Stones. Adapted from Colin MacInnes's novel, the story follows Colin (Eddie O'Connell), a young Londoner looking to find his place in the world. A budding romance with the intoxicating Suzette (Patsy Kensit) as well as crises of conscience over social responsibility and financial gain are the plot threads in a story that arguably tackles too many Big Ideas, including adolescent identity, British racism (directed at West Indian immigrants) and class prejudice, and capitalism itself, embodied by David Bowie as unctious, superstar executive Vendice Partners. In wrestling with such valiant ambitions, Temple and his young cast establish the film's musical soul in a canny synthesis of '80s English pop with postwar bop and the seeds of Mod culture. Onscreen performances by Fine Young Cannibals, Sade, and Kensit, a Bowie production number ("Motivation") that cribs from Busby Berkeley, and a wonderful sequence with the Kinks' Ray Davies as Arthur (a likely nod to his own band's 1969 rock opera) are all well realized. Less obviously, Temple salutes the period's forgotten jazz legacy through a score from the late Gil Evans, and in the jaw-dropping, bravura opening sequence, an extended single-camera journey through Soho set to Charles Mingus's joyous "Boogie Stop Shuffle" that is itself reason enough to see this brave musical.
-from website

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Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge (Single Disc Edition) (2001)
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor
Director: Baz Luhrmann

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A dazzling and yet frequently maddening bid to bring the movie musical kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge bears no relation to the many previous films set in the famous Parisian nightclub. This may appear to be Paris in the 1890s, with can-can dancers, bohemian denizens like Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), and ribaldry at every turn, but it's really Luhrmann's pop-cultural wonderland. Everyone and everything is encouraged to shatter boundaries of time and texture, colliding and careening in a fast-cutting frenzy that thinks nothing of casting Elton John's "Your Song" 80 years before its time. Nothing is original in this kaleidoscopic, absinthe-inspired love tragedy--the words, the music, it's all been heard before. But when filtered through Luhrmann's love for pop songs and timeless showmanship, you're reminded of the cinema's power to renew itself while paying homage to its past. Luhrmann's overall success with his third "red-curtain" extravaganza (following Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet) is wildly debatable: the scenario is simple to the point of silliness, and how can you appreciate choreography when it's been diced into hash by attention-deficit editing? Still, there's something genuine brewing between costars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (as, respectively, a poor writer and his unobtainable object of desire), and their vocal talents are impressive enough to match Luhrmann's orgy of extraordinary sets, costumes, and digital wizardry. The movie's novelty may wear thin, along with its shallow indulgence of a marketable soundtrack, but Luhrmann's inventiveness yields moments that border on ecstasy, when sound and vision point the way to a moribund genre's joyously welcomed revival.
-from website

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