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Purple Rain | HD DVD | (20/08/2007)
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While "rock musical" remains a phrase used by sadistic parents to give their offspring nightmares the genre does occasionally throw up the odd gem, Purple Rain being perhaps the shiniest example. Given the theatricality of Prince's stage shows, it was only a matter of time before the diminutive pop potentate found himself a big-screen vehicle but few could have predicted that Purple Rain would become nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. The story, co-written by one-time Starsky & Hutch scripter William Blinn, may be a somewhat hackneyed tale with His Purpleness overcoming a troubled background and musical rival Morris Day to achieve his dreams of rock stardom. However, the cast, which also includes Prince protegée Appollonia, rises above the clichés to hand in a set of performances which, while never likely to trouble the Oscars, prove that all concerned can at least play a rough approximation of themselves with minimal difficulty. What really helped push the film's box-office receipts through the roof, however, was its soundtrack featuring a clutch of hit singles--notably "When Doves Cry"--and which cemented our pint-sized hero's position as one of the globe's premiere performing artists. Sadly, subsequent attempts to re-bottle this particular brand of lightning with Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Moon would prove substantially less successful, but Purple Rain still looks--and, more importantly sounds--rarely less than funktastic. --Clark Collis
Dreamgirls | HD DVD | (28/05/2007)
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Dreamgirls follows the rise of a trio of women who have formed a promising girl group - The Dreamettes. At a talent competition they get the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the back-up singers for headliner James 'Thunder' Early. Though the Dreams become a crossover phenomenon they soon realize that the cost of fame and fortune may be higher than they ever imagined...
Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street | UMD | (19/05/2008)
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After years of rumours, it turns out that Tim Burton was the perfect visionary to film Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stephen Sondheim's Broadway masterpiece, and the result is a macabre and moving musical movie as enthralling as anything Burton has ever done. The show's mix of gothic horror, Grand Guignol, very dark humor, and witty and beautiful music never was the stuff of traditional musical comedy, but it's a powerful work, and perhaps the richest of the late 20th century. In the movie, Burton's frequent collaborator, Johnny Depp, plays Todd, a wronged man whose lust for revenge drives him to murder (an 19th-century legend who has been traced to a real-life barber). Helena Bonham Carter, another Burton mainstay, is Mrs. Lovett, the barber's partner-in-unspeakable-crime. It's no surprise that Depp is an excellent choice to convey Todd's brooding intensity and volcanic rage, but he can also sing a score that is so challenging it has often played in opera houses (though not with the same style as the Broadway original, Len Cariou, and he occasionally lapses into pop style). Bonham Carter is small of voice and lacks the humour of the original Broadway Lovett, Angela Lansbury, but she sings on pitch, in rhythm, and in character at the same time, which is no small feat for a Sondheim show. Aficionados will regret the loss of certain musical passages--"The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" is just an instrumental overture and the chorus is gone altogether, among others, but the reassuring presence of orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and conductor Paul Gemignani ensures that the music feels right and sounds great. And the film's depiction of a Victorian London hellhole, with cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and costumes by Colleen Atwood, also looks and feels right. The excellent cast is filled out by Alan Rickman as the villainous Judge Turpin, Timothy Spall as his seedy Beadle, Sacha Baron Cohen as a rival barber, Jamie Campbell Bower as the young lover Anthony, Jayne Wisener as his object of affection, and Ed Sanders as the young Toby. For fans of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp who don't think they like musicals, Sweeney Todd should be a revelation (though not for the squeamish, as the gore is intense and completely appropriate). For fans of Broadway and Sondheim, it's hard to imagine getting a better adaptation than this. The fact that there's no newly composed Oscar-bait song sung by a Josh Groban-type over the end credits only makes it better. --David Horiuchi
Bugsy Malone | UMD | (30/01/2006)
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