Tag Archives: movie soundtracks

Elton does the Bard

I set out early Sunday morning with my 21-year-old son Christopher in search of plants to refresh the giant flowerpots James’ parents keep on their patio.

Christopher suggested red since it was his grandma’s birthday and the occasion falls so close to Valentine’s Day. We stumbled on some stunning red tulips and a couple of small cacti with bright pink blooms.

It's "love at first fight" as Gnomeo meets Juliet

But before we did our planting, we took in the new “Gnomeo & Juliet” — a Touchstone Pictures film whose executive producer Elton John also provides much of the movie’s music.

As the movie was about to begin, a young boy sitting a few rows in front of us called out to friend who thought it was time to leave the theater. “The movie hasn’t ended yet!,” he exclaimed.

Apparently the previews for kid-friendly films like “African Cats,” “Rango,” “Hop,” and “Rio” were plenty entertaining for at least some in the crowd — and I must admit that they all look rather enchanting.

“Gnomeo & Juliet” (rated G) pits two competitive gardeners, and their gnomes, against one another. One house is red, while another is blue — and never, it seems, the twain shall meet.

The movie opens with one of many homages to William Shakespeare, who penned the gnome-free “Romeo and Juliet” long before the lawn mowers used in alley races by the film’s waring gnomes were invented.

Nanette tells Juliet she has good reason to fret

Many of Shakespeare’s characters are there — Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Paris and such. But now they’ve got those pointy little hats.

The plot can only go so far before deviating from the original. As you’ve likely guessed or heard already — there’s no double tragedy as the film draws to a close.

Characters are voiced by all sorts of well-known performers, including James McAvoy (Romeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michale Caine (Lord Redbrick) and Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn).

The ending of “Gnomeo & Juliet” is neater and cheerier than it needs to be, but we still enjoyed the journey to get there — which includes some witty dialogue and word play, fun arrangements of Elton John and Bernie Taupin fare, and unexpected characters like baby bunny statues and a pink flamingo.

A statue of William Shakespeare comes alive at one point to explain a bit about the way his tale of ill-fated lovers ends, but it may be lost on the littlest viewers — unless their parents are clever enough to turn the movie into a “teachable moment.”

Featherstone delivers an anti-bias message

“Gnomeo & Juliet” is entertaining enough on its own (although it does drag in a few places, and include some adult-geared humor that seems a bit tasteless) — but it’s best enjoyed as part of a broader experience with Shakespeare.

Think time spent reading child-friendly adaptations of Shakespeare stories. Spring or summer theater camps with a Shakespeare theme. A family trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival – which features kid-friendly “Greenshows.” Attending “Southwest Shakespeare Company” productions.

Of course, it can be our little secret if you also run right out and buy your own copy of the “Gnomeo & Juliet” soundtrack.

– Lynn

Note: Spring and summer performing arts camps, including those with a Shakespeare twist, fill quickly — so don’t delay in doing that camp homework and getting your child registered before slots are filled for your favorites.

Coming up: Meet the youngest “Gammage Goer,” Monty Python meets musical theater

Film photos from www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Musical memories

There’s “The Rhythm of Life” from the musical “Sweet Charity,” which debuted on Broadway in 1966 — and “The Circle of Life” from the 1997 musical “The Lion King.”

History is full of music marking the times of our lives — whether serene, somber, soulful or celebratory. I got to thinking about my own musical journeys after learning of “Respect: A Musical Journey of Women.”

This perky performance featuring more than fifty “top 40″ songs of the past 100 years takes to the Herberger Theater Center stage through Feb 12, 2011. Grab your girlfriends, your daughters, even your grandma — and go.

In the years following my mother’s death, I was especially moved each time I heard Bette Midler’s recording of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

I also think of my mom each time one of her own favorite songs, like Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” reverberates from my radio.

Certain songs call to mind particular times in my life.

Songs like “Mahogany” (from the 1975 movie) and “Wildflower” (first recorded by Skylark) seemed the perfect anthems for my teenage angst. 

Dan Fogelberg’s “Part of the Plan” was woven into a valedictorian speech I gave at graduation, and Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” became a sort of theme songs as I got older and life became infinitely more complicated.

Even now, music is something shared with family and friends as a way to express our feelings for each other and our thoughts about the world around us.

For Christmas this year, my husband James gave me both Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” and a Bob Welch CD that opens with the track “Sentimental Lady.”

My son, Christopher, has long wished I would leave the digital “Dark Ages” and enter the magnificent modern age of mp3 players.

Perhaps one day I will — but only to record a sort of soundtrack of my life that might give my children more insights into their mom as not only parent, but also person.

I love to tell my kids about some of my favorite concert experiences, like the Springsteen concert James and I attended that opened with the Elvis classic “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” 

Or Jackson Browne’s Phoenix concert held the night before we’d all learn who had won the 2008 presidential election. More than a few hippies in the house found special meaning in songs like “Where Were You” and “The Drums of War.”

We’re an eclectic bunch when it comes to musical tastes. Jennifer favors country and Lizabeth loves Broadway. Christopher can’t get enough of the ’80s. I’m still stuck in the ’70s. And James is slightly less retro thanks to music of the ’90s.

It’s easy to take both people and music for granted. Make time during the post-holiday lull to enjoy music together — whether you’re making noisemakers with your children at a local musuem or attending a performance like “Respect: A Musical Journey.”

For music is the stuff that dreams, memories and journeys are made of.

– Lynn

Note: Local museums that routinely feature musical experiences for children and adults include the Arizona Museum for Youth, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Heard Museum, the Musical Instrument Museum and more.

Coming up: Meet more “Stage Moms”

Bob Dylan meets suburbia?

I was just four years old when Bob Dylan released his fifth album, titled “Bringing It All Back Home,” which contained the hit song “Mr. Tambourine Man” — something I once performed during an elementary school talent show.

Apparently I caught the social justice bug rather early in life, and maybe music had something to do with that. Experiencing a live Bob Dylan concert while attending college in Germany couldn’t have hurt.

I dug up the Dylan memories after hearing a famous line from one of the other best known songs from this album — “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” — during a movie I attended recently with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth.

I was leery when Lizabeth suggested we see “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” It’s hard to find humor in a plotline that involves a teen boy driven, by dreams of jumping off a bridge, to checking himself into a psychiatric hospital.

It’s especially hard to fathom when you’re one of many Valley parents who’ve experienced life with a teen battling depression. There are more of us than you know — and our stories, our children’s stories, are too infrequently told.

Movies that mock people with mental illness are hurtful, even harmful — and never helpful. But “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” a film based on the young adult novel by Ned Vizzinni, tackles the topic of teen depression with sensitivity and more accuracy than most.

It’s really a tale of teen angst in the modern age — examining the dual pressure to conform and to perform for individuals at an age and stage saturated in the drives for exploration and independence.

The film’s main character is a 16-year-old living in Manhattan with an earnest mother, a workaholic father and an adoring little sister. Craig’s facing girl troubles, college applications and the feeling that he just doesn’t fit in.

During a five-day stay in the adult psychiatry unit (the fictional children’s unit is undergoing renovations), the troubled teen encounters various patients — including a smart, sarcastic middle-aged man with a serendipitous side (and a history of multiple suicide attempts).

Comedian turned actor Zach Galifianakis deserves at least an Oscar nomination for delivering his performance as Bobby.

Keir Gilchrist’s performance as Craig is authentic and compelling, and each of the characters he encounters during his hospital stay reveal telling insights about human nature and our best efforts to both fight and embrace it.

They’re confused, just like the rest of us. But they offer remarkable observations and self-revelations, including this famous line from Dylan’s “It’s Alright Ma” — “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

It’s the take home message of this movie for both adults and teens. Time isn’t neutral, and it never stands still. But life is more than just doing more or having more. It’s seeing more and being more.

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story” is a delicious anecdote to the modern-day diseases of divisiveness and device-itis. It’s proof that Bob Dylan still has much to offer folks of all generations, and that film is a vehicle well-suited to fostering parent/child discussions of things that truly matter.

– Lynn

Note: “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, is rated PG-13 and runs just 91 minutes. Fans of the movie also can enjoy Vizzinni’s novel and a movie soundtrack recording (score by Toronto band Broken Social Scene). Art aficionados will appreciate the film’s homage to the powers of music and art. Theater buffs will enjoy the performance of award-winning actress Viola Davis (honored most recently for her performance in a revival of “Fences” on Broadway).

Coming up: Holiday blockbusters — and beyond, Movies & mental illness, Once upon a piano recital, The world of film