The rock group Hanson are big fans of the film The Blues Brothers. How do I know? I’ve seen the video for their latest song, “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin'”
The song was released as a single back in April, but the video has been getting a lot of play on VH1 and the MTV networks as of late. The four minute eleven second clip, directed by Todd Edwards, is almost a shot-for-shot remake of Ray Charles’ “Shake Your Tailfeather” scene in The Blues Brothers.
It’s not an exact copy. We are visiting Tay’s Music Exchange instead of Ray’s Music Exchange, Zac Hanson apparently doesn’t own a black suit, and since the Hanson song is longer than the Ray Charles’ song, the former deviates from the latter towards the end of the song.
And if the person stepping into the shoes of Murphy “Murph” Dunne in the Hanson video looks familiar, well, that’s because he is. He is recording legend “Weird Al” Yankovic. Yankovic is friends with Hanson, and appeared in the cameo as a favor.
For your viewing comparison, here is the original:
A couple of weeks back, we told you about nine separate film projects based on L. Frank Baum’s classic Oz fantasy novels. Amid all the faithful adaptations, post-modern re-tellings, revisionist sequels and prequels was the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, itself an adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s post-modern prequel novel of the same name.
Back in December 2008, Kristen Chenoweth, who was nominated for a Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for originating the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the show, was of the opinion that the producers would probably wait until they had just about wrung every possible cent out of the live show before committing to a cinematic version. Well, even after grossing over $2 billion in world-wide ticket sales, the Broadway show is still playing to packed houses and there are several productions currently being staged in Chicago, London, Japan and Germany and touring companies traveling the globe. But it looks like that film version is going ahead now rather than later.
Deadline is reporting that show’s musical’s producer Marc Platt, book writer Winnie Holzman, and songwriter Stephen Schwartz have begun meeting with potential directors for a film adaptation. Among those in contention or having thrown their hat in to the ring are JJ Abrams, James Mangold, Ryan Murphy, and Rob Marshall.
That’s an intriguing list of names, especially since neither Abrams nor Mangold have directed a straight out musical, though Magold did helm the Johnny Cash bio-pic Walk The Line. Although Murphy is one of the creative forces behind the hit musical TV series Glee, which has seen both original Wicked leads Chenoweth and Idina Menzel make guest star appearances, he isn’t really seen as much of a film director. Perhaps when his second film Eat Pray Love opens next month that opinion will change. With the mega hit Chicago on his resume, Marshall seems to be the strongest contender.
But are Chenoweth and Menzel getting a little too old to play the college-aged Glinda and Elphaba or can they convincingly pull it off in order to get an approximation of their stage performances immortalized on celluloid? Then again, Stockard Channing really didn’t look like a high school senior in Grease, now did she?
If it was decided to recast, who could they go with? Glee’s Lea Michele seems like a shoe-in for the role of Elphaba, especially if Murphy gets the directing gig. Anne Hathaway might make a good stab at the role as well. I would think Amanda Bynes would be a good Glinda, if she isn’t serious about her retirement.
In all the times that I’ve seen the Rogers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, be it the 1958 film version, a community theater production or playing lead trumpet in the pit orchestra when it was staged my senior year of high school, I have never once thought, “You know, I think this needs to be a grittier, more realistic portrayal of the war in the Pacific during World War Two.”
But Ileen Maisel and Bob Balaban have thought that perhaps South Pacific does need a bit of a make over. According to Variety, the pair are starting to develop a “harder-edge version of the iconic musical,” through their production company Chicagofilms. But this new version will keep all of the original musical’s upbeat songs. So no matter what kind of character makeover they put nurse Ensign Nellie Forbush through to give her that hard edge, she’s still at some point going to be belting out “A Cockeyed Optimist.”
So what exactly will a “harder-edged” version of South Pacific look like? Lt. Cable being shot down in a hail of bullets in a scene similar to Saving Private Ryan? If they stick closer to Michener’s original material, the short story collection Tales Of The South Pacific, the Emil de Becque character meets a grisly end with his severed head impaled on a stake, which doesn’t sound like a very enchanted evening to me.
Two summers ago, it seemed like New Line was very hot to have a sequel to their 2007 hit musical Hairspray, even going so far as to announce it for the summer of 2010.Well, here it is and a glimpse at the release calenders will show you that Hairspray 2 is nowhere to be found.
Director Adam Shankman broke the news this week while he was doing publicity for his upcoming appearance on the new season of the series So You Think You Can Dance. He doesn’t sound particularly upset by it, nor does he specify whether it was a creative or business decision.
I’m going to kill that rumor now, that got killed. It’s ok, I was so happy with the first one, let’s leave well enough alone. It’s all good.
Can’t say that I’m not relieved. While I enjoyed Hairspray, I felt no need or urge to follow-up the characters to see how they were getting along after the credits rolled. And let’s face it, how many musicals have had successful sequels? The only one I can think of is Funny Lady (1975), a follow up to the 1968 film adaptation of Funny Girl.
And from a business sense, I can see why they wouldn’t want to go forward unless they had a story that they truly thought was great. None of the first film’s cast’s contracts had clauses that would oblige them for a sequel. The producers would need to negotiate new deals with everyone for their participation, and I imagine that it would be costlier this time around. A large budget line for your cast means you’ll need to make more at the box office to break even.
Bad news Mamma Mia! Fans. If you were hoping for a return trip to that Greek island where everyone spontaneously breaks into ABBA songs, you may have to cancel your travel plans. While making the publicity rounds for Percy Jackson And The Olympians, Pierce Brosnan told Empire that “I don’t think it’s happening,” when asked about the possibility of a Mamma Mia! sequel becoming a reality.
Although it opened opposite box office juggernaut The Dark Knight in the summer of 2008, Mamma Mia! still managed to pull almost $610 million at the worldwide box office against its rather small $52 million budget. That kind of return automatically triggers talk and speculation of a sequel. And the talk has flowed in the last 18 months or so about a sequel with even a rumor circulating that the proposed second film wouldn’t even feature the music of ABBA!
I can’t say that I’m too disappointed by this news. I wasn’t that impressed with the film outside of the production of the music. And sequels to popular film musicals never really seem to work out. Grease 2, anyone?
Robert Zemeckis is planning a trip to Pepperland. Using the same motion-capture animation techniques that he used for Beowulf and the upcoming A Christmas Carol, Zemeckis is gearing up to remake Yellow Submarine, the classic animated film featuring the Beatles. Variety is reporting that Disney lawyers have been working for the last several months to clear up rights issues surrounding the possible project, which could also spawn Broadway and Cirque du Soleil stage productions.
In the original 1968 animated film, the Fab Four are recruited to help defend the undersea world of Pepperland from the invading Blue Meanies. Featuring numerous Beatles songs and some rather trippy design and animation, the film was a definite hit with audiences, who sometimes brought along their own recreational pharmaceuticals to further enhance the experience.
Normally, the type of motion capture technology Zemeckis uses for his films helps to make the three-dimensional, computer generated animation move more realistically and life like. Is Zemeckis planning on mapping the original film’s psychedelic character design on to realistic, motion-captured movement? Definitely an intriguing thought, especially since Zemeckis is planning on doing the film in 3D.
With Paul McCartney in the midst of a sold out tour and anticipation building for next month’s release of the Beatles supplement for the Rock Band video game, there certainly is a boom in interest in the Fab Four. But will that interest still be there in 2012, when Zemeckis hopes to premier the film in conjunction with the Summer Olympics?
It has always struck me as odd that Hollywood has not investigated the idea of turning rock and roll concept albums into film. As potential film projects, they certainly seem like attractive prospects- They already have a built in storyline, score and fan base. But with the exception of director Ken Russell’s Tommy, based on The Who’s classic album, and the short film Kilroy Was Here, which the rock band Styx screened on tour in 1983 to promote the same-titled album which yielded the hit “Mr. Roboto,” I am at a loss to think of when Hollywood looked to a pre-existing rock and roll album as the source for a film.*
Perhaps comic-turned-director Bobcat Goldthwait will change all that if his planned rock musical film, an adaptation of the Kinks’ 1975 concept album Schoolboys In Disgrace, comes to fruition. During an interview with CHUD to promote his upcoming film World’s Greatest Dad, Goldthwait stated that he is currently developing storyboards for the film to help him convince potential investors of the project’s viability.
The album was released at the end of the band’s short-lived “theatrical period,” which saw Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies turning his hand from pop hits to broader, sprawling rock operas. The story of a school boy who is continually humiliated and punished by a sadistic school master until he eventually grows up to be a villain himself, serves as a prequel to two previous 1973 albums, Preservation: Act 1 and Preservation: Act 2, which kick started the theatrical period.
Goldthwaite has already met with Davies about the project and has received the singer’s blessing.
Due to numerous reasons, the Kinks’ “theatrical period” is probably the least familiar to modern listeners and casual fans, myself included. While this might not be ideal from the standpoint of the project already having a built-in audience, it does give Goldthwaite some latitude to develop the film’s plotline without having to worry that any deviation from the source material will put him under fire from fans. Goldthwaite has been very quietly building a decent resume as a director, starting with 1991’s cult classic Shakes The Clown, described by one critic as “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.” While a musical would be new territory for Goldthwaite to navigate as a director, I am sure that it will still carry his distinct darkly comic sensibilities.
And who knows, if the film hits, maybe it will give me the incentive to dig out my half-completed screenplay Celluloid Heroes out of my desk drawer.
*I am, of course, throwing out many of the rock and roll movies that featured rock acts as characters, oft times playing versions of themselves, or which draw some of their plot from a single song title like the Herman’s Hermits film Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.
Bodies flew through air, slid along the ground and moved between each other in with uncanny precision while a fast paced, swingin’ jazz tune thundered on the soundtrack. For many moviegoers who had come to theaters to see the Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson comedy Hellzapoppin’ in 1941, the dance routine was their first exposure to the exciting new jazz dance known as lindy hop. To generations of fans and practitioners of the dance who came after, it would be considered the greatest lindy hop routine ever choreographed.
Frankie Manning, the man who choreographed the routine as artistic director of the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers dance troupe, passed away this morning in New York City, just a few weeks shy of his 95th birthday.
Although born in Jacksonville, Florida, Manning grew up in New York City. As a teen, he began going to many of the dance halls in Harlem, demonstrating an ability to quickly learn moves of the other dancers and creating new one of his own. In 1935, he worked with his partner Frieda Washington to create the first “air step” or aerial. The pair kept the move a secret, finally unveiling it to win a dance contest at Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom.
That same year, Savoy bouncer Herbert White organized several of the Savoy’s best dancers into the performance group Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, with Manning being the one who would choreograph a majority of their routines. The group toured extensively and appeared on Broadway. Demand for their performances became so great, that White would send out numerous groups all under the same name. One group, without Manning, appeared in the Marx Brothers’ 1937 classic A Day At The Races as part of the musical number “Who Dat Man?”
Shortly after the filming of the Hellzapoppin’ routine, see below, Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers disbanded as many male members of the group, Manning included, were being inducted into the Army to fight World War II. Manning served in the South Pacific. After the war, he formed the dance group the Congeroos, which toured from 1947 to 1955. The group made one film appearance, the 1948 musical Killer Diller, where they danced to “Basie’s Boogie” performed by Andy Kirk’s orchestra.
After the dissolution of the Congeroos, Manning retired from performing, going to work for the New York City post office for three decades. He would return to dancing in 1986 when he was approached by Lindy Hop enthusiasts who wanted to learn the dance from one its originators. Manning soon found himself teaching to a new generation of dancers around the world. He also provided choreography for the dance hall scenes in Spike Lee’s 2000 film Malcolm X. He also was one of the Tony award winning choreographers of the Broadway musical Black And Blue.
On a more personal note, this news has incredibly saddened me. After film, one of the great loves of my life is swing dancing. I have had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Manning a few times over the last decade or so at a couple of different workshops and dance events. He was always an energetic instructor and someone who loved what he was doing.
Next Tuesday, February 3, marks the 50th Anniversary of the first tragic deaths to occur in the burgeoning rock and roll genre. A small plane took off from a Fargo, North Dakota airport. Aboard it where three of rock and roll’s fastest rising stars- Buddy Holly, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Ritchie Valens. Anxious to get to the next stop on their tour, the three elected to fly instead of take their tour bus, which was having heater problems. Shortly after take off at 1:00 am, the plane lost control and crashed into a nearby cornfield, killing all three performers and their pilot. The tragedy would serve as the basis of Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie.”
Of the three, only Valens would ever make an appearance in film. Alan Freed, the popular disc jockey credited with popularizing the phrase “rock and roll,” was starring in a number of low-budget rock and roll movies that featured skeletal-thin plots on which to hang performances by a number of rock’s emerging stars. Just prior to embarking on the “Winter Dance Party” tour with Holly and Richardson, Valens filmed a performance in the last of the movies that Freed would appear in, Go Johnny Go. Here is Valens singing “Oh My Head,” interrupted slightly during the guitar solo by the need for the film’s threadbare plot to move forward.
Of course, Valens’s short, spectacular and ultimately tragic life would be the subject of the 1987 hit film La Bamba with Lou Diamond Phillips as in the starring role. Note that the morbidly ironic line “No more Peggy Sue,” a reference to the hit song by Valens’ fellow ill-fated passenger Buddy Holly, was cut. (The below clip carries through the rest of the scene in which the song appeared, so there is some NSFW language.)
And here’s the trailer for the film. (And yes, that is Stray Cat Brian Setzer in one quick shot as rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran. )
A while back we mentioned the possibility of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, adapted from Gregory Maguire’s best seller about what happened in Oz before Dorothy showed up, making its way to the silver screen.
Moviehole recently chatted with Kristin Chenoweth, the actress who originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway production of the show, who had this to say about the chances of Wicked winging its way to the big screen-
Well, will it ever be made? Yes, I do think it will be made. I think – you know, there’s some sort of thing going on right now where everyone’s hearing that there’s going to be a movie. You know, there will be a movie. But I believe – and I could be wrong, but I believe it will be years before we see it as a movie, because – you know, Universal will really want to make sure that they suck it dry, so to speak in all the theaters. And if you look at movies like Chicago and Phantom of the Opera those were 20, 25 years after the fact. And I could see, definitely, me playing Madame Morrible at that point. But I hope they really do it soon, so that I’m young enough to play Glinda.
Hopefully, someone will get the ball rolling on this one. I saw Chenoweth in the show on Broadway a few months after it had opened and thought her performance was top notch. In fact, it would be great if the producers could re-team Chenoweth with her Broadway co-star Idina Menzel, as both their interpretations should be captured on film. Universal might want to get moving on a film adaptation as Chenoweth has suddenly found herself with some unexpected free time following ABC’s stupid decision to cancel Pushing Daisies, on which she co-starred.