Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Comments on Numb3rs (TV show, 2005)

I think I agree with just about everything said in the first two comments of this thread:

Including that I think Liz is attractive (though I'm a straight female) and Robin seems a little dull as a character.  If they'd given her more time on the show, she/her relationship with Don might have been better.

I don't mind that they stretch some of the math until it breaks. :-p  I recognize that a lot of this is only possible in TV-world, but I generally like the characters and I think David Krumholtz does a good job of really sounding like he BELIEVES what he's saying and he makes me believe that his character is really that passionate about math.

I sympathize with the people who are annoyed by the relationships and just want to hear the math parts (however bogus--or maybe not-bogus, I'm no math expert--it is, they usually make it sound interesting and plausible); but since I like most of the characters, I don't mind a little relationship drama.  Sometimes it's annoying, sometimes it's good. Larry can be really funny, really annoying, or just weird.  The cast went through some changes (and people randomly disappear for an episode or two all the time.  They usually throw in 1 or 2 lines to explain their absence, which I appreciate, but it always feels a little odd when somebody is suddenly just gone.).

I miss Megan; she was a good character.  What happened to her actress?  I liked her relationship with Larry, after she left, his character changed (which is fine, and I guess somewhat realistic...actually he changed after his trip into space, which I suppose would also probably change a person significantly!)  Diane Farr doesn't seem like the most attractive woman in the world to me, and her voice is a little more nasal than is usual...but I really liked her; and her leaving the series seemed sort of abrupt, which makes me wonder if there was something else going on (her leaving for another show, a contract or salary dispute...?)

I also wish Millie (Mildred, played by Kathy Najimy) was in more episodes...I think she was only in 6, but even in those, she actually had an arc.  I started out hating her in her first episode, and loving her by her last episode.  I can understand why some people might not like her, but I loved her!  She is a little bitchy at first...and she points out a problem with Amita/Amita's sort of putting Charlie first...but a little unfair...

The constantly rotating cast is both a strength and a weakness of the show.

I kinda feel that the math starts to REALLY take a backseat around Season 5...they start having lots of fun with special effects and it was more about creating pretty visuals.  I liked the little throwback to Season 1 (first episode?) with David explaining the sprinkler analogy in Season 5 Episode 21, "Disturbed".

After awhile, it seemed like the "explanations" were just token speeches to showcase their fun new effects and sometimes were unclear.  After the first season or two they just stop arguing with him about how or why or whether or not it will work, and instead they just listen to him talk, nod, and turn him loose.  Though they tried to show that the agents actually understood what he's doing by having Liz occasionally throw in comments that show she remembers something he said before, or in another episode.

Nunb3rs – warm & cool lighting

References to Ridley Scott? J/ Bladerunner – Season 3 Episode 8 Hardball (about 14 minutes in)

Ongoing “storyline”…a little disjointed; Characters in and out

Megan is good but disappears; she and Larry are good but Megan leaves show

Liz ok, Amita ok, first woman ok, Nikki? (African-American woman?) ok  Don’s lawyer girlfriend disappears and reappears all the time

Problem – Liz & Don?

Recurring characters
--LAPD Drug/gang guy?
--Bill Nye
--Medical Examiner (lady who is in Dexter)
--Charlie’s rival
--baseball genius kid
--Lou Diamond Philips sniper (Edgerton)
--The Fonz Henry Winkler?


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skincare Myths and Gimmicks

I really, REALLY hate the myth that your skin can "get used to" a product.  I do believe that you may gradually build up a tolerance to certain ingredients (over years) but I don't think it's going to just stop working after a few months.  So maybe in a few years, you may want to find a product with a higher concentration of ingredients that work well for you.
What I really think is that somebody in marketing made this up to increase sales.  Or lots of people at the counters made it up to "explain" why a product "stopped" working, to make more sales.  It's just a selling ploy.

I don't believe a "BB cream" is really anything more than a new name for a tinted moisturizer (usually with SPF)?  All of the ones I’ve seen claim to brighten, hydrate, protect, prime, etc…all of which is what a tinted moisturizer does as well.  It isn't that I want companies to stop producing them, or creating new products or TMs (especially since the ones I've seen have been generally pretty good) it just generally bothers me that they felt the need to call them “BB creams” instead of tinted moisturizer, to capitalize on the craze.  It feels like another marketing gimmick.  I suppose as long as it's a good product, I shouldn't care.
This is a comment I made on John Su's blog, The Triple Helix Liasion, as LadyIsla.  Sidenote, John's blog is incredible! (edit: he's stopped posting...):
Calling these products “BB Creams” is just creating another needless category of products, like Eye creams, Neck creams, etc. Some Western companies are bringing out their own versions of BB Creams now, and if they manage to make another good tinted moisturizer, that’s great; but I am pretty much fed up with the endless marketing ploys, just slapping new names on a slightly different product. I do admit, it is nice that the items that are named “BB Creams” do tend to include an SPF and moisturizer, but it’s still annoying to me.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Urban Decay Naked & Naked 2 (For my own reference)

For my reference mostly!

Naked Palette shades:

Exclusive to palette now:  Sidecar, Hustle, Creep
All others available in new formula as singles

Naked 2 Palette shades:
-Booty Call:
-Snake Bite / Snakebite:

Still exclusive to Naked 2 Palette:
only Booty Call
all others now available in new formula as singles

Monday, April 9, 2012

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Part 2: 90s Versions!) : still in progress

For my general opinion of this show (I Love It!) and quick overview of the songs, go here:
Also at that link is the first version I'm reviewing/upon which I am commenting, the Original Broadway Cast (OBC) from 1982

This note, again:   I am reviewing these based on the recording only; I can't say too much about what the original live production would have been like (I wasn't even alive when the first one was on Broadway); but these are my impressions of the production based on the recording, and any pictures I've found in the CD booklet or online.

Next, we have:
1991 Original London Cast:
Linzi Hateley as the Narrator--I like her quite a lot. Some pronunciations sound odd to me, but I'm guessing it's just British-English vs American-English phonetics.  Oh, yes, and it's "Jozeph" (with a [z] sound instead of an [s]).  Her phrasing is a unique and not too distracting.

 Jason Donovan as Joseph:

B&B  This is another reason why I think this show is pretty amazing--I believe this was the 3rd live performance of this that I'd seen, and up until this point, I had always counted "Those Canaan Days" as my least favorite song and probably the lowest point of the show for me (the other low-ish point being "Close Every Door").  I really disliked "Those Canaan Days."  However, I don't know exactly HOW they did it, but the brothers in this version were GREAT.  They were so good, that I found myself really LIKING "Those Canaan Days".  And somehow...that memory carries me through that song to this day; in all the recordings I have.  I think I used to skip that track fairly often whenever I listened to the show, now I don't bother, I listen straight through.  Weird?

Live:  Civic
Unfortunately most of what I remember is being very disappointed in the Song of the King, because the guy who was Pharoah seemed a little dull and not very funny.

Now...I may be misremembering this; so anyone who knows the production I'm talking about can feel free to correct me!  But I seem to recall that when the local newspaper featured it, they interviewed the guy playing Pharoah; and when interviewed, I believe he said something to the effect of, "I'm not hamming it up in this role as much because most people interpret Pharoah as Elvis, and I'm trying to give a more realistic portrayal of Elvis."  (I'm sorry if this is wrong; but this is what I remember; but hey, it's possible my brain just made it up...)  This is a ridiculous thing to do though, because nobody comes to Joseph to see a "realistic" Elvis impersonation, we come to see a funny Elvis caricature as Pharoah.  I suppose if you're a huge Elvis fan, you may be offended by silly caricatures of him (I shudder to think what a huge Elvis fan would say about Rum Tum Tugger...) but, well, it's supposed to be fun and funny.  I appreciate all the good Pharoahs a lot more after seeing the Civic production.

Tangled vs The Princess & the Frog: work-in-progress

Both of these movies are better than I expected.  They have some of the magic of Disney that had been missing.  They also came out one after the other, so it seems fair to compare them.  I like them both; but I'm having an extremely hard time figuring out which one I like more, and why.  So here are some of my thoughts (Some were from immediately after seeing it).

I saw The Princess & The Frog just yesterday evening!  And I like it quite a bit, too.  I'm really not much of a Randy Newman fan, and the whole score is by him.  (I think that may be my real problem with Toy Story--for some reason, I've just never been fond of it--not enough music.  "You got a friend in me" is not a song I really enjoy much, I find it a little boring, though the sentiment is nice.)  However, I have to admit, if he's NOT the one singing the song...I generally like his music.  He doesn't have a very big vocal range, so all his songs sound the same--not much you can do with a melody if you only have about an octave to work with, you know?  I kinda think he should give up singing and be a composer since then he can make more varied melodies.

I was not a huge fan of Ray, the lightning bug voiced by Jim Cummings though it's nice to see him getting a bigger role.  Dr. Facilier despite being obviously evil, has a bit of that con-man thing going for him, like James Woods's Hades in Hercules, and his villian song is both funny and scary, it has everything a good villain song should have, and a great voice to go with it.  BUT Dr. Facilier's plan seems a little silly (gotta get somebody to impersonate the prince, marry the...mayor's daughter?  and then...somehow get to be (elected?) mayor and take over the town somehow?  He could have just urged the prince to marry Charlotte or something...and even then, it's still a little silly...after all, it's a MAYOR...somehow he can urge the town to do things if his toady marries Charlotte?)  Still, some neat songs...I'd have to say my least favorites are both of the Jim Cummings ones--he gets 2 whole songs, oddly enough...and an actual major (sort of peripheral but still major) character role (instead of filling in for Christopher Lloyd's singing, or doing a few singing lines for Jeremy Irons, or doing random voices...admitttedly he's been Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, but he wasn't the original for either...and Rasoul, the chief guard in Aladdin, but that's a really minor role...)  However, I just didn't like him that much, and although his songs were fine (and had nice melodies/beats), they weren't the best ones, IMO.

I'm not sure if I like this more than Tangled or not.  I lean a bit toward the music in Princess and the Frog...but like The Nostalgia Critic said, the story in Tangled is better.  Hunchback has jumped to #2 on my list because of the excellent music (since about a year or two ago), though, so maybe in a few years, Princess will outlast Tangled for me.  I'm not sure, though, since I liked the Tangled story a lot--and Hunchback still has a story that I think makes sense (generally).  And the music in Tangled is a tad more generic in general...then again, Randy Newman...can be a little generic as well--his music hangs together well though, and he did the score, too, so the music has a nice overall cohesiveness.

I thought Doug was a little unfair to Tangled, too, since Mandy Moore wasn't TOO distracting as a voice actor (okay, it was a BIT distracting sometimes--especially with the hair change at the end--isn't that one of Mandy Moore's actual hairstyles, that they gave her?), and I liked the guy (haven't seen Chuck or whatever he's in).  And that horse was funny.  I wasn't too impressed with the big gang of tough guys (kinda saw that one coming) but it's more about our leads.  It actually bugged me a bit that the parents didn't have any LINES (other than sighs) but he did make a good point, they did a nice job with the animation, so that they didn't HAVE to say anything...but it was a minorly distracting point, that they didn't say anything, when they finally find their daughter after over a decade!  I was going, "What, you couldn't pay a couple of extra voice actors for Mom and Dad?"  Then again, maybe it's better that way...I dunno.

In any case, the side characters in Tangled don't get as much screen time, which I kinda liked (although, I did kinda like the alligator in Princess and the Frog--though James complains that they can't talk to him anymore when they change back to!).  I thought Jim Cummings bug had a little too much screen time; and the Shadow Man doesn't get enough.

In any case...Doug is right, somewhere in those two movies there is a REALLY GOOD movie, one that could be a Top 5 kind of movie...but neither is quite there.

I think I'm going to have to revisit them every so often and see if they move up or down on my list.  It's much too soon to tell if they're going to be lasting favorites for me or not. :)  Wow...why do I waste so much time analyzing this?  Well...okay I do know why...Disney movies are still some of my ALL-TIME favorites... :-p

Somehow the Princess and the Frog plot didn't bug me that much.  I guess because it had fairy tale logic going on, where you need the prince to become a frog, so the bad guy turns him into a frog.  I think I actually missed that Dr Facilier had more of a plan than just strewing chaos, ala the Joker.  I watched the movie with the commentary, and they actually talked about Randy Newman and his score and how they wanted a classic American sound.  I enjoyed the music, and the first time I watched I didn't even realize Randy Newman did the music, since he didn't sing.  Classic Family Guy did a joke about Randy Newman which pretty well sums up his personal music for me, just his limited voice and piano.  You've Got a Friend wasn't bad at first, but it gets kind of old.

I didn't care for Mandy Moore, not so much because she was a celeb, but she wasn't much of a voice actor.  She was just a basic voice, not a character to me.  I liked Rapunzel, but I didn't love her.

Yeah, I've seen that Family Guy bit, and they do have a point.  They actually get to use band/orchestra instruments for Princess and the Frog though, not just piano, which certainly helps with the whole "Randy Newman sound" problem.  (Probably has a bit more of a blues/jazz feel and more brass instruments in it than usual for Disney).
Maybe my standards are too low (doubtful since I looooove to be snarky...) but I really liked both movies quite a bit.  I am feeling a leaning toward Tangled overall but the Princess music seemed better...I kinda want to watch them both again.  As :-p  But I should study for my STAT quiz.

I guess I do appreciate that they tried to make Rapunzel and Tiana have more realistic personalities and such (though they're still Disney, so it's not REALLY realistic). They seem more like real people than most of the other Disney ladies.  I'm glad they didn't go with what's-her-face from that Film Brain video and 27 Dresses, whose method of trying to make a realistic character is to be painfully awkward and fake-quirky.

New Notes (4/7/13):
Prince Naveen is pretty awesome.  You can really see that he's maybe a little selfish but quite charming...and FUNNY!  He's got a personality and it's an engaging one.  Lack of personality has plagued Disney Princes for ages.  I liked Prince Philip but its because of his singing voice; and Prince Eric well...what personality does he have?  He's "awesome" because he stabs Ursula WITH A SHIP but that's not really a personality.

Flynn Rider (or whatever his real name is...Eugene Fitzherbert?) is, well...a tad lame.  Maybe trying a little too hard.  I'm not sure if the character is supposed to BE smooth or just THINK he's smooth.  And then suddenly turns out to be a really sweet guy?   In a comparison between them, I think Naveen wins.

Villains in both are great.  Mother Gothel is manipulative but in such a way that you can see why Rapunzel (having no other comparison) actually believes that she cares about her.  Even pulls the old guilt-trip masterfully.  Dr. Facilier, as previously mentioned, has that smooth-talking con man thing going for him.  You understand why Naveen, being a bit silly and looking for fun, decides "heck, why not, I'll follow this guy into his obviously evil-looking lair.  I mean, he can't possibly be serious, this creepy stuff is just for atmosphere, there aren't any real evil demons in there..."

Minor characters:
--The horse in Tangled is great.  The chameleon is well, just cute but not really anything else.  The gang of thugs...are not really there much.  They're fine but nothing special--just mildly funny.
-- Princess:  Well, there's Jim Cummings bug, who I didn't care for, and the alligator who is fine but didn't really strike me as particularly great, and only mildly funny.  Mama Odie was good, though her song was maybe a little too generic lyrically.

Tangled had one good minor character, the horse, who is pretty darn funny actually, but really, it's just 3 characters:  Rapunzel, Flynn, and Mother Sorceress/Gothel.  There really aren't any side characters.  The surly thief brothers are barely even characters at all.  The gang of thugs had potential but...I'm not sure what's missing.  Maybe they could have focused on one or two and given them just a tad more screen time? 

Princess:  Charlotte Le Bouff "Lottie" (Tiana's friend) was a great character (so nicely done!  Obviously cares for Tiana while still being somewhat silly and spoiled.--and she's very funny.  Too much of ONE minor character, Jim Cummings bug.  He's got so much screen time I'm tempted to call him a main character.  I guess I'm just not big on a cajun hillbillies.  Sorry.  Just doesn't work for me.

So we have, maybe not enough minor characters vs too much minor character?

Compared to my top ones...
Beauty and the Beast--could not imagine this movie being as good without Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts...even Chip.  All the furniture that doesn't talk but still have personalities. 

Hunchback--Ok, I just love the way they did Phoebus. Not sure it's fair to call him a minor character.  Love Paul Kandel's Clopin though.  Djali, the goat, was, eh, ok.  I actually rather liked the gargoyles, even though I know some people hate them.  I thought they were okay comic relief, even if it's weird that they really do come to life but only when Quasimodo's alone...and are actually physically helping Quasimodo fight off the guards at the end...which I acknowledge is a little weird...

Aladdin:  Abu--ok, Iago--ok...and what would this movie BE without the Genie?  Nothing.  

Hercules: Danny deVito's Phil is funny, Pegasus is..well, eh.  Pain and Panic are...well, y'know, I do think they've somewhat funny.  Even some of the gods and random townspeople are fun.

Jungle Book--okay, this movie is just FULL of great minor characters.  I mean, Baloo and Bagheera are great, and I suppose are maybe also main characters, but I also love the vultures, the elephants, the monkeys...honestly the "villain" is trebled (King Louie maybe the 3rd) or at least doubled (Kaa) & the main villain Shere Khan.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Part 1; Overview & OBC) - ALMOST DONE!

This is going to be long.  Possibly a few entries worth here, since I will be commenting on every version of this that I know of.  Why, you ask?  Well, probably because I'm insane and this is one of my favorite musicals--it's extremely family-friendly and uses (parodies?) a lot of different "styles" of music in it (country/western, Elvis-style rock, calypso, etc.), so people with differing musical tastes can enjoy it. In fairness, though, it is a Broadway-flavored parody, which means it won't be completely accurate in sound.  Also, despite being a bible story, it doesn't feel too preachy. It's hard to mess this one up, and even a mediocre production can be very entertaining.

Quick definition:
A moderately successful show is one that recoups its costs.  It usually takes a run of 10 months to a year. []

General Information and Opinions: There have been 2 Broadway productions of Joseph, the original and a revival.  From  The former lasted from Jan 27, 1982 - Sep 4, 1983, 747 performances, certainly a respectable length, over a year, and the latter from Nov 10, 1993 - May 29, 1994, 231 performances.  Both most likely recouped their costs; and the latter gave rise to some national/regional tours. Neither lasted for any record-breaking amount of time, unlike some of ALW--Andrew Lloyd-Webber-'s other shows (Cats, Phantom of the Opera, etc.), but I feel this one is just as good as those, but in a very different way. Not as weird or artsy as Cats, and not as dramatic and soaring as Phantom, just a relatively simple story with a lot of fun music.  There are no vocal "pyrotechnics," and extremes of vocal range are not used too often (perhaps why it is so frequently done; it doesn't require singers with huge ranges, though of course there is room for a few vocal flourishes).
Since it is sung-through (i.e. there are no scenes of dialogue), the show really moves along. After all, you go to a musical for the music and the songs, so sometimes the scenes of dialogue can really drag things down. There are some slow-ish spots, but I never feel like it drags. Also, the music, though not as lush nor as edgy/rock-inspired as some of ALW's other shows, is catchy and, well...just fun. I'm going to have to revise this when I figure out what word I was looking for. Memorable, maybe? This is NOT to say that I don't like Cats or Phantom, by the way. I'll tackle those eventually.

Anyway, I know very few people would be interested in...let's see, how many do I have...5 different recordings and a movie of this (and if I'm feeling crazier I'll do a quick review of the 3 or 4 stage versions I've seen), but's my blog, I can do what I want. :-p This is mostly just to make use of all the random knowledge and opinions I have rattling around in my head.

I may end up doing this as a overview and then specifics on each version.  Experimentation! :) So far I'm just going through each version in order from earliest to latest, song by song, making various comments.

Notes:  I am reviewing these based on the recording only; I can't say too much about what the original live production would have been like (I wasn't even alive when the first one was on Broadway); but these are my impressions of the production based on the recording, and any pictures I've found in the CD booklet or online.

EDIT: Ok, overview of all songs in general, first.
Act 1
**Prologue - Narrator: Narrator's intro for the frame story. Many versions include a children's chorus to whom the Narrator sings. This song was added for the 1982 Broadway production.
**Any Dream Will Do - Joseph, Children: Fairly standard broadway ballad. Added in this spot in the show AFTER the 1982 production.
**Jacob & Sons - Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Children, Ensemble: uptempo, fun song for exposition and quick character introduction
**Joseph's Coat - Jacob, Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Children, Ensemble: The Color song! Red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach...more setup for the story.

**Joseph's Dreams - Narrator, Brothers, Joseph: Not sure what to call this, but the latter part of the song is jazzy. (Joseph is kind of a jerk in this...oblivious, too.  Honestly, you have to sympathize with the Brothers somewhat!)
**Poor, Poor Joseph - Narrator, Brothers, Children: I have to call this partly rap. Yes, rap. It sounds lame I know, but it works. Somehow. The Brothers are such...punks? :-p  Joseph is sold to the slavers.
**One More Angel in Heaven - Reuben, Narrator, Brothers, Wives, Jacob, Children: This a country/western style song, sung with exaggerated twang and styling. Usually includes an uptempo dance sequence (celebration) after Jacob totters off somewhere to mourn. The Brothers celebrate like jerks.
**Potiphar - Children, Narrator, Male Ensemble, Mrs Potiphar, Potiphar, Joseph: This is a 1920s Charleston (?) number according to Wikipedia.
[King Herod's Song from Jesus Christ Superstar is a much more ragtime piano/Charleston-sounding song to me.]
**Close Every Door - Joseph, Children:  slow ballad; saddest part of the show.  When I was younger I found it way too boring and sad but we need some contrast before the NEXT number...and really, a contrast in tone is needed somewhere.  The song has some emotional depth (If my life were important I would ask: will I live or die? but I know the answer lies far from this world); without completely losing hope (Children of Israel are never alone, for I know I shall find my own peace of mind...) and it develops Joseph into more of a character instead of being completely bland.  Lets Joseph's actor show off some vocal prowess.
**Go, Go, Go Joseph - Narrator, Butler, Baker, Ensemble, Joseph, Guru, Children:  Well, after that sad, serious interlude...DISCO!  This song starts out sounding a lot like the last number, starts slow until we get to the chorus.  And then it explodes into a dance party!  The lyrics of the chorus are not particularly deep but the tune is so darn catchy that I stopped caring long ago.  A fun, energetic song to close out the first act.

Act II

**Pharaoh's Story - Narrator, Children:  The Narrator gives us some more exposition/background and foreshadows Joseph's rise.  Let's the Narrator show off some vocal prowess.
**Poor, Poor Pharaoh - Narrator, Butler, Pharaoh, Children:  Sung-through scene.
**Song of the King - Pharaoh, Ensemble:  And here we have probably the high point of the show.  We finally meet the Pharoah...and he's Elvis.  Or rather, he acts and sings like a parody/exaggeration of Elvis.  [And if you think that's weird, just consider this:  There's an Elvis-inspired cat in Cats.]
**Pharaoh's Dream Explained - Joseph, Ensemble, Children - Joseph explains the meaning of Pharoah's dream (obviously)
**Stone the Crows - Narrator, Pharaoh, Children, Joseph, Female Ensemble - Joseph becomes the Pharoah's advisor and saves Egypt from starvation.  Egypt loves Joseph.
WIKIPEDIA LISTS AN ADDITIONAL SONG HERE, CALLED "King of My Heart -Pharaoh" which I have never heard/heard of. It was not in the most recent production I saw, either.
**Those Canaan Days - Simeon, Jacob, Brothers  -- a French ballad
**The Brothers Come To Egypt/Grovel, Grovel - Narrator, Brothers, Joseph, Female Ensemble, Children
**Who's the Thief? - Joseph, Brothers, Female Ensemble
**Benjamin Calypso - Judah, Brothers, Female Ensemble
**Joseph All the Time - Narrator, Joseph, Children
**Jacob in Egypt - Narrator, Jacob, Children, Ensemble
**Any Dream Will Do (Reprise) - Joseph, Narrator, Ensemble, Jacob, Children
**Close Every Door (Reprise) - Joseph, Children
**Joseph Megamix - Ensemble:  Reprise of nearly all the songs.  I love it!  Added here AFTER the 1982 production.

First up:
According to Wikipedia there was a 1969 concept album by Decca, which I do not have. I'll check it out if I see it.

I also see on Amazon a 1973 London Studio Cast, which I don't have. Listening to samples, I think I'll skip it--singers are a little dull, but it is neat to hear these early versions of the songs--you can hear the show/songs starting to take shape; and it's very clear how they progressed and were tweaked (tempo/phrasing) to become the polished later versions. On second thought...I may have to get this one eventually, too. Curse my collector's tendencies!
Also from Wikipedia: A recording of the full musical was released on the MCA label in 1974, again featuring Gary Bond, Peter Reeves, and Gordon Waller. This is the earliest recording of Joseph to eventually go to CD. Gordon Waller also appeared on another recording in 1979, featuring Tim Rice as the Narrator and Paul Jones as Joseph, on the Music For Pleasure label.

1982 Original Broadway Cast (OBC)
This is the first (or at least first recorded) version of the show that I have. I have to admit, I didn't hear it until I'd heard the next three versions; and so I was somewhat underwhelmed by the original. This is the only version that does not include "Any Dream Will Do" as the 2nd song on the CD; it is only the finale. There is no children's chorus in this version (I don't know if they had one and it wasn't recorded, or if they added it for later productions. It's probably a lot of trouble to coordinate.)

Laurie Beechman as the Narrator is fine, but probably my least favorite. Just listening to the prologue, she is a little too throaty and also slides and wails on notes ("a dreamer li-i-ike you" "all dream a looot") and sounds almost mournful. I'm not sure how much of this could be due to music trends at the time (wailing is usually in for female country singers...), but her voice doesn't have any edge. There's at least one example of wailing or sliding in just about any of her solo sections--the wails and slides make random lines sound overdramatic. I'm not sure if maybe the wailing helped her project or, not exactly BAD, but not my cup of tea (so, IMHO, kinda bad. :-p).

Joseph (Bill Hutton): Pleasant, unremarkable. Somewhat lackluster; not enough energy.

Prologue has actual piano sound instead of synth.

Poor, Poor Joseph--this version is mostly sung, instead of rap/spoken. Has a vaguely 80s pop? sound to it. Maybe that's why the newer ones, made in the 90s, use rap instead.? Though maybe the 90s version are supposed to still sound like the 80s, I'm not sure. Need somebody to help me here.
So maybe they can maybe change this one to whatever the current pop sound is...The 2000s versions should be using autotune then. :-p
The Narrator is all right in this song; a couple of unpleasant notes/wails, but her flair for over-dramatizing and throaty voice (plus a couple of growly words--i.e. blood & guts) works all right here.

One More Angel in Heaven--a very folksy, western version; with an audible clip-clop rhythm underneath. Levi (Steve McNaughton) is singing lead.

Potiphar--has him singing about himself in 3rd person and/or past tense part of the time instead of the narrator, which feels a little awkward sometimes.  I suppose this actor doesn't get much to do though, so it's more understandable; and it saves having the narrator running around in the scene (either invisible or as a random observer).

Go Go Go Joseph--Disco song.  Narrator's wailing at the beginning is a little OTT; it provides contrast but it grates on my ears.  Has a lot of random, slightly chaotic sounding vocalizing near the end--not sure if that was supposed to help with the "disco" style of this song.  It's IS something of a dance song in this version, not quite as high-energy as later versions though.  It's also much shorter; later versions repeat the chorus a few more times and have more dance interludes.

Pharoah Story--too much narrator wailing.

Song of the King--Cheesy Elvis impression with some cute...honky-tonk? piano and chorus...listen for a little "oooh, yeah-yeah-yeah" and "ooh-wheee-oooh". Cute touch, maybe someone decided it was too campy though, since it's not in the later ones.  Some of Pharoah's lines are a little too quiet, have to turn up the sound to hear them clearly. Seems like something easily fixed in the studio during mixing but maybe not.
I'm not an expert on Elvis, so maybe this is a terrible impression, I don't know. Elvis fans, tell me what you think!

Those Canaan Days--
Reuben (Robert Hyman) is singing lead.

Quick note on the CD I have: There is an error, Track 13 is just Those Canaan Days. Track 14 is The Brothers Come to Egypt/Grovel, Grovel/Who's the Thief?

Final comments:
The arrangements of the next 4 are all about the same.  I do like having this version, to hear an alternate arrangement of the songs--different tempos and slightly different parts emphasized.  Feels much less polished but perhaps a touch more...realistic?  sincere?  Unfortunately the sort of bland, uninspired Joseph and my dislike of the Narrator's voice really keep me from liking this one that much.  You may argue that Joseph is a bland character anyway, but I find

Lyrical changes
-still in your prime

Newest (2006)
no real string instruments in the orchestra

Trying too hard. Really chewing the scenery. It's for kids, so it's ok, but not my favorite.

Go Go Go Joseph--no spirit!...minimal background, trying something new with drums, but...feels lackluster.
motorcycle/really cheesy/fake revving sound?

Amy Adams--over-enunciating? Some very BRITISH vowels. Weird.
very artificial sounding background; very synth-y
Any Dream Will Do--weird phrasing, a little too...sweet?

Poor, Poor Joseph -Huh (to ...emphasize the rap?) Honestly, autotune would have been a better choice. :-p

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Favorite Disney Movies--still in progress

Favorite Disney Movies--They count as musicals. Animated, but musicals. :)
In Order, with some analysis.

Special notes: In Disney's case, I have to separate the source material from the "Disney Version" and evaluate them separately. This is Disney. Usually they do not make "faithful" adaptations. :-p I usually choose to ignore how badly they depart from the original story and just evaluate how well they tell their version of the story.
These are only fully animated ones...I am not counting Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Mary Poppins, Pete's Dragon, etc.  And actually...none of them except Mary Poppins even have a chance of making the list.  Mary Poppins...maaaaaybe top 10 but I'd have to give it another watch sometime.

1. Beauty & the Beast

Great story, Great, memorable songs, and great characters
Unique villain, with a unique villain song -- Gaston
Also, doubled--"The Mob Song (Kill the Beast)" is also a fantastic "villain song" (i.e. mob mentality a la The Crucible)
Non-useless, active heroine: Belle, who saves the Beast. :)

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame--I feel this one may require more explanation, and I am happy to provide some. ;)

First of all, if you had asked me this a year or two ago, I would have said this is maybe, and only MAYBE in my top 10 Disney movies. When I first saw this when I was younger, I hated it! I didn't understand what was going on, and I was scared and creeped out. It's taken me awhile to get over that first impression; but the darker, more adult themes make it still interesting now that I'm a little older. BUT, I'm not a proponent of the "darker is better" movement (don't get me started)--what REALLY rocketed this movie up my list is the music.

Despite some story/plot and character problems--JUDGE Claude Frollo? Uh...wasn't he a priest...and that he's tempted is so central that it's kinda the crux of the book...and an odd choice of subject material/odd choice for adaptation for a movie meant to watched by children...--but there is SO MUCH fantastic music (and a fantastic overall score including both soaring and weighty choral arrangements) that I give it the edge over Aladdin. Per the Nostalgia Critic's Disneycember review (should I provide a link?), they should perhaps have taken it farther--it got watered down some, since they had to attempt to make it more appropriate for children. However, they still took a lot of risks with it, and it's still only somewhat watered down. Except for the gargoyles, Djali the goat, and Achilles the horse (and some of the Achilles jokes will probably go over young children's heads), this is not that kid-friendly a movie, IMO!

Tom Hulce as Quasimodo is terrific--I don't think he has the best singing voice, but somehow his voice is just perfect for these songs. He brings energy, spirit, and sincerity to every song he sings. Demi Moore is good as Esmeralda (totally the opposite of her character in the book, but that's fine with me, since Esmeralda in the book is rather silly). Yes, she does need to be "saved" in typical Disney heroine fashion, at the end (and hey, it's an iconic part of the story, you can't leave it out!), but she saves herself pretty handily at the beginning. (Ok, she escapes and then Phoebus "saves" her by claiming sanctuary for her...but, if he hadn't done that, she could probably have just hidden there for a bit before sneaking back out to the Court of Miracles). She also saves Phoebus (two, no, three times: first from beheading, then drowning, and then hanging) and Quasimodo (from hanging and falling--though Phoebus has an assist with the latter). At least she wasn't kidnapped. :-p  Captured (along with the rest of the gypsies) and singled out, yes, but not kidnapped.

I really love Kevin Kline's Phoebus--heroic, but not stuffy (and not a jerk like he is in the book). Also, although they didn't do much with him for plot or character, Paul Kandel's Clopin is great. He seems to be a combination of Gringoire (narrator) and Clopin (gypsy chief) from the novel, since Disney's Clopin provides the frame (or at least, opening and closing) of the movie. And of course Quasimodo isn't as ugly as he is in the book, and is also not deaf. Again, I'm choosing to overlook inaccuracies.

And of course we can't overlook Tony Jay's Frollo. Now, I'm not saying "Hellfire" isn't a GREAT villain song...but I think that part of its effectiveness is due to its combination with the innocence of Quasimodo's "Heaven's Light," providing contrast.  Come to think of it, "Out There" opens with some lines from Frollo ("The world is cruel, the world is wicked. It's I alone whom you can trust in this whole city; I am your only friend...") which also serve as contrast; crushing Quasi's hopes, before they come slowly bubbling back up and burst out as "Out There". It's difficult for me not to feel ready to try anything after listening to "Out There." And Quasimodo's reprise of "Heaven's Light" is just heartbreaking.

And there's also "The Court of Miracles"--is also sort-of a villain song since it has something of that mob mentality feel like "The Mob Song."

I must admit, the gargoyles are pretty silly, but there IS a very solid basis for them in the book. They don't really bother me. There are some very funny lines in this movie that make this movie fun for adults AND children.

(list coming)
The Bells of Notre Dame (opening)
--good narrative opening; with heart-pounding choral sections, building to a huge climax

The plot deficiencies are not enough to bring it down--the story is still strong enough, despite being a bit more convoluted than usual for Disney.

3. Aladdin--It's very close, between this and Hunchback.
I love this movie, I really do. And it has a good amount of music...I just wish there was a bit more. The overwhelming amount of fantastic music in Hunchback is what puts it over, for me. Honestly, if you catch me in the right mood, I may say Aladdin over Hunchback, it's that close.

1. Arabian Nights (I must admit, I almost always forget about this song, despite it's being the opening, setting the tone for the whole thing).
2. One Jump Ahead (wonderful, funny song that introduces, explains, and excuses? Aladdin's character and behavior.  Charming.)
3.  One Jump Ahead (reprise) -- combined with the scene before it, shows he's a good guy. :)
3. Friend Like Me
4. Prince Ali
5. A Whole New World
6. Prince Ali (Jafar's Reprise)--only a few lines, but it counts, I suppose

I don't often notice the score in this one.
Robin Williams as the Genie does MAKE this movie, I suppose, as his humor makes it fun for all ages.

4. The Jungle Book? Haven't made a solid decision on this one.

5. ?? Hercules? Tangled? Mulan?...this spot is still up for grabs.