Film Review: “Vivo” Is Fun but Surprisingly Emotional

My review for Vivo on Film Festival Today!

I enjoyed it very much but it also really shocked me. It’s surprisingly intense, emotionally-speaking. This is a spoiler, but I think it’s important for anyone considering watching it: Vivo is primarily a grief story.

Vivo boasts absolutely stunning animation​… the soundtrack is catchy and charming and the songs span a wide range of genres​… the real magic occurs, though, when Vivo and Gabi harmonize, musically and narratively.​ ​It’s worth noting, however, that this is a grief story, which hits unexpectedly hard. Moments in which multiple characters express regret and desperation reach Pixar levels of potency in their ability to conjure tears​.​.. Yet, at other times, the story careens into side-quests, almost like a series of Odyssey-style vignettes, needing to overcome obstacles and, sometimes, literal monsters.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today:
“Vivo” Is Fun but Surprisingly Emotional


Film Review: “P!nk: All I Know So Far” Delivers Fun, Candor, and Some Great Music

My review for P!nk: All I Know So Far on Film Festival Today!

I’ve always liked P!nk, but after viewing this documentary, I am a big fan. I’m so impressed and have mad respect for her as an artist, a mom, and a person.

P!nk - All I Know So Far

This is an invitation to join P!nk and her family, while she and her band reach a particular milestone: playing Wembley Stadium. It’s exactly what it advertises itself to be, in the best sense …

P!nk’s devotion as a parent and the visible delight she takes in her music is absolutely transparent.
That is the core of what drives her and, thus, this documentary
.

Read the full review on Film Festival Today: “P!nk: All I Know So Far” Delivers Fun, Candor, and Some Great Music


Rad Covers

I recently put together a playlist that I’m rather proud of and wanted to share.
The art of covering a song is like a book-to-film adaptation; very common, easy to screw up, rarely taken for what its worth when done right.  These are some of my favorite covers, in attempt to give them some much-deserved love.

RAD COVERS on Spotify

CECILIA
Jesse Cook, orig. Simon & Garfunkel

Cecilia has always been one of my favorite songs by Simon & Garfunkel…one of my favorite songs in general, if I’m honest.  The catchy pace, the usual fantastic harmonies are all wonderful.  This particular cover has a deceptive lead-in that kicks up the Latin stylings to a more distinct level, giving it a richer flavor, enhancing the genius that was already there to begin with.  I heard this song over the speakers, through the din in a crowded cafe on a busy Saturday night.  It’s been a regular on my iPod and Spotify ever since.

 

AS THE WORLD FALLS DOWN
Girl in a Coma, orig. David Bowie (Labyrinth soundtrack)

dearly wish this song was covered more often, and with this much originality.  Girl in a Coma gives this haunting melody (one of my favorite soundtrack songs of all time) a powerful kick of electric guitar, while the lyrics are belted by a female voice.  It’s a great rendition which easily matches Bowie’s original.  I discovered this song by just searching through iTunes, specifically for a cover of this song; I consider myself very lucky to have found it.

 

ANNABELLE LEE
Sarah Jarosz, org. Edgar Allen Poe (poem)

I’ve never been a huge fan of Edgar Allen Poe, let alone this particular piece, but the arrangement, pacing and melody added to it by Sarah Jarosz makes it a whole different beast.  Whether intentionally done or not, also changing the voice to a woman, rather than a man, adds a far more complex layering to the piece and it’s a song I listen to over and over again.

 

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
Jim Sturgess, Dana Fuchs, orig. The Beatles

There’s a lot of conflicting opinion out there about the film Across the Universe.  I, for one, enjoy it immensely, largely (but not only) for the music.  This is one of my favorite selections from the soundtrack.  Doing what a cover does best, it strips away the expectations and gets to the core truth of Lennon and McCartney’s original words, then builds to a wonderful, powerful conclusion.

 

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Shatter Me

When Lindsey Stirling’s second album Shatter Me was released back in 2014, I was in the middle of a film production that was especially trying on my nerves. I was not an especially big fan of hers yet – I enjoyed her music well enough, though my favorites of her work were not tracks on her self-titled album (i.e. the Phantom of the Opera and Lord of the Rings medleys, her Christmas covers and the orchestral remix of Crystallize, which is still one of my favorites).  I realize looking back that the pieces I gravitated towards – especially prior to Shatter Me – are ones in which her violin, her voice, is more pronounced.  Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoy her first album.  Those songs are especially amazing to see live.  But what really, well, shattered me about her sophomore album was how much more of Lindsey there was in the music.  The violin was louder than the thumping bass and backbeats.  When she debuted her music video for Beyond the Veil, it quite literally blew me away.  It was a whole new ball game and I will go ahead and say that that was the moment I became an honest fan, rather than a friend of a fan or as a casual listener of her music.  I respect her very much as an artist and appreciate what she does in encouraging others to be different, take risks and follow their passions, even if it’s scary and even if you are rejected and shot down in the most harshest of ways.  That speaks to me (and so many others, I’m sure) on a deep, personal level and I will keep listening, keep buying and sharing her music because she only continues to get better.

Cheers, Lindsey.  I can’t wait to read your book.
Now…can we get a Christmas album?

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I’ll Have To Fly by UnusualSidekick

A Triumph: Lindsey Stirling’s “Shatter Me” Album Review

Lindsey-Stirling-Shatter-MeUntil recently, I hadn’t really considered myself an especially huge Lindsey Stirling fan. Sure, I liked her music well enough, but, in all honestly, techno and electronic aren’t exactly my favorite musical genres. When it comes to instrumental, lyric-less music, I generally prefer classical, to which I listen fairly often. My favorite piece by Stirling — prior to the release of Shatter Me — was, hands down, the orchestral remix of Crystalize. The transformation between that and the original is remarkable. For my part, the depth of the music, not to mention Stirling’s mad skills as a musician and violinist — is so much clearer there. As I’ve admitted, though, I’m generally going to prefer symphonic to electronic. Even with Stirling’s YouTube channel,  my favorite videos are the ones that feature more tangible instruments, playing in harmony with her violin (the Phantom and Lord of the Rings medleys, Mission Impossible, Assassin’s Creed, etc.) and her duets with vocal performers (John Legend, Peter Hollens, Pentatonix, etc.).

That being said, I was intrigued by Shatter Me and genuinely curious about where it would go. The remix of Crystallize seemed like such a step up; a shift forward in her abilities and, most importantly, something of a risk. Her own “sound,” her trademark is the “dubstep violinist.” So, what other risks might she be taking? And would it pay off?

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Beautiful. Powerful. Dangerous. Cold. My review of Disney’s “Frozen.”

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Born of cold and winter air
And mountain rain combining
This icy force, both foul and fair
Has a frozen heart worth mining
Cut through the heart, cold and clear
Strike for love and strike for fear
There’s beauty and there’s danger here
Split the ice apart
Beware the frozen heart. . .

I didn’t really register those lyrics in the opening of Disney’s Frozen the first time I saw it.  I enjoyed the music of it – I do recall being impressed by the use of a men’s choir and the overall sound of this song as their opening number.  After getting the soundtrack, however, and listening to the lyrics themselves, it really struck me how smart this song is; in and of itself, the lyrics are well written and the musicality of the piece is quite pleasing, but setting it at the top of the film frames the story and tells us, the audience, right up front, that there is a certain sense of understanding between the people of Arendale and their harsh, winter climate.   What’s more, it essentially explains the theme and story that the movie is about to show.

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