Even more stages and screens
by Gregg Shapiro
Here’s the best part about listening to the two-disc deluxe edition soundtrack for Disney’s Into the Woods (Walt Disney Records): you don’t have to watch the abysmal movie connected to it. Meryl Streep’s wasted Oscar nomination aside, Into the Woods received two tech noms, which says more about Rob Marshall’s misguided movie than anything else. That said, Stephen Sondheim’s songs (those that made it from stage to screen—there are a number of songs missing) survive unscathed, which is probably the saving grace of the soundtrack. Classic numbers such as “Children Will Listen,” “Stay with Me,” “Agony” (a shining moment for Chris Pine as Prince Charming), “No One Is Alone,” and “On the Steps of the Palace” (featuring a sparkling Anna Kendrick as Cinderella), to mention a few, all retain their dignity.
How versatile is gay actor Ben Wishaw? His performance as a gay man mourning the loss of his partner (while struggling to communicate with that late partner’s non-English-speaking mother) in the LGBT film-fest fave Lilting, now available on DVD, is breathtaking, to say the least. The multi-talented Wishaw also provided the voice for the beloved children’s-lit bear Paddington. You don’t actually get to hear Wishaw on Paddington: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Decca). What you do get is Nick Urata’s score, four songs performed by D. Lime featuring Tabagao Crusoe, as well as classic tunes by James Brown, Lionel Richie, and Steppenwolf.
Oscar-winning film score composer and indie/industrial-rock legend Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) teams up once again with musical collaborator Atticus Ross and filmmaker David Fincher (with whom he worked on The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) for Gone Girl: Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (Columbia). Spread out over the course of two CDs, the subtly throbbing and overtly haunting score is a suitable fit for the moody, suspenseful, and violent film. The score’s breadth is best exemplified in the dark beauty of “Just Like You” and “Like Home”—a nice contrast to the eerie sonic style of “The Way He Looks at Me” and “Consummation.”
There are almost no words to describe the wretched, offensive, and irresponsible Annie: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RocNation/Overbrook/Madison Gate/RCA)—so maybe wretched, offensive, and irresponsible will do. Although the 1982 movie version of the Tony Award-winning musical Annie that was misdirected by John Huston (!) seriously missed the mark, it did have Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan. It also had a cast that could sing. Will Gluck’s dismal and ill-conceived urban update of Annie is so unconscionable that it’s hard to imagine that he’s the same person responsible for Easy A and Friends with Benefits. What’s even worse are the forgettable new songs co-written by Sia (girl, you need to take a break!) to augment existing Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin classics such as “Tomorrow,” “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” and “Little Girls” (which Cameron Diaz destroys).
The Annie remake is a good example of the kinds of movies that should be remade. Unfortunately, this remake failed miserably and was far worse than the original. (Anyone looking to remake a movie musical might want to consider A Chorus Line, butchered in a horrific 1985 screen version at the hands of Richard Attenborough.)
Let’s hope that nobody is eyeing West Side Story (that means you, NBC) for a remake. One of the most beloved musicals of all time (how could it not be, with all the gay men involved in its creation—Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and, of course, Stephen Sondheim?), West Side Story (SFSMedia) is celebrated in a new double-disc recording performed by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. Gay actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson performs the role of Tony, and opera singer Alexandra Silber can be heard as Maria.
As with its predecessors, Music from the HBO Original Series Boardwalk Empire: Volume Three (ABKCO) features Prohibition-era tunes performed by a stellar array of artists adding their distinctive touch to songs that will be familiar to some and a whole new experience for others. Regina Spektor, Elvis Costello, David Johansen, Angel McCluskey, Marshall Crenshaw, Nora Jones, and Loudon Wainwright III are among the artists singing on the soundtrack, which covers the acclaimed cable series’ final season.
Do yourself a favor and read director Jean-Marc Vallée’s informative liner notes for Wild: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Legacy). He has a fascinating description of the process of selecting songs for this various-artists compilation, including songs by Simon & Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Wings, Portishead, and Lucinda Williams, among others. The soundtrack is also worth possessing for First Aid Kit’s exceptional cover of R.E.M.’s “Walk Unafraid” that plays at the film’s end.
The increasingly popular trend of turning movies into stage musicals continues with Andrew Bergman and Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas (UMe), based on the 1992 movie of the same name, which starred James Caan, Nicolas Cage, and Sarah Jessica Parker. In fact, Bergman, who wrote and directed the film, also wrote the book for the musical, which stars Tony Danza in the Caan role, as well as Rob McClure and Brynn O’Malley. If nothing else, the musical has showgirls and parachuting Elvises. Can a movie version of the stage musical based on the movie be far behind?