Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week’s entries come from: Rachel Stewart, Abbie Sears, John Bernardy, Jason Sheppard, and Hawk Ripjaw.
Rachel: Moulin Rouge Gets a Broadway Remix
Truth, beauty, freedom, and love…the bohemians are back in town! It’s been nearly 20 years since Baz Luhrmann revitalized the movie musical using pop songs as the film’s emotional language to tell the story of star crossed lovers Christian (a penniless writer) and Satine (a courtesan with consumption). The new stage show—now playing on Broadway—updates the concept further, featuring a wealth of new songs from the likes of Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Sia, Regina Spektor, and Katy Perry.
When I heard the film would finally become a proper musical on stage, I knew I had to go. I was incredibly lucky to see Moulin Rouge in previews in Boston last year. Much like the film, I went in totally blind, and I’m glad I did. Half of the fun of this show is having an “ah ha” moment over which songs they added and how they develop the storyline in new ways.
Luhrmann’s film was built for his Red Curtain Cinema concept —a heightened reality—and many moments in the film play on equal amounts of melodrama and camp. But, whereas Nicole Kidman’s version of Satine was frail and caged bird wanting to fly free, Karen Olivo’s is a street-smart woman looking to protect her chosen family at the Moulin Rouge at any cost. Tam Mutu’s take on the Duke is more sexual and scary than Richard Roxburgh’s flumbling comedic relief of the film. And then there’s Aaron Tveit nailing Christian so perfectly I was left gasping “Ewan McGregor who?”
Intrigued? Can’t make it to Broadway? Then you’re in luck because the cast album dropped a couple weeks ago and it’s magnificent. It captures the energy of the new show perfectly and showcases the leads’ powerhouse vocals. Olivo’s take on “Firework” shows Satine’s strength and longing for a better life, Tveit’s version of “El Tango Roxanne” dials the emotional stakes up to an 11 (and murders your very soul), and “Backstage Romance,” a new number that includes “Bad Romance,” “Seven Nation Army,” “Toxic” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These),” nearly sets your speakers on fire with its manic energy (during previews, the audience was lit and was close to giving a standing ovation AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND ACT.) “Come What May” is showcased in its trademark duet style and then solo closer.
So what are you waiting for? The Moulin Rouge is a state of mind…and they are waiting for your return to the underworld once more.
Abbie: I did not expect to be saying these words any time soon but Green Day released a new song this week. I didn’t know it was coming until a YouTube notification popped up on my phone. The song is called “Father Of All…” and it’s one of those songs that’s awesome to begin with but just gets catchier with every listen. You’ll be surprised when you first listen to it, I sure was.
It sounds like a Green Day song but Billie’s voice is edited to a point where it doesn’t actually sound like he’s singing. Part of Green Day’s charm is that unique voice, so that ia definitely missing here. But that’s the only thing I would change.
If you’ve ever listened to Foxboro Hot Tubs, Green Day’s side project, I think you will get that kind of vibe from this tune. It’s also resembles something you’d find on the ¡UNO! ¡DOS! ¡TRE! albums, which come across as quite experimental for the band. Green Day are always experimenting, though, and they certainly aren’t afraid of change.
The lyrics in “Father Of All…” are powerful, and honestly quite crazy, and on the YouTube upload of the track, this message is left for us from Billie:
This record is The New!
Soul, Motown, glam and manic anthemic. Punks, freaks and punishers!
The dirty messy, the stink,
The lyrics are like a party and lifestyle of not giving a fuck.
The life AND death of the party. Not political. Surviving in chaos. The real shit.
Me, Mike and Tre of the Green Day cut through the bullshit.
That’s how its always been for us. Everything else is fake. Frauds I tell ya!!
Rock has lost its balls. We’re gonna teabag all these mother fuckers. The baddest rock band on the planet that gives a shit.
“Glorious” or “glorious anarchy” seems to be the word that keeps coming up that reflects
Dangerous songs for dangerous kids! Our motto??
“Nothing says fuck you like a unicorn”
This letter basically sums up how Green Day write their songs. Their music has always involved chaos and rioting and partying and they do it like no other band could. I expect the whole upcoming album to be one super fast chaotic rock anthem. My suspicions have been somewhat confirmed too with Billie announcing that this album will be the shortest Green Day has ever put out. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a very noteworthy album in the bands history.
Along with this, Billie announced a new tour. The Hella Mega Tour presented by Harley-Davidson. Yep, Green Day are hitting the road and this time it’s with Fall Out Boy, Weezer and The Interrupters. Along with Green Day’s new album in February 2020 which will also be titled Father Of All…, the other bands are releasing new content and teaming up for one epic tour around the world’s stadiums. Tickets are on sale September 20th and this is really something you don’t want to miss out on.
John: Within the Wires just started its fourth season this week, and this pleases me greatly. Night Vale Presents began operations as the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, and began growing in 2016 when creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor added one side project each in mid-2016. Cranor’s contribution was Within The Wires, a show he co-writes with Janina Matthewson.
The show didn’t grab me until about the fourth episode because the limited POV from the “relaxation tapes” we were listening to sounded more like an art project than a narrative. It seemed interesting, but what kind of story could there be behind it?
The show’s answer? A sprawling story, told each season from a different perspective and different time period. Something happened to the world. Shit seriously goes down. The world governments left decide nationalism and tribalism were the causes of the war, so families—the original unit that creates an Us vs Them situation—need to be broken up.
And for the first three seasons, we listen to people in various circumstances fighting that mandate despite the dystopia happening.
Season 4 began this week, and it focuses on a woman who lives outside the grid, sending tapes to her child and the group her kid is with. There is activism. There is living in the woods. Beyond that, the new story hasn’t unrolled itself to the point of revealing much yet.
This is possibly the farthest in the future we’ve seen, now set in the middle ‘90s. I don’t know when Season 1 is set but it was apparent Seasons 2 & 3 were set earlier than it. But I do know the woods are implied to be a place in Season 1’s story so I would not be surprised if we finally get to see the first story’s main characters show up here after their cliffhanger. But who knows, I always start with that thought.
I find it fascinating the way we’re shown details of the world and culture in Within The Wires. It’s organic world building and we’re being shown new aspects one industry at a time. And the more we circle this world, the closer I feel we’re getting to its heart. We may never get a true origin story or proper conclusion, but we properly live in this world for each season’s 10-episode arc.
Within The Wires may not be an edge-of-your-seat thriller like Alice Isn’t Dead, but it’s a grower that rewards as it grows. I recommend you forget everything I just wrote and start from the beginning.
Found audio from an alternate universe. Season Four, “The Cradle,” is a story about a mother and daughter as they attempt to lead a family-centric commune surviving on the fringes of society. The leader of The Cradle – an anti-government commune hidden deep in a Scandinavian forest – escapes arrest and travels the globe attempting to build her following.
Jason: After 23 years the mission has finally been accomplished. For the first time, Danny Elfman’s complete score for 1996’s Mission: Impossible was released by La-La Land Records in an expanded, remastered two disc edition this week.
It was not an easy assignment. Initially, director Brian De Palma enlisted Back To the Future and The Abyss composer Alan Silvestri, who was fresh off his Oscar nomination for Forrest Gump, to compose the score for Mission: Impossible. The result was a synth-and drums heavy score reminiscent of his 80s scores for Romancing the Stone and The Delta Force. After hearing it, De Palma made Silvestri re-write much of the music, but the director was still not satisfied.
Silvestri was let go (his themes would be used that same summer in the action thriller Eraser) and Danny Elfman stepped in, at the suggestion of Nicole Kidman, who was then married to Mission: Impossible’s star and producer Tom Cruise. Kidman loved what Elfman had done for her recent film To Die For and Elfman went to work right away.
The only thing Elfman had to work with was Lalo Schifrin’s original Mission theme for the classic TV series. Elfman’s score was more energetic, suspenseful and fun than Silvestri’s,
Elfman’s score was hard to come by. The OST featured many rock performers (including a techno version of Schifrin’s Mission Impossible theme by U2’s Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr.) and little score. Disc one of this new set features the original 1996 album assembly, mastered, while Disc two showcases the remastered film score, expanding the original album release by more than twenty minutes. Elfman’s 90s work is thought to be the greatest era in the composer’s catalogue and inspires many modern composers (Michael Giacchino’s work for Rogue One A Star Wars Story sounds very much like Elfman’s Mission: Impossible work, more than it does John Williams’ style). It took many years and many obstacles but Ethan Hunt and crew (at La-La Land) have pulled off another impossible mission and this one benefits movie-score fans everywhere.
Hawk: The moment I heard the title of Brendan Steere’s $35,000 film, I rented it from Amazon sight-unseen: The VelociPastor. I mean, wouldn’t you? The film is exactly what it sounds like: Priest Doug Jones (Greg Cohan), after losing his parents in a car fire, takes a pilgrimage to China. There, a dying woman gives him an artifact that looks like a dinosaur claw. When he accidentally scratches himself with the claw, Doug finds that he transforms nightly into a dinosaur. Back home, a hooker/lawyer/doctor named Carol (Alyssa Kempinski) convinces him to use his powers to fight evil. Evil, in this case, is drug dealing ninjas.
The VelociPastor is a magnificent parody and may well become a camp classic. According to Steere, the idea came about from an autocorrect on his phone and he decided a movie about a Velociraptor Pastor would be fun.
With a budget of only $35,000, the movie doesn’t have a lot to play with, so it just plays with that fact. The dinosaur costume, when it’s visible, looks like it was borrowed from a Party City—sometimes, Cohan just has rubber claws on his hands. The death of Doug’s parents is not specifically shown: the “car explosion” is simply a text overlay reading “VFX: Car on Fire.”
It’s all done very deliberately and very clearly in on the joke. Once you notice how obviously fake the “priest collars” are, they’re impossible to ignore. As a celebration of the Grindhouse movies of ’70s, The VelociPastor embraces nearly every hallmark of cheap and lazy filmmaking, though it’s clear that Steere is a skilled director who has engineered most of these quirks as a loving homage.
Chaotic editing, broadly obvious ADR, and blatantly cheap production design (Vietnam, China, and US settings all appear to have been shot in the same forest) are all here. The camera can’t resist zooming in on something every few minutes. It would have been easy for these things to actually come across as lazy, but Steere has an excellent handle on his film’s carefully crafted look and feel.
He’s also sprinkled a couple of surprisingly artsy bits, particularly a romance montage set to Math the Band’s “I Didn’t Have Time to Think” that is surprisingly moving, cleverly crafted and still manages to be funny.
It’s certainly one of the funniest movies of the year; Cohan and Kempinski play their characters relatively straight, spouting their ridiculous dialogue with a mock soap-opera earnestness balanced with surprisingly genuine chemistry. Several characters have a tendency to laugh maniacally at the end of a scene, for little or no reason. Others will go on ridiculously nonsense tangents. The resplendent visual gags make it worth a rewatch. It’s very similar to the absolute gems Black Dynamite and Helen Keller vs Nightwolves, in that is completely unconcerned with explaining itself. It introduces twists, flashbacks and new plot threads out of nowhere, for no reason, stacking them over the course of a digestible 70 minutes until it barely even makes sense.
Other scenes are truncated or forgotten. It almost feels like someone found several different fragments of scripts and Frankensteined them together. A Vietnam flashback is possibly the apex of hilarious nonsense. These are all things that would normally be a death sentence for a movie, but even setting itself apart from the probably-too-stupid Sharknado movies, The VelociPastor is made with love and a very strong understanding of the era it’s embracing.
It’s genuinely an entertaining movie, somehow becoming a bizarre Venn Diagram of “so-bad-it’s-good” and “legitimately great.” I had to rewatch it at least twice to take it all in, and I still loved it. I cannot wait to see what Brendan Steere does next.
Those are our recommendations this week. What are yours? Let us know in the comments!