Don’t turn around, the musical biopic you were undoubtedly waiting for…

With all the great and at least slightly tragic musical figures who have earned the biopic treatment who could be next? Who could follow such deserving figures as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Al Jolson, Jim Morrison, Ian Dury, Glen Miller, Gene Krupa, Edith Piaf, Bob Dylan, Serge Gainsbourg, and, of course, Dewey Cox? Marvin Gaye? Jacques Brel? Joni Mitchell? Jimi Hendrix, for crying out loud?

Nope, why make just another flick about a genius who forever changed the face of contemporary music when you give the world the world story of the man without whom there would be no “Der Kommisar” and or “Rock Me, Amadeus.” Ladies and gentlemen, direct from Austria and the year 2008 — sometimes it takes a while for good things to make it stateside — I present “Falco – Verdammt, wir leben noch!” (“Falco – Damn, We’re Still Alive”). Forgive the lack of subtitles, but I’m feeling like we get the gist.

H/t to Christopher Stipp of /Film.

Okay, it should be mentioned that Falco was, in fact, the most famous German language pop artist internationally, at least that I can think of right now. Also, I sort of liked “Der Kommisar” back in the day. “Rock Me, Amadeus” never did it for (for that matter, neither did “Amadeus”). Also, I believe that my first ever paying writing assignment was writing a review of the worldwide-hit free album Herr Falco made betweeen “Der Kommisar” and “Rock Me Amadeus.” If memory serves, I think I gave it a C+ or, perhaps feeling a bit generous, a B-. Shades of things to come.

Special bonus video after the flip.

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Sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you? The “Never Let Me Go” trailer might put that into perspective for you

Think you’re in a pointless, no-win situation? Did you feel at school like you were just being prepared to put into the human meatgrinder we call the rat race? Well, you’ve got it easy, kid, compared to the strangely acquiescent students and alumni of Hailsham. I’d tell you more but I understand via Cinemablend’s Katey Rich and the novel’s very spoilery wikipedia entry that the arguably science-fictional premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize short-listed 2005 novel is kept somewhat hidden for a significant portion of the book. (It was revealed to me years ago, however, via book reviews and author interviews.)

That premise will also be revealed to you if you watch the intriguing trailer so, if you plan to read the book (which I think I might try to do myself, anyhow) you might want to hold off. I will say that the Japanese-English Ishiguro wrote the very non-genre “The Remains of the Day” and history and frustrated love seems to his favorite topics. This time, though, the history hasn’t been written yet.

Even aside from Ishiguro, this one has an intriguing pedigree. The adaptation is by novelist Alex Garland, who recently has turned to screenplays with “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” both directed by Danny Boyle, and the director is Mark Romanek. For some reason, I felt compelled to avoid his highly divisive 2002 thriller “One Hour Photo,” but he’s made some of the best videos of all time as far as I’m concerned, including the amazing and ultra-creepy “Closer” for Nine Inch Nails, the memorable “Criminal” for Fiona Apple, and “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s moving cover of a song by Trent Reznor. And, oh yeah, Carey Mulligan is in it. Does anyone not like Carey Mulligan?

  

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Musical biopics with a difference. Maybe. Part 1

Talking with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” while promoting the very funny musical biopic spoof, “Walk Hard,”  star John C. Reilly made a telling observation. He noted that such figures as Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison, and Johnny Cash were all very different people with very different lives, but the movies about them tended to be all kind of the same. This month in Europe, that proposition is being tested by two very interesting looking films about two extremely unusual musicians who were so unusual I never particularly expected to see a movie about either of them. Hopefully, both will make it stateside in due time.

The first movie is “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll,” about Ian Dury. Dury, with his crack back-up band, the Blockheads, was a figure in my personal favorite wing of the punk/new wave era of the late seventies that was embodied by his label, Stiff Records. He fashioned a surprisingly effective and popular combination of English music hall, “blue” humor, and Parliament/James Brown style funk and early hip-hip. Partially disabled by polio, he had the requisite difficult life and, physically and in every other way, he was born to be played by outstanding Peter Jackson stand-by Andy Serkis, for once free of make-up efx or motion-capture.

Olivia Williams (“Dollhouse,” “Rushmore”) seems to be everywhere all of a sudden, and I’m completely okay with that. And, as Dury’s son, that’s young Bill Milner from “Son of Rambow.” I do have to say the real-life Dury was slightly better at carrying a tune. Still, looks good and the reviews so far are promising.

Next: an arguably even more dysfunctional, but even more talented, French musical madmen gets his biopic.

  

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American Idol: To save or not to….

Last night’s “American Idol” results show was just a bit shocking as Ryan Seacrest promised at the start of the show, before or after boasting that 31 million viewers voted on Tuesday night. Dude, we’re proud of you for keeping the network and the producers smiling. Anyway, Grand Ole Opry week continued with a recap of Tuesday’s performances, a group number, a behind-the-scenes look at the little party they threw for Jorge and Jasmine after being eliminated last week, and the Ford video in which the finalists were having a water balloon fight. Nice.

Then it was on to the results….Danny Gokey, safe; Lil Rounds, safe; Anoop Desai, safe; Allison Iraheta and Michael Sarver, both in the bottom 3. Okay, I get Michael, but Allison? She was awesome Tuesday. I’m telling you people, Scott and Megan are stealing votes from better singers. Then Brad Paisley came out and sang his incredibly bland new single, “Then.” Look, I live in Nashvegas but I’m not a fan of most of the formulaic crap that Music Row spits out. But Paisley plays a mean guitar, I’ll give him that.

Then back to business. Scott McIntyre, safe; Megan Joy Corkrey, safe. At this point I’m doing the math. Someone is going to be eliminated that shouldn’t be. Matt Giraud, who is rocketing up the likeability chart, safe; Kris Allen, safe. That left Alexis Grace and Adam Lambert. Adam’s weird Jeff Buckley version of “Ring of Fire” really hurt him, but it was Alexis in the bottom 3. She looked pissed, and understandably, quite surprised.

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American Idol: yee haw, y’all

It’s Grand Ole Opry Week on “American Idol,” meaning the contestants last night had to sing country music songs by anyone who belongs to the Opry, including recently inducted member and former Idol champ Carrie Underwood. Opry veteral and country music legend Randy Travis spent the week in Hollywood training and mentoring each contestant. Country week can be challenging for most of the finalists at best, and painful for viewers at worst. But honestly, there wasn’t anything last night that was so hideous you knew for sure what tonight’s results would be. At least, that’s how I saw it. Here is a recap of the very good, the good, and the mediocre:

THE VERY GOOD

Allison Iraheta sang Patty Loveless’ “Blame It On The Heart” and while I had my doubts about this young (16!) hopeful, Allison proved last night that she is not only going to hang around a bit, but that she could be a contender to win it all. Her voice is just sick. Kara said Allison can sing anything in her own style, Paula said it was rock solid, Simon said it was good but tuneless in spots, and Randy strongly disagreed with Simon, saying it was “dope.” I agree, it was dope.

Danny Gokey came out dressed in this weird white jacket that made him look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters.” Really, whose idea was that? Danny started off slowly with Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” but in the chorus he soared to heights that few in this competition can match. And to be honest, I hate this song. Kara said the second half of the song was amazing, Paula said it was brilliant, Simon agreed with Paula but said he hated the marshmallow suit and that it looked like Danny was going on a polar expedition, and Randy agreed with Kara that he only liked the second half of the song.

Anoop Desai was close to being eliminated last week, so he knew he had to step up his game. And he did just that, with a solid performance of Willie Nelson’s “You Are Always on My Mind.” Paula declared, “Anoop is back!” and that he touched her heart (please…), Simon said Anoop went from “zero to hero” and that it was an excellent song choice, Randy said he showed great skills and that he loved the arrangement, and Kara said Anoop took a classic song and made it sound amazing. Indeed.

Matt Giraud closed the night with Carrie Underwood’s “So Small,” but did a really cool piano version of it. This kid is a dark horse…..remember, his day job is as a dueling piano player, and his only blemish so far was that awful Coldplay song a few weeks ago. Kara said there is nothing small about Matt and that he is a true talent, Paula said it was authentic and honest, Simon said Matt doesn’t get enough credit for his vocal skills the way Adam and Danny do, and Randy said it was his favorite performance of the night.

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