Music: Susan Boyle’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’

ph-susan-boyleSusan Boyle’s new album, I Dreamed a Dream, is just right; not overblown (thanks to producer Steve Mac) and happily focused on her vocal performance with an interesting selection of cover tunes ranging from the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” to Madonna’s “You’ll See”, the weakest choice for re-recording. Her “Daydream Believer” is a fresh rendition and one of the best tracks but every song here, including “Cry Me a River,” which has been recorded too many times, is exceptional given the muck of today’s popular music. Miss Boyle, who broke out with a memorable appearance on British television and became a huge hit in America thanks to YouTube, sticks to her craft. Among the 12 tunes: the abridged title track from the musical Les Miserables, which she famously performed on TV, “Amazing Grace”, “Silent Night”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Proud” and a rousing original song written for the songstress, “Who I Was Born to Be”. Thankfully, there are no surprises and every entry is an understated display of her talent. I Dreamed a Dream is a wonderful new work of fine, previously released pop music. The CD includes her notes on why she chose to record each song.

Screen Shot: ‘Dumbo’

El Capitan’s organ was sadly silent during a recent kid-filled rainy day matinee, and the leading character does not make a live appearance, but at least Walt Disney’s classic 1941 picture, Dumbo, is being screened at the once-legendary studio’s Holllywood Boulevard movie theater. The animated feature, which was affectionately introduced by El Cap’s extremely knowledgeable manager Michael, runs at the historic theater through January 28 to honor the film’s 70th anniversary next year. Next door at Disney’s Soda Fountain and Studio Store, there’s a caramel-topped ice cream sundae and exclusive Dumbo merchandise. Unfortunately, Dumbo is preceded by a trailer for the latest Tim Burton horror movie, sharing the title of Walt Disney’s 1955 animated feature, Alice in Wonderland. The new, live action version looks like just another of his visually striking nightmares.

If only the currently volatile, unfocused, and increasingly generic Walt Disney Studios were creating movies of Dumbo‘s caliber, showing them in venues to match the quality of these outstanding twin enterprises, and cultivating outstanding cast members (that means you, ushers Melvin and Lucia). Read my review of this wonderfully colorful motion picture here.

Screen Shot: ‘Book of Eli’ starring Denzel Washington

This bleak, violent, post-apocalyptic picture is involving up until the point you realize it’s just another example of religious propagandizing. Starring Denzel Washington as a mysterious stranger who walks alone and comes upon a town ruled by a dictatorial Gary Oldman (fabulously chewing it up like an older version of his drug-addicted bad cop in The Professional), the grizzled solitary man carries a Bible, speaks in riddles, and winds up dressed as a Moslem in a progressively dull movie. The Book of Eli borrows nihilism from The Road Warrior and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns with Clint Eastwood, a cheap trick from The Sixth Sense, and preachy religion from any of a variety of recent Christian pics. Also featuring Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) in the film’s best performance as a blind woman and a young actress named Mila Kunis as a nubile type. Its theme that religion will save the world is pure hokum. Despite fine turns by leads Washington and Oldman, this book sermonizes more of the same.

Massachusetts Showdown

The Senate contest between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown has turned into a referendum on the administration’s fascist “health care reform”. Should challenger Brown, a state senator who voted for former Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s fascist “health care reform” for the state, who has declared that he will vote against the President’s health care bill, actually score an upset and defeat Coakley, the state’s Democratic secretary of state has already vowed to defy the election results and take his legally alotted time to delay certifying the election results. This will backfire and further undermine the legitimacy of what is arguably the nation’s worst law (though it isn’t law yet) since slavery. As with the monstrous bill, which is incidentally hugely unpopular, it is independents not the Republican Party driving resistance to Big Government. Stay tuned.

Screen Shot: ‘Leap Year’

The romantic comedy Leap Year starring lanky Matthew Goode (Watchmen) as an Irishman who meets a real estate decorator played by chirpy Amy Adams (Doubt) on her superstitiously pre-marital jaunt across Ireland has a few soft spots but is largely humorless. This effort from the director of the stylishly vacant Shopgirl is less than inspired but it beats watching the dreadful megahit Avatar, which I finally saw after Christmas at the suggestion of a pal in Seattle and a nephew who promised me it was the greatest movie ever made. James Cameron’s animated diatribe against civilization is apparently causing people to practice what the movie preaches: CNN reports that audiences are having suicidal thoughts.