Weekend Watchlist: Movie musicals


Image via Wikimedia Commons

“Mamma Mia” release poster.

By The Pitt News Staff

Sometimes you just need to randomly break out into song and dance — or watch other people do it on your TV. For this week’s Weekend Watchlist, we are sharing our favorite movie musicals that are available to stream.

The Phantom of the Opera (Netflix) // Hayley Lesh, For The Pitt News

“The Phantom of the Opera” can best be described as the ultimate mashup between Broadway, Hollywood and the big screen. With extravagant costuming, memorable music, a compelling storyline and amazing actors like Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler, the film is sure to keep the audience on its toes.

The movie centers on the tale of an ominous masked “phantom” who torments the performers at a Parisian opera house. While the Phantom’s intentions are unclear to the employees of the opera house, it is known that if his demands are not met, bad things will happen to the production or to the actors. The plot encompasses mystery, drama, romance — and of course singing. Without giving too much away, the film is a wonderful adaptation of the real-life musical. It will have you singing the theme song every chance you get.

Mamma Mia! (Netflix) // Sinead McDevitt, For The Pitt News

Musicals, as a logical concept, are absurd. In most cases, people randomly burst into incredibly catchy songs and well-choreographed dance numbers, and everyone just goes with it. But a good musical will either be performed with such seriousness and passion that you’re too busy grabbing tissues to care, or it will lean into the absurdity and take you on a wild ride from start to finish. “Mamma Mia!” takes the latter route.

Set to the music of Swedish pop group ABBA, “Mamma Mia!” is the story of Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) and her mother Donna (Meryl Streep) as they react to the sudden arrival of Sophie’s three potential fathers to their Greek island home. Not all of the actors can sing necessarily — I’m looking at you, Pierce Brosnan — but they’re clearly having the time of their lives. The plot takes a back seat to energetic musical numbers such as Christine Baranski’s rendition of “Does Your Mother Know,” and ensemble numbers like “Voulez-Vous” and “Lay All Your Love on Me.” If you just want a fun musical to kick back and sing along with, “Mamma Mia!” is an excellent choice.

Baby Driver (Amazon Prime) // Thomas Wick, Senior Staff Writer

“Baby Driver” may not be a musical in the traditional sense of the word. It doesn’t have the characters singing on screen like in “Mamma Mia!” or “Phantom of the Opera,” but “Baby Driver” still has musical numbers that push the narrative forward. Music is an important motif in this film and it is part of the main character’s identity. And oh boy, these musical numbers are something to behold. If you told me 10 years ago that the song “Tequila” could be used to do a musical number involving guns and grenades, I’d tell you you were crazy. But director Edgar Wright is just that imaginative and creative. His editing skills are top-notch and make this musical distinct from everything else on this list. The energy, speed and rhythm of these action scenes are something I’ve never seen in a film before. I have rewatched them hundreds of times and I will rewatch them a hundred more times. Combine this with great performances from Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx, and “Baby Driver” is one of the best musicals released in the past decade.

Coco (Netflix) // Diana Velasquez, For The Pitt News

Movie musicals most certainly do not have to be live action. Many of us were raised on Disney and their collection of animated musicals, which are just as good and often better than those with live actors. “Coco,” released in 2017 by Disney and produced by Pixar, is the studio’s first foray into Mexican culture and heritage.

The movie follows the adventures of a 12-year-old Mexican boy named Miguel with an intense passion for music who becomes trapped in the mystical Land of the Dead. This coincides with the Mexican holiday “Dio de Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead. The movie is a feast for the eyes with a bright, vibrant color palette combined with stunning 3D animation. The soundtrack features songs in both English and Spanish, from fast-paced dance numbers to slow and sentimental ballads. The winner of the 2017 Best Animated Feature and Original Song Oscars, “Coco” is a sure win for any musical or animation lover.

West Side Story (Amazon Prime) // Matthew Monroy, For The Pitt News

With one resounding snap and whistle, “West Side Story” threw itself into the annals of film and musical history. Set in 1950s New York City, “West Side Story” explores the racial tensions in America through the lens of two competing gangs — the white Jets and the Puerto-Rican American Sharks. As tensions rise and the threat of actual violence between the two groups grows larger, Maria, a Shark, and Tony, a Jet, fall in love across their cultural divide, sparking anger on both sides. A modern-day retelling of “Romeo and Juliet,” “ West Side Story” transports viewers along the highs and lows of Maria and Tony’s fated love. Backed by the immortal Leonard Bernstein’s spasmodic and haunting score, “West Side Story”’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime never stagnates or fizzles. First-time viewers of the film beware: the climactic ending packs a wallop of an emotional punch. Watch for the mesmerizing dancing and singing, but stay for the emotionally resonant portrayal of a community grappling with violence and racism.