Theatre Review “Million Dollar Quartet” Kansas City, Missouri

“Million Dollar Quartet”
Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
May 22, 2015

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

On December 4, 1956 the stars aligned as they never would again. That day, Carl Perkins and his band walked into Sun Records, located at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, with the intent on recording a new hit. Carl’s choice of song was a rocking version of a song called “Matchbox.” Sun’s owner, Sam Phillips, had his latest act, a young boy named Jerry Lee Lewis, sit in to play piano during the session. Later that day, Johnny Cash rolled in to see Perkins (though in his autobiography Cash maintains that he was the first one there that day). Even later, the studio is graced by Elvis Presley and his current girl. As the musicians relaxed they began what turned into a (46) song jam session. Rumor is that Phillips called a friend at the newspaper, who came by and captured a legendary photo of the session. The next day that photo appeared in the paper, dubbing the boys the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Heavy on classic songs and buoyed by the energy of it’s cast, the current touring production of “Million Dollar Quartet,” which played at Starlight this weekend, is a show that will have you out of your seats and into your dancing shoes. The enthusiasm is brought on by the strong performances of the cast. As Carl Perkins, Gabe Bowling carries the bulk of the musical load, with his outstanding guitar playing and vocals. He gives Perkins a small chip on his shoulder, one brought about by Presley having sung “Blue Suede Shoes” (which Perkins wrote and which was his first big hit) on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Scott Moreau does a fine job mimicking Johnny Cash’s musical style, though his vocals seemed uneven on some spots. As Presley, young Jacob Rowley nails the King’s vocals and mannerisms perfectly. I was shocked to learn that he is only 19 years old. For someone who wasn’t born until almost two decades after Presley passed, his performance was amazing. The highlight performance, for me, Colte Julian as the precocious Jerry Lee Lewis. Playing the piano in Lewis’ patented “let it all hang out” style, Julian hit all the right notes, both musically and with a great sense of humor. In a non-musical role, Bryan Langlitz, as Sam Phillips, keeps the show moving through his narration.

Where as a lot of the music sung during the original get together was Gospel (both Presley and Cash were very spiritual and released several successful albums in their career) the show is made up of familiar songs from all of the artists. That the music is being played live (all of the performers play their own instruments) makes the show even more exciting. The backing band (stand up bass player Chuck Zayas and drummer Patrick Morrow) keep the beat moving throughout. If you’re in the mood for some good, old-fashioned rock and roll, I urge you take in the “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The show heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma for shows beginning on May 26th and then continues throughout the summer. For more information head to http://milliondollarquartetlive.com/tour-info.html

"A Late Quartet" Blu-ray Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate the home release of “A Late Quartet”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway TWO copies of the Blu-ray. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email indicating your favorite type of music and why. This giveaway will remain open until February 15th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to residents of the United States only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Academy Award® Winners Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman strike all the right chords with Academy Award® Nominee Catherine Keener and Mark Ivanir in this powerful story that blends raw emotion with fiery passion to form an unforgettable cinematic masterpiece. After 25 years together, the members of a world-renowned string quartet learn that their beloved cellist (Walken) may soon be forced to retire. But the news stirs up equally painful challenges when competing egos, harbored resentment, and irrepressible lust threaten to derail the group as they struggleto maintain harmony in their music ‹ and their lives.

Check out the wonderful interactive piece of sheet music from Beethoven’s Opus 131, the piece featured in the film. Each of the seven movements are represented by music and a clip that relates from the film as the music piece reflects what’s happening in the characters’ lives!

Blu-ray Review "A Late Quartet"

Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Wallace Shawn, Anne Sofie von Otter
Directors: Yaron Zilberman
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Run Time: 105 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

When I saw the cast for this film I was immediately drawn.  I mean you’ve got both Academy Award Winners Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who are absolutely brilliant in this film.  They have also had very strong years with “Seven Psychopaths” and “The Master”, respectively.  Also Academy Award Nominee Catherine Keener takes the stage with force. The film is very powerful and packs an intense passion of music.  I am a sucker for anything when it comes to music.  Something about it really speaks to me…maybe it is my yearning to be a musician myself.  Well if you are looking for a great piece that you probably missed in it brief theatrical release, I would recommend giving this a watch for sure.

Official Premise: After 25 years together, the members of a world-renowned string quartet learn that their beloved cellist (Walken) may soon be forced to retire. But the news stirs up equally painful challenges when competing egos, harbored resentment, and irrepressible lust threaten to derail the group as they struggle to maintain harmony in their music – and their lives.

20th Century Fox has delivered a nice Blu-ray presentation on this release.  It is just a sngle disc Blu-ray no DVD combo.  The 1080p looks very crisp and sharp, within its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1.  Since the film is about music, I was really hoping for a smashing audio track and it was delivered here with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  Works well with both the dialogue heavy scenes and the music as well.  The special features is where this release fails. There is only one short featurette called “Discord and Harmony”.  I would have loved to seen a commentary track with the director and this wonderful cast.

Film Review "Quartet"

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins and Maggie Smith
Directed by: Dustin Hoffman
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 38 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

In this day and age when actors jump behind the camera at the drop of the hat it’s almost shocking to see that it took Dustin Hoffman 50 years to try his hand at directing (I don’t count the few days he spent on the film “Straight Time” before turning the project over to a more seasoned director). But those five decades of studying have truly paid off with Hoffman’ debut film, “Quartet.”

In the English countryside sits a beautiful retirement home with a special clientele. Everyone living under the roof is a classical musician. Of course, there is a class system in place. Among the unwritten rules – the tables in the dining room with a window view are reserved for vocalists…no clarinet players need apply! Every year, on October 10, the residents put on a gala benefit to raise money for the home, honoring Giuseppe Verdi. This year’s selection will be from “Rigoletto.” But when a new resident arrives, old wounds are opened, new friendships are made and the old showbiz adage that “the show must go on” is never more evident.

Packed wall to wall with a who’s who of some of Britain’s finest actors, “Quartet” is, in the simplest terms, a solidly told story. Based on the play of the same name by Ronald Harwood, who also wrote the screenplay, “Quartet” is a film that doesn’t rely on special effects or gimmicks. Just acting. That being said it’s probably no surprise that Dustin Hoffman is the director…that’s his acting philosophy in a nutshell. Courtenay, probably best remembered for his Oscar nominated work in “The Dresser,” is Reg, a former opera singer now taken to giving visiting school children lectures on his craft. Wilfred (Billy Connolly) spends his days flirting with the younger female members of the staff while sneaking the occasional nip or two. Cissy (Collins) is friendly to everyone she meets but sadly is falling into a state of recurring forgetfulness. These three are looking for a fourth to sing with them when the home receives a new arrival – the very diva-ish Jean Horton (Smith). So talented was Jean in her day that, when she arrives at the home, she is greeted with a loud ovation from the other residents. But then the fun starts. Jean insists on playing the diva, expecting the rules to be bent for her. She also happens to be Reg’s ex wife, a situation that makes things just a bit uncomfortable. This gets even more complicated when the other three want her to sing with them.

The film is quiet and personal, as are others based on Harwood’s work (“The Dresser,” “Taking Sides”) and that trait is enforced by Hoffman’s straightforward and unforced direction. Let’s hope it doesn’t take him another 50 years before he attempts his sophomore effort!