Monday, August 15, 2016

The Scorpion King (2002, Movie Review)

      Following up on my last movie review of “The Mummy Returns” is a review of the 2002 action adventure “The Scorpion King”. Universal had struck gold with their Blockbuster "Mummy" franchise, and an idea was floating around the studio to expand on its Egyptian setting with movies revolving around other characters from the Mummy universe. With the advent of “The Avengers”, Cinematic Universes are all the craze now, but back in the early 2000’s, this concept was bold and new. I have to admit, this was a really cool idea to expand on the Universe of “The Mummy”, and it opened the door for some potentially cool films. “The Scorpion King” is a spin-off movie of the character featured briefly in the opening of “The Mummy Returns”. The trailer for “The Scorpion King” got me really excited, like this was going to be a modern day “Conan the Barbarian” but with the epic size of something like “Gladiator”. The result is a film that didn’t really live up to the hype, has little to nothing in common with “The Mummy”, but I find it a mostly satisfying sowed in sandal adventure.

     I personally am a sucker for period action-adventure films of this sort, and the film isn’t without some charm, but I’ll talk more about that in a moment. Set some time before the creation of the pyramids, a malevolent horde has taken over the land, and their leader Memnon rules the people with an iron fist. The big ace up his sleeve is a mystical sorceress that can foretell that outcome of every battle. The last surviving group of rebels decide to send a mighty assassin named Mathayus to slay the enchantress in hopes to give them a winning edge. Soon Mathayus is betrayed, and his brother is executed by Memnon himself. Now Mathayus is out for vengeance, but finds aid though the very sorceress he intended to kill. So the two set off on a quest to free the people of the kingdom, and end the sinister rain of King Memnon.

     In short, it’s a basic action revenge plot, and really has no direct lead into the Scorpion King character featured in “The Mummy Returns”. Yes, we see how this assassin becomes a king, but the character’s journey has nothing to do with the events of the previous film. It doesn’t even feel like the same character at all. The titular Scorpion king featured in “The Mummy Returns” was a very ruthless beast, and a tyrant who would sell his soul to the devil just for a chance to gain power and vengeance. This Scorpion King named Mathayus is your typical cocky hero who drops one liners, has a personality, dose heroic things, and nothing makes me believe that he’ll become the villain from the established film. He doesn't even do anything scorpion related that would lead to his title. There's a scene in which he injected with scorpion venom, but it's a very short scene and doesn't really do anything in the long-run. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson played the Scorpion King in both movies, and while his performance is nothing great, this has always been the role that I associated most with the actor. Even with him playing “Hercules”, I still see him as the Scorpion King. He dose look good in the role, and he even offers some genuine charm. The character himself is just okay, he doesn't intrigue me as a person, and he really doesn't impress me as a warrior either, but he's not bad by any means, just average.

      It should be noted that the name of the character is actually a reference to a historical king of the Protodynastic Period of Egypt named King Scorpion. Don’t expect the film to have much historical significance beyond that. Actually the film has several small gaps in historical logic that I always take note of. For example, all the swords featured in this film are made out of steel, which contradicts the opening prologue that the film is set “Before the time of the Pyramids”. The earliest known production of steel is nearly 4000 years old, where the Pyramids are over 5000 years old. Supposedly this film is set around 3200 BC, which would put this somewhere in-between the “Bronze Area” and the “Iron Age” of swords. Then again, everything in this film is very artificial. No-one looks like a product of the time period, and there’s a lot of modern talk. The film is also set in the city of Gomorrah, which along with Sodom is mentioned in the “Book of Genesis” and all throughout the Hebrew Bible. I wish the film could have spent time developing this city and its heritage, but it’s quietly glanced over, and just becomes a typical location to set the adventure in.

      Obviously the main point of the film isn’t to educate, but to entertain with a non-stop supply of action scenes. Seriously, right from the start this film hits you with action, and more action. Personally, I like the variety in which the fights come at us, and each battle lasts just long enough without getting repetitive. The movie also has a perfect run time that's under 2 hours, which is a breath of fresh air now days. While it’s consistently entertaining, there aren’t any stand out action scenes that really “wow me” either, that is with the exception of the ending, but I’ll get to that later. I think the film is very self aware of what kind of film it is. It’s not pretending to be a great epic like “Braveheart”, but it doesn’t quiet reach the same entertaining heights of “300” either. I will say that I like the overall style and feel of the movie. It’s definitely cheesy, and mostly over the top, but in just the right way where it becomes a style. If you look at modern day adventure movies of this sort like “Clash of the Titans”, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”, “Immortals” and “Gods of Egypt”, their all so overly stylized, pretentiously artsy, and are polluted with over the top CGI monsters. “The Scorpion King” by comparison is actually quiet tame, yet over the top in just the right amounts. I like that all the action is in front of the camera, and the special effects are used very sparingly for little things like a swarm of fire ants and a sand storm. Some of the comedy is too modern for it's own good, but there are some select moments which are legitimately funny. The stand out funny moment involves a kid at a wishing well ... I'd better leave it at that. I also like that the magical elements are toned down, and are only associated with the Sorceress. The Sorceress has the power to see visions of the future, and these lead to some eerie atmospheric scenes that are shot beautifully. Aside from that, it’s good old fashion sword play, and it’s so welcome in this day and age.

     Now let’s talk about the absolute best thing in the film, and that’s Kelly Hu as the Sorceress. Holly cow, back in the early 2000’s Kelly Hu was like a Goddess among mortal actresses ... well, okay, that’s just how I viewed her. All joking and insanely good looks aside, this is actually a fairly strong female lead. In fact, she was so good at holding her own, that I honestly don’t know if I could call her a typical damsel in distress. Her arch, while under developed was laced with a lot of potential, and we do get spades of some terrific character traits. As stated in the synopsis, she had the power to read the future and ever sense she was a child, she was used as a weapon for her evil master. Mid way through the film she escaped her tower only to find herself in a different kind of cage. Along the journey she witnesses kindness and respect in others, but was also aware that her absence would lead to the deaths of innocent lives. Then after losing her power, she willingly goes back to her evil master to prevent him from committing mass murder in the process of looking for her. She also gets to shine in the action scenes, and while not a total bad-ass, she can clearly take care of herself. I really wish this film spent more time developing the Sorceress because I felt that she had potential to be a really great character rather than just a better than average damsel stereotype. Bottom line, she may not be the greatest female lead in the world, but she made for an excellent addition to the film, and by God did she steal the scenery with her killer good looks.

    Steven Brand plays the villain Memnon, and he does a serviceable job. The villain himself is nothing original, but he still works, and I like that he’s at odds with our hero. The Scorpion King is all mussel and brute strength, while our villain is smaller and more agile, so they balance out very well. There’s another warrior King named Balthazar who’s played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan, and he’s great as always. He’s one of those special talents who can turn anything he touches into gold. His part is admittedly small, but he’s always committed to a role, and it’s always a treat to see him on screen. One of the films highlights is when Balthazar gets into a fight with our hero Mathayus and I get the impression that the two actors were having the time of their lives while filming this scene. The remaining characters are all very disposable and just fill in space. There’s a witch doctor played by the great Bernard Hill, who supplies our hero’s with explosive powder, but does nothing else beyond that. Grant Heslov is droped in the film as an annoying comedic side character, and there’s even a pointless little kid character thrown it just to be a cute side kick. We have the enjoyably clich├ęd Evil Henchman who looks cool, but is taken out in a rather anti climactic way. But the most undermining character of all has to be this evil Prince, who in the beginning of the film betrays our hero, and kills his own father. This character was set up with lots of potential to be a real menacing presence, but he’s just sort of put in the corner, doesn’t do anything, and his comeuppance just isn’t as satisfying as it should be.

       While the action is serviceable at best, it’s at the finally when things get really cool. Our hero’s mount an Attack on Memnon’s castle, and the last half hour is just one awesome, non-stop action packed spectacle. Most films of this sort have the exact same climax involving massive armies (usually over the top CGI) clashing in an open field, and personally I’m sick of it. This climax is a straight up siege on a castle with some beautifully choreographed close-quarter fighting, exciting sword play, and a terrific use of props. It’s such a breath of fresh air, but it’s not without some spectacle either as we still get big explosions, hot chicks kicking ass, and a nice variety of different fights in this one big location. The final confrontation between Mathayus and Memnon is personally one of my favorite Hero/ Villain duals. Everything in this fight is just fiery blaze, and they cover a lot of ground too. The fight begins in a throne room, then they work their way out side to the top of the palace, and the momentum just keeps building and building. Memnon pulls out two swords that he sets on fire, and there's one hell of an awesome quire which just adds to the excitement of this duel.

    On that note, let’s quickly talk about the Sound track. Fitting right along with the films style and tone is a cool instrumental rock theme that plays whenever our hero is on screen. It’s not the typical theme music you’d here in a sword and sandal adventure, but it always gets me excited whenever I hear this score. The individual songs from the movies soundtrack are dated products of the time, but I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and still enjoy some of these tunes for representing a decade. The stand out song titled “I Stand Alone” performed by Godsmack was one of my favorite heavy rock songs of the early 2000’s, and always brings to mind fond memories of favorite video games like “Prince of Persia: Warrior Within”. The “I Stand Alone” music video actually felt more like a "Mummy" spin off then “The Scorpion King” movie did, and even featured armies of skeletons coming to life. Other artists from this soundtrack include Nickelback and Creed, neither of which I’m a fan of now days, but back then I thought their music was actually really awesome. Whether their music is good or bad, they have this way of taking me back to my teenage years, so I guess there’s some novelty in that.

      The best way to describe “The Scorpion King” is a harmless waste of time. It’s one of those films I can enjoy after a long days work, and I just want to get vegged out on my couch. Most may call this a forgettable and average film, but even so, this kind of derivative entertainment isn't without it's merits. I of course will remember “The Scorpion King” on some level, mostly due to the amount of times I watched it as a young teenager. There were 3 sequels that followed titled “The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior”, “The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption” and “The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power”. These films were truly forgettable, and a real waste of time in the worse possible way, so don’t bother. None of them featured Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reprising his signature role, and all the elements of a fun action adventure are noticeably lacking.

      To sum things up, “The Scorpion King” is a cheesy, silly, by the numbers action adventure, and personally ... I still enjoy watching it to this day. It’s arguably my second favorite film in “The Mummy” franchise, and it somehow works as an amusing little product of the time. There are definitely better sword and sandal adventure films out there, but for what this is, I think “The Scorpion King” is perfectly passable. I honestly think its aged better then even “Conan the Barbarian” from the 80’s, but that’s just me talking. I’d say the film is worth checking out for some of the action, the overall cheese factor, and of course for Kelly Hu.

                                             I give “The Scorpion King” 3 stars out of 5.  

The Mummy Returns (2001) (Movie Review)

      The 1999 remake of “The Mummy” is personally one of my all time favorite adventure entertainment movies ever made. But I’m not reviewing that film today, I’m actually saving that review for something else that’s coming up. So for this post, I’ll be reviewing its 2001 sequel titled “The Mummy Returns”. Now it’s no surprise that when Hollywood releases a hit summer Blockbuster, there’s bound to be a sequel, and in most cases the sequel has to be bigger and more epic. In this regard, “The Mummy Returns” definitely succeeds as a larger, and more action packed adventure film. However, being a bigger film obviously doesn’t mean better. There was a time in which I hated this sequel and found it completely inferior to its predecessor, but over the years it’s actually grown on me. Now days I look at “The Mummy Returns” as on par with say “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, which was the weakest of the original Indiana Jones films, but undeniably a fun adventure film that’s worth repeated viewings. While I still have some issues with “The Mummy Returns”, it’s still a perfectly satisfying adventure sequel.

     Our story begins with the origin of a sinister warrior only referred to as The Scorpion King. Back in ancient times, this evil solder made a deal with the dark Egyptian God Anubis, to take command of an immortal army that he would lead to conquer his enemies. After granting his wish, the God Anubis put both the Scorpion King and his army into a deep sleep at the base of a pyramid, hidden in the middle of mystical oasis. All that remains is a golden bracelet which can lead anyone to the pyramid, where any worthy champion can challenge the Scorpion King in battle for the chance to take command of his immortal army. Back in the present, it’s been nine years sense Rick and Evelyn “Evie” O’Connell defeated the Mummy Imhotep in the previous film. While they’ve had a healthy relationship, and raised a son, Evie is receiving mysterious visions. They lead our hero’s to dig site, where they discover the golden bracelet of the Scorpion King. The bracelet latches itself onto their son Alex, making him a living guide to the hidden oasis. Meanwhile, the O’Connell’s greatest foe Imhotep has been unearthed and revived by an evil sorceries named Meela, who’s also the modern day reincarnation of the mummy’s ancient love Anck-Su-Namun. With these two evil lovers reunited, they kidnap Alex, and use him as their guide, as they aim to take out the Scorpion Kind and command his army. Now the chase is on for our hero’s to rescue their son, learn the secrets of the ancient past, and prevent this clash between two immortal titans. 

    All the cast members from the previous film are back, some with improvements, while others have fallen by the waist side. Rachel Weisz still gives a strong leading performance in the role of Evie. On the flip side, Brendan Fraser is looking tired and is far less charming in the role of Rick O’Connell then he was in the previous film. The comedic side character Jonathan is starting to get grading, and even more pointless then before. The Magi warrior Ardeth Bay reprises his role from the first film, and he’s just as awesome as ever, and really shines in some cool action scenes. The Son Alex is your typical child character, nothing bad, but nothing special either. 
One thing that I have mixed feels about is how the characters are given deeper back stories. Rick for example has become some sort of prophesized hero that can slay the Scorpion King. Evie is revealed to be the reincarnation of an Egyptian princess named Nefertiri, who was the daughter of the very same Pharaoh that was murdered by Imhotep during the flash back of the first movie. On the one hand, it takes quiet the suspension of disbelief that all these people came together like this. But at the same time, all this added back story does make the characters and their relation with the villains a lot more interesting.  

    On that note, the film boast quiet the entertaining collection of different villains, both old and new. 
Arnold Vosloo reprises his signature role as the mummy Imhotep, and his performance is just as good as before. The only down side is that he spends a lot of time in his human form, and we don’t get to see a cool evolutionary progression of his decayed body like we did in the previous movie. The evil sorceries Anck-Su-Namun is another excellent villain, and played very well by Patricia Velasquez, who again is reprising her role from the first film. She steals the show with every scene she’s in, and her character is even more heartless then the Mummy himself, which makes her a lot more fun to hate. There’s also a really cool evil henchman named Lock-Nah, who’s one of those menacing supporting villains that stands out with his own unique cool factor. The only villain I didn’t care for is this one Museum Curator who leads a clan of bad guys with red hoods. This guy just felt like unnecessary added fluff as we already had the mummy, the scorpion kind, the evil sorceries and the nasty henchman. Seriously, what did we need this guy for?  

     Next, let’s cover all the other positive aspects of the film, before I address the negatives. Looking back, I had honestly forgotten how much fun the action sequences are in this film, how busy they are, and how they come in a nice variety too. There’s more gun play, hand to hand combat, and lots of really cool sword fights. There’s a scene in which our hero’s are attacked by the skeleton warriors from the first film, which leads into a deeply thrilling chase on a double decker bus. 
Also there’s not one but two cat fights between our female leads, which both feature great fighting choreography, and two good looking woman fighting each other while dressed in skimpy, tight body hugging outfits. This was one of the main selling images on the poster, and for obvious reasons. I also like that there’s more traveling in this film, and lots of imaginative locations. This helps make the film feel more like an adventure, and it further expands on the mythos and lore of the Mummy universe. I already loved the Egypt setting of the first film, but this movie goes even further with an expanded mythology and more ground to cover. The new instrumental music track was composed by Alan Silvestri, who’s a very talented composer and gives this film a worthy soundtrack that heightens the action and adventure elements of the film. There’s also an original song titled “Forever May Not Be Long Enough”, performed by Live, and it’s actually a really cool song. The theme is admittedly out of context with the film, but it’s still great to listen to, and somehow works along with a film in an Egyptian setting.

     Now it’s time to cover the things that annoy me in this sequel. The first thing to note is that when compared to its predecessor, this film doesn’t have much horror related material. Granted the first film was obviously an action adventure film, but it also kept one foot firmly rooted in the horror genera. It had an occasionally eerie atmosphere and some creepy elements. Considering that our star villain is the Mummy, it just feels more appropriate to have some kind balance between adventure and horror. “The Mummy Returns” is 100% adventure action, with some predictable second rate jump scares thrown in. The closest the film ever gets to feeling like a horror film is this one scene where the decayed version of the mummy kills three people on a train to regain its human flesh, but even that is very mild. A lot of the CGI, while impressive for the time has become very dated, with noticeable green screen effects, and cartoony monsters. We do at least get a nice variety of new creatures, including  an army of dingo faced soldiers, and nasty midget mummy’s.  

     Like many sequels, this film has a really bad habit of recreating scenes and making direct references to the first film. Remember that scene when the mummy created a giant sand storm that formed his face, well he’s doing it again with water. Remember that funny joke with the objects falling over in a domino effect, well this film does it again, lather rinse and repeat. I’d call it a nit-pick, but the film is constantly recreating memorable scenes from its predecessor, as if it’s scared to have an identity of its own. The self-referential hummer is also really tired in this film. Actually a lot of the comedy is border line silly. This especially applies to Brendan Fraser, whose deadpan delivery gets very annoying. Also, the first film had this humble old-school look and feel, where as this film feels more polished and modern, with slow motion and way too much wire work during the action. One minor announce that always gets to me in other films is when a main character dies, and is then brought back at the end. Yes, there’s a scene in this film when one of my favorite characters actually dies, and while I’m happy to see said character come back, it also defeats the drama and just feels pointless. 

     The adventure comes to a close with an epic climax, which harkens back to the style of a “Star Wars” finally, as we watch multiple action sequences at once. Rick battles Imhotep in an exciting final battle, Evie gets into another sword fight with Anck-Su-Namun, and Ardeth leads his Magi army into battle against the army of Anubis. 
It all keeps building to the long awaited resurrection of the monstrous Scorpion King. His design is outstanding, as he’s a giant Scorpion/ human hybrid, but unfortunately the CGI effects that bring him to life are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. It’s still a really cool final battle, and there’s one stand out moment that’s almost Oscar worthy. Said moment being when both Rick and Imhotep are about to be dragged into Hell, and each yells out a different plea to the woman they love, only for both woman to do the complete opposite of what they were told. This scene was beautifully shot, very well acted, and leads to the most touching bit of human emotion as conveyed by our main villain just before he dies.

     Shortly after “The Mummy Returns” came a spin-off movie titled “The Scorpion King”, which was also silly, but a harmlessly derivative adventure film. I definitely have more to say about that film, but I’ll save it for my next review. Then there was “The Mummy: The Animated Series”, which ran for two seasons on Kid’s WB. This series continued the adventures of the O’Connell family and featured a whole gallery of new villains and mystical creatures for them to encounter. I remember watching it and liking it okay, but it really wasn’t that memorable either. Then in 2008 came a third film titled “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, and this one was really bad. In an effort to further expand on the Mummy universe, this film flew way to close to the sun, and became an unorganized, boring mess. The characters are worse than ever, and there aren’t even any mummy’s. Every single problem I had with “The Mummy Returns” is multiplied by 20, and leaving us fans with a hollow and empty shell of a sequel that doesn’t even feel like it’s from the same franchise.  

    “The Mummy Returns” is often described as a lesser sequel, but when compared to everything else that came after, it really isn’t that bad. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that “The Mummy Returns” works just fine as an entertaining, and mostly complete sequel. It develops the characters further, explores the universe more, and features some of the franchises best action sequences. While it’s still dated, and brought down by some noticeable problems, it’s by no means terrible. If fun Saturday afternoon fodder is all you want, then this sequel delivers the goods, and is a mostly entertaining experience.

                                            I give “The Mummy Returns” 3 stars out of 5.                 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Top 10 Favorite Song Numbers from Musicals

Music doesn’t get any more special then the song numbers featured in musicals. Weather it’s from a stage musical or a movie musical, these are the tunes that tell part of a larger story, submerse us into an experience, play to our emotional sides, and have gone down as classics, with several renditions from various artists. Now for this list I’m specifically singling out “songs”, and not “dance numbers”, that would require another top 10 list to cover all those. Also to be as fair as possible, I’ll only be including one song per musical, and I won’t be including songs from animated films either, but song numbers from classic stage musicals or theatrical musicals are more than welcome. So here we go, these are my personal top 10 favorite songs from musicals.         

#10 “Seasons of Love” (from “Rent”)

Kicking off my list is the opening song from “Rent”, and talk about starting things off on a high note. This might just be one of the most depressing and dramatic musicals I’ve ever seen, but the upbeat songs continue to clash and balance out the experience. While there’s lots of standout numbers, it’s this opening song that always gets me in the “feels” every time I hear it. It’s the signature anthem of the musical that’s anything but doom and gloom. This song asks the deep question of how an individual would measure his life, and hoe one would plan upon love. It’s beautiful, sentimental, touching and reminds us to cherish the beauty of life, especially when facing difficult times. 

#9 “If I Were a Rich Man” (from “Fiddler on the Roof”)

Here’s a quick recreation of how I felt as a kid when my mother tried to show me “Fiddler on the Roof”. “OH SHOOT, that films two VHS tapes long, drat, this is going to be so  boring, and I just don’t want to see this”. Yes, that’s how I initially felt, but then I heard that song “If I Were a Rich Man”, and somehow, I was instantly hooked. In this song, our lead laments his lack of good wealth, and dreams the big dream of a life as a rich man. This musical number features one lone singer in a boring barn setting, yet it’s so enticing, and irresistible to hum along or heck ... actually sing along with. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to “biddy, biddy bum” their days away?   

#8 “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (from “Evita”)

Based on historical Argentina events, “Evita” is the musical about the nation’s first lady, and the massive impact she left behind. Her theme song “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” is about as fitting as they get. In this song, our titular heroine conveys hope and promise to her country through her passion and undying love. It’s a breathtaking song number that demonstrates one persons selfless devotion for the greater good, but isn’t asking for fame or attention in return. It’s actually quiet inspiring, and just an all around beautiful song, with memorable lyrics, and humble message at the center.

#7 “Memory” (from “Cats”)

Well, who didn't expect to see this song on my countdown? It’s about as unforgettable classic songs get, and is often regarded as the greatest of all Broadways musical numbers. Can’t say that it’s my personal favorite, but obviously I love it too, especially the version performed by Barbra Streisan. It’s both a beautiful and tragic song as it resolves around a character who’s reflecting on the warm memories of her life, while also lamenting how far she’s fallen in present day. The lyrics and nostalgic tone all feel relatable, which can hit viewers on a personal level. More than anything, this is the final song of the final act, making it the song that stills plays in our heads as we leave the theater, and what a perfect note to close on.            

#6 “Let’s go Fly a Kite” (from “Mary Poppins”)

You know those classic songs that you grow up with as a kid, and they just put a smile on your face every time you hear them, even as an adult? Well, “Let’s go Fly a Kite” is one of those treasured child hood songs that never gets old, even though I do. The lyrics are so simple yet so catchy that it’s impossible not to sing along with them. “Mary Poppins” obviously is a timeless film that no family should be without, and its final song is simply one of the most uplifting numbers you could possibly close on. While not specifically addressed in the lyrics, this is a song about family togetherness, and about loving parents who bring humble joy to their children. I loved this song when I was a kid, it still warms my heart as an adult, and I think it’s the Sherman Brothers best work ... which is saying something.

#5 “Tonight Quintet” (from “West Side Story”)

Oh “West Side Story”, who doesn’t love this classic musical sensation ... well, probably people who don’t like musicals in the first place. Even with that said, “West Side Story” can still thrill and impress those who aren’t fans of the theater. This musical revolves around a turf war going on between two rival gangs. “Tonight Quintet” is the power house, middle ground song number where both teams head down town for a royal rumble. The lyrics and singers overlap each other, the tempo keeps building and the song highlights all the main players, where they are in the show, and each even fits in a little reprise of their own previously established theme songs. It’s exciting, it’s catchy, and so awesome that even Disney animated studios tried to recreate this song in “Pocahontas” ... and even that was kind of epic, but obviously not as good.     

#4 “Defying Gravity” (from “Wicked”)

With Hollywood adapting anything they can into a theatrical movie, it makes me wonder why “Wicked” hasn’t gotten the silver screen treatment yet. This is personally one of my all time favorite musicals, and I can’t even begin to imagine how awesome it would be to see all these classic songs brought to life in motion picture quality, or heck, imagine if Disney got the rights to make an animated film adaption of “Wicked”, that would be interesting. Of course the big stand out song is “Defying Gravity”, which just sends my spirit souring whenever I hear it. A lot of my previous songs like “Let’s go Fly a Kite” and “Seasons of Love” are very uplifting, but honestly, even they don’t light a match stick when compared to this epically triumphant musical number. It’s a song about living without limits, breaking your chains, and pushing yourself without ever being held back. If you’re a classic musical theater buff, then you gotta love this iconic song.   

#3 “The Show Must Go On” (from “Moulin Rouge”)

When it comes to musicals, “Moulin Rouge” is one of the biggest, most operatic musicals I’ve ever seen, with grand scale song numbers, and sensational visuals. The big stand out song for me is “The Show Must Go On”, which is obviously another big spectacle, beautifully shot, beautifully edited, and sung wonderfully, but with a lot of substance at the center. At this moment in the musical, the female lead is forced to make a very difficult decision that will hurt someone she loves, but it needs to be done in order to prevent something even worse from happening. There’s something about the struggle of moving forward, and facing difficult situations that’s captured fairly well in this song, which is actually kind of inspiring. Also, I just love how the music and tone just builds, and builds. It actually starts on a very somber note, and while it accelerates in melody, it still keeps that same tone hovering overhead. It’s powerful, it’s beautiful, it’s a big visual sensation, and it’s personally one of my favorite moments from a motion picture.  

#2 “Tomorrow” (from “Annie”)

Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of the musical “Annie”, but I will say that for as long as I can remember, I have never heard a song more uplifting, inspiring or triumphant then “Tomorrow”. In this joyfully optimistic song number, an orphan girl named Annie sets aside all the sadness and hardships of her life in favor of hope that times will change. This song has always hit me on a very personal level, and it’s a situation that I’ve been able to relate to countless times. This song is a reminder that hard times don’t always last forever, kind of like experiencing that beautiful rainbow after a storm. However, we still need to be willing to brave that ruthless weather, no matter how hard it gets. I also love the simplicity of this song, as it’s far less operatic than some of my previously mentioned tunes. It’s embarrassing to admit that a song of this sort can make a grown 25 year old man like myself cry, but every time I listen to this, it always brings on those relentless tears of joy.  

Before I reveal my favorite, here are the Honorable Mentions ...

“Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz

“There's a Place Called Home” from “A Christmas Carol

“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Theme” from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

“Seize the Day” from “Newsies

 “I Only Wan’t to Say” from “Jesus Christ Superstar

#1 “One Day More” (from “Les Miserables”)

There are lots of standout songs in this classic musical, but “One Day More” goes above, beyond and stands as the most epic song you can possibly have before an intermission. While it’s not too big to upstage the final song, it’s still big enough to bring audiences back, and over all the years of theater experiences, I can’t remember another song that got me more excited for what was coming next. Much like the “Tonight Quintet” from “West Side Story”, this song rounds up all our principle characters, where their standing, and each with their own individual songs that are all tying into one big musical number. It’s a song that thrills me, excites me, and will always hold a special place for me as the most amazing song number I’ve ever experienced in a musical.     

                The End