Modern Jukebox Musical Update of ‘Cinderella’ is Here to Sweep You Off Your Feet

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Cinderella (2021) (CREDIT: Kerry Brown/Amazon)

Starring: Camila Cabello, Nicholas Galitzine, Idina Menzel, Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver, Tallulah Greive, Billy Porter, Maddie Baillio, Charlotte Spencer

Director: Kay Cannon

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: PG for Some Slightly Off-Color Dialogue

Release Date: September 3, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video and Limited Theaters)

How can it ever be allowed that movies don’t first open in the theater? Look, I know we’re in a precarious situation right now in which theatrical releases don’t always look like a safe or financially viable option, but there are certain flicks that just demand to be seen on the big screen. Personally, I believe that’s true of all films, but it’s especially in the case of this jukebox musical version of Cinderella, written and directed by Pitch Perfect vet Kay Cannon. This is exactly the sort of movie that should have people getting up and singing and dancing in the aisles! Sure, you can also do that in your living room, but we know that’s not the same as losing yourself in a dark room full of strangers. This is a piece of art that begins with a mashup of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be,” and I’m sorry, but if that’s the message you’re delivering, then you can’t keep me confined to non-theatrical viewing options.

So here’s the journey that Cinderella 2021 took to finally arrive in front of our eyeballs: in pre-pandemic days, Sony scheduled it for a February 2019 theatrical release, but then in May 2021, they cut a deal with Amazon to have it go straight to Prime Video. May of this year! A time when things looked promising! Anyway, I suppose that Cinderella can still be enjoyed at home. I enjoyed it that way, after all! Just gather around the kids and a bunch of your friends and maybe make a party out of it. It’s the rare modern retelling of a classic story that’s neither too surface-level nor too overly specific. The setting is still “Generic Medieval English Village,” but the dialogue is a close-enough facsimile to the 21st century to have enough upside.

The message boils down to the fairly straightforward “Maybe we don’t have to fulfill the roles that society has prescribed to us,” but the details are well-considered. Camila Cabello is the plucky Ella (the “Cinder” nickname comes from her stepsisters associating her with cinder blocks), who doesn’t just want to wear pretty dresses and marry a prince – she wants to run her own dressmaking business and marry that prince only if he’ll support her career aspirations. And she’s not the only character who’s granted a thoughtful reconsideration. Her stepmother Vivian (Idina Menzel) isn’t cruel because she’s evil, but rather because her own dashed dreams have driven her towards cynicism.

We also get to know more about Prince Robert (Nicholas Galitzine) and his family: the King who’s boxed in by tradition (Pierce Brosnan), the Queen who’s wondering where the passion in her marriage went (Minnie Driver), and the Princess who just wants to be taken seriously (Tallulah Grieve). And of course we can’t forget Fab G, the fairy godparent brought to typically fabulous life by Billy Porter. If anybody can be anything, why wouldn’t that character be played by one of the most effervescent entertainers alive today? Similarly, whenever Cinderella 2021 operates by the logic of “If a new Cinderella can be whatever we want, then let’s do whatever we want,” it just transports you away.

Cinderella 2021 is Recommended If You Like: Galavant, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Billy Porter Realness, The delightful TBS sitcom Miracle Workers

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Dresses

Best Albums of 2019

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It’s been a few years since I’ve made an Albums of the Year list, but I really felt compelled to make one for 2019. Here are the audio compilations from the recent past that really made an impact on me:

14. Camila Cabello, Romance – Fun and bouncy.
13. Harry Styles, Fine Line – I like where Harry is headed.
12. Beck, Hyperspace – Reliable Beck.
11. Brittany Howard, Jaime – Great, big rockin’ voice goes solo.
10. The Black Keys, Let’s Rock – They never stopped rocking.
9. Ariana Grande, thank u, next – Lots of adventure from Ari.
8. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold – Band broke up, music’s still great.
7. Tyler, the Creator, IGOR – I feel so comfortable inside this album.
6. FKA Twigs, MAGDALENE – FKA reminds me of Bat for Lashes.
5. Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride – Those Vampire Weekend guys have still got a hold on me.
4. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! – What a soundscape!
3. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Just plenty of fun.
2. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You – I love you, too!
1. The Chemical Brothers, No Geography – Apocalyptic concept album.

Best Songs of 2019

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CREDIT: Tove Lo/YouTube Screenshot

The following are the singles that had enough of an impact on me in 2019 to make me go, “I’ll have to mark that one down for posterity.” A few of them were originally released before 2019, but they didn’t reach their full cultural impact until 2019. And for the first time in the decade or so since I’ve been doing this, I’ve got a repeat winner, as I also coronated Tove Lo in 2017.

1. Tove Lo – “Glad He’s Gone”: Such friendship, such storytelling. We are all so blessed to have Tove Lo in our lives.
2. Lana Del Rey – “Mariners Apartment Complex”: Four minutes of musical madness that feels like hours of bliss.
3. The Chemical Brothers – “Eve of Destruction”: If you think the world’s gone to hell, have a dance party!
4. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower”: There have been multiple (good) songs named “Sunflower” the past few years; this is the one that’s most likely to make you feel like a sunflower waking up in the morning.
5. Lizzo -“Truth Hurts”: 100% that mix of references that clearly hold deep emotional resonance for Lizzo.
6. Gary Clark Jr. – “This Land”: Can tasty guitar solos solve racism? Can’t hurt.
7. Hozier – “Dinner and Diatribes”: A galloping piece of soulfulness.
8. Dua Lipa – “Swan Song”: An original track from Alita: Battle Angel, and clearly the sound of future sci-fi feminism.
9. Sara Bareilles – “Armor”: Listen to Sara Bareilles getting down with her jazzy bad self and the rest of us getting down with her!
10. Kimbra – “Lightyear”: Space wonder Kimbra has a message to beam down to us earthbound folks.
11. Shaed – “Thunder”: One of those indie rock “This is who we are!” statements of declaration.
12. Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”: Billie sings about the joys of being devious, but by all accounts, her personal life is quite wholesome. I think that’s a great way to live.
13. Meg Myers – “Running Up That Hill”: I’m just glad that Kate Bush covers are on the radio in 2019.
14. Lana Del Rey – “Doin’ Time”: Is Lana the current Queen of Remix? She just knows how to summon the past into her modern legacy.
15. Tones and I – “Dance Monkey”: We can always use some monosyllabic shouts amidst the more word-like lyrics to convince us to get up there and bust a move.
16. Camila Cabello – “Cry for Me”: Sometimes you need to make an insistent demand for emotional connection to get the message across.
17. Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”: The epitome of Gen Z’s total lack of recognition of genre constraints.
18. Absofacto – “Dissolve”: A little skitter-skatter of chillax rock.
19. Benny Blanco, Tainy, Selena Gomez, and J Balvin – “I Can’t Get Enough”: A pleasure moan produced into nugget-size song form.
20. Starcrawler – “Pet Sematary”: It really is the perfect unassailable opening guitar riff to kick off some opening credits, no matter which version.

2/15/20 UPDATE: In the spirit of comprehension, I may have overlooked a few songs that I loved enough to be top 20-worthy from a band that had already made the cut. So, to correct the record, some more-than-honorable mentions go to “MAH” and “Got to Keep On” by the Chemical Brothers.

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 12/6/19

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CREDIT: Adult Swim

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Movies
Little Joe (Limited Theatrically)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Limited Theatrically)

TV
Fuller House Season 5 Premiere (December 6 on Netflix) – I still hope to be fully caught up one day!
Joe Pera Talks with You Season 2 Premiere (December 6 on Adult Swim) – I guess it’s Joe Week.
The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage! (December 7 on Nickelodeon)
-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” Arrowverse Crossover (Begins December 8 on The CW)
Mike Tyson Mysteries Christmas Episode (December 9 on Adult Swim)

Music
-Camila Cabello, Romance

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: David Harbour/Camila Cabello

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CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

Oh wow, we’ve already reached the third episode of this season of Saturday Night Live. Mr. Host is David Harbour, one of the stars of Netflix hit series Stranger Things, Season 3 of which arrived way back on July 4. But I hope that some people are still making their way through it because TV is so much better when you spread it out. Musical guest is Camila Cabello, who is tall enough to ride this ride. I was attending a wedding as this episode was actually airing, which means I was up way past my bedtime. The matrimonial celebrating was quite intense, but it didn’t rob me of my ability to laugh.

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Best Songs of 2017

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CREDIT: ToveLoVEVO

It’s early March, so it must be time for me to post my list of the best singles of the past year!

1. Tove Lo – “Disco Tits” – A woman doesn’t have to be modest to earn respect, and don’t Tove Lo know it.
2. Kesha – “Praying” – The gospel-tinged anthem we all need right now.
3. Lorde – “Green Light” – If you’re looking for euphoria, Lorde has you covered.
4. Jain – “Makeba” – This guaranteed toe-tapper/hip-spinner was technically released in 2016, but while it may have taken off in Jain’s native France that year, it didn’t really hit in the U.S. until that Levi’s commercial debuted in late 2017.
5. Marian Hill – “Down” – A deceptively simple piano-driven trip-hop jam from this Philadelphia duo.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut to the Feeling” – We all need to just follow the Tao of Carly.
7. St. Vincent – “Los Ageless” – St. Vincent is still the master of combining genuine chops with super scuzzy distortion.
8. Beck – “Up All Night” – Put this track on if your house party’s tunes are bringing everyone down.
9. Miley Cyrus – “Younger Now” – Is this what agelessness feels like?
10. Dua Lipa – “New Rules” – Dua Lipa’s anthem attempt = anthem success!
11. Miguel – “Told You So” – If there is one singer above all others belting out tunes right now about whom I would say, “You’ve got to listen to what they’re saying,” it’s gotta be Miguel.
12. Alice Merton – “No Roots” – There may be no roots to Alice Merton’s disposition, but there plenty of roots, powerful ones at that, to her musical influences.
13. Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – “Havana” – This song makes me sweaty. But it’s the sweat of passion, so I don’t feel gross.
14. Zedd and Alessia Cara – “Stay” – Zedd is the kind of DJ so skilled at bottling up those moments you don’t want to let slip away.
15. Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, and Big Sean – “Feels” – Just some tropical vibes to get you by.
16. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” – The sort of generational rock song with lyrics that might mean something profound or nothing at all.
17. Katy Perry ft. Ziggy Marley – “Chained to the Rhythm” – Direct, but also pointed and bopping.
18. The Killers – “The Man” – One thing we can count in this life is songs entitled “The Man” being silly but also kind of anthemic.