on November 28, 2008
So it's nothing short of a miracle that I ran into this webcast musical. I'd never dipped in the pond of Whedon's work and at the time I wasn't a fan of any of the actors, but boy did that change.
I first heard about Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog from a couple weekly podcasts that I listened to and everyone loved it, so I gave it a try. I came out of the experience singing the catchy songs for weeks, seeking out the actors' works, and wanting to be a bigger Whedon fan.
The acting is spectacular. Neil Patrick Harris is one of the best actors of his generation and he shows real and refined talent by both singing and acting as Dr. Horrible himself. It's a shame that Nathan Fillion, Captain Hammer, is not an exploding star. Felica Day, too, exhibits fine acting and singing skills and it's hard not to fall in love with her character, Penny.
The Whedon team (+ Mo) do an amazing job of weaving together fine acting, extremely catchy and well-written songs, and witty, yet thought-provoking dialogue in the tragicomedy that is Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog and I, for one, cannot wait for more.
on December 4, 2008
I just ordered my DVD but my original thoughts were blogged on July 18, and they still stand; well, of course:
Whether you are or aren't an acolyte of Joss Whedon, do yourself a favor and view this 45-minute serial TV show made for the Internet (and now on DVD).
This was an experiment devised by Whedon, two of his brothers, a writer friend of theirs, and countless others who contributed, during the fairly recent (now months ago) WGA strike. The artists on this project basically worked for free, with Joss Whedon and a few others ponying up the funds.
Dr. Horrible is the tale of a mad scientist (Neil Patrick Harris), would-be villain who wants with his entire being to be part of the Evil League of Evil, run by an Uber-Villain Overlord named Bad Horse. Why? He's in love with a girl named Penny, who he's afraid to talk to but wants to rule the world with. She in turn falls for a big lug with half a brain called Captain Hammer. Hammer and Dr. H have a hate-hate relationship, mostly because Hammer keeps giving him beatings and messing up his plans for world domination.
Did I mention it's a musical? The whole thing is brilliantly devised; archetypes of villains and heroes turned on their head, a sweet young thing who is their innocent catalyst for change, and a tuneful score which harks to musical theatre influences ... some Bernstein, some Schwartz, with emphasis on Sondheim. Whedon and his co-writers obviously love language and know how to use it to warp the woof of an oft-told tale; good vs. evil. But just who is good and who is evil? And for whom will you weep when the story is through?
Write and tell me. I'd like to know what you thought.
On the surface, looking at photos, reading synopses here and there, you might be fooled that this is just a trifle, a silly confection. Those unfamiliar with Whedon's previous artistic outings are in for a surprise. The ending is being hotly debated even as I write this. There's a lot for everyone here; musical enthusiasts to comic-book fans, to dramaturgs.
Watch how well the tone shifts from Act to Act, with the music supporting all the action. Act I is the honeymoon, Act II the divorce, and Act III "the great black pit" in more ways than one.
Neil Patrick Harris is a star - if that wasn't already clear. His singing and acting runs the gamut from sweetly hopeful, to sarcastic, to morose, to black outrage and despair. If Act III doesn't prove that you can become hollowed out through your own mistaken desires, nothing will.
Nathan Fillion plays the "Hero," Captain Hammer. I don't want to give too much away if you haven't seen it yet, but let's just say his performance is the perfect capital P for pompous. I'm not surprised he delivers on the singing - a very talented man who is not afraid to spoof his own image as someone who is adored, but in a totally obnoxious way. He's equal parts lecherous Judge Turpin from Sweeney Todd and Judd Frye from Oklahoma. Not easy to pull off.
Felicia Day (who has her own show The Guild on the Internet Highway) plays Penny, the innocent ingenue who tries to stay positive in a wicked, bad world. Tries to make a difference despite indifference. Day is competent, sweet and smart in a role that doesn't give her much to do. It felt as though she really had to pull back her own personality to make it fit within the confines of a role that doesn't change or grow. But she is there for a definite purpose.
How we could be taken on this journey in such a short series. I'm a believer that all things are possible. Especially when there's Whedons involved.
on November 29, 2008
"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" tells an incredible story of an aspiring villain... who blogs and sings. In this backwards world, the villain is the hero, and the hero is the villain. But which one will get the girl? If you're a fan of "Sweeney Todd," you'll love this movie. The acting is impeccable, and the music is flawless. Not a scene, not a song, not a word is out of place. This is a story you won't want to miss.
The fact that this DVD has two commentaries -- a typical filmmaker's commentary and, appropriately so, a musical commentary -- is unique in and of itself. The fact that it's the same stellar crew that put together the Sing-Along blog itself guarantees brilliance. The other special features, such as the "making of" videos, are horribly satisfying. I fell in love with the project all over again.
on November 28, 2008
This is an amazing piece of work, and was one of the first "created for the web" creations to really succeed, both artistically and virally. Neil Patrick and the whole cast are perfect, and the entire production is highly original in content, format, and artistry. The songs are great (you'll be singing them for days, if not weeks) and bottom line, it's just really, really good, and worth watching or buying or whatever!
on December 29, 2008
First let me say that the content on the disc itself is great, but Amazon is not being completely honest with it's product descriptions.
On the top of the page, it says that the disc format is DVD, but if you buy it, there is a possibility that they will send you a burned DVD-R instead of a pressed DVD disc. This can be an issue because DVD-Rs are not as durable over time and some DVD players cannot read them.
You can tell if you received a DVD-R if it is a purple backed DVD-R disc. I didn't even realize this was a possibility until I opened the package and saw it since the product description doesn't even mention it except for in small print at the bottom of the page. I'm disappointed that Amazon couldn't shell out for a release of consistent quality.
UPDATE: Amazon recently changed the DVD logo on the top of the product page to DVD-R making the product description more accurate.
on November 28, 2008
So I originally watched this like most people through the power of the internet. Then I downloaded it on iTunes. Then I bought the soundtrack. And now I'll buy this.
If only for a chance to support it and beg Joss to make more great movies and keep him in business.
The movie is perfection. The acting fantastic and the songs way to catchy to be considered legal.
on December 17, 2008
This is yet another great example of a film that demonstrates that the word protagonist doesn't mean hero. It ranks up there with "Thank You For Smoking" and "Payback" as a terrific way of making the bad guy someone you want to win.
I love all the songs. They get stuck in your head the same way "Once More With Feeling" did. They are wonderfully done. My fiancé criticizes Nathan Fillion's voice, but I think he did a fine job. However, Neil Patrick Harris is the true standout of awesome talent. He did a great job on this project.
The use of video blogging as a setup for the plot is genius, and I was actually kind of sad when Act 3 featured no blogging whatsoever. On a side-note, I think the sequel should definitely be titled "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Podcast."
My one gripe with this product has been mentioned by others: why a DVD-R? I know the limited shelf-life of DVD-Rs has been exaggerated, but still! Why not have a professionally made DVD that will last longer? I have seen a ton of low-budget stuff make it's way to DVD. Hell, "My Name is Bruce" is getting a blu-ray release! "Dr. Horrible" would be an awesome blu-ray! This complaint is not enough to get me to avoid buying this, but I am certainly disappointed with the quality of the product. Here's hoping for a future double-dip with some kind of deluxe edition.
on February 3, 2013
I'm a teacher who hardly ever uses films. I'm very choosy about what I use, whether it's a document, a piece of literature, or a political cartoon. When it comes time to teach/reteach plot line and the elements of the short story, in both my honors and regular classes, I use this film. Why is this the perfect film for both boys and girls? For both Honors and regular classes?
1. The Whedons have instant credibility, especially now that The Avengers was so successful with a wide audience (Joss wrote its screenplay, as well as the one for Toy Story). Students also recognize the cast from shows like Castle, The Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother, so they're in it.
2. Omniscient point of view: Musicals are the perfect genre to teach this point of view. It also reinforces the truth that film is a form of literature. Students become aware that a film can be in the first person if there is a voice-over in the first person. Otherwise, it is third person. Kurosawa is a great filmmaker for showing more than one character's interpretations of an event, but this uses popular culture icons and the timeless superhero motif to make a musical cool! It also shows that omniscient doesn't necessarily mean you know EVERY character's thoughts--just the important ones to the conflict.
3. There are both major and minor conflicts that are easy to identify. There are three clear conflicts, all three of which Dr. Horrible exposes in the first scene. Every student benefits from this complex structure AND understands it. It's not beneath the honors students, and the students in the regular class can follow it and identify it, as well. They can also see how climax in a plot line can be in the same scene for every conflict, but different parts. Best line with a double meaning to discuss that addresses two of the conflicts in one: "The world I wanted at my feet". GENIUS!
4. Resolution symbolism. At first, when the film goes dark, students call out, "It's over? What?" Then we have an amazing discussion where it comes out that the simplicity of the ending really exposes Billy's darkness and loneliness and how utterly human and broken and incomplete he is when he's alone.
5. You can understand every single word in the lyrics. The enunciation is perfect.
6. There's love and superheroes. How perfect is that?
7. Every song is catchy, and the dialogue is witty. During class, students react the whole way through. Some of my students are still singing the songs. They have also come back to me and told me they've watched it several times since class. They talk to others about it. Even after they're my students, they come back to visit me, ask me what we're doing, and ask, "Have you shown them Dr. Horrible yet?" It's a hit!
8. It catches you off guard. You think it's gonna be funny, and then you're hit with a curve ball.
9. The end of each act is a perfect discussion place, if you feel like your class needs to discuss and clarify complications.
10. This has elements of a Greek tragedy, not only because of the three acts, but with our flawed hero whose own ambition is destroying him.
11. Themes involve the darkness and frivolity of society, false prophets, what a hero truly is. Powerful depth for a film that seems to be a comedy.
12. It's short, only 42 minutes long, and yet so much happens. These men are geniuses! Thank goodness for that writer's strike where they just got bored sitting around and decided to come up with this gem!
1. There are two sexual references, one involving the word "penis". Students can handle this. Don't prepare them for it or make a big deal out of it if students giggle. It's funny. It even goes to show the shallowness of Dr. Horrible's nemesis, Captain Hammer, and how he hides his true self from everyone by Billy who is in awe at their blindness--the references are not just there because sex sells. They have a purpose.
2. If you don't talk to them about what musicals can do as literary genres and point of view, many students will act too macho whenever a character begins to sing. They will guffaw, turn away, or in some other way act like it's silly. Just tell them that they are mature, young adults and that you have a Plan B if they can't handle this. Then after you show them the movie, tell them what you saw that you liked about how they were audience members.
I feel like I can guarantee success with this one. Let's just say that it would be hard to fail. Your students will love it, and you will never be accused of trying to get out of teaching for awhile by merely showing a film to your class.
I felt that I just had to add another 5-star review to help this show/movie/whatever-it-is along. I'll update this review once I get the DVD to talk about the extra features, but for now I'll simply talk about the 42 minutes of wonderfulness that is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
Update: This DVD has the best extra features I've ever seen! They are simply spectacular. The musical commentary is ridiculously funny and the songs are just as catchy as in the actual thing. I can't believe they took the time to give us another 42 minutes of excellence. It's astounding. Also, all the other extra features are cool. It's fun to learn about how they made the music and the show and everything. The creators and actors are all interesting. But one more thing puts these extra features into the upper echelon. There are hidden features! There are puzzles scattered throughout the DVD(one of the easy ones is that some credits have yellow letters that spell out an action) that, when you decipher them, tell you to perform certain actions at certain times. When you do, you get to see tidbits of bonus content. The DVD is like an extra musical and a game all in one!
This stand-alone story tells the tale of a sort of sub-par supervillain and his attempt to enter the Evil League of Evil. The supervillain, Dr. Horrible, lives a mostly normal life when he's not being villainous. In fact, he even has a crush on a girl he always sees at the laundromat, Penny. Unfortunately, Dr. Horrible's nemesis, the just and righteous Captain Hammer also has "feelings" for Penny. And the whole thing is filled with spectacular songs! The songs are catchy and amazing, the acting is superb, the story is both hilarious and touching, and to think that all this was done during the writer's strike by a few talented people and with their own funds.
So if you think that watching a supervillain/hero love triangle musical sounds like an amazing experience, this is for you. It's filled with parody and wit, some of the jokes are spectacular, and the entire thing is memorable. If you're like me, you'll find yourself watching this over and over, showing it to everyone you know, and reveling in the fact that you can't get the songs out of your head.
1. You can watch this for free on hulu.com, but there are advertisements. I bet that if you see it there, you'll like it enough to buy the DVD.
2. This format is something extremely innovative and interesting. By buying this DVD and supporting Joss Whedon's new idea and format, perhaps more of these creative endeavors can come into existence. This is sort of a trial, and it's up to us to show that a short, small-budget, well-acted, well-written piece of work is worthwhile. Plus, Joss funded the entire thing himself, and I think of it as a sort of shareware. Buying this DVD is my way of saying "Thank you. I do in fact want to own this. Great Work."
3. One reviewer complains that the DVD is a DVD-R, which is a little sketchy. This is only because the whole production value was in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps not even 200k. The people behind this wonderful work are doing their best to provide us with something great, and this DVD will be just that, great, no matter the format.
4. Finally, I have nothing to do with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, other than that I am a rabid fan. My plug for the DVD is entirely based on how creative and worthwhile it is, so I hope everyone buys it and enjoys!
on November 28, 2008
I was fortunate enough to have a fellow Whedon fan forward me to Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long blog in the short week it was initially available for free. Soon after, I bought digital downloads. Soon after that, I bought the soundtrack. It mirrored my obsession of Buffy The Vampire Slayer's episode "Once More With Feeling"; the songs get stuck in my head for days, and I never mind them being there.
You'd think that I wouldn't need this DVD since I already have access to its content in several different mediums. Think again.
This DVD also contains "Commentary! The Musical!" featuring additional musical content as voice over commentary, with more music than the actual set of webisodes themselves! This is in addition to a standard commentary with the writers and stars, and making-of content.
This is a must have for fans of the Whedon family, fans of Neil Patrick Harris, and fans of good musicals.