Newsies is Disney's 1992 return to that rarest form of film, the live-action musical. With original music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Jack Feldman, the music tells the story of the 1899 New York City newsboy rebellion against newspaper kings William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. The film was dead on arrival and played in some lucky local cinemas for two weeks. This was sad news, considering that it could have been the beginning of a whole new musical generation. The music of Newsies has since gained a following and has a timeless appeal, joining the roots of a great Broadway musical while attempting to fit the songs to their era. Despite the 1990s production, we are expected to believe the songs might have been sung by newsboys in the 1890s. We don't, of course -- the songs are too elaborate and pop driven (it is also likely that a newsboy who was more melodic than a hum or whistle would have been put in his place if the newsies are as rough as this film would have us believe). It works as a timeless piece, though, because it is a mixture of then and now -- while the arrangements are cheerfully old-fashioned, you can almost picture Nsync filling in for the vocalists who are comprised of trained singers and actors, including the great Welsh actor Christian Bale (American Psycho). Bale plays Jack Kelly, the leader of the rebellion, and was confident enough to lend his own vocals. It was a smart move, as he brings the ballad "Santa Fe" to stunning highs. It is not the only high on this album, which is charged with circus level excitement throughout. It is astounding that, in a film consumed with grand musical ambition, not one of the songs was selected for an Academy Award nomination. The touching call for justice "Seize the Day," "Carrying the Banner," the Newsie theme, the joyous "High Times, Hard Times," sung by Ann-Margret, the demanding proclamation "The World Will Know," and the absolutely terrific "King of New York" are each worthy of repeated listening. The film itself is worthy of a second chance.
Peter Fawthrop, Rovi
Following the success of musical TV series like Hannah Montana, Disney's Shake It Up tags along with best friends Rocky (Zendaya) and CeCe (Bella Thorne) as they go after their dream of becoming professional dancers. Like the series' first soundtrack, 2011's Shake It Up: Break It Down, the second soundtrack installment is an explosion of high-energy dance music, heavy on synths and light on down time. Fans will find familiar favorites from the show, including "Something to Dance For" and "TTYLXOX".
Laura Checkoway, Google Play