Archive for musical

Review: Beauty and the Beast

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

What is there to say about Disney’s latest live action remake, other than it’s basically very very faithful to the original 1991 animated classic. And that makes it, disappointingly ordinary for such a magical film.

Don’t get me wrong, This film is a solid gold hit – the box office numbers prove that. But unlike The Jungle Book, which based its plot slightly more on the Rudyard Kipling stories and striped away all but two songs to make it stand apart, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself, much like Cindarella.

It’s quite possible that a child who has never seen the animated version will adore this version and I’m of a generation that can’t un-see the 1991 original – I was six years old when it came out, prime Disney age – because there’s an awful lot to like.

The  Beast (Dan Stevens) is scary, and in this case has been given a proper back story that makes you understand the curse put upon him and his household, although the facial design is somewhat ‘off’.

Emma Watson turns in a fine performance as Belle, although she has more of a girl-next-door vibe about her, rather than a classic Disney Princess. Also, the autotuning of her voice detracts from her musical numbers somewhat, especially the iconic ‘Provincial Life’.

The supporting cast is incredibly strong, especially Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. The voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Haydn Gwynne and the unrecognisable Stanley Tucci are perfect as are the animations of each character.

The absolute show-stealers though are Luke Evans and Josh Gadd as Gaston and LeFou. Originally the casting of Evans was a little underwhelming, but he really throws himself into the role of this brash, alpha male ad although much was made in the media about LeFou being Disney’s first overtly gay character, there was only very subtle evidence of this on-screen. Gadd’s comedic chops more than make up for this however. Their slightly-more-than-bromance is a delight to watch.

The songs are largely indestructible and feel required rather than shoe-horned in and the updated compositions and minor changes to some of the lyrics are brilliant, especially the additions to Gaston’s song. Even the added song that the Beast sings is a good addition, as are the scenes added to give a bit more depth to the characters. It all largely works. The problem is that nothing feels like it’s added overall.

If the original didn’t already exist this would be brilliant, but because it does and this adds nothing of substance it just feels ordinary. Still very much worth a watch though.

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Review: Jersey Boys

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Jersey_Boys

Clint Eastwood and musicals don’t sit comfortably together in the minds of most people, but the veteran director has decided to add that particular notch to the hefty post that is his career with a big-screen adaptation of Jersey Boys, the musical based on Frankie Valli and his band, The Four Seasons.

Eastwood made the choice not to use big-name Hollywood actors for the band members, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito & Nick Massi, opting instead to use stage actors John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Vincent Piazza & Michael Lomenda respectively. John Lloyd Young played Frankie Valli in the Broadway production & won 6 awards for the role in 2006 and he does a great job on film too managing to nail Valli’s trademark falsetto every time. In fact, all the Four Seasons actors do a great job reproducing the vocal harmonies that made them  so unique.

The only really huge name in the cast is Christopher Walken who plays Gyp DeCarlo, a mafia boss and loan shark who the boys in the band look up to and have connections with. Walken, typically, brings a commanding performance with just the right balance of Fatherly wisdom and underlying menace without chewing the scenery. He does, however, steal the focus of every scene he is in which isn’t a bad thing but does, perhaps, show the difference between a seasoned screen actor and stage actors.

The plot of the film follows the young group as they struggle to be noticed, all the while doing small jobs for DeCarlo & serving jail sentences when they are caught. Until Joe Pesci (yes, him from Goodfellas and Home Alone) discovers the songwriting powerhouse of Bob Gaudio for them followed by their sudden rise to stardom & all the good & bad times that came along with it. Eventually the in-fighting ends with betrayal, the band split with DeVito & Massi returning to New Jersey while Valli and Gaudio went on to write huge hits while working constantly to pay off the bad debt that DeVito had built up with the Mafia over time.

This is not your typical Jukebox Musical that we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years with films like Mama Mia & Rock of Ages, it is a drama more in the vein of Walk the Line. Jersey Boys is as dramatic as it is engrossing, with just the right amount of comedy. Eastwood’s directing style is quite traditional, there are no showy camera tricks, flair or fuss, just simple, succinct storytelling.

Jersey Boys is a well acted, solidly directed film that tells a great story.  There does, however, seem to be something slightly lacking though it’s hard to say what. Definitely worth a watch, but it won’t change your life.