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Posts Tagged ‘James Corden’

Andrew Rannells, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman

“THE PROM”  My rating: B+ (Netflix)

130 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Sabre-toothed cynicism and squishy-hearted sentiment are unusual bedfellows, but they get it on quite swimmingly in “The Prom,” Ryan Murphy’s winning screen adaptation of the gay-centric Broadway musical.

Here’s a movie I’d pay to see in a theater.  And I say that from the depths of my pandemic-panicked heart.

Simultaneously a celebration/sendup of show-biz hamminess and a touching coming-out story, “The Prom” depicts how a handful of Broadway has-beens and wannabes descend upon a tiny Indiana burg to champion the cause of a teenage lesbian named Emma (a winning Jo Ellen Pellman) who only wants to take her gal to the high school prom.

That simple desire is complicated. First, because the PTA president Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) would rather cancel the prom than let a gay couple attend; second because Emma’s squeeze is none other than Mrs. Greene’s daughter Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), who is yet to come out to her mom.

Meanwhile in New  York, Broadway diva Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) has been trashed for  her new musical about Eleanor Roosevelt.

“What didn’t they like?” asked co-star Barry Glickman (James Corden), who plays FDR. “Was it the hip hop?”

Actually, no.  The critics find Dee Dee and Barry to be insufferably narcissistic. They need an image makeover, something that will let them “love ourselves but appear to be caring human beings.”  Hey, what if they help out that little gay girl in Indiana?

They are joined on their mission  by Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), who after 20 years in the biz is still stuck in the chorus, and actor/bartender Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), whose career high point is his degree from Juilliard.

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Taylor Swift

“CATS” My rating:  C+

110  minutes | MPAA rating: PG

It’s taken the musical “Cats” nearly 40 years to make its way from the stage to the big screen. Now we know why.

Just as there are some novels that defy dramatization, so there are stage productions that derive their power from the interaction of audience and performer, that work precisely because the viewer realizes that all the magic unfolding in front of him/her is being created by real people in real time.

Tom Hooper’s movie version, on the other hand, has been so digitally diddled with that we can’t be sure that anything we’re seeing — from the settings to the performers’ faces — is even remotely real. Characters do impossible flips in the air,  cockroaches march in formation…it’s all so artificial that the film might as well have been done as pure animation (actually that was the plan, back in the ’90s).

That said, the movie “Cats” isn’t a total wipeout. The score (the tunes are by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the lyrics derived from T.S. Eliot’s book of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) remains humworthy and at least a couple of the performers manage to transcend their hairy makeup (all too often they look like werewolves from a ’60s Hammer film) and establish an emotional connection with the audience.

A big problem is that “Cats” lacks a real story.  On stage this wasn’t a deal breaker…the show was a musical revue with different “cats” taking center stage to sing and dance their signature numbers.  What plot there was dealt with the approaching Jellicle Ball where one lucky feline will be chosen by the ancient Deuteronomy to be reincarnated into a new life (cats get nine of them, after all).

The screenplay by Lee Hall and Hooper  centers on Victoria (ballerina Francesca Hayward, who seems capable of expressing only a quizzical attitude), abandoned by her owner in a dirty alley and adopted into the Jellicle tribe.  Her guide and guardian is Munkstrap (Robbie Fairchild), who introduces her to various other characters and the rundown corner of London they call home.

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James Cordern, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

James Corden, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep

 

“INTO THE WOODS”  My rating: B-

124 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

“Into the Woods” is a terrific big-screen musical right up to the point when it suddenly stops being great and turns disheartening and annoying.

In this it is exactly like the stage version of this Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine collaboration, which I saw in previews in New York just before its 1987 debut.  I’m talking 90 minutes of wonderful followed by 30 minutes of meh. So meh, in fact, that it damn near ruins all the good stuff.

Director Rob Marshall, who more or less singlehandedly resurrected the movie musical with 2002’s “Chicago,” comes charging out of the gate here, delivering a movie that works musically and  cinematically and which strikes just the right tongue-in-cheek tone in revisiting the fairy tale cliches of our childhoods.

In a village just outside the woods the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) yearn for a child.  Their cronish neighbor (a gleefully scenery-chawing Meryl Streep), widely believed to be a witch, reveals that in his childhood she put a curse of infertility on the Baker.  Now she offers to lift the hex if the couple will obtain for her several items needed for an incantation that will restore her youth and beauty.

Among the things sought in this scavenger hunt: a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn, and a slipper as pure as gold.

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Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo in "Begin Again"

Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo in “Begin Again”

“BEGIN AGAIN” My rating: B (Opening July 2 at the Glenwood Arts)

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Begin Again” is only half the movie that “Once” is.

But it should still be enough to jump start the career of filmmaker John Carney.

“Once,” of course, was Carney’s 2006 art house hit about a tentative romance between a Dublin street busker and a Polish immigrant. This mini-budget wonder, largely improvised and featuring an astounding soundtrack written by the two “stars” (Glenn Hansard, Marketa Irglova), introduced the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly.” It was a new kind of intimate musical, and a bittersweet romance of epic proportions. (It has gone on to become a hit on Broadway).

But the ensuing years have not been kind to writer/director Carney, who used his newfound fame to make two instantly forgettable features: the clumsy visitor-from-another-planet comedy “Zonad” (2008), which was released in the US only on home video, and the supernatural thriller “The Rafters” (2012), which as far as I can tell has been seen by practically no one.

Which brings us to “Begin Again,” an effort to recapture some of the magic of “Once.”

It’s about music. It’s about love.

And it’s actually not bad.

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