New in Theaters: The Non-Musical ‘Jersey Boys’

The 'Jersey Boys' sing, sing, sing (Warner Bros.)

The ‘Jersey Boys’ sing, sing, sing (Warner Bros.)

jerseyboys-poster1If the touring production hasn’t played at a downtown theater near you yet, it soon will. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Jersey Boys was already one of the most successful of the jukebox musicals that have plagued enriched Broadway over the past few years; and that was before Clint Eastwood (having a week or two off, apparently) decided to make it into a movie. One point for his unaccountably dull and strangely non-musical version: It has Christopher Walken.

Jersey Boys opened wide on Friday. My review is at PopMatters:

When Rob Marshall filmed Chicago, he didn’t try to jam Bob Fosse’s meta-narrative into a standard dramatic structure. Marshall understood that film viewers can accept, just as theatergoers do, that the characters will occasionally start belting out a song with full-band accompaniment against an instantaneously-appearing backdrop; reality be damned. Certainly he tarted up the whole thing with quick edits and spotlight razzle-dazzle, but it stayed true to the original show’s spirit. This is not the case in Jersey Boys

Here’s the trailer:

New in DVD: ‘Seven Psychopaths’

7psychopaths-dvd1The latest Martin McDonagh movie, Seven Psychopaths, comes out today on DVD and Blu-ray. It starts promisingly, with a cast ranging from a murderous Woody Harrelson to a bunny-stroking Tom Waits, not to mention plenty of McDonagh’s patented acerbic sarcasm. Unfortunately, it’s no In Bruges.

You can read my review at PopMatters:

At one of the quieter moments in Seven Psychopaths, Hans (Christopher Walken) tells his friend Marty (Colin Farrell) that the female characters in his screenplays are horrendous. Each gets only a few minutes of terrible dialogue before ending up dead. “It’s a tough world for women,” Marty stammers.

This is a multifaceted joke for Seven Psychopaths’ screenwriter and director, Martin McDonagh, who indeed makes sure that none of his female characters speaks an intelligent line or escapes suffering grievous bodily harm. One could argue that purposeful clichés are only worth citing if they help to unpack some of the prejudices or lazy thinking that gave rise to those clichés. Otherwise, it’s just the same old garbage with a smirk…

You can watch the trailer here:

New on DVD: ‘Heaven’s Gate’

heavensgate-dvdIn the history of legendary cinematic disasters, there are flops and then there is Heaven’s Gate:

In his interview on the Criterion Collection release of the 1980 Michael Cimino film Heaven’s Gate, a craggy-looking Kris Kristofferson makes a strong appeal for the roundly maligned Western as being a potent work of political cinema. Kristofferson sticks up for Cimino’s indictment of Manifest Destiny and robber baron greed at the end of the 19th century. Of course, he did star in the thing. But still, this is the iconoclast’s take, and an unpopular coming after more than two decades of popular film history telling us that not only was Heaven’s Gate one of the greatest disasters in film history (it took in less than ten percent of the $40 million budget at the box office) but that it single-handedly ended the free-wheeling era of American filmmaking…

The Criterion Collection now offers Heaven’s Gate on DVD and Blu-ray, with plenty of the usual extras. My full review of the DVD edition is at PopMatters.

You can see the trailer for the original film release here:

 

New in Theaters: ‘A Late Quartet’

Sneaking into theaters in a surprisingly clandestine manner—for a film starring the likes of Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, and Philip Seymour Hoffman—is the quiet melodrama A Late Quartet:

[The film] looks like one of those November films that speak to audiences interested in the finer things. Set on the Upper West Side in the deep chill of winter, it offers a seeming checklist of somber elements, from a teacher reading T.S. Eliot to his students to the onset of a dread disease. It even includes an initially odd bit of unexpected casting in Christopher Walken as a quiet paterfamilias. But the checklist turns into an outline for the film that could have been, an echo of class, taste, and meaningful art instead of the real thing…

A Late Quartet opened Friday in limited release, and features some superb acting, if not much in the way of a thoughtful script. My full review is at PopMatters.

You can watch the trailer here:

New in Theaters: ‘Seven Psychopaths’

The new Martin McDonagh movie, Seven Psychopaths, opened yesterday, with a cast ranging from a murderous Woody Harrelson to a bunny-stroking Tom Waits. You can read my review at PopMatters:

At one of the quieter moments in Seven Psychopaths, Hans (Christopher Walken) tells his friend Marty (Colin Farrell) that the female characters in his screenplays are horrendous. Each gets only a few minutes of terrible dialogue before ending up dead. “It’s a tough world for women,” Marty stammers.

This is a multifaceted joke for Seven Psychopaths’ screenwriter and director, Martin McDonagh, who indeed makes sure that none of his female characters speaks an intelligent line or escapes suffering grievous bodily harm. One could argue that purposeful clichés are only worth citing if they help to unpack some of the prejudices or lazy thinking that gave rise to those clichés. Otherwise, it’s just the same old garbage with a smirk…

Seven Psychopaths is playing everywhere. For all its problems, it’s ultimately worth checking out—unless you haven’t seen McDonagh’s In Bruges, in which case, watch that immediately.

You can watch the trailer here: