Tag Archives: Ansel Elgort

REVIEW: “WEST SIDE STORY”(2021 aka the Steven Spielberg revelation) 20th Century Studios

Who would have thought we would see the day where Steven Spielberg makes a musical – and not just any musical, but a remake of the very famous classic “WEST SIDE STORY”. The original which was nominated for 11 Oscars, going on to winning 10 including Best Picture. It was a film that at the time, that defined the acting careers of Natalie Wood and the wonderful Rita Moreno, as well, it further established musical theater phenoms Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (RIP) as bona fide household names. This movie, based on the 1957 Broadway musical, of which I actually have an original poster of that I acquired in the late 1990’s from an agent I worked for as a parting gift – right after I had finally seen the 1961 original, which is of course based loosely on the classic Shakespearean Romeo and Juliet story. Could there really be a bigger challenge for Spielberg after his long and industrious career? Probably not. The question is: Does he succeed?

Original Broadway poster on my wall

Even in our remake/reboot/sequel/MCU clogged movie world, doing a film like this is still a massive undertaking and also a bit fun for some to complain or discuss the “why’s” of any and all big screen reboots, even if they’re brought to life by oh, just one of the greatest directors of the past 4 decades, Steven Spielberg. Having had the filming pushed back for more than a year due to various pandemic-related issues, the last few months have only further primed audiences to wonder exactly this. Why?

Giving a few early answers: Spielberg and his team wanted to cast differently than the original version, he looked into a variety of Latinx stars in the Shark parts i.e., more roles tailormade for actual Puerto Rican actors versus the 60’s where makeup was used to make them ‘look’ as though from Puerto Rico. Also seemingly wanted to lean into the sense of the actual division between people as it were, and the from my understanding, shifting the arrangements of the musical numbers to better reflect the original musical stage production from 1957.

Moving on as all that sounds well and good, adding touchups and all, but something like “West Side Story” stands tall all on its own, so did it really need those touchups? Turns out, yes it did, as Spielberg’s first musical is not only vibrant, rich with colour, somewhat wild, and a satisfying show of an updated version of the classic. While fans might initially take exception at if and how faithful it seems to its predecessor, Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner take and use those familiar beats to find some new ones as well, in this classically loved story which is pretty much the same, and the one thing I couldn’t help thinking is it might not actually be the greatest story ever told. Girl meeting boy from wrong side of the tracks, and falling in love in what seems like minutes, then to run away together to avoid family strife and a street gang fight. Which is of course not successful as the fight between the Jets (white immigrants) and the Sharks (Puerto Ricans) is one of the major plot points and highlights of the film.

Early on, we get our first conflict between the rival gangs, which introduces us to Riff played by one of the Broadway play breakouts, and truly wonderful in this role is Mike Faist – who as the quick-tempered Jets leader so desperate to protect the neighborhood. Then we have Ansel Elgort as Tony, the former leader of the Jets attempting to find a new path for his life after spending a year in prison for nearly killing an Egyptian immigrant in a rumble, with all the singing skills and charisma of a wet blanket. Rounding out the men’s side is David Alvarez as Bernardo, Maria’s older brother and proud leader of the Sharks – whose goal is to carve out a place in the new land as equal citizens. And then there is Chino, Maria’s ‘date’ to the dance who is clearly enamored with her, played by Josh Andres Rivera. And the dance is also the first run-in with local cops, Officer Krupke (Brian d’Arcy James) and Lt. Schrank (Corey Stoll), neither of whom care what happens to whom, just as long as it doesn’t happen on their watch. But make no mistake here who rules this movie as I’m getting to that. I covered the men and again, Faist as Riff is wonderful and a force to be reckoned with throughout the movie, but the characters of Tony (Elgort), who is dry and listless, and Bernardo (Alvarez), who while he can dance and sing well, there just was something missing from his portrayal and maybe I just had to much 1961 Bernardo (George Chakiris) imagery in my head, but he just didn’t do it for me. In a way most things related to The Jets a bit on the insufferable side, and to be honest, most of The Sharks are as well. And you ask why.. well it should come as no surprise that the ladies here do all the heavy-lifting.

Which leads me into getting into the nitty gritty of this film and that my friends is hands down the three amigas all giving such strong performances. This is Zegler, DeBose, and Moreno’s movie without a doubt. This film is by far ruled in every way possible by first-time star Rachel Zegler as Maria, whose voice is a massive revelation that I don’t think too many saw coming, but it’s also the the other straight-from-the- Broadway production, actress Ariana DeBose as Anita, who is so fierce when she takes the lead on “America”, making one of the most inspiring and fun musical numbers ever on screen. In addition to her singing and beyond terrific dancing skills, DeBose delivers a superb performance in the role that won an historic Oscar for none other than the original herself, Rita Moreno in the 1961 film. Speaking of the one and only Rita Moreno, who is still wonderful and beautiful at 89 years old – she also appears as Valentina, the widow of Doc as she now runs Doc’s Drug Store and is somewhat of a surrogate mother-figure to Tony. It’s certainly no cameo, and though there is no dance number, she does get to sing “Somewhere”, and breaks your heart with her version and this time she is on the valiant end of the rape scene. She is the connect to the original film gives the film a presence where needed.

And while this is the update Spielberg version, you have to give kudos to Justin Peck for some truly masterful work that builds on the brilliance of what Jerome Robbins originally created. It’s not perfect by any means, but the casting of a more actual ethnic cast – as in no makeup to make anyone ‘look’ like something they are not, to the role ‘Anybodys’, a non-binary, always watching things, character played by Iris Menas, to the Spanish dialogue without subtitles where the strong acting and situations make clear what the scenes are whether you do or don’t speak the language. But for my mind, if you’re going to do a re-make and make positive changes, then why keep the slurs of character words still in there – why make a scene completely of Jets where they gain sympathy in the police station. But again, these overlooked parts is what made it not perfect for me – still highly enjoyable, with just beautiful dance scenes where you see such colour and grit.

At the end, you realize it’s a nostalgic, yet contemporary version that may not have you completely charmed in one way or another, but it WILL have you in awe with the story, dancing, music, acting, and story.

Grade: B+

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Review Screening ~ Monday, November 29, 2021 Courtesy of @RosasReviews as her guest.

“WEST SIDE STORY” from 20th Century Studios is in theaters beginning on December 10, 2021

REVIEW: “THE GOLDFINCH” (2019) Warner Bros.

Having been a huge fan of the book  “THE GOLDFINCH”, I was excited to see what they could do with the film as how does one adapt an almost 800 page Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
The short story is they don’t..and while I will acknowledge the effort made..they just don’t get it right.

We start with the beginning as a young Theo (Oakes Fegley) , is recovering in the art museum in the aftermath of the bombing that kills his mom. We are suddenly flipped to adult Theo (Ansel Elgort) in a hotel in Amsterdam, scrubbing blood out of his clothes.

And so continues the story of Theo and the magical painting of The Goldfinch that he took after being told by a dying old man Welty (Robert Joy)  and his young granddaughter Pippa played by (Aimee Lawrence) as a child, and (Ashleigh Cummings) as an adult, in the museum. He followed her into this room because of a fleeting crush moment, that will change his life forever.

And on we go, back n forth between adult Theo’s life and young Theo’s life..following what happens to him and the painting along the way. He is taken in by the Barbour family who don’t really know him or what to do with him. Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Barbour, is good later in the film when she ages..In between we meet his dad Larry (Luke Wilson) a compulsive gambler and drunk, and his girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) and his new best friend Boris, a Russian kid (Finn Wolfhard) is young Boris,  (Aneurin Barnard) is older Boris) who is seemingly his only friend after his dad drags him to Vegas.

The films is disjointed and all over the place. The book was a page-turner that kept you in suspense every step of the way. The film completely misses the mark on this. It’s blah, boring and terribly mis-cast in almost every role but young Theo. The accents they try to pull off are horrible and draw attention to the bad acting done by the two actors portraying Boris.  And while it is visually beautiful to look at, it’s mish-mash of story never comes together or makes sense enough for you to truly figure out what & why this is all happening.  The elements were all there as again, as the book keeps you on the edge of suspense to where you don’t want to put it down, whereas I just wanted this film to end as it was exceedingly long.

In the end, the film just could not deliver what the book could and did.

Grade: C-

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Media review screening: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

‘THE GOLDFINCH” IS OUT IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2019 // WORLDWIDE RELEASE FOLLOWING.

‘Cinderella’, ‘Insurgent’, ‘Danny Collins’, ‘Jauja’, ’71’, ‘The Salvation’, ’50 Shades of Grey’

So I’ve seen a bunch of films lately that have all been pretty average or just plain bad..with one I really liked!! And as sometimes we all feel like a bad film has just sucked it out of us, I didn’t even feel like giving some of them a review..but then decided to suck it all in and just put them all in one with a few bits about each and let everyone make up their own minds to see them or not.

I’m starting with the one that actually surprised me out of the group because I actually did like it…not love it mind you, but a good ‘like’ is pretty much all I’m looking for now-a-days from a film!
So let’s begin:
cinderella
CINDERELLA (2015) Disney Studios – Every little girl knows this story by heart growing up..it’s truly a little girls fantasy that no matter how crappy things are, you have the chance of one day meeting your ‘prince’. We all bank on it somewhat that it could actually happen. And then you grow up. ha! What surprised me was how much I liked revisiting this version of the story. Richard Madden as “Prince Kit”, (whom I loved and miss as Robb Stark), really made a very believable Prince and Lily James is a quite wonderful “Cinderella”. Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother was perfect, and it’s always nice to see ‘Daisy’ from Downton Abbey (one of my fav. characters of that show) Sophie McShera “Drisella” and Holliday Grainger “Anastasia” doing a fun spin on the wicked stepsisters. Throw in Stellan Skarsgard as the “Grand Duke” and Derek Jacobi as the “King” and you have a well-rounded out cast that brings some new blood & life to this story. And that’s what I liked best of all about it. Told in a little bit more updated version, though not time-wise, but tale-wise, brought it all to life in a really nice wrapped up gift. Was it super fantastic and the best Cinderella story ever told..nah..but it certainly was a nice breath of fresh air and a decent enough way to spend an afternoon reliving the little girl inside of me.

Grade: C+

Next on the list:
Insurgent_poster
INSURGENT (2015) Lionsgate/Summit Ent.
For this one I actually looked back at my review of “Divergent” from back in March of 2014. https://peggyatthemovies.com/2014/03/26/peggyatthemovies-review-of-divergent-2/ .

Basically I could just repeat it almost word for word except for a few minor things.. Like first off how this one was worse, second of all; bad bad casting decision on Naomi Watts as “Evelyn”, Four’s mother. And yes, the lovely Theo James reprising his role here, though annoying enough he kills the best character they had of all as I noted in my Divergent review also, “Eric” (Jai Courtney) this time round. You know my motto, you’re only as good as your villain and Courtney played a good villain.
Miles Teller as “Peter” steps it up some this time, but after you’ve seen him in Whiplash, it’s hard to take this performance seriously as you now know what he’s truly capable of. Ansel Egort “Caleb” is pretty non-existent both in character and performance, and Shailene Woodley coming back as “Tris” is annoyingly bad…again. I mean in an opening scene she decides to chop off all her hair for a new look.. now we know with the hack-knife that she’s using there is no way this is coming out well.. but oh no..not with Shailene..it’s perfectly coiffed hair cut. Please. Stop it.

I didn’t hate the first one, but I liked this one even less and losing a good villain and not adding anyone of consequence..I think I might be out of town, or ya know, busy washing my hair for the next one.

Grade: D

Moving on—
danny collins
DANNY COLLINS (2015) UNIVERSAL

Sigh. I j’adore Al Pacino. I always have. I’ve met him a few times, sat next to him at a movie at Sony once and he shared his candy with me and is truly one of the nicest guys ever. He’s also Al freaking Pacino!!! I mean… enough said right.

Well here he plays “Danny Collins”, an aging rock star who’s manager & best friend “Frank Grubman” (Christopher Plummer) discovers 40 years after the fact, that John Lennon wrote him a letter telling him to basically stay true to himself at what he was doing at the time. Clearly he didn’t and now decides to change his life and sit down and write the songs that were true to him back then, thinking his now-aged audience will want to hear them. They don’t. There is a back story here that I won’t even get into because it’s so passe’ but I will say that Bobby Cannavale as his son “Tom Donnelly” is refreshingly good and I don’t think gets enough credit for his work ever. Annette Benning “Mary Sinclair” as the hotel manager whom Collins is trying to woo into having dinner and maybe more, with him, of course carries herself. Jennifer Garner “Samantha Donnelly” as Tom’s wife holds her own in this company. There are a few really nice, fun moments and as you see them coming a mile away, a few harder ones also, though you pretty much can see in sight what the ending is. In December I went to a screening with a Q & A with Mr. Pacino afterwards of “The Humbling”. This film is almost a cover version of that one except here he is an aging rock star vs. an aging actor.
But ya know what.. no matter as I will always go see an Al Pacino film.

Grade: C-

Neeexxt…
jauja
JAUJA (2014)
I will be deadly honest with you all here. I am not completely sure what this film was even really about. I went because I was invited to a screening with Viggo Mortensen doing a Q & A afterwards and as I am a big fan of his, I thought “sure I’ll go”. Huh.. I think it’s basically a journey of a father, “Gunnar Dineson” (Mortensen) and daughter “Ingebord” (Villbjork Malling Agger) thru a desert though I’m not sure where they are going exactly, and the daughter runs away with her boyfriend in the middle of it, though there is another person they are hunting, or is he hunting them?? And then he meets a witch in a cave while searching for her.. or does he really?? again, completely confused. And then BOOM! all of a sudden it’s present day and it’s the same daughter living in a nice house but without the father. The whole film switches between Danish & Spanish speaking and let’s just all agree to say that I didn’t get it and call me completely lost on this one.. like ‘we have to go back to the island’ LOST. 🙂

I will say Viggo was an absolutely wonderful guy with a lot to talk about. I think he could tell that I might be a little confused by the film and offered to have me to stay for the second screening they were having later. I told a white lie and said I had plans..which I kinda did. They involved me watching the Malaysian Grand Prix a little later. 🙂 And we ended up talking mostly about football aka soccer, as he brought it up when speaking and it turns out we like the same teams. So there ya have it.
Movie grade: D
Conversation with Viggo grade: A 🙂 Viggo

71
’71
Being a fan of Jack O’Connell‘s I saw this film a few weeks back and while for the most part, I liked it, and liked his performance as “Gary Hook” the somewhat dis-oriented British soldier who during a riot on the streets of Belfast during the height of the Irish Catholic/Protestant war i.e., 1971, gets left behind by his unit.
What follows was a bit of a convoluted story for me of him being chased down, beaten up, shot, and surviving a bomb attack all in a matter of what..48hrs. I dunno.. a lot of it just seemed a bit implausible for me. And what’s with him always constantly getting the crap beat out of him in pretty much every single film he’s ever done!! ha! Sorry..sorry.. I know I shouldn’t even be commenting that because this is a serious film..but hey. I call it as I see it.

The side story here is of course religion and how much these people hate each other over it..once again..I’m never that great with these story lines because I’m not religious and can’t imagine killing someone over it. But it’s gone on for thousands of years, and as we all know in Ireland, it was really heavy duty for about 30+ or so years until the ‘peace treaty signed about 17 yrs ago, with this time period truly being the height of it all. There is also a nice sub-plot of crooked police detectives “Sgt. Leslie Lewis” (Paul Anderson), “Capt. Sandy Browning” (Sean Harris) helping both sides in a way and the rest of a good supporting cast including Sam Reid as “Lt. Armitage” who is O’Connell’s commanding officer and seemingly the only person really looking out for him & on his side to find him. This is a rough movie, not altogether great, but it will keep you watching till the end.

Grade: C

Almost to the end..

the salvation
THE SALVATION (2014) IFC Films

Since this just came for a one week run here in L.A. a few weeks ago, I had the chance to catch it on at my favourite art-house theatre, the NuArt. But whoa.. what a film. I mean if one more thing happened to Mads Mikkelson’s character here. Well I just don’t think it would be humanly possible. To put it lightly..this is a dark dark film (yes pun intended) that just takes you places that I probably never want to visit again.

It’s a Western, but not like one you’ve ever seen before because it’s not just Cowboys & Indians here. It’s really like how it must have truly been because there were tons of immigrants coming from all over and settling in as cowboys, though in every Western you’ve ever seen, they just pretend that suddenly everyone was just a regular old southern boy without an accent drifting out West. ZZZzzzzz

Well this one is 1870’s America, the gold rush is on, and this peaceful Danish settler “Jon” (Mads Mikkelson) has been separated from his wife & son for 7 years and finally brings them out to be with him. Literally within an hour of being here, they are kidnapped, his wife raped & murdered & young son also murdered by two degenerates, one of them being a character named “Paul” (Michael Raymond–James). Jon sets out, with his brother “Peter”(Mikael Persbrant) to avenge their deaths and hunts them down and kills them, which then leads to the unleashing of notorious gang leader “Delarue” (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) coming after them as Paul was, unbeknownst to Jon, Delarue’s brother. The really weird townspeople then desert him in his hour of need because they don’t want to die, ends up most of them do. Eva Green is thrown in as a character named “Madelaine” who has her tongue cut out so she doesn’t speak..which doesn’t matter as she really can’t act anyways.. and then comes some really hard core horrible death scenes and basically anything that can go wrong for Jon does, until of course it doesn’t.

This isn’t a great film, it a super depressing one to be honest, but it’s also not horrible. Mads is quite good as a cowboy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan even better possibly as the villain, though you know my motto, you’re only as good a your villain..yeah that doesn’t apply here. Jonathan Pryce “Keane”, Eric Cantona “Corsican”, Sean Cameron Michael “Lester” and Jose Domingos “Raul Delgado” all offer good supporting characters. This film was definitely a mixed bag for me.

Grade: C

50 shades
50 SHADES OF GREY (2015) Focus Features/Universal Pictures

What was the big deal here is all I kept thinking about while watching this film. I thought I was going to be watching the second coming of Deep Throat or some really trumped up S & M film or something the way everyone was going on about it..and all I got was an actually very tame, quite badly done film about this guy, “Christian Grey” (Jamie Dornan) wanting to control this girl “Anatasia Steele” (Dakota Johnson). She’s a literature student who works in a hardware store (of course she does) and he’s a tormented handsome, self-made millionaire businessman..ZZZzzzz oh sorry I drifted off there for a minute just telling with that ridiculous storyline. They are like the new Twilight couple featuring some S & M sex vs. vampires & wolves. Control in the way of having her sign a contract before sex, because he doesn’t spend the night with anyone or have relationships..blah blah blah.. of he does end up doing so, she ends up letting him take her to the ‘The Red Room’ and with some reeaaally bad dialogue thrown in and possibly worse acting, you have the story in a nutshell. I don’t think two people with less chemistry together have made a movie about sex so badly before. And truly, there wasn’t anything hardcore about this. Why all the fuss?? So the guy has a dungeon like room full of sex toys.. a few sex scenes that seriously weren’t that far out there at all. I feel like I must have missed something..but if I did, that’s okay because I will probably miss the next few ones in the trilogy also unless they up their game and their acting ..a lot.

Grade: D

So now you see why I just threw them altogether in one review. I like some, but didn’t love any of them. And now I’m caught up, back and ready to go! 😀
@pegsatthemovies
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(See grading scale)