West Side Story | Well Crafted & Acted But What a Sh!tty Story

Steven Spielberg making – well remaking – a musical? Why not. This is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 West Side Story stage musical by Arthur Laurents with music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by the dearly departed Stephen Sondheim – I’m no musical theatre fan but even I know who he is. This newest adaptation stars Ansel Elgort (Divergent Saga, Men Women & Children) and newcomer Rachel Zegler, with Arianna DeBose (Prom, Hamilton), David Alvarez (American Rust), Mike Faist (Panic), and Rita Moreno – who starred in the previous movie based on this musical.

Premise: Teenagers Tony and María, despite having affiliations with rival street gangs, the Jets and Sharks, fall in love in 1950s New York City.

Review: Going in I vaguely knew about this muscial, and thought it was Romeo and Juliet with song and dance, so I was not ready for the racist undertones laced throughout. I mean not at all, and the whole time I was thinking people sing these songs – in particular the jets’ songs – knowing the jets hate the sharks because they’re “foreign” and not white? Knowing they did the same with the Egyptian Kings? – who I’m guessing were people of color.
To make matters worse, I checked the 1960s version, because I suspected the racism to be more blatant in that version – since some of the Jets in Spielberg’s movie seemed a bit swirly, like their were mixed or something; – and oh boy was I wrong. I first stopped at a picture of the 1961 Jets and it screamed aryan brotherhood to me. But the worse thing about it is that Spielberg’s movie seems to be the one not shying away from the racism with a few shashays and harmonies, the old version is.

I figured this movie would have some kind of message, which is I’m guessing along the lines of “an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind?”, but even with that kind of message I don’t think that this movie is worth it. To me it only serves as a reminder that some people are trash, time passed and things remained somewhat the same or got worse. The movie itself didn’t make me sad, my eyes were dry throughout, but it was sad to see that not much has changed in particular when it comes to how people treat each other.

All of that said, I realized that I’ve heard some of those songs unaware that they were from this musical. There is also a lot more to like in this movie when it comes to how it was put together. The cast is amazing, delivering jaw dropping performances. A lot of them, are actors to watch. I never suspected that Elgort could sing like that and his fellow cast members showed him up a bit despite some of them being relative unknowns. The directing is on point, the sets, the dance numbers and the costumes are great, but I just couldn’t get into the story. It starts well enough I guess but it goes off the rails and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There’s no amount of pretty singing and dancing that would have blinded me to the problems I have with the story. Some of the characters’ actions doesn’t make a lot of sense to me maybe the actors didn’t sell it too well but to be honest I don’t think anyone could have. I have yet to watch the 1961 version in full but the two scenes I saw – The introduction scene and the I feel pretty song – and they were cringey for a whole sets of reasons.

West Side Story looks cool, the dances and music are catchy enough, but I just couldn’t get into the story. However I suspect Spielberg to have made meaningful but subtle changes to highten the social commentary

Rating: 6 out of 10.

If you’re interested in the soundtrack, help us by getting them from the links below:

Carrie | Entertaining but not Horror Enough

Quick review: I went to see Carrie with my cousin and her friend. I know I saw the orignal years ago but I don’t really remember it. This one was somehow more satisfying  except maybe that I wished the bitch had died a harder, bloodier death, she could have suffered more. Although it was entertaining it was not an horror movie.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

The Divergent series: Allegiant

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Based on The “Divergent” book series by Veronica Roth, “Allegiant” is the latest film adapted by Robert Schwentke, and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts and a slew of young actors.

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Premise: After the earth-shattering revelations of INSURGENT, Tris must escape with Four and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago. For the first time ever, they will leave the only city and family they have ever known. Once outside, old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless with the revelation of shocking new truths. Tris and Four must quickly decide who they can trust as a ruthless battle ignites beyond the walls of Chicago which threatens all of humanity. In order to survive, Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

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Review:  After Insurgent I was skeptical, I wasn’t exactly rushing to see this film but I was quickly engaged in the story. The cinematography was beautiful and a step up to the previous film. The pace was nice and easy, there isn’t much going on, but I was entertained. I did feel like some characters were mishandled some were done away so quickly and without much impact that I almost rolled my eyes. The big baddy in this one start off great but becomes very stereotypical that it feels like the actor gave up at some point, or the direction given hindered the character.

Allegiant is a step up from Insurgent but it’s not as good as Divergent. At least that’s what I think, what about you?

Insurgent

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Based on the second installment of the Divergent novels by Veronica Roth, the film was directed by Robert Schwentke and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Milles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts & Octavia Spencer.

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Premise: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart.

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Review: Divergent – the first book – was interesting but the first movie was even better, way better if you ask me. They managed to cast great actors and make a realistic futuristic movie. Despite having a different director Insurgent

looks familiar I easily slipped back into a world I was already familiar with. The movie is visually impressive, even though it looks a bit too CGI-ish for my taste, making the film not as grounded as Divergent was so at times it feels like watching a video game or an animated version of it. 

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The acting is OK, I mean it’s a good cast so what they bring to the table fits the story and the emotional journey these characters have been through. But – because of course there is one – Theo James’ (Four) age is seriously starting to show. I know he’s only 30 – and Teller is 28 – but in the first movie it didn’t seem as weird that he’s with Tris (Woodley) but next to 46 years old Naomi Watts, who looks 35, maybe forty, it’s really weird. They look like brothers and sisters at best, they could have aged Watts or cast someone else completely because how young was she when she had him? 12?
It will be even weirder to see her playing opposite Ray Stevenson (Marcus Eaton) – Four’s dad – who’ll look like a dirty old man next to her, which is probably why we’ll see very little of that.

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I wish these aspects of the film were the only ones I had a problem with but on top of all of that Insurgent lacks rhythm. It’s missing the slow, intense build up in which the tension and the action grows to an entertaining climax but it never doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong it is action-packed – kinda -, a rich adventure of a film but whenever the tension builds up it quickly dies down to go back up again at some point and that’s how it is throughout the movie. It comes and goes in waves but never rides on the high the previous action scenes gave you.

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Although, it’s faithful to the book Insurgent was a bit of a disappointment I expected better. It’s only slightly more entertaining than the book, they could have done better. 

What did you think?

Insurgent

Based on the second installment of the Divergent novels by Veronica Roth, the film was directed by Robert Schwentke and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Naomi Watts & Octavia Spencer.

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Premise: Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart.

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Review: Divergent – the first book – was interesting but the first movie was even better, way better if you ask me. But despite having a different director Insurgent looks familiar I easily slipped back into a world I was already familiar with. The movie is visually impressive, even though it looks a bit too CGI-ish for my taste, making the film not as grounded as Divergent was so at times it feels like watching a video game or an animated version of it.

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The acting is OK, I mean it’s a good cast so what they bring to the table fits the story and the emotional journey these characters have been through. But – because of course there is one – Theo James’ (Four) age is seriously starting to show. I know he’s only 30 – and Teller is 28 – but in the first movie it didn’t seem as weird that he’s with Tris (Woodley) but next to 46 years old Naomi Watts, who looks 35, maybe forty, it’s really weird. They look like brothers and sisters at best, they could have aged Watts or cast someone else completely because how young was she when she had him? 12?
It will be even weirder to see her playing opposite Ray Stevenson (Marcus Eaton) – Four’s dad – who’ll look like a dirty old man next to her, which is probably why we’ll see very little of that.

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I wish these aspects of the film were the only ones I had a problem with but on top of all of that Insurgent lacks rhythm. It’s missing the slow, intense build up in which the tension and the action grows to an entertaining climax but it never doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong it is action-packed – kinda -, a rich adventure of a film but whenever the tension builds up it quickly dies down to go back up again at some point and that’s how it is throughout the movie. It comes and goes in waves but never rides on the high the previous action scenes gave you.

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Although, it’s faithful to the book Insurgent was a bit of a disappointment I expected better. It’s only slightly more entertaining than the book, they could have done better.

What did you think?

Men, Women & Children | A Freakishly Good Movie

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Inspired by Chad Kultgen the novel of the same name and adapted on the silver screen by Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the air) & Erin Cressida Wilson. The film stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Ansel Elgort, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Harris, Judy Greer & Kaitlyn Dever.

Premise: A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.

Review: The film Men, Women & Children is another societal exploration of American / western culture by Jason Reitman. It is a freakishly good movie. I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest the trailers were not that engaging, but this character driven movie captivated me. It’s a little long and the slow pace is not helping but every minutes were worth the cramp I got on my ass from sitting too long in the movie theater.

Every character had their kinks and quirks, a singularity about them that some people might call one dimensional, I disagree. The message wouldn’t have been so loud and clear if the characters didn’t have a stereotypical aspect to them. By the way what was the message? It sure feels like there’s one but the at the same time it doesn’t feel like it’s patronizing message. I think it is whatever you feel it is, you will definitely leave with something, but it might not be the same as the people who sat next to you. In that sense the movie feels neutral, showing you how it is and how it can affect lives.

The movie is not as heavy as the trailers suggest, well it is heavy but there were light and funny moments that helped not making the film a drag. The way Reitman opened his subject made sense and it was tastefully done. Unlike the web he left some things to the imagination or implied them. The film goes to “scary” places, revealing some heavy uncomfortable things about teenagers, parents, couples, and society. You go to these places because it’s done every so slightly, tastefully, step by step.
It was a great assemble of a cast, there is not a bad performance in this movie. Each of the actors play their part on this beautiful movie that is Men, Women & Children
If you haven’t seen this movie, please check it out, and do me a solid follow me on Tumblr, Facebook and tweeter.
How about you guys? Did the movie resonated with you?

Rating: 8 out of 10.