Jersey Boys

Jersey boys

 

DIR: Clint Eastwood • WRI: Marshall Brickman • PRO: Clint Eastwood, Graham King, Robert Lorenz • ED: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach • DOP: Tom Stern • CAST: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lamenda, Vincent Piazza, Christopher Walken

Why is Clint Eastwood directing a musical?? As someone who is very familiar with Eastwood’s filmography as both an actor and a director, this question immediately came to mind when I heard he was directing an adaptation of hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys. Dirty Harry doing show tunes just somehow seems wrong, but after scratching the surface a little bit, it starts to make a lot more sense. Eastwood it turns out has always been infatuated with music, from studying it after leaving High School to composing the scores to some of his most famous films such as Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. He also directed the Biopic of Jazz Musician Charlie Parker in the 1988 film Bird, so it’s safe to say a musical novice he is not. Unfortunately for me this newly found information only serves to augment my disappointment at this messy adaptation.

Jersey Boys chronicles the rise and fall of popular ’60s pop band The Four Seasons and their lead singer Frankie Valli. The film is shown to us in a linear chronology from the band’s original incarnation as The Four Lovers, to their development into The Four Seasons and the huge success they enjoyed throughout the ’60s, and the subsequent fallout between the members of the band.

The film is scored wonderfully by the band’s biggest hits as we are treated to almost all of their hits, including “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes off You”; believe me you’ll know most of them, and you’ll find yourself You Tubing the songs incessantly for days  after viewing the film.

Despite the strong musical numbers the film as a whole never really works. Its major downfall is that it bites off more than it can chew. It tries to cover too much ground from 1951 to 1990 leading it to fall flat in the middle and closing stages after a bright and vibrant start. The film jumps so quickly and loosely between situations and time periods that it leaves the audience member slightly confused. Numerous characters end up being very underdeveloped, the most striking of which is Frankie’s wife whose development from the love of his life to an embittered alcoholic goes wholly unexplained. The four members of the band act as narrators at different stages of the film, addressing the audience directly in an attempt to contextualise what we’re seeing on screen, but it fails to make the film in any way cohesive.

The cast is comprised mainly of unknown actors. John Lloyd Young is solid in the main role of Frankie Valli after his Tony award-winning turn in the Broadway version, with the role allowing him to show off an incredible vocal range. Other notable performances include Vincent Piazza as the troublesome band member Tommy De Vito who can never seem to break free from his roots in petty crime and the always delightful Christopher Walken as Gyp De Carlo, an emotional Mafia Boss who serves as the band’s Guardian Angel.

The film does have its moments, particularly one or two great ones involving a well-known Italian American actor who was genuinely involved with the band before he broke into acting, I won’t spoil what is a very amusing surprise. Despite this, it has to be said, the film falls in line with a disappointing run of recent films from Eastwood including J Edgar and Hereafter. Let’s hope a return to form is on the near Horizon for the great man.

Michael Rice

 

15A (See IFCO for details)
134 mins

Jersey Boys is released on 20th June 2014

Jersey Boys – Official Website

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Cinema Review: A Late Quartet

DIR: Yaron Zilberman • WRI: Seth Grossman, Yaron Zilberman • PRO: Vanessa Coifman, David Faigenblum, Emanuel Michael, Tamar Sela, Mandy Tagger, Yaron Zilberman • DOP: Frederick Elmes • ED: Yuval Shar •  DES: John Kasarda • CAST: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener

 

In his first fictional feature, Yaron Zilberman explores an interesting dynamic as the Fugue String Quartet faces an existential crisis. They have played over 3,000 performances in their 25 years together. The onset of Parkinson’s disease challenges the cellist, Peter, just as the quartet begins preparing for the new season. His decision to retire exacerbates tensions within the group.

 

The film centres on Zilberman’s interpretation of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 (Opus 131) as set out by Peter, teaching his class. Beethoven instructed its performers to play the piece, with seven movements instead of the usual four, attacca, i.e. without a pause, leaving the players no chance to retune. Peter says that playing the piece can end up a mess. ‘What are we supposed to do?’ he asks, ‘Stop, or to continuously adjust to each other up to the end, even if we are out of tune?’ The music, performed on the soundtrack by the Brentano String Quartet, functions as a metaphor for the intertwining lives of the quartet’s members.

 

Second violinist Robert (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to alternate with lead violinist Daniel (Mark Ivanir), a methodical perfectionist. Robert believes his passionate approach makes him a great violinist. He begins to feel that Daniel has controlled the quartet’s development, confronts him about philandering with his wife Juliette, and really hates it when Daniel gets involved with his daughter Alex.  Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers another excellent performance.

 

Juliette’s mother performed with Peter in a quartet before she died. His quartet broke up thereafter. Juliette (Catherine Keener) fears that the Fugue will break up after Peter’s departure. She hopes the drugs will help him and that he can continue. She wants the quartet to remain as it is, and her initial refusal to support her husband Robert strains their marriage. She turns to Daniel for support before discovering Daniel’s dalliance with her daughter.  Catherine Keener contributes an understated but effective performance. Her best scenes are those difficult moments when she discovers her husband’s infidelity.

 

Daniel approached Peter about forming the quartet and shaped its direction. He pours over scores, making copious notes, striving for a performance of perfection. Daniel’s ambition makes his reaction to Peter’s illness seem cold. His priority is finding a replacement. He also agrees to tutor Alex. He falls in love with her. Mark Ivanir holds his own in an ensemble that includes Oscar-winners Walken and Hoffman and Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener.

 

Walken takes on an atypical role, playing a fatherly figure, the professor who knew his age inevitably meant quitting the quartet. Walken’s best scenes come early in the film, particularly when he learns the bad news, but he later provides the film’s emotional climax, demonstrating his versatility in a sensitive and physically challenging apart.

 

Set in wintry New York, nicely shot by Frederick Elmes, Zilberman’s film plays safe and conservatively.  Jogging in Central Park and conversations in cabs and elegant apartments provide the non-descript backdrop to the unfolding melodrama. There is nothing to confront the apparent elitism of classical music and ‘high culture’. Splashing out over $20,000 on a violin raises no eyebrows.

 

A Late Quartet is an ensemble piece exploring ensemble dynamics, allowing its talented actors to shine at various points throughout the film. With such an accomplished cast, it would be difficult to go wrong, and, performance-wise, this enjoyable film never strikes a bum note.

John Moran

15A (see IFCO website for details)

105mins
A Late Quartet is released on 5th April 2013

A Late Quartet – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Seven Psychopaths

DIR/WRI: Martin McDonagh • PRO: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh • DOP: Ben Davis • ED: Lisa Gunning • DES: David Wasco • CAST: Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Colin Farrell

Psychopaths make great movies. Or at least, psychopathic characters make for great movies. Just one psychopath can make for memorable viewing, such as Hannibal Lecter or, in TV land, Dexter. Seven psychopaths? Director Martin McDonagh hasn’t made your standard cinema fare in the past and he’s not about to start now.

 

McDonagh’s follow-up to the superb In Bruges reunites the director with Colin Farrell. Farrell plays the lead, Martin, a Hollywood screenwriter suffering from writer’s block with only the title of his next script committed to paper. The title of his script? ‘Seven Psychopaths’. So let’s recap – Seven Psychopaths is a movie about a screenwriter, named Martin, writing a movie called ‘Seven Psychopaths’. You’d be correct in thinking this not your average cinema material.

 

Seven Psychopaths is recognisable as a McDonagh production through its moments of shocking violence amidst prolonged spells of colourful language. The movie brings to mind similarly mind-bending ventures, such as anything by Charlie Kaufmann. It also recalls Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang as it playfully toys with Hollywood clichés. The movie jumps between the reality of McDonagh’s script and the fantasy of Martin’s script, with one bleeding into the other. McDonagh passes little heed on the innocent audience as he splices the two Hollywood worlds together, stopping just short of having his characters talk directly to the camera in a movie about moviemaking.

 

Farrell is given fantastic support from an array of actors that suit the title very nicely including Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits; men for whom psychosis doesn’t seem much of a stretch. The cast relish McDonagh’s dialogue in a script where anything goes, and regularly does go. Watching Walken and Harrelson share the screen is a sight to behold. Each man trying to out-psychopath the other until they are literally gobbling up scenery as quickly as their maniacally toothy grins will allow. Okay, maybe not literally, but not far off either.

 

With Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh has taken another bold step in cementing his status as a truly fearless and original filmmaker at a time when studios are increasingly fearful of risky business.  You’d be crazy to miss out on this slice of madness.

Peter White

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
110 mins

Seven Psychopaths, is released on 7th December 2012

Seven Psychopaths– Official Website

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvuNfq5vN-w

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