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"You've all seen the play?" I can imagine Clint Eastwood saying to his cast and crew on the first day of shooting Jersey Boys."Yeah," they respond."Good," he'd then smile. "Do that." And they'd never see him again.
Aside from dropping by three quarters of the way through production to insist on a visual reference to his golden years, Eastwood doesn't seem to have a ton to say about how his film adaptation of the Frankie Valli story should take form. Scenes throughout the movie seem to have been set and blocked in the fabric of Jackson Pollock, with actors scattered about the stage, backs to the camera, faces overlapping in a horribly distracting fashion.
Such scenes are woven together so tenuously, banking with desperation on the hope that everybody watching cares about anything that might happen to the four boys in question, because there's really no contextual throughline. Plot turns, conflicts, and whole characters are introduced abjectly; each serves less as an emotional beat than it does as a segue into the next musical number. But while these musical numbers might be able to carry a haphazard story on the Broadway stage, the magic is far from our grasp in Eastwood's movie.
Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Despite an R rating for a few "f**k"s here and there, the film is as squeaky clean as the tunes of the Four Seasons. Even the mobsters with whom Frankie and Tommy associate — a riotous Christopher Walken plays their own personal godfather — are of the family friendly variety: the only drop of blood spilled in the film is the result of a botched shave, and the only act of larceny an episode of comical ineptitude. The sugar is coated so heavily that when the movie does attempt to get deep and dark, we're obscenely confused. And the music sure as hell doesn't help matters in the drama department.
Still, Jersey Boys manages an inscrutable tolerability, plodding by on the charms of half of its starring team — Vincent Piazza is often jarring but frequently enchanting as undiagnosed psychopath Tommy DeVito, and Erich Bergen is a lot of fun as straight-laced Bob Gaudio (we can accredit his comic timing here to his preadolescent screen debut on The Dana Carvey Show) — and an everpresent Muppety ambiance surrounding these wannabe crooks (of the Frankie and Mugsy variety) turned wannabe stars (of the Frankie and Dean variety).
So, we're left with more of a smile than a frown. The film lacks any definitive structure or interesting style, but it manages an affable energy nonetheless. Not unlike the music of the Four Seasons, actually.
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Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Clint Eastwood, famous for gritty westerns, intimidating squints and asking punks if they’re feeling lucky, wouldn’t be the first person you’d think of to direct a glitzy movie musical. He’s about as far removed from the world of production numbers and intricate choreography as you could possibly get, so it’s something of a surprise that he’s the director bringing the hit musical Jersey Boys to the big screen. Though the film is based on the lives and careers of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the film’s real star power is behind the camera, which should help it stand out in an unusually crowded field of movie musicals.
Though it's been a few years since we've seen a full-blown spectacular on screen, 2014 has three iconic musicals receiving the Hollywood treatment. After Jersey Boys has gotten moviegoers warmed up, December will bring a new, modern take on Annie as well as the star-studded film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's iconic Into the Woods. But which of these upcoming musicals are the real show-stoppers, and which are you better off skipping? We've run down the year in movie musicals, along with their potential for greatness, both critically and commercially.
Jersey Boys Opens: June 20 What It’s About: The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and their journey from being four guys harmonizing under a streetlight to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, including the gambling debts, mob threats and personal crises that almost stood in their way. Star Power: Director Clint Eastwood and Christopher Walken in a supporting role. The main cast is made up of primarily unknowns, although John Lloyd Young won a Tony Award for playing Frankie back in 2006. How Good It Looks: Thus far, it’s gotten mixed reviews, with many critics taking issue with its by-the-book approach to an interesting, conflict-filled story. That weird, grey filter that Eastwood uses can’t be helping matters, either. Box Office Potential: The film hasn’t gotten a lot of promotion ahead of its release, but the Four Seasons are a recognizable enough name that Jersey Boys should be able to pull in a decent amount of money. The show’s still going strong on Broadway 8 years later, after all. Awards Potential: It’s being released too far from awards season, and the early reviews aren’t strong enough to make Jersey Boys a real contender, but we’d be surprised if Eastwood or Young’s name didn’t come up in conversation once or twice - but only once or twice. Number Worth Waiting For: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” of course.
Annie Opens: December 19 What It’s About: Business tycoon Benjamin Stacks takes in Annie, a foster child who has been living in the evil Miss Hannigan’s orphanage since she was born, in order to help his Mayoral campaign. Star Power: A pretty star-studded cast, including Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, and of course, Quvenzhane Wallis. How Good It Looks: Every production of Annie lives and dies by its hero and its villain, and while Wallis seems to be a charming and entertaining Annie, Diaz’s Miss Hannigan seems downright terrible. This is definitely a film that can go either way. Box Office Potential: A beloved, classic, family-friendly musical with a Christmas release date and a big-name cast? It’s probably going to rake in the cash. Awards Potential: Very little. Unless it’s animated, the Academy doesn’t really pay attention to child-friendly films, and anyway, this Annie is more about spectacle than substance. Number Worth Waiting For: “Hard Knock Life.” We’d say “Easy Street,” which everyone knows if the best number in the show, but it’s probably best to wait and see some more of Diaz’s Miss Hannigan before we get too excited for it.
Into the Woods Opens: Christmas What It’s About: Set in a fairy-tale forest, a witch attempts to teach various characters important lessons about life and love. Star Power: Off the charts: Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Christine Baranski, to name just a few. How Good It Looks: Not much has been released about the film yet, so it’s hard to tell, although Streep does look fantastic as the Witch. Box Office Potential: If the A-List cast or theater pedigree doesn’t bring in a big audience, the massive marketing push that Disney will inevitably roll out should do the trick. Expect this one to do very well with moviegoers. Awards Potential: Of the three films on this list, Into the Woods has the best shot at any awards recognition, even if it’s just because Streep gets nominated every time she leaves the house. We’d be surprised if Sondheim’s new music doesn’t become a major contender in the Best Original Song race, and depending on how well the film is received, Kendrick, Blunt and director Rob Marshall – all former nominees – could have a decent shot at a nomination as well. Number Worth Waiting For: “No One is Alone,” which is not only the most well-known song from the show, but will also be sung by Kendrick, everyone’s dream best friend.
Actors Eric Idle, Chris O'dowd, Russell Brand and David Walliams are among the stars who have paid tribute to beloved British funnyman Rik Mayall, who died on Monday (09Jun14) at the age of 56. The shocking death has rocked the U.K. entertainment industry and tributes have since flooded in for Mayall, who established himself as a stand-up star in comedy troupe The Comic Strip, a group which also featured his college pal and future professional partner Adrian 'Ade' Edmondson and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.
He rose to national fame as one of four students sharing a house in hit sitcom The Young Ones in 1982 and went on to enjoy a slew of iconic roles, including as a mean-spirited politician in The New Statesman and an arrogant military officer in Rowan Atkinson's comedy Blackadder. He also re-teamed with Edmondson to play a pair of hopeless single men in slapstick show Bottom.
Fellow funnyman Walliams was among the first to take to Twitter.com to express his sadness at Mayall's loss, sharing a video clip of his role in Blackadder and writing, "I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up Rik Mayall has died. He made me want to be a comedian."
Simon Pegg simply posted YouTube footage of Mayall in The Young Ones with fans, while Brand tweets, "And all the grown-ups will say, 'But why are the kids crying?' And the kids will say, 'Haven't you heard? Rick (sic) is dead' RIP".
Irish actor O'Dowd adds, "Very sad to hear about Rik Mayall's passing. 'Bottom' was a huge part of my youth", and director Edgar Wright posts, "Shocked and saddened that a comedy hero is gone; for those who grew up on The Young Ones, Rik Mayall was one of funniest performers ever."
Monty Python veteran Idle tweets, "Very sad to hear of the passing of Rik Mayall. Far too young. A very funny and talented man", and Blackadder producer and writer John Lloyd tells the BBC, "It's really a dreadful piece of news. He was the most extraordinarily good actor as well as being an amazing stand-up comics. Apart from being great company, he was a great professional."
Meanwhile, his close friend Edmondson has also issued a statement about the years they spent working together, declaring, "They were some of the most carefree, stupid days I ever had and I feel privileged to have shared them with him."
Mayall's cause of death has yet to be determined, but a spokesman for Scotland Yard police reveals paramedics were called to the comedian's house in Barnes, south-west London at 1.20pm local time, when "a man, aged in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene". His passing is not believed to be suspicious.
His death comes 16 years after the comedian was left in a coma for several days in 1998 following a quad bike accident near his home in south-west England. He survived the scare but suffered memory problems as a result of the crash.
In recent years, Mayall had concentrated mainly on voiceover work and TV shorts.
Actor/director Clint Eastwood insisted on live musical performances while filming his new movie Jersey Boys, so he could capture the real emotions and facial expressions of his singing stars on camera. The veteran filmmaker hired a handful of real Broadway stars to appear in the big screen adaptation of the hit stage show about the lives and careers of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and he wanted to really showcase their talents by having them hit the high notes live.
Eastwood says, "In the old days... everything was pre-recorded and the actresses (sic) would just lip-sync, but I said, 'No, we'll just do it live' so the emotion, the facial expressions match the song."
His decision was warmly welcomed by leading actor John Lloyd Young, who was cast as Valli in the film after winning acclaim for his role as the singer on the Broadway stage.
Praising Eastwood for the move, he tells U.S. news show Entertainment Tonight, "Clint is a real music aficionado and really knows music... How great for us and for Clint that he's using people who are used to singing it live on stage every day and will sing it live on set."
The Jersey Boys film cast also includes Christopher Walken, Boardwalk Empire's Vincent Piazza, Mike & Molly actor Billy Gardell and another Jersey Boys stage star, actress Erica Piccininni.
It won't be the only Hollywood movie musical to feature live singing - Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and the rest of the cast of 2012's Oscar-winning Les Miserables also had to perform live during production.
Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
It's that time of year again when young men and women sit in cap and gown waiting for the speeches to be over so that they can get their diploma and move on with their lives. Everyone at some point in time has sat and listened to a speaker try to impart words of wisdom on high school or college graduates — many celebrities have taken a turn delivering such an address — and movies have frequently used a commencement speech as a plot device.
There is a lot more life lessons to be gained from high school and college movies, however, than just when a character stands up at a podium and speaks to the gathered masses. What if you could build an inspirational speech from those movies to serve as a killer send off to graduates? Let's give it a shot.
You Don't Have to Know Everything Now
Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the hero of Say Anything…, took a unique tact in trying to figure out what to do with his life. Instead of focusing on what he wanted to do, he first eliminated all of the things that he didn't want to do. There's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone comes up with a workable life plan in high school or college… some people need more time to find their niche. That's perfectly fine, just as long as you're out of your parents' basement by 28.
Take a Stand
Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) delivered a whole bunch of lessons to Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) in The Karate Kid… but "Wax on, Wax off" doesn’t translate that well to a speech. So, we're going with his example of what happens when someone tries to go at things half-heartedly. As Miyagi so eloquently put it, "Squashed like grape."
Don't Make Excuses
Jaime Escalante, the teacher portrayed by Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver, was a real-life inspirational figure, devoting his entire life to teaching impoverished youths. When Escalante first meets his class in the movie, he tells them that he doesn't want to hear excuses because their future bosses aren't going to want to hear them. True that.
Seize the Day
Robin Williams's professor in Dead Poets Society was basically a walking speech. Hell he was a bona fide encyclopedia of lessons. But when he reminds his young charges that the pictures on the wall were once in the same position with their entire lives in front of them, audiences everywhere heard what they were whispering. Carpe diem indeed.
Don't Let the Moment Be Too Big
When the Hickory High basketball team arrives for the state finals in Hoosiers, Gene Hackman gives a demonstration to show that the court in the bigger building isn't really any larger than the one in their home gym… that just because it seems bigger doesn't mean that it is. Keeping things in perspective is always a good idea.
We Really Are All the Same
When Anna Kendrick cries at the end of a viewing of The Breakfast Club in Pitch Perfect it's a seminal moment for her character and we understand why. The realization that we are all a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal is still mighty darn powerful.
Always Remember to Have Passion
We'll let Williams' John Keating have the last word, especially since he really did do a lot of speechifying during Dead Poets Society. Life without passion is an empty vessel. Whether or not you believe, like Keating, that poetry is a necessary part of that passion is irrelevant. Having passion about something is what makes life worth living.
Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection
Once upon a time, the phrases "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" were not a part of the American lexicon. That was before Disney's The Lion King exploded onto movie screens during the summer of 1994. The tale of the young lion Simba — voiced in the movie by Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Matthew Broderick — who grows up to overthrow the reign of his evil uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) became a global phenomenon, augmented by the songs of Elton John and Tim Rice. Even if you know that the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, here are some fun facts about the movie that you might not know.
1. The movie was the first Disney feature-length animated film to be created from an original script idea. All of the company's other animated movies had been based either on books or long established fairy tales.
2. The original script was titled King of the Jungle and centered on a battle between lions and baboons. In that version, Scar was the leader of the baboons. At some point during development, the animation team realized that lions don't actually live in the jungle.
3. At one point in the production, animators considered having the song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" sung entirely by Pumbaa and Timon, much to the horror of John and Rice. A version of the song using Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella, the voices of the warthog and meerkat, was recorded but not used. Similarly, the song was almost cut from the movie entirely until John lobbied to have it kept in.
4. Many of Disney's top animators at the time didn't work on The Lion King because they were working on the animated film being produced concurrently, Pocahontas. Most people at Disney thought that the historically-based film would be the more prestigious of the two.
5. It was the second Disney animated film, after Beauty and the Beast, to win the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy.
6. When Irons' Scar delivers the line, "You have no idea," it is a direct nod to one of the actor's most famous roles as Claus von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune. In that film, Irons' character delivers the line in answer to his lawyer calling him a "very strange man." In The Lion King, he says it after Simba accuses him of being "so weird."
7. Timon's famous line, "What do you want me to do, dress in drag and dance the hula?" was improvised by Lane.
8. When Irons strained his voice while recording "Be Prepared," actor Jim Cummings, who voices the hyena Ed, stepped in and imitated Irons to get the song finished.
9. Originally, the intention was to pair Cheech Marin with his longtime comedy partner Tommy Chong to voice the hyenas Shenzi and Bonzai. They could never get in touch with Chong to reach an agreement, so Whoopi Goldberg was tapped instead.
10. James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair, who voice Simba's parents, also play a royal husband and wife in Coming to America, where they reign as the king and queen of a small African country and parents to Eddie Murphy.
11. Scar makes an appearance in a later Disney animated movie. He's seen as a rug during a sequence in Hercules.
12. There was a controversy over the formation of dust during a scene when Simba flops on the ground. Activist Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, asserted that the dust gathered to form the word "SEX" if you looked at a freeze frame of the scene and was an intentional subliminal message aimed at promoting sexual promiscuity. The producers said that really it was meant to be "SFX," as a reference to the special effects team that was working on the movie. In the films rerelease, some additional dust was added to the scene to blur any letters.
13. There was additional controversy over similarities between the film and a Japanese animated TV series entitled "Kimba the White Lion" that was produced in the 1960s. Disney has maintained that any similarities are coincidental, but Broderick has admitted that he thought that they were adapting "Kimba" when he first saw the script.
14. Three of the songs from the film — "Hakuna Matata," "The Circle of Life," and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" — were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" ultimately won the Oscar, and John's version of the song went to No. 4 on the singles chart in the U.S.
15. Rice, who had provided the lyrics for Disney's Aladdin and started his career as the partner of Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita), was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. John was knighted in 1998. The duo reteamed for the Broadway musical Aida in 2000.
16. Before playing Timon and Pumbaa, Lane and Sabella had previously worked together in the Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. After The Lion King, they were paired again on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. At first, Lane and Sabella were cast to be two of the hyenas, but their chemistry was so good that they were switched to voicing Simba's pals.
17. Lane and Broderick went on to star as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom in the Broadway musical version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, and reprised the same roles in the film version. Reportedly, the duo saw each other only once during their voice work for The Lion King… passing each other in a hallway.
18. The stage version of The Lion King, which has been running since 1997, is the highest-grossing Broadway show in history.
19. The Lion King was the second highest grossing movie of 1994, behind Forrest Gump, in the United States, but it easily outdistanced Tom Hanks' movie worldwide and grossed over $768 million during its initial theatrical release.
20. The Lion King remains the highest grossing hand-drawn (or hand-drawn/computer animation combination) film of all time. It's the second highest grossing film in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios behind only Frozen.
Jersey Boys is a big glitzy musical full of show-stopping, finely tuned musical numbers, and that signature layered sound that originally shuttled Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to the top of the music charts in the '60s. Now, Clint Eastwood is looking to shrink the live theater experience into a film adaptation.
The first trailer for the Jersey Boys film has been released, and the upcoming flick looks to stick pretty closely to the source material. The original musical tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Season, a couple of rough and tumble kids from Jersey that defied the odds and became pop music sensations. John Lloyd Young, the original Tony winning star of the show, is reprising his role as Valli for the film. The Jersey Boys film looks to carry over stage show's beguiling narration where each member of the Four Seasons tells a different, skewed version of the group's collective story. Breaking the fourth wall is a device used by many television shows and films, and while it remains to be seen whether Jersey Boys uses the device well, some works have used it better than others.
Warner Bros. UK Trailers/YouTube
Wolf of Wall Street Does it work: Yes. Scorsese's ode to excess uses the fourth wall device sparingly, having the crass Jordan Belfort unload his unholy sermons on the almighty dollar in only a few doses. It only happens a handful of times throughout the film so the technique never overstays it's welcome.
House of CardsDoes it work: It's a mixed bag. While it's sometimes fun to hear Frank Underwood deliver a vicious tongue lashing in that deep-throated southern drawl, many of the fourth wall breaking asides in House of Cards only serve as the delivery mechanism for mind numbing exposition. It's almost as if the show doesn't trust us to follow along with its political punches without Frank directly telling us what is happening.
Fight ClubDoes it work: Yes. Fight Club is often a call to action as much as it is a riotously loopy thriller. Both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton speak right to the audience while denouncing the shackling nature of our consumerist, image-obsessed culture.
Malcolm in the MiddleDoes it work: Yes, the episodes near-constant shattering of the narrative/audience barrier is in deeply coded into the DNA of the show. Malcolm in the Middle simply wouldn't be Malcolm in the Middle without Frankie Muniz's exacerbated asides to the camera. If you had a family like that, you'd probably start talking to an imaginary audience as well.
Ferris Bueller's Day OffDoes it work: An emphatic yes. Ferris' one day sabbatical from high school isn't just a solo adventure. You and everyone else in the audience is along for the ride. Part of the reason Ferris Bueller has endured over the years is because of Bueller's ability to seemingly warp and shape reality around him and ensure that everyone is having a good time. It's the ultimate teenage power fantasy, and you have you're own personal demigod tour guide.
Boxing legend Mickey Duff has died, aged 84. The revered trainer, who was born in Poland in 1929, emigrated to England in the late 1930s and changed his name from Monek Prager.
He started boxing as a teenager but retired in his early 20s and became a young promoter.
He was involved with a stable of top British fighters, including Frank Bruno, Joe Calzaghe, John Conteh, Lloyd Honeyghan and Alan Minter.
Duff was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1999.
John Lloyd Young, the singer/actor who created the role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys, has reprised his spot on take of the singer for a London run of the musical. Lloyd Young will play Valli on the West End stage until 27 April, according to the Daily Mail. He made his debut in London's Jersey Boys on Saturday (15Mar14), replacing Ryan Molloy.
Lloyd Young will also portray Valli in Clint Eastwood's much-anticipated movie adaptation of the musical about the rise of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. The film is scheduled to hit cinemas this summer (14).
Alongside Hollywood veterans Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, and Tony Goldwyn and two young leads (Shailene Woodley, Theo James) who have already built up quite the impressive C.V., Divergent's ensemble cast also includes several virtual unknowns. Here's a brief guide to their careers so far.Ansel Elgort (Caleb)
The son of fashion photographer Arthur Elgort, 19-year-old Elgort's career began on stage in Matt Charman's off-Broadway drama Regrets. After making his big screen debut as Chloe Moretz's prom date in last year's Carrie remake, the New Yorker landed the role of Tris' inquisitive brother Caleb Prior. Elgort will then make the switch from playing Woodley's sibling to her love interest when they both star in the adaptation of John Green's best-selling novel, The Fault In Our Stars, while he's also set to appear in Jason Reitman's star-studded comedy Men, Women and Children.
Amy C. Newbold (Molly)
Amy C. Newbold is no stranger to the Hollywood blockbuster, having worked as a casting assistant on Superman reboot Man Of Steel as well as on the likes of Contagion and Raising Hope. But as Tris' factionless enemy Molly Atwood, Divergent will see her move from behind to in front of the camera for her first major acting role, with bit parts in Boss and Chicago Fire the only other credits to her name.
Ben Lamb (Edward)
Cast as skilled fighter Edward, Ben Lamb made the move to post-apocalyptic Chicago from medieval England after playing The White Queen's brother Anthony in the BBC's hit historical drama. The 25-year-old, who'd previously studied at both RADA and Oxford University, cut his teeth appearing in various Shakespeare productions and made his onscreen debut as a posh toff in BBC legal drama Silks in 2012.
Christian Madsen (Al)
One of the more experienced "unknowns" in the cast, Christian Madsen has appeared alongside his father Michael in deliverance tale Refuge from the Storm and off-kilter thriller The Brazen Bull and his auntie Virginia in comedy Jake Squared, while he also had a minor role in Justin Timberlake vehicle In Time. Cast as kind-hearted Al, he'll next be seen as Bryan, a young man who reunites with his estranged father after 15 years in the indie drama Prism.
Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will)
Following his older brother Henry's role in Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire, the Lloyd-Hughes name will appear in the credits of another major franchise when 25-year-old Ben plays Tris' brainy ally Will. He first appeared on screen as a teenager in BBC drama Love Soup back in 2005 and has since cropped up in a string of hit British TV shows including Skins, The Hour and Young James Herriot. While his filmography includes teen horror Tormented and the 2012 remake of Great Expectations.
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets at Movietickets.com.