Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend including Steven Spielberg’s finger-snapping remake of “West Side Story,” the Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence satire “Don’t Look Up” and the story of one very bad week in the lives of Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.”
Can Richard Crouse review three movies in just thirty seconds? Have a look as he races against the clock to tell you about Steven Spielberg’s much ballyhooed remake of “West Side Story,” the dark satire “Don’t Look Up” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio and Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem as Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.”
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including Steven Spielberg’s finger-snapping remake of “West Side Story,” the Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence satire “Don’t Look Up” and the story of one very bad week in the lives of Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.”
Richard joins Jim Richards and guest host Tamara Cherry of the NewsTalk 1010 afternoon show The Rush for Booze and Reviews! Today they play a round of Did Richard Crouse Like These Movies? We review Steven Spielberg’s finger-snapping remake of “West Side Story,” the Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence satire “Don’t Look Up” and the story of one very bad week in the lives of Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.” For the boozy portion of the show we talk about the drink “Sex and the City” made famous.
Richard joins CTV NewsChannel and anchor Akshay Tandon to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, the star-studded “Don’t Look Up” and the story of one very bad week in the lives of Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story, the star-studded “Don’t Look Up” and the story of one very bad week in the lives of Lucy and Desi in “Being the Ricardos.”
The list of films Hollywood considers sacred and untouchable is a short one. Only a bugger for punishment would attempt a redo of “The Godfather.” And imagine the jeers that would accompany the announcement of a reimagined “Casablanca” or “Do the Right Thing.”
Until recently I would have put “West Side Story,” the classic 1961 musical that won ten Academy Awards, in the top five of films on the No Go list. But just as that show riffed on “Romeo and Juliet,” a classic if there ever was one, Steven Spielberg takes another look at a memorable movie the TCM crowd considers untouchable.
Set in 1950s New York City, the story of love at first sight is plays out against a backdrop of the gentrification of the Upper West Side, a then blue-collar neighborhood. Two gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and the Jets, the “Last of the Can’t Make It Caucasians,” run the streets as the NYC Department of Slum Clearance chop up their home turf. The only thing they have in common is a “womb to tomb” membership motto.
Into this comes Tony and Maria (Ansel Elgort and newcomer Rachel Zegler), star-crossed lovers whose infatuation causes friction between the gangs. “You’re going to start World War III,” says Anita (Ariana DeBose).
Tony’s best friend Riff (Mike Faist) runs the nativist white Jets—“Everything is being taken over by people I don’t like,” he sneers.—while Maria’s brother Bernardo (David Alvarez) leads the Sharks.
Tony is on parole for almost beating a boy to death in a rumble, but has turned over a new leaf. “I want to unlike myself,” he says, “because I was headed to the sewer.” He also puts to rest the notion that “once you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way.” He wants out of that life, but most of all, he wants Maria.
As Riff and Bernardo plan a rumble to viciously work out their differences, Maria begs Tony to put an end to the violence. “We can’t pretend what we do didn’t cause this trouble,” she says. Tony intervenes, but the situation quickly spirals out of control.
Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story” feels rooted in the tradition of movie musicals but vibrates with current themes. The social mindfulness that was revolutionary for musical theatre in the 1950s Broadway run is present and expanded on. Tony Kushner’s script offers context and backstories for underdeveloped characters and plays on hot button themes of racial animus, poverty and violence.
Most of all, however, it’s about love.
It’s love that causes all the trouble but also gives the movie its beating heart. As the couple in question Elgort and Zegler are appealing, wide-eyed romantic figures. Zegler is a convincing swirl of determination and innocence, with a beautiful voice. Elgort can wrap his mouth around Stephen Sondheim’s lovely lyrics—”Maria, say it loud and there’s music playing. Say it soft and it’s almost like praying”—but doesn’t shine as bright as some of his co-stars.
As Bernardo, Alvarez brings the menace, smooth charm and athletic dance moves to steal his scenes. Faist also impresses as hardheaded gang leader Riff. DeBose gives a high stepping performance as Bernardo’s girlfriend Anita, a role that grows more poignant in the movie’s third act.
But it’s a returning cast member from the 1961 film who gives the movie its soul.
Rita Moreno won an Oscar for playing Anita in the original. Here she plays drug mart operator Valentina. Kushner expands the role, making the character the conscience of the neighborhood. She is luminous in the part, and, in a major departure from the 1961 film, does a solo rendition of “Somewhere,” a song of hope usually sung by the romantic leads. Here it is devastating, played as song of longing and loss. If my goosebumps voted for the Academy Awards, Moreno would have another statue to put on her shelf.
“West Side Story” is Spielberg’s most compelling film in years. It reinvents, reimagines and recontextualizes a classic story with energy, respect and lots of finger snapping.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”? It’s a fitting maxim for the new Disneyfied version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods.” Of course, it is one of the themes of the show, but on another level, for the people who have long hoped to see a screen adaptation of the legendary musical, it may not be a situation of wish fulfillment.
Fans of the stage show will notice a few liberties have been taken with the show’s book. The changes are slight—for instance, the prince does not sleep with the Baker’s Wife, although they do have an encounter—but purists may feel like their beanstalk has been shaken a bit too much.
Casual fans of big screen musical theatre, however, will find a handsomely mounted reworking of the popular show, filled with the stuff of fairy tales: beautiful princesses, handsome but dimwitted princes, witches and even a giant or two.
The story is broken into two halves, a sunnier and irreverent “Once Upon a Time” first half that introduces the Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt), a couple unable to have children because of a Witch’s (Meryl Streep) curse. The old crone agrees to undo the spell if the pair supply her with four items, a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood; hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold.
Their search takes them into the woods and in collision (and later in collusion) with Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), later of Beanstalk fame, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) after the Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp) has swallowed her whole, Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick).
The second half, the darker side of the fairy tale world, begins where the happily ever after part usually sits. When a female giant comes to the woods looking for Jack, the boy who killed her husband, the story takes a turn, teaching a lesson about wish fulfillment and responsibility for our actions.
“Into the Woods” has more to do with the original Grimm Brother Fairy Tales—the ones where evil stepmothers sawed the toes off their daughters to fit into golden slippers—than anything Disney has ever attempted before. The stereotypes are all present and accounted for, but under the prince’s brocade jackets or the Witch’s wild mauve wig, are complex characters that veer from comedic to serious to poignant, often in the same scene.
The cast is comprised of actors who can sing, warbling to Sondheim’s rich score. Standouts include “Agony,” an amusing duet between the two princes (Billy Magnussen and Chris Pine) and the Witch’s swansong “Last Midnight.”
On the downside, it feels a bit overlong and the Big Bad Wolf scene could have been renamed the Huge Unctuous Wolf, given Depp’s oily interpretation of the character.
“Into the Woods” survives the script meddling through strong staging, good performances and sheer wish fulfillment to make end up at it’s own kind of happily ever after.
I learned a great deal during my interview with Mackenzie Mauzy and Billy Magnussen. The Manhattan based performers brought me up to speed on the rite of passage for all New York actors, Rapunzel’s hair and whether or not Meryl Streep likes men in blue tights.
The pair play Rapunzel and Rapunzel’s Prince in the big screen adaptation of the legendary Broadway musical Into the Woods. The two relative new comers—she’s best known as Abigail on Forever while he made a memorable appearance on Boardwalk Empire and will soon be seen in an upcoming Steven Spielberg spy thriller—help bring fairy tales to life as part of a large ensemble that includes Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep.
Which leads me to the first thing I learned during our chat.
“Meryl’s a beast,” says Magnussen. “She’s the one who got me the job. I was in a play and she saw it and recommended to me [director] Rob [Marshall] and [producer] Mark Platt. The play was Vonya and Sonia and Marsha and Spike and I dress up as a prince because we’re going to a costume party. It’s all about the blue tights.”
“Meryl likes the blue tights,” laughs Mauzy.
Next I discovered the wig Mauzy wears in the film put her at a follicular risk.
“They used my hair and braided it into the extensions,” she says. “It was thirty feet long so I wrapped it around my arm. I had a little fake one for rehearsal but I asked to actually wear [the real one] one day so I could figure out how to be mobile. It’s a tripping hazard! We joke about how I had a really strong left bicep for a couple months.”
Then Magnussen enlightened me on a rite of passage for New York actors, “Once you get on Law and Order,” he says, “you’re really an actor.” Both have done time in the L&O trenches. Mauzy played a child killer named Carly Di Gravia—“It’s weird I remember that name,” she says.—while Magnussen says, “It was one of my first jobs. They bleached my hair white and I was a Southern male prostitute. How do you tell your mom? Hey watch this!”
Finally, one I gleaned one last pearl of knowledge from Mauzy. Apparently it’s OK to call Stephen Sondheim, legendary Into the Woods composer and eight time Tony Award winner, Steve. “Everyone calls him Steve!” she laughs. “He likes to be called Steve! It is weird. Steve Sondheim.”