Quelle horreur! Tom Hooper’s barge-bloat adaptation of decades-running musical “Les Misérables,” an advanced seminar in formal misjudgment, runs a near-interminable 157 minutes, and it’s one of those rare so-bad-it’s-pitiful movies. Think of the classic photographs of film directors working with megaphones: Hooper’s megaphone is the size of the Hindenburg. Oh, the inanity. If you haven’t sung the score in the car and shower since you were small, this is not the hard-punching roadshow for you. The scale starts gargantuan and strives to become larger by the sung-through ferment of its close-ups of non-actors singing. (There’s almost no dialogue: this is operetta with a vengeance.) Read the rest of this entry »
The fourth “Step Up” film moves to Miami from the New York City setting of “Step Up 3D” (2010) and the Baltimore of “Step Up 2 The Streets” (2008) and “Step Up” (2006). This change of clime means the body count of hot near-naked youth climbs. Once again a street dance crew pursues its art despite officialdom and in-house envy. And a good-looking duo will fall in love after reconciling differences in class and choreography. Sean (Ryan Guzman, a model and MMA fighter) is a waiter at a luxury hotel and the ringleader of a flash mob of unemployed dancers. Ten million hits on YouTube will win “The Mob” a hundred grand. Emily (Kathryn McCormick) is the daughter of the CEO of Anderson Global Properties. She is in Miami for the summer to audition for an artsy dance company. Her dad has designs on the lower-income, multicultural neighborhood where Sean lives. What develops is all-too-foreseeable in this unreflexive retread of tropes from the traditional backstage musical. Read the rest of this entry »
Not your street corner Midwestern bearded ironists, Valeriy Todorovskiy’s “Hipsters” have dash, panache and more. A boisterous, candied eyeful of fantasticated Soviet-era 1955 youth culture that bears a keen likeness to “Grease,” it’s a charming widescreen musical in a culture that resists musicals. Winner for best film, production design, costumes and sound in Russia’s equivalent of the Oscar, Todorovskiy describes his energetic gem as a time-bending artifact: “I combined the hipster movement of the fifties with the Russian rocker rebels of the late eighties.” And its placement dead in the center of Khrushchev’s USSR would have its own punk power even without the bursts of toe-to-toe political argument. Read the rest of this entry »
Rated not appropriate for sober audiences. That Tom Cruise was willing to be filmed in ass-baring leather chaps not only tells you everything you need to know about “Rock of Ages,” but it also disproves any notion that the man takes himself too seriously. Nor does this jukebox musical ever take itself seriously, sending up the 1980s with its big hair, insanely bad fashion and parodying the moment when hip-hop was co-opted for boy-bands on MTV. Not only does Cruise do an unexpectedly credible job of channeling Axl Rose at his most cliché-ridden excess, but Paul Giamatti sings, after all. “Rock of Ages” is musical theater fantasy camp for movie stars who not only let their hair down, but grow it out and look unapologetically foolish. A duet with Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand is ridiculously priceless. Catherine Zeta-Jones leading a chorus line recalls the absurdity of a similar scene with Meryl Streep in “Mamma Mia.” And I say all this as a compliment. Sometimes? Big dumb fun is OK.
An art-house jaw-dropper, Canadian filmmaker Nadine Labaki’s “Where Do We Go Now?” (Et maintenant on va où?) manages to annoy and offend in almost equal measure in its many miscalculated scenes, from cultural caricature to musical numbers and back again. The opening scene, a dance tableau that seems like it could be drawn from the 1960s choreographic masterworks of Hungarian filmmaker Miklos Jancso, promises more than the Greek-myth-set-in-unnamed-Middle-Eastern-country-pssst-it’s-Lebanon ever manages to deliver. In a dusty mountain village, Muslims and Christians live side-by-side in a cute form of peace and tolerance until random slurs and misconstrued accidents lead to battle and beatings and deaths and weeping and gnashing among the very cute elders and equally cute youth. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Davis began his career as a cameraman in Chicago in the 1960s, and before his largest success, “The Fugitive” (1993), Davis was a poet of the Chicago streets in action films like “Code of Silence” (1985) and “The Package” (1989). (A variation on the Oswald-was-a-patsy conspiracy theory, “The Package” used dozens of Chicago locations to economically suggest other cities and countries.) One of Davis’ most notable obsessions in his Chicago-set films was to make them as topographically accurate as possible—that is, his skillful, adroit camera placement and cutting could, in fact, take place in the real world, rather than being pieced together from disparate locations miles apart, which filmmakers most often do. Beyond its serviceable plot, his first feature “Stony Island” is most valuable, more to be treasured, as a lovely mash note to a passed version of the South Side and a music scene that has not stood still in the past thirty-five years. Read the rest of this entry »