SING it from the rooftops: one of cinema’s greatest living directors, Steven Spielberg, is back with a remake of West Side Story. And it’s even more magnificent than the original.
The veteran filmmaker is about to turn 75 but his new film is fresh, feisty and ferociously fun.
The Manhattan-set musical, written for Broadway in 1957 with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the late Stephen Sondheim, first came to the big screen in 1961Credit: Alamy
Spielberg’s version focuses on two stories: Feuding gangs and star-crossed loversCredit: Alamy
The Manhattan-set musical, written for Broadway in 1957 with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by the late Stephen Sondheim, first came to the big screen in 1961.
It’s considered one of the greatest film musicals of all time and deservedly won TEN Oscars.
But while the original felt very much like it was filmed on an indoor set, Spielberg’s version is refreshingly free and sweeps around the streets, parks, balconies and deserted rubble of New York Housing Authority buildings.
There, the Puerto Rican and poor white community who live in the area are about to be moved out, igniting ethnic rivalries.
These become gangs of men: The Sharks and Jets. They do what boys often do and have idiotically violent turf wars over the dilapidated area.
The leader of the Puerto Rican Sharks, Bernardo (David Alvarez), and Jets frontman Riff (Mike Faist) are arch-enemies.
So it certainly doesn’t help matters when Riff’s best friend and former Jet Tony (Ansel Elgort) falls head-over-heels in love with Bernardo’s little sister Maria (Rachel Zegler) the moment he sets eyes on her at a local dance.
And what a dance it is. I defy even the grimmest heart to not feel a flutter of romance when Tony and Maria first meet.
Colours are used cleverly throughout the film, with the dull sepia of the Jets drowned out by the vibrancy of the passionate SharksCredit: Alamy
Spielberg’s version focuses on two stories: Feuding gangs and star-crossed lovers.
Just like Romeo and Juliet — whose tragic romance provided the original inspiration for West Side Story — you know the purity of their love will be ruined by war.
Colours are used cleverly throughout the film, with the dull sepia of the Jets drowned out by the vibrancy of the passionate Sharks.
All the cast make a superb show of it, but the standout star has to be Ariana DeBose, who plays the sassy Anita sensationally.
Her signature number America, with its bright flare of costumes and breathtaking choreography, will surely go down in the cinematography hall of fame.
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In disaster films about the impending end of the world, there is usually instant hysteria and a relentless battle to save the planet.
But in writer-director Adam McKay’s film, people do nothing. They carry on tweeting, caring about Hollywood break-ups and sharing memes.
The all-star cast, including Mark Rylance, Ariana Grande and Timothee Chalamet, makes this satire entertaining enough so that you won’t look down on itCredit: Alamy
Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) is an astronomy student who discovers a huge comet hurtling towards Earth. With the help of her professor Dr Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), they calculate it will hit in six months’ time.
Kate and Mindy race to the White House to inform the US President (Meryl Streep), but are asked to wait.
When the pair finally get to inform her – and the tattooed, hyperactive son who is her Chief of Staff (Jonah Hill) – they realise she only cares about how it will affect her polls. So Kate and Mindy try to spread the word via the media, giving us an excellent parody of US TV anchors by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry.
After a fast and funny start, the pace falters an hour or so in. The jokes are tortured and film thinks it’s funnier than it is. But the all-star cast, including Mark Rylance, Ariana Grande and Timothee Chalamet, makes this satire entertaining enough so that you won’t look down on it.
The series of children’s books about Clifford The Big Red Dog is far more beloved in the US than it is over here.
But as this live-action movie starring comedian Jack Whitehall hits cinemas, a lot of British kids are going to be asking for some fluffy red merch-andise.
There are few jokes for the grown-ups, with comic legend John Cleese in a sweet role rather than a funny oneCredit: Alamy
What’s not to love about a mischievous puppy the size of an elephant causing mayhem in New York?
Of course, it’s a ridiculous idea that a little girl could keep such a huge animal in a city apartment.
But this film has the good sense to keep running with the silliness. Clifford chases human hamster balls, bounds through traffic and somehow avoids detection by the grumpy landlord.
Whitehall is almost as incorrigible as the dog, gleefully taking on the role of unreliable uncle to Clifford’s owner Emily, played by Darby Camp.
Unfortunately, this is no Paddington, partly because Clifford’s inability to talk means all the gags are left to the humans.
And there are few jokes for the grown-ups, with comic legend John Cleese in a sweet role rather than a funny one.
But after watching Clifford, there is no way you will feel blue.
By Grant Rollings
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