West Side Story Cert: 12A, 2hrs 36mins
Being the Ricardos Cert: 15, 2hrs 5mins
Clifford, The Big Red Dog Cert: PG, 1hr 36mins
Steven Spielberg made it a point to highlight that his latest version of West Side Story is not a remake of the 1961 film, winner of an astonishing ten Oscars, but a re-adaptation of the original 1957 Broadway musical.
He must be right – after all, he is Spielberg and he is its director – but from the moment his 2021 Jets affectionately reprise those slightly strange balletic slides along a New York sidewalk, it’s the original film that comes instantly to mind.
We are moving forward.
The choreography is breathtaking – the tense, skirt-swirling by Ariana DeBose (above, centre) is something you’ll want to watch again and again
It is a pleasure to finally see it all come together.
An astonishing opening shot of the demolition of great swathes of the Upper West Side in the mid-1950s – the shrinking territory that the Jets (immigrants of European origin) and Sharks (immigrants of Puerto Rican origin) are fighting over – signals the clear scale of Spielberg’s cinematic ambition.
The choreography is breathtaking – the tense, skirt-swirling dance-off at the school gym is something you’ll want to watch again and again – and Leonard Bernstein’s score has surely never sounded better.
Most importantly of all, by making the casting of the new film ethnically appropriate (unlike the unfortunately dated original, no Puerto Rican characters are played by white actors wearing dark make-up), Spielberg can introduce a new audience to this most famous reworking of Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet.
Our star-crossed lovers are a former jailbird, ex-Jet Tony (Ansel Elgort), and Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler). The joy, the tragedy, and the baiting of Officer Krupke can begin.
Elgort is impressively tuneful, but it’s the supporting performances that really catch the eye – chief among them Ariana DeBose as Maria’s best friend, Anita, and Mike Faist as Jet leader Riff.
Rita Moreno is the most notable of all, having played Anita and then, sixty years later, just turned 90. She will now play Valentina as Valentina’s widow, Doc, original drug-store proprietor.
It’s not just a sentimental cameo. This role is actually a supportive one and is up for an Oscar nomination. She’s fabulous.
It’s a tragedy that the great Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the show’s original lyrics, collaborated with Spielberg on the new film and who died last month aged 91, didn’t live to see its release.
At awards ceremonies next year, his name – and surely those of many others involved with this wonderful project – will be cheered to the rafters.
Lucille ball or her long-running, much-repeated comedy, I Love Lucy (which was just as American, too broad, and horribly out of date by the time I first encountered it as a baby in arms), never won me over.
But I enjoyed Being the Ricardos, which sees Aaron Sorkin – creator of The West Wing – dramatising a long-forgotten chapter of Ball’s life when, in the 1950s heyday of the great Un-American Activities witch-hunt, her career was threatened with ruin when she was named as a member of the Communist Party.
HNicole Kidman is excellent in the role of Ball. Desi Arnaz, Javier Bardem’s husband, supports her well.
Nicole Kidman, with her amazing hair and make up, is a great actress.
While Sorkin may have taken dramatic risks, the end result of Sorkin’s work is still very watchable.
Clifford, The Big Red Dog is a live-action remake of the popular cartoon series based, in turn, on the books written by Norman Bridwell.
Given that the central character is a raspberry-hued, elephant-sized puppy, it’s perhaps no surprise that the visual effects sometimes fail to convince, but the New York-set story is decent and there are good supporting turns from a cast that includes John Cleese, Sienna Guillory and Jack Whitehall doing a surprisingly effective job of playing American.
Jack, Way to Go!