Clint Eastwood directs the film version of the hit stage musical Jersey Boys.
JERSEY BOYS (15)
Before Beatlemania reduced grown women to whimpering wrecks, The Four Seasons were the sharp-suited musical heartthrobs of 1960s America.
The distinctive falsetto of lead singer Frankie Valli commanded attention on the radio and TV, producing three number one hits – Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry and Walk Like A Man – in the space of five months.
The band’s meteoric rise inspired Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to write the 2005 stage show Jersey Boys, which subsequently won four Tony Awards including Best Musical and continues to play to packed houses in London and New York.
Like so many musicals before it, Jersey Boys struts and swaggers from the stage on to the big screen.
Pitched halfway between a traditional musical and a gritty portrait of the bonds of brotherhood in the New York city of the era, Clint Eastwood’s impeccably crafted period piece entertains but never truly delights.
Like the stage show, the film is festooned with the group’s toe-tapping hits including Beggin’, Bye Bye Baby and Oh What A Night.
However, these languidly shot renditions lack the electrical charge of live performance and it’s only in the film’s closing act, and during the end credits, that there is any danger of audiences leaping out of their seats and shimmying down aisles.
Sixteen-year-old Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) lives with his parents (Kathrine Narducci, Lou Volpe), who urge him to stay out of trouble.
Best friend Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) leads him astray and Frankie almost ends up in prison but escapes incarceration by virtue of his age.
With encouragement from local mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), who becomes Frankie’s fairy godfather (with the emphasis on godfather), the teenager pursues his musical ambitions by changing his surname to Valli and joining Tommy’s band.
They recruit singer-songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) alongside bassist Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) and The Four Seasons are born.
Talented lyricist Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) ushers the boys on to the stairway to stardom but Tommy’s mounting debts create friction and threaten to tear the band apart.
Jersey Boys employs a similar narrative device to the stage production, allowing different members of the band to address the camera as their rags to riches story unfolds.
Vocal performances are note perfect and there are some delightful comical interludes involving Doyle and Walken, the latter easing into his gangster groove with a twinkle in the eye.
The running time may be virtually the same as its theatrical counterpart, but Eastwood’s film feels pedestrian and emotional subplots, including Frankie’s fractious relationship with his wife Mary (Renee Marino) and daughter Francine feel undernourished.
The period is, however, beautifully evoked though costumes and faultless art direction.
Just as Frankie and the boys predict, we can’t take our eye off of the screen.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (12A)
Only a frozen heart could be unmoved as ET bids farewell to Elliot, Bambi cries forlornly in the forest for his fallen mother or Carl falls in love with Ellie in the opening sequence to Pixar’s Up.
The Fault In Our Stars will offer a stern test to the waterproof mascara of every teenager who fell in love with John Green’s bestselling novel.
Josh Boone’s polished adaptation deftly plucks heartstrings to the point that a trickle of saltwater tears threatens to become an unstoppable torrent.
One tissue simply doesn’t suffice as scriptwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber navigate the tricky topic of terminal illness with wry humour and sensitivity.
The film is blessed with a tour-de-force central performance from Shailene Woodley as a young cancer patient, who experiences the exquisite agony of first love just when it seems she has given up on life.
The 22-year-old Californian actress doesn’t hit a single false emotional note as her protagonist wrestles with guilt and mortality, catalysing smoldering screen chemistry with co-star Ansel Elgort.
Woodley plays 16-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster, who was diagnosed with cancer at an early age and almost slipped away in hospital.
An experimental drug trial has halted the spread of the disease but Hazel is resigned to her grim fate.
“Depression’s not a side effect of cancer,” she explains in voiceover, “it’s a side effect of dying, which is what’s happening to me.”
The teenager reluctantly attends a cancer patients’ support group at the behest of her mom (Laura Dern).
During one session, Grace meets acerbic survivor Gus (Elgort), who lost his leg to halt the spread of his cancer.
He is attending the meeting to support best friend Isaac (Nat Wolff).
Grace and Gus’ shared disdain for convention kindles friendship.
As the relationship intensifies, Hazel attempts to keep Gus at arm’s length, warning that she is a “grenade”, destined to obliterate everyone around her.
“It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you,” he counters tenderly.
The Fault In Our Stars is a beautifully sketched portrait of adolescence, anchored by emotionally raw performances from the talented cast.
Dern impresses as a parent braced for the anguish of burying her child, while Willem Dafoe injects spikiness to the role of Hazel’s favourite author, who doesn’t welcome fans with open arms.
Director Boone makes a couple of missteps, including a crudely engineered scene at Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam that feels wholly inappropriate.
However, once our tear ducts start leaking, we forgive him and the script an occasional faux pas.
3 DAYS TO KILL (12A)
In his role as producer and scriptwriter, Luc Besson churns out another testosterone-fuelled action-thriller to complement The Transporter, Taken and Brick Mansions.
Like those pictures, 3 Days To Kill splices a preposterous plot with explosive set pieces and offbeat humour, casting Kevin Costner as a former CIA agent who is wooed back into active service in the final months of his blood-stained life.
Besson’s script, co-written by Adi Hasak, is crudely and clumsily constructed, and peppered with scenes of staggering implausibility.
For example, the gun-toting hero’s daughter enjoys her first kiss at a society party, completely oblivious to the deafening booms and crashes of a shootout downstairs.
And when Costner’s assassin-for-hire shunts a bad guy’s car off a Parisian bridge, extras in the background go merrily on their way as if high-speed collisions are an everyday occurrence in the French capital.
As the title suggests, the film unfolds in a restricted timeframe, which should heighten suspense.
Instead, it increases the likelihood of unintentional hilarity.
Costner’s absent father teaches his daughter how to ride a bike and slow dance in a single afternoon.
The latter scene is set to Bread’s 1970 hit Make It With You, which includes the amusingly inappropriate lyric, “I really think that we could make it, girl.” Mon dieu!
Elite CIA operative Ethan Renner (Costner) is involved in a high-profile oepration to capture The Albino (Tomas Lemarquis), henchman of notorious arms trafficker The Wolf (Richard Sammel).
The plan goes badly wrong and Ethan regains consciousness in hospital and is told that he is riddled with cancer and has, at most, five months to live.
“I suggest you put your affairs in order,” coldly explains a doctor.
Consequently, Ethan heads to Paris to reunite with his wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld).
Having promised Christine that he will never work for the agency again, Ethan receives a visit from vampy CIA assassin Vivi (Amber Heard), who presses him back into service.
“In exchange for your cleaning services, I would offer you an experimental drug,” she coos, injecting him with a serum that could give Ethan a few more precious months with his loved ones.
3 Days To Kill bores and bemuses in equal measure as Costner struggles to conjure emotion that clearly isn’t in the script.
Heard is a clothes horse, who pouts and preens in skin-tight outfits on killer heels that would surely impede her ability as a hit woman.
Director McG orchestrates breathless action sequences but there’s no fluidity between scenes and a prominent subplot involving a family of squatters in Ethan’s flat, whose rights are protected by French law, is cloying to the point of absurdity.
Sharp changes in tone from sadistic violence to humour are disorienting and the running time feels uncomfortably longer than two hours.