West Side Story

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana Debose, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno and Mike Faist

Director: Steven Spielberg          

Writer: Tony Kushner (Screenplay) and Arthur Laurents (Based on the stage play, book by)

Synopsys: An Adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Shark, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.

The mind that brought us E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List gives us an updated take on this classic musical. It’s been three years since his last feature release (Ready Player One) and in lead up to this I remember a lot of people thinking that he was a poor choice for this remake. Thinking that they should have gone with a lesser-known minority director to take this one on. Which would have been fine. And as much as I love what Lin-Manuel Miranda is doing (Encanto, Tik Tik Boom) I don’t think there is anyone that could have captured the magic of the era quite like Steven Spielberg did. So, with that in mind I’m happy Mr. Spielberg chose to take this one.

Just as a disclaimer before I jump into it, I need to be honest. I have never seen the original 1961 musical. My opinion is simply of this film and its own merits. I wasn’t even aware of the specifics of the plot outside of the romance aspects that came between rival gangs. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns that came forth.

What it did well- I thought the chemistry between the characters was enjoyable to watch unfold. The casting of fewer mainstream actors and actresses was a huge plus for this movie. If it were faces of people that we’ve seen say in a recent marvel movie it would have been a detriment to the film. I’ll be honest I was even distracted for the first few minutes by Ansel Elgort because of the few things I’ve seen him in. But that quickly subsided as the movie progressed. I thought the plot moved quickly but the love at first sight relationship between the two leads (Elgort and Zegler) and their Romeo and Juliet subplot worked so well that you went along for the ride. While Ariana Debose stole the show as Anita for the middle portion of the film and the rag tag group of Jets and Sharks fit their roles and did their parts to bring this world to life. But what really drew me in wasn’t the nostalgia which our movie going experiences are over saturated by at point, but the feel, and I guess some would call it nostalgia. The tone, presence and cinematography truly felt not so much like a remake of a 60’s movie but a remastering.

There aren’t any cons that come to mind outside of a few underlying liberal agendas that were present but not too aggressive. For me it was more like, “oh I see what you’re doing there”. There was a character that followed the Jets around wanting to be a part of the gang. They wouldn’t let her because she was a girl, but there was a scene where explains that she isn’t a girl but a boy and makes them despise her even more. They end up excepting her later when she proves herself/himself. I’m only assuming that was a different character arc in the 61 version. There is rampant racism, which is a key plot element, that feels all to relatable to today’s world. And, unfortunately people had to die (SPOILERS) to get the point across that there are more important things to consider about a person than the color of their skin. Advice a lot of people should consider today…just saying.

In summary I would absolutely recommend this movie, I believe it is on both Disney plus and HBO Max. Not sure how that works. The cast was enjoyable the musical throwback was pleasant, they didn’t just try and update it for the sake of being modern and the story is simple and something that I think all of us can get behind.  

Fun Fact

Morbius starring Jared Leto is set to hit theaters in two weeks (April 1st). So unless this is all just one big April fools joke we are about to get another Sony film set in the world of Spiderman, which was originally supposed to release pre pandemic 2020. Let’s get ready for this remembering that they pushed it back three times so it wasn’t fighting the box office with other films. Those films being Venom: Let there be Carnage, Spiderman: No way Home and The Batman.

So good luck Morbius! May the odds be ever in your favor.

Also I think there is a good chance that Jared Leto is a vampire in real life. Think about it…

Just a thought

I’m sitting here learning more about running internet ads and watching Avengers: Endgame. Over the course of the last few weeks Vera and I recently watched the three movies leading up to Zach Snyder’s upcoming Justice League remake. (Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad and Joss Whedon’s 2017 Justice League).

I’m sitting here thinking about the differences between these two powerhouse markets. Trying to figure out why Marvel seems to have nailed down a fool proof method of storytelling while DC seems to abound in foolishness and falling short.

CAP just picked up mjolnir!

Sorry didn’t mean to get off topic. The biggest difference that I’ve noticed is characterization. Warner Bros. and DC seem to want to take as many shortcuts as possible to create a world that feels fleshed out and real. Well as real as a world with superheroes can feel. They haven’t taken chances that are risky and invested in them whether they pay off or not, instead choosing to play it safe and predictable with cookie cutter story and cardboard cutout characters and if Marvel is an example of anything it is that, taking chances. With more hits than misses to date.

It goes to say for any story, but gives us characters we can relate to (even if they are aliens from another planet). Give them flesh and blood and motivations and failures. Man of Steel is a well made and focused movie, and there are elements of Batman v Superman that I think work but nothing in the DCEU world gives me goose bumps as much as Captain American finally saying Avengers Assemble. So for now I guess we’ll have to wait and see what Zach Snyder can do recreating a story that’s already been told. But lets take care to flesh out our characters in as many films that its going to take to tell the story to its fullest potential.

GO ZACH!!

Fun Fact #11

Jon Favreau has said in an interview that there are 1490 rendered shots using CGI in his 2019 remake of the Lion King. He also added one live shot actually filmed in Africa to see if anyone could tell the difference. It is actually the first shot of the movie that begins the Circle of Life. WOW! What a visual masterpiece.

Fun Fact

Sebastian Stan plays Bucky Barns, aka the Winter Soldier aka The White Wolf in The Marvel Cinematic Universe but did you know that before auditioning he had no knowledge of marvel comics. And he originally auditioned for the role of Captain America.

About me

Hello everyone, I was just sitting here thinking it was about time my site had a bio section. SO “here we go”(said in a menacing tone) guess that movie. My name is Jesse Keehn, I was born in August of 1990, my parents were very interactive in my life and the lives of my four sisters. So much so that we were homeschooled through high school. To a lot of people that sounds crazy but we enjoyed it. It was at an early age where my father instilled in me a love for Jesus and movies. One of my fondest memories growing up, especially being the only boy in a house full of little women, was getting the opportunities to go to the movies with my dad. Even more than just going and watching a film though, it was the drive home that I enjoyed just as much. Just about the entire 40-minute drive, we would talk about the movie, and not just did you like it or not. But why, why did you like it? What about it didn’t you like? What is the movie telling us, things like that? It made the movie-going experience more than just a two hour waste of time or escape from reality and turned it into an incredible time to take the realities in the film and relate them to our world and our situations. It made it real, even movies about dinosaurs or robots or whatever. I loved and appreciated every time we went and could talk about how a movie would impact our lives. I can still remember where I was the first time I watched Transformers. What seat I was sitting in when Heath Ledger gave us the performance of a lifetime in The Dark Knight. The feelings I got watching Passion of the Christ on the big screen. I remember my feet sticking to the floors of the Laporte Theater, we had to go there when we would go as a family. There were a lot of us, it was cheaper but not one of the nicest establishments. This is still something that my dad and I do to this day and a tradition that I desire to carry on with my children as they grow.
When I was 19 I met my wife to be Verarose, she introduced me to a specific genre that I was never really a huge fan of. Growing up my dad and I never really watched horror movies, they can be inappropriate and have a weak story. Sorry to everyone who loves horror movies, but once I started hanging out with my wife’s family it was a genre that they frequented more than any other. And I noticed that there were good movies, like any genre not all movies are good, but not all movies are bad as well. I remember watching The Mist or Saw in her living room with her entire family. By the way, I understand if you do not like The Saw movies but that first film is much deeper than just people being murdered. Ironically after she had our first child she no longer enjoyed horror movies as much as I did, movies like the Conjuring films, Silence of the Lambs. Or the It movies, but those movies have a lot of flaws. Now we have been married for over 10 years and we love to sit and watch movies, we even came up with our review sheets a few years ago which ask specific questions about the movie while we are watching it. Now we have a house full of kids, we enjoy sitting together and I like showing them Marvel or other Disney movies and discussing why these movies impact our lives so greatly. They are pretty insightful kids for being 9 and under. I like playing movie score soundtracks and talking with them about the emotions behind the music and how it hits us in ways that what we see on screen can’t. To go a step further from there the way God designed us to take these mediums in and absorb it. It is a beautiful thing. Throughout my life I can’t help but quote movies all the time, typically getting weird looks from people who don’t know what I’m talking about or chuckles from those who have seen the movie and get the reference. I find it fitting for me to end this in the same fashion. “So in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight.” and “I love you 3000”.