West Side Story (2021)

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 3/15/22;
Disney/20th Century;
Musical;
Box Office $38.32 million;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong violence, strong language, thematic content, suggestive material and brief smoking.
Stars Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Josh Andrés Rivera, Rita Moreno.

Director Steven Spielberg tries his hand at filming a feature-length musical for the first time in his career with a fresh adaptation of the acclaimed 1957 stage version that played on Broadway.

The play, based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, was famously adapted into a film version in 1961 that won the Oscar for Best Picture, so there were serious doubts over whether a modern remake was even necessary.

Spielberg, though, grew up with the music of the original stage version, and felt a 60-year gap between the films was enough time to justify his own take on the material.

The original version, conceived of by Jerome Robbins, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents, modernized Shakespeare’s famed love story to be about rival street gangs in New York in the 1950s — the Jets, who were white Americans, and the Sharks, who were Puerto Rican. Their power struggle is complicated when a Jet named Tony falls in love with Maria, sister of the head of the Sharks.

Rather than re-modernize the play modern day, Spielberg is faithful to the 1950 setting, going so far as to shoot it on film in a way that just looks like it could have been shot back then.

While respectful of the 1961 version directed by Robbins and Robert Wise, Spielberg embraces the cinematic nature of the story’s gang war to great effect, with impeccably staged musical numbers that don’t detract from the romantic nature of Tony and Maria’s story, or the violent backdrop of the life-and-death battle to control the streets.

Ansel Elgort makes for a fine Tony, while newcomer Rachel Zegler carries the day as Maria. Rita Moreno, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for playing Maria’s friend Anita in the original film, returns to the cast in a reworking of the Doc character that serves as a mentor to Tony.

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The Blu-ray includes a thorough 96-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that is broken up into smaller featurettes that cover individual topics such as costumes, sets, and the staging for several of the songs, which have been slightly rearranged to heighten the emotional impact of the story.

Some of these making-of segments include one of the last interviews with Sondheim, who died aged 91 in November 2021 just days before the new film’s premiere.

Steven Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’ to Stream on Disney+, HBO Max Starting March 2

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-lauded musical feature West Side Story will debut on Disney+ in the United States and most international countries on March 2. 

It will also reportedly stream on HBO Max in the United States.

The film will launch in Taiwan on March 9 and Japan on March 30 on Disney+.

In addition, the ABC one-hour special “Something’s Coming: West Side Story — A Special Edition of 20/20” is available to stream on Disney+ now.

Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose) and 11 Critics’ Choice Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (DeBose, Rita Moreno), West Side Story is the winner of three Golden Globe awards — Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy; Best Actress, Musical or Comedy (Rachel Zegler) and Best Supporting Actress (DeBose). The film has also received nominations from the DGA (Spielberg), PGA (Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger), WGA (Tony Kushner) and SAG (DeBose for Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role) and has been named one of the year’s top 10 films by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review, the latter having voted Rachel Zegler Best Actress of the Year.

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Directed by Spielberg from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tony Kushner, West Side Story tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. This reimagining of the musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Brian d’Arcy James (Officer Krupke); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); with Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works); and introducing Rachel Zegler (Maria). 

Crime Drama Series ‘Tokyo Vice’ Starring Ansel Elgort Headed to HBO Max April 28

The Max Original crime drama series “Tokyo Vice,” starring Ansel Elgort, will debut April 7 on HBO Max with three episodes, followed by two episodes debuting every Thursday leading up to the finale on April 28.
 
The first episode of the series, from Endeavor Content and Japanese pay-TV broadcaster WOWOW, will debut in Japan via WOWOW’s streaming service on April 7 with subsequent episodes recurring every Sunday evening on the WOWOW channel starting on April 24 through June.
 
Loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein’s nonfiction first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat, the series, filmed on location in Tokyo, captures Adelstein’s (Elgort) daily descent into the neon-soaked underbelly of Tokyo in the late 1990s.
 
The series also stars Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi, Rachel Keller, Ella Rumpf, Hideaki Ito, Show Kasamatsu and Tomohisa Yamashita. 

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Tony Award-winning playwright J.T. Rogers created and wrote the series and also serves as executive producer. Four-time Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner Michael Mann directed the pilot and is an executive producer along with Emmy winner Alan Poul, Jake Adelstein, Ansel Elgort, Emmy winner Emily Gerson Saines, Brad Kane, Destin Daniel Cretton, Ken Watanabe, Kayo Washio and Academy Award winner John Lesher.

‘Goldfinch’ Arrives on Digital Nov. 19, Disc Dec. 3

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the coming-of-age story The Goldfinch through digital retailers Nov. 19, and on Blu-ray and DVD Dec. 3.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name and directed by BAFTA Award winner John Crowley, the film stars Ansel Elgort as Theo, a man whose life was shattered as a 13-year-old when he lost his mother in a terrorist attack on an art museum, and now his last connection to her is a priceless painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch.

The cast also includes Oakes Fegley as young Theo, Nicole Kidman, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson and Jeffrey Wright.

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The film earned $5.3 million at the domestic box office.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include the featurette “The Real Goldfinch.” The Blu-ray will also include the featurette “The Goldfinch Unbound,” and more than 16 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary from director John Crowley.

‘Jonathan’ Coming to Digital and Disc Jan. 15 From Well Go

Jonathan, starring Ansel Elgort (Best Actor Golden Globe nominee, Baby Driver), arrives on digital, Blu-ray and DVD Jan. 15 from Well Go USA Entertainment.

The science fiction fable explores identity and longing through the story of two brothers with a unique sibling bond — they live inside the same body. Jonathan (Elgort) is a young Manhattanite living a solitary life in the big city, and his brother John (also Elgort) is the complete opposite — outgoing, fun and adventurous. The two divide each day into 12-hour shifts where they communicate only via daily video sessions to recount the day’s activities. Previously content to live life in shifts, their delicate balance is ruined when they become involved with the same woman (Suki Waterhouse).

The film also stars Oscar and Golden Globe nominee Patricia Clarkson and Golden Globe winner Matthew Bomer.