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West Side Story Writer Explains The Key Difference in Spielberg’s Reboot

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West Side Story Writer Explains The Key Difference in Spielberg’s Reboot

West Side Story writer Tony Kushner discusses the key differences that make Steven Spielberg’s reboot unique from the original 1961 film.

The screenwriter for the new West Side Story reboot has explained the key difference between his version of the film and the iconic 1961 original movie script. The new film was written by Tony Kushner, who was hand-picked by director Steven Spielberg to re-tell the story and modernize it for today’s audiences. Based on the classic musical, West Side Story is a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in the New York City of the 1950s, and one of two blockbuster movie musicals in 2021, along with Jon M. Chu’s In The Heights, aiming to capture the box office. It follows Tony and Maria, two members of warring communities, as they are swept up in a whirlwind forbidden romance.

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The new version of West Side Story as a whole is significantly more modern. Spielberg and Kushner’s reboot put a greater focus on character development for female roles than the original, as well as adding in new female characters, and boasts a more diverse cast. Anybodys’ identity as a transgender person (as played by non-binary actor Iris Menas), is explicitly explored in Spielberg’s film. In the original 1961 film, Anybodys is portrayed as a “tomboy” by Susan Oakes. Spielberg’s reworking of the classic story also cast Latino actors for all of the film’s Puerto Rican characters, addressing the original West Side Story‘s white-washed casting. Kushner’s updated script also aims to remove harmful stereotypes and superficial representation of Puerto Rican communities. However, some critics have noted that Spielberg’s new West Side Story still had a predominately white production crew, with only one major creative contributor, Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, being of Latin descent.


Related: 9 Best Performances in West Side Story (2021) Ranked

In an interview with THR, Kushner spoke about some of the key differences that his and Spielberg’s reboot aimed to include. In particular, the screenwriter explained how the original film “divides along gender lines.” Kushner outlines that “The male side is the white side, and it’s the Jets. But on the Puerto Rican side, the story is carried not by the men, but the women,” referring to Maria and Anita being at the core of the narrative. However, Spielberg and Kushner decided early on that Doc, originally a supporting role, would be replaced by Valentina, a new character created for returning original star Rita Moreno. Kushner revealed he wrote “a whole 30-page biography of Valentina,” to flesh out this new female character that was a core part of the “male side” of the Jets.


This speaks to a big change made in the 2021 version of the film, as Moreno’s Valentina steps in as Doc’s widow. She also gets the musical number “Somewhere,” which was given to Tony and Maria in the 1961 original. Not only does this give Moreno a chance to return to arguably her most iconic film, but it tips the scales slightly so that the Jets’ story is less male-dominated. This adds more weight to the moment in which Valentina stops the men from assaulting Anita (originally stopped by Doc in the 1961 West Side Story), rather than Anita being the only woman present during the scene. Spielberg and Kushner wrote the part specifically for Moreno, but the actor initially declined, not wanting to do a simple cameo. However, when she read the script and saw Kushner and Spielberg’s intent to modernize and expand on the original story, she became enamored with the idea and very quickly signed on to play Valentina.

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West Side Story is a classic for a reason, but the film was also certainly a product of its time. Spielberg’s remake is an encouraging indication of a movie industry that is striving for increased diversity, accuracy and inclusivity. Though there remains an ongoing debate as to whether the film deserved a remake at all, considering its often overt racism and problematic portrayals, cast members like Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose have said they are “proud” to be involved, and consider the film “a huge leap forward.” In addition to the updated visual flair, impressive use of color and stunning camera work, Spielberg’s changes to West Side Story serve to deepen the legacy of the original musical, creating a more representative and inclusive story that can will help to the famous work alive for years to come.


More: West Side Story: Anybodys’ Trans Identity Fixes A Problem With The Original

Source: THR

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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