The Great Buck Howard (2009) ***
Directed by Sean McGinly
Here’s a film that’s completely adequate and fully satisfactory. It’s just tall enough to ride the ride. Beyond that, there’s nothing more to really say. Colin Hanks, as flavorless an actor as there is, plays a young law student who changes direction in life in order to find himself by becoming an assistant to a washed-up entertainer named Buck Howard, played with mirth by John Malkovich. The dialogue is sort of funny, kind of interesting and unarguably pleasant. Despite a bit of stunt casting by Tom Hanks, whose appearances took me completely out of the movie since I kept saying to myself, “Hey look! It’s Tom Hanks,” there’s little to fault in writer/director Sean McGinly’s brainchild except to say that great films strive for higher achievement.
Labels: 2009, Comedy, Three Stars
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (2009) ****
Directed by Michael John Warren
I was proudly one of the “theater kids” in my high school in the late 90’s, and like every other “theater kid” in every high school in the late 90’s, I knew every single word to the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical Rent, which was a sensation when it first opened—I’ve since seen it twice on Broadway. Though I believe the Rent soundtrack to be one of the three best Broadway soundtracks in history, there’s sadly very little that’s visually interesting about the stage production. After seeing it the second time in the theater, I thought to myself that closing my eyes and listening to the music would have provided just as fulfilling an entertainment experience as I just had, and I would have been seventy dollars richer to boot! After more than ten years on Broadway, Rent closed in 2008, and its last performance was filmed and released on DVD. Again, the music is absolutely brilliant; the story is compelling, devastating and empowering! Yet, there’s not enough happening on stage to really catapult this production into the stratosphere. The performers, all of whom seem like stock Broadway actors—the big names like Idina Menzel, Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp are long finished with the stage show, though original cast member Tracie Thoms reprises her role as Joanne—for the most part do what needs to be done, with the exception of Will Chase as Roger, who hams it up big time for the camera, and in doing so, places the health of the veins on his neck in jeopardy! My prayers go out to his vocal cords. He almost single-handedly redefines the word “overacting!” Still, this DVD is leap years beyond the travesty of the Chris Columbus film version which came out in 2005, and the music and story still have the ability to bring viewers to tears. Also, there’s a final surprise at the end which delivers the goods for those of us who were so obsessed a decade ago! Rent, as a stage show, deserves to be archived for future generations, though I’m thinking the existence of the original soundtrack might have sufficed on its own.
Labels: 2009, Musical, Four Stars