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Jersey Boys is Goodfellas, the musical, almost

Posted on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 4:36 pm

 

 

 

 

 

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By Peter Covino

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Being a Jersey boy at heart, I have to have a soft spot for Jersey Boys.
I have never seen any Broadway version of the popular long-running musical based on the life and times of one of New Jersey’s most popular boy groups, The Four Seasons. And this Clint Eastwood-directed film hits the right notes, well at least most of the time.
Told at least partially in narrative form by each one of the bands major components: Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi and of course, Frankie Valli, Jersey Boys literally “sings” at times, feeling almost like a musical version of Goodfellas, as these Jersey boys mix with mob figures and get in and out of trouble with the law throughout their teenage years.
Mom and dad adore their boy Frankie (born Francesco Stephen Casteluccio). He works at the neighborhood barbershop, where he often has encounters with the mob guys in the neighborhood including local boss Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo (Christopher Walken). Walken just might be the best thing about Jersey Boys because he doesn’t take things too seriously and is just shy of giving a “wink” to the camera.
And as long as Jersey Boys doesn’t get too serious, it works just fine. It is the standard story of blue collar boys making it big, thanks to Valli’s voice and the creative talents of Gaudio. But when Jersey Boys takes a dramatic turn, and it does so frequently, it feels forced and out of place, even if it is based on actual events. The movie comes to a grinding halt as Valli has domestic squabbles with his ex-wife and drug-addicted daughter. It probably has its place in the film somewhere, but Eastwood’s direction feels clumsy and out-of-place.
The “boys” are uniformly good (John Lloyd Young plays Valli, Erich Bergen plays Gaudio, Vincent Piazza is DeVito and Michael Lomenda is Massi), doing an adequate job as actors, but really standing out as they do “live” versions of many Four Seasons hits such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Sherry” and “Walk Like a Man.”
Also adding an interesting layer to the mix is Mike Doyle who plays the group’s lyricist/producer Bob Crewe, and, at least according to the movie, was flamboyantly gay at a time when even Liberace was considered to be just colorful and eccentric.
The Four Seasons aura is further enhanced by the presence of Joe Pesci (played by Joseph Russo), who was there before the group hit it big, trying to line up gigs for the aspiring quartet.
Jersey Boys, for all of its good musical points, should have been better. There are times when it just has a great nostalgic feel, but that is just about impossible to sustain for what in places feels like a long, 134 minutes.
Critic’s Rating: B-.
Jersey Boys is rated R, mostly for language.

Upcoming
Fathom Events and Rhino Entertainment present the annual Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies: Beat Club 4/21/72, in theaters nationwide July 17. All screenings are at 7:30 p.m., local time.
Central Florida theaters include Regal theaters in Winter Park and Waterford Lakes.
The event will feature a complete rare live studio performance of the Grateful Dead captured during their legendary European tour in 1972 with audio remastered from the original analog tapes. Never officially released and never before seen in its entirety, the Bremen, West Germany’s Beat Club TV program studio performance features the classic 1972 lineup, and captures the Dead in their prime, playing at the height of their powers and tearing through a condensed version of a typical Europe ‘72 concert. The event offers a unique view of the band, allowing fans in cinemas to hear fly-on-the-wall chatter and get up-close and personal with band members in one of their most intimate studio performances.
Tickets for “Grateful Dead Meet-Up at the Movies: Beat Club 4/21/72” are available at participating theater box offices, including the Orlando area, and online at www.FathomEvents.com. The event will be presented in more than 360 select movie theaters around the country through Fathom’s Digital Broadcast Network. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the Fathom Events website.
The event features stand-out versions of set staples like “Bertha,” “Sugaree,” “Playing In The Band” (two versions) and a classic “Truckin’>Drums>The Other One.” This performance is one of the last known video captures of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, a founding member of the Grateful Dead. Pigpen was legendary for his blues influence on the band’s sound.
“To see such outstanding footage of some of the Grateful Dead’s most important songs from 1972, including a 20 minute version of ‘The Other One’ and two way-out-there renditions of ‘Playing In The Band’ is a truly remarkable experience,” said Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux, in a press release.
“There’s never been a show from this era filmed so clearly in its entirety, and this audiovisual document captures the band at arguably their creative zenith. As a Dead Head and an archivist, this is some of the most exciting footage of the Dead I’ve ever come across. It’s thrilling to know thousands will now be able to enjoy it on July 17.”
“Our annual meet-up events give Grateful Dead fans a chance to get together and celebrate their favorite band through iconic and rare Dead content,” said Dan Diamond, senior vice president of Fathom Events. “Fans will take a trip down memory lane and experience this historic studio session from 1972, all from the comfort of their local theater.”
The other nostalgic day at theaters is a Fathom Events and Picturehouse Entertainment to experience  featuring the Monty Python comedy legends.
John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin reunite on stage for the first time in over three decades for a special, historic event. Broadcast Live from London’s famed O2 Arena, “Monty Python Live (mostly)” will be at select cinemas nationwide on Sunday, July 20 at 2:30 p.m. with rebroadcasts on Wednesday, July 23 and Thursday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. (local time).
Area theaters include AMC Downtown Disney, AMC Universal Cineplex, Regal Water Lakes, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Winter Park and Cinemark Festival Bay.
Tickets are available now at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com.
“What could be finer at the end of a long life in comedy, than a chance to reunite with old pals and say goodbye to all our fans in one final mad musical show,” said Eric Idle, in a press release.  “We are very excited that not only do we get the chance to screw up on stage, we get a chance to screw up live in cinemas too.”
Monty Python has been influencing generations and revolutionizing comedy. Monty Python first hit U.K. TV screens with ”Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” which saw 45 episodes broadcast over four BBC series between 1969 and 1974. The Pythons were an instant success and became the face of British comedy. They went on to achieve overwhelming international acclaim with the huge success of films such as “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” in 1975, “Life of Brian” in 1979 and their final film, “The Meaning of Life” in 1983.
“Monty Python fans won’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this iconic comedy troupe in their only onstage reunion,” said Dan Diamond, senior vice president of Fathom Events. “The Python’s will be at their finest, leaving fans in movie theaters rolling in the aisles as they relive some of the greatest moments in comedy history.”
“We’re delighted to be working with Fathom to bring this very special event to audiences throughout the United States,” said Marc Allenby, director of distribution at Picturehouse Entertainment.

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