March 2024


play adaptation

Hamilton (2020)

DIRECTOR: Thomas Kail

CAST: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Christopher Jackson, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff


Counting Hamilton as a “movie” is using the term loosely, rather a live film recording of the original run of the 2015 Broadway musical featuring its original cast, but while no filmed recording can fully recreate the immersive nature of seeing a show live, Hamilton‘s release on online streaming service Disney + (following Disney outbidding all competition to call dibs on the film rights) gives a chance for those who missed or could not afford the opportunity to buy Broadway tickets, or those who wish to revisit the play’s original run with its original cast, a chance to experience the phenomenon for themselves. A musical adaptation of Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, with Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda composing the songs, writing the lyrics, and starring in the title role, Hamilton deserves its success and popularity. While non-musical fans might not be converted, for those to whom the medium appeals, it’s a lively, lavish, passionate production of the highest quality combining rap, pop, and showtunes to turn a biography into an engaging and energetic modernized history lesson that both educates and entertains.

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Into the Woods (2014)

Into-The-Woods-e1415275006650DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall

CAST: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Mackenzie Mauzy, Chris Pine, Billy Magnussen, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, Johnny Depp


Into the Woods doesn’t make the journey worth taking.  Perhaps part of the blame lies with Disney neutering Stephen Sondheim’s original play, a dark-edged satire of classic fairy tales, toning down darker and more sexually suggestive moments in the name of “family friendliness”, but the generic musical numbers, with nary a catchy tune to be found (just compare it to the list of memorable songs in, say, Les Miserables) aren’t a promising advertisement for Sondheim’s original material either.  Satire only fully works when it’s a razor-sharp, incisive blade.  Whether or not the fault lies with Disney softening its edges, the movie adaptation of Sondheim’s play is a dull butter knife. Continue reading

Les Misérables (2012)

DIRECTOR: Tom Hooper


Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter



Based on the phenomenally popular, long-running musical stage production which debuted in 1985, which itself was based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, this musical big screen adaptation of arguably the greatest French novel was a long time coming. Attempts were made at bringing the musical version of Les Mis to the big screen since the 1990s, but the various productions fell through time and again, while several non-musical adaptations of Hugo’s magnum opus were featured both in the theater and on television, only finally moving full steam ahead in 2011, when Tom Hooper, fresh off his acclaimed historical drama The King’s Speech, came onboard.  As someone who would not really consider himself a particular Les Mis aficionado, I’m not really in a position to say how satisfied the musical’s legion of fans will be by this film (though I suspect many of them should be).  In fact, I’ve always been partial to the 1998 non-musical film starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush (although some of its omissions, including the character of Eponine, rankled fans).  Even so, Les Mis is a lavish, sumptuous experience, with plenty of emotionally stirring moments along the way.  It’s also as pure a musical as they come–lines of spoken dialogue are few and brief.  Those for whom musicals are unbearable are not likely to have their opinion changed here.  But for those who enjoy them, and especially for fans of this musical in particular, there is much to appreciate.

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10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

DIRECTOR: Gil Junger

CAST: Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik, David Krumholtz, Andrew Keegan, Gabrielle Union, Larry Miller, Allison Janney


That 10 Things I Hate About You possesses a little more wit and intelligence than your average high school romantic comedy might be less surprising when one realizes it’s a loose adaptation of William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Taming of the Shrew.  A “hip” script featuring some snappy one-liners and a likable and charismatic cast help enliven this into both one of the more enjoyable high school comedies, romantic comedies, and modernized Shakespeare adaptations floating around out there. Continue reading

Hamlet (1996)

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh


Kenneth Branagh, Sir Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney, Richard Briers, Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Brian Blessed, Jack Lemmon, Rosemary Harris, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Reece Dinsdale, Gerard Depardieu, Sir John Gielgud, Judi Dench, Sir Richard Attenborough


WARNING: This review mentions specific details of the plot

In the world of Shakespearean film, few figures loom larger than Kenneth Branagh. William Shakespeare is something of an obsession for Branagh, who directed Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing, co-starred in Othello, and here wears three hats as writer, director, and star of this lavish, star-studded adaptation of Hamlet, the only version to include every single line from the play intact and as such running approximately four hours. Continue reading

Wait Until Dark (1967)

DIRECTOR: Terence Young

CAST: Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna, Jack Weston, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Julie Herrod


An adaptation of the 1966 play of the same name by Frederick Knott, written for the screen by Robert Carrington and Jane Howard Carrington, Terence Young’s suspense crime caper Wait Until Dark almost succeeds in spite of itself; the plot has more holes than Swiss Cheese, but a slick twisty-turny—-if far from airtight—-script keeps things moving along and reels the viewer in in spite of themselves, assuming they have a decent margin for suspension of disbelief.

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