05-24-2018  2:40 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

Attorney General Forms Hate Crime Task Force

The task force will study hate-motivated crimes and review existing legal protections for victims ...

Portland Art Museum Celebrates Art Museum Day with Free Admission on May 25

Portland Art Museum joins art museums across North America, with great works of art and public programs ...

June Key Delta Community Center Hosts May Week ’18 Health Fair May 26

Event includes vision, glucose screenings, medication disposal and car seat installation ...

Mississippi Avenue Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 22, 10 percent of proceeds from participating Mississippi Ave. businesses will go to SEI ...

Attorney general issues ballot title for assault weapons ban

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon's attorney general has released a certified ballot title for an initiative that would restrict the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the state.The title released Wednesday revises the draft caption following comments from the public and the...

Signing Day not limited to sports stars at Umatilla High

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Amid cheers and fanfare often reserved for student athletes, all Umatilla High School seniors who are pursuing post-secondary education signed letters of intent during the school's third annual Signing Day."This is a big step," Principal Bob Lorence said,...

Police: Winlock man shot while playing basketball with son

WINLOCK, Wash. (AP) — Detectives in Lewis County say a Winlock man playing basketball with his son was shot to death by a neighbor.Authorities say the 44-year-old father had been shooting hoops with the boy Wednesday evening when the neighbor, identified as 58-year-old Randolph Thomas...

Officials: Efforts failing to save US West sagebrush land

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Officials say they're losing the battle against a devastating combination of invasive plant species and wildfires in the vast sagebrush habitats in the U.S. West that support cattle ranching and recreation and are home to an imperiled bird.The Western Association of Fish...

OPINION

Racism After Graduation May Just Be What's on the Menu

Dr. Julianne Malveaux says that for our young millennials, racism is inevitable ...

Prime Minister Netanyahu Shows Limits of Israel’s Democracy

Bill Fletcher, Jr. on racial politics in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneven treatment of African immigrants ...

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

NFL's policy could mean a new playbook on protests this fall

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Now that the NFL is drawing the line against players kneeling during the national anthem, athletes protesting police brutality and racial inequality may need to find a new playbook.The question is whether they intend to escalate their protests in some way."The owners can...

Court: School can let trans students use bathroom of choice

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district can allow transgender students to continue using bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sexual identity, a federal appeals court panel ruled Thursday.A three-judge panel heard extended arguments in the case before conferring...

Body camera video is latest setback for Milwaukee police

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Body camera video showing police using a stun gun on an NBA player over a parking violation is just the latest setback for efforts to improve the strained relationship between Milwaukee officers and the city's black population.The confrontation involving Milwaukee Bucks...

ENTERTAINMENT

Scenes cut from 'Show Dogs' over resemblance to sexual abuse

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two scenes are being cut from the family movie "Show Dogs" after complaints that they resemble real-life sexual abuse, the movie's distributor has announced.In the movie, a police dog goes undercover at a dog show to catch animal smugglers.In one scene, the dog is told to...

Stoner comedy pioneer Tommy Chong still toking, joking at 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he'd live to see the day marijuana legalization would be sweeping America.He knew when he and partner Cheech Marin pioneered stoner comedy 50 years ago, a time when taunting the establishment with constant reminders that they...

Paltrow: Brad Pitt threatened Harvey Weinstein

NEW YORK (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow says ex-boyfriend Brad Pitt threatened producer Harvey Weinstein after an alleged incident of sexual misconduct.The 45-year-old actress told "The Howard Stern Show" on Wednesday she was "blindsided." Paltrow claimed she was 22 when Weinstein placed his hands...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Gut check: Swallowed capsule could spot trouble, send alert

Scientists have developed a swallowed capsule packed with tiny electronics and millions of genetically engineered...

MLB panel says baseballs getting extra lift, cause unknown

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseballs really have been getting extra lift since 2015, and it's not from the exaggerated...

Body camera video is latest setback for Milwaukee police

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Body camera video showing police using a stun gun on an NBA player over a parking...

Israel defense chief plans 2,500 new West Bank settler homes

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister said Thursday he will seek approval next week to fast-track...

Cyclone Mekunu pounds Yemen island on its path to Oman

SALALAH, Oman (AP) — Cyclone Mekunu roared over the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea on its way...

Saudi Arabia releases 3 women as other activists still held

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi authorities have released three prominent women's rights...

Film Still Jersey Boys
Dwight Brown NNPA Film Critic

Four guys stand under a street lamp, singing their hearts out. That’s the iconic vision of Doo-wop/pop groups like The Four Seasons. The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys puts a name and face to that image. Clint Eastwood’s screen adaptation, triumphantly for the most part, makes their tale cinematic.

Jersey Boys has been a mainstay on Broadway since 2005, spawning national tours and international productions. The heart of the story is the coming-of-age of four Italian teen singers from Newark who escaped mob life and eventually sold 100 million records over five decades. The Four Seasons’ journey is an American success story steeped in personal drama, stormy group dynamics, setbacks and stardom. The musical told their tale, within the limits of four walls. The screen adaptation, sans those restrictions, gave Clint Eastwood carte blanche when he interpreted their lives. The director of Bird (the jazz-filled Charlie “Bird” Parker bio-drama), Unforgiven (an Oscar Award-winning classic western drama) and Changeling (a gorgeously shot period film) displays his strong suits: music, drama and evocative cinematography.

The temptation to make a fast buck got teenager Francesco “Frankie” Castelluccio (Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young) in trouble with the cops. But his love of music pointed him in the right direction. His older friend Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) was both a bad role model and the key to a musical career. Frankie had the silky smooth falsetto. Tommy sang baritone, played the guitar and fancied himself the business manager. The two hungered to make it big in the music industry. They lucked out the day their buddy Joe “Joey” Pesci  (Joseph Russo) introduced them to singer/songwriter/keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen). Bass player and bass-voiced Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) completed the quartet.  Now they had the voices, talent and the songs to start a career.

In some filmed Broadway musicals, like Dreamgirls, characters break into song in an instant. In this film adaptation, the guys only sing when they’re rehearsing, in the studio or performing. This strategy lets Eastwood mount a real drama, which focuses on hustling for gigs, turbulent marriages, intimidating crooks, family problems and flamboyant producers. You get sucked into the musicians’ rhythm of life: ambition, romance, betrayal, jealousy, comic moments…

The unsettling moments come when characters, in asides, talk to the camera lens, explaining their point of view. This device may have worked on stage, but it sticks out like a pimple on film. Also, a bothersome lengthy flashback sequence depicts Tony getting the group into debt, courtesy of ties to a mobster. These scenes halt momentum and should have been incorporated in the chronological telling of their story. Sometimes Eastwood’s creative choices are questionable, though never completely detrimental. Eastwood’s attention to technical elements—sound, art direction (Patrick M. Sullivan), production design (James J. Murakami) and cinematography (Tom Stern, Changeling)—is impeccable.

The teen group known as The Four Lovers becomes The Four Seasons. Francesco “Frankie” Castelluccio becomes Frankie Valli.  And after every producer in New York turns them down, the group hooks up with producer/songwriter Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle), who helps them along as they finally have their first number one hit, “Sherry.” That chart-topping success is followed by: “Walk Like A Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Dawn (Go Away),” “Big Girls Don’t Cry…” As they reach for stardom, nagging problems bring them back down to earth.

Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice were nominated for Tony Awards for writing the book for Jersey Boys. Their screenplay is solid though it never seems to expand on the stage play. For example, The Four Seasons were the first white group to be signed to Veejay Records, a major R&B label in the ‘50s and ‘60s whose recording artists included Jerry Butler, John Lee Hooker and Little Richard. It would have added a dimension to the movie if the viewers could see how the Italian kids from Newark interacted with black artists and dealt with social issues like race back in the ‘60s. As Bobby Crew puts it, “Listening to the group you couldn’t figure out if it was three guys and a girl or four black guys singing.” This was a missed opportunity.

John Lloyd Young‘s interpretation of Valli won him a Tony Award. He was the perfect actor for the lead role. He’s a strong singer with a piercing voice, but you still miss Valli’s distinctive, rich, nasal, trumpet-sounding tenor. Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza are fine. Christopher Walken as mobster Gyp DeCarlo gives an effete performance that doesn’t gel. Donnie Kehr as mobster Norman Waxman is far more intimidating. Mike Doyle plays Bob Crewe with a smirk. Katharine Narducci as Franky’s brassy girlfriend-turned-wife makes a believable transition.

As this 134-minute film comes to an end, you crave more of The Four Seasons. In fact, if you haven’t seen the stage musical, the film won’t spoil that experience.  After witnessing the highs and lows of these street singers from Newark on screen, you will want to see their lives on stage all the more.

Visit NNPA Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.

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