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Friday, August 23, 2002

Alex Da Large, Omenvoir, and "R" All Take In High-Kicking Stylings Of CHICAGO!!

Hey folks, Harry here in China... doing my job as well as taking in the culture... I tell ya, there's just something wonderful about looking out a window at Beijing and typing my goofy geeky stuff about movies. I mean, right there... I see the red and yellow flag of the People's Republic of China... and here in my room, I'm all about expressing my freedoms to knock the capitalist corporations of America and praise their subjigated artists for jobs well done. Hehehehe.... Anyway, here's Alex da Large with his look at CHICAGO, a film I'm dying to see...

Hey Harry/Moriarty I also was at the Chicago screening last night in Edgewater, NJ and here are my thoughts about the affair.


Not a being a viewer of the original Broadway musical, Chicago follows the trials of 2 murderesses in the 1920's, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who's already famous and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), who seeks fame, as they're defended by their sleazy, opportunistic lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).


Being unfamiliar with director/choreographer Rob Marshall's background, he directs the material as if born to it. The musical sequences are vividly realized right down to the strong smack of the percussive drum beat which was preeminent of the music of the time.

The look of the film holds true to the posters' color scheme. The screen is awash in pinks, whites, & blacks amidst the foggy haze of floodlights.

Any number Richard Gere performed, he easily stole. This has to be one of his liveliest and juiciest portrayals in quite some time and he carries a tune with the best of them.

Coming in a not too shabby second Zellweger & Zeta-Jones acquit themselves as if they were born Broadway hoofers.

John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah also do wonders with their one shot songs, particularly Reilly's rendition as a poor schlub of a husband.


There were many 'name' actors playing small roles like Christine Baranski, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, & singer Mya. I get the feeling what drew the actors to their meager parts was an opportunity to be part of an important work ala the small turns in this summer's The Bourne Identity where we saw the likes of up & comers like Clive Owen and Julia Stiles being part of a piece rather then trying to make a small part memorable.

While Chicago is very entertaining, it doesn't continue the reinvention of the musical that Moulin Rouge ushered in last year. Also from my vantage point a handful of viewers did get up, to never come back. Possibly this was due to the stretches in the film where one song would end and immediately another would commence.

The British accented host at the screening did warn us of the potential scratch marks and temp tracks but the print was very good. An attending colleague, who is also a video editor, did mention the final credits looked recently typed and some of the city shots looked a bit soft but being a test print, it was quite watchable.

I wasn't part of the final focus meeting being that I was with people of color and that wouldn't make a good pool of information to draw from. Oh well.


Anyone who has seen the musical may know that our heroines get away with it and while their final song is seen as a triumph since they've overcome the odds to make it back to the top, they also come off as being vein, conniving, and ultimately manipulative so many audience members may come away humming the music but once they start thinking about who they were rooting for, they may need a quick shower to wash away the grime.


I feel Chicago will be a hit, maybe not as big as Moulin Rouge but if the quality remains at this high level maybe the musical can finally make a well deserved comeback.


alex Da Large

Next up is the honorable Omenvoir...

Hey guys,

I went to take a friend to see RTP this past Monday here in Kansas City, MO, and was offered a free ticket to see a screening for "Chicago"!! I was really surprised, because a.) I have heard a lot of Oscar-buzz around this movie, and b.) what the heck are they doing in KC showing a screening for a movie 4 months away from release??? Well, let's just say that it was an uber-pleasant surprise. I thought I'd go ahead and share my review with you guys, and even the faithful readers, if you deem it worthy! Enjoy!


"There's no business like show business!"

And there's no movie that embodies this old phrase better than Rob Marshall's "Chicago". And quite frankly, no movie is BETTER thus far this year than Chicago. I cannot spout enough endless praise about this movie: the direction, the superb performances, the pacing, the lush sets, the mood, the energy.... most of all, the energy. This movie is so jam-packed full of life and bursting with excitement that I was nearly exhausted at the end of it's 110 minute running time! Dancing! Singing! Jazzing! Swinging! A spectacle on screen and a feast for the eyes, this movie has all the makings of a true Broadway musical brought to the big screen, and possibly even a modern classic in the making.

A bit of exposition for you: Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) walks into a venue, apparently late for her show, and without her performance partner, her sister. We see her washing her bloodied hands off before being introduced with the first of a series of sexy musical numbers, which is interrupted by the police, who come to arrest her for the double homicide of her sister and her husband. Transition to a young blond, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), who is a common housewife and an aspiring showgirl in the "roaring 20's" and married to a simple mechanic named Amos (John C. Reilly). Completely unknown to "cellophane Amos", she is having an affair with Fred Casely (Dominic West), who pretends to know someone in showbiz just to get “a piece” of Roxie (That’s literally what was said). When she finds out that Fred lied to her about his ability to get her into showbiz and was just “screwing around” with her (heh heh), things get bad - namely for Fred. Enter the (female?) county jail where things get interesting, thanks in part to "Mama" Morton (Queen Latifa) who is a shady jail keeper who can get things done… at a price. It is here that the not-so-friendly relationship between Roxie and Velma begins to flourish. Enter Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), the most rich, most famous, most successful, and most cunning defense lawyer in all of “The Windy City”. For a price, Flynn takes up the defense of both of these ladies in order to save them from the ultimate penalty: death by hanging. The plan: make Chicago love you. If they love you, you are free. And from there, the power struggle and fight for the spotlight really begins.

First-time feature film director, Rob Marshall, does so much right. The pacing never lagged; in fact, I'd venture to say that it was too fast. The cinematography is superb - the look and feel of Chicago and especially the grandiose musical sets are spot on. The way that the "real world" and the "musical world" are blended together was breathtaking; the extended use of metaphors and parallelisms between these two worlds was truly amazing. For instance, one of the first musical scenes involves Amos trying to cover up for Roxie's murder. Roxie flashes between reality and a musical set, singing a cute, and ultimately, hilarious song about her husband, who, over the course of the song, figures out that Roxie is lying to him! Absolutely brilliant work - and so well implemented throughout the entire film. The humor was taut and clever as well; I was laughing at least once every five minutes. And the performances - the performances!! How he coaxed these kind of performances out of these guys (and gals) is a mystery.

This particular story is all about Roxie, and to my delightful surprise, Zellweger is wonderful! She nails the near-innocent-yet-devilish role on the head. Who'da thunk it?? Zeta-Jones - oh wow. She sings. She dances. She flirts. She shows a hell of a lot of leg. Well, actually every girl does - even "Mama" (*shudder*). But Zeta-Jones oozes with... with... well, let's just say she's one sexy baby, baby. Oh be-have! OK, now that I have that out of my system, let's move on to the most surprising performance: Richard Gere. It's common knowledge that this guy really can't act very well. But guys, and I am dead serious, he puts in the performance of a LIFETIME. The 2 best scenes in the whole movie revolve around Gere's Billy, and after the scene that I’ll reference as "The Tapdance", the screener crowd erupted in applause!! And given that the crowd clapped twice, and the 2nd being at the end, that should give you an idea of how impressed we all were at Gere. And he sings too! "Mama" is hilarious and super, and in probably the most underused, understated, and ironically, most likely to be overlooked performance was Reilly's "cellophane Amos." You can't help but really feel for this guy - I mean his wife cheats on him, kills another man, and goes to jail, and he still tries to stand by his woman - the woman he loves, even when she treats him like poodoo.

So what didn't I like? Well for starters, as good of job ACTING that Gere did, he was the weakest singer of all the cast. That's not to say I wasn't surprised: it was still good, just not as good as the rest. What else? At times, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of "stuff" happening on the screen, especially during the musical numbers. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though; it really added to the vigorous and spirited tone of the film. Herein lies another problem however: the ending needs some work - it was a bit abrupt and left me with a lot of questions. Questions like: "Whoa, did I miss the message of the film?" I was so preoccupied with the spectacle that I think I may have slightly overlooked the overall theme: namely, that "All the world is a stage", and sometimes we as humans will sacrifice anything to get an audience. Yet, I don't think that it was entirely my fault for not seeing more of it sooner than I did - after all, the sheer amount of energy and lighthearted approach to the darker themes allowed me to simply overlook this fact, at least until the very end. I also would have loved to see more of the relationships covered and a few of the minor characters developed a bit more. What was done, however, was fabulous - the uneasy, and sometime downright nasty tension between Velma and Roxy was a pleasure to watch. I believe the majority of these problems could be dealt with had the movie run just a bit longer.

What else can I say? It was an extreme privilege to be lucky enough to see this movie four months before release date, and based on the audience reaction, I think they felt the same way. As for the doubters who are not sure if this will be a “contender”, I was once there. Let this put your doubts to rest: this movie deserves to be on everyone's top 10 list at the end of the year. It is a movie full of sleazy splendor, polished choreography, elegant sets, sensational music, and rousing performances. I can't WAIT to see the completed product come December, and you should feel the same!!


Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with another CHICAGO review that just popped up. Seems like they're doing one last big wave of screenings, but not in any of the places you'd think. Edgewater, NJ. Kansas. Testing it in places where they're less likely to get jaded industry responses. Of course, we've got eyes everywhere, so we're getting lots of quick reactions, like this one from the mysterious "R":

I saw the sneak preview of Chicago as well – and gotta tell you that I thought that it was a pretty good movie as well.

The movie had a good flow and was pretty well shot and put together. They did their normal “this is an early cut, don’t hold us against us” thing in the beginning but I didn’t really see anything out of sorts during the showing.

I don’t think that the general audience’s feelings about the movie were as positive as the other write in person said. There were patches here and there of people that did seem to really like it but there were others that left with a rather bland / flat look on their face. You will HAVE to go into this movie with the thought in mind that it’s simply a musical put to film with the attendant enhancements (bigger/better sets, more camera angles, etc.)

There were a couple of dance scenes that ran a little long, but that is really my main complaint.

The comments about Richard Gere – sorry, but he wasn’t that great in my mind. You know who pleasantly surprised me? Catherine Zeta Jones! I was horrible disappointed in her after “Entrapment” - and vowed to never see a movie with her again. I then gave in and saw Traffic which I thought was good despite her. This movie moves her WAY back up in the rankings with me. She was excellent.

But my number one for this flick? Absolutely, positively, Queen Latifah! Honest, I think that her opening song number is worth the price of admission alone! Never mind the structural engineering that was needed to create that dress that she is wearing. You could serve a meal on her chest it is so pushed up and supported!!!!


Click for previous story Talk Back More on this story Click for next story
first!2002-08-23 05:40:37
Chicago2002-08-23 06:13:26
unless someone figures out a way to revolutionize this stale genre, cinematic musicals should no longer be made.2002-08-23 08:34:45
It's good to hear this film has good buzz...2002-08-23 10:24:24
Since when did movie musicals become a stale movie genre? There haven't been any around to get stale.2002-08-23 11:13:45
Eh, I'll see it.2002-08-23 11:46:32
3 for 3.2002-08-23 11:52:33
Oscars2002-08-23 13:36:15
Chicago Reborn Again2002-08-23 13:42:02
Kansas City2002-08-23 14:22:37
Resurgance?2002-08-23 15:13:28
Ehhhh...2002-08-23 15:22:50
Uber uber uber!2002-08-23 15:33:20
Omenvoir...2002-08-23 16:34:03
Actually, Edgewater NJ is a HUGE testing ground for Miramax films2002-08-23 16:49:28
So2002-08-23 19:52:16
KC Film Testing2002-08-24 00:08:36
Moulin Rouge was not a hit2002-08-24 01:52:56
Chicago comparison to MR2002-08-24 02:22:15
scabs2002-08-24 13:14:37
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