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Jersey Boys: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Jersey Boys (2014) movie poster Jersey Boys

Theatrical Release: June 20, 2014 / Running Time: 134 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Clint Eastwood / Writers: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice (stage play book & screenplay)

Cast: John Lloyd Young (Frankie Valli), Erich Bergen (Bob Gaudio), Michael Lomenda (Nick Massi), Vincent Piazza (Tommy DeVito), Christopher Walken (Gyp DeCarlo), Mike Doyle (Bob Crewe), Renée Marino (Mary Delgaudo), Erica Piccininni (Lorraine), Joseph Russo (Joey Pesci), Donnie Kehr (Norm Waxman), Kathrine Narducci (Frankie's Mother), Steven R. Schirripa (Vito), Freya Tingley (Francine Valli)

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In his mid-eighties, Clint Eastwood isn't merely still working. He's still working hard. Not one but two films he has directed are among the most promising and prestigious released in 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures, the studio Eastwood has called home for well over forty years. It now seems one of the two has a shot at major awards, while the other was more of a summer entertainment.
Surprisingly, it is Jersey Boys, a film adaptation of the Tony Award winner for Best Musical, that was only the summer entertainment. Eastwood's shot at adding to his impressive haul of 21st century accolades is American Sniper, a thus-unseen Christmas Day-opening true drama from which no one knows exactly what to expect.

For now, there's Jersey Boys, a film that seemed out of place in the summer movie schedule amidst mutant superheroes, animated dragons, and giant robots and monsters. True, Jersey boasted a recognizable brand, being based on an extremely popular musical that presently stands as the 13th longest-running show in Broadway history. That run is comparable to other successful musicals that have been turned into movies earlier this century. Of those movies, there have been four hits (Chicago, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables) and as many clear-cut flops (Rent, The Producers, Nine, and Rock of Ages). Whereas all eight of those carried PG-13 ratings and most of them also wielded some star power, Jersey Boys was rated R and had just one famous name in its cast in Christopher Walken, filling a minor role.

Despite that uphill battle, the film performed somewhere in between the hits and misses. Jersey's $47 million domestic, $62 M worldwide gross makes it look like one of the summer's biggest duds. But the movie was reasonably priced with a reported production budget of $40 M and performed better than its most fitting point of reference: Rock of Ages, the jukebox musical Warner similarly opened in mid-June two years earlier. Jersey may not have been the sleeper hit of the summer, but it actually also earned more domestically than each of the six previous films Eastwood directed without starring in, an underperforming crop not released as widely but featuring such A-list stars as Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, and Matt Damon.

Adapted from the hit stage musical, "Jersey Boys" tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (played, left to right, by Michael Lomenda, John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, and Erich Bergen).

Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons using the music
of the four-man band that flourished in the 1960s. The vocal group is formed out of four Italian-Americans from New Jersey. They take turns narrating their tale, with the street-smart Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) doing the most of the fourth wall-breaking direct camera addresses. Tommy is in and out of jail for minor thefts and so is Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda). But with their falsetto-voiced friend, apprentice barber Frankie Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young), renaming himself Frankie Valli, becoming lead singer, they become something of a major attraction. The fourth member is found in Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), a successful writer who insists on being an equal partner. Thus, the band is established and they'll eventually settle on the name Four Seasons, inspired by a motel sign.

The Four Seasons succeed with songs that are prominently showcased. Whether or not you realize it, you probably are familiar with hits like "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", and "Walk Like a Man", distinct ditties that retain their appeal even if their sound has never really been emulated or channeled.

With the recording of their songs covering the professional side, the film takes interest in the band's personal lives. Frankie marries Mary Delgado (Renée Marino), an assertive woman who tells him to spell Valli with an "i." Tommy has ties to the mob and is known to dabble in goods that have "fallen off a truck." It is future Academy Award-winning actor Joe Pesci (Joseph Russo) who finds Bob and brings him to the other guys.

The film establishes Frankie's voice and Bob's lyrics as the stars of the band and the two, perhaps not coincidentally credited as the film's executive producers, reach an agreement to cut each other in on everything Frankie sings and Bob writes outside of the Seasons. That deal doesn't sit well with Tommy, whose extracurricular activities come to jeopardize the band when a loan shark (Donnie Kehr) reveals Tommy owes him over $150,000. To resolve the dispute, Frankie calls in his own connected pal, mob figure Gyp DeCarlo (Walken).

Also featuring in this tale: affairs, an arrest at the Ohio State Fair, a gay producer (Mike Doyle), family stress, and some old-fashioned in-fighting.

Christopher Walken, the biggest name in the cast, fills the minor role of Gyp DeCarlo, a gangster who looks out for the band.

Clint Eastwood is not someone you expect to harbor an appreciation for the Four Seasons, an East Coast band that took off when the lifelong Californian was in his thirties. He's also not a guy you expect to show interest in adapting a Broadway jukebox musical, even if he's been attached for years to direct a remake of A Star Is Born (with or, more likely, without Beyoncé) and did long ago star in the Western musical film Paint Your Wagon.

But Jersey Boys is not your typical Broadway show. It is like a Martin Scorsese version of a musician biopic, something you're surprised Scorsese has never done, given his rock documentaries and flair for picking apt licensed needle drops. Even without Joe Pesci being a character, the content and presentation of Jersey Boys repeatedly calls to mind Scorsese, with its stylish story of young Italians rising amidst some legal troubles. The Four Seasons are musicians, not gangsters, but they definitely blur the line between the two with their affiliations, lifestyles, and vocabularies. It's not the universe you anticipate breeding the band's high-pitched, peppy songs. That contradiction compels and the tasteful treatment of band's real-life issues, even with some liberties taken and chronologies muddled, holds your attention through the long runtime.

Eastwood's decision to have a principal cast almost entirely drawn from different incarnations of the stage show may look like commercial suicide, but then the likes of Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, and Alec Baldwin did little for Rock of Ages' pitiful bottom line. The casting is clearly the right move for Jersey, with these actors able to do justice to the real Four Seasons' song catalog while also drawing from their long experiences with the play to keep the drama sharp and powerful. Walken may be slightly out of place among these unknowns, but he gets a couple of laughs and brings instant weight to his underwritten part.

Jersey Boys lives up to the phrase "A Clint Eastwood Film" with its stately cinematography and winsome period production design, marred only slightly by a poor visual effect and some iffy aging work for a climactic scene set in 1990. While it's not going to be recalled in year-end lists and award ceremonies after the mixed reviews it drew (I don't see its zero nomination tally rising without being lumped in with American Sniper), it's a film of both artistic worth and entertainment value.

Jersey Boys: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Eastwood and his regular cinematographer Tom Stern give Jersey Boys their signature monochromatic look. Colors are often but not always desaturated to generally agreeable, though familiar, effect. The Blu-ray's 2.40:1 transfer is just as clean and sharp as it should be. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio does a nice job of distributing the music and not drowning out dialogue or requiring you to keep adjusting volume levels.

Clint Eastwood sports sunglasses and a warm coat while directing in "From Broadway to the Big Screen." Trumpet men rehearse their choreography for the closing sequence in "'Oh, What a Night' to Remember."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Jersey Boys is joined by three HD featurettes on Blu-ray.

"From Broadway to the Big Screen" (22:57) is a good, substantial making-of featurette. It details the origins of the stage show, which began in La Jolla, California and discusses the intention to assign a different season to a member of the band. It also devotes much of its time to the cast that "Mr. Eastwood"

and his casting director assembled from seeing different performances of the national, touring, and regional shows. There is conspicuously no input at all from the surviving Four Seasons members.

"Too Good To Be True" (4:51) looks at the thrill of following the show from stage to a major feature film from the perspective of original cast member Donnie Kohr.

Finally, "'Oh, What a Night' to Remember" (5:05) gives notice to the closing song and dance medley created for the film.

The DVD only includes the last of these three featurettes, "'Oh, What a Night'..."

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for The Judge and This Is Where I Leave You. To these, the DVD adds an anti-tobacco Truth spot and trailers for Horrible Bosses 2, Tammy, and Edge of Tomorrow. Disappointingly but characteristically, Warner leaves off trailers for Jersey Boys from both discs.

The static main menu attaches the instrumental medley score to a poster design's art.

An insert provides directions to the combo pack's final component (Digital HD with UltraViolet), while advertising Warner's big Blu-ray and bigger DVD Clint Eastwood collections. The eco-friendly keepcase's cover art is reproduced in a glossy slipcover.

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons perform on "American Bandstand" in "Jersey Boys."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys evidently does not quite do for moviegoers what the stage show it's based on did for Broadway patrons. Nonetheless, on its own merits, this is a pretty satisfying biopic, whose casting, performances, period design, and flair are all commendable. While the Four Seasons' story may not be radically different from other bands who have risen and fallen, the spirited presentation of it doesn't warrant any major complaints.

Warner's combo pack adds a very good half-hour of extras to a dynamite feature presentation. Fans of the movie and of jukebox musicals in general should not be disappointed.

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Reviewed November 10, 2014.



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