Friday, February 25, 2022

Dinklage and director Wright lift latest 'Cyrano' to new musical heights

Bennett enjoys hearing sweet-somethings from Dinklage.
How many times has the poetic wordsmith and swordsman named Cyrano de Bergerac appeared on the big screen?

Well, you might not believe it, but there have been almost a dozen with that name alone, now including Director Joe Wright's dazzling 2021 "Cyrano," opening in theaters today with a studio release likely timed for a slew of Academy Award nominations that never came. (Incredibly, it says here, such an exceptional film has received just one, for Best Achievement in Costume Design.)

As based on the 2018 European stage musical (adapted by screenwriter Erica Schmidt), this version features a towering perfomance from Peter Dinklage, whose short stature stands in for the insecure, long-nosed title character in most other productions. Of course, Cyrano still remains steadfastly smitten with Roxanne (a lovely, if overtly flirty Haley Bennett), who calls our lovesick hero "my oldest friend." Once more, such a perceived slight leads to dashing soldier Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) being permitted to use his little commanding officer's immense words to woo the lady in this classic and ever-sad love triangle. 

Speaking of heartbreak, another showstopping moment arrives when scared infantrymen sing that heaven is "Wherever I Fall" while in the middle of another needless battle. Believe it, the talented Wright ("Atonement," "Darkest Hour") again delivers a special movie-going experience, no matter what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might have you believe. (By the way, Dinklage did receive a Best Actor nomination from the Critics Choice Assocation, with winners announced March 13.) 

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some strong violence, thematic and suggestive material, and brief language; 2:04; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Two other films also debut today. A critic's screening was not offered for "Studio 666" (only in theaters), but an intriguing kind of whodunnit called "No Exit" begins as a serviceable thriller, keeps our attention for about 45 minutes, then takes a quick turn into gratuitously dark and unexected places.

For a while, in fact, you might think at least you're in good hands with Dennis Haysbert, the trusted All-State Insurance spokesman and formidable U.S. President during six seasons of TV's long-running "24." 

Haysbert's is probably the most recognizable name in a cast that also includes Dale Dickey ("Winter's Bone"), Danny Ramirez (Disney+ and Marvel's "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier") and model Havana Rose Liu, here showing off some screen intensity as a recovering drug addict on the run. You can see why she's at large -- and where she might be going -- only on Hulu.

Rated "R" by MPAA: strong violence, language and some drug content; 1:28; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

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