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PCR # 296  (Vol. 6, No. 47)  This edition is for the week of November 21--27, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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Summary of My Fall TV Show Picks
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 by Mike Smith
Happy Thanksgiving....Ironic, Isn't It....No Survivors....I'm Sorry....Beatles Remembered....You Can't Hold On Too Long....Passing On....Next Year....Jaws: The Story, Part 43
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Starring: Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 15 mins

525,600 minutes. That's what each of us have to spend in the course of one year. In the film version of the hit Broadway show, "RENT," that year is full of the ups, downs, highs and lows of a group of artists: filmmakers, songwriters, performers, who face a daily struggle to get their work noticed while trying to pay the rent. And, as if life wasn't tough enough, most of them are dealing with the various stages of AIDS. If you think such a subject would make for one very depressing film I am happy to tell you that you're wrong!

When it first premiered off-Broadway (it later moved to the Great White Way) in 1996, "RENT" won practically every award imaginable, including the Pulitzer Prize. Writer/Director Jonathan Larson had created a musical that dealt with the problems many young people had experienced. Frustration. Rejection. Criticism. That these problems are magnified by the specter of the AIDS virus only makes the story that much more compelling.

It's Christmas Eve. Songwriter Roger (Pascal) and filmmaker Mark (Rapp) have come home to their loft in the East Village to find their electricity off. What upsets them most of all is that their former roommate, Benny (Diggs), is now their landlord and is responsible for the darkness. Not ones to complain, the two begin making their holiday plans when a call from the street below announces that Collins (Martin) is back in town. Before he can make it upstairs Collins is mugged for his jacket. He is rescued by Angel (Heredia) a street performer with a heart of gold. Also living in the building is Mimi (Dawson), a dancer at the local club. Close by is another building that is being used by Maureen (Menzel) to host her one woman show. Maureen and Roger were once an item, but she left him for a lawyer. Named Joanne. It sounds complicated but believe me, it isn't.

Like "Chicago" before it, "Rent" is the perfect combination of on screen and behind the camera talent. Director Chris Columbus, the writer of "Gremlins" and director of "Home Alone," seems an unlikely choice to film what is probably the most popular musical of the past decade. Of course, people said the same thing when Columbus was chosen to film the first two "Harry Potter" films, though I don't hear anyone complaining now. Columbus has opened up the show, making New York City a star of the show along with the actors. Whether it's Mark riding his bike through the busy streets in Spring or Collins and Angel walking arm and arm through the snow, the Big Apple provides a backdrop that helps bring the story alive. Unlike "Chicago," which first premiered in 1975, Columbus has managed to retain most of the original Broadway cast and they know their characters by heart. Though they all do outstanding work, I must single out Martin, Heredia and Menzel as stand outs. Martin, probably best known as Detective Ed Green on "Law and Order," reveals the skills of a classic song and dance man. Maybe all those years alongside Broadway legend Jerry Orbach rubbed off. Heredia is heartbreaking as Angel while Menzel owns almost every scene she's featured in.

When all is said and done, "Rent" is a celebration of life, no matter how you are forced to face it. Sadly, days before "Rent" opened on Broadway, Jonathan Larson passed away, 10 days short of his 35th birthday. But he left behind a testament that all of us should live those 525,600 minutes like each one is our last. On a scale of zero to four stars I give "Rent"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "Rent" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.