Freeze Frame: “West Side Story” (PG-13), “Being the Ricardos” (R), “The Unforgivable” (R), “National Champions” (R)

The rule should be “Classic movies don’t need to be remade. Remake the bad ones and improve them.” But Steven Spielberg’s new take on the musical “West Side Story” is an exception. It’s better than the 1961 Oscar-winning Best Picture. Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner has made some sly changes in the screenplay that add an extra layer of depth. The cast is exceptional, the dancing is strong and, of course, the music and lyrics are first rate. Yes, it’s familiar, but Spielberg’s “West Side Story” manages to hit all the right notes.


“Being the Ricardos,” Aaron Sorkin’s behind the scenes look at the classic TV sitcom “I Love Lucy,” is a terrific backstage drama. Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem make a strong impression as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, artists who changed the landscape of early television while waging battles with the press and in their personal lives. Sorkin’s observant script raises the curtain on an American icon and generates a surprising amount of tension. “Being the Ricardos” is an absorbing ‘warts and all’ biopic.


Sandra Bullock goes for an image makeover in “The Unforgivable,” giving a sharp performance as a convicted cop killer attempting to connect with her younger sister after 20 years in prison. While some of the plot elements don’t ring true, “The Unforgivable” shows how even the best of intentions can sometimes go awry.


Does the current debate about whether to compensate college athletes provide enough drama for a fictional feature film? The folks behind “National Champions” seem to think so. Stephan James plays the star quarterback for a top ranked university squad who attempts to organize a player’s strike on the eve of the national championship game. A strong cast gives this drama a lift, but like a tie game, “National Champions” is a bit anticlimactic.


Well, that’s it for this edition of Freeze Frame, until next time, I’m Russ Simmons with Fox 4 and KKFI-FM.

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