A new review from The Movie Snob.
The Greatest Showman (B). This musical has done only so-so with the critics (Metacritic.com score 45/100 last time I checked), but I must say that I was entertained. The versatile and (to me) eminently likable Hugh Jackman (Logan) stars as P.T. Barnum in a film that is apparently very loosely based on the real Barnum’s life. It is exceptionally sentimental, setting up all sorts of underdogs for us to root for—the impoverished child Barnum in love with the daughter of a rich meanie, the slightly less impoverished adult Barnum hatching his first scheme to entertain the masses, the gaggle of differently abled people (unkindly called “freaks” by some characters) Barnum recruits for his show, and even an inter-racial potential couple. There are lots of songs, and I must say they mostly sounded kind of the same to me. And the big song-and-dance numbers featuring Barnum’s performers resemble the big song-and-dance numbers you might see on “Dancing with the Stars,” and the lights and noise pretty well bludgeon you into submission. Michelle Williams (Oz the Great and Powerful) isn’t given much to do as Barnum’s wife, but Zac Efron (Neighbors) and the formerly unknown to me Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) have nice supporting roles and a nice musical number together. If you don’t mind a little sap and a little schmaltz, I say give The Greatest Showman a chance.
A new movie review from The Movie Snob.
Logan (A-). Yes, this is an awfully high grade to give a rated-R comic-book movie with all sorts of severed heads and spurting arteries and such. But what can I say? I thought this movie was excellent. Hugh Jackman (Scoop) returns for his millionth turn as Wolverine, the irascible, indestructible mutant with the retractable claws. Only now he’s not feeling so indestructible. The year is 2029, and he is old and sick and not regenerating like he used to. He’s lying low somewhere near the U.S.-Mexico border taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur), who is not only old and sick but also having seizures that cause all sorts of mayhem for everyone around him because of his uncontrolled psychic powers. All the other mutants we’ve come to know and love in the other X-Men movies are apparently dead, and no new mutants have been born in many years. Wolverine is just trying to scrape together enough money in his job as a limo driver so he can buy a boat and sail out to sea with Professor Xavier (thereby saving mankind from the effects of Xavier’s seizures, I think). Then everything goes sideways when a desperate woman finds Wolverine and begs him to transport a young girl to Canada—a girl with mutantly powers awfully reminiscent of Wolverine’s. Of course, there are bad guys hot on her trail, and the movie quickly turns into a quasi-remake of Children of Men (which is not a bad movie to borrow from, if you’re going to borrow). Despite all the crazy, bloody fight scenes, the movie really worked for me as a meditation on mortality and the meaning of family. And newcomer Dafne Keen does a nice job as the mysterious little girl with anger-management issues.
P.S. I forgot to mention this when I initially posted this review–I think this is the first time I have ever seen a movie in the United States that features Spanish subtitles. Some of the movie was in Spanish, and those parts had no subtitles. I wonder if those parts were subtitled in English in other showings?
New from The Movie Snob.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (B-). Here is yet another movie full of comic-book mayhem, the seventh movie in the X-Men franchise. I thought it was a mixed bag. On the plus side, the movie’s central character is Wolverine, and I just can’t help liking good old Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine) in that role. There are some decently cool action sequences. Some other quality actors turn up and give good performances (Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave). On the minus side, there’s a fair amount of tedious exposition. The CGI magic eventually starts to feel less than magical. Cute little Ellen Page (Juno) is wasted in a tiny part. And the whole movie is about time-traveling to save the world, a gimmick that is getting a little tired.
Here’s a fun game you can play. Before I saw the movie, I read the beginning of one critic’s review in which he asserted that the whole movie is mediocre except for one stand-out, clever, delightful scene. I deliberately read no further in the review, and when I saw the movie I tried to guess which scene he was referring to. Turned out, I guessed right. See if you can too! I think this link will get you to his review.
A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Wolverine (C+). I have generally liked the X-Men movies, and I like Hugh Jackman (Australia), but this tale about the angriest X-Man of them all was a bit of a yawner. You may remember that Wolverine had a bit of personal trauma a couple of movies back. Well, that sad episode has turned him back into a lone-wolf drifter. But then this Japanese gal with a bright red dye job and eyes straight out of an anime cartoon tracks him down and persuades him to go to Japan. Mayhem ensues, but of a generic and ultimately forgettable kind. I did sort of enjoy the fact that the movie was full of people I had never seen before–mostly Japanese folks, but also a Russian actress playing a nasty mutant called Viper. That doesn’t happen too often in these blockbuster flicks. (Well, okay, Famke Janssen (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) shows up in a few scenes, but otherwise I didn’t recognize a soul.) Stick around for a bonus scene that pops up during the closing credits.
A new review from The Movie Snob.
Les Miserables (B). I get the impression that everybody and his grandmother thinks this is the greatest musical of all time, bar none. The hype may have affected me when I finally saw a big traveling production of the show a few years ago, and I thought it was only average. Aside from “Master of the House,” and a few bars of that “Red and Black” song, none of the tunes stayed with me, and from my nosebleed seats I wasn’t always sure who was who. So I went to this new movie version with some ambivalence, and I left feeling pretty much the same way. The plot is appealing enough–in the early 1800’s a French convict breaks his parole and tries to start a new life after a kindly clergyman “buys” his soul for Christ and saves him from going back to prison. A merciless policeman is always on his heels. By a twist of fate, he becomes the father figure to an orphaned girl, and he devotes his life to her happiness. Meanwhile, revolution is again brewing in post-revolutionary and post-restoration Paris. But somehow the movie just never really catches fire. Neither Hugh Jackman (Australia) in the lead role nor Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man) as Inspector Javert impressed me with his singing ability. Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) was pretty good, but her screen time is very limited. The music still didn’t amaze me, and they buried “Master of the House” under so much commotion that I couldn’t understand most of the words. But I did generally like the music better than I did before, especially the nice lament by Eponine. And the conclusion really was pretty moving. So I reckon it’s about a B, maybe a B-.
DVD review from The Movie Snob
Scoop (B). Woody Allen (Manhattan) directed and starred in this 2006 comedy. Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson, Iron Man 2) is an American journalism student in London. She sees a ghost of a recently deceased British journalist, who gives her a lead that an at-large serial killer called the Tarot Card Murderer is none other than Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables), the dashing son of a British aristocrat. Woody Allen plays a stammering stage magician called Splendini who gets drafted into helping Sondra with her investigation. Things get complicated when Sondra and Peter get romantically involved. The mystery aspect is not terribly convincing, but it’s an enjoyable light-hearted comedy. Oh, and I was happy to see Romola Garai, one of my favorites since her performance in I Capture the Castle, in a small role as Sondra’s chum.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Australia (A-). The newest film from director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) will not be to everyone’s taste. It is quite long (2 hours, 45 minutes) and unashamedly melodramatic. But if you have half a romantic bone in your body, can sit still for three hours, and have a huge crush on Nicole Kidman, you might just enjoy it as much as I did. Kidman (The Invasion), looking fabulous, plays Lady Sarah Ashley, a British aristocrat who journeys to Australia on the eve of WWII to see what her ne’er-do-well husband is up to. Turns out he’s been murdered, and his remote cattle ranch called Faraway Downs is verging on ruin. A rugged cattle drover (Hugh Jackman, X-Men: Days of Future Past) is captivated by Lady Ashley’s flashing eyes and British pluck, and he agrees to help her drive hundreds of computer-generated cattle to the port city of Darwin, thereby breaking the beef monopoly of the unctuous King Carney. And, along the way, Lady Ashley becomes a surrogate mother figure to a good-natured half-aborigine boy named Nullah. So the cattle drive is like a whole adventure movie in and of itself. But there’s still at least an hour to go, and the stealthy approach of the Japanese military guarantees a whole second act full of even more romance and excitement. I heartily recommend it.