The Greatest Showman

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.

Logan

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?

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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.

The Wolverine

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.

Les Miserables

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-.

Scoop

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.

Australia

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.

The Fountain

DVD review from Nick at Nite

The Fountain. I guess the fact that Brad Pitt abandoned this project should be a sign of something. It could be just a sign that he had to focus on all of those kids that Angelina Jolie is adopting, but it is more likely to be a sign that the movie had some problems. I honestly do not know how to explain it. I rented it because it is suppose to be a science-fiction-type movie. It was, but it was so much so that I have no idea what was happening. It appears to be a love story about a man who loves that same woman or spirit over many, many years. Honestly, it is a little confusing. Hugh Jackman (Les Misérables) moves from being a Spanish explorer, to a modern day doctor, to a 2001 Space Odyssey yoga master, back to being a Spanish explorer, and on, and on, and on. There is a mystical tree that is suppose to hold the elixir to long life or good health. Like I said I was very confused. I give it an “F.”

TMNT, The Prestige

New reviews from Nick at Nite

TMNT

My two and half year old son was such a trooper on Sunday that when he asked to see a movie we relented. He couldn’t sit still or even close to still during Happy Feet and so we were concerned that a movie would be a bad idea, but we didn’t want to disappoint him. So, recognizing that the only thing near family friendly was the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we set aside our better parental judgment, loaded the family wagon, and headed to the theater. I thought about giving the movie two reviews, one as if I had gone by myself and one as I went, with my little buddy. I decided that was not fair to the movie or my son. Honestly, if you are over the age of twelve and you go to this movie, by yourself, on a date, or in another group of adults … you need to put away the Dungeon and Dragons set and move out of your mom’s basement. My son loved this movie. When he was not staring at the screen munching away at popcorn, he was asking us to look at the movie, clapping, and cheering on the Ninja Turtles. He stood for a good portion of the movie, leaning over the seat in front of him, and desperately trying to get close to the action. Watching him enjoy the movie was worth the price of admission. As for the plot, something about a 3000 year old curse and bad guys with Ninja skills fighting against the Ninja Turtles who are trying to remember that they are brothers and really need each other to accomplish their goals. I give it a “B.” My son would give it an “A,” assuming he realized “A” meant really good.

The Prestige

Huh? It is a little hard to follow. Is it a flash forward, a flashback, or something different altogether? Or was it simply hard to follow because Christian Bale’s accent is thicker than anything dealt with in My Fair Lady? All in all not a bad movie. It is not as good as the other illusionist inspired flick, The Illusionist, but it is worth a view. The movie stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale who as magicians and illusionists become rivals following a terrible accident that kills Hugh Jackman’s wife. There are many twists and turns as these rivals try and out do each other and sabotage one another’s magic tricks. I had no idea where the movie was headed until the very end. So, I give it an “A” for originality, but a “C” for not being as good as The Illusionist, which gives the movie a “B” average.

Flushed Away

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Flushed Away (B-). My mom and I just saw this new animated feature, which I believe is from the same people who make the Wallace and Gromit movies. Roddy St. James (voice of Hugh Jackman, Australia) is a pet mouse who lives a life of luxury in Kensington, London. Poor Roddy unexpectedly finds himself flushed into the London sewer system, where mice have built their own little miniature civilization. He enlists the aid of a ship captain named Rita (voice of Kate Winslet, The Reader) to help him get home. Meanwhile, the sinister Mr. Toad (voice of Bill Nighy, Love Actually) has a plan to get rid of all the mice and rats in the sewer system for good. There are plenty of narrow escapes and daring rescues, and the visuals are great, but the movie as a whole is only slightly above average. The omnipresent slugs who provide a musical chorus/commentary on the action are a highlight.

The Day After Tomorrow; Van Helsing

That Guy Named David reports:

The Day After Tomorrow (D+)

Good special effects. Horrendous acting. I am making a new rule for myself that I will not watch any movie from here on out whose primary star-power is Dennis Quaid. The plot was ridiculous, and as mentioned before, the acting was mind-numbingly bad; however, the special effects kept this movie relatively entertaining for a while. The only way I recommend it, though, is if you are at someone else’s house who has rented it and their cable is out, there is no one with whom to talk, and there are no books or magazines in the home.

Van Helsing (D-)

What a great night of movie-watching. First, I get to sit through 2 hours of the “end of the world” sci-fi with The Day After Tomorrow (see above review), and then I get to top it off with one of the single worst sci-fi/horror flicks ever made. Well, it appears Hugh Jackman has found his niche playing unconvincing “super-heroes” with no acting ability whatsoever. And this story… good God. At the beginning of the movie, I literally thought it was a bed-time story that was being told to a kid or something, much like The Neverending Story. But as the movie progressed into Jackman… sorry, “Van Helsing” fighting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (who in this movie was about 20 feet tall) and then Dracula, I knew it was going to be a real task just to make it to the final credits. But I persevered, only to get to an ending that sucked about as bad as the rest of the movie. Horrible.

Van Helsing

From Movie Man Mike:

Van Helsing (B-) This is a fun Summertime action movie, but you better be prepared to suspend disbelief. Any movie that has vampires, werewolves and a Frankenstein monster should tell you what to expect in the way of reality. I would have enjoyed this movie so much more if they had not tried to punch it up with some light humor and sap. David Wenham plays Carl, a friar who is a 17th century version of James Bond’s Q. Carl’s Papal laboratory and weaponry are way ahead of its time–although the weaponry does add to the action of the movie. Carl’s character also adds some comic relief to the film, and in my opinion, the film would have been more suspenseful and dramatic without the comic relief. And then there’s the relationship between Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) and Anna Valerious (Kate Beckinsale). The directors leave you with the clear “Hollywood” impression that there is a romantic spark between these two characters, but I got the distinct impression that the scenes with the romance were left on the cutting room floor. From the standpoint of the story, I had a hard time understanding the history between Van Helsing, Count Dracula and the Valerious family, and how Count Dracula was supposed to have come into being. It doesn’t add up. Otherwise, the story-line was suspenseful, and there was some good action. I enjoyed this movie, but it could have been so much more.

X2

A new review from That Guy Named David:

X2 (B-)

Although this movie has been aptly reviewed twice on this site, I’ll add my quick two cents. While I believe that the first X-Men had a better storyline than this one, the special effects in X2 made this worth the Saturday afternoon matinee price. Hugh Jackman’s character becomes much more developed in this sequel; however, like The Movie Snob, I thought that they could have done much more to develop some of the relationships between the characters (especially the love triangle between Wolverine, Jean Grey, and that dude with the laser eye). I was also a bit disappointed that Patrick Stewart didn’t play a much bigger role in this sequel, considering that he is arguably the most talented actor in the movie. That being said, much like the other blockbuster sequel that I’ve seen this summer, I walked away content but not blown away.

X2; Young Frankenstein

Reviews from The Movie Snob:

X2: X-Men United. (B-) This critic must take some X-ception to the earlier review posted on The Movie Court by Movie Man Mike. I liked the first X-Men movie and rather expected to like this one even more. But alas, I found this one a bit too long and somehow insufficiently involving. There’s plenty of action, but even at a hefty 135 minutes the movie can’t seem to find the time to develop the relationships between otherwise interesting and likeable characters. The nascent love triangle involving Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Cyclops, and Jean Grey is given scant screen time, as is Rogue’s apparent crush on Wolverine, and it is a shame Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan share only a few moments of screen time together. And what is the deal with blockbuster action movies having to have like five false endings before the real ending finally arrives? I guess it’s supposed to be suspenseful, but it’s just annoying.

Young Frankenstein. (B) I learned two things by finally seeing this 30-year-old flick on DVD: (1) Mel Brooks is capable of making a funny movie, and (2) Teri Garr was once very good-looking. Plot summary is probably pointless, but Gene Wilder plays Frederick von Frankenstein, a successful neurosurgeon in America who inherits his grandfather’s estate in Transylvania. Before long, he is “resurrecting” the family business with the help of Igor, played by the amazingly bug-eyed Marty Feldman, with humorous consequences. Having loathed Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs, I watched this DVD with some trepidation but found it quite entertaining.

X2

New review from Movie Man Mike:

X2? Xcellent! This sequel is the Xception to the general rule that sequels are never quite as good as the original. The original movie spent Xcessive footage introducing the characters and the concept. The sequel Xpands on the original concept, and introduces three new, promising characters, Nightcrawler, Pyro and Iceman. Ian McKellan is Xcellent as Magneto. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is finally able to Xtricate the ghosts of his dark past. The special effects are Xtraordinary! X2 is about 30 minutes longer than the original, but it leaves you salivating for X3 (or will it be XXX?)