Thursday, May 31, 2018
I’ve noted before that I love movie musicals. They’re more rare than ever these days since I don’t consider pop song fueled items in that genre. Those movies are made to sell records or up the marketability of a particular pop star. I’m talking about full blown musicals where characters suddenly burst into song about what’s taking place. Most these days are based on Broadway shows. But for once a full on movie musical has hit the screen and now disc that deserves notice. That movie is THE GREATEST SHOWMAN.
The movie is loosely based on the life of entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, the first person to create what we call showbiz. At times a promoter and at others a con man at heart, Barnum brought something new to the stage unseen before. This film cleans up his act a bit, puts a nice coat of white paint on his reputation and in doing so makes for one outrageously entertaining film.
As a boy Barnum follows his father, a tailor, around and helps when he can. He meets a young girl named Charity in the home of one of his father's customers and even as a child falls helplessly in love with her. They remain in contact against her father’s wishes and eventually marry with promises of a world they will create all their own.
But plans don’t follow through. Living in a leaky flat with two young girls to take care of Barnum (Hugh Jackman) loses his job as an accountant. Charity (Michelle Williams) tells him not to worry and as the three celebrate one of the girl’s birthdays he has an idea. The next day using documents he took from his ex-employer and spinning a yarn of owning ships at sea (while failing to mention they’ve all sunk) he gets a loan from the bank and rents a building.
He fills the building with the latest craze, wax figures. He also brings in oddities not seen in the city like wild animals now stuffed. When business doesn’t take off his daughter suggest he needs something alive. Another spark of inspiration. Barnum posts signs everywhere looking for unique people, what would later be termed “freaks”. He starts off the cast of his show by approaching a young man he dubs Gen. Tom Thumb who stands 25 inches tall. As more cast are added to the show it becomes a must see attraction.
Given a bad review by the press it doesn’t matter. People come from far and wide to see the show. In addition to that Barnum has given these people something they never had before, a family, people who care for them in their own circle.
Searching for a way to make his location more reputable he approaches a wealthy young playwright named playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zach Efron) to invest in his show. Hesitant at first Carlyle agrees for a percentage and on his first visit falls in love with trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). Barnum gets another assist from Carlyle who helps them get an audience with Queen Victoria, adding a touch of prestige to the show. While there he meets opera star Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) and makes plans to produce a tour featuring her across the US.
More happens in the movie but I’ve already said too much. Troubles at his show, losing track of his original intent, forgetting the people he brought in who depend on him and losing his path in life all make up for the content of this movie. It’s uplifting and heartbreaking at different times. The plight of the stars of his show, being unacceptable to some members of the public who think they should crawl back in the shadows is the heart and soul of this film. The film’s strongest song, “This Is Me”, celebrates their strength in discovering who they are and the power they have to be accepted as real people. The song was nominated for best song at this year’s Oscars and in my opinion they were robbed by not winning.
It’s not the only song to stand out here though. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul who wrote the songs for last year’s LA LA LAND have crafted some of the most amazing music and lyrics to find their way to film in decades. Recent musicals like BURLESQUE and CHICAGO don’t compare to this soundtrack in my opinion. The movie lifts you up and breaks your heart both.
The entire cast stand out as amazing in the film. I’ve wondered when Efron would act in a film rather than just take off his shirt and he does great here. Zendaya is underused but does well. Williams as the love of Barnum’s life is wonderful. But it is Jackman who shines above all others here. His portrayal, his emotive expressions and his singing all make the character come alive.
If all of this weren’t enough to convince you the movie is worth adding to your collection then consider the extras in this sing-a-long edition. They include THE FAMILY BEHIND THE GREATEST SHOWMAN a featurette on the making of the film, THE SONGS each song singled out for fans, THE SPECTACLE offering behind the scenes info on characters and choreography, a gallery of concept art, a gallery of storyboards used for the film, MUSIC MACHINE offers direct access to each song in the film with a sing-a-long option, sing-a-long mode which presents the entire film with subtitles to sing along with each song and an audio commentary track with Michael Gracey the film’s director.
Of all the movies I saw last year, which was quite a lot, I felt that this movie would surely garner an Oscar nod for best picture. But the Academy did what they’ve done for some time now, nominating movies based on political bent or causes as opposed to what was the best film made. This movie should have won hands down. I saw it twice in the theater and watched it twice on disc now and never been bored. To me that’s the sign of a movie worth owning and repeat viewings. Other’s I know have felt the same. Give it a watch and my guess is you will too. Soon you’ll hear people walking down the street singing “Ladies and gents this is the show you’ve been waiting for.”
One of the great joys of watching movies is to find a movie that you’re not quite sure what to expect from and discover it to be a gem. It doesn’t happen often. You either read something about it, a friend tells you about it, you just come across it or maybe you see an interesting trailer. It is coming into a film with no expectations and discovering it that makes it amazing. Such was the case for me with I KILL GIANTS.
Barbara (Madison Wolfe) is a young teenage girl with a number of quirks. She makes traps in the woods, creates her own special mixture for bait and walks around with fake rabbit ears on her head. To say she is quirky is an understatement. But there is a method to her madness. As she explains via narration, her goal is to protect the town she lives in and the people she loves from giants.
She lives with her brother and her sister Karen (Imogen Poots) in a beach front home in Long Island. She shows an interest in games like Dungeons and Dragons but has no one to play with. With plenty of wooded areas to roam in and lay her traps she spends most of her days alone. Then one day on the beach she meets Sophia (Sydney Wade). Just moved here from England Sydney has no friends and Barbara takes her into her confidence telling her what she does. She also shares the secret of her handbag tagged Coveleski, her secret weapon.
At school Barbara is socially awkward, as we would expect, and the target of the school girl bully Taylor (Rory Jackson). One run in results in Barbara being sent to the new school counselor Mrs. Molle (Zoe Saldana). We get the impression through the actions of both that something is going on we’re not privy to. The end result is Barbara being more confrontational rather than helpful, feeling her time is being wasted with Mrs. Molle.
Taylor tells Sophia that she will let her in on a secret of Barbara’s if she will tell her what she knows about her. The end result is Taylor and her friends dismantling the traps Barbara has set up on the beach and then beating her. Sophia takes Barbara home where she wakes frightened in her bed, fearful of something upstairs. Sophia discovers Barbara’s secret and runs from the house.
The friends come face to face again after Barbara faces off against one of the attacking giants in an abandoned railway yard. Their friendship hasn’t quite gone back to what it once was yet. As a storm approaches Barbara prepares to do battle on the beach where Taylor destroyed her traps. In the meantime Karen and Mrs. Molle search for Barbara, fearful of what may have happened.
Here is the thing about this movie, starting with the trailer. It’s based on a graphic novel of the same name which I’d never read. The trailer was filled with special effects moments of Barbara doing battle with actual giant creatures. But as the story unfolds on film you notice two things. The first is that no one else is ever around when Barbara is confronted by the giants or the warning specters she calls harbingers. The second is that you begin to wonder if there are really giants or is there something going on with Barbara we’re not aware of just yet. Both are possibilities and the answer isn’t revealed until her final battle.
The movie works on so many levels. There is plenty of humor involved her in the form of Barbara and her quirks on display. There is drama in the characters of Karen who’s trying to keep her family together and care for them as well as in Mrs. Molle who wants to help Barbara. There is the comradery of the two girls who become friends in the unlikeliest of possibilities. There is action in the form of battles with bad guys both gigantic and personal. And most importantly there is the subject of trying to understand what is behind it all, a mystery of sorts that some will figure out before it is explained but that provides a journey into imagination that makes this story so wonderful.
As I said I went in expecting one thing and came out the other side having watched something that was completely different from those expectations. And it just made the experience that much better. I was enchanted by this film and loved every minute of it. Even knowing the ending I could easily watch it again and gain new items from the film I would have missed the first time around.
After having sat through so many movies that have been praised by critics and hailed with awards I’m always stunned when films like this go unnoticed. Don’t let that happen. Find this film and watch it. Be transported to a place where quite possibly giants are there to do battle with. By then end my guess is you’ll recognize you may have some giants of your own that need conquering.
Click here to order.
Click here to order.
When it comes to pop culture things change over time. Some 29 years ago an animated series premiered on the fledgling Fox network and suddenly everyone was talking about this animated series in prime time. THE SIMPSONS became one of the longest running series in TV history. So there is a market out there for animated series. The Cartoon Network began programming shows to meet that need and their Adult Swim series late at night were geared towards an emerging market of young adults who enjoyed animated series with more mature subject matter. That market went crazy for a series called RICK AND MORTY.
I’d never seen the show but had heard of it. My son was one of the many who loved the show and kept telling me it was a must see. Somehow I just never get around to it. After watching this release I now need to go back and watch the first two seasons. I’m hooked. I love the series.
If like me you’ve yet to watch the show it’s about the adventures of mad-genius scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty Smith. They live with Rick’s daughter Beth, a genius with sociopathic tendencies, her husband Jerry, basically a doormat of a husband/father and daughter Summer, a self-absorbed teen. Well, at least in this reality.
Therein lies the genius and thousands story potential for the show. Rick has invented a portal that can take him to any of thousands of dimension, locations and time periods. Each episode he takes Morty with him on a new adventure. But the adventures they have also are tempered by the attitudes and beliefs of the pair.
Rick is a nihilistic, alcoholic, megalomaniacal lout who doesn’t care about anyone but himself and that includes Morty for the most part. His views are offered in each and every episode from his disbelief in God to his constantly informing Morty that he’s the smartest man who ever lived. On the other end of the spectrum is Morty, the moral compass of the pair. Morty is an insecure pre-teen who worries about the effects of their adventures. While he might have fun during those adventures he also fears not returning from them.
That dimension thing I mentioned? Another integral part of their stories. The variations of worlds in those dimensions take the pair on numerous adventures. Rick also has an attitude that if his dimension’s Morty is killed he can always slip into another dimension and bring back the Morty from that one. This accounts for his devil may care attitude towards his family. But as the series progresses we get the idea that maybe, just maybe, beneath that self-centered exterior Rick actually has more going on than expected.
There is also a dimension with a location called The Citadel where the Council of Rick’s takes place. The entire dimension is made up of various Ricks and Mortys and no one else. One of the things the council plans is the demise of the real Rick and that accounts for different battles the title pair find themselves in.
The episodes here run the gamut of these adventures with at least one involving the council. One episode has Rick take his daughter Beth to a world he created for her to hide away someone she had issues with. Another has Rick and Morty have their worst characteristics removed from them leaving behind a nice Rick who gets trampled on while those counter selves try and escape to return to their hosts. And Beth and Jerry decide to a trial separation which has an effect on the family.
Perhaps most loved in this season is the episode where we are introduced to Pickle Rick. In this episode Rick transforms himself into a pickle in an effort to avoid going to family counseling with the rest. One would wonder how Rick can survive as a pickle without limbs that rolls off a work table and rolls down the driveway towards a manhole. Being Rick you can be certain he’ll find a way to survive.
The show is many things. It is irreverent to say the least. It is hilarious at moments. It is tender without blatantly being so. The word nihilism suits every single episode here. There are no sacred cows when it comes to the series. And much like SOUTH PARK the show doesn’t just skewer one side of an issue but most often pokes at both. It is an equal opportunity offender.
So if that sort of irreverent humor is your bad, if you enjoy something a little different and if you want to laugh until your posterior melts away (I’m waiting for them to make an episode where that happens) then by all means you’ll want to pick this up an give it a watch. Odds are like me once you finish this one you’ll seek out the first two seasons. I know I’m looking for them already. This is a must have for your collection if you enjoy comedy.