FlixChatter Review: The Greatest Showman (2017)

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Review by: Vitali Gueron

The upcoming original musical The Greatest Showman is directed by Michael Gracey, and written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. First time Australian director Gracey made a wonderful decision to turn The Greatest Showman into a modern-musical, opting for modern day pop style songs over 1800s tunes. Convincing 20th Century FOX, Gracey was instrumental in hiring songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Tony award winners for the original musical Dear Evan Hansen and then Golden Globe and OSCAR winners for the La La Land song City of Stars). Pasek and Paul wrote eleven original songs for The Greatest Showman, each more emotional than the last. Their original song This Is Me, has so far been nominated for a Golden Globe and could be in play for the Best Original Song category at this year’s OSCARS.

The film is inspired by the life of circus creator and father of modern show business, P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). Supporting Barnum are his supportive wife Charity (Michelle Williams), his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat & trapeze-artist that Carlyle scandalously falls for. Broadway star Keala Settle stars as the Bearded Lady and she sings This is Me to perfection. She nearly runs away with the whole movie.

When Barnum struggles supporting his circus made up of freaks and bizarre acts, he invited and hires Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), a famous Swedish opera singer to perform in America for the first time. Barnum called Lind “The Swedish Nightingale” and she ended up being a big hit and performing over 90 concerts for him before quitting the tour and breaking her contract with Barnum. Lind had wearied of Barnum’s assertive marketing of her and that she would end up like Barnum’s circus. When Barnum returns to New York after the tour, the building housing his circus catches fire and while no one is hurt, the building is a total loss. Barnum then figures out that he doesn’t need a whole building to house the circus but rather a very large tent.

Zendaya and Zac Efron have a wonderful connection onscreen, especially when they perform the acrobatically-demanding musical number Rewrite The Stars and when he defends her in front of his parents. They share some terrific chemistry, but it’s hard to beat the moments when Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman share the screen. One of the best scenes in the film is when Barnum talks Carlyle into joining the circus, and they try to out-dance each other. They do this during the song The Other Side. There are also beautiful renditions of Tightrope by Michelle Williams and Never Enough, performed by Loren Allred who provides Jenny Lind’s singing voice in the movie.

The Greatest Showman feels a little predictable and disjoined at times, but the emotions in the movie feel true and very authentic. The movie make you want to care for Barnum and what happens with his family, so you probably won’t care if it is a little over the top – musicals are supposed to be that way. It’s the perfect film to enjoy with the whole family over the holidays; even if you’re someone who hates musicals this one might be the one that convinces you to give it a try. At least one can appreciate the hard work it is to write a whole new, original musical. I have to give them props for a job well done.


Have you seen ‘The Greatest Showman’? Well, what did you think? 

Trailer Spotlight: Ocean’s 8

It’s the last week before Christmas and the present comes early! I’ve been excited for this all-female Oceans flick for some time. Normally I’d say we don’t need another reboot/sequel/spinoff what-have-you… but y’know what, this year (well, any year really), an extra dose of girl power is extra awesome. 2017 is the year of Wonder Woman, and 2018 will be the year of Wonder Women. I mean this is as close as we’re probably gonna get to an all-female Avengers flick!

This is the one to watch just for the cast. Bullock + Blanchett + Bonham Carter … just those three alone is enough to shell out full price cinema ticket (if I had to pay that is). My hubby and I watched this right after dinner and he’s as pumped as I am to see this [is it any wonder I love my man?]

So Sandra Bullock is playing Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, I wonder if this all-female Oceans flick idea happened when she and George Clooney were filming Gravity four years ago. In any case, buh-bye Clooney, Pitt, Damon & co. and hell-o ladies!! Fresh out of prison, Debbie Ocean plans a big heist at the Met Gala in NYC. What a team she’s put together: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Constance (Awkwafina), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), and Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Too bad Elizabeth Banks dropped out of the cast, though I don’t mind Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this (apparently she was offered a part).

Per IMDb, the eight main cast has won four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammys, six Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, and 10 SAGs combined. Woo wee! #girlpower

I totally forgot about Richard Armitage in this, he didn’t have a single line in the trailer so I have no idea who he’s playing. I barely noticed James Corden either until I saw it a second time. No matter though, forget the boys, it’s all about the ladies whoopin’ it up!

Not sure how involved Steven Soderbergh is on this spinoff, but given his track record with bad ass female in his movies I’d imagine he’d approve. This time we’ve got Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) in the director’s chair and he wrote the script with Olivia Milch (one of Variety’s 10 screenwriters to watch in 2016).

I’m always up for a heist flick and this seriously it looks like a riot! The worst thing about this is the wait… June 8 can’t come soon enough. Well now I now what I’ll be anticipating come Summer movie season!


What say you? Thoughts on Oceans 8’s first trailer?

FlixChatter Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I have to admit that my life has been so hectic lately I haven’t really had time to anticipate any films this holiday season like I normally do. But when the press screening invite came out for The Last Jedi, I actually got more excited despite only having seen only one trailer. Well, I’m glad that is the only trailer/videos I’ve seen of the film… it’s best to see it ‘blind’ knowing as little as possible. I don’t write reviews very often anymore, so indulge me when I go a bit longer with this one.

Force Awakens is more nostalgic and an homage to the original from JJ Abrams, and while The Last Jedi also still has to tread on familiar grounds, it somehow feels fresh and new. There are quite a few surprises that thrills, delights and tugs my heartstrings. Ok granted I’m more of a casual Star Wars fan, so I don’t have the depth knowledge like ardent aficionados, but I was quite caught up with the journey of the main characters. The story pretty much picks up where the last film leaves off, with a literal cliffhanger as we saw Rey (Daisy Ridley) meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) up high on a cliff by an ocean.


But before we get there, the film drops us straight into an intergalactic space battle of the Resistance fighters, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) against the reigning First Order. I enjoy thrilling aerial battles and the SFX is off the charts in a film of this magnitude, but I’m glad there’s more to this movie than just action, action, action. What I really enjoyed most from the film is the quieter, more talky scenes between Rey and Luke. Writer/director Rian Johnson delved deep into the saga’s mythology and Jedi philosophy… about what the force really is, the real power of the Jedi, etc. Those are the real appeal of this enduring franchise and what makes me go ‘ok I see why people love this saga so much and why it appeals to multiple generations.’

There are fans who might not like the direction of Luke in this film (even Hamill himself reportedly told Johnson he fundamentally disagreed how his character was written), but I personally love the deconstruction of such a titular character. Why is Luke such a legend? Just what exactly is the Force and who gets to have it? How does Luke himself sees his own power and its effect in the universe? It’s always intriguing to learn just what the fuss is about Luke, especially given how he was talked about in virtually every scene in The Force Awakens, yet we only got to see him for mere seconds! I love the grizzled, curmudgeon Luke (like Hamill was channeling the real Harrison Ford!), the salt & pepper longish hair and beard makes him look even more distinguished. The scenes between him and Rey are definitely my favorite. “This is not going to go the way you think.” Luke says at one point (it’s not a spoiler as it’s in the trailer and all over its promos)… and you know what, the film actually delivers on that sentiment!

The film is divided into three major scenarios, in which each team has to fulfill a certain ‘task’ if you will, all happening around the same time. My main quibble with the movie is that the transition between one scenario to another feels disjointed at times. One scene would be solemn and intense, then it’ll switch to something more mischievous and funky and then it’s full-throttle action. Perhaps it’s to be expected when you have such a vast narrative involving so many players but it could’ve been done more smoothly. That said though, the film has enough going for it–the energetic action, lively humor and genuine emotion–that I didn’t even mind the 2.5 hours running time.

Obviously the strength of this space saga is the characters people truly care about over the years. I feel like there’s a proper balance (a word thrown out a lot in this film) between the iconic characters and the newer ones that expand the story. The emotional tug of war between Rey and Kylo is the heart of the story here, and both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are absolutely terrific. I’ve loved Ridley’s spunky Rey from the start and I find Driver’s Kylo even more magnetic here (and not only ’cause he’s got such great mane!). Yes he’s a grandpa Vader wanna-be (and he’s still got serious anger-management issues), but there’s much more than that and the internal conflict within him is palpable. Poor Domhnall Gleeson though, a terrific actor who’s relegated to being the comic relief as the over-the-top General Hux.

On the Resistance team, pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, not to be outdone by Adam in the sexy hair department) gets more to do here. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Poe solo movie with the oh-so-charismatic Isaac, he’s just a cool guy with a reckless energy a la Han Solo. There’s less bantering between him and his bestie Fin (John Boyega). Instead, Fin is paired with another spunky maintenance worker loyal to the Resistance, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). BB-8 is still an immensely fun droid to watch, while the new avian creature Porg likely only appeals to little kiddies. I’m glad to see two new female characters with a proper arc, one is Rose and the other is Vice Admiral Holdo, played by veteran actress Laura Dern. There’s a pretty intense exchange between her and Poe, but I’m not even going to spoil it for you what it’s about. One thing I can say is the scenes of Carrie Fisher is truly bittersweet. The film is dedicated to her (naturally!) but the whole film gives a proper homage to such an iconic character.

Now onto SPOILERS territory… (highlight to read)

It was cool to see Yoda making an appearance here with Luke on the island. As Luke struggles with destroying the ancient Jedi text, Yoda just made it go kablooey. It’s not particularly a highlight for me, but it’s cool to see the apprentice and the master reunited. Another reunion that made me tear up is Luke and Leia… especially when she gave the Han Solo’s dice he grabbed from the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. I love when Leia said ‘Luke, I know what you’re going to say. I changed my hair.’ Ha! It feels like something Carrie Fisher herself would say. When Luke said to her (about Han) ‘he’s never really gone’ it feels like how Carrie herself is to the SW family and the fans. Her spirit will always be with the franchise. 

Now for those who’ve seen this? Who do you think the Last Jedi is? Is it Luke or is it Rey? Thoughts on the kid in the last scene that hints he’s got the Force with him?

My initial reaction after I saw this is it’s currently one of my favorites in the franchise! Well, after four days seeing it, I still stand by it. In fact, I don’t mind seeing this again by year’s end. It’s really got everything. Thrilling action, check. Intense lightsaber battle, check. Witty repartee, check. Emotional struggles, check. The action punctuates the story and that’s how it should be. Unlike the overwrought and mawkish prequels, Rian’s script has zest and wit, and also unafraid to poke fun at themselves. I also marvel at the cinematography by Steve Yedlin, a longtime Rian Johnson collaborator. So many iconic visuals that truly took my breath away, especially those on the island filmed in County Kerry, Ireland. And of course, John Williams’ iconic epic score still gives me the chills!

By the time the end credits roll, I am already excited to see how the story goes from there. It’s great to have a filmmaker who evidently has been a fan of the franchise since he was a kid, but still also an ‘outsider’ who dared to take the 40-year-old saga into unexpected paths. The force is certainly strong with Rian Johnson, so I have no problem having him do the next Star Wars trilogy.


So what are your thoughts on The Last Jedi? Feel free to indulge me on your own theories about what happens in the film!

Top 10 Best Christmas Movies Relay Race

Well happy mid December everyone! This year, time has truly ran away from me… and if you’re keeping track, my life’s pace has been at lightning speed since I decided to make a movie last January! But hey, I do miss blogging and I remember how fun it was participating in my pal Nostra’s relay race posts in the past. Plus, when a good friend tagged you to do a relay race (thanks Keith!), you make time 😉 It’s a fun topic that’s perfect for this time of year, too!

So how does this work? Here’s a rundown from Nostra himself:

The rules are, just like the past relay races, very simple: The list has 10 Christmas movies (in random order) and when the baton is handed over to a new blogger, he or she has to remove one title of the list (with an explanation why) and add one new title. Once that is done a new blogger is contacted who will take the baton and run with it, doing the same (you can reinstate a title which has been previously removed). As Christmas is in three weeks I want to ask you to publish your entry as quickly as possible to make sure the list changes as much as possible before the 25th of December. Add the logo of this relay race to your post and also add links to those who came before you making it easy for everyone to find all the entries.

So here is the list of the 10 Best Christmas Movies as it stands now:

HOME ALONE

HOME

There are a number of Christmas films that I actually watch annually and Home Alone has been one of my favorites for years. This film, written by John Hughes, has all the elements to amuse and get you in the mood Christmas. And Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are of course hilarious when the “Wet bandits” Harry and Marv.

ELF

ELF

The film is almost fifteen years old, but the timeless story of a grown man who grew up among the elves and heads to New York, looking for his father, still is very funny and entertaining. Will Ferrell is the perfect “man child” and the short animated parts are a pleasure to watch. A real Christmas classic.

A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL

MUPPET

Although Charles Dickens story has been translated to film many times, this version is still my personal favorite. A film with a lot of atmosphere and the warmth of the Muppets.

DIE HARD

DIE HARD

Every year people argue whether or not Die Hard can be labeled a Christmas film. Yet it is very simple: Although there is a lot of action, the story takes place around Christmas. And Bruce Willis might play his best role ever.

 

GREMLINS

GEMLINS

Although you might not associate this horror comedy with Christmas immediately, this film is set during this period and the gremlins even sing Christmas songs. A title that can not be missed.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

WONDEFRFUL

It’s a Wonderful Life is a movie which is watched by lots of people every year. Rightly so, because it is a beautiful film that fits the Christmas period.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET

MIRACLE

Another title that I have to think about immediately during this period. Although the opinions are divided which two of the two versions is the best.

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

ARTHUR

The clumsy son of Santa, Arthur, has to make sure that a forgotten package is delivered on time, doing this together with his grandfather. A very nice film from Aardman studios (also responsible for the Wallace & Gromit films).

EYES WIDE SHUT

EYES

I’m using the same argument here that many Die Hard fans cling to. The story is set during the festive season and, in actual fact, most if not all scenes are introduced by depicting a Christmas tree. It’s fair to say, that it’s dark psychological mystery isn’t exactly in tune with the Christmas cheer but if Die Hard can be tenuously linked to this joyful season then so can Kubrick’s masterpiece.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (Keith’s addition)

RALPHIE

Few films have defined my Christmas movie watching like Bob Clark’s delightful “A Christmas Story”. Sure, I gets overplayed during the season, but it is such a fabulous concoction filled with humor and heart. So many memorable scenes, so many memorable lines, so many memorable characters. This one simply has to be here.


Deciding what to remove was a painful task. I initially considered removing Eyes Wide Shut as the blogger who chose it himself said it ‘isn’t exactly in tune with the Christmas cheer’ but I guess it can still be considered an alternative Christmas film.

So the one I’m tossing out from this list is GREMLINS. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of one of the movies but man, I can’t stand those creatures!! I think seeing them sing Christmas songs will give me nightmares. Funnily enough, my short film’s lead actor’s theatre company is called Gremlin Theatre and for the life of me I have no idea why he chose that [shrug] Sorry Nostra but if I had to choose one, Gremlins‘ definitely gotta go!

So what’s my pick to replace it?

JOYEUX NOËL

I saw it on a Christmas weekend a few years ago as it was on Netflix. It’s a 2005 French film about the truce that took place on December 24, 1914 during World War I. Now this is a film that reflect the true Christmas spirit. Such a wonderful film that shows an uplifting lesson in humanity, though the truce is such a brief one and the troops from three countries had to pay the price for their disobedience. I’m a big fan of Daniel Brühl who’s great in the film, and I also love the performance of Guillaume Canet, Benno Fürmann and Diane Kruger. I’m glad I finally saw it and it’s become one of my favorite Christmas-themed films!


Ok I’m passing the yuletide baton to…
Brittani (yes a fellow Minnesota blogger 😉 ) over at Rambling Film Blog

Trailers of Movies I Can’t Wait to See… from arthouse indies to blockbuster movies

Hello everyone! Remember me? 😉

Feels like it’s been ages since I posted trailers on this blog. It’s truly been a whirlwind year for me. You already know about my short film which consumed the first 2/3 of 2017. As if that wasn’t busy enough already, I also still blogged for TCFF, my hubby and I became US citizens 🇺🇸 in late November… aaaand we’re moving to a new home! 😮

Suffice to say, not only do I not have any time to blog these days…  I barely have time to watch things either. But I do make time to watch trailers! I’ve always enjoyed trailers and they always make me excited about movies even when life is extremely hectic.

In fact, since I was home sick today, I watched a ton of trailers as I sat on my bed… and so I thought why not make a blog post of it. In any case, I like to mix up arthouse indies with huge blockbusters, so let’s start with this one…

A Wrinkle In Time

After the disappearance of her scientist father, three peculiar beings send Meg, her brother, and her friend to space in order to find him.


An intriguing scifi adventure by a female director (Ava DuVernay) w/ an all-star (mostly female) cast (including my girl muse Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Can’t wait to see this next March!


Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Based on Peter Turner’s memoir, the film follows the playful but passionate relationship between Turner (Bell) and the eccentric Academy Award®-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Bening) in 1978 Liverpool.


I remember hearing the title but just finally saw the trailer last night and was swept away by it!! I had never heard of Gloria Grahame but I do love Annette Bening and she looks phenomenal here. I haven’t been impressed by Jamie Bell since Billy Elliot but he looks good here. I love stories about star-crossed lovers and a reverse May-December romance where the woman is older.


Phantom Thread

Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.

Ok so interestingly enough, Andrew Llyod Weber’s Phantom of the Opera also opened around Christmas time (2004), a movie I still unabashedly love despite what the critics say. Now this one is likely gonna be known as Daniel Day Lewis‘ last film as he’s reportedly retiring. It looks pretty intriguing but given December’s packed schedule, I probably end up renting this one.


The Shape of Water

An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.

Ohhh this trailer always gives me goosebumps from the first time I saw it in a theatre. The more I read about this film and all the rave reviews about Guillermo Del Toro‘s magical touch, I’m even more intrigued. Talk about the ultimate unconventional love story… starring the reliable Sally Hawkins (who I loved as Anne Elliot in BBC’s Persuasion), this one will run my tear ducts dry for sure.


Downsizing

A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.

I LOVE the premise of this movie and I sure hope the movie will deliver. But I enjoyed The Descendants and Nebraska from Alexander Payne, and he seems like the right filmmaker to do such a quirky dramedy. Yeah it’s yet another Matt Damon flick (this guy is everywhere!) but the story is pretty intriguing I’m still curious to check this one out.


Black Panther

T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

Woo wee!!! Forget about what I said about superhero fatigue, I’m still very much in the mood for the genre (and guys in tight-fitting outfit), especially when they look as good as Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther! [meow!] The cast is pure awesomeness…  I mean, yes the boys are cool and all that, but I’m all about Angela Bassett & Lupita Nyong’o in the same movie!! Marvel Studios taking a chance on an another indie filmmaker, this time it’s Ryan Coogler and judging from the second trailer, this is gonna be epic!! February can’t come soon enough.


Avengers Infinity War

DC sort of have ‘ruled’ 2017 with Wonder Woman and Justice League. Ok so not exactly ruled the box office given all the talks about how JL underperformed. Well, 2018 will likely bring Disney even more s*&$-load of cash (but then again every year is ‘Disney just take my money’ year since they owned EVERYTHING).

Just three months after Black Panther, we’ve got the whole gang back together. Everyone’s got their faves, but for me I’m most excited to see T’Challa and Capt (sporting longish hair and rugged beard, yowza!!)

Heh I think DC is missing out with the whole Henry Cavill mustache-erasing fiasco, methinks Supes looks pretty darn sexy unshaven… a la Chris Reeve in Superman III 😉

Dayum, that Alan Silvestri‘s score in that last slo-mo scene promises us SO much epic-ness. I rolled my eyes when they’re gonna do the last Avengers in two parts (of course, why not stretch those mighty dollars right?) but heck I trust the Russo brothers to bring us something truly worth watching, as the last two Captain America films are on the top list of fave superhero films ever!


Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

I can’t believe I didn’t include this one. I was actually watching it (three times in a row) as I wrote the post, then got sidetracked by the Jimmy Kimmel episode with ALL of the cast from the new flick (including Laura Dern!). So yeah, even though I wouldn’t call myself a SW fan but I’m actually really looking forward to Episode VIII more and more. Glad I don’t have long to wait (seeing it this Monday, yay!!)

I’ve only seen Looper from director Rian Johnson, which I quite like. I always like the idea of having indie filmmakers joining big franchises (a la Marvel) so hopefully it’ll pay off once again. The trailer certainly promises more drama in the epic saga of the most dysfunctional family in space 😛


Ok last one… I know this one is just a teaser and the movie isn’t out ’til next June! But man Deadpool‘s marketing team ought to win some awards for creativity and pure silly good fun! I hadn’t even heard of Bob Ross before but the teaser made me search for clips of him on youtube and it’s freakin’ hilarious!! I’m not a huge Ryan Reynolds fan but he totally owned this character! Nice to see that kid from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Julian Dennison, making an appearance in this flick!


Ok these are just a sampling of stuff I’m excited about… what are some recent previews that got your heart pumpin’?