Movie Review: The Greatest Showman (2017)

Greatest Showman Movie Review Silver Screen Capture

If you’re the kind of person who would love to run off to join the circus with a singing and dancing Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, you’re in luck with the arrival of Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman (B+). This handsomely produced, high gloss musical adaptation of the mid-19th century life of P.T. Barnum (don’t tell them his story was already famously musicalized in 1980’s Tony winner Barnum) is highly enjoyable, especially with a mild suspension of disbelief but not much more than musicals require anyway. It’s a hybrid of Moulin Rouge! and a Disney animated film come to life and has about as much historical accuracy as that studio’s Pocahontas, but by golly, it still paints with all the colors of a win. The music of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, high off twin accolades for La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen, swirls with catchy uplift; and the choreography, while inexplicably reminiscent of a Michael Jackson video, is rousing. There’s not a lot of heavy lifting acting needed from the cast, but everyone including Jackman in the lead, Efron as his apprentice, and even Michelle Williams in the thankless part of best supporting spouse, all do well with their tightrope of tunes and trots. The themes about embracing outcasts and chasing your dreams resonate through and through. Broadway lovers will have this one on heavy rotation for years.

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Posted in 2017

Movie Review: Call Me by Your Name

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review Silver Screen Capture

A love that dare not speak its name gets its most magnificent due in an uncommonly affecting and breathtaking new film. Director Luca Guadagnino’s idyllic, romantic coming of age drama Call Me by Your Name (A) transports viewers to 1983 Northern Italy and, despite its foreign film aesthetic and slow burn pacing, presents a truly accessible story of summer love and its lifelong consequences. The character peculiarities and specificity of the time and place breathe a special life force into the proceedings. The likability, charm, intelligence and wit of the movie’s protagonists, the preternaturally talented Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, who has never been better, anchor and uplift the film. And Michael Stuhlbarg gives a final act speech that sums up the movie’s themes of personal acceptance with astonishing flourish. James Ivory deftly adapted this André Aciman novel about a fleeting love that burns bright, and Sufjan Stevens provides much of the film’s memorable music. Guadagnino blends joy and pathos into a true wanderlust of emotions in a film of picturesque physical and emotional splendor. It’s one of the great films of this or any year.

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Posted in 2017, Rent It Tonight

Trailer: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

This July 2018 release of the Mamma Mia! follow-up looks like the ultimate guilty pleasure, and an additional diva makes an appearance at the end. Godfather II, it's not, but this sorta sequel, sorta prequel will be a must-see on the summer fare list. Now, the real question: Does Meryl Streep's "Donna" character meet her Waterloo? So much to discuss...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcSMdhfKga4

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Spoiler-Free Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars The Last Jedi Movie Review Silver Screen Capture

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, for a sensational three-ring outer space circus featuring amazing planets, phenomenal creatures, stunning acrobatics and very little believable plot or character development. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (B) is basically Rian Johnson’s Galactic Exposition of 2017, in which the visionary sci-fi writer/director assembles an absolute cavalcade of activity while neglecting the delights the preceding film breathed into a trio of new central characters, a bratty villain and a spherical droid. During its bloated running time, Johnson introduces far-fetched new technologies and powers for his ensemble but requires most of them to tread water until what is expected to be the conclusion of this trilogy when J.J. Abrams retakes the reigns. This middle film’s marvels include a pretty casino planet and at least one intergalactic dogfight with pizzazz, lots of cotton candy for the soul. Misfires involve both old and new characters, who behave with perplexing lack of clarity and continuity; some are done no favors through long periods of separation. There’s a gas shortage that rivals the taxation disputes of the prequels in terms of dramatic inertia and at least one moment of sky walking that defies both gravity and belief. Laws of space and time, be damned! Even for this fantasy space opera, this one hits some bizarro notes. For all its fussy audacity, you may leave this funhouse a bit dizzy and more confused than you should feel for the ride.

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Posted in 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Wheel (2017)

Wonder Wheel Movie Review Silver Screen Capture

Seaside like Chekhov, housebound like O’Neill and carousel adjacent like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Woody Allen stages a most superficial and unsatisfying drama in a picture perfect 1950s Coney Island in Wonder Wheel (D+), a film that spins in the same rote roulette of themes the writer/director has plumbed for the past few decades. Lazy plot and characters do Allen’s actors no favors in a story that involves infidelity and underworld crime without the slightest of high stakes. Kate Winslet is largely wasted as the put-upon protagonist, and Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple get precious little to work with either. Jim Belushi is simply subpar, regardless of the stock character he embodies. There’s a soliloquy toward the end that almost rescues the affair, but most of the time viewers are aboard simply for Allen’s humdrum amusement. His imitation of life as we know it comes across here as rusty and mechanical.

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Posted in 2017

Movie Review: The Disaster Artist (2017)

James Franco directs and stars in the lead role as a real-life filmmaker of a notorious contemporary cult movie in The Disaster Artist (B). It’s not necessary to have seen the source material (I have, and right now getting a DVD or watching rogue clips on the Internet is the only way to see it) – the colossally bad 2003 romantic drama The Room – but it helps to have a general idea of why it’s one of the worst movies ever made (namely, a loopy leading man/director, preposterous characters, staggering continuity errors and an inexplicable plot, not to mention some of the most oddball antics ever committed to film – including a really awkward three-way bedroom romp and “football in tuxedos”). Franco imbues the behind-the-scenes dramedy with an insider’s look at the abject miracle it is to find success in Hollywood, and the valiant attempts, even those that are foolhardy. Partnered with his own brother Dave Franco, the film is largely a buddy film about two misfits on a mission. James is at his unhinged best as the lanky auteur with a mop of a haircut and a Lothario swagger (it’s not completely clear what he wants or how he got the money to bankroll his film or even the origins of his unusual accent). Dave is quite charming as the more conventional leading man and does a credible job standing by his main man despite the train wreck that ensues from script to screen in the movie-within-the-movie. The inside Hollywood quotient is high with small parts for Melanie Griffith and Sharon Stone as well as contributions from comedic comrades such as Seth Rogen, Josh Hutcherson, Zac Efron and Ari Graynor. It’s breezy fun, and the reenactments of incredibly bad sequences from The Room are precise and priceless. Alas it doesn’t add up to complete masterpiece status in its own right, but strong production values and the dynamic brotherly duo at the film’s center make it an enjoyable romp.

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Posted in 2017, Film noir, Rent It Tonight

Movie Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

A triumph of production design with a colorful supporting cast surrounding a bit of a hollow central storyline, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (B) reimagines The Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1960s Cold War Baltimore with Sally Hawkins as a mute janitor at a military science lab who falls for Doug Jones’ captive Amphibious Man. It’s a visually arresting and solidly rendered fairy tale for adults, but the quirky central couple doesn’t get to do much more than display the traits of their tropes in an update of archetypes. Hawkins is effective in the quirky lead role, but the juiciest parts are played by Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer as her wry sidekicks and Michael Shannon as a corrupt colonel with a penchant for popping pills from a grotesque gangrenous hand. His unhinged performance, marked by a myriad of deplorable traits, is one of the film’s most notable delights. Alexandre Desplat’s score, layered with stardust melodies from classic Hollywood, sets the mood gracefully for outcasts in love. Del Toro clearly has a singular vision for his monster romance, but the film suffers from tonal shifts as its final act revolves into a protracted waiting game. Ultimately this beauty is missing a few beats.

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Posted in 2017, Rent It Tonight

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Joe Wright’s historical biopic The Darkest Hour (B) takes few creative liberties as it chronicles Winston Churchill’s resolve to protect England from Hitler’s military, but the film is most notable because it affords Gary Oldman a rich fully inhabited central performance as the decisive and divisive prime minister. The direction is physically and metaphorically claustrophobic, shot in tight quarters and in confined conversations, to show the encroaching danger. The film is a straightforward companion piece to the propulsive Dunkirk, depicting much of the same time period, and the dandy drama The King’s Speech in which its protagonist monarch overcomes personal adversity and rises to the occasion. Honestly, aside from Oldman’s lived-in characterization of mania and mumbled and his arch to make his actions soar as profoundly as his oratory, Hour rarely gets great lift. The supporting characters including Kristin Scott Thomas and Stephen Dillane are unmemorable, and the film’s muted color palette of mostly dim interiors leaves the actions a bit in the shadows. It’s recommended for history buffs but offers few surprises or detours from the expected except for seeing exactly what the PM eats, drinks and dictates and how he one time rode on a train with commoners. There are parallels to contemporary leaders, whose nil by tweet stubbornness could tilt the world’s fortunes for war or peace. The present day overlay offers more prescient daydreams of adventurous storytelling than Wright actually commits to the screen.

Thoughts from outside The Tara theatre in Atlanta:

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Posted in 2017, Rent It Tonight

Awards News: Golden Globe Movie Nominees Announced

Awards season is in high gear! The Golden Globe nominations were announced today and are seen as a precursor to Oscar glory for many prestige pics. The Golden Globes ceremony will be broadcast live on NBC on January 7, 2018. Here are the biggest vote-getters, by numbers of nominations.

The Shape of Water: 7
The Post:
6
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri:
6
Lady Bird:
4
All the Money in the World:
3
Call Me By Your Name:
3
Dunkirk:
3
The Greatest Showman:
3
I, Tonya:
3

Here’s a full list of the motion pictures up for awards this year. There are always a few curious nominees in a Golden Globes list. For instance, Get Out is competing in the comedy or musical category, I suppose because it is a biting satire. The Martian won in this category a few years back (it’s kinda the Island of Misfit Nominations category since the Hollywood Foreign Press divides its Best Picture nominees into two groups). Also notable is Christopher Plummer’s nomination for the re-shoots he did just weeks ago to replace and erase Kevin Spacey’s role in All the Money in the World. The biggest head-scratcher nomination is for the much-maligned The Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature, a slot many would have thought should go to The LEGO Batman Movie.

Best Motion Picture (Drama)

Call Me by Your Name
Dunkirk
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)

The Disaster Artist
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
I, Tonya
Lady Bird

Best Motion Picture (Animated)

The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Ferdinand
Coco
Loving Vincent

Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Tom Hanks, The Post
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Meryl Streep, The Post
Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

Best Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)

Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes
Ansel Elgort, Baby Driver
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)

Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes
Helen Mirren, The Leisure Seeker

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Best Director (Motion Picture)

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Ridley Scott, All The Money in the World
Steven Spielberg, The Post

Best Screenplay (Motion Picture)

The Shape of Water
Lady Bird
The Post
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Molly’s Game

Best Original Score (Motion Picture)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
Phantom Thread
The Post
Dunkirk

Best Foreign Film

A Fantastic Woman
First They Killed My Father
In the Fade
Loveless
The Square

Best Original Song (Motion Picture)

Ferdinand – “Home”
Mudbound – “Mighty River”
Coco – “Remember Me”
The Star – “The Star”
The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me”

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Posted in Industry News

Movie Review: Coco

Lee Unkrich’s animated Disney Pixar adventure Coco (B) is alive with vibrant detail in painting a compelling Día de Muertos fantasia of light, color and music. The story of a Mexican boy torn between heeding a duty to family and following his clarion call to become a mariachi musician, the film toggles between Lands of the Dead and the Living in which the young man’s ancestors, sometimes skeletal relatives, help guide him to his destiny. Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt are among the voice actors breathing life into wholly original characters. The story starts and ends strong with fun surprises around every turn, even though there’s a long portion in the film’s center that drags with too much exposition. It’s such a breakthrough to secure inclusion of so many specific Latin traditions that the film sometimes seems overstuffed in its own bounty, with superfluous characters and a few too many bells and whistles. Also for a film about music, there could have been more of it, and it could have been better. Ultimately it’s a thoughtful and positive entry into the Disney Pixar kingdom, and it could have only been accomplished via animation.

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Posted in 2017, Rent It Tonight

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