The Greatest Showman

On May 12, 2016, I received an email from one of the production companies who handles pre-screenings in the Houston area. They like to send out emails letting us know what films are coming up and their release dates and studio. It is to make things nice and smooth. Well, the week before on May 5 that email only went to the end of 2016, but for some reason this email added everything they currently knew about for 2017. And at the end of the list, was something called The Greatest Showman on Earth for a Christmas release.

That title intrigued me, so I looked it up. Once I read the plot description and actors involved, at that point I declared it was my now most hyped film of 2017. And it has taken a long time to get here, over a year a half, before I finally got to see it.

I kept away from the trailers, from the soundtrack. I acknowledged that there has been no buzz from the Oscars at all about it, which is a bit surprising, given the genre and cast and subject. They obviously changed the title since then to a much cleaner The Greatest Showman, but I just want you to know, I have been hyped for almost 20 months, and it wasn’t a superhero movie.

Bar
Superhero movies aren’t allowed to show too much drinking.

Phineas Taylor Barnum (Hugh Jackman) grew up poor, his dad a tailor, him an assistant. They were looked down by the elite who saw them as poor people, because they were poor people. He had dreams of one day hosting the greatest show in the world. And despite his dad’s early death, he was still able to marry and run off with his childhood love, Charity (Michelle Williams), who grew up rich.

They had two kids and had a middling live of above poverty, but it wasn’t good enough for Barnum. He needed more, he need luxury, he needed to prove to the snobs and the elites that anyone can rise to their ranks.

And eventually he bought a museum of oddities. Weird stuff, stuff that people want to see. It gradually grew over time, including live acts, like a little man (Sam Humphrey), a bearded lady (Kaele Settle), acrobats (Zendaya) and so on. He gained a rich playwright to help him draw in the rich people (Zac Efron) to mixed reviews. And at one point he brought in a famous Swedish opera singer (Rebecca Ferguson) to get the expensive tickets in the seats. And some would say, he did it all, just to get back at Charity’s dad (Fredric Lehne), who never believed he was good enough for his daughter.

A big show requires a big cast, so here are some kid actors, performers, and side kicks. Cameron Seely, Austyn Johnson, Alex Wong, Ellis Rubin, Skylar Dunn, Jacqueline Honulik, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Paul Sparks, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

Beard
Some would say that the beard deserves its own tag as well.

I would like to say that I am hard on musicals and judge them rightfully, because I have high expectations for them. At the same time, if my toes are tapping, my body is moving, and the show in front of me is eye candy, there is also a good chance I am liking it. Do I like all musicals? Who know. But I must be biased towards them, often having them near the top of my end of year lists in some capacity.

This is probably what is happening for The Greatest Showman. Because on one hand, this film does not accurately depict at all a beliable/realistic version of P.T. Barnum. Sure, some elements are true, but most are complete fantasy and in a very forgiving light. That is going to piss some people off. The plot itself is all relatively weak, or at least, not too new when it comes to story telling of rags to riches and the meek inheriting.

And yet I was so engrossed, I cried four times. I cried over sadness, over love, over happiness, and over the future. Every time Jackman smiled, it was contagious and it felt full of love as well. The sets were colorful, full of fun costumes, unique characters who were really in tune with their dancing.

And the music, the music! I tried to not listen to it ahead of time, and went in mostly blind. It starts off odd, but over time the opening song (The Greatest Showman) definitely grows on you. My favorite is probably This Is Me, their Freak Flag song so to speak, as Keala Settle just fucking rocks every line. Rewrite the Stars is beautiful, heartbreaking, and has the choreography one would expect for a number like it, best in the film. And The Other Side is such a fun song between Efron and Jackman, featuring a nice bar dance and so many shots it is easy to lose count.

Hell, even the tiny details of the songs were great, including the giant character banging on the ceiling to create the beat in our finale song.

It is so easy to get lost in this movie. It is so surprising that it is under two hours long, and honestly, I wish there was a lot more.

One final nitpick that doesn’t change the grade. We got a famous Swedish opera singer, so it felt really annoying to hear her singing what amounted to a modern pop musical song, that didn’t match her description at all. That song is also amazing, but it just felt very odd at the same time.

4 out of 4.

The Girl on the Train

I did plan on watching The Girl on the Train when it came out, you know, in 2016. I knew it was based on a pretty famous book, it had a lot of mysterious elements, and it might have been a spiritual successor to Gone Girl. The book and movie are not done by the people who did Gone Girl, but similar elements were apparently there.

However, I missed the screening, and then my wife said she really wanted to see it also. Just after she read the book first, because that is what normal people do. It took a year later, but she finally picked up and read the book in only about a week, which let us thankfully still watch it thanks to Redbox. It is great when they have oldish movies on there (and yes, I realize it is within a year of coming out, but it still feels really old).

Hooray trains!

Train
I found her! The girl on the train! Did I solve it!?

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a woman who happens to be an alcoholic, and she rides a train to and from work every day. And on this train ride, she has become obsessed with another woman. She can see her in her house, this Megan (Haley Bennett), living a life with her lover, happy and free. Or at least that is what Rachel invents for her life.

Rachel is a drinker because her husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) left her. He married Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), had a kid, all of the things that he could never do with Rachel. And it turns out that Megan was their nanny for the little kid, unsure if Rachel knew this fact.

Well one sad day, Rachel decided to get off on that stop, seeing that Megan was with another man. This could not be! She was perfect! And now Rachel was drunk and upset.

The next thing Rachel knew, she was awake in her home, with blood on her hands. And news that Megan was missing.

Was it Rachel, blackout drunk and angry? Could she have killed someone?

Also starring Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Darren Goldstein, Laura Prepon, Allison Janney, and Lisa Kudrow.

Balcony
The Girl on the Balcony was a much sexier title, but too close to Man on a Ledge.

The Girl on the Train is told from three different points of view, Emma, Megan, and of course Rachel. The timelines are a bit out of whack, for dramatic sake, in order to amp up all the mystery. After all, if we saw Megan’s point of view when she died, there would be no story to tell!

The false leads don’t end up pissing off the viewer, but really just make sense as the story unfolds. It is not an easy mystery to guess ahead of time, although enough hints really are there. I made a lot of intentionally stupid guesses just to mess with my wife, but when the final reveals occurred I wasn’t surprised in the least.

The issues with the film are just…hard to explain. It feels so bland. The acting isn’t bad, it is just mediocre feeling. The story doesn’t end up feeling as great as it is built up to be. It was maybe over hyped by the advertising or the pacing of the book, because the movie felt rushed and just average.

I think more details in the story would have gone a long way. More drives for the characters and just more things for them to do. It took a long time to reveal not too much, and just felt like a lot of potential that was never fully reached, unfortunately. Let’s hope the sequel, The Old Lady in the Shoe does a bit better.

2 out of 4.

The Snowman

Without a doubt, snowmen have always been scary. We had that Jack Frost horror movie, and that other Jack Frost horror movie, all about snowmen!

My first real interactions with snowmen and music however, have also been terrifying. After all, in Cannibal! The Musical we were given the hellish tune of Let’s Build a Snowman, multiple decades before Frozen came onto the scene with their snowman song.

Apparently this one was based on a book, but I am sure The Snowman was supposed to be scary as well.

Alien
Is this an alien snowman? Is this movie actually supernatural?

Norway. Winter. It’s cold everywhere, it snows all the time. Basically, everyone is a snowman if you think about it.

And Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is a detective for the main Norway police people, and yes, that is his name. He is good at his job, but he also is a bit of a drunk and going through a life slump. A new recruit to their agency is Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), who has a lot of spunk and drive. She thinks a series of disapperances are similar to a few done years ago in a different Norway town, so she is ready to investigate!

Aw, so young and naive. And maybe oh so right.

A few murders, a few snowmen based deaths, and sure yeah, I am sure someone is behind it and just fucking with them all. And to think it is happening as they are trying to finish a bid for some non Olympic winter games event too.

Also starring Michael Yates, Ronan Vibert, Chloe Sevigny, Charlotte Gainsbourg, David Dencik, Jonas Karlsson, Toby Jones, Val Kilmer, and J.K. Simmons.

SIdewaysface
I think this is the first time I have ever seen the :/ used in any real context.

In The Snowman, there is a good mystery plot in there, somewhere. A lot of it may have been on the cutting room floor, or it may have never gotten shot. According to the director, he talked about why the movie was terrible, before it was even released in America. It was released a week early in Europe and met with so many bad reviews he just had to admit the whole thing I guess.

It quickly went from a “I can’t wait to see this film!” moment to “Oh man, how much of a train wreck will this be? Can’t wait!” feeling. And trainwreck it was.

Which is a shame, because Fassbender isn’t acting bad in the film or anything, it is just the plot is so shitty. There are motivations behind the characters, but the herring is so red it should almost be a scarlet herring. Or bloody herring. So much side plot is technically relevant, but so badly explained it just feels slightly shoe horned. And when we get our big dramatic reveal (which isn’t too hard to guess), it is explained so poorly it just feels. Well, badly written.

Which is a shame, because the novel by Jo Nesbø I am sure is really swell. He has written a lot of books, so he must have some talent. But now my introduction to his work just smells of…wait. Herring. Yeah, it smells like old yucky herring.

The Snowman is poorly put together work of film, despite some cool elements. Probably just avoid this one forever and read the book instead.

1 out of 4.

Life

This is part of Fantasy and Sci-Fi Week at Gorgon Reviews!

Look, I am a big fan of all of these classic board games being turned into movies. Clue is the golden standard, and that was over thirty years ago. So why not a movie about the board game Life?

The good news about Life is that it is so expansive of a game, you can basically make it about anything, as along as it involves growing up, getting a job and family, a career, and eventually retiring. Anything could happen to you in between that. You could win a Nobel Prize! You could play the stock market. You could just not at all do anything worth while.

As long as you don’t set it in a fantasy realm, or in outer space, or anything like that, it could count as a movie about the board game.

Calvin
What the fuck is this? Is this in Millionaire Estates?

Aboard the ISS, we got a lovely crew of people, crewing around, doing science, being astronauts. They grab a probe returning from Mars, hoping to analyze some soil and maybe see if they can find life. And guess what! They do! A tiny tiny microorganism, but it is life not from Earth. Hooray science!

Everyone is stoked, the world is stoked, some kid wins a contest and names it Calvin, big celebration, we are not alone! But maybe w should be alone?

Things start to go wrong on the space station. Calvin starts to grow, Calvin starts to show intelligence, and Calvin needs to eat to survive whatever he can on the ship. And you know who that means.

It means these people! Hiroyuki Sanada, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.

Finaltwo
The poor ISS gets destroyed and fucked up in so many different movies.

Obviously this has nothing to do with the board game, that is just a joke, but this film still has a shitty title. Life is too vague, has certainly been a title before, and isn’t as ominous as they had hoped.

I first avoided this film because it came out on my birthday, and everyone knew that Power Rangers was the bigger story there. Also despite having actors I knew in it, I thought there was not way it would be a good film.

And guess what? I actually did enjoy it. Sure, on the surface, it is basically just the movie Alien, but with a different Alien and not in deep space. Actually, it is extremely similar to Alien, including having people ignoring quarantine rules in order to doom everyone. However, we don’t get a badass female protagonist, we just get people continually sacrificing themselves for the greater good of humanity.

Despite its lack of originality, I still enjoyed it. The ending had me very tense and on the edge of my seat. The acting from Gyllenhaal and Ferguson was decent enough, and Sanada’s character made me feel incredibly sad.

I would say objectively it is not a bad thriller/horror film at all. It does get a bit messy at points, a little bit confusing not being familiar with the layout or everything they are talking about. There are plenty of worse films out there that won’t scare you, so might as well give Life a shot.

3 out of 4.

Florence Foster Jenkins

I didn’t want to see Florence Foster Jenkins when it came out. And I am afraid my biases will show in this review.

Let it be known that I had no idea what the movie was about, never saw the trailer, but just the poster and it just seemed bad to me. It is so gold and happy. It looks like a low effort, low comedy film and is relying on star power more than anything to get itself seen.

From the director of Philomena? Shit, I liked Philomena. This is a movie that is going for a nostalgic look, the type of film someone might have wanted to see a decade ago. So no, no, I wasn’t going to see it.

Then the damn thing had to get nominated for a couple of Oscars. One of which prevented Amy Adams for a nomination for Arrival. Damn it.

Couple
No matter what Streep does, people want to give her awards.

The film happens to be about the titular named Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) who is an Opera singer. But not just any Opera singer. Some have proclaimed her the worst opera singer of all time. How does one get to the level where they can call themselves an opera singer while also being bad at it? Money. She has a lot of it.

She also has St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her husband, a Shakespearean actor, who has fallen in love with her. More importantly, he has protected her from negative reviews. He pays critics with bribes. He keeps out the riff raff. They started their own music club to showcase her voice, and if they have to pay a lot of money for it, it must be good music. How else could she be famous!?

We are basically introduced to the characters through Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg), a pianist who applies for the job to work for her. He is getting paid a whole lot and was chosen just because he likes him. And then he quickly finds out the famed singer is actually terrible, the whole thing feels like a cruel joke and his own reputation is now on the line. But so much money…

Keeping up the farce is hard work, but when Carnegie Hall is coming and their product is sub par, just how will they all handle it?

Also featuring Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, and Stanley Townsend.

Piano
Thankfully, at least he is actually playing piano and not a recording of someone better.

Speaking of farces, I cannot believe this movie is winning awards, let alone being nominated for a few of them.

It is an extremely simple story and it is about real events. But on its own, there isn’t a lot that feels exceptional. The acting isn’t great, the story isn’t great, the cinematography is average, and I guess there is a lot of good costumes. But that does not a good movie make.

Helberg had some amusing moments of giggle fits, Grant seemed to be overplaying it, and Streep was just doing her normal thing.

This is a film that is, as predicted, only being talked about because of who is involved, not because of its high quality. It isn’t really funny, and it isn’t really an interesting story. People with lots of money get to do things others cannot because they have money, even if they aren’t qualified.

Story of America. And this movie is just dull.

1 out of 4.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

There isn’t much new to say about the Mission: Impossible series that I didn’t already say in my Ghost Protocol review weeks ago. I watched the other four movies in the series, some were good, some were bad. More importantly, the last one was good, so the series is on an upswing and I can be excited!

Tom Cruise puts out exciting movies. He can be a bit crazy, but by damn does the man know how to entertain an audience.

Part of me secretly hopes that this time, in Rogue Nation, the mission actually ends up being impossible and they lose. That would be a nice plot twist and a fantastic way to end the franchise. A bit of a downer, but man, what IDGAF attitude they would have!

EXPLSOSIMS
Your mission should you choose to accept it: Die in the movie and NOT return for a sequel.

Remember the Syndicate? Of course you don’t! They were mentioned at the end of the last movie but vaguely and that they were bad people. Turns out they are very, very bad people. So bad that Ethan Hunt (Cruise) got captured by them relatively early on in the movie, with innocent people being killed. He doesn’t know a lot about them, they are a very secret organization, led by some guy (Sean Harris) that he of course knows next to nothing about.

All he knows is that he only is able to escape thanks to the help of a woman (Rebecca Ferguson). But just like previous films, due to all of the chaos of events going around the IMF, they officially get disbanded. The head of the CIA (Alec Baldwin) has brought all usable resources into his division, including Benji (Simon Pegg) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Luther (Ving Rhames) figured he’d rather retire than work for the CIA.

And now Ethan is on his own, being hunted by the CIA and the Syndicate, the latter of which no organization actually believes exists. A typical Tuesday for him I’d imagine.

Also featuring Jens Hultén as henchman who speaks and Saif Al-Warith as henchman who doesn’t speak, but has a nice beard.

Action
If you look closely, you will notice reversed gender roles!

M:I 5, if I can call it that, was an action movie done right. We don’t have lamely on a mission killing an entire island worth of henchmen, or people running around just yelling shitty puns. No, the action scenes in this film have depth. It helps that a lot of the stunts are done by Cruise himself, which just adds to his action star credibility. The plane scene is the famous stunt scene, which is funny in context of the film based on how little it matters. The underwater scene was one of the best scenes, as well as the motorcycle/car chase.

For the plot, it has the normal twists and turns that the franchise tends to offer, but I think it falls apart a bit near the end. Things get almost too convoluted. Thankfully it doesn’t completely ruin the film which spends the rest of the time before it building up your good graces with cool scene after cool scene.

Ferguson plays the best Mission: Impossible lady star of the five films. She is a kick ass, bad ass woman, who has her own motives for doing everything. She isn’t just a lame plot device for Hunt, like a Bond girl.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is definitely one of the best action movies of the year at this point, and probably one of the better non Superhero action movies from the last few years. Go and see and be entertained.

3 out of 4.

Buy It! – This movie is available now on {Blu-Ray} and {DVD}.

Hercules

2014 was going to be the year of the Hercules movies. Two films, doppleganger movies, going head to head, months apart, to see who could make the best Hercules based movie. Kind of silly, when nothing could ever beat the clearly superior Hercules Disney movie from 1997. Zero to Hero, bitches.

But two things were odd about this competition. One, the releases were almost 7 months apart, January to July. And two, holy shit, The Legend Of Hercules was very very terrible. Yes, it came out the second week of the year, but it firmly established itself as the worst movie of the year, and at this point, still has to be top 5 worst films of the year on most people’s lists. So no matter how janky this version of Hercules would be, it would probably be the superior film.

Because everyone know, with doppelganger films, one has to be good right?

Roar
They did pick a fantastic person for the role though, no lion about that.

This story begins quite annoyingly going over the Legend of Hercules (Dwayne Johnson), not the other movie, the actual legend, and the 12 Great Deeds he had to do to get Hera off his back. But what if Hercules isn’t a demi-god, but just a mercenary with a great storyteller nephew (Reece Ritchie) to talk him up and make him seem more awesome than he actually is?

Well, according to this movie, yeah. And Hercules has friends! Including Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), an orphaned Spartan warrior, who likes to joke around, make money, and throw daggers. And Atalanta (Ingrid Bolso Berdal), an Amazon warrior, so of course she uses a bow. And Tydeus (Askel Hennie), of Thebes, who is now more animal than man and quite vicious. And of course, OF COURSE, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), a seer who saw his own death already, so a fearless warrior in battle.

Yeah, Hercules and his band of merry men, or something like that.

Well, Herc and his mercs for hire get offered a shit ton of gold to help the nation of Thrace defend its borders from warmongering centaurs and some super evil dude. This means they have to train an army of farmers, so that Lord Cotys (John Hurt) can bring peace and prosperity to the kingdom.

But can Hercules do it? Can he? Punk? I don’t know that one for certain, but I do know that The Rock could probably do it.

Rebecca Ferguson plays the daughter of Cotys and Joseph Fiennes as the King of Athens.

Boar
“You’re a phony! A big fat phony!”

I think this movie actually had an interesting take on the Hercules mythos. A lot of what you see in the trailers is actually just from the first few minutes, going over his deeds and accomplishments. A lot of the story had been left out of the trailers, giving an almost fresh experience when I went in, not sure what to expect. I like what they did with it, and because it specifically said it wanted to attack the legend of the man, it made it seem like they were taking explicit jabs at the other film this year. Which is kind of hilarious.

The action scenes were pretty on point. The Rock did make a good Hercules, but he wasn’t the best part of the film. Ian McShane stole every scene he was a part of thanks to the comedy of the seer role and Rufus Sewell was pretty on point as well. The plot wasn’t too unique, could guess how it would play out and for the most part kept in line.

Outside of the action, most of the film just felt okay. It felt pretty short for the scope that it was going for, so that was disappointing. It had interesting characters to relate to though, so that is one redeeming quality.

Basically, what I am saying is that if there is a sequel, which there easily could be, I’d be glad to watch it. Obviously I’d watch any sequel, given the point of reviewing movies, but I wouldn’t go into this one with disdain.

But until that happens, looks like there is a shitty Asylum version of this movie too, Hercules Reborn, that I can spend my time with.

2 out of 4.