Film Review: THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (USA 2017) ****

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The Greatest Showman Poster
Trailer

Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

Director:

Michael Gracey

Writers:

Jenny Bicks (screenplay by), Bill Condon (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

 

Films about circuses have been popular having taken many different genres form blockbuster (Cecil. B. Demille’s THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH) to cheap 1966 horror (CIRCUS OF FEAR).  THE GREATEST SHOWMAN aims at being both a biopic and a musical.

Hugh Jackman is a shoo-in for the role of singing P.T. Barnum, obtaining a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a musical or comedy in the process.  Heart-throb Zac Ephron also eases into musical mode as smooth as in three HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL films.  He plays Barnum’s friend and business partner..

THE GREATEST SHOWMAN is a true musical at heart.  Within the first 10 minutes, there are two songs performed already.  The film also boasts to be an original musical, not to be confused with “BARNUM” that played on Broadway decades back.  The songs are catchy with “This is Me”, largely performed by the bearded lady nominated for the Best Song Golden Globe.  But the other songs (by the guys who wrote LALA LAND) are just as catchy (there have been few musicals these days with all good songs) with others just as good, if not better than “This is Me”.  The choreography is also quite spectacular, and one cannot complain that there is not a full all out musical.  It is a feel-good movie, so those wanting hard drama and musical-haters, be advised to stay away.

The story contains two romances, between P.T. Barnum and Charity (Michelle Williams) and the other between Phillip Carlyle (Ephron) and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the acrobat and trapeze artist.  The romantic chemistry is not all there, though Barnum’s and Charity’s is more believable.

Though the film traces how American showman P. T. Barnum became the founder of the circus that became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, there are also subplots like the romance as well as the diversion of the employment of famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) who almost destroys both his business and his marriage.  Her singing performance is astonishing though Loren Alfred provides Lind’s singing voice.  Ferguson lip syncs and fakes it quite well.

The film side steps certain points, like how Barnum suddenly obtained all the circus animals.  The business aspect of the circus is only briefly mentioned in passing.  It is quite hard to believe that the circus made it this big with so few acts and with no clowns at all in the film.

Director Gracey seems fond of emphasizing the fact of equality among performers.  The protests in each visiting town of the residents against the circus ‘freaks’ finally conclude with a huge fire that destroys the circus building.  In Demille’s THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, it was a train crash that almost destroyed the circus, here compared to the big fire. 

The film should have more circus acts on screen time, so the audience can really feel the atmosphere of a circus.  What is clearly missing in this circus film is the excitement and danger of a circus.  Still, THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, though is not the greatest show in 2017 still makes appropriate Christmas entertainment.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXCTMGYUg9A

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Film Review: LOGAN (USA 2017) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

logan.jpgDirector: James Mangold
Writers: Michael Green (screenplay), Scott Frank (screenplay)
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
For those unfamiliar with the Marvel comic universe – LOGAN is the name of the Wolverine mutant in the X-MEN series. He has been played by actor Hugh Jackson in the past as well as in this latest edition, which is supposed to be his last. To put everyone in line with the Wolverine Universe, LOGAN is intended to be the tenth installment in the X-Men film series, as well as the third and final Wolverine solo film following X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013).

Director James Mangold has made a slew of movies, but I fir
st noticed his film COP LAND which dealt with an ageing sheriff played by Sylvester Stallone, forced out of his complacency to do what is right. The premise of LOGAN is quite the same. Wolverine (Jackman) just wants to be left alone – drinking and driving his car for hire, until he encounters mutants running away from a government control experiment gone haywire.

The setting of the story is the near future with Wolverine. dealing with his age and ailment. His abilities are not what they once were”. So, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X aka Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) with an albino mutant called Caliban (Steven Mercahnt) in a hideout on the Mexican border. (Caliban is named after Prospero’s slave, the ugly monster of the island he is shipwrecked in, in Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST). His attempts to hide from the world and his legacy, however, are up-ended when a young mutant, Laura (Dane Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark force. The first fight arrives a late 45 minutes into the film.

As in the Marvel action films, the fight scenes have to be awesome. The ones here meet the standard, being violent enough with head rolling off and sharp blade slicing up bodies. The editing is quick, but the scenes held long enough for the audience to figure out what is happening.

The script, partly written by Mangold together with Scott Frank and Michael Green, shows occasional bouts of brilliance. At one point in the film, Logan discovers X-MEN comic books in Aurora’s bag. Reading them, he finds that the Eden place that they are going to is described in the comic book as well as certain past events. The film here takes an eerie look, with a chilly feel similar to what could be felt in David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE. The story also pays a clever nod to the classic western SHANE that appears on the television. Logan, Charles and Laura on their journey to find Eden, encounter a family, just as the stranger SHANE does in the film, and their encounter affects the destiny of the family who like the movie SHANE, is being hustled out of the land by mercenary gunmen. The script does not shy away from senseless killings, which is a good thing. A lot of innocent people die in this movie.

LOGAN costs a whopping 127 million to make. It is a handsomely mounted production with impressive special effects and great fight choreography. It should make is money back based on the fact that the film is quite good. Only thing is that much publicity is required to let the world be aware that this is actually another X-MEN movie despite the words “X-MEN” missing from the innocently chosen title.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Div0iP65aZo

_________

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Happy Birthday: Hugh Jackman

hughjackmanHugh Jackman

Born: October 12, 1968 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Married to: Deborra-Lee Furness (11 April 1996 – present) (2 children)

[on casting challenges] The risk for me is constantly being considered Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Wholesome. Labels are the enemy. I’m particularly drawn this character [Kelly Dover in _Prisoners_], maybe as a parent. I love looking at how people react under almost melodramatically extreme situations. As an actor, that’s the ultimate stretch.

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Movie Review: EDDIE THE EAGLE (UK/USA/Germany 2016) ***

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eddie_the_eagle_poster.jpgEDDIE THE EAGLE (UK/USA/Germany 2016) ***
Directed by Dexter Fletcher

Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Tom Costello Jr.

Review by Gilbert Seah

EDDIE THE EAGLE is the typical type of British export crowd pleaser that have charmed North American audiences. Similar films like KINKY BOOTS, THE FULL MONTY, BEND IN LIKE BECKHAM, BRASSED OFF and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL have all done well at the box-office. So, why not a film about the feel-good story of Michael (Eddie) Edwards (played by Taron Egerton) appropriately called EDDIE THE EAGLE?

Eddie is a tenacious British ski jumper who believes he is good enough to enter the Olympics. He has never stopped believing in himself, much to the consternation of his dad, a plasterer who wants his son to follow his own footsteps. Even the British Olympic Selection Committee wants him out. With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach (played with equal tenacity by Hugh Jackman), Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Based on true events – as the titles at the films start tells the audience.

Top marks for effort go to Hugh Jackman who plays disgraced skier Bronson Peary who eventually becomes Eddie’s coach. It must be tough for this talent to go through all the ropes. It is tough enough to pretend to play someone who cares, but to evoke all the fake emotions, do the silly dance training steps and act and cry as if it all matters, Jackman does the job. (He must have been paid a lot.) As for Egerton who plays the lead role, he looks and acts too much like Bubbles of the Trailer Park Boys. But to be fair, the real Edwards, shown at the end credits does look like Bubbles. The film contains a few neat cameos from the likes of Christopher Walken and Jim Broadbent.

To the film’s credit, the film set in the 80’s with the Calgary Olympic 1988 setting does have an authentic 80’s atmosphere aided by the film’s 80’s songs soundtrack. The choice of Van Halen’s song “Jump’ used is a bit too obvious.

Director Fletcher (whose credit in film lies in the acting department from various minor roles in films and television) has created a film that is 100% formulaic is 0% originality. Whether the film succeeds depends entirely of which school of audience one comes from. The general public would have no problem cheering whenever Eddie makes a jump or laughing whenever he falls as observed in the promo screening attended. The other school would only grimace and wish the real ‘Eddie’ with all the human faults be revealed in a feel-bad story.

For the general public, this is the kind for feel good movie many would have no problem paying good money for. Fletcher pushes all the right buttons – in fact too many right buttons so that nothing out of the ordinary can be expected. For this group of people, the movie would be rated 4 stars. For the other film cynical critics, filmmakers and art-house cineastes, this 1-star movie is a complete bore and a waste of time.

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com