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Review: “The Greatest Showman” is a Musical Most Mild

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A big mistake was made with The Greatest Showman in how the posters came billed with music by the lyricists of La La Land, last year’s musical Oscar-contender. The excellent use of jazz and classic Hollywood dance numbers gave La La Land a splash of original energy and wonder. By comparison, The Greatest Showman is a mere fizzle of that talent with music better suited for the radio than your collection. Strangely, it’s fitting for the selling of a biopic on P.T. Barnum, a man that made a professional living out huckstering and placing butts in seats.

Hugh Jackman plays Barnum with a giddy smile and adventurous spirit. He’s inspired early in his life to make a name for himself, desiring to be a big success in the eyes of his lovely wife Charity (Michelle Williams) and her snobbish wealthy parents. Sure, he brought about two beautiful little girls, but it’s not enough; not when he loses his job and needs the money. Through his brand of slick-talking and fast-fingers, he opens up a museum of oddities. Only a mind so imaginative could conceive something so weird. And when the public doesn’t warm up to his strange doodads and taxidermied animals, he gets even weirder to bring himself out of debt.

It isn’t long before his museum turns into a show, starring the most unlikely of attractions. Figures big and small, hairy and scaly, colorful and colorless, are all hired on as entertainers for his grand show. They’re naturally hesitant to perform; Lettie Lutz (Keala Settle) is shy about others looking more at her beard than hearing her voice and Charles Stratton (Sam Humphrey) doesn’t feel like being a spectacle as a dwarf. But with some more of that Barnum negotiating, he’ll get Lettie belting out tunes and Charles in a General outfit while riding around the ring. His exploits will reach further to hire playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) as his partner and famous singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) as a traveling act. And the circus only gets crazier with public opposition, dissension in the ranks, and problems at homes.

A story so chaotic and astonishing as Barnum’s could be wonderfully weird but director Michael Gracey takes a surprisingly timid take to hit that PG rating. He manages to avoid the most bitter of drama in Barnum’s clouded actions for fame by loading the film up with so much. Aspects such as his wife’s unease of his decisions, his daughters disapproving of his status, and Barnum’s desires to be one-up his father-in-law is diced up with the antics of the show. Okay, then let’s get into the characters of the show. There’s plenty to explore with Lettie coming into her own as a confident singer and the trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) forming a romance with Carlyle. But like a circus with too many acts, I never felt like I had gotten more than the necessary theatrics, leaving me eager for certain performances to come back to the stage. The film is expediently cut that you won’t have time to appreciate much in its bouncy jumps from scene to scene.

Zendaya MovieSpoon

Zendaya as trapeze artist Anne Wheeler

Despite the incredible vocal talents and superb choreography, most of the songs are not all that memorable. This is mostly the fault of its style which comes in the form of a contemporary Broadway, music that is meant more for volume and pulse than style and distinction. Jenny Lind sang some fantastic opera in real life but the movie swaps that for what sounds like a pop idol, fitting with the film’s modernizing tone. It’s a style built for Broadway and radio play, but when a soundtrack feels more built than crafted, it’s nothing worth downloading immediately.

There’s a part of me that wants to buy into the Barnum cavalcade of amazement, treating his life as a musical journey of excitement and playfulness. And yet there’s a part that knows I’m being deceived when the drama comes so easy, the songs so ho-hum, and the story so sporadic in its mad dash editing. It’s a film that indeed moves and never fails to deliver on the song, and dance one has come to expect with musicals, but the expectations are what kept holding the film back. I could see the obligatory moment coming where Barnum’s troupe try to pull him out of his bottle with a song and took this as an opportunity to step out for the restroom. I returned to, as I expected, the troupe dancing on bar tables as Barnum’s spirit lifts. I wish I had trusted my instincts enough to duck out for popcorn when the Barnum museum burns down, and the oddity collective repeats the process.

[author title=”About the Author” image=”http://popstermedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/mark_mcpherson-300×221-150×150.jpg”]Movie Reviewer Mark McPherson has been all about movies since working at a video store in his youth. His talents range from video editing to animation to web development, but movies have always been his passion to write about.[/author]

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Have you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. 😉

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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