Saved The Greatest For Last!: A Real Show Stopper

Greatest Showman

The Circus, a collection of assorted talent meant to wow and amaze the people the audience with their stunts.  At the head of this arena was P.T Barnum, a name associated with the Big Tent and imagination to continue bringing the magic to the world that so desperately needed.  So naturally, Hollywood would design a movie after him entitled The Greatest Showman, a musical piece that looks to be a big sensation this season.  But can Hugh Jackman

lead his cavalcade to victory, or is it just another flop the trailers bulked up.  Robbie K here to provide some thoughts, as we do yet another movie review.  Let’s go!

 

LIKES:

 

Entertaining Pace:  You know I like a movie that moves, and Greatest Showman takes little time to get into the fun territory.  The excitement starts from the moment the opening credits begin, holding back little in order to get the magic started.  It’s a risky, but smart, move as their execution led to one of the most engaging movies of the holiday season.

 

The Acting:  I love a good cast coming together to bring the film alive, and again this film manages to accomplish this task.   Jackman takes the center stage as Barnum, capturing the imagination drive of the legendary ring leader and energizing the movie with his spirit .  The rebellious nature to take risks is portrayed quite well with him at the reigns, and the evolution his character goes through is spectacularly acted.  Michelle Williams was a great lead actress for the character Charity, bringing both beauty and class to role of a supportive wife doing her best to keep Jackman’s spirit in check with reality. Zac Efron and Zendaya, are wonderful supporting actors to the leads, they just needed a little more integration into the plot.  The rest of the cast knocks the movie out of the park, but I have more things to talk about so let’s move on.

 

The Messages: Greatest Showman by far has my favorite presentation of those pesky, yet important life lessons. Living your dreams, accepting yourself, and helping others are the key factors held in this movie.  This portrayed primarily from Barnum’s view, but the movie blends the perspective from the other performers and their judgement by the high society. A classy nod to the traditional, now outlandish, views, the movie does a great job clashing the concepts of society norms vs. uniqueness and the struggles of being brave to change the world. Seeing the emotional warfare unleashed on the performers tore at my heart strings, but made the relevant topic come to life in a fantastic way.  It’s a bit preachy at times, but given the quality and the use of multiple devices to bring it to life, it really does work .

 

The Numbers/Soundtrack: By far, my favorite aspect of the movie are the musical numbers.  Incredible is not nearly enough to describe the musical extravaganzas, each dance number being dynamic and fun with a well orchestrated choreography that combines Circus stunts with Hollywood footwork.  Outside of the thrilling movements though, these numbers are charged with emotion, bring the relevant messages to life with a powerful punch to penetrate the walls of hardened halls and bring with it joy, inspiration, or in some tears of joy. But if you don’t care about that component, then perhaps you’ll appreciate the story telling and relationship building of the numbers that help speed up the formalities of socializing. And if all that fails, well then just be stoked for awesome numbers with a good beat. I’ll admit that they all sound quite similar in many aspects, but there is enough of a twist to grant them their individuality.  Nevertheless, this is one soundtrack I plan to pick up.  Can you tell I liked the movie?

 

DISLIKES:

 

Wanted more:  For once I can say I wanted the movie to be longer.  Greatest Showman is a story that balances numerous things over the 105-minute run time with regards to love, loyalty, pressures of success, etc.  However, I wish that many of these qualities were either elaborated more, or held a little more struggle to provide a stronger development arc to the characters I loved so much. Most likely the extra content would not have felt longer due to the energy of the film, but this might have increase the run time to 3 hours so maybe it was a good thing. In addition, I wanted to have better integration of some of the other characters into the story, (i.e. Napoleon guy, bearded lady, and the wife) rounding out the experience of the film and giving us better backstories on our oddities. Those connections between the dots would have expanded the experience out and only further strengthen the story.

 

The CGI:  This component is not bad at all, but despite the spectacles you would have thought this production could have acquired some real live animals for the numbers.  The CGI work is good, fluid motion and semi-realistic design, but given everything they did with the live actors for the numbers, the CGI animals seemed a little like they were cutting corners.  Yeah, this is a picky dislike, it’s hard to find many big weaknesses in this film.

 

The Hollywood Treatment:  From the quotes we know the aspirations of P.T. Barnum, but like many biographies, one has to wonder how much of this is the Hollywood shine.  While uglier sides of Barnum do come out, I think the movie flew by his money making, business side because it didn’t fit into the story’s other moments or perhaps meant fewer musical numbers for our auto tuned cast to come up with. Still, I’m a sucker for seeing an uplifting tale, where the positives are the focusing point of the film.

 

 

The VERDICT

            Hands down, The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite films of the Hollywood season.  The movie is constantly entertaining the audience, utilizing the acting, the special effects, and more importantly the music to sell the moral points hidden in the 105 minutes.  Such a positive tale of friendship, self-discovery, and acceptance is a perfect match to the Holiday season and I for one cannot wait to see this film again.  Yes, Hollywood glamor is at work, and the movie could have expanded on both characters and plot elements to connect the dots a little more, but I was very pleased by this film.  Therefore, I highly recommend this one for the theaters, not only in terms of quality, but also because the songs rattling the theater adds to the experience that only the most expensive surround sound systems can begin to match. 

 

My scores are:

 

Biography/Drama/Musical:  9.5

Movie Overall: 9.0

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Go for the Music and Shows!

Get on up

            James Brown, a musical legend whose funk and soul spread from city to city over decades. With movies looking for anything to make a story about, these days, it was only a matter of time before the Godfather of Soul was chosen. Yet despite his musical influence, could the directors make a film that would do justice to him, or like other tributes fall short and are nothing more than a bore. Going in for my third movie this weekend, I’m here to share my thoughts about Get On Up, titled after one of my favorite songs.

 

After seeing Four Seasons, I worried that this movie would be another drawn out drama with only tidbits of music here and there. Yet the directing team decided to actually bring the music to the front and give the audience the music they knew and loved. Get On Up plays a plethora of songs from toe tapping Get On Up to the soulful Please, each timed in the story to mimic the emotions at hand. While some of the songs are only segments, the movie gives you enough of a show to satisfy the funk within you. The numbers are well designed, with Chadwick Boseman bringing some impressively choreographed moves, including the famous split that will have guys cringing. One feels like they are in a constant, at home with the crowd as the cameras circle around the bandstand. What’s also nice is that the songs are spread throughout the movie, and one doesn’t have to wait to long before another song is blasting through the speakers. However, this also leads to a little problem, as so many songs leads to a messy story that is fractured, sporadic, and sometimes confusing to follow.

 

This leads me to the next part, the story. Like many movies about musical icons the story is predictable mess, again showing traumatic backstories and showing their rise to fame. However, Get On Up diverges from the typical linear presentation and decides to jump around Brown’s life. In the beginning, it is confusing to follow, because the order doesn’t make sense, nor is it easy to find the relevancy at the time. As the movie continues, you get an idea of what the director is trying to do, using the scenes as an illustration of his thoughts at the time, the primal drive to his actions. It’s cool, but again confusing as you try to pick up what is going on at the times. Some of the flashbacks are also awkwardly timed and sometimes seem to are left untied as the movie continues. At times I asked, “What was the point of that scene?” only to get an answer an hour down the line. It’s diverse yes, but the approach needs to be ironed out a little more for this reviewer to get the most out of it. Unfortunately, this movie’s plot is still similar to all band stories, in the fact that there is an inevitable rise and fall that we will see them go through.

 

Despite the order of the scenes though, Get On Up has some impressive production behind the movie. As I already mentioned, the music scenes are the most entertaining of the bunch, but the drama surrounding it is well designed. Plenty of my fellow audience members commented on how well they captured the decade, designing the various cast in the costumes of the era. Backstage hassles, luxurious hotels, and studios were all crafted into smoke filled wonders, and you feel drawn in to Brown’s life. What was also nice to see was the lack of using a grey filter, a very popular filter at the moment, to make the already dismal world even more depressing. Instead, the world is colorful and vibrant, much like the music.

 

Finally the acting. Boseman steals the show, managing to bring a lot of energy and fun into the enigmatic Brown. His raspy voice sounds much like the voice in the singing, though it is not an exact match, I think he did nice on the vocals and delivery. He is funny, and seems to be a natural at playing the self-involved performer, because he didn’t seem to try too hard. Boseman captures the emotional spectrum of Brown brilliantly in this movie and next to the music, is the biggest highlight of the film. To counter the selfishness of Brown is his friend Bobby Byrd played by Nelsan Ellis who also does a great job. Although his character takes a backseat through most of the film, and only speaks at key points, Ellis does a lot with his limited lines. And just like Boseman, Ellis can bust a move, though his pipes are drowned out in the numbers. As for the rest of the cast, the iconic Dan Aykroyd plays the same arrogant business man he always does, though with a bit of a softer side when it comes to James. Viola Davis brings the same passion to her role, though like Ellis is limited to the amount of time on screen. Octavia Spencer brings her sass back to scene and has some guiding insight, but does take a back seat to Boseman as well.

 

Overall Get On Up is a visit to the past of powerful music. Fans will travel back in time with Brown’s hits, and the beat will have you tapping your toes. Yet the predictable drama, the dark and depressing mood, and the unique presentation had me feeling the movie lasted a little too long, especially at the slow parts. Recommended audience members are big James Brown fans, or those looking to take older audience members to a movie. Otherwise, skip this film and wait for it to come to your home entertainment set up. My scores for this flick are:

 

Biography/Drama/Music: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6