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The Greatest Showman review: Hugh Jackman’s musical biopic falls flat

Hugh and Zac in The Greatest Showman (Picture: Fox)
2017 saw Hugh Jackman say goodbye to Wolverine i..

The Greatest Showman review: Hugh Jackman's musical biopic falls flat
Hugh and Zac in The Greatest Showman (Picture: Fox)

2017 saw Hugh Jackman say goodbye to Wolverine in Logan, one of the best studio films of the year and one of his finest performances. Other than the X-Men character, the Aussie superstar is also known for his love of musicals, having come from a stage background and played the lead in the big screen Les Miserables.

He returns to that passion for his new film, a biopic that recently premiered on a cruise ship (as you do).

Jackman plays entrepreneur P. T. Barnum, a man living in the 1800s with nothing to his name but dreams of a better life. Supported by his devoted wife Charity (Michelle Williams), he takes out a loan and creates what is now known as a circus show, putting people society views as outsiders or freaks into the spotlight. Just as he begins to enjoy success, however, outside prejudice and his own ambition threaten to ruin everything.

Full of colour, music and optimism, it’s safe to say this biopic will find a lot of fans in those looking for spectacle alone. There’s no real edge, no obstacle that can’t be resolved with a big musical number, and that is admittedly charming.

It’s also what makes it feel so superficial.

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Huge liberties are taken with Barnum’s story, mostly with his motives for starting a circus in the first place. The film frames him as a kind of philanthropist – taking bearded ladies or conjoined twins and giving them a place where they aren’t mocked, but celebrated.

It’s a lovely way of looking at it, but this kind of airbrushed perception of a very murky industry feels at best naïve, at worst ignorant. Sanitising history can often be worse than confronting it.

If the facts aren’t that important to you, the film’s beautiful visuals will be a pretty distraction. The extravagant sets seem larger than life, and when combined with the exuberance of the cast make it seem like a Broadway musical with a bigger budget.

The Greatest Showman review: Hugh Jackman's musical biopic falls flat
The film’s beautiful visuals will be a pretty distraction (Picture: Fox)

For his part, Jackman puts his everything into the lead, as he does with every film he makes. Williams is underused as his wife, there mainly to smile and be impossibly patient as he risks their fortunes on a new scheme.

Likewise, Rebecca Ferguson’s role as singing sensation Jenny Lind seems to be to look at Jackman adoringly.

Elsewhere, Zac Efron fits like a glove as Phillip Carlyle, Barnum’s sceptical junior partner. He gets the most pleasing musical number in a bar with Jackman, while his subplot involving his feelings for the circus’ trapeze artist (Spider-Man actress Zendaya) is the closest the film gets to gritty.

The Greatest Showman review: Hugh Jackman's musical biopic falls flat
Michelle Williams doesn’t have much to do (Picture: Fox)

It feels incredibly mean to criticise a film that’s so willing to please, but The Greatest Showman just doesn’t have it where it counts.

In the hands of someone like Baz Luhrmann this could have been a very special event.

Without that kind of vision, however, this is simply a diverting side show.

The Greatest Showman is out in the UK on December 26.

MORE: Ridley Scott says he never heard from Kevin Spacey after recasting him

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‘Antebellum’ has a ‘Get Out’ vibe, but doesn’t live up to its twist

“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definite..

“Antebellum” is built around a provocative twist, and it’s a good one — as well as one that definitely shouldn’t be spoiled even a little. Once that revelation is absorbed, however, the movie becomes less distinctive and inspired, reflecting an attempt to tap into the zeitgeist that made “Get Out” a breakthrough, without the same ability to pay off the premise.


Originally destined for a theatrical run, the movie hits digital platforms trumpeting a “Get Out” pedigree in its marketing campaign, since there’s an overlap among the producing teams.


More directly, the film marks the directing debut of Gerard Bush + Christopher Renz, who have championed social-justice issues through their advertising work. The opening script features a quote from author William Faulkner, whose intent will eventually become clearer: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”


If that sounds like a timely means of drawing a line from the horrors of slavery to the racism of today, you’ve come to the right place.

The story begins on a plantation, where the brutal overseers carry out grisly punishments against those tilling the fields. A few have just tried to escape, led by Veronica (Janelle Monae), and they pay a heavy price for their resistance, which does nothing to curb her defiance.

Also written by Bush + Renz, the script take too long before revealing what makes “Antebellum” different, but the middle portion — a “The Twilight Zone”-like phase when it’s hard to be sure exactly what’s going on — is actually the film’s strongest. (Even the trailer arguably gives away too much, so the less one knows, the better.)



The final stretch, by contrast, veers into more familiar thriller territory, and feels especially rushed toward the end, leaving behind a host of nagging, unanswered questions. That provides food for thought, but it’s also what separates the movie from something like “Get Out,” which deftly fleshed out its horror underpinnings.


Although the filmmakers (in a taped message) expressed disappointment that the movie wasn’t making its debut in theaters, in a strange way, the on-demand format somewhat works in its favor. In the press notes, Bush says the goal was “to force the audience to look at the real-life horror of racism through the lens of film horror. We’re landing in the middle of the very conversations that we hoped ‘Antebellum’ would spur.”


“Antebellum” should add to that discussion, so mission accomplished on that level. Monae is also quite good in her first leading film role (she did previously star in the series “Homecoming’s” second season), but otherwise, most of the characters remain underdeveloped.

In a theater, the tendency with a movie so dependent on a central mystery might be to become antsy. At home, “Antebellum” is worth seeing, not only because of what it has to say about America’s past and present, but as a reminder of the often yawning gap between an intriguing idea and a fully realized film.



Read from source: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/17/entertainment/antebellum-review/index.html

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‘Chemical Hearts’ director Richard Tanne on the film’s ‘bittersweet’ ending and what he hopes fans take away from the movie

“Chemical Hearts” director Richard Tanne spoke to Insider about the film’s “bittersweet” ending and ..

“Chemical Hearts” director Richard Tanne spoke to Insider about the film’s “bittersweet” ending and what he hopes fans take away from it.

“I think it’s gonna disappoint some people, and maybe all people on a certain level, ” the 35-year-old filmmaker told us. “It’s bittersweet. But that’s OK.”

The film, based on Krystal Sutherland’s 2016 book “Our Chemical Hearts” and now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, centers on 17-year-old high school senior Henry Page (Austin Abrams), who finds himself drawn to a mysterious and secretive new transfer student named Grace Town (Lili Reinhart).

“Chemical Hearts” is told from Henry’s perspective, chronicling his first heartbreak after he falls in love with the person he thinks Grace is.

Tanne, who wrote the screenplay, said that he was impressed by how the story goes ‘a little bit deeper than your average teen romance’


“I loved how it embraced the dark side of being young, the pain and the grief and the loss, the idea of crossing the threshold from being an adolescent to an adult for the first time,” he told us.

By the end of the movie, Henry learns about Grace’s tragic past. On their last day of senior year, the characters don’t end up together. Instead, they prepare to explore different futures, with Henry heading off to a school for writing and Grace taking a year off to continue therapy.

Even though fans might be disappointed by the love interests splitting, Tanne said that ‘not everything has to be escapist’


“Sometimes, younger people watching movies don’t know that it’s OK to have unhappy endings because they’re fed a steady stream, a steady diet of escapist happily ever after movies,” he told us. “And that’s OK.”

He added: “There’s a place for those, I’m not knocking them. But I just wanted to make something that didn’t talk down to the younger audience. I wanted to make something that either meets them at their level or asks them to reach a little bit higher or dig a little bit deeper.”

Tanne said that having to confront that ‘bittersweet ending’ could also be useful to viewers


The director described the conclusion as bittersweet because “there’s hope at the end, maybe not for their relationship, but for other aspects of their lives.”

“Maybe it will be helpful for young people to see that and walk away with the same sting that Henry has, but to know that it’s going to be OK, to know that Henry will be OK,” he said.

Abrams, who was 22 when he filmed the movie, told Insider that hopefully, audiences will empathize with Henry.

“I think in terms of I supposed how he’s navigating relationships, I feel like hopefully at least anyone can relate to that,” he said.

Abrams told Insider that Henry and Grace’s relationship status at the end speaks to the film’s realistic nature


Abrams shared similar sentiments as Tanne, telling us that they tried to “portray the characters as honestly as possible,” which ties in to the conclusion.

“I think there are some people that meet one person and that’s who they’re with for the rest of their lives, who actually are Henry’s parents in the movie,” the 23-year-old actor told us.

“But then there are other people, and I think it’s probably a larger number, that are going to be in multiple relationships and some of them, a lot of them aren’t going to go well. I hope that that’s an aspect of the movie that people are able to relate to.”

Abrams added that he’s “perfectly fine” letting fans decide for themselves what their main takeaways are from “Chemical Hearts.”

“I hope that maybe they take away things that I didn’t even think of, because everyone’s different and at a different point in their life and hopefully will be able to relate to it in different ways.”

Read from source: https://www.insider.com/chemical-hearts-director-richard-tanne-bittersweet-ending-interview-2020-8


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Julia Sawalha furious after being told she is ‘too old’

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would n..

Julia Sawalha has said she has been “plucked, stuffed and roasted” after being told that she would not be cast in the forthcoming sequel to the hit Aardman Animation film Chicken Run as her voice sounded “too old”.

In the original film, released in 2000, Sawalha voiced the lead role of Ginger, the plucky hen who inspires her fellow egg-layers to escape from a farm when they are threatened with being turned into pies. News of the development of a sequel first emerged in 2018, and Netflixs involvement was announced in June. It is due to be directed by Sam Fell (ParaNorman) and start production in 2021.

Sawalha posted a statement on social media saying she was told a week ago that she was not wanted for the sequel. “The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds too old and they want a younger actress to reprise the role.”

She added: “Usually in these circumstances, an actress would be given the chance to do a voice test in order to determine the suitability of their pitch and tone, I however was not given this opportunity. I am passionate about my work and I dont go down without a fight, so I did my own voice test at home and sent it to the producers … However, they stated, We will be going ahead to recast the voice of Ginger.”

Sawalhas protest follows reports that Mel Gibson, who voiced the character of daredevil rooster Rocky, would not be involved in the sequel. While Rocky is named as a character in the official plot synopsis for Chicken Run 2, the role is due to be recast. Variety magazine reported that Gibson was told that as “the sequel will revolve around younger chickens, therefore casting younger voice actors” was necessary. The report also claimed that Gibsons history of controversial behaviour, including an accusation of antisemitic comments by actor Winona Ryder, which Gibson denies, played no part in the recasting.

Sawalha added: “I feel I have been fobbed off with the same excuse … To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless.”

No official announcements have been made for the Chicken Run 2 cast, but original film cast members Jane Horrocks and Lynn Ferguson have been added to the films IMDb page.

Aardman has been contacted for a response.

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