The Greatest Showman

Year: 2017
Directed By: Michael Gracey
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II 

Written by Fiona Underhill

Perhaps it is fitting to conclude 2017 with a film simultaneously both awful and fantastic. Truly dreadful wigs, bizarre CGI, catchy songs, Zac & Zendaya – ‘The Greatest Showman’ really does have it all. A passion project of Hugh Jackman’s; this movie has been in gestation for at least a decade, to the extent that I’m surprised he didn’t take the directorial reins himself. Instead, we have the inexperienced Michael Gracey – whose IMDb credits are mostly visual effects and art department – which is….intriguing once you’ve seen ‘The Greatest Showman’. There are rumours that ‘Logan’s’ James Mangold had to come to the rescue on ‘The Greatest Showman’ and this certainly makes sense of the tonal and editing inconsistencies. Hugh Jackman has certainly had quite the year: starting with an Oscar-worthy turn in Logan and ending with this.

I sound as if I’m being really negative about this film and while it is a trashy mess, I will say that I immediately wanted to watch the whole thing again once it was over. For those going to the cinema expecting an historically accurate biopic of PT Barnum will be sorely disappointed. This being a glitzy, feel-good musical, it certainly glosses over the fact that Barnum was not the ‘saviour of the down-trodden and oppressed’ as portrayed here. In fact, his real-life treatment of the disabled people, people of colour and animals who populated his ‘freak shows’ left much to be desired. He certainly exploited them (even after their deaths) and presented them as exotic curiosities, simply for being ‘foreign’ or outside of the Victorian norm. Barnum’s exaggeration and manipulation of certain characteristics is touched on in the film, but much more could have been made of one man constructing a reality to fit the bigoted viewpoint of the audience. The parallels with another purveyor of fake news and the invention of show business and celebrity could have been an interesting exploration, but instead we have a paper-thin musical.

IF you can choose to view ‘The Greatest Showman’ simply as a fictional fantasy, there is something to enjoy here. I am not above being excited by the sight of Zac Efron in a ringmaster’s costume and delighting in seeing him singing and dancing again. His duet with Hugh Jackman, when they make a business deal in a bar, punctuated by the rhythmic downing of shots is a thrilling spectacle. Zendaya is magnificent as a pink-haired flying trapeze artist, who shares another delightful duet with Zac. The casting of Michelle Williams, however, is so glaringly erroneous it lept out, even in the trailer. We are supposed to accept that Williams and Jackman (who have a 12 year age-gap) are the same age (they are portrayed as childhood sweethearts), she is donned in a long blonde wig and given a thankless task of a role. A total waste of Williams’ acting talents.

The songs are cheesy but catchy and I have sought them out since seeing the film. Some of the choices made in this film are so bizarre though; like the casting of Hugh Jackman as his own boss for no apparent reason in a short scene. Rebecca Ferguson is cast (in another terrible wig) as a singer who Barnum inexplicably takes on tour across the country, getting into yet more debt. Another dubious casting choice, when apparently she did not do her own singing.

Frankly, thinking back on this film is giving me a headache. It is a frustrating mess, with much to mock. However, I do admit to being swept along with some of the musical numbers and circus scenes. Keala Settle’s barn-storming performance as Lettie Lutz – The Bearded Lady, leading her troop in a rousing number did stir something inside me. So, ultimately I have to accept that a large part of me enjoyed ‘The Greatest Showman’, because after all THIS IS ME.

Fiona’s Rating: 6.0/10

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The Disaster Artist

Year: 2017
Directed by: James Franco
Starring: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron. 

Written by Sarah Buddery

The concept for ‘The Disaster Artist’ isn’t exactly the easiest to explain, especially to those with no prior knowledge of the source material which inspired it, the best bad movie of all time, ‘The Room’. I count myself as one of the millions of diehard fans of ‘The Room’, being as vocal as I can be about how much I love it at every given opportunity. The short story is ‘The Disaster Artist’ is a film based on the book of the same name written by Greg Sestero, who starred in the “the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies”, ‘The Room’, and who knows the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau better than anyone; Wiseau of course being the producer, director and star of ‘The Room’, brought to life in this film by James Franco.

Complicated spiel aside, it is worth mentioning that it is impossible to tackle this review without talking at least a little bit about what ‘The Room’ means to me; I am after all, the person who with all sincerity had this film higher than ‘The Last Jedi’ in terms of most anticipated!

The very fact that this film exists is a miracle. Considering ‘The Room’ made approximately $1800 on its opening weekend, and had it not been for the rabid group of fans who turned it into a genuine cult hit, it would’ve faded into nothingness. In many ways this feels like the culmination of everything Wiseau had wanted when he made his film. That money Tommy spent on keeping it in theatres long enough to qualify for the Academy Awards, might finally be about to pay off, in the weirdest, most wonderfully meta way possible; rather fitting for the incomparable Wiseau.

Pinpointing the moment in which ‘The Room’ went from woeful obscurity to genuine cult phenomenon isn’t easy, and it’s overwhelming popularity will undoubtedly baffle many. In fact, the reviews on Letterboxd are almost entirely an equal split between 1 stars and 5 stars, and I don’t doubt ‘The Disaster Artist’ will be divisive, although perhaps not so extreme.

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As the most biased person in the world, ‘The Disaster Artist’ is an absolute masterpiece; captivating and hilarious in the most unexpected of ways, and with a warmth and honesty that was not anticipated. Arguably as divisive a person as the man he is portraying, James Franco is the perfect person for this film, both in playing Tommy and in mirroring the “triple threat” of actor/producer/director. In real life, Franco’s recent films and projects have been experimental, and generally not too critically well-received. He is a man who plays by his own rules, and this is everything that Wiseau embodies as well.

The fact that Franco’s performance as Tommy is a thing of total and complete perfection, is really just the icing on the cake. The way Franco entirely disappears into the character is astonishing to watch; nailing Wiseau’s untraceable accent, and especially his monotone laugh, the transformation is eerily accurate. Whilst aided by some prosthetics, the physical transformation is just incredible; everything down to Tommy’s slightly squinted left eye is completely perfect. As someone who has met Tommy (an experience in itself!), the only person who could’ve been more Tommy, is Tommy himself and this is a real testament to Franco’s performance. What he manages in this film is nothing short of remarkable and it would be an incredibly unjust world if he didn’t see some awards attention.

Whilst he might not be in the conversation to receive the same accolades, Dave Franco also deserves praise for his performance as Greg Sestero; Tommy’s co-star in ‘The Room’, best friend, and of course the author of the ‘Disaster Artist’ book. He might not be the most physically accurate Greg Sestero, but he has the “babyface” charm and the undeniable chemistry with Wiseau that is essential for making the central relationship work. Undoubtedly helped by being brothers in real life, the pair light up the screen together and are a total joy to watch. Having read (and obsessed over) Greg’s book, some adjustments have been made, but the strongest theme from the book is more than evident in the film. At its core, this is a story about friendship, about aiming big, and striving to achieve your goals no matter how many people tell you “no”, and ‘The Disaster Artist’ manages to put this across in a way that is as charming as it is hilarious.  

It would be easy to make Tommy a figure for mockery and ridicule, but the film manages to capture that naivety that makes him so genuinely endearing, which ensures we’re almost constantly laughing with him and not at him. It is admirable also that the film doesn’t shy away from the complicated facets of Tommy’s personality. In a film where there is obvious and genuine admiration for the source material, it would have been natural to place him on some kind of pedestal, but whilst Tommy does come off well in the end, it equally doesn’t hide from the crazy and downright outrageous behaviour, and the notoriety Wiseau gained from his cast and crew in the disastrous filming of ‘The Room’.

Of course, it would be a catastrophic failure if this film wasn’t also totally hilarious, but the laughs come thick, fast and consistently, particularly as the film shifts into the actual making of ‘The Room’. The painstakingly accurate recreations of its well-loved scenes and moments are especially entertaining, and it is also in these moments that the supporting cast really shine. Seth Rogen and Paul Scheer are particularly excellent as the suffering crew members dealing with Tommy, and Zac Efron arguably steals the entire show as bit-part Chris R.

The phenomenon of ‘The Room’ might still be a mystery to many, and whilst ‘The Disaster Artist’ probably won’t change that viewpoint, it is still the most perfect and unexpected surprise in this unbelievable Hollywood fairytale. This is in so many ways everything that Tommy had wanted. He was the man with the big dreams, who made a terrible movie, which then captured the hearts of millions and was deemed a story incredible enough to become its own book and subsequent movie. Now genuinely poised for awards success, and with Wiseau and Sestero slowly becoming household names, the dream is coming true. The power of ‘The Room’ lives on, against all odds, and the story of a film considered a masterpiece of bad-filmmaking, is a masterpiece all on its own.

Oh hai Oscars.

SARAH’S RATING: 10/10

(and be sure to check out Sarah’s review of Tommy and Greg’s latest film ‘Best F(r)iends‘)

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Hugh Jackman Prepares To Put On A Show In New ‘The Greatest Showman’ Trailer

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

Directed By: Michael Gracey

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson

Release Date: 1st January 2018

Witness The Birth Of ‘The Room’ In The First Trailer For ‘The Disaster Artist’

“Based on Greg Sestero’s best-selling tell-all about the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult-classic disasterpiece The Room (“The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made”). THE DISASTER ARTIST, starring James Franco, Dave Franco, and Seth Rogen. In Theaters December 1.”

Directed By: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston, Adam Scott, Kristen Bell, Kate Upton, Alison Brie
Release Date: December 1st 2017

Swimwear At The Ready! There’s A Brand New Baywatch Trailer

When asked by my editor to write a short piece on the latest ‘Baywatch’ teaser I shuddered at the thought of having to watch the trailer, I did, and I would have forgotten it if it hadn’t instantly been burnt into my subconscious.

Directed by Seth Gordon (the very same that delighted audiences with ‘Identity Thief’, ‘Horrible Bosses’ and the classic Christmas smash ‘Four Christmases’), ‘Baywatch’ has a fantastic cast which boasts chiselled six-packs, pecs, toned bottoms, bigger pecs and one hell of a strong jawline.

In the interest of being informative ‘Baywatch’ is a classic crimefighting beach comedy romp (sort of like ‘Point Break’) featuring Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario and Priyanka Chopra.

You can tell it’s a comedy because the trailer is funny and the official poster is rude (see below)Producers, writers, and director alike have been careful to ensure that this feature length ‘Baywatch’ is a respectful homage to the hallowed Hasselhoff/Anderson golden years. Judging from the trailer, it’s obvious that they have learnt a masterful lesson on successful reboots from 2004’s ‘Starsky & Hutch’. I am confident that upon it’s release on 26th May everyone involved will be high-fiving, patting themselves on the back and congratulating one another on a job well done.

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Written by Mark Putley

First Baywatch Trailer Lands!

 

The first trailer for ‘Baywatch’ has been released and it most definitely looks like the “R-Rated ‘Avengers’ of the beach” that Dwayne Johnson has been promising us. 

Johnson is playing Mitch Buchannon, famously played by David Hasselhoff in the TV Show that ran from 1989 to 2001. Joining Johnson on the beach is Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Copra, Jon Bass, and Kelly Rohrbach. Zac Efron plays Matt Brody, a new recruit on the team who Buchannon doesn’t like from day one because he’s young and reckless . The official synopsis says that Brody and Buchannon “uncover a local criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay”, so we should expect them to put their differences aside and be the best of pals by the end of the film, but not without some conflict and fallings out inbetween I can’t imagine. 

We’ll more than likely be treated to one or two red band trailers soon enough and expect the cast, namely Johnson, to share further details about the film as we get closer to its release. This reboot has been one of Johnson’s most talked about projects, purely because he’s been that excited to to do it and he always put 200% effort into everything he does and pours so much heart into it, and it’s not going unnoticed! 

Some of the original cast from the TV show are set to have cameos in the film, including David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, so be sure to keep your eyes out when the film is released next year. 

‘Baywatch’ starts it’s (slow-motion) run in UK theatres 12th May 2017

Written by Tom Sheffield

Han Solo Project Announced

Disney have announced the latest ‘Star Wars’ spin-off, which will be directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (‘The Lego Movie’), will focus on iconic smuggler Han Solo and his life before encountering The Force. Scheduled for release on 25 May 2018, fans will have to wait a bit longer to find out who plays Solo. But odds on favourite with the bookies right now is Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ fame.

Also up for consideration: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (‘Kick-Ass’), Josh Hutchinson (‘Hunger Games’) and Chris Pratt, but maybe that’s just because he looks a lot like a young Harrison Ford? Then there’s Armie Hammer (‘Lone Ranger’), Chris Hemsworth, Jack O’Connell, Zac Efron and Nicholas Hoult.

With all that talent and all that choice there are no confirmations yet, but this week Aaron Paul dropped a heavy hint on Twitter and Instagram by saying “My dreams are coming true #StarWars”. Smoke and mirrors or the real deal?

Written by Wan Tyszkiewicz