The Greatest Showman (Full Review)

Musicals aren’t for everyone. But I’ve been a fan of the genre since my younger days of watching Disney animated films on repeat. Great music can make a good film even greater, adding emotion and a little flare to what might normally be a bland story. The Greatest Showman, directed by newcomer Matt Gracey, features original music written by the minds behind 2016 musical hit, La La Land.

The_Greatest_Showman_posterHugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum, the founder of the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus which was established in 1871. Struggling to keep a job that will give his family a better life than his, Barnum sets out and recruits a host of unique individuals to form his New York circus. With the support of his loving wife (Michelle Williams), Barnum’s circus becomes a hit, with backlash from theater critics and high society threatening to damage his legacy along the way.

Virtually every cast member in The Greatest Showman is phenomenal. Jackman, who is no stranger to musical theater, triumphs vocally and emotionally in the lead role. The subplots of the supporting cast mostly hold equal weight and feel well in tune with the overarching narrative. Zac Efron stars as Barnum’s partner Phillip Carlyle, a playwright who forms a forbidden romance with a black trapeze artist (Zendaya). Keala Settle brings soulful vocals and wholesome charm as Lettie Lutz, the bearded lady. Even Rebecca Ferguson, who clearly borrows another voice for her character’s powerful vocals, entices as a famous Swedish singer who falls for Barnum.

But this is Matt Gracey’s first time directing a feature length film, and at times it is very noticeable. The film is often bogged down by rushed exposition and a few noticeable takes of poor editing. Sam Humphrey’s dwarf performer Charles Stratton seems to move awkwardly as if his legs are superimposed. His speaking voice also seems falsified, an unfortunate trend throughout the film. The music is certainly always splendid, but the obvious lip sync in a few scenes is somewhat cringeworthy to watch.

Despite the editing flaws and occasional narrative lulls, the interesting characters and brilliant music make the film easier to enjoy. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriting duo behind La La Land, outdo themselves with this soundtrack. Here their musical style seamlessly molds a mix of genres like gospel and pop with a rich Broadway boldness that never manages to feel out of place in the 19th century setting. Coupled with fun choreography and some incredible visuals and set pieces, The Greatest Showman should be a delight to fans of the genre and absolutely avoidable for those that aren’t.



Baywatch (Full Review)

If you’re like me, you remember the concept of Baywatch more than the actual show. David Hasselhoff and women in skin tight swimsuits solved crimes as lifeguards on the beaches of Los Angeles. Somehow that was a premise good enough for over a decade of television episodes. If there’s a property that seems ripe for a comedic parody film, it’s this one.

Baywatch_posterIn this adaptation of Baywatch, Dwayne “The Hulk” Johnson takes over Hasselhoff’s role of head Emerald Bay lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, whose job becomes a bit more frustrating after his boss (Rob Huebel) sticks him with arrogant Olympic Swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). When a club owner (Priyanka Chopra) begins smuggling drugs on their beach, Mitch and fellow lifeguards Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera), CJ (Kelly Rohrbach), Summer (Alexandra Daddario), and chubby oddball Ronnie (Jon Bass) take on the role of self appointed beach vigilantes to try and stop her, much to the dismay of actual area policeman, Garner Ellerbee (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Marketing itself as a comedy for wide audiences and not just fans of the television series, poking fun at the fact that the original cast carried themselves as if they were filming Law and Order, and not a cheesy drama that was just a reason for people to gawk at supermodels, should’ve offered the opportunity for heavy laughs. And yet, the cast of this film version of Baywatch operate almost exactly like their small screen predecessors. Throughout the movie, it is reinforced that this should be a job for the police and that Mitch and his crew are out of their league. Instead of at least crafting a resolution to show that both sides could help each other in protecting the bay, the movie ends up being a tale of superhero lifeguards who can and will recklessly take matters into their own hands with positive results. And maybe that was the point, for Dwayne Johnson and cast to embrace the ridiculousness of the source material by attacking it with the same seriousness. The problem with that is that it makes Baywatch the movie as terrible as the TV show.

Instead of being a spoof, the film wants to be an action movie with self-reverential humor and carries itself as if its rescue sequences are actually intensely thrilling. But the entire time it just feels like you’re being told a boring, over exaggerated story that might be more interesting if you were a lifeguard. It doesn’t help that many of the scenes don’t feel remotely realistic due to an overuse of green screen, which just seems lazy considering the movie is set on an LA beach.

Occasionally the movie makes up for its atrocious attempt at being exciting by throwing in some good laughs. But there aren’t as much as you’d think. The movie follows my comedy pet peeve of having its biggest laughs in its trailers and too often it relies on gross out humor or Jon Bass’ character being the awkward antithesis of the typical Baywatch lifeguard. And it’s a shame, because we know from past films like Central Intelligence and Neighbors that Johnson and Efron are capable of being hilarious with both delivery and physical comedy.

So if you’re expecting a comedic parody, you’ll only be satisfied about 20% of the time. As for the purists, I’ve never met an actual fan of the TV show so I don’t know if it’ll be pleasing to them. Sure, the men look like gladiators and the woman are stunning, but who the hell cares if you have to sit through two hours of lousy plot and cheesy action?

FINAL GRADE: D = Terrible Movie with a few redeeming qualities


Unless you were smart enough to watch The Nice Guys this past weekend, or were catching Captain America: Civil War for the fifth time, you might not have had the best weekend at the movies. I had the unfortunate experience of catching a double feature of disappointments. But that’s why I’m here: To experience the hour and a half letdowns so you don’t have to!

Neighbors_2_Sorority_RisingNEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING The first Neighbors film (2014), about a couple (Seth Rogen and Rosy Byrne) and their newborn baby being tormented by a relentlessly partying fraternity next door, was pretty decent enough. My biggest gripe was that the film’s funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but Zac Efron and Dave Franco provided enough laughs to make the movie worth seeing at least once. Now comes the inevitable sequel, which finds the couple a few years later, expecting another child and preparing to sell their house. The only problem is that a new partying sorority is moving in next door. Now the couple must team up with Efron in a prank war to rid themselves of their new female adversaries (Chloe Grace Moretz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein) in 30 days before the new home buyers back out.

I had high hopes for this film, mainly because the trailers were full of laughs. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, the funniest moments like Chloe Graze Moretz trying to run away with a phone she thinks is cordless, are all in the trailers. Zac Efron along with cameos from Dave Franco and the rest of the main Delta Psi frat members from the previous film provide some welcomed humor, but otherwise the movie is a massive step backwards. For one, the sorority members aren’t remotely funny and despite a feminist context to their existence, they’re not that likable either. Some of the gags work (such as the air bag scene which is funnier than the one in the first movie), but there’s also a ton of gross out jokes that are unpleasant even for those with the most immature senses of humor. The plot also fumbles over itself from the start. In the first film, Efron and company were mostly college seniors so a noise complaint was the best a call to the police could warrant. But this time around, the antagonists are minors who nightly engage in underage drinking and drug conception, making all of this seem absolutely unnecessary even if it is a comedy. FINAL GRADE: C-


The_Angry_Birds_Movie_posterANGRY BIRDS In a world where Emoji’s and Play-Doh are getting their own feature length films (it’s true, Google it), it isn’t in the least bit surprising that a popular cell phone game could get the animated kids movie treatment. Somehow, a game where tiny, flightless birds are fired via slingshot into structures created by green pigs is good enough source material for an hour and a half movie. Thus, we get the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis), an angry loner who teams up with his anger management classmates Bomb (Danny McBride) and Chuck (Josh Gad) to stop a Pig King (Bill Hader) and his minions from stealing all of the eggs from their bird village.

Despite its ridiculous premise, the movie lends itself to at least some form of success. Lessons about acceptance and friendship are decent takeaways for all of the little ones who may be watching this movie. The action in the final portion of the movie that harkens back to the video game, also looks good in 3D. But everything else about the film, from its relatively flat sight gags and slapstick humor to the overly kinetic plot, is an absolute mess. The story flows like a concept being pitched by an imaginative 4th grader who’s making it all up as he’s playing the game for the first time. Characters have inexplicable superpowers and random motives, and even the film’s principal conflict seemingly takes forever to actually manifest. There is so much good content available for kids these days, so a movie with a goofy premise, manic flow, and weak comedy is something anyone older than 7 years old might want to skip out on.




August 2015 Quick Reviews

It’s that time of year again. When schools are back in session and football season begins. It’s the end of summer, and with that comes the inevitable hiatus of movie going. Luckily I’m still here to provide you with a few reviews for those films you’ll more than likely only be interested in while visiting your nearest Redbox.

No_Escape_(2015_film)_posterNO ESCAPE Owen Wilson stars as a husband and father of two young girls who relocate to a 3rd World Asian country (never named in the film) for his new job only to be swept up in a political war zone. Lake Bell costars as his wife while former James Bond, Pierce Brosnan does his best to show that he can still play an action hero.

If you think it will feel weird to see Owen Wilson deviate from his usual comedic antics, you’re right. But Wilson’s often plucky demeanor actually manages to bring some welcomed heart to this intense thriller. If you are looking for heart pounding suspense, there will be no new film more entertaining for you than No Escape. But do yourself a favor and check your notion of common sense at the opening titles. This is a film where mild mannered house fathers can fight off men with machetes and guns and where a U.S. Embassy can be ransacked by a tiny militia with no immediate consequences. There is just enough ridiculousness to make it not worthy of the full price of admission, but just enough exhilarating moments to at least make it worth a watch. FINAL GRADE: C+


We_Are_Your_FriendsWE ARE YOUR FRIENDS Zac Efron stars as Cole, a 23-year old wannabe DJ living in southern California with his best friend Dustin (Jonny Weston). Together with their friends Squirrel (Alex Shaffer) and Ollie (Shiloh Fernandez) they waste their lives away doing drugs and promoting parties. That is, until accomplished DJ, James Reed (Wes Bentley) takes Cole under his wing and shows him the path to musical recognition. All Cole has to do is not let his friends hold him back, and keep away from his mentor’s young girlfriend Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski).

Ignore the title of this movie and it instantly becomes better. None of the friends are really interesting, and only one of them outside of Zac Efron is remotely likable. Their ups and downs and dramatic moments could’ve been sifted out completely and the movie would’ve been equally as interesting. The movie keeps its beat when focusing on the love triangle and complex relationship between Efron, Bentley, and Ratajkowski’s characters even if the end result is a tad predictable. Come for their interaction or come for the music, just don’t come for the actual friends in We Are Your Friends. FINAL GRADE: C+

April-May Quick Reviews

It’s my favorite time of the year; Summer Movie Season. But before I start cranking out the weekly reviews on the big Summer blockbusters like Spider-Man, there are a few movies I’ve seen that I need to crank out some quick reviews for. Enjoy.


Rio 2

ImageNearly everyone is back in this sequel to 2011’s animated hit about two endangered blue macaw’s finding love in vibrant Rio de Janeiro. The film picks up with Blue (Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) now raising their three children in the safe confines of a bird sanctuary run by their favorite humans Linda (Leslie Mann) and Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro). A new adventure begins when Linda and Tulio stumble onto a whole world of Amazonian blue macaw’s led by Jewel’s dad, Eduardo (Andy Garcia).

The animation is beautifully vibrant and the music is often as fun as it was in the original. The opening number featuring Janelle Monae is specifically pleasing. But overall this movie comes off bland to even those with the shortest of attention spans. Characters from the original (Will.I.Am’s Pedro, Jamie Foxx’s Nico, Jemaine Clement’s villain Nigel… to name a few) are thrown in with little to no regard to the actual plot, making this movie feel about twenty minutes too long. Then there’s the plot itself; Blue trying to win over his father-in-law’s approval. Not exactly the freshest film concept. It almost feels like they could’ve sent this straight to Redbox with a different voice cast to save on the budget. No one would’ve noticed. FINAL GRADE: C




ImageJohnny Depp stars as a scientist Will Caster who creates the world’s first super intelligent, somewhat self aware, computer system. When a group of radical anti-techno terrorists assassinate him, Caster’s wife (Rebecca Hall) decides to upload his consciousness into the machine with the help of their friend Max (Paul Bettany). As the super intelligent Will grows, so too do the number of terrorists and government officials who believe that he is a danger to mankind’s existence.

The movie certainly means well and boasts a talented cast that probably had faith in the concept. But it can’t help but come off a bit dull in the end. Other than the three characters mentioned above, no one else, including Morgan Freeman and Cilian Murphy, really gets to do anything. It’s certainly worth viewing, as the movie raises several philosophical questions that certainly make you ponder ideas about human progression, technology, and what it means to be human. But given its cast and budget, its narrative in no way lives up to the potential of its concept. FINAL GRADE: C+




ImageSeth Rogen stars as Seth Rogen (basically) and is inexplicably married to Rose Byrne. The couple are proud parents of a ridiculously adorable baby girl and have just moved into their first home when they get new neighbors. Hoping for a nice quiet gay couple to move in next door, they are instead bombarded by a college frat, led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, that just won’t stop partying. After the police are called on the frat, a comedic prank war ensues.

I admittedly thought the movie would be funnier, but in all fairness my expectations were asininely high (blame Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part 1). Many of the funniest scenes are in the trailer, but there are still plenty of surprises to make it worthwhile. Efron, Franco, and their Delta Psi Beta brothers are what make the movie. They’re pretty much hilarious from start to finish, but if you don’t like penis jokes or if you find Seth Rogen annoying then you might want to pass on this one. FINAL GRADE: B




Tis come to my attention that I never clearly personified my grading scale. So, for your convenience and future reference:

A+ : Drop what you’re doing and go watch this movie. Then watch it again. Then buy it when it becomes available to own.

B+ to A- : Fantastic movie. Go see it as soon as possible.

C+ to B: Not bad. Worth seeing at least once, but no rush.

C- to C: Wait for it on Redbox.

D+ or worse: Don’t bother.