On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 10, 2018


The Greatest Showman, a wholly original musical from the mind of Jenny Bick (and ushered through the big studio system via Rob "Dreamgirls" Marshall) that tells the story of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman), is a weirdly fascinating experience. There were instances throughout this brisk, but admittedly epic in ambition musical that at one point might feel alarmingly slight and free of any such substance while at other points-specifically during the musical numbers-it could feel akin to a religious experience. Crazy, right? Like most things, The Greatest Showman is a balancing act, but surprisingly-so is gauging one's reaction to the film. While the film, narratively, falls into refurbished clichés of countless other rags to riches stories it also doubles down on sweeping love stories, including large themes of inclusion and tolerance for those different than what society and humanity have deemed as normal and then, somehow matches all of this up with the terms of a musical that require dance numbers, songwriting, and lyrics that both explore these aforementioned themes and narratives as well as pushing as much forward. The viewer's balancing act comes from the then aforementioned disparate elements of those cliché story beats and the rather impressive soundtrack of songs as composed by La La Land composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek. It's so strange, even now, twenty-four hours after having seen the film and I can admittedly understand every complaint I've since read about it; sharing many of them in regards to the boxing in of Barnum's story to that of a standard Hollywood storyline. And yet, there is this undeniable aspect of the film and all the joy and hope it provides in these moments that says something about the movie, the craft behind it, and the reaction they garner. First time feature director Michael Gracey (who has mostly worked in the visual effects departments on other projects) certainly seems overwhelmed by the scope of what he has taken on here as glimpsed in both how he captures and conveys the themes as well as a majority of the musical numbers, but seriously-by the end of nearly every number and, as a result, the film-what has just occurred on screen leaves you feeling so gleeful and allows the characters to be so endearing that it's impossible to deny the appeal of The Greatest Showman despite its many, many flaws. Full review here. B-

Phantom Thread, the latest film from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will be Blood) that once again stars Daniel Day-Lewis (in what may very well be the actor's final on-screen performance, but probably isn't), centers around Day-Lewis's renowned dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who are at the center of British fashion in 1950's post-war London as Woodcock designs for royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes and dames alike. The appearance of Alma (Vicky Krieps) in Woodcock's routine then tends to upend every aspect of his life in slow, methodical, and often times even conniving ways. This is an odd movie, but it wouldn't be a Paul Thomas Anderson movie if it wasn't mostly off-kilter and if it didn't go into the numerous layers of meaning and substance coated in what is a seemingly simple and straightforward narrative. This short summary is more or less what the plot of Phantom Thread entails, but Phantom Thread of course concerns itself with more than just the toppling of the structure that is Woodcock's life made relevant by the appearance of Alma, but more it is about the inner-dynamics of a relationship, the give and take that is necessary if even able to bring one's self to compromise in such a way. This is a question the film and Woodcock ponder endlessly as our protagonist is someone who seemingly knows what he wants and what he expects out of himself in his life and by living according to that standard never lets himself down and fulfills each of his expectations. This lifestyle also allows for his focus to lie solely on what he desires and to not be distracted by the passions or interests of another. In essence, Phantom Thread is about that struggle that naturally takes place in all of us that pulls between what society and tradition tell us we should want out of life that can often times be opposed by our more personal desires and ambitions. That is, of course, unless your sole desire in life is to find a mate and pro-create. It is true that often times our ambitions and desires remain a certain degree of selfish in that to solely give them their due would result in a life of satisfaction and maybe even one of great legacy, but one that lacks a certain meaning while fully giving over to what we're naturally pulled to accomplish in life leaves a greater sense of meaning if not as grand a legacy as one might have imagined for themselves. Either way, the meaning is what the individual makes of it and Phantom Thread is the journey of Woodcock having to learn that balance for the first time in his life as Alma is apparently the first in a long line of muses that challenges the meticulous and powerful mentality that Woodcock has effortlessly exuded over those in his life up to this point. Full review here. B

Despite Christopher Plummer’s J.P. Gettty very clearly being the antagonist in director Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World the film also seems aware that this is very much a complex character that holds more substance and conflict than what might otherwise be optioned to be portrayed as the straight-up villain of the piece. That said, Scott will often times play to the dark comedy of how much of a penny-pincher the richest man in the history of the world was. Such is true when the director will set-up a scene with the intention of making the audience think one thing only to pull the rug out from under them a moment later; Getty not actually bargaining on the cost of the ransom, but rather on that of an otherwise invaluable painting for example. This technique emphasizes the relationship, the fondness, the affinity Getty has for his money in a movie that is about his refusal to fork over untold millions for something that might offer a greater relationship or something he has a greater fondness and a greater affinity for: his grandson. This again may make Plummer’s Getty out to sound like the obvious villain of All the Money in the World, but there are lessons to be learned-even from those who might not be the most sincere or honest people in the room. Getty might not have always even been the smartest person in the room at any given time for he himself says that any fool can “get” rich, but there is always a strategy or plan in place with Getty-an ability to read the room and/or any offer that came across his desk-that paints this portrait of a man who isn’t being let off the hook for his misplacement of priorities in life (it’s hard to read if the man might have even had any regrets in his final moments when it came to realizing all he had were things and no one in particular that cared about him that he could leave all of his things to), but rather is being conveyed just as he was which was anything but complicated-the man seemed to have a very strict code of conduct-but is all the more complicated for applying that code to every aspect of life. After all, Getty likely could have cared less what anyone thought of him given the power such wealth afforded him. This all brings the conversation back around to that golden rule of he who has the gold makes the rules and in the case of All the Money in the World and the narrative it encapsulates, Getty never takes his hands off the wheel. Thank God for Christopher Plummer. Full review here. C+

Molly's Game begins with a prologue of sorts that efficiently and eloquently establishes who this woman is, where she comes from, what type of person her nurturing has led her to be, and how she is unable to approach anything without learning every aspect of it and giving it her full attention. Molly's Game begins as one would expect any Aaron Sorkin-penned script to: with a lot of big words, fast sentences, and overall impressive language that paint a picture of an even more impressive specimen. That's what Molly Bloom, as played by the beautiful Jessica Chastain, is here: a specimen. Bloom is an individual who might serve as the best kind of example of our species as she was raised on the assembly line of a father who manufactures exceptionally smart and athletically trained children; Molly being abruptly spit out into the real world when an injury sets her Olympic career back. That said, she has issues of her own and while most certainly stem from that overbearing and overly critical nurturing she received from her father (Kevin Costner) some can still be attributed to the nature of Bloom and who she grows to be as an individual outside of her father's control. This is all to say that Molly's Game, as it begins and as it continues to show us the layers and intelligence of its complex protagonist throughout, is a fascinating character study and peek behind the curtain into a world many knew existed, but few had any idea the details of or of how it operated. It's only a shame Sorkin's latest on which he makes his directorial debut is lacking in any type of visual flair that might match the wit and research that has clearly gone into the dialogue being spouted. It's not that Molly's Game doesn't look acceptable or even like a big Hollywood production should-it does, but the problem is that it looks so much like a standard Hollywood production it takes away from the exceptionalism of the story being told. This is a story as slick and as insider-y as one could imagine and thus the aesthetic and editing should match in a way that emphasizes as much. Instead, while having no doubt watched countless innovative filmmakers do their thing over the years Sorkin resorts to playing his debut as a series of safe choices that lend no style to a story that is all style. While this doesn't derail the film overall, it certainly doesn't enhance the rich material, character work, and lead performance Chastain has fully lent herself to. Full review here. C

I didn't see Proud Mary as the advertising campaign looked more interesting and frankly, better, than the actual movie itself did and if critical reception is to be believed that presumption was more or less accurate. In the film, Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston, whose life is completely turned around when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes bad. Maybe one day this will hit Netflix and I'll have nothing better to do, but until then...