From start to finish, The Greatest Showman mesmerizes—from the kaleidoscope of colorful costumes and sets to the catchy musical numbers. It portrays the musical story of P.T. Barnum, magnificently played by Hugh Jackman. The extravaganza starts when he is a poor orphan who falls in love and then marries a girl from a well-to-do, snobby family, Charity (Michelle Williams) and starts a family. Then, he sets out to fulfill his dream of building the greatest show on earth. Barnum hires a dwarf, Tom Thumb, and others with physical abnormalities, such as a giant to attract audiences, but treats them with respect. The moving song, “This is Me”, performed by the bearded lady, Tony nominee Keala Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Also, “Rewrite the Stars” sung by Barnum’s business partner (Zac Efron) and an African-American trapeze artist (Zendaya) while performing their own aerial stunts reflects their budding romance in the face of prejudices. The Greatest Showman is pure entertainment for school-aged children and adults. There is also a sing-a-long version. Check out The Greatest Showman: original motion picture soundtrack to listen to the incredible songs again.
In 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse). After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health. Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
In Germany, a couple’s only child is killed during the early days of World War II. Otto (Brendan Gleeson) spends his days in a factory making coffins. Bereft at this loss of life, and wondering why, Otto feels like his family gave the ultimate sacrifice to the Fuhrer. Spurred into action, he disguises his handwriting and starts writing and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda around Berlin. When his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) discovers his efforts, she wants to help him despite the dangers. Both the police and army are seeking who is responsible. Alone in Berlin is based on a true story. Read the NPR article for more details.
After the death of her mother, Mary (McKenna Grace), a young mathematics prodigy, is put in the custody of her uncle, Frank (Chris Evans). Seeing how his sister's genius drove her to suicide, Frank wants to raise Mary as a regular child, but her grandmother wants her to embrace her gifts. The two adults engage into a custody battle—with Mary in the middle. Gifted proved to be a gentle, beautiful movie that will surely appeal to your heart.
Inspired by the book Jambusters by Julie Summers, this BBC TV show is set in rural Cheshire, in the village of Great Paxford. Home Fires showcases the Women's Institutes’ contribution in boosting morale on the home front during WWII. It’s the story of a group of inspirational women who are left to carry on during one of history's most trying times. We share their emotional struggles, their fear, their sorrows, and their determination to "carry on" no matter what.
Carole King fought her way into the music business as a teenager. Along with her husband Gerry Goffin, she gave us songs we still sing along to. The musical follows her career along the bumpy road to fame and fortune. Beautiful: The Carol King Musical (original Broadway cast recording) highlights such hits as "Up on the Roof," "You've Got a Friend," "On Broadway," "Uptown," and many more. It is impossible not to want to sing along to this recording! It is a wonderful story with the bonus of exceptional music. Listen to the music CD or stream the album on Hoopla.
Conor Casey, a 38-year-old designer and carpenter, has a stroke that leaves him mentally challenged and much changed. When he is sent home after a stay in the hospital and rehab, an American doctor accompanies him to document his recovery and unfolding family interactions. Dr. Fielding’s grant funds provide a source of income to the family Conor is now unable to support. Vanetia, his wife, struggles with having to live with the doctor’s filming their lives and her now childlike husband. But she soon values the doctor’s calming influence on her family and his friendship. I love the way they use humor to handle a sad situation and love the Irish flavor of their lives. Run & Jump is an interesting look at family dynamics, genuine emotions, and what family means to these individuals.
This British LGBT historical comedy drama is based on a true story. Lesbian and gay activists raised money to help the striking British miners in 1984. The National Union of Mine Workers was reluctant to accept the group’s support because of publicity worries of being associated with a gay group. So the activists took their hefty donations directly to the small mining village of Onllwyn, Wales. What results is a wonderful story of the unlikely alliance between the two communities. It is told with love, dignity, and comedy. I found that Pride kept its political correctness while providing good entertainment with a cast of wonderful actors like Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, and more. For another take on Pride, read Jez's review here.
I think the most interesting part of Cake is the amazing performance of Jennifer Aniston as Claire Simmons. She is a well-off L.A. divorcee who is a chronic pain sufferer due to the fact she was in a car accident that killed her son and left her with physical and emotional scars. Claire is cranky, bitter, lies, steals to get what she wants, usually Percocet and the like. Even the people who are paid to be nice to her can’t stand her. She gets kicked out of her support group for expressing her admiration for a member who had leaped off the freeway overpass to her death. Thank goodness the relationship between Claire and her Mexican housekeeper provide her saving grace. Claire still is rude to Silvana but comes to her rescue in one scene which gives the viewer a hint that there is some kindness under that horrible behavior. As the movie progresses you wonder: will she ever clean up her act or have the ultimate meltdown?
This romantic comedy/drama tells the story of Oliver, reflecting on the life and death of his father Hal, and his new romantic relationship with Anna who is dealing with her own father issues. Christopher Plummer won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance of Hal, the father. Shortly after his wife’s death, Hal came out as a gay man. He becomes active in the gay community, becomes more honest with himself and thus grows closer to his son. Shortly after Hal dies, his son Oliver meets Anna at a party and decides to pursue a romance with her. Beginners is a personal story, a touching story. Described as a quirky comedy, the viewer watches a man in late bloom and his the effect it had on his son’s life.