Star Wars: The Last Jedi
By now you’ve either seen “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” at least once or have no plans to see it. I actually had no plans to see it as I vowed that 2016’s “Rogue” One” would be my last journey to a “galaxy far, far away.” But to quote another movie “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Every “Star Wars” movie promises something new, or in this case old. “Luke and Leia are reunited (wait is that a spoiler?).” “There are more lightsabers.” And, the clincher, “BB-8 is back and he’s so cute.”
So Derek, Emma and I and our friends, all of whom know much more about these movies than I do, attended the newest Star Wars saga, which is actually chronologically the newest “Star Wars” saga, and apparently that doesn’t happen often.
I can’t even begin to go into the plot of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (PG-13) Luke Skywalker (a ruggedly grizzled Mark Hamill) is living on a mountain and wears a cape. Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds him and wants him to teach her Jedi stuff. She’s somehow connected to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who totally killed his dad Han Solo in the last “Star Wars” movie but we’re supposed to believe he still might have some redeeming qualities. Meanwhile all the other characters spend way more than two hours narrowly escaping exploding spaceships, stormtroopers, guns, fires, closing doors, angry kittens, well maybe not kittens. But mostly Kylo Ren and his very insistent band of bad guys. Then there is this occasionally amusing but mostly time consuming storyline that has two rebels (they’re the good guys) trying to shut the power off to something, but I’m not sure what. Then there’s a side trip to a casino that really doesn’t go anywhere.
What I like about the Star Wars movies is all the powerful women fighting and leading armies. If I had seen these movies when I was younger maybe I would have grown up to become a flight commander or a Jedi. I also like that these are women of all ages. Ridley, looking slightly less like Keira Knightly than she did a couple of sagas ago, is tough and fiesty. Laura Dern is tough and stoic as a mid-level officer and Carrie Fisher is, well Carrie Fisher in her final big screen performance. In a movie with too many characters, explosions, space chases and battles, she’s smart and fierce and the only thing I wanted more of.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 3 STARS
The Greatest Showman
How much you love “The Greatest Showman” will depend on how much you love Hugh Jackman when he’s not being Wolverine. If you’re a take Hugh or leave him kind of person, you probably won’t be wild about this rags-to-riches story about impresario P.T. Barnum. And while watching Jackman sing, dance and smile is not the worst way to spend two hours, “The Greatest Showman” (PG) could have been so much, well greater.
There’s no doubt that P.T. Barnum’s life is worthy of the big screen. I’m just not sure the film spends enough time on the most interesting parts of his life. We see him meet, court and sing with his pretty, blonde neighbor. But he is poor and she is rich and her parents don’t approve etc. P.T. and Charity (Michelle Williams) do end up getting married and he vows that he will provide a good life for her and their family. But he experiences a run of bad luck. Desperate, he has the idea of recruiting human oddities; a bearded lady, Siamese twins, dwarfs, giants, and in this film, a trapeze act. Because he’s so charming, P.T./Hugh doesn’t have too difficult a time convincing everyone to agree to be part of his museum. In fact, they’re so happy, they sing about it. To be fair, this is a musical so everyone sings about everything.
While I enjoyed “The Greatest Showman” for its spectacle and story, I really felt that I was missing something, basically showmanship. Barnum convinces Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind to tour for him mainly to get the respect of high society. The tour ended up being incredibly successful but how did he do it? I’m not sure how Michael Gracey, a relatively inexperienced director, got the gig, but he just doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the material. I also wish the writers spent less time on the love affair between two fictional characters played by Zac Efron and Zendaya, and more time on the backstory of the real members of Barnum’s show.
And speaking of the music, while easy on the ears, the soundtrack, written by “La La Land’” songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, is not particularly exciting or memorable. “The Greatest Showman” is an entertaining vehicle for Jackman that offers a glossy look at a fascinating character.
The Greatest Showman