Tag Archives: Jonathan Evans

Review The Greatest Showman by Jonathan Evans

The Greatest Showman comes in loud and proud to be a movie musical. I relishes in it’s ability to sing and dance and show colour before you. I wonder how it will fair with the not clear advertising that seemingly wants to hide the fact that it’s  musical.

It’s opening song says that you yourself want to be  entertained with a musical and showmanship and it will provide. If you are not in for the ride now you should leave the theater because then it’s not for you. We are then taken back in time to a young boy named P.T. Barnum, he is the son of a poor tailor, they serve some sort of rich man who has a daughter (guess what happens). Time passes and as they grow up and marry two children join them. While working as a clerk at a shipping company everyone looses their job because all the ships were sank. So he is out of a job but also reflects that this is not the life he promises his wife and seeks out wonder. He opens a museum of oddities, but mannequins and stuffed animals don’t do good business. So he seeks out real life oddities, little people, giants, women with beards etc.

Hugh Jackman is by no means a closeted musical lover. He has spoken about it in interviews, hosted the Oscars with opening musical numbers and stared in other musicals and worn it on his sleeve very proudly. You can tell that he is so happy to be here as a character that gets to sing and dance to entertain you, he is of course no slouch in the singing and dancing department (he greatly excels at it in-fact).

To gain respect Barnum recruits Philip Carlyle (Zac Efron) a highbrow theater producer. He is talked into by being reminded that this career he is on gives him no joy and is sold on the promise of excitement in what he does (also a few shots). While working there a spark develops between him and the trapeze artist Anne Wheeler (Zendaya). They are an attractive movie couple and have both acting and dancing chemistry together. I want to highlight Zendaya’s performance because she very strongly conveys the characters repressed mentality to the public with very little screen-time she’s given, possibly due to limited run-time and a lot of focus given to Barnum. But knowing that she is completely different from how she was in Spider-Man: Homecoming truly highlights her as a talent to watch-out for.

This is Michael Gracey’s directorial debut however he has been in the business since 1997. He has been a visual effects artist, which he probably channeled into his vision of this bouncing, high speed world. I believe this man has a strong future in this business.

It wouldn’t be much of a musical if the songs weren’t up to scratch. Most of them are big, upbeat showy numbers designed to impress. There are variations, with ones of different genres and slower and/or more intimate ones. They are catchy and have visuals that compliment them nicely, but they don’t really push the characters and story forward very much, they are just minor moves in the plot or a character saying what we already know about them.

This movie is so happy to be doing what it does. The director absolutely got high on their own supply and got actors that are just as happy to be dancing and singing for us. There are shortcomings, in the passing and compared other top movie musicals, like La La Land, it falls short of perfection. But the movie’s smiles and enthusiasm melts away all those criticisms and made me and will probably leave you smiling.

Jonathan Evans

 

 

Review Molly’s Game by Jonathan Evans

(3 / 5)

 

Molly’s Game is a movie about a woman in a mans world that plays the game better than them. She encounters some that are her lesser, others that underestimate her and a few that stand on her level.

Opening the movie is a fast passe flashback were the title character Molly, recounts how in her teens that she was on her way to being a very successful skier but there are many elements that effect everything, one of them causes her to loose balance and take a bad fall. No more skiing. Then cut to her receiving a phone call telling her to come to the door to be arrested. We then get a flashback of her years later where she falls into a job where (for a sleazy Hollywood faker) hosts a poker game hosted by high rollers. This gets her big money and eventually takes over through skill and wit.

There seems to be a trend of telling a story out of order chronologically. I understand why for the purpose of this movie but whats wrong with telling your story in a perfectly sound and natural way? I worry it will become a trend that will hold no benefits, only an excuse for the writers to show off.

Because of the charges she needs a lawyer. She finds Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who is indeed competent but also not shady (something Molly wanted specifically). Through their preparations Molly is grilled about what she really knew about the people playing in those games and giving up all the names of the people that played at them. She refuses because the details could endanger her but also ruin lives.

Chastain plays Molly as someone that is a well tuned machine. Controlling of her situation and little enough of an ego to let insults and bad manners wash off her. She has little to physically do beyond walking down hallways is designer clothing and heels and typing away at a keyboard but you can see her clockwork-like thought process happening under the surface.

Writer Director Aaron Sorkin is clearly interested in highly motivated characters wrapped up in legal controversies. Look to Charlie Wilson’s War and The Social Network for other examples of this theme and his work.

A lot happens to Molly and she has to deal with a lot of details and adsorb information constantly (as well as the audience). So there is a lot of dialog that goes by very fast so you will have to pay attention. The movie is mostly made of Molly explaining the situation or her mentality which is shown with swooping camera movements or montage edits or one on one dialog scenes where the characters and virtually dueling with their words or a character gets to land a big meaty speech. Sorkin however, wisely makes the whole thing more digestible by having moments of ambiance and static shots that allow the information and mood the settle. Even with these moments to catch your breathe the passe is still very fast.

The story is a highly fascinating one and told by a creator that is very confident in their craft. Though he may be too confident. It just goes by too fast at times because the actors need to fit in all the dialog which can frankly be cut down. Solid performances, an enticing concept and well made,  though the heavy load of information that it asks us to digest subtracts from the whole.

 

Review Justice League by Jonathan Evans

(2 / 5)

And so, seeing the unquestionable success that MARVEL has been having with their shared cinematic universe DC have stumbled greatly to get to this point. But nothing was gonna stop this cinematic train so, we just have to deal with it.

What brings our different heroes together are three boxes called “Mother Boxes” if all three are brought together they’ll destroy the world (basically). The one that is out to get all these Mother Boxes is a giant being named Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), he’s about ten feet high, clad in Armour, wields a large axe and spouts over-the-top dialogue. His role is similar to Loki in Avengers (even to the point of wearing over extravagant headgear) but he lacks Hiddelston’s charisma as well as fails to convey a real threat. He’s just a big threat that is no more interesting or memorable that a generic video game boss.

The first members that have already been established are Batman (Ben Affleck) the dark brooder that is just a skilled human with great technical resources and detective skills. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), she was the best thing in Batman v Superman and her own movie was the best of these movies but also rather good. The same present here. The Flash, the speedster played by Ezra Miller. He is here to portray the every-man, being more trepidatious and a lot more dumbfounded when giant man and bug creatures appear. But he says some things that are just odd, it is a weird thing that writers do where they put in quirks and think they’ve made a character, they haven’t, he gets better as the movie goes on but when he starts he might be an alien on Earth. Next is Aquaman (Jason Mamoa), he can breathe underwater, is very strong and wields a large five pronged spear (not a trident), he will probably be the breakout character, being a swaggering brawler. Finally is Cyborg (Ray Fisher), originally a young student named Victor Stone has now been transformed by the Mother Box technology and is fused with it.

Probably the worst kept secret and obvious plot point that any five year old could see coming is that Superman (Henry Cavil) returns (he died in the last movie). He does and he is much better here than in the previous two movies, he knows what smiling is, I believe he’s an optimistic person and they gave colour back to his costume instead of a grey filter.

Due to a family tragedy Snyder had to pull out of the movie. Most of it was completed but still needed finishing. Director Joss Whedon stepped in and completed the project. There is only so much one can really affect a movie when probably over seventy five percent of it has been completed. Whether it be due to fan outcry or Whedon inserting it in where he could there are much more smiles in this movie. Characters are smiling and aren’t brooding constantly. Having one moody one on a team is fine (that’s what Batman’s there for) but the others need to bring a balance of different types of characteristics.

Also more present in the movie is colour. They still use heavy amounts of black but they are contrasted with deeper, vivid colours of red, golds etc. This is a better direction to go, it keeps the colour but visually distinguishes it from the MARVEL movies.

Probably the biggest failure of the movie is the score by Danny Elfman. Not at any point did I feel my spirits roused by the music and I cannot hum any of the score. It is unfortunately forgettable and not moving.

Unlike all the other movies this one does have a post credits scene. So if you are so inclined stick around and you wont just see the credits scroll by.

So it has indeed been a very bumpy ride. It did not get off  to a good start at all and from there on it got worse. But now the pieces have come together and the final result probably wasn’t worth it but it also wasn’t a complete disaster. It was actually rather serviceable.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Professor Marston & The Wonder Women by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

She is one of the most iconic female characters in pop culture. She is instantly recognisable and you most likely know her name. She stands for truth. But in creating her secrets had to be kept to preserve love.

Earlier this year the mass audience were introduced to Wonder Woman through her first film. Now she is more popular than ever, this is the perfect time to tell this fascinating story of the deep psychological ideas that went into her creation and first few stories as well as the just as interesting behind the scenes situation of the people that inspired her.

The man who co-created her was man named William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a university professor who teaches psychology. He would go on to invent the lie detector machine. While there with his wife one of his students catches his eye. His classes teach about the mindset of giving yourself up to an authority figure in a relationship.

Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) is his official wife whom he has known since childhood, she has dark hair and is more than qualified to be a lecturer at any University, but because she is a woman she cannot gain any diploma. Her and Marston enjoy heated debates. Olive (Bella Heathcote) is blonde, a few years younger and even though she is descended from two of the most outspoken and radical feminist of her time was raised by nuns so is timid and tacked but still very intelligent.

He loves his wife, however he also loves Olive and they love him as well as each-other. What are they to do? The love is real but the society in-which they live will never accept them, is it even worth trying?

Luke Evans himself is a gay man and the writer/director Angela Robinson is a lesbian. They are both open about their sexuality but the world still does not fully embrace people of non hetero sexuality so they are probably the perfect people to tackle this material.

Adding to the revealing nature of the movie is the layering of the actual Wonder Woman comics that were written by Marston and indeed do feature Wonder Woman herself and other women caged, tied-up, spanked etc. The fact that they were able to get approval for the actual material shows and bravery and how unashamed on behalf of DC Comics. This is the story and ideas that went into the character and are addressing it.

The theory of loving submission isn’t just all about getting tied-up and/or spanked (though the physical acts are a part of it) it is about letting go of control, it has been said that you cannot love someone and control them, the acts allow the others to be the master to ones who would otherwise not be.

Being that this takes a look behind the public perception of a famous character and shows the story of the real people behind the scenes one will probably be reminded of Hollywoodland (an equally good movie).

This movie tells the story of love that is still rather unconventional now and seemingly impossible at the time it happened. There are details about the production of the character of Wonder Woman that are skimmed over as well as a few other moments that take a leap in time in order to fit the correct running time. But the story it tells is one of love and understanding and it effectively conveys that message.

Jonathan Evans

 

Review Murder on The Orient Express by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

Agatha Christie wrote many murder mystery books and plays which all sought to reveal the savage nature of people. Strip away the finery and social class and we are all capable of the most brutal acts.

One of her main characters was Hercule Poirot a man that wears a distinctive moustache, cannot have eggs that are different sizes and is probably one of the greatest (fictional) detectives who ever lived. He is often mistaken for French because of his accent, but is in fact Belgian. While one case has just wrapped he is called away to another, to get there he must board The Orient Express.

Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of the Belgian detective. Like Sherlock Holmes he has a sharp eye and when there is a crime considers it his duty to solve it. However he doesn’t so much do it for thrills rather than a task that must be undertaken to set the world right. He could be considered just another pedantic gentleman that enjoys food, drink, art and company, but when he must he sees into the nature of the individual and human nature itself. The performance allows for fluffy fun and sharp seriousness.

As well as taking on the main role Branagh works behind the camera. He comes with more than a few neat visuals. Long unbroken shots of moving through the train, overhead shots where the location and characters seem like pieces on a board-game and looking at the characters through the tilted edges of glass creating the effect of dual faces. As an actor as well he knows how to talk to his cast so solid performances from all.

On the train are many passengers from all walks of life. An Austrian professor (Willem Defoe), a count (Sergio Polunin), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a missionary (Penelope Cruz), a widow (Michelle Pfeiffer), a Salesman (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.), a Princess (Judi Dench) being accompanied by her maid (Olivia Colman), a gangster named Ratchett (Johnny Depp) that feels his life may be in danger, he is accompanied with his butler (Derek Jacobi) and assistant (Josh Gad).

While the train marches along one night lightning strikes the mountain sending snow down, blocking the tracks. It is easily dealt with in due time, but not all of the passengers are present, Ratchett has been murdered. Who did such a thing to an unquestionably bad man? That is the question and through clues, cross referenced with alibi’s and Poirot’s deduction skills the truth will be found.

This is probably the definition of an all star cast. Every one of the passengers is a big star. This takes away from being truly engaging but it also helps hide the identity. If this was a cast of lesser profile actors, or unknowns and only one A-Lister then we’d instantly be drawn the the one star and suspect them. But being that they are all big names there clearly wont be any favouritism.

There are many more books to be adapted if this one does very well. It could, considering it’s great cast. If the studio does go on to do more then they will. It is odd being that everything has to become a franchise now, but still there is nothing that is building up for the next movies, you can go into this one and know nothing about Poirot, you will learn by the end and be satisfied while the credits roll.

All that being said this is a well crafted and acted movie that has an expert both behind and in-front of the camera as well as having one of the greats works by one of the greatest writers in the genre. How could it go badly? I’m not sure but I’m glad it didn’t.

 

Review The Death of Stalin by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

This movies creators probably had the same thought that Stanley Kubrick had while making Dr. Strangelove. That though the basic facts are real and the subject, as well as the consequences are serious, when you say it out loud, it’s pretty funny.

The movie opens in 1953 where Russia has won the war and is securely under the control of Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) who is simultaneously adored and feared by the people. To be his enemy or even be considered to be one mean your name goes on a list and when your name goes on the list you get executed. One night while an orchestra is being performed Stalin phones up the venue and orders that he be sent a recording of the performance, being that it wasn’t being recorded the guests must be seated and the musicians must play again.

At his palace Stalin is having a boys night of food, drinks and cowboy movies. His company is Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russel Beale). All act more like workmates joining each-other at the local bar rather than officials that are there to run a country. At the end of the night the men go home, all quite drunk, to their wives and hoping that none of them has done anything to anger Stalin. During the night Stalin listens to the orchestra recording and stars convulsing then collapses. The next morning the maid finds him and so the real madness begins.

With his death it sends the men into a battle for both power and ego. They race and debate on who should takeover head office, who’ll be allowed to drive off first, one implements a policy that the other doesn’t like so they revoke it just out of spite despite the terrible repercussions.

Adding the the comedic element is the fact that nobody cares about the real life characters accents. Throughout the cast is plenty of American and British actors and they are all playing Russians and that doesn’t matter in the slightest, they speak how the actors speak.

While all their squabbling is reaching it’s heights in comes marching Georgy Zhukov. With an entire chest of medals, tolerating none of their juvenile behaviour and speaking up to no one. Jason Isaacs completely has fun with the character, sinking his teeth into the dialogue and taking a big bite out of whatever scene he’s in. One of the best parts of the movie.

This is a fun costume drama that embellishes on certain facts about what really happened and shows the pettiness that men can be capable of when the highest position of power is in-front of them they’ll sink to any depths. There is only one joke really, these men are petty, but they find enough variations that the movie is never a drag. There are  about three solid laughs to have in it, during the rest of the movie you will be smiling.

Jonathan Evans

Review The Snowman by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

The snow covers the entire land, only in scenes that take place indoors is it nowhere to be seen. People dress in thick coats to try and  be as warm as possible. If something was as cold on the inside as the environment, it would be a snowman. Like in Fargo or even directors Tomas Alfredson’s previous movie Let the Right One In, the snow itself is more than just a setting, it is a character itself. It plays into the theme of the movie, of a cold world where only the strong can survive.

This is one of the most disturbing murder mysteries you’ll see (along with The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo). It shows you just enough visually to make you wince and cut away at the right time so make up the worse bits yourself. This is the world it seeks to show and it stands by its very harsh mentality and images.

The premise is basic, someone is going around killing women. Before or after the act a snowman is built.  This is their calling card, or signature. Whoever it is they are always watching the main characters and seem to be unaffected by the cold. Taking up the case is Detective Harry Hole (played by Michael Fassbender)which seems to be the best cure for his hangover.

Detective Harry Hole is one of those rugged detective characters that’s good at their job but a very dysfunctional human being in nearly every other category. He drinks and forgets personal obligations, though not so bad as other portrays of this type of character. He clearly wants to do right and when he forgets he feels bad, it’s just that he priorities the job more. You can see someone like Bogart take this role if it was made a few decades ago. Fassbender fill’s the role very well, you are able to see and understand that this man (like Sherlock Holmes) lives for the case, he needs to wrap his brain around these twisted acts of violence, because if he doesn’t he falls into the bottle.

The average, or at least less keen eyed movie watcher will probably let some scenes go by without thinking twice. However if so do you will pick up on some leaps in realism. Some things like where does the killer go exactly? Or isn’t the timing a little to convenient? And some other things that simply allow things to happen.

Through the use of them I have a feeling that the movie seeks to make Snowmen scary, at least the ones here. Snowmen just aren’t, they do their best, actually giving them minimal features so they can be easily registered and more invoke the feeling for the act of the killer rather than the snowmen themselves. They are an effective icon for the movie, both while it plays and for it’s promotion.

I was able to predict the identity of the killer, is this a negative to the movie? Well in a mystery it isn’t about being able to hide who it is, it’s about telling a good story. Millions of people will most likely see the movie and some of those people will at least guess correctly, that’s just statistically likely. A good writer isn’t trying to trick you, they’re trying to engross you. While watching you will understand the characters and their points of view of the world and the reveal does add up. So it’s fine.

Leaps in logic can be forgiven if the overall product can suck you in. This movie has very good acting and crisp cinematography as well truly creating a scene of the cold environment that the characters inhabit. Everything’s sturdily constructed, allowing for some blank spaces. In terms of modern Gothic mystery’s this one is quite well made.

 

Review Goodbye Christopher Robin by Jonathan Evans

 

(3 / 5)

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin is, at the start, about the rejuvenating ability that thinking as a child can help people through dark times and then becomes about the corruption of success and fame.

We are introduced to A.A. Milne (Domnhnall Gleeson) who has survived the First World War but is shell shocked and angry at the world. He lives rather comfortably in London with his wife Daphne (Margo Robbie) but he cannot get over the trauma, he introduces one of his plays but the spotlight reminds him of the lights in the trenches and cannot get through it. In his disgruntled state he decides to move his wife and son (Will Tilston) out to the country.

Whilst there Milne seems to be much more interested in woodwork and walking rather than writing. Daphne grows ever more bored and frustrated so she leaves for some city time, coinciding with her leaving the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) must also go for three days to see to her sickly mother. So now its just the two of them.

During the time they are away it falls on Milne to step up and take care of his son. He is not the most patient man so they have tension in deciding what breakfast to make and him needing quite. But he gets sucked into the world his son creates with his stuffed toys. We then hear other names and phrases and can connect the dots that these elements will be used to tell the tale we all know.

He of course writes it down and is a tremendous success. But with success comes fame so he is constantly being called and asked to make appearances. Even Milne, who wrote the book is always asked about his son. Public appearances, signings, interviews all in abundance. He can hardly go anywhere and not be recognized. Even in their country home people come looking for him.

Being that this is about the behind the scenes story of a popular work of fiction I couldn’t help but think of Finding Neverland and Saving Mr Banks. Out of all of these movies the best one is Finding Neverland but this is also a different movie. It shows the damaging effects of too much fame for someone that cant handle it.

This is a very handsomely shot movie with attention to detail in the living areas, wardrobe and the sunlight having a truly golden quality to it.

The movies message is a simple one and the story of what when on with the people behind the material is interesting. A few moments of cool transitions, attractive production value and very solid performances help make it more worth seeing it those elements weren’t there.

 

Review Night Is Short, Walk On Girl by Jonathan Evans

 

(4 / 5)

 

This movie is greedy in it’s concept and gratuitous with it’s execution, however I don’t mean any of those as insults. It is greedy because it excessively wants to pack so much into the movie and it is gratuitous in the way that it gives more than is necessary. It wants to  create as many images and scenarios as it can and have you feel as many emotions on the spectrum as you can.

The Night is Short, Walk On Girl opens on a marriage ceremony where two of the guest Senpai (Gen Hoshino) is smitten with a girl who he goes to college with who we will simply know as The Girl with Black Hair (Kana Hanazawa). He has strategically coordinated himself so that they constantly run into each-other so she will believe they are meant to be together. She is of age to drink and wants to earn her adulthood so she drinks at the celebration and then goes out for the night, he then peruses in an attempt to push the destiny idea.

From here on it is a case of The Girl with the Black Hair walking around in the nighttime and encountering people and their scenarios and getting involved with them. Meanwhile Senpai is in some way deterred by another story or in his efforts to aid her.

The drawing style of this movie is certainly not like typical Western animation of Disney but also not like other anime movies like Ghost in the Shell or the works of Hayao Miyazaki. The lines are thin and very little detail is used. Eyes are represented with a few lines and a coloured dot underneath. You can squint and still understand nearly everything onscreen because it is comprised of simple shapes and vivid colours.

This movie plays non-stop. When you watch it be prepared to read the subtitles fast and suck in the visual information onscreen. Luckily the image is so clear and accessible. If you have ever viewed FLCL then you will have an understanding of this movies sprinting pace.

This movie is a comedy if nothing else and has an extremely simple plot which allows the creators to put in as many different character, plot points and setups as it can. From a chase, to a drinking contest, to a few musical numbers, all are displayed with as many transitions emotions and levels or ridiculousness that it possibly can. It cooks up a wide buffet of animation and movies and allows you to be stuffed and very happy by the end.

 

Review Victoria & Abdul by Jonathan Evans

The opening text of Victoria & Abdul goes “Based on real events…mostly.” That insertion of the last part eases the audience that though the idea and some events may have accrued, they are taking liberties. It allows us to take some of the more eccentric moments and inaccuracy’s with a pinch of salt and enjoy the moments.

We open in India where a simple man names Abdul goes about his simple duties. By chance he is selected to present Queen Victoria with a gift, simply because he is tall. So he gets shipped off to England and when the pivotal moments comes he is instructed to not to make eye contact with her majesty. Guess what happens!

Dench is actually returning to the role of Victoria. She originally played the monarch in Mrs. Brown, where oddly, was also about the Queen befriending a servant. There’s not much to write about the performance I feel, Dench has proven her chops as an actor again and again. Here she handles the part of one of the longest running monarch’s as a woman that is more than used to getting her way, but also fatigued with the repetition of ceremonies and political news. It is when this young Indian servant enters her life that she becomes reinvigorated with someone that speaks to her like an equal and has a different view of the world.

Abdul played by Ali Fazal will most likely bring a smile to your face. He himself is so smiley and optimistic but not without a sense of being grounded. He can be sad and worried, but that is understood because he has his faith that reassures him of a positive outcome. If it were not for these moments then he would most likely become grading, but with these touches he is enduring.

Typically in these kinds of movies with big named stars and based on historical events you can bet that the studio and filmmakers are seeking an Oscar for their efforts. It may well win or at least be nominated for cinematography and/or costume design. But the moments that will most likely receive a nomination, even a win. This is a moment where Dench is framed in closeup and it never cuts away and she delivers a summary of this entire woman’s life and role. This, on one hand, it obviously trying hard to win the Oscar, but also on the other it is a sharply executed performance that is very well written.

Eventually there come moments of unhappiness and sombreness. Such moments in movies come and go with varying degrees of effectiveness but these ones truly struck me. It works by starting with sugary charm and digging deeper and deeper into the characters and the way each of their worlds work as well as life as a whole we come to truly tender moments.

Historical accuracy interest me rather little, what engages me is characters and themes, the movie has these. It has charm and fun but by the end leaves you with a sense of understanding of the connections between people.