To Teach To Cheat (Movie Thoughts: Bad Education, HBO)

EVAgfhdUEAAA87ZWe all know Hugh Jackman as the ultimate Australian Showman (to me he was most memorable on Broadway as Peter Allen in ‘The Boy from Oz’) so wqe sometimes forget what. great actor he can be. On ‘Bad Education,’ he plays Dr. Fran Tassone, who was instrumental in making Roslyn High School in Long Island the fourth-ranked educational district in the country. But, Tassone was also involved in an embezzlement scheme worth millions. Jackman as Tassone is so charming and charismatic that we as an audience felt like we were taken along with the scheme as well. As a matter of fact, I found myself kind of rooting for him, the anti-hero in the scenario. This film, directed by Cory Finley, takes us to the crime story in a pretty straightforward manner – we see Tassone and his main cohort Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney also great here) was able to cheat the system, and how when she got caught, how the schools system ‘covered up’ the severity of the case. I was riveted by the story, and I wonder why I never paid attention to this tsory since I still lived in New York when all this was happening.

Run Gary Run (Film Thoughts: The Front Runner)

1536108324_poster-largeI had been looking forward to seeing ‘The Front Runner’ but also there was also something about it that I was dreading. Maybe it’s the same reason I refuse to read some of the quarterback things written about Hillary Clinton’s campaign – these things still sting. I remember the subject of the story here well, although watching the film, I realize my memory of it isn’t as vivid: I learned a lot from the film.

But I really did not enjoy the film, and it stems from the performance of Hugh Jackman, who plays Gafy Hart. I never felt the character as a whole, there is something very awkward and stilted in his performance. He didn’t embody the man’s charisma, and even his flaws seem shallow. I never saw in Jackman the brilliance of Gary Hart, and I cared less about the character than the human being.

That being said, isn’t it weird that this film is coming in right now? With all the unpresidential things that are happening, it is so dated to see a candidate derail his campaign because of an extramarital affair. But those were he times then. Director Jason Reitman isn’t very subtle about which side he is on – he paints the press as concerned more about entertainment than hard news. In this day and age, this is certainly a given, and I guess the difference is that nowadays everyone knows it – the audience is far more sophisticated nowadays, and the ‘lecture’ feels pointless.

I think i would have liked it better if Hugh Jackman had made a movie of Patricia Nell Warren’s ‘The Front Runner.’ (Yes, I know there is a tv movie out there somewhere)

Master Showman (Movie Thoughts: The Greatest Showman)

large_greatest-showmnaI saw ‘The Greatest Showman’ at a sold-out matinee show and right as the credits rolled, most of the audience started clapping vigorously.  I thought to myself, did we just see the same film? Because in my opinion, this film is a bloated piece of mess.

Never mind the fact that the film glosses over any objectivity regarding the life of P.T. Barnum. I know that I have read numerous pieces about him being a monster – literally buying and selling ‘freak talent’ for his shows. The screenplay, by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (seriously, Bill Condon wrote this crap?) glosses over everything and we get to see a very bland story of someone starting a circus. There isn’t any depth to the narrative, the only conflict we get is a fire in his circus and his wife leaving him as he embarks on an affair with an opera singer (Rebecca Ferguson)  We get zero sense of the man. Even as Hugh Jackman tries to make him a human, the result is that we get a robot who recites lines, and well, at least he sings and dances well. Jackman is the consummate showman, of course, but is given some of the most generic, could-be-about-anything songs devoid of any character, or tune, really. They all blend into one whole limp song.

Sure, Seamus McGarvey’s choreography gives the scenes a little lift, but every number is arranged so tightly that the performers don’t have any room to breathe. Zac Efron is fine enough in a nothing role, and Zendaya’s role could have been played by anyone, and probably better by any gypsy on Broadway.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I kind of expected a little more from all these people, and now I think they probably should have done a film version of Cy Coleman’s ‘Barnum.’ I know I should be grateful that they are doing musicals, and people seem to be enjoying this (to be fair, the audience scoring is pretty high)  but I consider this to be one of the worst films of the year – more because of great expectations than anything else.