Category Archives: Film

At the movies: The Top 10 of 2017

10. “The Greatest Showman” A lot of critics hated it, but I loved it. Hugh Jackman is in his element in this feel-great (albeit not historically accurate) movie about circus impresario P.T. Barnum.

9. “Coco” Disney-Pixar dazzles once more in the colorful spectacle the honors the traditions of family, music and paying respects to the deceased. The film expertly captures emotions across the board.

8. “War for the Planet of the Apes” The perfect ending to one of best movie series reboots ever. Andy Serkis is stellar in his motion capture performance as Caesar, in a medium that he has almost singlehandedly defined.

Hear Tim’s take on the year’s top 5 films with Tom Barnard on “The KQ92 Morning Show” (segment begins 9 minutes in).

7. “Logan” Hugh Jackman finally gets his wish and delivers a hard-edged, R-rated story of Wolverine, a swan song to the character flanked by brilliant performances by Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen, and expert direction by James Mangold.

6. “The Disaster Artist” James Franco is otherworldly as the director and star in this bizarre opus about Tommy Wiseau, a mysterious film star wannabe with deep pockets who self-finances what many dubbed the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” — a film that went on to become the midnight movie cult classic “The Room.”

5. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” The eighth film in the Skywalker family saga not only captures the tone of the original “Star Wars” films, it elevates the franchise to a whole new level with unexpected plot turns and developments by writer-director Rian Johnson. After his stunning debut at the helm of “Episode VII,” it will be exciting to see what Johnson creates for the upcoming fourth “Star Wars” trilogy.

4. “I, Tonya” Several critics have called this movie “The ‘Goodfellas’ of figure skating,” and it couldn’t be more on the mark. Often told from a first-person perspective that breaks the fourth wall, Tonya Harding (brilliantly realized by Margot Robbie), should finally feel vindicated after becoming the most hated woman in America after the infamous Nancy Kerrigan leg-rapping incident before the 1994 Winter Olympics.

3. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” The power trio of Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell gather to realize writer-director Martin McDonagh’s riveting yet darkly comedic tale about a woman who harasses local law enforcement when they fail for years to yield any leads in her daughter’s murder case.

Gary Oldman Darkest Hour

2. “Darkest Hour” Gary Oldman gives a career performance as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in riveting historical tale recalling how Churchill stood up to all detractors as Hitler’s forces came dangerously close to seizing all of Europe and changing the face of history forever. If Oldman isn’t awarded a Best Actor Oscar for this, the Motion Picture Academy will have lost all its credibility.

1. “The Shape of Water” Guillermo del Toro meticulously constructs the most fascinating tale of the year, which feels like an homage to “Creature from the Black Lagoon” yet ventures into uncharted waters by playing up the romantic angle between two central characters that was never fully realized in the 1954 classic. Featuring affecting performances by Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins, along with an iconic turn by Doug Jones as the filmmaker’s version of the gill-man, “The Shape of Water” is easily del Toro’s best.

Honorable mentions: “Dunkirk,” “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Wonder Woman,” “Loving Vincent,” “Thank You for Your Service,” “IT,” “Split,” “Alien: Covenant,” “Baby Driver,” “Murder on the Orient Express.”

Tim Lammers reviews movies weekly for The KQ92 Morning Show,” “KARE 11 News at 11” (NBC), “The Tom Barnard Podcast” and “The BS Show” with Bob Sansevere.

Movie review: ‘The Greatest Showman’ is dazzling spectacle

AUDIO: Tim reviews “The Greatest Showman” on the “KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard. Segment beings 8 minutes in.

“The Greatest Showman” (PG)

Given the number of liberties the filmmakers take with circus impresario P.T. Barnum and his work in the film, it’s hard to exactly call “The Greatest Showman” a musical biopic. Instead, it’s more of a musical drama that’s inspired by different points in Barnum’s life that’s set, naturally, in the 1800s, yet incorporates modern music. If it sounds like a massive challenge, it is — yet ultimately, “The Greatest Showman” becomes a dazzling spectacle that works wonders.

A passion project for Hugh Jackman, who sings, dances and emotes as Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” has been in development for years, and thanks to the good buzz and eventual acclaim and fortune experienced by “La La Land,” the timing is perfect for an original musical. Better yet, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters who wrote the Oscar-winning music for “La La Land” also wrote the music for “The Greatest Showman,” which explains why the music in the film is so engaging. And while the not all the tunes in “The Greatest Showman” are stellar or destined to become standards, the songs work within the context of the film, and are the keys to its success.

If you read up on Barnum, you’ll find out that

he had a pretty eventful life apart from the circus, including that of a newspaper owner and a politician. The film, of course, focuses on the events that led up to the formation of his circus, which began as a museum for strange inanimate objects that didn’t do so well. When he introduced people of all shapes and sizes into the mix with different oddities into the mix, however, the show took off, but wasn’t entirely embraced by the public.

Directed by Jackman’s fellow Aussie Michael Gracey,  “The Greatest Showman” also focuses on Barnum’s traveling promotion of opera singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), which was his attempt to legitimize himself in the eyes of the hifalutins and critics, who weren’t so kind to his show of oddities. A key subplot in the film, the inclusion of the Lind story helps flesh out some of the baggage Barnum carried from his youth into his adult life, and further helps balance the film in the showman’s desperate search for acceptance.

Apart from the show’s tunes, the cast is top-notch, from Zac Efron as Barnum’s business partner and Zendaya as an acrobat. The best in show honors in “The Greatest Showman,” though, go to the always-engaging Jackman and Michelle Williams, who plays his supporting wife and greatest confidant Charity Barnum.

Lammometer: 9 (out of 10)

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Review: Rian Johnson brings balance to The Force with ‘The Last Jedi’


AUDIO: Tim reviews “The Last Jedi” on the “KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard. Segment beings 7 minutes in.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (PG-13)

Writer-director Rian Johnson expertly creates the unexpected in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the eighth chapter in the Skywalker family space saga conceived by George Lucas 40 years ago. Naturally, after seven “Star Wars” films (eight, if you include last year’s spinoff, “Rogue One”), the environment is going to feel familiar at the outset of “The Last Jedi,” but the minute that Rey (Daisy Ridley) completes the stirring scene that started at the conclusion of “The Force Awakens” and hands the long-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) his lightsaber, the unexpected takes hold and all bets are off.

Although virtually no time has passed between the end of “The Force Awakens” and beginning of “The Last Jedi,” the celebration of the Resistance after blowing up the First Order’s Death Star-like Starkiller Base is short-lived. The base, while massive, is only one component of the First Order’s cache of weapons, and its stranglehold on the Resistance has reached a critical point.

With virtually nowhere else to turn, Rey must convince Luke to come out of hiding to help the Resistance before its too late, but Luke’s more fearful of Rey’s Jedi powers and that they may lead her do

wn the same dark path as his former student and nephew, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) – the former Ben Solo and son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and General Leia (Carrie Fisher). Meanwhile, Kylo’s powers are growing as he’s continued his training under the vengeful alien Supreme Leader Snoke (motion capture by Andy Serkis), and their resolve to capture Luke is drawing closer to a reality until Rey marches forth to thwart their plans.

In addition to Hamill, “The Last Jedi” features an expanded role for Fisher, who sadly passed away last year after she completed her work on the film. Because of that, Johnson stayed the course and didn’t alter Leia’s storyline, yet given the circumstances, her dialogue in “The Last Jedi” takes on a deeper meaning and is all the more poignant.

Despite that dark cloud hanging over the film, “The Last Jedi” has a wide range of emotions, from euphoria to dread, with lots of moments of levity in-between. There’s a lot of welcome humor in the film, and a lot of times it comes from the characters you wouldn’t expect. That includes from the new cuddly creatures the Porgs, the inhabitants on Luke’s remote planet in a galaxy far, far away, who are destined to become favorites of fans of all ages.  In the end, “The Last Jedi” is a perfectly blended mix of action, intrigue, humor and emotion, easily making it the best film in the series since “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.

It’s hard to say where the franchise will go from here with one episode in the Skywalker family saga left, but for the time being, there’s no question that Johnson has brought balance to The Force with “The Last Jedi.”

Lammometer: 9.5 (out of 10)

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Tim Burton Book 2
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Interview: Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Orient Express’ song is one you’ll never forget

There’s no question that acclaimed actor-director Kenneth Branagh’s latest cinematic opus — the big-screen adaptation of famed author Agatha Christie’s classic novel “Murder on the Orient Express” — is rolling strong in theaters domestically and overseas, having already amassed an impressive global tally of $275 million with no signs of slowing down.

As movie fans have found out, Branagh becomes Christies’ time-honored Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who boards the Orient Express simply as a mode of transport to get back home to London but finds himself investigating a mysterious murder where everyone on the train is suspect.

With a huge presence in front of and behind the camera, Branagh’s fingerprints are all over “Murder on the Orient Express,” including the area of songwriting, a place he’s only ventured to once before.

The first time around, Branagh and his collaborator of nearly 30 years, film composer Patrick Doyle, (along with music producer Tommy Danvers) wrote “Strong,” the end-title song for the 2015 blockbuster “Cinderella.” Now, with “Murder on the Orient Express,” Branagh has put his pen to paper once again for the lyrics to “Never Forget,” the haunting end credits song for which Doyle wrote the music.

In a phone conversation with the actor-filmmaker this week, Branagh discussed “Never Forget,” an ethereal ballad sung by his co-star Michelle Pfeiffer. The song serves as an elegy for the tragic loss of a character at the heart of the film’s narrative.

Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Murder on the Orient Express

“They say, ‘Music is a vehicle for transcendence so that one can commune with God.’ That saying relates to music and lyrics (like ours), which talk about this incredible loss at the center of the film. To console is part of what people do to ease that suffering,” Branagh said. “And if the characters in this story are going to leave that train and have some future journey in their lives, some of the healing that Poirot talks about in the film is going to have to start happening.”

Branagh said “Never Forget” in a way grew from personal experiences growing up in Ireland — feelings that were awakened by a theme Doyle incorporated into the film’s score.

“It reminded me of moments in my youth when I used to hear my granny get upset,” Branagh recalled. “She would sing the Irish ayre ‘Danny Boy’ — she had a brother, Danny, who she had lost — and it would make her cry every time she sang it. But it was so necessary for her to sing it because it was a way of easing that pain. It was cathartic and very therapeutic. ”

Ultimately, to capture those feelings for “Never Forget,” Branagh knew Pfeiffer — who previously demonstrated her singing talent in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and “Hairspray” — could bring to the song a haunting air of heartbreak and hope rooted in the experiences of her character, Caroline Hubbard.

“We wanted some emotional closure and we knew that Michelle Pfeiffer’s beautiful performance in the film could translate into music — but not with the idea of trying to produce some dazzling vocal gymnastics — but to experience this basic tension and beauty and melancholy in the song between the love for the innocent that is lost, and the desire to let them know that they will never be forgotten,” Branagh said. “It’s very simple, but it can be very profound. … It provides an emotional character closure that goes to the place we haven’t been in this movie. … It’s a direct appeal to and from the human heart.”

While “Never Forget” certainly merits consideration this awards season for Best Original Song, “Murder on the Orient Express” easily warrants attention in several other categories — from the picture as a whole to Branagh’s expert direction and portrayal of Poirot, to Doyle’s captivating score, the film’s stunning cinematography and its meticulous production and costume design.

In the case of costume design, one item of note is a mustache guard for Poirot, which we see him wearing as he awakens in the morning after his first night aboard the Orient Express. An apparatus designed to keep Poirot’s perfectly coiffed handlebar mustache in place, the quick shot of the mustache guard is not only good for a laugh, in a subtle way it further defines the character as a detective who strives for perfection.

“It’s one of those moments where you understood the details of a lot of people’s work, particularly that of Alexandra Byrne, our costume designer, who was responsible for that mustache guard, but who had also worked so closely with Carol Hemming, our makeup and hair designer — who worked for so long and so hard for such detail on the mustache itself,” Branagh enthused. “It boldly goes where few mustaches have gone before to fulfill Agatha Christie’s requirement that it be one of the most ‘immense’ and ‘magnificent’ mustaches in England.”

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Tim Burton Book 2
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