Don’t Miss “The Post” & “Paddington 2”

By Chris Narloch

Ordinarily, January is a dead zone for movie going, but this year, there are so many late-arriving Oscar contenders in theaters that film fans actually have a lot to choose from.

Read on for reviews of three movies currently in theaters.

The Post
Talk about a relevant, essential movie. Steven Spielberg’s new film puts the freedom of the press front and center during a time when journalists (and journalism in general) are under siege from the President and his White House, as well those who like to characterize his critics as “fake news.”

I assure you that “The Post” is a wonderful movie, with half a dozen or more superb performances, and that’s no fake news, my friends.

Two of our finest living movie actors, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, go toe to toe in this thrilling tale of The Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam era, a choice that helped turn public sentiment overwhelmingly against an administration, led by President Nixon, that had lied to the country.

Streep is perfect as Katherine Graham, who inherited leadership of the newspaper from her husband, and Hanks makes a great Ben Bradlee, Graham’s executive editor, who pushes for her to publish despite immense opposition from her lawyers.

Spielberg turns what could have been a dry history lesson in to a crackling suspense story that feels as important today as when it happened.

Paddington 2
Hugh Grant takes over from Nicole Kidman as the villain this time out, and he is just as good in the splendid sequel to 2014’s equally charming original “Paddington” movie. Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, and Julie Walters also star in the film.

Movie special effects have progressed to the point where Paddington really does feel like part of the film’s family, and Ben Whishaw again lends flawless voice to everyone’s favorite marmalade-loving, Peruvian bear.

There are sight gags and joke lines galore, and the plot almost doesn’t matter when the cast and the audience are having this much fun. Younger kids especially -- and anyone looking to get in touch with their inner child -- are urged to see “Paddington 2.”

The Greatest Showman
Sometimes the elements are all in place and a movie just doesn’t come together, but that’s the strange alchemy that makes filmmaking (and really all of the arts) such a gamble.

Hugh Jackman and a multi-talented cast that includes Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Michelle Williams come up short through no fault of their own in this lavish big-screen musical about the life of P.T. Barnum, who helped create the business of show with his vision for the modern circus.

The cast is excellent, the songs by the guys from “La La Land” are good, and the cinematography is beautiful. Unfortunately, the script simplifies Barnum’s life to the point of banality, and first time feature director Michael Gracey stumbles with his too-modern, music video-inspired direction.

If “The Greatest Showman” had been mounted on Broadway with the same cast and songs, but with a more skilled director, it might have been sensational, but on the screen in this version it’s an unfortunate disappointment.


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