I FOUND SOMEONE I COULD RELATE to and it was an elephant. Don’t laugh; this little elephant was a character I not only could sympathize with but identify with because of what he was going through in his young life. It was on a Saturday and I remember we took the train down into the city. A theater there was doing a weekend showing of the animated movie Dumbo. As we walked around the corner and I saw the movie theater, I got upset because of all the people lined up trying to get into the theater. I thought for sure all the tickets would be sold before we got up to the box office. By downtown standards this theater was one of the smaller ones which was part of the reason for my fears. All I knew about this little elephant was its ability to fly and I desperately wanted to see it for myself. Flying was something I dreamt about and was hoping I could learn something from Dumbo. As you can see at a young age I was already heavy into fantasy, looking to create a different reality around me. I could not stop fidgeting as we slowly made our way up to the box office. WITH TICKETS IN HAND WE FOUND seats in the theater; I could not have been more excited. When Dumbo was being made fun of, I felt his pain. I was overweight and endured similar name calling. If I could I would have jumped into the screen to defend Dumbo and let him know he was not alone. I was visibly upset as I sat in my seat. And then suddenly, my sadness and pain disappeared in a puff of air, that I felt from Dumbo’s large ears when they flapped to give him flight for the first time. Seeing that little elephant rise up into the air was pure magic for me. I was told I had big ears, so I wondered if it was at all possible I could teach myself to use my ears along with my flapping arms to allow me to lift off the ground. There in that movie theater I had found someone like me; I wanted to do everything Dumbo could do. If I was ever afraid or uncomfortable I could simply fly away from the situation, soar above any of the pain or name calling I was experiencing. After all these years, I now have the opportunity to see my flying friend once again in this live action, fantasy film. WHEN CIRCUS OWNER MAX MEDICI, PLAYED by Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV), bought a pregnant elephant; he never imagined the birth of a baby elephant could change his life so drastically. This family movie also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as Holt Farrier, Michael Keaton (American Assassin, The Founder) as V.A. Vandevere, Eva Green (Based on a True Story, Penny Dreadful-TV) as Colette Marchant and Alan Arkin (Argo, Going in Style) as J. Griffin Remington. While watching this picture I had a visceral reaction to what was being shown on the movie screen. Except for the variety of fanciful visuals, I thought this movie was an abomination. How did the movie studio okay a story that was dark and so not kid friendly? I was completely shocked by the script and found absolutely nothing fun or joyful in this picture. There were little glimpses of a possible pleasurable scene but for the most part the script and over the top soundtrack drowned any hope of enjoyment. Days later I still was confused how this film got made of such a classic iconic character from animated history. Unless you want to punish your child or yourself, there is no reason to go see this poor version of the classic tale.
1 ½ stars
THE AROMA OF ELEPHANT dung was one of the strongest memories I took away from the circus. I only went to the circus once when I was around 6 years old. To get to our seats we had to walk down a long aisle where the floor was covered in sawdust. Once we were seated I was able to see three rings set up in the arena, with the middle one much larger than the other two. I was excited to be there because all I wanted to see were the tigers. To start the show a tall man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat walked into a single spotlight that then followed him to the large ring; his amplified voice reverberated throughout the massive arena. From one end of the arena several spotlights pierced the dark and lit up a parade of elephants walking in single file as they made their way around the arena. As they passed where I was seated one of the elephants defecated. Because it happened at the far edge of the arena none of the circus performers noticed what happened, so it remained there for the entire show. MAYBE THAT IS WHY I never wanted to go to the circus after that time. The only type of circuses I will go to today are the ones that are animal free. Even if that elephant had not altered my feelings about the circus I would not go to a circus that used animals for entertainment. For the type of circus events I have attended I get to see humans doing unhuman things; this is the way I describe it, because the performers are doing such spectacular things they almost look as if they are not of earth. There is one particular company that travels around the world, pitching a massive tent in an open space, where the performers are dressed in a variety of costumes and makeup. This is my favorite event to see because at one time I can witness people from all different walks of life, from all different parts of the world, come together and create something magical. I do not know how someone could say anything negative about such an environment. OUT OF WORK AFTER the company he worked at went bankrupt Phineas Taylor Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman (Pan, Logan), had an idea. It was an idea that sounded crazy but he did not care what people said, he was willing to take the chance. This musical, dramatic biography also starred Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, My Week with Marilyn) as Charity Barnum, Zac Efron (Baywatch, Dirty Grandpa) as Phillip Carlyle, Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming, K.C. Undercover-TV) as Anne Wheeler and Rebecca Ferguson (The Girl on the Train, Despite the Falling Snow) as Jenny Lind. The look of this film was wonderful; I thought the sets and costumes were a perfect fit. As for the music written by the same writers who did La La Land, I thought it was much better in this picture; I can actually remember a few of the songs. Sadly despite the decent acting the script failed this film. You got these big, beautiful song and dance numbers connected with a weak script that lacked emotion. I felt a disconnect between the drama of the singing with the acting parts. There was such a timely message to the story that I wished would have been explored more in hopes of connecting everyone together. I would not say this circus movie reminded me of the smelly circus I went to as a kid, but this film could have used a bit of air freshener to make it a better show.
2 ¼ stars
When I read Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Legally Blonde) reached out and offered her friend Robert Pattinson (Twilight franchise, Remember Me) use of a remote home of hers, to keep the paparazzi away during the rough time he was having with his cheating girlfriend; I wanted to check out this movie where the two actors worked together. Based on the popular novel by Sara Gruen, Robert portrayed Jacob Jankowski the former veterinarian student that dropped out of Cornell when his parents were killed, leaving him penniless and homeless. With no family or attachments to hold him back, Jacob one night snuck onto a passing train while he was walking the rails. No ordinary freight train, this was the train of a traveling circus owned by the unpredictable August, played by Christoph Waltz (Carnage, The Three Musketeers). The circus’ star attraction was August’s wife Marlena, played by Reese Witherspoon (This Means War, Legally Blonde). For me, the star of this movie besides Rosie the elephant was Christoph; perfect playing a maniacal, jealous, ruthless character. Robert did a good job with his role; gratefully I did not see any of his Twilight’s Edward acting in this role. Though Reese looked the part, I found her acting was sadly lacking. This may explain why there was little chemistry between her and Robert, something that was needed to carry this beautiful story along. I thought the film looked wonderful, giving a true sense to the period of time the story took place. It was nice that Reese and Robert maintained a friendship after this movie was made; I just wish they could have had more sparks between them, to keep up with Christoph.
2 2/3 stars — DVD