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Brian Viner reviews The Greatest Showman and Jumanji

By Brian Viner for Daily Mail

Published: 19:55 EST, 21 December 2017 | Updated: 20:24 EST, 21 Decem..

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By Brian Viner for Daily Mail

Published: 19:55 EST, 21 December 2017 | Updated: 20:24 EST, 21 December 2017

The Greatest Showman (PG)

Verdict: He's no Michael Crawford

Rating:

Here’s a teaser for your family quiz this Christmas: what is the link between the hapless Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em of blessed memory, and mighty Marvel Comics superhero Wolverine?

The surprising answer is that the actors who inhabited both characters subsequently brought to life the legendary 19th-century impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum.

It’s more than 35 years since I saw Michael Crawford in Barnum on the London stage, and now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn in The Greatest Showman (which opens across the UK on Boxing Day). Maybe the enduring memory of Crawford’s dynamic performance explains why, for me, Jackman doesn’t seem quite right in a part that, by all accounts, he has been desperate to play for years.

He’s a terrific actor, he can sing and dance wonderfully and he has a smile that could light up Broadway. But in my mind’s eye P. T. Barnum is a lithe, slippery fellow, more bantamweight than heavyweight and definitely not 200lb of Aussie beefcake.

It’s more than 35 years since audiences saw Michael Crawford in Barnum on the London stage, and now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn in The Greatest Showman (which opens across the UK on Boxing Day)It’s more than 35 years since audiences saw Michael Crawford in Barnum on the London stage, and now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn in The Greatest Showman (which opens across the UK on Boxing Day)

It’s more than 35 years since audiences saw Michael Crawford in Barnum on the London stage, and now it’s Hugh Jackman’s turn in The Greatest Showman (which opens across the UK on Boxing Day)

A bigger problem is that the movie doesn’t live up to its grand ambition. It was conceived as a musical fantasy blending fact and fiction, telling the story, partly through the medium of modern-sounding pop songs, of how Barnum made it big in the 1860s and effectively invented what later became known as showbusiness.

That’s just fabulous on paper. On screen it’s hard to see who it’s aimed at. Children, I think, might find it all a little boring; adults, a bit try-hard.

First-time director Michael Gracey and screenwriters Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon certainly do their utmost to pile up dramatic tension between the songs: will Barnum leave his wife Charity (Michelle Williams) for the celebrated singer he has brought over from Europe, the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson)?

Will he bounce back from his financial setbacks? Will playwright Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), who becomes Barnum’s partner, bend over backwards to please his socialite parents, or alienate them by bending over backwards with the mixed-race trapeze artist (Zendaya)?

And will Efron whip his shirt off, as he seems contractually obliged to do in all his films?

I’m sorry to report that none of these questions, except possibly the last, engaged me for more than a moment.

When you think of the great screen musicals — West Side Story, Oliver!, Fiddler On The Roof, The Sound Of Music, Cabaret, The Jungle Book — they all represented a perfect fusion of story and score, featuring characters we really cared about.

The Greatest Showman conspicuously seeks but never finds that magic alchemy. And among the original songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (who didn’t do badly with La La Land), there isn’t one that, thinking back as I write just a few hours after seeing the film, I could so much as hum.

Sure, there are flashes of dazzling spectacle, and plenty of excellent choreography. As a potted history of the Barnum legend, the film does a decent job, too. He was of humble birth, yet by the time he died in 1891, aged 80, the Washington Post described him as ‘the most widely known American that ever lived’. The Greatest Showman explains pretty well how he parlayed his vision and charisma into colossal fame and fortune.

When you think of the great screen musicals they all represented a perfect fusion of story and score, featuring characters we really cared about. The Greatest Showman conspicuously seeks but never finds that magic alchemyWhen you think of the great screen musicals they all represented a perfect fusion of story and score, featuring characters we really cared about. The Greatest Showman conspicuously seeks but never finds that magic alchemy

When you think of the great screen musicals they all represented a perfect fusion of story and score, featuring characters we really cared about. The Greatest Showman conspicuously seeks but never finds that magic alchemy

First, he built his Museum of Curiosities, filling it with the uncommonly short, tall and fat, not to mention a lavishly bearded lady.

Then came the Jenny Lind episode, plainly an antecedent of the modern rock tour. Finally and most famously, yet apparently forced on him after his theatre burned down, he devised the idea of a circus, in a tent.

So there’s no doubt that he deserves posterity’s unyielding admiration. But he also deserves a more memorable movie than this.

I sat down to The Greatest Showman with high hopes and left disappointed.

Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle (12A)

Verdict: Enormous fun

Rating:

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle did the precise opposite. I expected it to be humdrum and witless. In fact, it is inventive, cleverly scripted, and huge fun. The 1996 Robin Williams film to which it is notionally a sequel, and which was itself based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg, was not one of the great comedian’s better efforts, but I think he’d have enjoyed this enormously.

BACK in 1996 in smalltown America, a boy vanishes after plugging in a video game called Jumanji. A couple of decades later, the same thing happens to four high-school kids.

All in detention at the same time, they start mucking around with an old games console and get sucked into the high-octane world of Jumanji, reappearing as adult adventurers stuck in a perilous jungle.

Karen Gillan, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Jack Black all star in the new Jumanji remakeKaren Gillan, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Jack Black all star in the new Jumanji remake

Karen Gillan, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Jack Black all star in the new Jumanji remake

There, they each get three lives in the quest for a precious jewel, while evading the clutches of a baddie straight out of an Indiana Jones movie, who is enjoyably played by Bobby Cannavale.

I was reminded also of the 1988 Tom Hanks comedy Big, as the quartet, while internally feeling the same as before, come to terms with their new grown-up physiques and capabilities.

The difference, from which director Jake Kasdan and his co-writers extract a series of very good verbal and physical gags, is that they are strikingly unlike their high-school selves.

Spencer, a bookish nerd, turns into dishy and muscular Dr Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson). The powerful school jock, nicknamed ‘Fridge’, becomes diminutive zoologist Dr Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart). Martha, a sport-hating misfit, is transformed into sexy commando Ruby Roundhouse (the former Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan).

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is inventive, cleverly scripted, and huge funJumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is inventive, cleverly scripted, and huge fun

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is inventive, cleverly scripted, and huge fun

Most spectacularly, Bethany, a vain blonde princess in thrall to her smartphone, changes gender. She turns into tubby archaeologist Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black).

In a way it’s a one-note joke, but such a good one it easily sustains the rest of the movie.

Black in particular excels, but then he gets most of the best lines. The mere act of urinating as a man is a source of wonder. ‘The fact that I’m not Instagramming this right now is insane,’ says the former Bethany, looking down. And later: ‘I feel like ever since I lost my phone, my other senses have heightened.’

As the father of a daughter whose phone sometimes seems surgically attached, I almost cheered.

Loud, bonkers, fun! Ellis gives his views on the Jumanji remake

Rating:

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this from the trailers. However, much like Paddington 2, it proved me wrong.

It starts where the original film ended. But this time the story follows four teenagers — Spencer, Fridge, Martha and Bethany — who, after getting stuck in detention, find an old video game called Jumanji.

It’s an updated version of the board game, so you are expecting mayhem, especially when you hear the drums.

They are sucked into the game and become their avatars (played by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black). With their characters’ unique skills – and weaknesses – they must complete the game to get back to the real world.

The story is an action chase, but it’s a nice twist on the original Jumanji plot.

In the first one, the game comes to the real world — and in this movie, they go to the game world.

And it is funny to watch the characters adjust to their avatar bodies.

Welcome To The Jungle is action packed and features the song of that name by Guns N’ Roses. Both of them are very loud.

There are also lots of nice original features, due to the characters being in a video game. For example, the NPCs (non-player characters) can only say the dialogue in their programming, and each character has a tattoo of 3 lines on their arm, representing the amount of lives they have left.

My favourite character is Alex, played by Nick Jonas. One scene with him mentions Robin Williams’s character from the original, which I liked.

It might be a bit too scary for younger kids at times, with a few loud jump scares. Watch out for the rhino stampede.

But the chemistry between the characters, and the non-stop action is great.

Some of it is bonkers, but that is Jumanji!

ELLIS BARNES-CHURCH, 13

Original Article

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Australia

Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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