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Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Review: The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman is the type of movie I could watch multiple times – not for the (so-so) plot – but rather, for the musical production numbers filled with heart, spectacle and earworms galore. If you don’t like Broadway musicals, The Greatest Showman won’t ring your bell. But if you’re a fan (as I am), you’re bound to enjoy this original movie musical that is, in essence, a Broadway show on the big screen. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of a Moulin Rouge or Les Miz, but like the circus that P.T. Barnum created, The Greatest Showman is fun for the whole family. And c’mon, who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman, the most versatile guy in show business?!

Logan

Logan could be one of the most divisive Marvel movies of all time. Hardcore fans of the Wolverine mythology may appreciate this dark, R-rated send-off to the most iconic and sardonic of the X-Men superheroes. But I was not prepared for, and did not enjoy, the grim final farewell (or so it appears) to Logan/Wolverine, portrayed for nearly 20 years by the multi-talented and seemingly ageless Hugh Jackman. I’m not a huge X-Men fan (I prefer the Avengers), but I’ve always had a soft spot for the bitter, sexy, ripped, self-healing Wolverine who was blessed and cursed with immortality and killer claws. This Wolverine is different. He’s bitter, aging, self-loathing, and just no fun at all. Apparently, that’s what the filmmakers were going for. And that’s what some film critics and fanboys are raving about. But I don’t like hyper-violent, bloody, raw, and depressing. Especially in my Marvel movies. Deadpool earned its R-rating with unexpectedly entertaining raunchiness and wit. Logan gets its R-rating from a string of curse words and a very high body count. Heads will roll… literally.

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie the Eagle is a feel-good movie for the masses, inspired by a true story, though dramatically boosted by fictionalized supporting characters and plot points. It’s the story of Eddie Edwards, a British ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary with his goofy antics, big glasses, and determination to compete despite a definite lack of world-class athletic prowess. British actor Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) downplays his looks and ramps up the nerd factor to play Eddie, an underdog athlete you can’t help but root for. I read that both Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) were once slated to play Eddie and I could totally see either of them pulling it off as well. Ultimately, it’s what Eddie represents that makes the movie work… well, that and Hugh Jackman. ☺

Pan

I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to see this type of fantasy-adventure, “fun for the whole family” movie, but I was sort of roped into it, so here goes:

It’s a perfectly okay fantasy-adventure movie that is fine for the whole family and probably better than fine for kids aged 8-12. Any younger, and it’s rather dark, especially at the start. Any older, and it can’t compete with the likes of The Hunger Games.

For the adult tag-alongs, the real question is: Do we really need a prequel to Peter Pan??? Must we really know how an orphan named Peter came to be Peter Pan, or who exactly Hook was before he was ‘Captain’ Hook? No, we don’t. In fact, it all kind of muddles the classic nature of writer J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan mythology – a story that has stood the test of time and countless remakes on stage and screen.

For the kids, the questions raised above are probably moot. The movie has a flying pirate ship! It’s fantastical! It has kids running amuck! Evil nuns! Swordfights! Fairies! Hugh Jackman!! (okay, that last one was for me).

X-men: Days of Future Past

I will admit up front, I haven’t seen any of the other X-men flicks. But the good news is that this one stands alone and begs me to watch the others to see what I was missing. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine is sent back in time to 1973, so the characters that populate this series are youngsters and their relationships with one another are not yet certain, which makes for a great introduction to the mutant clan. And it is a LOT of fun with a fabulously yummy cast too boot. Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy — what could be wrong with that? And Jennifer Lawrence proves once again that she is a force to be reckoned with.

Prisoners

This one’s tough. The performances are excellent, but I kind of wanted my two-and-a-half hours back. Prisoners is intense and plodding and psychologically taxing, and every parent’s worst nightmare. Hugh Jackman plays Keller Dover, a desperate father who decides to take matters into his own hands when his young daughter and a neighborhood friend go missing. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead detective whose entire life revolves around his job.

The Wolverine

C’mon, it’s Hugh Jackman, ripped. Does anything else really matter? If so, then you may have some issues with the movie’s inconsistent plot and dialogue. But all things considered, The Wolverine is a fast-paced, stunt-fueled, entertaining flick about the brooding “X-Men” superhero who’s blessed – and cursed – with immortality and metal claws.

Les Misérables

I’ve been somewhat obsessed with Les Misérables ever since I saw the show on Broadway circa 1987. And again in London. And Chicago. And Atlanta. So to say I was looking forward to a big-screen version starring one of my favorite performers, Hugh Jackman, would be a major understatement. In other words, I was an easy sell on this one. It may not be the greatest movie musical of all time, but it is the best in recent memory, despite a few flaws in casting (more on that in a moment).

The Les Miz story, based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo, is a long one, but here’s the gist: It’s the early 1800s in France and a prisoner named Jean Valjean (aka “24601”) is finally being released on parole after 19 years. His crime: stealing a loaf of bread for starving relatives and then trying to escape.